Traer Torches the Track, Takes 3rd at Desert Solstice

Since emerging on the Massachusetts ultrarunning scene a decade ago, Scott Traer has established himself as a fierce competitor and dominant performer on any surface. Be it technical singletrack that’s New England gnarly, an easy-running rail trail, pavement or track, the 40-year-old doesn’t pass on an opportunity to push his limits and find out what he can achieve. That approach has led him to amass at least 14 ultramarathon victories, set multiple course records, and earn outright wins at the 2015 Vermont 100 and the 2021 Hennepin Hundred.

Two months after his victory in Illinois, Traer toed the line alongside 24 other runners at the 12th annual Desert Solstice 24-Hour Run on Dec. 11-12 on the Central High School track in Phoenix, Ariz. He was one of two runners representing Massachusetts in the field; Norton resident Padraig Mullins, 40, was also in the field. Another Bay Stater, 43-year-old Cambridge resident Jenny Hoffman, was entered in the invitation-only event but did not compete.

Traer hails from Woburn, but the Trail Animals Running Club member and founder of RunFastah coaching has moved around during the past few years and recently relocated to Phoenix, which allowed him to prepare for his third straight Desert Solstice appearance by training in the dry desert heat and arrive at the starting line feeling confident.

Scott Traer on his way to a third-place finish in the 24-hour race at the 2021 Desert Solstice. Photo courtesy of Scott Traer.

“This event is awesome,” Traer said in an email. “Aravaipa puts on great events, and knowing the athletes and community around the event (and seeing them all the entire time on the track!) makes this event very easy for me to stay positive and enjoy the experience, regardless of the result.”

For Traer, the result was one he felt plenty good about as his preparation paid off in a major way.

Traer hammered out 100 miles in 14:15:04, placing sixth overall and fifth among the men, but then he kept on going. Not content with a speedy 100-mile performance, Traer was focused on seeing how many total miles he could put up within the time limit. By the time 24 hours had expired, he had amassed a whopping 152.36 miles – a tally that would have been enough to win in 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017, or 2019.

This year, however, two of the four biggest totals in Desert Solstice history were turned in by 34-year-old Nick Coury of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jacob Jackson, 44, of Loma Linda, Calif., so Traer finished third overall. Jackson logged 157.33 miles, the fourth-best performance in event history, while Coury set a new Desert Solstice record and new men’s American 24-hour record with 173.01 miles.

Not to be outdone on record-breaking performances at Desert Solstice, 39-year-old Camille Herron of Oro Valley, Ariz., broke her own women’s American 100-mile track record by nearly four minutes with her winning time of 13:21:51, which was second overall only to David Laney, 33, of Portland, Ore., who logged 100 miles in 12:34:59.

For Traer, sharing the track with runners who delivered legendary performances was a memorable experience that inspired him to keep pushing throughout his race.

“Absolutely,” Traer said. “Nick Coury, the Machine! And Camille always has an upbeat attitude – two great performances and that’s another benefit of doing the race – you get to see big records break every year. To be honest, their records were spectacular but I was just focused on my own race day stuff during the event.”

Reflecting on his performance, Traer is already making notes of lessons learned and modifications he will make next year when he plans to return for a fourth running of Desert Solstice.

“I was only concerned with the 24-hour and it was good to stay on the track moving for all 24 hours,” he noted. “I will make a number of small changes next year and also think I will use a crew to maximize efficiency.”

While Traer enjoyed his best weekend yet at Desert Solstice, Mullins also turned in a stellar performance in his third trip to Desert Solstice. His focus was on the 100-miler, which he completed in 18:04:04. Mullins tacked on a cooldown lap after, which gave him a weekend tally of 100.41 miles and a 14th-place overall finish in the 24-hour field. Mullins previously ran the event in 2013 and 2016, both times focusing on the 100-mile race. In 2013 he finished seventh overall in the 100-miler in 17:08:53. He dropped his time to 16:33:57 for 100 miles in 2016, placing fifth overall and snagging the third spot on the men’s podium.

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