The 2021 ultrarunning season is rapidly coming to a close. Days have grown shorter, and race calendars have, too. Only a handful of ultras remain on the slate between now and the new year. Light racing has taken place during the first few weekends of December, but a handful of runners from the region have made their way to starting lines around the country. That includes Cambridge resident Alexander Lenail, whose busy December included racing locally at the Fells Winter Ultra before heading to California and turning in a strong showing at the Woodside Ramble 50K. His performance leads off this edition of the roundup.
Woodside Ramble 50K
Alexander Lenail is still a relative newcomer to the ultrarunning scene, having made his debut in August 2020 at the Marlette 50K in Nevada. Still, he’s making his mark quickly. The 27-year-old resident of Cambridge, Mass., finished 21st overall and 12th among the men in the 50K at the Vermont 50 in September, and he followed that up with back-to-back December ultras to close out the year.
Lenail finished third overall in the 32-mile race at the Trail Animals Running Club’s Fells Winter Ultra on Dec. 4, Two weeks later, he traveled cross-country from Massachusetts to California to race the Woodside Ramble 50K on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Huddart County Park in Woodside, Calif.
Lelail took part in the 10th running of the event, which takes place on an out-and-back course with a lolli-pop loop at the midpoint. The singletrack course challenged runners with 5,400 feet of climbing and an eight-hour time limit.
Ninety-seven runners finished the race within the allotted time, including Lenail who finished 17th overall in 5:08:40, setting a big personal record for the distance. Logan Williams, 27, of Truckee, Calif., led all runners in 3:39:51 and Zuzana Trnovcova, 35, of San Francisco, Calif., topped the women’s field and placed seventh overall in 4:37:59. The top 14 finishers completed the race in less than five hours.
Naked Nick 50K
After an eight-year hiatus from running ultras, James Gaston returned to the sport with a strong showing at the Naked Nick 50K on Sunday, Dec. 19, in Leesport, Pa.
Gaston, 31, of Newtown, Conn., last crossed an ultramarathon finish line at the 2013 running of the Winter Beast of Burden 100-miler where he finished in the top 10 as a 22-year-old. He also completed the Gobi March 250K in China that year.
At the fourth running of the Naked Nick 50K on the trails around Blue Marsh Lake, Gaston finished 44th overall out of 141 finishers within the nine-hour time limit, completing his race in 5:33:45. Nicholas Wirz, 33, of Leonardtown, Md., led the men in 3:58:30 and Stephanie Kershner, 36, of Hamburg, Pa., led the women in 4:39:44. Both set new course records.
While Gaston was making his return to the sport, a trio of other New England residents earned their first ultramarathon finishes. Seth Moyer, 21, of New Haven, Conn., completed his first ultra in 6:14:10; Vlad Mahera, 31, of Dorchester, Mass., did so in 6:30:42; and 36-year-old Eric Steinberg of Norwalk, Conn., finished in 7:19:49.
Sawmill Trail Run
The Sawmill Trail Runs celebrated their ninth running on Saturday, Dec. 11, but their first at a new location at Staunton State Park in Pine, Colo. The event offered a 50K trail ultramarathon in addition to two shorter races. Runners had 12 hours to complete the 50K, and 37 did so. Greg Palken was the lone New England resident in the field, and he represented well. The 27-year-old resident of Northborough, Mass., raced near the front of the field throughout the day and finished second overall in 6:04:00. Colorado resident Brad Fiala, 40, took home the win in 5:44:00.
The Sawmill 50K marked another successful race for Palken in Colorado. In 2020, he raced the Sangre de Cristo 50K and finished in first place overall.
Jupiter Ridge Sand Spur
Mike Soucy closed out his 2021 racing season with his first ultramarathon finish of the year and a spot on the podium. Soucy, 50, of Essex, Mass., took part in the fifth annual Jupiter Ridge Sand Spur 50K on Saturday, Dec. 11, in Jupiter, Fla. The race took runners on trails through the Jupiter Ridge Natural Area, up and over many sand dunes and amassing 2,000 feet of gain along the way. Of the 26 runners who started the race, 17 finished within 9 hours. Eric Kalina, 51, of Boca Raton, Fla., finished first overall in 4:31:53. Soucy finished sixth overall and third in the men’s field in 7:00:54.
In addition to the 50K, the event added an 81-mile race for the first time. No New England residents took part at that distance.
*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.