The Knoxville Track Club has a great reputation for putting on well organized, challenging and unique events. The Dark Hollow Wallow is no exception. Added this year to their Treadin’ Trodden Trail Series this event fills the slot as moderate distance event with a good portion of technical trails intermixed with some smooth single track. Course profile includes challenging rollers with several forced extreme hill climbs. One that you can barely walk up. Seriously.
Weather could not have been much better for the event this year. Cold enough for gloves and thermal shirt and sunny with some noticeable wind when you got to the top of the ridges. As the course runs you uphill for the first quarter mile or so it did not take long to warm-up for the rest of the race. The steep climb quickly separated the pack of 60 or so runners, and that was a good thing. Trail was very narrow single track with very few opportunities to make a safe pass.
Once over the top we were on the sunny side of the ridge and the trail turned to slippery mud (the oatmeal kind that sticks to your shoes) and then back again to narrow single track that darted sharply right and left around tress and obstacles. After a long climb/hike up the first really steep hill you come to the fist aid station and a sharp turn down a spur trail where you do and out and back. While I generally don’t like this scenario; on this course it was nice because it was one of the few opportunities where you could see where you were relative to the competition.
Coming back by this aid station, making a sharp turn and it was back up and over another hill to a large loop trail that included (but not necessarily limited to) a sharp decent with virtually no trail to follow (although the trail tree blazes make it look like a polka dot forest), severe off camber footing, slippery frozen rocks, Frost Flowers, mossy slick rocks, slippery roots, sharp branches from deadfall, sticker bush and raspberry thickets, several hundred meters of bushwhacking and last but not (in any respect) the least….the mondo hill climb.
No joke; the angle is so steep that when you are walking/crawling up your knees bush the hill as your toes try and grip the shale you keep pushing back down the hillside to those below you. To top that off, once you crest the hill there is a reasonably long stretch of sharp jagged rocks covered by a couple inches of leaves that want to roll you foot the opposite way you expect it to go. From there however, things improve. For the most part.
(editor’s note: the Race Director said this section of the course gains 400 feet of elevation in about 1200 feet of trail, with about half of that elevation coming in the last couple hundred feet. Wow!)
Trail descends down past the water stop where you make another sharp turn to the last 2+ mile stretch to the finish. This beautiful section of the trail follows a meandering streambed before it ends at the edge of the lake along which you run until crossing an old coffer dam build decades ago. From there it’s up and over the final hill to the finish line in the parking lot where you started. For me; that was a long 1:43 and change before.
Gear Selection (35 degrees at the start of the race):
A special “Thank You” to the Big Ridge State Park Rangers and Staff that did an outstanding job of clearing and monitoring the trails, providing heated/clean/well stocked restrooms, use of the pavilion and a personal education on the Frost Flowers I saw along the trail.
Rock Creek Race Team-2012
“Watch the traffic; the light will not hit you”