Sunrise from Signal Knob, taken in the early miles of the 2014 Reverse Ring.

Keith Knipling

No Can Do

by Luc Claessens

I typically don’t write a race report. Let me start by saying a huge THANK YOU to Bur and Q and everyone else who helped with the Reverse Ring! It is such a fun race. I am the crazy runner who refuses to eat your wonderful food offerings at the aid stations. I will say a few things about that at the end.

Luc Claessens taking in one of the views along the west ridge, this one on Kerns.

The title of my race report is “no can do”, in reference to my brain telling me that sleep is NOT overrated. I didn’t sleep much on Friday night before driving down from Delaware. When I got to the start, I noticed that one of my water bottles had a pinhole. Glad I caught that! Switched bottles, tied my shoes, ran to the start, just in time for the group picture, and off we went.

This was my 2nd time running the Reverse Ring. I am sort of familiar with the trail, learned from taking wrong turns. Last year I got so lost at Elizabeth Furnace, running around for 15 minutes trying to find the bridge, while being sooo cold. I don’t want to experience that again, so now I run with a GPS watch.

Flurries on the Orange Trail

Back to the race. The early morning light as we climbed up Signal Knob was beautiful, and for the first time I actually saw the lookout point. It got cloudy soon after and it stayed cloudy for the rest of the day with an occasional snow flurry. I liked hearing the sound of the frozen precipitation falling on the vegetation. Nice winter running weather!

The aid stations were my favorite destinations. Even though I can only safely take their water (b/c of a food allergy), the smiles and encouragement kept me going. I ran comfortably until around noon, and then my brain said “no can do”. My legs were not tired and I was well fueled, I just could not get them to run. It was bizarre. This went on for a couple of hours. I thought about quitting the race, because there was no way I could safely do the night portion. My brain just wasn’t working right, obviously from lack of sleep. Then I remembered that I had some caffeine pills. 10 minutes later I was back running again. Yeah!

I enjoyed the rest of the run on the western ridge, looking at the views. It was dark by the time I got to Camp Roosevelt, and then the dreaded long stretch on the eastern ridge started. Last year this was where I just could not stay warm. Things went much better this time around and when I arrived at Milford Gap I felt good. How I wish I could have devoured one of their pizzas!

After that was the last long stretch to the finish. It was very pretty at night, clear sky, stars. At some point I heard what sounded like coyotes nearby, which I did not like at all! When I got to Elizabeth Furnace I knew where to go this time, and soon after, I arrived at the finish, had some delicious vegan soup, and then slept in my car, exhausted.

This was my 2nd finish of the Reverse Ring, and I hope to run it again. Running in the Massanutten Mountains is very special to me, in an odd kind of way. In 2019 when I ran The Ring for the first time, I got bitten all over by seed ticks (lone star). At the time I did not know what they were. A month later I had an anaphylactic reaction after eating pork sausage and I tested positive for alpha-gal syndrome, a tick transmitted allergic reaction to mammalian food products (meat, dairy, etc.). In the past few years I have learned the hard way some of the underreported health problems it can produce, including inflammation of tendons, muscles and joints that we as runners so rely on. Also inflammation of the brain. Crazy stuff. Anyway, there is no cure for this yet, and prevention from tick bites is really important. The best way is to treat clothing with permethrin and to use an effective tick repellent.

Back to the Reverse Ring, thanks again everyone for this fun event!

Last updated March 1, 2023