Twenty-five hardy souls turned out for the fifth running of the esteemed Boyer’s Furnace Fat Ass, a run started by Greg Loomis, who dreamed up the course while he was deployed in Egypt and bored by training on a tiny loop course in the desert. The experience inspired him to create the single ginormous Boyer’s Furnace loop that is, we can all agree, the exact opposite of “boring flat desert.”
Loomis’ original 43- mile course was altered this year to reflect a new start/finish line at 10 Boyer Road, which just by pure coincidence happened to be the home of this year’s race director. The starting time was also altered to 6 a.m., in order to give runners more time to finish the course during daylight hours.
A total of 12 runners finished the entire course, a high number for the race, which may have been a reflection of the earlier start time. The course measured 42.1 miles, so it was slightly shorter than in previous years, which may also have boosted the number of finishers.
As is now traditional for Boyer’s Furnace, a number of runners deviated from the official course to suit their own mileage goals for the day, or as in the case of Ed “Mad Elf” Cacciapaglia and Dave “Shaggy” Yeakel, to suit their needs for more sleep time.
Of those who started the official course, it was Boyer’s Furnace veteran Sean Andrish who established an early lead and who set the pace for most of the day. Conditions were generally favorable, although warmer than many participants expected, with temperatures between 41-51 °F and high humidity. Sean maintained his lead through Edinburg Gap, where aid station captain Brian Schmidt greeted the dawn with a fully-stocked table for incoming runners.
Andrish was a few minutes ahead of Matthew Bugin and Ryan Paavola, and appeared to increase his lead slightly during the road run down to Camp Roosevelt. Keith Knipling, who started the race at Woodstock Tower, settled into the fourth-place position but kept up the heat on the three front runners.
Andrish was greeted at Camp Roosevelt by aid station captain David Snipes, who wins the Boyer’s Furnace Fat Ass “Sweet Cheeks” award for being the most amazing volunteer of the race. Snipes stocked and ran his own aid station with all his own gear and food, offering not just one, but a whole variety of hot food options. Andrish enjoyed some of Snipes’ gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches before hitting the trail again.
Unfortunately, Andrish literally hit the trail shortly afterward, coming down the north side of Kennedy Peak, where he stubbed a foot and spread-eagled among the rocks, scraping his chin, forehead, elbow and forearm, as well as slamming his newly-healed broken thumb into a rock. Sean kept going, but some hikers, alarmed by the bloody apparition shambling down the trail, stopped him and slapped bandaids on his wounds before allowing him to continue.
Andrish dropped at Milford, which opened the lead spot to Bugin. Paavola, who had never run an ultra before, stuck with Bugin at an impressively fast pace until the technical descents on the orange trail slowed him down.
Bugin sealed his win by crossing the finish line with a time of 8:30 hrs. Paavola finished 24 minutes later in 8:54. Greg Loomis took the third official finisher’s spot in 9:26.
During the last stages of the course, Bugin, Knipling, Paavola and Loomis all encountered Christine Bone and Mark McKennett, who ran the course backward to Milford, then reversed direction and ran back to the finish to rack up a 20-mile out-and-back. The “Backward Bone & McKennett” team missed seeing Jennifer Ragone and Mike Schuster, who made the most creative course exit of the day by dropping at Habron Gap and running back to Jen’s boyfriend’s car.
The most creative course re-design credit, however, goes to Cacciapaglia and Yeakel, who ran the course from Edinburg to Milford, then dropped down off the ridge, crossed the width of the valley by road to the Little Fort campground and then took the Peter’s Mill ATV trail south back to their car at Edinburg, racking up approximately 42 miles total for the day before joining the after-party at the finish line.
In the midst of the chaos, Charlie Leonard, a two-time MMT finisher from Ithaca, NY, actually followed the directions on the turn sheet for the entire day. He was accompanied in this feat by the trio of Steve Boutilier and the co-directors of the HAT Run, Mike Frank and Tim Gavin. This nobly orthodox quartet of manly men expressed some discontent with the “goat track” portion of the orange trail between Milford and Veach in a way that others might describe as “whining”, but which the discerning Boyer’s race director more correctly interpreted as “constructive criticism”. They will be relieved to know that if we use this course configuration again in the future, the goat track portion will be omitted. They will also be relieved to know that the RD forgives them for certain off-color jokes made during that trail section.
Two promising young newcomers to the ultra world, Jacob Lichliter (14 years old) and Ben Runion (13 years old), joined the last leg of the race from Veach back to the finish line. Showing a true commitment to the ultra experience, the pair went off course and accumulated bonus miles before David Snipes re-directed them back to the correct route. We hope to see these two cheerful and athletic runners at future races, where they can now swap war stories with the rest of us about getting lost during a race.
Brian McNeill was the twelfth and final finisher of the day, with a time of 11:31. The overall field was remarkably strong. Sweep runner Quatro Hubbard’s arrival at the finish line concluded the race only a few minutes after full darkness descended, well ahead of the 7:30 p.m. cut-off.
In short, the field was strong, the weather was remarkably clement and the footing was fairly good. We hope this is a good omen for future editions of this fine little race.