The Massanutten Ring
This past Saturday and Sunday Deb and I was part of an event called the Reverse Ring. The Reverse Ring is the winter version of the Ring, which is the 71 mile loop or ring of the Massanutten trail that makes up what is most of the Massanutten 100 in May. The Ring and gniR eliminates all the road sections for aid station access and just stays up on the trail. Where it crosses roads is where we get aid. These two runs are part of the wonderful Virginia Happy Trails Running Club annual series of runs they put on.
Due to all the snowfall, we weren't sure that the gniR would be held at all....Virginia got dumped with feet of snow just a couple of weeks ago, but Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard, rd's for the event made the decision to go on with the event even with some unknowns. There were parts of the trail where no one had been since the big snowstorm.
Mike Dobies and Jim Harris, race morning....donuts and Knob Creek
The weekend began at Kerry's Portobella house in Front Royal with many certain beverages consumed....this year Deb was a good girl and was careful of her consumed beverages, but Jim Harris decided that it wouldn't be the Reverse Ring without having the fun the night before, so he stayed up until around 3am and consumed several growlers of beer and some Knob Creek bourbon, maybe almost the whole bottle. Yeah, the run begins at 7AM....we tried to wake Jim up once, twice, then finally one last call before the drive down to Signal Knob and he finally got up. he was in no condition to drive, so caught a ride with Mike Dobies. On the way Mike looked over and saw that Jim was in his jeans, so they had to turn around so Jim could get into running clothes. Oh, Jim was the first runner in....more on that later.
The start is always uneventful because there just aren't many who desire to do this crazy event. There were more volunteers at the start than runners!
The group of runners who hadn't started early
The trails all day were about the same....clear down low, just rocks and leaves, but the higher you went the more snow there was....and as the day progressed it warmed up to where you sunk in deeper and had no traction. Our hope all day was that once it got dark and things got cold, it would firm up (joke of the day) and the going would be great....but it almost never happened. If you tried to run on top of the frozen snow, about every third footfall you would posthole. Once while running downhill behind Deb I did this, face planted scraping my face in the frozen snow. When I got up my face was numb and wet, I feared a big scrape and the wetness being blood, but it wasn't. At one point I stepped alongside one of what I called the log drifts, fallen trees that were covered with snow, and my foot got lost as I went in up to my hip!
Steve and Deb on a tree drift
Suzanne Carlson photo
After a great day of sunshine off and on and warmth with great views, we reached Moreland Gap, mile 30.4 and found out that everyone in front of us decided to call it a day....just couldn't take the deep snow anymore and only one person was up ahead...Jim Harris! Smart ones stopped....we weren't smart, just wanting that stupid T-Shirt! ;-)
One of the many views from the trail
Some Massanutten rocks poking out through the snow
The next section was horrible, that's all I can say. It was almost 16 miles, unaided, snow that wasn't yet firm enough to support you so you could not trust it enough to do much running. Up high it was windy and cold. I was freezing, Deb and I both had everything on we had with us including our Marmot jackets with hoods up and we were still cold. Somewhere on the trail after Waterfall and leading up to the Gap Creek trail I looked at my watch and realized we weren't going to get to Camp Roosevelt by midnight, which was my cutoff in order to be able to pick up Tucker in the morning from the kennel and drive home so I can be at work Monday morning. Once the decision was made that we were going to stop, we both deflated about the same time and had no drive to keep pushing the pace...or eat...or even drink! Deb slipped and fell in a creek and now her mitten was dripping wet, so she had to remove it and wrap her head bandanna around her hand. All desire to continue was squashed like a bug on the trail. Suzanna and Paul caught up and we stepped aside to let them by. It was dark....it was cold....it was windy.
Now we finally reached the Gap Creek Trail, which will take us to Camp Roosevelt where we can end the day. Up, up we climb in the now freezing snow that breaks through every third step, then up top the wind was howling and on the way down you could not avoid getting your feet wet....the trail "was" a creek.
Where we just came from....that ridegeline
The longest section of the day was after we saw the sign that told us it was 3 miles to the road, where Camp Roosevelt was. I said to Deb the way we are moving, that's three hours more to go...I think it actually took longer. We kept stopping to look for the orange blazes, now that our tired brains were no longer confident that we were on trail, even though we've both been on this trail plenty of times in the Ring, gniR and MMT100. Soon we saw a campfire and thought it was the volunteers at Camp Roosevelt, but we went right by it. Then Deb thought we were supposed to go straight when the trail turned right and I was being stubborn saying that the instructions were to never leave the orange blazed Massanutten trail. She came along with me, still thinking we were wrong when all of a sudden and after many stream crossings that you could only just plunge on through, we saw some flashlights. I was not hopeful and thought it was some hikers....but sure enough it was Quatro, Mike Bur and Carolyn Gernard. Finally! We're done! When we said we were stopping, they said "No, No, you can't" but Q was saying to himself "Thank you". Everyone was accounted for except for caroline, who was still on her was to Camp Roosevelt.
3-4 foot round tree blocking the trail
Now that's it's done I can look back and be glad we did it....yeah I'm still not a Master and now probably never will be, but I never really second guessed stopping. Most likely it would have been 15 hours or so for the last 25 unaided miles. I would be in worse shape right now than I am in, we would have been late getting Tucker, meaning more money for another day and I would have had to take another valuable vacation day at work on Monday that I need for Hardrock.
The condition of my body is that of one who ran the whole Massanutten 100. My feet are swollen, they hurt, my toes are still numb from being frozen and wet for 20 hours (well actually 19:05 was our finishing time), my lower back is achy and my legs are trashed. Here it is Tuesday and I have not run yet and I am someone who runs every day of the year, if I can. Deb has two spots of frostbite on her toes, which she is prone to get due to her Renaud's syndrome. So, just over 19 hours for 46 miles! Results are here.
A snowier section....leaving Woodstock aid
We both wore our LaSportiva Wildcat running shoes, which may or may not have been a good choice with the mesh uppers, but they did fine on the trail for traction. We dropped off the Yaktrax early figuring we'd not need them and never really did. One equipment problem we both had was the nozzle on our Nathan packs, which just seemed to freeze...Deb's eventually broke and we were both wishing we had just worn our Nathan two bottle packs and will from now on.
A huge thanks to Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard for putting on the Reverse Ring and also to all the volunteers who helped at various points along the way. The highlight of the day was certainly the corn chowder that Dan Pesta had at Edinburgh Gap (at least I think that was where he was).
The highlight of the weekend was running and hiking for all that time with Deb and also hooking up with several of the other runners along the way.
Great time for sure!
So that's it....my quest for a Mastership of the Ring is probably not going to happen due to the weather. Deb and I will hopefully be moving back to New Mexico before the year is out and I won't come back for it. Damn, I wanted one of those shirts ;-)
We're coming back down to Virginia in 3 weeks for the Bel Monte 50 mile trail race, can't wait! We are certainly better prepared now than we were last week!
To view all the photos and videos I took during the run go here.
See some of you out there at some trail run in the future!
Steve and Deb