Archive for the 'Biographical' Category

2014 LEGO Family 5K Road Race & Children’s Fun Run

Yesterday we did the LEGO Family 5K Road Race & Children’s Fun Run for the first time. This was the fourth year for the Enfield, Connecticut based LEGO Group’s run, but the first time for the Livingston’s. We were tipped off by several friends that this was a well run event with some really neat swag. “We” meant that Debbie and our son did the 5K and our daughter (and son) did the one mile kid’s race.

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We are definitely fans of LEGO and the LEGO brand. When our son first started collecting them when he was three or four years old, I connected with my mother and we pulled out my 35-40 year old LEGO sets that had been kept in great condition in my parents’ attic. It is so cool to build your own LEGO with your kids. Now, they have a ton of their own LEGO and if all goes to plan, they can build their LEGO and my LEGO in 35 years with their own kids.

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The LEGO Group is a fantastic family business based in Denmark and LEGO Systems, Inc. in Enfield is the base of their North and South American operations. This video offers a pretty good history of LEGO. It has been watched a few times in our household. We appreciate family business in a big way.

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Well, the race was really well done. We got to the sold out race early and there was still a line for packet pick up. 467 runners finished the 5K and there were hundreds of children in the un-timed one mile and 1/4 mile races. This truly was a fun run with runners of all types out there doing something healthy on a Saturday morning. The race was held on the flat roads near the headquarters and finished right in front of the building.

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The building was open and the company cafeteria was selling food. Many of the volunteers were LEGO employees. It was neat to go into the building and see the space. It was very nice. It looks like a really cool place to work. I know that jobs at LEGO are coveted. They have their own child care facility on-site and the company store (which was open to runners after the race) is a great benefit.

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Master Builders displayed many of their unique creations on the lawn in front of the building. Several LEGO play areas were set up and there was even two giant bounce houses. This was very family focused. There were tents with a handful of other company’s (including Fleet-Feet) displaying their running related items. The race benefited a number of area charities including Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. The race brought in some excellent sponsorship, but it was clear that the sponsorship of LEGO led the way.

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At packet pick-up, each runner got their number and then was directed to a second pick-area where they received a wonderful LEGO gift. This year’s gift was very generous. Each registered 5K runner got a large yellow bag with a large LEGO kit. We were blown away by the value of our two kits. We got the Star Wars Red Five X-wing Starfighter and the LEGO Movie MetalBeard’s Sea Cow. We made a pact that we will build these as a family.

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At the finish of the kids fun runs, each child got to pick from one of four kits. Our son chose the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Baxter Robot Rampage, and our daughter chose the LEGO Friends Heartlake Flying Club. There was a tasteful notice in each gift bag that stated:

The LEGO Race planning committee would like to thank you for joining us today. It is truly a pleasure seeing so many runners and families come out for this event. 

We hope you enjoy your gift bag. Each year, our planning committee works hard to secure product samples for this event. This year proved to be pretty amazing. The product we secure, however, varies from year to year. It’s very likely that next year, will not be as substantial. 

Additionally, we are not able to ensure that everyone will receive the same set in terms of monetary value but we trust that what you did receive was a nice addition to a great day. 

As far as the Livingston’s are concerned, we got some very nice gifts that far exceeded the cost of entry fees. The 5K was $35 pre-registration (only) for each runner and the children’s fun run was free. That is expensive for a 5K, but when you look at what we got, it was a bargain. We had a little family meeting afterwards to explain to our kids that this was a very special event and the proceeds went to a good cause that helps other kids who might not have as the same two-parent household and opportunity.

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Thank you LEGO, and we appreciate the appropriate disclaimer. I bet this race sells out every time they hold it in the future, regardless of the value of the gifts. Hopefully it continues to raise money for good causes. It was a nice notice that pointed out that LEGO’s business is cranking. The LEGO movie was a great success and it appears that product is flying off the shelves of stores and distribution centers worldwide.

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Now, there actually was a race and the runners ran hard! The men’s race was won by our family friend, Henry Domnarski, from Palmer, Massachusetts, who is a very fast up and coming high school runner. This kid is fast! He had a huge gap, and crossed the line in 17:25. I would love to give him a run for the money (or LEGO), but he is getting faster. Regardless, I want to do this race next year! Henry is the son of my longtime Horst Engineering Cycling Team mate, Matthew Domnarski, so he has good genes. He was followed by Morgan Anderstrom and Carl Mills.

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The women’s race was won by Jennifer McHale in 19:36, and she was fourth overall! Debbie was second place and Brielle Curtis was third. This wasn’t the fastest field of 5K runners, but these were still fast runs for a local race. Debbie isn’t typically a 5K runner and certainly not a road runner, but she was rewarded for her speed workout with a very nice plaque. It is a unique award that is one of the coolest she has received.

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I think the only glitch was that no one could hear the start of the race. I was taking photos and I could barely hear the announcer 500 feet behind me, so I instructed the runners to “Go.” There was a hesitation, but then one or two trusted me and the pack started moving. Our son had a very good race, pushed hard, and set a personal best. He is growing up and getting stronger, but the most important thing is that he enjoys the activity. What could be more fun than the combination of LEGO and running?

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The kids races were chaotic, as you would expect, but there were a lot of smiles. After the races, people lingered for a long time. We saw several of our Shenipsit Striders friends. They had the awards ceremony and then a series of raffles that included some amazing LEGO prizes. We didn’t win (the Death Star was our goal!), but we were happy to donate additional funds to the cause. We left this event smiling and grateful.

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Debbie and the kids grabbed some lunch on the way home. I rode my bicycle from Enfield to work in East Hartford. I took many beautiful farm roads through Somers, Ellington, East Windsor, and South Windsor. The foliage is peak.

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What a great way to start the weekend!

Race Results

2014 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race

Yesterday, we returned to the Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race after a one year absence. Since 2000, we have been to this race more than 10 times. It’s one of our favorite New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series races and is part of the WMAC’s Trilogy.

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The other two races in the Trilogy are Greylock and Savoy, though I recently learned that 2014 was the final year for Savoy. Participation has dwindled. The turnout at Monroe was good, but much lighter than years past. The traditional mid-distance races just don’t draw the numbers anymore as more and more runners flock to the ultra distance and to new racing formats.

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Oddly, next month, more than 10,000 people will jam Fenway Park for a 3 mile Spartan Race, and pay dearly. If you registered back in February, it was $75. If you register the week of the race, it is double that number at $150. The kids race is $25 pre-reg. They are making a big deal that spectators are FREE at this race if they sign up in advance, but the spectator fee at a typical Spartan Race is $20 pre-reg. Imagine that, the spectators have to sign up in advance to save $5. I just find that to be ridiculous. Of course I’m making judgments here, but it just seems so silly.

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By contrast, the 10.5 mile Monroe was $20 pre-reg and the 2 mile sampler was $12 pre-reg. Spectators were free and there was no cost to park. The post-race food was excellent. That is a simple, brilliant, and time-tested; but apparently dying, formula. I can’t help but think it is the novelty of obstacle course racing that is a big part of the draw. The irony is that a race like Monroe has so much natural beauty and obstacles of its own. We had a stunning day in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, with peak foliage and an incredibly blue sky. We have been to this race when it was raw, blustery, and cold. Yesterday, it was picturesque.

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I only hope that enough people go to these races so we can keep them going for a long time. I’m actually happy to have the woods to ourselves. Obstacle races are held at already ski resorts and similarly degraded venues for a reason. We wouldn’t want the impact of the organizers, racers, and spectators on fragile environment anyway. Well, I couldn’t help myself with a little commentary. A week after NipMuck and a day after Monroe, I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the Grand Tree and what it has meant to Debbie and me during the last 15 years.

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It was nice to see some old friends at Monroe, including the legendary Richard Busa. Dick Hoch was there too. Still, I miss some of the characters from past Monroe’s. Being in that grove along the Deerfield River brought back excellent memories. Debbie and I are part of the old guard now. Thankfully, there is an older guard than us!

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Debbie ran the 10.5 miler and had a blast. Several Shenipsit Striders joined us at the race. Our son ran the 2 miler and love it. Our daughter frolicked in the woods with me. I took some nice photos. Top honors in the 10.5 miler went to Greg Hammett (men) and Kehr Davis (women). Joe Melillo won the 2 miler. There were 91 finishers in the 10.5 miler, with another legend, Laura Clark, crossing the line to close out the 2014 race and cap the Trilogy for now.

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We lingered for a while after the race, enjoying the company of friends. WMAC post-race spreads are always a smorgasborg. Afterwards, we met up with Tom Schieffer (Debbie’s brother) and his friend, Heather. We visited the Hick’s Family Farm corn maze, and then had an early supper in Shelburne Falls at a fine vegan restaurant called Hearty Eats. If it wasn’t for the southbound holiday weekend traffic on I-91 that slowed our return home, it would have been a perfect day.

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Race Results

2014 NipMuck Trail Marathon

Today we celebrated the 31st NipMuck Trail Marathon with some fine New England fall weather. After yesterday’s deluge, the trails were soft, but today the sky was cloudless and a brilliant blue. After last year’s 30th anniversary monsoon, today’s weather was awesome.

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Our original plans had us headed to Providence for the KMC Cyclocross Festival, but I didn’t race, so we stuck around and joined our Shenipsit Strider friends at this New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series classic. NipMuck was also the 9th (of 10) races in the inaugural Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. The finale is at Bimbler’s Bluff 50K on 19 October. 2014_NipMuck Trail Marathon 68

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Debbie didn’t have NipMuck on her schedule, but with the change of plans, she decided to run, and had a fun day in the woods. The weather really was the story of the day. It was cool at the start (about 40 degrees Fahreneheit) and never really warmed up. NipMuck is wooded the entire way and the shade kept the leaf covered trail moist.

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There were some fine performances. The men’s winner was Samuel Jurek in 3:26:43 and the women’s winner was Kehr Davis in 3:52:43. She ran a fine time. Jurek was followed by Justin Bentley and Jonathan Hammett. Davis was followed by Stacia Broderick and Liz Sherman.

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The first Shenipsit Strider was Sean Greaney, who finished 6th in his virgin NipMuck. This has been a wonderful breakout season for Sean. NipMuck Dave Raczkowski had a fine run, improving on last year’s time by 59 minutes. The Shenipsit Striders had a great turnout and got awesome volunteer support from members of the Silk City Striders and Willimantic Athletic Club. 2014_NipMuck Trail Marathon 218

More attention may be paid to the ultra distance races and newer races, but this race is truly a classic and should be on everyone’s bucket list. 2014_NipMuck Trail Marathon 409

Race Results

Christopher Moore from Connecticut Outdoor Guide will post photos here.

2014 New England Builder’s Ball & Horst Spikes

Last night was the New England Builder’s Ball at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The event was a celebration of bicycle framebuilders and an exhibition of their work.  It was in partnership with this weekend’s KMC Cyclocross Festival and benefited the East Coast Greenway Alliance.

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Horst Engineering and Team Horst Sports were thrilled to have a booth to display and share our Horst Spikes product line. Special thanks to Arthur Roti, Max Accaputo, and Trent Sullivan who manned the booth with me for the four-hour event. The botanical center was a really cool venue that was made all the better by the amazing collection of bespoke bicycle builders.

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We were in the company of some talented craftsman. The good news is that we may not make bicycles, but our Horst Spikes AND our precision machined aerospace components are every bit as cool as what we saw at the show. Of course, I’m biased, but coming off of Family Day 2014 last weekend, and MFGDAY (yesterday), I’m pretty high on our manufacturing capabilities.

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Horst Spikes is an idea that we hatched in 2007. We recognized that the commercially available cyclocross shoe toe spikes were inferior to what we could produce. Since our roots are in bicycles, we designed a fresh take on the product, which developed into our large spikes. For several years, we only sold them to teammates, friends, and family. Then, we started selling a handful through select distributors, including www.cyclocrossworld.com.

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For the past few years, we talked about a direct marketing campaign to raise awareness of the product. This year, we finally took up that challenge and also set up a website to sell online. The direct to consumer marketing has been a lot of fun. We have learned a lot with this project and are excited about the prospects of doing more work in the bicycle industry.

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Like I said, Horst Engineering has a long history of supplying the bicycle products industry. Company founder, Harry Livingston (born Horst Rolf Liebenstein), apprenticed as a bicycle maker in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He learned many of his skills working in the bicycle trade. He brought those skills to the USA, when he immigrated in 1938, and subsequently when he founded our family business in 1946.

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Horst Spikes is proud to support an incredible line up of elite cyclocross racers. We had a chance to connect with several of them last night at the Ball. These riders are testing the spikes in all conditions and providing valuable feedback on the product design. Spikes may not be as complex as our aerospace components, but they they have that cool factor.

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Our lineup of sponsored riders includes: Jeremy Powers, Mo Bruno-Roy, Justin Lindine, Cassie Maximenko, Adam Myerson, and the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com Team. We will announce more sponsored riders throughout the season.

At the ball, we had a chance to see Jeremy and Cassie. Both are fantastic riders. Jeremy is the reigning U.S. Cyclocross Champion, and hails from Niantic, Connecticut; so he is one of us. We are excited to get his feedback on the toe spikes. It was nice of he and his spouse, Emily, to visit with us, and we look forward to getting them to visit Horst Engineering for a plant tour and group ride. Cassie is one of the fastest improving elite woman riders in the country. She is also a Connecticut native and along with her spouse, Michael, has made her mark on the cycling and triathlon race scene here in New England.

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We saw a lot of friends from the cycling community. My longtime friend, Jon Gallagher, stopped by to visit with us. Jon and I spent the summer of 1994 racing the kermesse circuit in Belgium, both attended Boston College, and have raced all over the northeast together. Jon lives in Utah, but got back east because he is the official timer of the KMC Cyclocross Festival. Jon is the propietor of Sports Base Events and One 2 Go Event Services. He travels the world doing the timing at many top cycling events. Ted King also paid a visit to our booth. We saw Ted at last week’s Vermont 50, and is another one of New England’s top riders. His focus is on the road, though he gets on the mountain bike from time to time, like he did the last week. Ted is a true ambassador for New England cycling and spends most of the year racing on the European road circuit.

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It was also nice to catch up with Richard Sachs and his spouse, Deb. Debbie and I used to visit with Richie and Deb at their home/shop in Chester, Connecticut when they lived nearby, but we haven’t seen them as much since they relocated to Massachusetts. We occasionally see them at the cross races and it was nice that the Sachs and Horst booths were near each other last night. I’m proud to have my original 1989 Richard Sachs frameset hanging in my office.

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Seeing all the amazing bicycles and accessories in Providence last night was an awesome reminder that New England is home to many amazing craftsmen and crafts-women. We are happy to be part of the bunch.

2014 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

For the first time since 1999, neither Debbie nor I competed in the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run. Her absence was by design but mine was unplanned. I was registered for the race, but didn’t start because of my shoulder injury. Last year we both race, as it was our 15th anniversary race.

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It was impossible to be at the race and not think about the recent passing of Chad Denning. He was frequently a presence at the VT50. There were some banners hanging in his honor, but those who knew him didn’t need the reminder that we were missing him.

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Despite not racing, it was an amazing weekend. We saw so many friends, and the weather was spectacular. Like every year, we had a large contingent from Team Horst Sports, including A. Zane Wenzel, Mike Wonderly, Ted D’Onofrio, Randall Dutton, Mark Hixson, and Arthur Roti. Along for the ride this year was an honorary member and fellow member of Team Pursuit Athletic Performance, Al Lyman. The entire Vermont 50 community is like an extended family to us.

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Debbie and I may not have raced, but our children did. The kids races have become very popular. Like last year, they were held on Saturday afternoon during race registration. There were a 1/2 mile, 1 mile, and 5 kilometer races. Our daughter did the 1 mile and our son did the 5K. Both of them had a blast.

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As awesome as yesterday’s weather was, it was topped by today. I’ve got sunburn. It was extremely warm for late September in south-central Vermont. The temperature soared into the low 80’s Fahrenheit. There was brilliant sunshine and a deep blue cloudless sky. There was a light breeze, which was very nice. The foliage is turning. The trails were in fantastic shape. I wish I could have ridden them as planned. Reports were that it was a bit dusty.

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Zane and Mike had great races, which Zane prevailing by 45 seconds over his teammate and rival. Both rode cleanly on the dusty trails. Once again, Mark and Art were crowd favorites and first place in the tandem division. They got some stiff competition from their perennial rivals, Mark and Vicki Schow.

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Ted rode on his own for most of the race and got it done as he works his way into cyclocross form. Randall and Coach Al met up on Garvin Hill at the 18 mile mark and rode the last 32 miles in each other’s company.

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Debbie, the kids, and I were joined by Al’s friend, Terry Williams. Early in the morning, Randall, Al and I drove to the start from Shack Dutton in Chester. I watched all of the 50 mile start waves beginning at 6:15 A.M., and then hung out until Deb, Terry, and the kids drove over to pick me up. We watched the start of the 50 kilometer run at 8:00 A.M. From the start, we went to Greenall’s Aid Station, also the site of the Vermont 100 start/finish. Greenall’s is at the 31 mile mark of the 50 mile race.

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At Greenall’s, we got a chance to watch Kyle Meyerrose, from Liquid Sky Cinema, pilot a drone called Cinestar 8. He was filming the mountain bikers. There was more carbon fiber parts on the drone than on the bikes that it was filming. Our son got a chance to watch the live feed from the drone mounted camera. It was very cool.

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I still can’t get over how amazing the weather was. One result was that most everyone registered started, which likely made it the largest VT50 ever. That also meant that it was a huge day for spectators. This race is already fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers. It was downright crowded out there.

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The VT50 has been slow to innovate. Debbie and I still have some criticisms and suggestions. With so many runners, they should develop a colored bib number system to tell the difference between 50-milers, 50 kilometers, and relay runners. It’s very confusing. At least after 21 years, they introduced chip timing to improve the accuracy of the results. I’m anxious to see how that worked out.

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This race is made possible by the volunteers, but also through the generosity of the land owners in Brownsville, South Woodstock, and the surrounding communities. These trails are special and race day is the only time you can officially ride or run on them. The course is one of the best in New England.

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I’m sure the race raised a ton of money for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. V.A.S.S. has benefited from the VT50 in so many ways.

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I’m going to focus on my recovery before I think about 2015, but odds are I’ll line up for the VT50 again, and it will most likely be on my mountain bike. For now, I’ll keep my unused number plate close as a reminder of how much fun it was to watch this year’s race.

Race Results

1994 Killington Stage Race, Lake Sunapee Road Race, and Katahdin Adventure

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the summer of 1994, which I spent racing the amateur kermesse circuit in Belgium. The fall of 1994 was also an important period for me. I started my “senior” year at Boston College, which was a year later than planned because I “stayed back” after my transfer from Boston University in 1993.

After a dozen butt kicking races in Belgium, my legs were shot when I returned to the USA in August. I raced the Killington Stage Race with my Ski Market teammate and friend, Jon Gallagher. We nearly scored an awesome victory in the second stage circuit race when I led him out in the massive field sprint. Originally known as the “Pepsi Road Race” and then the “Sunrise Mountain Road Race,” it was always one of the fastest road races in New England, with the most harrowing finish of any race we did. The course wasn’t hard enough to break up the field and with hilly stages four and five, the third stage downhill 80 kilometer/hour sprint is fearsome. It was always the best chance for a smart and/or big sprinter to score a victory at one of the premier races.

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I thought I hit the front at the perfect moment, and gave it everything I had. I was leading the 150+ man field with 50 meters to go, spun out in my 53 x 12 gear, and Jon was right on my wheel. It was perfect! The field fanned across the road and I got swarmed as expected. He went by like a rocket in his 56 x 12, but ended up a disappointing second, by less than a wheel.  The finish was memorialized in the 1995 race poster. The look on his face has “bummer” written all over it. The framed poster hangs in our bonus/exercise/toy room to this day. I’m clearly visible just off the winner’s left shoulder (13th place) along with a whole cadre of current and former teammates. Jon is just right of center with that look of disappointment after we nearly executed the perfect plan. It wasn’t a bad day for a two-man team, but 20 years later, it could have been half a wheel better. We have both gone on to have fine results in all kind of races, but that one will always be “the one that got away.”

I wish I had a digital copy of that photo to post, but I made do with a photo of the photo. If anyone has that photo in high-resolution digital, send it my way! The rest of the race was ho-hum. My legs were worked from all the riding I did over the summer. I was hoping for good late season form, but the fitness never really came around. It was disappointing to get worked over week in and week out in Belgium and then return to New England and have dead legs, but c’est la vie.

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September on campus was an interesting time. I wrapped up my road cycling season at the Lake Sunapee Road Race. Later in October, I did the Boston Cup and Lynn Woods mountain bike races, which brings back good memories, and where I salvaged my season with decent results. Sunapee was a different story. It was two laps of the lake on a 23 mile loop for a total of 47 +/- miles. I was feeling good and on the last lap, forced my way into a breakaway on the rolling back side of the course with about eight miles to go. A couple of riders were with me, but they soon dropped off and left me alone on my solo quest. I built a nice lead of  a few minutes and thought I had an incredible victory in hand.

I never looked back and just buried myself. I made it into the rotary at the bottom of the ski area access road and just hammered up the climb. I knew that the field was bearing down on me, but still thought I had it. All of a sudden, I faded badly and I got caught with the finish line in sight. I could have hung on to finish in the top 10 because the group was the small front group had splintered. The field had broke apart on the final climb. I was despondent and just sat up. In my mind, it was first or last. That’s kind of how the summer had gone. I remember coasting and waiting for everyone to go by me before taking off my helmet as I crossed the finish line and chucking it in disgust. It was a fitting end to a frustrating stretch.

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So, the day after the race, I was back in Chestnut Hill, but school was closed for two days because of a major economic summit that was convened on campus. I think the President of the United States was coming, or something like that. I don’t recall. There was a ton of security and lots of restrictions. I used the opportunity to get out-of-town. I needed to clear my head and think through what I was going to do with life. I planned on returning to Horst Engineering, where I worked after quitting BU and before starting at BC. I had my final year of college ahead of me and needed to accomplish something to feel better.

A few years earlier on a Boy Scout trip, I had been thwarted in my attempt to climb Mount Katahdin, an important place for me. So, on a whim, I drove to Maine. I stopped in Freeport and bought a new backpack. Then, I camped out with my Aunt Terry, who was living in Topsham at the time. I got up very early on the Tuesday morning and drove to Baxter State Park. I hiked the mountain via the Knife Edge. It was a glorious day and was just what I needed. Attaining the summit on a solo journey that was very meaningful. I recall hiking in an L.L. Bean ensemble of flannel lined jeans, flannel shirt, and a wool fisherman’s sweater. I have photo proof.

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I was really sore and stiff from the hike. I hadn’t walked that far in a long time. It had been all cycling all of the time since the fall of 1991. I drove back to Topsham and spent a second night there, before driving back to Boston early in the morning so I could make class on Wednesday. It all worked out. I got a new Mountainsmith backpack (made in the USA), which I still use today, and I had an awesome adventure. After that trip, the spontaneous solo adventure became a staple of my repertoire. I had just started Photography 101 at school, and got some really good black and white images that I developed myself in the photo lab. I’ve got contact sheets, but can’t find the 8.5 x 11’s. The photos here are scanned snapshots from the small camera I had at the time.

I returned to Katahdin again in 2002 and then again in 2012 for my 40th birthday. I wrote about that solo adventure on my blog.

The mountain holds a special place in my heart. I could use a trip there right now, but at the moment, can’t fit it in to the schedule. I’ll keep the images close and I’ll get there again. Pretty soon, I’ll be able to take my kids and show them why it is such a special place.

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2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show

Last week’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago was fantastic. I’m always cautious about praising the economy, particularly the manufacturing economy, but I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the level of business activity. Don’t get me wrong, business is still hard. At the Horst Engineering Family of Companies and across our industry, costs are high and we have challenges of all types, but at least we have sales to support our effort to overcome these issues and make a profit.

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After years of recession and a tepid recovery, manufacturing is making a comeback. I’m proud to lead a 68 year-old family firm that makes stuff. Our core aerospace and defense business is driving our growth as a wave of new aircraft programs bolsters the industry. The resurgence in manufacturing, particularly USA manufacturing, is vital to the overall economy.

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The costs and challenges in the three states in which we operate (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Sonora), and elsewhere include high taxes, high labor costs, high health insurance costs, high energy costs, stiff pricing competition, regulations, inflation, and a lack of skilled labor. These are not small issues to deal with, but its much easier to take on these headwinds when you have the benefit of business volume.

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I’ve been repeatedly asked, “How’s business?” I heard the question many times last week at IMTS. My standard answer has been to say that we have good business volume, but that we still face significant challenges and need to drive our own business performance if we are going to capitalize on the opportunities now and ahead. I just can’t be bullish anymore. I’ve seen what bad times look like and we are in a better situation today, but I won’t get too excited because work is work.

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The entire USA economy is growing slowly, but folks are looking for more improvement in the employment rate, but more importantly with wage rates. The subject of wage growth is a difficult one to debate. Real wages may not have grown much in recent years, but the cost to employ people is higher than ever. Health care costs, unemployment insurance costs, payroll taxes, and other benefits, suck up a large and growing portion of overall wage costs. Much of the compensation for today’s employees is indirect and does not go to the employee in the form of pay. For wage driven disposable income to meaningfully grow for middle class manufacturing workers, then our industry has to rein in costs, increase productivity, and strengthen our pricing like never before.

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At Horst Engineering, Thread Rolling Inc., and Sterling Machine, we say that we have a two-pronged approach to stay competitive:

1) Technology

2) Continuous Improvement

A lot of that technology was on display last week in Chicago at McCormick Place. The stats on this year’s show are impressive. There were 114.147 attendees and nearly 2,000 exhibitors from all over the world. The show is massive. The largest booths cost the exhibitors more than $10,000,000. The show is a huge investment for the machine tool, tooling, gaging, supply, software, service, and other vendors, but clearly, they get a return on investment.

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Like any marketplace, IMTS is fertile ground for deal-making, and that was evident. Optimism was the word of the day as vendors cited a “perfect storm” of activity. In addition to the aerospace market, other markets requiring advanced manufactured/high precision products are strong as well. Those include automotive, power generation, oil & gas, and medical. The resurgence of North American manufacturing and reshoring has benefited domestic companies.

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USA, Canadian, and Mexican businesses are some of the most productive in the world. That productivity is a direct result of the technology and continuous improvement (lean enterprise). In New England, we have some of the highest costs in the world, but we also have some of the highest skills in the world. Right now, having skills is an advantage. We need a next generation of skilled workers interested in manufacturing to emerge. That is critical.

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At least the buzz at IMTS helped renew the cry for skills. I saw a lot of youth in attendance, and if more youth could be exposed to IMTS type technology, then they too would be excited about careers in manufacturing. I was stoked to see the automation advancements and 3D printing along with the traditional processes that I know well. We depend on our people. They are our most important asset. We train and we will be training more, especially as we introduce new technology. We are constantly working to be more efficient. We intend to keep the momentum rolling, and with Manufacturing Day on 3 October, we have the opportunity to keep the promotion rolling.

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We are in investment mode at our businesses. Our customers are driving us to build new capabilities and increase capacity. Customers are the key ingredient, but success will only come if we can compete with the world. Business requires risk taking and no one will guarantee that business volume will continue to increase, but after 68 years, we have a track record of investments to lean on. Not all of our moves have paid off, but enough have for us to survive. After a trip to “the show” last week, I’m keen to make a few more moves and see how the game plays out.


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Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

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The historic Somersville Mill burned in 2012. I rode by it twice this weekend. #sevencycles #somersville Another fine #fall day. #sevencycles #autumn #october @spfldcollege 105th Annual Gymnastics Exhibition "Home Show." #springfieldcollege #gymnastics #homeshow #carfreecommute #sevencycles @seven_cycles Took the long way to #horstengineering today. Debbie was 2nd female in the @lego_group #lego Family 5K Road Race. Cool award! #running #shenipsitstriders #teamlivingston Start of the kids 1 mile race at the #lego Family 5K Road Race. #running Henry Domnarski, first place at the @lego_group #lego 5K Road Race. 17:30 +/- #teamhorstsports Start of the @lego_group #lego 5K Road Race. #running #concord #massachusetts I used to ride my bike by this church all of the time back in my college days.

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