Monday, November 16, 2009

Rhode Island 6 Hour

I woke up Sunday morning to a light mist and darkness, time to roll out of bed and get over to the Warwick City Park for the RI 6 Hour Race.  The weathermen in all their infinite wisdom are saying that it will be a nice day, temps in the low sixties and no rain. I can't imagine that there is anymore rain to fall after Saturday, how much can the clouds hold? 6:30am and here comes Mark Mitsmenn down the street for a ride over with USATF-NE Ultra Chairman Paul Kirsch following behind us. There is a steady stream of cars heading into the park and the locals must be wondering what is going on. We head on down to the beach and start area, the lot is filling fast. Tents are popping up all over, this place doesn't see this much action even in the summer. On a clear day, there is a view all the way down Narragansett Bay towards Newport, it is a very nice spot for a race. The course here is a 2.7 mile paved bike path that meanders through the woods and ball fields of the park. Much of the path is flat, but there is a rolling section that lasts for less than a half mile which could wear on the legs over the course of 6 hours. So let the fun begin.

8am is here and the start of the race goes off right on time. The players here are Ben Nephew and Martin Tighe, Ben is 34, Martin is 17 years older than that at 51. Both have impressive running resumes. Both are looking for more than 50 miles in the alloted 6 hours. They take off together and plan on running together for a while. At the same time as the ultra run, there is also a relay going on. Twenty Eight teams
with anywhere from 2 to 6 runners doing anywhere from 1 to 3 laps an individual stint. This is not a strictly regulated relay like some, you can set it up anyway that suits your team. My team, the Tuesday Night Turtle "C" team is handing off every lap, figuring that will keep us better rested and able to kick the ass of the Turtle "B" team. All our best runners were on the "A" team which was going for the overall win, but we weren't concerned with them, only the B's. Team FuelBelt came in with 5 teams, there were teams from the Wild Colonial Running Club, Shamrock Running Club, Inskip Auto Dealership and many more. Oddly though, no other big RI running clubs showed, oh well, maybe next year.

Meanwhile, Martin and Ben are going at it on the bikepath. Two laps in and Ben has already shed his shirt, a few laps later Martin does the same. They are lapping at around 6.30 pace which comes out to about a 5:25 50 mile time. Seems a bit rich. Two hours in and Martin is off the front just hammering the shit out of the course, i guess he did not want anymore company. Did he go too early, time will tell. Ben seemed to just settle in and run a fairly even pace. Martin was adding time every lap, building up to a 7 minute lead, but things were closing in. Cramping was starting to be an issue. Both runners slowed over time, that was a given considering the early pace. With a few laps to go, it hit. Martin was lying down on the path with someone trying to massage the cramps out of his legs, this cost a good 5 minutes of his time as Ben closed in. Now Martin's pace was off, he was hurting but still able to push on. One thing i know about Martin is he is a tough runner and will do all he can to hold on. But when you are being pursued by someone like Ben Nephew, the writing was on the wall. With a lap to go, Ben came around side by side with Martin and that was it, Ben put 1 1/2 minutes on Martin on the last lap. In the end, both runners covered 51.3 miles, but Ben did it quicker. Both runners ran sub 5:50 for 50 miles, an amazing feat. Martin ran a PR by 10 minutes, i do not know what Ben has previously run for a 50.  Separated by a minute and a half after 6 hours, what an exciting race! Congratulations to both. In the womens race, Daniele Cherniak of New York, a long time excellent ultra runner won by about 2 minutes over Allison Lassoe. Daniele covered 41.4 miles.

Meanwhile, back at the relay. The TNT "A" was out front by over a lap and the rest of us were left to shoot it out. My "C" team was led by Captain Jodi Hall as she led myself, George, Jim, Vicki and Pieter to a third place finish, way above expectations. I managed to run better than i thought i would, averaging 7 min. pace for 3 legs. I'll take it for now. My knees felt good, that is a good thing. I even wore racing shoes, probably not the best thing for a fat, starting to get back in shape runner, but it is a relay and i don't want to let the team down. With the relay going on with the ultra, there were many more runner/ spectators here, and a very boisterous crowd. This had to help the ultra runners and added a certain electricity to the race. The one thing i would like to see next year is an updated leader board for the relay so that we know who we are close to. I was surprised to find we were in the top 3, but in the end, the 2-8 teams were separated by only 4 minutes. It would be good to know who you have to go after or hold off.

I did get to hang out some with old friend and racing foe, Jon Barnes, who was running on one of the Fuel Belt teams. Back in the eighties, Jon ran for the Belle Watling A.C., anyone out there know where that name came from without googling it? Buy you a beer if you get it right.

Want to see many photos from the race, go HERE.

By the way, that is the lovely captain of our relay team, Jodi Hall who is interviewing Ben Nephew after the race.

A big shout out goes to the other Turtle in the 6 Hour, Jake Schieffelin who covered 37.8 miles and took 3rd place in the USATF-NE masters championship.

Way to go Jake!!!

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