One thing is certain when Matt Veiga toes a starting line: he’s there to race.
Veiga runs hard, competes fiercely, and leaves it all on the trail. That’s the case regardless of distance. He has thrived at shorter distances, occupying a permanent place among the front-runners of the New England Mountain Running Series during the past few years because he’s willing to sprint up and down steep mountains with reckless abandon. He has also thrived at longer distances, as he did during his course record-setting dash around the 50K course at the TARC Summer Classic in 2016 or when he finished fifth out of 110 runners at the Stone Cat 50-miler later that year.
The racing was more difficult for Veiga in 2017, however. The resident of Lynn, Mass., battled an Achilles injury for most of his season. He fought through it and endured plenty of pain and frustration along the way, still managing to finish fourth in the Mountain Series.
“Last year was kind of a bummer due to the Achilles tendonitis I was dealing with,” Veiga said. “It popped up in May, got really bad in June and lingered into August. I basically hobbled my way through the Mountain Series and then decided to shut it down in July to get healthy.”
Rather than dashing up and down hills and mountainsides, as has been his typical training routine for the past few years, Veiga logged more long, easy miles to build his endurance while helping his Achilles recover. Other than a trail marathon in Maine last August, he stayed away from starting lines and focused on healing.
“I’m feeling very fit now with no issues thankfully,” he said. “The foam roller and I have become good friends.”
Once again healthy, Veiga set his sights on the Wapack and Back 50-miler in May as his comeback race. As a tune-up for that, the 32-year-old entered the Goat Hill 50K on Saturday, April 14, in Uxbridge, Mass.
“I decided to run Goat Hill because of the timing and the course itself,” he said. “I’m running Wapack and Back and needed a 30-mile training run. The Goat seemed like a great option with 1,000 feet of climb per lap.”
Veiga looked like his old self from the beginning of the race. He darted to the front of the pack and quickly motored away from the field during the race’s opening minutes. He rattled off nearly even splits during the first two loops, cruising through the first eight miles in 1:07:00 and the second eight in 1:07:31. His closest competitor, 32-year-old Matthew Perkins of Cambridge, Mass., was equally consistent, posting a 1:15:13 for the first lap and 1:15:00 for the second. It was a two-man race, but Veiga was in control – or so it seemed.
“The Goat was a tough race,” he said. “The climbing wasn’t that bad since the trails are designed for mountain bikes. The winding and zig-zagging are relentless. The course is also very runnable, making it easy to get yourself in trouble like I did.”
The trouble, specifically, was too much running and not enough fueling.
“I felt great the first two loops,” Veiga said. “On the first loop I didn’t carry any water, which I probably should have. The second loop I did not eat anything, which I definitely should have. At the end of the loop I realized my mistake so I shoveled food in at the aid station and took a gel on the course with me that I ate right away. I felt like I had somewhat dodged that bullet.”
Two loops of calorie and fluid depletion caught up with Veiga during the second half of the race. The temperature rose into the 50s, and dehydration eventually set in. Perkins began to close the gap, and trimmed Veiga’s 16-minute lead down to 14 minutes by the end of the third loop.
“I knew I was slow the third lap and hoped I’d recover some for the fourth,” Veiga said. “Yeah, that didn’t happen.”
Veiga battled his way through the fourth and final loop while Perkins remained in pursuit and continued to close the gap. An already tough race became even tougher when, with three miles to go, Veiga’s abdominals and obliques began to cramp and forced him to hike.
“I knew I was losing time and basically just waiting to get passed,” he recalled. “With a half-mile to go, I noticed one guy catching up quick and got real scared.”
Veiga forced himself to run the final half-mile in agony and crossed the finish line in first place in 5:27:18, only to discover moments after finishing that the approaching runner was a loop behind him. Even so, the painful final push may have preserved the victory because Perkins was closing fast. Three and a half minutes after Veiga finished, Perkins secured second place in 5:30:48.
Saturday marked the third running of the Goat Hill 50K. Veiga’s winning effort didn’t threaten to overtake Patrick Caron’s men’s course-record run in 2017 (4:07:53) when he pulled away from Ben Nephew (4:30:32) as the race unfolded, however the record board was rewritten for the women. Elizabeth Lynch and Lisa Rising ran in close contact until the final miles of the race. They swapped positions throughout the first three loops. Lynch had a 90-second lead after 24 miles, and she slowly increased her advantage during her final trip around the course.
When Lynch crossed the finish line, the 53-year-old resident of Milford, Mass., shattered the course record with her time of 6:08:49. The previous mark of 6:31:42 was set by Kathy Hoegler in 2016. Lynch was the third overall finisher, trailing only Veiga and Perkins. Lynch wasn’t the only runner to dip under the old course record, however. Rising also did so. The 27-year-old resident of Cambridge, Mass., notched the second-fastest time on the women’s record board when she finished in 6:15:40, good for fourth overall.
For Lynch, Goat Hill marked her first ultra since finishing the TARC 100 in 2016. Meanwhile, it was Rising’s first race since finishing her first 100-miler at Orcas Island in February.
David Foss, 49, of Rehoboth, Mass., finished fifth overall in 6:17:34 and rounded out the men’s podium. Jenny Cavanagh, 29, of Weymouth, Mass., was the third-place woman in 7:59:13.
Of the 22 runners who started the race, 16 finished within nine hours.
In addition to the 50K, runners also tackled 24-mile, 16-mile, 8-mile and 5K distances. Daniel Long, 24, of Boston, Mass. (3:57:07) and Carly Tucker, 25, of Cambridge, Mass. (5:21:02) were the winners of the 24-mile race; Brett Mastrangelo, 27, of Chester, Vt. (2:07:19), and Beth Krasemann, 45, of Suffield, Conn. (2:40:44), won the 16-mile race; John Kinnee, 40, of West Townsend, Mass. (1:02:32), and Molly Finn, 28, of Cambridge, Mass. (1:16:00) won the 8-mile race; and Emma Ronan, 13, of Northbridge, Mass. (29:08.8) an Aaron Leger, 29, of Sterling, Mass. (31:23.0), were the 5K winners.