The time is soon for The Ring, the little adventure around the 71 mile Massanutten Trail in Virginia.
This will be my fifth running of The Ring. Yes, I am not that bright. I keep coming back, year after year. With that in mind, I remember last year lots of people asking me if I had “done this” before.
There is a record fifty starters signed up, with another eighteen on a WAIT LIST for The Ring. Wow. A wait list for The Ring. Ultra running has become amazing.
My notes on “How to Run The Ring”
The run will start-more or less around 7 am. Do not follow the 5-10 eager beavers out of the parking lot as they run toward Signal Knob.
We’re going in the other direction.
Big climbs here, but you are fresh.
You might want to throw your bandana in the creek or splash water on your pulse points when you hit Veach Gap about mile 6. This is the last water you are going to see in a long time. (That is also if this stream is still producing.)
I’m a slow Ring finisher, I start The Ring with three bottles. There will be water and some aid at Mile 13, at Milford Gap, and I will have all these bottles drained by the time we get to Milford Gap.
You leave Milford Gap and now you are on the ridge. Very runnable sections through here.
Like Keith says, beware of Stephens Trail (yellow blazes) on your right. If you were running the Massanutten 100, you would take Stephens Trail. However, you are running The Ring and you stay on orange.
Don’t climb over this pile of rocks and follow the deer path beyond it. Stay on orange!
This is the first time you will see your drop bag. You will also see various runners in states of distress. You may also be in distress. There will be many happy aid station workers there. Some may be drinking. You may wish you were joining them. Many do, at this aid station.
Now we’re going up Duncan Hollow. We’re going to pass the blue blazed trail that the MMT 100 follows, for an even bigger climb before this section ends.
See this water? If these small creeks are available, I would recommend dunking my bandana/hat and splashing water on myself. It will be a long hike to the next free moving water.
You may also want to purchase mosquito/bug netting for this section. The last two years this area has been BAD. You could spot the veterans versus the noobs when the netting was donned.
When you get to the top, you descend down Big Run/Dry Run. There may be water in the creek. Or it may look like the picture above. Splash that water over your head/neck/wrists! This is what your bandana is for!
So what’s next? Oh yeah. Waterfall Mountain.
Waterfall Mountain is a very steep STEEP climb. I usually time myself. It takes me 25 minutes from the sign at the bottom to where the trail levels off at the top. 25 minutes for a 1/2 mile. And there is oxygen! It’s not Colorado!
Your reward for ascending Waterfall Mountain? An aid station! Yippee!!
Unfortunately, that now means you now will encounter Kerns Mountain. Rocky, technical. It’s only 6 miles? It will feel much longer.
What to say about Kerns? Well, there is Q’s view, almost within one mile of starting this section.
Then it’s back to relentless rocks.
You cross the road to the Aid Station. If you have run MMT 100, you might maybe recognize (it was dark) that this is the beginning of the trail section, it’s Short Mountain! And it is probably now dark for you on this.
Lots of PUDS on short. You’ll be on one side of the mountain for a long time. Then you will cross over, and have about 2-3 miles on the other side. When you hit the big open space, you know you are almost to the road, and the Woodstock Aid Station!
When you leave Woodstock AS, you are hitting “pretty runnable” trails.
Well, after Kerns and Short, it will seem really runnable. RUN this! After about five miles or so, the BLUE Tuscarora Trail will intersect and run a bit with ORANGE.
Be careful. Watch yourself, follow orange. You’re going to be looking for a big downhill section, where you will spill out on the road. Turn left. The aid station will be down here, somewhere.
I say “somewhere” because the AS had changed positions depending on who’s running it and where they set up. Don’t worry, the awesome volunteers will be there somewhere before the gated road.
After you leave the aid station, look for the spring on the left side of the road. It is right by the gate, which may or may not be open. Nice COLD water there!
Now you are running up the road. Ignore the blue blazes. Stay on orange! When you get to the reservoir sign, go left on single track, do not take the road around the reservoir!
Eventually you will start the big climb up to Signal Knob. It probably will be in the dark for you here.
Here are some pictures of what you won’t be seeing in the dark.
Congrats you’ve made it to the top, and now it’s just a gentle jog downhill, right?
This is usually the part where “Signal Knob” sucks pops into your mind. First the trail is full of sharp pointy rocks. All pointing up. Your poor little feet are mush at this point. But you decide you might as well run.
Then the rocks turn into loose boulder fields. You can no longer run, you are hopping and jumping from rock to rock. Some of the rocks are loose. You are very tired and now do not want to die in the last three miles of your orange journey.
Then the switchbacks begin. The switchbacks take..well, forever. You will feel you will never get off this mountain. When you see the house on the right, when you have descended to the bottom of the trees, you will be in the parking lot in just a few minutes!
Congratulations, you have run The Ring!!
The Ring Reports from me over the Years
2013: Part Three (it was a wordy year!)