Archive for the 'Environment' Category

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.

Crash!

I have to first say that before I begin my account of yesterday’s bad bicycle crash descending Soapstone Mountain, I do care about my mother’s feelings. Mom, if you are reading this, I know that you worry about  my fast-paced outdoor adventures. You worry about my fast-paced work life. You worry about everything I do. I Skyped you in advance of publishing, so you know what happened, but without all of the gory details. I understand what I might not have understood before Debbie and I had children, and when I was racing bicycles all over the world. I’ve branched out with my outdoor pursuits, but they are no less risky than before. You don’t have to read on. There are photos and details that might make any mother cringe.

It could have been worse.

In this story, there are some good lessons. I can’t justify why I ride, run, and compete with such vigor. Simply put, it’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

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Yesterday, the plan was to ride roads for five to six hours. I was coming off a long week of travel with more travel scheduled for September, and I had been targeting the middle day of Labor Day weekend for a long ride to clear my head and prepare for the Vermont 50 and cyclocross season. I started the ride solo from Bolton at 10:10 A.M. and was planning to meet Randall Dutton near his home in Tolland shortly after noon. I was riding my favorite bike, my Seven Axiom SL supercommuter. I rode it for a few hours yesterday, and it’s the bike I rode up Mt. Washington two weeks ago.

I rode north into Somers with the idea that I would ride up and down Soapstone Mountain in Shenipsit State Forest via the paved access road, and then loop back to meet Randall. I’ve ridden up Soapstone many times during the past 23 years and know the road well. It’s one of my favorites. I was just up there last month for the Soapstone Assault. Soapstone, at 1,075 feet, is more of a hill than a mountain, though the access road does rise a couple of hundred feet in .75 miles from the Gulf Road parking lot. It’s the character of the road, with a few good switchbacks, that makes it fun and unique in this area.

As I rode by the picnic area, a family of five was out for a Sunday stroll. I rode past them, said “good morning,”  and  looped around the upper parking lot where the road ends just below the summit. I headed back down the hill. After the hard left hand hairpin, I came upon the family again. They were spread out across the road. I called out, “on your right,” and braked lightly as the woman on the far right shifted over to leave me room to pass. I swung wide to the right, and that is when the ugly chain of events started.

I must have carried too much speed from the turn and drifted a little too far to the right. After a hundred feet or so, my front wheel slipped off the edge of the road. To my right was a wooded slope that dropped off. I thought nothing of just steering back on to the pavement, but there was a lip going back up to the asphalt and it jerked my wheel. I made it back on to the road, but at that moment, I wobbled and suddenly lost control. I went over my handlebars, but remained attached to my bike, and cartwheeled down the road.

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My left shoulder, back of my head, left elbow, and left hip took the brunt of the initial impact. I skidded on the rough pavement for a moment before I flipped again and skidded some more on my other side, until I came to a stop. I ended up on my right side with my head pointing uphill and feet down. My left foot was still clipped in to my Speedplay pedals. I had been listening to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York album on my iPhone and “On A Plain” was still playing. My Garmin GPS says that I was going 29.3 miles per hour when I fell. That isn’t that fast, but it is fast enough.

The family had watched the whole episode play out. I was already in shock and adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I surveyed the damage in a split second and glanced uphill as they walked towards me. I don’t know if they initially said anything because Nirvana was playing in my ears. I calmly reached into my back pocket, removed my iPhone and paused the song. My sunglasses (clear lenses) had been knocked off my face by the impact. Broken parts from my rear rack light and handlebar end lights were scattered about the road.

I finally heard the people and they asked if I was OK. It seemed like 30 seconds went by before they reached me. I was sort of sitting up but was still connected to my bike. My only response was that I needed to “collect myself.” I unclipped from my left pedal and someone lifted the bike off of me. The handlebars were twisted 90 degrees and my shift/brake levers were bent inwards. My fenders were rubbing  my tires, but my wheels seemed true. The rear rack had deep scratches from dragging on the road, but the frame and fork were intact and seemingly unscratched. It’s amazing, how for a moment, you seem more concerned about your beautiful bike than about your battered body.

They offered to help, but I was already thinking about my comeback. I told them that my plan was to call my wife and have her pick me up. They helped me gather the broken lights that were strewn all over the road. I recall attempting to reach for something and realizing in that moment that I couldn’t move my left arm. Something was horribly wrong. I couldn’t raise it an inch and couldn’t turn my hand. Everything felt numb. I just pulled it in to my chest where it felt most comfortable. I supported it with my right hand. My Horst Engineering Verge kit was shredded in multiple places. My left shoulder was a bloody mess where the jersey had melted off. My shorts had a big hole on my on my left hip where there was a large contusion.

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Someone handed me my glasses and I shoved them in my back pocket along with the various plastic bits and LED bulbs. They were standing around checking out the carnage and I called Debbie. It was 11:29 A.M. and 1:19 into my ride. It had been about four minutes since the crash. The call lasted 54 seconds and I told her that I had a bad fall and needed her to pick me up. I mumbled a bunch of other stuff, but it was pretty senseless. I think she understood the urgency of the request. I described where I was and that was that. Less than one minute later at 11:30 A.M., the phone rang and it was Randall, but I missed the call while fumbling for my phone with my right hand. He was calling per our plan to meet up. I called him back and our discussion lasted 48 seconds.

He launched right into the planning about where we were going to meet, but when I stopped him and told him about the accident, he switched to rescue mode. I told him that Debbie was coming, and he announced that he was on his way too. The family offered to stay with me and I insisted that I would be OK. I reminded them that my wife and friend were coming. They started to walk back down the road and I mounted my bike. I got off to adjust the bars and levers again. After I got everything lined up, I rolled forward a bit. The tires were still rubbing the fenders, but there was nothing I could do.

On my bike again, I rode one-handed the half mile to the parking area with my left arm dangling. I passed the family for a third time before I got off, leaned my bike against the fence, and sat on a rock at the entrance to the park. They checked on me one more time with one of them sharing his first aid credentials. He was holding gauze bandages and offered to help stop the bleeding. I don’t know if it was pride, shock, or both, but I once again declined the offer. He suggested that they call an ambulance, but I said again that my wife was coming to get me. I never once thought about going to the hospital. I figured that if it was my collarbone, I would let it heal and be back riding in 10 weeks like everyone else I knew who suffered that common injury. The shoulder and arm hurt so much, I couldn’t figure out where the pain was originating. It did seem to be more towards the back of the shoulder than the front.

I figure it was about 20 minutes after the crash that Randall arrived from Gulf Road. He jumped into action and surveyed the damage. He asked about my head and took a good look in my eyes. He offered me water from my bottle and I accepted. It was a warm and muggy morning and I had been sweating a lot. Within minutes, Clinton Morse arrived, though he came down the access road in his vehicle, which was odd. I thought that he might have been trail running, as he often does in Shenipsit Forest, but he had a bag stocked with supplies, including a sling, so I knew that Debbie had phoned him. He had taken the quickest route to reach me. Even in the fog of pain, I was thankful to have friends like this.

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I never moved from that rock. They put a small sling on me to stabilize my arm. Just having them there was good enough. They insisted that I would be going to the hospital. I remembered that when I summited the hill, there was a Connecticut State Police officer sitting in his SUV in the upper parking lot. He arrived at the bottom of the hill and saw them treating me. He offered to call an ambulance, but Clint and Randall told him that my wife was going to transport me. Shortly after that conversation, Debbie and the kids arrived in our van. I didn’t have any racks currently mounted on our vehicles and wanted to be able to put my bike inside the vehicle.

She jumped out along with the kids and we devised a plan. Randall suggested that Johnson Memorial Hospital was closest, but we discussed Manchester Memorial and Rockville General. I wanted to go to an ECHN hospital because I know the network well, so we ultimately decided on Rockville. I knew that Sunday on a holiday weekend was going to be a challenging Emergency Department experience regardless of which hospital we went to. Debbie had left the house in haste and didn’t bring any clothes or supplies.

Clint had a Shenipsit Striders shirt and Randall had fleece pants and some trail running shoes. We are identical in size and have traded clothes and footwear in the past. I chose to stay in my bib cycling shorts, but they helped me out of my shoes and into the sneakers. I removed my helmet, but didn’t notice the damage. Afterwards, Debbie told me that Randall had noticed immediately, showed her, and given her instructions to inform the hospital staff that I hit my head. I didn’t see the helmet until we got home Sunday night.

Debbie and the kids got me to the hospital shortly after 1:00 P.M. I went through triage and was admitted. The paramedic delivered me to an emergency room in a wheelchair. It was freezing inside the air-conditioned hospital and I got very cold. I didn’t want to bleed all over the sheets and blankets, but eventually, that is what happened. At some point, Debbie got me out of my cycling shorts. I had planned at least five hours of  “chamois time,” and I got it, just not all in the saddle. They put me in hospital johnnies that were five sizes too large. I was in agony with waves of pain pulsating through my arm and shoulder. Any time someone moved me or bumped the bed, I shuddered in agony. I couldn’t recall my last tetanus shot, so they administered one.

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I had my vital signs checked multiple times. I was questioned repeatedly, especially about my back, neck, and head. I never felt woozy, but the shoulder pain was so bad that at times, I felt like I would just collapse. After about two hours of waiting, we mutually decided to delay dressing the wounds until I had the x-rays. The kids were good, though restless, so Debbie took them to lunch at Nature’s Grocer. While they were out, the nurse rolled my bed to radiology and I stood for about 25 images of arm, shoulder, neck, ribs, and back, before they put me on the table for closeups of the shoulder.

The lab technician returned me to my room and a I rested in the bed. Debbie and the kids returned, and they brought back  my favorite blue corn tortilla chips, and a hummus sandwich, but I was instructed not to eat until a determination was made about surgery. The Physicians Assistant tending to me apologized for all of the waiting. She said the E.D. got “slammed” just when we arrived, though it didn’t seem that busy on the floor. There was a sick child in the room next to me and he was wailing on and off. That made me feel worse and it got our kids agitated. I told Debbie to take them home and wait for me to call. The PA said it would be several more hours. The doctor had taken a look at the x-rays and concluded that she wanted a closer look at my scapula.

I had forgotten about the scapula. The collarbone break is one of thee most common broken bones in cycling relate crashes, but the scapula is up there on the list too. That explained all of my upper back pain, rib pain, and arm pain. That bone is attached to a bunch of other stuff and any movement causes it to radiate pain. They dosed me a couple of Percocet during the afternoon in an attempt to take the “edge” off, but deep breaths still left me wincing. My family departed for home and another lab tech picked me up for the trip to a different lab. They helped me on to a hard table that was draped in sheets to keep the blood from contacting the machine. They slid me head first into the CT scanner. I’ve had an MRI before and they are more claustrophobic than this was. The CT scanner rotated around my shoulder. They took two passes and then helped me back on to the rolling bed. I was returned to my room.

Eventually, the doctor showed up in person. She explained to me that I had a comminuted fracture of the scapula, which she defined as “a break that was splayed out in multiple directions.” She said it was a non-displaced fracture, and she had spoken with the orthopedic doctor that was part of the on-call surgical team. They decided that I would have to see a specialist on Tuesday, and that today, there would be no immediate surgery. She said that these types of fractures require subsequent surgery about 50% of the time. After another grilling about head and neck related pain, she concluded that the worst of the injuries were the shoulder and the various cuts. She said it was OK to eat, so I devoured the sandwich and chips.

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The attending nurse returned within an hour and finally worked on my cuts. She soaked them with wet compresses, though she suggested that the best results would come if I took a hot shower. She said that the wounds were cleaner than ones she had seen before. From what I could see, I agreed. I’ve had worse road rash, but it was the shoulder that was bumming me out. She wrapped the cuts in gauze, but I told her “not to go crazy” considering that I was planning on a shower as soon as we got home. My iPhone battery had long since died, so they lent me a cordless phone to call Debbie. I had thought about phoning Randall again, but they were prescribing me pain killers, anti-inflammatory’s, and muscle relaxants. All were optional, but I needed my insurance card and credit card from my wallet, so I asked Debbie and the kids to return.

I was fitted for a better sling, given a johnnie top, and a bag with a bunch of extra supplies. The final instructions were to immobilize the arm and to schedule a visit with the orthopedic doctor. I had been thinking about the cost of this treatment. Whenever it comes to health care, my wheels start turning. As a business leader, I deal with complex health care matters on behalf of Horst Engineering’s more than 145 USA based employees. We have massive insurance premiums. For many years, our family has been part of a high deductible insurance plan (HDIP), and this accident is sure to be a “deductible-maxer.” I pride myself on rarely incurring a medical expense, but accidents happen, and that’s why we all need insurance. The quote of the day came from the nurse. She said, “We have no idea what any of it costs.” Well, that proves the point. When neither the suppliers or customers know how much money is required for treatment, irrational decisions are made.

The PA told me that she did her first triathlon at Winding Trails this past summer. Winding Trails is one of my favorite events. The 10 race series was a big 2014 objective, and now it is one of my big comeback goals for 2015. They allowed me to walk back to the lobby after my discharge. I waited outside for Debbie and the kids to arrive. It was fitting that a wicked thunderstorm was rolling through Rockville. Sunday was a day that had dawned so promising with a long bike ride on the docket, and it was ending in the pouring rain outside of the hospital. We visited a Walgreen’s and two CVS’ before we found a pharmacy that was open. On the third try, we filled the prescriptions and stocked up on first aid supplies. We got back to the house around 7:00 P.M., with more than half the day spent dealing with my crash. The kids were exhausted so we got them in bed before pausing for some dinner.

I made calls to Randall and Clint to thank them. I had previously made a call to my friend and colleague, Arthur Roti, to fill him in. My parents are traveling, so I rang my sister, Stacie, to get her up to speed. I have her to thank for telling me how much my adventures make our mother worry. I made a lot of apologies yesterday, including the one to my sister about the impact on Mom when she gets the news. I’m resigned to the fact that mothers worry about their children.

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I thought about our friends, Todd and Sue Holland. Earlier this summer, Sue had a horrific bicycle crash that makes mine look minor. After a lengthy hospital stay, she rehabbed at another facility, before finally returning home. She injured her face, neck, and back, which is serious. I don’t know how much her helmet helped. I know mine did. I got a good look at it this morning, and it has at least four cracks through the shell, but it remained intact. It did what it was designed to do. They are meant to take the shock and break, releasing the energy away from your head. I have some whiplash, but no head injury and I have my helmet to thank for that.

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So, what about those lessons? The helmet is the first lesson. It’s a no-brainer to wear one. Look at the photos. I was wearing my Road ID. Make sure you have identification on you. I didn’t need it, but if I did, I had it. You never know when you are going to crash alone. It happens. Tell people where you are going. Make sure someone knows your plans.

My athletic year has already been a tough one. I haven’t run in 13 weeks because of a stress fracture/bone spur in my left foot. When that injury hit, I spent a few weeks on crutches and in a walking boot. My triathlon and trail running seasons were a bust. Now I have a real reason to see the orthopedist and I plan to discuss the foot too. The kind folks at the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival (my original 2014 “A race”) transferred my sprint registration to Debbie and had switched my half-iron registration to aquabike. The event is this coming weekend and it is up in the air whether or not we make the trip to Maine. I know I won’t be racing. This fall, I was planning on 15-20 cyclocross races with the first in two weeks. I was already pre-registered for 10 races. Cross is postponed for now.

After more than 500 bike races, I avoided road racing and criteriums in recent years because of the crash risk. It’s ironic that last week, I did my first criterium in four years without incident and then proceeded to crash on a solo ride. That fact will be the source of much disappointment and frustration in the months to come. Yesterday, I experienced a wide range of emotions.

It could have been worse.

It’s what I do.

Carter Notch Hike

This past weekend, Debbie and I were in Carter Notch for the first time since last summer’s Supermoon Hut Traverse. Our 2013 traverse turned into an epic day and near disaster. This year, we returned with our two children for a low-key hike to Carter Notch Hut and back.

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After we spent Saturday morning on Mt. Washington, we returned to our campsite at Dolly Copp. We packed the car and met our friends, the Schomburg’s, at the 19 Mile Brook Trailhead. They helped us shuttle the car back to the campsite so that it was in a better spot.

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The 3.8 mile hike to the hut took us a little more than four hours at a leisurely pace. Our four-year-old walked most of the way, though we insisted that we carry her for sections so that we would make the 6:00 P.M. dinner in time.

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We got there with 10 minutes to spare. Dinner and the evening (an early bedtime) were fun. We did spend a few post-sunset minutes out on The Ramparts, a large boulder field behind the hut, listening to the Hut Naturalist talk about the history of the notch.

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Our hut stay was short, but enjoyable. The bunk rooms were recently redone in the same fashion as Madison Spring Hut’s, which we visited last month. Our son has now been to all eight of the AMC’s White Mountain Huts at least once. Our daughter has three more to go to complete hers. After breakfast on Sunday, we returned to The Ramparts to climb on the rocks again.

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Last week was the official 100th birthday of Carter Notch Hut, so it was nice to be there near the milestone. After packing up and bidding the Hut Croo adieu, we hiked back to the valley. We didn’t have time to ascend any mountains on foot, but it was a good time nonetheless.

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On the way home, we had a late lunch at Cafe Noche in Conway. Then we drove the Kancamagus Highway across to Woodsville, NH, crossed the border in Wells River, VT, and after a brief stop in Putney, VT, were home by 7:00 P.M. Like I said, it was a short, but fun return trip to the White Mountains.

2014 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb

Yesterday, I returned to the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb after a 13 year absence. I’ve been ailing since May with a stress fracture and bone spur in my left foot; and hadn’t done any kind of race in 10 weeks. That’s a long stretch for me, especially in the heart of the summer. I average 40 races a year, so there has been some adjusting to do. My heel still hurts with every step and I’m going to have to deal with it (rest) after cyclocross season, but for now, I’m plugging ahead, though with no running. My triathlon season was a bust and my trail running season ended early, so I was looking for something “low impact” and fun to focus on. Late last month, I put my name on the wait list for the hill climb, and it wasn’t long before I got the invitation to register.

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Sadly, my 1:17:33 was the slowest time of the five times that I’ve done the race, but that was to be expected. A 1:12:00 would have been preferred, but it just wasn’t in the cards. I haven’t had the time to train and I don’t climb like I used to. Work and family responsibilities are greater than ever and with my injury limiting me, I was forced to just gut this one out. I was really hoping to pit my 41-year-old body vs. my 28-year-old body. My best time was in 2000 when I was 27. The 1:08:04 I rode that day might stand as my best ever, though I’ve got the itch to return in 2015 and give it another shot. 2001 was 1:11:04, 1999 was 1:10:37, and 1997 was 1:14:54. I’m happy with all five of these races. I’m pumped to be able to do what I do.

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The 7.6 mile climb from the base to the top of the road, just shy of the 6,322 summit, gains 4,618 feet at an average grade of 12%. The final pitch is notorious for its 22% grade. The race is paved for most of the way, though there is a long section of dirt in the final third. The scenery is amazing. This is the most beautiful hill around, and one of the most amazing bicycle courses in the world. It’s a short race, but a painful one. My GPS data is worth checking out.

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I rode my Seven Axiom SL, which is my everyday bike. It’s the same bike that I commute to work on. I got some great compliments, even in the middle of the climb. One guy couldn’t get over my fenders, and the fact that I was hauling useless weight to the top. He was yelling over the howling wind at his buddy, who was one switch back up, to check them out as I passed. It is my favorite bike because it can do it all. I’ve ridden it on paved roads, dirt roads, in criteriums, to work, and now on Mt. Washington. I didn’t have any special gearing. I rode the 39 x 27 “stock gears.” The only modifications were that I removed my headlight, my rear rack, and my tail light. That saved me a few pounds, but it was largely irrelevant. The big change in weight was my own. I’m lean, but in 2000, I was really lean. I had a different kind of body that was built for riding. I was 15 pounds lighter. Over the past 13 years, I’ve ridden less, run more, and aged a bit.

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I don’t know why it took me so long to return to one of my favorite all time races. Like I said, I haven’t done as much pure road riding in recent years. The $350 entry fee has been a mild deterrent, but really shouldn’t have been because the proceeds are for a good organization, the Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Horst Engineering and the Livingston Family have a strong interest in conservation/environmental philanthropy, so it is nice to support Tin Mountain’s good work. I think the first four times, it was only $100 for the entry fee, and that was steep back then. This race is an amazing fund-raiser. There were 517 finishers and probably nearly 600 registrants.

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I’ve climbed Mt. Washington many different ways over the years. In addition to the bicycle hill climb, I’ve done the running race once, and hiked the mountain many times. However, the 2006 Sea-to-Summit remains my second toughest one day race (after the 2010 Ironman Brasil) and it was my hardest ever day on Mt. Washington. The race consisted of a 12 mile kayak up the Piscataquis River to Berwick, Maine. Then, after a transition, we rode 90 miles to Jackson, New Hampshire. From there, we ran four miles uphill on Rt. 16 to Pinkham Notch. Then, we ran/hiked the five and a half miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit in gale force winds blowing cold rain and sleet at 6,322 feet, the highest point in New England.

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The auto road is an amazing feature and has a rich history. The summit of Mt. Washington isn’t my favorite. I much prefer remote mountains, but you can’t ride your bicycle up remote mountains, so I make an exception for this race. I’ve been up a few of the other hills in the BUMPS Northeast Hill Climb Series, and New England has some other fine climbs. Mt. Washington is considered Hors Categorie by European standards, and is likely the hardest road bike climb in the world. It’s tougher than Alpe d’ Huez, Angliru, Mortirolo, Mt. Ventoux, and many of the other famous mountain top finishes. In the past, I started in the Top Notch first wave, but yesterday, I was in the third wave with my age group. That was OK. We started 10 minutes behind the first wave and five minutes behind the second wave. I had many riders to pass, but it wasn’t an issue. Seeing people gave me someone to chase. My Horst Engineering Cycling Team mate, Gerry Clapper, is one of the best climbers in New England and he is an amazing masters rider. He rode 1:05:09, good for 14th overall and first in the 50-54 age group.

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Yesterday, we had decent weather. It was mild in the valley at the start with a temperature in the low-60’s Fahrenheit. The temperature was cool above tree line. It was about 37 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit with a wind-chill in the high 20’s. The wind was blowing at a steady 20-25 miles per hour, with higher gusts. There are multiple switch backs, so sometimes the wind was at your back, and some times it was in your face. The headwind did slow me, but the temperature was perfect. Naturally, I was chilled when I finished. Debbie and the kids were fantastic. They drove up ahead of me to meet me at the top and were waiting for me when I finished.

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The four of us scrambled the final feet to the summit for a photo opportunity, though the kids were frozen solid, as was the camera. Thankfully my iPhone worked. Then we descended to the summit building and checked out the recently renovated Mt. Washington Observatory museum. After the kids drove the virtual snow cat, and after we checked out the anemometer that recorded the record-setting 231 mph wind gust in 1934, we found our car and waited for the race to end. The fog and clouds cleared a bit, giving us some momentarily spectacular views. Everyone has to cross the line before they let the cars back down the mountain because the road is closed for the riders. You are only permitted to ride the auto road four days a year. Once for each race (Newton’s Revenge is held in July) and once as a pre-ride for each race.

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One of the last finishers was a unicyclist, which was an amazing sight to see. It took him three tries to negotiate the final 22% grade, which has two wicked switchbacks. The crowd roared in approval as he made his way to the finish line. The summit was a zoo, which I can deal with for special circumstances like this race. We drove down to the base in about 30 minutes, grabbed a plate of food from the tent, and returned to Dolly Copp Campground, where we spent Friday night. We visited briefly with some friends at the 19 Mile Brook Trailhead, before hiking four miles up to Carter Notch Hut on the other side of Pinkham Notch, where we spent Saturday night. This morning, we hiked back down and made our way back to Connecticut after stops in Conway, NH and Putney, VT. It was another action packed weekend for the Livingston Family, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I’m already planning my return to Mt. Washington for 2015 or beyond.

Race Results

2014 Soapstone Assault & Shenipsit Striders Summer Picnic

Today was the Soapstone Assault. For info about the race and its modified Dipsea Race style handicap start, check out last year’s post and prior year posts. The Assault was the 5th of 10 races in the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. Next up is People’s Forest this coming Saturday.

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Thanks to both the Series and the Shenipsit Strider summer picnic, we had a record number of starters (57) at today’s race.

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We have a wonderful running club and there was quite a spread. Our newest tent debuted last week at the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run. Our club took over the Pretty House Aid Station and will likely man it again in 2015. I can’t wait. If it wasn’t for our Lake Tahoe trip and the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs, we would have been in Vermont to help out. That tent came in handy today.

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Brett Stoeffler won today’s race outright and also had the fastest handicap time. The day started muggy and it was dry at the start, but about 30 minutes into the race, a massive thunderstorm rolled through, drenching the runners and volunteers.

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We made the best of it. It was warm, so everyone was in good spirits. I saw a lot of smiles on the trails today. The picnic was fantastic and many of the runners lingered to join us in the fun. I rode to and from Soapstone Mountain, so I got wet too.

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Race Results (will be posted when they are available)


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