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Barkley Marathons, Outdoors, Running

2005 Barkley Race Report by Rich Limacher

Barkley Yellow gate

The Yellow Gate, Courtesy of Finally Found Something I love

Rich “The Troubadour” Limacher (aka scRitch) is a longtime Barkley runner and chicken cook, contributing both sweat and humor (hopefully not on the chicken) in good times and bad. Here’s his trip report from the 2005 Barkley, as originally published on Ultra List and also on Matt Mahoney’s great site.

When Hell Freezes Over

A Play on April Fools in One Act
by Yurz Foolbly

(Barkley scRitch and his running buddy from the local running club are having coffee after a Saturday long run)

Buddy: No shit?

scRitch: I’m tellin’ ya.

Buddy: No fuggin’ way!

scRitch: I’m tellin’ ya!

Buddy: Blizzard?

scRitch: You damn straight.

Buddy: A fuggin’ blizzard??

scRitch: You got it.

Buddy: In Tennessee. On April the 2nd.

scRitch: Two, maybe three inches.

Buddy: Of SNOW???

scRitch: You fuggin’ A.

Buddy: Snow, freezin’ and blowin’, way down SOUTH in Tennessee? In the springtime? On the same damn day we’re up North having 50 degrees and sunshine?

scRitch: Snow, sleet, gravel-size hail, freezing rain, gale-force winds, you name it. We had it.

Buddy: You gotta be shittin’ me!

scRitch: People were freezing to death.

Buddy: No!

scRitch: Yep.

Buddy: Freezing to death!?

scRitch: Damn near.

Buddy: They all DNF’d? They ALL quit???

scRitch: Yep.

Buddy: Nah, you’re foolin’ me.

scRitch: OK, so here’s an example. What does it tell you about a race, when one of the runners is named “Polar Bear”–and HE damn near freezes to death!

Buddy: Polar bears don’t freeze.

scRitch: That is usually correct.

Buddy: So this guy named “Polar Bear” was freezing to death?

scRitch: Damn near.

Buddy: You seen this?

scRitch: Yep. I was there.

Buddy: You’re only EIGHT MILES into a 100 MILE RUN and you’re all quitting ‘cuz you’re freezing to death? In Tennessee. In the SOUTH. In the springtime. Flowers are bloomin’.

scRitch: That’s about the size of it. You want a muffin?

Buddy: No. I wanna know what the hell happened down there!

scRitch: That makes two of us.

Buddy: YOU were freezing?

scRitch: Just like a pack of Bird’s-Eye peas.

Buddy: So that’s why you stopped at a measly 8 miles?

scRitch: Lemme tell ya sumpthin’. The guy who got the farthest…

Buddy: The winner?

scRitch: Well, no, just who got the farthest.

Buddy: On the course.

scRitch: That’s right.

Buddy: How far’d he get?

scRitch: We figure about 88 miles.

Buddy: 88 out of 100.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: So, no winner?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: No men’s winner and no women’s winner?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: No age group first, second, and third?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: No “open” and no “masters”?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: Nobody even got to the finish line?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: NOBODY?

scRitch: No.

Buddy: Ever?

scRitch: Put it this way: the race’s been goin’ on since 1986. In all that time there have been exactly SIX runners who have gotten to the finish line–and two of them were D.Q.’d.

Buddy: No.

scRitch: I mean to tell ya.

Buddy: No.

scRitch: Yeah!

Buddy: In 20 years, six finishers, and only four legit?

scRitch: That’s about the size of it. Except, really, we all figure there’s been six. The two D.Q.’s were for pretty small infractions of the rules.

Buddy: Rules?

scRitch: Absolutely.

Buddy: “Rules” like, what, no pacing?

scRitch: Hah.

Buddy: Gotta have their bibs pinned in front?

scRitch: Hah!

Buddy: They forgot to turn in their chips at the end?

scRitch: HAH!

Buddy: What?

scRitch: They ran on the wrong side of a creek.

Buddy: They ran on the wrong side of a creek!?

scRitch: Yep. That’s about the size of it. I mean, it ain’t like they hitched a ride to the finish or anything.

Buddy: So, what, the other side was paved? It was a shortcut, what?

scRitch: Nah. We’re thinkin’ the race director changed the rule that year to see if anyone was reading the rules.

Buddy: And they didn’t read the rules.

scRitch: It was a sorta-kinda cheap trick actually, ‘cuz most of the years previous everybody was supposed to be on that side of the creek.

Buddy: So those two didn’t read the rules after they changed the rules.

scRitch: Apparently.

Buddy: Kinda like Van Halen, or somebody, demanding in their contract that their backstage M&Ms supply have all the brown ones removed.

scRitch: Exactly.

Buddy: Just to see if anybody’s readin’ the contract.

scRitch: Yeah.

Buddy: So this year nobody finished and nobody got D.Q.’d.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: But you were saying…

scRitch: About rules?

Buddy: No, about the guy that got the farthest this year.

scRitch: Right. He also was freezin’. In fact, he later said that to warm up his hands, he peed on ’em!

Buddy: No.

scRitch: Oh yeah.

Buddy: No!

scRitch: Think about it. Your body’s, what, 98-point-6 degrees? So, your pee’s gotta be hot, right?

Buddy: But what’s that do at the aid stations?

scRitch: Huh?

Buddy: The aid stations! You said ultra aid stations have food, right? So how’s this guy gonna take food with piss all over his fingers?

scRitch: Fuhgeddaboud it. There ain’t no aid stations.

Buddy: WHAT? No aid stations?

scRitch: That’s about the size of it.

Buddy: How in the hell are people supposed to cover 100 miles without orange slices or Gatorade along the way?

scRitch: Well, for one, you need to carry it with ya. And, for two, we’re talkin’ about 20-mile loops here–always coming back to camp. You usually have your car at the camp. So, your trunk is your aid station.

Buddy: Every 20 miles.

scRitch: Yeah.

Buddy: You only get “aid” every 20 miles.

scRitch: Yeah. But actually, there are two water drops on the course where you can refill your bottles.

Buddy: So, aid stations?

scRitch: If ya wanna call ’em that. Actually, they’re just a bunch of gallon jugs. And no “volunteers” handing ya anything. No Gatorade either. No half bananas or oranges. And this year, when we got to the first water drop at 8 miles? Them jugs was froze solid and covered with snow.

Buddy: Frozen solid.

scRitch: Damn near.

Buddy: So, what’d ya do?

scRitch: We quit! It’s what I been tellin’ ya!

Buddy: You stopped right there.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: And caught a ride back to camp.

scRitch: HAH!

Buddy: What?

scRitch: There ain’t no “ride” back to camp. It’s another 8-mile trudge!

Buddy: Whoa. So. What, ya did 16 miles?

scRitch: Yeah, maybe.

Buddy: It what time?

scRitch: HAH!

Buddy: No, serious.

scRitch: You gotta be shittin’ me “time.”

Buddy: Well, what’s your PR for 25K?

scRitch: You gotta be shittin’ me.

Buddy: No, serious!

scRitch: On THAT course? Try seven-and-a-half mo-fuggin’ HOURS!

Buddy: To do 16 miles?

scRitch: That’s about the size of it.

Buddy: Whoa! Musta gotten lost.

scRitch: Tell me about it.

Buddy: No, really. What’s up with that?

scRitch: You ain’t been payin’ attention, have ya. We are talking about a NON course. A NOTHING’S MARKED course. A so-called “trail” that was hacked out of the forest primeval in 1930 and hasn’t been maintained since!

Buddy: Wow.

scRitch: There’s even a monument there in the park for the dudes that DIED while building that trail. What does THAT tell you?

Buddy: They didn’t have aid stations either.

scRitch: Right!

Buddy: So, you were lost?

scRitch: Nah. I’ve been there a few times. I didn’t really get “lost” lost. At least not this time.

Buddy: So, why the seven hours?

scRitch: Think about it. We’re talkin’ Tennessee “hills” which are actually small mountains. We’re talkin’ so-called “trail” from 1930-something and we’re talkin’ ice and snow and blizzard. So, there’s erosion, right? Like, seventy freaking years of erosion! So, this means whatever’s left of a “trail” is on a sideways slant, and it’s covered with ice and snow and mud–tons of mud–underneath, and for every foot you go forwards, you slide three feet sideways down the mountain!

Buddy: Whoa.

scRitch: So, now, add SEVENTY FREAKING YEARS of trees blowing over, vines covering everything, briars and thorns and other wild growing shit stabbing your body, gale-force winds in your face, frostbit hands covered with piss and unable to grab anything to keep you from falling on your ass, and the whole miserable mountaintop is slicker than the arena the Blackhawks skate on–and you don’t think it takes five-and-a-half HOURS to reach eight miserable miles???

Buddy: Lotta fun, huh?

scRitch: Tons.

Buddy: I thought you said seven-and-a-half.

scRitch: Two for the jeep road back to camp.

Buddy: Oh.

scRitch: Five-and-a-half hours of pure hell freezing over, and two more back to cheeses.

Buddy: Eight miles in 120 minutes. That’s 15-minute miles on, what’d you say, jeep roads?

scRitch: That’s about the size of it.

Buddy: Wow. Even our 60-year-old first-time-marathon ladies can do better’n that.

scRitch: Yeah, but they ain’t like green flash-frozen peas after crawling sideways over mountains in the untrod Tennessee jungle.

Buddy: No, they’re just 60-plus year old grandmothers tryin’ to run a marathon.

scRitch: They’re my heroes.

Buddy: More coffee?

scRitch: Yeah. I gotta tell ya ’bout “Ray the K.”

Buddy: (after getting two refills) You were saying…

scRitch: Thanks. “Ray the K.”

Buddy: Who?

scRitch: Ray-his-last-name-starts-with-K. Unpronouncable.

Buddy: What about him?

scRitch: You know Chuck Bundy?

Buddy: Sure!

scRitch: Chuck’s the guy that dragged me, kicking and screaming, into all this shit.

Buddy: This “Barkley” shit?

scRitch: No, this “ultra” shit.

Buddy: Oh, so now it’s HIS fault?

scRitch: Nah. He could never even imagine ever tryin’ the Barkley.

Buddy: I know the feeling.

scRitch: Actually, you don’t.

Buddy: OK, I don’t. But who’s this Ray dude?

scRitch: This guy’s famous. He’s been running ultramarathons for, just, forever. More than almost anybody. I think, in fact, he’s got the record for the most ultra flat-out wins overall since the beginning of time.

Buddy: Pretty impressive. He must be one old dude.

scRitch: I find out last weekend he’s younger than me.

Buddy: WHOA!

scRitch: You got it.

Buddy: So, how many ultramarathons have you won?

scRitch: Fuck you, OK?

Buddy: (chuckles) OK, OK. Just yankin’ your chain.

scRitch: So anyway, I end up doin’ quite a few of those first 8 miles with none other than “Ray the K.”

Buddy: I’m guessin’ you’re behind him.

scRitch: You ass. I was in front of him!

Buddy: Which is why I asked you how many ultras you’ve won…

scRitch: Again. Fuck you.

Buddy: (chuckles)

scRitch: Him and Stu–this other guy who’s been hiking that park since probably before dirt was invented–were behind me an’ Keith–this other guy out there for the very first time in his life–actually caught up to us and passed us while we were eating lunch.

Buddy: Eating lunch.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: During a footrace.

scRitch: Fuck you.

Buddy: (chuckles)

scRitch: I TOLD you we have to carry our own aid, right? Well, when you’re out there for days and days, “aid” might just include “lunch,” OK?

Buddy: You said five-and-a-half hours–no! No, don’t say it: “Fuck you”–I already know.

scRitch: You’re catchin’ on.

Buddy: OK, so. With pee all over your hands, you’re eating a sandwich.

scRitch: Nah. I told you the MAIN guy, the lead guy, the one who got the farthest this year–HE PEED, not me.

Buddy: In five-and-a-half hours, you never peed.

scRitch: Not on my frickin’ HANDS!

Buddy: On the snow.

scRitch: You got it.

Buddy: Which is now yellow.

scRitch: I’m gonna ignore that.

Buddy: OK, OK. Get on with it! Ray the K passes your ass, then what?

scRitch: Ray the K is lost. He is WAAAAAAAAY over his head here. He is a road racer. One helluva road racer, I might add. But down there in the Barkley jungle, this dude’s like a shark on a sand dune.

Buddy: Kinda helpless.

scRitch: Hangin’ onto Stu for dear life.

Buddy: Just like you.

scRitch: Yeah. Right. I am always a bit fearful of my life, too, down there. So, when a true trailblazer like Stu comes along, I leave women and children behind and follow his path to the promised land.

Buddy: To the 8-mile mark.

scRitch: To “Book 2.” I told ya about tearin’ pages out of books, didn’t I? Which is how the race director knows you got everywhere?

Buddy: Right.

scRitch: So, anyway, here’s famous Ray the K, who Chuck used to rave on and on about how damn fast he was “back in the day,” and it turns out I was in front of him for about half the day…

Buddy: Until you stopped for lunch.

scRitch: Are you gonna pay attention to this, or what?

Buddy: OK! OK! Continue! My coffee’s getting cold.

scRitch: …and, anyway, the four of us are just freaking frozen and miserable and Stu says he’s sick and Keith has no clue and I’m scared out of my wits… and this guy Ray is SINGING at the top of his lungs!!!

Buddy: No.

scRitch: I mean to tell ya.

Buddy: Singing.

scRitch: That’s right.

Buddy: In the middle of the jungle. In the midst of a blizzard.

scRitch: You got it.

Buddy: So, what, he’s singing about all his ultra victories?

scRitch: Damn near.

Buddy: Gotta be a pretty long song.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: Isn’t he freezing too?

scRitch: You damn right he’s freezing. But, he’s also crazy.

Buddy: I’m thinkin’ he’s in good company.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: So, he sings all the way to the 8-mile mark?

scRitch: Damn near. Only it’s called “Book 2.”

Buddy: So, what happens when you all get to “Book 2”?

scRitch: Stu plops down in the snow and talks about hopin’ that nobody dies.

Buddy: No.

scRitch: Yeah! Then I say, no, ain’t nobody gonna die that day. Especially not US, ‘cuz we’s quittin’!

Buddy: I gotta think.

scRitch: So, meanwhile, while Stu’s talkin’ death and influenza and we’re both waiting for Keith, Ray the K decides to GO BACK and try to find his buddy “Sam” and “Polar Bear”…

Buddy: Who by now is probably frozen…

scRitch: Maybe.

Buddy: But “Ray” doesn’t know the way, or does he?

scRitch: Well, by then we were on the jeep road, lookin’ at all those frozen jugs of water all covered with snow–which kind of clinched the unanimous decision to DNF right there…

Buddy: So Ray goes back…

scRitch: …back up the jeep road towards the place where the second “Book” was–which, by the way, was called “The Hunger, The Thirst” and had my damn name written in it because it came from my library ‘cuz previously I’d donated it to the race director–so, you can imagine the chuckle we all got out of THAT–and then Ray, too, disappeared into The Twilight Zone.

Buddy: He got lost on the jeep road?

scRitch: Appparently.

Buddy: He didn’t find those other guys?

scRitch: I have no clue. All I know is, ol’ Stu’s sittin’ on his ass in the snow gettin’ all covered up by the blizzard and suddenly I’M havin’ nightmares about “Jeremiah Johnson.”

Buddy: Huh?

scRitch: You musta never seen the movie. Anyway, in that movie Robert Redford is in the 1800s somewhere in Canada or Montana somewhere in the wintertime, and he stumbles upon some ancient dude named “Old Jack Hawkins” or somethin’, and this cat’s frozen solid sittin’ in the snow still holding his rifle.

Buddy: Just like your “Stu.”

scRitch: Right. So, I’m thinkin’ we gotta get Stu back to camp before he freezes to death…

Buddy: Still holding his rifle? Or, would it be his water jug?

scRitch: Fuck…

Buddy: …”you.” I know. Go ahead. Finish the story.

scRitch: So Stu gets up and starts walkin’ and I pause to write messages in the snow as to our whereabouts.

Buddy: Figuring Ray and company will someday come back to that point and know where you went.

scRitch: Exactly.

Buddy: It figures.

scRitch: What?

Buddy: You’re a writer!

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: So.

scRitch: So, what?

Buddy: Didja spell his name right?

scRitch: Who?

Buddy: That Ray-somebody. You said you couldn’t pronouce his name. I was just wondering if you could spell it–no! No, don’t say it. I already know.

scRitch: You’re an idiot, ya know that?

Buddy: You’re callin’ ME the “idiot.” And YOU’RE the one freezing in the jungle with no trail on some mountain in Tennessee with no warmth, runnin’ some crazy footrace that no one can finish.

scRitch: That’s about the size of it.

Buddy: All right, look, finish the story. I gotta get home and mow my lawn.

scRitch: OK–sorry to hold up your spring cleaning–but, well, here’s the deal. Me ‘n’ Stu walk on down the road for, oh, maybe three miles… when suddenly Ray the K comes pounding down the road at a six-minute pace at least. He catches us. Gives us the report that those other guys–Keith, Ray’s buddy, and the near-froze Polar Bear–got lost AGAIN just on the jeep road, but that they were OK now and headin’ down this same road behind us. And then Ray the K goes charging back up the hill on the jeep road to report back to THEM that WE were OK, and then he comes pounding back down to us again. When it was all over, Ray figured he’d run well over 20 miles–in way over 7 hours–and still beat the first Barkley runner back to camp, finishing his first loop, by well over 2 full hours!

Buddy: What a difference a road makes, huh?

scRitch: Exactly. Now here’s the punchline: Ray, who’s been around, like, forever, and certainly as long as the Barkley has, said that he’d always told the race director he would only run Barkley when, you guessed it, “hell freezes over.”

Buddy: Right. So, last week in Tennessee, hell froze over.

scRitch: Right. And that’s where I finally met Ray.

Buddy: Who Chuck had been braggin’ about for years.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: And you didn’t believe him.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: But, there he was, flyin’ up and down the road as old as you are doin’ a 6-minute pace.

scRitch: Right.

Buddy: And all hell was freezing over.

scRitch: Right. In fact, there’s TWO “hells” there. Later in the course, which we never got to, there’s these two especially huge and STEEP mountains called “Little Hell” and “Big Hell.” And I later asked Mike, who was that first runner to finish the first loop, if in fact those hells were frozen over.

Buddy: And they were.

scRitch: You got it.

Buddy: So.

scRitch: So, what?

Buddy: So, how DO you pronounce his name?

scRitch: Bur.

Buddy: No, you don’t need to give me the sound effects. I’m just askin’ how to say the man’s name…

scRitch: Bur! BUR!!

Buddy: I already know that! Just how do you SAY the dude’s NAME???

scRitch: BUR!!! BUR!!! BUR!!!

(Here we conclude this imaginary drama with your imagination providing a parody of that reductio ad absurdam comedy classic first made famous by Abbott and Costello: “Who’s on First?” 😉

Oh, and BTW: Congrats to Mike Bur on his Eric Clifton-like feat of beating the entire field through the first full loop. What a classic! A DNF like that could only possibly be outdone by an even lesser DNF one week later at the Bull Run Run!

<two especially huge and steep grins :>

[Don’t shoot me, Mike; it was, after all, the weekend of April Fools!]

Reproduced with permission. If you’d like your Barkley report on the site, just let me know. If you didn’t understand any of the terms, check out the Quick Reference Guide.


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