2015 CompEdge Cyclocross

Today’s CompEdge Cyclocross was a ton of fun. It was the first time in more than 125 cyclocross races that I’ve ever raced in August. Heck, cross used to be an “offseason” sport. Now, it is the main event. With so little going on in the New England road cycling season, and the triathlon season winding down, I opted to race at Blunt Park in Springfield. It was a dust fest.

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After 17 cross races in 2013, I did zero in 2014 after breaking my shoulder in a hard road crash on Labor Day Weekend last year. I’m 95% recovered from that injury and am ready for a full season of cross culminating with the USA National Cyclocross Championships in Asheville, NC in January 2016. My goal is to do 15 races in the next 14 weeks. I’m feeling good and looking forward to the action.

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10 days ago, Horst Engineering launched our revamped lineup of Horst Spikes, so it’s hard not to be pumped. Today, I used my brand new Sidi mountain shoes with Medium Horst Spikes. The course was a screamer with a ton of turns. My racing age is 44, so that means I’m one of the oldest guys in the Masters 35+ field. I would prefer a 40+ race, but today they only had 45+ and 35+. We started with the Elite/1/2/3 men, so the race was a hammerfest. I covered 9.2 miles in 47:16. There were a lot of turns and it was hard to pass. Blunt is one of those urban parks that isn’t pristine. It’s well used, but it was a nice venue and only 40 minutes from home.

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I’ve got work to do to improve my crossresults.com ranking after not racing in 2014. I’m ready for the fun. Today, I had a good ride and was focused on form and getting back in the groove. I was pleased to finish 4th in my age group (I think 19th including the young guns), which scored me $30. That’s $5 short of the entry fee. If I had pre-registered, I would have made a profit. Of course, no one profits from racing amateur cyclocross. Of course, I can claim that I get “paid to ride.” Just don’t tell the IRS! They collect enough tax from our family business.

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Thank you to the Cyclonauts for putting on the event. Team Horst Sports had a nice day. Matt Domnarski took the win in the 45+ race. Ted D’Onofrio joined him for the event. I was joined in the 35’s by my colleague and friend, Arthur Roti. He and I both also ride for Team Seven Cycles. Our Mudhoney’s are dusty, but they worked great! The fact that cyclocross season is underway made up for my awful attempt to make pancakes for breakfast. Every one I cooked stuck to the pan. It was more like scrambled pancakes. I boiled over the maple syrup when warming it on the burner. It was a disaster. Debbie came to the rescue in time for me to head to the race.

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I’m still searching for one more sprint triathlon to wrap up the season, but the options are few and far between now that my schedule is loaded up with travel and of course, cyclocross.

John Salley & the Vegan Vine

This morning, I was able to visit Allan S. Goodman, Inc. for their weekly sales meeting. Goodman, a family owned business, is run by Dave Heller, a YPO friend. Goodman and sister company, Rogo Distributors, are very close and are long time East Hartford neighbors. So close, that this morning, I rode my bike to Goodman from our  Burnham Street plant in nine minutes. It took a few minutes longer on the way back because I had to go up Long Hill, and I had a bottle of wine in each of my panniers. Goodman couldn’t be more different from Horst Engineering. We have entirely different products, but business is business, and I find any capitalist venture fascinating. Capitalist ventures that feature wine tasting on Friday mornings are near the top of my list!

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This sales meeting was extra special because they had a guest. The guest was John Salley, who had a nice career as a professional basketball player in the NBA and has followed it up with a career as a wellness advocate and media personality. Salley’s latest venture is as part-owner of the Vegan Vine, a Northern Central Coast of California winery. Salley’s presence made for a lively Goodman sales meeting that was part pep rally, and part information session. I was invited as Dave’s “vegan friend.” That label made me laugh, but I’m proud of my lifestyle.

When I pulled in to the Goodman parking lot on my bike, Salley happened to be coming into the building. It’s hard to miss a six foot-11 inch man, especially one who I watched many times in the 1980’s and 1990’s when I loved to watch TV sports. As I dismounted, I said, “Good morning.” His first words to me were, “Thanks for doing your part to take care of the planet.” I thought that was pretty cool and it was a nice way to start a Friday. He made a good first impression with his big smile and cheer.

After I parked my bike in the lobby, Dave and I sat in his office and spent 30 minutes quizzing John on business, wine, basketball, wellness, Hollywood, and life. We had a fun chat. Salley is a smooth talker, quick-witted, and irreverent. Honestly, I didn’t know he was such a champion of animal rights, a plant-based diet, and other wellness related topics. He is base in Los Angeles and I haven’t owned a TV since I left my parents house in 1997, so his more recent celebrity status was off my radar. I’m glad I didn’t know much about his wellness career because he had me laughing heartily on multiple occasions.

The sales meeting was hilarious. 40 of us were in stitches as he pitched his wines, told stories, and cracked jokes. He pushed the sales team to get out there and push his wines. That’s their job with a package store on every corner. At $14,99/bottle, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are both reasonably priced. He stressed that the wine stands on the merits of its quality and that the vegan characteristics are an added bonus. I wish I had a recording because some of his thoughts about veganism were excellent. His humor was spot on. He isn’t politically correct, but his matter of fact style is fun and engaging. After the meeting, he was happy to take #salleyselfies and proved that no selfie stick could compete with his long arm. He didn’t judge those with questions about veganism. Several people professed that they eat meat, but he was OK with that. He is proud that his wine is served at some of New York’s best steak houses because it’s a good wine.  Despite this, his passion for his causes came through loud and clear. He said that he doesn’t eat meat because he wants to be strong as an ox, so he eats what they eat:  plants. He said he wants to be as strong as an 800 pound gorilla, so he eats what they eat: plants. His life changed in 1991 when a friend helped him realize that he was poisoning his body. She helped him reverse course and go from an unsustainable and unhealthy lifestyle to one that now revolves around care for his body, mind, spirit, other living things, and the Earth.

His story resonated with me and the wine was pretty good too. Most wines contain egg whites, casein, and other animal products. They are used as “fining agents.” In addition to being vegan, the Vegan Vine’s wines are made sustainably and in an all natural way. Salley has been involved with the parent organization, Clos LaChance, for three years. They went through a period of new product development, rebranding, and bottle redesign. Now they are finally hitting the road in an effort to expand distribution. The Goodman sales meeting served as the launch for eastern Connecticut. The wine will be rolled out in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in early 2016. It is already available in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and elsewhere outside of the northeast.

Meeting Salley, talking shop, and learning a bit more about the wine distribution business was a great way to spend 60 minutes on a Friday morning. By 10:00 A.M., I was back at our plant, and focused on precision machining again.

2015 Emerald Necklace 3-Day Stage Race

Today, Debbie completed the MadAthlete Emerald Necklace 3-Day Stage Race in Andover, New Hampshire. This 80 mile trail running race included all of the 75 mile Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsage-Greenway (aka Emerald Necklace) hiking trail in the Lake Sunapee region of central New Hampshire.

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The 80 mile loop course was split into three stages with each stage starting at 7:00 A.M. There was about 13,000 feet of elevation gain and 13,000 feet of elevation loss over the course. The mix of rugged mountain trails, dirt roads, asphalt roads, and rail trail made for a nice mix of terrain. Three major peaks were summited: Ragged Mountain Mount Kearsage, and Mount Sunapee.

  • Stage 1, Friday, 25 miles
  • Stage 2, Saturday, 24 miles
  • Stage 3, Sunday, 32 miles

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This was the second year for the race. The SKRG trail is “blazed,” but the markings were a challenge in 2014. This year, they were better, but the format of this race calls for runners to care maps with them and do a bit of navigating. There weren’t a lot of added course markings. 14 one page maps and descriptions were provided and pre-race meetings the night before each stage covered the details. Debbie thrives on this sort of race. Her first multi-day race was last month’s Speedgoat Mountain Races, though she has done several multi-day adventure races in the past.

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About 43 runners started the event on Friday. Some did it as two person teams, but most did it solo. Debbie will write her own blog post and likely describe more of the logistics. This was a challenging format to follow, but a very fun format. There wasn’t as much opportunity to crew as traditional ultras, but the race organizers had lots of support. I didn’t arrive with our kids until Saturday mid-day. Debbie had already completed the 25 mile stage on Friday.

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We got there just in time and saw her finish the 24 mile stage 2. We had a blast hanging out at the finish yesterday, which was at the Sunapee Middle High School. The school also served as a base camp, where starting on Thursday night, the runners slept in their tents set-up on the Little League field. Runners were required to camp at the venue after each stage. The runners were also required to carry a pack and other mandatory gear.

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On Friday morning, they drove their cars to the start on Friday, for stage 1, which was also the finish for stage 3. They were bused back to the base camp after the finish of State 1. On Saturday, they were taken by bus to the start and then finished at the school where their tents were set-up. Today, they started at the base camp and ran to the finish at Potter Place Railroad Station.

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This race had a real community atmosphere. It was a small field, which was probably the result of a lack of marketing, the entry fee ($400), and the three-day format requiring at least one day off from work. Our home in Connecticut is 2.5 hours from the SRKG, so Debbie as able to leave on Thursday afternoon and get there in time for the first meeting. I got help from both sets of grandparents to watch our kids on Friday.

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I collected them on Saturday morning, spent a little time at work, and then drove up to catch Debbie. As I mentioned, we were fortunate to catch her. Stage 2 turned out to be her toughest day. She won the first stage in 5:54:56 and was 5th overall. I don’t have much detail on the race because I wasn’t there. I know that she had about an eight minute gap to Allyson Koenig. I also know that it rained most of the day on Friday. Ally got the better of Debbie on stage 2, but only by 23 seconds. They were together for quite some time, but Ally pulled ahead in the last mile. Debbie finished in 5:19:49. She ran out of water with three miles to go and faded in the mid-day heat. The weather was much warmer and dry on Saturday. She admitted that not having the proper hydration was a mistake, but it didn’t cost her badly.

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Our longtime family friend, Marjorie, joined us at the finish. There were some fun things to do for family members. At the finish of stage 2, there were “kiddie pools” and a dunk tank, which drew a crowd. Marjorie and her husband, Len, moved from Connecticut to New Hampshire several years ago, and they were happy to host us. We were happy to stay with them. The kids and I stayed at their home and Debbie joined us for some afternoon fun on Little Lake Sunapee. I brought her back to the school for the meeting (it was 10 minutes away), then back to the house for dinner, and then back to the school for bedtime. We got to visit our friend’s farm, the Bucklin Farm, which is historic. The farm has not been a “working farm” for years, so it will be interesting to watch its transformation.

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Today, the 32 mile stage passed very close to the house. The weather was fine. It was mixed sun and clouds, with a cooler temperature compared to yesterday. I attempted to catch her at Aid Station 1 (11 mile mark), but missed her by eight minutes. She was ahead of schedule. I was able to see her at Aid Station 2 (19 mile mark) and walked with her for a little ways before returning to the house to pack up our gear and grab the kids.

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We got to the finish at Potter Place in time to have some fun and hang out. The old train depot was a neat venue for the race. We were surprised and thrilled to be joined by Debbie’s coach, Al Lyman, and his friend Terry. We love spending time with them. We were last at a big race together in May at the Miwok 100K. There was a caboose right at the finish line, which made for great scenery. The kids had a blast playing on and around the tracks.

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The last two miles of the race were on the unpaved rail trail that passes through the depot. It may have actually stopped there, but I didn’t notice. Debbie finished strongly in 6:29:38. Her total time for the three stages was 17:44:23, which was faster than last year’s first woman. She felt great today. When I saw her at mile 19, she was pumped to be feeling so good and she picked it up a notch in the last 13 miles. She loved the trails. She got to run with a variety of guys over the three days.

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Ally finished the final stage with Kristie Clark, who was third on stages 1 and 2. Ally ended up 2nd overall and Kristie was third. I didn’t get the last names of all the men, but will update their results when posted online.

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The race directors, Tom Flummerfelt (who recently set the FKT on the SRKG) and Mike Sarnowski,  got strong support from a cadre of volunteers. The post-race spread after each stage was high quality with lots of options for the runners. The aid stations were also well stocked. Proceeds from the race benefitted the Chad Denning Memorial Fund. Chat was a friend and fellow endurance athlete. Along with Tom, he was a co-founder of the event, and tragically died in 2014 after the inaugural race. This year’s event was held in his honor.

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Runners got some nice gear prizes. Debbie got some nice items and a cool trophy platter with the map of the course. While I was watching and taking photos, I was wishing I was out there running. It looked like a fun event. One of the only downers was that we had two cars and both had to drive home. That wasn’t as bad for me, but for Debbie, after three days of running, I’m sure she wasn’t happy to drive herself. Regardless, we ended another great weekend in the mountains.

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Race Results (will be posted when made official)

 

2015 Winding Trails Off-Road Summer Tri Series

Last year was a tough sporting year, but thanks to the challenges I faced, 2015 has been a fantastic comeback year and the results have been even sweeter than imagined. I haven’t “gone long” but the short sprint triathlons and other local races I’ve done have been so much fun. Of all the races I missed in 2014, the Winding Trails Summer Triathlon Series races were the ones I missed the most.

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The 10 race series celebrated its 15th year and 150th event tonight at the season finale. That is an amazing accomplishment. I have more than 30 of them on my palmares. The format, a 1/4 mile swim/5 mile mountain bike/3.1 mile trail run is tried and true. I raced 9 of the 10 events this summer. I skipped the race that was the day before the Pat Griskus Triathlon.

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The epic “tempest” race didn’t count towards the results, so rather than scoring on your best eight finishes, the overall results were scored on your best seven finishes. I was fortunate to win five of the nine races I entered and was second in the other four (behind four different competitors) which secured me the overall win. I had an insurmountable lead going into tonight’s race, but I was focused on finishing with a very strong result. Last week, Jon Arellano out kicked me in the final meters and that stung a bit. I was proud of his victory, his first in many years trying.

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I didn’t have the best preparation for tonight’s race, but that is out it goes. If you choose to “go hard” on the weekends, then you aren’t always fresh for Tuesday night. That is one of the things that makes the series so challenging. You have to bring your best effort every week and remain consistent all summer long. Climbing Mt. Washington twice in a weekend (once on my bike and once on my feet) left my legs heavy and sore, but I was determined to push through the discomfort. I had a decent swim and a strong bike. Ken Schulz is my usual benchmark, and he held me off until the start of the run, so I knew that A) he was having a good ride and B) I was going to have to suffer on the run.

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I knew that Jon would be breathing down my neck. I passed him, Roberto Diniro, and Joel Emmendorfer, all serious rivals, earlier on the mountain bike leg. It was a warm night, but a very pleasant night. After passing Ken, I set the pace as hard as I could, going through the first mile in 6:34 and then the second mile in 6:25. The trail was a bit rougher than usual with wood chips and eroded sand making for some challenging footing. I decided to not look back until I could feel Jon breathing down my neck. I knew he was coming. His running has been getting stronger all summer. Coming in to tonight, we have had two fierce sprint finishes and I felt that we were in for a third.

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I punched it on the last few uphill sections hoping to stave him off, but he closed in on me on the final descent before the bridge. I chose to glance back twice to get a sense of where he was and to ensure that he wouldn’t jump me. I was throughly beaten in the sprint last week, but felt that I had better legs despite the biking and hiking in New Hampshire. I surged with 100 meters to go, but he passed me on the left. I didn’t let go, didn’t give up, and pulled even again before unleashing a furious kick up the right side. He had worked very hard to close the gap and I knew that if I sustained my sprint, that he would break. He had nothing left to give and in a role reversal, eased just before the finish, giving me a well fought victory. That made me smile.

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I was absolutely cooked. We have been pushing each other all summer long and for a couple of 40+ year-old athletes, that is very cool. That intensity and competition is why we race. In the overall standings, I was followed by Jon (who leapt from 4th) and then Roberto.  Debbie came into the series sitting in third a mere two points out of first. She needed to pick up a couple of minutes on her rival, Lizz Weiler, who took over the lead last week. She moved up one spot and came oh so close to making it a husband/wife top step of the podium, but Lizz prevailed. Debbie was 2nd and Alison Masopust was third overall.

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Our children both did the kids race and had a blast. My parents and Debbie’s parents came to watch. The post-race festivities were fantastic and full of good cheer. Race Director, Sharon McHale, was honored for her 15 years of service. She said she is “retiring,” so we will see what 2015 brings. The best and worst award that I received was a free entry into next year’s series. The 10 races take a serious commitment. It isn’t easy to work all day, fight the Hartford and Farmington traffic, and push yourself week in and week out. I haven’t set any goals for next year, so I’ll give it some time before deciding if I’m gunning for the series title again. This was my first after being runner-up in the past, so it is a nice accomplishment and one that I’m proud of. I love the Winding Trails community. Sharon, Tiny Tri Race Director Jimena Florit, the staff, and volunteers do a great job. The race has many great sponsors including Fleet Feet, Collinsville Canoe & Kayak, CT Outdoor Guide, CCAP, Timex, Biker’s Edge, Central Wheel, Newington Bicycle, Berlin Bicycle,  and Team Horst Engineering’s shop sponsor, Benidorm Bikes. There were some fine results from my teammates on the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes. The race has introduced hundreds of athletes to the sport of triathlon. The kids race, Tiny Tri, and main event have a high status in my ranking of well-run events.

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I’m hoping to do one more road sprint triathlon before hanging up the wetsuit and triathlon bike for the season. Cyclocross season is coming and I’m planning to translate my sprint fitness into good cross results. I won’t get too far ahead of myself. Right now, I’m ready for a shower bedtime because the Wednesday after Winding Trails always brings one sure thing…work, and I’m on the road again.

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Race #10 Results

Series Results (will be posted when available)

2015 Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb

Yesterday’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb was a fun event. It was the sixth time that I’ve ridden the race. I returned in 2014 after a 13 year hiatus, and wanted to do it again this year. Two weeks after I rode the race last August, I crashed and fractured my scapula. It took a while to heal, but figured this race would be part of my comeback. I’ve now raced it in 2015, 2014, 2001, 2000, 1999, and 1997. My best time was 15 years ago in 2000. I was in my late 20’s and at the peak of my road cycling fitness. My 2015 time was almost the same as my 2014 time, though I don’t know the exact time because the official results have not been posted. I rode 1:17 or so for the second year in a row, which is not bad considering I rode my commuter bike, worked all day on Friday, and we drove up late, arriving around 11:00 P.M. My Seven Axiom SL is my favorite bike, a great bike, and my best option with  a 39 x 27 gear ratio. I rode within my limits for the entire 7.6 miles, choosing not to throttle myself. The race is hard enough without blowing a gasket. Before the start, I knew I was going to hike the mountain again on Sunday with  my son, and that the final Winding Trails Summer Tri Series race is Tuesday. I couldn’t afford to be hammered for the last race of the season because I’ve got a lot on the line.

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In the end, the few images that professional photographer, Joe Viger, captured say it all. The race is sheer suffering and the final 22% pitch is one of my favorite stretches of road on Earth. I was happy to pay for a few of Joe’s photos. He was in the right spot at the right time and I couldn’t take pictures of myself. I had this idea that I was going to ring my handlebar bell on that final pitch, but with the noise from the assembled crowd, no one would hear a thing. Plus, I was pulling on the bars so hard, they could have snapped right off. I totally forgot to try. I’m not sure if I could have even got my thumb into position. The road is that steep.

We had the best weather of my six races on the rock pile. It was mild and partly sunny on the summit, which was a far cry from last year’s cold and damp weather. There was a light breeze and that cooled things off a bit, but it was very tolerable. On the lower slopes, it was warm. Debbie and the kids opted to stay in the valley. I got a ride down from Bill Houle, a fellow I met at the “need a ride” board before the race. After the finish, I hung out on the summit, remaining in my shorts and short sleeves for quite some time. I didn’t even bother going in to the visitors center. I carried my vest and arm warmers up with me, but after the finish, I only put them on to be a bit more comfortable. My teammate, Tim Wern, had a fine ride. We were briefly together after a mile or so, and then he was gone. I also saw Bolton friends, Kevin Glenn and Andy Chambers. They had their own Bolton fan club, including: Laurie Brooks, Bruce Christensen, and the rest of the Chambers Family. Laurie was joined by her sister, Jane Chauvin, and her husband Marc. I saw a bunch of other friends from the New England cycling community.

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After we drove down, I rode the 3.5 miles back to our campsite at Dolly Copp. I had ridden to the start early in the morning. The whole round trip with the hill climb sandwiched in the middle of my warmup and warm down was loads of fun. I’ll have to think about returning in 2016. It’s hard to imagine not doing it. I love the road. Maybe I’ll have to get a larger contingent of Horst Engineering Cycling Team mates to join me. Of course, I’ve always wanted to do the Wildman Biathlon, and I think it is the week before Mt. Washington. If I don’t return for the bicycle hill climb next year, I’ll do it again in the future.

I missed having Debbie and the kids on the top this year, but it was great to have the support from these friends. Bruce was particularly fun to be with. About two turns before the finish, he ran alongside me screaming encouragement at the top of his lungs. I felt like a pro for a moment. Of course, that is the point of riding Mt. Washington. It is a glorious hill and an amazing road. Proceeds benefit Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which is a noble cause.

Race Results

2015 Niantic Bay Triathlon

Today, I returned to the Niantic Bay Triathlon for the first time since 2013. Sadly, I missed last year’s race. The course is one of my favorites. It was the 6th time that I’ve done the event. Today was the 17th edition. My first was back in 2002.

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The course is 10 minutes from my parents place in Old Lyme, and where I spent the summers of my youth at Old Colony Beach. I enjoy the 1/2 mile ocean swim, though its more like a bay swim with a nuclear power plant warming the water! The 12 mile bike course is also a favorite with its undulating roads and several tight turns. The fun 3.2 mile run no longer includes the scenic Bluff (Superstorm Sandy’s damage caused serious erosion), but the twisting course winds its way around the beach community before finishing on the beach.

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I had heavy legs today, and knew it before the start. I was in the second wave and had to deal with a lot of traffic on the swim. It was shallow and the water was dirty, but everyone dealt with the same conditions. I was just slow. The current wasn’t bad as the tide was low. I made up a lot of ground on the bike. I did a lot of passing and didn’t get passed. I moved up, but was limited in how much I could improve my position. I felt good on the run, but the time was nothing special.

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I finished strong, but know that my time was about three minutes slower than 2013 and my 2nd slowest time ever. I still managed 5th overall and 1st in 40-44, so I’m pleased.

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Spencer Ralston crushed us again. I love his exuberance. He lives less than 10 minutes from us in Hebron, so I’m really rooting for him. He has major upside. Debbie and I were joking with him after the race. She rode her bike from Old Lyme to cheer me on. When we finished, he was asking me about Debbie’s insane Speedgoat race in Utah last weekend. I said that he ought to talk to her himself and pointed her out on the other side of transition. He ran over yelling to get her attention, “Mrs. Livingston!”

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I loved that moment. I quizzed him about his goals. He has the XTERRA World Championships on tap plus several ITU style road triathlons this fall. He is working towards a spot on the USA Triathlon Olympic training squad. His swimming and running are his strengths. If he improves his bike skills, gets in to some regular group rides, builds his cycling strength, then he has a shot. I think he said that he has to be able to swim a mile in less than 18 minutes and run a mile in less than 4:37, which is nuts. Go Spencer!

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He made us laugh when to further highlight his upside, he said that he “grew an inch last year.” He further noted that his Mom isn’t happy because he no longer fits any of his pants. Oh, to be 20 again! All kidding aside, he really put the smack down today and had the only sub-60 minute time of the 412 finishers. He was followed by Brendan Atkins and Gilles Benjabauer. Special note that fellow Hartford Extended Area Triathletes clubmate, William Schumann, was in front of me. He is a very strong 50+ triathlete. He put more than three minutes into me on the swim and I only eroded a minute of that gap between the bike and run.

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Leading the women was Elise Vonhousen. She was followed by Caroline Pierce and Meghan Pagliuco. Niantic is also known for beginners and first timers. There were a lot of great performances. Nice beach road courses like Niantic take work to put on, and with the HMF staff, volunteers, and local police, there were more than 100 people supporting the racers. There were lots of marshals and even though I know the course by heart, I appreciated all the help.

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I’ve got a quick turnaround to Winding Trails on Tuesday night where I got beat last week. I wasn’t happy about that, but also had dead legs and didn’t feel good in the heat. I’m hoping to avenge that (unless Spencer shows up!) but in the end, I’m just happy that I’m racing near the front again.

Race Results

Speedgoat Mountain Races (Vertical Mile-50K-Quadbanger)

There isn’t one image that sums up the Speedgoat Mountain Races held at Snowbird in Alta, Utah this past weekend. I’ve got nearly 2,000 images to sort, and not enough time. The event is the creation of Race Director, Karl Meltzer, Jr.  He is one of the top ultrarunners of all time and a very good Race Director too. He is well-known for his 100 mile race victories, his Appalachian Trail FKT attempts, and his commentary on the sports of trail running and ultrarunning. He has carved out a career as an athlete, coach, journalist, gear designer, and race director. Only a handful of trail running/ultrarunning personalities have developed a brand, and he is one of them. He is the Speedgoat and this race weekend had his stamp al over it, starting with the brutal difficulty and unique nature of the courses. The Speedgoat 50K, in its 8th year, was the main event, but he added two new events to create a trail running festival.

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Vertical Mile, 3:00 P.M. Friday 25 July

The Speedgoat Mountain Races kicked off on Friday with the Vertical Mile. Along with the Speedgoat 50K on Saturday, and the Quadbanger on Sunday, it made up a trio of trail running races.  The uphill only race attracted a handful of runners doing all three Speedgoat races and other runners choosing only to do this appetizer (namely family members of 50K runners, like me, and other local runners). I don’t know how many runners finished all three events, but I think it was less than 10.

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With 5,500 feet of climbing, the race is named for what it is, a vertical mile. To get in that much elevation, two trips up Hidden Peak were required. The first 3.6 mile ascent was timed from the Creekside venue up to the top of the Peruvian Chairlift and climbed 2,600 feet. The timing was paused when you stepped on the lift deck. Runners rode the lift down, and then the timing started again when they stepped off the lift. The second ascent was 2.4 miles and 2,900 feet of gain, finishing just below the 11,000 foot summit of Hidden Peak, and near the Snowbird Tram station.

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Despite the uphill pain Debbie and I both enjoyed the race. For my efforts, I earned a new Black Diamond headlamp. All the runners got a Patagonia Capilene t-shirt and a stainless steel pint glass. Debbie finished in 1:57:48, good for 5th place amongst the women, but first of the women doing the 50K. Timmy Parr won the race in 1:20:24. He was followed by Nathan Peters and Michael Wardian. The first three women were Bethany Lewis in 1:46:35, followed by Rachel Cieslewicz, and Holly Hagerman.

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I had a lot of fun running with Paul Terranova, who I met for the first time. We are connected through many other friends, but had never formally met in person. He wasn’t far behind me after the first ascent, and along with Holly, and Matthew Van Horn, we rode the quad lift down together. The second trip up the mountain was even harder. Karl had us go straight up a 45% grade. It was hand over fist for nearly a mile and was more of a bushwhack than a trail run. The best part was the glorious smell that came from the abundant wildflowers.

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Paul and I stuck together for most of the second ascent, even stopping at one point on the ridge, to take pictures of one another with my iPhone. I was wishing I brought a little food because I ran out of gas in the last 400 meters. One gel would have helped, but I had to make do with the little water left in my bottle.

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I waited for Debbie to finish and we hung around the top of the mountain for a little while and then rode the tram back to the Snowbird Center. We walked back to the Creekside venue where we stashed a bag with recovery drink and other gear. We eventually returned to the hotel where we washed up and had an early dinner. We loved the two climb format and riding the chairlift was a lot of fun.

Vertical Mile Race Results

50K, 6:30 A.M., Saturday 25 July

When Debbie planned her 2015 season, Speedgoat was on the short list of candidate races to compete in. She lost out in the Western States Endurance Run lottery, and decided to wait until fall for a 100 mile race. That left the summer open for a travel race. Since we spent 10 days in Marin County and San Francisco for the Miwok 100K in early May, we decided to choose a shorter race that would allow for a shorter trip with just the two of us. Speedgoat was the perfect candidate because it has been a goal for many years. The addition of the Vertical Mile the day before the 50K; and the Quadbanger, the day after, gave her even more opportunity to run in the mountains.

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The race is billed as the toughest 50K in the country, and I don’t doubt that. With 11,000 feet of elevation gain and 11,000 feet of elevation loss over 32+/- miles in the Wasatch Range of northern Utah, it has the credentials to be one of the toughest races in the world. Mile-for-mile, there isn’t much that compares.

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The work that Karl did with the Snowbird resort, staff, and his army of volunteers was remarkable. As a Hoka sponsored athlete, he was able to bring in strong production support and sponsorship from his title sponsor, Ultraspire, Drymax, Black Diamond, and several other notable brands, to complement the support that he got from Snowbird. As trail races go, Speedgoat was quite a production. Countering that high level of sponsorship, Karl got a lot of help from his family, which gave this large event a grassroots feel. That is quite an accomplishment considering it is very hard to balance a high production event with sponsors and the feel of a small community oriented trail race. Karl has been an advocate for prize money and he was very generous with his support for the top men and women runners.

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This was the first time he added two events to create a full weekend of adventure called the Speedgoat Mountain Races. These “trail running festivals” have grown in popularity as runners travel to destination races and desire to pack in as much running fun as they can. Adding events is good for race directors. It brings in more revenue, more runners, and more attention. A resort like Snowbird can benefit from all the summer activity as runners travel with crews and families.

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Speedgoat has garnered a reputation as a top-notch event and always attracts a strong field of runners. The prize money has always been a draw, considering that many races offer nothing. This year was no exception, though competition with the U.S. Mountain Running Championships in Bend, Oregon, did draw away some top talent. I also think that the difficulty of Speedgoat is a deterrent for some runners. That is interesting, because it is the rugged nature of the course that appealed to Debbie.

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She is a strong hiker, but not a super-hiker, and that showed with her 20th place finish. She was aiming for top 10, but prior to the race, she had no way to gauge herself against the mostly mountain region and west coast women that she was up against. Very few east coast and flatland runners came to Utah for this high altitude run. The entire race was above 8,000 feet. It’s really hard to compete if you don’t live and train in that kind of Alpine environment.2015_Speedgoat Mountain Races-9

We are fortunate to have a Hypoxico Altitude tent, but it is not a replacement for living at elevation. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been fur us if we hadn’t prepared by using the tent over the past three months. Debbie was more diligent (as she needed to be) about getting the necessary time. I’ve had a fair amount of travel and often slept in the bunk bed above our son, rather than join her in the hot and oxygen thin confines of the Hypoxico. Still, I’m sure I benefitted a little from the nights I was able to sleep in the tent.

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A little more than 400 people were registered for the 50K, but 100 didn’t show up, which was startling to Karl and his team. 25% attrition is high for a race like this. 304 people did finish the race. There were many DNF’s, but not as many as you would think. I don’t know how that compares to past years. The temperature was warm, but not uncomfortable, with mid-day highs in the low 80’s. The sun was very strong, though a little mid-afternoon cloud cover and a light breeze helped make things more bearable.

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The start/finish is at the Creekside venue near Snowbird’s entrance #1. Runners amassed for the 6:30 A.M. start and then promptly headed uphill. Sage Canaday, winner of the past two editions, took the hole-shot and literally launched himself up the trail. He surged into the lead and never looked back.

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I hustled over to the famous Snowbird Tram, and rode the second car to the summit of 11,000 foot Hidden Peak where there was a large aid station. It was cool and breezy on the top. I wished I had a bit more insulation. I packed my Clik-Elite backpack full for a day of hiking, running, spectating, crewing, and photographing, but neglected to carry enough clothing. Thankfully, by mid-morning, the rising sun had warmed us. By noon, I was complaining about the sun and looking for any shade available. I also wished I had a bucket hat to keep the sun off my face, neck, and ears. Alas, I made it through the day with only a little sunburn.

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Sage was way out front when he hammered up the final pitch to the Hidden Peak aid station. He was running even the steepest sections of trail. Debbie reported that many of the service roads and fire roads had gradients of more than 25% and some of the singletrack trails were 45% requiring use of your hands. Some runners chose to use poles.

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I knew that Sage would be the favorite and had a chance to chat with him this past Thursday afternoon. Debbie and I stopped at Sage’s café (no relation!) in Salt Lake City for a late lunch. While we were there, Sage and his girlfriend, Sandi Nypaver, pulled in the parking lot after driving from their home in Colorado. We last saw them at the 2013 Cayuga Trails 50 Miler. We were last at Sage’s Café (different location), in 2008. The food was good and we had a chance to get insight on the race from the course record holder. Speedgoat has gotten harder in recent years as Karl has added more climbing.

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I saw Debbie come through Hidden Peak the first time and she was easing her way into the race. I counted 25 or 30 women in front of her when she came by. Given her slower start and struggles on that first big climb, I knew that she would have to work really hard to move up to the top-10, but was pleased that she didn’t fade, held her pace for most of the day, and then steadily moved up by the finish. Her main goal for the weekend was to finish and win the “general classification” category by completing the Vertical Mile, 50K, and Quadbanger with the lowest cumulative time. Just finishing was going to be a huge challenge, so she need to conserve a bit. Having done the Vertical Mile the day before, she wasn’t running the 50K on fresh legs.

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During the course of the weekend, I got a lot of guidance from Bryce and Melanie Thatcher, their family, and colleagues from Ultraspire. Debbie has been an Ultraspire “Elite Immortal” for several years and has valued the support from this small company. They specialize in hydration products, particularly for trail runners and ultrarunners. I enjoyed learning more about the business and Bryce’s role in developing hydration pack technology. He had five family members running the 50K and knows the course well. He helped me pick out some good spots to take photographs.

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The images speak for themselves, but the scenery is as stunning as any I’ve ever photographed in. The granite walls, wildflower, and vast wilderness, especially on the back side of Snowbird, were awesome. We staked out a spot towards the base of Mt. Baldy and waited for Sage to arrive. One of the amazing things about Speedgoat is that you can see much of the race course from vantage points high on Hidden Peak. You can see the runners nearly an hour before they reach you, as trails switchback all over the mountain. We were able to spot Sage miles down the mountain. When he did arrive after scorching the Baldy descent, he was on pace with his time from last year on a similar course.

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I snapped some pictures of him, and then did a little run of my own, about 2.5 miles down the trail to the Mineral Basin Aid Station. They didn’t want crews and spectators tramping down here, but I was able to go there and take photographs. The aid station volunteers were fantastic. The runners pass through Mineral Basin twice, and I was catching them on their return trip from the lowest and farthest point on the course, Pacific Mines.

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The sun was blazing down in that spot. When I got there, 20 or so runners, had passed through, so I got a chance to see the next 100 or so until Debbie arrived. She was in good spirits and didn’t stay long. I walked a little ways up the trail with her. The fields were full of flower and more amazing smells. I left her at the base of the big climb up to Mt. Baldy. She said there was a lot of scree and that they trail was very technical on the subsequent descent.

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I was fortunate to ride a chairlift back up to the summit of Hidden Peak. Once again, I walked down to the spot where I previously photographed Sage, and caught Debbie coming down Baldy. After that, she descended to the tunnel and crossed back to the Little Cottonwood Canyon side of the mountain. From there, she descended further before turning back up the ridge. I waited a long time at the top of the knife-like edge and cheered for the runners as they walked one by one back up to the Hidden Peak aid station for the final time.

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Debbie was low on energy when she crested Hidden Peak for the last time, but she knew that only a mostly downhill six miles remained. Throughout the day, she was self-sufficient. I only handed off a handful of gels and a flask of concentrated energy drink. She carried what she needed in her Ultraspire Surge pack.

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When I left her again, I headed for the tram and caught a ride back to the Snowbird Center. I stopped at our hotel room at the Lodge and grabbed some food for myself and all of her post-race recovery stuff. She took care to recover from Friday’s Vertical Mile, using her compression socks, tights, and a smart refueling strategy. She planned the same after the 50K in advance of Sunday’s Quadbanger.2015_Speedgoat Mountain Races-32

 

Sage won the race in 5:13:02, just missing his time from last year. He was followed by Alex Nichols, Daniel Kraft, Alex Docta, and Vertical Mile winner, Timmy Parr. The first woman was Hillary Allen in a blazing fast 6:37:35. She was followed by Emily Richards, Abby Rideout, Amanda Basham, and Becky Wheeler.

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I made it back to Creekside, which was a little under a mile from the Lodge, in time to see Debbie finish. I waited 30 minutes at the line, cheering the runners who preceded her. I knew she was very happy to finish. She immediately told me how hard it was. I could tell. Unfortunately, as soon as she finished, her stomach went sour. Thankfully, she didn’t get ill during the race, but afterwards, she wasn’t able to eat or drink for several hours. It wasn’t until 7:30 P.M. when she ate a few crackers. She suspects that a combination of gels and caffeinated salt tablets contributed to her gastrointestinal distress. We walked back to the hotel and she rested until she could eat a little. Late in the evening, she recovered a bit and we went to dinner, which helped her fuel back up. Speedgoat was fantastically entertaining. What a race!

50K Race Results

Quadbanger, 11:00 A.M., Sunday 26 July

The third and final Speedgoat Mountain Races event was the Quadbanger. Aptly named, the unique format was not for the faint of heart or weak of leg. The race was four timed descents of Hidden Peak. Like in the Vertical Mile, timing was paused while runners were on the chair lift. 37 people signed up for the race, but only 20 showed up. Many of the no shows were probably trashed from Saturday’s 50K.

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We were able to figure out that Debbie was the only female who finished the Vertical Mile and the 50K that showed up for the Quadbanger, so she only had to finish to lock up “first place” for the general classification. Even still, her secondary goal was to have a strong showing in this downhill race. Since descending is her specialty, she was excited despite having really sore legs at the start after running for almost nine hours at the 50K.

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As a group, the runners, volunteers, and family members rode the Snowbird Tram to the 11,000 foot summit. After Karl gave instructions, we hung out for 15 minutes until the start with the other brave souls who were readying themselves for the first plunge. That was some of the most fun we had all weekend. It was a beautiful morning. Once again, we were flooded with bright sunlight and a deep blue sky.

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The first descent went from the top of the peak, past the top of the Peruvian Chairlift, and then down a service road for two miles, switching back across the Peruvian Cirque multiple times. The course then left the road for singletrack. In the singletrack, it switched back multiple times across crazy steep and rocky ground. The dry soil created a dust storm as the runners went by. The trail entered the woods and then emerged just above the Snowbird Center before finishing at the base of the Peruvian Chairlift. Runners rode the lift back up and then descended three more times. On the final descent, rather than heading for the lift, they ran .6 mile on a service road  back to Creekside. The total distance was about 10.5 miles and the total descent was 10,000+ feet.2015_Speedgoat Mountain Races-33

After watching the start, I ran down to the top of the lift. From there, I photographed the runners as they wound their way down the cirque. I waited for them to come back up the first time, and then ran the course all the way to Creekside, shooting from various spots on the way. Despite the pounding on the legs, the runners were having a blast. No one was letting up. Timmy Parr, who also won the Vertical Mile, was hammering. He won the Quadbanger in 1:10:28, completing an amazing weekend of results with a first, fifth, and first. He handily won the general classification for doing all three. He was followed by Dan Campbell and Anatoliy Zharkikh. Kudos to fellow flatlanders Michael Wardian and Paul Terranova, who both completed the trilogy of races. Michael was 4th in the Quadbanger and Paul was 7th.

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Debbie had a lot of fun. She ran the whole race with Meredith Terranova, Paul’s wife. Meredith is someone who Debbie knew of, but hadn’t spoken with. They met during the tram ride, and bonded on four descents of the mountain, and three rides on the chairlift. Again, Karl got great support from volunteers, staff, and family. I had a chance to stop at the dirt road/singletrack junction and chat with Cheryl, Karl’s wife. I hadn’t seen her in many years. We got to know each other when we crewed at the 2007 Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. We were together at many of the aid stations in the middle of the night during that crazy race. She remembered that Debbie, our son, and I went to cheer and support Karl during his 2008 Appalachian Trail FKT attempt. Just last month, Debbie and both of our kids cheered for Scott Jurek during his record run, and Karl was there too. At the junction near the lift, Karl Meltzer, Sr. was directing traffic.

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After chatting with each of them, I made my way to the finish in time to catch all the finishers. Debbie’s legs were really giving out at the end. She had a couple of hard falls on the first and second descents. Both times she bloodied her knees and hands on the slippery singletrack switchback section. She and Meredith stuck together. Meredith told me afterwards that she was chiding Debbie, stressing that she needed to finish, and shouldn’t take too many chances. That made me laugh.

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I think her legs were just pummeled after all the running and her muscles weren’t firing correctly. I’m truly amazed at Debbie’s strength. She and her coach, Al Lyman from Pursuit Athletic Performance, put a lot of time and effort preparing for Speedgoat. They knew that running three races in three days was going to take its toll. In addition to the emphasis on recovery, the preparation was built around overall strength. It was the first time that she did a stage race like this, and these were intense races with serious elevation.

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She came screaming through the finish. Meredith was not far behind. Third woman was Jennifer Collins. Debbie was thrilled to be done. I’ve only seen her this happy at a handful of races. Nothing will top the 2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra, but she was pumped. I asked her if this race was up there with some of her other past super-tough ultras (with lots of climbing) including the Zane Grey, Jay Mountain Marathon, Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, Wapack and Back, Six Foot Track, etc. Speedgoat was one of the hardest mile for mile ever. She had no idea that she was going to earn prize money, so she was even happier when

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Karl presented her with a nice reward. Even more special is the unique trophy she earned for winning the Quadbanger. It was handmade by Karl Meltzer, Sr. We hung out for a while, soaking up the last bit of trail running friendship from the assembled crowd. Then, we once again, returned to the Lodge for rest and recovery.

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I wasn’t as tired as Debbie, but I had enough running around to fill a weekend. We cleaned up and then explored the Snowbird Center before joining the Terranova’s for a wonderful “victory” dinner at the Aerie, a restaurant with amazing views of the mountain.

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Debbie said of Speedgoat, “Once is enough.” We likely won’t return in 2016, but never say never. The allure of Utah’s mountains is strong. I could never run a race like Speedgoat and be able to walk again, but somehow, I think that when Debbie finally recovers, she will look back and realize that this race was truly special.

Race Results


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#eatmydust was the mantra at the CompEdge #Cyclocross in #springfield First #CX race of the year and first time in 125+ races that I've done cross in August. Ran my new Sidi's with Medium @horsteng #HorstSpikes on the fast track. Rough start to the day with burnt pancakes but $30 for 4th Masters 35+ nearly covered the $35 fee. If I pre-registered I would have turned a profit. Of course the depreciation expense for my @seven_cycles #sevencycles Mudhoney and other gear wipes out any long term gains! Bring on cross season and the mud! #teamhorstsports #precisionmachining a stainless steel #aerospace fitting from solid round bar stock on our Citizen M32 #swissscrewmachine complete with threads, hex, and wire holes. #machining #instamachinist #cncmachining #cnc @horsteng #horstengineering #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #madeinusa This is a stout rod end body made from #Inconel 718. We did the #centerlessgrinding and #threadrolling on our big machine. #manufacturing #instamachinist #machining #cncmachining #machining #aerospace #madeinusa #madeintheusa #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #horstengineering @horsteng #centerlessgrinding a #titanium tie rod to prepare it for #threadrolling #aerospace #manufacturing #precisionmachining #machining #instamachinist #horstengineering #madeintheusa #madeinusa #madeinnewengland #madeinconnecticut @horsteng After work at #sterlingmachine today, I took a spin up to #Marblehead and went out on the Neck for the first time in 15 years. I raced the spring classic circuit race out there in 2000, 1996, and 1993. The race was a favorite. All I remember from those days was rain, wind, and sand in my teeth. Cool neighborhood. #sevencycles @trailrunningmom took the stage three win and overall title at the #EmeraldNecklace 3-Day Stage Race. 6:29:38 for the 32 mile course. Overall was 17:44:23 for the 80 +/- mike event. Great day! @ultraspire #ultraspire #pursuitstrong #teamhorstsports Thanks to Coach Al and Terry for coming! This will be a fun race report and blog post....later. The race is on between the #kayak and the #SUP Thanks to Marjorie for taking our kids on #LittleSunapee while I chased @trailrunningmom Now, we all head for the finish at Potter Place. #newhampshire Finally found @trailrunningmom at AS2 of the #EmeraldNecklace 3-Day #trailrunning Stage Race. She came through mile 19 in 3h45m. 13 miles to go in this final stage. 1st woman. Around 5th overall. More importantly, she says the #newhampshire trails are beautiful and having fun. #ultrarunning #ultraspire @ultraspire #teamhorstsports I missed @trailrunningmom at AS 1 of Stage 3 of the #EmeraldNecklace 3-Day Stage Race. She came thru as first woman and and in a group of men vying for 2nd spot overall at 8:53 A.M. That was 11 miles and a fair amount of road. The volunteers said she looked good. Next AS is in 8 miles but all trail. I'll go look for her. Then the finish in 13 miles. #trailrunning #ultrarunning #pursuitstrong #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire

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