When Greg and I first greeted each other at the parking lot at Beverly Heights Park, we probably both thought that we would have little in common. He is six feet, six inches tall and as recently as two years ago weighed about 280 pounds. I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh about 150 when I am wringing wet. He looks like he could lift the front end of a car. I look like I would have a tough time picking up an oversized pillow. You might think that he would have a tough time dragging his big frame through a 10K run. I look like I would be the first person caught in a game of tag with elementary school-aged children. I dare say we were both surprised to find out that we had so much in common.
We were both linemen- he with the telephone company- I with the electric company. He retired at 55 years old. So did I. I recorded the slowest official finish time in the first seven years of the Leadville 100 ultramarathon. He finished twice- in 1995 and 1997. His finish times were two minutes apart and both about 70 minutes faster than my one finish. Though he has lost about fifty pounds in the last two years thanks to his cycling, he weighs 220 and still looks like he could lift a car. I once set a 30 foot power pole by myself with ropes and two hand winches in a five foot hole I had dug by hand on the side of a hill because I had no offered help and I was not about to ask for any. Greg looks like he could pick up said pole and put it in the hole with no help from any such tools. His wife was a teacher and so was mine. We both have replacement parts, mostly hip replacements, thanks to our physical jobs and lifestyles. (He does have more residual problems with his back than I do.)
Greg grew up in Grand Junction and started working for the phone company at 18 years old after moving to Glenwood Springs. They still live there. He and his wife have a son and a daughter, both of whom graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. One is an electrical engineer. The other is a waste water treatment engineer.
As we rode together the next day and discussed our similarities, I also learned a lot about the Barkley Ultramarathon in Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County Tennessee. It is listed in Google as a trail race, but there is no trail. It is five approximately 20 mile laps of complete bushwhacking. Runners have to run alternate laps in opposite directions. The course record is 52:03:08. The start of the race happens when the race director lights a Camel cigarette. There are more details that boggle the mind, but with a full slate of participants for each year’s race at 35, the elevation gain and loss is about 54,200 feet. As of 2018, 55% of the races have ended with no finishers in the 60 hours allotted. The race was inspired by the escape of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King, from nearby Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. (Ray covered about 12 miles in 54.5 hours in the same terrain.) The entry fee is $1.60. If accepted to participate, the entrant receives a “letter of condolence.” The route changes. The starting time changes. The exact race distance changes. As of 2018 from about 1,000 starts, the full five lap race has been completed 21 times by 17 runners.
At our ages, neither Greg (65 years old) nor I (75 years old) aspire to even show up for such an unreasonable endeavor….but it was fun to learn more about the Barkley from him and from Google.
Thanks, Greg. I enjoyed the ride.