I’m hoping to get to my full race report in the next week, but I wanted to go ahead and get a quick recap and some thoughts out. The past few days have been pretty crazy, and it’s still kind of hard to believe. I owe a huge thank you to my family, awesome crew, and companies that supported me. I needed all of their incredible support and commitment to get me to that gate a 5th time. Having 30 minutes might seem like a nice cushion, but just 8 minutes more per transition, or just 30 seconds more per book, and I would’ve been over.
Brief race recap
The early start meant I only got about 30-40 minutes of sleep beforehand, and the dense fog early on caused absolute chaos. I still feel horrible; all those people were relying on me for navigation and in the fog I failed. People separated and rejoined multiple times, a lot of time was lost, and by the end of the loop it was just me and Gary at the front. We had agreed to stick together by that point, as we were both moving at a solid pace and the name of the game was disaster avoidance.
Gary and I worked well together: him the by the book navigator always checking bearings, and me the instinctive navigator who read and followed the lay of the land. By loop 4 we had put ourselves back in good position, but we started to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Things that were familiar appeared to not be familiar, and we made a few critical mistakes that changed the narrative from “easy loop 5 after a nap” to “tight loop 5 with no nap.”
Gary and I had originally both wanted clockwise on loop 5, but partway through loop 4 he agreed to do the other direction. I had been transitioning between loops much faster than him and he wanted the certainty ahead of time to think about his direction. I’m still extremely grateful for this, and it was a huge stress relief to not have to figure it out later or race each other out of camp. He led the rest of loop 4 as practice in that direction.
I had plenty of time on loop 5 but couldn’t afford any mistakes, which the sleep deprivation put me at a big risk of. I ended up taking two naps on course, though, (possibly three) and navigated flawlessly. Fortunately foot pain and cold rain helped keep me alert.
After seemingly blacking out and becoming disoriented after collecting my last page, I ran down Chimney Top and through camp to the gate not because I wanted to sprint to the finish, but because I thought that I might fall asleep if I went any slower. Finally touching that gate was an unbelievable feeling. It had actually happened. It was real, and my mind could relax and think about things other than staying awake.
After I sat down I fully expected to see Gary come in from the other side at any minute. His fatal mistake and resulting end was absolutely heartbreaking, I don’t view those last 2 miles as the difference between 100 and 0, though. It’s the difference between 100 and 99, and what Gary accomplished out there is tremendous. I know he’ll bounce back and I’m looking forward to seeing it.
First, I seriously can’t believe the overwhelming support and the incredible messages that I’ve received since the race. As I explain a bit in my FAQ, I’m an introvert and generally not a people person. I ran Barkley for internal reasons, the primary one being to find my own limits and see how far I could push them. I would have been fine if no one outside of the park had ever known. Getting messages that I’ve inspired or motivated so many people is incredible, though, and a greater reward than I would have imagined. (also though, when I say overwhelming I do mean that literally… I apologize if you’ve sent me something and I haven’t responded yet).
Otherwise, though, I’ve remained pretty out of it since the race. The toll that that 5th loop took on me was an order of magnitude beyond what 4+ did last year and I haven’t really been able to process and enjoy things yet. I believe in a previous year Jared Campbell jokingly told laz that a loop “extracted part of his soul” and that’s honestly how I feel right now.
I’m sure that recovery will happen over time, though, and any part of me that was extracted will be returned stronger from it. I can at least already feel my appetite returning, and although it was a few days late I finally got to treat myself to a KrispyBo today! (for a bit more info on my actual nutrition, please see my FAQ)