“The Smallest State’s Longest Races.” Six Hours, Twelve Hours, 24-Hours, 100-Miler. The time based races are a hard deadline in which to run as many miles – or in this case loops – through Bristol, Rhode Island’s Colt State Park as you can in the allotted time. For this series of races, the race director has set 8-loops as “finishing” for the six-hour race, 16-loops for the 12-hour, 20 for the 24-hour. Each lap is roughly (but officially) 2.45 miles.
It’s not all pavement, it’s not all trail. It’s roughly 0.9 mile of trail. 1.5 mile of pavement, with the remainder being grass. And for all intents and purposes, it’s pretty flat. All races start at 7 PM making the challenge less about the course – after all, the course it’s terribly difficult in and of itself – and more about the individual endurance required to overcome gnarly roots in the dark, after a full day of living, over an extended period of time during one of the hottest, most humid times of the New England summer.
The race organizers did such a super job marking the course, and staffing it with volunteers at the start/finish and the half way point. Food – salt, sugar, hydration – at the festival area, hydration and ramen soup at the half way. There’s a camping area at the starting festival area to set up your own stuff.
The day wasn’t overly hot, but it was humid. By mile 13, I was drenched in soggy wet clothes. My feet and shoes were wet and gross. That was a few hours into the race. Because of the odd mix of terrain, I wasn’t quite sure what shoes would be most appropriate: trail shoes, street shoes? I decided on a pair of older model On Cloudsters I’ve got. I like them for running my local rail trail and they’re generally quite sturdy so you don’t feel every little thing on the ground. As it started getting dark in the overgrown woods, I tripped on one of the ubiquitous series of gnarly roots along the trail and landed on my hands and knees. No major damage there, but I could feel my leg starting to cramp as soon as I hit the ground, so I hopped back up and continued on.
From that point, though, I decided I’d power walk the trails – my mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion were combining to make night time trail running somewhat more dangerous that it might otherwise be – and just run the pavement. Upon my return to the festival area, I changed out my shirt, and changed from my Ons and donut socks, to a pair of ankle socks and Nikes more befitting street running. I felt every little root after that – probably not a bad thing, to keep my head in the game – but they allowed me to be the best runner I could be on the pavement given my situation.
I finished Lap 16 in 9-hours 17-minutes so I had plenty more time to get back out there and rack up some more miles – and grab higher placement on the finishers list – but I was so dead, exhausted I just couldn’t see myself going any farther. By that point it had started to rain pretty good and I just wanted to be done. My friend Ilya had come to watch Rich and I run, so he ran the last 3 laps with me – something for which I am very thankful, as he made me push myself just a little harder than I may have otherwise.
So I left satisfied with 39.2 official miles (my Garmin clocked 40.8) with time still on the clock. I arrived home after a drive home that was something just shy of terrifying, at 6:15 – with 45-minutes still remaining in my race. I’m bummed that I didn’t get more, but satisfied I left it all out there on the course. Several folks from my running club ran the 6-hour and another guy and his son ran the 12-hour, so there was support and people I knew there which helped make the experience a little less solitary.
12 HOUR Race; 20/35, 16 Laps, 9:19:27, 39. Miles.