Archive for the 'Business' Category

Journal Inquirer: Conversation with Scott Livingston

An interview I did was published in this weekend’s Journal Inquirer.

Click here for the full link.

The reporter, 

MANCHESTER — It was 1938 when Scott Livingston’s grandfather Horst Liebenstein emigrated from Germany to the United States, where he eventually established what would become Horst Engineering, now based in South Windsor and East Hartford. Livingston, who lives in Bolton, is the third generation running the business and discusses his family’s history and taking over the family business.

Q: Did you grow up in Bolton?

A: I grew up in Vernon.

Q: What was life in Vernon like for you?

A: I grew up on Hickory Hill Road. I started on Taylor Street. My parents moved there in 1969, the same year they got married. They were married Woodstock weekend. My father jokes that he had friends choose the concert over the wedding and wishes he was there himself, but instead got married.

I’ve lived on the Rail Trail all my life; four different locations, twice with my parents and twice since I’ve been out on my own, including where we live now in Bolton. The trails are a central part of my life. Growing up in Vernon was just exploring the woods and the trails. I went to Lake Street School. I have a younger sister, Stacie. She lives in Coventry. She’s not involved in the business, but she’s still an important part of the family. She’s a physical therapist.

Q: Since this is a family business, were you groomed from the get-go to potentially take over?

A: No. My grandfather founded the business in 1946. He had three sons. My father is the oldest of the three. The middle son is Steven, and he became partners with my father, Stanley, early in the ’60s, but wasn’t official until the late ’70s. They had a younger brother, Bert, and he only briefly worked in the business in the ’70s after college; my father, Stanley, and Steven had been really firmly involved with the business for years at that point. There really wasn’t room for all three.

My mother joined the business in the early ’80s, and she’s been here for more than 35 years. The three of them really were the partners that ran the business in the second generation. She deserves as much credit as Steven and Stanley.

I got involved as a kid growing up in the business like anyone else in a family business would. I was exposed to the business along with my sister being exposed to the business. I had the good fortune of seeing my grandfather still working day-to-day until he passed away in 1998. By then I had started there full-time. But there was a period during my high school years going into college where I did not plan to work here. I was looking for something different.

Q: What did you want to do?

A: I wanted to be an Airborne Ranger. I was in ROTC briefly, but because of some medical disqualifications in the early ’90s I wasn’t able to pursue that path. In the subsequent period where I was rethinking what I wanted to do career-wise, I worked here and that exposed me to the opportunity. It also exposed me to the challenges, which I thought I could help my family with. I went back to school.

Q: Where were you going to school?

A: I went to Boston University to start and I ended up finishing at Boston College. If you know anything about Boston schools, they’re opposites. I needed a change of pace and I went from downtown BU to somewhat suburban BC just to get through it. I studied economics and I came back to work in the business full time after college. I went to high school at East Catholic in Manchester, even though I grew up in Vernon. I went to the Middle School in Vernon.

I wasn’t going to work here and I didn’t study engineering. It was my grandfather’s dream that I did work here and all his kids and grandkids would work here because that’s the whole reason why he built the business. He came from Germany and he didn’t do it the easy way. He persevered and got the business to a point where, when Stan and Steven got involved and then with the support of Lynn, they were able to take it to the next level. My Uncle Bert remained involved and had an ownership stake. So once it was clear that I forged a career path here, he and I became allies. It was an opportunity for him. He lives in Florida. He wasn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the business, but he was an advocate in transitioning the business in a proactive and healthy manner from the second generation to the third generation.

My father, uncle, mother, and I; the four of us engaged experts to help us and we’ve invested heavily in family business education over the years. We’ve invested in non-family management to build a strong professionally managed business that still has the qualities and core values of a family-owned business.

Q: What year did your grandfather move to the United States?

A: October 19, 1938, Ellis Island. He came here with almost nothing. His birth name was Horst Rolf Liebenstein and that’s the name he arrived at Ellis Island with. He changed his name. He Americanized it. Horst became Harry, Liebenstein became Livingston. My grandmother was Sylvia Hurwitz and she grew up in Hartford. She was born here. Her roots are also Eastern European but I believe a mix of Russian and Polish.

The German culture is really what dominated the business. My grandfather got a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Ilmenau (University of Technology), but he had to leave his life in Germany behind and start from scratch here. He had two brothers, an older brother, Berthold, and a younger brother, Hans, and both of them kept their names and they both ended up in Africa in the mid-’30s. They left Germany prior to Horst. There were German colonies in Africa and Berthold ended up in Kenya and Hans ended up in South Africa.

Berthold passed away at a young age around 1940 so they didn’t see each other again. Hans raised three daughters in Cape Town and I believe that my grandfather reunited with his brother after 30 years in 1964. Ultimately, approximately 15 years later, he moved the bulk of the South African family to Connecticut. One or two end up in Israel. There’s Jewish roots in this family and it’s a big part of the origin story of the business.

Q: Was the tension in Germany part of the motivation to move?

A: Yes. Kristallnacht was in November that year. It was a long process to reclaim the home he had abandoned in 1938. His parents remained behind and perished during the subsequent period. He was the last of his generation in the family to remain there. His parents didn’t want to leave. They weren’t in great health. They operated a small store on the first floor of the home in this town, Bad Liebenstein.

 

The house was returned to us in 1999 a year after he passed away. It was through a formal process with the United Restitution Organization. It was East Germany and what happened was a family moved into this house after the war.

I don’t know the particulars … but the same family that lived there for decades in the house bought it back from us after we got it back. So it was effectively a paper transfer.

Q: When your grandfather came here, how did his business start?

A: His metalworking skills came from working in a bicycle factory in his teens in Germany. He was highly educated as a mechanical engineer, but he also was a tool and die maker. He was a hands-on engineer and he knew how to make stuff. He came from New York to Connecticut around 1940. He met my grandmother. She helped him learn English. They lived in the north end of Hartford and he had this plan to start his own business. There was no intent to work for others after experiences he had gone through. But he needed to learn. He needed to learn the language, he needed to learn the industry in the area. He basically sampled a variety of processes at area shops and manufacturing companies in 1940 and 1946. He worked wiremold (at Wiremold).

He worked at John’s Hartford Tool Company and a handful of other companies over that six-year period. He started to moonlight, and he was doing engineering design work on the side in the evenings.

When he founded the business in Hartford in 1946, he called that Horst Engineering and Manufacturing Company. That’s our full legal name and it was at 602 Garden Street on the second floor of a barn. The business moved to East Hartford in 1950 and we’ve effectively been headquartered in East Hartford ever since.

But his designs didn’t take off enough to pay the bills, so he started making parts for other people and really evolved into a contract manufacturer. There’s so much industry here.

My father really took that to the next level. They didn’t have design engineering capabilities in the next generation. My father brought the sales, supply chain, the front end of the business expertise. My uncle was a disciple of my grandfather and he was the engineer and the manufacturing expert; tool and die maker himself. Their combination, with the support of my mother and HR and finance, allowed them to develop as a contract manufacturer and push into higher precision products because between 1979 and 1989 everything changed.

By 1995 all of the commercial industry was under pressure here in Connecticut. If you were in basic products it first went elsewhere in the country, particularly the South and Midwest and then it went offshore. What remained was high precision, and in Connecticut that’s primarily aerospace and medical. High precision aerospace components are one of Connecticut’s greatest exports and that’s where we really carve out our (spot).

Q: Are you the sole family member now running the business?

A: The three second-generation leaders still work here part-time.

Q: Is there a following generation?

A: They’re too young. My children Shepherd (Shepard) is 13 and Dahlia is 10. My sister has children who are 16 and 13. I have a first cousin from the youngest brother who was involved in this business, and she’s only in her early 20s. She interned here a couple years ago. For the foreseeable future we are continuing with our non-family member (management strategy). We have a lot of families who are in our business that are not Livingston family. That’s common in this industry. We’ve got brothers and sisters. We’ve got fathers and sons, multiple father and son combinations. Cousins, nieces, nephews. It fits in with our core values … and our core purpose. Our core purpose is to help people fly safely. Who knows what the future brings, but we’re making a major investment, and we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t see a good path in front of us. We’re expanding. We’re going to be consolidating the three Connecticut plant sites underneath one roof in Prestige Park. We’re renovating a 101,000-square-foot building. It’s a massive project and a big commitment to this community and to the industry.

Crash! Part Trois: Unfortunately This Time a Motor Vehicle Was Involved!

The rib pain and back pain are terrible, but the x-rays were negative and showed no fractures, which is fantastic news. The feeling I have is frustration as my third serious bicycle crash (requiring medical attention) in five years occurred during my commute home from work on Monday night.

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Those feelings of frustration are fueled by all the news I read and hear about the challenges that cyclists experience all over the world. The story about the glass bottle thrown at one of my teammates on Wednesday night that resulted in double flats–the story also from Wednesday night about a cyclist killed in Connecticut in a head on collision–the crazy story about a chain reaction crash that claimed the life of a cyclist in Brooklyn earlier this week–the July hit-and-run of former Bicycling editor Andrew Bernstein in Boulder. I could go on and on. Every circumstance was different.

After visiting Boulder and Ft. Collins, Colorado last month, I wrote about them in this blog post. Both cities are cycling “Mecca’s” and hold Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community honors from the League of American Bicyclists. That’s great, but as mentioned, Boulder isn’t even a safe place to ride a bike. Nowhere on the roads of America appears to be safe.

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I’ll avoid casting generalizations and try to narrow my focus to my home roads. It’s dangerous out there. I admit it, I choose to take the risk every day. I’ve commuted to or from work 60 times this year and LOVE doing it. It checks all the boxes for me.

  • I value a car-free commute.
  • I lower my carbon footprint.
  • I get my exercise on my way to work, which is a very efficient way to accomplish two things at once.
  • I experience nature.
  • I identify with a community of like-minded riders.
  • I get to ride my bike.

I tell people all of the time that my best days are the days I ride to or from work. I find that morning rides are a great way to start the day and help me plan ahead for the items on my to-do list. Equally enjoyable are the evening rides when I get the chance to unwind before walking through the door at home. It gives me so much pleasure, but is it worth it?

Connecticut isn’t Ft. Collins, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; or San Francisco, California where there is a culture of bicycle commuting, a much larger community, better cycling infrastructure, and more motorist awareness. They have their problems too. The roads of Southern New England are filled with riders. Boston is a busy city and has a strong cycling community. I ride there a lot and have a long history with the city having gone to school there, but it has been plagued by deadly accidents in recent years as traffic increases and distractions abound. Last year, MassBike produced one of the most chilling videos a cyclist will ever watch.

Is it worth it? This is a rhetorical question that even I can’t answer. When I phoned my Mom on Monday night to tell her the news before she heard it from someone else, it bothered me. It was an emotional conversation, just like the calls I placed in 2014 when I crashed on Soapstone Mountain and fractured my scapula and in 2018 at the USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships crash when I broke my fibula. No motor vehicles were involved in those wrecks so even cycling without traffic has its risks, but I can manage that risk better. It’s the risk that is totally out of my control that I’m struggling to reconcile. She knows I don’t call her about the “little” crashes because we talked about that. She also sees me commute because we have worked together for 30 years. Sometimes she is at work when I arrive on my bike. She knows the roads I ride and she sees the way people drive. It’s a huge risk.

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I’m a dedicated commuter and was thrilled when the East Coast Greenway was expanded from Manchester to Bolton Notch. A new section of paved bike path (it’s actually a multi-use path) now connects with the Hop River State Park Trail, a rail trail that is right out my front door. I ride that trail all of the time. I can now ride to East Hartford with even less time spent on the roads that are shared with motor vehicles, but that hasn’t stopped me from riding with vehicular traffic.

On Monday, I called home at 5:28 P.M. and told Debbie my plan. I left HORST Engineering’s South Windsor plant site at 5:47 P.M. I rode towards Prestige Park to meet up with Mike Reilly, a friend from the cycling community. We both commute regularly but had never ridden together. He messaged me in the morning to see when we could ride and I told him I brought my bike and that today would be the day. I was late as usual, but five minutes after I rolled out.  We intercepted each other on Long Hill Rd., chatting amiably on the descent, and then headed towards Wickham Park. Tolland Street was under construction. The top layer of asphalt had been skived, but we have gravel bikes and managed. Dealing with road repair is another challenge for cyclists. We cut through the park where they were setting up for the Monday Night Summer XC Series (running) and then got on to the Greenway at the Burnside Avenue intersection.

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Burnside has a bike lane now, but there were three cycling deaths on that road during an 18-month time frame in 2010-2011. I ride Burnside a LOT. It’s sketchy, but much better after the improvements. It used to be a four lane road without a divider and the speeds were high. They removed the second lane headed in both directions, narrowing the flow of traffic and reducing the speeds. Sadly, much of the paint markings for the bike lane are fading and there has been little maintenance. Mercifully, there has not been a “Ghost Bike” placed on Burnside since 2011. If I can avoid that road, I seek an alternative route, but that is not always the case. The paved bike path is a huge help. Mike and I spent time chatting about our love of cycling and the risks involved. He was surprised to learn that I was a bicycle messenger during college back in 1991. I gave that job up after my third big crash involving motor vehicles and thankfully have pursued other career options. We had to briefly get off the path where there is a missing section in Manchester between Bidwell Street and McKee Street. We got back on the path and rode to Charter Oak Park where we split up. He headed towards Mount Nebo Park which is closer to his Manchester home, and I stayed on the Greenway headed towards Bolton.

In June of 2018, I had a bad incident during a commute home. This episode didn’t involve a crash, but did result in a citation to a motorist and an arrest of a passenger in the offending car. They tried to “door” me on East Center Street in Manchester. I wrote about that incident too and described it as “The Perils of Bicycle Commuting.” Is it worth the risk?

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After splitting with Mike, I hemmed and hawed about which route to take. I mix it up a lot, but on Monday I decided to take the bike path all the way to Bolton Center Road. Before the extension, I used to always ride up Camp Meeting Road, but the shoulders have deteriorated and are no fun to ride on. They are full of cracks and debris. Plus, cars travel at a high rate of speed and there are some blind corners. Again, I ride that road all of the time, but Debbie refuses to go on it and I’ve heard from others that they avoid it too. Now that the bike path continues through Bolton, there are better options depending on where you are headed.

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It’s nice to have the Greenway, but it’s worth mentioning that the path parallels sections of I-384 and also I-84. That subjects you to the exhaust fumes from all the vehicles on the highway. There are some nice spots, but there are also spots covered in glass and debris that gets tossed from vehicles on the highway. Plus you are always subject to the highway noise. It isn’t; very peaceful. One of my favorite spots is where the path actually crosses under the highway and you ride along the Hockanum River. You can hear the vehicles above you, but I often imagine what this area looked and sounded like 300 years ago. Periodically I will see a Great Blue Heron in the water. Other sections have wide cracks with long weeds growing up from the openings in the pavement. My newest bike has extra wide 42 cm high volume tires and they do a great job soaking up the road shock, but I shouldn’t have to resort to that option. Sadly, no one maintains these paths. Last week, I rode the spur between Tolland Turnpike and Burnside Avenue and was dismayed to see the memorial and dedication plaque overgrown with weeds with the nearby benches crumbling. It isn’t the prettiest place to ride, but it’s safer than riding in traffic.

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My commute continued and I rode the new section of the bike path along I-384. I had the option to continue to the Notch and then get on the unpaved rail trail, but I wanted to get home sooner and figured the express route down Bolton Center Road for 2.3 miles to my house would be fine. I ride that road ALL of the time. I’ve ridden that road thousands of times. We moved to Bolton 15 years ago. When there was no bike path extension through Bolton, I took that road even more frequently. It’s a busy road and doubles as Route 85, and I worry about the traffic every time I’m on it, but that didn’t deter me.

Sometimes I take my 13-year-old son Shepard on that road and we talk about the danger. I’ve taught him to ride defensively. His friend Alexandra lives off of 85 near the exit ramp and I’ll often meet him there on my way home from work, and then we will ride home together. Our kids are involved with mountain biking and cyclocross, but not with road cycling. They ride on roads, but they don’t train or race on roads like I did. I still ride on the road frequently, even beyond my commuting, but I haven’t raced on the road in years. Lately my only exception has been triathlon. I have done more than 400 road bike races but that is a risk I stopped taking. It’s crazy but I have not data to prove that racing is more or less risky than commuting. I stopped for some of the same reasons that others have stopped commuting, including the fact that crashing is often out of your control. The pavement is so unforgiving.

On Monday, I was on the road and I was riding my new Seven Evergreen XX bicycle. I didn’t have a headlight on because I was running my handlebar bag and haven’t mounted a light on the new bike, but I often ride with one. I have an adapter for it, but just hadn’t gotten around to installing it. I’ll often wear a reflective vest and reflect ankle straps, but not always in middle of summer when it is light out. I was wearing my bright orange Team HORST kit with an orange helmet. I have reflective material on my bike and I had my rear tail light on. It was the same set-up that I’ve been running all summer.

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I’ve got all the details on this ride because Strava captured it. You can see the spot where I crashed because there are all these squiggly lines. I approached the Birch Mountain Road intersection where Bolton Center Road bends to the left. I was just cruising along at 16 mph with about 1.4 miles to go. It was about 6:45 P.M. I recall seeing a car on Birch Mountain and they pulled out to head east on Bolton Center towards the town green. I saw a vehicle approach (I now know it was a mini-van but had no idea at the time) coming towards me. I don’t recall if they were using their left turn signal but they never hesitated and that surprised me. I’m not sure what came out of my mouth but it was probably “Hey!!!” which is a common alert I use. It all happened in a split second. I was clearly going straight and the vehicle turned left, right in front of me.

In an instant I grabbed both brake hoods with all my might while yanking my bike to the left to avoid a collision. It felt like the vehicle was inches from my nose. This new bike has hydraulic disc brakes and they have serious stopping power. I didn’t even skid because I squeezed them so hard. There was no way for me to prevent going straight over the bars. I flipped over (doing an “endo”) body slamming into the asphalt. I’ve described it as WWF body slam without the soft mat and without the acting. My rear wheel went straight up in the air and I stayed clipped into my pedals until my back impacted the ground. As soon as I grabbed the brakes with such force, I was doomed to crash. I was alert and conscious the whole time but in that instant, I was flat on my back looking up at the blue sky with no air in my lungs. Every breath had left my body as I slammed into the pavement.

I was in such pain that in that instant I did not know:

  1. if the vehicle hit me
  2. if I crashed avoiding the vehicle but they subsequently ran me over/hit me
  3. if I completely avoided a collision and crashed on my own.

I think that I ended up in the best possible scenario as it was the third one. I don’t think I ever contacted the van. I think the drive also hit the brakes at the last moment. I don’t know. It was a blur. I saw my life flash before my eyes, reacted, and then I was down. I know I tucked my head, which is instinct and I thrust out my left arm to brace my fall. I think the damage to my bicep was from my bicycle’s handlebars. That seems to be the best explanation given that I couldn’t hit the outside of my arm on the pavement at the same time as the inside of the arm. The bars must have jammed me good because I have a deep black and blue welt.

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In the seconds following the accident, I laid there flat on my back trying to catch my breath. I noticed more than one vehicle around me as I was right in the middle of the road and holding up traffic. I glanced up and there was a man standing over me. I think he was the passenger from the offending vehicle. I heard someone say, “Get him out of the road.” I put up my right hand in a “stop” motion and rasped, “don’t touch me.” I needed to self-assess and could barely get the words out, but I didn’t want to be touched. I was worried I broke my back or even worse, my neck. From all my past first aid training, I knew that you never move someone with a suspected injury like that.

I again made the plea to let me be and said, “give me a minute.” It felt like several people were around me, but I wasn’t seeing that clearly. I asked this man if “he hit me.” I think he said something like “by the grace of God” you avoided a collision. I don’t know exactly what he said, but I know he absolutely said “by the grace of God.” I don’t really look at things that way. I was thinking to myself that God or whatever had nothing to do with this. I also knew that it was my quick reflexes that saved me from a potentially even worse injury and not the reaction of the driver or some higher being.

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After what felt like an eternity, but was probably only two minutes, I realized that I could move my legs and arms and wanted to get up, so I rolled on to my side and curled into a ball to see if I could flex my back. After a few moments, I used my arms to push myself into a seated position and saw where my bike was positioned to my left. I saw the vehicle and realized it was a mini-van. I think it was maroon, but I could be wrong. I was not in the right frame of mind to start taking pictures. I gathered my strength, and stood up. I think someone else grabbed my bike (maybe the passenger) and I walked to the side of the road where there is gravel and dirt with some sparse grass and weeds in the corner. I sat down on the ground with my bike to my left and pulled out my iPhone. I said out loud to everyone listening that I wanted the situation documented. It was 6:50 P.M. and I made the 911 call myself.

I could barely get out the words as tears ran down my cheeks, and snot mixed in my beard, but I was lucid enough to describe the intersection I was at. I explained the situation and my condition. The dispatcher said they would connect me with the State Police. They put the call through and I repeated everything that I told the 911 dispatcher including my location. The call lasted a minute.

It felt like longer, but five minutes later at 6:55 P.M. I dialed Debbie. Between whimpers I told her that I was in an accident, but OK. I gave her my location and she said she would get Dahlia and be right there. Our son is away at Boy Scouts camp. I thought that State Trooper Eckman arrived before Debbie, but I don’t remember. I also thought it took 15 minutes for him to get there, but it must have been quicker. I didn’t talk to anybody. I tossed my iPhone on the ground next to me and just sat there with my head between my knees waiting. I occasionally glanced up as the passenger from the vehicle stood nearby. I had to make sure they didn’t drive away. I thought about taking some photos of the scene, the vehicle, their license plate, etc. but I was zonked. I just sat there.

When the trooper arrived, I recall getting up and approaching him. Maybe he spoke with me while I was seated. It doesn’t matter. I think I was seated. He asked for my ID and I dug my wallet out of my handlebar bag. I gave him my license and waited. He must have collected a license from the driver too and went to his vehicle. I think it was when he returned that I actually got up to talk to him. I told him I wanted the “case” documented. He said there was no case, but that I could call the barracks and get the records if I needed them. I figured there would be a claim against the driver and their insurance company, but I didn’t have my wits and had no interest in engaging with the driver.

I never even saw the driver. I didn’t want to look at the driver. I had no energy to complain or argue. I told Officer Eckman that I had ridden this road a thousand times. I told him that I hadn’t even planned to take it on this ride. I told him I took the Greenway and then switched to the road. He said without any sympathy, “Well, then this was bound to happen at some point.” He went on to compare my situation with a car accident in that they happen all of the time. In hindsight, I think that he has probably seen a lot of tragedy, pain, and suffering and that he realizes how dangerous it is on the roads. He likely sees the same crazy antics and distractions that I witness every day.

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In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about his perspective. I digested the comment and my retort was quick, “Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but it shouldn’t have happened tonight. That driver wasn’t paying attention.” This is when the frustration really kicked in. In the background, my daughter was bawling as she saw how hard it was for me to move. She saw me upset. She saw my tears. She saw me bleeding. Contrastingly, Debbie was quite stable and tried to calm our daughter down insisting that I was going to be alright. She is a strong woman.

I was upset after the exchange with Trooper Eckman. I grabbed my bike and straightened out my brake hoods. They were bent in at 45 degree angles. I spun my wheels to make sure they were running true. My chain was off. I asked Debbie for help to put it back on the front ring. She asked me what I was doing. I said, “I’m going to finish this ride.” She insisted on loading my bike in our VW Eurovan, but I wanted nothing to do with that. I didn’t look around. My focus was on getting home. I climbed back on my bike and got rolling. I got home around 7:20 P.M. It took me a little more than five minutes to go the last mile and a half. My back ached, but I was able to spin my legs no problem. The entire time from crash to getting home took about 26 minutes but it felt much longer.

I let myself in through the garage, put my bike in the basement, went inside, and got undressed. Debbie arrived home shortly afterwards. She said she spoke with the officer and he said he gave the driver a $185 fine and citation for “failing to grant the right of way.” That should help prove it was the driver’s fault and not mine. She also said she glanced into the vehicle. The driver never left her seat. She reported that the driver was female and then gave me some additional background information. Like I said, I was disinterested in meeting this person. Accidents happen, but normally for a reason. I don’t know if she was distracted, if she was a poor driver, if she was tired, or if as the passenger claimed, that she just didn’t see me. When he spoke, he said, “they” indicating that neither of them saw me. He had also referenced the sun, but at that moment when I was still sitting on the ground waiting for the police to arrive, I looked up and know that it wasn’t that bad. Speed doesn’t appear to be an issue. The limit on that road is 40 mph. Not far from the crash, there is a section of road that permits passing, which I think is wrong. That road is too narrow and winding for passing to be allowed, but that wasn’t a factor here. I could find all kinds of problems with how our roads are laid out and governed, but that’s not going to change. In my case, some combination of factors resulted in the fact that the driver was unaware of my presence on the road and she turned in front of me.

I’m sure the driver was shaken up by the situation. It could have been worse for her too. Distracted driving is an epidemic. The number of people that I see on their phones talking, texting, or performing other tasks is beyond alarming. In addition to all my riding, I spend a lot of time driving too. The problem is completely out of control. I don’t see that changing. Driving under the influence (DUI) reached a critical point in the 1980’s and people became more aware, but that hasn’t changed the fact that people still drive impaired by alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications.

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In addition to those risks, people are angry. They care less than they used to. More people are selfish and that shows up in their driving behavior. They don’t get enough sleep and drive when they are tired. They don’t do enough to manage the stress in their lives and they behave badly behind the wheel. People are in a bigger rush than ever. They fail to use their signals, they drive way too fast for conditions, they pass on the right, and they constantly blow through stop signs and traffic lights. I see it every day. Cyclists have a unique vantage point. They are higher up than most cars and they can see what’s going on. Vehicles are bigger than ever. Some SUV’s and trucks have large mirrors that stick out and come very close to you when they pass you. How many cyclists have been struck by a rearview mirror?

In recent years, I’ve been “coal rolled” multiple times. It’s disgusting. One of my pet peeves is that some vehicles have windows that are tinted so darkly that you cannot see the driver. You can’t see what they are doing. You can’t see what direction they are looking. You can’t see if they are staring at their phone. There is no way for you to tell if they see you. My fear is that their obliviousness is camouflaged by the tinted glass. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

The anger on the roads is just an extension of the broader anger in our society. When the bike path was being expanded in Bolton, our small town of 5,000 people 15 minutes east of Hartford, it caused so much angst. There has been a small but vocal group of people who have railed against the expansion of the Greenway and other paths. They have claimed that it’s a waste of their taxes. They have wrongly asserted that cyclists shouldn’t have access to roads because they “don’t pay taxes.” It’s a joke. They have blamed the problems on government. They have said that cyclists and pedestrians should stay off the roads. They have said even worse.

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The vulgarity and anger is so bad that I’ve ignored it. Social media has only fueled this problem and that’s just using OUR small town as an example. The “Everything Bolton” Facebook page is full of this nonsense. I don’t pay attention to it, but I know it is there. Who mounts professionally printed signs on trees to protest bike paths? Are those the same people that take their anger out on the roads when they get behind the wheel of a car?

The roads are in bad shape. I mentioned the cracks and debris. There is little funding to care for our failing infrastructure. The safest place for a cyclist to ride is as far right as possible, but sometimes that is on the worst possible surface. Many roads have no shoulder. It is best to avoid those, but sometimes you go from having five feet of space and in a matter of no time, the road narrows and you are left with nothing.

In Connecticut, a big deal has been made about the “three feet passing rule” or “three foot law.” It’s not followed and it is not enforced. There has to be more awareness and education around cyclists and pedestrians on the road. Debbie and I run the roads of our town too and it is only marginally safer than riding. As pedestrians, we face traffic and can stay just off the edge of the road when the space permits. But whether you are riding or running, the problem of distracted motorists is the same.

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Back at the house, I got my shredded cycling kit off and took a shower. The body has amazing healing powers and I wanted to get a jump start on my recuperation. I laid on the couch for a while. Then I had some dinner and went to bed. Despite a fitful night of rest and waking up stiff as a board, I was out of the house by 6:15 A.M. and back on my bike. Since I had left my car at work the night before, I figured the only logical way to get to work was to commute back. My psyche hadn’t changed and this was my way of saying, no motorist is going to stop me from doing what I love. Adrenaline was still coursing through my body and I knew that in the coming days, my pain and stiffness was only going to get worse. I wasn’t thinking about medical attention despite the pain I was feeling. There is no question that my pain threshold is higher than average. Debbie offered to take me to work and we have three vehicles, so I didn’t have to ride, but not riding was not an option.

Tuesday was a long day at work and by the end, I was out of gas. I returned home to an empty house because Debbie and Dahlia were at the 10th and final Winding Trails Summer Tri Series Race. I talked with my friend Arlen Wenzel and described the pain I was feeling. He suggested I get it checked out to make sure I had no fractures in my vertebrae or ribs. I got worried and decided to follow his instructions. Again, I didn’t want to go to the emergency department at the hospital, so I drove to the Go Clinic in East Hartford. This is the same clinic where I took Shepard when he broke his wrist back in June at the West Rock Superprestige Mountain Bike Race.

I signed in and then had a word with the technician. 30 seconds later, I was deleting my info from the iPad and walking out the door. The mobile x-ray unit that they used on Shepard was not going to cut it for my back and ribs. I thanked them for not wasting my time and returned to the parking lot where I sent an email to the same orthopedic doctors that treated my broken leg in 2018. I cc’d my PCP who is an Ironman triathlete veteran and understands my thinking. I requested an appointment with the ortho. By the time I got home, I had a reply from both doctors with some advice and the ortho cc’d one of his assistants so she could reach out to me in the morning. I went to bed.

I was feeling even worse on Wednesday morning, so I stayed home to work from the kitchen island and to work on getting an appointment and x-rays. The entire Wednesday saga and challenges of navigating our broken medical system is a long enough story for its own blog post, so I’ll save it. I spend a lot of time on healthcare issues because after wages, materials, and special processes (heat treatment, coatings, testing, etc.) health care premiums and related costs are some of HORST’s largest expenses. Even though I hate the topic, I’ve learned a lot about medical insurance. I’m thankful that my family is generally healthy and that my personal experience with it has mostly been related to injuries rather than illness.

I spent all day trying to get an order for x-rays and then a follow-up with a back specialist. By evening, I was frustrated and just ended up driving to UCONN in Storrs where there is a walk-in clinic. They had the large General Electric x-ray machine needed to shoot back and ribs images. The clinic was dead quiet as students have only just started to return to campus. I was seen immediately and the doctor wrote an instant order and I had the x-rays taken in the adjacent room. I was bummed that I waited and worried all day. I could have had this done by 10:00 A.M. and it was now approaching 7:00 P.M.

Within minutes, the doctor came back with a report that the x-rays were negative. He said he wasn’t an expert and that a radiologist would review them overnight, but that barring a major miss, he thought there were no fractures, breaks, or bone related issues. He said the spacing between my discs looked normal. He said I had a lot of muscle trauma, inflammation, contusions, and related back spasms. He said a combo of Tylenol and Advil would be a good over the counter option to manage the pain and reduce the swelling. He also suggested that I take hot showers. I drove home and followed his instructions.

On Thursday morning, the pain was reaching its peak. I was up quite during the night, but still got up early. I spent all day at work and again was tired by evening. I went to see Bob, my longtime massage therapist at Buckland Therapeutic Massage and had the best and worst massage of my life. I needed the work and knew it would pay dividends, but the suffering was immense. Just getting face down on the table was hard. After the message, I drove home, ate a little food, and went straight to bed. Friday morning, I got up and was feeling the after-effects of the body work. My wounds were weeping a bit, but I decided to spin for 30 minutes on the stationary bike with no resistance. I needed to move my legs and it felt good despite a few jolts of pain in my mid-back.

Friday was a little better and I could tell that the healing process was underway. By the end of the day, I was tired again. Debbie is away for the weekend at the AMC Women’s Trail Running & Yoga Retreat that she is hosting at the Highland Center in Crawford Notch. I didn’t feel like cooking, so I took Dahlia too Rein’s Deli. My elbow is getting better and I hope that by Monday I’ll be ready for some outside exercise again. I know that I have to take it easy. I’ve got some thinking to do about how active I plan to be in the short term. Cyclocross season is coming and I had a full season planned. However, I can’t afford to crash again. I’m in super shape right now, but I’m banged up. I went from an amazing high at the Niantic Bay Triathlon last Sunday to an amazing low on Monday night during the commute home. Close family and friends are always reminding me what I have “at stake.” I’m well aware of my family, work, and community responsibilities. I view it differently. We all have a lot at stake. Everyone has a different risk tolerance. Mine happens to be quite high. That’s probably why I continue to “swim with the sharks” by commuting and riding on the roads.

One of the unfortunate results of my crash is that I’ve fallen way behind in the HORST Engineering steps/activity challenge. My FEELTHEBURNhamSt Team is still in 5th spot, but we are losing ground to The Daily Grind and Waka Waka Waka. We have 2,105,919 steps since the challenge started last month and I’m now holding the team back! At least I can laugh a little about an awful circumstance. We have more than 70 employees participating and the initiative is being led by our F3 Team (Fit, Form, Function) focused on employee health and wellness. It’s a good thing. IMG_2975

I’ll likely turn more attention to bicycle advocacy, though I fear it is a losing battle. I already support MassBike, BikeWalk Connecticut, Bike Walk Bolton, the League of American Bicyclists, and other groups. I’ve talked about these matters in the past on the Bicycle Talk radio show/podcast. I won’t stop, but I’m doubtful that we can change the way people drive.

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I went years without a serious bike crash, but I’ve now had three major ones in a relatively short stretch. The physical and mental scars linger for months and years. The older you get, the harder it is to bounce back. You become less willing to push as hard. I’ve spent more times on trails for a reason, but I still love to commute. I’m sure that I will be putting more thought into my commuting routes. I’m sure that I will make even more use of the rail trail and the East Coast Greenway in an attempt to limit my exposure to motor vehicles. The days are getting shorter. Darkness and foul weather will become a bigger issue again as summer wanes. I plan to revisit my attire and anticipate that I’ll add even more lighting and reflective materials.

I can feel my body healing as I type, so I know that I’ll be back in the saddle soon. Some people might quit after a crash like this. Others would certainly slow down or delay their return to the road. Mentally, I’m ready to ride again. I’ll monitor my back throughout the weekend and see if by Monday I’m ready to ride again.

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.

Bicycles East and Seven Cycles

Last Thursday, Bicycles East hosted an “Evening with Seven Cycles” event at their shop in Glastonbury, CT. Debbie and I were stoked to have six of our bikes on display.

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The event was the “grand opening,” to celebrate Bicycles East becoming an official Seven Cycles dealer. My relationship with Seven goes way back–the go back to before their founding. In 1992, with help from my grandfather, and after working a lot of overtime (in the turning department) at Horst Engineering, I saved up and bought a Spectrum Titanium. I still ride that beautiful bike. Tom Kellogg designed it, but it was fabricated at Merlin Metalworks, the legendary Boston area titanium frame building company.

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Several of Seven’s founders, including principal founder Rob Vandermark, cut their teeth at Merlin. Rob was a welder, and he may have even welded my Spectrum. The bike went back to Tom Kellogg for final finishing. I raced that bike in more than a hundred road races, including all of the Belgian kermesses that I competed in during the summer of 1994. The fact that my grandfather, who learned metalworking at a German bicycle factory in his teens, helped me get that bike makes it one of the most special in my fleet.

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Merlin folded, but the seeds were sown for the founding of Seven more than 23 years ago. I acquired my first Seven about 15 years ago, a Tsunami cyclocross bike that I raced all over New England. I even raced it at the Cape Town Cycle Tour in South Africa. It wasn’t long after acquiring the Tsunami, that I got my first Sola mountain bike.

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I’ve been affiliated with Team Seven Cycles since 2010 when they built me a custom Kameha SLX for the Ironman World Championships. I’ve been fortunate to benefit from the relationship and have been an ambassador for the company ever since. I have several Seven’s now, as does Debbie.

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So, it made sense that Bicycles East, a key Team Horst Sports sponsor and partner, should become a dealer. The team at the shop has been working on my bikes for several years now. I had an opportunity to make a connection between the two companies, and I’m confident this will be a great relationship. Bicycles East has a world-class bike fit studio and they run a very smooth operation. Owners Steve and Deb Dauphinais put a lot of pride into their small business and it shows.

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So, if you are local and want to see a Seven up close, you can check some out at Bicycles East. Of course, you can also always visit my basement.

Team HORST Sports

I often mention Team Horst Sports in race reports, but I don’t often talk about the history of our squad. Last night, we held our 2019 kickoff party, which has been a tradition. For many years, we held a holiday party in December to celebrate the current season, but in recent years, we have done a January event that celebrates the prior year and kicks off the new year.

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The team was founded in the fall of 1997. It was born at the Killington Stage Race. Several of us were staying together and competing together, but we were technically on different teams. I recall one evening discussion in particular. It was after the day’s stage and since we were split between four or five teams, we didn’t have the numbers to control the race. We were technically racing against each other, but would have rather been able to work for a common goal. Teamwork in road cycling is vital, but at the time in the New England amateur ranks, it wasn’t common.

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The upgrade system forced individualism. The best riders would zoom through the ranks and end up in the next category on their way to the elite ranks. In those days, it went 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and if you were good enough, you could go pro. We were just weekend warriors, racing as Cat 3’s, but we wanted to keep getting better. That first discussion led to the formation of the team. There were some doubts about the organization and financing, but we resolved those issues without much of a fuss. Arlen Zane Wenzel volunteered to lead the effort, and I said I would speak with my family about throwing their support behind the team.

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All of these years later, HORST Engineering remains the lead sponsor and AZW is still the Directeur Sportif. That continuity has sustained the team over a period of time that has seen so many other teams come and go. We formed the squad, placed our first clothing order, and had a fantastic 1998 season in which we were voted New England team of the year. With excellent teamwork, we helped three of our members upgrade to Category 2 and though it had an impact on the team (splitting us between categories), it didn’t hurt us. We adjusted and that was the first of many evolutions.

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In the early years, there really was a “season” because we had a more narrow focus: road cycling. Now, we are a broad-based endurance sports team with year-round training and competition. We compete in road cycling, cyclocross, mountain biking, gravel riding, trail running, snowshoe running, skiing, triathlon, obstacle course racing, and many variations of these sports that involved cycling, running, and swimming.

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We started as group of “mostly single” guys racing in their 20’s and 30’s and are now a group of “masters” athletes in their 40’s and 50’s. We even have a few members whose racing age is 60+. Also, we are co-ed. We have had several women members over our history. In addition to the adult athletes, we also have the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad with member children between the ages of 8 and 16.

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The team has evolved since our founding in 1997 and those of us who have been around since the beginning are older and wiser. We are better athletes than the one-dimensional competitors of those early days. We are proud of our history and appreciate the longtime support of our sponsors, particularly, HORST Engineering, the family business that I lead.

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We have reduced our “sponsors” to a small number of organizations that share our core values. Bicycles East came aboard three years ago and it have been valuable partners. They hosted party we had  last night. J. Rene Coffee Roasters and their VICTUS Coffee brand has supported us for many years.  Our uniforms are from VERGE Sport. We also get a little support from Rudy Project and Picky Bars. We have had other fantastic sponsors over the years.

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Over two decades, we have had many great teammates. Some folks have retired, and some folks have moved to other teams, but they will always be part of the Team HORST family. There has been very little drama, and that has allowed us to maintain relationships for a long period of time.

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We have been involved in a lot of events. For years, we promoted the Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross in Keene, New Hampshire. We held the first ever cyclocross race in Hartford, Connecticut with the 2003 Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross. We did a race in Rockville called the Fox Hill Cyclocross. For years, we helped Benidorm Bikes with the Chainbiter Cyclocross. Our team members have been involved in the cycling in running communities in so many ways.

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Our orange and black “kit” is very visible. I don’t go a week without someone telling me that they saw a team rider on the roads of southern New England. Our riders have been spotted all over the country, and we aren’t that big of a group! The team has been good for our business and our business has been good for the team. We first developed Cross Spikes for members of the team. Our teammates did the research and development.

We will continue to evolve in 2019 and beyond.

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

AMC Medawisla Lodge and Cabins Revisit

The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Lodges offer amazing hospitality in gorgeous woodland settings that can’t be topped for their New England remoteness. After our family first visited Medawisla Lodge and Cabins on the opening weekend in July 2017, I wrote about our adventure.

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I returned this fall for the AMC Board of Directors annual retreat. I won’t hide my bias. I’m a huge supporter of not-for-profit AMC, and I am a big fan of our organization’s legendary mountain hospitality. Our historical strength has been in the mountains of New Hampshire, but we operate through the Appalachian region in New England and the mid-Atlantic. I’m an unabashed champion of the effort to grow our presence in Maine and New York. The resources generated by our lodging operations fund critical mission oriented efforts including conservation advocacy, climate science, outdoor education, land management, and youth opportunities.

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Medawisla is the crown jewel in AMC’s network of Maine lodges, but it isn’t necessarily better than the other two locations. All three, Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, and Medawisla offer authentic Maine sporting camp experiences, though each one is unique.

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Medawisla is the newest and represents a more modern approach. One example is that each cabin has a propane stove rather than a wood stove. Though off-the-grid, the Medawisla cabins have electric power, including lights and outlets, whereas the cabins at Little Lyford and Gorman have propane lanterns and there is no electricity.

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It had been nearly 14 years since I visited Little Lyford. Back in February 2014 when Debbie and I skied into the camp with AMC friends, it was known as Little Lyford Pond Camps. That wasn’t long after AMC acquired the property, and prior to substantial renovations including the construction of a new lodge.

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Little Lyford was AMC’s  initial recreation hub in the middle of the Maine Woods Initiative, which at the time was a burgeoning broader land conservation effort.

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The AMC website offers a succinct description of our Maine efforts:

The Maine Woods Initiative is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. The Initiative is an innovative approach to conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, responsible forestry, and community partnerships. To date, AMC has purchased and permanently conserved 70,000 acres of forest land, created over 120 miles of recreational trails, opened three sporting camps to the public, established an FSC®-certified responsible forestry operation, and developed a partnership with local Piscataquis County schools. 

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Debbie and I have been AMC volunteers dating back to the early 2000’s, and this is my third year serving as a director. I was thrilled to return to Medawisla and see its improved operations during my favorite season of the year. The foliage in west-central Maine peaked weeks ago, but there was still some color in the trees. Not all the leaves had fallen.

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There was snow on the ground when we arrived, and the Nor’easter that walloped New England on Saturday brought several more inches of the wet white precipitation on Saturday afternoon and evening.

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Last Thursday, I spent the day at work and then in the late afternoon, picked up Dalia at school, and then we went to Windham High School to cheer the Bolton Center School Cross Country Team (Boys and Girls) at their middle school league championships. Shepard is a 6th grader on the team and Debbie is the coach. I was home by 6:30 P.M., packed the car, and hit the road again. I was in Portland by 10:00 P.M. and stopped for the night at my Aunt Terry’s house.

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Terry is always a great host. She didn’t visit Medawisla with us in 2017, but she was with us on the first part of that trip to Baxter State Park. After arriving in Portland, I didn’t stay up long. In the morning, we chatted a bit before I did my regular morning Huddles by phone. I had to answer some emails and do a little project work before we parted company.

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I drove to Greenville and got there in about three hours. I stopped a few times on the way, including once for gas. Each time, I checked my messages and did a little work knowing that once I got to Medawisla, my connection with civilization was going to be a bit weaker.

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Just past Greenville, I stopped at Lily Bay State Park. The gate was closed, but I parked at a turnout a little farther up the main road. I pulled out my bicycle and changed into riding gear. I rode 25 minutes back towards Greenville until I reached the high point where there were great views of Moosehead Lake.

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On the return trip to the car, I made a detour into the park and rode down to the lake’s edge. My ride took 65 minutes and then I hopped back in the car for the final 45 minute drive to Medawisla. I got there about 2:30 P.M. in time for the official start of the meeting.

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The lodge operations have come a long way since that first weekend in 2017. There is an established “croo” and they were awesome. The croo’s cooking was excellent–I’ve never had better food at an AMC facility. At the  Maine lodges, the food itself has become a draw. The staff was very accommodating of my vegan diet. They not only served me sides, but they made unique vegan offerings that mimicked each course served to the omnivores.

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The board meeting itself was very productive and educational. With the Maine theme, we talked a lot about the forest economy and the tourist economy. Both are key to the state’s fortunes. AMC has done a lot to spur economic development in Piscataquis County through sustainable forestry and through recreation. Both efforts are core to our mission.

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We got to hear from expert leaders involved with economic development, forestry investment, higher education, and the outdoor apparel/gear business. We also learned more about the evolution of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. AMC’s focus has been on the 100 Mile Wilderness, which is the last (or first) 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail extending to/from Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park.

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These lands have been heavily used as an industrial forest over the last two centuries. The timber, paper, and pulp industries are much smaller and the communities in this region have fallen on hard times. Many mills have closed. However, the remaining ones are seeing new investment. Folks in Maine realized long ago that the economy can’t just be dependent on logging, but needs a boost from other sectors, including tourism.

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Though I grew up in Connecticut, half of my family’s roots are in Maine, so I’ve always been an interested observer. My mother grew up in Upper Frenchville in Aroostook County, the northernmost part of Maine. I have many cousins, aunts, and uncles who still live in Maine. My grandparents are gone, but I always enjoyed visiting them. It was a long drive–500 miles–from my home to theirs, but it was through a beautiful landscape. I miss those days of piling in to the back of our family car and heading north.

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On Friday night, we got to look through the lodge’s telescope. It was a “homemade” model, but not a hack job by any means. It was made by a noted scientist and it was awesome. It was only a few days after the full moon and it was clear, so we got a great look at the surface and all its craters. AMC is working on International Dark Sky designation for our Maine project and facilities. This would be a great accomplishment as Dark Sky destinations are sought out by astronomy buffs.

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At Medawisla, I saw some of the local landscape. I got out early both on Saturday and Sunday morning for short runs on the nearby trails. They were cut with cross-country skiing in mind, so they were wide and easy to follow. There are many old logging roads in the area that are also used as trails, especially in winter. In the north country, there has always been conflict between motorized and non-motorized recreation. Both are important to Maine. I won’t wade into this debate, but it’s worth noting that there is a shift towards more non-motorized activities including hiking, cycling, skiing, paddling, and fly fishing. ATV’s and snowmobiles are still seen all over the state, but their popularity is reported to be waning as demographics change.

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On Saturday afternoon, some of us ventured out and toured the other two lodges. We first drove to Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins and walked around. Then we drove over to Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins. They are about eight miles apart, but separated by rough and unplowed logging roads. The entire trip took about three hours. By the time we got to Little Lyford, it was snowing heavily. These facilities close during the shoulder season as they prepare for winter and as the roads become impassable. Both Gorman and Little Lyford will reopen right after Christmas, whereas Medawisla (the access road is plowed) will remain open. Gorman and Little Lyford are a bit more rustic than Medawisla, have their own character, and are in beautiful spots. In the winter, you park about eight miles away and the only way to get to the camps is on your skis or snowshoes. Staff hauls in your extra gear using the snowmobiles.

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AMC is fortunate to have an amazing team of full-time employees. The entire Maine Woods Initiative “croo” that hosted us were informative, helpful, inspiring, and gracious. They are passionate about their work and great representatives for AMC’s conservation, education, and recreation mission. A trip to Maine would be well worth your time and effort.

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I was disappointed to not get out on Second Roach Pond like we did in the summer of 2017. I wanted to paddle some, but the lake was already iced over and conditions weren’t good for water-sports. My only other regret from the weekend is that I didn’t have time to try the Medawisla sauna. Now I have another good reason to go back!

2018 Newtown Cross

Today, Shepard and I a returned to the Newtown Team 26 Cross. For the second year in a row, the race was held at the First Company Governor’s Foot Guard. This horse farm is a lovely property and a great venue for a cyclocross race. For years, the Newtown race was held across the street at the Fairfield Hills campus, but I prefer the hillier and grassier horse farm course.

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One change was that this usual late season race was moved to September. That boosted the participation and the host CCAP got a great turnout for the first race in the 2018 CT Series of Cross. Our own CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad contributed to the numbers. So did a strong presence by our Team Horst Sports Masters racers.

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The course was slightly changed from last year. It included even more climbing, less pavement, and more turns. I liked it. It was really challenging. The Masters 40+ field was strong. I managed 7th place after an early battle with Patrick Ruane and Joe Kubisek. Matt Kraus bridged up and rode through our group. None of us could hang on. Eventually Patrick left us and moved past Matt to finish 4th. Joe and I continued to swap spots until he jumped me on the 2nd to last lap for 6th. Late in the lap, I slid out on an off-camber and once again smacked my left leg (knee). I got a small cut, but it was minor. Generally, I was happy with my bike handling. I made a few mistakes and chopped the guys in a few corners, but I was pressing hard and that’s how things go. I apologized. My power still isn’t where it needs to be, but I’m getting there.

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After my crash, I bounced up, but the 10 seconds that Joe gained was all he needed to hold me off on the last lap. I did my best to close it down, but I just didn’t have enough oomph. I’m feeling stronger week by week, and I hope to keep progressing. I would have loved to score top five in this strong field, but it was not to be. I actually had to work hard on the last 1/3rd of a lap as Karel Citroen put on a huge surge and nearly caught me. I was happy to hold him off. His surge was all the more impressive because it was his second race of the day. He finished 3rd in the Category 3/4 race, three spots in front of our teammate, Rich Frisbie.

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Art Roti and Brett Chenail did well in the 40+ race. We started a minute in front of the 50+ race, which was won by our friend and former teammate, Mike Wonderly. He held off current teammate Wade Summers, who rode strongly to score second. Dave Geissert and Tom Ricardi both also rode well in the 50+ field. Ted D’Onofrio, another longtime teammate, was also in the 50+ field and it was good to see him out there.

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Our Juniors also had a good day. Owen and Ethan Lezon were joined by Adela Chenail (her first race) in the 9-11 year old category. Shepard was joined by Sean Rourke, Boden Chenail, and Lars Roti in the 12-14 year old category. Cole Ricardi was our lone junior in the 15-18 year old race.

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All in all, it was a good day for Team Horst Sports. One negative was that just before we were ready to leave, a rider (Jim) from the TTEndurance squad crashed hard in the corner near where we were parked. His screams were “blood curdling.” I rushed over to help him. He got up, but immediately realized that his right knee was gushing blood. He had cut it by falling squarely on a rock (one of the only ones on the course) and it was deep-right to the bone.

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We got him off to the side of the course and sat him down. Someone immediately grabbed a towel and I applied compression to the wound. Getting medical help took a bit longer than we hoped, so was there nearly 30 minutes holding the towel on the cut, keeping him calm, and chatting. A few other Good Samaritans stayed with us until the EMT’s arrived. With one EMT watching the cut, we did a quick swap where I pulled off the towel, they glanced (Jim looked away) at the cut, and then immediately replaced it with a bandage. It was going to need several stitches, so they loaded him on a stretcher and carted him away. I was happy to stay and help and I feel his pain. It was only nine months ago that I broke my leg in a cyclocross race.

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That’s why its frustrating that I keep falling on my left side. Sigh. Bike racing is too much fun to give up. I won’t slow down, at least not anytime soon. I was happy to hear that Jim was more mad than sad and that he plans to be racing again in a matter of weeks. He was even in good enough spirits to take a selfie with me. I’m rooting for him to make a strong comeback!

Race Results

2018 West Rock Superprestige MTB Finals

The West Rock Superprestige finals absolutely rocked. It was a full Team Horst Sports and family affair yesterday at West Rock Nature Center in Hamden, Connecticut.

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The event actually started with a 5K trail race, the first ever at this venue, which was great for Debbie and Dahlia. We got there in time for the 8:30 A.M. start so they could do the two lap (1.5 kilometers each) course.

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It was great to see some of our running friends at a mountain bike race. Like us, some of them are “blended” families and do both sports. Debbie was third woman finishing behind Kerry Arsenault, who was there with her partner (race timer Jerry Turk); and Grace Mattern. I shadowed Dahlia and ran with Rachel Mattern (Grace’s Mom), who were visiting with her family from Rochester, New York. We normally don’t see them until fall when the cyclocross season is in full swing, so it was fun to spend a summer day with them.

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Even Dahlia came home with swag, finishing second in her age group to Grace, who is a fine multisport athlete. There wasn’t a whole lot of under-18 females, which suited Dahlia just fine. The race organizers were very generous with their prizes. Grace’s Dad, Craig, and brother, Miles, finished on the podium in their mountain bike races too. Miles actually won the 9-12 year old boys race. Like us, they did scored some nice prizes.

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In that junior mountain bike race that Miles won, there were 32 boys and girls, which was a fantastic turnout. Shepard had his best ever race, finishing third, just behind Cade Fravel. They were several minutes behind Myles, but Cade and Shepard had a great battle. Shepard had a conservative start, but moved up from 8th to 3rd, and was challenging Cade by the end of the five lap race. Both boys wouldn’t give an inch and they hammered the final lap with Cade posting a 10 second advantage. It was fun to watch. They were toast at the finish, but it was a breakthrough race, at least for Shepard. I think he learned how to push past the pain point.

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We had several other CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad racers compete today. In the 9-12 field, Shepard was joined by Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. In the 13-14, Sean Rourke took second. He was joined in the field by Weston Winbourne, and by his sister, Molly Rourke, who was second place amongst the girls. In addition to the Team Horst Junior Squad kids, there were many other kids who are indirectly related to us including members of the Meyerle and Summers families. Their children are on different CCAP squads, but their parents are affiliated with Team Horst. They are all family to us!

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I did the Men’s A race at noon and was in the singlespeed category. We had a blistering fast start on the technical West Rock course. My first lap was kind of bumpy, but I settled in and eventually took the lead amongst the singlespeeders. The race was 10 laps, which was solid for the 1.2 mile short track loop. By the middle of the day, the temperature had risen to the high 80’s under a blazing hot sun, but fortunately, we were mostly in the shade on the heavily wooded course.

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I knew I was being tailed, and with three to go, one of my West Rock rivals, Marty Waters, made his bid, shooting past me on the most technical section of the course. There was a brutal rock garden and my Seven Sola SL is rigid, a distinct disadvantage on this section. At times, I felt like a pinball. He got a gap, but I kept him in sight. Over the next two laps, I closed in on the climbs, only to see him pull away on the rocky and rooty sections of the course. Still, I felt like I had managed my effort and had something left in the tank.

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In the second half of the second to last lap, Anthony Vecca caught us and moved to the front of our three-man group. I had a rough penultimate lap, bobbling several times and I even had to get off and push through the worst section of rocks when my wheel got jerked sideways, forcing me to lose all my momentum. Anthony took off and I wasn’t sure if we were going to stick with him, but Marty kept contact as I dangled off the back of the group. Once again, I closed down the gap on the final climb and almost made it back up to them by the start finish with one to go. We started the final lap pretty much all together.

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The first half of each lap was more technical, so I let it all hang out in an effort to keep them close, knowing that if I could, once we got to the more hilly second half of the loop, I had a shot at the win. When we got to a section where there were a series of three logs, I went left, and Marty went right. I cleared the final large log cleanly while he was slow to get over it. I heard him moan a bit as I accelerated away, and I thought I might have broken him.

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Anthony was only a handful of seconds up on me, but I thought that he also may have played his cards too soon. We crossed the small stream and then hit the long leg burning wooded climb that led to the grass climb before the big descent. I felt like this was the spot to make my move, so I came up on his left, called out the pass, and just buried myself to get by him. He yielded, which gave me confidence, but I still figured he would grab my wheel and hang on. This was the only lap I opted to not take a sip from my bottle. There were only two or three spots on the course where you could even get your bottle out of your cage, and this was one of them. I didn’t want to take the chance at a bobble and just pedaled as fast as I could on the gradual incline.

I never looked back, but pushed extremely hard all the way to the hairpin left at the top of the descent. We were hitting 30 miles per hour on this downhill. I wasn’t brave enough to stay off the brakes completely, and needed to tap them a few times towards the bottom where the trail dumped out into a field. There was one more steep descent and then a winding section through the woods with four tough wood bridges to navigate before the final climb.

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I thought I heard Anthony behind me, but still never looked. At this point, I didn’t know that we had cracked Marty, so I kept pushing. The big climb had a sharp left and then another sharp left before the final hairpin right, which was all gravel. All of the turns were loose dirt and it was hard to keep traction, especially while pushing such a big gear (singlespeeders have only one). I had to really stand and grind it out, but in each of the turns, I gave it my all, hoping to distance my rivals. I got to the crest of the hill as it turned right into the top of the grassy field by the team tents, and just hammered.

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I came through the final hairpin left hand turn, which had some sneaky gravel on it, and on to some broken pavement just before the finish line. I punched it one final time, sensing that I had to keep on the gas. That last effort was crucial because Anthony was right on my wheel, and I ended up crossing the finish line with less than a bike length lead. Our timing chips said we were separated by 1.00 seconds after 64 minutes of racing.

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We were 7th and 8th overall. Six guys with gears were in front of us. We had dropped Marty on the last climb, but he finished a valiant third. I thanked them both for the hard racing. It really was a great battle. With more than 1,200 feet of climbing in just under 11 miles of racing, this is a tough race. My heart rate averaged 174 beats per minutes, which is consistent with the hardest of my 45+ minute cyclocross races, but I had a peak heart rate of 196, which is 12 beats higher than I’ve seen in many years. 184 was the highest recorded rate in the 2017 cyclocross season. I don’t know if that is a good or bad sign, but that figure was posted right at the finish line, which highlights how hard that last lap was.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with the prestige of the top step of the podium, a six-pack of Yard Party Pale Ale, $25 (to reimburse a portion of my entry fee), and a Hammer products shaker bottle. That is more than enough swag to make a Masters racer very happy. I would have sprinted for the glory alone!

There were several other Team Horst Sports mate in the A race, including John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, Art Roti, and Joseph Dickerson. Tim Rourke (Sean and Molly’s Dad) won the Masters B Race.

There were many cheering throngs of spectators. The course is laid out perfectly for those who want to watch. You can get to four or five spots every lap. The yelps from Team Horst families was motivating.

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I only made two of the five series races this year, but Shepard made three of them. A big thanks goes to Kurt D’Aniello, Annalisa Paltauf, and the rest of the crew/volunteers from D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles and the Laurel Bicycle Club. They were fantastic hosts and promoters. Their swag was generous, and the post race food/beverage was really appreciated. They did a fine job with the entire series.

Sadly, we couldn’t hang around long. We packed up and took Dahlia to summer camp. After Shepard, Debbie, and I unpacked and cleaned the gear, we headed to Flora Food + Drink for a celebratory meal. Debbie and I were there a week ago, and we were thrilled to return. We ended a Team Horst themed day by seeing our friends, Keith, Paula, and Erin Enderle at the restaurant. They were having a celebration of their own. Keith is a teammate and he is getting pumped for cyclocross season. So am I!

Race Results

The Perils of Bicycle Commuting

Last night, on my bicycle commute from work I had a run-in with a motorist. Technically the confrontation was with a backseat passenger. No one was hurt. It was just a verbal spat that result in an arrest for the (drunken) harassing behavior and drug possession.

Commuting is a great way to combine exercise and low impact transportation while getting outside. This year, I’m traveling less, spending more time at our plant sites, and commuting more than ever. The rationale is simple. The distance from home is about 11 miles, I have to go to work anyway, and I love to ride. I have several routes and variations of those routes that keep it interesting and allow a manageable commute of 11 to 17 miles, that can usually be done in an hour or less each way. My ride home typically takes five to 15 minutes longer because it is uphill.

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If there is a single drawback to bicycle commuting, it can be described in one word: motorists. If there were no cars or trucks on the roads, I would love to ride even more. I see a lot of crazy conduct on the roads of Connecticut (and Massachusetts) where I do most of my riding. Cycling offers a unique vantage point and with nothing blocking or filtering your view, you take it all in. That includes seeing a lot of ignorant drivers. I see it all of the time, but rarely write about it. I’m sort of numb to it. However, if you were a new cyclist or if you were less tolerant of the risks, you would likely stop riding on roads altogether. In recent years, many people have told me how they no longer ride on the roads.

I certainly don’t recommend riding on the roads that I use for commuting. I’m a huge advocate for safe riding and especially bicycle commuting, but for the average rider, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. I’m on Burnside Avenue all of the time and that road has seen three cyclist related deaths in recent years. They have done work to make the road safer by limiting it to one vehicle lane, and by adding a bicycle lane, but that was only in response to the accidents.

Around here, the roads are terrible and getting worse. Despite being fenced off from traffic, even sections of the local paved bike paths have hazards that include cracks, potholes, glass, and weeds. The city streets have even bigger potholes. They are narrow and lack shoulders. They have faded paint/markings. There is even more glass. They have cracks and frost heaves. It’s nasty, but in a weird way, I know every flaw and still enjoy riding these roads. It’s the act of commuting, and not the environment, that keeps me doing it. My routes aren’t entirely devoid of beauty. Sections of the East Coast Greenway are lovely. Riding through Wickham Park is beautiful.

I left Horst Engineering’s Burnham Street plant at 5:53 P.M. I rode up Burnham Street, cut through the industrial park, and accessed the bike path from Tolland Turnpike. This is a typical route for me. I ride this section of path several days a week. It has huge cracks, and at this time of year, long weeds spout from them. It’s unfortunate that this section isn’t maintained. When they extended the East Coast Greenway from Manchester to Bolton, I was against asphalt. I didn’t want them to pave it. I preferred cinder or dirt like the Hop River State Park Linear Trail. The photos show what happens when you fence off a bike path and then neglect it.

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It was a hot evening with the temperature in the low-90’s Fahrenheit. It was the kind of summer night where if you didn’t have your air conditioning blasting, then all your windows were rolled down. On a bike, there are no windows and there is no air conditioning.

I got off the path near Wickham Park and then took Burnside Avenue (Rt. 44) to Middle Turnpike and then to Center Street. I was in a rush to make a “belt test” for the kids at Park’s Taekwondo, so I just went straight up 44. It’s not a pretty road, but not every bicycle commute is pretty. Sometimes, you just have to get from point A to point B. On this road, I saw a usual number of distracted drivers, and at a stoplight, reminded one to put away her phone.

I made my way up Center Street towards downtown Manchester. When you ride your bike straight up 44 like this, you are prepared for something to happen. At this point, I was listening to some music, and minding my own business. A car came rolling by me and a person in the back seat on the passenger side hung out the window screamed, “Get out of the road.”

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I tapped my EarPods twice to stop the music and waved at the guy in a dismissive manner. He proceeded to flip me off and shout some obscenities. I was riding nearly as fast as the car, so I accelerated a bit. I was in that kind of mood. Most of the time, I just ignore people, but like I said, it was Monday night, the end of a long work day, and it was hot. I was a little frustrated too. In situations like this, I usually weigh my options before responding, but sometimes your reaction is spontaneous. There were a lot of other cars around, so I “let him have it,” shouting back and telling him where he could go.

They had to stop at a red light, and I planned to just ride past them, but as I cautiously approached, he swung open the car door as if he was going to “door” me, all the while yelling at me. I easily swerved out of the way. He was one of four people in the car. Two men were in the back, and two women were in the front. I rode up on to the sidewalk to give myself a little space. You never know what a lunatic like this will do, so I figured that rather than get run over, or worse, get shot, I should be careful.

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As I was riding on the sidewalk, they pulled past me once again and this guy was again hanging out the window and shouting obscenities. This time, I decided to “blow kisses” in his direction. I realize, that wasn’t very mature. We discussed my approach at the dinner table later in the evening, and my kids found it amusing, but Debbie wasn’t impressed. My daughter thought that I was using some figure of speech, but no, I told her that I was literally blowing kisses in his direction. I hopped back on the road and kept riding. It wasn’t long before I caught them again. This time, they were sitting at the light at the Center Street/Main Street intersection. I slowly pulled up behind them, pulled out my iPhone, and snapped a photo of the car’s license plate. The driver saw me in the rearview mirror and I knew she wasn’t happy with me, or the guy in her backseat.

I pulled alongside them and pointed at her and said, “He isn’t the only one that’s going to get in trouble. You are.” Just then, the light turned green. They turned left on Main Street and I rolled through the intersection continuing on Center Street. I spotted a Manchester policeman in his SUV on the opposite side of the intersection. I pulled over. He apparently saw part of my interaction with the car, was trying to figure out what happened, leaned out of his truck, and yelled from across the street, “Do you want me to go after that car.” I replied, “They were harassing me.” That was enough for him. He took off. I figured I would keep riding. I knew I could always call the police later and send them the photo.

I got about a half mile up the road and the policeman was parked on my side of the street facing my direction. I came to a stop, he got out of his truck and approached me. The last time a policeman stopped me on a bike, I was the one who got a written warning. That was for running a red light in Truckee, California. That was a memorable ride, with the ticket writing moment captured by my iPhone camera. Now, this ride was becoming memorable too.

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Officer Johnson was very kind. He asked me if I had a photo of the car and its license plate. I confirmed that I did. He proceeded to tell me that he was a cyclist, loved to ride, and confided that it was “nuts on the roads.” Like me, unless commuting, he heads for more rural roads. I explained how I commute to East Hartford nearly every day and have done so for a very long time. He was sympathetic after I described the incident and would have talked all evening, but I told him I was in a rush. He thanked me, gave me his phone number, asked me to text him the photo, and then to follow-up with my contact information.

I sent the photo immediately, and then rode off. I got to the belt test in time and both kids passed. Afterwards, I sent the rest of the information and thanked him. Then, I rode the rest of the way home. When I got there, I had another message from him. He indicated that he caught them, and arrested the kid in the backseat. I thanked him again. His final reply: “You’re welcome and you did your part also, made it easy for me.”

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So, I guess you could say it was a happy ending. It’s natural for me to feel odd when someone gets in trouble, but if I recall my own anger and frustration when the car first passed me, but I figure that this guy got what he deserved. It’s important to report incidents like this and advocate for cyclists. If you choose to ride, do it as safely as possible and don’t ignore the risks.

2018 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

After 34 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races, 20 of which Debbie has run and/or directed; and of which, at least 10, that I’ve blogged about…I’m thinking of something interesting or provocative to write that wouldn’t be redundant.

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I guess the best thing I can come up with is that my eight-year-old daughter, affectionately known as Little D, had to use the potty (yep, #2) for the entire length of the 6 kilometer Jerry Stage Sampler. I knew this because we discussed her, or rather our, options; and I think the feat of the race was that she insisted she could “hold it” to the finish. And she did. However, it made her miserable, (and slow) and it pained me to watch.

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If any runner has suffered a similar intestinal malady, then you know. This is not something that can be described. Only the shared experience of doubling over as you inch your way towards the finish, or your destination, is enough to comprehend what she went through. The gift certificates and cow bells (our new unique age group awards) may have went to others, but she gets my “run of the day” award.

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“I don’t have to go,” she declared before the race, which is typical of her morning regimen. This sounds like one of our ordinary every day conversations, but this time it had consequences, and she paid the price. She vowed to not make the same mistake next race. Time will tell whether or not her prognostication holds true.

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Hopefully, none of the other 207 finishers shared her misfortune. From the looks on the faces of those finishing the 24 kilometer main event, they were suffering, but it wasn’t from bowel problems. It was the new, longer course; the humidity, and the muddy trails that took their toll on the legs (and bodies) of these runners.

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For the first time in several years, the 24 kilometer course had significant changes. Last year, the Shenipsit Striders noticed that a landowner whose property the course traversed, was posting “No Trespassing” prior to the race. We set a plan to reroute the course so that it would avoid the controversial property.

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This meant that we had to introduce a longer (more true to the stated distance) route that had a short overlapping section, more hills, and more singletrack. It also allowed us to make the first 5 kilometers (or so) of the course, the same as the “Sampler.” One of the key features of the Sampler has always been the infamous “sandpit.”

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This meant that all runners got to do the sandpit with its 45% gradient and loose footing. One improvement for next year is that we will increase the time between the two race starts. 10 minutes didn’t prove to be enough, as the front-runners in the 6K caught up to the back of the packers in the 24K. Still, everyone appeared to enjoy the challenge of the sandpit whether it was their first time or not.

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Last year, the Sampler was renamed to honor the late Jerry Stage, the only other Race Director that Soapstone has ever had. Debbie was Jerry’s understudy for several years, and she gradually assumed more duties, eventually taking over the race from him around 2003.

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She ran her first Soapstone in 1999, the same year that we met, and she has been a devoted trail runner ever since. In addition to succeeding Jerry as Race Director, she inherited the club presidency from him too, and with the help of others, revived the Shenipsit Striders to welcome a new family friendly generation of trail runners.

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Debbie kept the Soapstone gig, but passed the leadership of the club to John Agosto. John led the club for several years and then was succeeded by David Merkt. This new version of NipMuck Dave (the younger), is still the dedicated Race Director of the NipMuck Trail Marathon, having taken over from the original, NipMuck Dave Raczkowski.

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Dave subsequently passed the torch of the presidency to Emma Palmacci, who is doing a fantastic job leading our club. Yesterday, she was at the finish line congratulating all of the runners.

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Truthfully, Soapstone, like all Shenipsit Striders races, has always been a team effort, and this year, our beloved running club supported her more than ever. It is not a secret that she is in the early stages of a succession planning process to ensure that this legendary race continues long into the future. Only its sister race, the aforementioned NipMuck (currently at 35 years and counting), has more seniority amongst New England trail running races.

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In addition to all of our club mates, thanks goes to race sponsors who offered varying levels of support: Horst Engineering, Tailwind Nutrition, Rein’s Deli, Bevin Brother’s Manufacturing Co., HAE Now, and Nature’s Grocer.

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There were many volunteers, especially our fellow Shenipsit Striders, and some stalwarts from the Northern Connecticut Land Trust. In recent years, proceeds from the race have benefitted the land trust, the Reddington Rock Riding Club, and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA).

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This was race number two in the 2018 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.

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The race saw many top performances. Check out the results link for details. Tim Van Orden was the first male finisher of the 24K. Bonnie Lathrop was the first woman. First place overall in the 6K was Mary Johnson, which is pretty cool.

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Once again, we held the kids race and had some eager participants. Like our kids, many of them are sure to graduate to the Sampler as they gain the stamina and confidence to run longer distances.

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Our son, Shepard, was 5th in the 6K. He was only 33 seconds off the pace of his uncle, Steve Simko, (my sister’s husband), which is a gap he should close by 2019. If it wasn’t for a wrong turn, he may have closed that gap this year. Steve actually thought Shep was in front of him because he didn’t see him go the wrong way. While Shep and Steve were waging their battle up front, I was at the back, with Dahlia, enduring her “epic” struggle.

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I can’t imagine a year when we aren’t at Soapstone, but that day is bound to come. It won’t be in 2019, as Debbie accelerates the succession plan, but some day, maybe. In the meantime, we will continue to thrive off of the community that we have built.

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The feedback has been mostly positive. There were some wrong turns. There were bumps. There were bruises. There were a lot of muddy shoes. I even saw some muddy faces, but that mud wasn’t hiding the smiles. They shown through.

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If you love your trail running, then show up for race number three in the Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series, the Goodwin Forest Trail Runs on 03 June. Goodwin also happens to be race number four in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series.

Lastly, registration is almost full for the Livingston Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run Adventure at REI in West Hartford this Thursday the 24th of May, which will recount  Debbie’s amazing run in the San Juan Mountains.

Race Results

Race Photos (SmugMug Gallery)

Singapore & the Luisella H. Cosulich

It’s been a few months since Debbie and I returned from our Hong Kong/Singapore trip, but I’m still sorting through photos. The reason for the trip was to attend the YPO Global Leadership Conference/EDGE in Singapore.

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It was our second time visiting Singapore. We also visited in 2012, the last time the YPO conference was in Asia. That time, we brought our young children, but this time, we were on our own.

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I already wrote about the Metasprint Duathlon, but I wanted to share some other highlights, including the incredible visit we made to a tanker fueling ship. That trip was arranged by our friend, Tim, from the sixth generation of the business owning Cosulich Family.  Their firm, Fratelli Cosulich, are leaders in maritime industries and have a significant Singapore operation. Refueling other ships, particularly tankers, is one of their business operations.

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We joined a group of friends from the USA and Italy (where Tim is from, and where Fratelli Cosulich is headquartered), on an amazing adventure to the Luisella H. Cosulich, the ship named after Tim’s mom.

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We boarded two small tenders at the Port of Singapore for the 15 minute ride to the Luisella. She was anchored off-shore amongst a fleet of other ships. She was tied to the larger tanker that she was refueling. I was in the first tender to board, and Debbie was in the second.

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One of the amazing things about Singapore is its maritime prowess. From the roof deck of our hotel, the Marina Bay Sands, you could see ships anchored all the way to the horizon.

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One of those ships ended up being the one that we boarded, which was a harrowing experience. Tim had some previous experience taking other small groups to the ship, but they were able to mount a ramp along side of the ship and you could easily walk up from the tender.

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On the day that we went, a stiff breeze was blowing and the sea was choppy. This meant that we had to board from a rope ladder that was lowered from the deck. The fact that the Luisella was tied to the the larger tanker in addition to being anchored, meant that she was stable.

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It was the the tender that pitched wildly. Boarding proved to be a fun, but nerve wracking challenge. Debbie was fine with it, but I was recovering from my broken leg, had only been walking without crutches for two weeks, and didn’t want to get hurt.

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In the end, everyone in our group did fine and we all successfully boarded the ship. The crew were fantastic. They looked out for our safety. Once aboard, we split into two smaller groups and toured the vessel. It was really cool. I asked a ton of questions. We saw the deck, the crew quarters, the engine room, and the bridge.

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Getting back into the tenders proved to be only slightly less challenging. The effort was successful in raising my heart rate. Once back on shore, I was happier. We had to show our passports when we entered the country again. Technically, we were in international waters, and we needed to pass through security before entering Singapore again.

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In one afternoon, I soaked in the nuances of the shipping industry and the role of the Luisella in refueling the much larger tanker ships that transport oil on the ocean. It was a great way to see the grittier industrial side of Singapore, a stark contrast from the glitzy retail of Marina Bay. Debbie and I were both thrilled with the experience.

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The ship adventure was on Saturday and the duathlon was on Sunday. We returned home on Monday.

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While we were in Singapore, we had two fantastic meals. The first was at Meta Restaurant, where we had an amazing seven course (plus two “snacks”) vegan meal. Meta turned out to be on of the best fine dining experiences I’ve ever had. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2017. The service was awesome.

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Our second Singapore date night was at EMPRESS, one of the Privé Group’s restaurants. We had a beautiful table and another vegan feast to celebrate the last night of our trip.

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The service was also fantastic. Afterwards, we took a leisurely stroll around Marina Bay on our way back to the hotel. It was a fun way to wrap up our two weeks in Asia.

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2018 Hop Brook MTB Race

The 2018 mountain bike season kicked off in style at the Hop Brook MTB Race in Middlebury, Connecticut. Once again, the crew from the Laurel Bicycle Club and D’Anniello’s Amity Bicycles did a fantastic job organizing this early season event.

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The weather was kind of what you would expect for Southern New England in April in 2018. It was raw, cold, and blustery. The sun poked out from behind the clouds on a few occasions; but then the clouds covered it again, and the wind to kick up.

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By late afternoon, it was just plain miserable and no one could stay warm. It may have been harder to spectate than to race. Still, the racing was tough as most riders were competing for the first time in the new year.

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That didn’t stop a lot of people from getting on their mountain bikes and riding on the rugged Hop Brook Lake Recreation Area course. Team Horst Sports was well represented in the both morning events and the afternoon events.

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We had several Masters racers in the Category 1 and Category 2 fields.

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Later in the day, the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad had five boys race in the Category 2 and Category 3 Juniors race. Sean Rourke led the way with a strong finish on the challenging terrain. Shepard Livingston, Cole Ricardi, Bodain Chenail,  and our newest junior teammate, Weston, all had great races.

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It was awesome to see so many kids out there. Many of the faces were familiar. We know many of them from the cyclocross community. We last saw some of them in December, when the Elm City CX, the last CT Series of CX race was held in New Haven, and also hosted by the Laurel Bicycle Club and D’Anniello’s Amity Bicycles.

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It was fitting that they promoted the last cross race of the season and the first mountain bike of the new season. I think the weather was better in December!

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Anyway, we will be back at it with the mountain biking in two weeks at Winding Trails for the Fat Tire Classic.

Race Results

SmugMug Gallery Photos

NAHBS & Bicycle Talk

Bicycles are always on my mind. Last week, I returned to the UConn campus in Storrs, Connecticut to take part in another live interview on the Bicycle Talk show on WHUS. I was joined by my Horst Engineering colleague Arthur Roti, and had fun in an hour long discussion with host Ron Manizza, and his co-host, Fran Storch.

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This was Episode 85. You can also find the Bicycle Talk Podcast archive on iTunes. I was also on Episode 35 back in April 2017.

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Bicycle Talk covers bicycle culture, bicycle Advocacy, upcoming cycling news and all kinds of other interesting bicycle related topics. Ron has been around bikes his entire career. He owned Rainbow Cycles in Willimantic and has been a bicycle manufacturers’ representative for more than 20 years. He is also the Race Director of the Riverfront Cyclocross, and the Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross. The latter is one of the oldest cross races in New England.

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We had a lot of fun. After “Ron’s Rant of the Week,” we talked about kids and cycling, the 2018 Cyclocross Nats, the Team Horst Junior Squad, CCAP, Cyclocross Worlds, and other fun bike stuff.

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Ron and Fran have had some great guests on the program and they are doing a service for everyone in the bicycle community. I can think of at least 100 other people who would make great guests on the program. Bicycle Talk won’t run out of topics.

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The North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) was at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. This was the first time in the show’s 14 year history, that it has been in New England.

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Our family joined other members of Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad  at the event. We saw so many other friends. I didn’t take many pictures. There are so many great photos from NAHBS on the Internet. Just search around. Follow their Instagram or Facebook feeds, and you will see some of the finest bicycle craftsmanship in the world.

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I’m still hobbling around from my Reno CX Nats crash, so I didn’t cover a whole lot of ground at the convention center. I saw some good stuff, but if I was feeling better, I would have taken in the whole experience. Horst Engineering had a small presence at the show. We have a fun collaboration with our friend, Richard Sachs, the noted Connecticut bicycle frame builder. We helped him produce the Richard Sachs Seat Lug Survival Kit, also in partnership with SILCA and NixFrixShun.

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Several of Richard’s kits were on display in the SILCA booth. Also, our friends from Victus Coffee were doing a bang up job, serving customers from their brand new mobile trailer. Victus sponsors Team Horst Sports, and they had our Cross Spikes display at the show.

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After the show, we went to the Arch Street Tavern for the Hartford Bike Party hosted by the CCAP. This was a lot of fun. We hung out and participated in the raffle benefitting CCAP. We didn’t score any of the prizes, but again, saw a lot of friends. Richard Fries did a fine job as at the Master of Ceremony, and our daughter, Dahlia was his sidekick.

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I’ll be interested to hear how this version of NAHBS compared with past years. Was the attendance on par? Did it meet expectations? I hope the show returns to New England when I’m not using crutches. If not, I’ll seek out NAHBS in a future city. This was my first time attending the show, but it has always been a bucket list item. It was good for Hartford that it was here in 2018.

Crash! Part Deux: My 2018 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships Story

Well, the diagnosis is in. Sometimes, thing just don’t go as planned.

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I broke my leg.

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It’s a clean break of the fibula, also known as the calf bone. It happened about five or six minutes after 3:00 P.M. Pacific Time on Saturday afternoon in the singlespeed race at the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. This was first diagnosed on Monday afternoon at the UConn Health sports medicine clinic in Storrs. It was confirmed today when I returned for another X-Ray, and to get a cast put on.

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I fell on the dreaded off-camber hill on the back side of the Reno course. I’ve replayed that moment in my head, and I still can’t figure out exactly what happened. I’ve pieced together a probable explanation using my memory, some video, and the analysis of the orthopedic doctor. There was heavy traffic in the field of 135 riders, which was the largest of the week. The course was in rough shape after week full of racing, and because it was the last race of the day. I was tired after a week of travel, promoting Cross Spikes™, and racing in the Masters 45-49 Championship, but I only needed to get through one more event. It was the 25th of the season, the most in my 20 year cyclocross career. The singlespeed race was the last non-UCI amateur race of the week and before the Sunday UCI level elite races. The hill had dried out and was very slick with lots of loose rock. I started in the fifth row and was running around 45th at the time of the crash. I’m not a great bike handler, but I’m also not terrible. I wasn’t intimidated by the course, and had been around it more than a dozen times, but I made a mistake, and it cost me.

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I’ve watched this Instagram video captured by @jarednieters that shows the crash, and replayed it numerous times. If you want to see an overview of the singlespeed race with highlights including the start, sand pit, and off-camber mayhem, then check out this CXHAIRS clip. video focuses on the off-camber carnage. The still photos are screen shots from @jarednieters’ video.

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He panned away for a split second at a critical moment during my fall and the perspective is from the right side of the course, so it’s hard to tell exactly what happened to my left leg. After reviewing my X-Ray’s and manipulating my leg, the doctor thinks that it was blunt force that caused the break and not a twisting action. My guess is that I had my leg out for balance and support, and when my rear wheel kicked out, I planted my foot and it got jammed on the ground or smashed against the hillside, and/or against the course stake. Whatever I collided with, forced me back and I fell backwards on the steep downward facing slope. My bike ended up pointing in the opposite direction.

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As soon as my leg impacted, I knew something was wrong. It felt like everything in my calf just got yanked like the worst muscle pull ever, but it wasn’t a cramp. I know that feeling all too well and that is quite different. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, it was an ugly and awkward crash despite the relatively low-speed.

I sprung up because there was a line of riders behind me. My response was to grab my bike, start pushing, and remount without losing much time. I’ve crashed a lot and that surge of adrenaline is usually all you need to get going again. My problem was that this time, something was different. The pain in my leg/foot was intense, and I could barely move. A gap opened up between me and the riders in front. Several other guys took the low line to get around the traffic jam that I caused. I didn’t notice the cuts on my right arm or the scratches on my back.

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As soon as I remounted, I realized that I had no strength and the pain was excruciating. I was blocking riders, but I thought I could just get going again. I was sorry to hold them up. Eventually, I was able to make some forward progress. I got my right foot clipped back into my pedal as I approached the super-steep S turn descent, and either I got my left foot in the pedal or I was resting it on the pedal. I think it was out because all week, including my reconnaisance laps earlier in the day, I had been taking my left leg out for the steepest part of the descent.

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This time, I got around the bottom left hand corner, but had trouble getting my left foot back in the pedal again. It wasn’t until I got through the rutted section and over the berm along the sidewalk next to Herman’s Pond, that I was able to clip my Sidi Dominator into my Shimano SPD, and it hurt like heck. I got passed by another stream of riders because I couldn’t apply any pressure to the pedals. I rode around the pond, over the bridge, up the road, under the walking bridge, and into the Dinosaur Park. Even before I got to the start/finish straight, I was in bad sorts. Riders were blowing by me despite my effort to get back up to speed. I rode through the finish line at half speed, and kept going through the field, up the false flat, past the pit and up to the set of stairs. And to think that these are the same stairs that Christopher Blevins, Cody Keiser, and Tobin Ortenblad were bunny hopping in Sunday’s elite races.

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The crowd was going bonkers. As I approached the steps, I think I got my right foot out and swung my leg over my saddle to dismount, but when I shifted all my weight to my left leg, it just gave out. I couldn’t support myself, and didn’t have the strength to twist it out of the pedal. I don’t know exactly what happened next, but I think I rolled up to the stairs and used my right arm to push my foot out of the pedal. I’ve had to do this before, but typically after a mountain bike crash, when you get tangled up and the bike is on top of you. Usually, it is no big deal. I don’t remember much else, other than I walked up the steps carrying my bike and couldn’t continue. At that point, there were probably still 75 people behind me. The first lap was 1.9 miles long. I crashed at about 1.3 miles and made it another 0.6 miles. I tucked myself into the inside corner by the course tape and leaned on my bike to catch my breath and assess the situation.

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Several fans were heckling me. One guy, who I think was shirtless, had multiple one dollar bills tucked in his pants. He was yelling at me to take a dollar or two from his waistband, but I had no interest. I just wanted to get off the course. I spotted a course crossing a hundred feet further up on the right-hand side in a bend. Two marshals had a pink course ribbon draped across the opening to keep spectators back. I remounted, but again, couldn’t get my left foot in the pedal, so I just rested my foot on top and pushed with my right leg, which I was able to clip in. I made it to the opening and signaled to them with my arm that I was coming through. They dropped the ribbon and I coasted 10 feet, got off, and fell on my back in the grass with my singlespeed Seven Mudhoney SL beside me. It was my first race on that brand new bike. I hit stop on my Garmin 920XT and now have those 10+ minutes memorialized on my Strava feed.

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It took a minute or two for me to compose myself, but I immediately felt cold because I was ony wearing a shortsleeve skinsuit. I got up and remounted, but only clipped in my right foot. I let my left leg dangle and I pedaled one-legged across the field, and over to the Race Expo where the Horst Engineering tent was located. It was only 500 feet away. As I approached, I saw Art Roti, my teammate, colleague, and friend. He was talking to someone who had stopped by the tent. He saw me and was surprised. I rolled up and said something like, “I’ve got a big problem.” As I slowed to a stop, I thought I was going to fall over, so I asked them to help me and they immediately grabbed me. They helped me off, and I told them about the crash and how bad my leg hurt. He said he would get my jacket. I told him where it was in the truck. He brought over my Team Horst edition Patagonia Nanopuff and I donned it. I took off my helmet and wanted a dry hat, so I limped back to the truck, and dug it out of my bag.

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I knew that the medical tent was only a few hundred feet away, so I shuffled over. Two EMT’s, including local athlete, volunteer, and uber rescuer, John Kennedy were treating another athlete who also crashed. John had been super helpful all week-long. I slumped into a folding chair and they began attending to me. I told them the big problem was my leg above my ankle, but that the pain was radiating throughout my foot. I described the crash and they did their best to determine the extent of the injury. I think I talked them into the high ankle sprain explanation, or pulled calf, but there was no way for them to tell. They helped me remove my shoe and sock. The best they could do was tape it with an ace bandage and then tape an ice pack on. John wasn’t keen about my travel plans (an 11:30 P.M. “red eye” flight through Chicago to Hartford). He warned me about blood clot risk, told me to wear my compression socks, elevate the leg, and move around. He encouraged me to seek medical attention. They washed out the cuts on my right arm and put on a few Band-Aids.

I got back to our tent and Art helped me change at the truck. While he packed my bike, I sorted through the remaining Cross Spikes™ and packed them while sitting there with my feet propped up on the table. It was a bummer to hear the announcers still calling the race that I was supposed to be in. Jake Wells won, earning his second national championship jersey of the week. After the bike was boxed, we took down the tent and packed up the remaining gear. I was cold, so I got in the passenger seat of the truck while Art went to say goodbye to our Expo neighbors.

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We drove back to the house. I went inside while he got all the bikes ready so BikeFlights/FedEx could pick them up on Monday; and so our friend, Darron, could ship back the remaining inventory and gear. I showered with my bad leg hanging outside of the tub in an effort to keep the ace bandage dry.  I packed my bag, got to the couch, and put my foot up. He got some frozen peas from the freezer and we taped it to my leg. We called Greatful Gardens, where we ate twice earlier in the week, and ordered take out. They have fantastic vegan options. On his way to the restaurant, he stopped to refuel our rental truck, and he picked up some beer at a local tap-room.

We had dinner back at the house, and were eventually joined by our hosts, Addie and Darron. The four of us split the beers and then tested some of their home-brewed porter and cider. We had a great chat about cyclocross, work, family, and life. After hugs, we were on our way to the airport by 9:30 P.M. We returned the truck, walked to ticketing, checked our bags, went through security, and then walked to the gate. I laid down on the floor with my leg up on a chair, and waited there until boarding.

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I had a middle seat, but was able to switch to an aisle seat on the left side of the plane, so my leg was still pinned in. There was a woman sitting in the window seat, but at least we had an open seat between us. I just wanted to get home. I slept a little. I got up a few times, walked the aisle, and used the bathroom once. We arrived in Chicago at 5:30 A.M.  We deplaned and then walked to our connecting gate, but I was in agony. About 1/3rd of the way there, I laid down on a bench. We stayed there for 45 minutes, and then walked the rest of the way to our gate. There was no good place for me to put my feet up, so once again, I laid on the floor and rested my legs against the window facing the tarmac. Art went to get some breakfast while I rested.

After a while, I needed to use the bathroom and I was thirsty, so I walked back towards the other gate and got a steamed soy milk at Starbucks. When I got back to our gate, Art said the flight was delayed. After another 90 minutes or so, we boarded. When I gave the gate agent my ticket, I told her that I was going to need assistance at BDL and she assured me that someone would be there to give me a ride. We waited a long time but never took off.  Then, the pilot came on the PA system and told us that we were overweight and needed to unload 1,000 pounds of fuel. I had an aisle seat, again, on the left side with a passenger next to me. The process of removing fuel took another 30 minutes while were strapped in. During the flight, I got up and went to the bathroom a few times while walking the aisle to stretch my legs. We arrived in Hartford around 11:30 A.M.

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I deplaned ahead of Art. There was no one to assist. At the top of the jetway, there was a gate agent, but no one else, so I just started walking to baggage claim. I stopped and used the bathroom and then continued. Art eventually caught up to me. He helped me get my bag off the conveyor belt and we waited outside. His shuttle bus came first.

I got to the LAZ Fly self-parking lot and gave the driver a tip after he helped me carry my bag down the steps. Unfortunately, when I gave him the tip, I lost my LAZ Frequent parker card. I got my car started and checked everywhere, but I couldn’t find it. I went to check outside on the ground where the bus dropped me, but it wasn’t there. At the ticket booth, I used the call button, but it went to voicemail. It was freezing cold outside and I was exhausted. I saw another shuttle bus and went up to it and knocked on the door. The driver helped me call dispatch. Then, we went back to the machine and called again. This time, someone answered and she processed my transaction. I paid with a credit card and the gate went up. I was free!

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I got home 35 minutes later around noon. It was great to see my family. I showered and then spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch, with the kids, watching the USA Cycling YouTube livestream of the Women’s U23 race, Men’s U23 race, Elite Women’s race, and Elite Men’s race. After dinner, Debbie helped me upstairs. We propped my leg up on a pillow in our bed. I had a restless night of sleep. When I got up, I knew that my leg was messed up and it didn’t feel like an ankle sprain. I got up and made my way to the basement where I located the walking boot and crutches that I saved from a prior stress fracture injury in 2014.

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Debbie helped me get my leg in the boot and made some breakfast. I wrote an email to the doctor who helped after the 2014 crash that resulted in my broken shoulder, cc’ing my primary care physician, who is also the “team doctor” for the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes. I drove to work, and did our Senior Leadership Team Daily Huddle on the way. By the time I got to the shop, the doctor had replied, confirming that someone in his office could see me today. His assistant called me and we scheduled the appointment for 1:00 P.M. I read some email and then attended a meeting with our Controller, our CPA, and his partner.  We discussed accounting and finance matters for nearly two hours. I dealt with some HR stuff and then did a 30  minute telecon from the car on another business matter.

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By the time I got to the appointment, I was tuckered out. A junior doctor met with me, asked a bunch of questions, and manipulated my leg. In Reno, I reported that the pain was six on a 10 point scale, and repeated that to the doctor in Storrs, though there were moments when he squeezed my leg and the pain was probably a nine or 10. He was joined by a osteopath who further discussed my symptoms. Then, I was walked over to radiology where they shot three X-Ray’s. I was in terrible pain as they moved me around on the table. When I got back to the examination room, I was sweating profusely. This was harder than the race!

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The two doctors came in and gave me the bad news. They put the X-Ray’s up on the digital monitor and you could clearly see the break in the fibula. I was devastated. After one of my best cyclocross seasons, I had blown it in the last race. I also knew that the resulting recovery was going to have a huge impact on my heavy meeting and travel schedule. I was due to fly to Nicaragua this coming Saturday, but it was evident that I shouldn’t have even traveled back from Reno without first visiting the hospital. Flying to Central America was not going to happen. I also had several important planning meetings that would be impacted. I hung my head as they talked through the next steps.

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The big concern was whether or not the fracture was displaced. The osteopath wanted the orthopedic surgeon to review the images, but he was in surgery at the Farmington office. They got me back into the walking boot and scheduled me for a followup visit on Thursday morning, which was today. They told me to wear the boot all of the time, even while sleeping. They asked me to elevate my leg as much as possible, in an effort to get the swelling down.

Tuesday morning, I got really good news from the surgeon. He emailed to say that the break looked clean and that with a cast, the bone would heal on its own. He said to keep the appointment as planned and that he would see me then, with no change to the orders that they had given me. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I participated in meetings remotely while resting on the couch. Wednesday night, I attended the Connecticut River Valley Chamber of Commerce with my family and the Horst Engineering Senior Leadership Team. It took a big effort to put on a suit and get to the event, but I was honored as the chamber’s businessperson of the year. This award is a nice reflection on the success of our family enterprise and is shared with all my colleagues. By the time we got home last night, I was wiped out and anxious for today’s appointment.  This morning I got up, packed a rucksack, and drove back to UConn.

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The orthopedic surgeon was on duty. He is the same doctor who treated me in 2014 and despite the circumstances, it was nice to see him. Yesterday, he had three major surgeries, including one on the knee of a man who was in a horrible skiing accident. My case was “easy peasy” as he put it. They took me to radiology for one more X-Ray to make sure nothing had changed since Monday afternoon. We talked over my crazy travel schedule and the stupidity of my trip back from Reno. The X-Ray looked good, and he said the cast should do the job. His assistant presented me with a color palette to choose from. I chose black and orange to match our Team Horst Sports kit. He was thrilled and insisted on casting it himself rather than delegating it. He said it was one of his favorite procedures.

I was in and out in a half an hour with another appointment scheduled for two weeks from today. He said my prognosis was good and that given the circumstances, I was very lucky. We talked about my upcoming travel, races, and other stuff. The Nicaragua trip is off for me, and I don’t have to fly again until the end of February. Ski season is over before it even started. I was planning a March duathlon and I’m registered for the Mt. Tammany 10! (40 mile trail race), the Traprock 50K, and the Rasputitsa Spring Classic. Those races are all on hold until I get better. The good news is that even if I miss the spring campaign, I should be back up to speed for the summer mountain biking and triathlon seasons, and of course, the fall cyclocross season. That’s what matters.

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The pain sucks and this is a huge disruption, but much like my 2014 year of setbacks, I’m going to focus on other things. I’ll rest, improve my sleep, do some yoga, and work on my core strength. I use a standing desk and don’t have a chair in my office, but in the coming weeks, I’ll figure out how to stay off of my feet and take it easy.

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At dinner with the family on Monday night, our daughter asked if I’ve ever cried as an adult?

She said, “I mean, not from being sad, but when something hurt?”

I said, “Yes, many times. I cried three times at the doctor’s office today.”

She replied, “I cried twice today. At the trampoline park, she was jumping and a girl swung her fist and accidentally hit her in the chest. She said, “You know, like when it knocks the air out of your lungs and the water out of your eyes.”

I said, “Yeah, that hurts.”

She went on, “then, when I was with Mommy, a boy stepped on my toes and didn’t even notice. I cried again. His mom made him apologize five times. She told him to look me in the eye and say it like he meant it.”

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I didn’t predict this crash, but by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, I was pretty burnt from the long season, the crazy start to the year, and from being on the road since Tuesday morning. Despite a solid build-up, strong motivation, and a new singlespeed bike, I wasn’t 100%. I had also started thinking about the trip home. So, couple those thoughts with 134 other guys on a tough course, and I’m not surprised that I got hurt. That was my first DNF at a cyclocross race in four years.

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How the rest of the week went:

The 2017 USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships were in Hartford and it was a spectacular event. Being in our “backyard,” we had a lot of involvement. Horst Engineering hosted an Open House & Plant Tour for a group of friends and out-of-town guests. Several key volunteers from the Reno CX Nats Race Committee, including Darron, and his friend, Race Director Coby Rowe, joined us for the tour. As the 2018 race approached, they insisted that we come to Reno, be part of the Expo, and participate. Art and I are really glad that we made the trip. They returned the favor by being great hosts.

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I had challenges all week-long. On the trip out to Reno, I lost my toiletries bag on one of the airplanes. The bag fell out of my carry on. It contained my toothbrush, toothpaste, and two sets of contacts. I didn’t have a contacts backup plan, so Debbie had to work with my assistant at to ship a set via UPS Next Day Air. I got them on Thursday only a few hours before my race.

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I have been to Lake Tahoe on two occasions, when Debbie participated in the 2013 and 2014 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs; but I had never made it to Reno. We had a blast in town and at Rancho San Rafael Park, which proved to be an excellent venue. The course was much faster than the Hartford track, and that was also because of the dry conditions. It was wetter on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by the second half of the week, and after a couple of big wind storms, the course was mostly dry. One of those windstorms destroyed the Horst Engineering tent, which is the second tent we lost to wind this season.

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In addition to three great meals at Greatful Gardens, we dined twice at Laughing Planet Cafe, which had a great shrine to Reno native, Greg Lemond. We also picked up açaí bowls at Basik Acai, a cool spot. I’ve been to their sister location in Kona, Hawaii, but that was back in 2010. We avoided the casinos, but did attend the Mechanics National Championship.

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Art did the Masters 40-49 Non-Championship race on Tuesday, but I came straight to the park from the airport via Uber, and just watched. Our big race was the Masters 45-49 Championship on Thursday afternoon I had an OK ride, consistent with my start position, and finished 37th in a field of 98. I was hoping for top 30, but faded on the last lap, let some gaps open up, and had to settle for a mediocre result. The 4,700 foot elevation at the park was a factor in the race. Fellow New Englander, Adam Myerson won for the second year in a row, proving his fitness and cyclocross prowess.

When we weren’t racing, we were hanging out at the Expo, meeting Cross Spikes™ customers, and gaining new customers. Many people came up to us and told us how our spikes were a big help to them and they love the product. We helped many people install their spikes. It was a lot of fun. During the first few days, the wind caused us a lot of problems. It was difficult to keep our tent up, but later in the week, after the winds calmed, we were able to stand around without freezing our butts off.

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Early in the week, we also had the pleasure to work the pit for Richard Sachs, our longtime friend from Connecticut. Richard sponsored Team Horst Sports in the late 1990’s and I’m fortunate to have three of his bicycles. Also, Horst Engineering recently partnered with him to launch the Richard Sachs Seat Lug Survival Kit. I still ride one of my Sachs bikes on the road, I have an old cross bike hanging in the basement, and I have my original 1989 Sachs frameset mounted on the wall of my office at work. Richard was in the Masters 65-69 Championship, but he too struggled with the altitude and had a sub-par race. Still, he kept his spirits high and enjoyed the trip.

All week-long, we watched cyclocross and cheered for our friends, especially those from New England. In our race, old friend, Chris Peck, wearing a Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program kit, charged to 5th place after starting way back in the field. The Team Horst Junior Squad is a CCAP team. On the weekend, we helped out local rider, Nic Villamizar, who competed in the Junior 15-16 Championship as a CCAP rider.

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Watching the Elite Races on Sunday got me fired up for more cyclocross. Now, I can’t wait for September when Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad start their new season. As they say, “Cross is coming!” The national championships are moving from January to December, so I’ll get another crack at a 2018 championship race when they are in Louisville, Kentucky later this year. I may not be an elite cross racer, but I love the sport dearly and still fight for position in every race I enter. Sunday afternoon’s women’s race saw an awesome battle that came down to Ellen Noble chasing 13 time champion Katie Compton. Katie prevailed for her 14th title. Kaitlin Antonneau finished third. That means that all three women on the podium are Cross Spikes™ ambassadors.

That was followed by a men’s race for the ages. A group of six turned into a group of five and after a series of attacks, more challengers dropped off the pace and the race came down to a fierce battle between four-time champ Jeremy Powers and defending champ Stephen Hyde. Stephen got past Jeremy in the second half of the last lap and took the win. Kerry Werner hung on for third place. That means that all three men on the podium are also Cross Spikes™ ambassadors.

Click here for full coverage of the Sunday races. Fast forward to 4:15:00 for the women and 6:03:00 for the men. If you have time, watch all the races, including the Men’s U23 race that had some spectacular highlights.

A special moment from Saturday afternoon was a visit from my friend Tony Lillios and his daughter Iva. They drove down from Incline Village, where they live near Lake Tahoe. They arrived minutes before the singlespeed race, but we had time to exchange hugs and get a photo taken. They watched me complete one lap, and then they watched me in agony. Still, it was great to see them. Once Tony saw cross live, I think he was hooked.

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As I sit here on my couch and wrap up this blog post, I’m looking back on the whirlwind of the past 10 days. I went from some emotional and physical highs to some serious lows, but despite being laid up, I’ve already bounced back. That proves that we are resilient beings. I owe a big thanks to Art for helping me get out of Reno and back to Connecticut. I shouldn’t have taken that risk, but I’m glad that I got the treatment locally and wasn’t stranded in Nevada. Debbie and the kids have already swung into action and are helping me around the house. The Horst Engineering Senior Leadership Team is proving that they don’t need me, at least not every day, which is better for the business. Team Horst is our number one Core Value. Another one of our Core Value’s is Perseverance, which is a word I love, and a perfect idea to end this story with.

In hindsight, I probably should have taken those dollar bills from that heckler. It would have been a down payment towards my medical bills.


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