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Reverse Ring Report: A Pacer's Perspective

By Sophie Speidel

Pictures from Sophie Speidel: One | Two | Three | Four

Bur, Sophie, and QIt's me again. Yes, I know, I've written way too many reports in the past few months, and it's getting old. I agree. But have you noticed that the timeliest run reports in recent weeks have come from the ladies of the club? Linda Wack has written two very funny and entertaining pieces since New Years and Sue Johnston gave us all the dirt on C4P well before Anstr could get his act together and write his version. So, since Mike Bur has yet to produce the Reverse Ring report that he talked about incessantly before, during, and after running the RR, I thought I'd enlighten the VHTRC membership with a few glimpses of what really happened on the Massanutten Trail the weekend of Feb 26-27. What follows is my account (read: the truth) of what took place: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And believe me, it was ugly.

It was the end of February in Virginia, and while some lucky VHTRCers were out at C4P enjoying the SoCal sun and Chris Scott shenanigans, a few of us were re-creating another memorable Chris and Anstr production, The Ring. Only this time it was in reverse, and it was in the winter, and it was cold.

"A winter Ring run, but in reverse...what were they thinking?" you might ask (Anstr might normally link you here to Bur's report, but since there is no report, forget it). I asked the same question when I got the email from Quatro, not long after I bombed the September Ring, that stated, "plans are in the works for a Reverse Ring at the end of February." Hmmm. I guess this meant that I was being invited to join them ("them" being Jaret, Bur, Quatro, and Kerry, although Kerry insists that she never once said she was interested but that "they" kept assuming she was). Perhaps it was because I failed so miserably at my first attempt at running all night, and Q was giving me another chance to redeem myself. But I wasn't really that excited about doing the entire 71 miles in the winter, so I offered to run the first half and then crew.

"No" came the reply---either I was in for the full monty, or not at all.

Now lately I have become accustomed to running half of what everyone else runs, and I really enjoy it. I get all the fun for half the cost. I ran a half Double Rivanna Ring, half of a second TWOT loop, and now I wanted to run half of the "Reverse Ring", as they were calling it. But I knew the guys wanted a full commitment, and I just couldn't give it to them (sounds like one of our discussions on the trail about failed relationships). Then, two weeks before the RR, Quatro caved and suggested that I run the second half at night...but only to keep them company (since Jaret, Kerry, and even Gary had RSVP'd "No, thanks"), to practice running all night, and to impact my family time as minimally as possible. My husband Rusty was equally enthusiastic about this idea, since he knew I had sleep deprivation issues during all night runs and he wanted me to work on that before MMT. So, it was settled. I would plant aid at Camp Roosevelt, meet the guys at 6:00 pm at Crisman Hollow Road (roughly 11 hours after their start from Signal Knob), and then join them for the run north along the east ridge of Massanutten Mountain.

As they say in sports jargon, I was a "role player" on this run. This run was not about me (although believe me, I tried to make it so). It was about Q and Bur, and helping them finish it in one piece. It was about helping them stay awake, eat and hydrate, and keep moving. It was about getting their sandwich orders, drink orders, and other essential orders and leaving them at strategic locations. It was about taking their pictures to document the run even when they were half-naked, cold, or too tired to smile. And ultimately (and what I failed to realize until much later), it was about being their entertainment and the object of their abuse. But that was a small price to pay in order to help them reach their goal of finishing the fastest winter Reverse Ring in ultra history.

What follows, in chronological order, are the highlights of the Reverse Ring from my perspective (read: Bur's report may contain many distorted facts, half-truths, and even lies. But this is the truth): Saturday, 6:55 am: Getting the call on my cell that Bur and Q were running late for the 7:00 am start (because Q insisted on taking a shower at 6:40). They started at 7:13 am.

Saturday, 1:40 pm: Getting the call on my cell that they were at Edinburg, feeling good and making good time.

Saturday, 4:15 pm: The look on their faces at Moreland Gap 2.5 hours later, after dealing with Short Mountain...priceless.

Saturday, 5:15 pm: Hearing their voices over the walkie-talkie while we were at Gap Creek 2 around the campfire with the rest of the MMT training run folks, and everyone getting the chance to talk to the guys while they were up at Jawbone Gap.

Q without a shirtSaturday, 6:35 pm: Q doing a full frontal at CHR for the enjoyment of the ladies present (Joyce).

Saturday, 6:55 pm: Silent Bur and Chatty Q at CHR---lessons were learned here. Bur went off to change shoes and clothes and get himself together while Q entertained Tom Corris, Chris Andres, John Dodds, and Joyce. The lesson: have a plan and get in and out of the aid station more quickly, and stop socializing. Q neglected to eat enough and bonked big-time an hour later.

Saturday, 7:30 pm: Q realizing at the bottom of Waterfall that in the flurry of social activity at CHR he has left behind his indespensible cold tablets.

Saturday, about 9:00 pm: Talking about sex, losing our virginity, and other sexual practices...always fun and insightful.

Saturday, 10:45 pm: Getting to Camp Roosevelt and stuffing all our camelbacks with more Ensure than we could possibly need (or so we thought) for the long, aid-less haul to Signal Knob that ended up taking 9 hours.

Saturday, 11:30 pm: Calling Rusty, Laura, and Anstr on the cell phone from the ridge above Camp Roosevelt.

Saturday, 11:50 pm: Moonrise over the Shenandoah Valley and a clear, windless night.

Sunday, about 1 a.m: Q and Bur pretending that Q has lost his car keys (Q's car was our only ride from Signal Knob) and me buying it (sort of) for about an hour. (They later admitted that they had actually rehearsed for this prank while on the west ridge).

Sunday, about 2 a.m: Yelling many obscenities at Q after he jumps out and spooks us mid-run...yelling obscenities is becoming my Ring tradition.

Sunday, about 2:30 a.m.: Leaving behind my lucky MMTR hand-held bottle on the ridge after an aid break because I was too cold to go back and get it...if anyone sees it while running MMT, could you leave it there for me to pick up?

Sunday, about 3:00am: Hammering the downhills with Q in the snow (before he felt like crap). Sunday, about 4:00am: Doing the math and being the Pollyanna-glass-is-half-full "we only have 3 hours to go 10 miles and break 24 hours!" If looks could kill, I'd be dead.

Sunday, about 4:05 am: Taking Q and Bur down the white trail after Milford as payback for playing the car keys prank on me...heh, heh, they still don't believe I planned it.

Sunday, about 4:30am: Running alone for 20 minutes after Milford--what fun! I loved sitting there looking out onto the valley in the moonlight, but then it got creepy and I waited for them.

Sunday, 6:15 am: Q dragging us up from Veach Gap to the ridge at sunrise, with the temperature at about 15 degrees--this was a tough stretch for everyone.

Sunday, 6:45 am: Shuffling the downhills with Bur as the sun rose while singing 70s tunes with the word "sun" in the lyrics.

Sunday, 7:00 am: Sunrise over the Shenandoah Valley and a clear blue sky.

Sunday, about 7:30 am: Running together in silence and feeling very lucky to be there

Sunday, about 8:30 am: The smiles on Bur's and Q's faces as they walked the last mile along Passage Creek at the end.

Sunday, 8:50 am: The finish--Q collapsing in his car and Bur saying "Hey Pablo" over and over.

Sunday, 10:30 am: Breakfast at L.D.'s in Front Royal and getting Anstr's call of congratulations from California.

Quatro and Bur stand on the Start/Finish rockSunday, about 11:15 am: Watching Q and Bur doze off, drooling, with mouths wide open, as we drove around Fort Valley collecting the aid we dropped the day before.

Sunday, about 12 noon: Bur's hysterical "Caddyshack" imitation of "Total Enlightenment."

Sunday, about 12:30 pm: Hiking 25 minutes up to Woodstock Tower for the leftover aid while the guys slept in the car... then wondering if they were going to drive off without me...and scolding myself for ever thinking it when Q's Saab came back into view...

OK, in the end, it really wasn't that ugly. Bur and Q finished the first winter Reverse Ring that started at Signal Knob in 25 hours and 36 minutes---a new course record for the direction, starting point and time of year. They were remarkably positive and fun to hang out with, despite their trail tomfoolery. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I will be happy to continue my "half the distance for all the fun" mantra and crew and pace for other Ring alums who seek to become a "Master of the Ring"...and if you don't know what that means, just wait for Bur's report!

Happy Trails,

Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard at Moreland Gap

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
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