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

Keith Knipling

Thoughts from John

by John Hord

Our hero making his way to Moreland Gap

Just to set the record straight. I consider the Ring and Reverse Ring events to be the most VHTRC of all the VHTRC events. Just a fat-ass circuit run of the entire unrelenting, rocky, 71 mile, orange-blazed Massanutten Mountain Trail (#408) loop… clockwise in the fall and counterclockwise in the winter. These blessed events have been hosted by Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard (and a host of the finest volunteers around) for ~15 years and they’re definitely my favorite of all the Happy Trails runs.

According to RD Bur, Self-evident truth #1 states that you show up at the start with the training you have… not the training you wish you had.

Crew chief Charlene Howard, ready at the edge of the weekend’s race

This was especially true for me during the 2023 Reverse Ring. I knew going in that I was not in “mid-summer shape” … or even my normal “mid-winter shape” if I am being honest.

I lumbered into the start of this year’s Reverse Ring about 20lbs over my fighting weight and not a ton of training miles since my DNF at Massanutten’s Revenge last fall and it was tough right off the bat. Everyone in the field had passed me by the top of the first climb out of the Signal Knob trailhead parking lot and I didn’t see any of the other runners again on the course.

I’d heard that Carl Bligan made it to Woodstock Tower in 2hrs and 21minutes… an astounding opening salvo! I was saddened to learn that he later dropped due to a possible stress fracture.

My plan was to take the Leonard Martin approach and move with adequate purpose to make the cutoffs and have 13hrs to make it from Camp Roo to the finish. That would have been a good plan with somewhat better preparation.

A dawn selfie during the climb up Signal Knob

Running stomping entirely alone, the descent from the Signal Knob overlook down to Powell’s was predictably wet/sloppy, but perfectly runnable. I thought I might accidentally catch up with somebody, but such was not the case. Climbing up to the ridge and scampering across the ridge to Woodstock tower was a bit slower than usual. But not terribly so. Everything felt relatively okay other than being a bit slower than last year. It was a treat to make my way into Woodstock and see some friendly faces and have some hot soup. Apparently Bur had been listening to the CD I gave him because he was chatting all about it. Then off I went on that all-too-familiar stretch from Woodstock to Edinburg… moving well, just not terribly fast.

I was mostly fine through Edinburg… though I did feel kinda rough when I arrived… ate what I could and accepted one of Q’s Artisanal chicken salad wraps (with just a hint of lime, apparently) to take with me before embarking on the next section. Then I started that climb up to the ridge on Short Mountain and my climbing speed changed from 22-ish minute miles to 30 … about halfway across, I stopped, sat down and dug into said Artisanal chickie wrap because my tank was empty and instead of arriving at Moreland Gap at 3:30pm, I got there at 4:30pm. and that was my day.

Team Zagnut!

It’s like that sometimes. I have to remember that I am not the same runner every day and endurance miracles simply do not happen.

Much thanks to Bur and Q, all the excellent volunteers, and Team Zagnut: Charlene Howard and Tracy Cooley for being out there and making a tough challenge enjoyable.

it’s probably time to make myself a bit less bushy

Last updated February 27, 2023