I got a bit dizzy out there on the East Ridge for awhile. So I took an extra S! cap and kept going. We were already going slow; what else could we do?
It was a relief to come into Camp Roosevelt, our first fully stocked Aid Station. 17 out of the 46 starters dropped here. I got food, water, Gatorade with ice. I placed some duct tape over my heels. My already taped heels were blistered.
Todd and I left Camp Roo for the second least favorite section of the trail: Duncan Hollow. One of the runners, Carter, summarized this up nicely:
"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."
Keith Knipling had warned us early in the morning: "Duncan Hollow was really buggy" and that was an understatement. As we started up the very gradual climb, the gnats gathered. The gnats did not leave. The gnats flew in our eyes, in our mouths. I ate bugs. I got gnats stuck in my throat and gagged.
Coach Hanks was smart enough not to follow Kimba thru here. The only thing to do thru this section is to get through it as quickly as possible.
Halfway up the trail, I remembered my bandanna. I unwound it and stuck it over my head, trying to get it over my face-yet still be able to see-and keep these #$%## gnats out of my eyeballs.
|Probably the prettiest part of Duncan Hollow, the ferns|
Waterfall Mountain is a nice big climb on The Ring. Dan Rose had set up to do "Hill repeats" on Waterfall early in the year. His first time up was 7 minutes and change. His second time up was twenty minutes..and then there were no more repeats. So I glance at my watch to record my Strava time on the hill.
|Coach Hanks at the top of Waterfall. Pretty happy to be at the top of Waterfall and away from the gnats|
|I'm pretty happy too|
Our Strava time is 25 minutes for a 0.55 uphill on Waterfall Mountain. Yes, 25 minutes for a half mile.
Crisman Hollow To Moreland Gap
The aid station is just about a 1/4 mile from the top of Waterfall. Many more people drop out after Waterfall. I eat pierogies, and almost forget my bottles as we leave.
Now we are hitting Kerns Mountain. This is a slow section, with rocks to scramble over. One of my sub goals is to cover as much real estate after Crisman Hollow, and to get through Kerns in daylight.
We make it. Just barely. It is dark as we reach the Moreland Gap AS.
Moreland Gap to Edinburg Gap
Now the route is very familiar. Moreland Gap AS is where the runners turn off the road and start down the trail about mile 5 on the MMT 100 race.
This is the Short Mountain Section. My, it looks far different in the dark than the light. It's really hard to try and see landmarks from the MMT race in the spring.
Todd and I are pretty quiet through here. We've been chatting through out the day, but as the day moves on, our conversations have become more sporadic. I have noticed Todd's light falling back here and there, but have been assuming bathroom breaks or stopping for food.
Todd mentions he is "going to finish" but stop for a little nap and that his stomach has turned to shit. My Garmin is still working, and I glance at our mileage. 46.6, only 1.5 miles to the aid station. I mention that to Todd. I also mention the little lawyerish that Slim and Coach Hanks have about following me about The Ring. I don't want to end up with bad karma with abandoning Coach out on the course. Coach absolves me of any responsibility and I continue on.
Just beyond Coach stopping on the trail, the nice downhill section starts, then a little climb around a ridge, then the AS. A light comes running up behind me. Wow, it is Paul, The King. We chat, he gives me a calcium pill as I cannot find my antacids, and he blows by me. I am slightly amused. Sometimes I am hours ahead of Paul at run/races, and then there has been times when he's been a few hours ahead of me. He's consistently inconsistent.
Edinburg to Woodstock
I am surprised to be dumped out from the trail onto the road. Yay, just the left hand turn, down the road to the AS!!
I grab my secret weapon here. I have stashed my MP3 player here. Just in case I end up on the trail alone, I've got my music. I cross the road and start on the big climb up to Waonaze Peak.
Another runner was leaving Edinburg Gap not too far behind me.
Let's call him: Faramir (remember the whole Ring analogy from Part One??)
There is a trail intersection, and I automatically go to my left and start to climb. But I don't see a blaze automatically, and I turn, go down the trail, to make sure I got orange. I've been very careful this time on the trail. The runner behind me catches up at this time. His name is Mitch.
Mitch and I start chatting. This is his first Ring and has just completed Ironman Lake Placid. He finished MMT last year just behind me (I think in 30.50) so we have lots to chat about.We are even talking about New Zealand and The Lord of the Ring Trilogy! Isn't this funny!!! It is very pleasant to have conversation and all of a sudden we are on on the top of Waonaze. Now it is downhill to the aid station. Of course, it's still 4 miles or so, but the tough part of the section is done. It is really nice to get through a section with nice company and we are coming into Woodstock.
Woodstock to the Finish
Allison is again working this Aid Station, and also my friend Larry. I am doing something different at this point in the run-I am changing my shoes. I never change shoes, but after some summer trail conversations, I am going to tackle the Signal Knob rocks in my Hokas.
As I sit down at Woodstock, I instantly get nauseated. I've been fighting my stomach for quite some time. I've been crunching on Tums from the last AS (I find my own bag of drugs in my pack in the last 8 miles). The idea of drinking half a Boost (my plan) has gone out the window. I get soup instead.
Allison asks if I have bottles to refill...oh yeah, water bottles. Yes, Allison, thank you! At 230 am, this is why we need volunteers. I had completely blanked on that concept.
I glance over at Mitchell and ask if he is ready to go. He asks for another 1/2 cup of Coke but also gets up. I need to get down the trail, and I hope he is going to be right behind me.
I start down the trail. My feet feel WONDERFUL in their Hokas. My heels have been burning since they blistered, but it has dulled to a low pain thud by now. But with that wonderful fat cushioning of the Hokas, it really was worth the shoe change.
No Mitchell behind me. I pull my music back out again and start my playlist. The section between Woodstock and Powell's Fort is pretty runnable but I am not really doing well. A bit of tripping and alot of nausea is happening. My stomach is growling, and I get a gel down. Maybe not the best idea, as the stomach roils. I stop several times, hoping I am getting ready to vomit. But nothing occurs, and I keep going.
As I have finally discovered my drug stash in my pocket, I have ginger candies. Okay Kimba, let's try this ginger. I break off 1/10 of the candy.
It's amazing. The ginger is strong. But my nausea subsides. I feel a bit stronger. OMG my nausea is gone.
Bill Wandel has warned me to be careful of the blue Tuscorora trail crossing. I laughed when he counseled me on this, but I am paranoid and have my Fenix handheld light out. When it is dark out, and you have your head down, following the trail, it can be easy to wander out on the intersecting trail.
I successfully find the blue blaze trail, and now I know I am going downhill (on orange) to the road, to the LAST aid station. I get to the road, shine my light over to where the traditional MMT AS is set up....nothing....
Hmm. Maybe they left? If so, I am still okay. I have plenty of gels in my pockets, and the always functioning spring is down here on the road. But just a little ways down the road, I smell smoke and see lights...yes, the aid station!
This is Bob Fabia and Kathy's aid station, our VHTRC foodie cook. Bob has so many options for us runners, but it's hard, in the last miles of a run to get food in. I asked for potato soup and coffee in my RSVP to Bob, but now the steel cut oats sound much better. I ask for ginger ale and oatmeal, and beseech Bob to put just a little bit into a bowl for me. It is a great decision, as I can completely tolerate it.
Caroline Williams is asleep in a chair beside the fire. She gives me a "hi Kimba, I'm falling asleep" and she is conked out.
I get a cornbread whoopie cake from Bob to go. It's hard to spend time in the last AS when you are smelling the barn....but you still have to ascend and descend Signal Knob in between.
I start up the road. I am trying to do a run, then walk, then run, walk strategy. I nibble on my corn cake which is delicious. If I had not run 60 miles in hot humid weather I would have wolfed down this treat. But now it is nibble and nibble at a time.
Now I am getting paranoid about missing the turn around the reservoir. Which is kind of unreasonable, I DO know this course, but rational thinking can be a bit out the window at this point.
The light is brightening also. My goal of being at Signal Knob before sunrise is gone. I am okay with this. My time goals have been in my head all day long. I've thought about people who run marathons, who are trying to BQ or break 4 or 3 hours, and have to dial back goals because of temperatures, and I have realized that has happened to me also. But I do know I am not too far off my 2011 pace, and that was with Slim running with me, which probably lead to a faster pace.
I get to the reservoir, go around it, back to the road, and get to the bottom of the climb.
The Signal Knob road has been graded. The road previously was very rough, with big gullies and ruts through out it. Now, it is just "a gravel road" with a nice incline.
So actually it is not that bad. You can stay in a straight line, you don't have to hop back and forth. You just have to climb. And climb. But I know this. So I am okay with that. I count my steps, learned from Carolyn Gernard on my first Ring. Keep your head down and count.
On Signal Knob, it is the first nice chilly refreshing breeze I have felt in 24 hours. Unfortunately, this is not the place or time to relish in the breeze. The sign sez 5 miles to the parking lot; 1 mile to Meneka Peak.
I focus on the one mile to Meneka Peak.
On the way, I notice the gray green cylindrical water tank on my right. When was this placed there??
Oh. It is gone. Because there is no water tank there. Just a hallucination at 630 am...
Knowing this course fairly well, I am looking *forward* to getting off the little pointy rocks and starting the stupid switchback section, because that makes it sooner to be done.
The first "section" of the switchback trail is the most annoying. Like the pictures above, it is just little boulder fields. You just have to do your best to hop this rocks and get across.
I find myself so irritated thru here, and I wonder why. I try envisioning this same section like the boulder field a runner encounters during MMT100, right before you hit the Moreland Gap Road down to the finish. Those rocks don't irritate me the same way as these do. Yet it is almost the same point on the way to the finish, about 3 miles left. I try and pretend I'm on the MMT trail on the way to Moreland Gap Rd.
My big mantra thru here is patience. I know how badly this sucks. But I know it will end. I know I will continue to suffer but I know the ending will be soon. I keep saying to myself "I am going downhill" and "be patient".
I also make myself walk. Every time I try to break into a running shuffle, I catch a rock and stumble. Walk it Kimba. Your walk is just as fast as a jog right now, and will get you down the mountain just as fast, and a bit safer.
I am also off the switchbacks and to my surprise there is another runner in front of me. He steps aside saying I am moving better than him.
I tell him I am moving better, because I just don't care any longer. And this is true. My heels have been hamburger for hours; this pain is a dull roar. On the descent from Signal Knob I have clinched my teeth and grimaced when I hit something on my feet the wrong way; but now I don't care. I am almost done. The quicker I am done, the sooner I get to lay prone somewhere.
I pass the "house" on the right. I forget what kind of place this is, but all it signifies to me is, I am *ALMOST* completely done.
The good part about the Signal Knob Ring experience is you don't run back and forth on the bottoms in Elizabeth Furnace like you will at Reverse Ring wondering when it is you will finally cross the road.
All of a sudden, I burst out of the woods-I am running!-and running up into the Signal Knob parking lot. I am done. Again.
|The King, Paul and I. Paul finished about 1 hour before me.|
I don't lay prone, but I collapse gratefully into a chair, and turn down all food besides ginger ale for a short time. There is a canteen set up for the finishers and it is awesome. I find my hands are still shaky. I have noticed that for all the aid station stops, I got shaky hands, which is not normal. I start eating small amounts of food as we wait for our last three finishers-Todd, Diane, and Shelly.
I go and try and lay down in my Escape and elevate my aching legs. My ankles are really hurting. This started even before changing to the Hokas, so I cannot blame them. Perhaps I should blame all the rocks that I stumbled about for 25 hours. (The ankles did quit hurting on Monday so it was just a rock inflicted side effect.) The laying down did not help, so I went back to sitting and dozing in the camp chair, listening to Ring gossip and VHTRC history gossip/lore and Bur taking yet more pictures of my legs that I haven't seen anywhere else..
Tony finishes, and Mitchell finishes. Then we hear a whoop whoop and here comes our trio! We heard that Todd was with Shelly and Diane out of Powell's Fort, so we knew they would be on their way to the finish!
Todd, Diane and Shelly finish.
There is more time eating at the finish line, then showers and more gossip back at Portabello. Thankfully Slim has finished quickly! and has got a good nap so he is our driver back to reality. It is always tough to leave our friends in Virginia. Our time is always too short there. Many thanks to our Race Directors, Quatro Hubbard and Mike Bur; and all our wonderful race volunteers out of Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. We have an incredibly strong wonderful supportive club of VHTRC and I am very happy and proud to be part of!