WESTWOOD, Mass. – The first few miles didn’t go according to plan for Will Swenson at the TARC 100 on Saturday, Oct. 8, at Hale Reservation. As it turned out, that set the tone for a masterpiece of a performance as Swenson dominated the race in course-record time.
“My expectation of the race was that I was just going to see how it went and take what I could get,” he said. “If I found myself in position to be competitive then I certainly wanted to take that and see what I could do.”
Swenson didn’t set out to be the front-runner. The resident of Andover, Mass., planned to sit back in the pack, let a few miles tick by, and see how the race unfolded. The pack headed the wrong direction within the first 100 yards, however, and when they turned around Swenson and his Andover neighbor and training partner, Joe Loureiro, found themselves side-by-side at the back of the pack.
“I thought that was probably a good thing,” Swenson recalled. “Early on, I’m not thinking of this as a race. This is an all-day thing, so I really didn’t think much about it.”
By the time they arrived at the first aid station 4 1/2 miles into the race they were right behind the leader, Nick Reynolds of Whistler, British Columbia. Reynolds moved to the front of the pack early and was four minutes ahead of Swenson and Loureiro 10 miles into the race. Over the course of the next eight miles, however, Swenson and Loureiro settled into a steady rhythm. They matched each other stride for stride with Swenson just a few steps ahead of Loureiro as they weaved through the singletrack and hopped over rocks. By mile 18, Reynolds’ lead was down to less than 30 seconds.
By mile 20, the boys from Andover surged into the lead. They quickly opened up a sizeable advantage. The partnership wasn’t strategic, both confirmed, but it helped both run stronger.
“We hadn’t really communicated any plan,” Loureiro said. “There was no real strategy behind it. We weren’t chatting a lot during the race, just keeping each other company. That definitely helped.”
Over the course of the next 20 miles, the friends ran within about a minute of each other, Swenson typically arriving at each station first and Loureiro joining him shortly thereafter where they would regroup, refuel, and head back out together.
Loureiro was fighting through GI issues for much of the day, and around mile 40 it became uncomfortable enough that he had to slow down.
“We sort of have an understanding that we can’t run each other’s race; we have to run our own races, and sooner or later one of us is going to go,” Swenson said. “We knew we weren’t going to stick together the whole time. He said he needed to take a pit stop, and he said ‘you don’t have to wait around for me.’ I figured if he was going to catch up then he’d catch up. Otherwise, we just had to run our own races based on how we were feeling individually.”
Swenson motored ahead, and took a firm grip on the race. He built a 13-minute lead after 50 miles, and expanded his cushion rapidly during the next 25 miles. By the time he completed his third loop, he was nearly an hour head of Loureiro and the rest of the field.
Swenson’s final loop was his slowest. The deceptively difficult trail took its toll over time, and he said the wear and tear – compounded by darkness and a light sprinkle that began to fall – wore him down.
“The cumulative effect of all the technical stuff really added up,” he said. “You just never really got a significant period of time to move (in a rhythm). You were moving and then stopping, or having to slow down and speed up, and move laterally and climb over rocks and so forth.
“It was beautiful and challenging. The first couple of loops I cruised, and then it started to catch up with me, and then you combine that with nightfall and things really started to slow down at that point.”
Even at a slower pace, Swenson always moved with purpose and nobody closed the gap. He crossed the finish line in 21:01:04 – good for first place and a new course record.
While the boys from Andover had pushed ahead, Reynolds gradually faded as Scott Snell of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., and Leo Fung of Calgary, Alberta, moved past him. Reynolds ultimately dropped after 75 miles.
Although Loureiro’s stomach issues slowed him down, he never let it stop him. In fact, lack of visibility was his greatest obstacle during the late hours.
“I had two flashlights – a headlamp and a handheld, and the handheld gave out probably three quarters of the way into (the final loop),” Loureiro said. “I had extra batteries and an extra flashlight … but of course they were in the drop bag at the start/finish area.”
Compounding the challenge of the darkness was the fact that the course was getting wet. Loureiro slowed down, and Snell – who was coming on strong – drew near.
“It had started drizzling, so some of those rocky sections were starting to get slippery and I had to slow it down a bit,” Loureiro said. “I was still in second for a good portion of it before Scott passed me. He looked strong because he was running at a good pace at that point, so I just continued power-hiking as best as I could with the light that I had left.
Snell moved ahead of Loureiro around mile 88 and pushed on to a second-place overall finish in 22:02:00. Loureiro finished third in 22:30:14, giving Andover two of the top three spots.
“I think I finished just in time,” Loureiro said, “because I was in the tent area at the finish area and it started pouring right after that.”
At 4:40 a.m., just minutes after Loureiro had crossed the finish line and found hot food, a blanket, and a seat next to the fire at the main aid station, the sprinkles that had been falling on and off for hours finally gave way to a steady rain that would not cease until well after the event was over.
Accompanying the rain was a temperature drop into the 40s that the remaining runners on the course had to endure.
Some, such as Leo Fung of Calgary, Alberta, didn’t have to deal with the rain and cold for very long. Fung – who held a firm spot in the top 10 throughout the day and made a point of taking a dip in the multiple ponds along the course – dealt with the rain for less than an hour before crossing the finish line fourth overall in 23:29:00.
Jeremy Fuller of New Bedford, Mass., and Rob Rives of Ashland, N.H., endured less than two hours in the downpour as they finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in 24:24:00 and 24:30:00.
Alexander Perry of Albany, N.Y. (25:30:10); Michael Barrett of Arlington, Mass. (26:31:47); Christopher Barry of Keene, N.H. (26:40:00); and Mike Kenney of Charlestown, Mass. (26:48:14) rounded out the top 10.
A majority of the runners battled through numerous hours of rain, and their pacers, crews, and the race volunteers rallied around them through the inclement conditions.
Kristen Smith of Salem, Mass., who headed out on her final loop in a jacket and shorts before the rain began to fall, said she saw and heard numerous cases of volunteers going above and beyond to support runners during the difficult late-night hours.
“That’s when I really appreciated the aid station people,” Smith said. “One of them put a blanket on me. They wanted to warm me up, and they gave me hot soup. I overheard from other runners at the start/finish that some volunteers had given them jackets. They deserve a lot of thanks; they were amazing.”
Smith, who had completed her first three loops in less than 19 hours and built a two-hour lead on the second-place female, endured a cold, wet and dark final loop that lasted more than 10 hours.
“It was pretty much a hike at that point because of the rain, and my legs had locked up by then,” Smith said.
She wasn’t deterred, however. This was Smith’s first 100-mile attempt, and she was determined to finish. She followed through on that goal, placing 19th overall and earning first-place female honors in 29:27:05.
“I was slower than I thought I’d be, but I’m glad I finished,” she said. “It was a relief (to be done). Everyone was so nice at the finish; they put me by the fire, gave me dry clothes, and were so helpful. It was wonderful.”
Of the 36 runners who finished, 23 completed the course in less than 30 hours. The first to finish after the 30-hour mark was the second-place female finisher, Johanna Ylanen of Toland, Conn. She cut into Smith’s lead throughout the night, but was unable to catch her as Ylanen finished in 30:19:47.
As the race clock struck 31:00, the rain continued to fall and the 32-hour time limit was fast approaching. All eyes were on the clock and the place where the trail exited the woods and reconnected to Membership Beach for the home stretch to the finish. Jennifer Kenty of Medford, Mass., and Elizabeth Lynch of Milford, Mass., emerged together and covered the final stretch through the sand, up a few stairs and across the finish line four seconds apart, Kenty finishing in 31:17:32 and Lynch in 31:17:36.
Two more runners were still battling the course and the clock. Next to finish was Keith Whited of Alexandria, Va. The 64-year-old crossed the beach and made his way to the finish line in 31:31:25. About 11 minutes later, the final runner completed the course. Vincent Hsu of Lincroft, N.J., crossed the finish line in 31:42:08, giving him his third 100-mile finish of the year (TARC 100, Vermont 100, C&O Canal 100) and officially bringing the TARC 100 to a close sending the event into its indefinite hiatus.
Combs’ Redemption Run
The story of Nate Combs’ 2015 TARC 100 race was captured by a volunteer on the Trail Animals’ Facebook page. It documented how he scraped by cutoffs and refused to stop, even when the muscles in his back gave out and he could barely stand. The 32-hour time limit expired, but Combs didn’t stop until he’d gone the distance and crossed the finish line in 32:35:12.
Combs, 55, of Andover, Mass., came back to the TARC 100 again this year, and he achieved his sub-32-hour finish. He crossed the finish line in 30:35:50, good for 29th place overall.
Mullen is Only Four-Time Finisher
Though his name isn’t on the record board for fastest times, Kevin Mullen stands alone as the only runner gritty enough to take on the TARC 100’s 100-mile race all four years and finish it all four times.
Mullen, 59, of Fairhaven, Mass., finished 30th overall in 30:50:19.
The TARC 100 was Mullen’s third 100-miler this year, as he previously collected finisher’s belt buckles from Massanutten in May and Vermont in July.
TARC 100 – 100-MILE RACE
Place, Name, Age, City, State, Time
1 Will Swenson, 44; Andover, MA; 21:01:04
2 Scott Snell, 36; Egg Harbor Township, NJ; 22:02:00
3 Joe Loureiro, 49; Andover, MA; 22:30:14
4 Leo Fung, 26; Calgary, AB; 23:29:00
5 Jeremy Fuller, 35; New Bedford, MA; 24:24:00
6 Rob Rives, 27; Ashland, NH; 24:30:00
7 Alexander Perry, 27; Albany, NY; 25:30:10
8 Michael Barrett, 45; Arlington, MA; 26:31:47
9 Christopher Barry, 36; Keene, NH; 26:40:00
10 Mike Kenney, 39; Charlestown, MA; 26:48:14
11 Dave Baird, 41; Shelburne, VT; 26:57:00
12 Andy Novis, 52; Medford, MA; 27:34:46
13 Dane LeBlanc, 58; Littleton, MA; 27:35:00
14 Brendan Frank, 44; Dedham, MA; 27:55:57
15 Matthew Lydon, 36; Milford, NH; 28:00:17
16 Dani Rai, 34; Dorchester, MA; 28:05:57
17 Dima Feinhaus, 53; Waban, MA; 28:41:31
18 Derek Lounder, 36; Moncton, NB; 29:25:00
19 Kristen Smith, 31; Salem, MA; 29:27:05
20 Jim Hughes, 44; Boylston, MA; 29:32:58
21 Ryan Fecteau, 23; Danvers, MA; 29:50:34
22 Dave Long, 46; Bridgewater, MA; 29:53:33
23 Bob Gentile, 50; Boca Raton, FL; 29:53:55
24 Johanna Ylanen, 34; Tolland, CT; 30:19:47
25 Dietmar Bago, 48; Andover, MA; 30:30:42
26 Michael Latham, Jr., 29; Brockton, MA; 30:32:51
27 Adam Tremblay, 39; Clarendon, NB; 30:34:56
28 Michael Condella, 29; Revere, MA; 30:35:49
29 Nate Combs, 55; Andover, MA; 30:35:50
30 Kevin Mullen, 59; Fairhaven, MA; 30:50:19
31 Laurel Valley, 54; Porter, ME; 30:53:30
32 William McKenna, 27; Phillipsburg, NJ; 30:54:48
33 Jennifer Kenty, 34; Medford, MA; 31:17:32
34 Elizabeth Lynch, 51; Milford, MA; 31:17:36
35 Keith Whited, 64; Alexandria, VA; 31:31:25
36 Vincent Hsu, 45; Lincroft, NJ; 31:42:08