Health & Fitness.

Race Sabotaging: Something That Actually Happens.

I was talking to a friend the morning of Donnie’s Ironman and she was telling me about her friend that was racing that day. Chattanooga was his second attempt because his first attempt had been in Louisville (maybe the year before?) but he didn’t finish because someone sabotaged the race by throwing oil and tacks on the bike course and he busted up his bike and tires in a wreck.


And then, later that day? Thankfully…after I had seen Donnie complete one full loop of the bike course…I saw this: Chattanooga Ironman bike course sabotaged with tacks and oil. I was fairly certain he would be fine since he had already done the loop once, but man…my heart raced until he got off his bike. And we found out later that we did know people taken out by the sabotage, which SUCKS. Imagine spending 5 months and at least 700 dollars (AT LEAST, the whole adventure counting travel and lodge cost us probably $2,000) on a goal and not being able to finish because of some angry asshat or stupid teenager.

That’s the two people most likely to do this: Angry people affected by the traffic annoyance and teenagers who think it’s hilarious.

It sucks though because the small community (Chickamauga, GA) that we hung out in watching the cyclists? LOVED having us there. We came with LOTS of money to spend while we waited. And the cycling courses are planned with minimal traffic disturbance as possible, and it’s all done fairly early on a Sunday, so to risk causing injury or even death (have you seen bike races? These guys ride fast and close to each other. One person goes down? Several are going down at high speeds.) just because you can’t get somewhere as fast as you want on a Sunday morning seems RIDICULOUS. But, obviously it happens. Often, sadly.

But here’s another facet of race sabotage, one that affects ME. Last year, during our inaugural stage race weekend (3 back-to-back days of trail running – one of the best race experiences of my life) someone thought it would be hilarious to move the trail markers on the 2nd day. Now, for someone like me, this wasn’t a disaster. I had studied those maps and trained on those trails so I could almost do it unguided, but to normal people who don’t obsess over maps like I do? Without a trail marker, you’re just lost in the woods. And my family worked an aid table that day and said that there were some stressed early runners that came through.

And I just found out yesterday that – not only had the markers been removed – but when the race director went to try to salvage and replace them? They were covered in vinegar and roundup. So it was a straight up MALICIOUS attack. And there is NO reason. These are markers that are only up for 2 weeks, max. Most trail races put them up the Saturday before the race and take them down the Saturday after. The races have the approval of the parks to do this and they are not in ANYONE’S way. Yet still…STILL…they get removed.

I was shocked that weekend to find out that had happened. SHOCKED. But I found out yesterday? It basically happens at EVERY trail race here.

One of the volunteers (and perfect attendance racers, I might add) posted that he discovered yesterday that a huge chunk of the Mountain Mist 50K markers for this weekend were removed. This is basically MY Ironman. I’ve been thinking about this race since December of 2011…I spent 2 years not really thinking I’d ever be fast enough to even try, but then I’ve spent the last 12+ months basically running those trails and getting fast enough to make the cutoffs. It’s been my OBSESSION for the last year. And now, some asshat wants to sabotage my attempts by removing the markers. And the guy said they were tangled up together in a pile up trail, so it was hard to even salvage them to put them back out.

And then? Another Race Director chimed in with a similar story from the 15K I did a few weeks ago.

Basically, it seems, every trail race faces this kind of issue.

I always obsessively train on the actual course for local trail races. For most of them, I could do the course WITHOUT markers on race day. But this one Saturday is 31 miles, and the first half is trails I’ve done a million times so I didn’t actually focus on that half of the course. I know what trails it uses, but I don’t necessarily know what order they go in, so without markers on race day? I’d be screwed. I’d be okay on the back half, but not the front half.

(I’ll be memorizing it now, by the way.)

Luckily, there are tons of racers and volunteers who think of this race as their baby and don’t want anything or anyone to screw it up, so they keep an eye on things and fix problems as they arise. And the same with our other local trail races, we have a hugely smart and supportive community here. Unless it happens in the hours before the race starts, which it did at the stage race, most of the time they’re able to discover it…BUT THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO. (And, of course, they had markers put out that day before my group got anywhere, it was just the early/fast people who had problems.) Race directors should not have to re-do work. People should not be assholes. Simple as that.

So…when you do a trail race (because everyone should do one, trail running brings me so much joy I want the rest of the world to try it at least once) thank all of the volunteers and race directors. There’s a very good chance that some of them had to come out and replace markers taken down during the week because the world is full of giant jerkfaces.

7 thoughts on “Race Sabotaging: Something That Actually Happens.”

  1. When I hear things like this, I honestly wonder what has happened to these people that they think it is okay/funny to do something like that.

  2. I am one of those trail runners who absolutely depend on these signs; so this makes my blood boil. Having the vision challenges I face are obstacles enough in a trail run, but having to think about some jerk messing with the signs is absolutely absurd. I am not as familiar with the trails as others since I have to focus on immediate surroundings. Hats off to our volunteers and race directors who go out of their way to prevent jerks from ruining the race experience.

  3. I don’t understand people who do things like this, who are basically being mean just to be mean. As I think about it more, I am happy that my husband and I are both the kind of people that would never even consider doing something like that, and I hope that we’re raising our three kiddos to be the same way. I always think that there needs to be more kindness out in the world.

    Good luck on your race! I’m sure you’ll rock it!

  4. i remember seeing this online here when donnie was mid-race, and i about freaked out! it’s insane the things people choose to spend their time and energy on! GAH!

    that reminds me, though…did you ever post the whole ironman recap? i remember you were going to wait a bit to have the time or something, but now i don’t remember that it ever came out?


  5. Why would anyone do that? The oil/tacks isn’t funny; its scary. And the trail markers? You don’t even get to see the results of that one. So, where’s the laugh? I can’t figure out what the payoff is.

  6. I wish I couldn’t believe this, but I know from working there that people remove/damage the permanent trail markers in the city park. It’s in the top five largest municipal parks in Canada, for reference, and some of the trails have crazy grades and a large part of the park is accessible only on foot. People have been lost for hours because they missed a fork or a turn. It’s just good luck that no one’s been seriously injured or died.

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