This 2021 Barkley Marathons interview with Liz Canty, Courtney Dauwalter and Maggie Guterl digs into what worked and didn’t at the race. There hasn’t been a Barkley finisher since John Kelly in 2017, so hopes were high that 2021 give us the first-even woman finisher. But despite having one of the strongest women’s fields in Barkley history, the mud, rain, and fog proved too much for everyone on the course.
All of these runners are insanely busy, so thanks to them for taking the time to answer some questions about their Barkley experience:
Table of Contents
- Questions for Everyone
- Were you able to get some sleep waiting for the conch?
- Does anyone make sure everyone wakes up when the conch blows?
- It is better for runners to start the race early in the dark or later?
- Laz made Karen McNeany the Human Sacrifice this year. WTH?
- What made you want to do the Barkley in the first place?
- Are you planning to come back and finish a FR or the full Barkley?
- It is possible to finish in a year like 2021 (weather-wise)?
- Favorite snack on the trail?
- What was your interloopal sleeping plan?
- What happened on Loop 2?
- What body parts concerned you, and which were a problem?
- Tell us about your crew
- How much has COVID impacted your training?
- Is there extra pressure for a woman to finish?
- What would you change about the perception of women at the Barkleys?
- Did you do Loop 1 with Chris Hanlon?
- How could we get more women into the Barkleys?
- Questions for Liz Canty
- Questions for Courtney Dauwalter
- Questions for Maggie Guterl
- More about the Barkleys
Questions for Everyone
Were you able to get some sleep waiting for the conch?
The Barkleys officially starts one hour after RD lazarus lake blows an actual conch, which could happen any time between midnight and 12 pm.
Maggie: It down poured from about 10 pm to close to 1 am with crazy wind so I was not only excited to start but worried our tents were going to be destroyed and that my tent’s “rain-proofness” would not withstand what was happening. Ha. I think I finally fell asleep right before the conch sounded.
Liz: I was ready to conk out, but the weather had other ideas. I don’t stress much about hearing the conch, my husband takes the night shift for Barkley to listen (and goes back to sleep when I leave). This year the rain was just so loud I don’t think anyone got sleep.
Courtney: Definitely no sleep! In addition to being paranoid I would miss the sound of the conch, it was pouring rain and really windy on Wednesday night. There was no sleeping and I was actually really excited he blew it in the middle of the night so we could just get started.
Does anyone make sure everyone wakes up when the conch blows?
Liz: Absolutely there is the danger of sleeping through it. Of course as racers we try to wake up the people near us, but you never know who is bedded down in a van/camper who might have missed it. I think this year someone set off a car alarm to help out too.
Courtney: There is a danger of sleeping through it! In fact, I think it has happened! We had multiple different tents and people sleeping in cars at our campsite so my hope was that at least one of us would hear it and then they’d wake the whole group.
Maggie: Courtney and I both slept in tents so I was pretty sure I would hear it. Laz luckily waited until 2:04 am to blow the conch. The rain had slowed significantly by then otherwise not sure anyone would have heard it. In fact, I thought that would be a super funny way to troll laz is just get all the runners to agree to just sleep right through it and pretend we never heard it. Guess time would be ticking for all anyway and the joke would be on us. Karen Jackson slept right through it and started an hour late.
It is better for runners to start the race early in the dark or later?
Some races have started close to midnight, making for a dark start but minimizing sleep deprivation. Others have started close to eight in the morning. It always seemed to me that unless you’re a great sleeper, later conch blows just meant more overall sleep deprivation.
Maggie: There are pros and cons to both. So it’s best not to think about which one is better.
Liz: I’m with you, early morning/middle of the night is my favorite.
Courtney: Yeah, I was excited it blew when it did. No reason to delay the start if we’re all wide awake anyways!
Laz made Karen McNeany the Human Sacrifice this year. WTH?
Every year, laz designates one runner to be the human sacrifice, meaning least likely to finish even one loop.
Liz: She’s strong and smart, it was a weird choice! But a virgin all the same. She had yet to do a race over 50k as well, that could have been part of it with much of the runners being experienced multi-day, 100+ plus milers.
Maggie: Who knows what his logic is behind that? She is a badass. He also knows her well, so I think it’s a sort of honor in his eyes as well.
What made you want to do the Barkley in the first place?
Maggie: Because it sounds impossible and I think a woman can finish so I wanted to give it really good go, even if it takes years.
Courtney: Suffering in the woods for days at a time in awful weather… sounds like a perfect challenge! After hearing so much about it, it was cool to get my feet on the course for the first time and to find those books.
Liz: My husband, Luke Hough, has crewed at the Barkley and spent a lot of time helping Rob Youngren and Dewayne Satterfield (Huntsville legends) train. He’s even in the 2012 documentary, haha! So meeting him and getting the background and visiting Frozen Head on vacations really sparked my interest.
Are you planning to come back and finish a FR or the full Barkley?
The first three laps of the Barkleys are considered the “Fun Run,” but you need to do all five to finish the race. No one got past Loop 3 in 2021.
Courtney: Hoping to get some more laps some day for sure.
Maggie: 5 Loops always has been the goal.
It is possible to finish in a year like 2021 (weather-wise)?
For anyone who’s watched The Race That Eat’s It’s Young, you’ll remember the great weather that resulted in the first three-finisher year ever.
Courtney: Yes, I definitely think it is possible. The weather just adds a bit of crazy to the whole experience that is very fun.
Maggie: We have to believe so but it didn’t prove true. This is also only the second year on a fairly new iteration of this course and so that usually takes couple years for Barkers to learn the new nav. You can only hope for some good weather, but are pretty much guaranteed a bit of crazy weather as well.
Liz: I think it’s possible to finish the Barkley any year. Right gear, right fitness, navigation on point. Weather is a factor every year – even perfectly clear, it might then be too hot and cause people other problems.
Favorite snack on the trail?
Maggie: Tailwind Endurance Fuel. I sip it consistently and never feel dips in energy. It’s hard to remember to drink and eat at Barkley though, so it is also nice for a quick burst of energy if you get in the hole.
Liz: Refried bean burrito!
Courtney: Pizza is my go-to trail snack for big adventures. I also grabbed an Oatmeal Creme Pie between loops 1 and 2 that was really delicious.
What was your interloopal sleeping plan?
Courtney: I didn’t have a plan for this. I figured I would just make those decisions as the race unfolded, depending on how things were going.
Liz: I planned to go at least through Loop 3 without sleep, or maybe 10 minutes with my eyes closed/feet up at camp. And really stick with that plan if I kept going, if you’re already pushing time limits, I knew I would be sleeping on trail if I was lucky.
Maggie: No plan for interloopal sleeping. The plan was to cross that bridge when I came to it, but most likely it would be trail naps on the course if things got bad.
What happened on Loop 2?
Liz: I’m sure Maggie and Courtney (and Facebook posts) have all summed this up a few times, but mostly, yes, we got quite turned around in a ridge descent in the fog. Some earlier 10/15 minute time losses, but nearly two hours lost in the midnight fog.
Maggie: Parts of the course were even muddier and slicker. And yes the fog returned with a vengeance on night two as well as the cold and rain. All could be overcome without the game-ending navigation error we made close to the end of loop 2.
Courtney: We made some navigation errors towards the end of Loop 2 that ended up being our biggest mistake. It was also just generally slow moving out there as it was really muddy. You’d take 3 steps forward but slide 1 back. We learned a lot, though!
What body parts concerned you, and which were a problem?
Courtney: My feet were great during Barkley, as was the rest of my body. Really, physically, we were all feeling and moving well throughout our entire time out there.
Maggie: For me I just wanted to keep my feet in good condition because they would be wet most of the whole race. Nothing bothered me though and nothing hurt.
Liz: No issues here. Sometimes my hands get really cold and can take my focus, I planned for extra glove layers that helped a lot (though I did lose a glove on Loop 2 – that was unfortunate).
Tell us about your crew
Maggie: Gina Fiorini was my crew and has crewed me at Bigs, done a loop at the Barkley, and knows Laz and the ropes. I didn’t have to stress a thing and she was ready for what could have been a 1-2 minute transition had we come in after loop 2 in time!
Courtney: I came with no crew but was lucky enough to be sharing our campsite with Maggie and two women from Colorado who had come to crew some other folks. They were kind enough to lend a hand to me as well. We didn’t get to really put their crewing to the test because we only had one interloopal period.
However, when the timing for us to get in from Loop 2 and head out on Loop 3 was getting tighter and tighter, they were ready with all of our gear at the gate. I have no doubt they would have gotten us in and out of there in record time if we had made it back before the cutoff. They are fantastic and wonderful and I was lucky to have their help.
Liz: Just my number #1 – Mr. Hough. He was perfect, I had the Taj Mahal of tent set ups and he knows how to crew me as well as anyone. He would have kept me on course no matter how quick our turnarounds had to be.
How much has COVID impacted your training?
Liz: Alabama (unfortunately) had a really minimal lockdown approach. I was never kept inside and our trails were never closed. I was able to train strong through 2020 and, in fact, probably did more specific training at Frozen Head because it is a good spot to get away from people.
Courtney: Luckily, running mountain trails has been the perfect activity during COVID and we were never restricted in our time outside here in Colorado. I stayed motivated by making up challenges around my local trails and enjoying the simplicity of running.
Maggie: COVID didn’t affect my training at all really. For me in Colorado, it is the snow and winter conditions that limit me to a few of the same places for vert and faster running.
Is there extra pressure for a woman to finish?
Maggie: I do not feel any extra pressure because I am a woman. I am giving this race 100% of me each year. That’s all I can do. I do not feel that any of the other male Barkers (at least the ones that are my friends) treat me any differently or think I am less capable. I do think we a lot of the male competitors want to see a woman finish and are more likely to help in terms of beta than if we were just another group of dudes though.
Liz: Ignored at this point. I’ve been every female-minority in the book at this point, nuclear engineer, aerospace engineer, rugby player, ultra-runner…the list goes on. Women can do whatever they want, might just take us a few more tries.
Courtney: I didn’t feel extra pressure. As with every race, I was going to do the very best that I could and see where that landed me.
What would you change about the perception of women at the Barkleys?
Liz: I don’t feel mistreated, if possibly under-represented. I think races in the ultra world are striving to get closer to 50/50 male and female participation and that’s a good step. Harder races with difficult qualifying criteria might limit female participation, but as women get stronger and spend longer in the ultra community, we’ll definitely get there.
Courtney: I’m not sure. I think it’s important for every ultra runner, no matter who you are, to not limit themselves in what they think they are capable of.
Maggie: I think the ultra community perceives less differences in men and women over long distances and at least in my experience shows more equality. It is outsiders (aka certain media outlets) that make a big deal out of a woman competing in Barkley or wining overall at a 200 miler. Laz makes jokes and digs about how a woman can’t finish Barkley because it is too hard, but he believes a woman can finish I know. He also wants that more than anything. And he can make all the jokes he wants until we prove him wrong.
Did you do Loop 1 with Chris Hanlon?
Liz: He actually did the whole first loop all on his own, it was impressive. He was a minute or two ahead the whole time, between our group and Jared/Luke.
Maggie: Chris Hanlon was by himself and ahead of us on the whole first lap. He navigated that all by himself. We got ready as soon as we could. It just happened the three of us were ready to go at the same time. We said we would be fast and we got it done. We were actually with Jamil and three other guys. Jamil eventually caught up to us and we were four the rest of loop 2.
How could we get more women into the Barkleys?
Maggie: More are coming. But I think you have three here to focus on :). [Excellent point!] Also, this race is not for everyone and there are a lot of strong men and women that I really think could crush it here but have zero interest. So you gotta want it. Because it’s a commitment.
Liz: More strong women have to apply. Strong and confident enough in your application that Laz can’t say No. And then when you get a shot, work as hard as you can and prove to him you deserve a shot to come back.
Questions for Liz Canty
Why was your first loop so much faster in 2021 vs. 2018? Did you work with Maggie that year as well?
Liz: Fitness and gear-preparedness more than anything. I did spend some time with Maggie in 2018, and completed my loop with her, we were virgins trying to navigate on our own – what fun! We both came better prepared to navigate and I learned the value of 3 more years of ultra running and a lot more $$$ gear.
Is being willing to suffer the most important factor for success?
Liz: It’s everything. Can you suffer? Are you as fit as possible? Can you use a compass? Can you identify geological landmarks? Do you know the difference between a beech and a birch tree? Do you know how to fuel and how to dress. There is no “it” at Barkley, you just have to be the best person you can be and have it all on that day.
How much of an advantage is it to train at Frozen Head?
Liz: Training a Frozen Head is, for me, the best I’m going to get in training for a Barkley (or any other hilly race). You cannot train off-trail in the park, however, all the marked trail are incredibly strenuous and several are part of the course, so you can’t go wrong. Also, it helps to identify the landmarks that would be where you drop off trail during the race while training on the candy-ass trails.
More about Liz
This was Liz’s second year at the Barkley’s, having finished one loop in 12:09:12 right next to Maggie in 2018. You can see Liz’s results here. She is sponsored by Tailwind Nutrition and Spring Energy, and coached by David Roche at Some Work All Play.
Questions for Courtney Dauwalter
Did you create a Barkley-specific training plan?
Courtney: I never follow a training plan as I don’t prefer it, so I did not create a Barkley-specific training plan. I decided to just train as I normally would for a hillier 100 mile race and to try and show up physically fit and mentally prepared.
How did the Barkley compare to, say, the Tahoe 200?
Courtney: Barkley is a very different race than a running trail race. Tahoe 200 is marked singletrack with aid stations every 10-20 miles. It is possible to run a lot of the trail, and zone out mentally, in races like that. In Barkley, it is not possible to run much of the loop, most of it is off-trail, and there is no zoning out as navigation is key. But, they are both still challenges where staying mentally positive and working to move forward as best you can are important.
Any lingering effects from your bronchitis in 2020?
Courtney: I was hospitalized for bronchitis in August during my attempt of the Colorado Trail. I was back out on mountain trails about one month later and don’t feel any lingering side effects of it.
Guac or no guac on the nachos? Can you get nachos in eastern TN?
Courtney: Always guac and always possible to find nachos!
More about Courtney
Courtney is a Salomon sponsored ultra-runner, nacho lover, winner of the 2019 MIUT and UTMB, 2018 Ultra Runner of the Year and general bad ass. She ran the 2021 Barkleys in March despite having been hospitalized for bronchitis in August. Here’s a great documentary on her Tahoe 200 race:
2021 marked the first Barkley run for Courtney, and she finished one loop in 10:44:00 along with Liz and Maggie. Courtney is famous for crushing times on the Tahoe 200, Western States, and many other ultras and there’s no doubt she can setup great Barkley times in future years.
Questions for Maggie Guterl
How much overlap is there between Bigs and Barkley training?
Maggie: I think the only overlap is sleep deprivation and maybe more practice at the whole mental aspect.
Do you still work on art? Have you done any Barkley sketches?
Maggie: I don’t do much art anymore but I do have a great illustration idea I came up with for next year’s Barkley. I am saving it so my entry essay and if he likes it I hope he will put it on the shirts next year.
Your favorite recovery drink or meal, and could you get it there?
Maggie: I brought all my own Tailwind so I had Rebuild Recovery with me and consumed a bottle during the interloopal transition and after we were done before I lay down for a few hours.
More about Maggie
This was Maggie’s third year running the Barkley. She finished the first loop in 10:44:00 along with Liz and Courtney, improving substantially on her 2018 and 2019 times of 12:08:40 and 13:13:16 respectively. Her outright win of the Big Dog Backyard Ultra (Bigs) in 2019 was covered worldwide by outlets such as Outside Magazine–a victory that required her to run 250 miles in 60 hours. You can see her results on UltraSignup, a great profile on IRunFar and more on her Bigs win here:
Maggie is the Athletes and Events Manager at Tailwind, and you can see more of her nutritional recommendations here. She also represents Drymax Sports (socks) and Leki Poles, and is coached by Michele Yates.
More about the Barkleys
We hope this interview gave you an appetite for more:
- Women of the 2021 Barkley Marathons
- Matt Cantrell 2021 Barkley Interview
- Noé Castañón 2021 Barkley Race Report
- 2021 Barkley Results & Reports
- Barkley Finish Stats
- People of the Barkley (Barkers)
- Terms & Quick Reference
- Top 10 Barkley Documentaries
Fantastic interviews. It is great to get all of their stories here in one place, so keep them coming!