2014-08-30 - DNF The Ring

~40 miles @ ~22 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_13_z.jpgThe Ring — the Massanutten Trail 71 mile loop — again ends for me at mile 40, as in my 2011-09-03 - DNF The Ring experience. I miss the 9:30pm cutoff at Moreland Gap by half an hour.

And it's all good! As I tell friends, "I fail to achieve my one goal, which is to have no goals!"

Maybe that's the value of focusing on "Possibilities, not Expectations" (PnE), of appreciating experience precisely as it is, of not hoping things were otherwise than they are, and of not obsessing over plans that don't work out.
These first two photos are from the first aid station, mile ~13 at Milford Gap. The Massanutten Trail is marked with orange blazes.

Today brings back great memories of past runs and hikes along various segments of the trail — especially 2008-01-20 - Massanutten Mountain South Training Run and 2009-01-04 - Massanutten Mountain Mayhem with Caren Jew. In my first attempt, 2009-09-05 - One Third of The Ring with Kate Abbott, bad blisters and a fall stop us at mile 25.
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_z_Milford_Gap_orange_blaze.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_16_Massanutten_butterfly.jpgA "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly perches on a leaf at mile ~16. Today also features ants, spiders, mushrooms, and a glimpse of what was perhaps a black bear crashing through the underbrush 100 meters away, in Duncan Hollow, mile ~26.

At the Aid Stations and in the race along the way are a bunch of super-nice folks, including:

Jackie Ong — who planned to run with me in the night but had to drop at mile 35, bad blisters and exhaustion

Leonard Martin — cheerful, steady, funny, experienced

Rachel DuBois — from North Carolina; she lives within 10 minutes of the Umstead 100 miler course where she did her first 100 earlier this year, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 90's, has daughters ages 6 and 13, is fast on the trail and in the dark

David Snipes — suffering today, when I meet him sitting on a rock in the Little Crease notch and he tells me me to pass word at the next aid station that he is dropping and hiking down to the road

Jeff Gura — a friendly gentleman from Potomac, who knows me from MCRRC races

Sean Lawler — suffering today from vertigo, which forces him to drop at mile 25; he's the one who recognized me and said "hi" as a colleague and I were leaving a business meeting a few months ago; he ran the Catoctin 50k last month and finished half an hour ahead of me there
Behind me in this mile ~18 image is the Fort Valley, farmland between the pair of Massanutten Mountain ridges.

Today's trek features some major learning experiences:

running out of water between aid stations (miles 13, 25, 34) — even though I carry three big bottles (and chug a full quart bottle (!) of Gatorade at 0630 before the 7am start!) and consume copious amounts of watermelon and soda at every opportunity. Can I somehow carry even MORE water?

slowing down radically in the dark (to ~30 min/mi) — and still taking several small falls (unlike in the daytime), and being totally unable to keep up with Leonard & Rachel at night

having something to wipe one's face with — esp. on hot/humid days, with sunscreen washing into eyes; perhaps a small towel, washcloth, or handkerchief would help?

mosquito netting — Jackie Ong wears a veil to keep gnats out, and at first I don't recognize her when I catch up to her at mile ~28. Rachel DuBois, with us for some miles there, says, "I'll give you $50 for it!" Smiling, Jackie refuses.

trekking poles for long hikes on rocks — Rachel carries two, Leonard one, and Jackie repeatedly wishes she had brought hers.

carrying a plastic sandwich bag — to fill with cookies or other treats at aid stations, and to nibble from in subsequent miles
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_18__Fort_Valley_z.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_20_z_south_fork_Shenandoah_River.jpgIn the background here is the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, at mile ~20.

Other observations today include:

remembering to "notice the music" — wind in the trees, birds, distant train whistles, feet on the trail, rattle of a rock that I bump off the narrow path when it tumbles down the cliffside (when that happens, think, "Lucky that's not me!")

deliberately touching the trees and rocks — and feeling the connection with the world, as a good friend suggests trying (esp. after dark!)

fierce clouds of gnats between miles 25 and 35 — Leonard Martin says he missed getting a superb photo, dozens of tiny flies forming a halo around a backpacker's head in the sunbeams

climbing the über-steep Waterfall Mountain ahead of Jackie & Leonard, wondering if there should be a defibrillator at every switchback

joking with Leonard, mile ~36 — about following behind him to admire his well-defined calf muscles. I say, "That's why you carry the trekking pole: to fight off the ladies who swarm around you!"

getting a ride back to my car from Moreland Gap (mile 40.7) where I drop, with Caroline Williams (who also takes Tony Escobar and a hilariously foul-mouthed lady runner)

stopping to stay alert on the way home 11pm-1am — in Front Royal to get a chocolate "shake" at a McDonalds drive-through window, and in Haymarket to buy a bag of Corn Nuts at the COLDEST Sheetz one could imagine

weighing 4 lbs less when I get home than when I left home at 4:30am on Saturday morning

Bottom line happy outcomes from The Ring in 2014:

So as always, It's All Good!

^z - 2014-09-18