Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Bolton Summer XC Series

I was really bummed to miss tonight’s Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon. I’ve done it five years in a row, but with my foot hurting so bad, triathlon has been deferred to 2015 at best.

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So, the next best thing was Race #3 of the Bolton Summer XC Series with the family.

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I’ve made all of the first three races as a spectator and photographer. It is such a joy to see the young children run and equally as inspiring to see the older adults.

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This race is a jewel and it’s within walking/riding distance of our house which makes it that much sweeter.

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The Bolton Heritage Farm (aka Rose Farm) is such a nice venue. I cherish these evenings with Debbie, the kids, and our community.

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4th of July in the White Mountains

Last weekend, we got back to our beloved White Mountains of New Hampshire for some family hiking. With a busy summer schedule, it was a quick trip to the northern Presidential Range that reminded us what we have been missing here in Connecticut since we were last there a year ago.

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You just can’t find hills like that around here, so the periodic drive north is well worth the effort. We made our usual stops in Vermont on the way up I-91 on Friday morning and arrived at the Appalachia trailhead around noon.

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Since our 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son were with us, we opted for the direct route via the Valley Way Trail. Our destination was Madison Spring Hut, where we spent the night. Debbie and I have been taking our kids to Appalachian Mountain Club Huts since our son was nine weeks old.  The only hut that the kids have yet to visit is Carter Notch, and that is next on our list.

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Debbie and I have had many duo adventures in the White’s. We climbed all 48 New Hampshire 4,000 foot peaks back when we were kid-less, and in recent years, have fed our mountain desires with one day Hut Traverses in 2011 and 2013.

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Madison Spring is the oldest hut (126 years) in the system, though it was rebuilt in 2010. It was our first overnight since the reconstruction, which was neat. Both kids grabbed bunks that were three high and they wanted the top. Our hike up was warm and humid, though our little girl went the entire four miles on her own power. We were darn proud of her, but knew she would be pooped from the exertion.

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We didn’t arrive until 5:30 P.M. so it was a quick break to wash up and then dinner. We retired early and awoke to a fun breakfast. Overnight, remnants from Hurricane Arthur, which was offshore of the Canadian Maritimes, delivered intense rain and a lot of wind. In the morning, it was dry with patches of low clouds and fog, but the wind was whipping. It was gusting over 60 mph on Mount Madison. That made the 35 degree Fahrenheit temperature feel like 10 degrees, which is darn cold for July. We were as prepared as you can be with the right gear.

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We wanted to give the kids a taste of that weather, so we went part of the way towards the summit before retreating. It is 1/2 mile from hut, but we were making slow progress and it was pretty sketchy. We had to hold them down when they were exposed to the sustained wind. Both kids were wild eyed as a result and its was a family decision to return to the hut to warm up, eat, and prep for our hike back to the valley.

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Our daughter walked on and off, but Debbie carried her most of the day. I had the responsibility of carrying most of the family gear, though our son is pretty self sufficient. My sore foot was hurting, but I got through the trip without doing any more damage. Of course, just using it is a setback in the recovery process.

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After returning to the parking lot, we headed over to the Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Debbie and the kids spent several hours at the playground and exploring the lodge while I went for a road ride. I pedaled on Rt. 302 to the junction of Bear Notch Road and back. The ride served its purpose and gave me some thinking time. It was early to bed after dinner and on Sunday we continued on to Loon Mountain for the USA Mountain Running Championships.

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Traffic on the drive home was horrendous, which is the price you pay for traveling on a holiday weekend. Bridge reconstruction in Brattleboro forced us off of the highway. The only silver lining was that we got to eat at a new vegan restaurant called Super Fresh Cafe.

Despite the traffic and the hectic nature of the short trip, we can’t wait to get back to the mountains.

2014 USA Mountain Running Championships/Loon Mountain Race

Yesterday, we returned to the Loon Mountain Race in Lincoln, New Hampshire. This was the second year in a row that Debbie has run this event and this year, it was even more competitive given the fact that it was the USA Mountain Running Championships.

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With some big dough and bragging rights on the line, the race attracted many talented New Englanders and their western competition from mountainous states like Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Washington, and California.

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With bigger objectives this month, the 4.8 mile /2,700′ elevation gain women’s race was a tune-up for her longer runs to come. The summer heat was also good training. We had brilliant sunshine and fantastic views from the top of the gondola at Loon. The race finished higher up at the summit, but we watched the women and then the men (7 miles) come through that big aid station.

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The kids and I had a ball. There was a playground right at the aid station, which is perfect planning! I was able to take pictures and the kids got to play on a literal “mountain playground.”

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After the race they searched for the lost Loon treasure in the caves and we hung out. We saw a lot of people that we knew and socialized for a while before riding the gondola back to the base lodge.

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We hung out some more at the river before grabbing lunch in Lincoln and rolling home. It was fun to watch some of the top men and women competing on some of the challenging terrain that the White Mountains are known for. It was good to see some of our New England friends holding their own against the western competition, though first male was Joseph Gray, and first female was Allie McLaughlin, both from Colorado.

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Gray won the venerable Mt. Washington Road Race last month and he looked to be in fine form at Loon. McLaughlin had an equally as large lead when I saw her go by. Selections were made for the 30th World Mountain Running Championships in Casette di Massa, Italy this September.

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Race Results

2014 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

Today we were at the 30th anniversary of the Mt. Greylock Tral Races. Greylock was the 6th race in this year’s New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. It was also the 16th year in a row that Debbie has run the race, which is quite a streak. Next year, she enters a new age group, but I’m sure the streak will continue.

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It was fitting that today was Father’s Day. My last time on Greylock was earlier this year when my son and I had a Father/Son adventure. I’ve run Greylock many times, but took 2014 off. Our son did the short course, and thank you again to the Carew Family, who accompanied him during the race like last year.

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I spent time hanging out in Greylock Glen with our daughter, Kim, Jackson, and Lacy Brown. We had a ton of fun.

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I’ve been to 14 of those Greylock’s with Debbie. It was her first “real” trail race in 1999 and she has done many since. Her first was before we met that October. It’s great to return year after year with our family. Some faces have changed, but many have stayed the same. It was great to reconnect with our trail runner friends.

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The weather was a bit rough when we arrived. It was cool, overcast, and windy. It remained that way until early afternoon, when the fun finally warmed things up a bit. I’m looking forward to running again at Greylock in the future.

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Race Results (will be posted when available)

New England Trail

Last weekend was Trails Day Weekend. In Connecticut, we had a fantastic two days of activities capped off by an awesome New England Trail Gateway Dedication in Guilford.

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On Saturday, the Livingston’s participated in two events in our hometown of Bolton. Both were well attended. Connecticut Trails Day is coordinated by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). I am a member of CFPA’s Board of Directors and Horst Engineering is a long time supporter.

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The Gateway will be built just off the beach at Chittenden Park where the New England Trail begins/ends depending on your perspective. Most consider the southern terminus to be the start, so we will assume that the Gateway is at the beginning.

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The entire CFPA staff and many volunteers put countless hours into both Trails Day Weekend and the Gateway dedication. It was a wonderful weekend for CFPA.

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The NET is a wonderful trail. I’ve been on it several times in 2014. The Traprock 50K uses portions of the NET that pass through Penwood State Park. The 7 Sisters Trail Race is out and back on the NET in the Mt. Holyoke Range of Massachusetts. An end-to-end hike of the 215 mile NET is definitely on the “to do” list. There aren’t many overnight accommodations, but that should change over time. The CFPA and Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)are both seeking solutions to this problem. It was great to see two of my favorite organizations, CFPA and AMC working so well together.

Stay tuned and get out on the NET!

Düsseldorf

After my short trip to Frankfurt am Main, I visited Düsseldorf. I figured out the DB Bahn website, downloaded the iPhone app, and booked a ticket. I took a regional train from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and then took one of the faster trains north to Düsseldorf where I met up with my friend Christian. It was nice to have a “host family” even though I was there for less than 24 hours.

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What a cool city. I had never been and I’m ready to return. The city center is a vibrant core with a beautiful setting on the Rhine River. I arrived in the late morning on a Friday after the 2.5 hour trip. It was a big day for business in Düsseldorf because they were hosting the AmCham Germany annual meeting, which I attended. The afternoon session of the meeting featured a strong line up of speakers.

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We first heard from Alan Mulally, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company. Then we heard from Andrew Liveris, President, Chairman, and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company. Both were entertaining and articulate speakers who were clearly comfortable with the mostly German audience. Mulally is American and prior to his Ford role, was a long time leader and career-long employee at Boeing.

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Ford has major operations in Germany and he had interesting thoughts about Euro-American free trade, energy policy, and manufacturing in the USA. He also spoke about Ford’s efforts at building sustainable vehicles that consume less fuel. I’ve followed his career since many of Horst Engineering’s products end up in Boeing aircraft. The crowd was a mix of German business people working for German firms, and a German business people working for US firms with a major presence in Germany. Most of the member companies are large global enterprises, so Ford and Dow were good picks.

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Liveris has spent his entire career at Dow, rising through the ranks to lead one of the world’s largest chemical producers. He is a passionate Australian, who has spent decades based in the US, but traveling the world. Like Ford, Dow has a major presence in Germany and depends on the knowledge economy that Germany well-known for. Liveris unabashedly supports free trade and strong energy policy. Energy is the largest input cost in his company’s products. It is a much bigger factor than labor cost.

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Our final keynote speaker followed a short networking break. That speaker was the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. She gave a talk and then followed it up with a handful of questions from the audience. She spoke in German, so I had to use a headset in order to listen to a translator, but I was still able to follow closely. She is a dynamo, and I was impressed with her delivery. I enjoy the art/science of public speaking and am always benchmarking good orators. She has a depth of knowledge that few world leaders have.

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Her prior career as a research scientist gives her politics an interesting base of information. I preferred her off-the-cuff remarks and answers to the questions, though her canned speech was still informative. She is famous for her battles with German labor unions and she has supported US policy many times during her tenure. She is also a strong supporter of business, so she was comfortable with the audience. She joked with the leaders of AmCham because after multiple requests, this was the first time that she accepted an offer to speak. It was my good fortune that she chose Düsseldorf.

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We filed out of the conference into a beautiful Friday afternoon. Christian walked me around the city center, pointing out many of the landmarks. The city is seeing a tremendous amount of growth with major infrastructure projects (e.g. new train station, new buildings, etc.) underway. One recently constructed building is the Kö-Bogen development along the banks of the river that was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. It houses several businesses including the new Apple Store and is an amazing structure. I could have spent all afternoon photographing it in the wonderful sunlight.

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We went into the Apple Store to check it out and ended up getting a fantastic demonstration. I’m in the market for a new desktop Mac to handle my large database of photos. My MacBook Pro needs to be unburdened from the responsibility of running Aperture. The first clerk saw us lingering near the sole Mac Pro on display and approached us. The demo was an explanation and comparison between the powerhouse Mac Pro and the top of the line iMac. I asked a few questions in English which he fielded with no problems, but then asked us if we had time for a demo. We agreed and he went to get Stefan, who was a more senior associate.

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Stefan joined us so our little group swelled to four. He was awesome and I challenged him repeatedly, which only raised his game. At one point, he opened 20 OS X applications at once to demonstrate how fast the Pro actually was. The entire demo lasted nearly 30 minutes and was one of the best in-store customer service experiences I’ve ever had. It didn’t result in a sale, but it sure was impressive.

After the demo, we wandered back to the office, wowed by the experience. Dinner was at Christian’s home with other former US based ex-pat friends also as guests. We had great conversation catching up on business and family. The following morning, I borrowed a bicycle and helmet, and did a 20 kilometer ride along the Rhine. It was really neat to get out of the city heading south and then return on the opposite bank. After breakfast, Christian and I headed to Bad Liebenstein via Wetzlar. The driving experience was fantastic as we wound our way into hill country. All in all, my short trip to Düsseldorf was the perfect appetizer for the main event.

Frankfurt am Main

After my three days in London, I continued on to Frankfurt am Main to visit with one of Horst Engineering’s top aerospace industry customers. I last visited this customer 10 years ago, so it was a long overdue visit. I was excited to meet with them, tour the renovated plant, and discuss their growth prospects.

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I got to Frankfurt late on a Wednesday night and between the plane, shuttle bus, train, and walking, it was past midnight when I reached the hotel near the  Hessen Center on the outskirts of the city. Thankfully, the plant was also walking distance from the hotel and train station.

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After my customer visit, I returned to the hotel and did some work. Then I headed back into the city center to walk around and take in the sites. I hadn’t been to Frankfurt in years, so it was an enjoyable afternoon.

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A late day thunderstorm didn’t dampen my spirits. I visited Foto Rahn, a Leica dealer and photo gallery. I soaked in the sounds of the city. Thanks to the Happy Cow app, I found a great vegan restaurant called Naturbar. After dinner, I walked around some more and then return to the hotel because I had to catch the train again early in the morning.

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London

Last month, I was in London, England for the YPO-WPO Family Business Network board meeting. Right after the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, I headed to the airport. My overnight flight put me in London on a Monday morning. I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and then walked across Hyde Park to my hotel.

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It was a beautiful day and the city was buzzing with energy. Walking one of the world’s great metropolis is always a treat. The meetings were excellent. We did a joint event with the YPO-WPO Thriving Communities Network/Family Philanthropy Network.

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We heard from several great member resources including Gareth Ackerman, the chairman of Pick N’ Pay, one of Africa’s largest retailers/grocers. The company was founded by Gareth’s father, Raymond Ackerman. The family is involved with several foundations. The company and the foundations operate with family, community, and social responsibility in mind. Raymond Ackerman was fond of saying, “Doing good is good business.”

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Debbie and I first met Gareth and the Ackerman family in 2006 when we visited South Africa. On that trip, we were hosted by the Ackerman’s in Cape Town for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour. It was an awesome trip and an awesome adventure.

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So, it was with great pleasure that I once again heard Gareth speak about family, philanthropy, and business, three of my favorite topics.

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Our meetings continued on Tuesday and Wednesday. I had a couple of great dinners with friends. It had been more than 10 years since I was last in London. On Wednesday afternoon, I had a few hours to kill before catching my flight to Frankfurt.

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I did some work at the hotel, caught up with the team back at Horst Engineering, and then walked around a bit. I visited the West End, SoHo, Green Park, and then headed back to Paddington via Hyde Park. During my walk, I visited the Mayfair Leica Shop. That was cool. The streets were jammed with people. There was a big event at Buckingham Palace and the men and women headed in that direction were dressed for the occasion with big hats.

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I had lunch at Norman’s Coach and Horses, a vegan pub that Debbie read about in Vegetarian Times. It was good. It was a jam-packed three days and I was happy to be headed to Germany for the second half of my European adventure.

2014 Connecticut Trails Day

Happy Trails Day!

Today we had a double-header in Bolton, Connecticut.

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This morning, the kids and I walked over to the Bolton Heritage Farm (aka Rose Farm) for the first of two Connecticut Trails Day events. The Bolton Conservation Commission hosted a hike. The first part of the event was a historical overview of the farm, which is on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R), which is a National Historic Trail.

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Hans DePold, our Town Historian, gave a spirited talk about the history of the farm. It is always fun to listen to him talk.

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After Hans spoke, we went on a hike with Rod Parlee and Matt “Twig” Largess, who are the dynamic duo when it comes to Bolton and trees. Twig is from Rhode Island, where he operates a Largess Forestry. With his passion for trees and charismatic nature, he belongs on the Discovery Channel.

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We measured some big ones in the Oak Grove and then continued on the Rose Trail towards the Hop River Rail Trail junction. The kids and I split off and returned home for our intermission.

In the afternoon, we returned to the farm for another event. This one was led by Debbie and involved  one mile hike/scavenger hunt for kids. It was a real hit with more than 75 adults and children in attendance.

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Debbie led the kids through some warm up exercises, and then took them on a loop of the farm.

The weather was glorious today, unlike last year’s Trails Day Weekend which was a total washout. I can’t wait to hear how the other 100+ events coordinated by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, went. Once again, Horst Engineering and Thread Rolling Inc. were Trails Day Weekend sponsors.

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With the great weather, there should be a record number of participants.

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We will be returning to the farm later this month for the kickoff of the Bolton Summer XC Series. If you haven’t done one of these Wednesday night races, then you are missing out on a jewel of summer. See you on the trails!

2014 Peak Ultra

This weekend, we returned to Pittsfield, Vermont for the Peak Ultra. Debbie ran the 50 mile version of the race, which also featured divisions for 500, 200, 100, 30, and 15 miles. She ran the first and second editions of this challenging event back in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the 53 +/- miler was run on the same day as the inaugural Death Race.

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Her original plan was to return to Cayuga Trails 50, which was also this weekend, but back in March, we visited Pittsfield, and reconnected with some old friends. After spending time on the Green Mountain Trails, she quickly changed her mind and registered for the Peak Ultra instead. She was focused on the 50 mile distance, which along with the 30, had its own course. That course had some changes from the last time she ran it.

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A new bushwhack section over Wilcox Mountain and the infamous Bloodroot Mountain loop, made for a fantastic day on the trails. These trails are always rugged and yesterday, they were even muddier than usual. There was more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, which made it hilly, but not quite as hilly as the Wapack and Back 50 Miler that we ran earlier in May. The 500, 200, 100, and 15 mile runners used the same 10 mile loop, which also served as the last 10 miles of the 50 and 30 mile races. It was a little confusing with multiple start times and runners going in many different directions, but in the end, it was all good. There were a lot of helpful volunteers to assist.

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Pittsfield, home of the Death Race and Spartan Races, has become quite the Mecca for endurance sports and obstacle course racing. It all started with the ultra back in 2007, so it was cool to return and see how it has grown. Death Race has spawned an entire culture of endurance athletes. We camped on Friday night at Riverside Farm, site of the start/finish. Last night, we camped at the top of Tweed Road where it intersected with the upper section of the 10 mile loop.

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The kids and I had a great time crewing for Debbie. It helped that she was in good spirits and didn’t have any of the stomach issues that have plagued her races during the past 18 months going back to Pinhoti 100 in November 2012. We made lots of new friends at the aid stations. We saw Debbie three times at the Upper Michigan Road aid station. We drove farther out on the road to see her at the bottom of Bloodroot, we saw her at the start/finish at the start of her 10 mile loop, and then of course, when she finished.

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While she was on the Bloodroot loop, I took the kids to Sweet Georgia P’s, the organic farm in town. Then, I took them to the Vermont’s Original General Store for lunch. Her finish time of 10:56:33 was respectable for the challenging course. She said she had one low spot when she ran out of food on the Bloodroot loop, but after fueling up, she recovered. She was the first woman and I think she was fourth overall. Larisa Dannis, who has my vote for New England runner of the year, crushed the 30+ miler and took the overall win. It was fun to watch her run. She was flying.

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She and Debbie have been comparing notes on fueling and nutrition, so it was good for them to finally be at a race together again. Both of them inspire me. Speaking of inspiration, the 500 mile runners were amazing. We got to see Kale Poland finish his nine-day 500 mile odyssey. That was one of the best sporting experiences I’ve ever had. A good crowd of runners, crew, volunteers, and spectators was on hand to witness the historic finish.

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Apparently, he is no stranger to ultra-endurance racing, having completed a Deca-Ironman among other feats. I asked him if this was harder. He told me that it was “different” but also very hard because of the foul weather (heavy rain) that he faced during the first week. It was so nice to have awesome weather on Friday and Saturday, and today, was even better. It was just beautiful and perfect conditions for the runners. I was so impressed with his accomplishment.

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His partner in crime was Nick Bautista, who was starting his final 10 mile loop right after Kale finished. He too completed 500 miles in nine days. It was a wonderful site to see those two hug after sharing so many miles of trails. They were two of three remaining athletes still going for the 500.

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That third athlete and last remaining woman, was none other than Michelle Roy, a legendary member of the New England trail running community. We got a chance to spend some time with Michelle and cheered her as she started her 40th and final lap this morning. 400 miles is one heck of an accomplishment for her. Like I said, these runners are amazing inspirations. It was great for our kids to see them in action.

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Race Results

2014 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race

Today’s 30th anniversary Soapstone Mountain Trail Race was just fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The vibe was great. So many of our friends came out to support the Shenipsit Striders on our big day.

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Once again, Debbie did an awesome job as Race Director. Sadly, this year, she didn’t have the presence of Jerry Stage, her mentor, the founding Race Director. Earlier this year, Jerry lost his battle with cancer. He directed the first 20 or so Soapstone’s and then co-directed a few with Debbie when she was getting her feet wet, and she has been solo for the last 10 years or so. Up until last year, he was still pitching in on race day. There was a wonderful moment of silence before the start and in that moment, all was right with the world.

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The Shenipsit Striders community pulled together in a big way and so many other volunteers contributed to make the race a success. There were so many cool moments. 10 year-old Luke Stoeffler won the Dipsea Race-inspired (age graded) 6 kilometer Soapstone Sampler. He flew on the course and earned a neat victory. The kids race was a feast for the eyes with all of them tearing down the muddy trail.

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The 24 kilometer main event went out hard and there were tough battles on the course, which had been made wet and muddy by yesterday’s heavy rain. The streamed wasn’t quite epic wet (it’s rained many times during the race), but it was flowing good.

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My legs were dead after last week’s 50 mile adventure at Wapack and Back. I knew it was going to be tough to get my legs moving, but I didn’t realize it was going to be that tough. I took one hard fall after my legs turned to jelly, but I survived it. My time was well off my best on this course, but I was still stoked to be out on the trails and a Wapack/Soapstone back-to-back makes for a good week of trail running.

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I’ll add some information about the top runners once I see the results. We had a busy afternoon wrapping up the race and packing up the stuff. It’s been a hectic week with all of the race preparations and I’ve got a busy travel week ahead.

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I will note that our last finisher was Laura Clark. She has been a very loyal runner at Shenipsit Striders events and her work in the Northeast trail running community is legendary. It was fitting that she toughed it out after a hard day in Shenipsit State Forest and gutted out a finish. Special thanks to Jeffrey Woods for sweeping the course and sticking with Laura all day.

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The Reddington Rock Riding Club venue is a huge key to the success of this event. Their generous use of their grounds is vital to the race. It was fun to see old friends and make new friends. After 30 years, like the NipMuck Trail Marathon, Soapstone is a certified classic. Next up in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series is the Mount Greylock Trail Race, and next up in the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series is Southern Nipmuck. See you on the trails again soon!

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Race Results (24 kilometer)

Race Results (6 kilometer)

2014 Mother’s Day Dash

We traveled from the Wapack Trail in Ashburnham, Massachusetts to Henry Park in Rockville, Connecticut in less 18 hours with a little restless sleep in between. Our encore for Mother’s Day weekend was the 5 kilometer Mother’s Day Dash. This race, run for the 41st time, has become a tradition for us.

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Somehow, Debbie had the strength in her legs to jog the race with our 7-year-old son. He did great, running steady the whole way averaging 10 minute miles. I would have loved to average 10 minute miles at yesterday’s Wapack and Back 50 Mile Trail Race, but the terrain was quite different.

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We had a lot of fun today. In addition to the race, the kids got to participate in the ribbon cutting for Henry Park’s new playscape. I finally sat down with Tom Curtiss, one of the original members of the Shenipsit Striders. Our marquis race, the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, will be run for the 30th time this coming Sunday. Debbie is the Race Director and I’ve been working on a history of the race and our club. Tom has had a longstanding role on the race committee for the Dash, so I knew I would be able to track him down.

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Brian Nelson took out the win in 16:34. He was followed by Matthew Mensher and Garrett Ash. Shout outs go to Aaron Flamino in 5th and Brett Stoeffler in 6th, who are still running strong after all of these years. Another standout performance came from 12 year-old Daniel Krasemann who ran 18:08. Watch for his name in the results over the next six years. He has pedigree. His mother, Beth, a past Soapstone champion, was first female in 20:01. She was followed by Linda Yamamoto and Bonnie Armstrong.

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We had awesome weather. This is the spring day that everyone has been waiting for. It made it easy to linger after the race and nosh on bagels and bananas. They even broke out the parachute for the kids to play with. Kudos to the Vernon Parks and Recreation Department for keeping this old race going.

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Race Results

2014 Wapack and Back 50 Mile Trail Race

Yesterday, Debbie and I returned to the Wapack and Back Trail Race for a little fun, pain, and suffering.

I’m pausing to let that line sink in, because for me, it always seems to be a LOT of pain and suffering.

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My body isn’t made for this 50 mile mountain trail running thing. With abundant rocks and roots; plus more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, Wapack packs a punch. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere between my body and my brain, because I keep doing these long runs. Thankfully I did Traprock 50K three weeks ago. It prepared my legs for the beating that they took yesterday. Thankfully I did not do 7 Sisters last week because it saved my legs from a beating and soreness, even before yesterday’s race started.

I was supposed to run the 21.5 miler, but when I registered on Ultrasignup back in January, it was already sold out. In a moment of unbridled enthusiasm, I noticed that there were three slots remaining for the 50 miler (Debbie was already registered), so I checked the box and figured it was destiny that I run another official 50 miler. I recall Debbie looking over my shoulder and shaking her head. She said something like, “You never learn.”

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The good news is that when you survive races like this, they can be fun. The euphoria achieved while running in a beautiful landscape for long periods of time is only matched by actually getting to the finish line of a beast race like this. On this Mother’s Day weekend, it’s important to show appreciation for Mrs. Schieffer (Debbie’s Mom) for taking the kids on Friday and Saturday so that we could go run Wapack.

We drove up late on Friday after a romantic dinner at Moe’s Southwest Grill in Worcester. We camped at the Watatic Trailhead, and were joined in the parking lot by our friends; Race Directors, Ryan Welts and Kristina Folcik-Welts, Serena Wilcox, and Carolyn Mankiewicz-Shreck. We helped Ryan and Kristina with a little late night race preparation and then we slept.

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Runners started arriving at registration between 3:00 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. That is the only drawback with sleeping at the start/finish line. We got up at 4:30 A.M. and the 5:00 A.M. start came really fast. I was still scrambling for provisions in the van when Ryan yelled “Go!” I don’t have too many photos from the day because most of my energy went into running. I heard that 48 runners started the 50 miler. 85 or so started the 21.5 miler. They had a later start and were bused to the northern end of the Wapack so that they could run south to the finish. We passed them all on the trail.

The weather wasn’t great, but I have no complaints. It was cool and misty at the start. During the morning, there were periods of steady rain, but by early afternoon, it brightened up. It was still humid, but there were occasionally breaks of sunlight. I’m glad that I started with my arm warmers because I didn’t take them off until the second half of the race. It was chilly on the summits of the larger hills. There are quite a few exposed spots on the Wapack as many of the peaks are devoid of trees, where it’s all rock.  Debbie’s first experience at Wapack and Back was last year, though we had previously run the fall Wapack race on the southern nine miles of the course. There are more photos in the 2013 report and you can see images of the difficult terrain. I walked nine miles of the trail in 2013, but the roughest sections are on the northern part of the trail, which I saw for the first time yesterday. It’s time I update my Toughest Ten to include Wapack. I’ve got a few other nominees too.

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The 21.5 mile Wapack Trail goes from Greenfield, New Hampshire south to Ashburnham, Massachusetts along the Wapack Range. The start of the race is at the southern terminus. The turnaround is at the northern terminus. The course is marked with yellow triangles painted on trees and rocks. I struggled to find the trail several times and gave up 10 minutes or so with my various wrong turns. To finish the  50 mile option, we had to go back on the trail north over Mt. Watatic to the 3.5 mile aid station, and then return to the finish. This is the cruelest possible format. Last year, I watched runner after runner call it quits when they got to the “finish line” at 43 miles. It takes some serious mind-bending to convince yourself to go back out on the trail that you just ran. 

I wanted the coveted bottle of maple syrup that you get for finishing, so not finishing was not an option. Like every other aid station on the course, I went into mile 43 with the mindset that I was going to grab and go. I filled my water bottle, grabbed some Fig Newtons, and bananas. I dropped my headlamp and arm warmers and shot back out on the trail with no lingering. I was tempted to stay and chat, and there was a large crowd bolstered by the 21.5 mile finishers. I saw several people I knew and many offered assistance, but I was focused on going back up the hill and getting the last seven miles done. I was concerned that if there was any hesitation, or even worse, if I sat down, that I wouldn’t go back out for the final seven miles.

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Oh, and what a seven miles it was. I had seen Debbie once after the 21.5 mile turnaround and saw her twice in the last seven miles. She looked good and the math that I was doing in my head said that she could catch me. That motivated me to push harder, particularly on the uphills. My finish time was 11:53 and hers was 12:05, so we were close. That last stretch was hellish. The bugs had been out since late morning when the rain stopped, but they were really biting late in the day. My quadriceps were shot and the downhills were killing me. I also had some chaffing in key spots. I was much faster going up and dreaded even the smallest descents. I got it done, but it wasn’t pretty.

I’ve had a rough start to the year with illness and some niggling injuries. It was wise of me to skip 7 Sisters. I’m not in the best shape, but I feel like my mental strength is at a peak. I’m sure that the “positive” stress of family, work, and life is what contributes to my mental fortitude, and I needed all of it yesterday.

2014_Wapack and Back Trail Race 18

Debbie and I knotted our official 50 mile trail race series at 1-1. She bested me at the 2011 Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Trail Race where I was hobbled by a badly sprained ankle. Ironically, one of my other badly sprained ankles (same ankle) came on the Wapack Trail in that 18 mile fall race, years ago. She is still battling nutrition issues in these long races and her stomach went sour late in yesterday’s race. Still, it was an improvement and she is mostly recovered from the bronchitis that ended her Traprock race after one lap. Yesterday, she was able to hold off Serena Wilcox, who is working her way back to form. It looked like the men’s winner was Eric Ahern, who finished second to Josh Katzman in 2013.

With a small field, there was ample time for solitude on the trail. However, she and I both had sections with great trail companionship. Debbie ran most of the final 16 miles with Curt Pandiscio. She said that he considered stopping after 43, but he made a deal with himself that if he got to 43 by a certain time, then he would continue. It worked out and he finished 6th, about seven minutes behind me, and five ahead of Debbie. Curt is building up to his first ever crack at the Western States Endurance Run. He was fortunate to get in through the lottery and I’m sure he will honor the race with a fantastic showing. He was flying yesterday.

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I spent most of the day alone, but on the return leg, I caught up to Scott Patnode around the 27 mile mark. We stayed together for five miles or so before he pulled away. We saw each other  during the last seven miles and traded encouragements. My lowest spot in the race (other than the waning miles) came after he dropped me. I didn’t have any falls, which is a good thing. I wore a new pair of Vasque Mindbenders that I had in “stock.” I took them out on Friday morning and wore them to work to break them in. They were a half-size large, but I’m glad I wore them. It saved my toes, which have been a mess lately. I’ve got a bad case of plantar fasciitis on my left food and I’ll need a layoff from running to heal it, but at this point, I’ll have to wait until winter. My heel was swollen after the race, but it could be worse.

2014_Wapack and Back Trail Race 50

Ryan and Kristina took over the race from Norm Sheppard, who race directed last year. He was one of their volunteers and I saw him several times. All of the other volunteers were helpful and the aid stations were adequately stocked. I carried a single bottle in a waist belt and filled it every chance I got. Now I have to focus on recovery because I’m running the 30th anniversary edition of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race next Sunday. Debbie is the longtime race director and our house will be transformed into Soapstone race headquarters for the week. One good thing about running Soapstone, is that it is only 14.5 miles!

Race Results

2014 7 Sisters Trail Race

The 7 Sisters Trail Race is a rite of spring for our family. Today, Debbie ran it for the 15th time, a remarkable achievement. We think those finishes are all in a row, though it is possible that there was one miss somewhere in the middle of that streak. Regardless, she gets a whole lot of credit for devoting herself to one of the iconic trail races in New England. Next year, I’m sure she will be back for her first Grand Tree race as a 40+ runner. Until then, there is no rushing Father Time.

2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 217

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2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 347

I was also registered to run today, and had my heart set on a beautiful day tramping across the rocky and rugged 12 mile (6 out/6 back) section of the New England Scenic Trail (Metacomet-Monadnock Trail). Alas, I’ve been under the weather, I’m dinged up, and it didn’t make sense to risk further injury or illness, as a result of running a race that has destroyed me so many times in the past. Plus, I had the opportunity to spend time on the trail with my kids, which is far more important than notching another New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series finish. I’ve got loads of races ahead of me, including next weekend, so a little rest will help. 

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Last year, I wrote that we saw a lot of new faces on the trail. Again, there were more than 500 finishers, which is truly remarkable. Sisters gets so many more runners than the other Grand Tree races. I hope we get some of these newbies to join us in two weeks at the 30th anniversary Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. Debbie is the Race Director and our club mates from the Shenipsit Striders are gunning for a great day. If today’s runners liked the climb up Bare Mountain, they’ll also enjoy Killer Hill.

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Racing today for the Striders along with Debbie were Tony Bonanno, Chris Kelly, and Gary Hebert. I also saw my Team Horst Sports teammate, Andris Skulte, on the trail, though he was nursing a twisted ankle after the finish. It was his rookie experience on the New England Trail.

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2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 739

Now that 7 Sisters has gone national with its inclusion in the 2014 La Sportiva Mountain Cup, it’s got even more publicity. Race Director, Fred Pilon, and his volunteers (many from the Sugarloaf Mountain Running Club) did a good job organizing the crowds. There were substantial changes from past years. The start/finish was moved to Military Road, which runs perpendicular to the main road where we normally start. This is a safer spot and poses less congestion for the busy route.

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The race used chip timing for the first time, and there were five wave starts with about 100 runners per wave. The wave starts were used to ease congestion on the narrow, steep, and rocky initial climb up Bare Mountain. The race always bottlenecks at the start. This year, it was improved, but in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. It’s a trail race and most folks were out there to have fun.

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2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 1207

Even still, there were some fast runners, including a Colorado contingent that put its stamp on the event. I’ll add the results link and commentary when I see them posted online. Like last year, the parking, registration, and post-race refreshments were at the  “The Bunker” located on Amherst College property up Military Road adjacent to the Bare Mountain. Last year, I made the mistake of leaving my car on the inside of the gate. I went for a bike ride, only to return to my car locked inside the complex. I resolved the matter with a call to the Amherst College Police. There was no issues this year. 

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After the race, we had a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Paul & Elizabeth’s, in Northampton. The kids and I chose to stay close to the start/finish rather than going to the turnaround or access road on Mount Holyoke. Instead, we hiked to the summit of Bare Mountain to enjoy the view. Then we camped out at the nastiest section of trail to watch the runners come through on their way to the finish. The trail was mostly dry. The temperature was warmer early in the morning with bright sun, but by mid-race, it was cloudy, cool, and there were intermittent showers. Spring still hasn’t sprung, but that’s OK, the 7 Sisters vibe warmed us up, even if only for a few hours.

2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 1177

2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 1179

Race Results

***

Printroom Photos (images from the start and then at the 11.75 mile mark (rocks) for runners in the 1:54 to 2:50 finish time range)

The race results are up. It was interesting to see that the top two men were from North Carolina. They should know east coast trails well, but 7 Sisters is still a different kind of beast. It would have been awesome to see some of the top local Sisters men from past years (i.e. Nephew, Schmitt, Low, Ferenc, Hammett, Rusiecki, Krause, et al) take on these guys.

Ryan Woods was first in 1:54:03. He was followed by Jason Bryant and Matthew Zanchi. The first woman, Megan Kimmel, was 5th overall in a fine 2:05:40. She was well ahead of Kelsey Allen and Kehr Davis. 433 runners finished the race. I saw a few injuries, but nothing major, or at least nothing that you wouldn’t expect on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.

It was certainly a good day in the woods. We will see if the 2014 changes made a difference and if they stick for 2015. The trail was dry, so that is a good think when that many people are out running at once. I’m sure the Friends of Mt. Holyoke Range will benefit again from the generosity of the race organizers. Giving back to the trails is one of the great benefits of these local races.

2014_7 Sisters Trail Race 1193

1994 Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships

Yesterday, on my ride home from work, I was reminiscing. I was thinking about the 1994 Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) Championships. The two-day/three race event was one of the wildest race weekend’s of my life. There was crazy weather, a crazy criterium finish, crazy results, and some awesome memories. Today, I went into our cold storage area to dig out some photographs that I had saved. I knew that I had some images. Someone (possibly Mark Abramson) gave me some negatives in the weeks after the race. I was taking Photography 101 at the time and used them to practice my printing. It was those prints and some contact sheets that I found in my archives.

The Cornell University Cycling Club hosted the race near their campus in Ithaca, New York on Saturday 30 April and Sunday 01 May. I was a Junior at Boston College and raced “Men’s A’s” for the BC Cycling Club. Greg Swinand, a first year Ph.D. candidate studying economics at the time; and Eric Sakalowsky, a sophomore undergraduate, were my two teammates who also raced Men’s A’s. We had a few women on our squad and riders in both the Men’s B and C fields too. It was a fun bunch of characters. Our three person A team was on a mission to qualify for the 1994 National Collegiate Road Cycling Championships, hosted by Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Greg Swinand_1994_ECCC Championships_01

Greg Swinand leads the breakaway during the road race.

20 years have passed and I don’t remember all of the details, but the highlights stand out. In that short collegiate road season, we had already accumulated points at the Williams College Criterium, Army Classic Stage Race (road race, time trial, criterium), and the University of New Hampshire Circuit Race. “Eastern’s” was worth more, and despite our short roster, we had a chance to be one of the top teams to go to the championships. I can’t recall if it was the top three or top five.

A year earlier, in 1993, I qualified for “Nat’s” as an individual when they were hosted in the Boston area by the Massachusetts institute of Technology. I was hungry to get back to the big show and had devoted myself all season long in support of Greg, who was one of the best cyclists in New England, and was very much on form. Our goal was to qualify as a team, which would have been a minor upset. Throughout the winter of 1993-1994, we trained hard together. I learned a lot from riding with Greg. Most of the time, he rode in the hardest gear. I sat in his draft and just tried to hang on.

The team drove to Ithaca after classes on Friday afternoon. We all crammed into a few rooms at a cheap motel. The road race was 63 miles long. I think it was three laps, but it might have been five. I don’t remember. The course was in the farm country outside of Ithaca on some damp and rough roads. There were several sections of dirt and it was sandy and rutted after a long winter. The finish was on a climb. My records show that my time was 2:49:46, but I think I was well off the back. Greg always executed our race strategy and he sent me in a break very early in the race.

The idea was to have a BC rider up the road so that Greg could sit in and force the other teams to chase. Greg had Eric for support, and I rode with a small group that eventually became a group of two, including me. I think I was out front for 25 miles before my legs gave out and the pack swallowed me up. I recall Greg putting his hand on my back as a slid back through the peloton. He complimented me on the effort and moved to the front of the group. I don’t know if he launched an attack immediately, or chased one, but it wasn’t long before he was in a break of his own, which became the race winning move. I hung in the main pack and did some work to slow the chase. Eventually I was dropped as the field shattered.

Scott Livingston_1994_ECCC Championships_01

I’m looking tired on one of the rougher sections of the road race.

I know he didn’t win the race, but he was either on the podium or just off of it. He scored some good points for the team. Eric and I finished, but out of the points. The other memory from that road race came from my friend Roger Nauth, who raced for rival Boston University. I was actually on the BU team from 1991-1992 before I transferred to BC. I didn’t witness what he saw, probably because I was up the road at the time of the incident, but he cracks me up every time he recounts the story. Roger was in the pack when they rode by a field. There was a stud chasing a mare and he was wielding his “manhood” in all of its glory. He says the site of this horse showing his stuff nearly caused a crash.

After the race, we returned to the motel to eat, rest, and do homework. It rained overnight and on Sunday morning, we arose to wet roads. The criterium was early and the course was treacherous. We were somewhere near campus on a freshly paved circuit. I think it was a kilometer-long clockwise loop. The asphalt was oily, which was bad, but that wasn’t the worst problem we had. There was no grass on the outside or inside of this loop. It was all dirt and hundreds of earthworms had made their way on to the pavement. When those worms were squashed under the tires of our bikes, they were like grease. I don’t know why they didn’t attempt to clean the course. The race was on. We just had to deal with it.

The wet, oily, and wormy road was like an ice rink. It is the most slippery (non-ice) road surface I’ve ever raced on. The race was 30 miles long, so we did more than 45 laps. Some guys crashed three times. It was nuts. All four corners were dicey, but the final corner was the worst. Riders were sliding out every lap. They would end up off the course in the muddy dirt. The strategy that Greg hatched was for us to get him into a breakaway because there were many intermediate sprints with points towards the team omnium. Ideally, he would launch this break with independent riders from teams that weren’t in contention for the overall.

We made the plan work perfectly when he got into a break with a Yale University rider and a Hampshire College rider. I forget their names, but they were both strong. Greg’s version of the story at the time was that he made a deal with them. He wanted to win every intermediate sprint prime. There was no money and they didn’t need the points, so the arrangement was that if they let him cross the line first to collect the maximum points, then he would not contest the final sprint and allow them to duke it out. I’m sure he did the math in his head. After all, he was studying economics!

Greg Swinand_1994_ECCC Championships_02

Greg Swinand wins the criterium in grand style.

I made it through the entire race without a crash, though I was fish-tailing all over the place on my Spectrum Titanium bicycle. I as able to ride several laps at the front, which helped thwart any chase. The three-man break was never far up the road. We could see them on the long straightaways. Coming into the bell lap, things were crazy. The crashes never stopped. Guys were taking the corners too fast and the final corner was no exception. It was so slippery that people weren’t getting hurt. They were sliding out and with the slimy road, avoiding major injuries. Like I said, many got up, took a free lap, and jumped back into the race only to crash again. I was hanging on for dear life and losing ground. I probably went into the final corner 10th in the field, but amazingly, I came out of it in third.

No less than six riders in front of me, crashed on that last corner. They literally slid off of the road. It was mayhem. I couldn’t believe my good fortune…and my fortune was nothing compared to Greg’s fortune. He was sitting third going into the final corner and his two breakaway companions both crashed. They were actually the first riders to crash in that final corner. Greg had no choice but to win the race. It was an amazing finish. The photos are so much fun to view. One image shows Greg winning. His expression is more surprise than glory. But the best image is of his companions running their bicycles to the line for 2nd and 3rd place. Obviously both of them had mechanicals. It’s hard to tell, but its likely that their chains came off. With the field bearing down on them for the sprint, they had no time to make repairs and remount, so they ran all the way from the corner.

The photo shows what was left of the pack coming into the final corner. At the edge of the photo, you can see several guys going down into the dirt with others forced to ride around them. Even more are out of view. I think Stefan Bumbeck, from the University of Vermont, took the field sprint for 4th, only second behind the two breakaway victims. He had several bike lengths on the rest of us. Another rider was on my left and he got 5th. I made it through the crashes to take 6th. With 1st and 6th, plus all of the intermediate sprint primes, we were well positioned going into the 12 mile long afternoon team time trial. I think we only had to finish 9th or better, which was still going to be hard with three riders when we were going up against teams of six.

9th is what we got and we punched our ticket to Nats. I love thinking about that weekend. It was so much fun. Vermont had been the strongest team all year-long. Stefan and his teammate, Angus Whelchel, were very good riders and they had a loyal supporting cast. I’m pretty sure that they were the season-long champs. They joined us on the trip to Texas. Unfortunately, only Eric and I raced Nat’s. Greg got really sick the day before our flight and he didn’t come along. That is too bad because he was really going good and I would have loved to see him compete with the top riders from California and Colorado.

Criterium Sprint_1994_ECCC Championships_02

The 2nd and 3rd place riders run for the line with the field bearing down on them.

I didn’t have the best National’s. With only two of us, the time trial would have been a waste, so we only did the road race and criterium. I remember getting off of the plane on that Friday in June, and it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit with no humidity. We came from Boston where it was in the 60′s and raining. I was wearing a flannel shirt with jeans, and I though I was going to melt. There was no way we could prepare for those conditions, even if we had trained in a sauna. The road race was like 111 miles long. I think it was an 11 mile loop that we were supposed to do 10 times. Well, I think I made it three and a half laps in 92 minutes. My only memories of the course was that it was pancake flat, ridden at crit speeds, and that they had to sweep snakes from it throughout the day.

Thankfully, the Sunday morning 45 mile criterium was a whole lot better. I was able to ride near the front for much of the race. It was also pancake flat and had a lot of turns. I don’t remember how long the loop was, but it was probably between a kilometer and a mile. I know we did a lot of laps. There was a really good crowd watching the downtown race. My bad luck hit again 90 minutes and 42 miles into the race. There were less than five laps to go when I was moving up and there was a big crash that took me down. I “tacoed” my front wheel, rendering it unrideable. The free lap rule had ended with five to go, so my day was over. I didn’t get to cross the line, which was a real bummer, but it was still a fantastic experience. Many of the guys in that 1994 race and the 1993 race,  went on to race as pros.

So, 20 years later, its good fun to think about that season and that crazy ECCC Championship at Cornell. I was further encouraged to write this report when I saw a headline on Facebook earlier today. Greg Swinand, the wily veteran, is still riding strong. He might be as good as he was 20 years ago, which is both inspiring and amazing. Today, he won the 100 mile first stage of the Tour of Ulster. 46 years old, and crushing it. Bravo Greg! I love it!

***

I got a comment from Bill Luecke from the National Capital Velo Club. Bill knew of a 1994 NCVC newsletter with a story written by Chris Hardee, who was the Yale rider in the criterium breakaway with Greg Swinand and Chris Kowecki. Click here for the story.


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I think I'll run 101.5 miles, drive/fly/drive home, and then do a triathlon to accelerate my recovery. #trt100 #tahoerimtrail100 The #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 awards ceremony was cancelled due to the unprecedented storm that is rolling through. Thankfully all runners had finished before the violent rain, hail, and lightning hit around 2:30 P.M. With 90 minutes to go before cutoff. I tracked down Debbie's drop back during the tempest, placed an order at the burrito truck, and also got her buckle. It wasn't ready, so they made it while I waited in the driving rain. I would have preferred a sunny ceremony by the lake. But this was an EPIC finish to an EPIC week. Wow! Debbie finished in 27:19ish. It was a tough race (understatement) but she got it done with support from pacer, Daniel Roy, her crew, family, and friends. So good to come back a year later and finish what she started in 2013. Thanks for following my posts. She and I will have full race reports later in the week and I have much better photos to share. The iPhone can only do so much, but it still is one heck of a journalistic tool. #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 #pursuitstrong #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #teamlivingston Debbie weighing in back at Tunnel Creek AS after the 6 mile Red House Loop. She is feeling "peppy" according to Dan. Ready to make a charge! Thru 67 miles in 17:32. #trt100 #tahoerimtrail100 #pursuitstrong #ultraspire #teamhorstsports I was just treated to the most amazing #laketahoe sunset from the Tunnel Creek Aid Station at the #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 This image doesn't come close to capturing the beauty. This is only one reason why we do this crazy stuff! Debbie has hit the Tunnel Creek Aid Station again, at 61 miles in 15:22. She arrived describing the crazy hailstorm that she ran thru. The T-Storms have been crazy. Cooling off now as the sun sets. Danny just started his pacing duties. I'll see her in 6 miles after the Red House Loop. Then I'll hike the 3.5 miles back down to the lake and drive to Diamond Peak Aid Station to see her at 80. Not sure if her place, and time doesn't matter. She is hell-bent on getting to the finish. #ultraspire #pursuitstrong #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #trt100 #tahoerimtrail100 Debbie leaving the 50 Mile Aid Station at #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 She is focused and her foot is a bit better. Long night ahead. We will see her in 3.5 hours. Headlamps are ready. #pursuitstrong #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #teamhorstsports #horstengineering Team Photo!! The crew at the #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 So fun to have our California Family helping Debbie! Shoes changed. We will see if it made a difference when we reconnect in 20 miles. First she has to climb the fearsome Diamond Peak with 2,000 feet of vertical gain in 1.8 miles up to 9,000+ feet. It's hot now. #tahoerimtrail100 #trt100 #pursuitstrong #teamhorstsports #ultraspire

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