MassUltra Roundup: Frozen Heart, Holiday Lake, Black Canyon, and the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival

The Massachusetts ultrarunning community has already had a busy 2020 with two fatass-style ultras and a 30-hour event. The Feb. 15-16 weekend was Connecticut’s turn to kick-off its ultra calendar with a big-mileage opportunity. The CT Trailmixers did just that by introducing a new 15-hour event – the Frozen Heart 900 – that saw 29 runners log ultramarathon mileage with two of them (George Daniels and Andrew Orefice) surpassing the 80-mile mark. Additionally, a handful of other runners from the region ventured outside of New England to race. That included South Deerfield’s Brian and Amy Rusiecki who continued their annual tradition of road-tripping to Virginia for some early-season racing, and several others who flew to the warmer climates of Arizona and Nevada for the Black Canyon Ultras and the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. We’ve got them all covered in this week’s roundup.

Frozen Heart 900

The CT Trailmixers kicked off their 2020 ultramarathon season with the inaugural running of the Frozen Heart 900 on Saturday, Feb. 15, in Rockfall, Conn. The fatass-style event offered runners 900 minutes (15 hours) to circle the 2.2-mile Camille’s Way Blue Blazed trail on Connecticut Forest and Park Association property as many times as they wanted.

Most of the 34 participants ran at least a 50K, with 58-year-old George Daniels of Durham, Conn., leading all runners with 83.6 miles. His closest competitor, 42-year-old Andrew Orefice of New Haven, Conn., completed one fewer loop of the course, closing out his day with 81.4 miles. Three more runners surpassed the 60-mile mark, including 15-year-old Tobias Tello of Cheshire, Conn. (63.8 miles), and 32-year-old Raymond Sansoucy of Worcester, Mass. (61.6 miles).

Angie Thomas, 30, of Waterford, Conn., led the women’s field with 52.8 miles, followed by 41-year-old Sarah Slater of Guilford, Conn.; 36-year-old Miriam Fenton of Malden, Mass.; and Sabrina Lewis, 33, of Norwalk, Conn., with 50.6 miles apiece.

Twenty-nine runners completed at least 30 miles; 18 of them surpassed the 50-mile mark.

Holiday Lake 50K++

Ultrarunning road trips to Virginia are an annual tradition for Brian and Amy Rusiecki, and the residents of South Deerfield, Mass., are keeping that tradition alive in 2020. Brian, 41, and Amy, 40, kicked off the new racing season on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the 23rd annual Holiday Lake 50K++, an approximately 33-mile race on a double-loop course around Holiday Lake in Appomattox, Va.

It was Brian’s first time racing at Holiday Lake and Amy’s third time. Brian raced near the front of the pack throughout the day and ultimately closed out his Holiday Lake debut with a second-place finish in 3:59:20. Daniel Rau, 24, of Blacksburg, Va., won the men’s race in 3:54:47. The third-place finisher, 31-year-old Nicholas DiPirro of Charlottesville, Va., was hot on Rusiecki’s heels and finished in 4:01:03.

In the women’s race, a newcomer outran three former champions to take home the win. Jo Thompson, 37, of Charlottesville, Va., won the race in 4:33:58. Course record-holder Laura Sullivan, 23, of Blacksburg, Va., was unable to replicate the speed she brought to her 2017 win (4:18:41) and ultimately placed second in 4:45:53. Three-time champion (2002, 2007, 2015) Bethany Patterson, 41, of Richmond, Va., raced to a third-place finish in 4:51:57, while 2018 champion Amy Rusiecki placed fourth in 4:49:46.

Runners had eight hours to finish the race, and 222 did so within the time limit.

Both Brian and Amy Rusiecki will return to Virginia in March for the Bel Monte 50-miler, followed by another trip in May for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-miler.

Black Canyon Ultras

The first Western States Golden Tickets were on the line at the seventh annual Black Canyon 100K and 60K ultras on the Black Canyon Trail in Mayer, Ariz., with two berths in the sport’s original 100-mile footrace going to top male finishers in the 100K race and two more to the top women. Men’s champion Hayden Hawks (7:55:33), 28, of Cedar City, Utah, and women’s winner Camille Herron (9:21:27), 38, of Alamosa, Okla., already had berths locked up so the Golden Tickets went to the second- and third-place finishers. None of them were New England residents, however 13 runners from the region were among the 542 runners to finish the 100K race within the 20-hour time limit.

The race featured a point-to-point course on the Black Canyon Trail in the Sonoran Desert that was net-downhill in terms of overall elevation gain, but was backloaded with most of the 4,100 feet of climbing coming in the later miles so runners were challenged with the toughest running while in their most fatigued state after pummeling their quads with more than 6,000 feet of loss.

Dylan Brann led the New England contingent with the 30-year-old from Bar Harbor, Maine, finishing 72nd overall in 11:35:10. That was an improvement of more than 100 minutes over Brann’s 13:17:32 effort at the race in 2019.

Five more New England residents joined Brann in the top half of the field. Bertram Johnson, 47, of Burlington, Vt., built upon his three 100-mile finishes in 2019 by logging a speedy 100K at Black Canyon, finishing 108th overall in 12:17:40. Simon Guerard, 34, of Cambridge, Mass., placed 164th overall in 13:08:13 in a tune-up race before taking on the Wasatch 100 and Run Rabbit Run 100 later this year. Additionally, Brian Amaral, 26, of Tewksbury, Mass., placed 200th in 13:34:55, building upon a strong run at the TARC Fells Winter Ultra in December when he finished fourth in the 40-mile race; Elizabeth Nesbitt, 37, of Burlington, Vt., placed 253rd in 14:29:07; and 36-year-old Mae Polson of Somerville, Mass., rode the momentum of a strong recent effort at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler in San Francisco by turning in a solid effort at the Black Canyon 100K, placing 254th in 14:29:59.

Other New England residents who had hard-earned finishes were Kate Cook, 43, of Boston, Mass. (15:18:50); Matthew Reardon, 33, of Cambridge, Mass. (15:23:12); Renee DeMarsh, 54, of East Sandwich, Mass. (15:35:50); Matthew Della Bitta, 53, of New Canaan, Conn. (16:31:22); Dan Balestrieri, 41, of Billerica, Mass. (16:46:16); Ken Forrest, 50, of Mansfield Center, Conn. (16:57:48); and Gary Richards, 64, of Belmont, Mass. (19:36:59).

In addition to the 100K race, another 236 runners finished the 60K race within 12 hours. That included 32-year-old Lori Chong of Cambridge, Mass., who finished in the top half of the field, placing 101st overall in 8:25:44. Patrick Rabuzzi, 28, of San Francisco, Calif., won the race overall in 5:01:27 while 28-year-old Meagan Hayashi of Hinton, Alberta, finished third overall and led the women’s field in 5:36:49.

Jackpot Ultra Running Festival

The lights of the Las Vegas Strip glowed just a few miles away, but it was in nearby Henderson, Nev., that ultrarunners bet big on Feb. 14-16 at the seventh annual Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. The event included several ultramarathon distance options, from distance-based options of 100 miles and 50 miles, to time-based options of 48 hours, 24 hours, 12 hours and 6 hours, all on a 2.5-mile loop course around a lake at Cornerstone Park. New England was represented in four of those events, including one high-mileage runner who brought home a first-place finish.

Shan Riggs, who recently moved to Glastonbury, Conn., after spending time in Illinois and Indiana, brought his speed and ambition to the 100-mile race and threw down a dominant performance, outdistancing the field by nearly six hours while winning in 15:33:20. In addition to the 26 runners in Riggs’ 100-mile race, another 26 runners finished 100 miles as part of the USATF 100-mile championships which were considered a separate event. Mark Hammond, 34, of Millcreek, Utah, won that race in 13:04:50. Riggs’ time would have been good for sixth in the men’s field or seventh overall in the championship event.

Meanwhile, 38-year-old Tek Ung of Cranston, R.I., was one of 78 runners who took part in the 48-hour race. Fifty-six of those runners surpassed the 100-mile mark, including Ung who finished 14th overall and seventh in the women’s field with 112.5 miles. Amy Mower, 51, of Seattle, Wash., was the first-place overall finisher with 190 miles while event runner-up and first-place male Brian Schreiber, 61, of Henderson, Nev., logged 167 miles.

In the 24-hour race, Ryan Cotton, 36, of Vancouver, Wash., led all runners with 125 miles while event runner-up and first-place woman Rachel Entrekin, 28, of Seattle, Wash., logged 111 miles. In that race, 60-year-old Barbara Graf of Leeds, Mass., placed eighth overall and third in the women’s field with 77.5 miles. For Graf, the successful outing was her first ultramarathon. In the same event, 83-year-old Eugene Defronzo of Cheshire, Conn., completed 27.5 miles within the time limit.

Another 46 runners competed in the 12-hour race, including 49-year-old Kerri Haskins of Danville, N.H., who logged 27.5 miles.

No New England residents took part in the 50-mile and 6-hour races.

*Editor’s Note: Results are found on a variety of sites, including, 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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