Running should feel natural

Running should feel natural

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On-the-go Hydration Options

Hydrating while running becomes a major concern when you get into Ultra Running and even just trail running at shorter distances.  You obviously need to drink more and drink more often when running for such long stretches, but even on shorter trail runs I feel the need to carry water - can't quite explain why actually.  While I can run around 2 hours on pavement without drinking anything, anything over an hour on the trail and I feel like I'm dying of thirst.

As I transitioned from road to trail running this was a major area to explore.  Here are the major hydration options from what I  have seen offered by the running and adventure hydration industry: 
  • Waist belt
    • with multiple small bottles distributed around your waist
    • with a single larger bottle held in the back
  • Hand bottle
    • in varying sizes, most have a hand grip to make carrying it easier
  • Hydration pack/vest
    • with bottles attached
    • with a bladder system
I had used a Nathan hydration belt on the roads with varying success; it held just enough fluids to get you through an hour of road running and the pocket was enough to carry along some nutrition essentials.  It even kind of encouraged steadier running form, as the more you jump up and down the more the belt bounces with you.  However, this didn't work too well on the trails - bounced around a lot and the bottles would even fall out.  Of course there is no perfect option; they all have strengths and weaknesses.  Below are my reviews of the 3 options I currently use:

Nathan HPL #020 Hydration Vest

As my interest in and enjoyment of ultra and trail running grew, I know I would need a better solution than just a hand bottle to stay hydrated over long periods of time.  I had been skeptical about wearing a camelbak style hydration pack with fears of stuff sloshing around and chafing all over my upper body.  After a lot of research I felt confident about the The Nathan HPL #020 Hydration Vest.  This seemed like the standard in ultra and trail running hydration packs.  Big enough to keep you going for a few hours, small enough not to bug you.

Though it looks kind of like a backpack, it really is more of a vest.  The idea is to balance the weight and give you quick access to a few items up front too.  The backside has a large compartment with the hydration bladder that can also be used to store other items, and a smaller zippered pocket for stuff like keys, maps, or your phone (in a waterproof bag if you're smart).  The elastic cord in the back is more for clothing, an easy place to roll up and store an extra layer, gloves, and/or a hat.  The front of the vest has pockets on both sides, good for storing Gu's and anything you'll need quick, easy, access to.  The sternum strap has a clamp to hold the hose in place while you are running so it doesn't bounce around.

Everything worked great for me from the first try.  Even with over a liter of water in the bladder it didn't feel like it was sloshing around.  This was enough water to last me about 3 hours before a refill, though it fits up to 2 liters so that should last you well longer than that.  After fitting it up before heading out I only had to make minimal adjustments to it on the trail.  I noticed the newer models come in different colors if you want to stand out.  Nathan offers smaller and larger versions of this vest but I feel like this size is just right.  Buy it here.

This is my favorite all-around hydration option for long distance trail running.  For extra long durations (5+ hours), I have been able to fit cliff bars, gels and even a [full] collapsible water bottle in addition to the bladder in the large compartment, a long sleeve shirt, gloves and a hat, a cell phone, and other essentials.  Only downside is that it is a little big if you only need a few essential items.

Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest

The Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest is a lighter and more minimalist option when it comes to hydration packs.  Designed to feel like a layer of clothing rather than a backpack, this is a better option for races and ultras where you don't have to carry too much gear.  There are some handy pockets and pouches along the shoulder straps to keep important items within reach.

Although this doesn't come with a hydration bladder, it pairs well with the Camelbak 1.5 Liter "Antidote" reservoir.  You can stuff a larger bladder (2L+) into it, but its a smaller vest and is more accommodating to a smaller size bladder.  It can be fitted well to the wearer with 2 front straps, though I wondered if 1 would have been enough.

I liked this but I just didn't love it.  This isn't the best option for long-duration, unsupported runs, and it was slightly annoying that there isn't a great spot to stow the tube from the bladder - probably since it doesn't come with a hydration bladder.  Better for races and training runs where you have refill spots every 3-4 hours.

Just like my other hydration vest, once it gets dirty enough I just toss it in the washing machine on a gentle/ synthetic cycle and air dry it (even though the manufacturer specifies hand washing).

Camelbak Quick-Grip 21 with Podium Chill Insulated Bottle

I heard good things about this bottle by word of moth, and the "Jet Valve" intriged me.  The bottle itself can be bought separate from the hand grip if desired, but I needed both.  The bottle is insulated, meaning that it keeps cold drinks cold and warm drinks warm (at least for a while).  More importantly, it means that your hand doesn't start freezing on one side if you have a cold drink in the bottle while carrying it.  The "jet valve" works fantastic while running.  You can turn a switch to completely lock it, or set it so that you can get a drink by simply squeezing the bottle at your mouth, no need to bite the mouthpiece or switch a slider every time you need a drink.  With a 21 ounce capacity this should be sufficient to sustain a trail runner for at least an hour of activity, or about 7 miles of trail running.  Watch out for hot summer races though if the aid stations are spaced out any more than that though.

The hand grip is simple: stuff the bottle in, slide your hand through the elastic loop and off you go.  There is a strap you can tighten if you need more stability.  There is a small pocket to pack a few essentials.  My trail running essentials?  Usually a couple drink tablets, a Gu, a card with my name and emergency contact information (just in case), and a 5 dollar bill - oh, and some toilet paper.
The hand grip comes in a variety of colors.

Logistically, the hand bottle is great for races.  Pop the top off before you get to the aid station, filler-up, and get out of there.  I can be in and out of an aid station in less than 30 seconds.  While using a hydration pack and often fiddling with the reservoir I've wasted close to 2 minutes before.  However, the severe downside of the hand bottle is that they only hold 1/3 the fluids as a vest (and almost no nutrition) and this can be of dire need when racing in heat, and with courses light on aid.  My wrist would get a little sore at times using this too, but that was a minor drawback.  I used this with great success in a 50 miler, partly since it was cool out and there were aid stations every 4-5 miles.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fitter Running & Faster Cycling Upgrades

Wow, its been a while since I wrote a post. Why? Busy, just kept putting it off, nothing major (in terms of races) to report.

Whats happening lately

Its been a couple of months since I finished Boston (see finish pic below) in humbling fashion, and then went on to crush the extremely hilly Promise Land 50k. Oh yea, and then I paced a friend for 25 night time miles at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, maybe 3 of which we were actually running?  Since then I tried to give myself a bit of a break, following by a few more weeks of easy, low mileage running.

Finishing Boston 2014.  It was a warm day, but I'm still baffled at why this felt so hard.  I thought pacing a
friend for a 3:30 marathon would be a piece of cake, but I ended up cramping at the end.

The "taking it easy" phase (which by the way drives me nuts) has passed, summer has been heating up, and with it so has my Ultra Training.  Things have been both successful and frustrating at the same time.

The good?  Some crazy long runs and speed hikes in the mountains, getting back on the bike for multiple hours a week, and generally long-duration runs mid-week to keep my weekly mileage high.  Ultra training runs that last 6 or 7 hours.  10 mile tempos where I average sub-7 minute miles.  I feel really fit.  Like, ready to go destroy an Ultra-fit.  I've almost forgot what its like to do a long run shorter than 18 miles.  Only doing 13 feels like slacker-mode!

The bad?  Fatigue and borderline injury.  Lately I have just been feeling exhausted everyday I get home, and getting out the door for an evening run is a tall task.  Once I get going though I usually manage to wake up.  I haven't been going hungry and I always get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.  Then there is the injury thing.  Its probably been months since I have felt healthy, as in 100%-perfect/ ready-2-race/ can't wait for race reason healthy.  Now, I realize devoted runners rarely feel this way, but it gets frustrating after a while.  Something has been feeling funky in my lower right leg on and off these last few weeks, and I'm finally going to be mature about it and rest until its feeling better.  Sounds like the classic early stages of *gasp* shin splints (my arch nemesis).

You take the rest time.  Then you get back to training, and your body freaks out since it isn't used to the high-mileage.  If you don't take the rest time off, something eventually breaks.  The frustrating part is that while I feel I have been getting a decent amount of miles in (prob ~ 50 MPW), its not enough that would really constitute over-training.  I suppose the obvious solution is to just take a big break (talking multiple months), and then a few more months of low-mileage running ( 20-30 miles per week).  Yea - like thats really going to happen!

Headed home along the W&OD

Enter: Cycling

As I've mentioned before, I never in a million years thought I could get into cycling, but since getting on the bike I have discovered its both ridiculously fun and that I'm pretty damn good at it.  I usually try to get out for a big ride Sunday morning, or if I decide to sleep in I'll do some solo work in the evening.  I have some cycling groups I can go to on Saturdays with Tri-360, or Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Fresh-Bikes if I have the urge.  I have even been cycling to and from work some - got my ride down to 35 minutes!  Somehow, only a little longer than it takes to drive.

 While I love my bike (a late 90's Klein Quantum, Aluminum body with a carbon fork), it has badly needed some upgrades.  I finally got around to replacing the pedals and my biking shoes.  The old shoes were just cheapies, outfitted for the pedals which were mixed use mountain biking pedals.

I put on new Shimano Ultegra SPD-SL 6800 carbon pedals and picked up some top-of-the-line Louis Garneau shoes.  Also replaced my warn tires with some Nashbar Duro-pro's.  These are actually a little heavier duty to combat the choppy roads found around so much of Arlington and DC.  Next session will be installing a new SRAM chain, but that isn't urgent.

As I had hoped, the pedals and shoes made a huge difference.  I now have about 3 times the surface area of contact with the bike which makes for more efficient and more comfortable pedal strokes.  The shoes are lighter and more ventilated, with a ratcheting top strap for molding it to your foot (tight - but not too tight).

Ultegra pedals - Louis Garneau Shoes - and close up of the clamp on pedal cleat. 

So I am going to have to stay sane with my cycling and gym workouts at least in the meantime, while working the running back in when possible.  A sample non-running schedule, hard as it is to swallow, might go something like:
  • Monday: Cross train at the gym with weights, elliptical, and walking uphill on a treadmill.
  • Tuesday: 2 hour high intensity bike ride
  • Wednesday: 1.5 hour high intensity bike ride
  • Thursday: Easy ride and/or swim
  • Friday: REST (always a rest day)
  • Saturday: Long, tough ride with hills, 45-50 miles
  • Sunday: Long steady bike ride in morning (60+ miles), or 40ish miles in evening
I really want to arrive healthy at my fall ultras, I just want to be as fit as possible too!

Beautiful mountain scenery near Lynchburg in central VA! This is the general area of my fall Ultra races.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Aid Station and Pacing at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Finally, a preview of what its like to run a rugged and mountainous 100 miler.

I had signed up on the Massanutten Mountain Trails Pacers page, offering to pace a runner at the later stages of the race.  Nick Combs contacted me about a week before the race and I was glad to help.  I had also volunteered to work an aid station.  I knew this would be a tall task, to do both, since the time at the aid station would be tiring but I felt it was worth it while I was out there.  This would also serve as good training for my own Ultra endeavors, to practice: running at night, running while tired, and running while hungry.

Shawl Gap Aid Station, at mile 38, just as the runners were starting to stream in.

My day began in northern VA with a hearty, carb filled breakfast to keep me fueled through the day.  Then a drive out to Fort Valley VA to find my aid station around 10:30am.  I was working at Shawl Gap, "only" 38 miles in for the runners.  We had a good system, everyone took on a role - mine was filling up bottles or bladders with water and grabbing tissues for runny noses.  Working an aid station or even just chearing at a race takes plenty of energy, arguably as much as running!  I hung out here until 3ish, then headed to the MMT100 end camp to park and set my tent up.

As a little side rant: it bothers me to see runners so involved with the sport (be it racing road races or enduring all night ultras) who never seem to "give back".  Yes, it is fun to feel unbreakable, spending every weekend either racing or on some insane training run; but its a grass roots sport, and these races and aid stations are put on almost exclusively by volunteers. So next time you think you are just too busy, consider sitting a race out and helping instead.  Im pretty sure the organizers of these 100 milers realized this affect long ago and thus started requiring volunteer work usually in the form of working an aid station, trail work, or other voluntary involvement in the running community.  I realize there may be some guilty members reading this, so consider yourself warned!  ;)

Nick and I at Shawl Gap.

After hitching a ride from a passer by I arrived at the Roosevelt aid station to wait for my runner.  He gave me a 3 hour range so I was mentally prepared to be there awhile.  Fortunetely i recognized a few other pacers to chat with.  As the evening wore on I found myself getting hungrier and thirstier so I tried to keep eating and drinking.  The temperature was falling too; glad I brought an extra layer!
I knew it would be tough running while tired and hungry, but this would also serve as great training for those very reasons.  My runner finally came through around 8:30pm, took a quick break, and we were off! 
Patiently waiting...

It got dark enough for headlamps soon so we switched ours on and continued off into the Massanutten night.  What followed was 23ish miles of mud, rocks, hill climbs and ruts, with the occasional aid station that resembled an oasis in a desert of dark forest.  We crosssed several streams, some moving quite swiftly.  The weather for the event was perfect with a daytime high of around 75 and a chilly (but not too cold)  nighttime low around 45.  There had been several days if heavy rain in the preceding week which led to much of the mud and swollen streams.

There was very little actual running involved. 

Middle of the night aid stations are a blast! Like an
oasis in a desert of dark forest.

There was at least plenty of conversation along the way to keep both of us occupied.  The first light from dawn came around 4:30am and by 5:30 the headlamps were off. We rolled into an aid station at mile 88 and I handed Nick off to his girlfriend for the final stretch.  Glad I did - I don't think they finished until close to noon!

I drove their car back to the finish camp, crawled into my tent and immediately passed out, waking several hours later.

3 dudes, with headlamps on, stomping around in the mountains at 3am!

Pacing a runner, especially during a night run, is not something to be taken lightly.  More than just fitness and ultra running familiarity, it requires mental patience, planning, and a constant "can do" attitude.  This was a great experience for me - working the aid station let me help out and give back to the running community;  I made some new friends and reconnected with some old training buddies; the pacing was great practice, and in the end I got to see what a real, mountain 100 miler is all about. This was the first time I ran (er, speed hiked) through an entire night.

I cant wait to really get training for Grindstone this summer.  As important as weekly mileage is to me, ill be focused on my key training runs, staying healthy, getting some elevation in (even involving lots of speed hiking), and lots of time on the bike anytime things start feeling sore.  As long as I can manage to stay not injured, im ready to embrace the 100 mile distance.

Once morning broke I got to witness an incredible sunrise over the mountains.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Promise Land 50k, Picture Heavy Race Recap

Location: Bedford, VA
Finish Time: 6:40:31
Date: April 26, 2014

Race # 3 in the Beast Series.  My goal was just to knock this one out.  Only 4 days after running Boston I wasn't sure how my legs would feel and I just wanted to remain injury free.  Fortunately everything was feeling solid and I was able to tackle the extreme climbing and inevitable downhill running.  Since I was using my Mountain Hardware ultra-running vest I carried a cheapie camera of mine along for the ride.  We got to camp out at race HQ which was perfect for such an early start time.  Too bad it was so windy that night -most people struggled to get 3 hours of sleep!

The start of the Promise Land 50k, promptly at 5:30am!  This was perfect really, we were only running in complete darkness for half an hour, and it allowed us to finish early in the day.  I couldn't believe the crowd of easily over 400 runners!

After we started up the gravel road outside the Promise Land youth camp a quick look back revealed all the headlamps runners used to light their way.  Looks kind of like 1-eyed aliens!

After our first significant climb things evened out just in time for the sun to come up.  It was light out but the sun still hadn't peaked above the ridge line just yet.

Here comes the sun!  Then once we crossed over the Blue Ridge Parkway we headed back down the other side of Apple Orchard Mountain.

At the bottom we ran on about a mile of pavement - I like single track trails better!

Now back in the woods we continued the run through great sun-soaked scenery.

Yes, I even had time for a "selfie"! I kind of hate myself for saying that...

This course rocks! No, literally, there were tons of rocks as is the norm in the weathered mountains of the blue ridge.  At least some rocks resembled steps!

Up, up, up we went, speed-hiking back up Apple Orchard Mountain.  About 2/3 of the way up was the spectacular Apple Orchard Falls.  It looks a lot bigger in person!

The next portion had a seemingly endless staircase to the next gravel road crossing.  Then it ended, with 0.9 miles of trail left to the aid station at the top!

Though the downhill was quite the relief for the last few miles, my quads were really feeling the pounding, especially only 4 days removed from running Boston.  The camp was probably the coolest spot I've camped out for a race yet.  Right in the shadow of the mountain!

The elevation profile is daunting, over 7,000 ft of gain/loss. I know there are comparisons to the measly elevation of the Boston Marathon, however, you have to remember that you are supposed to be running the whole time (and rather fast I might add) at Boston.  Actual distance of the race was closer to 34 miles.  Another awesome Horton race, filled with infamously long "Horton Miles".

We had a great post-race cookout before the long drive back to Northern Virginia.  Extra extra thanks goes out to all the enthusiastic volunteers who not only refueled my supplies but also boosted my morale!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My 15 Seconds of Fame for Boston

Somehow I have managed to wiggle my way into the public eye lately.

I was put in touch with the ABC7 News (WJLA in Washington) for a piece about local runners who ran Boston in 2013 and are returning this year.

They interviewed another woman and I, both separately, and I thought the piece turned out really nice.  I also experienced one of the craziest coincidences of my life:  the other runner, Lesley, who I have never met and seemingly had no connection to whatsoever - was actually in one of my pictures with me!  The pic of me at the finish the day before the marathon, she is in the background.  This out of all the pictures I took that weekend, with all the crowds of people around, and the 1 shot they decided to air on TV.  Weird!

Even earlier than that I was put in touch with Active Life DC, an online magazine about all things fitness in the DC area.  After some short Q&A they worked me into a great article by Erin Masterson (a fellow Boston Marathoner) titled "We All Run Boston Strong", about runners returning to the Boston Marathon a year after the 2013 race was cut tragically short:

Erik Price also had an unforgettable experience running Boston in 2013. He had finished the race in 3:18:20 and was traveling back to his hotel on the T at the time of the explosions.
“When we got off the T, word was spreading fast and no one knew what to believe,” he said. “I’m not a very emotional person but this was one time where I just felt paralyzed and could only just crouch down and be thankful that we made it out.”
Said Price, “There is a duality of emotions that all runners have been going through that will shine through on race day. On one hand, this is a celebration of what we love, and no one will stop us from doing it!” Price thinks this celebration will only get louder and more patriotic than last year.
But, he acknowledged, “On the other hand, last year's race ended tragically and at the cost of three lives and dozens of injuries, so people will need to be mindful and respectful.”
Price plans to wear his Boston gear with pride all marathon weekend.

GW Parkway 10 Miler

A week out from Boston I ran one of my favorite springtime races in the area, the GW Parkway 10 Miler.  Its dangerous racing a week out from a Marathon, but I kept a cool head in the otherwise warm and sunny spring weather, running a little faster than planned marathon pace with the last 2 miles a bit faster to get a solid workout in.  This was actually also a great chance to practice grabbing cups of water from volunteers while running at full pace and subsequently drinking on the run.  Funny how a skill so minute yet so important is rarely practiced!
Expertly grabbing a cub of water while running GW Parkway!
Completely by chance, I met up with the same reporter from Active Life DC that I had emailed with and gave a few more thoughts in their recap of the GW Parkway 10 Miler:

Arlington’s Erik Price used the 10 mile as a final tuneup before the following Monday’s Boston Marathon. He planned to use the race as a tempo run and followed his own plan until the last mile, where he sped up for a final kick to the finish.
“It can be dangerous  – it’s so easy to go out hard in a race, get caught up in the excitement,” he said. “You have to be on your best behavior and use it as a tempo run.”
Price plans to take it a little easy next week in Boston, and pace with a friend. He is looking towards an ultramarathon the week after.
I have to admit, it is fun to see your thoughts printed (or at least digitized) into widely distributed media.   However, this doesn't make you a better runner, and it can make you more cocky - which I try to avoid!  Always stay humble and you'll never have anything to be ashamed of.

In case you are keeping track, yes I have already run Boston and plan to provide a more detailed recap of the race weekend shortly!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Terrapin Mountain 50k Race Recap

Race: Terrapin Mountain 50k
Location: Sedalia, Virginia
Date: March 22, 2014
Gain/Loss: 7000 ft
Time: 6:00:22

Standard pre-race briefing from Clark Zealand (Race Director)
The Terrapin Mountain 50k, the 2nd race in the Beast series.  It wasn't too complicated: get started on a flat road, after about 2 miles, start going up, and up, and up!  Refuel, and go down, down down... A lot of this was on gravel or jeep roads so it wasn't technically challenging and you could actually run downhill, but the uphill parts required walking for the most part.

The climax occurred about 20 miles in, when we summited the rocky Terrapin Mountain lookout, then quickly made our way down to squeeze through "Fat Man's Misery".  Here runners need to drop down between 2 giant boulders with only about 2 feet of space between them.  FUN!
Runners punch their bibs at the Terrapin Mountain overlook.
Just check out the below topo-map for the course, that provides most the details!

The real tale of the tape here is the elevation changes, with lots of sustained climbs, relatively short flat spots, and long downhills.  The toughest part was actually the extreme downhill between miles 22 and 25 where we descend Terrapin Mountain.  After this though things got more manageable. We hit the last aid station, turned around and headed back to the finish.  This was at least on terrain runable in some sections, and as the trail leveled out I did less and less walking.  Some creek crossings provided a refreshing change of pace!

The, approaching the final creek crossing I fell!  You never expect it, but somehow you stop paying attention just enough to catch an edge - as I felt myself begin to tumble I consciously rolled onto my right side before falling, managing to do an almost graceful barrel roll.  Horton was on the other side of the creek and saw the whole thing play out - he seemed to congratulate me on it.  "This is how we roll!"

Once I finally broke out of the forest onto the last section of gravel road I was able to pick up the pace to around 7 minute miles, and pound out the last mile on pavement in close to 6 minute pace.  I passed 2 more people in the final mile and my real goal was to break 6 hours.  It didn't happen, as I came in at 22 seconds beyond the 6 hour mark, still very happy with my time though! ON-ward and UP-ward with the BEAST!

After conquering the mountains off in the distance!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Slipping and Sliding over the Shenandoah Mountains

Slow, Steep Miles up to Skyline Drive and over Old Rag

Last Saturday my buddy and I headed out to the Old Rag area of Skyline Drive, one of the best hiking spots near the DC area.  Though its only an hour away it feels like a whole different world out there.  I haven't been feeling great lately.  My energy levels seem normal, but its been tough to be motivated with winter dragging on for so long.  The main issue is with my left knee - something just feels funky in it and I really don't want to push through the pain.  Most of my recent weeks have not seen a lot of miles running, in favor of swimming, spinning, yoga classes, and even speed walking up a steeply inclined treadmill (this is actually a legitimate training strategy for mountain trail running).  I had also been feeling just really "dead-legged" in both lower legs but that seems to have subsided with some rest and generally taking it easy.

As an aside, Old Rag is an absolute "must-hike" for any nature or fitness lover in the DC/VA area; I have been hiking around Old Rag since I was a kid and its still so fun scrambling around on the rocks there!  Its 8.8 miles round-trip so plan a whole day around it.  I recommend hiking up the "Ridge Trail", which starts off unassumingly but about 2/3 of the way up has you scrambling around boulders, squeezing through crevasses, and climbing up rock walls! Make sure to stop and take in the gorgeous views.  Pack some snacks, a lunch for the summit, and plenty of water to drink.  While it may feel warm at the bottom, the top can get cold and windy in a hurry so be sure to bring a hat, gloves, and extra layers of clothing.

"Shouldn't we be over there?"
We started off on a fire road, but even that was too steep to run in some sections, then veered onto the trail to Robertson Mountain.  Trail running quickly turned into speed hiking uphill through snow, though for every 2 steps we took it felt like we were sliding back 1.  Once we were close to the summit there was about 6 inches of snow in the shaded areas of the mountain.  While I was dripping sweat on the way up, after things leveled out I put on my extra layers to stay warm.  The views from here were spectacular and reminded me of the barren, treeless peaks of the Rockies.  We soon scrambled back down the other side of the mountain, and while still snowy at least we were able to run down.

Panoramic view off Mt. Robertson.
Back on the Old Rag fire road we headed up to Skyline Drive, turned around and ran back down.  This brought us to a cross-roads: head back to the car to refuel, or attempt Old Rag?  We both still had some water in our packs so we opted for the latter.

My friend Andrew, descending back into the snow.
Hiking up the backside of Old Rag was slow going but steady.  At this point my feet were already wet and cold so I didn't mind walking through the melting snow.  After a quick visit to the summit we headed back down the infamous Ridge Trail.  This is tough enough to climb up when dry, but descending it while dealing with snow and ice provided a new (albeit dangerous) challenge.  There were a few scary moments, like having to lower yourself off of a boulder, with nothing to hold onto, and oh yea - you are landing on ice so you better keep your balance!

Down we went, until the snow dried up and the terrain turned into runable switchbacks.  Closer to the bottom I couldn't believe some of the people starting out were only wear a t-shirt and shorts, but its deceptively cooler down there.

From the summit of Old Rag.

All in all a super fun day.  18 miles in just under 5 hours, and I set a new record for my slowest mile ever: 41 minutes!  Very happy to get in all the climbing and elevation in preparation for Terrapin Mountain!