Monday, February 28, 2011

The Reverse Ring: Part One

Stay on Orange-The Reverse Ring Report

After I completed The Ring in September, people first said congratulations and then that I was now eligible to run the Reverse Ring (the OTHER way on the Massanutten Trail) I of course said, sure, sign me up.
Since I am committed to running the Massanutten Trail 100, it was a no brainer to get some suffering and a very long run in as training for the race.
For the uninitiated, The Ring is a circuit of the entire 71-mile orange-blazed Massanutten Trail in the George Washington National Forest, on the ridgelines of the eastern and western ranges of the Massanutten Mountains around the Fort Valley, roughly between Front Royal and Luray.
Eighteen (?)   runners lined up on a mild February morning.  First stop, the climb to Signal Knob.
Now, Signal Knob, last fall, after 65+ miles of running, just about sucked my will to live. In fact, when I think of the Ring, Signal Knob kind of overshadows many other details of the run because it sucked so badly.
It was amazing to hit this section, fresh in the morning.

Before I knew it, I was up by the Big Tower, took a quick pic

and headed on the ORANGE blazed trail.
There is a long downhill off Signal Knob, then some tedious dirt/gravel road pounding until you reach Powell’s Fort. On the road section is where I took my biggest spill! All of a sudden, I was hitting dirt, on my elbow and side, water bottles flying ten feet down the road. I get up, a little shaken, and can’t even figure out what I could have tripped on this road!
First  Aid Station was at Woodstock Towers, where Sniper informed me that Bill W. was just a few minutes ahead.   I set out to see if I can catch up with Bill. The section through here is rather annoying. You are picking your way through the rocks on the ridgeline, then suddenly you are heading down…just to run and go back up again. I vaguely think I am on Short Mountain.

Next aid was at Edinburg Gap, where the famous Pesta corn chowder is offered.  The gang informs me it’s 8 miles to Moreland, but runs more like 9 miles. It’s a beautiful day out there. The weather is mild, I’m just picking my way through the rocks, aware of the 330 pm cut off time. I get to Moreland Gap around 309 pm, okay to continue on to Camp Roosevelt. Quatro has told us there is aid at Crisman Hollow, that Eva and Cathy hiked in for us.
I get to Crisman Hollow Road around 530pm, thank Eva and Cathy, congratulate Eva on her TWOT finish, and take off to experience Waterfall Mountain-going downhill this time. I timed it-5 minutes. I think it took me 30 minutes to ascend it during the Ring.

I  catch up with Bill and Bill here, and pass them. Darkness is fast approaching, and I want to get as much dirt (and rocks) covered as possible. I am feeling good through here, and there is a lot of downhill (or so it seemed.)  This is where the beginning of my calorie deficit began, however. I have started using maltodextrin as my calorie supply.  The Reverse Ring was my first good experimentation with planning with it. Consequently,  I used up my malto in the 15 miles between Moreland Gap and Camp Roo.  I did have other calories with me-gels, jelly beans, but I wasn’t consuming calories as steadily as I had been with the malto.
Camp Roosevelt is a welcome sight at 830 pm. Ernesto is getting ready to head out, but I need to get my gear together. I tell him to go on ahead and I will try to catch up.
I had a disorganized stop here. I spent too much time stuffing items into pockets of the jacket I was picking up-that should have already been packed.  I was trying to both eat and change clothes at the same time. I should have sat down,  got the calories in, and then packed up gear. Quatro was very helpful here, bringing me items, and some unexpected shrimp/sausage gumbo provided by Bur.

Part Two: The Pink Glove Saves the Day

Where the Pink Glove Saves the Day
I get out of Camp Roo, with my jacket on, still fussing with items, trying to eat a great grilled cheese sandwich and juggle bottles. I can see Ernesto’s light above, so he is still close. I’m walking uphill and still fussing with pockets. A short ways up the hill, I go to don my gloves and realize I have dropped one. I don’t go back. I have a pair of socks in my pocket; they can also go over my hands.
I pop out, on the top of the ridge, to see the twinkling lights of the town below…”oo, twinkles”. I also have an urgent call of nature all of a sudden, and I cross the road. I don’t remember where the trail is at this juncture. As I turn around, as to not shine my white butt at my fellow runners, I am startled to see a light coming through the woods. This must be the two Bills, coming up right behind me. I get stage fright and pull up my pants. Now the lights stop and they seem to be looking at a sign. I of course do not go over to talk to them, I just wait. But since I still have to go, I decide to start looking for the trail. It seemed I remembered we went around a curve..
Oh no, I guess not. Here are orange blazes. I start down the trail….(which is actually the trail I just ascended). In my gut, I feel something it not quite right..But I am on orange blazes, and that is the only rule of the Ring STAY ON ORANGE.
Then I see my pink glove, on the trail. I am dumbfounded. What did I do? How did this happen? Did I go in a circle? I am massively confused and panicky. The only thing clear is I now need to reverse direction and climb again. There is, at least, some part of my logical mind still functioning. I’m still freaking out inside. So where is the rest of the trail then? I resolve to call and/or text Bur and Quatro when I get to the road to see if they can talk me through this.
I again pop out on the road, see the twinkling lights of the town. Ok Kimba, this is correct. Now, where is the trail? I go to my right, where I thought I had seen the alleged Bills emerge…ah, orange blazes. Ok.
Shortly down the trail, I climb over some rocks, and start down a hill. The trail is leaf covered, but it looks like runners kicked up the leaves. But now the trail is getting sketchy, and not well defined.
STOP! Look for an orange blaze. Nothing. I turn around. No blazes behind me. I get a little scared, because my trail isn’t looking all that well defined either in the darkness. Ok, follow your tracks as well as you can. Go back up the hill. Look for an orange blaze.
I climb a little, and see a blaze. It turns out the little wall of rocks I climbed over was to block people from doing just that; there is a sharp turn in the trail here for a switchback.
At this moment, I am not feeling good. I am rattled. I’ve gotten off trail, a clearly marked trail, twice in a half hour. Who knows how much time I have lost. I’m sinking very low fast.
SO I stop. I drink about half my malto bottle. I take a caffeine tablet and one ibuprofen. I put fresh batteries in my headlight. I start saying “everything is going to be alright” from the Bob Marley song. I just keep repeating that over and over, and concentrate on the orange blazes.
Before long, the calories and caffeine kick in. I am physically feeling better, and both emotionally and mentally have settled down. Ernesto’s light appears ahead. By the time I reach him, I feel fine. Talk about a 100% improvement from my bonk.
I am very glad to see Ernesto. We cover some miles together, just talking about gear, races, what we are eating. Companionship during the long nighttime hours is a good thing.
I am finding my climbing abilities are getting really poor. Ernesto is pulling ahead on the climbs, but I catch up when he slows down plowing through the leaves-there’s lot of rocks hidden in the leaves.
Ernesto stops. I can’t hear what he says, to either mix more Perpeteum or stretch his knee that he hurt earlier. I go on ahead, figuring he will catch me on the next climb, since I am so slow on them. On top of next climb, no Ernesto. I keep checking, expecting to see his light, but nothing.
I come to the sign for the Indian Grave Trail, and know Ernesto will be happy to see this. In my pocket, I have the turn sheet, which lists the mileage that I am at, with all the trail intersections. I don’t pull it out, because the only important landmark is the tent rigged up at Veach Gap, which tells us we have eight miles left to go.

Part Three: Asthma How I Hate Thee

Asthma How I Hate Thee
I have late onset exercise-induced asthma. This means I tend to get an annoying cough and a bit of a wheeze usually hours-six or seven hours-into an ultra. In the winter, I also don my “Hannibal Lechter” face mask, to keep the air a little bit warmer going into my lungs. I did not use the inhaler until 530 pm.
As the night progressed, my breathing grew worse. I got into Veach Gap about the worst possible time for the cold and the body-about 430 am. The coldest time of the day, and when your body temperature starts to drop. As I start up the climb from Veach, I have to stop. My breathing is into a pant and my heart rate is very elevated. I use the inhaler, which gives me no relief. Now I start to get a bit scared, which is upsetting my breathing further. I’m frustrated because I feel good physically, except for the breathing! I stay put until I can get the breathing under control.
All climbs after this are, literally, walk ten steps, stop, and slow down the breathing. The flats and downhill are okay, I can keep moving continually. I’m so frustrated, because I have no idea when I will finish this Ring (I don’t want to look at my watch and get further demotivated.)
I finally see the sign for Elizabeth Furnace-two miles. I look at my watch. To my dumbfounded amazement, it’s 703 am. I am on track to still meet my goal for an 8am finish at Signal Knob!
After getting turned around in Elizabeth Furnace, I cross the road to see the last uphill-the parking lot to Signal Knob! Ugh!! I make it to the parking lot, and try to enter, and am shouted back to finish the ORANGE Trail. I get back on the last part of the MMT Trail, and get to finish the Reverse Ring, on the Orange, at the proper exit.
Thanks to Virginia Happy Trail Runners Club for another great event, and all the generous volunteers who gave up their day-and night-to support us runners. Quatro and Bur, you guys did a great job!

Masters of the Ring

After completing the Reverse Ring, I am now in the Masters of the Ring. I had a good run. Epic mental breakdown-probaly due to calorie deficit-and then 100% complete bounce back from that. That's what an ultra is, the lowest low, and then the recovery.
I finished within my goal time, 26 hours 11 minutes, so very pleased with that. I told the guys to expect me at 8am, and after finding the orange blaze trail through Elizabeth Furnace, showed up just shortly after 8.
Congratulations to first place, Dan Rose, who set a new course record, by one minute!!! 14.57.02 Amazing, just amazing. I managed to say hi to Dan at the group photo, then Mike Bur said "go" and Dan and Keith Knipling were out of sight!

A long winded race report is being written at this minute.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reverse Ring Tomorrow!!

I've been getting my kit together for the Reverse Ring this coming weekend. The Reverse Ring is a roughly 71-mile counter-clockwise circuit of the Massanutten Trail, and it will be held this year on February 26-27.

This is a FA type event, with limited aid. There will be four Aid Stations out there-meaning probaly some lone poor person assigned to make sure all the runners get water replenished, some replacement calories, and perhaps a kind word or a heckle to get them to keep going.

Since there are only 4 AS, I've broken it down into what I think I can run, where I will be, to help plan out calories to bring along. We are also allowed one drop bag, which will be shuttled around the course for our use.

My breakdown of the four Aid Stations Planned:

Woodstock Tower Mile 14 0930 arrival   3.5 hours
Edinburg Gap Mile 22.4 1140 arrival  2.25 hours
Moreland Gap Mile 30.4 1400 arrival 4 hours
Crisman Road (maybe an Aid Stop) 36.8 mile. Not planning on it, to be on the safe side, so 15.5 miles between Moreland Gap and Camp Roosevelt.
Camp Roo 46.1 Miles 2000 arrival 7.5 hours
Camp Roo to Finish-Signal Knob Parking Lot 24.9 miles.  arrival 2000, finish 12 hours.

This is mainly to help me figure out calories between the planned Aid Stops. I do have a complete clothing change marked for Camp Roo, if needed. I also have several replacement tops and hats available if I become soaked through out there.

Start with 1 cup (~400 calories) MD in hydration bottle
Woodstock-replenish MD, add to bottle
Edinburg-replenish MD, add to bottle
Moreland-replenish MD, add to bottle. Also carry 2 cups MD to add

Also pick  up shortbread cookies, jellybeans at each from drop bag. 4 shortbread cookies= 320  calories.
1/4 cup jellybeans (1 serving)= 150 calories.
I also plan on drinking a Boost at Moreland Gap, and one at Camp Roo. I also have some Heath and Payday bars stowed.
It seems like a ridiculous amount of calories to be carrying around, but this is still experimenting. I would rather have the calories with me than to run into a deficit.
It looks like decent weather for running also. Hurray!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


My groove is back. I went to my playground-Salt Fork State Park-and wandered around on the trails for awhile. Once I got away from the lake, it was much warmer inland.
I didn't have any set mileage, time, or even where I was going. I followed a deer trail that looked interesting:

but it led me back to the bridle trail. I then noticed they removed the blow downs from the snowmobile trail and I ran down that. It then spun me back to my usual trails, so I just ran, took my time, cleared my mind. I needed the run today, my nervous energy is building and needed to get myself ready for next weekend's run.

Mission accomplished. Came home, will make my lists, get my kit assembled, get my lunch packed for tomorrow, get the veggies cut up for the rest of the week!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dirt Glorius Dirt

And that is just my side road! Most of the ice is melted, and the road is nice soft dirt..a bit mud in places, and still some ice down in the hollers..or hollows, as you will.

Nice 10K (Kimba miles, it runs either 6.3 or 6.4 where I start running at) around the block.
New gear-Smart Wool has toe socks! I bought some immediately after finding out. I like Injinjis, but they do not last. All my Smart Wool socks I have are still intact after years of running.

Gear-again put two bottles (20 oz) I think in my hydration vest and carried one hand held. For my longer run this Saturday I start carrying two bottles.

I have Saturday to myself, as the husband is going out of town with a friend so otherwise occupied. First, I was like a kid in a candy shop-where to go run? CVNP, or Mohican? Maybe Salt Fork?
What I have kind of decided on, is stay around home, run on the back roads, where I believe I can get some good hills. Save the time instead of driving, spend it training. I think I can get a good long run with some hill work-and find some new country routes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Train Like You Race

It's been a good week of active recovery from the weekend training. Monday I walked two miles on the treadmill, just to help loosen up my quad muscles.
Tuesday the weather was mild, so I went out for a low key 4 mile run/walk around the block. I was just keeping it mellow, so  I both jogged and walked as I felt it.
This morning I went out for a 4.4 mile around the block. The weather was 33 F (and will get warmer as the day goes on, but I will be at work!). Amazing how a few degrees of warm can improve your attitude!
I experimented with some different hydration gear this morning. I placed two full 20 oz bottles in my Nathan Hydration vest, instead of the typical bladder. I wanted to see if the bottles would bounce. I also filled up another 20 oz bottle and carried that in my hand the full 4 miles.
Now of course I did not need 60 oz of fluid for a 4 mile run! The bottles in the vest were to see if that could work for me-that may be easier to swap out during my race. The hand held bottle will likely hold my nutrition. So I need to get used to carrying that bottle in my hand for hours on end.

The bottles in the pack did work out well, in fact there is more room in the pack since the bottles were at the very bottom. I'm going to consider bottles vs the bladder seriously for upcoming events. 86 days!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend Training-Sunday

Our plans had changed from Saturday, so we decided to go over and get some miles in on the Massanutten 100 Trail at Bird Knob. I had my first visit there in September, the day before the Ring, so I was curious to see if it was still it was in September.

Yep, the rocks haven't changed. By the way, the trail is right there in the middle. See the orange blaze on the tree? That's the trail.
We parked at the Visitor's Center, then climbed Bird Knob, went down Ant Hill Road to where the Bird Knob AS would be, then descended about 1 mile down Big Mountain run. This is a demoralizing downhill, because Jim explain all we were doing was losing ground and were going to go back up again. Sure enough, we turned left onto the Purple Blazed Trail and promptly went back up.

We then followed the MMT course back to the Picnic area, and then back to the Visitor's Center.

Bob at Bird Knob.
Jim and Kim at Bird Knob

Jim and Bob are the most excellent tour guides for MMT. With 11 finishes between the two of them, they've got such extensive knowledge of the trail. I'm very grateful to have their friendship and input in my training for MMT.

In our downhills at Bird Knob, my quads were quite stiff from the day before. I think I need to get in more hill workouts, and work those muscles. 88 days!!!!!!

Weekend Training-Saturday

I had a very good training weekend in Virginia. This is the elevation profile on the trail we ran on Saturday. Biggest ascents and descents I have been on. Big Bald climb was the toughest, as it went up the steepest. From Camp Todd to the Little Bald Summit, it's about a three mile uphill, but much more gradual. I felt good running it. I finished up tired, but not whipped.

The weather was pretty decent also. About thirty-two or thirty-five starting out. Of course as we climbed it got colder, and we had some serious wind. As we climbed Big Bald, there were a few snow flurries. Of course, since we were climbing, there was some serious heating up going on, so there was kind of a balance between being over-heated and chilled all day long.

Mike Keller also joined us for the run on Saturday. We stayed together for the first twelve miles until he rolled an ankle and stopped to tape it.
It was interesting as we hit the summit of Big Bald, all of a sudden there was much more snow still on the ground. It didn't interfere, as there had been many other footprints going through the trail before me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekend Plans

I have a race this week. Well, it's a Fat Ass type of run. We're not supposed to talk about it. Kind of like Fight Club. Per the web site:

Who is Invited

Since this is a semi-invitational, here are some guidelines to help you determine if you are "invited". Actually, most of the following determines who is not invited.
  1. If you are even the least bit worried or concerned about getting lost, don't come.
  2. If you have questions, don't come.
  3. If you need a crew, don't come.
  4. If you need toilet paper to wipe your ass after shitting in the woods, don't come.
  5. If you expect to be pampered in any way shape or form, don't come.
  6. If you're a whiner, don't come.
  7. If you're a freeloader, don't come.
  8. If you're seeking fame and/or fortune, don't come.
  9. If you're thinking about writing a report about your experience at XXX, don't come.
  10. If you crave abuse, if you yearn for abuse, if you are addicted to abuse in any way shape or form (be it physical, mental, sexual, verbal, mathematical, artistic or whatevah) BY ALL MEANS, BE MY GUEST. (This applies to abusees only. Abusers are not welcome. The only abuser allowed is the trail.)
But since I'm a chatty runner/blogger I have to talk about it. I won't mention the name of it. It's just a very low-key, NO AID old school run.
I discovered NEO Trail Member Jim Harris was planning on running it. This coincided with my 4 day weekend from work, and I decided to come along for some of the fun. It's very hilly, with climbs up to 4000 feet to two separate Mountains. So, good training for me, to run 25 or 50 miles on the course.
Now, night before leaving town, we are still not sure who will be going from NEO Trail. One member was brought down by work obligations, another is still pending, depending on the flu.
I'm at the very "antsy" moment pre-run/race. Most of my stuff is packed. The weather reports are looking rather favorably. I haven't run in..two days..sufficient taper, as this weekend is just training for me.

It's new trail for me, since I haven't been here before. I hope to get back to town Monday and post some great pics of where I have been!
Now I need to go check the weather channel again..

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Musings

I’ve mentioned, in several emails to friends about being scared for the MMT race.

So I decided to delve into this, because I don’t really feel that being scared is necessarily a bad thing. But after reviewing some definitions, I think my word choice is still correct.

Scare  verb (used with object)
1. to fill, especially suddenly, with fear or terror; frighten; alarm.

: 1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
3.  concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone's safety. 

I would say I do have a concern about the race, an anxiety about the rocks, the climbs, the heat, the humidity.
It's these concerns/fears/anxiety that is producing good training. I am not distressed about the race, nor do I have negative feelings emerging from these thoughts. I think it's a healthy appreciation of a daunting task. It gets me out the door to train when the temperature is under 20 degrees F!

I got the wonderful news I will have a pacer and crew in the evening at MMT. This is both good news and bad news, as my pacer said himself. Bradley Mongold is a rockstar runner and all business. He paced Adam Casseday to his 3rd place 100 mile debut at MMT, where he finished in 21:37, and the following year. I told Bradley my pace is *cough* no where near Adam's, but he says he can adjust, so I'm pretty stoked about Bradley. 

This being my day off, I got up and weighed myself-down two more pounds, total of 32 pounds lost. Between this, and my pacer news, I had an awesome run. The temperature was around 36 degrees F, so it felt balmy warm. I ventured on my 10K around the block, where the ice had melted just enough to let the mud come through on my dirt roads-hence, good footing for the run.

I decided to do my hill repeats in the middle of the run, since that's where a steep hill is located. It's only 0.2 miles high, but a good grade to it. (And no traffic ever back here on this back country road.)
Each time up the hill was 3.45 to my delight. On the last climb, I decided to push it- 3.29 instead.
A great run. I ran more of the hills that I've been inclined to walk-maybe that extra two pounds is making a difference!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Search of Hills

I went over to Salt Fork State Park today, in search of a good hill run.

For some reason, this loop seemed much steeper driving it:

than running it.

The weather conditions were not that cold, it warmed up into the high 20's by the time I was done.

The problem was the ice. The last major snowstorm that came through only delivered rain in our area. Then the temperature dropped to 10 degrees, with a light snow. Consequently, this dirt road was a sheet of ice.

I kept trying to run in the rough snow, on the sides. The downhill and flats were not bad. The uphills were difficult, in that it was extremely slick. I could not have done this without the screwed shoes.

Yes, I wore my balaclava over my mouth the entire run. It wasn't so bad. I had no wheezing symptoms.
I happened along my section of the Buckeye Trail through here..

Gorgeous day to be outside. Great blue sky. I think this little loop dirt road could be a good training run once the ice melts.