Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Preview: 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross Nationals

I helped with the Horst Spikes marketing related to next week’s USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships. Here is the basic info. Be sure to check out the Horst Spikes News, in case you haven’t seen it already!

Next week, Hartford, Connecticut is welcoming the 2017 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships.

 

Today, we launched a special edition of Horst Spikes News that is chock full of resources for athletes, volunteers, and spectators. It’s a comprehensive guide to everything happening next week. Check it out.

The cyclocross season is winding down, but it will go out with a bang! The 2017 USA National Cyclocross Championships are a week away. This will be the biggest cross race that Connecticut has ever seen. The KMC Cross-Fest in October was a fantastic success and we look forward to 2017, New England has hosted the national championships on several occasions, but this is the first time the event has come to our home state.

Horst Engineering is heavily invested in the success of this event. We were founded in Hartford and our headquarters is on the Connecticut River in East Hartford, a stone’s throw from the Riverside Park venue. We are longtime supporters of hosts: The Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) and Riverfront Recapture.

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Team Horst Sports members will be competing in several races, including the Masters Championship and Juniors Championship events. Many team members, including those who don’t race cyclocross, will be volunteering to help.

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We organized the first ever Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross at Riverside Park in 2003. Our lineup of Horst Spikes™ cyclocross toe spikes were tested and developed on our hometown course. Cross Spikes™ have brought us back into the bicycling industry in a big way. Our roots are in bikes and we couldn’t be more proud of Hartford to host such a cool event.

2016 March Farms CycloMadness

I’ve got soreness in muscles that I didn’t even know I had! Today’s March Farms Cyclocross was insane. We awoke to three inches of snow on the ground and by the end of my race at 11:15 A.M. there was more than six inches. It snowed steadily all morning and made for a treacherous drive to the Litchfield Hills. We took our time and got there well before the 9:30 A.M. Cub Juniors race.

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It snowed heavily during the kids race and for the first half of the Men’s Masters race, but by the end, freezing rain and rain were falling. Shepard, Sean, Cole, and the other Juniors who braved the elements deserve serious “cred” for their grit. It was cold, windy, and wet. This was the race to test Horst Spikes Ice & Snow Cross Spikes.

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The funniest moment of the day came in the Cub Juniors race when one not-so-happy cross racer promptly stopped his forward momentum and called out, “That’s it, I’m done,” and heaved his bicycle into the snow. His Mom, who was shadowing him on foot, said, “Oh no you don’t,” and prodded him to remount his steed. I couldn’t stop laughing. He finished.

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There was less riding in this “bicycle race” than any bicycle race in my career. I was forced to shoulder or push my Seven Mudhoney PRO for 90% of the 2.7 mile race. Can you believe that? In 34 minutes, I only averaged 4.8 mph “with a bicycle.” My heart rate averaged 174 and peaked at 184, so it was an all out effort.

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I was joined in the Masters race by Arthur Roti, Tom Ricardi, Paul Nyberg, and Matt Domnarski. We looked shell-shocked after the finish. Our pit bikes were covered in a layer of frozen ice. It was nearly impossible to clip into your pedals. The pedals springs were frozen shut and giant snowballs collected on the bottom of our feet. We had to repeatedly bang them against our pedals to knock off the snow and ice.

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On several of the descents, I was able to get enough connection with my pedals to ride for 20 or 30 seconds at a time before being forced to run again. March Farm is the most hilly race in the CT Series of CX, but conditions were much different compared with last year’s race. Last year, I wore shorts.

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I ended up third in the 40+ field, but it didn’t matter. Everyone who raced was a champion today. Stan Lezon got the best of me. I guess you could say that I got “dropped on the last lap.” Of course, there were only two laps. A third would have been a death march. We gained nearly 500 feet on the undulating course, and the climbing was ALL on foot. The downhills were hair-raising. A few times, I wasn’t clipped in at all and was just hanging on for dear life as I coasted to the bottom before getting off to run again.

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Today, the best strategy was to make sure you were dressed warm enough and to have a lightweight bike. The running was awkward. The footing was difficult, uneven, and slippery. Cyclocross is run in all conditions, and deep snow is no exception. I’m hoping for some wild weather at next month’s USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship at Riverside Park in Hartford, but not this wild.

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The crew at March Farms did a great job despite the challenging conditions. The volunteers and officials also had to brave the conditions. They had a great bonfire, a warming tent, and even a mobile “pub.” Sadly, I wasn’t in the mood for a beer, but we did stop at the farm store before heading home. We showed our support by doing some Christmas shopping.

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We have to do it all over again tomorrow. The gear is drying. The bikes are still in the trailer. The temperature is supposed to rise overnight and the Elm City Cyclocross in New Haven is going to be a messy affair.

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Race Results (will be posted when online)

2016 Hellgate

This weekend, Debbie returned to run Hellgate for the second time. She first ran it in 2013. My prior blog post covers some Hellgate history, has some good photos, explains the Beast Series, and links to several other great races that she has done. In 2013 we had some snow, but it wasn’t as cold. Check it out.

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This year’s report isn’t as expansive because I’m still thawing out. This was the coldest ultra we have ever been to, and we have been to many. Mercifully, it was dry. For Hellgate, I was the crew chief and the chauffeur. Our kids stayed home. It would have been super-challenging to have them along for this one. Between working in Lynn and Boston last Wednesday and Thursday, traveling back to Connecticut late Thursday, driving to Fincastle, Virginia on Friday, driving all over Jefferson National Forest on Saturday, and driving home yesterday, I’ve added another 1,600 miles to my Subaru’s odometer. Thankfully I do a lot of bicycle commuting, partially in an effort to offset the impact of driving to the races.

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Last Friday, we broke up the drive with a detour to Front Royal and Shenandoah National Park. We drove up to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. I brought my mountain bike, and rode for 65 minutes out and back on Skyline Drive, and then down to Front Royal where Debbie was waiting for me. It was a welcome break and I got to stretch my legs, take in some nice views, and come up close with a few deer grazing on the side of the road.

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We got back in the car and finished the drive, arriving at Camp Bethel at 5:35 P.M. in time for dinner and the pre-race meeting. Race Director, Dave Horton, has his fingerprints all over this race. He gets ample support from a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Many of those volunteers are from Liberty University, where Horton has been a long time professor. Long distance running has become a big deal at LU and he even offers a course on running, which includes a requirement to run an ultramarathon. Many students used Hellgate to complete that requirement.

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Debbie likes Hellgate. The point to point 66.6 mile course is a mix of singletrack and forest roads with more than 13,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. The climbs are tough and the terrain is rugged with lots of rocks and roots covered by leaves. The course criss-crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway and crests 3,000 feet several times, climbing as high as 3,600 feet.

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The first half of the race has more climbing, but the hills are relentless the entire way, with the last big hill a mere 3.5 miles from the finish. There were 140 starter and 117 finishers. 111 made it below the 18 hour mark. That’s a 79% finish rate for those below the official cutoff and 82% overall, which is remarkable given the harsh weather conditions. Last year, the race was run in ideal (unseasonably warm) conditions and was dubbed, “Sissygate.”

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This year couldn’t have been more different. The relatively high finisher rate is attributable to the fact that there are no rookies at Hellgate. Horton vets and selects runners who have pedigree. I have a hard time watching, and wanted to be out there in those crazy conditions doing it myself. It was about 21ºF at the 12:01 A.M. start on Saturday morning, and the temperature plummeted to 8ºF at the higher elevations, with the coldest time of day around 5:00 A.M. The wind was howling and brought the effective temperature well below zero. By noon, the temperature had warmed to 30ºF in the valleys, but it was below freezing all day.

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Every Hellgate race report is going to cite the weather conditions, so I won’t belabor it. It was challenging for the crews, the volunteers, and especially the runners. However, we all know that ultrarunners are a tough breed, and most relished the opportunity to run in such interesting conditions.

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After driving from Camp Bethel to the start, I saw Debbie at Aid Stations 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and the finish. Fellow Connecticut friends, Scott and Sarah Slater, rode to the start with us. Both Slaters tackled Hellgate and finished together. Six crew accessible aid stations and the finish is a lot for a 66 mile race. There was no overlap due to the point to point course, so if you want to get to every aid station, you have to hustle.

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There were two early stream crossings, which spelled disaster for some runners. Debbie had several sets of gloves and after dipping one into a stream, it turned to a block of ice. I had a spare set for her at Aid Station 2, so she wisely changed them. Her Altra shoes were also frozen, but she opted to keep going.

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Aid Station 4 Headforemost Mountain around mile 25 at one of the various Blue Ridge Parkway crossings was  the coldest part of the race for crews and volunteers. Debbie got there around 5:30 A.M. It was 1oºF and the wind was whipping. There was a huge patch of ice right in front of the Christmas tree festooned aid station. I was wearing lots of layers. At first, the car was parked a long way from the aid station, and I didn’t know when she would arrive, so I had her spare socks tucked in my pants. I was wearing her UltrAspire hydration pack under my jacket to keep the bladder and hose from freezing. I had all of her other spare clothes stuffed inside my jacket too. She opted not to change her shoes, which was a good thing because I didn’t want her to stop. I helped several other runners who didn’t have crews as they fumbled with their drop bags. I got one pair of shoes off of a runner using a borrowed screwdriver.

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After she came through, I headed to Aid Station 5 Jennings Creek. A volunteer asked if I could shuttle another runner who DNF’d. His name was Lanier Greenshaw, a veteran ultrarunner from Alabama. He made it to Headforemost, but was frozen and exhausted after slipping in one of the water crossings. He was groggy, but in good spirits. He is proof that even the most experienced runners can have troubles and he was confident in his decision to call it a day.

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I was happy to have company for several hours, though he dazed in and out of sleep as we made our way to Jennings Creek. It was a perilous drive off of the ridge on a series of rough forest roads. There was nowhere warm to leave Lanier, so he stayed in the car while I waited for Debbie. She came through around 6:50 A.M. She dropped her waist lamp, but kept her headlamp, even though the sun was rising in the east. It was still dark in the trees.

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She was feeling good, but needed some food. Every time I saw her, I gave her a stocked UltrAspire pack. She would swap the one she was wearing for the one I had and then get moving again. Lanier and I drove to Aid Station 7 Bearwallow Gap, stopping a few times on the parkway to take in the incredible sunrise from various overlooks. It was perfect timing for us. We went from having a fantastically bright moon before it set, to having amazing starts set against a deep black sky, and then we got this cool sunrise. I love races that are out there in the woods!

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As soon as we got to the aid station, a van load of dropped runners were getting shuttled back to Camp Bethel. This was good for Lanier, so we parted ways. I hope to see him at a future race so we can continue our conversation.

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I got there before the top runners came through, so it was fun to see everyone come by over the three hours that I was there. I cheered for them, took some photos, and eventually walked down the trail to meet Debbie. She was hungry when she arrived and finally wanted to change to fresh shoes and socks. Someone suggested that I use hot water to melt her laces. I got some boiling water in a cup from a volunteer and voila, it was easy to get her frozen shoes off. The food and shoe change gave her a boost and she was off running again.

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When I saw her at Aid Station 8 Bobblet’s Gap, she was dragging a bit. She had a major sidehill traverse and then a big climb up to the gap. I rode a mile and a half down the jeep road on my mountain bike and cheered for her. She arrived at the aid station, but didn’t stay long. She crossed under the parkway and headed for Day Creek, the last aid station before the finish.

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I had a long drive to get to Day Creek, so I stopped for fuel and still had time to get to the aid station, hang out, and watch many other runners pass through. Her pace had slowed considerably when she arrived but she was positive. She dropped her heavy gloves, swapped packs and kept moving. Her original goal to finish in the top five wasn’t attainable (she ended up 8th) but she still wanted to break 16 hours and beat her 2013 time of 16:03:29.

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The drive to the finish was also long because we had to go all the way around the mountains. I got to Camp Bethel, and then rode back on the course (dirt road) until I intercepted her. She was flying down the hill as only she can do. I was proud of her regardless of whether she broke 16 or not, but she wasn’t giving in. I encouraged her and then rode back to the finish and waited. I kept glancing at the clock. She passed several runners in the last mile, including Shuhei Yamashita, a Japan native living in New York, and Marcello Arias, from Chile. She blitzed those final miles, but came up short, finishing in 16:00:29.

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Still, she was very happy. Horton gave her a big hug and she was relieved to finish this one. I was proud of her fortitude. She ran a smart race, dressed well for the conditions, and avoided any stomach issues. She sustained her energy most of the day and did the best she could. I know that she will recover quickly and will be thinking about 2017. Two weeks ago, she sort of got lucky in the Hardrock Endurance Run lottery. She is 7th on the “Never” wait list. Who knows if she gets in to Hardrock? We will see. Right now, the plan is to train for it and go visit Colorado anyway. She plans to register for another Hardrock qualifier just in case. ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI only qualified her for two years. It’s time to run Hardrock…or another qualifier.

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At Hellgate, there were many fine performances. Brian Rusiecki did all New England runners proud by taking the win in 11:01:26. He ran a smart pace and surged to the front after 25 miles or so, and eventually put 35 minutes into Matt Thompson, his nearest competition. Third through fifth were Jason Lantz, Luke Bosek, and Jordan Chang. Jordan boldly led in the early going, and hung in there for a strong finish. He was one of the crazy runners wearing shorts!

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On the women’s side, Sarah Schubert led the way in 13:04:16, a stellar time. She was 12th overall, and at 28 years old, probably has many strong races ahead. Second place went to 21-year-old Hannah Bright, who represents that next generation of ultrarunning talent. Debbie didn’t run her first ultra until at 24 (the 1999 Vermont 50) and that was 17 years ago! Bright overcame a bout of “Hellgate Eyes” which struck her around the 30 mile mark. I saw her at the Aid Station 7 Bearwallow Gap, and she was struggling to follow the trail. The cold dry area causes a type of snow blindness that has to be very uncomfortable. Thankfully, she got warmed up, and the situation appeared to clear itself. She is one tough cookie! Third through fourth were Kathleen Cusick, Alexis Thomas, and Alissa Keith.

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I love the community attracted to these Beast Series races. Debbie and I saw many old friends and met new ones. Amy Rusiecki was there to crew for Brian, so it was fun catching up with her. Unfortunately, Ian Golden hurt his ankle very early in the race, but it was fun to catch up with him as he tagged along with Amy throughout the day.

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I had a chance to catch up with fellow Connecticut mate, Dan Broom, who was doing a super job crewing for our mutual friend, Jerry Turk. Turk finished his 14th consecutive Hellgate, which is a remarkable accomplishment. I love watching Jerry (aka Mr. Bimble) run because he is so steady and so strong. 14:47:02 for a 58-year-old is magnificent. Experience will help you every time!  I hope I’m going full tilt like that in 14 years when I’m his age.

Both Debbie and I will be on a Hellgate high for a while. We had a blast…a cold blast!

Race Results

2016 Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving

Today, I got some nice images at the annual Bolton Land Trust Walk of Thanksgiving. We love this tradition of gathering and exploring a different property in our hometown.

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This year, we were hosted by the Richard and Paula Morra at Morra Farm on Tinker Pond Road, which is on Birch Mountain. From the Morra Farm, we also explored part of the Fiano Property, part of the Albasi Property, and A Villa Louisa.

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The Fiano property dates back to 1923. Mr. Fiano showed up on his 1948 Farmall tractor to share some history. He explained how Italian immigrants settled in this part of Bolton because it looked like where they were from in Italy. The hilly land was good for growing grapes. The Morra Farm is more modern, and their family hails from Aoste, Italy. They grow blueberries and vegetables.

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The Villa dates back to the late 18th century and continues to operate as a banquet hall. The current owner is a Romanian immigrant, who spoke eloquently about his career as a restauranteur. He pridefully shared stories about the history of the Villa. During Prohibition, it was a well-known speakeasy owned by an Italian family with Chicago routes.

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When the walk concluded, we enjoyed apples, apple cider, and donuts. Like I said, it’s a fine tradition for a wonderful land trust.

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2016 Wicked Creepy Cross & Cheshire Cross

After a two weekend/three-week break from cyclocross, the Livingston Family did two great races this weekend. The first was the Cheshire Cross in Cheshire, Connecticut. This course is one of my favorites and is very near my in-law’s, the Schieffer’s, so it is super-convenient.

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The second race took longer to get to. It was the Wicked Creepy Cross in Bennington, Vermont, and it was well worth the drive through the Berkshires of Western, Massachusetts and over the Green Mountains of Vermont.

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The Cheshire course is one of the most rugged in New England with ample opportunity to crash, flat, or break your bike some other way. The rocks and roots in the woods posed a problem for me too. I had a clean race with no crashes and no bobbles, but I ran 30 psi in my Tufo tubular tires, and it wasn’t enough to keep me from bottoming out on the worst of the rocks.

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That forced me to back off and ride over the rough stuff as lightly as I could. It was a tactical error on my part, but I got through to the finish without an incident and finished somewhere inside the top ten of the Masters 40+ race. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I may have been as high as sixth place. Team Horst Sports had an awesome turnout in Cheshire with multiple riders in the 40+, 50+, 4/5, and Junior categories.

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The star of the day was teammate Matt Domnarksi, who scored the win in the 50+ race. He caught me with about a 1/2 a lap to go after starting 30 seconds behind. All of the Masters riders were on the course at the same time.  Matt and I finished together and I was very happy for him. Not far behind was Pat Cunningham, who was 2nd ahead of Jonathan Tarbox from the Expo Wheelmen. Debbie was there to support us, and our son had a good ride in the Junior 9-12 year old race. It was great to see so many kids racing. The only complaint about Cheshire Cross was that these juniors only did one lap of the course, which is lame. The winner finished in less than eight minutes. That’s not long enough. They should have done two laps, even though the slower kids at the back may have taken 30 minutes to finish.

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The entire Cheshire Cycle crew, including Race Director Hunter Pronovost and his volunteers, did a fabulous job with the race. I love Heckle Hill and the crazy people who come out to cheer.  Thom Parson’s of www.dirtwire.tv had some good coverage, including this video featuring me. The 16% grade is rideable, but it takes every ounce of energy in your legs to make it over the top. We had no time to linger after the race. We had to get to Star Hill Sports in Tolland for an afternoon of soccer matches.

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Today’s race was another great event, though we had to get up really early to make it there in time. The Junior 9-14 race was at 9:01 A.M., which meant we had to leave the house by 6:00 A.M., which we succeeded in doing. The drive was treacherous with heavy fog on Rt. 9 as we drove up and over the Green Mountains. Thankfully, it cleared a bit as we reached Bennington. The temperature was warmer and there was a lot less snow than we saw up on the ridge. We got to Willow Park in time to register and scout the course.

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Our son had a fabulous race and got to make up for the short race at Cheshire by doing three full laps of the tricky Wicked Creepy course. He was knackered at the finish, but all smiles. It didn’t rain during the races, but the ground was wet from rain and snow prior in the week. That made for some slick corners. By the time my race went off at 11:45 A.M., the ground was tacky and there was a nice groove to ride through most of the corners. The sand pit was tamped down, but still slick. The run up was a leg sapper, as usual, and my Medium Horst Spikes Cross Spikes gave me great traction. Our son used Mini Standard Horst Spikes in his size 2 shoes.

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I had a fantastic race. My fitness is coming around, as I expected it would. The three-week break from racing was just what my legs needed. I was tired after doing six races in 12 days, but those efforts are paying dividends now. I finished third in the Masters 45+ field. All of the Masters racers started together (mass start) but they scored the 35+, 45+, and 55+ riders separately. I rode another clean race and feel like I could have gone even harder, but the technical nature of the course (lots of turns) kept me from going much faster. My skills are getting better, but they still have a long way to go.

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I had fun battling with Dan Coady, who finished a few spots in front of me and got third in the 35+ field. I was in the top 10 overall for Masters, and maybe as high as seventh, but the results weren’t posted. I scored a bag of coffee from a race sponsor, which I’ll give away because I stick to tea. Even still, I was very happy to race and the Wicked Creepy and NYCROSS volunteers do a great job. After Cheshire, where there were no less than 11 Team Horst racers and at least five teammates spectating, only two of us made it to Vermont today. I was joined by Paul Nyberg, who was in the 55+ field.

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Willow Park is a great venue. There are two fabulous playgrounds. The views are wonderful. The BMX track is awesome. You can’t beat this spot for cyclocross.

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The drive home was a lot better, though the rain arrived while we were having an early supper at one of our favorite restaurants, Hearty Eats, in Shelburne Falls. When we visit Shelburne Falls, we always park next to the Bridge of Flowers. After dinner, we visited Molly Cantor Pottery, which is right next door. They have some beautiful stuff from local artisans. We got home at 6:15 P.M., after a 12+ hour day on the road. It was a great weekend.

Cheshire Cross Race Results (will be posted when available)

Wicked Creepy Cross Race Results (will be posted when available)

 

 

2016 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

The Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross was my sixth race in 12 days. This block of racing started with the Vermont 50, and then continued with The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross, KMC Cross Fest Day #2, KMC Cross Fest Day #3, and The Night Weasels Cometh. A week before the VT50, I did the Hammerfest Triathlon, so it has been an awesome three weeks of competition.

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Promoted by the Thread City Cyclers, this race is one of my favorites. The venue, Mansfield Hollow State Park, is beautiful. We were there during this past summer for the Shenipsit Striders Nipmuck South Trail Race. The course design is fantastic. The post race refreshments are awesome. The volunteers do a great job.

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I finally had a clean race. My cross results have been a little uneven. I had a hard fall at the VT50 and hadn’t been right since then. Midnight was OK, but I was sloppy. I underperformed at KMC and hit the ground several times, which isn’t surprising given how difficult the conditions were. I just wrote about Weasels, which I had to do on my pit bike.

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So, coming into one of my favorite local races, I was ready to ride strong and without an incident. Thankfully, things came together. The weather was perfect. I was able to ride in my short sleeve skin suit and it felt just right. I had a good start, and even moved up a bit on the first lap. I settled in and had a nice race long battle with Expo Wheelmen rider, Jeremy Brazeal. I was able to hold him off for 8th.

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After a few weeks of active rest, I’m going to be even stronger. It was a fun day for Team Horst Sports. We had a really strong turnout. We were well represented in the Juniors field. Sean Rourke, Nate Summers, Shepard Livingston, and Lars Roti all had good rides. In the Men’s Cat 4 race, Andris Skulte and Randall Dutton were our racers.

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In the 40+ race, I was joined by Wade Summers and Arthur Roti. In the 50+ race, Pat Cunningham took 2nd place. He was followed by Matt Domnarski, Tom Ricardi, and Dave Geissert. The foliage is just starting to get good in Connecticut and the Hollow is a great place to see it.

Race Results

 

2016 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

After a one year layoff, we returned to the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run for the 17th time. Our first was in 1999, six years after the 24 year old race was founded. Every VT50 has been memorable, but 2016 was special for many reasons. For us, the VT50 is about the community of athletes, volunteers, and spectators that come together to make this such a great event.

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From the registration in May to race day on the last Sunday of September, we anticipate this event. We have met so many great friends and enjoy seeing them all. Some of them we only see once a year. Others we see all of the time. Over the course of 17 years, we have seen many mountain bikers and trail runners. This year, there were more than 1,050 finishers in the various categories including:

  • (651) 50 mile mountain bikers
  • (181) 50 mile trail runners
  • (217) 50 kilometer trail runners
  • (28) 50 mile relay teams

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The kids mountain bike and trail running fun runs/races were on Saturday and there were LOTS of kids.

One of the highlights of the weekend came when I checked in at registration on Saturday evening. There was a large banner hanging in the tent. It listed 33 names of bikers/runners who have done 15 or more races. One of the names was mine and two others were Team Horst Sports mates, Arlen Zane Wenzel, and Arthur Roti. Seeing the list brought a huge smile to my face. Arlen introduced me to the race in 1999 and Art joined us a year later. Thousands and thousands of unique athletes have done the VT50 over the last 24 years and it is cool to think that only 33 have done 15 or more. That’s special.

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In appreciation for our support of the race, which benefits Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, we each received a Farmhouse Pottery handmade mug. This was totally unexpected, but greatly appreciated. Every year, I go to this race to compete and compete hard. My goal is to have a better race than the prior year. I’m still at a level where I can expect to improve on last year’s time/performance, but that won’t always be the case.

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Photo Credit: Patricia Dowcett

We attended the race in 2014, but didn’t compete because I had crashed and broke my shoulder a month earlier. Debbie opted not to race, so we drove to various aid stations and cheered on our friends. In 2015, Debbie and I had the opportunity to go to Japan, where she ran the ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI, which was the same weekend. UTMF was a unique opportunity, and after 17 years in a row, we actually welcomed the break from the VT50, though I remember seeing all of my friends’ social media activity, and wishing I was there.

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That made it easy to return in 2016, and we were thrilled to be there. We made it a family affair and in addition to our two children, we brought along my mother-in-law, Barbara Schieffer. She loves adventure and we enjoy sharing ours with her. She was a big help, keeping an eye on our children while we were racing. To keep things simple we camped at Ascutney Mountain Resort, practically in site of the start/finish. On Saturday afternoon, we met up with our teammates and friends. For the first time, the organizers held a kids mountain bike race. It was just for fun. There were one mile and two-mile events on the mountain trails. Our kids participated and had fun. The bike race was followed by the kids fun trail runs, which have been held for several years. Once again, there were 5K, one mile, and a 1/2 mile options. Our son did the 5K and our daughter did the one mile.

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Autumn arrived last week and the weather changed on Saturday night, with the temperature on Sunday morning only in the mid-30’s Fahrenheit. It was quite cold. The day turned out to be a beautiful one, but it even by the end of my race, shortly after 11:00 A.M., it was still chilly. The sunshine was brilliant, but the air was cold, and a stiff breeze was blowing. The singlespeeders started in Wave 1 at 6:00 A.M. I used a handlebar light for the first hour, which was smart, since I skipped using one in 2013, and struggled a bit in the darkness. Debbie started with the 50 mile runners at 6:30 A.M. The other bike waves were in between.

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The VT50 course is always tough, so we were fortunate to have extra dry conditions. There were only a handful of (barely) muddy sections, and there wasn’t any water on the course, which is amazing. There have been years where there wasn’t a dry spot and we were poured on. I remember some of those mudfests. I rode my Seven Sola SL singlespeed with my Niner carbon fork. I rode that bike all summer at the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series, but was a little unprepared for the beating I took with the fully rigid setup. By the 25 mile mark, I was wishing for a front suspension fork. I’ll consider one for next year, but there are no guarantees. I’m a bit stubborn like that. I like the bike the way it is, even though it compromises my ability to have a peak performance.

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I checked my race log and came up with some fun statistics: I’ve done the race 15 times. I have ridden it 13 times, run it once, and one time, I rode to the 17 mile mark before breaking my chain (twice) and running the rest of the way to the finish. I’ve accumulated 82 hours of time on the various iterations of the course.

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After 15 times,  I’m still seeking that perfect race. I’ve had some stellar results, and can’t count this year as one of them, but it was still a solid ride. I went out strong, but one hour into the race, I had a wicked crash. I came into a sharp right hand turn at the bottom of a fast descent with too much speed. I made the turn, but was out of control and right after the bend, there were deep ruts in the trail. I wiped out hard, falling on a fallen tree that had been moved off trail. I hammered my left arm and hip. For a moment, as I lay in the woods, I thought I broke my arm. There was another rider right behind me. He saw the whole episode. He yelled back to check on me and I indicated that I was OK. I remounted and after a few tentative pedal strokes, I got moving again. Both the hip and arm hurt bad, but after the initial shock, I knew I could get to the finish, barring another hard crash. Of course, at that moment, the thought of  four more hours on the bike kind of bummed me out.

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I don’t know what kind of impact the crash had, but by the 15 mile mark, I knew that I was lacking some of my usual zip. I was hurting by 20 and went through a long bad patch that lasted until mile 40. Somewhere in between, I made the decision to stop at an aid station and eat some real food. I had been relying on what I carried, including some gels, some energy drink, and water. Some days, that works for me, but yesterday, it wasn’t enough. When I stopped, I ate some pretzels, bananas, and potatoes, which revived me. Things improved, and by mile 40, I was picking up the pace again. However, it was too late. After my strong start, I had been passed by more than 60 people, which was demoralizing, but understandable. Despite the effort to ride fast, I made sure to soak in some of the incredible views. It was a gorgeous day in Vermont.

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I never felt comfortable on my bike, which happens. I accepted my fate for the day and pushed as hard as I could. The last five miles were harsh, with some additional singletrack before the final twisting descent to the line. Three of my teammates had passed me earlier in the race. Led by Anthony Eisley, we had an awesome day. He was followed by Mike Wonderly, and Arlen. Not far behind me was Spike McLaughlin. He was followed by Erik Emanuele. Then, he was followed by Art Roti and Mark Hixson, who smashed their own tandem record in fine fashion. Congratulations to all of the riders and runners. With so many finishers, there are more than a 1,000 stories to be told. There were so many great performances.

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Debbie was our lone runner. She put together a good race, her first ultra since Wapack and Back in May. The VT50 has never suited her strengths, but she wanted to give it another shot, and was happy with her result. She prefers rugged and mountainous courses. Vermont has hills, but there are more dirt roads than she likes. She finished in 8 hours and 53 minutes and was third in her age group, which was a morale booster.

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In addition to our teammates, we saw so many friends, that it would be difficult to list them. It was great to race with our Coach, Al Lyman. Once again, Race Director Mike Silverman, and his volunteer team, did a fantastic job. Every year, the race develops a bit more, without losing its grassroots vibe. From the live music on both Saturday afternoon and Sunday, to the USA made technical t-shirts, to the farm fresh fruits and vegetables at the finish line, to the maple syrup awards; this race gets the details right.

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We had a lot of gear to pack up, but by 5:00 P.M., we were on the road again, and headed south. We made a pit stop in Northampton to visit Paul & Elizabeth’s for dinner. It was a nice way to celebrate another Vermont 50.

Race Results

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9/27/16 Update: I neglected to mention that I was happy to see the race organizers make an extra effort with recycling. This makes for a much more sustainable race. There were clearly labeled bins throughout the start/finish area that included single-stream recycling, compost, and trash. I wish I had a photo. This is great. What made me unhappy was how many people disregarded the signs and just threw everything in the trash. I saw volunteers picking recyclable materials out of the trash, which is deplorable. The Vermont 50 community needs to do better. At Horst Engineering, we recently launched a revamped recycling program and battle similar challenges with our employees, but the process is getting better. Of course, it doesn’t improve without letting people know (education) when it isn’t working to expectations. I would expect that the VT50 committee would share this feedback with the competitors. Also, Debbie noticed (its easier to see when you are running) LOTS of trash out on the course, and especially energy food (gels, bars) packets. This is ridiculous. If you aren’t carrying a pack, then you should have pockets. This race should be run with a Leave No Trace philosophy. Most of the trails are on private property and for one day a year, we are given the privilege to ride/run on them. Let’s not blow it.

 

 

 


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Finally hit the slopes with the family! 🏂⛷Sadly no #Cyclocross today. 🚴🏽This will have to do. #skiing #snowboarding @jiminypeak #jiminypeak #berkshires This #DoAll bandsaw @horsteng has cut @thecubscouts #pinewoodderby cars 🚗 for two generations. We used it for a project like this 34 years ago. It's probably been here 60 years or more. Someone should replace the blade! #cubscouts #precisionmachining #instamachinist #manufacturing #aerospace #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #madeinusa 🇺🇸 Shepard powering up the flyover in the Juniors 11-12 race at #cxnats #cxnats2017 #cyclocross @horsteng #horstspikes #teamhorstsports @islabikesusa #islabikes So proud of #teamhorstsports Cub Junior 11-12 year old boys (Sean, Shep, and Nate) for racing hard at #cxnats #cxnats2017 yesterday in frigid #Hartford #cyclocross #horstspikes @horsteng I did my first ever #singlespeed #cyclocross race to end an amazing season. All I can say is, "Wow!" My 20 year old @therichardsachs converted to SS was sweet. You REALLY needed #horstspikes today. #richardsachs #cxnats #cxnats2017 #teamhorstsports @horsteng Nothing like frozen mud on my @seven_cycles #Mudhoney Wild course conditions at #cxnats #cxnats2017 today in #hartford I rode my butt off and had a good day. When I'm less knackered, I'll blog about it. There will be lots more photos too. The entire #teamhorstsports crew did great. Several of us Masters, and our Juniors squad are back at it tomorrow. #horstengineering #horstspikes #cyclocross #sevencycles @horsteng #Repost @hartfordcourant Thank you @markmirko ・・・
Cyclocross National Championships are in Hartford this week. #usacycling #cxnats #onassignment for the #hartfordcourant #notiphone photograph by @markmirko . . . @horsteng #horstengineering #horstspikes #cxnats2017 #cxnats #cyclocross Dad, do we really have to go back to school tomorrow? @usacycling @the_ccap #cxnats #cxnats2017 @horsteng #horstspikes #cyclocross #shenipsitstriders #newyear Fat A&$ Run. #trailrunning

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