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

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