Mowers Conquers The Ring Field for Third Time

Danny Mowers is now 3 for 3 at The Ring, winning in a sparkling time of 14:47.  Danny had to work hard to hold off a determined Brad Hinton, who finished second in 15:28. This is the third year in a row that Brad has filled that Susan Lucci role at The Ring.  Sounds like those two will go at it again next month at Grindstone.

Angela Russell was first finisher among the 14 women who started the race in the very fast time of 19:07.  Gaynor Bourgeois finishing in second with a time of 22:34 is quite a story - she took nearly 4 hours off of her previous finishing time.

Pictured here are the King and Queen of The Ring for 2015.

The full 2015 Results have been posted.  The Fellowship of The Ring has now grown by 21 to 157, and slots in the Reverse Ring on February 27, 2016 may be competitive!  

We hope to make entry into the 2016 running of The Ring less stressful for everyone next year.  Entry will open on July 30 and will involve a lottery along the lines of the ones that are held for the VHTRC's bigger races.  More details to come prior to next summer.

Big stories this year included:

That men's race.  Last year's winner, Chris McIntosh, was the "spider man" at the start, leading the runners out of the parking lot and on to the orange trail leading to Elizabeths Furnace and Shawl Gap.  The spider man is the lead runner, who then gets to deal with the occasional [read: hundreds, if not thousands] of spider webs that have been spun across the Massanutten Trail.  Apparently the insects that use the trails all like to fly at about the level of the average runner's face, since that is where the webs are located.  But back to the men's race.  Chris led returning two-time Ring champ Danny Mowers and the always strong Brad Hinton at this early stage, but heart rate and other issues not only caused Chris to fall back, it led to his early retirement from the race.  Brad and Danny then dueled within sight of each other for most of the first half of the race.  They came and went from the first three aid stations (Milford, Roosevelt and Crisman) essentially tied. Danny finally opened up a bit of a gap on the Kerns/Jawbone section of the course into Moreland.  Danny continued to hold a roughly 7 minute lead over Short Mountain into Edinburg and then opened up a bigger working margin over Powells Mountain into Woodstock, eventually winning by about 41 minutes.  There was some confusion about Danny's race time, due to the race starting one minute late.  But it was eventually determined that he had finished in 14:47, missing a share of Keith Knipling's 2008 course record by roughly one minute.

The number of finishers.  This was a good weather year, so that helped.  And only one runner (Kathleen Cusick, who is planning to race a 100 miler the following weekend) had made clear in advance of a plan to cut the race short.  Regardless, this trail and this course takes its toll every year, and the finishing percentage tends to be rather low for a race of this length.  This year we had a 56% finishing rate.  Last year had seemed good with a 50% finishing rate, as traditionally in more recent years less than half the field finishes.  Congratulations to all the runners for giving it a go, and we hope to see all of you were kept by circumstances from completing this race and joining the Fellowship back next year to toe that Signal Knob starting line again.

The Fellowship of The Ring.  This was a record breaking year when it came to adding new members to the Fellowship.  Of the 27 finishers, an incredible 21 were first time Ring finishers -- of note is that the final 16 finishers were ALL new to the Fellowship!  Some were very new to the Massanutten Trail, and some were very much veterans of its orange goodness.  Included in that latter number would be Greg Trapp, an 11-time finisher of the MMT 100.  Veterans and newcombers alike shared more than just their hard won entry into the Fellowship in common.  They also expressed their views on the rocky nature of the trail in no uncertain terms.  But not to worry.  That trail is just so much more fun to run in the winter.  More on that later . . . 

The condition of the trail.  The Ring is not known solely for its rocky nature. Normally, the Massanutten Trail is a mass of sawbriers and other overgrown vegetation by the time The Ring is held.  This year was at least somewhat different from normal. A Ring Trail Work/Party day was held a week prior to the race, organized primarily by Anstr Davidson, VHTRC webmaster and also PATC district manager for the trails in the Massanutten's Northern District, which is where The Ring is held.  The primary focus was on a particularly nasty section of the trail leading from Duncan Hollow to Scothorn Gap.  Other sections worked over included Waterfall Mountain, Peach Orchard Gap and Kerns Mountain. Even the opening section of the trail that parallels the Signal Knob parking lot had been cleared of its usual overgrowth prior to the race by Karsten Brown.  So despite some evidence on the legs of the runners at the finish that sawbriers had survived to fight back on other sections of the course, the more notorious sections were cleared.

The oddly gender-specific yellow jacket attacks.  Anectodal evidence seemed to indicate that only women were stung by yellow jackets during the race.  Not only that, but seemingly ALL the women were stung, and stung multiple times.  Despite rumors to the contrary, Bur and I had nothing to do with this phenomenon.

The lack of crew.  Perhaps the runners that made up this year's field were notable for their lack of friends.  Or perhaps those friends just had better things to do than chase some crazy runner around the Fort Valley on a holiday weekend.  But unlike years past, this year the RDs were not able to press many crews into serving as roving volunteers, since virtually none of the runners had crew.  Thanks to those crew who were out. Carrie Drummond had volunteered in advance to be a "rover" while supporting her husband Eric McGlinchey. James Hinton was a huge help as he followed brother Brad, and thus could shuttle bags forward for the lead runners; and Mary Shaw and Stan Spence were equally helpful as impressed rovers while serving as crew for Team Gaylord.  But unlike all previous years, that was about it for crew on the course.  Since the RDs had counted on having more crew out to serve as slave labor (mostly helping to keep runner bags moving in a timely fashion from aid station to aid station), this dearth of rovers led to a lot of additional windshield time for the RDs. You can all take a moment now to shed a crocodile tear or two for the poor RDs . . . 

The volunteers.  The VHTRC's race volunteers are always a big story at any and all events.  The Ring volunteers just seem to be particularly amazing.  We ultimately were blessed to have about 35 volunteers out to take care of the 48 runners in this 'Fat Ass" style event.  The VHTRC provides funding for the aid stations, but not nearly as much funding as was evidenced in the amazing array of fine victuals that were available at each stop along the way.  We can't say thanks often enough or loudly enough to the folks who come out to help at events like The Ring.

The Party In The Parking Lot.  We tend to have a good time at the end of our runs.  But this is The Ring.  It is 71 miles of rock-pounding, feet tenderizing, chafe-inducing good times on that Massanutten Trail.  So it was remarkable to see the gathering that developed starting around dawn on Sunday in the Signal Knob parking lot, awaiting the next runner to be disgorged from the orange trail and enjoying each other's company.  John Stacey and Stephanie Danahy were the principal reasons for this festive atmosphere, as their now legendary Signal Knob Cafe soared to new heights. It was great to have so many of the volunteers from earlier aid stations join the finish line festivities, in addition to the runners and their crews and pacers.  And it never gets old hearing each finisher describe just how badly the 4-5 miles of trail leading from Signal Knob sucks.  4-5 miles of DOWNHILL trail, mind you.  Several runners noted with amazement a steady stream of day hikers heading out to do that same section of trail.  The concept that it could be considered a destination hike seemed inconceivable to runners who had destroyed their feet and their legs leading up to Signal Knob, and then had to finish over those seemingly interminable rock fields.  But those day-hikers don't see the same swag that the Ring runners get, and generally don't have a gourmet brunch with freshly brewed hot coffee waiting for them in the parking lot, either!

If we get anyone else's big stories and photos, we will link to them here.