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

Keith Knipling

The Pacer’s Perspective

by Heather Dougherty

I agreed to pace Barry Hauptman at the Reverse Ring. Although, Barry gave me a homework assignment! I had to watch a documentary and be ready for discussion.

I arrived at Camp Roosevelt at about 5:30 PM. Bruce Martin was in charge with his adorable nephew (we’ll keep the name out b/c he’s a minor and I don’t know how to spell Izzy). There was a nice group there who listened to me whine about having to be out all night in the cold. Jeff Best gave me useful advice on how to get fired from pacing including stepping on his heels, making him my mule, getting lost, etc.

The middle-of-the-packers arrived and I thought Barry was next. I was so excited to get moving, but my hopes were shattered: it was Luc (no offense, Luc, you’re great)! We wait and wait, and finally, there’s a headlamp and it’s Barry!

Pacer Heather in Camp Roosevelt, eager to get on that orange trail with runner Barry

Off we go up the orange trail! Barry is having trouble drinking water, dry heaving, so we just start off walking. We talk about our days and I’m told I have to wait for our documentary discussion.

We’re hiking uphill at about my mile 3 and I think we’re off course. Barry says, “there’s no other trail, we’re good.” We haven’t seen an orange blaze in awhile and the trail gets narrower and narrower. We decide to backtrack to find the last blaze. I’m nervous, I already felt like I was failing at my mission!

I turn back and I don’t see Barry’s headlamp anywhere. Whoops, now we’re both alone, so I start running (still backtracking, still away from him). I probably go about 10 minutes and see the obvious trail going uphill after a hairpin turn. Barry had warned me about not missing this turn. When I turned back to get Barry, I noticed an obvious pile of rocks that all but said, “The trail is definitely not this way, idiot. Turn left and go up Kennedy Peak.” I hustle back to Barry and I finally see his headlamp and I’m yelling, “Come back, this is NOT the orange trail.” He’s not moving any closer to me until we’re about 100 feet away and he finally hears me that we’re off course. He says, “Why am I standing here then?” I don’t know, man, but come back. I feel horrible, obviously, three miles in and already getting us lost.

Anyways, we finally have our documentary discussion and we’re still just walking. Just out for a nice long stroll at night on rocks. I’m getting hungry and tired, but I just want to wait to eat the best pizza in Fort Valley, which just so happens to be open one night a year and this is it! Sarah’s Café at the MILFord Gap Aid Station FTW! We finally arrived and I ate a whole pizza, sausage, and hashbrown! Barry is still having issues, so he eats about 1/8 of a pizza. I’m hungry just thinking about that. We sit for about 15 minutes, but I start to get too cold, so we’re out!

The closing stretch of trail, now hiking with a purpose in the daylight

I’m in front of Barry most of the night, which was good because I was maintaining the trail and trying to move branches. I swear it saved Barry and Marty Fox (who was the only person behind us still) at least two whole minutes.

His stomach was finally feeling better, so we picked up the pace to “walking with a purpose” for a couple hours. Finally, we’re about five miles from the finish and I see the first light of the morning! I am back! I start jibber-jabbering as my normal early bird self and we start having full-on conversations! With about two miles to go, we even start running a little! What is this motion I haven’t done in awhile?! I was worried about missing a turn coming down Elizabeth Furnace, but we had light, so that made it easy!

There’s a whole crew waiting for us at the finish and Barry enters the Signal Knob parking lot as the newest Master of The Ring! Welcome!

Sunday sun emerging

We change, eat, drink coffee, laugh with our friends at the finish, and wait for Marty. Marty finished and soon after, we all part ways and I am grateful I didn’t run the Reverse Ring this year. 25 miles was enough.

Thank you to the volunteers and especially Carl Bligan, who saved Barry and me an hour of driving because he drove my car from Camp Roosevelt to Signal Knob!

[Editor’s Note: the first version of this report was fairly brief. Essentially it was “Do you want to run now?” repeated 73 times, followed by “The End.” Fortunately, Heather was prevailed upon to revise and extend her initial remarks.]

Heather settling in to some tasty(?) Trader Joe treats at the Signal Knob Café

Last updated February 27, 2023