Following a dynamite 2019 season in which he won at least four ultramarathons and was the runner-up at three others, Brian Burke kicked off 2020 in strong fashion, placing second at both the G.A.C. Fat Ass 50K and the Wild Florida 120-mile trail race in January. At the time, it seemed another big year was in store for him. What followed was a 7 1/2-month wait for Burke before he returned to another starting line thanks to the COVID-19 global pandemic. That return performance came Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Firebird Trail Race 50K in Maine, and Burke proved he hadn’t lost his speed during the time off from racing. He brought home the victory in course-record time, holding off a fellow Massachusetts resident in the final miles. The race was one of at least three out-of-state ultras for Bay State residents last weekend, and it leads off this week’s roundup alongside the Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra in Connecticut and the Pawling Trail Running Festival in New York.
Firebird Trail Race
Brian Burke and Johan Keller don’t live too far apart – Burke resides in Somerville, Mass., and Keller lives just a couple miles away in Malden, Mass. – but the Bay State residents traveled north to Maine to duel on the trails at the second annual Firebird Trail Race 50K on Saturday, Sept. 19, in Windham, Maine.
The race started at the Lowell Preserve in Windham and made its way through Blackstrap Hill Preserve in Falmouth before heading back to Windham, almost all of it in the Cross-Falmouth Trail. The course tested the runners with plenty of rocks, roots, ups and downs, reminiscent in some ways of the Middlesex Fells Reservation right by where Burke and Keller live. Both were well prepared for the terrain, and it showed as they led the pack.
Burke, 38, set a fast pace from the beginning, logging most of his first 11 miles in the upper-7s to low-8s, while Keller, 36, ran comfortably at a mid-8 to low-9-minute pace in the early going. Keller knocked eight minutes off of Burke’s lead between miles 12 and 13, however, and the race was on. The pair were close the rest of the way until Burke earned some breathing room in the final miles and earned the victory in 4:48:37. Keller finished second in 5:02:03, followed by Brent Vanni, 46, of Yarmouth, Maine, in 5:10:58. Ed Donahue, 36, of Abington, Mass., was a close fourth in 5:13:53, while Gordon Collins, 41, of Portland, Maine, rounded out the overall top five in 5:18:58.
Kylee Parker, 25, of Portland, Maine, finished sixth overall and was the first-place female in 5:40:43. Another Portland resident, 30-year-old Nicole Lynass, was the women’s runner-up in 6:45:09, and 33-year-old Lauren Pettit of Dudley, Mass., finished third in 7:14:51.
Of the 24 runners who started the race, 21 finished within 8 1/2 hours. Bernhard Paul, 46 of Arlington, Mass., was among the finishers, completing the race in 7:23:03.
The final year of the Roosevelt Forest Ultra Trail Series has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t been brought to a halt. The fifth running of the Forgotten Forest 9-Hour Ultra still took place on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, Conn., but entry was capped at 50 runners.
Forty-eight runners ultimately logged mileage on the loop course, 39 of which ran beyond the marathon distance. Eric Ciocca, 42, of Northampton, Mass., led all runners with 51.80 miles. Runner-up Chase Arsenault, 23, of Shelton, Conn., matched Ciocca’s mileage tally, but Ciocca covered the distance faster and took home the win. Third-place male Marc Raby, 30, of Avon, Conn., followed with 48.10 miles.
In the women’s field, 25-year-old Clorice Reinhardt of New Haven, Conn., led the way with 46.25 miles while also finishing fourth overall. Janna Chernetz, 44, of Scotch Plains, N.J., was the second-place female with 44.40 miles, followed by Lauren Mendoza, 38, of Feeding Hills, Mass., who rounded out the women’s podium with 42.55 miles. Mendoza also earned ninth-place overall honors for her effort.
Other overall top-10 finishers included Zachary Scoular, 23, of New Milford, Conn. (fifth, 46.25 miles); Rob Leder, 49, of Stamford, Conn. (sixth, 44.40 miles); Brendan Gallagher, 40, of Stratford, Conn. (eighth, 44.40 miles); and Jason Silva, 49, of Plymouth, Mass. (10th, 40.70 miles).
Other Massachusetts residents who completed ultramarathon distances included Johanna Fawcett, 40, of Lawrence, with 33.30 miles, and Jared Pare, 39, of Feeding Hills, with 31.45 miles.
Pawling Trail Running Festival
The inaugural Pawling Trail Running Festival gained approval for in-person running during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first event in the Conquer the World ultra series to do so, and the time-based event took place Sept. 19-20 in Pawling, N.Y. Runners were offered 24-hour, 12-hour, and 6-hour options to take on the approximately 1.7-mile loop course and its mixture of singletrack dirt, grass, pavement and rolling hills.
Twelve runners took on the 24-hour event, and 11 of them – all New Yorkers – surpassed the marathon distance, led by 35-year-old Melanie Couture of Verbank, N.Y., who led all runners with 78.96 miles. Another eight runners ran the 12-hour race and all surpassed the marathon distance, led by 43-year-old Sean O’Neil of Bedford Hills, N.Y., and Daniel Roberto, 45, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., with 50.4 miles apiece. Two New Englanders also completed that race, with Lee Zarger, 66, of New Milford, Conn., completing 28.56 miles, and Dawn Alguard, 54, of Newington, Conn., completing 26.88 miles.
The 6-hour race had 15 participants, of which seven ran beyond the marathon distance. That included Jennifer Bell, 54, of Dalton, Mass., who was the fourth-place female and sixth overall finisher with 28.56 miles. Gerald Tabios, 51, of Elmhurst, N.Y., was the top overall finisher with 31.92 miles. Julie Bengyak, 38, of Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y., was the second overall finisher and top female with 30.24 miles. Richard Camerik, 56, of Ridgefield, Conn., finished with 26.88 miles.
*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.