I Have Snowshoes. What do I wear???

Covered in Snow at the Highland Forest 10k In 2013. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt Crosby

So you have your first pair of running snowshoes. You just received that first winter snow storm and you are itching to get outside and try those snowshoes out. But the next thing to consider is what to wear?

From my time snowshoe running, this is a much more important topic than you think. It is also one that could go down many rabbit holes, so I will try and be as concise but also as developed as possible. Snowshoe running is an amazing activity for us runners and it takes us away from the treadmills and out into Mother Nature to enjoy some brisk, cold winter landscapes. But like anything, there are risks associated with not dressing properly.

The big one is frostnip and hyperthermia. Snowshoe running kicks up snow and that snow like in my photo up above winds up on your backside. Often being out in cold temps and nasty wind chills, moisture is your enemy. But as we exert ourselves in snowshoes, it is pretty hard not to work up a sweat. Luckily, shorter runs and races, you can often get-away with wearing less. For Snowshoe marathons and ultras, approach this from the preparation of something like a 100 miler. It is always better to have more gear and changes of clothes with you to one of these races than to be stuck shivering to death. Here are some of my bullet-point tips to have an enjoyable time out on the snow:

  1. Focus on Layers and insulating your backside.
  2. Wear gear that sheds water–Breathable water repellency is often better than waterproof.
  3. Softshell jackets are a thing of beauty.
  4. Practice what you wear in training so that you can race well.
  5. Do not overdress
  6. Extremities are more important than you think.
  7. Merino Wool Socks and Gaiters-give them a go.
  8. Vests can be the best.
  9. Do not forget about good underwear.
  10. The hood can be your saving grace.

Everyone runs different in terms of how they heat-up and how much. Snowshoe running is a high-intensity aerobic activity. Often when I finish a race, steam is radiating from my body. You exert and lose a lot of heat. Some may need more layers, others, may not. When you look at most snowshoe races, racers are not wearing that much. For most, that is because you heat-up quickly and for a shorter distance of 5k-10k, you are outside for maybe 20 minutes to 2 hours so accumulated “dampness” that might occur is not as great as a long endurance snowshoe event that spans 4+ hours.

Snowshoe Nats in Vermont. Photo Credits: Michael Lake

Layers, Layers, Layers. A great baselayer is where it starts. I love my Craft Baselayers and have been wearing them ever since I got into the sport. A blend between Wool and Synthetic is good though I often slant more to a synthetic as wool, I feel is better in keeping moisture from entering in. You want breathability here, a next to skin type of fit and something that is warm and insulating even when wet. This is your primary defense in feeling comfortable snowshoeing. After that, I usually wear a thermal midlayer (one with a hood) and then some type of windbreaker, softshell running jacket, or a light insulated vest or shell vest. The goal with your layers are to breathe and move moisture out from your body. Zippers are great to ventilate but BE CAREFUL: In very cold temperatures, venting too much when you are sweating and really cold can flash-freeze yourself and you are more likely to get frostnip and/or suffer from hyperthermia. Once it gets below 20 degrees F, is when I start to think about adding another layer-maybe a t-shirt underneath my midlayer. Sub zero requires a much different approach often looking to focus on wind-blocking and thermal wear that traps more body heat. Buffs are a must-have in those cold temps to protect your neck and face.

Got my Winbreaker on.

Wear gear that repels water. Some Might run with a waterproof jacket. You can but I prefer breathability because if it is cold enough and you sweat enough underneath that Waterproof jacket, the moisture could collect and refreeze inside your jacket. A breathable windbreaker in my opinion works better. Tights are important. I like wind tights or pants that are made of a softshell material or a hybrid of thermal fleece with wind panels. These are great as they keep snow from collecting on you. You can find these types of pants on Amazon but I am partial to brands like Sugoi or Craft.

I like softshell material because it incorporates stretch, is thicker and warmer than your regular light wind shell a lot of us runners use. I get cold easier than others so warmer layers work great for me. Softshell material you often find in outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, Mammut, Marmot and others

A cool Tiger softshell jacket I got while in Japan for the World Snowshoe Champs in 2020.

When I train in snowshoes, I often wear more than what I would race in. The reason is to experiment with different layering systems to find out what works best in what conditions. Then come race day, I can really be selective with what I wear. Each article of clothing has a distinct purpose that is different from the next. That way, you are not just throwing layers on to throw them on. Remember, you want to be mobile too.

Do not overdress. Most athletes in snowshoe running race in a lightweight longsleeve shirt with a singlet over it, winter beanie, gloves, and tights. You can wear this and be just fine. We warm-up like 10 degrees from the air temperature so try and dress accordingly. Again, any of your winter running outside is a try-out period to get your snowshoe outfit dialed in.

Extremities. Gloves , hats, socks. We lose a ton of heat through our head and hands and feet. Investing on solid gear here is in my opinion crucial in snowshoe running. Winter beanies are easy to come by and most will do just fine. I do like merino wool blended hats here as wool blocks some of the water molecules from entering and that means your noggin stays warm longer. In real cold, hats like my orange Dion hat has fleece on the inside and that helps keep me warmer longer. For gloves, I look to ski brands like Spyder or Nordic ski brands like Hestra, Swix for my gloves. I also love the gloves that can be mitts. The convertible gloves into mitts are awesome and I use most of the time for snowshoe running. If your hands are warm, you can open up the mitt and run with the glove, but mitts are always warmer than regular gloves. I have even been using insulated gloves like from C.A.M.P that are amazing for those long or sub zero temps. I often look to the gear used in Nordic Skiing as inspiration for snowshoe running, especially with gloves. With socks, I usually wear 2 socks: One that is a synthetic running sock or compression sock then a merino wool-blended sock over that one. The merino keeps out moisture and even melted snow that might try and come into your shoes.

2019 USA Snowshoe 1/2 marathon champs.
My favorite socks! Fits Socks

Your feet are crucial. I have been with Fits socks as an athlete since 2012 and love their merino wool blended socks. Wool is warm, anti-stink and repels water so in many ways a perfect fiber for protecting your feet with snowshoe running. Gaiters are great too. For my snowshoe 100 mile run, I am looking into buying water-proof hiking gaiters that are lightweight but can protect my feet as well as my legs from all of the snow that gets kicked-up. The longer you go in snowshoes, the more likely that fighting moisture through sweat and from melting snow on your body becomes more of a task to manage. Great gaiters can help protect you for the miles ahead.

Vests are best. Why do I love vests for snowshoe running? They are that layer that has less fabric than a standard jacket, and they help insulate your core. Vests come in all types of styles from Down, Synthetic Down, Softshell, Hardshell, Wind-breakers, and Fleece. I like the vests that are water resistant. Block out that moisture. Synthetic down is great in colder temps as it still keeps you warm when wet, whereas standard down loses its loft and properties the wetter it gets. Vests are easy to put on and off, and I find can be that one extra layer that just makes snowshoe running enjoyable in -20 degrees F vs freezing to death. Vests also do not restrict your movement so I find are great for running.

Cockadoodle Shoe wearing my green Mammut Vest. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt-Crosby

Good underwear?? Really Cole??? Yes , really. I am not saying go to a designer store and get some undies. But hear me out. Just that like that core baselayer you have up top, do not forget about your bottom. Both are equally important. Remember, you are going to kick-up snow. And in doing so, your bottom is suspect to getting pretty dang cold as that snow melts on the outside. I like to go with something that breathes and is synthetic. No cotton, but wool blends can work here. Craft (not to be an add for them but they do it really well) has a wind boxer that has changed my life. It can get wet and still feel warm. The front also has a windproof shell that protects those “parts” that you would never want to get frostnip on. Can you get away with regular polyester underwear? You can but I would rather spend a little more money on something that is going to keep my bottom from going numb on a long snowshoe run or race.

And lastly the hood. As my midlayer, I wear a thermal jacket or 1/4 zip that has a hood. Just by having a hood go over your head, you can warm-up significantly up to something like 5 degrees F. That is huge! With a hood, you also have the option of taking it off if you are overheating. With these types of midlayers, I like outdoor companies. They offer mountaineering fleece midlayer jackets with hoods that are lightweight, thermal, and have the “tight” hood that fits snug around your head. I love those because you do not want a big hood flopping in the wind. Ushood, a sponsor of the USA Snowshoe Running Team has these really cool baselayers that cover-up your face completely like a ninja. They are great for cold-weather snowshoe runs and races.

My Ushood for World Snowshoe Champs in Japan 2020

And that is that. This really is just a start to the dialogue of what to wear. It can be as simple and as complicated as you make it. Just know that wearing items that keep you warm and dry will be the magic ticket to logging tons of miles out there this winter.

Happy Shoeing!

To the Finish at the Highland Forest 10k

So You Want to Run On Snowshoes?

So you want to run on snowshoes? Yes, you can do it. Yes, it is awesome. Yes it is really hard. But man is it worth it.

Snowshoe Nationals in 2013 in Bend–Photo Credits: Richard Bolt

I started my foray into snowshoe running in 2013, as I moved to Cortland, NY for Graduate School in Recreation Administration. I linked-up with New Hampshire-based, Acidotic Racing and ran my first race at the Stonewall 5k and the rest was history. I was hooked. From there I ran a qualifier at Highland Forest 10k and won the race. It was then that I raced at Nationals in Bend, Oregon having a spectacular weekend there. I was in love. Every year, I would compete in snowshoe running and use this season as my in-season off-season as the sport really helps build incredible strength for ultra running.

2nd place at the North American Snowshoe Championships. Photo Credit: MPF

Snowshoe running races range from usually 5k to 10k. Though shorter in distance, these type of efforts feel more like an uphill mountain race as the effort to go the distance is far greater than trail running even. US nationals even hosted Half marathon and Marathon distances- a first for the sport. I was lucky enough to win the Half Marathon Championship in 2019. Snowshoe races are out available if you know where to look. The USA Snowshoe Association and ATRA (American Trail Running Association) has great calendars to view what’s out there. The Pinnacle events each year are the USA Snowshoe National Championships and the World Championships. In years past, there was more strict qualifying to “make the teams” and races but now, both are open to everyone. You see, Snowshoe running is a very inclusive sport. And snowshoes are not that expensive in relation to these Carbon-plated marathon shoes that last only 100 miles. Snowshoes with proper care can last a lifetime if you are willing to tinker with them to have them fixed.

2014 Snowshoe Nationals in Woodford, VT. Photo Credits: USSSA and Tim Van Orden

Do not be discouraged, anyone can run on snowshoes. And a little bit goes a long way. Most of the top athletes in the world maybe run on snowshoes 3-4 times a week at most and I usually do once or twice a week if the snow conditions allow. Snowshoe running is a HARD WORKOUT! Think of it as you are running with 1 pound metal waffles on your feet. You will naturally change your stance and gait to accommodate the snowshoe. Be careful not to kick your butt in the snowshoes. Often when running at race pace, I come pretty darn close. I think of running on snowshoes as like 5k feels like a 10k on trails. Just double the distance. So in other words, you run a 5k on snowshoes, and you got a workout as if you ran 6 miles? Say what? I love that concept that I use because less is more with snowshoes. You do not have to be out there all-day to get in great shape.

Cockadoodle Shoe. Photo Credits: Jeremy Drowne

The Type of Snowshoes—— Well they are lightweight, flexible, and not long. I am sure you were thinking of these big tennis racket type shoe but today, they are made of special aluminum, plastics, and now even EVA foam. The USA snowshoe association has good info on the brands and carriers of “Running Snowshoes”. Running Snowshoes are usually 21 inches long and even now 20 inches long with a certain surface area that is approved by the USSSA. They are light. Weighing at only 1-1.5 pounds per shoe, its not that bad in the grand scheme of things. Shoes are good for different things. Some have deeper cleats for deep snow. Others are all-arounders. Others are best for groomed trails found at ski areas. What you want to find is a snowshoe that best fits you and your conditions. I love Dions for this reason because you can customize the shoe for the conditions you face. You have ice, go with an ice cleat. Groomed trail, go standard cleat. Deep power will call for the Deep Cleat. The truth is, most running snowshoes will be a great start as you get into the sport. After that, you will find your favorite.

Dion snowshoes, the modular snowshoe–Photo credits: Dion snowshoes
TSL Hyperflex Symboiz. Photo credits: TSL website.

Foam Snowshoes??? Crescent Moon EVA. Photo Credits: Gear Junkie.

Snowshoe running is a great sport to try this winter. If you run, give snowshoe running a try. Why be stuck inside all winter when you can embrace it and gain new appreciation for this season as well as a new-found fitness that sets you up for a solid Spring Racing Season! Feel Free to message me with questions.

World Snowshoe champs in NY. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt-Crosby

What the Hell? Digging Deep At Hellgate +++

Opening Scene: I was battered, beaten, disoriented, and hungry. This was my Hell at Hellgate. I felt so disconnected from the race, from the world. I truly felt Lost. Lost in time, in space, in some type of limbo between reality and nightmare. This is Hellgate.

Have you ever looked at your year and felt that things were just tough? Where you prepared for your exams only to get grades below what you hoped for? In many ways that is how most of my 2021 season felt in the running world. I started out with a “BANG” running across NJ. Then as I recovered, I felt excited about a great year ahead. But with a bad ankle injury(tearing a tendon), most of my year was not at full-strength.

Manchester 2 Monadnock was a great season opener but with my ankle not where it needed to be, I struggled more than I would had liked.

Cut 112 was playing out to be an epic run for me but then I really re-injured it and again to the point where I had to drop due to avoiding any further damage.

I suffered in the heat at the Mission Clean water timed run and had to resort to more of a training effort than all-out race effort.

Virgil Crest was a brutal day of suffering where everything that could go wrong-did and then the Maine Marathon, I had the biggest suffer fest when my sinuses closed up and I felt like I was running under the ocean.

Now to Hellgate. It is a hard race and one that has different conditions every year. I think that is some of the allure- that no one year is the same. By Hellgate, I had gotten my ankle back to more normal levels and with a solid ankle brace, I found I could run hard without fear of re-injury. I felt fit and ready to run a solid race at Hellgate. I really wanted to put together a complete race-which I felt since NJ, I had not been able to do.

Hellgate is a David Horton “cult” classic that really has this special mystique around the race. From the Midnight (12:01) start to the pre-race dinner, and meeting; this race is a special one. The weather was another wet one with rain as soon as we arrived at Camp Bethel, but possibly warmer weather this year with temps in the high 30’s , low 40’s most of the time and warming into the morning in to the 50’s and 60’s. The weather at Hellgate is as much a part of the experience than anything else. To me, this is what drives the challenge of the race. The course is a perfect symphony of rocky, wet, leaf-ridden trails that Virginia Blue Ridge mountain running is known for, jeep roads, and double-wide dirt roads that go up and down the tops of these mountains in the mist. The roads are often long gut-busting climbs that seem to go on forever and once at the top-usually an aid station followed by more techy trails but only the light of your headlamp or light torch.

So I came into Hellgate with high hopes. No matter what, I set the goal of Top 10-as this does gain some merit with some special Patagonia schwag only those lucky-enough to earn those places get. In 2019, it was a super warm Patagonia down jacket. This year, a R1 Hooded Fleece Jacket. The merch is always a nice motivator when you are really suffering out there. And at Hellgate, everyone suffers-even if for only a few miles (horton miles).

There were many of the top runners back again: Course Record Holder Michael Dubova, Hellgate staple-Jordan Chang, John Anderson, Chris Roberts, And out from the Northwest: Mario Mendoza. It was going to be a fast race.

It was fun this year to have my amazing wife, Ashlee along for the ride. She would be crewing me at Bearwhallow, the crux of the final push to the finish. The race was humid, wet, foggy, misty; a perfect eerie type of Hellgate vibe. We lined up together at the Hell Gate trailhead at the gate as once 12:01 would hit, we would be off on an adventure through our own form of metaphorical “Hell”. When the race started we headed out and the adventure began. I ran with the main group and just hung out. The first few miles do not decide anything yet in this beast of a race. It is those latter miles through the night that ultimately set the stage. Around mile 3 there is a creek crossing that in 2019 I fell in. This year I would avoid that. Of course, I did slip on a rock and almost went in but caught-myself just in time. Man, that was a close one.

I ran with Michael Dubova as Jordan Chang shot off the massive “forever climb”. We did not speak much if at all but just took in the moment. I knew he was going to go for it and have a stellar day. And after that climb and aid, you enter the techy trail. He shot ahead on this section and that was the last time I saw him. I had a sweet Kogalla waist light and Black Diamond Headlamp that helped to light my way and I had issues with the belt so I ran with the Kogalla light in my hand. Those 700+ lumens was so clutch to be able to see every wet rock. If only the battery lasted longer. I soon linked-up with Mario Mendoza which was fun to catch up since 2013 National Snowshoe in Bend. We both took our time through the trail section and then up on the road climb, we had another runner join us. We worked together at a good uphill tempo. It was by mile 14 or so where I was getting too hot. I was sweating heavy and my legs just started cramping up really bad. I had to lose that group and walk for 15 second spurts while taking in hydration to try and remedy this.

I then had that moment of worry. Why am I struggling so early on? I then played this game of having to get enough fluids and electrolytes into my system. But I have noticed that I crave water more than electrolyte drinks which I think is to myself being more akin to fat fueling and burning. I struggled through the next parts of the course. The temperature would go from 30’s to 50’s and back again like the drop of a dime. It was hard to keep yourself in the right type of temperature and that was beating me up and I am sure made me waste more precious energy. Hellgate can be disorienting as you run through the deep dark woods up these mountain paths.

The Fog was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was like something out of a London horror movie. Now moving through the high point of the race, the fog would blow in through the trees and with your headlamps and lights, would radiate and create a fog out where I could not see in front of me. It made navigating difficult. So much so that I hit a rock and slammed downward. I scrapped up my knee pretty bad as blood was running down my leg but in the moment, it was a wake-up call to be more careful. I hit one aid station in need of salts. I had some soda and chicken broth as another runner came by. As soon as I left the aid, I stopped and threw up all the essential calories that I needed. I think I was in like 6th place-maybe 7th and things had gone from not feeling great to much worse.

As more fog rolled through these sections- this is the doldrums of the race course. It is 2 to 3 in the morning where you are most tired and truly “foggy”. I could not take down any gels or calories throughout this section. I felt a little bit in a fog myself. This was a lonely stretch and hours of feeling out of sorts. I hit one section of the course that you have to make a turn. I initially thought it was left. I push the uphill section maybe a mile and did not see any pink flags. I get to a dead end in a field and felt like this was off. This did not seem like the course. With the Fog, I could not look ahead and see a streamer so I turned back to where that turn happened. I got there and soon went the other way to finally find a streamer. That sucked. I then picked up my pace to make up some time. I was disappointed in myself for waisting so much time. It may not have felt like a lot of time but I was stopped in that field for minutes on end.

Up and down the dark foggy gravel roads I went. It was then at another section where you hit a sort of field. This is a tricky spot which I got lost in 2019 and went left or right. I knew it was around here somewhere. With the thick fog, I walked the perimeter of the field up and down, up and down. Where is the trail? I waisted a lot of time here to finally find that trail right in plain sight once some of the fog cleared.

I was battered, beaten, disoriented, and hungry. This was my Hell at Hellgate. I felt so disconnected from the race, from the world. I truly felt Lost. Lost in time, in space, in some type of limbo between reality and nightmare. I kept pushing onward-not knowing what would come next. It was right before the sun was ready to hover into the horizon that I hit my next aid. I took time here eating a banana, drinking water as I had finally gotten myself to sipping on Tailwind, eating a little banana that my stomach would not revolt. I was low energy. It had been at least 6 hours without any real calories in my system. In my own fog, I thought I asked what mileage we were at here, and it seemed from my watch I was like 5 miles off-track. Now looking back on things, it wasn’t the mileage but the time that I lost going the wrong way and searching for the trail in the heavy fog that really costed me something like 20-30 minutes of wandering like a drunkard out in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I tried to surge ahead as I saw the watch drawing closer to 7am and I was maybe 45 minutes from where I was at Bearwhallow in 2019. I started to worry about Ashlee worrying about me. I always love this section that leads-up to Bearwhallow. It is as the sun starts to rise that so does your spirits. It was here that I pushed my pace. I then saw Chris Roberts almost in the same location that I saw Jack Kuenzle. I became so full of energy and happiness that here was another person in the race. I zoomed up to him and told him what I thought had happened about getting lost as I zipped on by. I was hoping I could pull Chris along. I was now drunk on this spirit of feeling. I was now in that near top 10 slot. And was just happy I was salvaging my race mistakes.

All good things must end. I pushed too hard for running on fumes of fumes, as I felt my body literally eating me. It felt so odd. I hit a climb and became so light-headed that I almost tipped forward off of the trail. That would had been bad. So I walked. And tried to run but usually became a walk again. Chris then passed me. I just had to make it to Bearwhallow. Here I could see Ashlee, and regroup. I could Eat lots of Bananas and just see what I could do those last 20 miles. The winning Female, Rachel Spaulding came up on me in this stretch and was nice enough to give me a Spring Energy Gel. Those things are amazing and expensive. I was so grateful for that and that style of gel was perfect for me. I started moving stronger just after a runner with an orange beanie passed me. I hit the aid in like 13th place maybe? It was a relief to get here. I changed out of my clothes, and got a solid pep talk from David Horton and Michelle Anderson to get rolling. Ashlee gave me the fire that Ian Golden was right behind me and I knew the chase was on. It was at this moment that I let go. I had run half of the race with what had to be 100 calories up to this point minus that Spring gel. How did I do that? In the past I would had wilted away. Yet I still maintained a strong-enough pace to be back into the thick of things.

And so I pushed up the climb and just ran. I just did my thing. If I would be passed, let it happen. I was content on finishing and whatever the fates had for me, would be fine with me. But that connection of community and positive energy I felt at Bearwhallow, gave me the boost I needed. I now was keeping calories down. I could see the trail and I knew the course well at this point. Let’s Roll. It was at this point that I passed two more runners in this section. I was in 9th male and 10th overall. I was run-hiking the ups and cruising on the flats and downs. And soon in the famous “Forever Section” the downhill sections became tough with the wet rocks so then my ups got stronger. I do not know how all of this turned around the way that it did. I was in this “Fog” so much of the raise to finally come out with some clarity. So I pushed, and pushed, and kept moving well. I hit the last aid station. Now it was only 5k up and then about 5k down and flat to the finish. I walk and ran up that 5k climb with purpose. In 2019, I was on a full death march. I got to the top finally and then across the Blue Ridge parkway and bam- time to hammer down to the finish. The wet rocks here made it harder for me to run the same pace I did in 2019 but I was still in the 7 to low 8.

You hit the gravel road and then it is like 1.5 miles to the finish. I started to think about the entirety of this adventure. I ran most of this dealing with adversity I normally have not dealt with and for so long. But how I rose from those “ashes” was really cool. I might of had some happy tears wellup in my eyes that last stretch. Hellgate gave me Hell, and yet I live to tell the tale. On the day, I was a survivor of the course and challenge this race poses. I hit that final stretch into camp and pushed to the finish. And Man, crossing that finishline was incredible. 9th place male and 10th overall. I was down but not out.

I won the Stupid Award, a sweet fleece blanket with a cool embroidery on there. Sometimes I learned, you have to do stupid to find out what you are made of. This run for me was character-building. Never give up. Our bodies are designed to survive. Trust yourself and keep working through things. Because eventually, things can and will get better. It takes belief.

Thank you to everyone at Hellgate. The volunteers, the race organization, Horton, the competitors, friends and family, and the Camp Bethel staff for another epic time. This was the perfect way for me to close out 2021. This community is so freaking cool and you all helped give me the fuel I needed to finish. A finish is a finish so thank you.

I hope to take this energy I was given at Hellgate and use it at the Cocodona 250. Time to bring the heat!

Run Across Rhode Island–From West to East: Marathon Edition

Have you ever woke up and said: “This Morning, I am going to run across a state!” You would think that I have but that actually has not been the case for me. It has been something of careful deliberation out on my standard training runs. I day-dream and mull over the logistics of such an effort before actually committing. And with this run, I was looking for something that I could do for motivation as a lead-up to my Hellgate 100k race. I had a tough year where races I hoped to perform well in, I did not. I struggled with just weird things that I normally have not dealt with and spent more time in the Pain Cave than actually feeling okay during a race as well as dealing with a nasty ankle injury that really was a blow to my running this Summer and Fall. My Run Across Rhode Island I was hoping could be that confidence boost for me. Being able to gain some momentum.

Rhode Island is not a big state. In fact, it is the smallest state in the country. Rhode Island is only 1,214 square miles while New Jersey is 8,723 square miles. I would like to run the North South Trail that is a 70+ mile trail that goes North to South in Rhode Island but I want to take more time in the logistics and planning as well as running it when hunting season is not going on as the course traverses wildlife management areas. For what Rhode Island lacks in size, it packs all types of diversity in such a small amount of space that you can quickly go from the hills and woods of the West, to the suburban and urban city life to the quaint ocean life in a short span of miles that no other place really can. That is something I truly love about Rhode Island. You get a lot of variety in such a short amount of miles.

Now being a resident of the Ocean State, it only felt fitting to look into a road route across the state. I started plugging in on Google Maps different points and saw a couple different options. With all of them, you start in Connecticut on the Western-side of the state before making the trek through the wilds of Rhode Island then into Providence and finishing in Massachusetts. What built my route was something others would want to do and one that was the easiest to navigate and the safest while also being a nice “Grand Tour” of the state in a 26 mile capacity. I settled on running on Route 44 the whole way into Downtown Providence and then running out finishing at some car dealerships called “Stateline Nissan” as well as an ice cream shop. The route below shows how the day unfolded and the route:

I like to run in as straight of lines as possible so this Route 44 path was excellent as you just stay on it all the way. The shoulders are manageable though runners do need to be careful early on but as you get closer to Providence, you can run on sidewalks the whole way through.

The Start of the Journey

So on Thanksgiving morning, I started my epic run at the Connecticut sign out on Route 44. This area was up around 700ft elevation and right near the high point in Rhode Island as the temp was damp and cold-36 degrees. With the start of my Coros Apex watch, I was off on my grand adventure. I was using this “FKT” type of run as a slightly uptempo workout. I ran with only water with me as I have been training fasted since 2018 and have had great results doing this though I had a few gels with me if I needed them.

Off I set off and immediately I was running downhill and hitting some low 6 minute miles. Amongst the rolling terrain and hills that Rhode Island has throughout, I managed a strong effort and felt really good the whole way. I had a little low patch the last 2 miles but other than that, it was a glorious day. Instead of telling you how I felt throughout the whole run and a play by play-lets explore more about how the scenery around Rhode Island changes along this route as I think that was the real reason behind experiencing this run.

There are lots of Natural areas, parks, lakes and trails on the western side of the state.
The Rolling Roads of the West begin…only 25.5 more miles to go
Welcome to Puppy Path

The first 8 miles of the run take you through the wooded and small villages in Western Rhode Island. This area has so many lakes, and deep woods that make it a nice and tranquil place to be. As I worked my way through Gloucester, I passed a country club here that is one of my customers and a really nice lake. Being the most rural section of the state, it is also the hilliest with nothing but long steep rollers. Lucky for me, it was more of a net downhill course so I would get a “Boston marathon” inspired type of course format. It was fun reading the street signs as I ran by and Puppy Path seemed to be the best one out there as it seems ducks are popular out on Puppy Path too!

The next town of Chepatchet
There are more Dunkin Doughnuts per capita than anywhere else in the country

Do you love Dunkin? Rhode Island has more Dunkin Doughnuts per capita than anywhere else. It is wild seeing the long lines of cars every morning waiting for their morning coffee as in NJ, this was never the case. Is Dunkin better here than other places? I think so, but it is still up for debate.

The route eventually moves into the suburbs of Providence. One of them being Smithfield. In the running route, you go by the main mall here with a Target and Dicks Sporting Goods, Panera etc. and this transitions leaving the heavily wooded areas of the West to the more central portion of the state. Smithfield is a nice place to be and as the miles ticked past half-way, I knew I was closing in on my old running spots. I soon hit Centredale and North Providence. It was great running through here as I have spent so many of my miles before buying our house learning about the area running through here. The terrain is now on side walks going through the little downtowns and the woods are now met more with homes, neighborhoods, and shopping centers. From here, we transition past the Rhode Island College and Lasalle Academy. There are still hills here but not as long but off of the course can be short and steep.

As you cross into Downtown Providence, the route goes by the state building which looks like a mini Whitehouse and then you cross by Roger Williams Park before running right through all of the shops in the valley from College Hill and Brown University to the left and to the right, the big buildings that make up the rest of Providence. It is a small city that has plenty of things going on and is to me, not too small nor too big. It is just the right size. And the city itself is really chill which is why I love running through it. People are always out just walking, biking, running and enjoying the city.

Growing Greens!

The route then transitions from the center of the city to the water and the bay. India point is an incredible place to be. With wonderful views of the bay, and the famous East Bay Bike Path, at this point in the run, you are 20+ miles in a in that home stretch and the views are amazing. The East Bay bike path takes you by the Narragansett Brewery over into East Providence.

The East Bay Bike path and the Bay in the distance with India Point Park

I tried to switch gears here, but had felt a little tired and just grinded it in. As I moved through East Providence and then into Massachusetts, it was incredible to run across a whole state in just under 3 hours. Wow!

Entering Seekonk-the finish
I made it in 2:51
We did it!

As I hit those signs, I knew I was done. It was an incredible way to start the Thanksgiving day and just what I needed.

Running to me is all about exploration and adventure just as much as running well and competing with competition. As I have gotten older, I have been looking to go after more adventurous races such as 200 milers and multi-day stage races. You do not always need an official race to not go out there and do your own homemade challenge. I love these for hard training days. Go out there and find your adventure!

If you have more questions about my run or would like me to maybe turn this into a race for other to do, let me know. Send me a message and you can follow along my journey on Instagram @colecrosby41

Gear Used for the Adventure:

361 Degrees Meraki 4

Uglow Sport 5 inch short (This brand is sooooo good–light weight and seam-free for no chafe)

Nathan Vaporswift 4L pack and Speedraw Plus Insulated Handheld

Fits Socks Compression Socks

1 Bottle of Efuel and 1 bottle of Water

2 Boom Gels used afterwards

Coros Apex Watch–Battery life only lost 5% from run.

The Maine Marathon–BQ and Sinus Woes

As a competitive ultra-runner that has been in the sport for 9 years, marathoning is not something I do much of. In 2019, I ran the NYC marathon as my first World Major Marathon and the experience was incredible. I ran well as I pushed my limits of racing 76 miles split between the USATF 50 mile road championships just 6 days before NYC. The result was a 6:07 50 mile and a 2:37:13 for NYC’s 26.2. It was a solid double. Now with living in New England, it made sense to go and run Boston. So as October was drawing closer, I needed to find a marathon that would allow me that chance to net a qualifying time for Boston. I settled on the Maine Marathon.

For the Maine Marathon, I was able to get into the race as an elite–meaning a free race entry which was awesome and now being a resident of New England (living in Rhode Island), this was the perfect event to run and get a last-minute Boston Marathon qualifier for the 2022 race.

I have had a tough go with injury on my right ankle after a really bad partial tear in April and not feeling the same over the course of the Summer. I have battled the injury and gotten stronger but it is still not 100%.

The Maine Marathon is a tough marathon course with rolling hills and a gradual climb from mile 10 up to the 13.1 mark. I have done well with strength courses like this and was hoping that if the day allowed it, I could have a shot at going under 2:30.

The Maine Marathon course starts down by the ball park and works its way out along the neighborhoods and coast to Yarmouth. The course is a really nice scenic run and totally worth doing.

Maine Marathon | Portland Maine Marathon | October 4, 2020

The day before the race, my wife and myself got settled into our little hotel as these hotel prices these days have been wild and I picked a place about 30 minutes away from Portland. We arrived for packet pick-up and stopped at a local brewery for some grub and good drinks. Portland is a really cool city and definitely a place worth checking out here in New England. We had the chance to check out some vintage antique shops that were really cool. As the hotel filled-up with people, it was cozy but the pillows gave my neck a nice workout. It was not the most ideal sleeping conditions but it would do.

The Race:

The morning came and off we headed to the race. After our 30 minute drive, we parked at one of the further lots which was a brilliant idea and walked over to the start. It was amazing being a part of such an event with so many people. I had not been a part of a running event with so many people since 2019 before the pandemic started. There was a lot of nervous energy in the air and the weather was perfect for a marathon with the morning temp in the 50’s warming up to the 60’s. It was overcast and there was a chance of rain.

Little did I know that the rain in the forecast would be my arch nemesis.

As we lined up to start, I was relaxed and ready to go. I mean, a marathon has become more of a shorter effort for me these days.

I set out with the main group as the pace was hot to start.

I split some fast first 3 miles in the 5:31 mile range. I felt relaxed but as mile 4 hit and we started to go uphill a little, I had difficulty getting enough air down and started sucking for air.

I entered a true sufferfest for me. As the rain started to come down, my sinuses closed up on me as I do get a slight allergic reaction to mold caused by fresh rain. I have never felt like complete garbage so early on in a marathon. Usually it is by mile 15 that things get tough. I continued to push along the hilly roads of Falmouth. My pace was hovering around 6 minute mile pace which felt like 5:30 mile effort. Something was off. The story was I struggled with getting enough air in for those next 22 miles. I could only go one pace and it was much slower than I would like to go and that my fitness could show. The people cheering out on the course was amazing and it was funny as I asked many of them if they had claritin and joked with them that I was hurting so bad but that I appreciated their support. Maine is a cool place and the running community around this race was awesome. Little did I know that this course was primarily rolling uphills from mile 4 to the 13.1 turn-around then you have a net downhill on the way back.

The course takes you through some wonderful New England roads that was incredibly peaceful and nice. I hit the half-way mark around 76 minutes which was a solid pace for a 2:32 finish time but I was slowing badly. I was so frustrated with how I could not move. It felt like running in quicksand. I was passed by two guys towards the last 3 miles and eventually was passed by the Women’s winner a half mile from the finish. I had nothing left to give.

I crossed the line in 2:39:54. A Boston Qualifier, but my slowest official marathon finish ever, when not running in a Toga. I came to the race to get a Boston Qualifier and achieved that mission even if my finish time was far from where I wanted to be. I was proud of not giving up and holding on just about the whole race–22 miles worth of deep oxygen-deprived pain to finish. This year for me has been a challenging year for racing but I am proud of my ability to push through being in the “hurt locker” for the majority of the time.

The lesson here is do not give up if things just feel harder. This race sucked. I was hurting so bad. I knew I needed to finish and tried to take in the gels and nutrition hoping this would turn things around but nothing could improve my situation. I bathed in that knowing I had to just keep moving along. This was by far my grittiest marathon finish ever and for that, I am proud.

This is a great race and one to do. Is it a PR course, No, but I do think if you are looking for a destination marathon, the Maine Marathon is a great choice! Some post-race beer and seafood (lobster rolls) are always a great consolation.

My Boston 2022 application is in and I hope that all goes well in being selected!