Archive for the 'Sport' Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Race Results

2014 CCAP Kermis

Wow, that was fun. Tonight at the 3rd annual Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program Kermis, I did my first criterium since the 2010 Keith Berger Memorial. Technically, a kermis course is longer than a criterium, but it felt like a criterium. Regardless, it was my first road bike race (not counting last week’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb), in a very long time.

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I’ve avoided the road for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to find enough time to train to hang in the super-fast masters fields, and there is an added element risk when riding at these speeds in such close quarters. Tonight’s race wasn’t exactly an easy re-entry into the scene. It was a Friday night, it was raining, and it was getting dark after the 6:45 P.M. start.

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I’ve done quite a few kermis races, though not an official one since 1994. I recently wrote about the 20th anniversary of my Belgian summer. Kermis or kermesse is a “festival.” The CCAP has adopted the style and applied it to their 1.60 mile course at Rentschler Field, the old Pratt & Whitney Aircraft airfield that is now the site of the UCONN Football stadium that is name after the iconic field. There were food trucks, beer tents, vendors, and a bounce house. It was a fun atmosphere.

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Tonight, I was joined by five teammates, though only four in my race. Max Accaputo raced the elite men’s race that didn’t start until 8:00 P.M. They really rode in the dark! Our race was in the gloaming; I was joined by Pat Cunningham, Paul Nyberg, Ted D’Onofrio, and Trent Sullivan. All five of us are gearing up for cyclocross season. The speed workout was a one big reason why I decided to race. Another was that it was in my “hometown” or where I spend a lot of time, East Hartford, Connecticut.

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The short race was fast. We covered 17.6 miles in 40 minutes at an average speed of 26.1 miles per hour. I just don’t ride that fast on my own. Thankfully, our race was safe, with no crashes. The course was fairly technical with a variety of turns, including one hairpin that was challenging in the rain because of paint (cross-walks and center-lines) on the wet pavement. We let a break get away and no Horst Engineering riders were able to bridge up. We took some hard pulls at the front of the field late in the race, but didn’t succeed in closing the gap. I stayed out of trouble in the field sprint.

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I hung around afterwards to watch the elite men, man our team tent, and promote http://www.cross-spikes.com. We launched our new site a week ago and even sold a few sets of Horst Spikes on site tonight. It was nice to catch up with some of the road cycling friends that I don’t see as often anymore.

Race Results

Carter Notch Hike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2014 Soapstone Assault & Shenipsit Striders Summer Picnic

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

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

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

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

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

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Race Results (will be posted when they are available)

1994 Belgian Summer & Le Tour de France

It’s 20 years ago today that I was in Paris for the final stage of Le Tour de France. It is the only Tour stage that I’ve watched in person and it was a fine spectacle that day on the Champs-Élysées. I recall that Frankie Andreu, riding for Motorola, made the break, and I think he finished second to Eddy Seigneur, who made all of France proud on that day. It’s amazing how far professional cycling has come (and fallen) in the past 20 years. I left a bit of my love for the sport in Paris that day and in Belgium that summer.

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The best cycling that summer wasn’t the cycling we watched, but rather the cycling we did. With a small group of friends, including Jon Gallagher, Peter Brennan, Joe Cady, and Rob Dapice, we embarked on an adventure to test our skills against the top Belgian amateurs. I rode in 12 kermesses over six weeks in July and August. We were thoroughly outclassed by the Belgians and other Europeans, but we also didn’t take amphetamines and other drugs like many of them did. It was demoralizing to compete with cheaters, but we gave it our all.

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Our base camp was a rented house in Merchtem, Belgium, about 20 minutes outside of Brussels. Merchtem was famous for being the European home of Sean Kelly, the decorated Irish cyclist. Peter and Joe had connections and arranged the trip. They had been over there before, but it was the first time that Jon and I traveled to “live the dream.” Jon returned several more times in the following years as he honed his skills and speed.

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The Merchtem house was home for several cyclists. That summer, in addition to the American contingent, there were four or five Norwegian cyclists too, including several who rode for the Norwegian national team. One of them, Svein Gaute Hølestøl, was really talented and rode in the Olympics a few times. He was on a different race scheduled than the others, and would often return on Sunday evenings with trophies, flowers, and other prizes.

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Our house was right on a popular Sunday ride route. Thousands of cyclists would go by in a day. Many times, they were in large groups of club riders complete with a sag wagon and mechanic. It was awesome to watch. On several of our training rides, we would come across the legendary Eddy Merckx. He often rode with a friend and we would see him on the roads outside of Brussels where he lived and worked. We would ride by and yell, “Eddy!”

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We all wanted to ride like Svein Gaute did, but he was a class above. I got my first taste of how a “team doctor” could help your fitness. The Norwegians used to fill their water bottles with the contents of IV bags that they sliced open. They had a good pharmacist too.

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That summer was the last time that I raced a bicycle on European soil. Belgium is an amazing little country if you are a cycling fan, and we soaked up all of the cycling we could. That summer, there was a race every day of the week in a tiny country that isn’t much bigger than Connecticut. Each race had its own character.

The 12 I rode (in reverse order) were:

Merchtem Kermesse
Dendermonde-Grembergen Kermesse
Bellingen Kermesse
Londerzeel Kermesse
Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse
Blaimont Kermesse
St. Ulriks Kapelle Kermesse
St. Niklaas/Sinaii Kermesse
Grimbergen Kermesse
Zottergem Kermesse
Eizenringen Kermesse
Londerzeel Kermesse

In Dutch or Flemish, kermesse means festival and each race was a party.  The start was usually at a bar and the finish was at a different bar. There were lots of food trucks with frites and other tasty foods. Many times, there was a carnival complete with amusement park rides. Weekdays, the races started late in the afternoon, usually around 3:00 P.M. We did some evening races too. Most of the circuits were 5 kilometers to 12 kilometers long and there were many laps.

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A highlight was the race that we were paid “start money” by the promoter. He wanted some Americans to liven up the race. We rode our butts off. I think we spent the money on a trip to the movies and beer, but my memory has faded during the past 20 years and I don’t remember as much about that summers as I would like. It would have been a great summer if Facebook and Twitter were invented!

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This trip was also long before I had a digital camera, so the few film photos I have paint a picture, but by no means tell a story. We rode our bikes more than 500 kilometers a week and at least on one occasion, 700 kilometers in a week. We traveled many of the roads made famous by the spring classics, including the Tour of Flanders, Ghent Wevelgem,  Het Volk. We had occasional access to a car, but we rode everywhere including the grocery store, and of course, the races.

That confined us to Flanders most of the time, though we did do one race in the French-speaking south of Belgium. We “rested” on most Mondays, which was our day to take side trips. We visited Amsterdam, Antwerp, Ghent, Waterloo, Luxembourg, and many other places around Belgium.

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The trip to Paris was a long weekend that we took off from bike racing. We took the train from Brussels on a Saturday afternoon. We wandered around Paris late into the night before sneaking onto the grounds of the Tuileries Palace and sleeping on park benches. There were gendarmes everywhere, standing guard for the big race and the crowds that came with it, but we were able to get a little shuteye. The entire summer was spent on a tight collegiate style budget and we stretched our Belgian Francs a long way!

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We got up early on Sunday and walked all over the city. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and had nice, but hazy views of the city. We got over to the race course fairly early in the afternoon in an effort to stake out a spot close to the Arc de Triomphe, where there is a hairpin turn on the course that slows the riders. It’s a popular viewing spot and there was like a 1,000,000 people watching the race that day.

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As the day heated up, Peter, Jon and I took turns saving our spot against the barriers while the others rested in the shade and went for snack and bathroom breaks. Late in the afternoon, the race caravan rolled through, followed by the riders themselves. It was a fun festive atmosphere. We had watched nearly every stage live on Eurosport at the Merchtem house, usually with the viewing session sandwiched by long rides of our own.

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After the race was over, we lingered before catching a series of trains to Euro Disney, which was a very American thing to do. Our move was fortuitous. We split the cost of a hotel room at the park. On Monday, we spent the day at the Magic Kingdom. We chose a restaurant for dinner and splurged. We chose the right restaurant because a large party arrived to sit at the table next to us. It was a special event and it included multiple past Tour winners and famous cyclists including Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, Charlie Mottet, and others.

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We got to meet several of them, including Kelly, who we shared our Merchtem stories. Hanging in my garage, I have a large poster of Stephen Roche winning the 1987 World Championships. He won the Triple Crown that year by winning the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the World’s. In the corner of the framed print is a Disney postcard that I got that day with his autograph. When he signed the postcard, he chatted with us about our own experiences racing in Europe. He had a yellow jersey slung over his shoulder the entire time. We were excited to have ended a trip with such luck and partied late into the night. On Tuesday, we were back in Belgium and riding hard again.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed, and I was never going to be a professional cyclist, but I look back on the experience and realize that it was a good one. We had fun.

2014 Lake Tahoe Trip

Lake Tahoe has to be one of my favorite places. We first visited in 2013 for the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs and returned this year so that Debbie could run again.

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We stayed in Incline Village, Nevada, which is a fantastic mountain town. We went to the beach at Sand Harbor, just like last year. We went boating on the lake and anchored off of a secluded beach. That was so much fun.

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With little snow this past winter, the water level is lower than normal. The water temperature is also higher than normal. We had a blast swimming and jumping off of the rocks.

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We did a few things that we missed in 2013. We visited Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. We took the gondola to High Camp. Debbie was just in Squaw at the end of June for the Western States 100 where she crewed and paced a friend. When we were there, they were setting up for Wanderlust. Debbie wanted to go back later in the week to see the yoga festival, but she didn’t get there.

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We took the tour at Vikingsholm in Emerald Bay that we missed in 2013. It was really neat to go inside the house and learn more about its history.

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Like last year, I rented a road bike for a day, but rather than riding around the lake, I did a long ride with my friend, Tony Lillios. We did sections of the Ironman Lake Tahoe course. We rode the length of Donner Lake and back. We went through Truckee, where we both got written warnings for riding through a red light. That was a crazy experience! We rode up to Northstar. The last part of the ride was up the monster climb of Mount Rose Highway.

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I also rented a mountain bike and did a nice solo ride from the village up Mount Rose Highway to Tahoe Meadows. Then I took the Tahoe Rim Trail to Tunnel Creek. From there, I took the famous Flume Trail south for about 30 minutes before returning to the Tunnel Creek Trail. I descended to the road and then rode back to the house in Incline Village. The trails are fantastic. The views of the lake were spectacular.

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Last weekend was all about the race, which ended well with a fine finish by Debbie. Her race report covers that story. I’m not sure what will draw us back to Lake Tahoe next. We don’t need a race to go there, but Debbie winning an entry in the Western States Endurance Run lottery would be a nice ticket back to Squaw Valley. Another great adventure would be doing the entire Tahoe Rim Trail, which could be done as a multi-day backpacking or fast-packing trip. One thing is for your, there are many more Tahoe area trails to explore…and we will be back.

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#vegas #bellagio #vegas Another delayed flight... #vegas #bellagio This has been one heck of a trip and it isn't over yet! A little Pacific #surf at #coronadelmar state beach. Our new Citizen A32 Swiss screw machine. First job: Making a few thousand Caps for an #aerospace application. #precisionmachining #horstengineering #madeinmexico #hooverdam #737 Got my second #x-Ray of the summer. This time it was whole body, not just my left foot...and it was free. #nogales There is always a first time for everything. I've never sweat so much at work! #insanity #beachbody workout #horstengineering #teamhorstsports Long flight and drive but nice #tetakawi #sunset

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