|Graphic by Helen MacDermott
It’s hard to believe that I have 4 folders of pictures on the computer from 4 Rings. It’s less hard to believe that I am not so bright and keep returning to Northern Virginia to run in the heat and humidity on Labor Day weekend.
There’s another huge numbers of runners starting The Ring, 50. It’s a pretty uneventful climb out of Elizabeth Furnace, the early morning is not as humid as 2013.
|Dan Winkle on the East Ridge
I have managed my hydration well for the first thirteen miles. I carry 3 bottles for this section, and I still have a 1/2 bottle of water when we get to the wonderful volunteers at Milford Gap. Reload the water bottles, and now it’s off to Camp Roosevelt, mile 25.
Camp Roosevelt to Crisman Hollow Road
Camp Roo is again the rocking aid station. I get my drop bag, hear Sniper has been smack talking about me while I am out on the trail; eat some wonderful watermelon and cantaloupe, make sure I have my netting, and decide it’s finally time to face the bugs and then Waterfall Mountain on the next section.
I have my goals for The Ring; I look at my watch when I am getting back on trail: 237 pm. Hey, I probably did get to Camp Roo before 230 pm! Woohoo! (I believe that was the only time goal I achieved for The Ring.)
|Back on trail, the infamous Duncan Hollow Trail section
Carter’s words from last year sums it up:
“I was trying to describe to Alan (my husband) how that long stretch of trail through the Peach Orchard/Duncan Hollow area is aesthetically uninteresting, has almost no view, and grinds you down by that slight but wearying uphill grade as one approaches Waterfall. I finally described it like this: “It’s like walking through a bland office corridor in Purgatory.”
It’s hot. The bugs are out. It’s monotonous. Mike and I scoop water from the two little tiny water crossings in the first two miles over our pulse points-neck, insides of elbows, over our heads. It makes you feel better for at least one minute or two.
|This pretty much sums up Duncan Hollow!
|This is Duncan Hollow, 2010, a more fresh growth after the fire
When you are almost out of the new growth area, you skirt the trees-but then, you hike a little more and skirt the trees again-and it almost feels like you have just repeated yourself.
Finally we return to the woods and descend Dry/Big Run, whatever it is called. It’s certainly dry this year. Some hikers ascending tell us Shelly has just encountered a rattlesnake right in front of us and stay to the the right. Yikes!!
Then it’s time for Waterfall Mountain. Ah, Waterfall. Your reward for Duncan Hollow. (This is why Reverse Ring rocks. You get to descend Waterfall, and Duncan Hollow, the other way, is a great gentle downhill all the way to Camp Roo.)
I glance at my watch as I turn right and start counting steps. I count to a 100 and start over. I don’t bother keeping track. I pass Larry who is sitting and says he is out, heat exhaustion. I get to the top, and try to do math-subtraction. I finally figure out my Waterfall Strava segment is 25 minutes-same as last year.
Crisman Hollow-Kerns Mountain
The Browns are handling the Crisman Hollow Aid Station and I eat 1 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich, drink one of my cranberry juices from my drop bag, change shirts, and make sure I have my light with me. It is apparent that I am not going to meet my goal of getting to Moreland Gap before the sun sets.
There is a little bit of a breeze up on Kerns and I am grateful. Most of us runners it seemed got overheated on the previous section, and I am no different. It was just not possible to get the core temperature down at all during The Ring.
I SAW A BEAR!! I was about a 1/2 mile past Q’s View, and I look over in the woods, to my right. About twenty feet away is a BIG BLACK BEAR!
I scream. The bear jumps and runs down the hill. He (or she) is long gone before I can even get to my camera. This shakes the fatigue off-for about five minutes.
I always fall on Kerns. Really. That is why I am not joking when I say “Kerns got its blood tribute, and I can continue.”
Darkness falls. It’s pretty uneventful. I catch up to the girls-Shelly, Helen, and Katie at Moreland Gap. Now we’re together and starting up Short Mountain. The climb up from the road seems long and unfamiliar in the dark. The climb does nothing to help the body temperature.
I’ve ate a little bit at the aid station, but I know I need more calories. But the poor body is trying to deal with the elevated body temperature and doesn’t want to divert a bunch of blood to the stomach. My packed food is not sounding too appealing. I will devote another blog post to my nutrition and hydration failures.
We catch up to Dan through this section. He’s not feeling that great, but this is his first time in Virginia on any sort of technical footing. We try to pull him along, but he drops back behind us.
Edinburg to Woodstock
The big climb up to Waonaze Peak does a number on me. This is where the wheels fell off for me. I tried my Epic Meat bar. I nibbled on it, ate about half the bar. But in an hour or so, the greasiness of the bar recoiled in my stomach. I ate a ginger chew, felt better for about three minutes. I sipped on some water, knowing I was going to puke soon, and it’s better to have some liquid to puke up rather than just some small random pieces of food.
I puke. The stomach feels better, but not better to the point of putting more food into it. Ugh. The night has not cooled down at all. I feel.like.crap. I even think about quitting. I have nothing to prove, and 50 miles is a pretty good training run for the upcoming 100. Ugh. We haven’t even gotten to Woodstock yet, there’s still Powells to go, and THEN we have to climb Signal Knob!
Then the awful horrible physcial feeling lessens a bit, and I go on. I wish it was light enough to see the ridge on the right, as in the daylight it helps you gauge how close you are to Woodstock.
But then there’s the opening to the left, and I knew we’ve finally made it! With the Garmin long dead, I ask what time it is. “4 am.” I snort to myself, I believe my time goal was 230 am.
The thought of quitting is out of my head, of course. I drink some ginger ale, a little soup, a square of a quesadilla and have to turn down this wonderful looking scone! The quesadilla is hard to swallow, so I know I would waste that wonderful looking scone. Shelly and I are out, on our way to Powell’s Fort.
Daylight arrives on our way to Powells. We sink gratefully into chairs at Powells and have some last aid before our climb. The Aid Station is twenty feet from the spring!
The spring is functioning well and is ice cold. I splash water over my pulse points, head, neck. I am delightfully cold. I even have a bit of a chill. It’s wonderful. It is the only time I have felt cold-or pleasant-this entire 66 miles. This lasts for, oh, about ten minutes. But it was wonderful
Shelly and I get to the far end of the reservoir, and find, to our amazement, a BENCH!!! Of course we use it. We still have a bit of road to go, before the climb begins.
There’s the climb. At least the road has been graded, in the last year, so there are no longer ruts to jump across. We climb and climb and climb. And finally get to the Overlook.
Now it’s time for the last section. I tell Shelly about my first Ring, where I see the sign that says “Parking Lot 3 miles.” 3 miles? All downhill? Sweet. That should be at least 10 minute miles, I’ll be done in 30 minutes! Ha ha ha ha ha ha hah hah ha!!
The happiest I’ve looked on Signal Knob.
Actually, I have to say this was my “most pleasant” Signal Knob experience, probably due to Shelly’s happy personality.
We joked and complained and passed hikers, some of who knew what we were doing and congratulated us.
And then, finally, we are back. 27 1/2 hours after we started, another circumnavigation of the Massanutten Trail.
Why do I keep doing it? I heard, on the trail, from other runners “you’ve run this before? And you came back?” Well, what is the snappy repartee for a 4th time offender?
I don’t really know. The Ring and Reverse Ring is ALWAYS good training for the Massanutten 100 Mile Run. So there is that.
I get to see friends that I only get to see briefly at other times of the year! I get to run on some very challenging trails and spend a day-and night-playing in the woods, with no particular goal except to complete the journey.
So thanks for another year, mighty co-directors Bur and Quatro, the greatest volunteers!!!, VHTRC, and my fellow runners.
I want to give a quick plug for the newest members of the Fellowship of the Ring, congratulations, you are now eligible to run RevRing! Where Signal Knob is an easy climb, and Duncan Hollow is a nice easy, bug-free downhill run!!!