MassUltra Roundup: The Spine Race and the Clearwater Classic

Acton’s Andrea Baum traveled to sunny Florida to run her first ultramarathon. Meanwhile, Waban’s Dima Feinhaus had a polar opposite experience in the United Kingdom – with an emphasis on polar. Baum’s race at the Clearwater Distance Classic and Feinhaus’ epic experience at The Montane Spine Race are this week’s featured races.

The Montane Spine Race

New England ushered in 2018 with a few rounds of snow and unseasonably cold temperatures that stayed below 20 degrees. For Dima Feinhaus of Waban, Mass., those conditions were child’s play. Feinhaus didn’t exactly head to the arctic, but he may have found the next closest place when he traveled to the United Kingdom and stepped to the starting line of the seventh annual Montane Spine Race.

The 268-mile race traverses the Pennine Way National Trail, beginning in the English village of Edale and finishing in Kirk Yetholm, Scotland. The trail’s high point is just shy of 3,000 feet, however vertical gain isn’t why the race is considered so daunting, nor is it the extreme mileage. Instead, it’s the harsh winter.

Feinhaus, 54, started the race alongside 117 other runners a few seconds shy of 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13. Many fell by the wayside during the week that followed. Just 53 lasted for the duration of the event, and Feinhaus was one of them.

The race website promises runners that “you will experience the full intensity and ferocity of the British Winter,” and the 2018 edition of the race delivered on that promise.

Conditions were cold but decent for most of the first two days with occasional patches of blue sky peeking through the clouds, but a snowstorm pounded the runners during the third night and blanketed the course in snow that runners would battle during the remaining days of the race. Worse conditions would follow, including a temporary suspension of the race due to a severe weather warning. Runners were routed to vehicles and taken to safe, sheltered locations for the night – including a pub where runners enjoyed drinks and a hot meal.

Spine Race Screenshot

The field whittled down considerably after the second snowstorm, but by then the worst weather was behind – and a ton of snow, some of it extremely deep – was ahead. Feinhaus was one of the runners who chose to continue, and he ultimately finished. Upon completing the race, he joined fellow runners in a lodge to warm up, and toasted with a well-earned glass of whiskey.

Feinhaus was one of just four American runners to finish the race. Gavin Woody of Bellevue, Wash., was the top American runner, placing sixth in 128:43:23. Additionally, Christof Teuscher of Portland, Ore., was the 11th male finisher in 137:51:234; and Benjamin Light of Heber City, Utah, was the 31st male finisher in 153:41:03. Feinhaus was the 43rd of 46 male finishers, completing his adventure in 163:42:16. Seven women finished the race.

The men’s champion was Pavel Paloncy of the Czech Republic in 109:50:22, followed by Switzerland’s Simon Gfeller in 118:09:00 and the U.K.’s John Knapp in 118:34:57. The win was the third for Paloncy in five tries. The ladies’ champ for the second year in a row was Carol Morgan of Ireland in 130:37:22.

Clearwater Distance Classic

Andrea Baum opened the 2018 racing season with her first ultramarathon – and she made it a fast one.

Baum, 29, of Acton, Mass., made her ultra debut at the Clearwater Distance Classic 50K on Sunday, Jan. 21, at Coachman Park in Clearwater, Fla. The event, which was a distance running festival that also offered marathon, half marathon, 5-mile and 5K distances, took place on a paved out-and-back course. Other than ascending a few bridges, the course was mostly flat and fast on an asphalt surface. The 50K used the same course as the marathon, but with a 2.4-mile out-and-back tacked on mid-race to create the extra distance.

Baum used the smooth surface to her advantage and hammered out a speedy time of 5:06:10. She was 16th out of 62 overall finishers within 7 1/2 hours, and she nearly nabbed a spot on the women’s podium. Baum was the fourth female finisher, and she was less than 90 seconds behind third place. Peggy Hipp, 45, of Tampa, Fla., earned the victory for the ladies in 4:47:57. Clearwater resident Tim Hancock, 34, was the men’s champion and only sub-4-hour finisher with a time of 3:48:20.

*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.

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