The Toughest Ten 3.0

I drafted my inaugural Toughest Ten in December 2009 and then revised it in 2014. Then this past weekend, I did the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra and the race immediately made its way on to the list–slotted in at #6. Something had to get bumped and it is only logical that #10 and one of the shortest (but steepest) races on the list get pushed to “also ran” status.

I’ve tracked every race since 1985 not counting my middle school and high school events (cross country, track & field). I’ve “pinned on a number” more 1,060 times across a number of endurance sports disciplines. Through today, these are the toughest races that I have ever done:

1) Jay Challenge, Jay, Vermont, 29-31 July 2005, 20:09:11

Hands down, this is the grandaddy of my palmares. Just finishing the Jay Challenge was an accomplishment.  It is a bit different from others on this list because it was a three-day stage race with the overall winner achieving the lowest cumulative time. Each of the three stages would make this list on their own. I was 10th overall and know I would have done better with a faster kayak, but that doesn’t matter. Finishing was the real accomplishment. The first day was a 27 mile kayak paddle across Lake Mephramagog from Quebec to Vermont. The second day was the classic Jay Mountain Marathon, but it wasn’t 26.2 miles, it was 33. The third day was a 65 mile mountain bike ride on hilly terrain. You summited Jay Peak in both the run and bike. There was so much climbing in this race (except the paddle) that it made you silly. The race was in late July and at the time, I had never been more fit. We completed our End-to-End hike of the Long Trail three weeks before Jay, so I had a pain threshold like never before…and never since. I could go all day long, get up and do it again. The LT was 13 days and 285 miles of supreme effort, so three days at Jay was simple, yet still very hard. Pain Index: 10

2) Ironman Brasil, Florianopolis, Brasil, 30 May 2010, 9:58:53

I’ve never gone deeper. As one day races go, Ironman Brasil  will be hard to top. I earned a Kona slot and had a sub-10 on the line with 10K to go and I buried myself to reach the goals. I was delirious at the finish and it was surreal. It was an epic trip with the family, which made the race that much sweeter. Check out the report and the coda report for the blow-by-blow. Pain Index: 10

3) Sea to Summit Triathlon, Jackson, New Hampshire, 22 July 2006, 9:29:21

It was difficult to rank the Sea to Summit Triathlon third ahead of races four and five because they were all wicked hard. However, given the fitness I had at the time, this one beats out the others. The Sea to Summit Triathlon was an 112 mile jaunt from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Jackson, New Hampshire. The race consisted of a 12 mile kayak up the Piscataquis River to Berwick, Maine. Then, after a transition, you rode 90 miles to Jackson, New Hampshire. From there, you ran four miles uphill on Rt. 16 to Pinkham Notch. Then, you ran/hiked five and a half miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. Only 40 people were allowed into the race. It was a special day, though I suffered dearly. I started the morning at sunrise in the pea soup fog at sea level near the mouth of the river. I finished wearing a skinsuit and a windbreaker on the top of the mountain in gale force winds blowing cold rain and sleet at 6322 feet, the highest point in New England. If it wasn’t for my awesome crew (Debbie, Art, Mel, and Bill), I might still be out on the course. It was shorter than an Ironman, but the weather conditions, lack of organized support/aid stations, and terrain, made it tougher than any other triathlon. Bad decisions by some of the racers resulted in a challenging day for the race directors and the race hasn’t been held since. Pain Index: 10

4) Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawaii, 09, October 2010, 10:27:31

Despite the five months in between Ironman races, I still wasn’t on top form for the Big Dance on the Big Island, but I still survived the Ironman World Championship and lived to tell about it. The race report and highlights tell the story. The no-wetsuit swim was painful and I suffered dearly on the bike from the heat. The sun and its burn (mostly during the bike leg) sucked the life out of me and made for a very miserable marathon, but I never walked. I sorted of slogged my way through it. I feel like I honored my slot, though I missed my time goal. It doesn’t matter because I got to the race and got through the race. 2010 was a pressure packed year and I really haven’t been the same since then. Yeah, it’s four years on, but I left something on the course back in Brasil. I went so deep in that race that everything since then has sort of felt different. Pain Index: 10

5) American Zofingen Ultra-Distance Duathlon, New Paltz, New York, 12 October 2008, 8:28:02

The American Zofingen was also run at a time when I wasn’t quite at my top fitness, but it helped me get back to a high level after my first real long layoff. That means it hurt a heck of a lot. After I finished it, I knew that if I could learn to swim, then I could finish an Ironman. Zofingen is the toughest duathlon in the country, and maybe the toughest in the world. The first leg was a 5 mile trail run in the Mohonk Preserve. The second leg was an 84 mile bike ride around the Shawangunk Mountains. The third leg was 15 mile trail run on the same course as the first leg. Again, at 104 miles, it was shorter than an Ironman, and there was no swimming. Still, due to the terrain (major hills) and my lack of fitness, it was harder, but not by much. Pain Index: 10

6) Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, Phoenicia, New York, 22 June 2019, 15:45:25

Having just finished this one, it is the newest on the list and immediately leapfrogs some other epics, including a couple of Ironman’s. The rugged terrain (rocks, roots, mud) and elevation gain/loss are what separates this 50+ miler from ordinary ultras. I was in great shape coming into this race and was hobbled by the 40-mile mark, but I persevered. As they say, “it was the legs, not the lungs” that did me in. Nevertheless, I was pleased with my performance and proud to join the club of Manitou’s finishers. This one was extra special (but no less painful) because I did it with Debbie. Two of the races in this Top 10 (the other being Wapack and Back) are ultras I did with her.  It’s going to be several weeks before I’m walking normally again. Pain Index: 10

7) Ironman Lake Placid, Lake Placid, New York, 26 July 2009, 10:44:48

Ironman USA in Lake Placid was an amazing race. I did it in August 2010 and it was my longest ever one day race at the time. 2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/26.2 run. That should be enough to put it on the top of this list. However, I managed to get into top form, so it hurt, but not as bad as some of the other races on this list. I had my rough moments, and the swim was terrifying, but I managed to race within my limits and finish strong. The support was phenomenal (great volunteers) and the conditions were good. I’m sure that most people would put Ironman at the top of their list. For various reasons, it isn’t quite there for me. Thinking back, Zofingen and Sea to Summit were just plain harder, but mostly because I fell apart in both of those races. I was strong to the end during Lake Placid. I’m still proud of my first ever Ironman finish. Pain Index: 9

8) Wilderness 101, Coburn, Pennsylvania, 28 July 2012, 8:30:55

The 101 was ridiculously hard. It is my longest ever mountain bike race. I did it with teammate Arthur Roti. We were rookies at the 100 mile distance. This course is as rugged as it gets. The 30 miles of singletrack were hard, but the washboard/washed out dirt roads were even harder. I did the race on my Seven Sola SL singlespeed with a rigid fork, which was nuts. That is a brutal way to ride a race like this, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. The race organization was awesome. It was so hard that so far, I’ve had no desire to go back. Pain Index: 9

9) Wapack and Back 50, Ashburnham, Massachusetts, 10 May 2014, 11:53:20

I first ran a 50 mile trail race at the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, but Wapack made Lookout look like a cakewalk. In hindsight, Wapack is what led to this year’s left foot stress fracture that has been a real drag on my year. I haven’t run in 13 weeks. The Wapack Trail just pummeled me. I pushed as hard as ever in an effort to stay in front of Debbie. See, we aren’t that competitive! I finished and said I would never run another 50 and certainly never run a 100, but time heals and you never know. Pain Index: 9

10) Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon, New Paltz, New York, 13 September 2013 and 09 September 2012

I always knew that S.O.S. was hard from hearing the war stories of other athletes. I always wanted to do it and finally committed in 2012. I’m a weak swimmer, but the beautiful course really appealed to me and I wanted to test myself. This race is the real deal. I cramped horribly in 2012 and it slowed me a great deal. I figured I would return in 2013 and improve my time, but the cramping and suffering were even worse. After last year’s debacle, I had no interest in returning for 2014. I’m glad I didn’t because I’m injured now and the race is coming up soon. Maybe it will be a comeback race for 2015 when it celebrates its 30th year. I don’t know. It just doesn’t suit my strengths, but it is brutally hard and a finish is something to cherish. Pain Index: 9

Former Top Ten Toughest races that dropped off the list since 2009:

Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb, Gorham, New Hampshire, 23 August 1997; 1:14:54, 21 August 1999; 1:10:37, 19 August 2000; 1:08:04, 25 August, 2001; 1:11:04, 16 August 2014, 1:17:33

I’ve done the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb five times, including this year after a 13 year layoff. Incidentally, I’ve run it once, but it is the bike race that destroys the legs and puts your heart rate into a new category. Each time, I  pushed so hard that it made me dizzy. The last 22% grade is nothing like anything you have ridden before. As far as I’m concerned, it is the hardest section of road on Earth.  It comes after 7.6 miles of constant uphill at an average grade of 12%. For a hill, on a bike, this is as hard as it gets. My best finish was in 2000 when I rode a 38 x 25 low gear, which was way too hard. This year, I rode a 39 x 27, which isn’t much better. My knees are still hating me for that decision. Back in 2009, I said, “I haven’t done the race since 2001 when the entry fee rose to $300 (though it is for charity) and the event got too popular. I’ll do it again someday.” This year was the year to do it again and I was slower, but so happy to finish. This is the shortest race on the list, but there is no resting, and it is one of the most intense. The weather at the top is the most inhospitable in the world, with constant wind and cold temperatures, even in August. It is no surprise that two of my top ten toughest races have finished on the Washington summit cone. Pain Index: 8

Ultimate XC (Jay Mountain Marathon), Jay, Vermont, 28 July 2007, 6:51:37

The Jay Challenge has not been held in the past few years, but the race morphed into an ultra-distance trail running race, when it was reduced to one day from three. Now known as the Ultimate XC, the Jay Mountain Marathon started as a run years ago, became part of the three stage Jay Challenge, returned to a run, and eventually migrated from Vermont to Quebec. A version of the race has also been held in Moab, Utah the past two years. All of the variations and names are hard to keep track of, but the one constant is the difficulty of the courses. This run took us up Jay Peak to an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. Then, it plunged us down the backside, through deep mud, into a bushwhacking section, then into a series of streams, then to a river crossing, then through a swamp, and eventually back to town. It was 33 miles of agony. Debbie caught me at mile 16 and I hung with her for 15 miles, before she dropped me like a wet sandbag. I finished, and that is what counts. Pain Index: 9

Hampshire 100, Greenfield, New Hampshire, 17 August 2008, 7:41:57

Other than the third stage of the Jay Challenge, the Hampshire 100 is the hardest mountain bike race that I have done. It was 100 kilometers, but it felt like 100 miles. Thanks to a month’s worth of unseasonable rain, the course was a quagmire. It was one big loop, which added to its epic nature. There was a ton of climbing and there was the added benefit of racing against two teammates for the honors of fastest mate. I kept dropping off their little group, before getting shed for good. Then, I had a wild mechanical failure when a stick wedged into my lower derailleur pulley going downhill at 20mph. I came to an abrupt halt and my chain was jammed. With less than five miles to go, I was afraid that I was going to have to walk the rest of the way. I made a delicate repair, extricated my derailleur from my rear wheel, and rode it in. It was a long day! Pain Index: 8

Jay Mountain Bike, Jay, Vermont, 30 July 2006, 8:56:00 DNF

It is a testament to Jay Race Director, Dan DesRosiers, that his events show up on this list three separate times. They are unique, they are painful, and they are unmatched. He goes out of his way to make the races difficult. You feel like a champ just for finishing. Unfortunately, this one, I didn’t finish. I was a DNF at the Jay Mountain Bike, with only five miles to go in the 70 mile race. It was one of two DNF’s on this list. I stopped at nine hours and I was at least an hour from the finish. Debbie was eight months pregnant and crewing for me (no excuse). It was hot (no excuse). I did Sea to Summit  a week prior (see number two on this list, but no excuse). I just didn’t have the legs, and suffered terribly. I walked the five miles before I quit and was resigned to the fact that I just wasn’t going to make it, so I climbed off after hours of struggling on the bike. It was the brutal fresh-cut singletrack that was the last straw for me.  No regrets. Pain Index: 8

Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse, Grimbergen, Belgium, 06 August 1994, 2:19:56

I spent the summer of 1994 racing kermesses all over Belgium. In 15+ races, this was the hardest one. There have been many longer bike races over the years and many that hurt a lot, but the Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse had the romance of racing in Belgium. I made the front group for the first time all summer. There were 15 other riders in a breakaway and I had to give it everything I had just to stay with the group and take my pulls. My heart rate hit 200bpm in this race, which was typical at the time, but still very high. This was the race where I started to burn out on road cycling. The other riders in the break were downright violent. There is no question that performance enhancing drugs (amphetamines) were being used. I risked being crashed out of the race at the hands of these merciless riders. I was happy to be up there, but wasn’t going to make it to the finish with them anyway, so I dropped off the group and finished behind them. I’ve never had to ride harder to stick with a break. Pain Index: 8

Race for the Gate, Nashua, New Hampshire, 24 June 2000, 1:08:00, DNF

I did a lot of tough road cycling events over my career. I’ve wrecked in many, but that doesn’t mean they were hard. There have been long and hilly road races. There have been intense cyclocross races where I was in oxygen debt. But, the longest cross races were 65 minutes. I did the Race for the Gate criterium when it was held as a twilight/night-time race. That alone made it different and difficult. I recall that it was a crash fest. The race was delayed by a huge pileup and people were going down left and right. The shadows cast by the large spotlights that the organizers had on the course, were very deceiving. There were more than 100 riders in this Pro/1/2/3 race and I was hanging on for dear life. I wish I had made it to the finish, but I got popped off the back with only a couple of laps to go. I was completely anaerobic and I was in danger of losing control in a corner. I was ecstatic to have made it as far as I did. It was a long criterium and it was a hard one. Pain Index: 8

Honorable Mention’s in no particular order:

Most of these races can be easily searched on my blog. Some wintry day, I’ll add the links. I look forward to the day that I displace the next race on this list and get to update it again. I’m open to suggestions. Tell me how to top these. But for now, I’ll go for a little rest and recovery.

2019 Manitou’s Revenge Ultra

One mile down the road, my Garmin Forerunner GPS buzzed and I knew exactly what the alert was for. The question was, do I glance at my watch or ignore the alert? In a split second the decision was made. I looked–and thankfully it said, “+5” indicating my Performance Condition was good. At the start of a 54-mile ultramarathon, that is so much better than seeing a “-5.” “Minus-anything” would have been a soul crushing blow.

IMG_1758

IMG_1774

It was only 5:20 A.M.and my  spirits were immediately lifted as I had 53 miles to go in the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra and I hadn’t even hit the first section of trail yet. Manitou’s is seductively beautiful. The ruggedness of the Catskills is only rivaled by the other Northeastern mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, but in a weird way, these New York peaks seem rougher. You only top out around 3,900 feet and rarely get above the treeline (there are a few overlooks), but the combination of hills, rocks, roots, and mud make for a challenging landscape. You might suffer vertigo just looking at the course profile.

IMG_1771

Manitou’s is no ordinary 50-miler. Running that distance is no joke, but on this point-to-point course, with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and 15,000 feet of elevation loss, the level of difficulty is so much greater than the average race of this distance. The terrain is as harsh as it gets, with undulating hills averaging a 15% gradient and peaking out at 60%. The trails are littered with rocks and roots that make even the “flat” sections difficult to run. There are parts of the course that if you average two miles per hour, then you are doing well. I haven’t updated my Toughest Ten in several years but this race is an instant qualifier.

IMG_1786

IMG_1797

Yesterday’s weather was spectacular. The temperature in the valleys was in the high-70’s and it was cooler on the summits with a constant breeze. That wind kept the bugs away and offered a lovely cooling effect as the sun was strong given the proximity of this race to the Solstice. The sunset was amazing. I finished just before dark, so I experience all of the “golden hour.”  The race started at 5:00 A.M. and went off in waves at five-minute intervals. The 24-hour cutoff indicates how tough this race is. Double that and you have a similar cutoff ratio as the toughest 100-milers in the world.

IMG_1799

IMG_1783

This was a return to Manitou’s for Debbie. She first ran the race in 2017 in preparation for that year’s Hardrock Endurance Run and subsequently the Cascade Crest Endurance Run. It was perfect training for those tough events. The big difference is that the extreme elevation change of Manitou’s is an accumulation of short and steep ups and downs. “Relentless”is the word that comes to mind when you think about the course profile and trail conditions. The wet spring made the usually muddy trails even muddier. Some sections were so awful that you had nowhere to go other than straight through the muck.

IMG_1781

I destroyed my new Altra Lone Peak 4.0’s. I don’t think this generation of Altra’s are built with the same quality as prior, but they still shouldn’t have fallen apart in their first race. I struggled to dial in their fit throughout the race. I tied and retied them no less than 10 times. They just don’t fit like the 3.0’s that I had come to love. I got the same size, but something isn’t right about these shoes. I had a pain on the top of my right foot that wouldn’t go away. Thankfully, the bottom of my feet, despite being soaked all day long, were in great shape.

IMG_1806

IMG_1802

Another solid gear choice was my Black Diamond trekking poles. They were as helpful on the steep downhills as they were on the steep uphills. Periodically, I put them away, strapping them to the bottom of my UltrAspire Zygos pack. I did this on some of the steepest and longest downhills that required two hands to grab rocks and scramble safely. Some of the granite strewn ascents and descents were so sheer, that they reminded me of The Knife Edge on Katahdin, but with trees and a bit less exposure. With a slip, you wouldn’t fall 500 feet like in Maine, but you could fall 40, and the consequences would likely be the same.

IMG_1750

My fueling and hydration went well. I drank water from my hydration pack’s bladder, and Tailwind from an additional bottle that I carried in the front of the pack. I ate GoMacro Bars, Clif Bloks, potatoes with salt, pickles, vegan quesadillas, potato chips, vegan chocolate/coconut “bombs,” and veggie broth. I took S Caps to augment my electrolyte intake, and I ingested two Tylenols’ (at mile 30 and mile 40) to take the edge off of my leg pain, which was severe.

IMG_1767

The “+5” on my Garmin wasn’t the only indication that I’m in good shape. I’ve been feeling good all spring. I had a slow build in 2018 following a lot of rest in the first half of the year after my broken leg. Then last fall, I had a strong comeback cyclocross season. I maintained my fitness throughout the winter, started to run again by the end of the year, and have subsequently built some great form in 2019. I’ve had a lot going on at work which has been a mental and physical strain, so I started 2019 by intentionally improving my diet and sleep. This effort to counteract the stress, has kept me on an even keel and has been a benefit for my athletic performance. I’m feeling strong.

IMG_1807

IMG_1800

I prepared for Manitou’s using a similar approach to past ultras. I got in my overall exercise, which is mostly riding with a little running. I try to average 10 hours a week with 80%  of that on a bicycle and 20% on my feet. Much of my riding comes from commuting to work. I did core work to stretch and strengthen my muscles. I did some trail racing including Traprock 50K and Soapstone Mountain 24K. I did a couple of long days in the woods with Debbie. We had one such adventure in Massachusetts in May, and another earlier this month in Vermont. Both trips included long days and lots of vertical ascent. When she put Manitou’s on her 2019 calendar, she suggested I prepare and join her. I’m glad I did.

IMG_1790

IMG_1805

Debbie and I started in Wave 3, 10 minutes after Wave 1. Sheryl Wheeler was in our wave. She is a legend in northeast trail running, and did the 2000 Escarpment Trail Run with Debbie. Yesterday, Sheryl and I spent some time together on the first climb of the day and she was reminiscing about her trail running past. She said that the 2000 Escarpment was one of her first trail races and that after that, she was hooked. She said she finished third behind Debbie (Schieffer back then), and Nikki Kimball. Nikki got her start at racing trails in 1999 the same year that Debbie did. They did their first ultra together at the Vermont 50. Sheryl won her first Escarpment in 2003 and has gone on to win the race four more times. In the 2000 race, Ben Nephew won for the first time. He has gone on to win Escarpment 12 more times.

IMG_1801

IMG_1816

Both Sheryl and Ben are multiple-time winners of Manitou’s Revenge. Ben won yesterday’s race in 11 hours and 25 minutes. Sheryl was fourth woman. Success at the Escarpment Trail Race can be translated to success at Manitou’s because the Escarpment Trail features prominently, with much of the first 18 miles of Manitou’s on it. The Escarpment Trail Race finishes at North/South Lake, which is Aid Station 3 at Manitou’s. The other trail that contributes to Manitou’s toughness factor is the Devil’s Path. The name says it all. The steepest ups and downs are on this section of the course. AMC’s Best Day Hikes Catskills & Hudson Valley is a good resource. The updated maps show the many trails in Catskills Park.

IMG_1754

Debbie and I didn’t run together, but we saw each other several times. I would get ahead on the climbs and she would close the gap on the descents. She caught up to me several times. We reconnected at some of the aid stations. After the 40-mile mark, I was having serious problems going downhill. I couldn’t sustain a pace and was forced to walk a lot. This cost me 20 spots as I was helplessly passed by a steady stream of runners, including six in the final three miles of trail, which was all downhill on loose rock. I felt really good, but my legs, particularly my quadriceps, were shot. I knew it and accepted it, but it was still demoralizing given my form. This result was predictable as I have suffered the same fate every time I’ve run longer than 50K. My leg muscles just can’t handle the longer distances and the accumulated pounding eventually does me in.

IMG_1813

While I was slowing down, Debbie was suffering a similar fate. She started the race with a sore right heel and Manitou’s rocks took their toll. She ended up favoring her left leg, which resulted in her own quadricep soreness. She too struggled on the descents, which is uncharacteristic for her because running downhill is her strength. I finished 44th in 15 hours and 45 minutes. She was 20 minutes and four spots behind me in 16 hours and 6 minutes. That’s a long time for a 50-miler and only our White Mountain Hut Traverses in 2011 and 2013 took longer for a similar distance. I was hoping she would catch me one the final descent so that we could finish together, but if I stopped, I might never have gotten moving again, so I kept shuffling to the finish in Phoenicia.

IMG_1757

Over the last six years since the founding, Manitou’s Revenge has become a community. Finishers are members of a fraternity. It doesn’t matter how fast you go. Getting to the finish line gives you serious ultra credentials. That stats prove this out. My Garmin Connect data says I took 115,000+ steps, ascended 936 floors, and burned more than 7,000 calories.

IMG_1821

The competitors make the race, but the volunteers make the race happen. Race Director Charlie Gadol is fortunate to have a cadre of dedicated helpers who put a lot of time into the event. Some of them hiked and hauled food, beverages, and supplies to difficult-to-reach aid stations. It was greatly appreciated.

After similar poundings at the Lookout Mountain 50 and Wapack and Back 50, I swore I would never run a mountainous 50 again. I won’t make any more perditions because I actually enjoy the challenge, but I’m pretty sure that one Manitou’s Revenge is enough. Congratulations to all of my fellow finishers. You earned it!

Race Results

HORST Engineering Expansion

In recent years, I’ve written more about running and cycling adventures than I have about business adventures. The pattern of highlighting my family’s outdoor pursuits won’t stop, but today, I’m sharing news of a major expansion at the HORST Engineering Family of Companies.

Our website post and press release cover the basic facts.

There is sure to be more news coverage (and we hope positive) about our expansion, but also more generally about the resurgent growth of manufacturing in the USA, and particularly in Connecticut. I’m proud of our 73-year, three generation track record of crafting precision machined components for aerospace and other high technology industries.

Our Core Purpose has never been more powerful: We help people fly safely and keep our communities strong by making precision parts in the USA.

Yesterday, I gave a new hire presentation for four people (including a summer intern) at our Massachusetts operations (HORST Sterling Machine) and I repeated our Core Purpose multiple times. I showed them that in the front of my notebook, I carry a laminated copy of the Core Purpose along with a copy of our Core Values, so that they are ready to share at a moment’s notice.

Manufacturing is a tough sport, just like cyclocross, ultramarathon trail running, and some of the other crazy endurance activities that I do in my “spare time.” My business experience helps me become a better athlete, and my athletic strengths (and training)  make me a better businessperson.

The passion that I have for business is very strong and that comes through whenever I host a shop tour. I did one last Friday for a group of new hires at our Connecticut operations (HORST Engineering) and they were thrilled with the prospect of moving to a world class factory. It helps that our new location will only be three miles from our legacy Cedar Street plant site where my grandfather moved (from 602 Garden Street in Hartford) in 1950. We have accumulated a LOT of stuff over the last 69 years. This will be no ordinary move!

At our Massachusetts plant site, where we lease the building, we are also making improvements to the work environment with updated offices, conference space, and a renovated cafeteria. A modern factory is a key part of any manufacturing company’s infrastructure, but we have survived (and thrived) since 1950 headquartered at our current location. We have never had a chance like this to realign our manufacturing processes using lean enterprise to organize in cells and flow lines. This move requires an entirely new way of thinking.

Naturally there have been many expansions over the years, but the opportunity to get our three Connecticut plant sites under one roof is a huge step forward. I’ve personally worked on the project to acquire 141 Prestige Park Road (East Hartford), since last August. It was an atypical deal that required a lot of perseverance. It’s helpful that perseverance is one of our five Core Values and that I practice it all of the time.

I spend most of my waking hours working. That ethic has been in my family’ s blood for a long time. If you know me then you know that I commute to and from work by bicycle frequently. Those rides are when I do a lot of my thinking. My role as a business leader and manager requires a lot of decision-making and it is in solitude when my thinking is most clear. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this expansion and the risk associated with it. Despite the success of our key customers and strong demand for our products and services, manufacturing in New England is a battle. We have a tough business climate, particularly in Connecticut, and the cost of doing business is very high. That is often a tradeoff when a region has a highly skilled workforce. I want to believe that the business climate is better than perceived. I wish it wasn’t so negative, but I don’t have control over how others react to the situation.

I choose to focus on what I can control and I’ve put 100% into improving our business by focusing on four principles: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. These four are espoused in Scaling Up, a book that I keep on my desk. Our Senior Leadership Team and our Management Team have rallied in support of the plan that we have in place and the foundation is the Core Purpose and Core Values, which are “forever.”

I’m sure that I’ll share more about this project as it progresses. The building will be green…very green. Our goal is to grow responsibly with the welfare of our people at the top of the list. Everyone knows that it is very hard to recruit skilled workers to the manufacturing sector. We have made much progress by focusing on our culture and investing in technology and lean enterprise. We spent the better part of the last four years implementing a next generation ERP system. It has been rough going at times. The building project has been on the back burner for nearly 20 years. I first started looking at new locations in 2000. Sometimes it takes that long to find what you want. I passed up (some time regretfully) on other opportunities when the timing wasn’t right, or the risk was too great. The good news about being the steward of a 73-year old business is that you can take the long view.

It was a lot of work to get to the closing at the end of April, but we are merely at the starting line now as the major renovation has just begun. That will be followed by a multi-year transition from our current plant sites. The good news is that we have the decades of experience and many business cycles to look back on as we ponder the next steps for our family enterprise. This new factory will be a symbol of our progress and the fulfillment of more than one dream.

2019 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

This was supposed to be the year that we broke the streak. Last year, Debbie made it to her 20th consecutive Mt. Greylock Trail Race and we felt like we were no longer “obligated” to keep the streak going. This year, we decided that we would take a break.

IMG_1683

IMG_1677

We didn’t pre-register because we have a bunch of travel starting next weekend,  we raced the Belltown Throwdown yesterday, and I had planned Monday travel to our plant north of Boston. I didn’t want to drive to The Berkshires for a short trail race considering we had no plans to run the half-marathon.

IMG_1667

IMG_1674

Then, we woke up this morning, and in a matter of minutes, changed our minds. It was raining, which meant that doing stuff around home wouldn’t be pleasant. If it dawned sunny like yesterday, I would have been tempted to remain home and do a long bike ride. Instead, running made more sense. I’ve spent part of every Father’s Day since I first became a Dad, at Greylock Glen in Adams, MA. I suggested to Debbie that we go, and she was immediately on board.

IMG_1669

We roused the kids and were in the car by 7:45 A.M. We arrived at Greylock Glen around 9:35 A.M., registered, and hung out with some of our long time Grand Tree Trail Running Series Friends. The Greylock numbers have dwindled but the WMAC still puts a solid effort into this event and we love it.

IMG_1671

The four of us opted to run together, which was a nice change of pace. The 5K is really only 2.6 miles, so it was over in less than 30 minutes. We mingled a bit as the rain came down, but then headed for Northampton where we had a nice lunch at Paul & Elizabeth’s. We walked around Thornes Marketplace and were back home by 3:30 P.M.

IMG_1672

The streak is alive!

Race Results

2019 Belltown Throwdown

Yesterday’s Belltown Throwdown was the second “annual” but it was our first time doing this East Hampton, Connecticut mountain bike race. The Stage 1 Cycling Team-Airline Cycles and their volunteers hosted another good cycling event.

IMG_0334

We have done their fall cyclocross race (also has Belltown in the name) several times and always enjoy their events. The mountain bike course was near Lake Pocotopaug, just near the center of East Hampton.

IMG_1660

IMG_1641

The private land behind Paul & Sandy’s Too (hardware an garden center) was hilly and rugged with plenty of rocky and rooted singletrack. I described it as a classic “New England” style course.

IMG_1636

The long course used by the Cat 1 and Cat 2 riders was 3.6 miles long. For the Cat 3 and 4 riders and Juniors, there were shorter versions of the course, which cut down the length and removed some of the more advanced (technical) features.

IMG_1637

Earlier in the week, it looked like we might skip the race. We had to await the diagnosis of Shepard’s broken wrist (suffered at last Sunday’s West Rock Superprestige Mountain Bike Race). He is in a cast, and mountain biking is out for at least the next six weeks, but he can still ride on flat terrain if he takes it easy and can control his bike with one hand. Running is also fine. When I was warming up, I took him for a ride on the Air Line Trail.

IMG_1662

IMG_1651

The entire family was pre-registered for Belltown and we wanted to cheer on all our teammates, so we decided to go. It was a good lesson for Shepard to participate even though he couldn’t race. We are glad we went because we had a lot of fun.

IMG_1657

It was an excellent day for Team HORST Sports. Our juniors: Sean, Boden, Lars, Liam, Owen, and Alexandra did great. Sean and Alex won their respective divisions in the CCAP Spring MTB series. Our Masters riders, including Brett, Art, Debbie, and me also did well. Debbie did two laps of the course and was first among Cat 3 women. Art, Brett, and I were in the late afternoon Cat 1 race which was four laps. The race ended up being 14 miles long and though it only took me 100 minutes, it was a substantial effort.

IMG_1647

This race wrapped up the CBR Offroad Series, but it won’t be our last mountain bike race of the season.

IMG_1654

Race Results

2019 Spring Street Mile

Talk about a rude awakening! Debbie and I did the Spring Street Mile for the first time. This was a last minute decision, a bit of an experiment, and just for fun.

IMG_1563

We had already planned a Saturday morning training run at Case Mountain in Manchester. We intended to do uphill repeats from the Spring Street side of the “mountain.” On Thursday, Debbie sent me a link for the race registration, as the race was due to happen right after our workout.

IMG_1557

The start line is 1/4 mile from Case lot, our daughter was with my parents and our son was at a Boy Scouts camporee, so we had no excuse. This morning, we drove to Globe Hollow Park (finish) for 7:30 A.M., picked up our race bibs, and then drove up to the Case lot. We  spent an hour running up and down the hill, getting in four repeats. Debbie did the Women’s race at 9:00 A.M. I followed with the Men’s race at 9:15 A.M.

IMG_1559

This is one fast mile. It is a point to point course from Tam Rd. to Globe Hollow with a net drop of 135 feet. The field was stacked with fast runners! The first man was 4:02 and the first woman was 4:22. I started in the 4th row with 50 guys in front of me, and that is pretty much where I finished with a net time of 4:56. Everyone runs this fast–about 15 seconds quicker than they could do on a track. The point to point layout and downhill make a big difference. The pack also helps, though I was “off the back” pretty quick. Debbie ran her fastest ever mile, but for someone who specializes in 50 mile and 100 mile trail races on rugged terrain, she was the proverbial fish out of water and wasn’t happy with her pacing. Sometimes she doesn’t warm up until the four hour mark, so I’m not sure what she was expecting! Regardless, I’m happy for her and she will want another crack at this race in the future.

IMG_1558

This is a certified course and it was the USATF Connecticut One Mile Road Championship. There was solid prize money on the line, but Debbie and I didn’t even sniff it! We were surprised how many of our trail running friends showed up. I thought we would be the only ones stupid enough to try something like this. I know a lot of the roadies who specialize in these races and it was fun to see them too, but it is clearly not my scene.

IMG_1561

We knew we needed a good warmup, so the Case repeats did the job. Truthfully, the uphills session was the main course and the fast mile was dessert. We didn’t stick around long. We jogged back to the car and were home by 10:00 A.M. I definitely want to do this again, and mainly because I messed up my self-timing, which makes my Strava time look like 5:52. Rather than saving my time on my Garmin GPS, I mistakenly hit start again a minute after finishing. As they say, “if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen.”

IMG_1566

Race Results (Women)

Race Results (Men) 

2019 Goodwin Forest Trail Runs

Connecticut Trails Day Weekend continued today at the Goodwin Forest Trail Runs in Hampton. Once again, it was a family affair for us. Debbie, Shepard, and I all ran the “10K” which is more like 5.7 miles, but who is counting? This is the short course Goodwin race, as the long course is 30K +/-. Dahlia came to watch. She had a soccer game that we had to rush to afterwards. That was one reason why we opted for the shorter version of this fun race.

IMG_1499

Debbie has run the 30K before, but Shepard and I have only ever run the 10K. Goodwin is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. The Goodwin Forest Conservation Center is a collaboration between the Connecticut DEEP and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). As mentioned in yesterday’s post, CFPA is the coordinator of Trails Day Weekend.

IMG_1509

We had a beautiful June morning with a mild temperature and an overcast sky. This was good for running conditions. The trails were mostly dry, though there were a few mucky spots. The bugs weren’t too bad and the rocks and roots were a bit slippery.

IMG_1505

Shepard’s race was impacted by a “potty break,” but he still managed to have a strong run, good for 11th and first in his age group. Debbie was second overall woman and first in her age group. That earned them wood medallions and a bag of cookies. For Debbie, this was a good result in a short race. Yesterday, she reunited with an old friend and teammate, Jeff Woods.

IMG_1501

IMG_1510

She joined Jeff and their mutual friend, Joe, at the Trilogy Adventure Race at John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville, New York. They covered about 21 miles on foot, on mountain bikes, and in kayaks. The race was promoted by the New York Adventure Racing Association. This brought back memories for both of us as we did a lot of adventure race in in the early 2000’s. Jeff and Joe never stopped and every year, Jeff asks Debbie to join him for an event. I’m glad she was able to finally able to make an adventure race part of her schedule again.

IMG_1507

As for my results at Goodwin, I also earned a medallion for second in my age group. Debbie and I also won “Queen of the Mountain (QOM) and King of the Mountain (KOM)” honors. There really wasn’t one big climb, but this award is given to to the first female and male to reach Governor’s Island, regardless of the distance they are running. It really favors the 10K runners as you would have to go out pretty hard if you were a 30K runner and wanted this award. This is the point where the 10K and 30K split.   The QOM and KOM are somewhere around the 3.7-mile mark. “Team Livingston” as the Race Director described us, earned a jar of local Hampton honey and a bottle of local Hampton maple syrup. We were pleased with our prizes.

IMG_1511

IMG_1506

The Goodwin trails are pretty rough, especially in the middle part of the race where there are more rocks. We love this event and enjoy the trails. The volunteers, many from the Willimantic Athletic Club, are fun and dedicated. The race benefits the Friends of Goodwin Forest. Sunday afternoon will

IMG_1512

Race Results (not posted yet, but they will be at this link)


Horst Engineering Family of Companies

Cross Spikes™

Instagram

@horstcycling is the new home for Cross Spikes news. This community will expand with more in depth #cycling oriented product info. Keep following @horsteng for your #aerospace and #precisionmachining fix! Oh, and... #crossiscoming ### #crossspikes #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad gravelbike #fatbike #cyclocross #horstengineering
Another great post #windingtrails #triathlon #sunset 🏊🏽‍♀️ 🚴🏽🏃🏿🌅
#windingtrails #triathlon #sunset 🏊🏽‍♀️ 🚴🏽🏃🏿☀️
1) More @nemba_mtb #nembafest 2) More sweet @kingdomtrails #kingdomtrails 3) More #vermont mud ### #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes #mountainbiking #mountainbike #vermud 🚵‍♂️ 🏔 🌧
Our week of adventure continued with a quick trip to @kingdomtrails for @nemba_mtb #nembafest where we saw LOTS of friends on the awesome trails. ### #vanlife #mountainbiking #mountainbike #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #teamhorstjuniorsquad #kingdomtrails #vermont
First race (of six) in the 2019 Bolton Summer XC Series was a big success. Only issue was the big numbers result in a big registration line but the weather was awesome and everyone was patient. We had a Kids’ Watermelon 🍉Dash, a Kids’ 1-Mile Race, and the all-comers 2.4 Mile Wednesday Night World Championship. See you next week. #shenipsitstriders #bsxcs #trailrunning #running 🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏿☀️
A taste of the Manitou’s Revenge Ultra in the Catskills. #manitousrevenge #catskills #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #ultrarunning #trailrunning 🏃🏽‍♀️ 🏃🏿 🏔
This was the 21st consecutive #mtgreylock trail race for @trailrunningmom We opted for the short course “5K” and were joined by the kids. #trailrunning #shenipsitstriders 🏃🏽‍♀️
Yesterday’s #belltownthrowdown #mountainbike race capped a great spring season for the @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad and #teamhorstsports 🚵‍♂️ 🏆 🥇 #mountainbiking #crossspikes #horstengineering

Follow me on Twitter

Categories

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 362 other followers