STONEHAM, Mass. – Emily Rose had a few simple goals for the Fells Winter Ultra 40-miler, and none of them involved winning.
“Today I wanted to not get timed out; I didn’t want to DNF because of time,” she said. “My next goal was I didn’t want to need to have a headlamp, and I just wanted to not be hurting a lot – which I wasn’t. I actually felt really good!”
Sure enough, the 29-year-old resident of Portland, Maine, accomplished all of those goals on Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Middlesex Fells Reservation. She easily made the cutoff, and she finished well before darkness set in eight-mile loop course that consists of technical trails that are rock- and root-covered – and also buried under a thick coating of leaves.
Rose knew what she was getting into. She finished second in the 32-mile race in 2016, so she was plenty familiar with the course’s technical terrain. The 32-miler was four laps of the Skyline Trail, so the 40-miler was simply one more trip around the loop.
“The 32 is the hardest race I’d ever done before today,” Rose said. “I actually did a 50-miler this spring (Pineland Farms in Maine), and the 32 was way harder.”
In addition to achieving each of her goals, she also capped her successful day with a victory. Rose spent the first eight miles running even with Lisa Rising of Cambridge, Mass., and Sharon Knorr of New Castle, N.H., and trailed Rising by a minute after loop one. Rose took the lead during her second loop, however, and slowly built a seven-minute lead.
Race director Jeff LeBlanc allows runners to choose which direction they want to run the loop. Some alternate directions each lap, while others pick a direction and stick to it. That variety made it difficult to keep track of the competition as the race unfolded, though Rose wasn’t fazed by it.
“I had no idea that I was winning; I had no idea what place I was in,” she said. “Place didn’t matter to me today, but going into the fourth lap my friend said he wanted to pace me on the last lap because he wanted me to ‘crush it.’ Just from the way he said it I thought, ‘Hmmm, what does that mean?’”
What it meant was a 1:37:56 final lap, barely three minutes slower than her fourth loop and highly consistent with her splits throughout the course of the day. Rose’s fastest and slowest loops of the day had a difference of less than 8 1/2 minutes – a noteworthy accomplishment on a difficult course. Rose’s split for her final loop was also the third-fastest of any 40-mile runner – only men’s champion Isaac Burleigh and fourth-place male Chase Smith were faster.
Of the 28 runners who started the race, 16 finished – 12 men and four women. Rose placed seventh overall and was the first-place woman in 7:46:14. Rose earned her victory by nearly an hour. Her closest competitors – Rising and Knorr – both finished in less than nine hours. Rising placed second in 8:43:52 to earn her first finish at the Fells a year after a DNF in the 32-mile race. It was also the latest in a series of strong finishes for the 27-year-old. Rising was the top woman at the Bear Brook Trail Marathon in July, finished 12th at the Squamish 50-miler in August, placed sixth at the Pisgah Mountain 50K in September and earned a third-place finish at the Big Brad 50-miler in October.
Knorr, 33, capped her Fells debut with a third-place finish in 8:59:14 less than two months removed from finishing seventh among the women at the Grindstone 100.
Jill Lizotte, 39, of Coventry, R.I., rounded out the women’s field placing fourth in 9:17:40. It was her second time racing at the Fells, and first time competing in the 40-miler. She ran the 32-miler in 2015 and finished in 8:54:31.
Knorr will close out the 2017 racing season Dec. 16 at the Lookout Mountain 50-miler in Georgia. Meanwhile, Rising is looking ahead to 2018 when she will take on her first 100-miler at Orcas Island in Washington in February. For Rose, the focus is turning to the snowy season and shorter distances.
“The only things I’ve signed up for are three series snowshoe races that our team does, which are in January, February and March, but I haven’t signed up for anything big yet,” she said. “I’m going to take the winter a bit easy. I got a ski pass – I snowboard – so I don’t have any big goals where I have to be concerned about getting injured, but I know (coach) Ryan (Triffitt) has got some stuff cookin’.
“I do want to do some of the mountain races in the USATF series. I did Loon (Mountain Race) last year and I loved that, so I want to do as many of those as possible. Nothing long is scheduled yet.”
For a related article about the men’s race, click here.