Neither Timothy Connelly nor Jenny Hoffman had raced the Wapack and Back 50-miler prior to this year, but that didn’t matter on race day. Both are seasoned ultrarunning veterans, and it showed with their performance in claiming the top spots at the 11th annual event on Saturday, May 13, in Ashburnham, Mass.
Although it was his first time in the 50-mile race, Connelly was no stranger to the Wapack Trail. He made his Wapack debut in 2016 in the 21.5-mile race, and he was one of just three runners to finish the one-way journey on the trail in less than four hours. He returned in 2017 to tackle the two-way trip along with some bonus distance in the 50-miler.
Rather than the 4,600 feet of vertical that he experienced a year earlier, Connelly endured 50 miles of rocky, highly technical terrain and 10,800 feet of rugged climbing via a round-trip journey on the trail with a bonus out-and-back at the end. A multi-time finisher of the 7 Sisters Trail Race in South Amherst, Manitou’s Revenge in New York, as well as the Fells Winter Ultra and the Cascade Crest 100-miler, Connelly has plenty of experience on gnarly trails and was plenty prepared for the challenge. The 34-year-old resident of Medford, Mass., built a comfortable lead and cruised to a 41-minute victory in 10:00:04.
Josh Katzman’s course-record of 8:51:34 from 2013 wasn’t threatened, but Connelly did log the ninth-fastest time in race history – a notable feat on a challenging course.
Meanwhile, U.S. National 24-Hour Running Team member Hoffman made Wapack the latest in a long string of successful races. Already the overall champion at the Lumberjack 100-miler and first-place female at the Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 50-miler this year, the 39-year-old Cambridge resident conquered the rocky climbs and rough singletrack of Wapack and was the first woman to cross the finish line. Hoffman’s time of 11:43:33 was good for fourth place overall.
Wapack was Hoffman’s latest tune-up race as she builds up to the Fat Dog 120-mile race this August in British Columbia.
Only Connelly, 33-year-old Cambridge resident Philip Kreycik (10:41:44), and 52-year-old Canaan, Vt., resident David Herr (10:52:06) covered the course faster than Hoffman.
Framingham, Mass., resident Brian Huffman was the only other runner to finish the 50-miler in less than half a day. Huffman, 33, crossed the finish line fifth overall in 11:50:26. The second-place female finisher, 39-year-old Sarah Slater of Guilford, Conn., was the next runner to finish in 12:11:25.
Of the 18 runners who started the 50-miler, 14 finished within the 14 1/2-hour time limit.
Additionally, 14 runners completed the 43-mile race that included the same course as the 50-miler, minus the extra out-and-back at the end. Jason Gray dominated at that distance. Gray, 37, of Northbridge, Mass., cruised to victory by well more than an hour, winning in 9:09:40. Runner-up Gregory Lowe, 53, of Ipswich, Mass., was a distant second in 10:27:31, and he comfortably outdistanced third-place Brady Bertram, 36, of New Ipswich, N.H., who crossed the finish line in 10:46:34.
Carly Sedgwick earned first-place honors among the women in the 43-mile race. The 33-year-old from Newton, Mass., finished in 11:35:36 and placed fourth overall. The second-place female, Carolyn Shreck, 45, of Hampton, N.H., joined Sedgwick in completing the course in less than 12 hours. Shreck finished in 11:54:39. The third-place female, 53-year-old Tammy Godin of North Grafton, Mass., finished in 12:07:37 and placed eighth overall.
In addition to the ultra distances, more than 50 runners took part in the 21.5-mile race that was a one-way journey from North Pack Mountain in Greenfield, N.H., back to Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham. It was a remarkably fast field.
Brandon Newbould, 35, of Nottingham, N.H., cruised to the overall victory in 3:01:16. Eric Ahern, 39, of Somerville, Mass., won a close battle for second as he held off 26-year-old Thomas Thompson of Cambridge, Mass., to secure the runner-up spot in 3:17:26. Thompson finished a minute later in 3:18:44. Newbould, Ahern and Thompson all broke the old course-record of 3:19:36 that Thompson set in 2016. The first-place female finisher in the 21.5-mile race was 28-year-old Samantha LeBlanc. The resident of Woburn, Mass., was 10th overall in 4:20:16.