WESTWOOD, Mass. – Thirty miles and around 7 1/2 hours into his race, Patrick McEnaney made efficient work at the aid station. A wardrobe change, some extra snacks and refilled fluids, and he was ready to head back out for more. As McEnaney prepared to return to the trail, he paused to check in with a friend whose race was done and commend them for a successful day.
After a few congratulatory words and a fist bump, it was time to go.
“I have to get moving,” McEnaney said, a look of urgency on his face. “I’m starting to freeze.”
Sunset was drawing near and the temperature was 20 degrees and falling. It would be single digits overnight. If McEnaney was freezing now, it would get a whole lot colder before he was granted reprieve by the morning sun. That was, of course, unless he abandoned his goal of running 100 miles at the TARCtic Frozen Yeti 30-Hour Ultra.
The event, put on by the Trail Animals Running Club, returned for its third edition on Feb. 5-6 at Hale Reservation following a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was scheduled for the weekend prior, Jan. 29-30; however, one of the largest snowstorms in history struck the greater Boston area and dumped more than two feet of snow on Hale and many surrounding communities. The one-week delay allowed some of the snow to melt or be mashed down by footsteps, bikes and snowshoes. A full day of rain the day before the rescheduled race, followed by an overnight deep freeze, meant most of the course was coated in a 2-inch thick layer of ice, topped with about a half-inch of fresh snow.
McEnaney was ready for anything in terms of conditions. The 49-year-old tested out his microspikes on training runs at his local trails at Douglas State Forest. He also spent several weekends making the 45-minute drive to Hale from his home in Mendon, Mass., to train on the course. He ran in dry conditions, as well as on ice and in more than a foot of fresh powder. On race day, he wore multiple layers to help relegate his body temperature and strapped microspikes onto his feet for traction.
He made easy work of his first two loops, spending time chatting with new and old friends while patiently navigating the course and keeping his heart rate in check. Though the high was just 24 degrees, sunny skies made for comfortable conditions most of the day as long as he was in motion. After 30 miles, sunset drew near and the already below-freezing temperatures dropped to bone-chilling territory. At that point McEnaney was into his third trip through the 15-mile loop course (consisting of three approximately 5-mile mini-loops labeled Red, White and Blue). By that point, most of the 51 runners who had started the 30-hour race had either withdrawn early or were closing in on their mileage goals and calling it a day. Only a handful of runners remained on the course, and most were spread out.
McEnaney braced for some cold, lonely miles, but soon was granted reprieve from running solo during his third loop when he connected with Durgesh Mankekar, 44, of Medford, Mass.. The pair briefly met at Hale a few weeks prior, and McEnaney was relieved to see a friendly face. They spent nearly 30 miles together, running and hiking, chatting and passing the time.
“He and I ran a similar pace and I was beyond psyched to have someone with which to run as it got darker,” McEnaney recalled.
Miles 30-45 went quickly for the pair, taking less than 4 1/2 hours. After refueling at the aid station, they headed out together again. The next 15 miles were a grind. Both McEnaney and Mankekar endured their share of challenges during this stretch – McEnaney with frozen hands from using trekking poles for added traction and Mankekar with knee discomfort that made each step agonizing. Still, they stuck together, working as a team for nearly six hours to complete their fourth trip through the course.
“At mile 60, we got into his car to warm up and change our shoes because we both were freezing,” McEnaney said. “I was hoping that he would take me up on my offer of Tylenol and Motrin to help with the knee but he declined. When we got out of the car and I got ready to head out on the Red Loop with him again, he told me that he was dropping out and that he would hold down the fort to support me! I was so torn at this moment. Running may be a singular event but trail running creates a group camaraderie in which we stick together. The rest of this run was for him!”
After 60 miles and 17:33 on the course, Mankekar ended his race in third place overall for the 30-hour event. Only McEnaney and 40-year-old Bucky Love of South Gardiner, Maine, went further with Love placing second overall with 80 miles in 28:44. George Alexion, 62, of Waterboro, Maine, matched Mankekar’s 60-mile total, though in 25:33.
Other runners who endured long miles on the course included Ryan Fecteau, 28, of Framingham, Mass., and Janel Goodman, 48, of Scarborough, Maine, who each finished with 50-mile performances. Fecteau did so in 13:11, earning fifth place overall. Goodman finished sixth overall and led the women’s field by covering the distance in 27:04. Runners completing 45 miles were Matthew Rogers, 33, of Providence, R.I. (11:02); Douglyss Giuliana, 50, of Wilmington, Mass. (15:18); Scot DeDeo, 41, of Belmont, Mass. (23:39); and Susan Haversat, 56, of Windham, Maine (26:00). Runners completing 40 miles were Daniel West 36, of Hampton, N.H. (9:41); Stephen Fleck, 38, of Mendon, Mass. (9:51); Katya Divari, 60, of Ashland, Mass. (29:15); and Chris Feder, 52, of Westborough, Mass. (29:15).
Of the 51 starters of the 30-hour race, 39 completed at least two full loops of the course for 30 miles and an ultramarathon finish. That was down from 108 in 2019 and 106 in 2020, both of which had more ideal running conditions. Four runners completed 100 miles or more during each of the first two years.
With Mankekar finished, McEnaney headed out for the darkest, coldest, loneliest hours of the race. By that point he was the only runner still holding on to 100-mile dreams. He picked up the pace a bit, completing the trip through the course in less than five hours. He reached the aid station and mile 75 at 6:23 a.m., just before sunrise. His body was ready to crash.
“When I reached mile 75, I was toast,” he recalled. “I was cold, sleepy and didn’t think that I had the energy to go out on another loop. I essentially passed out on one of the benches by the fire whereupon the volunteers covered me with a jacket and a tarp so that I would not freeze in the cold. Apparently I slept for about 5 minutes which felt like an eternity and when I awoke, Carolyn Shreck sat next to me as I was struggling.”
It was 8 degrees, breezy and bitter. McEnaney was done – or so he thought.
“I told (Carolyn) that I was ashamed of myself because I did not think that I could go on and finish,” he noted. “She knew that I was not hurt, picked me up by my boot straps with some awesome words of encouragement which was the motivator to keep me going.”
“You’re not going to stop!” Shreck told McEnaney. “If you go home, you’ll regret not giving it a final go, and you can do this! What are you going to do, mow your lawn?”
McEnaney smiled as the dose of wisdom and perspective sunk in. He rose to his feet to return to the trail. He wasn’t done, after all.
With so few runners still on the course, the race directors closed the Red mini loop, so McEnaney had to close out his 100 miles with passes through the White, Blue, White, Blue and Blue loops for his final 25 miles – all within about 7 1/2 hours. There were no guarantees, and he’d be cutting it close.
“I was not certain that I could do that within that window (of time),” McEnaney admitted, “but I was beyond motivated at that point.”
McEnaney picked up the pace during the next 10 miles as the sun rose and the temperature along with it. He needed a little more than an hour to cover miles 85-90, giving him 3 ½ hours to complete the final 10.
“When I had 10 miles left to go, I was certain that I could finish the 100 miles in the allotted time frame,” he said.
He called his wife to give her a status update, tears welling in his eyes as he let her know he was still moving and would indeed finish. Finally, during his final 5-mile loop he passed the lot where he parked. He stopped, opened the door, reached in and grabbed an envelope that contained a $55 check to cover the cost of a finisher’s belt buckle. He carried it in his hand for the final 2 miles – the proverbial carrot luring him forward to the finish line.
About 15 minutes later, Powissett Lodge – the finish – came into view.
“As I approached the final stretch with about a half a mile left where the lodge is visible, I could hear everyone cheering me on as they could see me, too,” he recalled. “That definitely was a huge motivator as the 100-miler was so close. When I finally reached the finish, I was beyond excited to see the RDs, volunteers and even some folks who returned to run some more Sunday morning.”
McEnaney finished the race in 29:23. He was promptly swarmed by all three RDs to celebrate – including Shreck, whose timely words of encouragement kept him going.
“I sincerely felt that this was a team effort and that Carolyn, Surjeet and Josh as well as all of the volunteers had everything to do with my accomplishment,” he said. “I am so thankful for all of the help and support that they provided the entire time. I wanted to give every one of them a huge hug!”
For McEnaney, the Frozen Yeti was his third 100-mile finish – and by far the toughest conditions he has had to endure to finish. He previously finished 100 miles at the Hamsterwheel in New Hampshire in 2020 followed by the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail in 2021.
“Looking back on the whole experience, the temperature and conditions definitely made this a ‘next level’ 100-miler,” he noted. “This was not a PR for time, but absolutely one of the most difficult and memorable experiences that I will forever reflect fondly upon. The trail running community is such a caring and genuine group that I love to be part of.”
15-Mile Race Brings Heat on Frigid Night
A warm, crackling fire at the aid station was the lone opportunity for warmth for runners during this year’s Frozen Yeti, but the race directors added a new twist to generate just a bit more heat during the late-night hours: they moved the 15-mile race from its Sunday morning time slot in 2019 and 2020 to an 8 p.m. Saturday start.
The night race format offered a new challenge to runners of the 15-mile race, but it also infused the Frozen Yeti course with a fresh wave of energetic runners as the 30-hour field dwindled, bringing a burst of energy and added camaraderie to the runners who were in for the long haul.
Fifty runners stood at the starting line shivering in the 15-degree temperature as they awaited the start. Ultimately, 48 would finish with 34 doing so before midnight.
Despite the frigid conditions, the front of the pack in the night race brought some serious heat. Brandon Newbould, 40, of Nottingham, N.H., led all runners and earned the victory in 2:01:34. His performance produced the second-fastest time in course history, trailing only Patrick Caron’s record mark of 1:53:50 from 2019.
Newbould was pushed throughout the night by Keith Nadeau, 32, of Fairhaven, Mass., who cranked out the sixth-fastest time in course history while placing second in 2:08:46. Not far behind him, 36-year-old Jerry Audet of Douglas, Mass., cruised to a third-place finish in 2:16:33. Rounding out the lead group was 25-year-old Wilson Ray of Boston, Mass., who placed fourth overall in 2:21:24. A nearly 30-minute gap separated the leaders from the next pack.
The front of the women’s field was packed tightly, with two minutes separating the top three finishers. Lisa Keary, 37, of Framingham, Mass., earned the victory in 3:15:21. Debra Rhines, 50, of Plainville, Mass., was a close second in 3:16:57, followed seconds later by third-place finisher Jessica Ozturk, 27, of Waltham, Mass., in 3:17:26.