The men’s and women’s course records fall by equal amounts of a perfect day for ultrarunning.
Written by: Bryon Powell
Fast fields, fair skies, and temperatures climbing into the forties contributed to a course record day at this weekend’s Stone Cat 50 mile run, held in Willowdale State Forest, not far from the Massachusetts Bay. This classically New England race (it’s sponsored by a local brewery and organized, in part, in the attic of a mom-n-pop grocery) has become the de facto New England trail 50-mile championships.
The men’s field was a virtual Who’s Who of New England ultrarunning, including Leigh Schmitt (returning Stone Cat champion), Kevin Sullivan (5th place at the 2009 Western States 100), Brian Rusiecki (2009 Vermont 50 mile champion), Jack Pilla (2009 Vermont 100 champion), and David Herr (a perennial top-three finisher at Stone Cat). After the first of four 12.5 mile laps all five of these runners came through as a pack with Todd Walker not far behind. Such a sight is unusual at an ultra and speaks to the competitiveness of the field.
Sullivan, a lawyer from Andover, Massachusetts, barreled through the race’s midpoint with a 20-second lead on Schmitt. Rusiecki ran within a minute of Schmitt with Herr and Pilla hanging not far behind.
Not long after the start of lap three, Kevin Sullivan was walking back to the start/finish. He had injured his calf and was dropping out of the race. It was now a two-man race. Massachusetts residents Schmitt and Rusiecki continued their battle on the course’s even mix of single-track and old carriage road.
After staying within a minute of one another through 45 miles, Rusiecki finally broke away from Schmitt with 5 miles to go. Rusieck ended up beating Leigh by five minutes (6:27:55 to 6:32:06). In the process, Rusiecki broke the old course record by two and a half minutes.
Vermonter Jack Pilla, age 51, was third overall and the first master in 6:51:49. Pilla passed fellow Vermont runner, David Herr, on a climb in the final mile. Herr finished fourth and was the final runner to break seven hours with a time of 6:52:20.
The Women’s Race
Two runners dominated the women’s field at the Stone Cat 50. Through the first two laps, Amy Lane and Aliza Lapierre ran together. Lapierre, who
lives in Williston, Vermont, had previously won the Stone Cat 50 in 2007. Lane, of Westfield, Massachusetts placed second at last year’s Stone Cat.
Lapierre broke free from Lane on the third lap. At that point, the only thing that could have kept Lapierre from winning was catastrophic injury. That wouldn’t have been a first for Lapierre, who broke her femur at mile 48 of the 2005 Stone Cat 50, her 50-mile debut. On that day, she had to be carried from the woods.
Not so on Saturday. Lapierre sped on to the win by more than 35 minutes. She also broke the existing course record by 45 minutes with a time of 7:19:15.
Lane held on to second place en route to a sub-eight-hour finish (7:54:40). Ten minutes back, an 8:04:20 earned Vermonter Susan Dodge third overall woman and top master.
Gil’s Athletic Club, the running club that puts on the Stone Cat 50, also caters to the marathon crowd with the concurrently run Stone Cat Marathon. Bay Stater Ben Nephew won the men’s race with a 10-minute course record of 2:54:45. Courtney Bell from nearby Salem won the women’s marathon in 3:58:48.