Monthly Archives: March 2011

Thoughts on The Barkley Marathon

The Barkley Marathon is this weekend. I have several friends entered and will be rooting for them to go…some of the distance.
The Barkley is not as secret as it once was. Upon becoming an ultra runner, one quickly learns of “The Barkley”.
He’s been at the Barkley, completed two laps..he’s a Barkley runner some murmured trail talk, looking at the unassuming skinny runner ahead. Newby ultra runners are in awe. Then someone asks the question, “what is the Barkley?”
The Barkley is one of the toughest running races in the world. Some may argue and say it’s not really a run. It’s definitely a race, with 60 hours to complete the 100(ish) mile distance.
Pretty generous time allowance, right? Only nine runners have completed the distance in race history.
The Barkley consists of 5 20-mile loops with no aid except for water at two points. The cutoffs for the 100 mile race are 12 hours per loop. The 60 mile “fun run” has a cutoff of 40 hours, or 13:20 per loop. To prove you completed each loop, you must find 9 to 11 books (varies) at various points along the course and return a page from each book.
It has 59,100 feet of climb (and 59,100 feet of descent), more than any other 100 mile race, more than the 33,000 ft. of climb at Hardrock and more than the 45,000 ft. at Nolan’s 14.
Gary Cantrell is the Race Director. The idea for the race germinated after James Earl Ray escaped from the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in the late 1970’s and only got 8 miles in 55 hours. Cantrell couldn’t understand how someone could only get 8 miles in 55 the idea of the Barkley was born.
It’s interesting to note, as I read Frozen Ed Furtaw’s book about the Barkley, Tales From Out There, that the Barkley was a shorter distance in the early years, and there were many finishers. However, it has now eveloved into the 20 mile loops, with the distance set at 100 miles. And just nine finishers.
And all male.
I guess I am a feminist, if you would want to stick a label on me. I believe women can do pretty much what men can do. Sure, men might be stronger/faster/etc, but Diana Finkel almost won The Hardrock 100 outright last year. We have the same cut off times as the men do. I have more cajones than some men I know.
There have been four women who have finished the Fun Run (3 Loops), but none since 2001.
I’ve been a bit aggravated by some comments about the Barkley and women in this past week. One comment, via email, was:
“A lot of things have to go right for a person to finish the 100.
No woman has ever come close to finishing, will this year be different, I doubt it.”
Well, fair enough. I don’t know who is on the entrant list for the Barkley, but the odds of someone finishing-male or female-is pretty slim.
Then I was listening to a podcast, to a man who is running the Barkley this weekend. He was discussing this  same email, and he then made a statement that he didn’t feel it was sexist. In fact, here is his statement, transcribed: “I think it is a statement that the Barkley is on the very ragged edge on what the most capable male athlete can accomplish. And given the physical differences between male and female, it’s shy of the boundary of what the most capable female can accomplish.”  Now he does go on to say, that he is sure there is very likely is a female somewhere in the world who is capable of accomplishing the Barkley.
Arrgh. I don’t know why gender has to be brought into these types of debates. It’s a very tough race. More people have summited Mt Everest than has finished the Barkley. Maybe there’s been no females that have been that interested in finishing the race!
Maybe it’s time for the females to come out of the woodwork.  Start to work on those odds. Start with one loop and work up to a Fun Run. Invade that little testosterone-ridden camp.Wear pink.
Who wants to start training with me?

Daffodil Run

Today, the temperatures were mild. I got out of work, in time to go for a little run on the neighboring roads, in search of early season daffodils.  This abandoned house just had to have daffodils around. As I approached the house, there was much movement and activitiy inside-I’m guessing raccoons. I didn’t even get close to the door.

Sure enough, daffodils!

I will return in a few days for some better flowers in bloom.
I continued down the road to “Yellow Water Road”- really,the name of the road. I had an old ruin in mind. I was dismayed to see the ruins were, well, ruined by fire.

Here’s what the ruins looked like in 2009:

 Yes, I found daffodils around the remains. I dug some up. They were just budding up, and not in bloom  yet.

On my run down Yellow Water Road, I noticed road over to my right. Although it was private property, I decided to take a chance and take a look-and a dig-at these daffs.

Not your normal daffs!I don’t know what these are, at the moment, but it’s a nice ruffled green and yellow.

As I got a good little handful of bulbs, I noticed two people, moving purposefully down their driveway at me. Busted! I decided to go with honesty, and hiked up their property to meet them.  “Hi Folks! I hope you don’t mind me digging up your daffodils!”

After a few minutes, after I introduced myself as that crazy runner woman who rescues daffodils, they were okay with it. They said it was okay to come back and photograph the daffodils when they were in bloom.I ended up walking down the road and chatting with my neighbors. I learned what property they owned, and how many cows they had all over the place.
Home again, after an almost five mile run, with three daffodil location scored. I quickly got the bulbs planted in a handy big pot that was still out in the yard over-winter, will just wait to see if some of these bulbs are big enough to bloom this year!

Laurel Highlands March 25-26

One area I need and still need to work on for MMT is my hill training. The LHHT-Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail-is the closest trail to me for this, using the first 8 miles of the trail:

I believe it’s about 4000 feet of climb for the out and back, from mile zero to mile 8.
It was a bit startling, when I hit the first elevation driving over to the Laurel Highlands, to see SNOW still on the ground! I thought we were done with that!

Jamie met me at noon, at the trailhead, in Ohiopyle, and we headed out. Bob was running late, so we left him our departure time and went north. Brian and Suzanne were also on the trail; they had started earlier, and were going to run to the mile 12 marker and then turn and run back. Jamie and I were kind of winging it for mileage. I was planning on bigger miles for Saturday.

We ran into Brian and Suzanne just past mile 9, so we turned to run back with them. Bob caught us around mile 8, and he continued up the trail for a few more miles.

You always have to stop for the views and the scenic overlook. This is around mile 3, where the  Youghiogheny River peels away from the trail.
Another great feature of the LHHT is the Falls City Pub right at the trailhead. It doesn’t get any better to come right off a trail, into warmth, good food and good beer. The five of us enjoyed a meal and some drinks, then it was off to get some sleep for more running in the morning.

I was starting out with Bob in the morning. When you run with Bob, plans frequently change..and my Saturday running plans did change. On Friday, Bob had gone off piste to hike up a gas line rightofway, to get in some elevation, and we agreed to run out to mile 8, and then at the bottom of the mile 6 hill, to go all the way to the Yough River downhill, and then take the gas-line hill all the way to the top. (It always sounds better in the planning stage.)
I managed to run SMACK into a tree with my head around mile 3! I was leading, watching the trail, and ran my forehead into a fallen tree which was right at my height! I scared Bob a bit with my scream I think. I scared myself! But not even a bruise from it..
Shortly after this, we ran into Rich and Moose. They had started from Mile 12, and were working their way down to mile zero, then back to their cars again. We were hoping to intersect them, on their way back north, but we were probably off on the gas line hill when they came through.
It was very good to spend the day with Bob on the trail, we chatted about training and MMT and life in general. The gasline hill wasn’t that bad, I believe it was harder coming back down. The quads were beginning to protest with all the downhills.
We then made our way back to Ohiopyle, since Bob had a deadline to get home. I knew I wasn’t going to get the double out and back in, since I was starting to have the ‘guilty feeling’ for being away from home for two days. Bob suggested a few trails right of of Ohiopyle, and I decided to go up to the Overlook on the other side of the river.
Bob left, and I found the Baughman Trail, which would lead to the Overlook. Although I ate both a banana and a Reese’s PB egg, I was still hungry. I was also alone now, and the trail didn’t seem so much fun without company. Still, I had said I was going up to the Overlook and was determined to get there. It was all uphill, so I tried to console myself with the fact that it would then all be downhill going back.

You can see the Laurel Highlands Trail, right about in the middle of this picture. The overlook, BTW, is the big white square you can see way over there when you are on the LHHT. It is a huge granite rock.

I just snapped a few pics, then headed down the trail. The Baughman Trail is 3.4 miles, so I got some more time in on my feet. But, as you can see, I am tired!

So, 18 miles on Friday, 4000 feet of climb, 21.4 miles on Saturday, 5200 feet of climb. Good weekend of training!

Weekend Running

I’m off to the Laurel Highlands Trail-actually the LHHT-Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

Although it’s a 71 (77 with the detour) mile trail, we’re focusing on the first few miles:

(Sorry about my mad Paint skillz)

I hope there is less snow than the pictures above! Those are from Slim Pickins events of the past.
The Plan is do some an out and back today, from mile zero to mile 8, and then tomorrow I will do the the DOAB-the Double Out And Back. Mile Zero to Mile Eight; and then back out again. Those hills at mile Three will suck.
But it’s good hill training, and that’s what I need. 49!

More Training Less Writing

My postings has decreased here lately. Sometimes there isn’t enough hours in the day. Sometimes I just have nothing to say. Other days, I’ve written a post in my head on my run, but by the time I’ve arrived home, showered, ate, did chores, the body of the post has gotten away from me, down to a “great run today”.

My legs feel suprisingly good after 38 miles this past weekend. However, there was not much climbing involved. I am playing it smart though, I’m taking a few days off from running-I am even getting a massage tomorrow!!

Pack and Repack

I have just now started sorting my gear from last weekend, and re-packing my gear for running this next weekend-that’s just such a fun statement to make. Big running weekends!!

Spruce Mountain Running Camp West Virginia

Registration is now open for the first-ever Spruce Mountain Running Camp, a wilderness running camp for high school aged runners. The camp will be from July 3rd-9th, 2011 at The Mountain Institute. It is a collaboration between TMI and WVMTR. Eric Grossman will be directing the week’s activities which will include, but are certainly not limited to, running, hiking, camping and trail clearing. We have space for 30 kids, so spread this to anyone you think might be interested.

The Mountain Institute  was established in 1972 in West Virginia, where its work focused on experiential and leadership education for West Virginia’s youth. This work was based at a 400-acre nature preserve on the slopes of West Virginia’s highest mountain, Spruce Knob. TMI formally expanded into an international organization in 1987, when it assisted in the establishment of two new protected areas in Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Regional TMI offices were established in Nepal and Peru a few years later.

I wanted to post this, to promote a WVMTR event, and also to praise The Mountain Institute. This is a great location, with wonderful trails to run on. This is where The West Virginia Trilogy is staged out of.  It’s a very special area, a remote area, that not many folks get to experience.

Weekend Wrap up Night Run

This was NEO TC annual Fat Ass, the Covered Bridge Fat Ass. We staged out of Linn Run State Park, in PA, like we did for Slim Pickins.
It took just one email, for me to change plans for the weekend. “If you want you can head out down the trail and meet up with us on the LHHT.  park at the camp or 5 miles up the road at the TH right at the Laurel Trail.  Should be a great big full moon.”

So I went from the mind set of just getting to the cabin at midnight, to starting my run after I arrive, to meet Bob and Rich out there on the trail…much more inviting and exciting!
Nothing like working a 10 hour shift, then driving 3 hours, and then running trails all night!

I got to the cabin at 1148, right on time. I had already changed to trail clothes. Nobody was stirring at the cabin, so I didn’t knock on the door. It was warm out. I discarded my Bunn, and my air-breathing mask, and some jelly beans…it seemed like I had too much gear.
And it was warm! So warm, like 60 degrees, at midnight, on Friday! I still kept the fluorescent yellow Asics jacket on, knowing the temperature would drop through the night.
I took the road option up to where the Laurel Highland Trail would intersect. The plan was, Bob and Rich had started at mile marker 70, and head south. I was starting at mile marker 39 and would head north. When we intersected, I would turn around, and run with them back to the cabin.
It was five miles to the Laurel Highland Trail. I turned it into six, by missing the trail head and running down a different trail. So it was 130 am when I got on the LHHT.
LHHT (Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail) is marked very well with yellow blazes. But it still a little difficult, at night. I would find myself blundering off trail, stopping, and looking for a blaze. (Note: late winter is difficult on the trail. It’s not well travelled, and lots of the wood looks the same.) I would find myself getting frustrated with blundering off trail, stopping and finding the yellow blazes again.
In fact, when I got to the mileage at the “Beam Rocks” I ended up circling the rocks, and heading SOUTH (the way I had came). I noticed the water crossing I was getting ready to cross, and thought, I just did this. Luckily, I turned, noticed a few different blazes and headed north again.

I run alone, most of the time. It doesn’t bother me. And with this run, I didn’t really feel at it like I was running alone. I was going to meet up with my friends, somewhere along the trail, and then we would all be together.
There is still snow in Pa. As I put my foot down on some white stuff, I started the thought that it might be slick, and then whomp! I was down, on my back, on my side. I didn’t even get up. My fingers got bent back “the other way” but I could tell they weren’t broken.
I didn’t even get up. I rolled to my side, got my hydration vest off, took some ibuprofen and a caffeine tablet. Body parts hurt, I bent my left fingers back the wrong way, but nothing was broken. My shoulder was very sore-it’s good I am not a swimmer, as I could see that being limited.

It wasn’t till after this, when I had my first “alone” minute. All I was doing, was heading north, for my friends. The thought came out of the air. “You are all by yourself, the only human, in this big forest”. It’s 3am, I’m a solitary female, in a thin jacket in the cold, hiking in the middle of the night. It gave me a scary moment-but just for a moment. For some reason, I thought about my waterproof matches that I carry. I could always build a fire. I would have warmth, and t hat would be good. For some reason, that comforted me. (Just a note, anymore, I carry my emergency whistle and fireproof watches, and my inhaler, all the time in my pack. They don’t weight much.)

Anyways, I keep trekking north. WHERE are my friends? I am getting so lonely. I just want to be with my friends. I’m tired of being alone. Our starting times were just estimations-I was off my starting time on the trail by 1/2 hour, maybe they were too?
I start to re-evaluate my calories. I didn’t really drill down on how long I would  be out there-do I have enough calories for this run? I have one of those high-caloric pecan pies in my pack-how many calories are in those?
I stop at mile 47 to eat and inventory my remaining calories. The pecan pie is an AWESOME 480 calories-I eat half immediately. (Isn’t it interesting, in a female that watches her calories so carefully, is so happy to have some fuel with so many calories in it? That’s ultra trail running!)  I still have some PayDay bars and some hard candies. I’ve been out on the trails for five hours, it will be at least 5 hours back again.
I resolve, if I haven’t run into the guys at mile 50, to turn and go back to the cabin.
About fifteen minutes later, I am astounded to see lights up the hill in front of me. After hours of hearing voices, and seeing rogue lights, my community, my peeps, my friends are here!! I am SO  HAPPY to see my guys. The energy level goes up immediately.
Rich asks, is this Kimba? Well,who else would it be??
The mile markers I have struggled over going north are so much easier now, with three headlamps, and conversation continiuing. It also helps that the sunrise is imminent. It becomes much easier to run with the lights off.
All of a sudden, there is this quick guy in shorts running toward us-CAM!! Another NEO TC member, he’s been running crazy miles on Friday and into Saturday morning. He joins us and I run ahead of the guys-they seem to be doing some macho beating of their chests-but I also overhear some nice compliments being given of my running status-so that was very much appreciated.
Cam peels off at the trail head, to his truck, to rack up yet more miles on another trail. Rich, Bob and I continue down the road for four more miles to the cabin. It’s all downhill, and Rich tells me we have to run it all-so we do. Glad Rich was there, because I am sure I would have slowed to a walk-and we run the last 4 back to the cabin.
Being it is now 930 am, lunch of nacho casserole and some Dogfish IPA is a fine breakfast after a 50K night run!