2018 Quad CX

Yesterday, the kids and I went to Quad CX in Maynard, Massachusetts. We had a blast, but it was a long day. The Masters 40+ race was combined with the Masters 50+ and started at 10:30 A.M. It was nearly a full field of 100 (combined).

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I had a decent race, finishing 13th in the 40+ field. I’m gaining strength race by race and hope to be in top form by mid-October. I need a half a dozen more good events to build my speed.

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The kids raced after me and it was so much fun to watch. It was an under 15 race, which meant there were some older kids mixed in with the 9-12 year olds. Dahlia is 8 and Shepard is 12, but their racing ages are 9 and 13 respectively. Cross is weird, in that your racing age is based on your age on 12/31 of the year that the World Championships are held. So, for the 2018-2019 season, World’s will be in February. Even though the we will stop racing (here in New England) in December, your racing age is based on 2019. Whatever.

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So, this was Dahlia’s first official Junior race and she was stoked to finish two laps of the shortened (for the Juniors) course. Shepard continues to improve and notched a top 10 results. They were joined by Team Horst Junior Squad members Boden Chenail and Lars Roti.

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Team Horst Sports had a good Masters turnout too. Joining me in the 40+ race was Arthur Roti and Brett Chenail. Keith Enderle represented in the 60+ race, and Tom Ricardi rode in the Category 4 Masters Race.

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We all enjoyed the course. It was dry and dusty, with some gnarly sections in the woods. I described it as “old school” cross. It was hard to pass, and when you got an opportunity, you had to go full gas to get ahead.

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The kids and I stuck around so that I could also do the Singlespeed race, but it didn’t start until 4:30 P.M. I wanted to do it because it is in the Zanconato SSCX Series and didn’t think that Debbie would be home from Ultra-Trail Harricana until late. Ironically, she beat us home.

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I rode pretty well in the SS race, also finishing 13th. Like I said, I’ve got some ground to make up after my slow start to 2018 and multiple setbacks with my left leg. I’m feeling pretty good and not favoring it at all. Over the last three weeks as cross season has ramped up, I’ve gone all out. I’m going to keep at it. I’m very motivated to reach peak form.

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Race Results

2018 Ultra-Trail Harricana

It’s a little odd to write about a race that I didn’t attend. Since I wasn’t at Ultra-Trail Harricana (UTHC), I don’t have any of my own photos to share. With the exception of one shot, all the photos in this post were taken by Debbie. On Saturday and Sunday, she ran this tough 123 kilometer/75 miles (it turned out to be more like 128 kilometers/80 miles) trail ultra in Quebec. She was happy to talk about it, so I’m happy to write a bit about what she shared.

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Over the last 19 years, she has run many ultras, and this was the first one that I didn’t attend. I’ve run a handful of them with her, but the rest of them I’ve been on her crew or I’ve paced her. At all of her races, I’ve taken photos and then written about the adventures.

Over the last dozen years, I’ve also looked after our kids, who have attended many of these races with us. The Harricana circumstance is an interesting story. She has had a solid year of trail running with her notable races being the MT. TAMMANY 10, Traprock 50K, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler-Massachusetts, the Ragged 50K, and the Vermont 100K.

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None of these races are Western States Endurance Run (WS100) qualifiers. Though the WS100 course doesn’t favor her strengths, it is an iconic race, and one that she would like to compete in. In 2012, she crewed and paced for our friend, Larissa Dannis, but has never run it herself. She came close to qualifying in 2012 at the Pinhoti 100, but she fell short of earning a Golden Ticket by one spot. Alas, her best chance of entry now is through the lottery.

However, to remain in the lottery (held each December), you have to still complete a qualifying race. It’s a complicated system, but each year that you run a qualifying race, but fail to get in through the lottery, you get additional tickets that increase your odds. If you miss a year, you “lose your tickets” and your odds of getting in start over as if you are a first time lottery entrant.

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We recently learned that this rule has been modified and that you now get a once in a lifetime exemption to keep your accrued lottery tickets. However, she wants to save her exemption until she has more tickets. It would be wasteful to burn them in 2018 because she just started over again in 2017 after not doing a qualifier in 2016. Are you confused yet?

Anyway, six months ago, she identified UTHC as the only race east of the Mississippi that 1) fit her schedule and 2) was not a 100 miler (e.g. Grindstone 100 is a qualifier, but conflicts with cyclocross season). It never looked like UTHC would work out because it was scheduled for a very busy time of year. School, work, community involvement, kids activities, and cyclocross all ramp up in September.

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In July, I deleted it from my calendar and told Debbie that there would be no way that I could drive 8-10 hours to Quebec for another ultra in 2018. She agreed, but I think she secretly kept the race on her calendar. Anyway, in August, at the Ragged 50K, she ran with our friend Amy Rusiecki (she is the Vermont 100 Race Director), and the subject of UTHC came up in conversation. She said that her husband, Brian, and she had an opportunity to participate through a connection with the race organizers. I gather that Debbie eventually asked about joining them. She wouldn’t have made a solo trip, especially because of the long drive (I do most of the driving in our family).

To make a long story short, the Rusiecki’s were kind enough to bring her along for the ride this past weekend. She met up with them on Thursday evening, and then they left for Quebec early on Friday morning. This was a whirlwind trip for all three of them. Brian also ran the long course, while Amy ran the shorter 80 kilometer event.

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Debbie was pretty much out of touch from Friday night until early Sunday morning. The long course started at 4:00 A.M. on Saturday. The race took her 21 hours and 38 minutes, which is a long time for a race of this distance. The point to point course reportedly had 13,000 feet of elevation gain, but figuring it was longer, it probably had more climbing too. I was a little nervous following her results on Sportstats. There were long delays in the posting of “real time” results. Results didn’t appear until an hour or two after she reached each aid station. This lag was maddening and I kept refreshing my iPhone Internet browser in an effort to stay up to date on her whereabouts.

I followed through the day and into the night. I got up to use the bathroom around 1:42 A.M. on Sunday and the results still showed she was on course. She had finished by then, but it was a couple more hours before they were updated online. I got up again around 4:00 A.M. and checked my iPad and it showed that she had finally finished, which was a huge relief. I slept better after that.

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She held 5th spot amongst the women, and was the first Masters runner (40+) all race long, but at the last aid station with a timing mat (Split BMR), she had given up a spot to another masters female. However, in the last two hours of the race, she closed a two-minute gap, and then prevailed, ending up back in 5th place with a restored 10 minute gap to the other woman. The only photo of Debbie is from when the course passed through Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. She was taking a photo of the river, and a tourist offered to taken her picture.

She said the course was grueling, with lots of fresh-cut singletrack. This created  many tripping hazards. She said the temperature was cool, near freezing in the morning, and the sky was overcast with partial sun. She said it only rained lightly on a few of the higher mountains. Other runners reported some light snow on the higher taller summits. She used her UltrAspire lights and packs with success. She had some “issues” as she described them. This wasn’t her smoothest race. She is in good overall shape, but it sounds like her race execution wasn’t superb. I’ll leave the details and that part of the story for her to share as she likes, especially since I wasn’t there to witness it.

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The race is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour. It appears there were only 100 finishers under the 24 hour time cut. Technically, the 100th finisher was in 24 hours and 8 minutes, but she was counted in the results. That’s a high attrition rate given that there were 179 starters, including 24 women. Only nine women finished. Debbie said that the organizers made the race harder than last year, with more difficult trails, and that the cutoff times were tight. Even she was concerned about missing a time cut, but in the end, they weren’t a factor for her. She was definitely on course longer than she planned, but with her experience, it just meant more time in the woods.

Brian had a fine run, finishing 4th overall (and first Master Male) in 15 hours and 4 minutes. That fast time allowed him to get some sleep. So, after Debbie washed up around 2:30 A.M. on Sunday, they hit the road. It sounds like the kind of adventure that I would have loved! I was sad to miss it, but I filled my weekend with a mixture of family time, work, soccer, and cyclocross racing.

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It felt weird to follow Debbie from so far away, but she is super strong, fiercely independent, and built for this ultra lifestyle. She actually beat us home on Sunday. The kids and I were at Quad CX all day and didn’t get home until 7:00 P.M.

On Monday afternoon at work, I got an iMessage from an Ontario, Canada native by the name of Dale Witty. It included a photo of her ROADiD, which she apparently lost during the race. She suspects this may have happened when she removed her jacket. Dale finished about a half an hour in front of Debbie, so they were near each other on course, and obviously, at one point early in the race, he was behind her.

His note to me (my mobile number is on her iD) said, “Hi, my name is Dale Witty. I picked this up during the 125k Harricana UTHC on Saturday. Congrats to Debbie on finishing that tough race. Let me know if I should put this in the mail for you.”

What a fantastic gesture. I’m glad that since I wasn’t there…others were looking out for her!

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Race Results

2018 Kalon Cross

I got my first real taste of New England singlespeed cyclocross at today’s Kalon Cross in Lancaster, Massachusetts. It as also my first SSCX finish after my epic January fail in Reno.

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This was the first of 12 races in the Zanconato Single Speed Cyclo-Cross Trophy Series. My goal is to do nine or 10 of them. The rest of my cross season will be racing in the Masters 40+ and Masters 45+ fields.

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Every two to three years I need something new to keep my interest in endurance sports. I love cyclocross, but racing singlespeed is a tweak to things that should inspire me to train hard and stay fit.

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Today, Shepard and I made the drive north. He had a fine race, finishing 4th in the Junior 9-14 year old race. It wasn’t a large field, and he was in no man’s land for quite some time, but his climbing and descending were strong.

This was a “roadie course,” which was quite different from last week’s CompEdge Cross @  Blunt Park, which was a “mountain biker course.” Last week, i raced my geared Seven Mudhoney Pro. Today, I raced my Seven Mudhoney SL. Both are awesome bikes and tuned for the season.

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Shep was joined by Team Horst Junior Squad members Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. Cole Ricardi raced earlier in the day because oddly, there was no 15-18 year old Junior race. He had to do the Category 5 race. His dad Tom did the Men’s Cat 4 35+. Keith Enderle did the Masters 60+ race. Art Roti, Brett Chenail, and Eric Fleming did the Category 2/3/4 race. It was great to see Eric and his kids. Eric, Art, and I were three of the founding members of Team Horst Sports back in 1997.

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I was solo in the singlespeed race, but not without friends. It was great to see Ricky Legault, who I have been racing with for 26 years. I also enjoyed chatting with Rob Stiles, who I also banged bars earlier this week at the Andover Wednesday Night Fights. We both did the singlespeed mountain bike race.

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Today, it was quite a bit cooler than it was on Wednesday night, but by the afternoon, it had warmed up considerably. The race was at the hilly Kalon Farm. It was a wide open course, with sweeping corners. It was dry and dusty with only a few moist sections of trail. The riding was through fields. There was one stiff run-up. I had to run it, as did the other singlespeeders, but Shep was able to ride it.

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There were no barriers, so if you were strong enough, you could do the whole lap without getting off, which is odd. I think you should be forced off at least twice. The singlespeed race start was interesting. I was hoping to get a good start based on my Cross Results ranking, but the promoter had a different idea.

The co-ed singlespeed riders were told that we would have a Le Mans style start. Team Horst Sports was one of the first promoters to bring Le Mans starts to cyclocross when we hosted the Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross in Keene, New Hampshire from 1998-2003. We always had Le Mans starts where you were required to place your bike near the start line and then run from 50 meters back.

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Today’s race had a twist to the start. We were told to remove one shoe and place them in a cardboard box. Then, the promoter carried them 50 meters away, mixed them, and dumped them. We had to first run to our shoes, find ours, and then run to our bikes. I didn’t execute this very well and ended up in about 20th place by the first turn.

Thankfully, I had time to make up ground on the fast course. I moved up to 8th, but never got farther up in the field. It was a fun event. Cross is just getting rolling. I’m ready for some cooler temperatures and some mud.

Race Results

2018 CompEdge Cross @ Blunt park

The 2018 cyclocross season kicked off today at the CompEdge Cross @ Blunt Park in Springfield, Massachusetts. I hadn’t raced cross since my wreck at the Cyclocross National Championships in Reno, Nevada back in January.

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So, technically, because I raced twice in January, this was not my first cross race of the year, but it was my first cross race of the season. I was happy to be back at it. It’s been a long eight months with more than one setback in my recovery to full strength.

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I’m not at 100% yet, but think I can be by the end of the season in December. One of my goals is to return to the national championships (they are in Louisville, Kentucky) to race both the 45-49 and the singlespeed championship, and finish both events this time.

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Today’s race was a good start. I didn’t feel good, but thankfully, my leg injuries (fibula, ankle, quadricep, knee) didn’t cause any problems and I was able to go hard. It will take some more efforts like this over the next month to build the speed that I need to compete.

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One bright spot today was the presence of the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad and Team Horst Sports. We were out in force! There were a lot of kids in the Junior race at 1:15 P.M. They raced with the 55+ men and it looks like it worked. It would have been nice if they had separate race, and it would have been nice if the Juniors were divided by age, but the Cyclonauts didn’t charge the Juniors a penny to race. Entry fee was $0 which was a nice gesture. Kudos to them for putting on a fun grassroots event to kick off the season.

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Team Horst Junior Squad athletes Sean, Cole, Shepard, and Lars raced. As for the Masters riders, the star was Tom Ricardi. He took second place in the 55+ race. Along with me in the 45+ race were Art Roti, Wade Summers, and John Meyerle. Art had a fine race, finishing 6th, two spots in front of me. John did three races on the day. He gets the “ironman” award.

Most of the next 16 weeks will be dominated by cyclocross. Let’s go!

Race Results (will be posted when available)

2018 Ragged 50K (USATF National Trail Championship)

This past weekend, we returned to south/central New Hampshire for the Ragged 75 Stage Race and 50K. Debbie only ran the 50K, unlike 2015 when she ran the three-day stage race, which was previously called the Emerald Necklace 3-Day Stage Race.

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About 38 people did the stage race and they deserve extra credit. Over the three days, they completed the 75-mile Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsage-Greenway. Day 1 was about 24 miles. Day 2 was about 26. Day 3, despite being called a 50K, was about 34 miles.

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This year, the 50K doubled as the 2018 USATF 50K National Trail Championship. That’s a nice distinction, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot.

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People really don’t travel for the nationals. A handful of folks who are interested in a neat race, or are interested in qualifying for the mountain running team, come out and run. Years ago, Debbie race the 50K Trail National Championship when it was at the Headlands 50K in Marin.

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Regardless, the USATF kicked in some prize money and medals, and there were some fine performances. Despite the conditions and the rugged course profile, there were some fast times. David Sinclair posted a 4:17:36. He was followed by Simi Hamilton and David Kilgore. On the women’s side, Kasie Enman triumphed in 5:11:23. She was followed by Leah Frost and Elizabeth Ryan.

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Debbie earned one of those medals, for placing third in the women’s 40-44 age group. The race was hosted by SIX03, and they deserve a lot of credit for bringing runners and volunteers to persevere in the rain.

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That rain was an annoyance. I don’t mind a little moisture, but it’s been rainy and stormy all week. The past few days have been the worst. After some Friday heat, it rained all day on Saturday, and again today. We drove up late on Saturday and camped out at the start line. That made for a convenient early morning start, but it rained all night. Today, there were dry spells, but they never lasted more than an hour, and it was very humid. The grey sky made it feel terribly gloomy.

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Shepard is away, so Dahlia was my companion while Debbie was running. We made it to all four aid stations, but we missed Debbie at #2. We saw her at #1, #3, #4, and #5. Then we saw her at the finish. We had fun driving around the Sunapee region.

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I took a bunch of photos while Dahlia made friends at the aid stations. Speaking of friends, it was nice to see a bunch of old ones. Drew Best ran well, and was cheered by his dad, Greg.

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They hail from Connecticut, and I’m a big fan of Connecticut runners. Longtime friends, Amy and Brian Rusiecki did the 3-day race. We just saw them three weeks ago at the Vermont 100, where Brian won the 100K and Amy was Race Director. We also saw a bunch of folks who we first met at this race in 2015.

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Ernie Lawas also did the stage race. He and I have done some epic events over the years, including the 2006 Jay Challenge, which will forever be one of my favorite and hardest adventures.  He was crewed by partner Nancy Simm. He was also cheered by Ben and Kerri Moore. We all go way back to the early 2000’s adventure racing days.

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Debbie had a good day. She finished in 6 hours and 56 minutes. The wet conditions were a challenge for everyone, but she thrives in the foul weather. Her legs weren’t feeling spry, but she still ran well. She said that the course ran long. Her GPS said it was more than 34 miles. She said the last 10 miles were tough. Rather than finishing on the rail trail like she did in 2015, she had to go over Ragged Mountain and then descend to the ski area.

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The first 10 miles had a lot of road and dirt road, but once the runners made their way on to the trail, they had to deal with a lot of wet rocks and roots. It was a good representation of what New England has to offer, so I hope those that visited from out west were pleased. I’m an unabashed “East Coast Running” fan.

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The aid stations were stocked well and had lots of volunteers. Everything was low-key. At the first aid station, which was hosted by UnTapped Maple, Dahlia made friends, and soon took over. I was busy taking photographs, but she learned the nutrition information for the Untapped product line and proceeded to educate every runner that stopped.

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It was a fun 28 hour adventure for us, but all of the driving took its toll. I need a few days off from “trucking.” On the way up north, we stopped in Northampton and dined at Nourish. It was a fine vegan meal. On the drive home today, we made our usual stop at the Putney Co-Op.

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This was the last ultra that Debbie planned for 2018, but that doesn’t mean that she is done. She will be riding the Vermont 50 like last year, but I’m assuming that she will pick another long distance trail race (or two) to run. I just hope she doesn’t ask me to drive.

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Race Results

SmugMug Photo Gallery

2018 White Mountains Family Adventure #1

This past weekend, we had another great White Mountains family adventure. Our 2018 summer trips have been low-key. We opted to not travel far after a busy 2017 summer with two trips out west. This year, we decided to just spend time in the mountains of New England, and only two to three days at a time.

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Last month, we went to NEMBAfest for a mountain bike themed trip. Two weeks ago, we were back in Vermont, but just for a couple of days when Debbie ran the Vermont 100K. In the summer of 2017, we didn’t make it to our beloved White Mountain Huts, but we did visit Baxter State Park and we climbed Mt. Katahdin.

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So, this year, we decided to return to the huts and help the kids tick more 4,000 footers off their lists. It was a last-minute trip, so Debbie was challenged when tasked to plan the logistics because many of the huts were booked. She eventually figured out an itinerary that was a close approximation to our 2012 trip when we took the kids on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway to the summit, and then hiked “down” to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, stayed the night, hiked to Mizpah Spring Hut, stayed the night; and then hiked back to Crawford Notch.

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It’s hard to believe that was six years ago. Our kids were tiny, and we carried our daughter a good chunk of the way. This year, I had a hard time keeping up with the kids. They are turning in to powerhouse hikers. I was especially impressed with Dahlia. I already knew that Shepard had developed into a tough tramper, but in the past year, she has come on strong. This time, they hiked the entire way!

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Last Friday, I worked in the morning, but was able to get home by noon. We were already packed, and we made the drive to Twin Mountain, New Hampshire in about 4.5 hours after only one brief stop. We started at the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead shortly after 4:00 P.M., not far from the Cog Railway Base Station. We hiked the 3.1 mile steep trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It was raining lightly at the start, but by the time we got to the Hut, the late day sun had broken through the clouds. We arrived after 2 hours and 45 minutes of walking. We were nearly an hour late for dinner, but the Croo had saved food for us. It was a beautiful trail with lots of fun stream crossings.

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After dinner, we experienced an amazing sunset. It was a wonderful way to end the “work week.” We awoke on Saturday to a mix of clouds and partial sunshine. After breakfast, it looked like we were going to be socked in by more clouds, but on our 1.6 mile hike to the 6,322 foot summit of Mt. Washington, the skies cleared a bit more. This was Dahlia’s first ascent of the mountain, though she stood on the summit back in 2012 when we took the train.

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Shepard and I climbed the mountain in 2015, the last time I rode the Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb. So, he already had this one checked off the list. We snapped some pictures on the summit and then headed back down to the hut. On the way down, the clouds parted some more, and the sun shone even more brightly. It was turning out to be a really nice day. We refueled at he hut where we had left Dahlia’s pack hanging on a hook to save her from carrying the load. After we “geared” up, we started the traverse to Mizpah Spring Hut.

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This included the short but steep climb to the top of Mt. Monroe at 5,372 feet. Then, we went over Mt. Franklin at 5,001 feet, which isn’t on the official 4,000 footer list (the saddles between its summit and the adjacent peaks is not below the required 200 feet required for eligibility). We continued over Mt. Eisenhower, which at 4,760 feet is an official one, and then we summited Mt. Pierce, at 4,312, our fourth official peak of the day.

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The descent from the Pierce summit to the Hut is doozie, but we still arrived shortly after 4:00 P.M., more than an hour faster than we expected. The trip from Lakes of the Clouds was about 6 miles. We made good time despite a leisurely pace that included lots of breaks for photos and snacks. Both of the kids did great, and it was awesome to have such good weather. The predicted thunderstorms never materialized.

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We spent time lounging around, going over to the spring, exploring the Nauman Tentsite, resting, and listening to the Hut Naturalist’s talk. Dinner was fantastic, and we had great conversations with many new acquaintances.

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I was whooped, so I retired early while Debbie and the kids played games in the hut library. Despite having a snorer in our bunk room for the second night in a row, I slept OK. The weather on Sunday was even better. After breakfast, we made a leisurely descent down the Crawford Path to the notch. It was a little less than 3 miles. The trail was wet from more than a week of steady rain leading up to our trip, so we took care to remain on the rocks. Near the bottom, we bumped into our trail running friend, Larisa Dannis, who was heading out on a “Double Eisenhower Traverse.” She is an amazing athlete and super-hiker.

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When we reached the notch, Debbie handed me her pack, and she ran about 4 miles via Mt. Clinton Road (which is closed because it is impassable by car) and Base Road to fetch our car at the trailhead. The kids and I spent some time at the AMC Highland Center, horseing around on the playground, and rocking in the chairs on the front porch.

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Debbie returned with the car and we packed up. We spent another 24 hours in Cohos County. We drove 30 minutes northwest to visit with friends who live there. They were gracious hosts. We explored their land and then took a leisurely 6 mile canoe/kayak trip down a section of the Connecticut River. We saw two Great Blue Herons, and many other lovely birds. Shortly after noon on Monday, we were back on the road. We reached home a little after 5:00 P.M. and we were flatlanders again.

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2018 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race

Despite this being the 30th anniversary of the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, and the 20th year of Debbie’s ultrarunning career, this was only the second time that we have been to this event.

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That’s surprising considering that we have been to the VT100’s sister race, the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, all but one time since we met there in 1999. Both events are held annually to support Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports.

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The VT100 course doesn’t suit Debbie’s strengths. It is hilly, but the hills are rolling, rather than the steep terrain that she prefers. The footing is not challenging, which is the opposite of the rugged rocks and roots that she thrives on. Given the VT100’s heritage as  a horse race, there is a lot of horse trail, and rolling dirt roads, which are wider than the singletrack that she loves.

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It’s kind of the opposite of what she likes, but running 100 miles, or 100 kilometers, is still a great challenge regardless of the course difficulty. The 100 miler has about 17,000 feet of elevation gain, and the 100K about 9,000 feet. That’s nothing compared to the Hardrock Endurance Run’s 33,000 feet, but course variation is a welcome part of the sport.

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Hardrock conflicted in 2017 when Debbie was fortunate to gain entry via the lottery, and then finish the classic. In 2018, Hardrock again conflicted with the date of the VT100, but she wasn’t lucky like 2017, and we wanted to return to Vermont anyway, where the ultrarunning community vibe is also fantastic. Unlike last year, when she ran two 100 mile races with Hardrock, and then the Cascade Crest Endurance Run; this year, she decided to give her body a rest, and only run shorter ultras. Shorter ultras? Does that even make sense?

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Another race that has conflicted with the Vermont 100 date is the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, which she ran in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, on the same weekend as the VT100, she ran the Speedgoat 50K. I don’t know what conflicted in 2016, but we didn’t go to Vermont. So, it worked out that this was the year to make a return visit to the Green Mountain State in July.

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In 2018, she has run the MT. TAMMANY 10 (38 Mile), Traprock 50K, The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts (50 Mile), and she did a solo self-supported FKT on the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop. She has at least one more ultra remaining, but could rally and register for more. She is kind of waiting to see how things go. She is running the Ragged Mountain 50K next month, and then she riding the Vermont 50 in September. So far, she has no plans crafted for 2018, and like every year, lotteries will be a factor. The biggest, best, and most popular ultras are mostly exclusive affairs.

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Following the pounding of the 2012 VT100, she swore that she wouldn’t run it again. She has remained true to her word, because yesterday, she ran the 100 Kilometer “junior” version, and even thought the dirt roads were hard on her legs, there is a big difference between 100 miles and 100 kilometers. One of those differences is that she didn’t have to run in the dark. The 100 miler started at 4:00 A.M., but the 100 kilometer started at 9:00 A.M. She finished in 11 hours and 46 minutes, so she made it to the finish just before it was too dark to see without lights.

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This part of Vermont is special to us for many reasons, but mainly because it is where we met. We love Mt. Ascutney, and we had many fine views of the monadnock. Like we normally do, we made this weekend a family adventure. We were joined by Shepard and Dahlia. They have grown up crewing for their Mom, so this weekend was no different. They are less work for me, and more helpful than ever. Shepard became a first time pacer, running from Bill’s aid station at 50.6 miles to Polly’s aid station at 57.2 miles. His mother as thrilled to have him along, and he learned a lot in the process.

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When she got to Polly’s, she was gaining strength, and he was flagging a bit, so he stopped there, and she pushed on, hammering the final 5.1 miles in 53 minutes, a very fast kick. She left Polly’s without lights. I ran after her to remind her, but she was a 100 yards down the dirt road and just said she didn’t need them and that it was extra motivation to get in before dark. I still think she should have run back to grab them, but sometimes I fail to question her on these matters. I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but she flew that final stretch anyway.

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The entire day was magical. The kids and I saw her at the start, at six aid stations, and then the finish. We were all tired when this one was over. We camped both nights at Silver Hill Meadow, which is a VT100 tradition. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. We had many club members compete in the 100 miler. Debbie, Faith Raymond, and Kevin Hutt did the 100K, and it was fun to see them and be around their crews. Sadly, we didn’t see much of the others during the day. We got to the aid stations before all but he top few 100 milers, and then we were gone before our 100 mile friends arrived.

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We also missed the Pretty House aid station, which is manned by our club. The 100 miler has nine additional aid stations (the first nine) before meeting up with the 100K course. It’s that first section of the course that the 100K skips. From aid station 10 on, the courses are the same. Even at Camp 10 Bear, where runners come and go in both directions, and visit twice, we missed our other Shenipsit Striders friends.

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Each of the major aid stations has a theme and we went to some good ones. We visited Camp 10 Bear for the first time at 9.3 miles. Then, we went to Margaritaville at 20.8 miles. We returned to Camp 10 Bear at 31.7 miles. We continued on to Spirt of 76 at 38.5 miles (76 for the 100 milers). We visited the aforementioned Bill’s at 50.6 miles, and then we wrapped up at Polly’s at 57.2 miles. The finish was at the 62.3 mile mark back at Silver Hill Meadow.

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We were able to see only a handful of 100 milers. We frequently saw the top five or so men. Then, at our second Camp 10 Bear visit, we saw many middle and back-of-the-packers. I may have a follow-up post when the race results are published so that I can share more stories and stats. With mobile phone reception nearly non-existent, race communications and results tracking were very challenging. I only posted on social media one time, when we were at Bill’s. That high point was the only spot where I had an AT&T signal. I spent 10 minutes on my iPhone and my daughter gave me grief for it!

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We saw so many friend during the course of the day. We also met some new ones. I could go on and on about the people we spent time with. It was pure joy. There were lots of families, so our kids weren’t the only ones. Sometimes, that’s not the case. You would be surprised how many people leave their family at home and make this a solitary pursuit. We have chosen the opposite approach, and our family loves it. We packed the kids bikes and they explored some the meadows, trails, and dirt roads on their own.

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There were some strong performances in both the 100 mile race and the 100 kilometer race. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the women’s fields. They had some tight racing with a fast lineup of 100 mile runners. In the 100K, the top three women were 2nd, 3rd, and 6th overall. That third place spot went to Debbie, and she was happy with the result. She went out pretty fast, had a bad patch, but then recovered. Lori Wetzel and Jec Ballou traded places with Debbie in the first 20 miles, before the three settled in with Lori out front, Bec chasing close behind, and Debbie a little ways back.

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Every time we saw them, Lori and Jec appeared to be within two minutes of each other. It was fantastic to watch over 40+ miles as they fought it out for the win. Lori (11:11:13) prevailed by only one minute and 53 seconds over Jec (11:13:06) , which is amazing. Debbie was 33 minutes back (11:46:27), but at one time, that deficit had grown to nearly 50 minutes. It was her final charge from Polly’s that closed the gap, but by then, she had run out of “real estate.” Still, she was thrilled to be on the podium. Brian Rusiecki was the class of the men’s 100K field, posting a 9:39:12 for the win. Second and third went to Gregory Esbitt (11:33:06) and Bryan Bourque (11:35:05) who also had a tight race for their podium spots.

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I didn’t follow the 100 mile race as closely but saw the awards ceremony and there were some great performances. The men’s winner was Jason Lantz (15:36:49). He was followed by Ryan Witko, and Jinks Alexander. We saw all of them on course. The top women were Lindsay Simpson (18:02:21), Riley Brady (18:35:07), and Kathleen Cusick (18:36:42, and who won in that 2012 battle that Debbie was part of). A shout out goes to Jordan Grande, a fellow Shenipsit Striders mate who ran the race of her career, finishing 8th in 19:58:42.

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Another longtime friend and club mate is NipMuck Dave Raczkowski. Dave has been written about and photographed many times over the years. I knew he was racing, but was thrilled to spot him on course. The kids and I were driving from Camp 10 Bear to Spirt of 76, and we spotted him exiting the woods as he arrived at Lillians aid station. It was on a main road, so I pulled over, parked with the hazard lights on, and ran back to greet him. I shot some photos and video with my iPhone and wished him well. Fittingly, I got to see him finish, nearly 20 hours later.

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I shot more than 1,000 photos and put most of them in a gallery on my SmugMug site. I didn’t have much time to sort and edit, but I enjoyed skimming through them and seeing so many joyful images that captured the spirit of the weekend.

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Amy Rusiecki has been the Race Director for a few years now. It was our first time seeing her in action, and she ably led a huge cadre of dedicated volunteers. Amy even ran a leg of the 100K as a blind runner’s guide. That was cool to see. She was up all night like the runners, and was back at the finish line in the morning, greeting the runners as they arrived. She was at the line right up until the 30 hour cutoff of the 100 miler.

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On our Friday afternoon drive north, Debbie told me that a little “controversy” was brewing over the race’s “unequal” awards/recognition. These are always thorny matters to discuss, and I’ll mainly avoid the drama. Earlier this week, social media erupted with chatter about the 100 miler men awards going 10 deep and the women awards only going five deep. I don’t know all the details. Today, they honored 10 men and 10 women, but it appeared to be an awkward moment when they called up the top 10 females, and didn’t have (or give) extra awards for places six through 10. In the 100K, which drew a smaller field, the top three men and top three women were honored, and given prizes.

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This situation may have been one blight on an otherwise fantastic weekend and a fantastic effort by the organizers to put on a great event. It should be noted again that this event races a large sum for the nonprofit Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. The last time I wrote about gender issues at length, was 11 years ago after the 1st Annual Herc Open Vermont Speed Hiking Competition. It turned out to be the first and last Herc Open. My blog post drew attention at the time, but that was before social media exploded. Otherwise, it might have spurred even more discussion at the time. I’ll save further comment for another time. Maybe the issue deserves a focused blog post. Debbie is the perfect resource to consult on the subject, but for today, I’m going to focus the rest of my writing on the race itself.

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I had a blast hanging out with Shepard and Dahlia. They had their “moments” of frustration and tiredness that led to the usual bickering. However, they were really fantastic crewmates. We experienced the race in a totally different way than we did in 2012 when they were much younger. Thankfully, that weekend, I had our “go to” pacer/crewmate Danny Roy, and my mother-in-law, Barbara Schieffer, helping out. This weekend, I was able to manage the kids and play “crew chief” without the help of others.

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After we greeted Debbie at the finish line, we wandered to the food tent, helped her refuse, and change. Then, we made our way back to the tent city in the upper meadow.

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We had a restless night of sleep, listening to the roar of the crowd as each new finisher arrived. This continued until the early morning before it tapered as fewer and fewer runners remained on course. We got up, ate breakfast, and hung around, chatting with friends.

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That last 90 minutes of an ultra is always very special. You see some amazing grit. Raw emotion and physical effort are on display. The love of crew and family coupled with the desire of the runners, and the cheers of the spectators, makes for a delightful experience.  I spent the final hour and a half, standing in the rain (which started around 8:00 A.M.), and soaking in as much of the Vermont 100 spirit as I could. This race has a vibe that rivals most other races.

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It’s really something you have to experience. It is a great race to volunteer at. It’s also a great race to crew, pace, or spectate. You don’t have to run to experience the joy of this community. After 10:00 A.M., arrived, we made our way back to the big tent for more socializing and then the award ceremony.

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It appears that Debbie is the first person to finish all of the VASS races: the VT100 run, the VT50 run, the VT50K run, the VT50 bike, and now the VT100K run. These are unofficial records, but we learned of this unique feat from a good source. All that would remain for her to finish is the original race that got this all started…the Vermont 100 Endurance Ride (horse race). Today, two people joined an esteemed group (which now totals six) who have finished both the 100 mile run and the 100 mile horse ride.

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Last night, after she left Polly’s, she could literally “smell the barn.” I’ve been her crush the final miles of an ultra many times in the past. She has also suffered to the finish in misery, but more times than not, she has rallied and summoned the strength (mental and physical) to finish strong, like few other runners I know. Last night, she was feeling good, was motivated, and she “smoked” those final miles. It’s fitting that the event has a horse theme because some horse riding may be in her future.

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