2014 Hop Brook Dam MTB Race

I made yesterday’s Hop Brook Dam MTB Race muddier than it should have been. My muddy-faced Facebook photo even drew comments (through my Dad) from my Mom. She thinks I’m nuts. At least she didn’t have to do my post-race laundry like the old days.

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Hop Brook was the first Root 66 Race Series event of the year. It was a blast, but it was hard. Four laps of the five-mile course was a rude awakening for my legs after a long winter. It was on the fateful second lap that I poorly judged a sharp left hand turn on the upper part of the course, launched over my handlebars, and plowed left arm/head first into the deepest mud puddle on the course. It would have made for an awesome video. Alas, I was the only one who saw it. A few other riders saw me covered head to toe in muck, and a few spectators noticed the aftermath, but the actual fall was witnessed by no one else.

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For the most part, the course was dry. I don’t ride on muddy trails. It just isn’t right. This course had a few wet spots, including the one I mentioned. Hop Brook is rugged and has a fair amount of up and down. I rode my Seven Sola SL singlespeed. The belt drive was perfect for the course and conditions, though on laps three and four, I walked more than I would have liked. Thankfully, my in-law’s (the Schieffer’s) live 10 minutes from the Middlebury course, so I was able to get to a shower and hose shortly after finishing.

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Chris and Jill Logan do a great job with Root 66 and the series looks bigger and better than ever. I’ll race again in two weeks at Winding Trails, and then maybe once more later in the year. I would do more of these, but with trail running and triathlon to juggle, you can only fit so much in the schedule. I saw a lot of friends yesterday and pretty much everyone  looked to be enjoying themselves. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but by early afternoon, the sun warmed up the air and it turned out to be a beautiful early spring day.

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My teammate, Arthur Roti, brought his family to the race. The kids did the Easter Egg Hunt and then raced on their own. Art got to test his legs and his Seven, just like me. Hop Brook Lake has become one of my favorite venues. I was last there for the cyclocross race back in November. I’ve been there twice/year for the past few years between CX and MTBing. It was good to string together a few workouts this past weekend. On Saturday, I got to run 1.5 laps of the Traprock 50K course with Debbie and our friend, Cheryl Jackson. We had fun on the trails. Two days in a row was twice as nice.

Race Results

2014 Bimbler’s Bash

Today, we returned to the Bimbler’s Bash for the first time since 2011. We also ran the race in 2009 and Debbie ran it solo in 2010. This year, the 7 +/- mile Bash was the first race in the inaugural Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.

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The course is a rugged loop through Westwoods in Guilford.  All proceeds from the event are donated to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust. Debbie, David Merkt, and I represented the Shenipsit Striders. I know there were other Striders in the crowd. The Bash is one of the largest trail running races around.

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We had brilliant sunshine, though it was still cold. The temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit when we started. It warmed up a bit more by the finish. With all of the recent snow/rain, the course was quite wet and muddy. That likely slowed the times a bit. There was a lot of ground cover (leaves, twigs, etc.) but no larger branches. This race is known for rocks, which it has plenty of.

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Thanks to the son of a friend of a friend, we had on-site childcare. Both Debbie and I got to run. This is our version of a “hot date.” We didn’t get to spend much time on the trail together, but we each got a chance to enjoy the woods. We saw many other running friends today.

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The Bimbler’s Sound running club, led by Race Director Jerry Turk, did a fine job with the course. I remembered a lot of volunteers from past years. Neither Debbie or I are up to speed yet, but we both enjoyed the hard effort. I ran in a group of three for much of the race, then it was a group of two. Then, I was dropped and was in a group of one. I was stronger on the ups and weaker on the downs.

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David had a strong run for 5th place. He and I were both rewarded with the traditional Bimbler’s chocolate bunnies. I was a candidate for the “Best Blood” competition, but I opted not to enter because it wasn’t “liquid” enough. Jerry prefers real gore and my injury was minor compared to some of the others I saw. I didn’t even fall. I was taking a sharp left and didn’t negotiate the corner in time. There was a sharp stick jutting out and I caught it with my back, which is pretty scraped up. Ouch! Still, it hurt so good.

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With 1/2 mile to go, it was great to hear the “piper” again. I love that sound calling you back to the finish line. Debbie and I had a piper at our wedding in 2001. Every wedding and every race should have a piper! Congratulations to race winners, Todd Bennett and Darcy Lucas; plus all of the age group winners. More than 200 people finished the race.

Brunch was once again, at the Shoreline Diner & Vegetarian Enclave. We enjoyed the meal like we always do.

Several of my Team Horst Sports mates were racing elsewhere this weekend. I missed the Tour of the Battenkill again this year. I’m not in that kind of cycling shape. Maybe 2015.

Next up in the Series: Traprock 50K. From talking to Debbie, I know that folks are already registering for the 30th anniversary Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. Hopefully we see a lot of Bash finishers coming north (we came south) to double the distance and run our 24 kilometer classic.

Race Results

Pittsfield, Vermont

Last weekend, Debbie and I had the opportunity to spend some time in the south-central Vermont town of Pittsfield. The kind folks at Perfect Vermont and the Amee Farm Lodge invited Debbie to experience Pittsfield as part of a group. The invitees were fellow yoga instructors and travel industry bloggers.

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We already knew Pittsfield from prior Vermont trips, but it was great to revisit the town and get to know it a whole lot better. The small town has seen much investment during the past 10 years. It all started at the Riverside Farm, a sister property to the Amee Farm, that is also owned by Joe and Courtney Desena.

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The Desena’s and their various partners have been a driving force behind the growth of Pittsfield as a destination for outdoor activity. The activity has gone global through other Desena venture, including Peak Races and the Spartan Race, but it all started back in 2007 at the inaugural Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge and Death Race.

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Debbie ran that first Peak ultra. It was 55 miles +/- and rugged. I crewed for her with our nine month old son. It was a grand adventure. The little town of Pittsfield left an impression on us. Debbie returned to run Pittsfield again in 2008, but other than passing through on various Vermont trips, we hadn’t spent any time in town until this past weekend.

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Our experience last weekend proves that they have some good stuff happening. In addition to the wedding business and races, they are looking to maximize utilization at the various properties. A tight-knit network of entrepreneurs, spurred by Desena’s own entrepreneurial spirit, have banded together to create something bigger.

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Various businesses have cropped up to make Pittsfield a more central destination for outdoor oriented visitors. We toured the various properties, experiencing the wonderful vision that has transformed old farms and barns into interesting venues. The architecture and interior decoration are wonderful. The venues would be excellent for yoga retreats, business meetings, and other events.  The Green Mountains setting makes the location special. There are trails right out the front door of both Riverside and Amee.

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On Saturday night, we shared a dinner with the group on the first floor of the Amee Farm Lodge. The fabulous dinner was catered by Vermont Farms Catering, the same team that operates the food services at the Vermonts Original General Store. We were entertained by a guitarist and a trumpeter.

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On Sunday morning, Debbie and I ran a 10 mile loop on roads and dirt roads. Most of the uphill came on South Hill Road. Then we returned to the lodge, grabbed our snowshoes, ran back through town. From there, we wandered through the woods and trails behind the Riverside Farm. You could get lost back there (and we did). Our run was in steady cold rain, though once we got above 1,500 feet on the north side of the mountain we were climbing, the rain turned to snow and sleet. The road was icy, but it was beautiful.

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In the woods, the snow was still very deep, but it was like mashed potatoes. We had our running snowshoes and they weren’t very good for the conditions. We needed our longer/wider backcountry shoes, but we still scrambled about looking for the famous “Shrek’s Cabin” which we never found. Many of the trails are part of a network known as Green Mountain Trails. It seems like the organizers are taking a page from Kingdom Trails in order to attract mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and other outdoors people.

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After our run/hike, we got a tour of Sweet Georgia P’s, an organic farm operating out of the Amee Farm. The family operation is across the street from the Amee Farm Lodge. The family running the show moved to Pittsfield in 2013 to take over the operation. They have chickens, goats, and lots of vegetables. We really enjoyed talking to the farmers and sharing their passion for good food and sustainable agriculture. It made us want to be farmers. We weren’t even dissuaded by all of the mud!

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We stopped at the General Store for lunch before leaving town. It took us just under three hours to get home and longer to dry out our gear. We love Vermont and Pittsfield is as nice a community as any. For us, access to trails is the key. It looks like we are going to be back there this summer. Debbie was inspired to alter her pre-Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance 100 game-plan to include the 50+ mile version of the 2014 Peak Ultra.

 

 

2014 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series

I’ll be writing much more about this during 2014, but the inaugural edition of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series is officially launched. There will also be more marketing, including a dedicated Facebook page.

Debbie, the Shenipsit Striders, the series Race Directors, the CFPA team, and I; have all been involved with the creation of this new series. We view this series as a compliment to the venerable New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series, and three of the races (Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, People’s Forest Trail Race, and NipMuck Trail Marathon) are in both series. NipMuck is the oldest Grand Tree race. 2014 will mark it’s 31st year. Soapstone, another Shenipsit Striders event (Debbie is RD), will be 30 this year!

The series kicks off in two weeks with the Bimbler’s Bash. See you there! Click here for the series page.

While I’m promoting 2014 series, if you are local, be sure to also check out our hometown cross-country series, the Bolton Summer XC Series. It’s run on a rugged and beautiful course that is fun for all ages. There is a 50 yard dash for the toddlers, a 1 mile race for the kids, and the 2.6 mile main event for kids and adults.

2014 Stone Age Rock Gym

This afternoon, we had a short, but fun trip to Stone Age Rock Gym. I was compelled to put together a quick blurb because it was a great experience. We were supposed to go to public skate at Bolton Ice Palace, but they had a group book the entire session.

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The family was bumming, so we rallied and headed to the gym in neighboring Manchester. Debbie and I watched and spotted while the kids scrambled all over the place. Jennifer was on duty and she was fantastic. She outfit both kids with climbing shoes (tiny ones!) and chalk bags. They were outfitted like rockstar climbers.

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We practically had the place to ourselves. There was one other couple there. It was an old running friend, Steve Henry, and his friend, Jill. They were roped up and enjoying themselves. It was also fun to watch one other “gym rat” attempt some more advanced moves.

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Debbie and I aren’t big climbers. She is more advanced, having done an outdoor educator course with NOLS back in 2001. She spent a month in the Arizona wilderness with the trip split between backpacking and rock climbing. I did some in the Boy Scouts and also in R.O.T.C., but haven’t done much since.

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The kids didn’t rope up. They just did “bouldering,” which itself was a blast. Stone Age has a strong connection with the Ragged Mountain Foundation. We have been long time Ragged members, mainly in support of their conservation efforts, particularly with Connecticut’s traprock ridges.

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The staff really was great with the kids and we are sure to return, maybe for a birthday party or Cub Scout den meeting. I might even give it a go myself. I know Debbie wants to get back into climbing. Last month, she went with a friend to another local gym and she has been working on her pull-ups. I don’t think she is going to give up running, but if we have another winter like this, then Stone Age seems like the perfect place to pass some time.

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Sabino Canyon Recreation Area & Tucson

Every time I pass through Tucson, Arizona, I appreciate the city more and more. It is a true Mecca for outdoor sports enthusiasts. The climate is fantastic and the trails are spectacular. I had a little time before my flight home on Friday morning, so I was able to steal away for a little trail run.

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I started at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and took a series of trails to Cathedral Rock and back. It was a 15 mile round trip in a about three hours and 30 minutes. The weather was perfect. It was actually a little cool when I started, but the sun was warm. My original plan was to run in the eastern sector of Saguaro National Park, where I’ve never been, but I took the advice of a friend and tried Sabino instead.

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It was a great choice. Once I got off the access road and away from the morning walkers, I was on my own. I saw a few people on my way back down, but I had the trails to myself. I crossed through Bird Canyon and climbed more than 4,000 feet. I would have kept going, but I had a flight to catch so I turned back just before Cathedral Rock. The top was in sight, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

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This was my longest workout in a long time, so my legs were feeling it by the time I returned to the parking lot. I  didn’t realize that I had a long delay-filled trip ahead of me, so it was smart for me to get outside and move my body after last Thursday’s six-hour drive back from Guaymas.

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I’m looking forward to a future trip when Debbie joins me to run on some of Tucson’s glorious trails. There is so much more to see.

Guaymas & San Carlos, Sonora

Earlier this week, I had a short trip to Horst Engineering de Mexico in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. It’s actually a long trip, but it was packed into a short amount of time. I left last Sunday afternoon and I returned early Saturday morning. There is no easy way to get to Guaymas. I flew to Tucson via Atlanta, spent one night there, and then drove to the plant. My return trip brought me back to Tucson for a night and then a flight home via Minneapolis.

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It’s six hours of driving from southern Tucson on a good day. Thankfully, we had easy drives both to Guaymas and back. The line at the border during our return trip, was very short, which is what we hope for. The main road between Nogales and Guaymas is Route 15. It has been under major construction for several years. They are making a divided highway and much progress has been made. Every time I return, there are fewer crossovers and the pavement is getting smoother, which is welcome.

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Business has been much better. Ever since 2010, when the manufacturing economy hit its big slump, we have made steady progress with our operation. We have added several new machines in the past year, and it was great to see them running on new jobs. Our little EDM hole popper was a highlight for me. We have an excellent management team and they are preparing for the growth ahead.

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Since 2008, San Carlos has suffered from a lack of activity. The combination of economic recession and the violence that gripped Mexico was too much for the tourist economy to sustain. I remember trips when I was the only one in a restaurant. It was like that for several years. That is why the uptick in business is noticeable. There was both more business activity and more tourist activity. I saw a lot more “snowbirds” both on the drive (with their RV’s)  and in San Carlos.

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Guaymas itself was buzzing as usual, but is driven much more by the success of the maquiladoras and the growth of Mexican business. Guaymas is a growing port and as better jobs drive a stronger Mexican middle class, the city will continue to grow. My hope is that a wave of environmentalism will eventually sweep through Mexico. There is still way too much waste. Sonora has always struggled with litter and trash, but it seems like it is getting worse, not better. It’s unsightly and bad for the environment.

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There is also little regard for energy savings. With monopolistic utilities, there is little incentive to conserve electricity and other critical resources. This coupled with a still lagging infrastructure (e.g. reliable Internet) keeps Sonora a step behind. Even still, it’s a fun place to visit and to witness the impact of economic progress.

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After a long New England winter, it was nice to run at sunrise in shorts and shirtsleeves. I also swam three days in a row in the Sea of Cortez, which is always nice. No Sonoran would swim in the water in March, but I loved it.


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