MassUltra Roundup: AZT Oracle Rumble, The Itch, Skydive, Arches, and Winter Beast of Burden

The Trail Animals Running Club’s TARCtic Frozen Yeti 30-Hour Ultra was originally slated for Jan. 29-30 weekend, so the majority of New England ultrarunners looking to race selected that event as their primary objective for the weekend, though it was ultimately postponed by a week due to the massive Nor’easter that brought more than two feet of snow to much of the state. Several runners headed out-of-state to race, however, most of them escaped the storm’s clutches to run in warmer climates during the final weekend of January. Those races are featured in this edition of the roundup.

AZT Oracle Rumble

Since starting to run ultras in the fall of 2018, Alex Markle has made an annual trip to Arizona a part of his ultramarathon racing calendar – at least until COVID-19 hit. Markle, 41, of Burlington, Mass., opened the 2019 and 2020 seasons by traveling to Oracle, Ariz., and racing the 50K distance at the AZT Oracle Rumble.

The event was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic, but it returned in 2022 for its fifth edition on Saturday, Jan. 29, and Markle was there once again. This time, he entered the 50-mile race.

The race challenged runners with singletrack trails at Oracle State Park, including sections of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Eighteen runners finished the 50-mile distance, led by 32-year-old Zach Lepley of Sierra Vista, Ariz., in 8:59:34, and 47-year-old Angela Shartel of San Diego, Calif., who set a new women’s course record in 9:53:12. Markle finished 12th overall in 12:15:03.

Another 51 runners completed the 50K race, though none were New England residents.

The Itch 50K

Andy Novis has been running ultras for more than two decades, and the 58-year-old resident of Medford, Mass., has made a few trips to Florida to race while amassing his ultra resume. In 2011, he tackled his first race in Florida when he finished the Keys 100-miler. He returned six years later and logged 101.7627 miles at the Icarus Ultrafest 24-hour race in 2017. On, Saturday, Jan. 29, Novis returned to the Sunshine State to race once again – this time at The Itch 50K.

The fourth annual event took place on the Florida National Scenic Trail, starting at its East-West junction and heading south to Ocala. Of the 11 runners who finished the race, Novis placed eighth in 7:04:00. Simon Dnato, 45, of Calgary, Alberta, won the race in a men’s course-record time of 4:56:00. Deanna Doane, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., finished second overall and set a new women’s course record in 5:18:00.

Skydive Ultras

When it was founded in 2015, the Skydive Ultras put a new twist on ultrarunning – the early miles were rapid fast while plummeting from an airplane, and the post-adrenaline rush cooldown was the remainder of the race, be it 100 miles, 100K, 50 miles or 50K.

Eric Despres of Gardner, Mass., and Brian Teason of Manchester, Vt., have become regulars at the unique event, and both returned for its sixth edition on Jan. 29-30 in Clewiston, Fla.

Despres, 46, raced the 50-miler this year while Teason, 60, took part in the 50K.

Despres finished second overall out of seven finishers in his race and topped the men’s field in 9:41:25. He previously won the 50-miler in 2019 and finished third in the 100-miler in 2018 and 2017. His 50-mile time of 8:30:26 from 2019 ranks second in men’s course history behind Teason’s record time of 7:46:08 from 2015. Maria Paredes, 48, of Boca Raton, Fla., led the overall field this year in 9:00:33.

Twenty runners finished the 50K race, and Teason placed second overall in 5:38:04. Roderick Akrigg, 43, of Calgary, Alberta, held on for the win in 5:33:24. Teason previously raced the 50-mile event in 2019 and 2015.

No New England residents were among the eight 100-mile finishers or two 100K finishers this year.

Arches Ultra

Known as much for is epic scenery as the fast times produced on its courses, the Arches Ultra attracts ultrarunners for a variety of reasons. For three Massachusetts ultrarunners, the fifth annual event on Saturday, Jan. 29, in Moab, Utah, lured them in for their first or second ultras.

Racing on the outskirts of Arches National Park on slickrock trails sections of sand, Sabrina Bohrer, 26, of Somerville, Mass., and Desmond Goodwin, 24, of Cambridge, Mass., each made the Arches 50K their inaugural ultra while 22-year-old Reese Green of Arlington, Mass., made it his second ultra. Of the 218 finishers, Mike McMonagle, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, led the way in 3:53:26 while Devon Yanko, 39, of Salida, Colo., topped the women’s field and finished fourth overall in 4:13:43. Bohrer placed 79th overall in 6:13:01, followed a few minutes later by Goodwin in 6:17:35. Green finished the race in 7:15:56. Another New England resident, 29-year-old Natalie Norton of New Haven, Conn., finished in 6:55:20.

Another 66 runners finished the event’s 50-mile race, but none were New England residents.

Beast of Burden – Winter

The Erie Canal towpath was blanketed in snow on Jan. 29-30, but that wasn’t enough to keep runners away from the 13th annual Beast of Burden Ultra Winter Edition in Lockport, N.Y.

Several runners turned out to run multiple out-and-backs on the flat course in some of the most challenging conditions yet in event history. Included among that group were two Massachusetts men who secured hard-earned finishes on a difficult weekend of racing.

Of the 29 runners who started the 100-mile race, only nine finished. Michael Condella was among them. Condella, 34, of Revere, Mass., is a veteran of the event, and he secured his sixth Winter Edition 100-mile finish to go alongside a Winter 50-mile finish, three Summer 100-mile finishes and a Summer 50-mile finish. This year, Condella finished seventh overall in 27:44:28. Barry Main, 39, of Carlisle, Pa., won the race in 22:36:05.

In the 50-mile race, 26 runners started and 13 finished the double out-and-back course. Jared Dybas, 22, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., won in 9:59:1. Justin Fitzgerald, 38, of Groveland, Mass., finished seventh in 13:26:44. It was Fitzgerald’s sixth time completing the Winter Beast 50-miler. He also has three Summer Beast 100-mile finishes to his credit.

*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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