The South County 4th Season trail race series wrapped up in RI on Saturday with the Big River Half Marathon, and it went out with a bang. The series, which is put on by Mike Galoob’s Off Road Racing venture, is one that’s been on our radar for a while but for one reason or another we just haven’t been able to get down there. Still wanting to cover it remotely, I sent messages to some of the competitors asking how it went.
First to respond was Scott Mason, who was camped out in the woods waiting for the field to come by so he could get some good shots: “Eric Lonergan won. Lots of wrong turns out there.”
Wow…what happened there? Then I heard from Jonny Hammett: “Top 7 completed the full course.” Only the top 7? So right away it looked like there was a bigger story here than just the typical race recap. Shenanigans were afoot!
Race director Mike Galoob took some time out of his training (according to Strava he racked up 100 mi last week) to fill us in on how the day went:
No matter how the race goes, the first chance to run on dry trails in warm sunny conditions makes everyone’s day. This year, as before, the snow miraculously disappeared in the two days before the race. I actually made up a whole new course the night before and morning of the event to avoid any remaining ice or trails that were muddy and vulnerable to damage. The result was a very challenging but scenic route through boulder fields, along granite ridges, and even across beaver dams.
Unfortunately, due to intentional sabotage of the course markers just before the race started, only the top seven guys were able to follow the intended route without error. Thankfully Jonny Hammett, who was in the lead pack, knew the trails and was able to steer them through the tampered sections.
They stuck together for most of the course, then began to spread out in the final miles. Speedy Rhode Runner turned trail racer, Eric Lonergan, finished just ahead of Greg Hammett for the win, tying an absent Chris Garvin for the series crown. (Eric missed the first race that Garvin won.) Trail boss Jonny Hammett grabbed the final podium spot while Steve Brightman claimed the top Masters spot at 4th overall.
Series champion Jess Kutcher was the top woman, who like the top seven guys somehow managed to run the correct course. Most of the rest of the field ran a jumbled mix of trails in search of the correct route, which ended up being just about equivalent distances. Once word of the missing markers came in, I headed out on foot to try to direct runners back on track. Luckily I did find a good number of people and redirected them as necessary.
The series as a whole was a success again this year. It was great to have another local team get involved and mix things up. Rhode Runner challenged defending team champions Westerly Track & Athletic Club (WTAC) to the very end, with the always trail tough Tuesday Night Turtles battling along as well. The team aspect of the races is one of my favorite elements. Thanks to those clubs for the great turnout and competitive energy they bring to the events.
I plan on continuing the series next year, perhaps with a few changes and hopefully some extra helpers. And, I always say it but haven’t done it yet, I would like to organize a few more trail races throughout the year, including something longer like a marathon or 50k. But considering the 1/2 marathon alone involves over 16 hours and 50+ miles of trail running and marking over the course of a weekend for me, I might not survive a longer event!
Despite the chaos that ensued due to the sabotage, Mike says “It was still a nice finale to a good series this year,” and by all accounts it was. That’s what’s so great about the trail crowd, you’ll never find a more laid back (but still fiercely competitive) bunch. They know that it’s a whole different world off road, and that part of the excitement of it is not whether some asshole came along and scooped up a flag or two.
Regarding the sabotage, Mike thought that it was local resident, or perhaps even kids. He went on to say that it was “only on the main paths that are closest to the road or nearest neighborhood. It’s a tough situation. It’ll take a good number of volunteer course marshals to monitor such a large area. I think at this point, though, the key problem spots are apparent and could be watched next year.”
So who could’ve done this? We have a few suspects in mind:
The Coventry Cantankerous Townie: the radicalized sect of the townie population, they sneak onto race courses and do whatever they can to cause confusion. If they can’t win the race, then nobody can! Unfortunately, they don’t realize that someone’s going to win it anyway. Also known as Some Prick That Ran Off With The Flags.
The Northeast Trail Marker-Hoarding Beaver: Although closely related to other species in New England, this large semi-aquatic rodent can be spotted by the race bib it scurries around with, and by the loads of course markings used to fortify its dam. Also known as the Bandit Beaver.
If Galoob is spotted with a long, luxurious looking fur coat sometime soon, then we can assume two things: a.) it was the bandit beavers that messed with the course, and b.) he took care of the problem and got himself a little trophy out of it.
Be sure to check out:
For general entertainment, check out this Strava activity playback from the race. It’s highly amusing…although I feel guilty saying that because you really feel for the runners as you see their avatar running in crazy directions. At the risk of dating myself, the whole thing should be set to the Benny Hill theme song.
As far as we can tell, full results haven’t been posted yet (and if you’ve seen the Strava playback then you can probably understand why). We did get this bit of info from Jonny Hammett:
“Lonergan out kicked my brother Greg on the final straightaway. I was 3rd relatively close behind. Steve Brightman 4th, Ben Nephew 5th, Bob Jackman 6th, Justin Bentley 7th.” That’s all we have for now.
Lastly, check out the Trail Carnage group on Facebook. Pics of bloody hands, etc, now have a permanent home!