Archive for the 'Environment' Category

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

2014 Riverfront Crossfest

Cyclocross season is getting cranked up. Today was the Riverfront Crossfest at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. Team Horst Sports promoted this race many years ago when it was the Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross. I think we last did it in 2009. I miss the race, but Dave Arnold and the Newington Bike crew worked with Ron Manizza to bring it back. Horst Engineering is a longtime supporter of Riverfront Recapture, the non-profit that is responsible for the boathouse and riverfront trails. They do a great job managing the park.

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They had a different course than we had, but the park is still a great venue. Today, the weather was spectacular, with brilliant sunshine and cool temperatures. I was registered for the 40+ race, but with the recently fractured scapula, I was sidelined.

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Still I went to watch, cheer, and take photos. I watched the 40+, 50+, 60+, and kids races. It was a glorious day. Yesterday was the Silk City Cyclocross in Manchester, so it was a great weekend to kickoff the Connecticut Series of Cyclocross. Ron puts on a good race. We supported him with Horst Spikes for prizes and will do so again at his next race, the Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross.

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2014 Run for the Woods Trail Race

We had an awesome time at the third Connecticut Forest & Park Association Run for the Woods. Debbie, the kids, and I have been involved with this race since its inception. I am on the Board of Directors of CFPA, and it is one of my favorite .org’s. It’s been great to see this event grow and 2015 should be even bigger and better.

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This was the seventh race in the inaugural Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. We have three races to go. I’m bummed to not be running, but I’ll be cheering from the sidelines. I’ll definitely be at the NipMuck Trail Marathon to help out.

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The Shenipsit Striders had a great showing today, taking the first overall place for both men and women in the marquis 10K trail race. Debbie got top honors in her category and Sean Greaney scored for the men. It was also great to hang out with Coach Al Lyman. He took 2nd in his age group. Debbie is part of Al’s coaching team. Our son did the 5 kilometer race and had a ton of fun despite the oppressive humidity on this early September morning.

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CFPA is fortunate to have a wonderful staff and great volunteers. The timing was handled by Jerry Turk from RAT Race Timing. Jerry (Mr. Bimble) also handles timing for the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race and many other Connecticut events. He does a bang up job.

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The race had fantastic sponsors, food, and prizes. Debbie and Sean both went home with custom walking sticks compliments of the Connecticut Woodcarvers Association. The carvers are a fixture at CFPA events and they had a sweet demonstration area. Both of our kids went home with birch sticks that they carved.

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Session Woods Wildlife Management Area is a great venue with lots of hills and challenging single track. We saw so many friends from the CFPA community and the Connecticut trail running community. I love these local races. Run for the Woods is an important CFPA fundraiser, but an even more important awareness raiser. Many people don’t realize that CFPA is a non-profit conservation group that is responsible for maintaining more than 825 miles of hiking/walking/running trails in Connecticut.

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Many of the trails are on private land and it is the most extensive trail network per capita in the country. CFPA does important advocacy at the state capitol, fighting for clean air and open space, and invests heavily in environmental and outdoor education. I’m serious when I say that every Connecticut resident should be a paying member of CFPA and that includes outdoor enthusiasts and trail runners. With the constant downsizing of state and federal resources, non-profits like CFPA are critical for nature.

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We hope to see even more runners and walkers in 2015.

Race Results

The Revised Toughest Ten

I drafted my inaugural Toughest Ten in December 2009 and after running the Wapack and Back back in the spring and then witnessing the Peak Ultra 500 this summer, I determined that it was due for an update and have worked this post on and off for a few months. I figured I would finish it, publish it, and use it as inspiration during my post-crash comeback.

Through today, these are the toughest races that I have ever done:

1) Jay Challenge, Jay, Vermont, 29-31 July 2005, 20:09:11

Hands down, this is the grandaddy of my palmares. Just finishing the Jay Challenge was an accomplishment.  It is a bit different from others on this list because it was a three-day stage race with the overall winner achieving the lowest cumulative time. Each of the three stages would make this list on their own. I was 10th overall and know I would have done better with a faster kayak, but that doesn’t matter. Finishing was the real accomplishment. The first day was a 27 mile kayak paddle across Lake Mephramagog from Quebec to Vermont. The second day was the classic Jay Mountain Marathon, but it wasn’t 26.2 miles, it was 33. The third day was a 65 mile mountain bike ride on hilly terrain. You summited Jay Peak in both the run and bike. There was so much climbing in this race (except the paddle) that it made you silly. The race was in late July and at the time, I had never been more fit. We completed our End-to-End hike of the Long Trail three weeks before Jay, so I had a pain threshold like never before…and never since. I could go all day long, get up and do it again. The LT was 13 days and 285 miles of supreme effort, so three days at Jay was simple, yet still very hard. Pain Index: 10

2) Ironman Brasil, Florianopolis, Brasil, 30 May 2010, 9:58:53

I’ve never gone deeper. As one day races go, Ironman Brasil  will be hard to top. I earned a Kona slot and had a sub-10 on the line with 10K to go and I buried myself to reach the goals. I was delirious at the finish and it was surreal. It was an epic trip with the family, which made the race that much sweeter. Check out the report and the coda report for the blow-by-blow. Pain Index: 10

3) Sea to Summit Triathlon, Jackson, New Hampshire, 22 July 2006, 9:29:21

It was difficult to rank the Sea to Summit Triathlon third ahead of races four and five because they were all wicked hard. However, given the fitness I had at the time, this one beats out the others. The Sea to Summit Triathlon was an 112 mile jaunt from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Jackson, New Hampshire. The race consisted of a 12 mile kayak up the Piscataquis River to Berwick, Maine. Then, after a transition, you rode 90 miles to Jackson, New Hampshire. From there, you ran four miles uphill on Rt. 16 to Pinkham Notch. Then, you ran/hiked five and a half miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. Only 40 people were allowed into the race. It was a special day, though I suffered dearly. I started the morning at sunrise in the pea soup fog at sea level near the mouth of the river. I finished wearing a skinsuit and a windbreaker on the top of the mountain in gale force winds blowing cold rain and sleet at 6322 feet, the highest point in New England. If it wasn’t for my awesome crew (Debbie, Art, Mel, and Bill), I might still be out on the course. It was shorter than an Ironman, but the weather conditions, lack of organized support/aid stations, and terrain, made it tougher than any other triathlon. Bad decisions by some of the racers resulted in a challenging day for the race directors and the race hasn’t been held since. Pain Index: 10

4) Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawaii, 09, October 2010, 10:27:31

Despite the five months in between Ironman races, I still wasn’t on top form for the Big Dance on the Big Island, but I still survived the Ironman World Championship and lived to tell about it. The race report and highlights tell the story. The no-wetsuit swim was painful and I suffered dearly on the bike from the heat. The sun and its burn (mostly during the bike leg) sucked the life out of me and made for a very miserable marathon, but I never walked. I sorted of slogged my way through it. I feel like I honored my slot, though I missed my time goal. It doesn’t matter because I got to the race and got through the race. 2010 was a pressure packed year and I really haven’t been the same since then. Yeah, it’s four years on, but I left something on the course back in Brasil. I went so deep in that race that everything since then has sort of felt different. Pain Index: 10

5) American Zofingen Ultra-Distance Duathlon, New Paltz, New York, 12 October 2008, 8:28:02

The American Zofingen was also run at a time when I wasn’t quite at my top fitness, but it helped me get back to a high level after my first real long layoff. That means it hurt a heck of a lot. After I finished it, I knew that if I could learn to swim, then I could finish an Ironman. Zofingen is the toughest duathlon in the country, and maybe the toughest in the world. The first leg was a 5 mile trail run in the Mohonk Preserve. The second leg was an 84 mile bike ride around the Shawangunk Mountains. The third leg was 15 mile trail run on the same course as the first leg. Again, at 104 miles, it was shorter than an Ironman, and there was no swimming. Still, due to the terrain (major hills) and my lack of fitness, it was harder, but not by much. Pain Index: 10

6) Ironman Lake Placid, Lake Placid, New York, 26 July 2009, 10:44:48

Ironman USA in Lake Placid was an amazing race. I did it in August 2010 and it was my longest ever one day race at the time. 2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/26.2 run. That should be enough to put it on the top of this list. However, I managed to get into top form, so it hurt, but not as bad as some of the other races on this list. I had my rough moments, and the swim was terrifying, but I managed to race within my limits and finish strong. The support was phenomenal (great volunteers) and the conditions were good. I’m sure that most people would put Ironman at the top of their list. For various reasons, it isn’t quite there for me. Thinking back, Zofingen and Sea to Summit were just plain harder, but mostly because I fell apart in both of those races. I was strong to the end during Lake Placid. I’m still proud of my first ever Ironman finish. Pain Index: 9

7) Wilderness 101, Coburn, Pennsylvania, 28 July 2012, 8:30:55

The 101 was ridiculously hard. It is my longest ever mountain bike race. I did it with teammate Arthur Roti. We were rookies at the 100 mile distance. This course is as rugged as it gets. The 30 miles of singletrack were hard, but the washboard/washed out dirt roads were even harder. I did the race on my Seven Sola SL singlespeed with a rigid fork, which was nuts. That is a brutal way to ride a race like this, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. The race organization was awesome. It was so hard that so far, I’ve had no desire to go back. Pain Index: 9

8) Wapack and Back 50, Ashburnham, Massachusetts, 10 May 2014, 11:53:20

I first ran a 50 mile trail race at the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, but Wapack made Lookout look like a cakewalk. In hindsight, Wapack is what led to this year’s left foot stress fracture that has been a real drag on my year. I haven’t run in 13 weeks. The Wapack Trail just pummeled me. I pushed as hard as ever in an effort to stay in front of Debbie. See, were aren’t that competitive! I finished and said I would never run another 50 and certainly never run a 100, but time heals and you never know. Pain Index: 9

9) Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon, New Paltz, New York, 13 September 2013 and 09 September 2012

I always knew that S.O.S. was hard from hearing the war stories of other athletes. I always wanted to do it and finally committed in 2012. I’m a weak swimmer, but the beautiful course really appealed to me and I wanted to test myself. This race is the real deal. I cramped horribly in 2012 and it slowed me a great deal. I figured I would return in 2013 and improve my time, but the cramping and suffering were even worse. After last year’s debacle, I had no interest in returning for 2014. I’m glad I didn’t because I’m injured now and the race is coming up soon. Maybe it will be a comeback race for 2015 when it celebrates its 30th year. I don’t know. It just doesn’t suit my strengths, but it is brutally hard and a finish is something to cherish. Pain Index: 9

10) Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb, Gorham, New Hampshire, 23 August 1997; 1:14:54, 21 August 1999; 1:10:37, 19 August 2000; 1:08:04, 25 August, 2001; 1:11:04, 16 August 2014, 1:17:33

I’ve done the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb five times, including this year after a 13 year layoff. Incidentally, I’ve run it once, but it is the bike race that destroys the legs and puts your heart rate into a new category. Each time, I  pushed so hard that it made me dizzy. The last 22% grade is nothing like anything you have ridden before. As far as I’m concerned, it is the hardest section of road on Earth.  It comes after 7.6 miles of constant uphill at an average grade of 12%. For a hill, on a bike, this is as hard as it gets. My best finish was in 2000 when I rode a 38 x 25 low gear, which was way too hard. This year, I rode a 39 x 27, which isn’t much better. My knees are still hating me for that decision. Back in 2009, I said, “I haven’t done the race since 2001 when the entry fee rose to $300 (though it is for charity) and the event got too popular. I’ll do it again someday.” This year was the year to do it again and I was slower, but so happy to finish. This is the shortest race on the list, but there is no resting, and it is one of the most intense. The weather at the top is the most inhospitable in the world, with constant wind and cold temperatures, even in August. It is no surprise that two of my top ten toughest races have finished on the Washington summit cone. Pain Index: 8

Former Top Ten Toughest races that dropped off the list since 2009:

Ultimate XC (Jay Mountain Marathon), Jay, Vermont, 28 July 2007, 6:51:37

The Jay Challenge has not been held in the past few years, but the race morphed into an ultra-distance trail running race, when it was reduced to one day from three. Now known as the Ultimate XC, the Jay Mountain Marathon started as a run years ago, became part of the three stage Jay Challenge, returned to a run, and eventually migrated from Vermont to Quebec. A version of the race has also been held in Moab, Utah the past two years. All of the variations and names are hard to keep track of, but the one constant is the difficulty of the courses. This run took us up Jay Peak to an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. Then, it plunged us down the backside, through deep mud, into a bushwhacking section, then into a series of streams, then to a river crossing, then through a swamp, and eventually back to town. It was 33 miles of agony. Debbie caught me at mile 16 and I hung with her for 15 miles, before she dropped me like a wet sandbag. I finished, and that is what counts. Pain Index: 9

Hampshire 100, Greenfield, New Hampshire, 17 August 2008, 7:41:57

Other than the third stage of the Jay Challenge, the Hampshire 100 is the hardest mountain bike race that I have done. It was 100 kilometers, but it felt like 100 miles. Thanks to a month’s worth of unseasonable rain, the course was a quagmire. It was one big loop, which added to its epic nature. There was a ton of climbing and there was the added benefit of racing against two teammates for the honors of fastest mate. I kept dropping off their little group, before getting shed for good. Then, I had a wild mechanical failure when a stick wedged into my lower derailleur pulley going downhill at 20mph. I came to an abrupt halt and my chain was jammed. With less than five miles to go, I was afraid that I was going to have to walk the rest of the way. I made a delicate repair, extricated my derailleur from my rear wheel, and rode it in. It was a long day! Pain Index: 8

Jay Mountain Bike, Jay, Vermont, 30 July 2006, 8:56:00 DNF

It is a testament to Jay Race Director, Dan DesRosiers, that his events show up on this list three separate times. They are unique, they are painful, and they are unmatched. He goes out of his way to make the races difficult. You feel like a champ just for finishing. Unfortunately, this one, I didn’t finish. I was a DNF at the Jay Mountain Bike, with only five miles to go in the 70 mile race. It was one of two DNF’s on this list. I stopped at nine hours and I was at least an hour from the finish. Debbie was eight months pregnant and crewing for me (no excuse). It was hot (no excuse). I did Sea to Summit  a week prior (see number two on this list, but no excuse). I just didn’t have the legs, and suffered terribly. I walked the five miles before I quit and was resigned to the fact that I just wasn’t going to make it, so I climbed off after hours of struggling on the bike. It was the brutal fresh-cut singletrack that was the last straw for me.  No regrets. Pain Index: 8

Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse, Grimbergen, Belgium, 06 August 1994, 2:19:56

I spent the summer of 1994 racing kermesses all over Belgium. In 15+ races, this was the hardest one. There have been many longer bike races over the years and many that hurt a lot, but the Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse had the romance of racing in Belgium. I made the front group for the first time all summer. There were 15 other riders in a breakaway and I had to give it everything I had just to stay with the group and take my pulls. My heart rate hit 200bpm in this race, which was typical at the time, but still very high. This was the race where I started to burn out on road cycling. The other riders in the break were downright violent. There is no question that performance enhancing drugs (amphetamines) were being used. I risked being crashed out of the race at the hands of these merciless riders. I was happy to be up there, but wasn’t going to make it to the finish with them anyway, so I dropped off the group and finished behind them. I’ve never had to ride harder to stick with a break. Pain Index: 8

Race for the Gate, Nashua, New Hampshire, 24 June 2000, 1:08:00, DNF

I did a lot of tough road cycling events over my career. I’ve wrecked in many, but that doesn’t mean they were hard. There have been long and hilly road races. There have been intense cyclocross races where I was in oxygen debt. But, the longest cross races were 65 minutes. I did the Race for the Gate criterium when it was held as a twilight/night-time race. That alone made it different and difficult. I recall that it was a crash fest. The race was delayed by a huge pileup and people were going down left and right. The shadows cast by the large spotlights that the organizers had on the course, were very deceiving. There were more than 100 riders in this Pro/1/2/3 race and I was hanging on for dear life. I wish I had made it to the finish, but I got popped off the back with only a couple of laps to go. I was completely anaerobic and I was in danger of losing control in a corner. I was ecstatic to have made it as far as I did. It was a long criterium and it was a hard one. Pain Index: 8

Honorable Mention’s in no particular order: Ironman Mont Tremblant, Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, NipMuck Trail Marathon, 7 Sisters Trail Race, The Bluff 50km, National Cyclocross Championships (Providence), Vermont 50 Mile Ride, Vermont 50km Run, Wapack Trail Race, Six Foot Track Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, Moby Dick, Mt. Washington Road Race, Tour of the Adirondacks Road Race, Stowe Road Race, Killington Stage Race, Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon, National Collegiate Cycling Championships Road Race

Most of these races can be easily searched on my blog. Some wintry day, I’ll add the links. I look forward to the day that I displace the next race on this list and get to update it again. I’m open to suggestions. Tell me how to top these. But for now, I’ll go for a little rest and recovery.


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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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