February came to a close for Massachusetts ultrarunners with races in North Carolina, Arizona, Texas and California, and a pair of local runners delivered particularly strong performances during their out-of-state races. Nick Curelop of Housatonic delivered a dandy of an effort at the difficult Mt. Mitchell Challenge and secured a top-five finish. Meanwhile, Rockland’s Michelle Ladonne pounded the pavement in Texas and earned a podium finish.
Mt. Mitchell Challenge
Some races might stick the word “Challenge” into the name as a cute gimmick; that’s not the case for the Mt. Mitchell Challenge in Black Mountain, N.C. The 21st annual event sends runners up the rugged – and often snow-packed – trails to the summit of 6,684-foot Black Mountain within the first 20 miles before they gradually wind their way around the mountainous terrain for another 20 miles to the finish line.
The 2018 edition – which took place Saturday, Feb. 24 – was one of the fastest in race history. Morgan Elliott threw down a course record as the 29-year-old from Aspen, Colo., blazed to a 30-minute victory in 4:20:48. Additionally, 37-year-old Aliza Lapierre of Williston, Vt., hammered the third-fastest time in women’s history with her winning mark – and seventh overall time – of 5:31:29.
Two Massachusetts residents tackled the race, and one earned a spot in the top five. Nick Curelop, 29, of Housatonic, placed fifth overall in 5:27:32. It was Curelop’s second time taking on the Mt. Mitchell Challenge. He last tackled the course in 2015 when he placed 12th overall in 5:42:33, so 2018 was a sizeable improvement.
Additionally, Taunton resident Dominick Laporte, 30, finished this year’s race in 6:44:41. It was his first time racing the Mt. Mitchell Challenge.
There were 158 finishers within 10 hours.
Cowtown Marathon 50K
Michelle Ladonne is accustomed to running ultramarathons on trails. That has been her experience at the Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug 50K in Connecticut, the Trail Animals’ Ghost Train 45-miler in New Hampshire, and the Catamount 50K in Vermont. Ladonne experienced new terrain at the Cowtown 50K on Sunday, February 25, in Fort Worth, Texas, when she tackled 31 miles on pavement.
Ladonne, 30, of Rockland, Mass., capitalized on the smooth, obstacle-free surface with some speedy running. She hammered the course in 4:47:26 and earned top-10 honors among the women and placed 40th overall out of 326 finishers within the eight-hour time limit.
Jenna Mutz, 37, of Joplin, Mo., was the women’s champion and ninth-place overall finisher in 3:50:21. Geofrey Terer, 41, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was the men’s champion in a sizzling 3:02:13.
Antelope Canyon Ultras
Sacred lands and spectacular scenery were rewards for the runners at the Antelope Canyon Ultras on Feb. 23-24 in Page, Ariz. Numerous runners from Massachusetts made the trip out West to take on the 50-mile and 50K races on sacred Navajo tribal lands on trails that took them through the desert and slot canyons and over sand, slick rock and singletrack.
The biggest draw for Bay State runners was the 50-miler where runners had 15 hours to complete the distance. Five ultrarunners from Massachusetts were among the 216 who finished. Joe Fubel led the way. The 46-year-old from Winchester had a big 2017 season as he built up to his second 100-miler, the Vermont 100, which he finished in 25:32:52. Fubel’s first 100 came in 2016 at Bryce Canyon in Utah, and that course consisted of some terrain that was similar to Antelope Canyon.
Fubel handled Antelope Canyon and its 3,700 feet of climbing just fine and earned himself a spot among the top quarter of the field, placing 50th overall in 10:27:45.
The men’s victory went to 28-year-old Michael John McKnight of Smithfield, Utah, in 7:20:26. The women’s victory went to Alexandra Garner, 31, of Toronto, Ontario, who also placed third overall in 7:47:17.
The top local women’s finisher was Elizabeth Masterjohn. The 37-year-old Hudson resident has been cranking out ultramarathons in New England since 2013, and prior to Antelope Canyon she had only branched out from the region to race twice in Idaho. She finished her first race in Arizona 110th overall in 12:06:23. She was joined at the finish line less than seven minutes later by 46-year-old Amy Mosca of Newburyport who finished 114th in 12:13:01.
Other Massachusetts finishers were Su Delguercio, 29, of Sheffield in 14:41:20, and David Bian, 24, of Cambridge in 14:52:15.
Additionally, a 55K race was offered, and 233 runners finished within 13 hours. That included four Bay State residents. The top local performer was 38-year-old Jennifer Brooks of Gloucester. She was among the fastest runners in the field, male or female. Brooks blazed to a seventh-place overall finish and placed second among the ladies in 5:32:56. Brooks couldn’t quite catch Luanne Park as the 57-year-old from Redding, Calif., earned the victory and finished fourth overall in 5:23:15.
Timothy Martin, 43, of Page, Ariz., was the top male finisher in 4:15:49.
Brooks was joined at the finish line by 48-year-old James McQuivey of Needham Heights in 8:37:17; 54-year-old Lisa Svec of Andover in 9:05:47; and 58-year-old Karen Birdsall of Topsfield in 9:44:25
In addition to the 50-mile and 55K races, some runners tackled a 100-mile offering. Twenty-one runners completed the 100-miler.
Andy Reagan made his ultramarathon debut at the Sycamore Canyon Ultras on Saturday, Feb. 24, in Poway, Calif., and the 28-year-old resident of Shutesbury, Mass., earned a top-10 finish while doing so.
Reagan completed four figure-eight laps around the course at Goodman Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve and navigated around 5,600 feet of climbing by the time he crossed the finish line in ninth-place overall in 6:00:15. The lone sub-five-hour finisher was Jonathanleo Fields, 32, of Escondido, Calif., who earned the victory by a 33-minute cushion in 4:42:02.
Thirty-two runners finished within nine hours.
In addition to the 50K, seven runners completed the 100K race.
*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.