Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mr.Cantrell on "Why they quit."

Originally posted on the Ultralist, and republished here with permission of Mr. Cantrell. The Barkley is a special event, and for all who have been "out there" it holds an eerie, and dangerous attraction. happy days, john.

"with apologies to those few who have finished the barkley 100,
i dont really believe that it is the exclusive realm of the trail running gods.
as a matter of fact, the fastest 100 milers who have taken to the course
have seldom even finished a fun run.
on the other hand, some of the most successful barkley runners
have never made much of a splash anywhere else.
about the only credentials that seem to translate directly into barkley success
are multi-day trail "records".
people with fast thru-hikes on the AT, PCT, etc, have done quite well.
past & future winners of 100's like WS & Vt have had their difficulties.

for the experienced trail runner, Barkley is a different sort of animal.
the suicidal downhill speed that translates into fast times elsewhere is just
suicidal here.
the key abilities, instead, are a high tolerance for climbing and sleep
this one is more geared toward an ultrarunning vito antofuermo than a sugar ray
(yeah, people are lining up to become human punching bags. go figure?)

unlike most ultras, the fast runners dont exactly run off and leave the slow
people who hike up to the fire tower to watch the runners pass thru the 12 mile
almost always comment on how close together everyone is.
"i thought they'd be all strung out, like other races. but everyone is really
the leader at 20 miles is usually around 8 hours and the laggards around 10,
altho once a runner spirals into despair, with the attendant twenty rest breaks
a mile,
miles per hour turns into hours per mile, and the game is over.

why is this?
i think the answers are in the numbers.
when a highway has a 3% grade, they put up signs warning trucks.
when a highway has a 5% or greater grade, they have special speed limits,
and runaway truck ramps.
in 100 miles of barkley, 95 of those miles are on gradients of more than 5%.
87 miles are on gradients of more than 10%.
50 miles (fully half the race) are on gradients greater than 20%.
there are even 11 miles done on gradients over 30%.
some people love the thing, some hate it.
i think they will all agree, it is hell out there.
normal humans can only tolerate so much abuse.

no one can go fast, but as long as you keep going, you can only go so slow.
it isnt likely that you will exceed the time limit, until you have given up.
the nastiness of the 60 hour limit is that, while attainable,
it does not leave enough time for rest.
once you figure in the night-time slowdown,
there simply is no chance to dawdle anywhere, much less sleep.

and this is why people quit.
taking an endless hammering from the course,
the clock constantly nipping at their heels,
trying to adjust as the weather fluctuates wildly from hour to hour,
staying focused every second, so they wont get off course,
lonely, in pain, no chance to relax,
the relentless pressure, all day and all night, day after day,
sooner or later, something has to give.
99% of the time, it is the runner.

i can excuse people who want to try it once,
it sounds so cool and exciting.
but those who go back are very special people...
only in the short-bus sense of the word special.
because the reality is like being punched in the face for 2 and a half days."


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