Reverse Ring 2011 - Report by Kim Love-Ottobre

Stay on Orange-The Reverse Ring Report

Kim Love-Ottobre - Feb 2011


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.

Seventeen 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.


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.

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!