A trio of Massachusetts ultrarunners snagged last-minute Western States qualifiers at Rio Del Lago, Mark Leuner outlasted most of the field at a tough 100-miler in Texas, James Gawle defended his 24-hour title at the Hamsterwheel in New Hampshire, and Samantha LeBlanc threw down a tough 50-miler in Virginia at Mountain Masochist. Strong late-season ultramarathon performances abounded Nov. 3-5 beyond the Bay State borders, and we’ve got them covered in this week’s roundup.
Rio Del Lago 100
Western States lottery hopes hung in the balance for numerous runners who toed the starting line Nov. 3 at the Rio Del Lago 100 on the final weekend runners could qualify for a chance to enter the sport’s original 100-miler. For three Massachusetts residents – Todd Callaghan, Stephen Taylor and Annette Florczak – the cross-country journey paid off. All three finished the race in Granite Bay, Calif., and earned the right to apply for the Western States lottery.
Nearly 400 runners – 392 to be exact – toed the starting line for the 17th annual Rio Del Lago 100 and took on the singletrack trails, a few miles of which ventured onto the hallowed Western States dirt. Of those who began the race, 297 finished within the 30-hour time limit. Drew Macomber, 25, of Angwin, Calif., earned the victory by more than an hour, winning in 16:41:32.
The top 18 runners all finished in less than 20 hours. That included Callaghan, 48, of Beverly, who placed 17th overall in 19:47:48 and was the fastest Bay State finisher.
Taylor, a 48-year-old New Bedford resident, finished in 27:57:15. Florczak, 43, of Roslindale, finished in 29:29:10.
The women’s champion, 21-year-old Gabrielle Maudiere of Larkspur, Calif, placed 20th overall in 20:17:03. Notably, the top two women at the 2016 Rio Del Lago finished in faster times. 2016 winner Cat Bradley went on to win Western States in 2017, while 2016 runner-up Maddy McCarthy of Newburyport, Mass. (20:01:04 at Rio Del Lago in 2016), was among the top 25 women to finish Western States in 2017.
Dinosaur Valley 100
The Dinosaur Valley 100 had a new name and a new venue for 2017, renaming from the Big Cedar Endurance Run and relocating from the Big Cedar Wilderness Trail to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.
Mark Leuner of Brookline, Mass., was one of 27 runners who attempted to take on six 16.67-mile loops of the dirt- and rock-covered trails, and Leuner thrived in a race that proved to be a battle of attrition.
OF the 27 starters, just nine finished 100 miles. Luke Bateman of Dallas, Texas, was the winner and lone sub-24-hour finisher as he completed the course in 23:35:47.
Leuner never threatened Bateman at the front, but Leuner outlasted most of the field and finished what he started. He was in eighth place after one loop, slipped a few spots to 11th after two loops, and reached the halfway point in 12th place. Other runners began to fade, but Leuner kept going. By the time he completed his fifth loop he was in fifth place overall. He maintained that position the rest of the way and finished in 30:38:27.
In 2016, James Gawle became the first runner to throw down triple-digit mileage at The Hamsterwheel 24-hour run when he logged an even 100 miles. Gawle returned for another 24-hour trot at the third annual event Nov. 4-5 in New Boston, N.H., and he outdid himself. The 66-year-old resident of Webster, Mass., circled the four-mile course along the New Boston Rail Trail and around the Hillsborough County Fairground a record 26 times for a record 104 miles in earning his second straight victory at the event.
Gawle was one of 24 hours to take on the 24-hour race, and he was one of three to complete triple-digit mileage. Men’s runner-up Raymond Bailey, 41, of Hampstead, N.H., and women’s champion Lisa Whitney, 45, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., both completed 100 miles.
While Whitney was the lone female to finish with 100 miles, the second- and third-place ladies also logged major mileage. Runner-up Ann Alessandrini, 57, of Johnsonville, N.Y., tallied 92 miles, and third-place Karen Giroux, 51, of Salem, Mass., completed 84 miles.
Other Bay State residents who took part in the 24-hour event included Peabody’s Michael Saporito, 52, with 56 miles; Scituate’s Tom Bleakney, 47, with 56 miles; South Deerfield’s Donald Pray, 68, with 52 miles; Tyngsboro’s Rick Fijalkowski, 50, with 48 miles; and Worcester’s Benjamin Manning, 26, with 28 miles.
In addition to the 24-hour race, runners also had 12-hour and six-hour options.
Thirteen runners competed in the 12-hour event, and all surpassed the marathon distance. Brandon Ambrose, 33, of Manchester, N.H., was the top overall performer in that time group with 60 miles completed, four more than runner-up Louis Ferrone, III, 23, of East Syracuse, N.Y. The top female finisher, Claire Robinson-White, 38, of Richmond, Vt., logged 48 miles, four more than women’s runner-up Kristina Homoleski, 37, of North Andover, Mass., who finished with 44 miles. Greg Stone, 59, of Falmouth, Mass., also notched 44 miles and was the fifth-place male finisher. Mark Akeson, 47, of Ashland, Mass., tallied 28 miles in 12 hours.
In the six-hour race, 48-year-old Wendy Akeson of Ashland, Mass., was the first-place female finisher and 29-year-old Frank Alessandrini of Bonita Springs, Fla., was the top male finisher as both logged 32 miles apiece. Five other runners also finished with 32 miles completed. Additionally, five runners logged 28 miles including 36-year-old Jennifer Case of Medford, Mass., who was the fifth-place female finisher, and 62-year-old Dan Scotina of Saugus, Mass., who was the sixth-place male finisher. A total of 21 runners took part in the six-hour race.
The 2017 racing season has been filled with strong performances by Samantha LeBlanc, beginning with a runner-up finish at the To Hale and Back 6-Hour Ultra in March, followed by victories in the 21.5-mile race at Wapack and Back and the 50K at the Pisgah Mountain Trail Races, as well as top-10 finishes at the Cayuga Trails 50-miler and the Whiteface Sky Race. LeBlanc added another strong performance on Saturday, Nov. 4, when the 29-year-old resident of Woburn, Mass., competed at the Mountain Masochist 50-miler in Virginia.
The point-to-point course included a mixture of dirt and gravel roads, logging roads and singletrack trails with 9,200 feet of vertical gain and more than 7,000 feet of elevation loss.
LeBlanc was the lone Bay State resident in the field of 249 starters, and she finished 38th overall and was the 13th female finisher in 9:29:06. Krista Offield, 35, of Lynchburg, Va., placed 12th overall and was the women’s champion in 8:49:03. Michael Dubova, 33, of Charlottesville, Va., earned the men’s victory in 7:11:09, more than 20 minutes faster than runner-up Matthew Thompson, 37, of Crozet, Va.
One hundred seventy-eight runners completed the race within the 12-hour time limit at the 35th annual event.
*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.