WESTWOOD, Mass. – As the minutes ticked down before the 8 a.m. start of the second annual TARCtic Frozen Yeti 30-hour ultra on Feb. 1-2, a crowd of 115 runners made their way from the cozy confines of Powisset Lodge to the starting line just a few yards away.
The starting line was no fancy blow-up arch, just a temporary marking from a foot-drag along the frost-covered ground. Within a few hours, the line would disappear, lost to the warming temperature and the footsteps of runners passing by on multiple trips through the three mini loops that made up the 15-mile clover-leaf course on Hale Reservation’s winding trail system.
For now, the line was visible, and Howie Breinan stood just inches behind it with a prime starting spot. Joining him at the front of the pack was Fernando Salcido. The pair have shared the trails at several ultras in recent years, most notably the Race for DFL Last Person Standing event last fall in Pelham where they logged numerous loops together and shared words of encouragement during breaks. Breinan, 51, of Hebron, Conn., and Salcido, 47, of Somerville, Mass., spent a few minutes chatting, both looking relaxed and comfortable, showing no signs of nerves related to the task they were about to take on.
A few minutes later, co-Race Director Surjeet Paintal sent the runners on their way and Breinan let out the loudest of the Trail Animals Running Club’s signature yeti howls. In the hours that followed, through the day, the night and the following morning, Breinan and Salcido were rarely separated by more than a mile. Both entered the weekend with big goals; both achieved them.
The camaraderie, spirit, and goal-chasing demonstrated by Breinan and Salcido were emblematic of the field as a whole at the Frozen Yeti. Runners entered the weekend with wide-ranging ambitions. A few – like Breinan and Salcido – sought the lofty milestone of running 100 miles; others aimed for a speedy 30- or 60-mile performance; several hoped to use the time to set a distance personal record or enjoy a glorified training day for a big race later in the year. Of the 115 who toed the starting line, 106 completed an ultramarathon distance by the time the finish line closed on Sunday afternoon.
The miles came easier at the 2020 Frozen Yeti than the inaugural event in 2019 because there was a lot less “freeze” to overcome. Gone were the packed snow and sheets of ice that made last year’s race particularly daunting. Also gone was the 9-degree temperature at the start and the sub-freezing temperature that hung around for all but the final four hours of the race. In its place were mostly dry trails and seasonably warm weather in the 30s and 40s which made for ideal conditions to run, be it for just a few hours or the full 30-hour time limit.
The early hours of the race were dominated by runners aiming to go fast for a few hours rather than running for the event’s duration. On the men’s side, 39-year-old Scot DeDeo of Belmont, Mass.; 40-year-old Beau Langevin of Biddeford, Maine; 47-year-old Sylvain Gelinas of Sherbrooke, Quebec; and 40-year-old Ross Anderson of Franklin, Mass., pushed the pace as the standard-bearers for speed, with DeDeo rolling through 30 miles in 5:30, followed by Langevin two minutes back, Gelinas 19 minutes back and Anderson 25 minutes off the pace. DeDeo ultimately stopped after 60 miles in 12:38, as did Gelinas in 13:25 who was followed five minutes later by 49-year-old Jeff Ingalls of Newburyport, Mass. Anderson also stopped after 60 miles in 15:30, while Langevin finished with 55 miles in 11:26.
In the women’s field, 37-year-old Tracy Schultz of Waltham, Mass., hammered the early miles and was the first to reach 30 miles, knocking out two loops of the course in 5:59 before stopping. The next two women, Molly Karp, 38, of Natick, Mass., and Danielle Triffitt, 44, of Topsham, Maine, followed 35 minutes later and ended their days with 30 miles apiece, both in 6:34.
As some runners achieved their mileage goals and called it a day, others endured into the night and the following morning in pursuit of more miles.
The top three women finished with 60 miles. Jasmine Fowler, 41, of Belfast, Maine, led the way in 15:55, followed by 37-year-old Samantha Krasner (23:09) of Boston, Mass., and 47-year-old Aura Alves-Mauricio (28:06) of Westford, Mass. Both Fowler and Krasner set personal records for distance, while it was Alves-Mauricio’s third 60-mile effort. Amy Adams, 44, of Manchester, Md., was fourth with 55 miles (29:16). Four more women – 36-year-old Jami Landry (13:00) of New Paltz, N.Y.; 36-year-old Elizabeth Thompson (15:02) of Summer Hill, Australia; 34-year-old Allison Sullivan (16:29) of Bartlett, N.H.; and 36-year-old Jennifer Rizzo (18:42) of Marblehead, Mass. – all finished with 50 miles apiece. For Rizzo and Thompson, it was the first time either had achieved the 50-mile milestone.
The biggest miles of the weekend were turned in by the men. None matched the 105-mile performance by Carolyn Harper when she earned the overall victory at the 2019 Frozen Yeti, but four men reached the 100-mile mark. Roy Van Cleef was the first to do so. The 40-year-old resident of Harvard, Mass., was victorious in his first 100-miler, setting a course record with his 23:06 performance. Four hours later, Breinan finished his 100-mile effort as the second-place finisher in 27:08. Less than half an hour later he was joined at the finish line by Salcido, the third-place finisher in 27:32. Alex McQuown, 25, of Cambridge, Mass., was the final runner to reach 100 miles, hitting that milestone for the first time in 29:10.
Finishing the weekend with 80 miles apiece were 36-year-old Jeffrey Russell (28:14) of Bridgewater, Mass., and 37-year-old Taylor Scull (29:08) of Bedford, N.H. Both 40-year-old John Sherback (22:17) of North Easton, Mass., and 43-year-old Frederic Lehance (22:51) of Quebec finished with 75 miles apiece, and 35-year-old Jason Raehl (17:55) of Grand Rapids, Mich., logged 65 miles. Ten men finished the weekend with 60 miles, led by DeDeo, Gelinas, Ingalls and Anderson.
Additionally, the Hale Reservation staff took part in the event for the second straight year with a relay team. Collectively, Team Hale compiled 155 miles in 29:22.
Levandosky, Peterson Victorious in 15-Mile Race
While the 30-hour race was the featured event at the Frozen Yeti, a 15-mile race covering one trip around the clover-loop course was offered on Sunday morning. Fifty-seven runners completed that distance. Steve Levandosky, 49, of Hopkinton, Mass., topped the men’s field in 2:07:35, outdistancing runner-up Sean Haggerty, 50, of Brookline, Mass., by nearly 10 minutes. Haggerty was the runner-up in 2:15:56, followed closely by 34-year-old Vail Rooney of Garwood, N.J., in 2:17:48.
The women’s race went down to the wire with the top three finishers beating the winning time from 2019. Eleni Peterson, 26, of New Ipswich, N.H., won in a course-record time of 2:34:01, followed closely by 47-year-old Justine Cohen of Lexington, Mass., in 2:35:30. Robyn Bratica, 35, of Milford, Mass., rounded out the women’s podium in 2:43:07.