Archive for the 'Business' Category

2017 Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross

Yesterday was the Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross, which kicked off the cross season for me and many other members of Team Horst Sports. Some of the guys got started two weeks ago at the CompEdge Cross at Blunt Park, and others started last weekend at the BCA Cyclocross. Yesterday, we seven Juniors racers and nine Masters racers toe the line.

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The last time most of us raced in Hartford’s Riverside Park, was at the 2017 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships back in January. That was an amazing event. Check out my recap. The weather conditions at yesterday’s race were much different. We had a beautiful late summer day that started out cool and then warmed up with bright sunshine and puffy clouds dotting a lovely blue sky.

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The roots of the Riverfront Cross (and Nationals) go back to 2003, when our team hosted the inaugural Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross. Horst Engineering is on the opposite side of the river from the park, and only a 1/2 mile or so, as the crow flies; so I know this venue well. It was good to shake off the cobwebs since my last cross race, in this park, nine months ago.

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If something could go wrong, it did go wrong. I was late to prep my bikes for the event and was forced to take a pit bike that had road tires on it. My primary bike, a Seven Mudhoney Pro, was in pretty good shape, after a disc brake upgrade (TRP Hy/Rd) at our team shop, Bicycles East, in nearby Glastonbury. It was also Shepard’s first cross race since Nats, and he was pumped to be joining his Team Horst Junior Squad mates in the 9-12 year old Cub Juniors race.

We got to the park with just enough time to pre-ride part of the course, but three minutes into a lap, I heard a loud “CRACK” as I was slowly turning around a hairpin. It appeared that I broke a spoke, but I know that sound, and it was louder than that. I stopped to investigate and saw two spokes dangling, but oddly, they still had their heads. That’s when I realized that my Zipp hub had a catastrophic failure. The hub flange fracture and a chunk of it was missing, which is why two spokes were dangling from the 303 rim.

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Our pre-ride was cut short. Thankfully, my teammates took care of Shepard and got him started while I returned home to fetch a spare wheel that was compatible and had knobby tires mounted on it. I made it back in time to catch the end of the Juniors race, and fortunately, the wheel and its brake rotor, fit my brake calipers OK.

I was a little out of sorts by the time my 40+ race started, but two laps in, I had settled down and was comfortably in the top 10. On the third lap, as I was making my way across the off-camber turn by the gazebo, my rear wheel locked up. This was a result of my rear tubular rolling off the rim and getting jammed between the chain stay and my wheel. Game over…sort of. I was 600 meters or so from the pit, but I shouldered my bike and ran all the way there. Most of the guys in my race passed me while I was running. It was unfortunate, but I grabbed my Seven Tsunami, with the road wheels and tires, and did my best to chase over the next four laps. I actually lost more ground, and was pulled with one lap to go.

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It was a weak start to the season, but hopefully after I get my bikes back in working order, I’ll be able to better my result. I was hoping for a good race, but it wasn’t to be. Shepard had a very good race. So did his Junior Squad teammates. Also, many of the guys on Team Horst Sports had good races, especially Mike Wonderly, who won the 50+ race.

Another reason why I’m pumped for cross season, is the growth of Horst Engineering’s Cross Spikes product line. We have great momentum to build from after Nats was in our backyard. We have several new ambassadors and other projects in the works.

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I dropped my Zipp wheel off at Bicycles East and will figure out what to ride for Wednesday’s CCAP Rocky Hill CX Training Series race. I don’t have a real cross race until a week from Wednesday at the Midnight Ride of CX. I talked about my bad day with Shepard and explained how mechanicals are part of the sport. That’s bike racing!

Race Results

2017 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race

Last weekend, after 10 years, we finally made it to the Domnarksi Farm Mountain Bike race. It seems that Domnarski Farm always clashes with another event on the schedule. For the 10th anniversary, we made it a priority to attend and support our Team Horst Sports mate, Matt Domnarski.

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This race is part of the Root 66 Northeast XC Race Series.  It starts and finishes at the farm. The Cat 1’s and 2’s do a 10 mile loop, while the Cat 3’s and beginners (including the Juniors) do a 3.3 mile loop. I did the Cat 1 singlespeed division and we did two loops for a total of 20 miles.

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The course is super-rocky and there are a lot of roots. There is also a lot of climbing. Everyone refers to this race as “old school” which is great. To me, that means grassroots oriented and a tough course. We had a nice Horst Junior Squad turnout with five kids competing in the Cat 3 race and one in the Kids Race. We had four adults there as well.

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I had a tough day. I struggled in the heat and had to go into “survival mode” on lap two. Domnarski was my fifth race in 10 days and two days later, I was doing the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series, so I didn’t want to go too deep into the red zone. I was happy that I finished, but I was looking grim when I reached the line. With the singlespeed, I did a fair amount of walking.

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The Pro Men put on a show. I wasn’t there to see it, but both Justin Lindine, and Stephen Hyde; broke the course record. Stephen’s first lap was the fastest ever, and Justin’s second lap topped it. They duked it out and Justin came out on top. It’s going to be great to see these two do battle when cyclocross season starts in late-August.

Race Results

2017 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

The 33rd annual Soapstone Mountain Trail Races are in the books. Once again, the Shenipsit Striders did a fantastic job organizing these classic races. It was Debbie’s 14th year as the Race Director, which is both a great honor and a big responsibility.

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Thankfully, we have the support of a great running club and a cadre of wonderful volunteers. The joyous feeling of pulling into the driveway after another successful Soapstone never gets old. We have lots of cleanup ahead, but even before we got home, the accolades were flowing in via social media and email.

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Safety is always the first priority and aside from a few twisted ankles requiring ice, and a scrape or two, the race was incident free. We only had two DNF’s out of 144 starters in the 22 kilometer long course event, and all 78 runners in the 6 kilometer Sampler finished.

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This was my 14th time running Soapstone since 2001. I’ve done the Sampler five times and have now done the 22K nine times, including today. This wasn’t my fastest, but it wasn’t my slowest either. It was my slowest since 2006. I didn’t have good legs. After the 9  mile mark, I slowed considerably and despite pushing hard, couldn’t keep my pace high.

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It sucks to lose ground like that, but my legs were blown. Still, the weather was awesome for running and I had a great time in the woods. Back at the finish line, it was a festive atmosphere with so many friends to greet and catch up with. It was great to see cyclists teammates and friends, Tom Ricardi, Randall Dutton, Anthony Eisley, and Jonathan Tarbox, out running trails.

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First male was Neil Clauson. He was followed by the amazing master runner, Brett Stoeffler. Third was Andrew Baird. On the women’s side, the victor was Kehr Davis. She was followed by Bonnie Lathrop and Caitlin Cunningham. I see-sawed with Kehr for a while, but around the 10 mile mark, she just took off and I had no response. From there, I got caught by a few other guys and then faded.

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The Sampler was won by Charlie Grillo. He was followed by Luke Stoeffler, and then Bruce Christensen. Melissa Emmerich was the first woman.

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I’ve got my usual nicks and dings, including sore ankles, but you won’t get any complaints from me. Our son did the Sampler and our daughter did the Kids Race. It was fun to see so many other families enjoying the day together.

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Much appreciation to our hosts the Reddington Rock Riding Club. We got great support from Horst Engineering, Tailwind Nutrition, the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, and Nature’s Grocer. It’s also worth noting that Debbie’s Mom, Barbara Schieffer, did another fantastic job in the cook shed. For $25, you get an awesome race with a great meal afterwards.

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Look for other great Shenipsit Striders races that are part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series.

Race Results

Breakaway Brew Haus

It’s no secret that I love entrepreneurial businesses. I also love good beer. Beer and business make a great combination. Tonight, my son and I finally got a chance to visit our local neighborhood craft brewery…on our bicycles.

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The aptly named Breakaway Brew Haus, is the brainchild of our neighbor, Matt Soucy. Matt is a longtime friend from both the cycling and manufacturing communities. Years ago, he worked (for a brief time) with me at Horst Engineering, and that was after years as a machining industry supplier.

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His history of working in and around small businesses has certainly helped with the launch of his new business in our hometown of Bolton, Connecticut. I have to say that it’s pretty cool to have a microbrewery 1/4 mile from our house. I can get there in four minutes by bicycle, via the Hop River State Park Trail, and I only have to travel on a paved road (Steeles Crossing) for 500 feet. That’s local!

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You know the beer is fresh when the proprietor (in his socks), labels your bottles, pours your beer, and caps your bottles, right before your eyes. For now, Matt is operating (by permit) from his garage, but by judging the taste of his recipe, and my knowledge of his entrepreneurial spirit, he is going to grow into bigger digs, and that will require a move out of his house.

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He launched three weeks ago and has sold out every week. Last week, he remained closed on his retail days (Friday and Saturday) so that he could increase capacity. So, I seized the opportunity tonight to ride over just before his 6:00 P.M. closing, and nab his last two (literally) bottles of beer. My choice was:

  • Wandering Fool #2
    • “New England” style IPA (DIPA, 9.0%).
    • His marketing materials (a simple weekly email) describe this IPA as having a “rich malt profile, beautiful golden color with a deep hop aroma.”

This is one of three standard beers on tap. The other two are:

  • Bonfire Stout #1
    • Oatmeal Stout with South American Cocoa and Coffee (DIPA, 6.7%)
    • A very easy Stout with well-balanced subtle rich Cocoa and Coffee notes
  • Face Plant Ale #1
    • “New England” style IPA (DIPA, 8.0%)
    • Delicious light malt profile, light hazy color with layers of hop aroma

I’ll champion any local business, but especially one in my hometown, led by an entrepreneur who I’ve worked with in the past. His wife, Cindy, helps out too, so this qualifies as a family business; and that makes me an even bigger fan. I told Matt that I hope he outgrows his garage, but that he also finds a good commercial building in town so that we can keep him on the local tax rolls.

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If you tried clicking the link to his website, you know that it isn’t live yet. If you are finding this post weeks, months, or years after I wrote it, then the site is likely up and running and Matt is either a beer mogul, or he sold to one of the giants for bazillions. Sophisticated marketing isn’t needed when demand outstrips supply. A simple email and word of mouth have led to three weeks of sell outs. He has to keep building capacity if he is going to scale production.

The Journal Inquirer covered his story the week of his opening. That press alone contributed to the early buzz about his beer. For now, I’m content to be able to ride from my house to his. I’ll have to ride longer if I expect to burn off the calories gained from a 750ml BBH branded bottle. Given the name “Breakaway,” I’ll count on this brew being a cycling performance enhancer.

Bicycle Talk

It’s been a few months, but I was a guest on Episode 35 of Bicycle Talk, the radio show/podcast hosted by Ron Manizza on WHUS in Storrs, Connecticut. Over the last year, I’ve been listening to Ron’s show, and enjoying it.

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Last fall, I saw Ron at several cyclocross races, and then again at the Cyclocross National Championships, where he was helping out. Ron has forged his career in the bicycle industry as a bike shop owner, manufacturer’s representative, and race promoter. He has worked tirelessly to introduce people to cycling and make the sport better and stronger. He was “in the right place at the right time” on Day 1 of the “Nats’ when he shot a video of the first lap of the Men’s 40-49 Non-Championship Race. That video went viral. It got more than 155,000 views on Facebook, and was seen countless times on other sites. I was in that race and it will be a memory I hold forever. After Nats, I reached out to him with some ideas for Bicycle Talk. He invited me to come on the show. I accepted the invitation, and had a fun time.

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That day, his partner and co-host, Fran Storch, was under the weather, so he was shorthanded in the control room. She normally plays a role in the live production and he had difficulty with the recording. Unfortunately, the first 10 or so minutes of the broadcast were lost. That included my intro and “Ron’s Rant of the Week,” which I did for him. I chose the topic of “training wheels.” He subsequently recorded a “rant” on the same subject, which works. He salvaged the remaining recording and it came out pretty good.

Ron continues to have interesting guests on the show. Bicycle Talk deserves a wider audience. Make sure you check it out!

Patagonia & The Worn Wear College Tour

There are few businesses that I admire more than Patagonia. I’ve been a fan since I purchased my first Synchilla jacket at their Boston store in 1991. In the early 2000’s, Debbie was on the Montrail Patagonia Ultrarunning team, and we have maintained a 15 year affiliation with the company. We have friends who work for the company, and we have provided feedback on clothing and gear. For years (back in my days of shooting slides) I sent images of “Patagoniacs” to them with the hope that one would be published in a catalog. We consider ourselves to be customers and ambassadors for the brand.

My admiration isn’t just for the gear, but for the business. Like Horst Engineering, they are privately held, family owned, driven by their mission, and focused on their core values. Even though they are much larger (around $700 million in annual revenue), they have maintained the long view. I have heard others scoff at the cost of Patagonia’s products. There is no question that they command a premium, but when you learn more about them, you realize that there is value in that price. Like L.L. Bean, another business I admire, they guarantee their products for life, and have invested profits wisely, leading to decades of amazing growth. They focus on durabilty and their products have a long life. Last year, I brought back 15 years and 20 pounds of worn out Patagonia Capilene (much of it smelly!) under garments/base layers. They have partners who recycle the polyester, and turn it back into new fabrics.

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Yesterday afternoon, I visited Yale University in New Haven to check out Patagonia’s 2017 Worn Wear College Tour. It was part of Yale Sustainability’s full-day extravaganza focused on extending the life of products to keep items out of the waste stream. I hadn’t heard about this event until Debbie sent a link that came from our friend Richard Treat, a Bolton neighbor, and one of Debbie’s fellow Bolton Land Trust board members.

The Patagonia Worn Wear repair team brought their truck, Delia. It was reported that 1,000 people showed up and the Patagonia team helped attendees make more than 500 “do it yourself” repairs on clothing (not just Patagonia’s). Patagonia has made an effort to repurpose and resell used gear as an alternative to the cost (and impact) of buying new. eBay has a thriving Patagonia pre-owned category. The company previously made a splash when in a full-page New York Times advertisement on Black Friday, they told people to “Don’t Buy This Jacket.”

I wasn’t able to make the Repair, Reuse, Repurpose Fair, but I did make it to the Yale School of Management (Evans Hall) in time for an evening panel discussion featuring Rick Ridgeway Patagonia’s Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, Adam Werbach from Yerdle, a business that helps leading brands develop re-use programs; and Scott Briscoe from the National Outdoor Leadership School. There were about 30 attendees, so we had a nice intimate discussion.
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Ridgeway is someone I’ve read a lot about, so it was nice to see him in person. Years ago, I read his books: Seven Summits (1985), The Shadow of Kilimanjaro (1997), Below Another Sky (2002), and The Big Open (2006). He is a legendary mountaineer and a fantastic adventure writer. He is also pretty good behind a camera. In 1978, with John Roskelley, he summited K2, the world’s second highest mountain (8,611 m/28,251 ft). K2 is one of the most dangerous and most difficult mountains to climb. He did the climb without supplemental oxygen, which is an amazing accomplishment. Their teammates, Jim Wickwire and Louis Reichardt reached the summit the day before. This four-man expedition was the first conquest of K2 by an American team. He was also part of the original Seven Summits expedition with Dick Bass and Frank Wells. Both were successful businessmen, and Dick founded Snowbird.
Another great adventure that Ridgeway was part of was in 2002 when he teamed up with three other famous explorers, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and the late Galen Rowell, to cross the Chang Tang in Tibet. I read about that adventure in National Geographic Magazine and heard about it on NPR. The Connecticut Forest & Park Association hosted Chin (also at Yale), back in 2010, and I had the chance to meet him. Many of them have been featured in films that were part of past Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tours. Last month, we saw the 2017 tour in Hartford.  They have all done great work on behalf of Mother Earth. I have several of Rowell’s books. He, his wife, Barbara, and two friends perished in a small plane crash in 2002, shortly after the Chang Tang expedition. He was a great photographer. I could go on and on about these adventurers and their exploits.
When you have a love of the outdoors like I do, it’s all connected! Mountains, writing, and photography are three of my passions, but so is responsible business, which brings us back to Patagonia and their mission:
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Patagonia’s founder is Yvon Chouinard. I’ve read his books, Let My People Go Surfing, and The Responsible Company. The recently ordered the latter for Horst Engineering’s Green Team and it is soon to become required reading. Chouinard is also the co-founder of 1% For The Planet, of which we are also a member. Like Patagonia, our family and our businesses supports many not-for-profit environmental organizations.
Manufacturing creates waste and our goal is to minimize that waste. That is why Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, his Responsible Company co-author, suggest that no business is “sustainable,” but every business can strive to be more “responsible.” Last night, Ridgeway walked us through an overview of Patagonia’s history, highlighting many of their business practices. He explained how their mantra has shifted from:
  • Reduce
  • Repair
  • Reuse
  • Recycle

to:

  • Repair

  • Resell

  • Recycle

  • Reduce

He spoke about “downcycling,” Life Cycle Assesments (LCA), and “dematerialization.” The fashion industry generates a tremendous amount of waste. He spoke about the 2011 advertisement that caused caught the attention of many. I read a good New Yorker story  about Patagonia’s post-Great Recession approach to consumerism. Last year, I listened to the Rich Roll Podcast with Andrew Morgan on the True Cost of Fast Fashion, and it was enlightening. We all have to pay attention where our products, including clothing, comes from.

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I didn’t know much about Patagonia’s new venture, Patagonia Provisions, but Ridgeway explained that the next frontier was food. Food waste is the greatest kind of waste and much bigger than clothing, hence Patagonia’s desire to make an impact. I could relay so many of Patagonia’s accomplishments. Ridgeway covered many, including their 1% contributions, their organic cotton strategy, their work with Wal-Mart on sustainable sourcing, their climate change efforts, and their direct land conservation. The company is often viewed as radical. They make no bones about their advocacy. It is part of their mission. Much has been written about the company, so you can do your own research.

After Ridgeway spoke, we heard from Briscoe, who was part of Expedition Denali, which was organized by the National Outdoor Leadership School. Debbie is a NOLS graduate. She did an outdoor educator course in 2001, the year we were married. In the summer of 2013 brought together a group of climbers who made history as the first team of African-Americans to scale America’s highest mountain. It turns out that Briscoe and I have some connections. Back in January, one of the key organizers at NOLS, Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin (now up The Avarna Group), and her partner Ava Holliday, did Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion training for the Appalachian Mountain Club Board of Directors at our retreat. Some of the statistics that they shared about the lack of diversity in the outdoor community, were startling. Briscoe spoke of breaking down barriers and the need to get more minorities outdoors and enjoying nature. He mentioned that three out of NOLS 600 instructors are black. I found that to be telling. AMC, NOLS, and many conservation oriented .org’s have struggled to recruit a more diverse membership, but we keep trying. The movie, An American Ascent, showcases the Denali expedition, and will be screened by Yale Outdoors on Friday.

Look for the Worn Wear Tour as it continues. Later this week, they will be at UMASS in Amherst, Massachusetts, and then they are headed to MIT in Cambridge.

Patagonia is an inspiration for me ,and when I make decisions on behalf of Horst Engineering, and I think about how they would respond. Aerospace manufacturing and precision machining are different from clothing manufacturing, but as a locally owned family business, we already have a leg up on the competition. Debbie and I often speak with our young children about making good consumer choices and they are already learning how to “vote with their wallets.” Long term thinking is already part of our company culture. Our investments in energy efficiency and our ongoing success contributes to the success of many other organizations, and we strive to do our business the right way, with the least impact possible. We have much work left to do.

2017 USA Cyclo-Cross Nationals 40-49 Non-Championship

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a race. I left my iPhone back at Horst Engineering by mistake, so I don’t have any of my own photos from the race. I capture a few images of the “aftermath.”

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That’s OK, I needed both hands to hold on to the handlebars! The 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships kicked off in a big way today. I’m feeling a bit sad for the Riverside Park course. It’s already taken a beating and there are five days of racing to go.

I love cyclocross and the environment, so I’ll be there (with the crews) in the spring to fix the course up. Cross does do damage when conditions are as wet as they were today. Riverside Park isn’t pristine anyway. It is in the Connecticut River flood plain, which made the mud so, well…muddy.

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The rain came down heavily and turned the course into a quagmire. I pre-rode yesterday when it was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, firm, and a bit icy. Today, it was 40 degrees and pouring. Many of the rideable sections became unrideable as the race went on.

The downhill off the dike was treacherous. I opted for caution, which may have cost me some time, but saved me in the long run. I’ll be able to go to work tomorrow! I had a really good start, lost some ground, made up a little ground, made a few mistakes, and then pretty much survived until the finish.

I was able to get three laps done, but only cover 5.8 miles in 44:36. That was good for 19th out of about a 100 riders. I would love to break the top-15 in the 45-49 Championship Race on Friday. There will be a little more top competition, but filter out the “younger” guys, and it’s possible.

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Adam Myerson, who is one of our sponsored Horst Spikes athletes, rode marvelously for the win. I’m pretty sure he was using Ice & Snow Cross Spikes, just like me. Horst Spikes have been popular this week. We are letting athletes pick-up at our 36 Cedar St. plant, which is only five minutes from the park. Toe spikes were critical for maintaining any grip on the uphill sections.

The entire Team Horst Sports 40-49 year-old squad did well. I was followed by Wade Summers, Art Roti, Andris Skulte, and Randall Dutton. Our 50-59 riders were on the course when I packed up and headed for a warmer environment. I shouted loudly for Matt Domnarski, Tom Ricardi, and Dave Geissert. I had a lot of friends in the race too, and they weren’t all local. Aaron Ofsiany was in town from San Francisco. I’ll see him again later in the week.

I started on Row 2, along with my long time friend, Jon Gallagher. Jon and I spent the summer of 1994 together and we have had some great adventures over the years. This was another one to add to the list. I chased him for the first part of the race before he pulled away to finish 13th. His timing services business is handling all of the official results for the race this week.

Judging by some of the Facebook and Instagram footage, anyone who raced today deserves monster kudos.

Race Results


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