It’s called “The Goat” for a reason.
Runners at the durtyfeets Trail Run Series’ Goat Hill races take on an eight-mile loop that lulls runners in with some easy running through a field toward the start of the singletrack trail. For three quarters of a mile the running is relaxed and comes almost effortlessly.
“Then they turn left,” said race director Alex Rogozenski, “and they see ‘The Goat.’”
Two options emerge at that point. Stop right there and call it a day, or embrace your inner mountain goat and head up, up, up. The climb measures about 250 feet in less than a quarter of a mile, testing runners with technical footing and a steep grade of incline.
Runners took on “The Goat” for four loops at the Goat Hill 50K on Sunday, April 23, in Uxbridge, Mass., at a trail-running festival that also included 24-mile, 16-mile and eight-mile races. While “The Goat” is the signature feature of the course, the loop – which was built by local mountain bikers – is filled with flowing singletrack that offers plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, and very little in terms of flat, straight sections. Runners gain about 1,000 feet of vertical per loop.
“It’s traditional New England,” Rogozenski said. “It’s rocky and rooty, but not overly technical. There’s not any crushed gravel stone or nice pine-bed carriage paths.”
The Goat Hill 50K made its debut in 2016, and the new event gained some notoriety as young Patrick Caron of Needham, Mass., raced to victory in one of his numerous ultramarathon wins for the year. Caron returned for year two, and the 19-year-old brought an even stronger effort in his bid to defend his crown. Joining Caron at the 50K starting line were 22 other runners, among them 42-year-old Ben Nephew of Westborough, Mass. A highly-accomplished trail- and ultrarunner during the past two decades, Nephew has established numerous course records throughout the region and continues to set new fastest known times (FKTs) on trail systems throughout New England. Caron has admired Nephew’s feats from a distance, but Goat Hill was the first time they shared a starting line.
“I hadn’t met him in person before the race, but I’ve definitely read many of his articles, trail reports, etc.,” Caron noted, “and to know he’s a USATF National Champion, three-time member of the IAU Trail Championship Team, and current FKT holder on the Pemi Loop and Presidential Traverse is pretty cool to have had the opportunity to race him.”
A two-person race unfolded right from the start as Caron and Nephew quickly distanced themselves from the pack. Caron darted to about a 20-yard lead before reaching “The Goat” and beginning the ascent. Nephew hung tough and stayed within striking distance for much of the first loop, but Caron held a 58-second advantage after the first eight miles. The lead gradually grew during the second loop, and Caron built a four-minute lead by the race’s midpoint.
“After two laps I was definitely more confident that the win could be mine, and that helped a lot with staying strong through the second half,” Caron said.
Caron continued to pull away during his final two trips around the course, and he cruised through the finish line in 4:07:53 – more than 26 minutes faster than his time in 2016. Caron needed a big performance, too, because Nephew raced to a second-place finish in 4:30:32, three and a half minutes ahead of Caron’s old course record.
In the battle for third place, Gerald Audet, 32, of Holliston, Mass., outdueled Todd Sears, 56, of Bethel, Vt., by a 55-second margin as Audet finished in 5:00:44.
Tammy Godin, 54, of North Grafton, Mass., was the first-place female finisher and ninth overall in 6:53:01.
Of the 23 starters, 16 finished the 50K on a day where temperatures soared into the 60s and there was plenty of sun.
“We had quite a few DNFs compared to last year,” Rogozenski said. “We started at 7 a.m., so it wasn’t too warm too early, but it’s a tough trail out there where you’re constantly going up and down or left and right with not too many rest areas, so I’m sure it beat a lot of people up and they had fun but were humbled a bit by ‘The Goat.’”
Twelve runners completed the 24-mile, three-loop race including overall winner Brodie Miles, 44, of Wayland, Mass., who finished in 3:28:18, and first-place female Lorena Duquette, 40, of Shrewsbury, Mass., who finished in 4:08:09. Sixteen runners completed the 16-mile, two-loop race including overall winner Ari Ofsevit, 33, of Cambridge, Mass., who posted a time of 2:15:26, and women’s champion and third overall finisher Heather Lucas, 33, of Hopkinton, Mass., who finished in 2:24:41. The eight-mile race had 76 finishers including overall winner Ryan Carrara, 41, of Hudson, Mass., who finished in 57:22, and first-place female Alex Jospe, 33, of Newton, Mass., who completed the course in 1:08:53.
The durtyfeets Trail Series is put on by MRA Multisport and includes six events throughout central Massachusetts. Goat Hill kicks off the series and features the lone ultramarathon. In addition to the trail-running series, MRA Multisport offers a variety of other outdoor athletic competitions including mountain bike races, triathlons, on-road and off-road racing, fat bike racing, and snowshoe racing.