I am honored and lucky to have been given another opportunity to participate in the one and only Barkley Marathons. Past events have been quiet, introspective, and “dark” challenges for me in some ways. In contrast, 2016 was a different experience as I traveled out with other people, had multiple close friends running, Mindy (my wife) came along, I had fantastic company for the first 4 loops, the skies were clear for nearly the entire race, and the temperatures were perfect. Was this really Barkley? I am thrilled to have finished in 59 hrs 33 minutes, forfeiting only 27 minutes and setting a new personal standard for how much adventure I can extract out of $1.60.
“If you belong here, you will figure out how to get here.” One of my favorite Laz quotes. As a past race director and participant in many trail races both in the US and abroad, I am in awe (in a good way) with how Barkley is conducted, the people it draws, and the seriousness with which most people approach it.
No race director wants their participants to be harmed in their event. Standard methods of achieving this goal are implementing mandatory qualifying races, having elaborate aid stations, medical check-ins, pacers, sweepers, required gear, GPS tracking devices, and extensive communication systems, to name a few. Barkley has none of these things.
By creating a non-obvious application process, intentionally limiting course information, and letting participates decide for themselves what gear they should bring,the result appears to be participants who arrive well prepared, having done their homework, and equipped for all conditions. A pretty distinct difference from the usual “just show up, put your head down, and follow the markers” mentality. Essentially everyone is capable of self-extraction and they understand that it is the standard protocol. Additionally, every participant knows how lucky they are to have a spot in the race and will thus gladly carry an extra jacket, gloves, hours of extra food, additional headlamp batteries etc. to prevent a preventable disaster. The lack of course markings means participates have studied their map, understand the drainage systems, and have sharpened their orienteering skills. Participants have invested so much time and energy into just getting to the start-line that they realize how silly it would be for their efforts to come to an end for something that was easily within their control. The result of this lack of infrastructure, interestingly, is exactly what events that have lots of infrastructure desire, knowing that every runner will be okay and give it everything they’ve got.
On Friday afternoon in the Big Cove Campground, I was surrounded by heros. Erik Storheim and Ty Draney, my close friends who sit at the top of the pedestal of remarkable and well-rounded humans. Jennilyn Eaton, Salt Lake City’s mountain phenom who came armed with an high level of determination and hunger for Barkley.
I finally got to meet Andrew Thompson (AT) after years of reading of his exploits. Frozen Ed, catalyst of the Barkley phase in my life, was in camp, he wouldn’t miss his favorite weekend of the year! And, John Fegyveresi, hero of the Barkley documentary and all around fantastic person, had returned for another romp around Frozen Head.
Michiel “Mig” Panhuysen, who’s infectious energy brings an instant smile. Brad Bishop, who helped me out in 2014 and continually gives back to the ultra-running community looked strong and focused. Jason Poole, long-time Barker and friend from Hardrock was ready to rally. Gary Robbins was amped and ready to go, riding the high of recent fatherhood (I was infected with this in 2014 when Phoebe was just 3.5 months old!). Rhonda Avery was shocking the entire world by attempting Barkley with only 8% vision. Leon Lutz was on-site and quietly crafting the right story about Barkley. John Kelly, who burst onto the Barkley scene in 2015 was back, focused, energized, hungry. Julian Jamison, all-around great guy and critical element of my 2014 success was there with his beautiful family supporting John Kelly. Heather “Anish” Anderson who quietly sets new records on epic-long trails such as the PCT and AT was back. Niki Rehn, runner/climber/scrambler from Australia was in camp and beaming with excitement. She “gets” Barkley.
As I looked around at the 41 starters on Saturday morning I was proud to be toeing the gate with such an incredible and invested group of people.
In addition to being a substantial physical challenge, Barkley is an exercise in stress management. The unknown start-time is one of these classic elements. When I heard a handful of people say “word on the street was that we’re not going to get much sleep tonight”(the night before the race), something inside of me suddenly felt confident that it meant the opposite. As such, I slept far better than I had in the past. Yes, it was intermittent, waking up periodically feeling as if I had missed the sound of the conch, but all things considered I slept pretty well. The late start (10:42AM) worked well for me given that I was coming from two time-zones to the west.
Loop 1 (day)
From the start we had a sizeable group (myself, Gary Robbins, John Kelly, Andrew Thompson, Dominique Ecoiffier, Benoit Laval, and Adam Lint) a held solid pace up Bird Mountain, arriving at the top in just under 30 min. A virgin runner honed in on book 1 with surprising precision. I was excited to follow John Kelly for his descent down to Phillips Creek per the ridge north of the steep side creek, as all prior years I had taken the ridge to the south. John knew the route so we followed him to the “Flume of Doom”, which Frozen Ed had described the night before.
At the bottom of Check Mate, it was down to 6 of us as we started up the North Boundary trail en route to Jury Ridge. John asked how confident I was in being able to find book 2, a notoriously tricky section where the book tucked between two rocks at a river confluence far below Jury Ridge. I responded, “quite confident…. probably 85%”, and followed up with, “… and the reason I am confident is because I spent 45 minutes thrashing around looking for this book in 2014. In addition to eventually finding out where the book is, more importantly I learned where the book is not.” When we started descending to book 2, I was shocked to see John take off down a ridge that didn’t look right to me, I figured he must know something I didn’t, a more direct route perhaps? In Barkley, if often pays dividends to follow routes you are certain of, even if they are longer, so I stuck with what I knew. When John took off, the remainder of the group followed me. We ended up finding the book almost perfectly. What happened to John? (see his race report) As I reached in between the two stones and pulled the book out I watched the faces of the three virgin runners, all had a looks of bewilderment as if it was right then they realizing how tricky it would be to find this book on their own. Dominique looked at me and said, “Merci! Merci!”. It was at this moment that I realized my purpose at Barkley this year was to be a guide. It meant I would have a group of comrades for much of lap 1. This would be fun!
We marched up Hillpocalypse being sure to climb the 4th class dirt en-route to the N. Boundary trail and mis-quoted Henry David Thoreau sign (“In wilderness is the preservation of the world”). The next 3 books were in locations that were new to me, so it was fortuitous that we had a small team that could split up and scan terrain when necessary. We all discussed the up-coming turn-off for the summit of Bald Knob. AT was spot-on and we all marched directly to the top. We quickly unearthed book 3 and made our way eastward down the steep hillside, following the boundary markers. Back on the N. Boundary trail we purposefully and intentionally crossed directly over SOB ditch, despite the fact that the trail goes around it. Anyone who has studied the images on Matt Mahoney’s website can envision the picture of SOB ditch, it would be a shame to miss it! The group seemed happy to be working through the classic landmarks so efficiently. It was as if we were taking a speed tour of the National Mall, visiting all the iconic sites. Instead of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, however, we were visiting Hyrum’s Vertical Smile, SOB ditch, and the coal ponds.
On the climb up to Hyrum’s Day Spa we saw a family of wild pigs, and on the descent of Raw Dog ridge we ran into a large pile of black snakes, which looked like a big medusa head. I paused and thought what this would do to my mind on lap 4 or 5 at night. We then plunged into the fresh briars guarding the lower ridge to Raw Dog Falls. Nasty.
The remainder of loop 1 went well. Our group of four dwindled to just three on our way into camp. Adam, our kind compatriot and man of few words, declared that he was going to take some additional time in camp and that we should go on without him. Gary and I agreed to be back at the gate in just 10 minutes. Upon arrival, Mindy, who became known as the Nascar pit-crew captain, had everything dialed. She had me resupplied and ready to go in about 8 min.
Loop 2 (night)
As Gary and I got our new bib numbers and began to leave, AT was arriving in camp. I was hopeful that he would have a quick turn-around and come catch up to us on loop 2, I was eager to chat with him. We left camp with a little over one hour of light left, better make use of it! If we could make it to book 2 prior to turning on lights I would be thrilled. We wondered when and where we would catch the first runners. We figured it would be Rhonda and her guide Christian given how extremely difficult it must be to negotiate the course with only 8% vision. It is hard enough with full vision; I was in awe at what she was attempting. My mind wandered to the book When Smoke Ran Like Water, where in Donora, Pennsylvania during an acute air pollution spike so bad people couldn’t see their feet, a blind man with a walking stick guided a seeing person home. I envisioned Rhonda zipping around the course during a thick Barkley fog guiding the rest of us.
As we descended towards book 2, we saw two lights and heard some hooting and hollering in the drainage near book 2. Sure enough it was Rhonda and Christian and they were lost trying to find the book; Gary and I were happy to be of some assistance. Gary immediately ran over to Rhonda and gave her a hug. “Gary coming in” he said so she’d know who was approaching her. My respect for Gary ratcheted up by the way he encouraged and applauded Rhonda and Christian. We chatted with them briefly, indicated the general direction and off we went, knowing that they would be able to follow our headlights for a short while.
Another plug for Gary. For a guy who I had essentially just met, the fact that some of our first conversations were about how much he loves his wife Linda and how fatherhood has positively changed him speaks volumes about him. His son Reed is bound to have a remarkable life.
When on the summit of Bald Knob we could see several additional lights further ahead on the course, I estimated them to be at the Garden Spot. We forged on eager to help this next group of runners. Sure enough, there was a gaggle of folks. We first met Starchy who was looking for book 4. He was only 20′ from it when we arrived. Several minutes ahead we ran into another group who wanted nothing more than to find the nearest quitters road, and some who wanted help getting to book 5. We jogged the nice jeep road towards Mouth Branch. It was a perfect night and fun to have a small group of folks with us. The group held on and we made it to the critical spot where I leave the first (of three) roads into Mouth Branch. I verbally described the next section in hopes that it would simplify their getting to Bobcat Rock. And, off we went. Gary and I snagged the next 2 books without issue and began the descent down Stallion Mtn.
Descending Stallion Mtn, we made our first (and biggest) navigational error. We rolled too far off to the right (west) off the ridge and ended up on steep cliffed-out terrain. We eventually made it down to a dirt road. I knew that this must be the road where going right on it would take us to Bobcat Rock and left would take us back to the prow of the ridge, where we were supposed to be. We went left, but overshot the prow by quite a bit (over a mile), wrapping around onto the eastern side of Stallion. A quick bearing check and wow, we were heading north-west with the hillside rolling steeply off to our right. Gary and I stopped dead in our tracks, sat down, whipped out the maps/compasses and decided not to move until we figured out what was going on. While our minds were starting to get cloudy, we were able to deduce where we were. We made the correct decision, turned around, backtracked, and found where we over-shot. We worked through this very well. We were back on track after having lost ~45 min.
While a huge part of Barkley is working tirelessly to prevent yourself from getting lost, one of the most important skills is figuring out how to get back on-track when you get lost. Gary’s adventure racing experience was apparent as he rolled smoothly through the mishap and even appeared excited about how well we dealt with it, I know I was. Again, my admiration for him ratcheted up another notch.
The remainder of lap 2 is a blur to me aside from some significant knee pain setting in on the descents. A tight IT band, along with some hip alignment issues from months prior, resulted in an over-worked medial quad. This additional stress eventually caused highly localized pain where the quad attaches to my femur. Extrapolating this increase in pain from just two laps did not look good, I could only hope the pain curve wasn’t linear or worse. I would have to switch into near-term thinking mode, one objective, one hill, one descent at a time, not how I normally approach Barkley. Soon we were back in camp and had decided on a 15 minute turn-around time.
Loop 3 (CCW; day)
The first counter-clockwise loop is in a way exciting as it feels different and new. We marched up to Chimney Top at a strong pace, riding adrenaline from our brief time in camp. Roughly 1/3 the way up the climb we crossed paths with John Kelly, exchanging few words. He was moving great and we were excited to see that he had recovered some time from whatever mishap he had had on loop 1.
The descent was painful, a theme that would exist from here to the end of the race. On the descent, we veered too far to the right (west). We spotted a suspicious orange marker wrapped around a large tree. We went to it and noticed that it looked pretty fresh (i.e. not too rotted from the sun). We discussed what this might mean, and were a bit disheartened that someone might be able to rationalize such a tactic. We spotted another, and another and another, it was clearly a marked route. Any cross-section of humanity is bound to include people who devise sneaky ways to get ahead, even at Barkley. 😦 We removed everything we saw and made our way down to the stream below. We hit Beech Fork downstream of the book, but quickly got back on track.
Gary had several sudden gasps of pain, apparently a recent injury had caught up to him. Decades of experience enabled him to swallow the pain. We had a clear, yet silent, awareness that each other was dealing with our own set of challenges and both understood that talking about it would do no good. For only having just met each other, I felt we had a good understanding of each other already. We got our pages at the Beech tree and began the thrash up Zipline, a significantly easier climb to follow in the daylight. As we descended Bad Thing we ran into Jason Poole and Ty Draney, then Mig Panhuysen, they all looked strong and happy that the sun was up. On our climb out of the prison we ran into Jennilyn who was gliding down lower Rat Jaw with a smile on her face. She was moving well and clearly chasing after the fun run cutoff time. We were super happy for her and I told Gary about how much she had put into training/studying/obsessing. As we climbed up Rat Jaw a small drone w/ camera flew overhead. It was out of place and most likely breaking event rules. My mind wandered… What would James Early Ray have thought if suddenly a drone were following him during his escape? I fantasized about having a portable RF jammer to bring it down as it didn’t belong at Barkley.
We marched to the top of Frozen Head Peak and were surprised by the silence; not a single person there on this beautiful morning. The descents were very painful, but at least it didn’t appear to be getting any worse. Could it hold all the way to the end?
Gary brought up loop 5 and wanted to discuss which direction we should each go. He was kind and said that because I had been guiding him I should pick which direction I preferred. I suggested that I go CW and he go CCW, the direction that would be familiar to him from laps 3 and 4. Doing this would improve his odds of success and honestly the direction didn’t matter much too me. As such, we decided that he should lead up Stallion Mountain in an effort to learn it better than he would if he simply followed me. I kept a small distance and watched him, not saying anything at critical intersections to see if he could navigate this tricky section. Leaders learn more than followers.
Once back on the N. Boundary trail, we prematurely left the trail for the climb up to Bald Knob. We were suddenly at a picnic area, the Squire Knob picnic area. What? Out with the map & compass and we quickly deduced how to get back over to Bald Knob. Wow, that proved to be trickier than we thought, something we would have to be careful with during the night-time loop 4. The remainder of loop 3 went well, both of us getting a bit quiet and dealing with our own challenges. The final climb up Check Mate felt super-steep and I was starting to slow a bit. I was worried about the descent into camp with how my knee was feeling. Gary shifted gears and was motoring downhill. I bit down on the pain and ran along with him, eager to get into camp for our predetermined 1 hr of sleep.
I took a 2 minute shower, ate, changed clothes and tried to sleep. Despite the wide array of noises in camp I did get some much needed sleep. 50 minutes later I was up and ready to go. In 2012 I slept after loops 2 (1 hrs) and 4 (2+ hrs – despite what the documentary would like you to believe…), which worked out okay. In 2014 I waited until after loop 4, which was too late. Sleeping after lap 3 seemed like the right protocol, and after the fact I definitely feel it was. It was easier to get up and I felt more restored from it than I did in 2014. I was excited for loop 4, an all-night loop, however after getting some sleep I felt confident that I would not fall into the dreaded deep state of exhaustion.
Loop 4 (CCW; night)
The climb up Chimney Top went well again, ~1 hr 15 min. The descent was crazy painful and we vectored too far left (east) this time. Eventually back on track we marched up to Indian Knob struggling a bit to get “on” the correct ascent ridge. Ultimately we hit the top of the climb within 10 feet of where we had hit it the previous lap! woohoo! On the descent to the prison our internal compasses were both off as well as our ability to follow a bearing. We zigzagged all over the mountain, eventually popping out somewhere surprisingly close to the prison. Major disaster averted. Rat Jaw at this stage called for head-down, Low-4 gear. At the top (tower) we were surprised to be greeted by a group of supportive folks in the middle of the night. They commented on our screwy route down Bad Thing, which they had watched from the tower. We left with elevated spirits.
The grunt up Raw Dog Ridge was another thrash. This new section of the course did not seemed logical to me throughout the entire race. According to the map it changed slightly from 2015. While others suggested alternative ridges, we were determined to follow this year’s route as closely as we could. Gary has strong ethical standards and I was pleased that doing the course as correctly as possible meant a lot to him. I mentioned on numerous occasions the apparent karmic energy at Barkley, it pays to do things right.
We struggled initially to get “on” Flatrock Ridge, which seemed strange given how obvious it felt on all prior loops. Gary appeared to have a magnetic pull into the adjacent drainage. I stayed on the ridge and signaled for him to come back to the ridge, which he eventually did somewhat baffled at how far he been pulled off route. “Trust me, this is correct” I told him, although I was only 70% confident. We followed the ridge but went too far down resulting in at least a 30 minute side-hilling extravaganza to find the correct tree and book, a new addition to this year’s race.
On the night climb up Stallion I lead in an effort to increase our efficiency. We were both fading and became quiet. As we neared Cold Gap I mentioned this observation to Gary and he promptly said, “does your watch have an alarm? Do you want to sleep for 15 min?” Yes and Yes. We lay down by the jugs of water and immediately fell asleep. 14 minutes later Gary was stirring, too cold to stay down any longer. We popped up and started marching. I was amazed at how well we worked through this situation and laughed (internally) at how funny this would appear to 99.9% of humans. Our progress was binary, 1 (on) for 44 hrs, 0 (off) for 14 minutes, then 1 (on) again.
We carefully negotiated the N. Boundary trail and acquisition of the Bald Knob book as it could have easily gone awry. The remainder of lap 4 went well in terms of navigation, no major mistakes. My cognition, however, began to slip. I could focus on the task at hand, but I realized that I suddenly couldn’t remember the name of the guy I was with. It was driving me crazy. I had been with him for over 44 hrs and I couldn’t remember his name? It was at the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t remember it to save my life. Eventually it hit me, Gary! 10 seconds later it was gone again. This happened dozens of times. I have witnessed two cases of Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) in my life and this pattern was identical except that I was aware of the pattern…. Perhaps people with TGA feel that they are aware of the pattern?… I did have the wherewithal to eventually time it; it appeared to be a ~5 minute cycle. It was really bothering me and I felt like I was losing my mind. After the race I would find out that Gary was experiencing a similar phenomenon, he kept thinking my name was Jürgen, (a nickname I quite like), then AT, then others. How strange is it that we were both experiencing a similar mental phenomenon?
The final climb, Check Mate, got another 15° steeper on the way up, wow. The descent into camp was extremely painful, again, resulting in me throttled back a bit for fear of doing something to my knee that would prevent a 5th lap altogether.
Loop 5 (CW; day)
Both of us made a quick turn-around in camp, probably 15 min. I had enjoyed Gary’s company so much, despite the fact that I couldn’t remember his name, :), that I was bummed to part ways on loop 5. At the same time, I was looking forward to the euphoric solo head-space of loop 5. Loop 5 is cool because it almost doesn’t matter how bad you feel or how tired you are, there is something about the finality of it that seems to enable the required relentless forward progress. If I moved well I could get it done before night fell.
I felt so strong on the climb up Bird Mtn, hitting the top in 29 minutes, essentially the same pace as on Lap 1, where did that come from? I knew the adrenaline would not last, but I figured I’d ride it as long as I could. It did indeed come to an abrupt end and I was relegated back to the death-march more consistent with this stage in the race. For the first time I had music, but it felt like a major distraction after 47 hours without it so I turned it off and tucked it away. Much better. The sun was up and I knew it was supposed to be a warm day. The pain in my quad suddenly ratcheted up several levels. Oh no! Thankfully, the books strewn about the course provide more than just a way to verify completion of loops, occasionally there can be some useful material. I thought back to pages 59 and 60 of a prior book, which included some suddenly relevant information:
I had plenty of time barring a major disaster so I just kept pecking away at the course, thankfully reading the route perfectly; I wondering when I would run into Gary. At the Garden Spot I began checking for his page as it is possible to cross paths and not see each other. Leonard’s Butt Slide book, check; Fykes Peak book, Gary’s page was still there. I figured the mid-point of the loop was on lower Stallion Mtn with this year’s course. At the New River road crossing there were several folks cheering. Strangely we did not exchange words and I marched right on through. At the next book when I saw Gary’s page, I figured something must have gone wrong. I scratched my way up and over to the Raw Dog Falls book, and, there was Gary’s page again. Uh no! Doing the math my heart sank as the odds of him being able to finish were not good at this point.
I remained strong on the climbs while my ability to descend reached an all-time low. On the climb up upper Pig Head creek I saw a strange blue object above me, it turned out to be Gary’s pack on the ground, with him attached! He was sitting down and looked trashed. We talked for a bit and he explained his mishap at his book 3 along with his state of extreme sleep deprivation. He was quitting and going to hitch-hike back to camp. Damn. I thought to myself, had we stayed together on lap 5 we would have plowed to the end together. But, this is one of the many unique challenges Laz throws at us. Pushing through the entire thing together as a team would be so anti-Barkley. While I felt bad for Gary, knowing how much he had invested in it, I found comfort in my high level of confidence in him returning and putting it all together. I played the scene forward in my mind to that day when he finishes and saw the look of joy on his face.
The supportive crowd at the tower was incredible, especially seeing Mindy. I pecked away down the mild upper Rat Jaw and then virtually hopped on one leg, with the aid of poles, down to the prison. When I entered the tunnel, a large media crew stopped at the entrance and began a loud conversation…. I knew they weren’t real but I could hear it so vividly. I also head a loud conversation at the other end of the tunnel. I decided to leave my headlamp off and embrace this auditory hallucination, seeing if my balance was good enough to walk the center rib by feel. It was much slower this way, but seemed like an interesting challenge to insert into loop 5. My eyes remained mostly closed and I felt my way through the tunnel as the center rib fluctuated at varying angles and widths, using with my two poles for support. I quite enjoyed this experience and savored the short boulder problem out of the tunnel.
The climb up Bad Thing was slow but pleasant followed by a brief stint of torture down Zipline where I snapped a pole. At this point I was just trying to keep the wheels on the bus from falling off. The sun was about to set and I knew the darkness of the third night would mess with my exhausted mind. I delayed turning on my headlamp as long as possible up Big Hell, knowing that the minute I did things would come crumbling down. Sure enough, the flat light took an immediate blow to my balance, cognition, and mental clarity. I began seeing my daughter’s toys strewn about the hillside. A train set to my left, a pink Lego castle to my right, an Elmo stuffed animals up ahead. I even recall a sponge-bob caricature, which is funny because she doesn’t even have one. I paused, knelt to the ground, and tried to pull myself together.
I had ample time as long as I didn’t collapse and pass out. The starry night was beautiful and the temperature near perfect. The distance to the stars didn’t seem too different from that of Chimney Top. I found a suitable replacement for my broken pole and started marching again. Eventually the mountain gave in and the summit presented itself. Arriving at the final book warranted a moment of silence. I paused and tried to soak in the immensity of the journey.
The cold wind on top prevented me from savoring the moment for very long. One 4-mile painful shuffle to the bottom was all I had left. The knee hurt so bad that I took my time, stopping several times to let the pain subside. Finally I reached the bottom, crossed the creek and there I was…. in the ranger’s backyard? Where was the trail head and parking lot? I laughed at my mistake, and with the help of the ranger himself who came out to see what was going on when his dogs starting going ballistic, got back on track. I shuffled into camp to an overwhelming yet very supportive crowd.
The Final Hallucination
The media at the finish was intense, yet in a way I enjoyed it as it felt like a continuation of my earlier tunnel hallucination. The same busy conversation, yet this time I couldn’t turn off my head-lamp and make it go away, the lights were so bright. After an interesting mix of relevant questions from iconic Barkley figures and a handful of silly questions from media who had never been Out There, I could finally relax. I asked for stories about other runner’s, how did it go for Ty and Jason? What happened to Rhonda and Christian? It was interesting to get one sentence summaries of adventures that had been 20-50 hours. At the time I wasn’t present enough to process much more than that. I knew I had much to catch up on, but it would have to wait.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the Barkley for all that it is and all that it isn’t. As the world becomes increasingly exposed to this fascinating event, I hope people take the time to really understand why it is so unique. It is much less a running race and more a psychological and social experiment. It has taught me lessons about life, about myself, and about others that truly shape who I am and how I look at life. I intend to remain close to the event and the tight-knit family that supports it, hopefully returning in 2017 to for the “in-camp” experience, supporting friends, hearing stories, and dreaming about what those who are out there are learning.
Massive thanks to my incredible wife Mindy who juggles her two kids with remarkable grace, love, and elegance. Thanks to Laz for your unique vision and self-defined spirit. And a huge thanks for Gary Robbins for your teamwork, friendship, and badassery.
Gear and Food
I’ve received many inquiries about gear and food, so I’ll append this onto my race report. I wore the La Sportiva Mutants for 4 out of the 5 loops (I wore the Akasha on loop 5) and they were absolutely perfect. The Mutant’s combination of sticky rubber, aggressive tread, snug fit, breath-ability, and a compliant heel cup make them my go-to shoe for just about everything, including Barkley now!
For Barkley I find that the knickers and tall socks (Drymax) combination (see silly pictures above) works perfectly. If it is too warm, it’s easy to pull the socks down and can just as easily pull them back up for sections with briars or when the temperature drops. I also wore Camp mini-gaitors, which worked quite well. They were, however, absolutely trashed at the end.
As for my pack, I did the entire thing in the UD AK Mountain Vest 3.0. This might sound crazy, but I literally used the pack out of the box, I hadn’t worn it a single time! I have put thousands of miles on the original and 2.0 series and thus had the confidence to go with the new 3.0. I had a PB Adventure Vest 3.0 just in case I need the additional volume, however, the AK MV 3.0 was perfect given the nice weather. I can’t speak highly enough about the new 3.0 series.
As for food, I pre-package everything into Ziplock “snack-size” pouches. A nice rule of thumb is that for any food that packs densely, a snack-size pouch is about 600 calories, good for 2 hours. Pack everything beforehand, create larger bags with everything you need for individual loops. Doing this makes inter-loop transitions faster as one simply removes trash, loads new food, adds any necessary batteries/clothing and gets out of camp.