In 2012, Sébastien Roulier finished the Stone Cat Trail Races 50-miler in the third-fastest time ever. Unfortunately for him, the two fastest times came on the same day, as Samuel Jurek set a new record at 6:13:14 and Josh Katzman came in second in 6:18:59.
This year, Roulier returned to Stone Cat, and he planned to run fast. He made it to the halfway point under three hours and crossed the finish line in 6:10:54, breaking Jurek’s course record and earning his first win at Stone Cat.
“I felt great,” he said after the race. “I wanted to be around six hours.” It was the latest race in a long year of racing for Roulier that included four marathons, the World Trail Running Championships in Wales, his first 100-miler (the Vermont 100), and a number of other ultras.
Only two years ago, Roulier ran his first ultra at the 2011 Stone Cat, finishing second, so the race holds a special place for him. “I think it’s a great race,” he said.
The man who beat Roulier in 2011, Josh Katzman, finished second to Roulier this year. Katzman, like Roulier, started fast. “The first half was good, sort of right where I wanted,” Katzman said. “Then the second half was not quite as I wanted it. But it’s a fun race.”
Matthew McKenna took third in the men’s 50-mile race, Brandon Baker took fourth, and Jeff Ingalls rounded out the top five.
The men’s 50-miler was not the only race to see challenges to course records. With dry conditions and a cool start to the day, many runners turned out fast times.
In the women’s 50-mile race, Larisa Dannis became only the fourth woman to break eight hours, finishing in 7:37:04. “I felt pretty good for the most part,” she said. “I hit a low point between laps two and three. But I felt like I was consistent in my pacing in all the laps.”
As the day went on, temperatures rose to around 70, which meant runners had to get used to the warmth. “I’ve been acclimating to cooler temperatures, and then on the last loop I was having to take a little more salt and drink a little more than I usually have to,” Dannis said. “That’s what I love about these things—there are so many things that come into play and you have to adjust.”
Dannis was followed to the finish line by Elena Makovskaya and Patricia Carriero. It was Makovskaya’s second-straight second-place finish and third year in a row in the top five. Sheila Boyle took fourth, and Meghan Lytton finished fifth.
The only woman ever to run the 50-mile race at Stone Cat faster than Dannis is Aliza Lapierre. Apparently not content to hold only the 50-mile course record, Lapierre entered the marathon this year and finished in 3:16:15, setting a new standard. It’s been quite a fall for Lapierre, as this record comes not long after breaking the 50-mile course record at the Vermont 50 in September.
Liz Gleason crossed the finish line in 3:25:11, which put her in second place and marked the second-fastest time ever on the course among women. Like Roulier last year, apparently Gleason picked the wrong year to run what would have been a record in any other year. But Gleason still has at least one course record to her name, as she ran the 50k at this year’s Vermont 50 in record time.
For the first time ever at the Stone Cat marathon, the top five women all finished under four hours, with Jennifer Howland in third, Sheryl Wheeler in fourth, and Kristi Umile in fifth.
Roulier was not the only Canadian to have a good day at the race, as New Brunswick native Mike Davis took the win in the men’s marathon with a time of 3:06:29. Brendan Lynch finished second in 3:10:18, and Jeff Hunt crossed the finish line just a minute later. Frank White and Andrew Salmon rounded out the top five.
Stone Cat has become one of the most competitive long-distance trail events in New England, but it still maintains a welcoming, low-key atmosphere. The race starts and ends at Doyon elementary school in Ipswich, Mass. From there, runners head into the woods of Willowdale State Forest and make their way around a 12.5-mile loop before returning to the school. The 50-mile runners complete four laps, while the marathoners do two laps after running a separate 1.2-mile loop to start the race. “It’s really a great course,” said Dannis.
“This is what this sport is all about,” Katzman added. “How can you not enjoy this? You see so many people you know, and everyone is cheering each other on.”