Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Reverse Ring

Many thanks to my friends Bur and Quatro and there hardy volunteers who came out on Saturday to support us. Special recognition to Triple-Bur who pulled a half-dozen cars out of snow drifts, including me, who couldn't even get out of the Signal Knob parking lot. Good times.
The write up below is longer than I expect. Pictures to follow after I steal some. 
2015 Reverse Ring Report
It’s always nice to see an old friend who doesn’t always get a win at an ultra, step up and take the top spot. Such was the case with the 2015 Reverse Ring.
Race day began cold and crisp with the dashboard stat saying 5 and a promise of some flurries during the day and a possibility of warming temps. After a reluctant start, we found the trail from Signal Knob to Woodstock gap had a few inches of fresh snow but was still runnable. A little group of three, Jim, Heath and I, got together and made good time to Woodstock. There we warmed ourselves by the hearth of the good nature of the hardy volunteers, who served delicious breakfast burritos from the grill faster than the runners could eat them.

The snow started falling mid-morning and this slowed us down a bit going up and over Powells Mountain. The famous Powell’s mountain wind was like a punch in the eye as we came over the ridge. The wind was going to be a feature of the next several hours, though at this point we didn’t know it.

We caught up with Gavin and our little throng dropped into Edinburg together to enjoy some more of that famous VHTRC hospitality. A nice little shelter had been erected by the volunteers with a warming fire close by. We all snuggled under the tarp and poured steaming vittles down our gullets.

Out again we went, Jim Heath and I, now breaking trail in snow that was getting deeper by the minute. Climbing the trail in the wind shadow of Short Mountain, things seemed pretty calm but making the ridge, now alone, the wind showed up again.

The wind swirled and gusted and seemed to come from every direction. The snow kept falling and now began to hide those infamous boulders of Short Mountain so that finding footing was becoming a challenge. By now, the snow was about mid-calf height with drifts about knee deep. The trouble was knowing when you stepped in, which you would find (more on that later).

Despite increasingly difficult conditions, I got over the mountain and into Moreland in a respectable 3 hours and change. Whilst enjoying some hot food and good laughs about the conditions with Bur and Tom, I estimated the time to get to Camp Roosevelt, figured my calorie needs and made the guess that I’d arrive with about an hour to spare on the cutoff.

Pushing off from Milford, I was very optimistic about finishing. It’s hard to believe in retrospect, how much my mindset would change and indeed, how naive I was at that point. The snow continued to fall. From trail to Jawbone gap, I could hear the wind on the ridge above. It sounded like freight train, and as I made the right onto Kerns Mountain, it hit me in the face like sucker punch.

The trip across Kerns took a lot out of me. More than once I stepped into a drift and lost my footing. Falling forward, my hands would catch terra-ferma but not before my arm length ran out. The end result was me in plank position with a clean imprint of my face in the drift in front of me. This made me laugh because there isn’t much else you can do in that situation.

I crossed Crissman Hollow road 2.5hrs after leaving Moreland, which was slower than I had hoped. But now the wheels were about to come off. I half skied-half slid down waterfall with an avalanche of powder preceding me down the slope.

Hiking through the valley, I did an inventory and came to the unfortunate conclusion. My supply of Twinkies and honey buns was going to come up short. In cold temperatures, trudging through deep fresh snow, the last thing you want to do is ration calories. Now things became unpleasant as I doled out my supply of food, bonk-to-bonk.

As I ate the last of my food on Dry Run and continued the climb, I could again hear howl of the wind above. The decent down to Camp Roosevelt was slow. Legs that were both leaden and wobbly enhanced the suffering.

It had taken more than 9 hours to cover the 13 miles to Camp Roosevelt. As I walked up I was greeted by Bur who asked if I was going on. I said I was way over the cut-off to which he replied that he wasn’t enforcing the cut-off. I was depleted and lethargic and generally washed out. I did not have the wherewithal to will my body onward.

I love the MT loop run counter-clockwise direction and while sitting enjoying some soup at Camp Roosie, I told Bur it was apropos that the Reverse Ring should deal me my first DNF. It is my favorite stretch of trail. But this year, with the help of the weather, my love refused to allow me to close the deal. It’s ironic how much being denied enhances desire.