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on barkley, on woodpeckers

it was only a day or two after I decided to stop pursuing rock climbing with fervor that I discovered Barkley.

I wanted to run as far as people could run. how far can we run? I began my search. I discovered 100 mile races. the human body can do that?! well there, that's it. I will run 100 miles. what is the hardest 100 miler? I want to run the hardest 100. I first found Western States, then Hardrock, then Barkley. Barkley. this is it. I stopped my research there, ceasing inquiry about the race for years. I'd never run more than a marathon at the time, and even that had been many years prior. I had shut my laptop and decided I should figure out how to be an ultra runner.

the barkley rumors were always around, like the flurries of march. I remember a random long run a few years ago in the hills above point of the mountain with a friend who told some of the tall tales of "out there." I'd run 100s before, but these stories, these were different. I ate them up. I wanted to push my limits.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="960"] sunset summit, PC DJ Loertchester[/caption]

that's what it is, I guess, to be a climber. whether a rock or alpine or mountain runner – it is the desire to try things that are potentially too much—to find the breaking point. I often wonder about woodpeckers, the redundancy, the challenge. do they desire to break more than bark? it was thought for a long time their tongues would spear the grubs they ate, but in recent years it was discovered that they enwrap the insects with their tongue before retrieving their meal. after literal mind-numbing, pounding monotony, they encircle something they cannot see. they feast.

why so many west grandeurs? it is mind-numbing. it is never easy. every summit hurts. but I want what's inside so more than pain. am I trying to break? somehow I don't. I try my patience. 46,000ft of vertical gain last week... all on the same trail.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="504"] the first quad summit[/caption]

I've had sassy remarks. why not make torture play? I responded to my condolences saying training would be easy, but finding the right lipstick for my barkley dress would prove to be difficult. I tried to make humor amongst the dark hours. on a late night double with Jared, he told me about stars. he told me about the engineers who came to barkley, the scientists, the factual minds. I was lost thinking of how the sky danced above us, not in maps but in painted starscapes. I wondered what his words would look like if they were painted across the sky. does such a mind belong at Barkley? where will my mind wander when I am lost and alone?

I suffered on through training. I take a lot of flak. I've spent much time the last few years teasing friends for running low, for not exploring new places, for not partaking of the best of the wasatch. and here I am, eating my words, 17-30 hours a week spent on the same mountain. again I summit. again.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="960"] after the hailstorm, PC Paul Sharwell[/caption]

woodpeckers can peck 20 times per second, at a speed of 12 miles per hour. I wonder how sure they are their food is inside, if they know they’ll get what they’re searching for, if they even know what they’re searching for, or if they peck based only instinct. 12,000 pecks per day. if I pressed my face on the mountain, would I see what I was looking for? would that be as fruitless as pressing my face against myself? is this my instinct? will I find what I am looking for in Frozen Head? do I even know?





  1. Really nice post. I'll be looking forward to the after report.

  2. I love reading your poetic style. For the record, a couple nights after we watched the Barkley Marathons documentary, I had a dream about your run. My husband and I were there at the finish, and you were sitting down, eating noodles after successfully completing the whole dang thing. You were tired but open, telling everyone about the experience, and had a glow to you. I just have this feeling that you're going to be the first female to rock it, and I can't wait to read the poems that follow :)

  3. Last week I watched "The Barkley Marathons" and now I am so excited to hear all about your experience!!! I am wishing someone was there filming this year so all of us that know you can be running with you! And, I hope you can endure all those pricker bushes!!!!! You are an inspiration with all your honest posts, I've laughed and choked up for you in every one I read. Good luck and may the force be with you!!

  4. A great blog post, thank you!

    Good luck! I know you'll find whatever it is you're looking for out there! That's the beautiful thing about "out there"... you always find something even if you don't know what it is you're looking for.

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