2023 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

After 13 years, I returned to run the Northern Nipmuck Trail Race in Union, Connecticut. The classic Grand Tree race had a 10 year hiatus, but returned in 2022 after Race Director Tony Bonanno resurrected it. The past two years, it’s been run with a small field.

It was my 9th time doing the race, but first since 2010. I last wrote about it in 2012. Debbie ran it that year, then didn’t run it for the 10 year period that it wasn’t held. She returned to run it last year and was thrilled that Tony and the Shenipsit Striders brought it back. It has always been one of her favorite races. Our club already promotes the NipMuck Trail Marathon and Nipmuck South, so we have the ‘Muck covered.

I was last on this gnarly section of the Nipmuck Trail in April 2020 when Debbie and I ran the Nipmuck End-to-End during the mad COVID-19 Fastest Known Time (FKT) craze. That was an epic adventure. We ran the entire trail including the sections used for all three Striders races plus the defunct Breakneck Trail Race.

My first Northern Nipmuck in 2002 (21 years ago!) was a major fail. I was just starting to run tougher trails in an attempt to keep up with Debbie. My cyclists legs hadn’t yet been conditioned to trail running. I don’t think they ever will be, but at least I can finish now. That day in 2002, I got a ride back to the start/finish after bailing at the 12 mile mark (twin tubes aid station). My legs just didn’t work anymore. It was humbling. I didn’t return until 2004, but then six consecutive finishes culminating with that 2010 race.

My best time was 2:22:15 in 2009. Today, I ran my slowest ever time, a 2:44:55, but that doesn’t matter. At 50, I’m happy to be out there running and feeling good. Today’s conditions were kind of normal for late March on the Nipmuck Trail. It rained most of the day yesterday, so the trail was soggy in spots and slippery most everywhere. It warmed up nicely from the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) to the high 40’s. The sun shone brightly, so the south facing portions of the trail dried up a bit.

This section of the trail is very undulating. My GPS tracked about 3,000 feet of vertical gain and 3,000 feet of loss. It’s rocky and there are lots of roots. Debbie was the first woman in this small field. She finished seven or eight minutes behind me. I felt good. I went out conservatively. I would have liked to have a negative split, but there is more climbing on the way back. I think I got to the half way point in 1:21 or 1:22. The race was always listed as 16 miles and very well may be that long. There is so many sharp ups and downs and so many sharp turns, that it is hard for a GPS to capture all the distance. My watch said 14.88 miles, but who is counting? Miles six and 10 were my two fastest. The grade adjusted pace was the same for both. Now we are talking nine minute miles on what is the “smoothest” and fastest section of the course. This is the same section of trail. Mile six on the way out and mile 10 on the way back.

Of course, right after you run a “fast” nine minute mile, the next mile is over 11 minutes. That’s Nipmuck! It isn’t just that this section is hard; it is also very beautiful. The moss covered rocks are awesome. The trees are fantastic. The trail crosses through the Yale Forest and also Hull Forestry’s property. You don’t run through Bigelow Hollow State Park, but that is where you park. The park is one of the most lovely in the entire state. It’s worth checking out.

A year ago, we were in Delaware Water Gap for the TAMMANY 10. That hurt. I’m glad we opted for Northern Nipmuck this year. It was a much more manageable distance for me. Kudos to Tony and the Shenipsit Striders volunteers. If he hosts us again in 2024, I’ll likely be back.

Race Results https://ultrasignup.com/m_results_event.aspx?did=101217

2023 Bolton Road Race

Today’s 45th Bolton Road Race was another family affair. Debbie, Shepard, Dahlia, and I all ran our hometown race. We had great weather for early March with clear skies and brilliant sunshine. It was chilly, but the breeze was light and in the sun it was pleasant. I was able to wear shorts and shortsleeves, which was great after a cold winter. Even yesterday’s weather would be described as “raw.”

Shepard had a very good race, which was a nice bounce back after the Colchester Half Marathon, which put the hurt on him. Today he was third overall and just missed breaking 30 minutes. He ran 30:02 on the hilly course. He was the 2nd Bolton resident. Mentally, this was a boost for him as he heads into outdoor track season.

I had an OK race. I was about half a minute slower than last year, but I’m also a year older and in my new age group. Debbie had a solid race, as did Dahlia. It was great to see our friends Steve and Laura Becker. This was Laura’s first race since the birth of their child in December, and on a her own birthday. It was a special day indeed.

The star of the show was Little Liam Becker. He slept most of the time, but it was still great that he came out to “cheer us on.” He was motivating me to run fast.

Race Directors Brian Miller and Kelly Catlin, along with all of their volunteers did an excellent job. We have lived in Bolton for 18 years. This was my 10th time running the event. It’s cool to think that it started in the late 70’s. Since the kids starting running with us, this has become one of my favorite days of the year.

Race Results

Photo Credit: thank you to Laurie Brooks for the Livingston Family action shots.

2023 Colchester Half Marathon

It’s been two months since my last blog post. Coincidentally it’s been two months since my last race, which was on December 25th. I guess I didn’t have anything else to write about.

Today was the 31st edition of the Colchester Half Marathon. This is one of my favorite races. It’s the seventh time I’ve done it. I first did it in 2017. This was the fourth year in a row that Debbie and I have done it. This was Shepard’s second time running it with us after his debut in 2022.

It was a bummer but he had an off day today. We ran stride for stride for about eight miles. Then, he started to struggle. We got caught by a group of three runners (including Peter Oviatt and Ryan Lerner) and I chose to latch on to them. This kept the pace high and when we hit the first of the serious (dirt road) climbs in the second half of the race, he was hurting.

He hung tough but I gapped him. As we crested the second of the big climbs I had about 20 seconds on him but was just off of the group. I looked back and decided to let them go so that he would keep me in his sight. We ran that was for about three miles with him about 30 seconds behind me. The three fast dudes pulled away and we were in no man’s land until we got caught by another runner.

I let him go as well and when we came off the last of the dirt with about 2.5 miles to go, Shepard was slowing even more. I made the decision to push ahead in attempt to break the 90 minute mark. As I made the final turn on to the long uphill to the finish, I yelled across a field for him to hang in there.

From that point I focused on just keeping the past. Those last few miles are always brutal and even though were averaging 6:35’s earlier in the race, it was hard to break 7 now. With about two miles to go, Adam Bulewich caught me. He was running like a metronome. His pace was steady and strong and I couldn’t match it. He bridged up to the guy who had passed me a few miles earlier, but I never gained on them.

The last mile was a slog. By this point, it had started to snow steadily. The temperature never got about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but mercifully the wind wasn’t bad. The road conditions were also good since it’s been dry this week. The dirt was hard packed and smooth. There was no ice.

I finished in 1:28:21 and am happy with the time. I ended up 15th and second in my age group. Oviatt (who is in my age group) and Lerner finished in the low 1:25 range and though I wish I had gone with them, I’m glad I hung back to keep an eye on Shepard until I knew he was in the homestretch. I doubt I would have been able to stick with them the whole way, but if I had gone with them earlier, I might have shaved a minute or two off my own time.

Unfortunately, Shepard had a mental meltdown and walked big portions of the last two miles. It was a good lesson for him. Last year, I ran behind him and encouraged him.We finished in just over 1:30, but this year, he was on his own for that last stretch and it was ugly. He didn’t run much the last three weeks and he paid for it. That’s OK. Track season is coming and he will have more chances to perform to his own expectations.

Debbie had a good run. Dahlia was a race volunteer. The post-race spread was even better than usual. The food was fantastic and the cafeteria at Bacon Academy was jammed with happy runners. That festival is one of the reasons that this early season race is so popular.

Thank you to the volunteers for putting on another great edition of this race.

I won’t wait two more months before blogging again.

Race Results

2022 Scrooge Scramble

After a two year hiatus, the “official” Scrooge Scramble made its return on Christmas Day. For the Livingston Family, this was our 15th time doing the race since 2004. We also held our own versions in 2020 and 2021 when the race was cancelled.

This year, new race leadership brought back the 40 year-old event. It benefits the Cornerstone Foundation in Rockville whose mission it is to care for the homeless.

This has been our family tradition on Christmas morning. We spend time together and then make the 20 minute drive to Rockville. Today it was frigid. The temperature was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but the bright sunshine made it feel a bit warmer.

We saw some of our usual friends from the running community. Mercifully the course was an older version, which was just fine. The last few editions were 1/2 mile loops, but this year was the out to the Ellington town line and back. Mentally, it was easier to to go out and back.

We didn’t have much of a warmup. That didn’t stop Shepard and me from pushing. We had fun and now that I’m typing this while enjoying brownies and chocolate, it was worth it. Dahlia and Debbie ran together. We were back home by 11:00 A.M. We got in our run, helped out a worthy cause, and spent some family time together on a special day.

Race Results

Iron Trail/Stone Man Mountain Out & Back

Debbie and I had a short day trip to the northwest corner of Connecticut. We ran the Iron Trail from Beckley Forge to the top of Stone Man Mountain and back.

This is a lovely part of the state. The Iron Trail is a Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail. I ran it in the summer of 2020. I wrote about that run in the middle of a longer story about Debbie’s Connecticut Appalachian Trail FKT.

Today’s conditions were much different. Friday’s storm brought rain to the Hartford area but Canaan and other towns in the northwest hills got nearly six inches of wet snow.

This made the trail conditions treacherous and difficult. We wore our micro-spikes but it was still awkward. One section of the Iron Trail traverses water company property on an old logging road. That section gets heavy ATV use. When last ran it, it was in rough shape. Today, it was awful. Some of the ruts were 15 inches deep.

Aside from the trail damage, the snow brought beauty to the woods. The views from Stone Man were fantastic. There was no womens’ FKT on this out and back 11 mile route, so we didn’t have to push it in order to establish a time. In these conditions, the mens’ time was way out of reach. This was still a hard effort and took us just under three hours.

Parts of the route were hard to follow. The blue blazes on the trees were faded. I didn’t find the Iron Trail mentioned on CFPA’s website which makes me wonder/worry that the trail is no longer being maintained. Thankfully, we were able to follow animal tracks. Most of them were headed in the right direction, including many “cat” tracks. I suspect it was a good sized bobcat that left those in the snow. Debbie and I had a good time running together. It was cool that Debbie got to see the Beckley Forge. We want to bring the kids out that way to see both the forge and hike to the summit of Stone Man.

2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships

The 2022 USA Cyclocross National Championships returned to Hartford, Connecticut after five years. It’s been an eventful five period since January 2017. The state of cyclocross is in flux, but last week’s races were a fantastic celebration of the sport. It was also a celebration of the cycling community and especially the New England cyclocross community.

Everything culminated with last Sunday’s elite championship races at Riverside Park. The setting was perfect. The day dawned cold and wintry, and by sunset, a snowstorm had settled over the area. The snow was the perfect ambience for the final two races of the week.

There were so many highlights from the week, but on Sunday it was Clara Honsinger’s dominance of the elite women and Curtis White’s hard fought victory over Eric Brunner and the rest of the elite men, that stood out.

You can search the Internet for reports, analysis, video, and many more photos.

Included here are some of my images from the day.

It is worth noting that HORST Cycling, the predecessor to Team HORST Sports, promoted the first ever cyclocross race at this venue 19 years ago in 2003.

We laid out a Riverside Park course for the first time and it way back then, we envisioned that it was a national championship worthy venue and location. Hartford has now hosted CX Nats twice. That’s pretty cool.

2022 Manchester Road Race

What a great day! The 86th running of the Manchester Road Race (MRR) was spectacular. The event has been at legendary status for a long time, but in my opinion, it just keeps getting better. It’s so cool for a big race to be in our “backyard.” Today’s weather was fantastic. It was cold (low 30’s Fahrenheit at the start), but there was no wind and the sun was shining brightly.

With such great weather, the spectators were out in force. There had to be more than 30,000 people cheering from the sides of the roads. It was awesome. The four of us ran well and for the first time in 10 years, we wall ran independently. For the last five years, I ran with one of the kids (not counting the COVID-19 virtual version), but this year I was able to give it my all. Both kids are now strong enough and skilled enough to navigate a race with more than 9,600 runners. This was Shepard’s 10th MRR and Dahlia’s 7th.

Once again, HORST Engineering sponsored Veteran’s Row.

One reason why I wanted to run this one hard was because it was my first year in the 50-54 age group. 50 is a milestone unto itself and I wanted to see how my time would compare with prior years. This was my 33rd MRR and 28th in a row. My first was in 1985. The race was much smaller then.

Debbie ran her 24th overall (and in a row). It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without running the race. Our tradition is a shared tradition. So many other families have long streaks as well. Our friend Todd Brown did his 46th MRR today, and they have all been in a row. Last night, we sat with him at the annual pasta dinner at the Elk’s Club. It was fun to reminisce. Amby Burfoot was also at dinner. He finished his 60th MRR today. That’s the most of anyone…for now. He also won the 75-79 age group for good measure.

The race is full of traditions. We walked over from Spring Street around 9:00 A.M. At 9:10 A.M. we took the annual Shenipsit Striders “team photo” in front of St. James Church. I’ve been the photographer for as long as I’ve been a Strider, which is about 22 years. After the photo, I do a warmup (in recent years with Shepard) in the streets behind the church. We wind our way past the old Cheney Mills (now apartments) and by the Cheney mansions.

This year, I went for a second short warmup and trip to the port-a-potty. I normally wait until the last moment to get into the runner corral for my seed group (under 30 minutes) just before the national anthem is sung. This is usually at 9:50 A.M. The race starts sharp at 10:00 A.M.

Today, I found Shepard in the corral. He had already lined up. There were about 150 people in front of us and more than 8,000 behind us. This year’s official registration numbers were more than 9,600 runners, though the results show 8,304 finishers. Last weekend, nearly 1,000 children participated in the Little Manchester Road Race. I’m sure some people didn’t start and some people didn’t finish the 4.748 route. Among the finishers were some great champions. The men’s race was won by Conner Mantz of Utah. He broke the course record, finishing in 21:04. The women’s winner was a repeat from last year. Weini Kelati couldn’t best her own course record, but she won again and kudos to both of them.

All of the Livingston’s had good runs today. Debbie was probably the least satisfied. She hasn’t felt fast and is searching for more speed. Of course, it’s all relative. She was still sixth in the 45-49 age group with a respectable time of 34:52. I know she was hoping for better and I’m sure she will increase her focus in 2023.

Dahlia was also a bit slower than last year, but this was her first time running on her own without a parent to support her. She did great navigating a high density field of runners and nabbed third in the under 13 age group. She was disappointed with her 36:18 but cheered up when she learned about her podium position. She is excited for 2023 when she joins the high school cross country team. I bet her time plummets.

Speaking of plummeting times, Shepard was the MVP of the family today. He absolutely crushed the race, posting a 26:14. That earned him ninth in the highly competitive 14-18 age group. Five of the guys in front of him were 18 year old college freshmen. He had a great battle with his Rockville High School rival, John Glidden. Bolton and Rockville are in the same conference, so Shep and John have battled each other for two years at events ranging from the 800 to the 5,000 (cross country). Last week, they were both honored at the Connecticut XC All-State banquet. I expect their rivalry to continue on the track this spring.

Today, John went out very hard and it looks like he paid the price after the hill. He and Shep traded spots, but eventually John got him back and held him off by two seconds. Lucas Thompson of Simsbury squeezed between them. He nipped Shep by 13/100ths of a second. Shepard’s time was far better than my best, which was 27:00 in 2009.

I’ve slowed, but I’m still proud of my ability to run fast. Today I ran 27:43 and that got me second in the 50-54 age group. I was well behind Brian Murray of Coventry who ran 27:02, but I’ll take it. I did several morning workouts over the last month in an attempt to hone some speed. I haven’t run much on the road, but having done this race so many times, I know exactly how to pace it. I felt good today and this was a good time. I ran a second slower in 2016 and hadn’t put up a significantly faster time since 2012, 10 years ago. I went out hard but not too hard. I ran the hill steadily. I kept Brett Stoeffler in site until the top, but that’s when I started to falter. The uphill is my strength and I usually struggle from the top of the hill until the 3.5 mile mark. I kept things in check and lost a few spots, but was able to mostly hold my ground. I was able to accelerate a bit towards the end, but lost a few more spots on Main Street. Regardless, I’m pleased with how my 50 year-old body responded. It was a bit of mind over matter.

There is so much more I could write about the race, but I’ll stop here. I love this race. My family has come to love this race. We saw so many friends today. One friend I’ll mention is Eric Fleming. He and his wife Julie brought their three kids down from their home outside Boston. Eric grew up in Manchester and we were HORST Cycling teammates dating back to 1997. He texted me this morning before the race and we were able to connect in front of St. James. It was so nice to see him.

My legs are sore from the pounding they took on the pavement, but I’ll be buzzing for the next few days. The pain is worth it.

Race Results

Full Replay – TV Coverage

2022 Secret Squirrel CX

Secret Squirrel is one of my favorite cyclocross races. It has a great vibe. Here is the good and bad from the 2022 edition. Shepard and I have raced this modern New England classic on several occasions. We returned this year, but only he raced. I was the driver, mechanic, and spectator.

Some good things about this race include the fun and challenging course. With the right mountain bike (light and fast) you have an advantage over a cyclocross bike, but cross is cross and it should be raced on a proper cross bike. The Raynham, Massachusetts course is undulating, tight, twisty, sandy, and full of roots. There is very little open space to ride fast. I wish they added more field riding, but it is what it is and that’s why it’s Secret Squirrel.

The under 19 Junior race was at 8:30 A.M. which was early for us. Plus the race was $30. The races was only scheduled for 20 minutes. The drive from Connecticut was an hour and 45 minutes. For these reasons, it was a bad value.

When I registered Shepard, there were only nine boys signed up for the U19 race. The better value today was the Amateur Men field. It was a 10:30 A.M. start and was $45 which made me cringe. That’s expensive, especially when you consider that it was sold out with 110 riders. At least the race was scheduled for 40 minutes.

110 is a lot of riders on a tight course. I think there were a few other big fields as well. Shepard started in the fifth row and had a lot of ground to make up. He had an OK start, but it was so log jammed that he lost a minute and 44 seconds to the leader on lap one. That’s tough. The hole shot was very important today.

He steadily worked his way up in the field and finished 5th. This was his first cyclocross race of the season. His focus has been cross country running and he had a very good season. Thankfully, he had fun and I loved watching him.

I was disappointed that they only went three deep for prizes. They took in nearly $5,000 for this one field of 110 riders and only gave merchandise to the top three finishers. That was a bummer.

Secret Squirrel was still fun. Even though we didn’t stick around, we saw some friends. Teammate Tom Ricardi also raced. He said that his son Cole joined him too. That’s cool. Like Shepard, it had been a long time since he raced cross. I also had fun cheering for Barry Ralston with his wife Carolyn and daughter Hunter. Their family also shares a passion for endurance sports. For a moment, I wished that I was racing, but then the feeling passed. I didn’t even bring a cross bike with me. Watching was good enough.

Race Results

Connecticut Cross Country: 2022 State Open Championships & Middle School Championships

Today marked the end of the cross country (XC) season, at least for our family. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the middle schoolers at Bolton Center School (BCS) and the high schoolers at Bolton High School (BHS). We have been at the center of this action. Debbie is the BCS coach, Dahlia is an 8th grader on the team, and Shepard is a sophomore at BHS.

Yesterday was the high school CIAC Open Championships at Wickham Park. The race was six days after the Divisional Championships on the same course. This was Shepard’s first time competing at the top level. I did the Open 33 years ago in 1989 when my high school team qualified and competed in the event. I was stoked that Shepard got this opportunity.

This was the most competitive field he has been in. The fastest teams and individuals came together and there were 177 finishers. Shepard was 61st. His time was a bit slower than last week, but it was unseasonably warm with the temperature at least 15 degrees warmer than last week. His place relative to his peers was very good. It was also very good relative to the other underclassmen. This bodes well for 2023. He has aspirations to improve and I’m sure he will.

Shepard’s teammate, Silas Gourley, ended his high school XC career on a high note, finishing 74th. They have gotten great coaching from Paul Smith and Matthew Ferraro. It was awesome to see the top runners all compete against each other. I found myself cheering for the other schools in Bolton’s league and division. Those are the runners we see throughout the season. Most are small schools like Bolton and seeing their achievements is inspiring.

The Open Championships is very different from the other races these boys have run. With so many fast runners who are evenly matched, you have to be comfortable with the bumping and jostling that are part of the game on a tight course. The best of the best typically go out fast, get some space, and hold on. The danger is if you go out too hard, you can blow up badly.

Clearly, that happened to some of the boys we know. The flip side is that if you go out too slow, you get boxed in, and can never make up the ground. Shep feels like he could have gone out quicker. He was able to pick it up in the second half of the 5K course. In the end, he was happy with his race and grateful for the experience. That should pay dividends in the future.

Today, we were back at Wickham Park for the third time in a week for the Middle School Championships. Yesterday’s Open Champs was a relative intimate affair with about 180 boys and 180 girls. Today, There were more than 2,200 runners split almost evenly between boys and girls. Add in the coaches, families, and spectators, and you have a lot of people in the park. Even the “Mom & Pop Race” had more than 100 runners. Shepard, Debbie, and I all ran the 1.7 mile race, which was held on the B race course.

Dahlia and the BCS team competed in the girls A race in which there were about 400 starters. They did the 2.3 mile course. She finished a very respectable 51st, just missing out on the medals by one spot. I think this is awesome and I know it will fuel her for the future. She was disappointed for a few minutes, but ultimately, was quite happy with her result. Next year, she will join her brother at Bolton High School. Debbie and her assistant coach, Christa Parisien, have done a great job sharing their love of running with their athletes.

It’s been a very busy summer/fall. Shepard had practice six days a week since late August. Debbie and Dahlia had practice four days a week. Their meets were weekly with a handful more on the weekends. We are looking forward to a break over the next month as we transition to winter activities. The downtime and rest will be welcome, but I’m sure we will miss the joy of XC.

Race Results CIAC Open Championship (High School)

Race Results Middle School Championships

2022 CIAC Cross Country Divisional Championships

Today was the Connecticut XC Divisional Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester. Wickham is my favorite park, autumn is my favorite season, and I love cross country running, so this was a near perfect day.

I dropped Shepard off at Bolton High School around 8:40 A.M. so that he could take the bus with the team. Then I rode to work at HORST Engineering, which is is only 1.5 miles from the park. After some time at the shop, I rode over to the park to meet up with Debbie and Dahlia.

The weather was spectacular for both running and spectating. This last weekend in October didn’t disappoint. When I was running cross country more than 30 years ago, these races were referred to as the “Class Championships.” In Connecticut, schools are divided by size (number of student enrolled at each school). There are six divisions, so the divisional championships hosted 12 races.

Girls Divisions:

  • LL Division – 685 and over
  • L Division – 561 – 684
  • MM Division – 406 – 560
  • M Division – 325 – 405
  • SS Division – 227 – 324
  • S Division – Up to 226

Boys Divisions:

  • LL Division – 738 and over
  • L Division – 580 – 737
  • MM Division – 422 – 579
  • M Division – 335 – 421
  • SS Division – 235 – 334
  • S Division – Up to 234

Bolton High School is one of the smallest schools in the state, so we are in S Division. The top teams and individuals in the divisional championships go on to race in the Open Championships. The State Open is next Friday afternoon. Team qualifiers include the top two teams in each division plus the eight fastest (cumulative time) teams who didn’t qualify by placement.

Individual qualifiers include the top 12 finishers in each division plus the 30 fastest finishers who didn’t place. Runners who are part of a qualifying team are not removed from the results. The rules are straightforward, but you have to crunch some numbers to get to the full qualification list.

The Bolton boys and girls teams gave it their all. They have had a good season and this was the most important race of the year. Coach Paul Smith and his assistants, including Coach Matthew Ferraro, have done a fantastic job training the runners. Coach Smith has more than 20 years of experience and has his team’s program dialed in. His track record is stellar. Last year, the girls set the bar high by finishing second overall and qualifying for the State Open, but several top runners graduated. Today they were a respectable fifth place. The runners have trained so hard.

The boys have been consistently good all season. They were second in last week’s NCCC League Championships behind Suffield High School. We knew coming into today’s race that they had an outside chance at finishing second and qualifying for the Open Championship. Shepard follows all the results and statistics and his assessment was that Immaculate and Hale Ray were the favorites among the 21 Class S schools.

Immaculate’s results pointed to them having a lock on the top spot, but there was always a chance Bolton could have a great day couple with an off day for Hale Ray. In the end, that didn’t happen and the boys finished third, which is still a great accomplishment. Several of the boys got personal bests on the tough Wickham Park course.

This was Shepard’s second year on the Bolton team. As a freshman, he ran well, but didn’t qualify for the State Open. Last year, he went to watch his teammate Silas Gourley, who qualified. This year, the Open was one of Shepard’s big objectives. He has put in a lot of work to get faster. Both Silas and Shepard had excellent races today. They went out strong and were just off the front group. Eventually the top two runners, Michael Kraszewski of Hale Ray and Seamus Reidy of Immaculate, pulled away.

Shepard and Silas found themselves battling for third place with a group of five other runners who had separated themselves from the others behind. We were able to watch them at five points on the course plus the finish. Wickham is an awesome venue for XC. Parker Cook of Old Saybrook, Matthew Kraszewski of Hale Ray, and Ben Campion of Somers pulled ahead in the last mile, but Shepard and Silas kept them close. In the end, Shepard closed the gap a little, held off the chasers, and finished 6th. Silas had a good kick and hung on for 9th. Shepard’s time of 17:12 was his personal best for a 5K cross country course.

He was thrilled with his result. He and Silas did the best they could to help the team finish as high as possible. Both boys earned All-State honors and qualified for next Friday’s Open Championship (4 November). They will be back at Wickham Park on the same course at 2:45 P.M. The girls will precede the boys at 2:00 P.M.

All of this running brought back incredible memories for me. I was anxious all week and before the race, I was more nervous than before any of my recent races. I last ran in the State Open in 1989, which was a magical year for my high school cross country team. I really wanted Shepard to experience the same excitement. It would have been awesome for the entire team to qualify, but they will try again next year.

In 2019, on the 30th anniversary of East Catholic’s Divisional Championship win and Open Championship finish (third), I wrote about that season. This afternoon, I shared the blog post with Shepard. He is stoked to be competing next Friday with some of the best runners in Connecticut. I’ll be watching and cheering (loudly).

Divisional Championships Results

NCCC Championships Results (Boys Varsity)

NCCC Championships Results (Girls Varsity)

2022 Belltown Cyclocross

At today’s Belltown Cyclocross in Portland, CT, we had proper cyclocross weather. That messed with my head. I was already lacking a bit of motivation coming into my second cross race of the season, and then it started to pour.

The weather was fine all day until around 3:00 P.M. when it started to rain steadily. From there, the intensity increased. Unlucky for me was that the singlespeed category’s race, which I chose to participate in, didn’t start until 3:30 P.M. By the second lap of our race, the course had turned into a muddy and sandy quagmire.

As I said in my short Strava post, it was ugly.

I decided to gut it out, but it wasn’t my finest race. I had a decent start amongst the small field of riders, rode the first lap in third place, and eventually fell back to fifth. I had a few battles with Ryan Zwick for fourth, and I had to hold off a fast finishing Ryan Hallisey for my spot. I was sloppy on the technical stuff and more concerned about staying up right. The course was nothing like the one I spent half the day warming up on. The lines were all different and it was super sketchy in spots.

Most of the Team HORST Sports and Team HORST Junior Squad riders raced earlier in the day when it was cool but dry. They all did awesome. I love watching kids race bikes. I love rooting for my Masters teammates too. For the next week, I’ll be picking sand and grit out of my teeth and ears. Thankfully I raced my belt drive Seven Mudhoney SL. It is easier to clean than a geared bike.

I don’t have much more to say about this race. I do want to thank the Stage One/Airline Cycles crew for putting on another good event. They were out in force, had great volunteers, and great race production. The simple addition of a deejay with good music and a strong announcer (Thunder aka Jake Kravitz) makes all the difference.

It was nice to see some friendly faces. This year, cyclocross is a week to week thing for me. I don’t really want to become a fair weather rider, but I can’t help glancing at the weather forecast. I have no desire to trash my gear or my body. For the moment, I’m tentatively planning to go to Putney next Sunday for the 31st annual West Hill Shop race. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve got five days until registration closes. That’s more than enough time to think about it.

Race Results

2022 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

The Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross started in 1983. That makes it one of the oldest cyclocross races in the country. I’ve done it 15 times. My first was in 1995, which was the first year I started doing cross. Today was my 240th ever cyclocross race. That’s crazy.

Today I returned and it was my first cross race of the 2022 season. I was joking that it could be my “first and last.” I haven’t felt the cross vibe, but after today’s race, there is a possibility that I will get it back. My 2021 season was my best ever. It was my first in the 50+ age group and I went all in. I did 19 races culminating with the national championships in Chicago. I rode stronger than ever, including my pre-masters years. The accumulation of everything, including wisdom, helped me reach a very high level.

I was planning a down year this year, and didn’t expect the national championships to return to Hartford. For that reason, I’m testing my fitness to see if I can get fast enough to be competitive in either my age group or in the singlespeed division, or both.

Today’s race was a start. I know I can go quicker, but I’m going to need some practice, including technique and intensity. Long distance trail running isn’t the best preparation for cross. Today’s race was long at an hour plus and I really faded with three laps to go. They were long laps between eight and nine minutes. It hurt.

Last year, leading into the cross season, I did nine Winding Trails Tri Series races. Those off-road sprint triathlons are 48 to 52 minutes which is exactly what most cross races are so I had great training going into last season.

This year is quite different and I’m a year older with a bit less motivation. That being said, I had fun today and it was awesome to see all the kids from the Team HORST Junior Squad. They are crushing it! We also had a strong masters team turnout. I won’t name everyone because pretty much the entire team was there. It was also great to see so many friends, some who I haven’t seen since last December.

The course was a bit different, but still excellent. It was a lovely fall day and the foliage is at peak. Mansfield Hollow State Park is a great venue. Kudos to Ron Manizza and the volunteers who have made this race possible for nearly 40 years. Tonight I’m going to look over the calendar and see what race I pick to do next.

Race Results

Mount Tom Trail Run

Debbie and I spent some quality time outside today. We’ve been doing outdoor adventure together for 23 years, so today’s trail run “date” was a mini-celebration of our time together.

She scouted a newish FKT on the New England Trail (NET) from the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton south to Whiting Street Reservoir and back. We were aiming to beat 3h8m4s and we are lucky that we did 2h57m09s. This morning when we checked the route on the FKT site, that was the fastest women’s time.

However, when we checked Strava after our effort, we realized that someone had just put up a faster time, 2h57m27s on October 2nd, a week ago. It hadn’t been uploaded until today. By the time we got home and logged back in, it was there. Thankfully, we hammered the final descent of Norwottuck.

The entire ridge up and over Mount Tom is rugged. Last year, we took the kids for a hike on this section of the NET, and of course, in 2020, we did the entire trail, albeit at a much slower pace. Today, it was fun to revisit this section and hammer it.

The weather was spectacular. It was perfect running conditions with bright sunshine and a cool temperature. The leaves are looking great and though some have been falling, the trail was not completely covered with them. The dirt was moist. When we were here in 2020, it was hot and dry. This time, the footing was better.

I was strong on the uphills and Debbie led the way going down. We both had fun cruising around the Whiting Street Reservoir. We hit the halfway mark (7.5 miles) in 1h36m, but the second half ran much quicker because we came back in 1h21m. The reservoir is at 400 feet, whereas the start/finish at the rail trail is at the same elevation as the Connecticut River, which is basically sea level.

Debbie took a hard fall on the gravel road with 1/4 mile to go. It was a real bummer to crash that late in the run, but she stepped off the edge of the gravel, twisted her ankle, and slammed her already tender knee into the ground. She hit her elbow too. Recovering and getting going again cost a little time, but in the end, we had enough to spare. Despite the fall, we had a lot of fun and followed up the run with a nice lunch at Nourish in Northampton.

2022 NipMuck Trail Marathon

Today was the 39th running of the NipMuck Trail Marathon. It was my 8th time running since 2004, but today I only did half as part of the team relay with Chris Duffy. He did the first half, and I did the second half. The second half is slightly longer. My GPS registered 13.8 miles.

Debbie also did the relay, racing with Laura Becker, who is quite pregnant. Seeing Laura bring back memories to 2006 and 2009 when Debbie ran throughout her pregnancies.

The Shenipsit Striders did a great job hosting this venerable race. I’m already thinking about the 40th and possibly doing the full distance. I haven’t run the entire course since 2011. That was my second best time. My fastest was in 2009. If I do run next year, it will be interesting to see how close I can get to those past times.

My legs were definitely tired after last week’s Vermont 50K, but with today’s race being shorter, I could push through the pain without any real risk of blowing up. The trail conditions were mint. It was cool and breezy, but that made for very pleasant running conditions in the woods.

It was nice to see a bunch of friends, help out at the start/finish aid station, and cheer for the other runners. I rode home from Ashford, but my legs were dead. It was a bit of a slog, but I made it alive.

This year, I’ve done more running than originally planned. I should probably back off a bit so I don’t overdo it. I’m starting to think a little about cyclocross, but I have a few other adventures on my mind as well.

Race Results (will be linked when available)

2022 Vermont 50K Trail Run

For my 20th time doing the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, I opted to do it on my feet. That decision was made back in May when race registration opened. I’m not exactly sure why I chose to mix it up for the first time since 2009, when I last ran the 50K, but it felt right back in May, and it still felt right at the start today.

I’ll definitely be back on the bike for 2023 because my body can only take running the 50K once every 13 years! I also ran most of the course (33 miles) in 2007 when I snapped my chain (twice) in the first 17 miles, and couldn’t repair it. Since then, I’ve almost exclusively ridden my singlespeed. I think that chain incident is what spurred me to get my singlespeed mountain bike.

Since 1999, I’ve only missed three of the races. Of course we all missed in 2020 when the race was cancelled. Our family were there in 2010 and 2014 but I didn’t race. In 2010, I was only three weeks out from the IRONMAN World Championships so I opted to watch. I couldn’t take a chance at crashing and it wouldn’t have been good preparation for my second “A” race of that season. In 2014, I had a broken scapula from a Labor Day Weekend road crash and couldn’t ride. 2015 is the only time that both Debbie and I have missed the race completely since we met in the Ascutney parking lot in ’99. The reason was that we were in Japan for a business trip and ULTRA Trail MT. FUJI. This was her 17th VT50 today. She has missed on a few occasions because of pregnancy and birth. Our kids were born in August and September. In addition to missing for UTMF, she skipped in 2011 because Grindstone was a week later. For many years in Vermont, the 50-miler was her focus, but she has mixed in a handful of 50K’s, and the last three times, she rode it on the mountain bike.

That miss for Japan was good at the time, but I don’t think we will intentionally miss a VT50 ever again. Something would have to come up to pull us away. It’s become a family affair. Shepard rode with us in 2019 and 2021, but this year, he is 100% focused on high school cross country, and even riding easy wouldn’t be good for his training program. He missed riding today, but hung out with Dahlia, and spent time at the new Ascutney Trails mountain bike skills park, which is fabulous.

Today’s race was a tough one. The conditions were perfect. It was cool and breezy. The temperature at the start was around 44 degrees Fahrenheit and it warmed up by early afternoon into the low-60’s. The rain held off until 2:00 P.M. and thankfully Debbie and I were finished by then. It was mostly cloudy, but there were occasional breaks of sun, especially earlier in the morning. The 50-miler started at 6:00 A.M., but the 50K started at 8:00 A.M., so we got some extra rest, which was welcome.

Debbie and I were only together for the first mile. On the first big dirt road climb, I pulled away. I was feeling good, especially on the climbs so I ran my own pace. I wore Altra Olympus 4.0 shoes, and I wore an UltrAspire hydration pack. I’ve had a few aches and pains recently, but most 49 year-olds do. My legs held up for 25 miles, but then they seized up.

I spent a good part of the race running with women’s leader Leah Nicholson. She ended up in 2nd after we both got caught around the 25 mile mark when I started to slow. She and eventual winner Vanessa Hartstein were running strongly, and they must have had a good battle because they put 20 minutes into me in less than seven miles. I was really hurting and a total of seven people ended up passing me. It sucks to fade so badly, but running these distances doesn’t play to my strengths and I was happy to spend the time on this lovely course and see it from a different perspective. It was nice to run with Leah and learn a bit about her. That helped make some of the time pass more quickly.

Debbie finished 11.5 minutes behind me in 16th overall (5th woman and 2nd in her age group). If the race was a few miles longer, she would have caught me, which would be consistent with all of the ultras we have run together. On a faster course like the VT50K, I can hold her off if I build a big enough lead in the early stages and delay my blow-up as long as possible. The second half of the course runs slower, but I was even slower than that!

Yesterday’s pre-race festivities were fun. The weather was fabulous with bright sunshine. Once again, Debbie was the Race Director of the kids races. There were: 1-mile MTB race, 2-mile MTB race, 1/2-mile trail run, 1-mile trail run, and a 2-mile trail run. She laid out the loop course earlier in the summer when she and I made a visit to Brownsville. Dahlia and I were course marshals and Shepard rode his MTB in front of the fields as the “rabbit.” Several of our friends, including Tricia Dowcett and Arlen Zane Wenzel were also race volunteers.

It was great to see so many friends at the race. Lots of people say hello to us. When you have been around an event like this, for a long time, people get to know you. Once again, kudos go to Race Director Mike Silverman and the race committee. The aid stations were stocked full and the volunteers were great. This race is a big fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. On the drive home, I pulled off the highway to stretch my legs. Shepard and I got out of the car, and while we were stretching, he said, “I love Vermont.” I couldn’t agree more.

Race Results

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