MassUltra Roundup: Twisted Branch, UTMB, the Rut, and Lake Sonoma

This week’s roundup is a bit of a catch-all, between out-of-state races during the Sept. 5-6 weekend, the late posting of August results from Twisted Branch, and the massive pile of results to sift through from the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. We’ve tracked them down, though, and have them included in this week’s roundup.

Twisted Branch 100K

The COVID-19 pandemic wiped the 2020 Twisted Branch 100K off of the calendar, but the event returned for its sixth running on Saturday, Aug. 21 in Naples, N.Y., and several New England residents turned out for the point-to-point race through New York’s Finger Lakes region that includes mostly singletrack trail and more than 10,000 feet of climbing. That strong representation included the women’s champion.

Kehr Davis, 44, of Pittsfield, Mass., finished second among the women at the 2019 race behind course record-setter Rachel Bainbridge, but Davis returned in 2021 and topped the women’s podium while also finishing 10th overall in 13:46:25.

Philip Nesbitt, 35, of Caledonia, N.Y., led the men in 12:02:34, a minute ahead of runner-up Shawn Bubany, 43, of Meredith, N.Y. Daniel Bates, 37, of Wethersfield, Conn., rounded out the men’s podium in 12:10:38. The top five overall finishers completed the course in less than 13 hours. Benjamin Lane ,28, of Groveland, Mass., was the top New England finisher, placing eighth overall in 13:18:59.

Davis’s strong performance at the front of the women’s field was just enough to hold off 40-year-old Rebecca Koseck of Wellsboro, Pa., who finished second in 13:51:42. Alexandra Finn-Atkins, 31, of New York, N.Y., rounded out the women’s podium in 14:25:06. She was followed 15 minutes later by fourth-place finisher and recent TARC Summer Classic 40-mile women’s champion Brenda Fortin, 37, of Williamsburg, Mass., in 14:40:21.

Other top performers from New England included Rufus Chaffee, 46, of Worthington, Mass., who finished 17th overall in 14:16:51; Erik Hinrichsen, 32, of Newton, Mass., who was 18th in 14:17:55; Salvatore Frontierro, 46, of South Hamilton, Mass., who finished 19th in 14:20:18; Bradley Armour, 34, of Melrose, Mass., who was 26th in 15:08:41; Tom Starodaj, 34, of New Britain, Conn., who placed 30th in 15:13:33; David Czerwonka, 58, of East Greenwich, R.I., who placed 32nd in 15:19:49; Kaitlyn Mac Guthrie, 22, of Boston, Mass., who finished 38th in 15:35:56; Alexander Ciccone, 32, of Ivoryton, Conn., who followed a few seconds later in 15:36:19; and Eli Burakian, 43, of Brownsville, Vt., who finished 40th in 15:36:49.

Additional finishers from New England included 55-year-old Giuseppe Le Pera of Bedford, N.H. (15:43:41); 47-year-old Wayne Ball of Feeding Hills, Mass. (16:18:22); 45-year-old Blake Pomeroy of Rowley, Mass. (16:46:11); 40-year-old Peter Guza of North Andover, Mass. (16:51:04); 41-year-old Evan Gadbois of Woodbridge, Conn. (17:14:35); 27-year-old Sophia Farnsworth of Stow, Mass. (18:01:19); 55-year-old Mark Conley of North Kingstown, R.I. (18:07:50); 49-year-old Mike Kirk of Manchester, Mass. (18:07:55); 54-year-old Suzanna Smith-Horn of Strafford, Vt. (18:26:05); 41-year-old Christopher Lay of Somerville, Mass. (18:34:18); and 40-year-old Rob Gallagher of Scituate, Mass. (19:28:55).

Of the 173 runners who started the race, 107 finished within 20 hours.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Festival

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc has been the largest annual global gathering of ultrarunners for more than a decade, with thousands of runners flocking to Chamonix, France, to take on a variety of races and distances building up to the full circumnavigation of Mont Blanc while passing through three countries.

The UTMB festival was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the event returned on Aug. 22-29. The impacts of the pandemic were felt as many entrants were unable to travel for the race, but slightly scaled-down fields still toed the starting line for each distance. A few of those participants traveled from New England to take part.

In the signature race, the UTMB, runners had 46 ½ hours to complete the 170-kilometer journey around Mont Blanc, starting and finishing in Chamonix and passing through Italy and Switzerland along the way while also amassing more than 32,000 feet of vertical gain. Of the 2,341 starters, 1,521 ultimately finished. Frenchman Francois D’haene topped the men’s field in 20:45 to earn his fourth victory at the race while American Courtney Dauwalter followed her 2019 victory with a women’s course-record performance in 2021, finishing seventh overall in 22:30.

Two New England men were among the UTMB finishers, with 44-year-old Blake Benke of Westport, Conn., finishing 700th overall in 41:00:37 and 33-year-old William Hafferty of Boston, Mass., placing 741st in 41:31:25. Tom Dmukauskas, 45, of Somerville, Mass., took part in the race but did not finish.

A few hours prior to the start of the UTMB, the 101-kilometer CCC race began, covering the final 63 miles of the UTMB course. Runners in the CCC started in Courmayeur, Italy, passed through Switzerland and ultimately made their way to the finish line back in Chamonix, crossing multiple high passes and amassing more than 20,000 feet of climbing along the way. More than 2,000 runners started the race and three New England residents were among the 1,577 who finished. Brent Kocis, 32, of Medford, Mass., had a strong day and placed 136th overall in 15:13:06. Additionally, 56-year-old Doug Mayer of Center Sandwich, N.H., finished 693rd in 20:52:00, and 54-year-old Janet Sanderson of Wakefield, R.I., finished in 24:08:38. Vermont resident Marcelo Gleiser started the race but did not finish.

Three New England residents were among the field that took part in the 145-kilometer TDS race, but Alexandra Earle of Center Conway, N.H., John Lavoie of St. Albans, Vt., and Hugh Tower-Pierce of East Burke, Vt., were unable to finish. Only 212 of the runners who started the TDS ultimately finished. A runner fell during the race and died, and race officials stopped a majority of the runners at that point and did not allow them to continue.

In the shortest ultramarathon of the week, the 55K OCC, a pair of British men went down to the wire and were separated by three minutes with Jonathan Albon leading the overall field in 5:02:58. Of the 1,465 runners who started the race, 1,358 finished within 15 hours. That included 38-year-old Hilary McCloy of Jackson, N.H., who placed 225th overall in 8:04:34.

The Rut

The gnarly Rut 50K returned on Sunday, Sept. 5, in Big Sky, Mont., to conclude a three-day trailrunning festival, and a New England resident put his White Mountains training to good use with a big-time performance.

New Hampshire’s Jordan Fields didn’t bring home the win, but the 27-year-old placed fifth overall out of 412 finishers in a speedy 5:48:01. Michelino Sunseri, a 29-year-old ultrarunner from California, topped the field in 5:25:47, four minutes ahead of runner-up Seth Ruhling, 26, of Longmont, Colo.

Massachusetts resident Luke Costley, 27, also had a big day in his ultramarathon debut, placing 11th overall in 6:12:51.

Local Montana runner Jennifer Lichter, 25, led the women’s field and finished 12th overall in 6:14:34.

Rounding out the New England contingent at the Rut were Vermont resident Anthony Staples, 32, who finished 40th overall in 7:32:18; 23-year-old Kaelyn Woods of Maine who placed 123rd in 8:42:37; 31-year-old TAylor Wetherby of Massachusetts who finished in 9:16:31; New Hampshire resident Jeff Carpenter, 49, who finished in 11:52:46; and 32-year-old Massachusetts resident Greg Kappleman who finished in 12:07:37.

Lake Sonoma Trail Series

The Lake Sonoma 50-miler has been a staple of West Coast ultrarunning for several years, but in 2021 it grew into an entire trailrunning festival with two days of racing and a new 100K distance on Sept. 4-5 in Healdsburg, Calif.

Saturday’s 50-mile race remained the main event and it saw 100 of the 158 starters finish within 19 hours. Mario Mendoza, 35, of Bend, Ore., and Keely Henninger, 35, of Portland, Ore., topped the men’s and women’s podiums in 7:10:13 and 7:40:20, respectively. Kimberly Caldwell of Northfield, Vt., was the lone New England resident to finish that race. The 32-year-old completed the 50-miler in 13:17:10 just four weeks after racing the Ragged 50K in New Hampshire.

Following the 50-miler was the inaugural running of the 100K on Sunday. More than 100 runners took part in that distance, and 46 of them finished within 19 hours. Ruairi Moynihan, 31, of Flagstaff, Ariz., and Susan Oh, 37, of Bend, Ore., took home the men’s and women’s wins in 12:15:29 and 13:22:58, respectively. Jane Farrell, 32, of Alton, N.H., finished 16th overall and fifth in the women’s field in 15:56:11.

*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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