MassUltra Roundup: NipMuck, Flagstaff Sky Peaks, Yeti Snakebite, and Blues Cruise

The most spellbinding race of the Oct. 1-3 weekend was the duel between Brian Burke and Ed Clifford at Bubba’s Backyard Ultra, but it was far from the only race that attracted ultrarunners from New England. Bubba’s and three other ultras were featured in Part 1 of the Oct. 1-3 roundup, but there was so much racing that weekend that it merited a second. Here in Part 2, we feature the New England classic: the NipMuck Trail Marathon, which extends ever so slightly into ultra territory, and we also highlight the Flagstaff Sky Peaks 50K, Yeti Snakebite Ultra, and the Blues Cruise 50K. The late-summer race schedule was jam-packed, and now the fall is off to a hectic start. Read on.

NipMuck Trail Marathon

One of New England’s earliest — and shortest — trail ultramarathons, the 26.4-mile NipMuck Trail Marathon, has been a staple on the regional ultra scene since the 1980s. From rocks and roots to mud and hills, the race offers runners a challenge that has drawn some of them to return for decades.

On Sunday, Oct. 3, the latest edition of the race took place in Ashford, Conn., and 51 runners successfully finished on a sunny and comfortable day where racing conditions were ideal. Included among the were Patrick Canonica, 72, of Boxford, Mass., who has run every NipMuck since 2000 and finished in 8:05:16, as well as 64-year-old Barbara Sorrell of Delmar, N.Y., who has run every NipMuck since 2000 except for 2020. Sorrell finished this year’s race in 7:38:24.

Top honors at this year’s race went to men’s winner Juan Chacon, 29, of Norwich, Conn., who finished in 3:33:33, and women’s winner Chiara Bistarelli, 49, of Newton, N.J., who finished in 5:07:07. Chacon had his hands full late in the race but managed to hold on against Brendan Atkins, 36, of Old Lyme, Conn., who finished a close second in 3:35:46. Shaun Berard, 40, of Portland, Conn., rounded out the men’s podium in 3:46:59. The trio were the lone runners to finish in less than 4 hours.

Joining Bistarelli on the women’s podium were Kelsey Eng, 29, of Glastonbury, Conn. (5:19:49) and Rachel Spurrier, 40, of West Hartford, Conn. (5:27:28).

In addition to Canonica, another six Massachusetts residents also took part in this year’s race. Anthony Tieuli, 48, of Northbridge finished 16th overall in 5:11:43; Pete Despres, 55, of Fairhaven finished 24th in 5:43:16; Kevin Mullen, 64, of Fairhaven placed 28th in 6:14:45; Peggy Kelley, 54, of Woburn was 30th in 6:32:51; Katya Divari, 59, of Ashland finished 34th in 6:49:48; and Christine Feder, 51, of Westborough was 39th in 6:57:47.

Flagstaff Sky Peaks

In his first ultra race since the pandemic began, Ermanno Modonesi eased back into it by running the TARC Summer Classic 40-miler in August. Modonesi, 41, of Newton, Mass., built upon that effort on Saturday, Oct. 2, when he took part in his first race in the southwest at the Flagstaff Sky Peaks 50K in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The race took place mostly on the Arizona Trail, and Modonesi was up for the task. He finished 15th overall in 6:38:51, in the top half of a field of 31 finishers. Flagstaff local Peter Mortimer, 40, won the race in 4:37:39.

Another 24 runners completed the event’s 50-mile race, with 37-year-old Luke Watkins of Phoenix, Ariz., winning in 8:45:46. No New England residents took part in that race.

Modonesi’s busy racing calendar will continue in November when he toes the line at the Stone Cat 50K.

Yeti Snakebite

Five Massachusetts residents all completed their first ultramarathons at the Yeti Snakebite 50K on Sunday, Oct. 3, in Lithia Springs, Ga. The ninth annual event at Sweetwater State Park challenged runners with a three-loop, figure-eight style course on singletrack trails. 

Arlington resident Meghna Swamy, 43, led the local crew, finishing 29th overall in 7:11:50. Fellow Arlington residents John Lewis, 49, and Caitlin Sweeney, 44, followed in 7:52:59 and 7:58:53, respectively. Then it was Boston resident Brittany Readel’s turn to complete her first ultra as the 27-year-old crossed the finish line in 8:48:25. Nicole Burnham, 51, of Hopkinton rounded out the field from the Bay State in 9:22:12.

Additionally, April McKinney, 45, of Newport, Maine, and Catherine Kotredes, 35, of Hermon, Maine, ran the race together and finished in 9:08:09 and 9:08:17.

Thomas Parker, 39, of Tallahassee, Fla., and Carrie Maresh, 35, of Black Mountain, N.C., topped the men’s and women’s fields in 4:42:10 and 6:28:07, respectively. Runners had 11 hours to complete the race and 107 did so.

Blues Cruise 50K

The Blues Cruise 50K in Reading, Pa., is known as a beginner-friendly ultra. The single-loop course with almost all singletrack trail and mildly technical terrain is a popular race for first-time ultrarunners and veterans looking to go fast. The 15th running of the race on Sunday, Oct. 3, was no exception as two New England residents made it their first ultra. Andrew Crossley, 32, of Manchester, N.H., and Daniel Leonard, 33, of Brighton, Mass., both finished the race to become ultrarunners, Crossley in 6:00:17 and Leonard in 6:37:53. Additionally, ultramarathon veteran Yosef Ellis-Rech, 21, of Sharon, Mass., completed the race in 6:28:25. For Ellis-Rech, the race was a final tune-up before his 100-mile debut at the Fall Creek 100 in November.

Ian Schouten, 56, of Lititz, Pa., and Stephanie Kershner, 36, of Hamburg, Pa., led the field of 256 finishers, winning in times of 4:06:29 and 4:37:31, respectively.

*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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