The answer to the title is…drumroll please… The Black Toe Run!! The Black Toe is the 3rd annual 12 hour trail relay race put on by my friend John Hardin of Hardwin Adventures. John puts on some crazy trail races, and they are all super challenging and so much fun! This one in particular is one of my favorites. (Don’t worry, I’ll come back to the title a bit later.)
My friends Katie, Ryan, Jonathan and I make up the team The One Nut Cupcakes. This is our third year running, and the first year all of the Lance Armstrong stuff had just gone down, so we felt we should either be Team EPO or The One Nutters to pay homage to Lance. Naturally the cupcakes stuck, and as a tradition I make healthyish cupcakes for our team every year. I also make homed not healthy mac and cheese for everyone there, and I am proud to announce it was the winner of The Best Dish award at the race!! Now I can say my “award winning mac and cheese.”
This race is held in Watertown, TN, which is about an hour out of Nashville pretty much in the boonies, but it’s awesome. It always ends up being on a cold, winter day after it’s rained a bit so the course is slick and muddy and awesome. For this race – you can do it solo, have a 2 person team or a 4 person team, and you run a 5 mile trail over and over. For us, it’s nice – you run and then you get about 2.5-3 hour break before running again while your teammates run. So, basically you change clothes, eat whatever you can find, and hang out with friends while your teammates run. This is the Taj Mahal…
It doesn’t look like much, but trust me, this enclosed tent has heaters, hung lights that light up at sunset, and food galore!! Our set up is pimp thanks to our amazing teammate Katie. She busts out the best stuff every year. This seems like an appropriate time to talk about the FOOD… This day is hands down the worst eating day of the year for me, and it doesn’t matter. Katie and Ryan brought a catered tray of chick-fil-a chicken minis. I probably ate a dozen myself. Also, I am convinced that Hawaiian rolls are one of God’s best creations. On this day, I can’t keep my hands off of them. There’s everything from cupcakes to noodle soup to bags upon bags of chips and popcorn, candy… A little later the beer comes out, hot wine, and if you’re in with the Taj Mahal – Katie might even make you a mixed drink. Comfort food at it’s finest! Throw the clean out of of the window!!! It doesn’t matter one bit because you’re enjoying the day, good people and a hard run.
This race is a grueling, technical 5 miles with 1200 feet of elevation gain. I always equate racing or even long distance running with having a baby. Not that I’ve ever had one, but to me, it’s what I imagine it to be like… during you’re like WHAT?! WHY THE F#$@ AM I DOING THIS??!! And then after, you’re like – oh, that wasn’t so bad, you forget the pain and say – Oh, I could do that again!! But there were times I wanted quit and just say forget it I’m just gonna walk the rest of the way… Somehow I would muster the strength to run again – even if only a short while. Running, no – working out – is a privilege. Sometimes we need to remember that.
Half of the race is run during the day, and half at night. So, you’re literally out in the middle of the woods alone, wearing a headlamp in the pitch black night. You can bet that Criminal Minds, Blair Witch Project and the zombie apocalypse went through my mind a few times… Here I am getting geared up to run the last lap with my glow in the dark shoelaces (compliments of Katie as well).
As I started the final lap heading out into the great, dark unknown all alone – I thought about turning back. I thought about the scenario where my headlamp stops working, I thought about decisions I had recently made… I thought about a lot of things actually. You’d be surprised what some time alone in the woods can make you think about…
You hear nothing but your breath in and out, the sound of your feet patting the soft earth underneath you, the crackle of a stick you stepped on, and an occasional rustle in the leaves. During the day – you see nothing but woods, leaves, the sun shining through the trees, and the upcoming twists, turns and hills ahead. At night, you can’t tell how steep the hills are, and you can only see what lies directly in front of you. You actually experience the literal meaning of “taking it one step at a time.” It’s beautiful, scary, and freeing. Running does that to me.
All in all, it was a great day, and a great race! Friends, food, and a good run – I don’t know what more you could ask for… except for maybe a heated RV with a shower and a hot tub. 🙂
Oh, and an unlimited supply of Hawaiian rolls.
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