While the Cape Cod Frozen Fatass 50K ushered in the 2018 ultramarathon season in Massachusetts (separate article coming soon), scenic trails at more running-friendly winter destinations lured runners away from the Bay State for the final weeks of January. They traveled to the slick rock of Moab, the singletrack of Alabama, and a ghost town in California, and fast times were turned in along the way – none moreso than at the Arches Ultra in Utah where former Massachusetts resident Kyle Pietari and current residents Sean Haggerty and Molly Karp threw down speedy runs.
Spectacular Arches National Park served as the backdrop for the inaugural Arches Ultra 50-miler and 50K trail races on Saturday, Jan. 27, in Moab, Utah.
Runners took on a course that roamed the trails of the national park’s outer edges, spending time on singletrack, technical slick rock, and a little bit of sand, and the cooler temperatures of January – 30s and 40s – made for fast running conditions at the first-time event. A trio of local faces – two current Massachusetts residents and one former – made their presence felt among the race’s fastest performers.
Nobody hammered the course faster than Kyle Pietari. A 31-year-old resident of Edgewater, Colo., Pietari lived in Boston for a few years while attending Harvard Law School. He has placed in the top 10 at Western States the past two years, and he previously raced in Moab in March 2017 at the Behind the Rocks Ultra 50-miler where he placed fourth. This year at the Arches Ultra, Pietari was the lone sub-seven-hour finisher, winning in 6:56:44. He was joined in the men’s top 10 by 48-year-old Sean Haggerty of Wellesley, Mass. Haggerty is a relative newcomer to ultramarathons – he won his debut in the 30-mile race at Ghost Train in 2017 before placing 15thin the 32-miler at the Fells Winter Ultra in December. Haggerty hammered out a 50-mile finish at Arches in 8:49:04, good for ninth among the men and 11th overall.
Another Massachusetts resident, 36-year-old Molly Karp of Natick, earned a fifth-place finish among the women in 9:33:24. It was her 50-mile debut, and a strong performance building on her sixth-place showing at the TARC fall Classic 50K in September 2017. The Arches women’s 50-mile win went to 38-year-old Moab resident Melissa Beaury in 8:16:21. She was the winner of the Ouray 100-Miler in Colorado in 2017.
Fifty-eight runners completed the 50-mile course, including 55 within the 12-hour time limit.
The 50K race titles went to a pair of Colorado runners. Elijah Flenner, 44, of Fort Collins was the top male in 4:16:26, and 39-year-old Wendy Stalnaker of Colorado Springs was the women’s champion in 4:52:08.
A pair of Massachusetts residents were among the finishers. Brookline’s Heather Ichord, 34, placed 74th overall in 6:40:06. A few minutes later, Belmont resident Gary Richards, 62, finished 79th overall in 6:45:51.
Mountain Mist 50K
Rocky trails and multiple creek crossings did little to slow down runners at the 24th annual Mountain Mist 50K on Saturday, Jan. 24, at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Ala.
More than 300 runners took part in the 24th annual ultramarathon, and despite the technical terrain and nearly 4,000 feet of climbing, fast times abounded. None were faster than 36-year-old David Riddle. The resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, hammered the course and was the only sub-four-hour finisher. His time of 3:53:41 was the 10th fastest in course history, but well off of his own course standard of 3:36:52 from 2013. Riddle’s victory was his sixth at Mountain Mist. The second-place finisher, 33-year-old Tony White of Nashville, Tenn., finished 22 minutes behind Riddle.
The depth of the speed in the field was noteworthy as the top 14 finishers broke the five-hour barrier and 60 runners completed the course in less than six hours. One Massachusetts resident also was part of the race. Doug Hall, 62, of Scituate, Mass., placed 126th in 6:41:10. The race was the first of the year for Hall and his first ultra since the Ultimate XC 50K at Mt. Tremblant, Quebec, in 2012.
On the women’s side, 29-year-old Jacque Merritt of Decatur, Ga., earned her second straight victory and notched the third-fastest time on the record boards while finishing sixth overall in 4:40:20. Her closest competitor, 26-year-old Liz Canty of Huntsville, Ala., placed ninth overall and posted the fifth-fastest time on the record boards with her time of 4:47:34. Prior to living in Alabama, Canty was a resident of Hudson, Mass. She last raced in Massachusetts in the 100K race of the 2016 TARC 100 where she finished second.
The top 14 overall finishers completed the race in less than five hours. Of the 343 starters, 317 finished within 8 1/2 hours.
Calico Trail 50K
Adena Schutzberg kicked off her 2018 ultramarthon season with an adventure through a California ghost town.
Schutzberg, 52, of Somerville, Mass., traveled to Yermo, Calif., to take part in the 14th annual Calico Trial 50K on Sunday, Jan. 21. The course starts and finishes in the Calico Ghost Town and Mining District, which dates back to the late 1800s. The course takes place on dirt roads and trails through the ghost town and the surrounding Calico Mountains, and the mostly runnable course tests runners with around 3,500 feet of gain – most of it on two gradual climbs.
Schutzberg tied for 49th out of 86 finishers within the nine-hour time limit, crossing the finish line alongside 37-year-old Matt Carroll of San Diego, Calif., in 6:49:04. Schutzberg was the 12th-place female finisher and placed second in her age group.
Sally McRae, 38, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was the women’s champion in 4:44:58. Her time was the fourth-fastest in course history on the women’s record boards, and she placed fourth overall. Eric Wostenberg, 41, of Burbank, Calif., was the men’s champion and first overall finisher in 4:08:02.
*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.