MEDFIELD, Mass. – A year after slogging through sauna-like conditions at the TARC Summer Classic, runners were the ones causing the heat at the sixth running of the event Saturday, Aug. 13, at Noon Hill Reservation.
Gone were the 91-degree temperature and thick humidity of 2015. In their place, temperatures in the 70s, a gentle breeze, and dry trails created ideal conditions for runners to scorch the smooth, winding dirt and pine needle-covered singletrack course. The runners obliged, with two defending their titles from a year ago and three smashing course records in the 50K and 40-mile races.
“Surprisingly, it was pretty cool out there,” said Matthew Veiga, following his record-setting day. “I paced somebody for the 40 last year, and the heat and humidity … it was ridiculous. It was like running in a furnace. This year was perfect.”
40-MILE: Bigger Goals Loom as Jackson, Rising Deliver Strong Performances
The Summer Classic advertises itself as a race “perfectly positioned for those training for a late summer or fall ultra,” and numerous runners capitalized on the opportunity. Even so, “training day” didn’t necessarily equate to “leisurely long run.” Runners like Bill Jackson and Lisa Rising made their miles count. Both have major trail ultra undertakings on the calendar in the next two months – Jackson at the 106-mile Mogollon Monster in Arizona, and Rising at the Run Rabbit Run 50-miler in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Both gave their legs a tough test during Saturday’s 40-mile race, and both were pleased with the results.
A resident of Salem, Mass., Jackson knew Summer Classic course well from enduring the oppressive heat and humidity while winning the 2015 race. This year, the 34-year-old completed the course 14 minutes faster. Jackson pulled away from Medford, Mass., resident Michael Pulli during the final two loops and earned the overall victory in a course-record time of 6:31:26.
“I came back with modest expectations of getting a good run in, trying not to hurt myself, and just (wanted to) run with people and have a good time,” Jackson said while relaxing near the finish line, chatting with friends and congratulating other runners.
His mission accomplished for the day, Jackson said he is ready to let his body rest and recover. He has five weeks to recharge for Mogollon Monster, a race that will challenge him with more than 23,000 feet of vertical gain and the dry heat of the desert.
“I ran around 50 miles this week and then did this (race). I wanted this to be kind of a big week, get some distance in, and now I’ll just taper down and rest,” he said. “I rock climb and I run distance, so I’m just constantly tired.”
For Rising, the Summer Classic was a hard-earned confidence-booster as she prepares for a September mountain race at altitude that will include more than 8,000 feet of vertical gain. The 40 miles marked the most she has put on her legs in one day. Even better, the 25-year-old resident of Cambridge, Mass., accomplished her goals for the race.
“I wanted to finish, and I wanted to run the whole way,” Rising said, adding with a laugh, “I did … although I tripped a couple times.”
Stumbles aside, Rising’s strength was on display as she ran all four loops and even fought through leg cramps late in the race.
“I was given a couple of salt tablets by an amazing woman whose name I don’t know three miles from the end when I was charley-horsing,” Rising said. “She saved my run!”
Rising crossed the finish line in 7:13:26, good for first-place female honors, third place overall, and a women’s course record.
While Jackson and Rising turned in record-setting performances, they were far from the only ones to notch notable trail-blazing efforts. Pulli, 39, finished second overall in 7:03:16, good for the third-fastest time in course history. Kun Song, 39, of Watertown, Mass., finished fourth overall in 7:21:53, good for the fifth-fastest time on the course by a male. In addition, the second- and third-place women both surpassed the previous course record of 7:57:36, set by Laura Ricci in 2015. Lori Wetzel, 43, of Danvers, Mass., was the fifth overall finisher in 7:25:28. Ricci, 32, of Boston, Mass., was eighth overall in 7:41:33.
Ten of the 31 runners who completed the 40-mile race broke the eight-hour barrier, and two more came within two minutes of doing so. That’s a big jump from 2015 when only five of the 24 finishers completed the course in less than eight hours.
50K: Veiga Cruises to Course Record; Lowe Defends Title
A course record wasn’t Matthew Veiga’s goal when he signed up for the Summer Classic 50K. He just wanted a solid training run to help him prepare for the Mt. Greylock Road Race on Labor Day weekend, as well as to springboard his buildup to the Stone Cat 50-miler later this year. That said, he certainly had speed in mind, which by happenstance coincided with record territory.
“This was basically a big training run that was going a little quicker,” Veiga said. “I was shooting for around four hours or so. I’d like to have been sub-four (hours), but I can’t complain about a 4:10.”
Veiga, a 29-year-old resident of Lynn., Mass., pushed the pace from the very beginning. He charged through the first two loops of the three-loop course at around a 7:30 pace, weaving his way through the woods at a consistent clip. Fatigue eventually caught up to him on loop three during the twists and turns of the course’s middle sections, and his pace slowed a bit.
“That last lap destroyed me,” he said. “Around mile 27 my legs started to rebel a bit. I was feeling it in my hamstrings, and they started cramping around mile 28.”
Veiga fought through the final miles and dashed across the finish line in 4:10:05, smashing the previous course record of 4:37:00 set by Somerville, Mass., resident Eric Ahern in 2012. Veiga easily outdistanced the rest of the field. Gregory Esbitt, 42, of Salem, Mass., was a distant second in 5:03:35, and Gary David, 46, of Stow, Mass., finished third in 5:10:11. Esbitt and David notched the ninth- and 10th-fastest times in course history.
Just like Veiga, Deirdre Lowe approached the Summer Classic as a training day with her sights set on the Stone Cat 50 in November. The Salem, Mass., resident and top female finisher from 2015 wasn’t worried about defending her title.
“I really had no expectations, “said Lowe, 37. “I just wanted to go out and get it done.”
Lowe did just that, turning in a consistent performance en route to claiming first-place female honors, as well as fifth place overall. Her winning time of 5:45:19 was the fourth-fastest time ever on the course by a female, and a 33-second improvement from 2015.
Jayne Hetherington, 36, of Weston, Mass. was the second-place female and ninth overall finisher in 6:05:24. Her time was the 10th-fastest by a female in course history. It also was the second strong ultramarathon performance this year for Hetherington, who was the women’s 50K champion at the TARC Spring Classic in April.
Susan Collins-Pulick, 48, of Topsfield, Mass., was the third-place female finisher and 12th overall in 6:38:31. She was the runner-up in 2015. The Summer Classic was her first ultramarathon since completing the Vermont 100-miler in July.
A total of 44 runners completed the 50K race.
To view full results from the Spring Classic, click here.
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