Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Race Schedule

The following is a quick look at my 2015 Race Calendar as it stands today. Hope to see a lot of my friends out on these trails and roads with me!!!

January 10, 2015 - Cloudland Canyon 50 Miler
Rising Fawn, GA
Official Race Website

Description: 46 miles of trail and 4 miles of paved road within the park. We cannot reiterate how beautiful this course is! 17,000 ft of elevation change for the 50 miler. 5:00am start time guarantees an amazing sunrise. Rocky and technical, when you run this you will feel like you are in the pacific northwest.


March ??? - Double Foot Hills Run
Oconee State Park, SC

Description: The Foot Hills Trail is a 77 mile trail which connects Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park.


April 18, 2015 - Leatherwood Ultra 50 Miler
Ferguson, NC
Official Race Website

Description: Held on the ground of Leatherwood Mountains Resort. The race course will take place over varied terrain in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Much of the race will be on single track. Course will consist of 4 loops. There will be 3 unique loops with one loop of 10 miles being repeated. Gain and loss will be about 13,000ft, giving you 26,000ft of change.


May 23-25, 2015 - Savannah Grit 175K stage race
Savannah, GA
Official Race Website

Description: This event will be a true test of endurance and toughness! The Savannah Grit 175K stage race will consist of:
Stage 1: 100K at the Whitemarsh Island Preserve, Savannah GA
Stage 2: 50K Tom Triplet Park in Pooler, GA
Stage 3: 25K Robert's Dairy Farm in Thunderbolt, GA
Stage 4: 1 mile sprint Wormsloe Historic Site


July 9, 2015 - Vol State 500K
Official Race Website

Description: The Vol-State is a journey, an adventure and an exploration of inner space. It begins with a ferry ride across the Mississippi River, from Missouri to Kentucky and finishes at "the rock" high atop Sand Mountain in Northeast Georgia. What lies in between are 314 miles of the great unknown. From the time the Vol-Stater steps off the Ferry, until they reach the Rock, they are totally reliant upon their own physical and mental resources.


August 15, 2015 - Death before DNF 100 Miler
Black Mountain, NC
Official Race Website

Description: This will be a semi-marked course with maps that you will be provided with in order to traverse the trail. 26 mile loop that climbs and ascends, and ascends and climbs and gets harder and harder. Aid is what you bring with you on the trail. This challenge is designed to awaken the soul and the mind in pushing your perceived limited beyond the intangible. Running alone is important. You should find what drives you and pushes you to dig deeper and endure more pain. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Foot Hills Trail Run - Nov 13th

I usually wait a week or so before I put a race report together. Since this wasn't a race I figured I could get a recap together as I have already begun thinking of what went wrong, what went right and how can I improve for next time....


My plan was to run a Double Foothills Trail run beginning and ending at Oconee State Park, covering 154 miles. My goal time was 55 hours with a sub 24 hour first leg. I would start thursday morning at 4:00am and be done by Saturday afternoon. Karen would be crewing me for the entire run and Bo, Tiana and Kelley would be coming out as the weekend rolled around to help me wrap things up.


The development of the Foot Hills Trail began in the 1960 and was complete by 1981. Please take a few minutes and check out the Foothills Trail Conference website by clicking here

The Start

The morning kicked off at 3:00am with the French Press brewing and the wind blowing. The temperatures were near perfect in the mid 50's and not a cloud in the sky. We packed up quickly to make the short drive up to the trail head. Pictures were taken and my BO-2000 watch (A gift Bo gave me at Frozen Head this past March) rolled over to 04:00:00. A few strides up the trail I decided that I wasn't going to look back that I wanted to see what was behind me on my return trip. My plan laid out 7 points before I'd reach Table Rock State Park where my crew would be able to meet me, snap a quick required pic, and then send me on my way. I put these check points to memory not knowing what they'd actually look like or if I'd be able to easily recognize them or not. They included:

1. SC HWY 107 @Cheohee Rd - 6.1 miles
2. Burrell's Ford Access - 16.8 Miles
3. Fish Hatchery Rd - 20.6 Miles
4. SC107 Sloan Bridge - 23.9 Miles
5. Whitewater Falls Overlook - 29.4 Miles
6. Horse Pasture Rd - 61.8 Miles
7. Sassafras Mtn - 66.4 Miles

The plan I put together was pretty spot on, but I have a few adjustments to make before my next trip. By the time I reached stop #5, I was exactly where I wanted to be, it was high noon and I'd be heading out into Laurel Valley.

The Valley

I've joked since Ive been back that LV threw everything it could have possibly come up with... but it was true. I was in a rush to head out that the mistakes started happening before I left the parking lot. I ate lunch packed an outer layer and then heading back out onto the trail. I took some amazing pictures of the streams that I crossed and loved that the sun was overhead warming me up. It was a perfect afternoon!Another few minutes passed away and I took a sip from my hydration pack... it was dry. I never filled it up, opted not to take my filter and, oh crap... let my iodine tablets on the tailgate of my truck.

My first thought was panic and that I'd only have the 20oz bottle of Gatoraid that Karen mixed for me before I headed out. My second thought was... I'll find plenty. And I did. I was able to refill my pack within the hour and had plenty of opportunity to do so through out LV. I was back on track and having fun again. The scenery was amazing and I took some great photos. I convinced myself that I'd take more on the way back and missed several places that the sun and the trees and the sky was just amazing.


This time was important to me because I looked at my watch as I crossed this bridge because rain began to fall. When I looked down at my watch, I found myself falling off the edge of the bridge, four steps off the ground and approaching quickly. I was holding my dinner, Pizza, in my right hand and as I threw my arm back trying to regain balance, I chucked my dinner into the stream that ran below me. My dinner was gone and I just hit the ground... hard.

It was time for a break and time to put on my extra layer as the rain began to fall harder and harder. I took a quick systems check and I was okay, but where the hell was this rain coming from? I checked weather.com 137 times the night before and there was 0% chance of rain. Z-E-R-O. But I was not wet and of course did not have a rain coat with me. I ended up banging up my left knee, but I didn't feel that until I finally stopped and put all the pieces back together. 3:00pm was also the last time that I'd be on track with my plan

Someone else's plan

The next several miles found me wet and cold and failing to make a single checkpoint according to my plan. I started getting mad with myself because I was getting addicted to staring at my second watch, my Suunto GPS watch because I felt like I was not making any progress and falling further and further behind schedule. I decided to stop and attach my GPS watch to the back of my pack so I couldn't see it anymore. I had it hooked up to a backup battery pack and was planning on using the data to document my whole run. The plan that I was now running was not mine. It was nothing like my plan and I had no idea what was going on. The only thing I knew now was that the sun was setting, I was wet, there was 6 inches of wet leaves not he trail soaking my feet and the temperature was dropping minute by minute. I decided to pull my socks off as they were drenched and were collecting more debris than anything else.

By the time I reached "the bench" I was 2:30 behind schedule and freezing. I started playing they "oh shit how pissed is Karen going to be" game. I was supposed to be to Horse Pasture Rd at 9:00pm and I figured that she wouldn't "worry" until at least 10:00pm. At 11:00 I thought she'd panic and by 12:00am I was just hoping that she'd still be there.

I rolled in frozen, wearing shorts and sandals and starving. Karen busted out the stove and quickly had a cup of HOT soup and hopped in the car to warm up and take a quick 15 minute nap. I found out from Karen that Lester and Eddie had been out there too and that they had gone to look for me. I have never felt so bad in my entire life! These guys are awesome.

One more try

 I was still cold, but everything else felt fine. Nothing "hurt" and I was only 14 miles from Table Rock. A quick  run up to Sassafras and then down to Table Rock and I'd be heading home to Oconee. At least that was my mind set when I left Horse Pasture.

It was cold. I've been cold before, but this was cold-cold. I made it to Sassafras, long overdue and had to get help getting in the truck. I don't remember the conversation with Karen, but remember waking up and saying the words "I'm done, can you text Holly and my mom." Then I cried, a lot.

The trail was simply amazing, the picture that I did take along the way could never do it justice. I choose the short straw when I schedule my vacation days from work and we got hit with this polar vortex or whatever we call it these days. My plan is doable and I think another try in March or April will let me pick up and continue where I left off. I learned so much while out there for as long as I was, those are lessons that make us better people, better runners and most importantly better friends.

I need you help!!!

So, when my run ended... I never turned off my GPS watch that was attached to the back of my pack and was also hooked up to a back up battery. I drove all the way home with the watch running. Opps, my bad. A quick google search "taught" me how to delete end points from the GPX file that were unwanted, as this is something at happens quite frequently. I did it with ease and was trilled to be able to reload the data back up to Strava but come to find out I delete bunch of  required data to actually map the course at the end of each GPX file. If you have any experience with GPX files and are able to correct this for me I'll be forever in your favor!! Please let me know: tim@lowcountryultras.com

A big thanks to my wife Holly for letting chase these white rabbits and be an amazing mom to our two wonderful children Jake and Izzy. My crazy mom who worries more about me today than she probably did when I was a kid (but probably not) and still supports my craziness. To Karen for being an amazing friend and for never giving up on me. To Bo, Tiana, and Kelley for being on standby... I'll get there next time!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Barkley Fall Classic

Barkley Fall Classic Course Map
The first edition of the Barkley Fall Classic took place on September 20, 2014. The race opened with 300 slots and filled in less than two week. Quickly the wait listers were pulled in with over 60+ runners dropping out before packet pick up and another 40+ runners deciding to DNS according to Race Director, Steve Durbin.

The Fall Classic was a chance for the masses to get a taste of the Barkley Marathons which takes place in the Spring each year at Frozen Head with a limited field of 40 participants and overlaps some of the trails that we would run through the park during the Classic including one off trail section know as "Rat Jaw" which gave the Classic runners a hands on feel of the real thing.

My last experience "racing" at Frozen Head the weather was less than perfect. Mid 30s, rain, sleet, snow, rain, wind and a little more rain. The Classic gave us near perfect running conditions with a clear morning in the mid 60's and a high of 80. The Classic also featured 5 aid stations most of which were manned by local Wartburg Basketball and Football player along with several Barkley legends. Everyone was amazing out there but Carl Laniak was my saving grace.

You were right Karen, I was wrong

The race started promptly at 7:00am with Gary Cantrell lighting a cigarette sending the masses down the first 1.5 miles on the asphalt before reaching the famed Yellow Gate sending us up Bird Mountain. By the 6th switch back both heels began to burn. My last 1000 miles of racing and training have been in my Luna sandals and switching back was a horrible mistake. I ran in my Inov-8 Roclite 295 (same shoe I ran with in March) but my feet had changed. I pulled off the trail at the top of the first climb to see if there was something in my sock that was causing my feet to burn so much in the first 3 miles. I was shocked to see that a 3 inch blister had already formed on each heel.

The Black Dog in this race was the memory of quitting last March and there was no way that I was walking down the mountain again to give Laz and Steve the satisfaction of hearing... "I quit". I hooked up with a awesome crew from Birmingham (BUTS) as we ran across the North Boundary Trail towards the first aid station at mile 7.6 on top of Bald Knob. Chatting kept my mind off the burning discomfort as we went down the back side of Bald Knob towards The Garden Spot where running legends Mike Dobies and Joe Fejes were standing on the side of a mountain looking to punch your bib before you began working down towards Coffin Springs. I had a quick conversation with Joe about his upcoming race schedule and then headed off again.

2014 Barkley Alum, Bill Lovett and I continued to leap frog each other through out the course and he took off blazing down the trail with a small group. When I got to the top of Little Fork Mountain you could finally see what a gorgeous day it was turning out to be. I actually said out loud, "I love this place" and started back down the trail. Before I got to Panthers Gap, I felt the skin on my left heel rip and I knew that I'd be rolling into the second aid station at Tub Springs very soon. When I did, the first thing I ask was if anyone had any tape: medical, duct, masking, scotch... I didn't care. Mr. Vol State Carl Laniak came to the rescue and even made some make shift "bandaid" pads out of a paper towel. I cleaned off both feet as much as possible and then wrapped them with tape and then headed out.

The next section of trail was an out and back "6 miles total" with Rat Jaw just prior to the third aid station (the same one that I was currently at). This section sucked. My feet were trying to get use to the tape and I could still feel the skin tear as I went up. "This isn't how I wanted to meet you!!!" was how I finally met Stephanie Miller who was flying back down Fodderstack and I hobbled up. When I made the top I snagged 4 jelly beans from some awesome dude and then started back down. Down felt great, but my feet were getting wet. I pulled over on the trail and pulled my sock back... BLOOD. Four more miles till I would see Carl again and his magic roll of tape.

Our Wizard sticks and Bo
Bill and I caught back up with each again and then we ran into Bo, Karen and Brian coming off the Fodderstack Trail. We all hugged and went off in opposite directions. A few strides later, I came across Verity who was all smiles and seemed like she was having a blast out there. Working my way back up the OPM Trail, I saw a flustered Jason who took a wrong turn leaving the last aid station and headed toward Rat Jaw early. We chatted briefly and  took off, as I said good bye I took a sip from my hydration pack and it was dry. I never filled it at the second aid station and I was about to go up Rat Jaw. Like a homeless man I was begging for water, everyone was low. 1000 feet in 0.8 miles with briars neck high. Half way up... I found a 16oz bottle of liquid gold laying in the middle of the briars! I was saved AGAIN!

Coming in to Carl's Aid station again my feet felt as bad as they could possibly get so I figured why bother taping them again. I filled my 70oz bladder to the very tippy-top and my newly acquired 16oz back up bottle and headed off for 4 miles of downhill trail to come off Old Mac Mountain. I spent a lot of time walking over this stretch and tried to figure out what Katy Perry said, "it tasted like" when she kissed a girl. Come to find out later, it was "cherry chapstick".

Aid station #4 = Trekking poles

I loved my stick pictured above but my poles with their padded-formed hand grips and wrist straps felt amazing. Before heading out on the final loop, I met up with Tim (Salt Shack). Salt asked me about the next section and took off, my legs were getting heavy and my feet were still screaming.  My trekking poles made the next climb almost enjoyable. I could smell Fall in the air and a weird fog drifted down the mountain. Coming across Low Gap, I found Tim again and we hiked together for several more miles. He's an awesome guy and gave me my favorite quote of the day: "...and in 10 steps... I.will.puke" I think he made it 6 steps. We chilled out for a few minutes and then Jason "Yeti" Green came up the trail smiling and we cruised into the finish together. It was great to close out the day with him.

Overall the race was everything that I hoped it would be. The additional struggle from my feet could have been left out of the equation but like they say... "Bad decisions make for better stories". This race was planned as my Fall training kick off and I got out of it everything I wanted and then some. It was a great weekend with great friends and can't wait to go back and be out there again!!!

Finishing sore and happy - I promise I wasn't trying to stab Steve with my pole!
Photo Credit: Teresa Sunshine

Barkley Fall Classic Profile and end results 12:14:22
Full data links:



Pre-Race Information:

Barkley Fall Classic - September 20, 2014 7:00am Start Time

Who am I running with: Brian Reddish, Bo Millwood, Karen Jackson, Bill Lovett, Andrew Snopes, Verity Gray, Dawn Brown, Jason Edenfield and a TON of other runners!!! See the full line-up here: Runners

Where am I staying: Frozen head State Park Camping site #7 - stop by and say hello!

I don't anticipate there being much coverage through out the park, but I'll have my tracker on during the race. Click the logo below:
Track my progress while "out there": http://tinyurl.com/WazBarkleyFC

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mattamuskeet Death March Race Recap

Mattamuskeet Death March:

2014 MDM Badasses
The 2014 Mattamuskeet Death March is listed as "the most miserable 100K race you will  ever attempt". "MDM" takes place in Eastern North Carolina and is the dream-child of Brandon Wilson and RacENC. Seven runners finished the race in the first year and we started year two with 14 brave souls. 

I ran this race with Karen Jackson and Bo Millwood after deciding very late that I would make the trip with them thanks to a very gracious Race Director. We all met at the Host Motel, Carawans on Friday evening for dinner, a pre-race briefing and to receive our 50mm Ammo Cans that we would be required to carry through out the event. 

Bo, Karen and I with our new friends
The rules stated that as a first year runner you could not add or remove anything to your can... Karen and I speculated on the seven hour trip up what the "add" might mean but never would we have guessed that Brandon would be adding 50 marbles in to all the virgins' boxes. As the Ammo Cans were being awarded one-by-one, the race director would give a few little tie bits of information and have a good laugh with each runner before moving on to the next. Then he pulled out a "pretty princess pink" can and began to dump the 50 marbles and then says, "but race directors get special treatment here, so this can get 100 marbles" as he spins the can around and I see my flaming Lowcountry Ultras logo on the side of the box.... despair sets in. 

The race course was set up as a figure 8, running around both sides of Mattamuskeet Lake and back to Carawans Motel. There are no port-a-potties or aid stations so a crew is required. We were lucky enough to have Dylan & Kyle (Bo's Daughter and Karen's son) crew for us. They were AWESOME! Fun, high energy and ready with what anyone needed in seconds! I'll have them back to crew me at any race any time. Actually I believe that they are going to set up their own "Crew for hire" business if anyone is looking.

The race it self was long... 66ish miles but they were LONG miles...

Lowcountry Lunatics
At any given time you could see a mile down the road (unless you were running through corn fields then the turns were just mind-numbing) and the entire course was exposed. It made for a long day, but the heat was better this year than last (or so they say). It was great to have Bo and Karen to burn away those long miles, but running with three people is hard. Heck, running with another person for 18 hours is hard. We all hit low spots at different times but worked well together trying to get everyone through it and on to the finish.

All in all the race was great. The ammo can and noise factor were something that you really cannot ignore, but become white noise as the race goes on. The MDM is a challenge that will test every aspect of your strength and will to continue. For me having great friends every step of the way made it possible. 

The first 56 miles of the course before my watch died: Movescount.com

This is why people want to punch Race Director, Brandon Wilson in the face

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't judge me by my inseam

There is a long standing stereotype in running that has not been addressed, but I cannot stand by and let it continue.

Inseam Flash Judgments or IFJ happen everyday at group runs, every weekend at starting lines and even at running speciality stores. When a guy reaches for a pair of split cut 3 inch running shorts, people immediately begin to pass judgement. They don't even bother looking at your ultrasignup.com rankings before they immediately start thinking that you're "one of the fast guys". It's not fair and quite honestly... it hurts. Please take a second and think twice before passing IFJ because it may just be the guy standing there in basketball shorts that takes the win. Together we can make IFJ a thing of the past!

One of my favorite things to hear during races is, "what are you doing back here?" and I'm never really sure how to respond to that. I'm pretty consistent with my races 4:30-4:45 50K, 20-21 hour 100s so I typically respond with a "yeah, just cruising..." But "back here" is where I find the balance of pushing myself and still having fun. I like being the "Tall-skinny guy that wears the short-shorts" but my 3 inch inseam doesn't translate to speed, at least for me. Don't forget to have fun guys, we are supposed to enjoy this!

See you on the trail!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Quintessence of Ultra Running, what you can learn from a guy named Walter Mitty

There are many things in life that motivate us: fear, self-improvement, nature, family and sometimes we find motivation in odd places, such as a mix reviewed Ben Stiller movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. The premise of the movie is based on a day-dreamer who escapes into his own world to break out of his mundane existence until the day comes when his real life adventures surpasses any and all of his expectations. Along the way he learns some valuable lessons that I think can carry over in the Ultra running world, and for me has lead to some additional motivation lately.

The Ultra Running lessons (without giving any of the movie away) can be broken down into these four thoughts:
  1. Jump
  2. Stay in it
  3. Look inside
  4. The quintessence of life

Most Ultra Runners progress along from a life-time of running, kicking things off with the mile in middle school and progressing upwards in distance as their age and experience increase. Other runners would never even consider stepping up to the “Ultra” distance because of the pure fear and unknown that the distance presents. All runners regardless of experience reach that point when stepping up to the next level is all they have. Take it from Walter, when the opportunity comes you have to jump. Don’t think twice, don’t second guess your abilities. The fact that your heart is pulling you towards the distance is enough to push you through the event. JUMP!

Stay in it

When race day finally comes, enjoy it. There are a million things that will go wrong during the race, except them as part of the journey. It is very easy to forget what brought you to this point. How many miles you’ve run up to this point. How much time you spent building up your strength and endurance. You earned this moment, now enjoy it. Don’t let it slip by, it’ll be over before you know it and you’ll miss it.

Look inside

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times… “Humans are awesome”. When all the gear has failed and you hit rock bottom dig deep inside yourself and you’ll be surprised what you can do. How far you can go and how long you can keep moving. The bottom will drop out and there is nothing but your self to decide what happens next. Magic potions, energy drinks and  Be amazing, you just have to find it in you… and it is there!

The quintessence of life

When the first three thoughts are actualized the quintessence of life is yours for the taking. It is something different for all of us. Completing a new distance, running a new PR, staying alive… it doesn’t matter. The best in life is within all of us. We have the power to be awesome, we have the ability to achieve greatness, it just takes the human will to drive us to that point! Be the greatest you that you can be.

This movie has stuck with me for the past few weeks and I really enjoyed watching it with my son Jacob because I could see the light coming on inside him as we watched Walter Mitty struggle to greatness. My kids are in fact my greatest motivator when the going gets tough but following these simple thoughts are a great way to stay focused when doubt begins to enter your mind.

I close this post off with the Life Magazine’s Motto:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Confessions of an independent runner: Terra Kiger

My name is Tim Waz and I love the new Nike Terra Kiger trail shoe.

Whoa, it's out there now and I don't care who knows it! I swore off Nike back in the mid 90's with my last pair of Waffle Racers... how can you screw up a shoe with so little? But they did. Nothing felt right on my foot, toe boxes were too tight, heel counters were too stiff, uppers were either too tight or too loose, and not to mention... what did Nike know about running off road?!

Well, it took a few years but they nailed it and they nail it good. The Nike Terra Kiger is designed to fit like a track spike with a sock-like upper that is very low-profile. The mesh on the upper is very lightweight and breathable (which is great around here with our long hot summers) but still gives you a decent amount of support through what they call "Flywire" technology. Think of it as light bondage for your feet. The movement that you foot gets is tucked right in between "perfect" and "amazing". This is by far the best outsole I've felt in a long time.

The sole is made up of a dual-density blah blah blah... there are two "Zoom" pockets of air one in the forefoot and the other in the heel which gives the low profile design a feel more like a Brooks Glycerin without all the bulk. The outsole is patterned after my longed after original Waffle Races with aggressive cross angles cut into the sole for enhanced traction. The sticky rubber was great for moving fast over wet rocks and had no issues with slipping on steep climbs or quick descents. My first run in these shoes we on very technical single track and had no issues with the lack of a rock plate which only adds additional weight and stiffness to a shoe.

After logging my first 100 miles in my first pair of Nike Terra Kiger, I give Nike two thumbs up. This is a "go-fast" trail shoe, if you want something bulkier with the same feel, you may want to check out their Zoom Wildhorse (the Terra Kiger's beefier big brother).

What I really liked:

     Looks: cool design, very sleek
     Grip: a lot of traction with a very light sole
     Upper: I can not say enough about the comfort of this upper
     Drainage: Step in a puddle, the water pours right out - NICE
     Weight: 8.6 ounces, lets me know that I'm wearing shoes but still lets me feel the trail

What I didn't like as much:
     Sizing: In typical Nike fashion, I had to step up to a size 11.5 (Brooks size 10)
     Laces: a little long and the material may slip if not double knotted
     Brand: Sorry Nike... it'll take some time for me to get over what you did to my Waffles

My first 100 miles were broken down to 44 miles on trail and 56 on road. The wear pattern was very minimal even after some fast speed work on the road. So there you have it, and now you know... My name is Tim Waz and I love running in my Nike Terra Kiger.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Barkley Marathons: Education 101

Remember what it was like on your first day of school each year? You wore your best outfit, you were excited to see your friends again, and while there was a nervousness in the air, no one would ever let on that they were anxious about what this year would bring. Pulling into Frozen Head State Park had the same feeling. I've looked forward to this for so long and I could not actually believe that it was finally happening.

In January of 2014, I moved off the "Weight List" from the #3 position and was granted a seat in Lazarus Lake's class room. I knew a few of this year's classmates from years of stalking them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and the rest of the class would not be strangers for long.

Karen Jackson, fellow Barkley Weight lister, joined me in the 8 hour trek to Tennessee in hopes that the stars would align and she too would be standing at the Yellow Gate when Laz lit his cigarette this year. The drive was pretty uneventful with a quick stop for lunch in Spartanburg with Tiana Cain. When we reached the state line going into Tennessee, the snow started and kept falling, and falling. We were both in shock with how much snow was actually coming down. It continued to fall until we made a pitstop for dinner with my Mom and Grandmother at Calhoun's on the River in Knoxville (a belated birthday dinner). Grama was not impressed with the idea of the race and thought that the race and director were "stupid". Maybe she was the only sane person at the table that night.

We rushed through dinner to get up to FHSP and set up camp before the storms blew in and it got dark. The first night in camp was miserable. A frozen 15 degrees with winds that didn't quit. It got so cold that our propane tanks actual froze in our space heater. Morning could not come fast enough, and we actually got up before the sun did just to start moving around. A quick pancake and bacon breakfast with some French press coffee hit the spot and Karen and I were past the gate heading up Bird Mountain for a day of hiking. It still did not feel "real" yet. Just an idea that we were at FHSP "out there" training.

Half way up Bird Mountain, we met Barkley veteran Chip Tuthill and was given the VIP park tour. On day one we spent 7.5 hours on the trail and saw a good bit of wildlife including a sounder of wild boar including several young piglets. Note to self: Boar do not like it when you crest a hill and your hiking partner suddenly gets cell coverage and her phone begins to ring nonstop with Text and Facebook notifications. When we made our way back to camp, we realized that we needed several items including propane and decided to head into Oak Ridge to hit up Wal-Mart and decided to grab a pizza while in town. A sleepless night and a long day on the trail left us both staring at our pizza before calling it an early night. We had big plans for Thursday!

Thursday morning was still brisk but warmer than yesterday. We met up with Bill Lovett and headed out on the trails. We returned mid-day for lunch and was lucky enough to meet up with Frozen Ed Furtaw and reviewed the park map with him for quite some time. This picture was by far one of my favorite from the entire weekend. Frozen, talked with Bill and I for almost an hour before we headed off to camp for a nice thick Bacon Cheese Burger for lunch (we ate good all week!!!) Frozen Ed is a pioneer in the Barkley and knows these trails like the back of his hand. I wanted his autograph, but was too caught up in the moment to ask. These "old" guys are my heroes!

We still wanted to head up to the fire tower before dark and to see Rat Jaw, so we wrapped up lunch quickly and headed back out that afternoon. Bill was our tour guide and we hiked up the "candy ass trail" to the summit. The amazing thing about FHSP is the wind. It can be calm as can be one second and then you turn a corner to 40mph headwinds and this is what greeted us at the top.

At the top of Rat Jaw, you finally began to see and identify how much climbing there actually is "out there". The climbs never seem to end. On Thursday it was clear as could be. We could see clear into Kentucky, North Carolina and even Georgia, but race day would be something else. Visibility would be limited to 10 feet or less on certain climbs leaving you wondering if you'd ever reach the top.

We played tourist at the top, with a few pictures and Bill was even able to get enough cell coverage to make a quick call home while the nerves began to set in as we saw more and more of the course.

Thursday night was T-bone night! We ate until our stomachs were full and then called it another early night. Friday was going to be a long day and my body was pretty tired from another long day on the trail. I slept like a rock that night, waking up to high winds and pouring rain well after 9am. Karen and I strung up our tarps the night before so we were able to cook breakfast without getting drenched. Bo Millwood made it to camp just before 11am and all the excitement of the race was now buzzing around camp. I turned in my virgin licenses plate, got checked in (Bib #9 for lap one) and got to meet a lot of the racers. My plan was to hang around camp until the map was put out, copy it with accuracy and then try to lay down for a quick nap. I opted for a short hike with Bo and Karen to burn off some nervous energy as it would be a few hours until the map was visible.

We took an easy stroll to the top of Bird Mountain again and I'm glad that we did. Sitting around camp in the damp rain was making my body stiff. When we got back I copied the route onto my map and got some last minute advice from the veterans before heading down to Jodi Isenor's camp to review the Stallion Mountain area in great detail. This proved very useful on race day and I'm glad I took the extra time as a lot of people find themselves lost on this section. Jodi was an awesome guy and you could just tell that he was going to do well on race day!

A nice pasta dinner followed by a hot shower had me backed up to "bed time" as the race could start as early as midnight. Bo volunteered to stay up and listen for the conch as Karen was still on deck with the possibility of getting into the race! Then I did something that I thought would never happen: I fell asleep and slept well.

Race Day

The Conch blew at 5:47am and I jumped out of my sleeping bag like the tent was on fire. I thought I was going to vomit. The nervous energy that built up was sickening and knowing that in less than 58 minutes we'd be starting, was pretty damn awesome! I had all my gear packed and my clothes laid out. I ate breakfast: Bacon with rye bread, Ensure, Cracker barrel cheese and what seemed like a gallon of Orange Juice. This was the shortest hour of my life. We were now standing at the gate waiting on Laz's bad habit to send us off.

It was my understanding that the unspoken rule was that no one lets Laz see you run out of camp, but a pack of 15+ "runners" did just that... they took off... and ran out of camp. I was next to Frozen Ed and he counted the "fools" out loud. I turned around quickly and watched camp fade out of site as we began the very familiar climb up Bird Mountain heading toward book #1. I hooked up with Nicki Rehn on the climb up as well as Jodi and volunteered to pull them to the first Book and then back down to the North Boundary Trail. We had a flawless navigation and made the trek in exactly one hour. Jodi took the lead up to Jury Ridge and on to Book #2. Our small pack was moving very efficiently. We took a quick compass reading and headed off into the "new section" to Book #3. 1:45 into the race the skies opened up and the rains began to fall. This was the Barkley that I was expecting. We dropped off the trail exactly where we needed to be and I found the Book exactly where Frozen said I should look. We were still making great time but the climb back to the top of the ridge would give me an idea of where my failure would come this year.

The climbs at the Barkley are never ending. You think you're are the top, looking at what surely is the cap stones and then you climb some more and more and more. It was early in the race and my body was feeling pretty fresh so I pushed on. 3/4 of the way up Jared Campbell came flying by us like we were standing still (chances were pretty good that I actually was) and shortly behind him were veterans Alan and Bev Abbs. It took a few seconds to realize it, but for a few short minutes we were leading the Barkley past Book #3. We found out later that the leaders missed the compass heading off Book #2 and found themselves off course looking for Book #3. That alone gave me a nice boost of energy.

The North Boundary Trail is in fact a "candy ass" trail but it goes on forever and the trail was slick from the rain. Trying to run downhill in certain sections was very difficult as I continued to slip off the trail. I watched Jodi pull away and found myself alone for the first time as I headed towards Book #4 at the Garden Spot. Prior to the race, everyone said, don't be alone out there, latch onto a veteran that knows the course and hold on for dear life. I continued to navigate the NBT alone until 5-Lap Finisher John Fegyveresi came into sight behind me on the trail. I pulled myself up Son of a Bitch Ditch and continued towards the Coal Ponds as John pulled me along to The Garden Spot and Book #4 where the first water drop was located. Nicki also came up at this point and I was set on holding on to her throughout the rest of Stallion Mountain.

About this time Willy "Natureboy" Syndram came up on us and took off with a blaze and a quick "be sure to look for these rocks next time Tim, it's your marker to go down". Willy was looking strong and eating a tortilla wrapped hotdog. We continued to navigate to such famous Barkley markers such as Bobcat Rock, Leonards Butt Slide and Hiram's Pool and Spa. We hit Book #5 in 4:20 and the course was now soaked and muddy. I was loving every minute of it.

Then the real climbs began. Testicle Spectacle would be the location where I decided that I was missing a key piece of equipment: Trekking Poles. Everything at the Barkley is dead. Trying to find a walking stick that can hold your body weight as you scamper up the mud banks and to push down briars is harder than you'd think. Fortunately I was able to find two good candidates at the base of Book #7 to help pull me up to the top. Unfortunately, only one stick actually lasted to the top, but more importantly I was still hanging on to Nicki.

We passed Meth Lab Hill and Raw Dog Falls before seeing something that was my biggest fear coming into the this race. It was a ziplock baggie, filled with someone's lost pages. Someone was out here and they no longer had their "proof". We saw Nikolay Nachev back up on Stallion Mountain and he too was looking for his lost pages. The thought of being in that position just made me want to cry. A quick decision to bi-pass Danger Dave's Climbing wall and opt for Pussy Ridge was short lived and we continued to push on. I must have checked for my pages a dozen times over the next mile to make sure they were still with me.

The rains continued to fall as we reached the base of Rat Jaw and began our climb. I scrambled again looking for a second stick to use but came up empty handed. Using a single pole I developed a stab and pull method to get up some of the slicker and steeper sections as we rounded 7 Mine. Half way up, the fog rolled in and you could not see more than 20 feet up the trail. This was both negative and positive as you could not see the top, but at the same time... you could not see the top. A quick scramble to the top of a rock climb I found my long searched for second pole. I made good time on the next section as I was now singing in the rain and could hear voices coming from the top.

"Is that Tim?!?!" I heard Bo & Karen say and I responded with "Whats up Bitches... What does the Fox say?!?!" It was so good to see and hear their voices even though they could do nothing for me. I think they were both afraid to even touch me in fear that I would be disqualified. I reached the top and grabbed Book #9 and quickly topped off my water as this would be the last water drop until I got back to camp. The only thing I remember about this time with them was my comment of "you have no idea..." when asked how it was out there.

I scrambled back down Rat Jaw and met back up with Nicki as we headed for the Prison with a cool hike through the tunnels under the prison and up to Book #10. Damn that water was cold! As we started to climb up towards Indian Knob my body began to shake and my legs felt like bricks. I had to say good bye to Nicki, my tour guide, my confidence marker. I couldn't climb fast enough to keep up. We quickly reviewed the map and I sat down for my first real break in now almost 8 hours. My body was shutting down and I thought this was going to be the end of my race. The problem with the Barkley is that there is no easy way to quit. At this point I had to hike back to camp the same route as the race itself. I took a systems check and thought I might need more fuel. I ate a full bag of beef jerky and another of Trail mix. My water bladder was full and my backup bottle was topped off so I drank a little more than I was all morning. Thirty minutes burned away when I finally realized that I had to "move". From tree to tree I awarded myself with a strong "you've got this". Typically at this place in a race I reach out mentally to my kids for extra strength, but I was having a hard time focusing and couldn't get past the though of that next tree.

Five fee at a time, I started feeling better and better. But this damn climb would not stop. This damn rain would not stop. When I finally reached the top my body was spent but was quickly energized by locating Book #11. I was now a decent and a climb away from finding the last Book. I continued to eat and I continued to feel better. Book #12 was in my grasp and I was on my last long climb up Big Hell. My directions for this section was to "keep taking the steepest possible way until you believe that death is imminent." I hit rock bottom again but made it to the top and collapsed onto the capstone in total exhaustion. I pulled out my instructions and looked for the book. I couldn't find it. Was it here? Was I at the right spot? I learned back against the rock and something poked me in the neck. It was Book #13. I grabbed the book, now in the pouring rain and pulled out page #9. I had 13 Pages in my hand and was one Candy Ass trail decent away from finishing a lap at the Barkley.

I mustered up the energy to push on through the wind and rain and began running down the trail and back into camp. There was Bo! I made it. I put in my food order like I was at a cafe and headed off to get my pages counted. I couldn't go to camp until I was checked in. When I reached the gate Laz was in the process of checking people in and out so "some guy" reached his hand out to grab my pages and I refused to give them to anyone other than Laz himself. Sorry dude, but these 13 crunchy pages were my life at that moment. 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... 8... 9... 10... 11... 12... I think I actually pumped my fist when Laz said "thirteen".

A quick change of clothes and a refuel I was back at the gate with bib #19 in hand and I was heading out for more. It was going to be a cold and wet night but I was exceeding my own expectations at that point. The climb going up Bird Mountain would set my pace for the rest of the night. I had "no more up" in my legs, but I continued to push on. I was very comfortable getting to Book #1 and down the back side of Jaque Mate Ridge and ran into Bob Jones on his way back up to camp from Book #1. I talked him into following me to at least Book #2 and we headed off together. We followed our early tracks to the NBT but when we reached the creek bed at the bottom I felt lost. Nothing looked the same. The small creeks were now rushing streams and I couldn't tell if we were too far North or too far South. We hiked 30 Minutes North along the creek before realizing that we were not going the right direction. We turned around and hiked back to the point where we started and could not make heads or tails of our location. We sat down on a rock and then saw an Orange trail blaze on the tree in front of us. We had found the trail and decided to push on to Book #2.

The climb up to Jury Ridge was LONG. I still had "no more up" in my legs and the switchbacks seemed to go on forever. The wind was strong and the rain/ ice/ snow mix hurt when it hit your face. My core was warm even though my feet were drench from the rivers that now flowed down the trail. Bob and I found Book #2 and we each pulled out our page. In front of us was a tough decision. Do we push on into the "new section" for Book #3 and try to climb out or do we turn around here and start the long and hard climb back to camp. I had "no more up" in my legs and knew that we had at least 18 switchbacks of "up" directly behind us just to quit. That was the moment I quit the Barkley - It may have taken three more hours to get back to camp, but sitting at Book #15, I was done. The long process to get here was over and I knew that the education I got out there was more valuable than any lesson I could learn in any other classroom.

Friends that know me, know that I've been addicted to the Barkley Marathons for a long time. I'm very sorry to say that unfortunately it's now worse. I got a taste. I learned what I need to do to improve. I saw the books, I held the pages. Every once in a while you luck out and get what you really want and for me the education that I got through the slowest marathon I've ever run will be enough to keep me motivate until next time.

My piece of advice: Climb and climb and climb. When you get to the top, go back down and climb and climb and climb back up. When you feel like your legs are going to fall off, do it three more time and then repeat from the beginning.

I heard some amazing stories out there this year, Veterans getting lost before book one. Friends spending 9 hours and walking away with a single page. A two time winner running all 5 laps. Virgins completing their first Fun-Run. Champions loosing pages and their ways. The Barkley Marathon is truly unlike any race I've ever experienced before. The fight to get in and the nerves it takes sitting at camp knowing that you are 2 slots away from running the damn thing but still not 100% sure 5 minutes before the race starts is daunting. Every runner regardless of how many pages they got, or how many loops they completed is amazing. Amazing for wanting to go through Hell just to stand at its gate begging to be let in. Amazing for failing beautifully and then wishing for more in years to come. I posed the question early in the week as to why most of the veterans come back year after year willing to fail again and again and I found that the answer is that they don't have a choice. They have the Barkley in them. They are part of the Barkley. Now, I feel like I'm part of it too. Class dismissed.

Lap 1 Nutrition: 

     8 - Hammer Gel
     2 - White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bars
     1 cup - Beef Jerky
     2 cup - Trail Mix
     3.5 lt - Water
     20 oz - Spark Energy Drink

Camp Nutrition before starting lap two:

     16 oz - Chicken Broth
     8 oz - Ensure
     16.5 oz - Chocolate Milk
     4 Strips of Bacon
     1 Grilled Cheese on Rye (with two more slices of bacon)


     Shoes: Inov8 RocLite 295 - Size 10
                Goat Head Sole Pikes
     Socks: Swiftwick
     Pack: Ultimate Direction - PB Adventure Vest 2.0
     Headlamp: Petzl - MYO RXP