September 4, 2021 • Fort Valley, VA
44 starters, 28 finishers
“Next Year, I Will Volunteer”
After a two-year hiatus since the last official running of The Ring, The Fellowship met over the traditional Labor Day weekend to induct new members, and remind returning members why making the 71 mile circuit around the Fort Valley on the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail is such terrific way to spend a portion of the holiday weekend.
Blessed with relatively mild weather for what is generally the sixth weekend of August, this year’s Ring began at 7 AM on Saturday September 4th with temperatures at the start in the Signal Knob parking lot in the 50s. The day and the subsequent night were nonetheless juicy with the mid-Atlantic humidity that each of us who live here so relish the opportunity to run in. Temps under generally sunny skies did soar into the upper 70s and perhaps even the low 80s in some places, before plunging again Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Shortly after dawn on Sunday the participants still on the course and gathered at the finish were somewhat surprised by occasional showers, which at times became solid, soaking rain.
There was little suspense this year when it came to the overall winner of the Ring. While the oldest starter in the field, 70-years-young Marty Fox, took off like a Joe Clapper-like jackrabbit from the start and then around the Signal Knob parking lot in the opening minutes of the run, order had been restored by the time the runners finished the first climb of the day and made their way south on the east ridge of the Massanutten Mountains. By the first aid station at Milford Gap (13+ miles in), Barrett Stanton, at 23 years the youngest runner in The Ring, not only held the lead, but he had gapped the remainder of the field by an amazing 25 minutes. By the first formal aid station at Camp Roosevelt, his lead had grown to 48 minutes over Dirk Schulze and Eric Harris. Despite spending considerable time at many of the aid stations, Barrett continued to lengthen his lead over the course of the remaining 45 miles. He finished in a sparkling time of 15 hours and 17 minutes. Eric Harris completed his run in second place, just under three hours after Barrett, in 18:13. Michael Roberts moved up steadily throughout the latter half of the event and ultimately placed third in 18:50. Of note: unlike previous editions of The Ring, this year two of the runners opted to forego having a drop bag shuttled around the course for them, nor did they have crew. And both - Eric Harris and Aaron Bloom - finished the run.
The women’s contest held a bit more drama this year. Emily Warner took an early lead, despite some confusion at Edith Gap bred by a misinterpretation of the pre-run instructions. He resulting bonus trail time allowed Emily’s nearest pursuer, Blair Petrilli, to close to within six minutes at the first full aid station at Camp Roos. By Moreland Gap, 40 miles in, Emily headed Blair by over 20 minutes. However, engine trouble led to a roughly two-hour pit stop at Edinburg Gap for Emily, dropping her to fifth among the women in the field, and allowing Blair to take a lead that she never relinquished. Blair’s time of 22:35 was 10th best among all the runners, and just over an hour ahead of the second place women, Gaynor Bourgeois and Kari Brown.
The Fellowship of The Ring grew by 15 runners by the time the final finisher, Sue Heineman, emerged from the rocky hell that is Signal Knob and crossed the finish line. Congratulations to each and every one of you, and as may have been hinted at over your post-run breakfast, we have you penciled in now for the Reverse Ring. 13 recidivists also notched another Ring finish. Well done, one and all! And of particular note, we take great joy in officially adding John Hord to the Fellowship. John ran strong all day to snag his Ring sticker and finisher’s pin in a time just over 26 hours; he thus matched his accomplishment of finishing the unofficial “Covid Ring” of 2020. As with his fellow 2021 class mates, John is now entitled to his just desserts: a lifetime eligibility to enter the Reverse Ring. Congratulations and you are welcome.
A particularly noteworthy “added feature” (a wonderful turn-of-phrase coined by multi-time finisher Jim Harris) to the run was the return of the Short Mountain prelude section to the course. That roughly one mile stretch leads out of the Moreland Gap aid station; it had been closed to trail users for over a year while it was subjected to selective logging. Returned into service for The Ring this weekend, it was overgrown and proved to be very challenging to navigate, particularly for those runners toward the back of the field who had the misfortunate of stumbling into it without the benefit of daylight. Similar to the standard issue complaints about the rocky descent off of Signal Knob in the closing miles, this “added feature” section just led to more fodder for trail talk at the finish line.
The effect of the cumulative impact on each runner of their experience over the entirety of the rocky Massanutten Trail led to a remarkably consistent expression from finisher after finisher that “next year I plan to join the volunteers.” Of course, such talk from members of the ultrarunning community can be dismissed, along with all plans vocalized around the Sunday morning Signal Knob Café breakfast. Let’s see what all those early “volunteers” do once it is time to sign up for the Reverse Ring in early 2022 …
A hearty thanks to all who turned out for The Ring, runners and volunteers alike! 44 runners ultimately arrived for the start to take up the challenge of completing the notoriously technical tour around the beautiful Fort Valley, and we commend all the runners no matter how many Ring miles they ultimately logged.
But, as always, this event exemplified the spirit of the sponsoring club, the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, as the number of volunteers again nearly equaled the number of runners. The directors of this now nearly two-decade-old VHTRC event cannot express our appreciation enough to each and every volunteer who came out to work the aid stations, to man the finish line, and to shuttle bags, and to cumulatively make this event the success that it was. And if all this year’s runners live up to their threats to convert to volunteers, then we look forward to their help in hosting all of the 2021 volunteers at next year’s Ring, to be held on Labor Day Saturday, September 3, 2022.
Video by Mike Bur of the runners about 200 yards into the start of the race.
|Nope||Jeffery Wolfe||57||M||PA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Matthew Smith||42||M||VA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Erin Altemos||47||M||MD||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Greg Jackson||42||M||VA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Bill Breidenstine||56||M||PA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Michelle Rindos||46||F||VA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Jill Jacobs Diss||54||F||MD||DNF||2010|
|Nope||Helen MacDermott||42||F||VA||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Jeffery Wolfe||57||M||PA||4:14||8:23||11:57||14:27||18:57||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Matthew Smith||42||M||VA||2:59||5:34||8:23||11:18||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Erin Altemos||47||M||MD||3:29||6:34||9:33||11:57||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Greg Jackson||42||M||VA||3:11||6:20||10:09||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Bill Breidenstine||56||M||PA||4:17||8:25||12:56||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Michelle Rindos||46||F||VA||3:59||7:59||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
|Nope||Jill Jacobs Diss||54||F||MD||4:00||7:59||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||2010|
|Nope||Helen MacDermott||42||F||VA||4:00||8:29||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||XXX||DNF||Next Year!|
Volunteers - 2021
Last updated September 8, 2021