29 January 2022


Highest point on the course
Well that was fun, kinda, the kind of fun that hurts, but that makes you smile when it's all over. I jumped into this race just 2 days prior in hopes of finding an event that would allow me to get the miles I needed to meet my weekly training mileage goal. The Black Toe Run event fit the bill. It takes place outside Watertown, TN on a privately owned farm. It consists of a 5 mile loop with 1000' of vert. I figured I'd just keep running loops until I reached my mileage goal. To be clear, I am not a fan of running multi-loop courses. In fact, I generally avoid them like the plague. I like journeys, from point A to point B or at least one single loop. But there are exceptions to this rule. In particular, I can handle a looped course when it's set up like trail running party. Bonfires, food, beer, the works. No better excuse to run a looped course than a party atmosphere. RD John. Hardin puts on a top notch event and I am glad to took the advice of fellow runners to check it out. 
Top of the big climb during the race
The race was about a two and a half hour drive from my home and with a 10AM Saturday morning race start, I was able to just get up early and drive up on race morning. When I arrived at the farm an hour ahead of the race start, the place as already bustling with runners setting up camp for the weekend. I found a cozy little spot for my camper van right next to a school bus converted to a camper and just behind the pile f wood that would provide the fuel for the evening bonfire.
Gnarly terrain keeps this race interesting
After an entertaining pre-race briefing and a runner's oath led my John, we all went off at 10AM sharp. There were already a few hearty souls out there that had been running for 24 hours since 10AM the previous morning as participants in the 48 hour event. All other runners starting Saturday morning were participating in the remaining events, solo and relay 24 hour, solo and relay 12 hour and various ruck events. All in all, it added up to just about 100 or so runners, maybe more. 
Winding very runnable single track early on the course
Temperatures at the start were in the high teens and low 20s. I had decided to bundle up for this one, long pants and multiple layers on top. I'd rather be too warm than too cold. I intended to be moving slow, so the risk of being too cold was definitely greater than too warm. I had brought extra layers as well in case I needed to add layers or swap wet for dry layers and I am glad I did. 
Even though I never felt too warm, I ended up sweating through just about everything I put on. The temps varies greatly on the course, the front half and front side of the biggest limb on the course being rather warm (and ultimately muddy) and the back half of the course being noticeably colder and frozen.
Half of the course is fairly technical terrain
I had decided to run 6 loops or 30 miles as my minimal goal, nothing else would be bonus. As it turned out, I had all I could have wanted after 6 loops. On the first loop, I pushed a bit more as I tried to figure out how to best run these loops. Turns out, it really had 1000' per loop. I dialed back my pace on loop #2, running only flats and descends and hiking every incline. This approach continued to be my preferred strategy. After each loop, I would briefly return to my van to refill my one hand bottle that I carried on each loop as well as refuel by eating one of my Spring gels. I supplemented that with a few pieces of banana. During the stop prior to my sixth and final loop, I turned on my generator and toasted some bread for a couple of hummus and vegan cheese sandwiches. 
That last loop was hard and slow. Mostly because I knew it was my last loop. I had taken well over 30 minutes during my break while enjoying my sandwiches and changing into dry new layers, including shirt, jacket, gloves, buff and beanie. Starting to run again after being warmed cozy in my van was a challenge, chattering teeth and all. But eventually, I warmed up. This final lap was more of a hike than a run, but I finally joined forces with another runner and our conversation helped pass the time. When I finally arrived back at the start, I had enough time to go out for another lap, but the desire to climb back into my caper for good was stronger. I changed into some dry clothes, stuffed by face with food and made my way back home. 
Start/Finish area
I look forward to returning to this event in the future, hopefully as part of a relay team to really make it a party next time:-)
Plenty of space for campers at the Hardin farm

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