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Discussion: Barkley 2024

in: Orienteering; General

Mar 26, 2024 12:52 AM # 
Apologies if this was already elsewhere. Some of you may have seen video of Jasmin Paris completing the Barkley Marathon this year, as the first woman finisher.

If you have seen the video, you may have also recognized an orienteering kit in the background. Am I right, that that is Attackpointer Greig Hamilton?
Mar 26, 2024 1:21 AM # 
Yep, Greig also finished, on I think 3rd(?) attempt.

With 5 finishers in one go, if they stay true to the event's reputation I feel sorry for anyone taking part next year.
Mar 26, 2024 2:41 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I have followed the Barkley for well over a decade by now (Gary Robbins' 60:00:07 was a heartbreak), and even located the public LiDAR available to make it possible to generate my own map of the area, but with zero tracking available, even after the fact, I haven't actually gone through with the download process.
This year was a total outlier: The course was measurably harder than last year with 3 finishers ("That new climb was a bitch"), but the weather stayed more or less perfect for the entire 60 hours.
I expect a slight worsening of the route, _maybe_ an additional book, and a return to more normal (i.e. horrible) weather next year.
Mar 26, 2024 2:54 PM # 
Is the event attracting more and more top international endurance athletes as the event has become more well known? Is that also a factor?
Mar 26, 2024 4:32 PM # 
In his post-race Facebook post/poem, Lazarus Lake (Gary Cantrell) wrote that:

"another major factor in this year's success besides the weather.
was the strategy of the deep field of elite runners.
a pack of 18 took on the first loop together.
usually that results in testosterone poisoning
as they beat each other to death.
this time the best navigators led the group
and they collectively used brute force to defeat the new books.
it doesnt require precise navigation to locate a book
when 18 people fan out over the place it is at.
in military terms it was the equivalent of a full frontal assault.
casualties were expected.
but there were so many elite runners the course could not kill them all!"
Mar 26, 2024 5:30 PM # 
John Kelly, who had his 3rd finish this year, posted this today:

"Some general #BM100 thoughts. To start, how were there so many finishers? Not intentionally being a smartass, but it's because there were so many finishers. Working alone there might have been 1-2 if even that.

We were in 2 lead groups. One had me (22 loops prior to this year), one had Jared (25). Also Greig & Jasmin (6+ each) plus Damian (4). Everyone was a solid navigator (Jasmin in particular seemed to instinctively know things). There's benefit to everyone - even me. This year I was mainly the "fixer" - ensuring no small mistakes became disasters. Little things can kill, but one big mistake could've ended it for everyone.

I also get more seeing a finish from e.g. Jasmin, Ihor, Greig. I've got mine. There's marginal value to more. You don't get to the top & stay there by knocking everyone else down. Pull them up w/ you. Then when you inevitably slip they're right there to catch you.

This was the 2nd year in a row with fantastic conditions. Last year slightly too cold, this year slightly too warm, but neither w/ heavy rain or fog. Start time was in my ideal 5-8 AM window. Good sleep, light by the time you need it, guaranteed daylight finish, no loops of near total darkness.

Course changes were significant, but difficult to quantify. Replaced 1 of my least favorite sections w/ my new least favorite (briars, blowdowns, cliffs, no clear path... an absolute mess). Added 2 books, even if no new distance that adds ~10 minutes.

Is 5 too many? Will the course now get much harder? I don't think so. Everything perfectly aligned, none of the finishes by a huge margin. Next year will probably have a worse start time, worse weather, & not as many strong veterans.
Sometimes people catch lightning in a bottle (congrats Ihor & Aurélien!), but usually people keep at it until they get "lucky" conditions (e.g. Greig, Jasmin, Karel). Zero finishers 2018-2022. "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
Is the goal 1% of attempts finish, 1% of participants (i.e. Jared & I don't "count"), or 1% of qualified applicants could finish? I don't know. If 1% can finish, that 1% is selected, & everyone finishes, seems that's actually right."
Mar 26, 2024 11:57 PM # 
Benn: You are correct that was me at the Barkley.

Jeff: I the event has attracted a number of strong athletes each each. The field this year seemed to have more strong experienced athletes than in the past. Between Jared, John and Aurélien they have finished the race six times. In addition to this there were quite a few who had completed 3+ laps last year. Even with such a deep field some will fail. Some injured themselves, or got lost or just had other issues that delayed them too much.

In addition to the deep field the weather was almost perfect this year. It was slightly hotter than ideal but during the whole 60hrs there was basically no rain or cloud or fog or snow. As soon as there rain the climbs and descents end up being slower. With the fog it's easier to make navigational mistakes and it's harder to fix them quickly. If the weather had been worse there may have been no finishers. In 2019 and 2022 when I did the event there was rain after 12hr and temperatures dropped to freezing and there was fog. This causes most of the field to drop out and loop times to increase causing others to miss the cutoffs.

An advantage of the deeper field this year was that for the first time I ended up with other runners after loop 1. While it's still an individual race it's beneficial to be with others if you're traveling at about the same speed. Some of the benefits include being able to take turns finding the route and navigating and also having your mistakes caught. After being awake for 36hr+ it's very easy to think you're navigating correctly only to have it pointed out that you've veered off your bearing and you've forgotten to check the compass for a few mins. By yourself you'll almost certainly make more mistakes. An additional few mistakes by any runner this year and they wouldn't have finished in time.

Physically I think the route this year was harder than the previous years when I've done the race but the weather this year was much better.

Next year if the weather is worse or the start time changes to be much earlier or later then the number of finishers is likely to drop to one or less. The strength of the field will also vary year to year. Some of those that have finished won't return, others who have failed too many times will give up, for some age will catch up and they will no longer be fast enough. The field is also made up of a range of abilities, Laz likes to have a few spots available for athletes of all abilities.
Mar 27, 2024 12:05 AM # 
@blegg, that was an O-top you spotted, the "Southerly Storm" from the South Island of NZ
Mar 27, 2024 4:10 AM # 
Congratulations, Greig!! Just a fantastic effort.
Mar 27, 2024 8:53 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
Bravo to all of you! Jasmin in particular had me glued to the X refresh button. :-)
Mar 27, 2024 3:01 PM # 
Thought this substack about the shot of Jasmin finishing was fascinating:
Mar 27, 2024 4:00 PM # 
Great read. Thanks for posting the link.
Mar 27, 2024 4:25 PM # 
Congratulations Greig
Mar 27, 2024 5:06 PM # 
The Race That Eats Its Young
Mar 29, 2024 1:52 PM # 
From Harvey Lewis, reigning champion and world record holder (720 km!) of Big's Backyard Ultra World Champs, whose Barkley ended early this year:

"Greig Hamilton finished Barkley with just under 22 minutes remaining touching the yellow gate in 59:38:42, becoming the first Kiwi to complete the Barkley Marathons!

I spent most of lap one with Greig and in the pack of 18 lead runners. Greig is quick going up the steep mountains but even faster descending gnarly terrain. His calf muscles are built like concrete blocks. He has the calf muscles of someone built 100 pounds heavier and he seems to thrive or revel on the steep inclines of 45 degrees.

Greig was often first to discover books in our larger pack. When the group fanned out searching for a book early in loop 1, Greig was the one to go back to explore the cavity of a tree that had already been looked over by a handful of other runners, including myself. He was first to a few books like that. He was calm and would sit back for a second to think before hitting the probable location.

Greig is modest and prefers to fly under the radar. He is a World Champion of Rogaining and expert navigator. In 2022 when I ran with him I remember him having his map and compass out at the same time he was blazing down the mountain. This year seemed to be more intuitive for him as his third Barkley.

Greig has a witty sense of humor and is always cracking jokes. I really enjoyed our time together. Sarah Smith was his crew and Greig would simply request “Sarah’s fancy food” for the next lap.

After the race, outside the appearance of his feet, Greig seemed like he was out for a day at the park. Sarah had to head back to work, I asked him if I could help him with anything. He did everything himself of course despite not having slept a wink over 60 hours, I could only provide him a Coca Cola and some water. Coming from the southern island of New Zealand, the temperature was a bit warm for Greig but he made use of submerging his body in the streams and found a way. It was a highlight to team up with him."
Apr 5, 2024 2:49 PM # 
Some of this sounds like the pack of runners which can form at the start of a Billygoat or Highlander, a group of people navigating together, fanning out to find controls (imagine Laz finding out that in orienteering you make the controls orange and put reflectors on them at night, rather than hiding it in a hollowed-out tree). I guess we should just take the Highlander and make it 20x longer (Danny won this past year in <3 hours, so a 60 hour highlander would be about right).
Apr 5, 2024 9:10 PM # 
Highlander doesn't have saw briars.
Apr 11, 2024 5:10 PM # 
Props to Bash for connecting Greig with Gary Robbins for his podcast!
Apr 12, 2024 10:25 AM # 
Props to our Attackpoint community and all the cool people it connects us with around the world. :) Greig, thanks for sharing your experience with Gary. Congratulations again!

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