LOVE HARDER , EAT BETTER & EXPLORE FURTHER
I was tempted to write a Barkley Marathons race recap, really dive into the whole 12 hours I spent Out There - especially after reading some of the inspiring ones written by fellow Barkers. But I still haven’t found a way to put what I really want to say into words. I trip over my emotions, battle with my self-loathing, and cringe in fear that someone will misinterpret anything I try to say.
Seeing as I have abandoned this blog since writing my Mountain Mist 50k recap, I think I at least owe myself enough to write sort of a “winter recap”. We’re coming into April now, though it still feels damp and chilly some days in Huntsville, and spring is always a convenient time to press reset. In fact, I wrote that at the top of the page in my planner the week after Barkley…
Through February and March I shuttered myself in with my training. I logged my mileage and my climbs fortuitously, taking spare moments to do squats and lunges. I ran mostly alone, tagging a friend or Luke to run a few miles with me, but being off-training-cycle with your husband and most other friends (no one else was training for an end of March 100 miler ….weird?) made it difficult. It’s easy to highlight a few training weeks that went great - and the ones that made me cry in frustration:
The week after MM50k, Luke and I headed to Frozen Head for park loops and climbs. I felt great out there in the snow and we spent 8 hours on a Saturday moving well. At this point I was heading to aim for a 50k effort every Saturday that I could manage and hit high 80-90 mile weeks with 15k+ gain. Strength training was a bonus and I was in bed early every night.
Another great week included my Dismal 50k - 8 out-and-back repeats on two of our gnarly Monte Sano climbs that culminates in 31 miles and 13,000 feet of gain. I finished off that week ready for RunLOViT 100k scheduled for the next weekend to test my long distance legs (I hadn’t run more than a 50k since Pinhoti 100 in November).
Unfortunately RunLOViT was cancelled this year due to torrential rain and thunderstorms in the area of Arkansas where the race was planned. This culminated in a wasted taper week, a frazzled 8 hours in the car and scrambling to get runs and vert in while our own mountain was becoming more and more unrunnable in the relentless spring rains. No bother - who’s to say the Barkely wouldn’t be incredibly muddy? (Spoiler Alert : IT WAS).
But as they say - keep on keeping on. Another highlight of my winter was becoming an RRCA certified coach in March. Though that weekend was spent mostly sitting I got as many miles as I could in with early morning wake-ups and treadmill miles in the gym where the class was held.
The nuclear power plant that I work at had also scheduled an outage for the majority of this training cycle - how dare they! This meant weird schedules and night shifts. But it also made for a perfect peak week, Luke and I were able to spend one day bushwhacking a 25 mile course from one end of Huntsville to the other and the next day in Chattanooga on some hilly mountain terrain and visiting some of our favorite people.
And finally I got to taper - I planned no runs longer than 10 miles, 7 days out from the Barkley. It felt great to prepare, spend more time with my maps, and finally some quality time with my husband and our new poodle puppy!
Friday we headed up to the park - I wish I had realized sooner that really we should have gone up early early Friday morning to get a camping spot. But it was a blessing in disguise and we ended up camping with Shalini Kovach and her husband (who’s name has escaped me!). David Dye would also be heading up to crew me - a good friend who could spoon with Luke while I was busy. Together we put up a recently purchased shelter - seemingly prepared for the rain…. [Cue Jaws music].
And as we all know - the next morning at 8:30 AM we started preparing to head out into the woods. I felt great, rested and strong. Also - I felt wildly out of my league. Standing with Maggie Guterl, Amelia Boone, Jamil Coury, Mike Wardian, etc… hell, I just felt stupid. I still feel stupid. But with a whiff of tobacco we started climbing and I felt back in my element. I’d like to rip the bandaid off and describe this all quickly:
10. Our group fractured again as Eoin (Ireland), Remy (France) and I stuck together to head down to the prison. I knew this line easy from the Fall Classic and got us into the tunnel, all moving well.
11. The climb to Indian Knob was uneventful, I could follow the contours and even some leftover footprints but I shot to far South and ended up on the actual peak of Indian Knob rather than the capstone that would contain the book. This took a little wandering unfortunately and Eoin and I misplaced Remy in the process.
12. Eoin and I started downhill toward the penultimate book. This book, to me, seemed one of the most complicated finds and I can’t wait to test out navigation here again. Eoin and I weren’t far off the line, but losing time discussing, as Nikki and her group caught up to us. I was relieved to see Maggie again and like good little ducklings we followed the Amazon Nikki right to the book. Maggie, Eoin, Remy and I decided to power on quickly.
We were lucky to spot Jamil’s headlamp at the correct capstone as we all topped out on Chimney tops. He was headed out on his second loop, looking appropriately beat for the weather and gnarly course. I knew how to get us down from here - after finding the old trail and then the new green blazes it was easy to get us downhill. Chimney Tops is tricky, its really easy to miss a switchback and run into the woods - or, in this incredible mud, just lose the trail altogether. I did forget that we weren’t supposed to hit the visitor center as my legs were flying down the trail, I had to back track to Eoin and Maggie before we could start the correct path back to camp.
I want to go back. I feel a need to redeem myself and that I owe the course a better Liz Canty. It deserves a better shot to break my body down completely and I want to give it a fair fight. If Mother Nature showed up with all the right gear to make us miserable, I should have shown up prepared as well.
So now I press “reset”. Luke and I took a weekend in Pensacola to get away from it all and took our runs to the beach and the road. I’m nearly out of my funk, though I still want to cry when people ask how that “Barkley thing” went.
My mileage is back up and I head to the Boston Marathon next week (this post is obviously late, the Boston Marathon was awesome and my race recap will come for that ASAP!) for some much needed time with my family and the community I feel when I’m in Boston. In fact, my old team, the Highland City Striders will be working pedestrian crossings in Brookline. You know I’m stopping to hug them. <3
Luke Hough & Liz Canty
Liz Canty and Luke Hough. Co-habitants who like to run, race, explore and drink much too expensive beer. Read along through the awesome, the sweaty, the daily life and the occasional bickering over which running shoes are the best…