NEW IPSWICH, N.H. – Corin Kwasnik and Dan Grip hadn’t met prior to the Midstate Massive Ultra-Trail 100-miler, nor had they shared a race course, but they weren’t exactly strangers. In fact, they’d done battle before.
In June 2021, Kwasnik was still 13 months away from running his first ultramarathon, but he was cutting his endurance chops in the red-hot New England fastest known time scene. Already the holder of three FKTs, he set his sights on the Massachusetts segment of the Appalachian Trail. Kwasnik navigated the 90-mile segment of gnarly trail and burly climbs and successfully clipped 46 minutes off of the record.
When Dan Grip logged onto the FKTs website and read about Kwasnik’s feat, he nodded his head with respect.
“I saw what he did on it, and it was really incredible,” Grip recalled. “He took a half-hour break, came back and was able to do the last two mountains going northbound – which is very tough – going over Greylock and to the Vermont border.”
Grip had good reason to appreciate Kwasnik’s feat; it was his record that Kwasnik broke. Grip set his FKT on the Massachusetts AT in November 2020, going northbound in 1 day, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 19 seconds. Grip endured cold temperatures, while Kwasnik battled the heat on his 1:1:30:24 effort.
Kwasnik believed there was room for improvement on his time and that someone could break 24 hours. Eleven months later, Grip proved him right. Running southbound this time, Grip ripped through the segment in 23:29:37 to reclaim the FKT in May 2022.
The pair finally met in person at the starting line of the Midstate Massive 100-miler on Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Windblown Cross Country Ski Area. They only had a minute to chat before Grip started in Wave 7 – Kwasnik followed 30 minutes later in Wave 8 – but it was a moment both men appreciated as they steeled themselves for the race that was about to unfold.
“When I saw him show up at Midstate Massive, I was like ‘Dan, I wasn’t expecting you to be here. I guess it’s go time!’” Kwasnik recalled. “It was pretty exciting to finally meet him.”
For Grip, the feeling was mutual.
“I knew he was tough as nails,” Grip said. “When I saw his name at the bottom of the (entrants’) list, I thought ‘Oh dude, I don’t think anybody knows who this is … but I do.’ I thought there’s two or three guys who could win, and I knew Corin was going to be one of the toughest competitors out there.”
Both runners kept an eye out for each other throughout the race, but they never actually saw each other until gathering at the podium on Sunday afternoon. Still, they delivered a dandy of a race that was filled with plenty of plot twists and drama as both runners elevated the understanding of what’s possible on the difficult course.
Grip entered the race with his sights set on taking down the course record, and the 43-year-old from Wendell, Mass., had done his homework. He studied the data from Justin Kousky’s record-setting run of 19:39:06 in 2020, which was the only time a runner had broken the 20-hour mark. Grip knew Kousky’s running style from his many FKT efforts, and knew he needed to take advantage of his superior skills on technical trail during the mountainous first half of the race to build a cushion on the record and then do his best to hang on in the more road-heavy second half.
Starting in Wave 7 at noon Saturday, Grip pushed hard from the beginning. He’d calculated Kousky’s pace at each of the aid stations, and Grip rolled through them well under record pace.
“My goal was that in the first half of the race I wanted to be up by a significant amount on (Kousky’s time) because I knew in the second half the best I could do is hang with what he did,” Grip said. “By 50 miles I was up at least 90 minutes, I think.”
While Grip was focused on the record from the start, Kwasnik didn’t share such ambitions. The 27-year-old Boston, Mass., resident and Tufts Dental School student made his ultra debut in July at the Vermont 100. Though he finished the race, he struggled mightily with an upset stomach during the final 30 miles. His goal three months later was to apply lessons learned from that race and have a performance he felt good about. Additionally, he rolled an ankle two weeks earlier while coming down Mt. Madison on a training run in New Hampshire, so he planned to move with care.
“I knew if I just showed up and took it slow, hopefully things would go all right,” Kwasnik said. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations. My ankle being sore forced me to slow down since the first 30 miles were really technical, so that may have benefitted me.”
Kwasnik settled into a comfortable early rhythm and effectively managed his nutrition. He felt optimistic about the way his race was unfolding, especially as he caught and passed many runners who started in earlier waves, but he was quick to keep his emotions in check.
“At the base of Wachusett Mountain (mile 28.7 aid station), somebody asked me how I was feeling,” Kwasnik recalled. “I said ‘pretty good, but the race doesn’t start until mile 70.”
Those words proved prophetic.
Kwasnik kept track of Grip’s progress via the RaceJoy app on his phone. At the mile 50 aid station, Kwasnik chatted with race director Andy Marx and was told that Grip was 30 minutes ahead. Kwasnik was grateful for the information, but he tucked it away in his mind. There was still a long way to go and a lot could go wrong. Indeed, tough times were ahead.
“I hit a big wall from mile 59-68,” Kwasnik said. “I was getting to where I was mentally and physically starting to break down a bit.”
Kwasnik began using some of the 50-mile runners as pacers, and that helped him relax and find a rhythm again.
“Around mile 70 a road section started and I was running 8- or 9-minute miles,” he said. “That’s when I said if I’m going to catch Dan it’s going to be now.”
A few miles ahead, Grip’s race was taking an unexpected turn. After blasting through the first 50 miles at a screaming pace, he slowed a bit and saw his sizable cushion on the record shrink by a few minutes. Still, he was well over an hour under record pace when he rolled into the Fay Mountain Farm aid station at mile 73 a little after 1 a.m. His crew was waiting for him so he could swap out pacers, but the aid station was still setting up for its 1:30 a.m. opening time.
“I was slowing down a bit and was definitely starting to feel it and lose pace,” Grip said of the previous few miles. “Basically right when I got there Andy came out and said ‘You’re totally crushing this course. If you continue at this pace the gates aren’t even going to be open at the finish area.’
“I had a crew there, and he said ‘Do you want to take a break?’ The thought of sitting in a heated car sounded really great. It was in the upper 30s and the temperature was dropping hard.”
Marx told Grip his final time would be adjusted accordingly for being held at the aid station. After 28 minutes in the warm car, Grip and his pacer departed.
“We got out with my second pacer, and we were shivering uncontrollably,” Grip said. “The next five or six miles I was back to normal pace, and I thought the break might have actually been an advantage, but it’s really hard to say.”
Thirteen miles later, at the second-to-last aid station and with 12.5 miles to go, Grip was back in a vehicle trying to warm up. During the 15 minutes that he was in his crew car putting on warm layers, Kwasnik arrived and departed.
“I asked the bookkeeper about him and was told Dan checked in about 10 minutes before me, but I didn’t see him,” Kwasnik said. “About 15 minutes later I checked the app and he was behind me.”
The lead secured, it was time to push.
“I started to just go for it and see what happens,” he said. “If I put in this much effort now and bonk, then so be it.”
While the first 30 miles of the Midstate Massive course are the most mountainous and technical, it’s easy to forget that the final 10 are brutal in their own right with rocks and roots littering the path as runners make their way to the tri-state marker and then on to the finish line.
“I talked to people on the course about the last 10 miles; I kept telling myself I’ll worry about it when I get there,” Kwasnik said. “It sure hurt when I got to the tri-state marker. Those last few miles are really technical, lots of rocks and roots. There were maybe two or three miles of the last section that I could run, but I was otherwise pretty much fast-walking it. I was counting down every last step to the finish.”
The sun was barely up when Kwasnik rounded the final corner and crossed the finish line a little before 7:30 a.m. His finishing time of 18:54:41 lopped about 45 minutes off the course record.
“I was in shock at what was going on; I was so delusional from staying up all night so I went and took a little nap on the grass,” Kwasnik recalled. “When I woke up there were people finishing and I realized this is a really good feeling. I walked the last 30 miles of the Vermont 100, so to run those miles and catch Dan and ultimately win the race, it was a fulfilling moment.”
Grip discovered he’d been passed when he reached the final aid station at mile 92. He was disappointed, but he kept his focus on finishing under the course record. The final miles were grueling, and he could no longer run once he reached the tri-state border so he power-hiked the rest of the way to the finish line. Though victory eluded him, he joined Kwasnik in breaking the course record. Grip’s time of 19:17:18 earned him the second-best time in course history and broke the previous record by 22 minutes.
Both Grip and Kwasnik had high expectations of each other entering the race. Once it was over, they lauded each other for turning in such stellar performances.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have pushed so hard,” Kwasnik said. “I credit him for pushing so hard.”
Grip expressed similar sentiments.
“I think what Corin did was very impressive,” he said. “For 100-milers it takes a gritty toughness to push like that. It’s almost like you can’t train to be in the position to do really well, you really just have to have this ‘thing’ to do as well as Corin did. It’s a mental thing. For the people that really excel at it, it’s like ‘Do you have a few screws loose? Are you crazy?’ It’s just a level of toughness – you’ve gotta be tough as nails, and he’s got it for sure.”
Beyond Kwasnik and Grip’s record-smashing performances, the depth of speedy performances was remarkable as six of the 10 fastest times in course history were turned in. Third-place finisher Carson Albanese, 32, of Ithaca, N.Y., posted the sixth-fastest time in course history in 20:42:36; fourth-place finisher Tim McDonough, 41, of Saint John, New Brunswick, turned in the seventh-fastest time in race history in 20:59:07; fifth-place finisher Ian Connell, 26, of Guilford, Conn., ran the ninth-fastest time in 21:15:21; and sixth-place finisher Nick Poles, 31, of Newton, Mass., delivered the 10th-fastest time of 21:38:51.
While the men’s course record was smashed, the women’s record survived – though not by much. Laura Hansen, 31, of Mill Valley, Calif., topped the women’s field in 22:50:16. Her performance ranked second on the women’s record board, less than seven minutes behind two-time champion Kate Olson’s mark of 22:43:48 in 2021. It was Hansen’s second 100-mile finish and her fastest time for the distance. She placed second at the 2021 Run Rabbit Run 100 in Colorado in 25:44:29. Perhaps most impressive was that she earned her victory while starting in Wave 1, so she had few people to chase until the 50-mile runners joined the course in the evening.
Hansen was joined on the women’s podium by 37-year-old Carolyn Wisnowski of Shirley, Mass., and 40-year-old Jamie Miller of North Haven, Conn. Wisnowski was the runner-up in 25:50:47. It was a notable improvement from the 2021 race when she finished fifth in the women’s field in 27:12:25, and she was the runner-up in the event’s 50-mile race in 2020. For Miller, it was a successful 100-mile debut as she finished third in 26:37:43. The fourth-place female, 27-year-old Clorice Reinhardt of New Haven, Conn., finished less than a minute slower than Miller in 26:38:04, though they started in different waves. Emily Tessier, 29, of Middletown, R.I., rounded out the top five in 28:20:01.
The 2022 race was groundbreaking in many ways. For one thing, the top 20 performers all completed the course in less than 24 hours; just one runner achieved that feat during the inaugural year. Two runners – 55-year-old Joe Loureiro of Andover, Mass. (28:17:30) and 64-year-old Dane LeBlanc of Littleton, Mass. (30:44:46) – became the only four-time finishers. Additionally, the 100-mile race saw its highest number of finishers with 82 within 33 hours. That’s nearly triple the amount of Year One when 30 runners completed the race.
Edwards Smashes Course Record, Cruises to 50-Mile Victory
Starting in Wave 4, three hours after the earliest starters, most runners in the 50-mile race likely never saw Meredith Edwards arrive for her midnight start at Long Pond in Rutland, Mass., to begin her 50-mile journey south to Douglas State Forest. When they did see her, it was likely in the form of a glowing headlamp as she passed in the night or while making quick work at an aid station.
Where everyone saw the 38-year-old Edwards, of Durango, Colo., was atop the finisher’s podium as the overall winner among 70 finishers.
“I had quite the adventure starting my race at midnight and running all through the night with a beautiful full moon on true New England trails,” Edwards wrote on Instagram of her experience.
Edwards spent most of her race running through darkness, finding her way via her headlamp, moonlight, and reflective tape on the course markers. None of those obstacles slowed her down much as she hammered the course in record-setting time, winning outright in 8:40:11. Edwards eclipsed Maia Madison’s women’s course record from 2021 by about 58 minutes, and her time was faster than all but two on the men’s record board.
Men’s champion and second overall finisher Michael Hartford, 40, of Dedham, Mass., finished in 9:25:31, followed by 25-year-old James Ehrets of Cambridge, Mass., in 9:42:05. Adrian Sauers, 37, of Nazareth, Pa., rounded out the men’s podium and finished fourth overall in 9:52:46. The top four overall finishers completed the course in less than 10 hours.
Joining Edwards on the women’s podium were runner-up Sarah Nelson, 46, of Florence, Mass., in 10:54:03, and Susie Brooks, 40, of Williston, Vt. in 11:37:10. Nelson clocked the sixth-fastest women’s time in course history,while Brooks secured the 10th spot on the record board. Nelson was the women’s runner-up in the 30-mile race in 2021.
Roederer Edges Michel for 30-Mile Course Record
Unlike the two longer races, all of the competitors in the 30-miler started together at 7 a.m. Though they departed together from Howe State Park in Spencer, Mass., their journeys to the finish line at Douglas State Forest varied widely with two runners crossing the finish line in a little more than four hours while some enjoyed the course for double the time.
Two runners pulled away from the rest of the field during the first few miles, and it quickly became clear that the question wasn’t whether the course record would fall but rather which runner would hold the new mark. Alex Roederer, 25, of Somerville, Mass., and Antoine Michel, 25, of Dardilly, France, raced in close contact throughout and comfortably ahead of course record pace. The outcome was still up in the air as they dashed into Douglas State Forest, to the tri-state border and on to the final three miles back to the finish. Ultimately, Roederer had enough kick in his legs to hold off Dardilly. Both runners smashed the previous record of 4:15:09 set by Remington Stone in 2019. Roederer claimed the win and the new record in 4:04:20 and Michel followed exactly one minute later as the runner-up in 4:05:20.
The second two finishers were the top two women. Neither eclipsed Marissa Rivera’s course record of 4:32:11 from 2019, but both posted two of the fastest marks in course history. Robyn Lesh, 28, of Everson, Wash., finished third overall and topped the women’s field comfortably in 4:37:50. Her time was the third-fastest in course history and just 37 seconds shy of the second position. A little while later, women’s runner-up and fourth overall finisher Kate Olson crossed the finish line. A two-time winner of the 100-miler and the current course record-holder at that distance (22:43:48 in 2021), Olson returned to race the 30-mile distance for the first time. The 36-year-old from Studio City, Calif., ran strong on familiar trails and finished in 5:00:41 (sixth-fastest women’s time in course history).
Rounding out the men’s and women’s podiums were Nick Pilla and Amber Febbraro. Pilla, 35, of Acushnet, Mass., finished third among the men and fifth overall in 5:17:37, just four seconds ahead of 33-year-old Chris Pilla of Woonsocket, R.I. (4:17:41). Febbraro, 33, of Boulder, Colo., placed eighth overall and third among the women in 5:32:13 (ninth-fastest women’s time in course history).
Fifty-six runners completed the 30-mile race within 10 hours; the top 27 finished in less than seven hours.