A few weeks ago, Kara Olivito raced to victory in the 50K at the Trail Animals Running Club’s TARC Spring Classic. Her face lit up as she talked about the day, and continued to as she discussed her upcoming plans to return to California and run the PCT 50-miler. Her optimism was matched by her performance as Olivito raced to victory on Saturday, May 13. Her performance highlighted a busy weekend for New England ultrarunners both throughout the region and across the country. We’ll have separate articles on last weekend’s two Massachusetts ultras – Wapack and Back and Watuppa – and we’re still waiting on results to come in for the other New England ultras, but Olivito’s big performance kicks off this edition of the roundup.
Since traveling to California several years ago, the scenery, the community and the West Coast singletrack secured a firm grip on Kara Olivito’s soul. Save for a year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Olivito has made several pilgrimages to California in recent years to race ultras, and she has enjoyed her share of success.
Olivito took second at the Noble Canyon 50K in Pine Valley, Calif., in 2019, and followed that up with an overall win at the Chimera 100K in the Cleveland National Forest later that year before closing out 2019 with a runner-up finish at the Anza Borrego Cuyamaca 50-miler in Julian, Calif. In 2020, she returned to California and won the Ranch 50K in Escondido. Then, in 2022 she returned to the Noble Canyon 50K and once again placed second.
On Saturday, May 13, Olivito was back in the Cleveland National Forest to race the PCT 50-miler. The event dates back to 1993, and it takes place on singletrack dirt trails along the Pacific Crest Trail, taking runners out-and-back while climbing above 6,000 feet in the Laguna Mountains.
Olivito joined 129 other runners at the starting line, and the 40-year-old resident of Hampton Falls, N.H., was among the earliest of the 89 finishers within the 14 ½-hour time limit. She finished sixth overall and first place in the women’s race in 10:11:38, just 35 seconds outside of the overall top five. Joel Frost-Tift, 35, of Burbank, Calif., was the men’s champion and lone sub-9-hour finisher in 8:43:26.
A second New England resident was among the finishers. Christopher Eckman, 45, of Boston, Mass., made the race his first ultra and he placed 17th overall in 10:38:27.
Olivito will return to the West Coast in August to race the Oregon Cascades 100-miler in Sisters, Ore.
Since running her first ultramarathon in 2019, Catie Markesich took a fast-track approach to tackling 100 miles. She ran her first 100 in 2021, completing the Tunnel Hill 100 in 28:45:03. A year later, she tackled her second triple-digit mileage event, completing the 2022 Vermont 100 in 26:32:18.
Markesich set her sights on running another 100-miler in 2023, but this time she opted for far different terrain. After completing sure-footed courses in prior years, she entered the gnarly Hellbender 100-miler on May 12-13 in Old Fort, N.C.
The fourth edition of the event once again tested runners with more than 24,000 feet of climbing in the rugged Black Mountains, including a trip to the summit of Black Mountain.
Runners had 40 hours to complete the burly course. Of the 99 who started, 73 ultimately did so. Markesich, 37, of Milton, Vt., earned her third 100-mile finish, completing the race in 38:38:53. Tim Nooney, 29, of Arden, N.C., and Tara Downer, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va., were the men’s and women’s winners in 20:51:35 and 24:45:21, respectively.
Thelma and Louise 50K
Ultramarathon courses don’t get much more scenic than Moab, and that’s where Stephanie Solla sought to tackle her first ultra distance. Solla, 31, of West Berlin, Vt., took part in the fifth annual Thelma and Louise Trail Races and inaugural 50K on Saturday, May 13, in Moab, Utah.
The women-only event in the Behind the Rocks area of Moab took runners on a journey through a landscape surrounded by red rock walls while racing on slickrock trails.
Twenty-seven runners finished the race within nine hours, and the top seven runners finished sub-6.
Solla finished seventh overall in 5:55:15. Gretchen Snyder, 23, of Boulder, Colo., topped the field in 5:42:25 with 39-year-old Kate Levy of Denver, Colo., close behind in 5:43:49.
The event also included marathon, half marathon and 15K races.
A pair of New England residents were among the ultra-distance finishers at the fourth edition of the SMR Mayapple trail races on Saturday, May 13, in Millburn, N.J. Runners tackled multiple trips through a two-loop course on the trails of South Mountain Reservation.
Five runners completed a 50-mile race, though none were New England residents. Another 24 completed the 50K distance within 11 hours. That included 55-year-old Doug Schuch of Durham, Conn., who finished 13th in 7:18:23, as well as 29-year-old Jose Murillo of Chicopee, Mass., who finished in 7:48:04. Schuch has been running ultras since 2012 while Murillo made the jump to ultra distances in 2022. Mayapple was Murillo’s third ultra and first of the year.
Andrew Eisen, 39, of Rockaway Park, N.Y., and Keah Lonergan, 30, of New York, N.Y., were the men’s and women’s 50K winners in 5:45:35 and 6:25:23, respectively.
Ksenia Desautels made her ultramarathon debut surrounded by the spectacular panorama of the Swiss Alps when she completed the Eiger Ultra-Trail 51K. For her second ultra, the 39-year-old resident once again sought out mountain scenery.
Desautels took part in the second edition of the Ram Party Trail Races on May 13-14 in Colorado Springs, Colo., opting for the 50K distance. A 50-miler was also offered that had 57 finishers, none hailing from New England.
The 50K race was an out-and-back course on the trails of Rampart Reservoir with views of nearby Pikes Peak, towering at more than 14,000 feet. One hundred runners finished the race, most in less than 10 hours. Desautels was among them, completing the course in 7:06:45. Austin Gliottone, 26, of Fort Collins, Colo., and Salynda Heinl, 38, of Aspen Park, Colo., were the men’s and women’s winners in 3:36:34 and 4:35:33, respectively.
*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.