Only a handful of racing opportunities remain as the 2019 ultramarathon racing season nears its conclusion. New England residents seized on a few of those opportunities on the Dec. 7-8 weekend, with some racing 100-milers in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, and others racing 50 miles or 50K in Arizona. The warm weather fueled some fast performances, but none were better than Lynnfield resident Lori Mitchener’s victory at the Daytona 100. Her trip to Victory Lane leads off this week’s roundup.
Given the racing year she’s had, it was appropriate that Lori Mitchener closed out the 2019 season at the sixth annual Daytona 100-miler on Dec. 7-8 in Florida.
The area is known for speed with its legendary 500-mile NASCAR race, but the 100-mile footrace featured its share of human-powered speed as runners tackled a point-to-point race through more than a dozen cities, starting in Atlantic Beach and finishing at Ponce Inlet near Daytona, Fla.
Seventy-four runners finished the race within the 30-hour time limit, but Mitchener didn’t need nearly that much time to get the job done. The 43-year-old resident of Lynnfield, Mass., had already proven to be plenty fast at the 100-mile distance this year, having won the Keys 100 in Key Largo, Fla., in May, followed by the overall victory at the Pine Creek Challenge 100-miler in Pennsylvania in September. She also was the overall winner of the 6-hour race at the Hamsterwheel on Nov. 2 in New Hampshire, hammering out 40 miles during that timespan. At Daytona, Mitchener revved her engine again and cruised through the course, finishing fourth overall and first in the women’s race in 17:41. Her closest competitor followed 36 minutes later.
Winning the men’s 100-mile race for the third year in a row was 46-year-old Lee Whitaker of Fort Mill, S.C. His time of 15:11 was the fifth-fastest in course history and exactly one hour slower than his course record-setting performance in 2017.
A trio of New England residents tallied their first 100-mile finishes at Daytona. Kelly Walsh, 29, of Vermont finished 40th overall in 26:03; 55-year-old Fran Curtis of Westminster, Mass., finished 55th in 27:36; and 33-year-old Massachusetts resident Shane Connelly crossed the finish line with 10 minutes to spare, finishing in 29:50.
Another notable first-time 100-miler was 62-year-old Ralph Dumke. A resident of Palm Coast, Fla., Dumke has spent the past three years traveling to New England to set new personal-best distance performances. He ran the 30-hour race at Ghost Train in 2017, logging 60 miles. Dumke then returned to Ghost Train and finished 75 miles in 2018. He completed 90 miles at this year’s Ghost Train in late October, setting the stage for his 100-mile breakthrough at Daytona.
In addition to the 100-miler, another 23 runners completed a 50-mile race covering the second half of the course. The overall victor at the distance was 36-year-old Massachusetts resident Robert Langlais who took home the victory in 8:39. He was joined in the overall top 10 by 49-year-old Rob Leder of Stamford, Conn., who finished sixth overall and fourth in the men’s field in 10:41. Additionally, 62-year-old Massachusetts resident Johnny Allen finished 13th in 12:28.
Mike Connolly added another 100-mile finish to his resume at the sixth annual Brazos Bend 100 on Dec. 7-8 in Needville, Texas. The course has been known for its sloppy, muddy conditions in previous years, but the 2019 edition was dry. That made for fast running for six 16.74-mile loops of the course through Brazos Bend State Park.
Several runners didn’t get the job done within the 30-hour time limit; more than 200 runners started the race and 120 ultimately finished. Patrick Reagan, 33, of Savannah, Ga., finished first overall in 12:21:43; women’s winner Julie Kehyfets, 31, of New York, N.Y., placed fifth overall in a speedy 15:34:25.
Connolly, 41, of Quincy, Mass., finished in the middle of the field, placing 74th overall in 26:25:32. Brazos Bend marked at least the fifth 100-mile finish for Connolly. He previously went 100 miles or more at the 24 Hour Around the Lake event in 2011, 2014 and 2015, as well as at the Anchor Down 24-Hour Race in 2016.
Margaret Wang had a memorable 100-mile debut at the fourth annual Devil Dog Ultras on Dec. 7-8 in Triangle, Va. Wang, 27, of Somerville, Mass., battled through five 20-mile loops of the course and nearly finished on the podium. Wang ultimately placed fourth in the women’s field in 29:16:15. Colleen Jay, 43, of Pinnacle, N.C., was the first-place female in 24:56:23. In the men’s race, 51-year-old Karl Meltzer of Sandy, Utah, earned the victory in 19:21:07.
Two New England residents were among the 93 finishers of the 100K within 20 hours. Serena Crutchfield, 38, of Cambridge, Mass., finished 45th overall in 16:31:40 while 44-year-old Andrew Raymond of Pomfret, Conn., finished 60th in 17:42:37.
McDowell Mountain Frenzy
Barely a month removed from a hard-earned finish at the Javelina Jundred 100K in Fountain Hills, Ariz., Jackie St. Louis returned to the same town for another challenging race. This time St. Louis was in Fountain Hills to run the 50-miler on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the 11th annual McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50-mile and 50K ultramarathons.
St. Louis, 31, was one of 85 runners to finish the race within 15 hours. The resident of Somerville, Mass., navigated the singletrack trails of McDowell Mountain Regional Park and neighboring McDowell Sonoran Preserve and crossed the finish line in 13:39:01. Top overall honors at the race went to 35-year-old Kim Dobson of Eagle, Colo., who set a new women’s course record in 7:44:43. The overall runner-up and men’s champion was 29-year-old Kent Warlick of Tucson, Ariz., who finished in 8:26:49.
Four more New England residents were among the 162 runners who finished the 50K race within 11 hours. Three of them – Paige Pasquini, Valerie Moore and Jenna Gould – made their ultramarathon debuts. Pasquini, 28, of Pittsfield, Mass., finished 68th overall in 6:17:02; Moore, 28, of Tewksbury, Mass., finished 69th in 6:18:38; and Gould, 30, of South Windsor, Conn., placed 76th in 6:30:26. Ultra veteran David Roach, 58, of Burlington, Conn., finished 129th in 7:43:23. Top honors in the 50K went to a pair of Tucson residents as 30-year-old Andrew Belus topped the men’s field in 3:38:00 and 52-year-old Michelle Hawk won the women’s race in 4:45:12.
*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.