50 Mile DNF Report
by Dan Fogg
When Heather Dougherty first pointed my attention to the bare bones Massanutten’s Revenge site, I knew I was going to sign up. Since Teanaway 100 was cancelled mid-race in 2019, I’ve still wanted to run a race that would challenge my ability to simply finish. I DNS’d at TWOT ‘21 due to injury and thought the Revenge would be another step into this territory. Training since MMT this past summer was more or less going through the motions as I hate running in the DC heat and humidity. I put in a trio of long runs in Shenandoah and felt ready to tackle this challenge.
Race week, the weather forecast started to come together and it looked pretty bleak. Details were conflicting, but I hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as they said, and I was going to start regardless. Once we got off at 10am on Friday, things felt good. Weather was absolutely perfect. Cool, cloudy and not too windy. Had a fun descent into Habron having only hiked this climb. On the return, I saw the other runners behind me had paired up. As much as I like running with others, for a race of this duration, I prefer going at my own pace rather than having some company and being pushed or slowed.
I had a good laugh when I passed the two points where I went off course at Reverse Ring this year and then I stormed into Veach. I picked up quite a bit more calories and headed out. At this point, I did not see the runners behind me so I figured I had at least a 20-30 minute lead (turns out, it was an hour). It felt nice climbing up Shawl feeling fresh versus the death march it usually is during the Reverse Ring. Moving onto Buzzard Rock, I was excited to see this trail. It was the 4 miles of the course I’d never been on and I’ve heard it’s fun. Indeed it was! Some rocky exposure and a nice descent brought me into the northernmost point of the course. At this point, the rain, albeit light, had begun. I got my jacket on and turned to Elizabeth Furnace looking forward to seeing my crew and hoping for some substantial aid options.
With the rocks now wet, the going started to slow considerably but I was still moving steadily. I had just passed Ali Mohammed and Mike Wardian before I turned right and got back on to Orange. I got to Elizabeth Furnace before dark; a modest first goal of my race plan. Things were going well! I took in a bunch of Coke, some chips and some broth. I wish there had been something more substantial and hot, but I knew it wasn’t entirely practical for a squad this small and this spread out. Reset my gear for the night, threw in a bunch more varied calories I had brought along and headed out for this dreaded section…
When I first saw the course draft, this was what worried me the most. Sure, the climb up Green Mountain is nice and actually quite runnable for a while. The descent is slow and rocky, but fine. It’s the damn Tuscarora Trail section along Three Top Mountain. After countless fatass and regular races on the trails in the Massanuttens, this is, by far, the worst 4 miles out there. The rain had picked up considerably once I got to the ridgeline. I slowly made my way along trying my best to stay on course. Roughly a half mile in, I had clearly lost the trail. In my head, I knew the trail basically followed the spine of the ridge and rarely diverged, unlike Kearns. I finally stopped, reaching just overgrown brush, cranked up my headlamp and started searching for a blue blaze. After going forward, back tracking, going side to side, I still didn’t find it. I kept, stupidly, trapping myself in briar patches just tearing up my legs. I got to a point where I figured this was it, time to bushwack down the mountain to the Orange Trail below and get to Woodstock some other way. Eventually, maybe 20 minutes later, I saw a blue blaze in the distance behind me. I finally got on trail, shoved in some more calories and moved along.
The fog started rolling in and navigating this “trail” became difficult. I finally made it through the next couple miles and saw the beacon of the control point ahead to punch my card. Once I was on the Orange Trail, I confirmed that it was sadly, another 4.5 miles to Woodstock and I knew would take me another hour. This section isn’t that bad. It’s mainly rolling terrain that’s often pretty runnable. But, with the rain picking up and the fog getting dense in sections, it was slow going.
I crossed my fingers I could get to Woodstock and do a real reset. I was wet, getting cold and needing real food. Alas, I got to the road and saw two parked cars and that was it. My team quickly came out and we gathered under Bur’s tailgate to get a little cover from the rain. As I was getting in some meager calories I realized I was getting cold fast. I got in the car, turned on the heat and soon was having flashbacks to Hellgate ‘19 where I got to Bearwallow Gap and was fighting hypothermia. There are some significant difference’s though. At Hellgate, I had a “meager” 22ish miles left, the conditions were clearing and there was still some competition to fight. At the Revenge, I wasn’t even halfway, the conditions were to remain basically the same for the duration and the only “competition” left was to keep myself moving. I soon decided it just wasn’t worth it. To get to Gap Creek where Sarah Smith was so kindly waiting with hot food was going to take several more hours in the rain and I just didn’t want to do it. Plain and simple. I’ve only DNF’d due to injury and this was the first time it was purely mental. But, it was also incredibly easy to do.
Do I regret it? No. Cold rain is my kryptonite. I went out for my first run yesterday and there was a brief shower in the low 50s and I was reminded how miserable that is. I would like to return to the Revenge and tackle this beast. I like the course. I love the spirit of it and the excitement shown by the volunteers for just a few of us. Bur had put a lot of effort into this idea of his and I applaud him for it. Next year, however, I’ll try not to race 170+ miles in Massanutten before I get to the Revenge. :)
That’s all I got, hope it’s not too much for a 50 mile DNF!
Last updated October 6, 2022