Two weeks after earning the victory at the TARC Spring Classic in Weston, Mass., Eric Ahern traveled cross-country to challenge himself on some of ultrarunning’s most hallowed ground.
Ahern, 38, of Somerville, Mass., traveled to Foresthill, Calif., to compete on Saturday, May 7, in the 100K race at The Canyons Endurance Runs. The course covers some of the most difficult sections of the Western States 100 course, which is the Rose Bowl of ultrarunning – “The Granddaddy of Them All,” as the college football bowl game’s nickname reminds viewers.
Typically the most daunting stretch along the Western States course, the Canyons Endurance Runs borrows Western States’ infamous canyons section that features massive climbs, steep descents, and extreme temperature variation. Beyond the canyons, the course also winds through forests and across covered bridges, giving runners a sampling of some of the best trail running that California has to offer.
Ahern may have been racing a long way from home at The Canyons, but he competed as though he was right at home by finding his place among the faster runners in the field, holding his ground and working his way forward as the race went along. He was in the top 20 at the midway point and steadily climbed toward the top 10 as the miles ticked by.
A total of 221 runners completed the race, and Ahern crossed the finish line in eighth place overall in 11:38:14.
Paddy O’Leary, 28, of San Francisco, Calif., turned in a dominant performance and finished first in 9:35:39, just 15 minutes off of Rob Krar’s course record of 9:20:22. Bob Shebest, 41, of Windsor, Calif., was second in 10:07:30; and Lon Freeman, 41, of Kensington, Calif., placed a distant third in 10:51:05.
Although the race was composted heavily of West Coast ultrarunners, Ahern wasn’t the lone East Coast representative from Massachusetts. Marilyn Oberhardt, 51, of Arlington, Mass., also competed and finished the race in 19:15:27.
The West Coast presence was heavy at the Miwok 100K on Saturday, May 7, in Stinson Beach, Calif., led by overall champion Cody Reed of Flagstaff, Ariz.
Of the 288 total finishers, Reed, 24, was one of five to dip below 10 hours, finishing in 9:04:32.
Still, the East Coast made its presence felt. The women’s champion, Aliza Lapierre, hailed from the East. The 35-year-old from Williston, Vt., placed 11th overall and was the top female finisher in 10:25:19.
In addition to Lapierre, the East also was represented by five runners from Massachusetts. Gregory Esbitt, 42, of Salem finished 61st overall in 11:52:36; Lori Wetzel, 43, of Danvers finished 72nd in 12:05:10; and Kristen Scott, 32, of Boston was 75th in 12:07:23. Other Massachusetts finishers were Matthew Drury, 43, of North Andover in 13:10:46, and Giles Gregory, 48, of Nantucket, in 14:08:37.
*Editor’s Note: Results are found on a variety of sites, including ultrasignup.com, UltraRunning Magazine, and official race websites. We do the best we can to find as many results as possible to report on and recognize the local ultrarunning community.