I finished the 2019 edition of the Barkley Fall Classic “50k” in 12 hours, 30 minutes, and 57 seconds! Here’s my race report split into pre race, race, gear.
I was on the waitlist up until about three weeks before the race, I got the email while we were in Switzerland for CCC. I immediately accepted then thought about the consequences later. 🙂 We flew into Nashville rather than Knoxville for last-minute flight cost reasons, plus Nashville is cooler. After spending some time there we drove to Oak Ridge where our hotel was (~30 min from Frozen Head). We hit the Walmart for some last minute items, and went to packet pick up in Wartburg. There’s also a spaghetti dinner and movie, definitely go to the dinner! Everyone is super friendly, stressing together over the map; it’s a good time. Also stop at Brushy Mountain State Prison, there’s a great tour, moonshine tastings, and gift shop!
Race starts at 7am, alarm set for 4:45am. We geared up and got to the start line. I dropped my drop “bag”, a shoebox, with Keith Dunn. It had precious trekking poles for later. Laz said some words then lit a cigarette to get us started. We sprinted (really seemed like it) from the start line to about a mile to Big Cove campground, then up Bird Mountain. 14 some switchbacks later (it feels longer coming down) we were at the top! There was actually a time cutoff here this year, 90 minutes. I made it up in 53 minutes. Then you start down, and continue on to the North Boundary Trail. I was familiar with the blaze colors on the trail so happily announced to everyone when we were on the other trail. We hit the first aid station at Bald Knob, then headed back down a jeep road to hit aid two at the Ranger Station. After that we started up Chimney Top Trail, the trail of a million false summits. Up until now it’s been relatively cool out, 70s-80s maybe, and all of the trails are tree covered and shaded. So good, and so about to change.
Then we hid aid three at Tub Springs then continued on to Testicle Spectacle! Down AND up it. Really steep hill/mountain, very exposed to the hot sun. Folks were on their butts sliding down and on all fours crawling back up through the dusty hot mud. I counted the tough areas on the way down, which helped mentally count down the tough areas on the way back up.
Then we headed down Meth Lab hill. More butt sliding, more dusty hot trails. We got to the prison aid station, refilled, then went around the back of the prison to climb the ladder over the wall, then through the tunnel under the prison (so dark in there). We came out the other side and, tada! Rat Jaw! 0.8 miles and 2000 feet of sheer hell. I had been having lots of success on all fours from Testicle so started bear crawling up Rat Jaw. Hot sun, really difficult climbing. The briars were truly awful this year, there was an eye-level archway of briars for about half the way up, it was too thick for the lead group to break through. You had no choice but to bear crawl up through it, which lead to briars everywhere, including in my hands. Finally we made it to the top, then climbed the three story fire tower for the bib punch.
Then back to Tub Springs for decision point, drop bags, and poles! I made it to Tub Springs at 4pm, the cutoff to decide to move on to the 50k was at 5pm, so about an hour cushion, pretty tight time-wise, and I was really power hiking and running most all of the runnable parts until this point. I got my poles and continued the 7-8 additional miles for the 50k finish. This was a repeat of the North Boundary Trail and Bird Mountain, the path we had started on. I made it through all those ups and downs, down the 14 switchbacks (really never ending), and emerged to run it in for 12:30:57 50k finish. Yay! I finished 40 minutes slower than my time from 2018, but feel like I really benefited from the experience of knowing what was coming, and felt great at the end.
I had to change my trail running shoes last minute before this race because my toes were too destroyed from CCC to wear my normal Sauconys. I ran in Altra Timps and they were awesome, very roomy. Other than that – the normal outfit I wear for almost every trail race – injinji socks, patagonia skirt, patagonia shirt, hat, zensah sports bra, nathan vaporhowe pack, lots of clif bars, shot blocks, black diamond trekking poles, black diamond headlamp.
I got in to the BFC 2020 so I will see you then for another 50k finish 🙂