Summer Sauna: Heat Takes a Bite Out of Runners at TARC Summer Classic

MEDFIELD, Mass. – The Trail Animals Running Club has a proud history of creative race-day treats. From the legendary Yeti Balls masterfully crafted by Alyssa Adreani, to the “Skeptical Jeff” – a quesadilla with peanut butter, banana, and chocolate from a 3-foot tall chocolate bunny first created at the 2017 TARC Spring Classic, to various other innovations in the TARC Test Kitchen, the Trail Animals have a knack for cooking up tasty snacks and inventing palatable new concoctions.

Given that tradition, a new creation might be in order specifically for the TARC Summer Classic, inspired by the event itself. Perhaps something dry and airy, yet substantive? At least one runner’s mind temporarily drifted in that direction during the 11th running of the event on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Noon Hill Reservation.

“The air’s so thick you could chew it,” Israel Agront joked to fellow runner David Catarius as the pair began their third loop of the course.

Israel Agront, left, and David Catarius, right, chat about the heat as they begin their third of four loops in the 40-mile race at the TARC Summer Classic on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Both Agront and Catarius were among the 17 starters of the 40-mile race. Another 21 runners started the event’s other ultramarathon offering, a 50K race. On a hot and sticky day where temperatures climbed from the upper 70s at the start to the mid-90s by the afternoon and the tree canopy turned the trails into a sauna, just eight runners ultimately finished the 40-miler and 21 completed the 50K including four drop-downs from the 40-miler.

The day was a grind from the start for the runners. Despite the shade provided by the largely wooded course, the heat and humidity began baking them quickly. Volunteers kept busy providing runners with food and fluids, as well as ice for their buffs and hats and cold sponges for their heads and necks between loops. Still, the challenging conditions were difficult to overcome.

One runner who managed the heat particularly well was David DeJoannis. An experienced ultrarunner whose successes include a runner-up finish at the 2018 Watuppa 50K, a top-10 finish at the 2018 Jay Peak 53.1K, a top-five finish at the 2020 Midstate Massive 50-miler as well as the completion of the 2021 Midstate Massive 100-miler, DeJoannis signed up for the Summer Classic 50K a few weeks before the race.

TARC Summer Classic 50K champion Jason DeJoannis begins his third of three trips through the course on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

“Fortunately it’s been hot the last couple weeks,” DeJoannis said with a laugh, “so I went out and did speed workouts in the heat a couple times a week. I think that helped.”

Indeed it did. 

DeJoannis was in third place 11 miles into the race, but he moved to the front during his second loop and the Waltham, Mass., resident built a 35-minute lead by the time he finished his second loop (mile 21). After pacing the first two loops nearly evenly, his pace slipped a bit during the final 10 miles but he continued to expand his lead and won comfortably in 5:35.

“Fortunately I had done that speed training in the heat,” DeJoannis said while enjoying a Bomb Pop a few minutes after finishing. “I was just out for kind of a long run and thought I’d see how it goes. I didn’t really have too much of a target, but it worked out well.”

The men’s 50K runner-up was David Catarius of Shrewsbury, Mass. Catarius was entered in the 40-miler, but he dropped down to the 50K and finished in 6:08. Jason Lynch of Maplewood, N.J., rounded out the men’s podium in 6:35. He was followed two minutes later by another 40-mile drop-down, Andy Novis of Medford, Mass., in 6:37. Hank Xi of Malden, Mass., finished fifth in 6:51.

Denise Klatt closes out another loop of the 40-mile race at the TARC Summer Classic on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

In the women’s field, Danielle Fischer and Danielle Mackowiak ran within a few minutes of each other throughout the race. Fischer held a 3-minute lead after 11 miles and expanded her advantage to 4 minutes by mile 21. Ultimately, pulled away during the final loop and the resident of Merrimack, N.H., earned the victory in 6:59. Mackowiak, of Dudley, Mass., was the runner-up in 7:14. Maria Chevalier of Cumberland, R.I., rounded out the podium in 7:49.

Runners in the 40-mile race completed an extra loop and endured the course and the conditions for a few additional hours. During that time, plenty of carnage unfolded. Four runners dropped down in distance while five more withdrew from the race early. Those that remained battled hard to earn their finishes. Israel Agront was the frontrunner for more than 20 miles, completing the first loop in 1:41 and the second in 1:54, but the resident of Medford, Mass., bonked hard during his third loop and saw his lead disappear. Upon finishing his third loop in 2:22, Agront spent several minutes sitting in the shade with a cold sponge on his neck trying to cool his body so he could rally for one more loop and finish. He ultimately did so and finished third overall in 8:20. Runner-up Jason Baer of South Burlington, Vt., finished in 8:08.

Nick Poles begins his third of four loops of the 40-mile race shortly after taking the lead at the TARC Summer Classic on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

The overall winner was Nick Poles of Newton, Mass. Poles is still relatively new to ultrarunning – he finished second overall in his first ultra at the 2021 Pineland Farms 50K and second overall in his second ultra, the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100-miler in May 2022 – but he ran a smart, savvy race at the Summer Classic. He was in fifth place following his first loop (1:46) and then eased up a bit during his second and third loops (1:53 and 1:57) while working his way into third and ultimately first place. Poles was the leader after 30 miles, and he stepped on the gas during his final loop, cranking out a 1:50 split for the last 10 miles on his way to victory in 7:26.

Denise Klatt of Brookline, Mass., was the fourth-place female after 10 miles, but she moved into first place during her second loop and never looked back. Ultimately, Klatt finished fourth overall and first in the women’s field in 9:18. Julia Magnusson of Maynard, Mass., followed as the women’s runner-up and fifth overall finisher in 10:35.

The final finishers of the 40-mile race were Sean Cole of Cranston, R.I., in 11:10, Helen Carmichael of Sudbury, Mass., in 11:43, and July Estey of Buffelsrivier, South Africa, in 11:44.

Caron, Bainbridge Cruise to Victory in Inaugural Summer Classic 10-Miler

The format of the Summer Classic has evolved through the years, starting as a time-based 12- and 6-hour ultra before transitioning to 50-mile and 50K distances and then dropping the 50-miler to a 40-miler. The latest twist was the addition of a 10-mile distance this year to give runners a shorter mileage option and introduce more runners to the course.

Patrick Caron slips past two runners on his way to victory in the 10-mile race at the TARC Summer Classic on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. The 10-miler was a new addition to the event. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

Twenty-seven runners opted for the 10-mile opportunity, and a pair of ultrarunning veterans took advantage of the shorter option to throw down speedy, dominant efforts.

Patrick Caron led the race wire to wire. The native of nearby Needham, Mass., pulled away from the pack within the first mile with his sights set on finishing in less than 1:10. He did so with seconds to spare, winning in 1:09:58. For Caron, it marked his latest victory in a string of shorter distance races. He won the Trail Animals’ Blue Hills Skyline Run 12K by a 7-minute cushion in June.

Rachel Bainbridge pushes toward the finish line of the 10-mile race at the TARC Summer Classic on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Bainbridge was the women’s champion and second overall finisher of the 10-miler. Photo by Chris Wristen/MassUltra.

The top two women were the second and third overall finishers in the 10-miler. Both Rachel Bainbridge of Concord, Mass., and Kathleen Mingle of Norfolk, Mass., pushed hard from the start, but Bainbridge gradually pulled away to top the women’s field and finish second overall in 1:29. Mingle followed five minutes later in 1:34. Joseph Benoit of Worcester Mass., was the men’s runner-up in 1:41, followed closely by Caleb Morrison of North Easton, Mass., in 1:43. Andre Gutierrez Marty of Brighton, Mass., narrowly missed the men’s podium as he finished a minute later in 1:44. Gwenyth Taradash of Dartmouth, Mass., was the third-place female and seventh overall finisher in 1:46.

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