Archive for the 'Family' Category

2014 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 323

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 324

 

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 346

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 385

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 137

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 168

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 181

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 317

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 334

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 318

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 827

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 704

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 252

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 476

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 537

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 1853

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 1189

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 1456

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 99

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 1835

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 1881

 

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 2117

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

2014_Vermont 50  Mile Ride & Run 106

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

Race Results

2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show

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

2014_IMTS 165

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

2014_IMTS 164

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

2014_IMTS 128

2014_IMTS 99

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

2014_IMTS 103

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

2014_IMTS 29

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

1) Technology

2) Continuous Improvement

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

2014_IMTS 16

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

2014_IMTS 6

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

2014_IMTS 7

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

2014_IMTS 72

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

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 56

2014_Run for the Woods 77

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 44

2014_Run for the Woods 65

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 172

2014_Run for the Woods 112

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 71

2014_Run for the Woods 232

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 36

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 244

 

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.

2014_Run for the Woods 316

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

Race Results

Top Ten Benefits of Crashing On My Head + Recovery Update

Top 10 benefits of crashing on my head and shoulder:

10) The ANSI and SNELL helmet testing is validated.

9) My Seven Axiom SL now has “character” like many of my other bikes.

8) The scratches give me justification to buy another bike…just maybe.

7) I finally had a reason to go to CVS and get a pair of Dr. Scholl’s custom foam orthotic inserts for my sore foot.

6) When I travel on business to Chicago next week, I can get early boarding and preferential treatment from the airline.

5) I rarely shave, but now I have a better excuse not to shave.

4.5) I set a two-day record for number of Life Adventures blog post views.

4) I can sample all the whiskey I’ve recently acquired without waiting until after cyclocross season.

3) I only have to wash some of the dishes in the sink.

2) I got to update my Tetanus shot and now have a handy wallet card to remind me of the date of my accident.

1) The outpouring of support from friends and family has lifted my spirits.

Another key observation is that bad news, violence, and sensationalism sells! In the old days, it drove the sales of newspapers. In the digital era, it delivers eye-popping results in Facebook “likes” and spikes in blog posts read. You could say that crashing was good for the media business. I ought to insert that as benefit 4.5 in my top 10. I just did.

Thank you to everyone who has thrown their support behind me. I’m still a little shocked from the crash. The pain has barely subsided, but I’ve kept busy with work. Even though only three days have passed, it is quite frustrating to miss out on outdoor activity during my favorite time of the year. The weather has been awesome.

This morning I met with an orthopedic doctor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He reviewed the x-rays and CT scan. He agreed with the diagnosis of broken scapula. He showed me on a monitor with a cool 3D software tool. He rotated my upper body like we would rotate an aerospace part in Solidworks at Horst Engineering. He said that my arm angle looked OK and that the bone did not require surgery. He said that he will see me in two weeks to move my arm a bit and determine if there was damage to the rotator cuff or other soft tissue. He thinks it is OK, but can’t know for sure until swelling goes down and they can move the arm without severe pain.

He said the bone will heal quickly and that I can’t make it worse as long as I wear the sling and take it easy. He said I can begin moving the arm in two weeks and then after that do light strengthening exercises depending on the rotator cuff determination. I’ll be in the sling for a while as a precaution. I can ride a stationary bike when the pain subsides and when I get some range of motion back. He says there should be no long-term effects and obviously, being in top shape is an advantage. Of course, being in top shape is why I crashed in the first place, so as far as I’m concerned, they cancel each other out.
So, this is all generally good news.
On my way to work after the appointment, I was thinking about one of my inspirations, Fiorenzo Magni. I wrote this appreciation for him in a  2012 blog post. He is famously known for being one of the toughest riders in the bunch. He broke his clavicle in the Giro d’Italia and continued to ride in the race by supporting his handlebars with a strap clenched in his teeth. I’m not sure what my mother would think if I showed up at tonight’s Rocky Hill Cyclocross with my bike and a strap. For now, I’ll take her advice, and take it easy, considering I can’t put on a shirt without asking for help.
I’ve shown my cracked helmet to several work colleagues and it hammers home the importance of properly wearing one. The really good news is that my kids totally get that.
Another step I’ve taken to kick off my comeback is to finish revising my Toughest Ten blog post that I started in May. Check it out.

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 3

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 80

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 82

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 89

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 2

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 1 (1)

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 2 (1)

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.

2014_iPhone Photos 7

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.

2014 Kids Who Tri Succeed Triathlon

Today was the fourth time that our family has been to the Kid’s Who Tri Succeed Triathlon in Mansfield, Connecticut. Our son has done the race each year and this year was our daughter’s debut. Once again, Horst Engineering was a race sponsor. This is exactly the kind of family friendly event that our family business likes to support.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 411

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 304

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 209

We love this event. It is delightfully chaotic, but full of joy. The race is bigger than ever with more than 150 children between the ages of four and 14. They make each kid feel like a pro triathlete for a day, which instills a love for endurance sports.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 177

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 82

We had beautiful late August weather. The temperature was mild and the sky was a lovely combination of blue with white puffy clouds. The water temperature in Bicentennial Pond was perfect. We enjoyed spending time with the Ricardi Family. Their son is also a veteran of this race.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 536

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 118

Our triathlon club, the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes, is another long time supporter of the event. There were more volunteers than ever and the race organization continues to improve. It isn’t easy running multiple waves for kids while having different distances/courses, but it works.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 254

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 356

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 226

The diversity of the children is beautiful. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities. They all have different levels of athletic ability, but they are all triathletes. The race organizers stress the importance of trying hard. That is all you can expect out of a sporting event like this. I always leave the race inspired and ready to improve both my own athletic ability and parenting ability.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 437

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 508

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 506

Our children had a wonderful time and that makes us smile too. It was their day to be athlete rock stars and they earned their medals.

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 583

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 513

2014_Kid's Who Tri Succeed Triathlon 460

Race Results


Livingston Photo & Word

Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes

Instagram

@adammyerson hammering in the mud @nightweasels #cyclocross tonight! #horstengineering supplies him with #horstspikes #crossspikes @horsteng #cx #nightweasels @jlindine is FLYING @nightweasels #cyclocross 12 second gap after two laps. #cx #nightweasels Matt Domnarski and Art Roti @nightweasels #cyclocross running their #horstspikes in the mud! #cx #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng Defending @nightweasels #cyclocross champ Justin Lindine @jlindine running his large Horst Spikes in the mud tonight! #cx #horstspikes #horstengineering #crossspikes Defending @nightweasels #cyclocross champ Justin Lindine @jlindine running his large Horst Spikes in the mud tonight! #cx #horstspikes #horstengineering #crossspikes @nightweasels #cyclocross #nightweasels #cx #crossspikes Peddling Horst Spikes at the #nightweasels #cyclocross in the mud and rain. www.cross-spikes.com #precisionmachining #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #horstspikes Not a bad view of the finish stretch. I'm ready for a #beer Watching this race is a lot of work! #vermont50 #vt50 #mtb #ultrarunning #ascutney #mountascutney #mountainbiking #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #pursuitstrong @vermont50 #vermont50 #vt50 @perfectvermont #ilovevermont #liquidskycinema

Follow me on Twitter

Categories

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 130 other followers


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers