One thing was certain at the first running of the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail in 2019: course records would be set.
By default, a win and a course record went hand-in-hand at the inaugural event, and Kate Olson set the women’s standard with her victory and fourth-place overall finish in 24:57:58. When Olson returned for the third running of the race on Oct. 9-10, 2021, the mark had already been lowered to 24:20:00 by 2020 winner Johanna Ylanen, so Olson would have to work overtime to reclaim the top spot. Making that feat more difficult was the fact that the race has grown significantly in popularity with a field twice as large as in year one and a deeper, more experienced collection of racers.
Olson arrived to the starting line at the Windblown Cross-Country Ski Area in New Ipswich, N.H., ready to put her experience and course knowledge to the test against a talented field, and the result was a dazzling weekend of racing where the women’s course record board received a complete overhaul. Olson, Jessy Perz and Kehr Davis all delivered big performances on the diverse and difficult course. Given their different wave start times, they didn’t see much of each other during the race itself, but from a distance they engaged in a close battle throughout. Ultimately, Olson once again emerged victorious as the 35-year-old from Studio City, Calif., reclaimed the course record, winning in 22:43:48 while finishing sixth overall. Perz, 34, of Golden, Colo., secured the runner-up position and placed 10th overall in 23:50:21, notching the second-fastest women’s time in course history. Davis rounded out the women’s podium and placed 11th overall as the 44-year-old from Pittsfield, Mass., finished in 24:17:34. Davis’s time was the third-fastest by a woman in course history, and it was her second 100-mile finish of the year after a decade of dominating at shorter ultra distances.
The men’s race saw 100-mile veteran Nicholas Wirz, 33, of Leonardtown, Md., take home the win in 20:15:18, the second-fastest men’s time in course history. Runner-up Jeremy Scanlan, 38, of Louisville, Colo., finished in 21:46:59, the fifth-fastest men’s time in the three-year history of the race. Rounding out the men’s podium was Jake Dissinger, 39, of Northampton, Mass., with the seventh-fastest time in course history, 22:32:55. For Dissinger, it was his first 100-mile race since posting back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Vermont 100 in 2016 and 2017, as well as a return to the trail where he and friends Charles Hornbaker, Greg Soutiea, and Charles Dona set the supported fastest known time in 2016.
Dissinger pushed during the final miles, and that effort paid off in allowing him to secure a spot on the podium. Less than 10 minutes separated him from the next two runners, William Buick, 30, of Winooski, Vt., (22:40:49), and Brenner Burkholder, 25, of Pittsburgh, Pa. (22:41:56), with women’s champion Olson minutes back in sixth overall.
The top 10 overall finishers completed the race in less than 24 hours, a record high for the event. Nate Cressman, 29, of Newport, R.I. (23:27:36) and Cody Frost, 39, of Andover. Mass. (23:41:47) were among that group. Of the nearly 130 runners who started the race, 71 ultimately completed the journey from New Ipswich to Douglas State forest on the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border within the 33-hour time limit, amassing more than 12,000 feet of climbing along the way.
Conditions were ideal on race weekend, with temperatures lingering in the 50s for most of the time, and a mixture of sunny and cloudy skies. In prior years, heat has taken a toll on many of the runners, but that was less of an issue this year. That was a good thing on a course where the biggest climbs and some of the most technical terrain are packed into the first 35 miles as runners make their way across the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border, passing Mt. Watatic and climbing Wachusett Mountain, as well as a few other hills and small peaks.
This year’s race once again included some of the navigational challenges that runners have experienced in prior years. Several runners logged bonus miles while going off-course, either missing markers or following old markers, or missing a turn in one of the many places where the course re-routes off of the Midstate Trail to avoid going on private land where landowners didn’t give approval for the race.
Although the course threw an abundance of obstacles at the runners, from the technical terrain and mountain climbing, to navigational surprises, re-routes, and segments of punishing pavement, more than half of the field endured and reached the finish line. Some set records, while others scraped by the cutoffs and made it just in time. Among the notable performers were Joe Loureiro, 54, of Andover, Mass. (25:12:21) and Dane LeBlanc, 63, of Littleton, Mass. (30:52:37), who became the only three-time finishers of the race. Additionally, Art Beauregard, 43, of Framingham, Mass. (24:42:40), Kathleen Walker, 62, of Hyde Park, N.Y. (29:37:25), and Pascal Barbini, 54, of Westborough, Mass. (31:36:41) became two-time finishers.
Other notable finishers included Scott Deslongchamps, 51, of North Grosvenordale, Conn., who earned his third 100-mile finish and first Midstate Massive belt buckle in 25:28:52; Draa Mackey, 25, of Lincolnville, Maine, who earned his first 100-mile finish in 25:30:55; Bradley Armour, 34, of Melrose, Mass., who finished his second 100-miler in 25:34:36; Ryan Adams, 36, of Tyngsboro, Mass., who finished his first 100-miler in 25:55:38; Brenda Fortin, 38, of Williamsburg, Mass., who closed out a huge season of racing with her first 100-mile finish in 27:03:49 and finished fourth among the women’s field; and Carolyn Wisnowski, 36, of Shirley, Mass., who completed the race in 27:12:25, securing her first 100-mile finish and placing fifth in the women’s field.
Women’s 50-Mile Record Board Rewritten; Crowley Leads Men’s Field
As darkness fell at Long Pond in Rutland, Mass., runners began arriving for their nighttime wave starts for the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 50-mile race that would ultimately take them to the finish line at Douglas State Forest. The moon had been rising for a few hours already, but it was difficult to see it under a cloud-filled sky. It was chilly but comfortable with the temperature in the mid-50s. Soon, the first of four waves of runners departed at 9 p.m., with a new wave starting on the hour, every hour, ending at midnight, at which point around 70 runners were on the course and traveling by the glow of their headlamps.
By sunrise, the leaders had set themselves apart from the remainder of the field. The daylight made their forward progress easier as they navigated the final road sections and then blazed through the last miles of trail toward the finish line. Chris Crowley, 29, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was far ahead of the pack when he cruised across the finish line in 8:29:53. His winning mark was the second-fastest men’s time in course history. Runner-up Anton Laptsenak, 32, of Stoughton, Mass., followed a half-hour later in 9:01:07, finishing in the fourth-fastest men’s time in course history. A little while later, 27-year-old Daniel Mini of Danvers, Mass., joined them at the finish line, concluding his first ultramarathon with a spot on the men’s podium in 9:16:06.
Shortly after the top men finished, the leading women blazed across the finish line and rewrote the women’s course record board in the process. Both Maia Madison and Katarzyna Kays broke the previous course record, with Madison, 20, of Newton, Mass., winning in 9:37:57 and Kays, 33, of Salem, Mass., following in 10:00:32. Third-place finisher Hannah Anderson, 41, of Lake Worth, Fla., posted the fourth-fastest time by a woman in course history in 10:48:26. The fourth- and fifth-place women also logged top-10 all-time marks, with Sarah Jacqz, 26, of Holyoke, Mass., finishing in 11:04:21 and Erin Wilkie, 32, of Clinton, Mass., finishing in 11:56:36.
Fifty-two runners finished the 50-mile race within 18 hours.
Berklein, Pavlovsky Victorious in Ultra Debuts
When Flora Berklein and Nick Pavlovsky stepped to the starting line of the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 30-mile race on Sunday morning, Oct. 10, neither knew exactly what to expect from the day ahead of them once they departed Howe State Park in Spencer, Mass., and began their journeys south toward the finish line at Douglas State Forest. Both were attempting their first ultramarathons, and the field of more than 50 other runners included newcomers like them as well as seasoned ultra veterans who’d endured the rigors of mileage beyond the marathon many times over.
By the time it was all over, both Berklein and Pavlovsky did more than hold their own and survive; they won. Berklein, 29, of Brookline, Mass., won the race outright and posted the third-fastest time by a woman in course history, winning in 4:56:57. Pavlovsky, 31, of Waltham, Mass., topped the men’s field, finished second overall and clocked the eighth-fastest time by a male in course history as he finished in 4:58:07.
Ultimately, 45 runners finished the 30-mile race within nine hours. Joining Berklein on the women’s podium were Sarah Nelson, 45, of Florence, Mass. (5:16:12) and Denise Blankenberger, 27, of Somerville, Mass. (5:38:06). Nelson posted the fifth-fastest time on the women’s course record board and Blankenberger earned the 10th position all-time. Rounding out the men’s podium were Adrian Sauers, 36, of Nazareth, Pa. (5:12:29) and Luke Legendre, 37, of Worcester, Mass. (5:28:58).