There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. --Will Rogers
Then there are us who pee on the fence once, and decide we should go back and pee on the fence again.
Usually this seems like a really bad decision around mile 68. Where you are now putting your tender feet down on the triangle spikes on the Signal Knob Trail.
Where the sign says “3 miles to the Signal Knob Parking Lot” so how long could that possibly take you?
And then you get off the mountain, after 71 miles and 25 hours (AND ONE MINUTE) and decide you’ll be back for The Reverse Ring in February.
Because at least it will be cooler in February.
The Boyzzz-early, still in Elizabeth Furnace-Tim, Cam, Jim
Stepping out of Portobello, the temperature was warm at 630 am. Not a good omen for the day. But we already knew that. NEO TC members Tim Knapp, Cam Baker,Jim Harris and myself drove to Virginia Thursday night in order to get some trail miles in on Friday..cuz running the MMT Trail of 71 miles on Saturday was not enough. This is a favorite technique of Jim's and this has become now known as "The Sick Jimmy". Tim and I ran shorter-only a 1/2 marathon distance while Jim, Cam, and the The Ring Co-Director, Quatro Hubbard, ran 20 miles. The Dickey Ridge Trail was hot and very humid; so that was a good preview of weather conditions for us. There may have been as much water consumed on Friday night at The Shroom as there was alcohol.
There really is only one rule of the Ring: Stay on Orange. The Orange Blazes are the Markings of the Massanutten Trail; that is all you have to do for 71 miles, follow those little "M Dots" as I call them. (The dot and dash look similiar to the WTC Ironman trademark.) We start promptly at 710 am and the lead pack promptly goes off course in ten feet starting up toward Signal Knob. I hadn't even left the parking lot when they charged back, and decided to take the correct direction. Trying to stay way in the back,with the rest of NEO TC, we cross over the river, into Elizabeth Furnace. The Blue Tuscorora Trail and Orange meld here; there is a turn that I start up but then I see Allen Gowen coming back at me, with the rest of the lead pack now behind him, and realize we've all gone off a little. Just a few feet away,I can spot the Orange Blaze on the other side of the tree and now lead the Race!!! for at least three minutes down the orange blazed trail, while the lead pack catches up again. Now we have no where else to go, so the crowd of 39 starters settle down on the climb out of Elizabeth Furnace. I am actually in front of 12 or 15 other runners, which shows you how smart everyone was being in the opening miles. It was going to be hot, we're climbing, there is no reason to get all excited and overheated this early into a run.
Cousin Tim, on the east ridgeline, on our way to Milford Gap
We had learned yesterday that some legalities had been settled about an access road. The results of which meant that VHTRC’ers could now drive almost all the way to the Milford Gap AS area. Water “only” had to be hiked in 1/3 of a mile. (Before, it was either hiked in from way below or on an ATV). As a result, there was 25 gallons of water available for runners consumption. It was a much needed neccessity at this time; almost noon by the time Tim and I arrived.Slim was still here, waiting for us, which was very nice to see. Slim had not felt well on Friday, even skipped dinner,so I knew he still was not up to his usual chipper running form. But Slim, like myself, are already in the Fellowship of the Ring, so we know what we are doing, and have nothing to prove to anyone but ourselves out here.
We grab enough water and Gatorade to get us to Camp Roosevelt-just a mere 12 miles away. I am with Tim and Slim for a bit, then they pull away from me. Which is fine, because one item over the years I have actually learned, is you have to run your own race. Run your own speed and pace.
I catch up with the Boyzz in a few minutes..or hours, hard to tell, while they are watering the flora. We are together for a bit, then Tim drops a bit off the back, and we don’t see him until Camp Roosevelt. There are usually some great views when you are on top of the ridge in the Massanuttens. Not this past weekend. The haze never left.
Mile 25-Camp Roosevelt Aid StationFood and drink and first chance to access your drop bag. Gary Knipling and Dennis Herr greet us; Dennis impresses me by pronouncing my long last name correctly! Slim gets a little jealous when Caroline Williams gives me an ice sponge bath instead of him...we get our food and then head out. We do get to see Tim just arrive, so he is now just 5 or 10 minutes behind us. We start up the long Duncan Hollow Trail. This is a long and slight ascent. It seems longer than both Slim and I remember. We climb for 1.5 hours.
We are doing the usual post MMT/Reverse Ring/Ring chatter; it helps to pass the time. We both don’t remember climbing this much during MMT then I remember we must have turned on the Scothorn Trail (that I actually took the pic of) during MMT.
Slim pulls ahead of me,even in his fast walking mode, on any climb. That becomes the pattern of our run together for the rest of The Ring; together for a bit, then Slim would pull ahead on any climb; he’d either wait for me on the trail or at the next AS.Waterfall Mountain I have been looking forward/dreading this since I actually know what I am getting into. Waterfall Mountain is a very steep ascent; maybe 0.5 or 0.6 miles-straight up. The positive side of this is the Crisman Hollow Station is at the top of the climb. I count my steps like Carolyn Gernard did the year before;I count 2230 steps; 28 minutes. I did this in 30 minutes last year. (And during the Reverse Ring, I descended in 10 minutes.)
We are then at the Crisman Hollow Aid Station. I pick up my light here. It is still light out; but just in case we don't make it to Moreland before dark, I want my light! Slim and I are together through here;this is where we catch Jeff and spend trail time with him. We pull ahead of him at the nice downhill to Moreland where we have to pull out our lights to get through this last mile safely. Moreland Gap is where my friend Dan Rose is captaining; it's nice to see him in person and chat while I simulataneousy try to eat/drink/change my shirt/loose my sandwich somewhere all the same time. Slim and I get ready to leave as Cousin Tim arrives-via a vehicle.He's turned his ankle and dropped. I leave as Slim chats with Tim; I know he can catch me so I go on down the trail.We are now on the western side of the MMT and ascending Short Mountain. Short is a tough section in that you leave the ridge for a small downhill, then climb the ridge; repeat, repeat, repeat. We catch up to Doug having lunch on a rock here. Doug finishes his lunch and catches up to me. We spin out on the road and are slightly disoriented. I remember where we are going-Edinburgh Gap-and remember we of need to run down the road to our AS.
Edinburg Gap has Brunswick Stew and they give me a whole bowl of it. Slim crews for me while I eat. I don’t think I can eat a whole bowl but I get it down. Doug isn’t ready to go so we head out.
Slim gets ahead early here as I stop to duct tape first one heel, then the other. He’s given me the 411 on this section; I’ve run in twice in this direction (and once the other way) but this is the only part I really struggled on. I think I was tired (of course) and bored through here. Nothing seemed familiar and the section seemed long (and I believe I’ve been told that this section ‘runs long’). I was also having heartburn from all the junk food I had been eating for the previous 24 hours.
Woodstock Aid StationFinally to Woodstock. That means there is only one more AS-Powell’s Fort, then the climb to Signal Knob and descent and be done. These worms come out at night. Or centipedes. Or millipedes. I don’t know what kind they are, but they are disgusting. I had to bend down and kind of crawl under this log blocking the trail to avoid touching them.
Slim and I are getting a bit silly and tired through here. It’s nice to be running with someone you know, and even better when it’s a dear friend, where you can say anything you want, without having to just watch what you say.
We start the descent to Powell’s Fort and catch back up with the Japanese couple. They had taken a wrong turn out of Edinburg, and then passed us in the last section. We got into Eva’s Aid Station just as Rhonda and Allan were just leaving. We got some soup and I got my secret food weapon-the Walmart pecan pie, 480 calories, and had Eva split it for me and Slim. Fortified, we started on the long road to the Signal Knob climb.
We caught Rhonda and Allan here. I think Slim and I were smelling the barn a bit more freshly than they were. It was nice, for me, to walk this long road in the dark. This way, you can’t see how long it is in front of you. All I did was concentrate on my circle of light and talking with Slim. We’d talked hours before of our upcoming trail club race, The Youngstown Ultra Classic, YUTC, and now we talked about it some more. Then we hit the final climb for the summit, and Slim broke away here.
He waited for me on the small trail than can be missed and we were on Signal Knob at sunrise-which neither one of us had seen before. He’s always been well off the mountain before, and it was long daylight last year when I hit this area.
We spent about 0.2 seconds admiring the view and took off on the infamous Signal Knob trail. This section is enough to break any tough ultra runner; especially after the previous 66 miles.Your feet hurt.They are probably brusied, tender, and blistered. Then you hit the pointy topped rocks on the Signal Knob Trail.
Slim and I go between trying to spin something positive about this to outright clomplaining. And this is very funny in itself, because Slim and I are really two of the most happy people to be out on a trail. It would be hard to know to measure, who smiles more on the trails. We did find a few positives but I’ve forgotten what they were. Slim did manage to find the most disgusting bunch of worms for me to view:
Probably as trail karma, the only drama part of the Ring occurred: Slim walked right into a forehead high downed tree. Watching his feet, he didn’t see it coming. Good thing he wasn’t running. I was relieved he wasn’t bleeding and/or had a concussion. I just wanted to get off Signal Knob!
The last insult is the sign which says “3 miles to Signal Knob Parking Lot”. How long could this take? And it’s all downhill!!!
It takes forever. At least now, Slim and I have the sillies going and I am laughing so hard I can barely see straight. We finally finish our journey in 25 hours 1 minute.
I took 2.5 hours off my time from last year,so pleased with that. My plan was to run this in 24 hours. With the weather we had, I am fine with 25 hours. Now I have to run the Reverse Ring (weather permitting) in sub 24!