Barkley Fall Classic: a race that changes your perceptions


The pain still lingers in my legs and in my soul, as I sit down to recount the challenge and adventure of last weeks Barkley Fall Classic.  I am not one who writes super detailed race reports, so keep that in mind as I try to sift through the agony and pride this race has produced.

It all starts off with a 12 hour drive from New York state to Tennessee.  I was lucky enough to have the love of my life Gia accompany me on this adventure.  She was upbeat the whole drive which took the race jitters edge off.  We went down Thursday so that I could relax.  Needing wifi for her college work, we stayed in a hotel (which I have to admit, I am not upset about at all).  Well the hotel lost our reservation, but lucky for us, had a room available still.

Fast forward to packet pickup Friday afternoon… I was looking forward to this, especially after getting lost on the way there.  Thanks Siri!  When you walked in, you could see the excitement on everyone’s faces.  You could also see who was faking excitement.  Could you blame them?? Even if half the lore of this race was true…. It would still be a hellish struggle of a day.  Alas, that is what we signed up for.  I was stoked for packet pickup because I got to see a couple of fellow Orange Mud Ambadassadors … Chad Hause and Johne Lehne.  Two quality guys that have completely earned my respect last weekend.  Hugs were given, hand shakes were plentiful, then “See you at the start”‘s were muttered.

Surprisingly, I got some decent sleep…. well, better sleep than normal before a big race.  Saturday was upon us and we were ready for the challenge.  Were we??  I could feel my stomach filling with nervousness as it does every race morning.  Like every other race morning, I ignored it.  The drive to Frozen Head State Park was a solemn one at that.  Gia tried to perk me up… all I felt was impending doom.  Once at the race start, we ran into John and Chad and the nerves settled.  It was pleasant to know some faces in the crowd.  Mulling around a bit I met some facebook friends, which was great.  Couldn’t help but see fear in some of the racers eyes though.  Not gonna lie… that was unsettling. With the light of a cigarette, we were off…




Down the paved park road we went.  Some were joking around, some were very silent.  When we got to the trail head… that’s when it got so very real.  So for the rest of this story there will be no play by play.  Instead, I am going to talk about the points that stick out in my mind.  I am doing this for one reason:  if you wanna experience this amazing challenge of an event, no story or portrayal will really do… sign up, put your big boy/girl underwear on, and run it.  They don’t have words for some of the emotions you feel on this course.  So let’s really dive in:

Switchbacks. Like them? you sure won’t after these.  I’m talking relentless. I’m saying they seemed never ending.  Just when you thought “sweet, that has to be the last one”… Nope… You are wrong… Now keep running and feel dumb.

Yellow jackets. When you are exhausted but slogging along, what is your favorite thing to do?  If you answered  “run for your life”… you win a prize.  The beauty of the yellow jackets is that you don’t see them coming.  Is it gonna kill you? Not unless you are terribly allergic.  It’s really the surprise factor I think.  Plus, your friends get a good chuckle while you are running and flailing about wildly.  Don’t worry John… I laughed at you too brother.

Testicle Spectacle.  I’m not gonna lie.  I kinda had fun on this one.  Don’t get me wrong…. it was kinda brutal.  There were briars here and there…but there was also a little shade.  My quickly evolving plan was to get into a pistol squat and slide when it was wicked steep.  Worked beautifully.  So call me a liar if you want, but it was kinda fun!

Brushy Mountain State Prison.  Best part of the course for two reasons. 1…. I like history.  2… It was the flattest part of the course.  Plus someone at the aid station gave me a soda and it was the most delicious thing ever!  As a history nerd, the prison just plain rocked.


Rat Jaw.  I don’t think there are enough curse words to express the way this part of the course can make you feel.  It is pure evil genius really.  Steepness, “never ending”, briars.  We were super lucky by the way. Cause some of the briars were mowed down. This section was easily the most hated in my book.  People were just laying about like dead bodies.  They were just exhausted…hopefully rallying.  I would rather go down and up Testicle Spectacle 3 times than do Rat Jaw once.  A little part of me died on Rat Jaw. Luckily it was a weaker part of me.  It can have it. I don’t need it anymore.  Anyone who made it up that mother effer is a stronger person now… and you can take that to the bank!

Cutoff Aid Station. I’ve never been so happy to see an aid station.  I knew coming in, that I missed the cutoff.  I wasn’t even mad about it.  Sure there were a bunch of things I could’ve done differently to make the cutoff. I had to take the “marathon” finish.  Now I know what it takes.  I got to shake Laz’s hand here.  That was awesome.  So I left, this checkpoint with under a mile to go and my head held high.  Huge thanks to Becca “Mother Fucking” Jones (her words, not mine) for the roughly four mile jaunt of laughs at the end of the race.

The Finish.  Never felt better to have something be over.  It was brutal.  It also changed me… made me tougher.  Taught me weakness and pain… and how to deal with both.  I am looking forward to going back sometime and crushing it… pain and all.  I admire anyone who towed the line that morning… finish or no finish.  Starting that endeavor showed fortitude. As you may already know… I had to airplane the finish.


Huge thanks to Orange Mud, Carson Footwear, and The Fartlek Running Company for letting me represent their companies to the best of my ability…. and their wonderful products. Thank to John Lehne who ran most of the race with me… never letting me give up, and sharing the pain cave.  Thanks to Becca for making the last few miles a laugh.

Thanks to Laz, Steve, the volunteers, and everyone that made this epic event possible.

Finally… Thanks to my other half, Gia Sabatini, for putting up with my craziness.


running, trailrunning

2015 Cayuga Trails 50 : Ultra Awesome!


A good trail run can strengthen your resolve.  Cayuga Trails, however, can rip your soul out and instantly revive you at the same time.  Let’s start from the beginning.

After tossing and turning all night the crappy motel alarm clock echoed in my head.  It must be 4 am… go time! After getting ready and failing to shake the jitters out, I arrived at the North Shelter to check in around 5 am.  “This is really happening” is all I could think.  I saw people of all shapes and sizes, all walks of life, full of and lack of confidence.  We all had a common goal … to conquer this beast.  The fact that I wasn’t alone in my endeavor began to put me at ease.  The clock was counting down.  With bout 5 minutes to go time, I double checked my Orange Mud hydration pack, gave Gia a kiss, and filed into the start.


*the faint sound of a rams horn*

We were off and rolling! The front runners were like the wind, but I trotted along at an easy pace with my buddy Keith.  Taking our time, approaching our goal… just finish.  Around the beginning of the second mile I lengthened my stride, and soon after, realized I had left my friend behind.  Onward I went.  I felt great…. had a renewed vigor for life!

I made nothing but friends along the way.  Plus since it was an out and back loop course, I got to do one of my favorite things…. cheer other runners on.  I saw so many people grinning from ear to ear.  All I could think was…. I love running!! Then Buttermilk Falls happened.  Or has I will always call it … the stairway of death.  I left a piece of my soul on those slippery steps.  Never will I gain it back either. Cause I was stronger.  Still a lot of miles to go though.  I would see Gia at the occasional aid station… her smile gave me strength.

It is a good thing I love running in the rain.  Cause it was off and on showers and drizzle all effin day! Made the course a muddy mess though.  Which to be quite honest, was fun.  My legs were aching.  I could feel my knee clicking.  My mind determined.  On I went.  Before I knew it… I was back at North Shelter.  Halfway baby… I got this.  Just one more lap.  One more lap? How was I gonna do another lap?!? “Because I can!” <—- That is what I told myself.  Lap two underway.  I passed Keith as he was coming into the halfway point.  Gave him a “you better catch me” look. Next thing I knew, I was at the Underpass aid station.  They had bacon by the way.  Epic score!


Side note: Speaking of aid stations.  I would like to thank everyone at the aid stations.  They did an awesome job!  Very motivating and supportive.  Tip of the cap to you folks!


The second trip up Buttermilk Falls sucked as bad as the first.  Probably because I knew it was coming.  I slogged along upbeat.  Found hidden energy and kept speeding up.  Then disaster happened somewhere around Lake Treman… I got complacent.  My foot found a tree root to trip on.  While I was “supermanning” through the air, I thought this was the end of my running today.  It took me a minute to think of anything but curse words.  I wasn’t mad at anyone but myself.  I wanted nothing more than to drop out of the race.  Having never dropped out before, I couldn’t let that happen.  So when I arrived back at the Underpass aid station Gia ultimately asked me if I could finish. “Kevin… you have never not finished a race.” That was my mantra the last 7 miles.  Turns out I broke two toes on that tree root.  Sounds funny…. but I am kinda proud of it.  Ran a chunk of the race in absolute pain and still finished.  Speaking of finish…..

Coming into the home stretch I felt like a little kid.  So much so that I airplaned the finish!


Wasn’t the time I hoped for… but I will be back next year to conquer the course again.  What other race can you go to and win a stainless steel beer growler for having the narliest beard?!  So thanks to Red Newt Racing, Ian Golden, All the Volunteers, and everyone that had anything to do with this race.  It was the hardest race I have done yet, and I can’t wait for next years!