Old Rag: A rite of passage

**Disclaimer, Patient 0 has done this hike at least once a month for the last several years and I am Mountain Pony.  Your experience will vary.**

IMG_0380If you ask any mid-Atlantic resident they will tell you that if you can only do one hike in Shenandoah National Park it should be Old Rag Mountain. It’s not the highest point in the park (that would be Hawksbill) nor is it the longest trail in the park (that would be the Appalachian Trail), but it is the most iconic.  Many moons ago Paul tried to get me to do Old Rag as it was his absolute favorite hike, but he scared me off with tails of the boulder field (details to come).  It has only taken me nearly 20 years since then to actually go do Old Rag.

Some important items to note:

  1. DO NOT attempt to climb Old Rag on a weekend.  It’s packed and you won’t enjoy it nearly as much.
  2. If you do not listen to #1 pack lots of patiences and GO EARLY.
  3. If you do not listen to #1 and #2; good luck.
  4. The boulder scramble is no joke.  Do not attempt if you are out of shape (no round is not a shape) or if you have any vertigo issues.  If you still want to get to the top take the fire road and avoid the boulder scramble.
  5. PACK WATER (and food).

Ok, now that we got the basics out of the way.  Patient 0 and I went on a random Thursday and started up the trail at 0800.   (See rule #1 and #2.)  Oh my God it was HUMID like horribly rotten humid.  Meh, we pushed forward.  Drinking tons of water with electrolytes along the way.  (My personal favorite is Tailwind, but your tastes may vary.  Definitely pack something with electrolytes in it though you’ll need them!)

IMG_0389The first 3 miles of the trail are typical hiking.  It’s beautiful and the smell of the mountain changes the further up you go.  It took us 1:06 to do the first 3 miles.  Then came the boulder scramble.  The last mile took us over an hour to do.  Yes, an hour to do a mile.  There are lots of spots that were a tight squeeze.  Definitely had to pull out some of my rock climbing skills.  Patient 0 was telling me how much the trail had changed after the earthquake.  EEP! The thought of being up there during an earthquake.  Some of those rocks are handing on by a thread.

We got to the top in a record 2:05! The wind was blowing something fierce.  While it felt good at first after a while my wet clothes started to get cold.  I can only imagine what it’s like up there in the middle of winter.  BRR! We had a snack, enjoyed the view, and then made our decision on how to go back down the mountain.

There are two ways to go up/down Old Rag.  Either the boulder scramble way (which is how we went up) or the Saddle Trail (fire road).  Given the fact that #ECSUT is a month away and there is a great deal of descent on that trail we decided that we would run down the mountain on the Saddle Trail.  We hike the first mile down as it is granite steps and neither of us has a death wish.  Once we hit the shelter (1.25 miles down from the summit) the trail became much more runnable.

IMG_0399The fire road is actually quite beautiful. For those not brave enough (or in shape enough) to do the boulder scramble it is still a beautiful hike.  We almost had the entire mountain to ourselves only running into a couple of folks who were on their way to the top.  We allowed gravity to do the major of the work allowing our legs to turn over.  It was a welcomed respite from the up we did earlier in the morning.

We stopped for a minute or two at the creek at the base of the mountain dunking our hats and washing off our faces in the cool water.  It felt absolutely decadent.  As we made our final push to the car up the road came approximately 50 high schoolers (apparently the Bishop Iriton soccer team) heading up the mountain.  Oh so glad we went early, plus the heat was getting ridiculous.   Total time down the mountain (even with a potty stop, picture stop, and water stop) 1:25 minutes.

We then headed to Griffith Tavern a few miles up the road for a well deserved burger and GLUTEN FREE pie!!!  After 9 miles and 1700 calories burned, you bet that I ordered pie!

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Charlotte Grace: Trail Dog in Training

There has been a new addition to the family.  I’d like you to meet Charlotte Grace.  She’s a 6(ish) month old mutt from Afghanistan.  I say ‘ishIMG_0237‘ because her birth date is a bit of a debate because, well, Afghanistan.  She arrived on a flight from Kabul by way of Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam.  The folks from Puppy Rescue Mission had told me; “Oh she’ll be groggy when she gets here,” and “She’s going to be super sleepy the first few days.” Not my girl.  We opened up the crate and out she popped like a jack-in-the-box.  Her personality was larger than life.

The first day she was here was very low key mainly because I had school.  She unlocked her couch surfing badge and is slowly learning how to use the dog door.  She’s only a puppy so she is going to need some reminding and constant supervision.

Today, her second day, I wanted to start acclimatizing her to her future roll: trail IMG_0266dog.  We drove to a local park that I knew was right on the Potomac River so that Perry could get his swim on pre and post walk as well given that we’ve hit an Africa level of hot and humid here.  She did amazingly well.  When Perry plunged right into the river she charged in, right up to her belly.  Hey, I was pleased as punch considering she’s probably never even seen water.  Then we went out on the trail for a bit of a walk. Considering Perry had been sick and she is just a puppy we did about a mile and a half.  She took to it like a duck to water.  I’m not going to start her running until the vet gives us the all clear.  Once that happens, though, it’s game on!

Acupuncture vs the angry NY cabbie

***Long and wordy, sorry***

Eight weeks ago my entire back seized up. I have been living in various levels of pain since then.  I’ve seen Doc.  I’ve seen the magical Rowena who does myofascial release therapy.  I’ve even had a cortisone shot.  Every day was a new adventure in pain. I had to get creative to put my underpants on.   CrossFit?  Oh that was an adventure!  The last WOD I went to was box jumps and on a scale of 1-10 the pain was somewhere near a 9.  This is coming from the girl who had 37 stitches in her eye 4 with no numbing agent because it wore off before they were done.  The only time I haven’t been in pain?  When I am running. Sigh.

I saw Doc yesterday and as he was checking out my spine I asked him what I could do about pain.  He said that maybe an acupuncturist might help.  Basically, the ligaments in my spine down near my tailbone are all stretched out and they need to heal.  Doc said, “Until they heal and your nerves stop reacting and being angry and inflamed you are going to be in pain.”  Super just super.

Conveniently, a friend of mine has just sent me a text with a contact.  “Go see him.” That was all she said.  The he in question is an acupuncturist.  Specifically he is a guy who specializes in sports medicine! I’ve heard from multiple people regarding the magic of acupuncture.  At this point I was willing to try just about anything.  When I called him up and explained that I was a trail runner he said, “Ah! You are one of those long haul girls.”  Not yet, but trying, if I can get the pain under control…..

So, last night at 1800 I found myself explaining the last 8 weeks: what has been done, where I am pain wise, etc.  He explained to me how acupuncture works and how some of the pins may hurt more than others when we find a hot spot.  As I lay face down on the table and he started figuring out where he was going to put his pins in the words, “Girl you are extremely inflamed and have some very very angry spots.”  Suddenly the vision of an angry New York cabbie dropping the f-bomb every other word popped into my head.  I chuckled a bit.  Yeah, angry that would be a good word for it.  More like livid.

As promised some of the needles he put into me I didn’t feel.  Then there were some spots that I could definitely feel.  He wanted me to mention those to him.  “Uh-huh, that’s because you are a hot mess, girl.  We need to get this fixed ASAP.  Especially with your race coming up in September.”

I flipped over and he started working on my abs.  “Jesus, you are a train wreck.  No wonder why your hips are moving all around.  Your abs are a hot mess.”  Sigh.  Well that would explain why when I am doing certain movements and people say engage my abs I don’t feel what they are talking about.  What he doesn’t realizes is that I’ve been working with Rowena on the very same issue and that they were WORSE before.

“Do you feel that?”

“Yes….”

“It’s not supposed to feel like that. Don’t you know that?”

“Look, I’ve lost 60 pounds in the last year.  I only knew what my collarbones looked like starting in July of last year, there are LOTS of things I have no idea how they are supposed to look or feel like because I’ve never seen them before.”

He laughed so hard I think he snorted.  Hey, it’s the truth.

For the next month on the off-limits list; yoga, swimming, CrossFit, pilates, elliptical machines with the arms.  The only thing I AM allowed to do?  Hiking, walking, and short distance running.  Sigh.  At least I didn’t loose that.  Then I think I really would really go nuts.

When I called Trident and told them what is going on they said, “You know, I’m proud of you for getting to the bottom of it. It is so easy to push through the pain masking it with Motrin or other pain relievers.  Short term hiatus for long term gains.”  Sigh.  I know, I know…but, but, but, but……She chuckled, “I know, for you NOT doing things is harder than doing things.”  Oh if she only new that my inner sloth was sticking his tongue out and saying, “See I told you that working out was hazardous to your health.”

0000-Lit-Big-Girl-PantiesSigh.  Sometimes you have to put your big girl panties on and deal with it.  At least as of this morning I can put them on like a normal human!  Progress!  The things we do to be able to run 50k, do CrossFit or yoga or anything else.