2018 The Ice Weasels Cometh

Today I raced my first ever The Ice Weasels Cometh, the iconic December cyclocross race that is the unofficial end to the New England cyclocross season. This year, it isn’t the last race in the region and there are several more races to go around the country, including the USA Cyclocross National Championships , but the party-like atmosphere is the symbolic conclusion.

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It was the finale for me. It was my 19th and final race of the season. I had a strong ride and was very happy with the result. I raced the Zanconato Singlespeed CX Series final. It was the last race of the day at 3:00 P.M. as the sun was getting low in the sky. I’ve had a blast doing the Zank Series races. Racing singlespeed was something fresh to do, and I loved the characters that came out for each race.

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Ice Weasels is famous for its characters, and they were out in force today. I had a second row start, and my primary goal was to not get beat by anyone in a costume. There was a full field of 160 registrants for the 3:00 P.M. race. They set us off in three waves: 1) Singlespeed Men 2) Fat Bike Open and 3) Singlespeed Women.

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That meant that by the second lap, we were encountering lapped traffic. That’s part of the sport, especially singlespeed. I didn’t mind. It added to the fun as we had to dodge all kinds of characters, including Stormtroopers, Santa Claus, a hockey referee, a zebra, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, various animals, and a host of other colorful people.

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I was racing hard, and was hoping to pick up a spot in the overall standings, but I can appreciate the shenanigans. It made me smile more than once and I needed that. I came into the race in 7th place. I missed two key races that I had pre-registered for, and would have solidly been in 5th place with finishes at Cheshire and Putney, but mathematically, the best I could do today was to leapfrog friendly rival Eric Wyzga who was in 6th. I ended up completing eight of the 12 Zank races.

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This season was a sort of comeback for me. I didn’t miss any cyclocross as a result of the broken leg I suffered in January at the first USA Cyclocross National Championship of 2018, but I was out of commission for many months and it took a long time to heal. Back in August, I started cross season slowly, had some peaks, and troughs during the fall, but ended with my best fitness of the year. That’s so much better than how last season ended.  I don’t think I’m meant to race cross in January, and I likely won’t ever have to again because  the “nats” were moved back to December, and that is why 2018 has two championships. The first was in Reno, NV, and the second is in Louisville, KY next week.

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Shepard and I had planned to go to Louisville, but as the season wore on, we reassessed and decided to skip the trip. He wrapped up last weekend at NBX CX and today was my swan song. Since was at a camping trip with his Scout troop,  and Debbie and Dahlia were hanging out together, today’s race was a solo adventure. Even still, I saw lots of teammates and friends at Medfield State Hospital in Massachusetts.

The venue brought back memories of the old Newtown CX course at Fairfield Hills, also a closed and dilapidated state mental hospital. The old buildings in Medfield made for a really neat environment. The course was full of twists and turns with lots of slippery corners. There were three sets of barriers, including one on an off-camber uphill. The other two were on either side of the central party zone. The set closest to the finish had a “suicide” rail ride that bridged the two barriers. If you could manage to ride the balance beam, you could zoom past a dismounted rider, but I opted for the old school running. There were a couple of spectacular crashes when riders slipped off the narrow plank.

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The weather was OK. It was freezing, about 28 degrees Fahrenheit, when we started. There had been brilliant sun all day long, but it was very low in the sky when we got going. I got a good start, and the moved up towards the top five. I hung on to the lead group for most of lap one, which included Mike Wissel, Connor Walsh, Bradford Smith, and Anthony Vecca. As we came on to the asphalt the led to the finish, our group got strung out. On lap two, I was dangling off a small group that included Anthony, but there were many riders chasing us.

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I knew I had to beat Eric, and likely by a spot or two, so after two laps, when he was hot on my wheel, I was nervous. At one point, he surged past me with another rider, but I bided my time, and passed them back. I had a strong third (of four) laps and picked up another spot passing Bradford Smith who was either having an off day or just taking it easy. I came through the finish with one to go and I was in 4th or 5th. I’m not sure where I ended up as I didn’t see the results after the race.

I continued to apply pressure in an effort to keep Eric behind me. I gained more time on Eric and Bradford during the last half of the 4th lap. I rode a clean race, whereas Eric, and others had mishaps and crashes. I wove my way around lots of traffic and ended up in front of both of those guys. Like I said, I’ll find out where I finished when they post the results online. I hope it was 4th, but it may have been 5th. Bradford was in between Eric and me, so maybe I’ll jump him in the overall standings. The top three in the overall were Mike, Connor, and then Bradford. The top three women were Kerry Litka, Karen Purtill, and Amanda Resch.

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After the race, I changed up in an attempt to warm up. I went back to the party zone to watch the awards and participate in the raffle. It was a fun ending to a great cross season. I celebrated with a little solo dinner (but no drinking!) at Homefield Kitchen & Brewery in Sturbridge. They have an awesome vegan section on their standard menu. When I got home, I unpacked the cyclocross gear bag that I’ve been using for the past four months. It felt good to put everything away.

***Update***

Keith Beausoleil was also in the front group, so I ended up 5th, which was just fine. He got second behind Mike Wissell. Anthony Vecca was 3rd, and Connor Walsh was 4th.

Race Results

 

2018 NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross

We raced two days at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross and they couldn’t have been more different. Day 1 was cold with brilliant sunshine, dry conditions, and lots of smiles. Day 2 was cold with incessant rain, gobs of mud, soupy puddles, and lots of grimaces.

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Shepard and I made a late decision to do both races. I had a meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Thursday and Friday. The drive back on Friday afternoon took six hours and I got home around 8:00 P.M. It took some motivation to pack the van and trailer in anticipation of a 6:00 A.M. Saturday departure, but we got it done.

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Part of my decision to do both days at NBX was the forecast. Sunday was supposed to be very rainy and I didn’t want cross in a sandy quagmire to be my only race experience of the weekend. Saturday was supposed to be clear and sunny. Also, the early starts (Shep at 8:41 A.M. and me at 10:15 A.M.) meant we could drive back and forth to Goddard State Park in East Greenwich, Rhode Island (95 minutes from home) and be back early in the afternoon each day.

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The forecast for both days turned out as advertised. Saturday’s conditions were primo for cross with the technical NBX course in great shape. It rode super-fast and was lots of fun. Sunday’s conditions were insanely bad. At least that’s my opinion. I’m so tired of racing in the muck and I’m even more tired of cleaning up after racing in the muck. This wasn’t Supercross mud (which we skipped this year), or even Bishop’s Orchards mud (which was last Sunday’s mess), but this was sandy and gritty NBX mud.

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First, I’ll talk about yesterday’s race, which was a good one for me. Shep and I got there in time to preview parts of the course. It was an early start to the weekend, but we made it happen. I’ve had so much going on at work that I was thankful to get outside on a sunny day and make the most of it. He had a good race in the Cub Juniors (9-14 year olds) and it was so much fun cheering for him. He was particular strong on the long beach run. He finished strong and was in good spirits.

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I was in the combined Masters 40+/Juniors 15-18 race which was similar to Gloucester and Northampton. At NBX in prior years, including 2017, I limped to the finish. I was shot from a full season of cross. This year, I felt pretty good coming into the weekend. I had a good start and was able to move up a few groups over the first two laps. I hurt a bit on the second half of lap three and first half of lap four, before surging a bit towards the finish of the five lap event.

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We were flying around the circuit. I had a good battle with young Johnny Meyerle and ultimate got the best of him. Dan Coady, who I battled with at Bishop’s last week, took off on both of us and moved up several places on the last lap with a strong ride. I hung on and got 22nd in a strong field. Six of the riders in front of me were the Juniors. They are super-strong.

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On Saturday, we were home by 2:00 P.M, and cleaned up by 2:30 P.M. I did some work, and then Debbie, Dahlia, Shepard, and I went out to get our Christmas tree. This was a fortuitous decision given the dry conditions. We had a relaxing evening getting it set up.

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Today was another race day and another 5:15 A.M. wake-up call. We were out of the house by 6:00 P.M. and met up with Juan and Nic Villamizar at the Bolton Post Office. Juan took the day off from crewing and spectating and we took Nic with us so he could meet up with the rest of the CCAP travel team.

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The big difference between Saturday and Sunday was that it rained all night and continued to rain all day. The precipitation turned the NBX course into a quagmire…in spots. Certain areas had six inches of soupy muck and lots of ruts. The course is known for its roots, and they were hidden in the mud, and very slippery. The short and steep climbs were super challenging and forced me to run them at times.

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Shepard had a decent race, but like me, he isn’t as strong in the rough conditions. Both of us would rather ride with confidence, and the slippery conditions didn’t permit that. The course was in decent shape for his race, the second of the day. However, our race was the  fourth of the day and the prior fields had pummeled the course, churning it into the chunky soup. I did fine in the sandy sections, and even the rooty sections, but I was losing ground in the worst of the muddy sections and on the steep climbs and descents.

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Johnny and Nic both beat me today. Dan caught me with two laps to go and I gave chase, but came up short. He seemed to enjoy the conditions, but I told him that I was fed up with the mud. I was as disappointed with the impending cleanup as I was with my results. I didn’t feel on top of my game today. I just don’t feel comfortable taking the same chances when the conditions are so harsh. I have no desire to fall, so I was thrilled that I stayed on my bike.

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The post-race changing session was hilarious. After hosing off my bikes, I changed at the van. My feet were frozen solid. All of my socks were wet and I forgot to bring a pair of dry casual socks, so I tried to put my muck boots on with bare feet. It simply didn’t work. I couldn’t get them on despite trying three times over a 20 minute span. Between efforts, I sat with the van running and my feet on the dashboard heaters with the temperature and fan cranked to the max. My attempt to thaw them didn’t work.

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In order to pack our four bikes in the trailer, I put a pair of my cycling shoes back on to finish the outside job. Then, I drove home barefoot. We were home by 2:00 P.M. and my feet were in better shape. It took an hour to clean-up and as of the writing of this blog post, I still have to give our bikes a second washing. We will also need to lubricate our chains. I’m getting tired of the maintenance. Shep’s cross season ended today and the current plan is for me to race the Zanconato Singlespeed Championships at the Ice Weasels Cometh next weekend. The advanced forecast looks like cold and dry. As long as it doesn’t rain, I’ll be there. It it is wet, then it will be a game time decision.

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Today was my 18th race of the season and 18th since breaking my leg in January at Nats in Reno. We opted not to go to Louisville for the second Nats of 2018. It’s been a nice comeback and I’ve enjoyed traveling and racing with Shepard, the Team Horst Junior Squad, and Team Horst Sports. I’m looking forward to the “offseason.”

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2018 Bishop’s Orchards CX

We were at another cyclocross race today, and the conditions couldn’t have been more different from yesterday. The inaugural Bishop’s Orchards CX didn’t disappoint. The hilly orchard in Guilford, Connecticut was an excellent venue for the CT Series of Cross finals.

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For Shepard and me, this was the wettest and muddiest race of the year. We skipped last weekend’s Supercross Cup which would have been the muddiest. The irony is that it was mild and sunny. The issue was that it rained heavily overnight. In Bolton, about an hour north of Guilford, I could hear the rain pouring down in the middle of the night. The latest deluge added another inch to an incredibly waterlogged State of Connecticut.

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Bishop’s Orchard literally had a river running through it…and we had to cross that river. Debbie and Dahlia joined us for the trip to this shoreline community, and they joined a sizable throng of spectators who donned their “muck boots” to watch some cross on a Sunday. I hope this race repeats in 2019 because I would love to do it in better conditions. I don’t mind the mud, but there is always a limit and I think we crossed it today. We left some ruts behind. I hope they will have us back.

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The orchard and farm stand venue was picturesque and the team behind the race pulled out all of the stops. The volunteers were helpful from the moment we arrived to park at the venue. They were out in force, and they were outfitted in custom-made sweatshirts to honor the event. The power wash station was a big plus on a day when our gear was in rough shape.

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The Junior races started at 8:45 A.M. with the 9-12 year-old category and then continued at 9:15 A.M. with the combined 13-14 year-old category and 15-18 year-old category.  Ethan Lezon was the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad’s only representative in the 9-12 race, and he rode well. Shepard was a little tired after spending all day yesterday at Secret Squirrel CX in Raynham, MA, but he persevered. The Bishop’s Orchards course was an absolute slog. It had a fair amount of climbing and the mud required you to run in several sections. The grass and mud clogged your gears and brakes while weighing your bike down.

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The river crossing was rideable, but it was an adventure. Shepard was joined in the race by CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad mates Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. These three have been troopers all season long. Boden had a fantastic ride today.

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The Masters 40+ race was at 11:00 A.M. Whereas yesterday I opted to race the singlespeed category, I decided to race my age group today (with gears) and get home at a  decent hour. The SS race is almost always the last race of the day. Yesterday’s trip was a 12 hour ordeal and my legs were feeling it today. I had a strong ride in Raynham, but today I was off. The Team Horst Sports Masters in my race included Andris Skulte, Art Roti, and Brett Chenail. We shared the course with the Masters 50+ race and were represented by Dave Geissert and John Meyerle.

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My first lap was a disaster. I was in too big a gear for most of it, before realizing I should just drop down to my little ring and spend the rest of my race only worrying about shifting my rear derailleur. I ended up farther back than I would have hoped, but salvaged my race by improving in the last two laps and riding some of the features that I ran the first few times through. About halfway into the race, Dan Coady caught and passed me. He built a pretty good lead on me, but in the last two laps, I clawed my way back and was able to burst past him on the last lap, which was good for the ego. Dan and I go way back, so it was just a friendly intra-race battle that makes cross so much fun.

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I was knackered afterwards and it took a while to “rough” clean the bikes and get them packed away. We had our second post-race vegan celebration in 24 hours when we stopped at the Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave, which was only a few miles from the venue. Whenever we are in the area, we make it a point to dine there and enjoy the “all-day breakfast” option. I felt much better after filling up on vegan tofu scramble and a full stack of gluten free blueberry pancakes.

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We got home at a decent hour, but had more cleaning to do, including a substantial load of laundry and more bike cleaning. When I was standing in the bike wash line after the race, I remarked to another rider that running would be such a simpler sport.

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Race Results (will be posted when available)

2018 Secret Squirrel CX

Our first time racing at the Secret Squirrel CX in Raynham, MA was an absolute blast! Shepard and I made the day trip along with three teammates from Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad.

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We were joined by Tom and Cole Ricardi, and Brett Chenail. Cole did the Junior race with Shepard. Tom did the Masters/Sport race with Brett. Brett also did the Fat Bike race, which was held at the same time as the Zanconato Singlespeed race that I did. Then, he did the Donut Madison.

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This was a return trip to Borden Colony for me. It was also the site of Crosstobeerfest, which I raced last month. Rock Hard Racing, the masterminds behind these two races, and the others they promote, have an absolute love of cycling and they know how to promote an event. This was my first ever Secret Squirrel CX, but back in the spring, Shepard and I did the Secret Squirrel MTB, put on by the same folks.

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All of Rock Hard Racing’s events appear to have a vibe that is absent from so many other races. Cyclocross race is already irreverent and fun, but they make their low-key version of cross even better. Today’s race was not USA Cycling sanctioned, so that may have had something to do with it. There were no overt rules, other than to “not crash in the first corner” and have fun.

I think Crosstobeerfest and Secret Squirrel were the only two cross races I did this year that had chip timing, which is a nice touch. Instant results are common in the running and trail running world, and you don’t need chips to get instant results, but it does help.

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It was a long day for Shepard and me. We were out of the house by 6:15 A.M. and made the 100 minute drive to Raynham so that he could squeeze in a pre-ride of the course before his 8:45 A.M. start. It was cold in the morning, but nothing like the last two days. Thankfully, it warmed continuously throughout the day and by the time of my race at 2:30 P.M., it was in the low-40’s Fahrenheit.

Juniors were first and Singlespeed was second to last, so we spent all day at the bike race.  Like I said, it was mercifully warm compared to Thursday and Friday. Despite pushing hard at the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving Day, Shepard rode strong. He was disappointed to miss the podium by one spot (finishing 4th), but he took it in stride. He was able to hop the three log barriers and handle the steep drop-off.

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The course was modified from prior editions. Whereas Crosstobeerfest was at the opposite end of the park, Secret Squirrel was held exclusively in the pine tree grove. I think they have used some fields in prior years, but with the extraordinarily wet fall, the fields were soaked and off-limits.

The Rock Hard crew were able to make a fantastic course with very little real estate. The race was a mixture of singletrack, double track, a short chopped up section of asphalt, and a field sprint that lasted all of five seconds. Most of the race was in the woods, so there were lots of roots and a handful of rocks. It was dry, which was great. The sandy ground had drained nicely.

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I opted to skip the Masters 40+ race and did the singlespeed race instead. It was so much fun. I got a good start and then moved up. There were some great battles. It was hard to pass, so you had to time your efforts and maneuver your bike well if you were going to get by anyone. By the last lap, I was battling for 5th place, though I didn’t realize that. I was just pushing hard.

Thomas Echelberger and I kept trading places. I led him up the first of the two steep and sandy run-ups. That set me up to lead through the uphill log and into the “bowl” which was an awesome section of the course that inspired a lot of “hecklers.” There were three main lines in the bowl. You could go left, center, or right. Center was the best choice, but required the most momentum, power, and finesse to get up and over the “lip.” Even the center line had a few variations. There was  a tree in the middle of the approach. Most people opted to go to the right of the tree, but I was comfortable going left. Thomas was going right, so it was a race to the bottom of the hill.

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On the last lap, we came into some lapped traffic and there were at least three other riders approaching the bowl as we bore down on them. I recall that one of them was on a fat bike. I didn’t hesitate and raced to the left of the tree hoping to gain maximum speed. I came upon the lapped riders very quickly and made a snap judgment to alter my line and go slightly left of center which required me to launch over a series of roots. It was pure instinct, but when I successfully did it and shot past all of them, I was stoked. I let out a whoop and pumped my fist as the crowd cheered. If you could review all my highlights from the 2018 cyclocross season, this was at the top of the list.

The joy didn’t last long. Thomas passed me going into the second steep run-up and we knocked bikes as we fought for position. He took the lead through the upper section of the course. He was faster at jumping over the two logs. I worked hard to close the gap and by the downhill into the sand, I was back on his wheel. I made a move in the final left hand hairpin through the sandy section before the all out sprint into the final section of woods. I knew that the leader in the woods had the big advantage because the sprint to the finish was on chopped up pavement and only like 30 meters to the line.

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I watched several of the earlier races and no one was coming around. I made an effort to get past him, but he forced his way to the front going into the final section of twists. I thought I could still take him on one of the tight turns, but he slowed in the second corner and I ran into the back of his wheel. I rubbed tires and was forced to dab (putting my left foot on the ground) to steady myself. In that moment, the race for 5th was over. He got two seconds on my and I had no chance at closing it down, so I just soft-pedaled to the line, content with my effort.

We were happy to do Secret Squirrel CX, and it turned out to be my best performance of the cross season. I have four more races planned and hope to finish the year strong. We missed a few traditional events today. The first was the Shenipsit Striders Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run. Debbie did the first half, so she was out of the house a full hour before we departed. That’s early! Dahlia spent the weekend at her grandparents’ house, so Debbie was able to have her own full day of adventure. I haven’t done the E2E since 2011, but the kids and I are usually part of the crew that helps out and cheers. The second event we missed (though Debbie made it), was the annual Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving.

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We got home around 5:50 P.M. and after we washed up, the three of us dined at 21 Oak, which was a treat. In 2019, we will likely have some tough choices to make because Secret Squirrel was fantastic and just might be a new tradition.

Race Results

2018 Manchester Road Race

Today’s 82nd edition of the Manchester Road Race had to be one of the coldest ever. The temperature at the start was just about 15 degrees Fahrenheit and it stayed in the teens throughout the race.

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That didn’t deter 8,242 hearty runners and walkers from finishing this Thanksgiving Day tradition. With more than 12,000 registered, there were a lot of now-shows. The Livingston Family showed up and we were very happy with our finishes.

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This was my 29th MRR overall and my 24th in a row. I ran with Shepard who pushed his streak to six races. Debbie doesn’t keep count (it’s her style!), but I’m guessing she has done nearly 20 in a row. I’ll have to do the research! She ran with Dahlia, who has now done three in a row.

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Shepard’s race was a real highlight. He improved his personal best time and scored third in the Boy’s 13 and under division. He was very happy with his run despite suffering in the last two miles. That suffering was because he ran a negative split, dropping his per mile pace by more than 30 seconds as he just kept pushing after a somewhat slow start that included the second mile hill. He finished only a second behind the second place finisher (based on gun time) but couldn’t close the gap on Main Street as the road pitched upward to the finish line.

I ran with him, so the HR shown is mine, but we share the splits.

Laps

Lap Distance Time Pace GAP HR
  1 1.00 mi 7:00 7:00 /mi 6:53 /mi 154 bpm
  2 1.00 mi 7:21 7:21 /mi 6:39 /mi 163 bpm
  3 1.00 mi 6:27 6:27 /mi 6:32 /mi 161 bpm
  4 1.00 mi 6:30 6:30 /mi 6:35 /mi 166 bpm
  5 0.77 mi 5:00 6:26 /mi 6:33 /mi 166 bpm

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I shadowed him and offered encouragement. I have pushed hard in a few years, but look forward to the day when I hammer this race again. I haven’t run much in 2018, so it felt good just to keep pace with my kid.

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Dahlia and Debbie did great too. It was a cold day for our little one. The joke in the family is that she would go faster if she trained more (at all). We saw lots of friends.  The Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders were out in force. Another highlight was Willi Friedrich, a longtime Shenipsit Strider, who participated in his 49th Manchester Road Race. This year, he wasn’t able to run or walk, so he got some help. Team Willi helped him along in his borrowed hand cycle. That’s awesome. Willi is a “runner” who inspires us.

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For the first time, Horst Engineering sponsored the event, specifically the inaugural Veteran’s Row. We were pumped to finally support the event as we have been associated with the race (primarily through our running) for a very long time.

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Despite the cold, there was some great running. The men’s record was broken by Edward Cheserek (21:16), who blew away a strong field that included last year’s winner Paul Chelimo, who finished second. They were followed by Andy Butchart.

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The top female was 19-year-old Celliphine Chespol (24:33). She battled with the 2017 winner, Buze Diriba, who was only one second behind. It must have been a great race. Emily Sisson was only two seconds behind them. It was a tight battle up front for the women.

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The cold may have kept some runners and some spectators away,  but it was still another glorious day in Manchester. Oh, and I would have taken more photos, but my iPhone kept shutting down because of the deep freeze.

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Race Results

2018 Northampton International Cyclocross

Our family made a joyous return to Look Memorial Park for the 28th Northampton International Cyclocross. I’ve done half of them (14) dating back to 1995 when the race used to be on the UMass Amherst campus. Years ago, the race relocated to beautiful Look Memorial Park in the village of Florence, and also became a UCI two-day event. I’ve done a total of 21 NoHo CX races when you count the Saturday and Sunday races.

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This weekend, I was able to do both races even though earlier in the week, it didn’t look like Saturday was going to work out. I had a hectic week and even went to the work for a few hours on Saturday morning before the race. I had packed my gear figuring that if things were smooth at work and more importantly, I felt up to it, then I would shoot (solo) to NoHo, do the race, and then get home in time to pick Shepard up following his Boy Scouts Troop 25 hike on the Shenipsit Trail. He only raced on Sunday this weekend. Debbie and Dahlia had a full day of activities planned together.

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I was glad I raced yesterday because it got me ready for today. I hadn’t raced in three weeks, skipping the last two weekends with conflicts, so I felt a bit stale. I’m better at cross when racing regularly, especially if I’m not training much during the week. The racing keeps my speed high and my skills sharp. Typically after a layoff, it takes a race or two to get back my groove.

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Yesterday went as expected. I had no pop and was disappointed in my result, finishing about 10 spots behind where I wanted to. However, I did have fun on the wet and challenging course, and was glad to be racing again after my short break. When I’m off, it’s very typical for my average heart rate to be low. I only held 168 beats per minute and maxed at 174 beats per minute. The average was about 6 below a good race and the max was 10 below a typical race when I’m going good.

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For comparison, today went better with a 173 average and a 182 max. The numbers don’t lie. They still don’t represent peak form, but I’m looking forward to the Supercross Cup next weekend and will build on this weekend’s races.

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I love the Look Park courses. Both days were in their typical layout with Saturday and Sunday differing a bit. There were some changes in direction. Today’s race was much faster. Yesterday was windy, damp, and the course was muddy in several spots. Today, it was colder, also breezy, and most of the mud had gotten tacky. Today’s track was a bit shorter, so the lap times were quicker.

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Today, Debbie and the kids were with me, which was fun. We had to leave the house at 6:15 A.M. to get there in time for Shepard’s 8:46 A.M. start. Thankfully, we packed everything last night. The Junior 9-14 year olds had a good race and the Team Horst Junior Squad was well represented with Boden Chenail, Lars Roti, and Shepard. All three boys had good races. There were a lot of kids in Look Park today. Our friends, the Grimm’s came from Rochester, New York, and brought their kids too. Look Park is full of playgrounds and other cool areas to check out. A kid can run wild and be safe.

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In today’s races, I was riding strong, but was surprised that my result was still worse than yesterday in a smaller field. Today’s field must have been stronger because I was riding well and still not as far up as I expected. I had a decent start and latched on to a large group including rivals Brian Girard, Keith Gauvin, and Dan Coady. All three of those guys are stronger than me, so I was happy to be the caboose on their group. The problem with being last is that you have to work harder when sprinting out of every corner. You are also at a disadvantage in the technical sections as you are forced to follow other riders’ lines and deal with their mistakes.

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By lap three, I was “yo-yoing” off their group and half way through, I got popped, ending up in no-man’s land. That didn’t last long. I had to recover, looked back and saw several chasers gaining on me. They happened to be a couple of Junior riders that I know well. In the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series events, the Masters 40+ racers compete with the Junior 15-18 year old boys. This makes for interesting racing with the high horsepower juniors rubbing elbows with the savvy and technically skilled Masters.

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I don’t mind it. I’ve gotten used to racing with these “kids” and like the challenge of battling with boys who are 30 years younger. Sometimes there are complaints about their aggressive tactics and the lines they take in the corners, but I race alertly and have been able to avoid tangling with them. It’s a matter of pride to take these kids on and beat (some) of them.

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Anyway, soon after 15-year-old Nicolas Villamizar and 14-year-old Kevin Mullaly caught me, we were joined by two more riders, who turned out to be a father/son duo. I should say son/father duo because it was 13-year-old Frank O’Reilly, Jr. who ended up being the class of our group. Another racing dad, Pierre Gervez, was chasing hard and dangling off the back of our quintet. Nic promptly went to the front and drilled it. He and Kevin traded pulls on and off for the final two laps. Our group changed order several times as we all took turns pushing the pace.

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On the last lap, I was pretty gassed and was in fifth spot heading to the upper section of the course. That’s where Frank, Jr. pushed up the hill and then rode the technical muddy woods section. I ran it the first two laps, rode it the third, and opted to run it again for the final two. That was costly as I lost some ground. Nic was running it too, so we worked together to stay in touch. Frank got a few seconds on our group and after time trialing away, it grew to six by the finish. It’s worth noting that this was his second race of the day–he won the Junior 9-14 year old race. “Wow,” that’s all I can say. On the final section of road, his dad also attacked us and bridged up to his son. It sucked to give up those two spots, but I didn’t have much left.

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That left Kevin, Nic, and I to duke it out for pride. Kevin was strongest in the open ball fields that lead to the final hairpin turn and then the long straightaway to the finish. Cross is all about these intra-race battles. I was banking on the fact that he had been pulling into the windy sections and that I could come around him. Kevin led and Nic was on my wheel. He appeared to be suffering.

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Coming into that greasy final hairpin, Kevin and I took the wide line that we had been hitting every lap. I don’t think either of us expected Nic to make a bid by diving to the inside. He ended up chopping both of us pretty good and there was even some contact as he forced us even wider than we expected. He got to the front and hammered the final section. I slid a bit in the corner but eventually got traction. It took me 50 meters to get up to speed and by then, Kevin was surging past Nic on the right. I followed his wheel and then jumped left just be for the line. It took a bike throw to pip him, with Nic finishing third in our group.

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I have to say I was pleased. That’s despite the fact that it took everything I had to beat a couple of teenagers. It’s only a matter of time before they crush me in races like this, but for today, I got the upper hand. I was toast after the finish, but as I said earlier, efforts like this (when followed by rest) pay dividends. The results show Kevin and me with the same time, and Nic one second behind us. That’s racing!

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I cooled down with my teammates on the lovely Norwottuck Rail Trail. It was a good weekend for Team Horst Sports. In addition to our junior riders (the three mentioned already plus Owen and Ethan Lezon), over the course of two days, our Masters athletes performed well. They included Rich Frisbie, Arthur Roti, Brett Chenail, Andris Skulte, Wade Summers, John Meyerle, Dave Geissert, Paul Nyberg, and Keith Enderle. Even our mate, Matt Domnarski, showed up to cheer today.

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We were packed up and out of the park by 1:30 P.M.. We visited downtown Northampton for a late lunch at Paul & Elizabeth’s. We did a circuit of the town, stopping at Hungry Ghost Bread to pick up some items, before returning to the van for the trip home. Success.

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2018 Connecticut Middle School State XC Championship

After a week filled with rain, we had a beautiful autumn day for the 2018 Connecticut Middle School State XC Championship at Wickham Park in Manchester. It started out cold, but a bright sun warmed the air and it was set against a deep blue sky. Cross Country at Wickham Park is a magical experience.

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This is Debbie’s first year coaching the Bolton Center School (BCS) Boy’s and Girl’s XC teams and it has been a fantastic one. XC is just another reason why I love fall. If I were to rank my favorite months of the year, they would be October, September, and November–in that order. Being a spectator at these races, and watching the girls and boys progress, brought back so many rich memories from my youth.

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On Friday night, the Doyle Family hosted a pot-luck pasta feed at their home, which was great fun. All of the kids were invited. Debbie and her awesome assistant, Donald Rowe, were honored for their roles. It was great to hear how the kids have bonded as their friendships have grown stronger in only eight weeks of practices and meets.

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I started running as a 7th grader at Vernon Center Middle School (VCMS) and continued at East Catholic, where the pinnacle of my XC career was reached as a senior when we won the Class MM State Championships and finished third in the State Open. Nine years ago, I wrote about the 20th anniversary of that 1989 season. That was so long ago, but being at Wickham brought back so many good memories.

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Some of those good vibes may have helped the BCS boy’s team as they claimed third place in the small school division (less than 400 students per school–6th through 8th grade). They were the 19th team overall out of 49 overall in the A race. The six boys who ran today gave it their all and that is what Coach Debbie asks for. The girl’s team has also progressed nicely and improved all season long. In addition to the kids that ran in the A races, Bolton fielded boys and girls teams in the B races, which were run earlier in the day.

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There were a LOT of people at Wickham Park. More than 2,600 boys and girls finished! That’s amazing. There were 400 starters and 391 finishers in the boys A race alone. Each of the schools was permitted to start seven runners and there were many individuals (without teams) mixed in. Each school was allowed to start 15 runners in the B races, so to ease congestion, the B races were split into two so there were CT East races in the morning, and CT West races in the afternoon with the championship races in between. Factor in all of the coaches, parents, and spectators and it was a full crowd. It was wonderful to see so many people running.

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The course itself was in decent shape given how bad the weather has been and how many races have been run between in the park between October and November. There were several muddy spots, including the start/finish stretches, and the “sledding hill.” Many kids had their shoes “sucked off” despite warnings to tie them tighter.

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The park has withstood months of above normal rain, and it has rained a lot in the last few weeks. There has also been a lot of foot traffic on the course, with the high school class meets 10 days ago, the high school State Open last Thursday, and the middle school championship today.

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In the middle of today’s six races, they squeezed in a first ever Mom & Pop Charity XC Race in support of a group that collects shoes for those in need. That put another 50+ people on the soggy course. That race went off at 11:30 A.M., and both Debbie and I competed. It was only 1.8 miles, and it was the first time I’ve run hard in nearly a year. It was great fun and gave us a chance to scout the course and offer tips to our girls and boys who followed us at 12:15 P.M. and 12:45 P.M.

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Back in August when Debbie told me she took the assistant coach role, I was supportive, but curious about how this would go. I asked who the head coach was, and she said they were still searching for one. Then, a week later, she told me that she was the new head coach and that they were searching for her assistant. I became even more curious about how this was going to go!

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In the end, it was awesome. I couldn’t think of a better coach for these kids, including ours. She didn’t just teach them running skills. They learned about focus, mental strength, yoga, and goal setting.  If asked, I’m sure she will return in 2019. She is interested in building a stronger program with the goal of recruiting more kids and sending more of them on to Bolton High School (BHS) with running as their sport of choice.

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BHS has a long tradition of XC running and this year, the boy’s team won the Class S State Championship and qualified for the State Open. Several strong 8th graders will graduate from Debbie’s squad and head to BHS next fall. Hopefully those kids will replenish a strong team that is losing several seniors to graduation.

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The future remains bright for Bolton XC. Go Bulldogs!

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Boys A Team Small School Results

Girls A Team Small School Results

Boys Overall Race Results

Girls Overall Race Results

Mom & Pop Race Results


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My first ever The Ice Weasels Cometh was my 19th and final #cyclocross race of the season. I had a strong ride and was very happy considering that my second race of calendar 2018 (last race of last season) ended up with me breaking a leg. #iceweasels was a much better result and it’s great to finish with peak fitness. Doing most of the @zanksscx gave me a fresh reason to push through this cross season. Today’s race was a solo adventure but I saw lots of teammates and friends. #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #sevencycles @seven_cycles #zanksscx #horstengineering #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross
Sunshine! ☀️ Despite what others may say... #cyclocross in December is SO much better when it is sunny. Today @nbx_bikes Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Day 1, it was cold but clear and dry. I wouldn’t call it a beach day, but it was pretty good. I’m not so sure about Day 2 forecast for tomorrow. #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #nbxcx #crossspikes #crossisboss 🚴🏽
It was “moist” at the CT Series of Cross finals @bishopsorchards #cyclocross #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstengineering #ctseriesofcx #crossspikes @the_ccap #crossisboss
More #secretcx fun. Tom and Brett represented in the Masters race. #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng @racerockhard #cyclocross
#secretcx was really rad. The modified course (due to wicked wet fields) was “mountain bikey” and mint. They shouldn’t change a thing. #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng @racerockhard #cyclocross
Three fun videos from the @nohocx Juniors 9-14 year old race this morning. These kids are all champs! @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstengineering @victuscoffee @bicycleseastct #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #cyclocross #crossisboss
Last night’s @lutzmuseum Children’s #Poetry Reading was lovely. Our little #poet thrives in environments like this.
Good sunrise 🌅 ride. The extra sleep 💤 helped. The leaves 🍁 were lovely. #connecticut residents: Vote YES on Question # 2 #openspace #valleyfalls #boltonheritagefarm #cycling #hiking #trailrunning #sevencycles @ctforestandparkassociation 🚴‍♀️
🍁 ☀️ #october #autumn

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