2017 St. John Trail Race

About 17 years ago, Debbie noticed an advertisement at the back of AMC Outdoors magazine. It was for an AMC adventure travel trip to Maho Bay Camps in St. John U.S. Virgin Islands. She was most interested in the fact that 70% of St. John is part of Virgin Island National Park, and she was enthralled with the prospect of sleeping in a tent overlooking the Caribbean. I ended up buying the National Geographic map of Virgin Islands National Park and giving it to her for Christmas. That was probably 2001, the year we got married. She so badly wanted to go to St. John… and happy to have made good on my promise to take her there!

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Maho Bay Camps shut down before we ever got there, and it took 17 years, but to make this trip better, she got to run a trail race! As a bonus, we brought our children with us…and a mother-in-law too. None of that would have been possible in 2001!

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Monday’s St. John Trail Race was a fantastic event and in many ways, it was like the tough trail races that we run in New England. The fact that I didn’t fall once is a race highlight. It’s been six weeks since cyclocross season ended with a bang at the USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships. I raced three times that week and since then, haven’t ridden any of my bicycles once. I’ve done some skiing and a little bit of running. I used this race to get moving again.

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Another highlight was Debbie’s win. The course was tailor made for her, with wicked ups and downs, lots of rough singletrack, and nice transitions in between the hard parts. Who am I kidding! It was all hard. The only flat spots in St. John are ON the water. The win wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a nice way to kick off the 2017 trail running season. I’ll write a separate post about the trip and our other St. John adventures, but this story will focus on the race.

Monday (President’s Day) races are extra special, and who wouldn’t want to run in the Caribbean? Last year, Race Director, Kyle Hart, and his team of volunteers, hosted the inaugural trail race. We were fortunate to stumble across this event when planning this winter family getaway, that coincided with our kids February break. Debbie built the trip itinerary around the race.

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From prior research, we knew about St. John’s other famous running race, the 21-year-old 8 Tuff Miles, which is all on the “road.” That race is Saturday, and I gather that some of the local runners from the Virgin Islands and maybe a few others who stuck around, will do it too. If you plan a one week trip, running the double is possible. Sadly, we returned mid-week so the kids could get back to school and so Debbie and I could get back to work. Now that I’ve seen Centerline Road (Rt. 10), I want to come back and run 8 Tuff Miles. It may be on road, but the steep ups and downs, numerous switchbacks, and rough pavement make it more like a mountain running race.

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Debbie located the trail race registration on Ultrasignup.com. At first, only she registered, but I wanted to do it too, so we convinced (it didn’t take long) my mother-in-law, Barbara, to join us on the trip. She is happy to spend time with our kids, which gives us the time to both run. The course was fantastic and we got to see several parts of the island that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The race was open to 50 people, 43 registered, 41 started, and 40 finished within the cutoff time. By permit, the National Park Service limited the registration to 50, and mandated a four-hour window of time that we could be on the park roads/trails.

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This was a low-key event, which we like. In many ways it was like three of our favorite events, the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, the 7 Sisters Trail Race, and the Mt. Greylock Trail Race, though Sisters isn’t low-key anymore. If you are from New England, then you know these rugged courses. If Debbie and I added up the number of times we have done these three New England classics, it would be more than more than 50!

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Half marathon +/- is a perfect trail race distance, especially in February. Debbie mentioned afterward that she would have liked to do it out and back, for a total of 27.4 miles. That sounds like an adventure to me, but the park service would have to lengthen the cutoff time. Also, I wouldn’t want to be deprived of the finishing venue, so you would have to start at Coral Bay, run to Cruz Bay, and then run back. Who is going to be the first one to do the double? After all, I know many runners who have doubled Soapstone, Sisters, and Greylock.

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The exact distance of this point to point course from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay, was 13.8 miles, and my GPS reported that there was 3,238 feet of elevation gain which is substantial for a race of this distance. The pre-race info said it was +2,772, but regardless of the exact number, it was hilly. My Strava profile shows that. The trails themselves were gnarly; they were strewn with rocks and roots, and there was a lot of off camber descending.

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Part of the race director’s simple ethic was to use limited markings, so you had to study and know the course. Green ribbons signified the correct route. Yellow ribbons indicated a trail junction. Red ribbons signified the wrong way. A few spots had arrows. The course was posted on the Trail Run Project website/iPhone/Android app, and many of us carried our phones. Kyle also promoted a self-supported category, and he gave awards to the top female and male finishers who took no outside aid. The unofficial definition of self-supported in an ultra is that you have no crew or pacers and use the aid stations and your own drop bags. In a short race like this, it isn’t that hard to go on your own, and the only real requirement is that you carry everything you need, including food and water.

There were several water stops, but Debbie and I skipped them for the added challenge. We used our UltrAspire packs (Debbie used her Spry and I used my Alpha) that each carry 40 ounces of water, and have room for a flask (of Tailwind), food (gels), and other gear. I also carried an UltrAspire handheld bottle with another 16 ounces of water. I ran out of water on the last descent, so I timed it well. Judging by how much water I drank at the finish line, I could have used more, but I got by with what I had. By the finish, the temperature was already well into the 80’s (Fahrenheit) and the sun was baking hot.

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With the limited markings, and many trail intersections, navigation was tricky. I paused at several trail junctions to think through my next step; often reviewing the map and trail names that I committed to memory. Normally, you could easily tell which trail was the main trail, and the likely trail to take, but with your heart rate jacked up to 165 in the middle of a race, it isn’t easy to figure out. I didn’t make any “wrong turns” per se, but after several intersections, I ran tentatively until I confirmed that I made the right choice. On the final descent to the historic Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay, I stopped at a three-trail fork. I was descending the Jeep road when it split; I saw that the middle trail had red tape across it. I was thinking that I should just continue via the trail I was on, but the far-left trail also seemed inviting. Suddenly, I was confused. I didn’t recall this junction, so I decided to pull out my iPhone and check the Trail Project app.

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That proved to be difficult. I was so sweaty that I couldn’t get my Touch ID to work. Then, I couldn’t input my password. After a frustrating couple of minutes standing in the middle of the trail, worried that I would get caught by a chasing runner, and frantically trying to dry my hands (with little success), I got my password in. Then, I couldn’t open the app. Every iPhone function was a struggle as I sweated profusely in the hot sun. I started to shuffle down the trail I was on, though lacking confidence in the direction I was headed. Finally, I was able to open the app, click the “To Do” menu, find the St. John Trail Race, and click the location arrow to find my position. Fortunately, all the struggle was for naught because I was on the right trail and darn close to the finish.

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I broke into a sprint again, as the grade steepened sharply. In a ¼ mile, the dirt changed to concrete and I could see the church. After crossing the road, running through an overgrown ball field, hugging the bay, and winding through a maze of old boats, cars, trucks, and other stuff, I finished through the back entrance of the Skinny Legs Bar and Grill. It was one of the most interesting trail race finish lines that I’ve crossed… but I loved it! It was unique and if there ever was a “double” St. John Trail Race, I insist that the finish still be at Skinny Legs. When I got there, the post-race party had already started and soon enough, the beers were being passed around. This was all good fun at 9:30 A.M. on a Monday!

Race Director Kyle Hart got tremendous help from his father and mother, and a host of other island volunteers. The race proceeds benefitted St. John Rescue. Prior to the race, he kept everyone informed via Ultrasignup.com emails and Facebook updates. The afternoon before the race, he held a mandatory pre-race meeting next to the Cruz Bay dock at the National Park Visitors Center. Kyle and his Dad handled registration and talked through the details of the course.

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They warned us about the rugged trail conditions, which varied wildly. We started on the dock at the visitor center and then ascended a series of trails that took us to Caneel Hill. The Cruz Bay trails get much traffic, so they were in good shape. They also get the attention of the NPS. We eventually descended to Centerline Road, which is the main feature in 8 Tuff Miles.

A quote from the Trail Bandit’s 2014 St. John Hiking Map says it all, “When walking along the sides of the roads, face oncoming traffic and be ready to jump in the bushes. The roads are narrow and at times there is a lot of traffic. Centerline Road has a lot of heavy trucks and can be unpleasant and dangerous. Remember, we drive on the left.”

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Well, most of that was true. The only difference was that we were running, not walking. You could face oncoming traffic some of the time, but there were many switchbacks, which made alternating from side to side the safest technique. We were on Centerline for just under two miles. Unlike 8 Tuff Miles, which draws more than a thousand runners, the road was open to Monday morning traffic. It wasn’t too bad, but the admonition to “be ready” was honored.

I hammered the road stretch, running the 4th mile in 7:40, but was still happy to return to the trail that ended up being my favorite: L’Esperance. It descended from Centerline all the way to Reef Bay. The requirement was to then take the short spur trail to the beach, before turning back. This was the only part of the course that overlapped, and it was only a few hundred feet. No one was there to check, but who wouldn’t want to check out a beach like that in the middle of a trail race?!

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The L’Esperance descent was followed by the long climb back to Centerline. This was done on the iconic and historic Reef Trail, which was the best maintained trail that we ran on. This is likely because the NPS guides hikes down this trail to the beach. Guests are shuttled by vehicle to the trailhead, and then after their hike down, they are shuttled by boat back to the NPS dock in Cruz Bay. That sounds fun, but I’m still glad we got to run the trail. The trail work was high quality and there were gorgeous stone steps on several sections. I even saw the tools of a trail crew worker (axe and pack) on the side of the trail. However, there was no sign of said trail worker. It must have been a stealth trail crew.

At the top of the Reef Trail, you crossed Centerline, ran 50 feet, and then hooked a sharp left into the woods. The trail was so grown over that I wouldn’t have found it if there wasn’t a volunteer nearby. If Reef was the best maintained trail we were on, then Maria Hope was the worst, but that made it tremendously fun. It was a wicked descent (much of it off camber) down to Maho Bay on North Shore Road (Rt. 20). I was really happy with my new shoes. For more than three years, I’ve been struggling with plantar fasciitis. This stems from calf and ankle tightness, which I’ve been working on, but with only limited success. Debbie is on the Altra Endurance Elite Endurance Team, so she got me to try the Lone Peak 3.0 shoes that she has had so much success with. They are zero drop, have a wide toe box, and have a nice lugged sole; which is what I need to stay in contact with the ground. The trail was so rough, that at the bottom, it looked more like a drainage. It could definitely use some work, but I didn’t twist my ankle, so in my story, I’m glad it was as rough as described. Debbie loved it. She only finished 10 minutes behind me, and I’m certain she was gobbling up time and closing the gap on every descent.

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We turned right onto the road and wound our way past lovely Maho Bay. Despite the early hour, there were a few folks on the beach, and they offered cheers. The course wound along the road, rising and falling before meeting back up with the water again on the Old Danish Road. At the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins, it turned to dirt, and eventually the trail narrowed again and became the Leinster Bay Trail, which hugged Waterlemon Bay. The Danish Road/Leinster Bay Trail stretch was the “flattest” on the course. It’s too bad my legs were hurting at this point, otherwise, I might have pushed harder. Of course, those fast “road miles” only offset the numerous slow miles I ran on the tougher trails.

The last part of the course just might be the toughest. The Johnny Horn Trail was wicked hard. It climbed sharply from the beach, and continued to climb, stepping several times, before cresting with sweet views of the eastern part of the island. The views of St. John are reason enough to suffer through 13.8 miles. I don’t think I’ve done another race that has better views (mile for mile) than this one. It was beautiful. If you had taken the time to take the numerous short spur trails, the views would have been even better. I met a few runners who did just that. I had Debbie chasing me, so I opted to stick to the main trails.

The Johnny Horn descent was steep and had a lot of loose footing. It was an old Jeep road. I already described my near wrong turn and sweatfest, and I explained the Skinny Legs finish line. Race Director Kyle Hart and the volunteers deserve a big “thank you.” So do Nathan and Jessica DaSilva, “trail friends” from Connecticut, who graciously offered space in their Jeep. They picked us up (with the help of another friend) in Coral Bay and drove us to the start, so we didn’t have to fetch our car after the race.

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We arranged for a taxi to pick up Mrs. Schieffer and our kids at the Concordia Eco-Resort, so they were at the finish when I got there. I think they arrived just in time. Skinny Legs was only a 10-minute drive from where we were staying.

It was great to meet people from all over, including others from New England. The post-race mood was festive. Debbie scored first overall woman (2:37:38), first Master woman, and first self-supported woman. They shouldn’t have allowed her to “triple-dip,” but the awards came so fast, that she was a little surprised.  I was first Master male.We have a plaque for every room in our house! The race was scorched by Derik Harrison, a 24-year-old Coloradoan working in Cruz Bay. After the start, I never saw him again…until the finish, which is OK, since I have 20 years on him. When I got to Maho Bay, one of the volunteers cheered for me and yelled out that he was happy to see gray in my beard. That was my favorite moment of the day!

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Derik ran 2:07:44, which is fantastic, and 15 minutes faster than the 2016 winner’s time. It would be interesting to see how he would stack against some of the top New England talent on our terrain. He was followed by T.J. Hindes, a native Indianan, in 2:19:18.  I followed T.J. and was chased by Michael Cote-Wurzler, who was followed by Debbie. She bested the 2016 female winner’s time. Second woman was Hannah Allen of Vermont, and third was Sarah Swan, a native St. Johnian.

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Lookout for Derik at the 8 Tuff Miles later in the week. If he recovers well, and he should be in contention for the win.

Debbie and I already discussed a return. It may not be in 2018, but if this race keeps running, we will keep it on the list of races that we would love to do again.

Race Results

#outdoorcitizen & Appalachian Mountain Club Summit

This past Saturday, the Appalachian Mountain Club Summit was held in Norwood, Massachusetts. The event coincided with the 141st annual meeting. At the end of 2016, AMC had 91,404 members across our 12 chapters.

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I’m a member of the AMC Board of Directors, and both Debbie and I are longtime members of the Board of Advisors.  AMC had a fabulous 2016. Highlights included the opening of the Harriman Outdoor Center in New York, great progress with the club’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) program, the sale of our longtime Boston headquarters, and the purchase of a new headquarters building in Charlestown. An additional 4,358 acres were conserved in Maine as part of the Silver Lake project. This increases AMC’s land in Maine to more than 70,000 acres.

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The list of achievements is amazing. Those were just some of the highlights. 2017 promises to be even more momentous. The move from Boston to the expanded and modernized space in Charlestown will take place in the second half of the year. The new Medawisla Lodge will open in June. This is the third Maine lodge to be renovated/built.

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Debbie, my brother-in-law Tom, and our kids attended the Summit with me. We participated in some really cool workshop, including:

  • Primitive Navigation: The Lost Art of Finding Our Way
  • Secrets to Successful Kid-Friendly Adventures
  • Griphoist and Highline: Rocks, Ropes, Pulleys and More
  • All About Axes
  • Show & Tell: What’s in a Leader’s Pack?

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During the Summit, AMC launched #outdoorcitizen

I won’t explain it in any more detail than I have. Click through to learn more or search the hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

2017 will be a big year for AMC. If you aren’t one of our 91,404 members, and you enjoy recreation, education, and conservation; then join! You won’t be disappointed.

Vail, Colorado

It’s no secret that I love mountains. The Appalachians are my favorite mountain range. Within the Appalachians, I love the White Mountains and the Berkshires. When it comes to mountains, especially those in the eastern United States, I don’t discriminate.

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Out west, I’ve spent time in various mountain ranges, including the Sierra’s, Santa Monica’s, Cascades, Wasatch, and Santa Rita’s, but until last week, I had never been to the Rockies. I had seen the Rocky Mountains on flights across the country, and I even viewed them from a hotel room in Denver, on my one and only trip to Colorado in 2011, but, I had never explored them.

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Given their scale, five days of skiing at Vail could barely be described as “exploring the Rockies,” but at least I can now say I’ve been there. There is so much more to see in Colorado, and then of course, there are other states like Wyoming and Montana that I’ve never seen. This trip wet my appetite for more.

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I always thought I would take a few of my bicycles to Colorado and explore the mountain roads and trails that make it a Mecca for cyclists. I never thought that the first significant time spent outdoors would be on a ski slope. I don’t come from a skiing family. My parents don’t ski or snowboard, so I didn’t get exposed to the sport at a young age. I dabbled a bit with both when I was in high school. I skied a bit in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, but never pursued it. In college, I skied one day in Park City, Utah on a dare, and then didn’t pick it up again for 10 years until I returned to Park City with a group of friends.

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I had consciously avoided skiing out of fear of injury. My summer sports are so important to me that I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize them through the risk of injury. When I met Debbie in 1999, she was a snowboarding instructor at Killington, but she too had been away from Alpine sports for some time.

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I have some strong skier friends, and since that trip to Utah, we have been on subsequent trips to Stowe and Jay Peak in Vermont. Despite skiing in terrible conditions, I learned to love the sport. I realized that despite the expense, it can be a fantastic family pastime. Debbie and I talked about doing more of it by introducing our kids to snowboarding. I decided to stick with skiing, and two years ago, I even bought my own downhill gear.

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As a family, we have been to Stowe, Jiminy Peak, and Mt. Southington (in Connecticut). Debbie is proficient and the goal was for the kids and I to become good enough to justify a family trip out west in the coming years. So, when this group of guys decided on a ski trip to Vail for our 2017 retreat, I was pumped.

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I knew I needed an intense and focused trip a real mountain if I was ever going to make a leap forward with my skills. The unforgiving snow conditions and short trails on New England mountains helped were limiting me.So, the trip to Vail exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I’m 10 times better after three days. We skied for 16 hours (counting our ascent and descent) and covered 58 miles with more than 70,000 feet of descent. It was a crash course in Alpine skiing. I followed my buddies all over Vail. We explored the Front Side, the Back Bowls, and Blue Sky Basin.

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We had spectacular conditions. One of my buddies, who has been skiing for 48 years, and just returned from a heli-skiing trip in British Columbia, said that they were three of the best days of skiing he has ever had. We arrived on Saturday. It snowed overnight, and on Sunday, high on the mountain, we had up to 18 inches of fresh powder. Sunday’s weather was great. It was partly sunny with occasional snow shower at the higher elevations. The visibility was fantastic and the snow was light and fluffy. We skied from 8:30 A.M. when the lifts opened, until the last lift at 3:30 P.M. We explored the Back Bowls and laid fresh tracks all over the mountain. People were letting out whoops from all directions. Even the locals reveled in the conditions.

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I had one scary moment. I was following our group through a wide-open snow field when I hit something under the snow. The collision was abrupt and I ejected from both skis. I tucked and rolled, slamming the back of my head on the ground. The depth of the snow was a blessing and a disguise. It had completely covered a felled tree. The only evidence of the tree was a small dead branch protruding from the snow, but it was more than 15 feet to the left of the section I hit, and I never saw it.

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My left ski was wedged under the log, and out of view. My right ski bounced off the log and was buried in the snow. Thankfully I hit the log straight on with my boots, and I released from the bindings. My neck and back were sore, but I was thrilled to be alive. No one saw the incident, but one of my buddies hiked back up to help me out. I had no idea what I hit until we dug out my skis and uncovered the log so that others would see it. I was shaken, and learned a vital lesson. Skiing can be very dangerous. I shook it off and continued on, though even more aware of my surroundings.

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By evening, it had started to snow again, and pretty much never stopped. The valley saw on and off snow, and from Sunday night through this morning, it snowed steadily higher up on the mountain, and at times, it came down heavy. The snow just kept coming. Monday’s conditions were just as good as Sunday’s, and there were far fewer people on the mountain. The snow wasn’t as light, so pushing through the powder presented a new challenge, but by the end of the day, I had progressed even more.

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Tuesday was our final day, so we stayed on the front side and explored more new trails. Vail is huge. You pay  a premium to ski there, but the level of service was very high. The lifts and other facilities were top-notch. The customer service was fantastic.

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I’m interested in an Alpine touring set-up so I can combine hiking with skiing. That would suit my style. I’m also looking forward to a Vail return trip and the idea of exploring other western resorts is appealing too.

Recap: 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships

It’s been more than two weeks, but I finally had the time to write a recap about the 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships in Hartford. After the incredible first day of racing (Tuesday), I wrote about the Masters 40-49 Non-Championship race, but that was just the beginning of an amazing week.

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Photo Credit: Alan Grant

In addition to all of the racing that the Masters on Team Horst Sports did, we had Junior riders compete in their own races. It was so inspiring to see the kids out there in the same tough conditions. My son’s race was on Saturday. It was so cold, but he toughed it out and will look back and smile.

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Photo Credit: Alan Grant

I raced two more times in the Masters 45-49 Championship (Friday) and Singlespeed Championship (Saturday). These were my first ever cyclocross races in January. Since I started racing cross in 1995, and after more than 150 races, I had never gone past Christmas. This season, with “Nats” in Hartford, it was a special year. I raced Nats six times before: Leicester in 1995, Ft. Devens in 1998, Baltimore in 2001, Providence in 2005, and Providence in 2006.

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2006 was the last time the championships were in New England, and since then, the annual event was moved from mid-December to early January to coincide with the national championship race calendar in Europe.

Photo Credit: Alan Grant

Photo Credit: Alan Grant

This made for a long cyclocross season. I did 21 races starting back in late-August. During the season, programmed in a couple of two-week periods without racing, which allowed me to keep my fitness through year-end. Another key with staying fit at this time of year, is to stay healthy and illness free. With young children in the household, this isn’t an easy task. Throughout December, we had small bouts of sickness in our house, but I focused on hydrating, eating well, and getting good quality sleep. Things worked out, I stayed healthy, and this was my best season yet. The capstone for the season was an amazing Nats race week.

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As far as results goes, the non-championship race on Tuesday was my highlight, finishing 19th in a competitive field. It was a crazy race, made famous by all of the photos and videos, including Ron Manizza’s viral sensation of the infamous “Slip-n-Slide Hill” at Riverside Park. The heavy rain and muddy conditions were epic.

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There is no other word to describe conditions in Hartford. They were Epic pretty much every day, but Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday had the fiercest weather and course conditions. I use the word sparingly and it only describes a handful of runs/rides/races a year, but Nats was packed with epic moments.

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So, after all the hype and getting the first race out of the way, I think my form had peaked. I also had some business travel on Wednesday of race week, and a lot going on with Horst Spikes, including our Open House and Plant Tour on Thursday night. It was a busy week for us. We welcomed more than customers from all over the country and gained many new customers as the week went on. The exposure for our Cross Spikes™ product line was even greater than we anticipated and could hope for. The super-challenging Nats course (which kept changing like a chameleon) was the ultimate proving ground for spikes, with slippery run-ups, steep descents (some unrideable), and numerous off-camber sections.

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With everything going on, my legs were tired by the time my championship race at 2:50 P.M. on Friday afternoon. We awoke on Friday to several inches of snow. The muddy course from earlier in the week had hardened as the temperature dropped, creating frozen ruts. The fresh layer of slow covered the ruts and ice. It was very cold (and breezy) by afternoon, but bright sun warmed sections of the course, which turned it into a frozen mud/ice mixture. These were some of the most challenging conditions of the week. Whereas Tuesday was pure (and deep) mud, Friday was a slick mix.

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I’m still happy with my result. I had a really good start from the fifth row and was in the high 20’s after the first lap, but the technical conditions muted my fitness/power and I faded throughout the race. Ultimately, I finished 42nd (out of a 100 riders or so), after yielding a few more spots on the final lap. I had one hard fall, and sadly, on a paved path, and it cost me some time. I wasn’t happy about getting passed by so many guys after my good start, but I had taken enough chances and was tentative on some parts of the course. I can’t say enough good things about my gear.

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All season, I’ve been racing my five-year old SevenMudhoney Pro. The bike is going to need some post-season work, but the machine has done great. My Campagnolo drivetrain and Zipp 303 wheels held up great. I could have used fresh tires, but with everything going on, didn’t have time to glue them, so I rode the Tufo pair that I had used for most of the season. My gear didn’t hold me back. Ultimately, I didn’t have the legs to repeat the strong ride that I had on Tuesday. Still, at the finish, I was all smiles.

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Saturday was the coldest day of the week. Overnight on Friday, the temperature plummeted again, making the course hard, icy, and fast. Many of the Junior races, including the 11-12 year old race that our son competed in, were held in the morning. They enjoyed a precipitation free race, but by noon, the snow was flying again. Debbie and our daughter came to watch, but everyone was cold, so they returned home after the boys raced.

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I was registered for the Singlespeed Championship at 2:50 P.M., and the snow was coming down heavy. Since my race on Friday afternoon, I had been hemming and hawing about doing one more race. It would have been easy to bag it. With a banged up knee, sore legs, and cold hands/feet; I decided to skip it. Then, the snow got heavier. I looked around and realized that I would regret not racing. The singlespeed race would likely go down as one of the most epic ever.

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I thought about driving to Horst Engineering in East Hartford, only five minutes from the park, but instead decided to drive the 20 minutes home. It took 30 minutes because of terrible road conditions, but I was able to get there with enough time to warm up, change my clothes, and get ready for my last race of the season. I decided to drive in my kit so that I could go from the parking lot to the Team Horst Sports tent and not have to change at all.

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When I got back to the park, there were more than four inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling steadily. This was my first ever singlespeed cross race. I converted my 20-year-old Richard Sachs. It’s a great bike, but I haven’t raced it in years and I’m not nearly as comfortable on it as I am on my Seven. I’m not a very good snow rider and it showed. This was the largest race of the week with more than 120 strong riders in the field. I was 74th, but that doesn’t matter at all. I had a blast. Crowds had formed on the dike, and the atmosphere was electric. Just like the mud race on Tuesday, riders were falling all over the place. The big difference was that everything was white and there wasn’t a drop of mud to be found.

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I slid my way around the course and amazingly stayed pretty warm. I had dressed right for the occasion. I didn’t linger long after the finish. With more than five inches on the ground, I made my way back home to clean up my gear and store it for winter. I did drive back to Hartford late in the evening to watch the Mechanics Championship at the Black Bear Saloon. The crowd was festive and I saw many friends.

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The members of Team Horst Sports also had a great week. Arthur Roti, Wade Summers, Matt Domnarski, Dave Geissert, Paul Nyberg, and Tom Ricardi all raced multiple times. In addition to those guys, it was fun to see so m any friends from the New England cycling community. It was great to battle with so many of my “rivals” and I’m already looking forward to the beginning of the 2017-2018 season in August.

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Sunday’s Elite races were the culmination of a fantastic National Championships. My son and I returned to Riverside Park to watch. This was one of the best days the New England cycling community had ever seen. The snow had changed the complexion of the course yet again. The clouds cleared and bright sun shone. This caused quite a bit of melting, so once again, mud returned. This made for both visually appealing, and very challenging racing. Victories by Katie Compton and Stephen Hyde, who were both using their Horst Spikes™, topped off the festivities. Even in the cold, snow, and mud, the fans came out in force. The atmosphere was electric and many of us can’t wait until Nats return to New England. Hopefully, it isn’t another 12 year wait. Next year, the event is in Reno, Nevada.

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Race hosts, the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program, and their cadre of volunteers (many from our team) put on a good show. Come spring, Riverside Park will require some repairs, but that’s OK. This was a great event for Riverfront Recapture. They want to see people using and enjoying the parks that they manage. The Internet is full of great images and stories from this amazing week of racing. Hartford has always been on the map, but many people were skeptical about the idea of Nats at Riverside Park.

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When Team Horst Sports put on the first cyclocross race there in 2003, we knew that the venue had the right characteristics and was a championship course candidate. We organized the first ever Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross at Riverside Park. We weren’t directly involved with bringing Nats to Hartford in 2017, but I have no doubt that we sowed the seeds for what was an awesome event.

I’m so proud that the race was in Hartford.

Race Results

2017 USA Cyclo-Cross Nationals 40-49 Non-Championship

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a race. I left my iPhone back at Horst Engineering by mistake, so I don’t have any of my own photos from the race. I capture a few images of the “aftermath.”

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That’s OK, I needed both hands to hold on to the handlebars! The 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships kicked off in a big way today. I’m feeling a bit sad for the Riverside Park course. It’s already taken a beating and there are five days of racing to go.

I love cyclocross and the environment, so I’ll be there (with the crews) in the spring to fix the course up. Cross does do damage when conditions are as wet as they were today. Riverside Park isn’t pristine anyway. It is in the Connecticut River flood plain, which made the mud so, well…muddy.

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The rain came down heavily and turned the course into a quagmire. I pre-rode yesterday when it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, firm, and a bit icy. Today, it was 40 degrees and pouring. Many of the rideable sections became unrideable as the race went on.

The downhill off the dike was treacherous. I opted for caution, which may have cost me some time, but saved me in the long run. I’ll be able to go to work tomorrow! I had a really good start, lost some ground, made up a little ground, made a few mistakes, and then pretty much survived until the finish.

I was able to get three laps done, but only cover 5.8 miles in 44:36. That was good for 19th out of about a 100 riders. I would love to break the top-15 in the 45-49 Championship Race on Friday. There will be a little more top competition, but filter out the “younger” guys, and it’s possible.

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Adam Myerson, who is one of our sponsored Horst Spikes athletes, rode marvelously for the win. I’m pretty sure he was using Ice & Snow Cross Spikes, just like me. Horst Spikes have been popular this week. We are letting athletes pick-up at our 36 Cedar St. plant, which is only five minutes from the park. Toe spikes were critical for maintaining any grip on the uphill sections.

The entire Team Horst Sports 40-49 year-old squad did well. I was followed by Wade Summers, Art Roti, Andris Skulte, and Randall Dutton. Our 50-59 riders were on the course when I packed up and headed for a warmer environment. I shouted loudly for Matt Domnarski, Tom Ricardi, and Dave Geissert. I had a lot of friends in the race too, and they weren’t all local. Aaron Ofsiany was in town from San Francisco. I’ll see him again later in the week.

I started on Row 2, along with my long time friend, Jon Gallagher. Jon and I spent the summer of 1994 together and we have had some great adventures over the years. This was another one to add to the list. I chased him for the first part of the race before he pulled away to finish 13th. His timing services business is handling all of the official results for the race this week.

Judging by some of the Facebook and Instagram footage, anyone who raced today deserves monster kudos.

Race Results

Preview: 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross Nationals

I helped with the Horst Spikes marketing related to next week’s USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships. Here is the basic info. Be sure to check out the Horst Spikes News, in case you haven’t seen it already!

Next week, Hartford, Connecticut is welcoming the 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships.

 

Today, we launched a special edition of Horst Spikes News that is chock full of resources for athletes, volunteers, and spectators. It’s a comprehensive guide to everything happening next week. Check it out.

The cyclocross season is winding down, but it will go out with a bang! The 2017 USA National Cyclocross Championships are a week away. This will be the biggest cross race that Connecticut has ever seen. The KMC Cross-Fest in October was a fantastic success and we look forward to 2017, New England has hosted the national championships on several occasions, but this is the first time the event has come to our home state.

Horst Engineering is heavily invested in the success of this event. We were founded in Hartford and our headquarters is on the Connecticut River in East Hartford, a stone’s throw from the Riverside Park venue. We are longtime supporters of hosts: The Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) and Riverfront Recapture.

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Team Horst Sports members will be competing in several races, including the Masters Championship and Juniors Championship events. Many team members, including those who don’t race cyclocross, will be volunteering to help.

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We organized the first ever Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross at Riverside Park in 2003. Our lineup of Horst Spikes™ cyclocross toe spikes were tested and developed on our hometown course. Cross Spikes™ have brought us back into the bicycling industry in a big way. Our roots are in bikes and we couldn’t be more proud of Hartford to host such a cool event.

2016 Scrooge Scramble

Today, we did the 26th Scrooge Scramble 5K in Rockville, Connecticut. The annual Christmas Day race benefits the Cornerstone Foundation

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It was great to see so many friends. Both the Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders were well represented.

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The course was slightly different from past years. We took a left into the driveway for Cabin Hill Greenhouses. We did a loop in front of their building, and then returned to the regular course.

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Debbie ran with our daughter. My son and I ran hard and we both pushed it a bit, but our main event is in 10 days when we race the 2017 USA National Cyclocross Championships at Riverside Park in Hartford. We had great weather with bright sunshine, a mild temperature in the low-40’s Fahrenheit. This fun run is a nice tradition.

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Race Results


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On the road again. @seven_cycles #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #atl Starting the 2017 #trailrunning season in style...and on a Monday morning in the #caribbean to add to the fun! @trailrunningmom won the 13.8 mile #stjohntrailrace in 2:37. She wasn't far behind me. The @virginislandsnps trails were gnarly and it was hot. #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders @altrarunning #altrarunning @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #julbousa #family #hiking #stjohnusvi @virginislandsnps #virginislandsnps Nice colors on our early A.M. flight. #md88 #JT8D #aerospace #sunrise ☀️ I'm pumped! I scored 47 vintage @appalachianmountainclub #Appalachia Journals (various issues between 1916-1979) with a #craigslist purchase. The process started with a #google Alert, and then after an email inquiry, followed by a text, and then a call; the terms were set. Hours later I pulled off the Mass Pike on my commute home from #sterlingmachine and did the deal in a commuter lot. I was fascinated by the seller's full time career in dealing ephemera and other collectibles. I'll add these to the stack of unread magazines, including the 10 boxes of vintage @natgeo magazines I scored years ago that @trailrunningmom keeps asking me where I plan to store them. We need more bookshelves. I've been getting Appalachia via mail twice/Year for 20 years and it has been published continuously since the #appalachianmountainclub founding in 1876. We wrapped up this snowy week with an afternoon #snowshoe "commute" to Little D's @girlscouts Brownie meeting and back. We are quite fortunate to have trails right out our front and back doors. #carfreecommute #boltonheritagefarm #rosefarm

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