MassUltra Roundup: Pine Creek, Tunxis, Boulder Field, and the Breaks

The COVID-19 global pandemic hasn’t eased its grip on the United States, but in-person ultramarathons have gradually resumed during the past few months. The Sept. 12-13 weekend marked the busiest for the Roundup since April with four races attracting Massachusetts residents and several other New Englanders to starting lines in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut. Nobody had a bigger weekend than Cambridge resident Padraig Mullins who secured a hard-earned victory at 100 miles at the Pine Creek Challenge. Several other New England residents tallied top-10 finishes at Pine Creek and the other events. We have them covered in a busier-than-usual pandemic edition of the roundup.

Pine Creek Challenge

A global pandemic didn’t stop the 10th annual Pine Creek Challenge Ultramarathons from taking place Sept. 12-13 in Wellsboro, Pa. The event is popular with ultra veterans and newcomers alike for its nontechnical, crushed stone terrain and mostly flat surface on the Pine Creek Rail Trail that allows experienced runners to pursue fast times and those newer to the distance to have a high chance of success at the 100-mile, 100K or 50-mile distance.

The event’s feature race, the 100-miler, took runners on two out-and-backs on the Rail Trail, and the top three men put on a spirited race that saw all three finish in less than 17 hours – more than two hours ahead of the remainder of the field – and all three crossed the finish line within a 17-minute window. Top honors went to 38-year-old Padraig Mullins of Cambridge, Mass. A speedy veteran of numerous races of 100 miles and beyond, Mullins brought a strong performance to his first ultra race in nearly a year and hammered out the fourth-fastest time in course history, winning in 16:40:10. Mullins held off 40-year-old Vasily Goncharov of Ashburn, Va., who was a close second in 16:51:27, and third-place finisher Michael Gagliardi, 44, of Philadelphia, Pa., who finished in 16:57:24.

While the top three men were the lone runners to finish in less than 19 hours, a total of 54 runners completed the race within the 30-hour time limit. Jessica Grinspan, 37, of North Wales, Pa., finished fifth overall and topped the women’s field in 19:06:32. Mullins was one of nine New England residents to earn the 100-mile finisher’s belt buckle.

Ryan Pelletier, 35, of New Bedford, Mass., joined Mullins in the top 10. Making his 100-mile debut, Pelletier placed eighth overall and sixth in the men’s field in 21:27:57. He will take on the distance again in October at the Midstate Massive 100. Michael Condella, 32, of Revere, Mass., finished 17th overall in 23:33:05 and was one of 20 runners to finish in less than 24 hours.

Other New England residents who finished included 100-mile veterans Brian Tjersland, 53, of Dartmouth, Mass. (25th overall; 26:00:07); and Joseph Laskey, 56, of Southington, Conn. (27th overall; 26:26:21), as well as several first-time 100-mile finishers. The first-timers included Joshua Milich, 30, of Somerset, Mass. (24th overall; 26:00:06); Dennis Noskin, 61, of Greenwich, Conn. (35th overall; 27:48:32); Mary Newell, 70, of New Haven, Conn. (40th overall; 28:32:57); and Jesse Beaudoin, 37, of Monson, Mass. (53rd overall; 29:34:31).

Nineteen runners completed the 100K race, including 47-year-old Javier Perrone of Bristol, Conn. (6th overall; 12:35:25); 51-year-old John McCleary of Redding, Conn. (7th overall; 12:52:22); and 65-year-old Emmy Stocker of Old Greenwich, Conn. (11th overall; 14:42:29). Mario Zuniga, 56, of Front Royal, Va., took home the overall win at that distance in 9:22:33 while 43-year-old Deb Dzurinko of Wysox, Pa., finished third and topped the women’s field in 11:03:01.

A trio of New England residents were among the 36 finishers in the 50-mile race. Jeffrey Ray, 36, of New London, N.H., led the way placing ninth in 9:16:28. Matthew Hoffman, 41, of Chelmsford, Mass., placed 13th in 9:45:27, while 71-year-old Bill Howard of Winchester, Mass., finished 21st in 10:52:04. Jason Lamb, 45, of Mount Arlington, N.J., was the top finisher for 50 miles in 8:05:12.

Tunxis Trail Ultra

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt on the Tunxis Trail Ultra in several ways. Organization of the event shifted from the CT Trailmixers to the Burlington Land Trust, wave starts were used for the 60K ultramarathon and 30K and 8K races, and many other changes were implemented for safety.

The ultra distance had a small field during the first three years of the event, and the fourth annual race on Saturday, Sept. 12, in Burlington, Conn., was no exception. Just four runners completed the race on the technical trails of the Blue Blazed Hiking Trail System.

The 60K race marked the ultra debut for 38-year-old Matt Toney of Westfield, Mass., and he raced to the overall win in 8:21:23. His closest competitor was the lone female runner, 39-year-old Elizabeth Allen of Coventry, R.I. Allen was the women’s runner-up in 2019, and she knocked more than 2 1/2 hours off of her time in placing second overall in 2020 in 8:36:04. The to other finishers were Portsmouth, N.H., residents Mark Ryder, 57, and Bob Kintz, 61, who finished in 9:18:22 and 10:16:25, respectively.

Boulder Field Ultra

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boulder Field Ultra remained a big draw for its 50K distance at the fifth annual event on Saturday, Sept. 12, in Jim Thorpe, Pa.

The event, which used a 50K figure-eight-style course in Hickory Run State Park, also has a 100K distance that loops the course. The typically small longer distance had 16 finishers this year, none from New England. Ninety-three runners completed the 50K within 11 hours, however, including four New England residents.

Robert Kehoe, 29, of Emmaus, Pa., led the men’s field and took home the overall win in 4:15:54. Two Massachusetts men raced to top-10 finishes. Anton Laptsenak, 31, of Stoughton, Mass., placed sixth overall in 5:00:23 for a speedy ultramarathon debut. Matt Pfahl, 33, of North Chelmsford, Mass., who finished fourth at the 2019 Midstate Massive 50-miler, finished 10th in 5:14:19. John Lazarus, 59, of Plymouth, Mass., finished in 7:06:09.

In the women’s field, 45-year-old Jill Roper of Wyomissing, Pa., took home the win in 5:53:31 while placing 28th overall. Melissa Pogwizd Bertele, 43, of Bethany, Conn., capped her ultramarathon debut with a third-place finish in the women’s field in 6:11:52.

Breaks Ultra

Rugged terrain and lots of climbing lured two New England residents to the Kentucky-Virginia border for the third annual Breaks Ultra on Saturday, Sept. 12,  in Breaks, Va. The 45-mile race at Breaks Interstate Park challenged runners with more than 11,400 feet of climbing on the rugged trails on and around Pine Mountain.

Sixty-seven runners finished the race within 16 hours, including two New England residents. Ashley Vana, 33, of Manchester, N.H., made her ultramarathon debut and finished third in the women’s field, 23rd overall, in 13:08:52. Amy MacIntire, 33, of Clarksville, Tenn., was the top woman and fourth overall finisher in 11:06:38.

Radu Diaconu, 38, of Cincinnati, Ohio, took home the overall win and topped the men’s field in 10:20:56, 21 minutes ahead of his closest competitor. Greg Wolodkin, 53, of Sutton, Mass., finished the race in 15:50:31.

*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.

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