Old Rag hike (August 2019)

8/15/19: Last week we were on vacation in Castleton, Virginia, with Lexi’s family. It’s close to Shenandoah National Park. When we realized we were only a half hour drive from the trailhead of Old Rag, we took the opportunity to go and climb it.

It’s a 10 mile loop if you start and end at Nethers, with about 2,500ft of height gain. The summit is 3,291ft high and affords magnificent views of the Shenandoah and foothills. The final section along the top ridge is an interesting rock scramble, through crevices, up staircases, past caves, up gullies etc. and makes for quite a sporting ascent.

It’s a super popular hike for those reasons and because it’s close to Washington, D.C..

We left the boys with the grandparents and avoided the weekend crowd by going on a Monday.

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Lexi at one of the lookouts part way up the ascent.

 

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Yours truly at the same lookout.

 

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Can you see why they’re known as the Blue Ridge mountains?

 

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Marker post in Shenandoah NP

 

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Still on the way up despite appearances. The final ridge involves some entertaining scrambling!

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Scrambling up a gully on Ridge Trail

 

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Ridge Trail passes through a tunnel between giant old boulders

 

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Through one of the many narrow rock gaps.

 

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Nearly there!

 

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Obligatory foot shot on the summit of Old Rag.

 

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With Lexi on the summit of Old Rag. So lucky that we get to enjoy these kind of adventures together 🙂

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Summit panorama.

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Pretty much straight up and then straight back down!

 

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It’s a 10 mile loop starting from the parking lot in Nethers.

 

It’s a fantastic hike, and lives up to its marquee status. However, it was popular even on a weekday, so definitely one to avoid on summer weekends.

For more info on Old Rag, check out the: topo on All Trails

Back to Biking!

So the weekly summaries lasted about as long as my shins running up and down the nearby hills. Who am I kidding?

I don’t have the time or inclination to document weekly outdoor stuff, so I’ll just stick to the more interesting adventures. After all, I have Strava to track my every move…

The one silver lining of the running injury was that it got me out on my bike again. Probably far sooner than if I’d just focussed on running.

And it’s been a blast!

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Back out on the glorious C & O canal!

I’ve been riding 2 or 3 times a week, mostly along the C & O canal as my shins heal up, but more recently including the local roads which are hilly, to say the least!

I rode the entire C & O Canal with my brother in 2014 as part of our Northeastern tour around the US. It’s a terrific ride.

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185 miles of gravel goodness, from D.C. to Cumberland. So lucky to have this on my doorstep now!

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Default canal face 🙂

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After almost 15 years of loyal service, my old Specialized MTB shoes split at the sole. I’m loving the new Shimano XC5 shoes.

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Accessories for a 1 – 2 hour ride.

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Beautiful still morning on the Potomac River.

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Loving spending time on this bad boy again.

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Pretty much every ride involves a bit of hike-a-bike to get across the river and down the spiral staircase the other side. Small concession to make 😉

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Out along the canal with Lex

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Seems like my boys are enjoying adventure biking already 😉

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Out on my trusty 2012 Cannondale Synapse. So comfortable to ride.

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Recently had a week in Rappahanock County, Virginia. Fabulous roads for riding, with very little traffic!

Getting out on my bike also coincided with the Tour de France, so that provided some extra motivation!

Planning:

I’m plotting a number of interesting biking projects for the coming months, including:

  • Ride to Sugarloaf mountain and back from home
  • Finding some riding buddies here in HF
  • Getting out for an overnight bikepacking trip with my family
  • Progressively building up to my first hundred miler since 2014 😱

Reading:

“You have to steal time from the edges of your day, teach yourself to eat on the fly, learn to function on suboptimal sleep, and keep going even when you want to lie down and cry. In other words, just like parenthood.”

Really inspiring article from the winner of the Leadville 100 mile ultra race, who balances that with being a parent in their mid-40s. Super impressive!

See you out on the trails!

Weekly Summary: 6/24/19 – 6/30/19

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Views of Loudon Heights from the AT through Harpers Ferry

Soooo, the outcome of all this recent mountain running was… sore knees and beginnings of shin splints. Yikes!

Unsurprising when I look back, even though I could see great improvement from an aerobic fitness point-of-view. But if the legs ain’t happy, it’s hard to enjoy running.

An easier week was required!

Monday 6/24 – 3 miles along river and C&O canal

Gentle run, around 9 minute mile pace. Out and back along the river and then the C & O canal. Beautiful evening again. Legs felt ok on the flat but definitely need to take it easy for a while.

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Tuesday 6/25 – Rest day

Wednesday 6/26 – Rest day

Thursday 6/27 – 1.4 mile morning hike around HF

Included a nice climb from the river back up to Washington Street, on top of the ridge. The path climbs directly up, intersects the AT and continues on to come out by Storer College and the ATC center. Could feel my lower legs hurting at first, but eased up completely after half mile or so.

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Stairs on the climb back up to town

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Storer College, now National Park building used for training

Friday 6/28 – Rest day

Saturday 6/29 – 1 mile walk with the family

Walk in the woods along the River Trail, starting from Harpers Ferry National Park visitor car park. Very hot, so the boys took a “swim” 😂

Sunday 6/30 – 1.7 miles along river

Testing out the legs again, specifically lower shins and knees. Ran around 9 minute miles, which is my usual running pace and feels comfortable. Legs were ok, but still feel tender. Going to be a while until I can go running up/down hills again 😦

In other news…

I finally created an inventory of all my adventure diaries from over the years:

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Week Summary: 6/17/19 – 6/23/19

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Monday 6/17 – Rest day

Tuesday 6/18 – 7.5 miles. Hill Repeats up Maryland Heights

3 repeats up and down the lower portion of the Maryland Heights trail. The turnaround point is the marker that’s exactly half a mile up the trail. So a repeat is 1/2 mile up, 1/2 mile down.

Felt pretty good tonight, definitely fitter than a few weeks ago. My breathing in general is miles better than earlier this year and orders of magnitude better than in Florida last year. So that’s good to see.

Good banter out on the trails with this group –>

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Wednesday 6/19 – Rest day

Thursday 6/20 – 7.8 miles. Stone Fort loop

Connected with Josh from the HURT crew (Harpers Ferry Ultra Running Team) to run a loop around Stone Fort, including the lookout. Great run.

Feeling little fitter again, but legs are definitely feeling the strain of all the vert that’s been suddenly imposed upon them. The volume of my running has also increased, as my lower legs and knees are telling me.

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Friday 6/21 – Rest day

Saturday 6/22 – 4.1 miles. Flat and Fast

Wow, shins and knees are a little sore, so no chance of Loudon Heights this weekend. Instead I ran out and back along the C & O canal. 1 mile from home to the canal, 1 mile out along the canal, and then same way home to make a 4 mile round trip.

I ended up running instead of jogging tonight, averaging around a 7min 30sec mile pace, which is about as fast as I can go at the moment. Wasn’t planning to do this, but legs felt good so I just smiled and enjoyed the moment. Felt exhilarating compared to my usual plodding.

Beautiful evening, as the following picture from the river’s edge shows:

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Sunday 6/23 – Rest day

Sore shins and knees. I will have to go easy next week and be patient. My legs need time to transition from low volume, flat Florida runs to higher volume, trail runs with real vert!

Summary – 19.5 miles

Two long(ish) runs (at least by my standards) and one fast run (again, by my standards). Absolutely loving the trail running but my exuberance has gotten the better of me, and my knees and lower legs are aching. They’re simply not strong enough yet.

Looking forward, I’m going to need to rest for a bit, then scale back a little and just do easier runs on mostly flat terrain to build up to 20+ mile weeks and beyond. The goal is still to run Ultras of course, but that is a loooong way off at the moment 😉