Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Ring - Revisited

For a free race, we definitely got our moneys worth, and then some! When it was questionable if aid would be provided at two early locations, it was there, and where we knew it would be, the volunteers when above and beyond to make sure we were taken care of. Instead of a 'report' from mile to mile, I'll break it up by events and other things that might be TMI or WTF or of no importance whatsoever except for me to look back on and learn from. It's still long, so if you want the condensed version, here it is: I covered 71 miles of the Massanutten Trails in 28:18. My feet were sore, I ate a lot, I saw weird things, and it rained in the morning. If you want more details, continue on.

Is it time to get up yet?

We stayed at the Super 8 in Front Royal – me, my GF, and her dog – right next to the ice machine and the front desk on the front floor. Bad location. The dog barked at just about everything throughout the night, which prompted me to semi wake up and ask "is it time to get up yet?" We hoped that leaving the TV on would be enough background noise to distract him, but it wasn't. My GF ended up sleeping with dog treats in her hands, so with every bark from the dog, a hand would open and he would get a treat to be quiet. Who has who trained??? Pavlov would be so proud. Needless to say, we were all pretty tired.


A free race like this wouldn't happen without wonderful, selfless volunteers who get up early and stay up late and until the wee hours to make sure we are well fed – banana bread, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, Pringles, watermelon, etc. I think I ingested more calories than I burned. I felt so pampered that I almost didn't want to leave the Edinburg aid station at mile 48.7. Actually, my feet hurt so much that I contemplated dropping, but trudged on another 8.2 miles to Woodstock and felt well enough to finish.


A mix of GU and a bottle of CarboPro while on the trail until I got to Edinburg. At the aid stations, I dined on Ensure, Pringles, watermelon, grilled cheese, cookies, Gatorade, Coke, minestrone soup, and I'm sure other stuff I'm forgetting. The last 8 miles, though, I didn't eat or drink much. At that point I was ready to be done, and my focus was on finishing.


The weather was great the entire time. It was in the mid 70s with a 90% humidity at 6am and slightly drizzling. Hanna was hanging around all morning, and then showed her true self around 9am. She didn't let up until about 1:30pm. The rain felt nice and kept the humidity in check. It was heavier and windier at times, but I never felt cold or put on a rain jacket. At night, I put on a loose long sleeve top, but took it off when I got hot and put it back on when sitting at the aid station. I kept it on when I left Woodstock Tower (mile 56.9) around 5:30am as the temps seemed to have really dropped by then. I took it off again around 9am when the sun warmed everything up nicely.


We packed like we were going on a week long camping trip, but knew we'd end up needing something if we didn't bring it, so we brought it. And then some. I wear triathlon shorts under a pair of loose REI trail shorts (discontinued, to my dismay) that have 2 good size zip pockets on the hip for GU's, iPod shuffle, Succeed tabs, etc. I've been wearing a tighter black shirt (REI or Under Armour) under a loose fitting wicking shirt. It keeps the outer shirt from sticking to me due to sweat or rain and the inner shirt keeps my core warm. I also started with my 3L Camelbak, a wicking hat, Smartwool socks, and my Vasque Velocity shoes. At mile 25, when the rain stopped, I switched socks and shoes (Salomon XAE3 or something like that, which are Gore-Tex) and to my 2L Nathan pack. I changed both shirts at mile 34.3 knowing it would get cooler/dark soon, and donned a Buff instead of the cap. I was getting chilled at the next aid station and left with a long sleeve top, but took it off at the top of Short Mountain and put it back on when I got to Edinburg where I also changed back to Vasque’s and grabbed the iPod classic since the shuffle finally died. The shirt process repeated until I left Powell's Fort as did relubbing my feet.

My feet

I had the same sensitivity problems I had at MMT. If the run was any longer I probably would've dropped out. After MMT, the hardness that built up on the balls and heels of my feet peeled off over the course of a month. My feet got soft, so the toughness had to be built up again. They didn't really bother me until going over Short Mountain (mile 40-48), which was one of the few sections I didn't cover the weekends leading up to the race. I'm going to lose the toenail of my second toe on each foot in the next few months, too, I have a blood blister on the inside of my right heel, and one on the inside of my right big toenail. I can barely point/curl my toes and they are still so puffy that you can't see any veins or tendons. Crocs are comfy, but not suitable for work, so I have to stick to my stinky slides until the swelling goes down.


Early on, I saw two box turtles in separate sections of the trail. Both times they scared me and I jumped back, or did an awkward jump over it. I talked to them in lol speak with a basic greeting of 'Oh hai! before continuing on with baby talk. I have no idea why. It's like shouting or talking slowly to someone who doesn't speak English or someone who is deaf/hard of hearing. Why?? At dusk I saw two deer on Kerns Mtn. and a skunk crossed about 20 ft in front of me on Short Mountain. "Keep moving, big guy," I said as he slowly crossed the trail. I was also one of a dozen or so people stung by yellow jackets while crossing Kerns Mountain. I only got hit twice – back of the right calf, and the left side of my middle back, which I thought was chafing from my bra and HRM strap. I think a yellow jacket attack brings out the screaming, arm-flailing little girl in all of us. Fortunately I had no bear sightings, but I did stare at some sticks long enough that they became snakes.

Things you see that aren't there

Your mind plays tricks on you in the dark and when you’re tired. Here are a few things I "saw" on the trail and what they really were.

A Tarantula – this was a small fern-like plant. When I shined my handheld light on it, it looked like it was crawling towards me as I got closer. Yes, I jumped over it.

Mary in a bathtub - this was a rock, but I SWEAR it was MiaB. I even slowly walked up to it until I had an 'oh' moment and realized what it was.

A man hiding behind a tree waiting to scare me – 'he' did scare me, but it was just a tree that had fallen just so that it looked like someone hiding behind a tree. That one really spooked me.

An alligator, cat, and dogs – all were trees that were angled just right

Random 'shadow people' in the woods – YOU go into the spooky woods by yourself with a flashlight and headlamp and tell me what you see; especially after reports of other people having seen bears. It was just 'tree shadows', but still spooky. You'd think it would make me run faster. *sigh*

These are all I could remember, but it gets pretty tiring out there especially when you're in the back of the small pack of runners. I got a little disoriented while crossing Kerns Mtn on my way to Jawbone when it first got dark. I tried to move quickly here having never been on Kerns at night, nor was I very familiar with it in the daytime, so it was difficult at times to find my way. I moved much slower than I had wanted to, but covered Jawbone down to Moreland in good time. When climbing out of Edinburg, I got disoriented at the top. For a split second, I wasn't sure if I was going in the right direction. I was at the top, or so I thought, but it didn't look familiar. I couldn't see any town lights to my right or further into the woods to my left, which would've been a sign that I was going in the right direction. Time wise, I made it to the 'top' okay, but crept along for 15-20 minutes until I got my bearings and realized that I was going in the correct direction and hadn't turned around at all as I had thought. I had been the slow-poke last runner all day and there was no one behind me, nor was there a 'trail sweep' to make sure everyone made it to the next aid station in time, so I was on my own.

The End

From the VHTRC website:
The Ring is a typical Fat Ass run in that there are no entry fees, no awards, and no t-shirts. Fat Ass entrants are generally admonished that there will also be no wimps and no whiners. In this instance, just choosing to start proves you are not a wimp, and EVERYONE whines at the end (and whines for years to come, so when it gets to be your turn to whine about how badly the trail from Signal Knob to the finish sucks, try to be at least a little bit creative.

The section from Signal Knob to the Meneka Trail (1/2 a mile) truly sucks. Your feet are so tender and there is no ground to step on; only sharp rocks. The next couple of miles to the Buzzard Rock Overlook are one long rockbed after another. Make the downward turn from the overlook and you are 'homeward bound.' Except Sunday was a beautiful, sunny morning and lots of people are out for a leisurely hike. I had a number of people ask if I was okay when I limped by. I just hoped I didn't smell too bad after 28 hours on the trail. I crossed the small wooden bridge to the parking lot where my GF's dog announced my arrival to the handful of people still hanging around. I promptly sat down.

Completing The Ring was a great experience and I'm glad I finished. Yes, there was a time when I wanted to drop and my GF wanted me to drop, but I pressed on. If it were a 100-miler, though, I 100% would've stopped at the 70 mile mark. Heck, I probably would've missed most of the aid station cut offs. I really need to work on my foot sensitivity issues. If that means running back and forth across Short Mountain to toughen them up, then so be it. I'll probably try a number of different shoes and sock combinations until I get something right, but I'm sure something else will come up.

I will be out there again in February to do the run in the reverse direction. I'm sure my time will be different, but I hope to have a more positive experience. However, these are the Massanutten Trails and anything can happen.


At 4:09 PM, Blogger Katie said...

Wow Jen! That's super awesome! Great job! I'm so glad you stuck it out and finished! Good for you! Now, go lay down! :)

At 6:15 PM, Blogger The Wigan Crossfitter said...

I really should buy a hat..then I could take it off for you.

Well done..


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