Archive for the 'Environment' Category

2023 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run

The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run (MMT 100) has been on Debbie’s running wish list for 20 years. Despite attempting the run for the first time, it will remain on her list of things to complete because she “retired” (at mile 38) before reaching the finish line of this past weekend’s race.

She noted the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) used the word “retire” and not the usual DNF to describe her predicament. That feels better, but it still doesn’t take the sting out of falling short of a goal. Last week, we were talking about this with our 16-year-old son who is still learning to cope with the negative feelings one can have when falling short of a goal. Debbie told him it isn’t realistic to reach every goal you set. His personal best for the 1600 meter run has been stuck at 4:47 despite trying four or five times to lower it over the last month. Saturday, he had another track meet…and he ran 4:47 again. This is fast, but he wants to go faster. He will learn that you can’t just decide to reach a goal. There is a lot more to it. I’m confident that he will gain the wisdom necessary reach many goals in the future.

In her case, she wasn’t trying to run a fast mile, but rather to run 100 miles for the first time since coming up short at the Hardrock Endurance Run last July. It’s a bummer that she didn’t finish Hardrock or Massanutten. At least in the case of Hardrock, she previously finished it (in 2017). If she intends to finish Massanutten, she will have to try again. This situation is more like her 2014 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run finish when she returned to complete the race which she failed to finish in 2013. 10 years later, maybe the same pattern will repeat and she will return to Massanutten to earn a coveted belt buckle. Debbie has been incredibly resilient and she has always managed her injuries well. This time, the circumstances were different.

Just getting to the start of the MMT 100 has been a journey. The main reason why this was her first attempt after years of desire is because most years, the race conflicts with the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races. This year, it conflicted again, but for the first time since 1999, she chose to miss Soapstone, a race that is as close to her as any other. It was her first ever trail running race, and she went on to be the Race Director for more than 17 years, so there was no option to do MMT 100. Missing a race that you are so closely associated with is a big deal, especially when you had a 23 year streak of being at the start as either a runner, a volunteer, or an RD. The good news is Soapstone is in good hands with our friends from the Shenipsit Striders, and it’s healthy to break these streaks.

The last time a big Livingston Family streak was broken was in 2015 when we missed the Vermont 50 to go to Japan for ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI. Like Soapstone, we had been there every year since 1999. In the case of the VT50, we missed, but then in 2016, we started a new streak. If Debbie opts to return to the MMT 100, then Soapstone will likely have to wait until 2025.

The irony is that it was physically possible to maintain our Soapstone streak because we drove back to Connecticut in time. However, that required nearly 500 miles of overnight driving in nasty weather. Since we had already made the decision to skip and because we should have still been out on the Virginia trails, it didn’t make sense to force the issue. Instead, we rested and recovered from a 44 hour adventure that included 1,000+ miles of driving, a night in a tent, and a lot of heavy rain.

The reason for Debbie’s “retirement” is a bum ankle. She went into MMT 100 with an injury, which is never a good thing. She has been battling ankle soreness since early April and hasn’t been able to resolve the issue. She said it was feeling better as MMT week approached, but 33 miles into the race at the Elizabeth Furnace Aid Station, it was hurting badly. She sat in a chair and I rubbed her sore calf and ankle, which was swollen. She was frustrated. I had last seen her at Edinburg Gap (mile 12) and she was in good spirits. At Edinburg, she was running strongly and having fun on a beautiful Saturday morning in the Shenandoah Mountains. She said she could feel the ankle, but it was holding up. Of course, 12 miles into a 100 mile run isn’t the time to be overconfident about anything.

Nearly five hours passed between when I saw her at Edinburg Gap and when she arrived at Elizabeth Furnace. I had time to explore the area around Elizabeth Furnace. I had my bicycle, so I rode towards Shawl Gap before heading over to the local airport. Then I rode back in time to rendezvous with her.

Apparently, the first 1/3rd of MMT 100 is the most technical and demanding. It gets slightly easier after that, but then the cumulative effects of every step start to take their toll. After I saw her at Edinburg Gap, she had to traverse a tough section of trail that required a lot of “side-hilling.” This is where the strain on her ankle got worse. By the time she arrived at Elizabeth Furnace, the pain was intense and the feeling in her ankle was like after her last long training run two weeks ago. She had rested the ankle since then, but “rest” in our household still means cycling, hiking, and a little running. She probably did too much running but that is what she does. She runs.

At the aid station, she opted to change socks, tape the ankle, change clothes, fuel up, and attempt a “reset.” Despite her mental fortitude, she struggled to make it five more miles to Shawl Gap Aid Station, and was visibly defeated when she arrived. I walked 1/4 mile up the trail to wait for her and I had to wait a lot longer than planned. Several arriving runners told me that she was going slowly when they passed her. When she arrived, she was limping badly, and favoring her other leg (which took a subsequent beating).

She said she couldn’t run the downhills or the flats, which was not good with 63 miles to go. She had been passed by dozens of other runners which is demoralizing. Other than this ankle problem, she was strong, but she couldn’t demonstrate that. Her stride was off, she had fallen once, and she risked further injury. The obvious decision was to hand over her number and transponder. We talked about the situation for a minute. Then she sat down in a chair, removed the four safety pins holding her number to her shorts, and handed it to me. I carried the items over to the aid station captain, which formally ended her MMT 100 attempt.

We put some ice on her ankle and she chilled in a chair for a few minutes while I gathered her gear. It started to rain a bit as we packed the car for the drive back to the start/finish where our tent was pitched in a field. As soon as we got on the road, it started to pour. The rain came down with serious intensity. It had been in the forecast, but the volume caught us by surprise. For a moment, it felt better to be inside the car rather than out on the trail. Of course, several hundred runners were still out there and they were going to have to battle the elements. There were many strong performances and we cheered for everyone we saw on the trails. This races draws a hearty crowd and they proved their mettle!

Throughout the afternoon, the rain came steadily and increased to downpours at regular intervals. We made the drive back to the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center. I packed up our remaining items, broke down the tent, and got everything to fit in the back of our Subaru Outback, including my bicycle. We found the bath house and rinsed off in the showers before starting the drive home around 4:00 P.M.

We stopped for dinner, and then kept going. We tried to find a hotel on route so that we could spend the night and finish the drive in the morning, but there were no vacancies. We even tried one hotel in person because the website said there were rooms available, but when I inquired in the lobby (it was after 11:00 P.M.), there was nothing to be had. We hit the road again. We pulled over at a rest stop and I closed my eyes for a few hours. When I awoke, we continued and pulled into our driveway around 4:50 A.M. It was an adventure for sure.

The VHTRC is fantastic. Though we didn’t get the full MMT 100 experience, we could tell that it is a beloved even with awesome volunteers. The aid stations that I saw were stocked full of great food options and staffed by smiling people. The race appeared to be organized in top notch fashion, yet it had a nice low key vibe. The people involved in a race (volunteers, runners, crews, families) make a race and that is why MMT 100 is a good one.

Debbie has some healing (and work to do) before running long again. She has several big goals remaining for 2023, so it’s important that she figures out this ankle thing. I know it will make her smile if our son goes and runs a 4:46 mile tomorrow, but she will also support him if he falls short of his own goal.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to experience more of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. Next time we have to spend more time in Virginia!

Race Results

Photo Gallery

Little Cayman Loop

Running around Little Cayman was a really cool way to see this sister island. We spent the first part of this amazing week on Grand Cayman. I represented HORST Engineering at a health care symposium hosted by one of our key suppliers/insurers. We have a self-funded health plan and we are members of an insurance captive so the symposium doubled as our annual meeting. The captive includes more than 20 other mid-sized businesses proactively looking for ways to provide better quality and lower cost benefits to our employees.

Debbie and I had never been to the Cayman Islands, so when the opportunity was presented we decided to take full advantage. Last year was HORST Engineering’s first year in the program and two of my colleagues represented us at the conference. They enjoyed the trip with their spouses and had great things to say about their hosts and the accommodations (resort setting).

Grand Cayman was cool, but it has developed rapidly and the associated costs are becoming a bigger issue for the island’s full time inhabitants (about 69,000) and visitors alike. Congestion, accidents, and other issues are having a negative impact on the island experience. Apparently, it got even more crazy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic with a surge of new interest from outsiders. This week’s edition of the local newspaper, the Cayman Compass, reported on two recent fatal hit and run collisions with cyclists. I hate reading about that type of news, but I can see why. Even running was difficult as the roads are not cyclist or pedestrian friendly. Grand Cayman has few sidewalks and narrow or non-existent shoulders. There are almost no street lights (they replaced them with rotaries) so traffic is always flowing. It’s hard to cross the street when there are no breaks in traffic.

The conference started late on Sunday and wrapped up mid-morning on Wednesday. We had a few pockets of time to explore. Debbie didn’t attend all of the business sessions so she got some extra beach time. We did some running and swimming, and generally enjoyed the weather, which is spectacular. That means hot, humid, and sunny. It’s hot all of the time, even at night. The salt air has healing characteristics and the ocean water is amazing. It’s clean, warm, and a brilliant shade of blue.

We decided to stay for two extra days. The conference hotel was sold out and at first, we booked a neighboring hotel for Wednesday and Thursday, but we made a switch. Several months ago, when I was doing some Internet research, I checked the Fastest Known Time website. I searched for runs and was surprised and pleased to see that there was a previously established route on Little Cayman, which is 91 miles east of Grand Cayman, and known as one of the two sister islands. The other sister island is Cayman Brac, which you can see from the southern and eastern points on Little Cayman. Little Cayman is about 10 square miles and Cayman Brac is only slightly larger. We were able to cancel our Grand Cayman hotel and instead, book a small one-bedroom bungalow (with a kitchen and laundry) on Little Cayman.

The only way to get from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman is on a small plane. I’m sure you can get there on a private plane, but Cayman Airways has a commercially available flight (usually daily) on a de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. The 35 minute flight was a cool experience for an aviation/aerospace fan like me. The Twin Otter seats 17 passengers plus two pilots. On our flight, there was only six passengers, plus the two pilots. We had an extensive conversation with the captain, who was originally from Africa, but found his way to the Cayman Islands many years ago. There were no flight attendants and very limited ground crew (at Little Cayman). After landing, he rolled the baggage cart over to the terminal. That’s neat.

The runway crosses the island’s main road, so if you are driving, cycling or running when a flight is arriving or taking off, look out! Twin Otters like the one we took are powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-20 turboprop engines. The plane is known for its ability to make short takeoffs and landings, which we witnessed on the tiny Little Cayman airstrip.

Before this week, there was only one Cayman Islands entry on the FKT site. A fellow by the name of Dave Stock created the Little Cayman route and completed it in 2018. His write-up says he has the goal to do an FKT on all three of the Cayman Islands, but so far, Little Cayman is the only one that has been logged. We tried to reach Dave through social media channels, but didn’t have any luck. His brief report on the 22.4 mile loop (a circumnavigation of the island) highlighted the most important factor: oppressive heat and humidity.

We started our run just before 7:00 A.M. We could have started earlier, but we made a tradeoff. We had a full night of sleep and some food before starting. We were worried that running at dawn or dusk might expose us to the nuisance of mosquitoes, but we don’t know for sure if that would be a factor. The island is very rural with only about 160 full time residents. For the first few hours of the run, only four vehicles passed us, so doing it at night with lights/reflective clothing would be safe. I don’t think there will be a “next time” for us, but we would recommend to others that they consider that strategy. Of course, you would avoid the sunshine, but the heat and humidity are present 24 hours a day. Even at night, the temperature remains in the 80’s (Fahrenheit).

Despite a slight headwind, we went out at a good clip, running 8:15 to 8:55 miles for the first nine miles, but our bodies eventually told us that was a foolhardy pace to sustain. Our first mile above nine minutes was mile 10, but several more followed. It was slightly overcast, but by 9:00 A.M. the heat of the sun was already baking us. We made two beach stops to splash (salt) water (which is warm, not cold) on our arms, legs, shoulders, and heads in an attempt to cool off but results were marginal. The water is very warm here. It’s not refreshing at all.

Most of the houses are connected to the grid, so they have electricity, but water is stored in cisterns as there is no “city water.” Air conditioning in most buildings is produced by heat pumps. I switched from a ball cap to a wide brim hat. Debbie was lucky she brought a bandana because she used it to cover her shoulders. It also worked well when she soaked it with water to cool off her head. Things really started to heat up in the second half. The combination of broken asphalt, sand, and gravel roads were easy to navigate and we ran at the edge to try to get some relief from the sun. The vegetation is low lying so there really wasn’t much shade at all. I used Altra Escalante road shoes, but Debbie used her Altra Mont Blanc trail runners. Both worked fine.

Thankfully, around mile 16, we ran by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) on the island’s north shore. We didn’t see anyone there (we called out through the doors), but the place was open, and they had an outdoor sink. We assumed the water was potable. We took a sink shower and refilled our UltrAspire hydration packs. This was life saving. When Dave Stock did the route in 2018, it appears he was accompanied by someone on a bicycle who helped by carrying extra water in a basket. We were self-supported, so relying on CCMI wasn’t part of the original plan, but it worked out. I’m sure they do good work at the institute and we are grateful for their sink!

Late in the run, I had to mix in some intermittent walking as my legs were blown. As usual, Debbie got stronger as it got longer, and she waited for me. Before we started, we debated doing the FKT individually, but I’m glad we stuck together and did it as a team. Naturally, I led the first half and then faded, while she guided us home with a strong finish. We had designs on running faster, but ended up doing it in 3 hours and 33 minutes. It was a good training run for Debbie as she has several ultramarathon trail races on the calendar for 2023. I was just tagging along.

As noted, the road surface was a mix of pavement, gravel and sand. Some of the sand sections were slow. It wasn’t deep, but there was enough that you felt the drag. The island is lovely. There were some great ocean views along the route. Also there were multiple interior salt ponds. They have a pungent smell, but they are frequented by amazing birds, of which there are many, including the rare Red-footed Booby and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Judging from the number of “For Sale” signs (some existing structures, but mostly raw land) that we saw, Little Cayman is at risk of having a development problem too. We read in the Cayman Compass that some people want to see the airstrip and other infrastructure expanded so that more people can get here. I’m sure some of the long time residents who enjoy the seclusion wouldn’t be happy with more development, but the businesses that are on the island would probably benefit from more customers.

We were fortunate to see three Rock Iguanas at different points along the route. They are endangered and there were numerous signs warning motorists to stay alert and watch for them on the road. Collisions are a risk to these reptiles. Little Cayman is my kind of island. The beaches are remote, the location is very rural, and accommodations are rustic. Along with Cayman Brac, Little Cayman is mainly known as a hard core SCUBA diving destination. Birders and fishing enthusiasts like it too. Now, it’s known as an FKT destination!

Debbie and I were happy to spend some time together, but whenever we have a fun trip to a new place, we wish our kids were along for the adventure. I guess we will just have to return to the Cayman Islands to share the experience with them.

2023 Hoppin’ Hodges 5K

Happy Passover! Happy Easter!

Today we were back at the Hoppin’ Hodges 5K, which has been an Easter tradition. It was our 7th time running it since 2011. The first four times that we ran it, it was on the Hop River Trail (rail trail) in Vernon. The last three times, it has still been on the Hop, but in Andover.

Janit Romayko has kept this tradition going. It is a fundraiser in honor of her late husband, James Hodges. The beneficiary of proceeds is usually the Friends of Valley Falls which is one of my favorite local conservation oriented nonprofits. We live on the rail trail in Bolton, so the start/finish line was only 4.5 miles from our front door.

Shepard and I rode over on our bikes. Debbie and Dahlia met us there. They drove in the car. Debbie, Dahlia, and I raced this fun event. Shepard did some running, but he just started track season, so a 5K on the rail trail wasn’t part of his training plan. I did enjoy riding with him to/from the race. We had bright sunshine, but it was chilly at the 9:00 A.M. start.

As usual, we saw some friends. There was a large contingent from the Run 169 Towns Society. It was also great to see Tony Bonanno and Art Byram. They did Art’s traditional Hoppin’ Hodges 50K which involves getting up very early, running 45 kilometers on the rail trail and then finishing with the 5K race. That’s cool.

Speaking of cool, we saw 82 year-old Charles Merlis, who has been a fixture at this race over the years. He also run’s one of the other races that Janit promotes, the Scrooge Scramble. He was a bit late getting to the start today, so Debbie and Dahlia helped him put on his angel wings. You read that right!

After the finish, Charles, who is a very colorful character, plopped himself down on a bench while he fought to catch his breath. He told Shepard and me that “I used to have a death sprint!” Then he said, “Now I have a barely alive jog.” I want to be as active as him when I get to be his age. Keep running Charlie!

Race Results

2023 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

Iron Trail/Stone Man Mountain Out & Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships

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

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

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

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

Included here are some of my images from the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results CIAC Open Championship (High School)

Race Results Middle School Championships

2022 CIAC Cross Country Divisional Championships

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

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

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

Girls Divisions:

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

Boys Divisions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divisional Championships Results

NCCC Championships Results (Boys Varsity)

NCCC Championships Results (Girls Varsity)

2022 Belltown Cyclocross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2022 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

Mount Tom Trail Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 NipMuck Trail Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results (will be linked when available)

2022 Vermont 50K Trail Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

Martha’s Vineyard Adventure

Debbie and I were back at it. We had an adventure filled weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. A twice postponed wedding was the attraction. We really wanted to visit MV…in July 2020, but we were happy to finally get there in July 2022.

Our daughter was at Scout camp and our son visited Debbie’s parents, so we were free to explore on our own. We drove to Falmouth on Friday morning and took the Island Queen to Oak Bluffs. We brought our bikes and unless we were walking or running, they were our main source of transportation. Debbie found a neat little studio apartment on AirBnb. Located in Vineyard Haven, it was walking distance to all of the wedding related events.

The biggest of our adventures was on Saturday. We got up around 5:15 A.M. and left Vineyard Haven around 5:50 A.M. It was warm and rainy but it felt good. We rode 14 miles west to Menemsha Beach where we locked our bikes to a fence near the marina. We stashed our cycling shoes in a pannier, clipped our helmets to our handlebars, and switched into our running shoes. From there, we walked out on to the farthest tip of the jetty on the east side of Menemsha Pond.

We started our GPS watches and then proceeded to run the entire north shore of Martha’s Vineyard, which had an established fastest known time (FKT). The 12 mile route hugged the uninterrupted coastline along Vineyard Sound until it reached the jetty at the mouth of Lake Tashmoo. This isn’t a trail, but it was kind of like trail running because there were no smooth surfaces. The conditions included gnarly rocks (baby heads), slippery rocks (big ones), soft sand, piles of seaweed, freshwater stream crossings, breakwaters, and a fair amount of running in the surf.

It is highly improbable that anyone would get lost on this route. If you keep the ocean on your left and the bluffs on your right and keep moving east, then you will be fine. The first five miles had the worst rocks and they were downright treacherous. Thankfully the tide worked in our favor. It was dead low at 7:00 A.M. and we started two minutes later. We checked in advance and new that this timing was near perfect. It’s important to stay below the high tide water line lest you want to run into private property issues. Bonus: there are no hills! I think we had only 43 feet of vertical gain. I think that you are OK to be there as long as you are “fishing, fowling, or clamming.” Since we are vegan, we have no interest in those three activities, but we did look for wildlife. There were lots of birds and they were lovely.

We finally got a few “runable” sections around the four mile mark. Our first few miles were 11:19, 12:42, and 11:02. That fourth mile was 10:48 and it felt fast. Mile five was slow again at 11:08 and mile six wasn’t much faster at 11:03. At that point, we were trailing the female FKT time (2h 15m 5s) by about five minutes, but we knew from our research that conditions would improve enough so that we could speed up.

Mile seven was our first sub-10 at 9:34. It felt super fast. Debbie was hanging tough. I ran about 100 feet in front of her, but shouted back encouragement. From there, it was 10:34, 9:58, 9:39, 10:37, and then 10:17. The last two miles had some tough technical sections. We had been running at the edge of the surf because it was slightly less rocky and the sand was a bit firmer. This made it faster than getting the mushy sand that had already dried.

Several times, we had to wade around breakwaters, which were basically piles of rocks like talus on a slope. However, they spilled into the water. It was faster to go around, even if the water was up to your crotch. Scrambling over them would have been slow and dangerous. We didn’t see anyone on the coast for the first seven or eight miles. We spotted a few fishermen in boats, but we didn’t run into folks on the shoreline until we got to the more densely populated eastern quarter of the island. At that point, we started to see early risers (and their dogs) walking on the beach.

This was a really fun and intersting route. The views were fantastic. I wouldn’t call this “coasteering” but it had elements of that activity. We each wore an UltrAspire hydration vest with about 1.5 liters of water. There was enough rock scrambling to make it fun, but we weren’t required to do any swimming. I will note that you can’t do this route and keep your feet dry. We chose to use older pairs of Altra Lone Peaks. The grip was adequate. They won’t be the same after running this route. You will likely never get the sand out of them and chances are they will smell like the ocean…forever, so don’t use a new pair.

I was shocked with how much debris washed up on shore. There were dozens and dozens of lobster pots, all kinds of flotsam, wood, pallets, plastic, and other stuff. It was discouraging to see all of this stuff realizing that our oceans are full of pollution.

We had a strong finish, made up the time we needed, and finished in 2h 12m 36s. By the time we finished, it was sunny and hot. I sweated buckets. From the jetty, we had to backtrack on the beach and then cut over to a dirt road. It was four miles back to Vineyard Haven, which hurt the legs, but we shuffled our way there, and got it done. Even that short run had multiple turkey sightings and a peacock sighting.

We changed, showered, and had breakfast at a little cafe. After that, we took an Uber ride back to Menemsha. The driver was fantastic. She has lived full time on MV since the mid-90’s and she filled us in a bunch of intersting facts. She told us about the Mememsha bike ferry, which we previously didn’t know about. We fetched our bikes, rode over to the ferry, and took it across the pond. We did a fun lap of Aquinnah on the west side of the island and then took Middle Road on the way back to Tisbury and Vineyard Haven. It was scorching hot and I was dragging, but Debbie spurred me on. We got back around 2:30 P.M., just in time to change for the wedding ceremony.

We got in a little more activity today, including a few more short rides and an open water swim (back at Tashmoo). Martha’s Vineyard is definitely a cool place and there is a lot more to explore. We had three days of hot and sunny, but awesome weather. Debbie and I needed this adventure and we made the most of it.

2022 Hardrock Endurance Run

Debbie didn’t finish the 2022 Hardrock Endurance Run, but that is OK. There is still a good reason to read this report. It’s full of drama, lovely photos, cool stories, inspiration, and lessons learned. In 24 years of trail and ultrarunning, she has had very few DNF’s. If you are looking for a pattern, there really isn’t one. However, there are some similarities between her three “big” DNF’s at the 2007 UTMB, 2013 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, and now this year’s Hardrock.

The fact that it has taken me more than a week to write this report is a sign of how buys life is. For me, work commitments are taking a lot of energy. It’s also more difficult to write about a DNF than it is to write about a spectacular victory. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is more to be learned from the goals we miss than from the goals we hit.

These three big DNF’s had some things in common. They were all 100+ mile races, and they were all at elevation. Those two factors are enough of a challenge that anyone could fail to finish. That UTMB was her first 100 miler attempt. She stopped after 63 miles at a refuge (hut), on the climb up from Courmayeur. Besides the distance, the altitude, a single mountainous loop, and being a rookie, there were other factors. She was still breast feeding our one-year-old son Shepard and we were in a foreign country (actually three foreign countries – France, Italy, and Switzerland). She had terrible nausea and profuse vomiting that slowed her considerably.

She learned from the experience and we loved Chamonix and the other places we visited. The story had some extra drama (helicopter “rescue”) that I didn’t cover with much depth in my 2007 race report, so I plan to revisit it later this summer as we approach the 15th anniversary. She has yet to return to UTMB and given the size of the race, the hoopla around it, and her lousy experience, I’m not sure if she will. There are other courses in other places with smaller races that interest her more. The good news is that she picked an easier race for her second attempt. That was the 2008 Javelina Jundred, and it was a success, where she garnered her first finish at that distance. Javelina was a much simpler race. It was repeated loops with very little climbing and generally low elevation.

Tahoe was a tough challenge in 2013. Along with the altitude she had to deal with the heat. She made it 68 miles. For a second time, it was a bad gut with repeated vomiting that influenced her decision to stop. I wanted her to take an extended break (nap) and then continue, but she was worried about our kids, and how long it was going to take her to finish.She quit, but vowed to return. She did a year later return in 2014, and though it wasn’t easy, finished the race with a sense of accomplishment.

She has had a total of 13 attempts at the 100+ mile distance, and she has now finished 10 of them. Many of them are classic races, but only a handful have this rare combination of elevation, mountains, and extreme conditions. Among those finishes are the 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run, where she completed the counter-clockwise version of the San Juan Mountains loop course. That was a remarkable achievement for someone who hails from the sea-level state of Connecticut. She was fortunate to get into that year’s race and equally as fortunate to get back into the race for 2022. This year the race went clockwise, so she was excited to take on a different version of Hardrock. That 2017 race report has a ton of information about the race, its history, the course, and the community. Make sure you check it out. The Hardrock website is also a great resource. This year, iRunFar had great coverage, so make sure you also visit their site.

She had a great build up to this year’s race. This year was different because she did the HURT 100 in January. Technically this was her second 100 mile race of the year. That wasn’t the case in 2017. HURT is very hilly, but it is a sea level race. Hardrock is a different beast. With 33,000+ feet of elevation gain and 33,000+ feet of loss over a 102+ mile course, there aren’t too many races of that distance that compare. I won’t delve deeply into the 200+, 250+,and even longer races that are now in vogue. Those are multi-day events and though hard, they are different from the 100 mile distance in many ways. Hardrock is hard enough. It is entirely above 7,792 feet. It rises to 14,058 feet and the average elevation is greater than 11,000 feet.

After HURT, she ran MT. TAMMANY 10, Traprock 50K, and the Metacomet Ultra Traverse. She was fit. Once again, she used our Hypoxico altitude tent to help acclimate, but I don’t know how effective it is. In 2017, she also struggled, but at least she didn’t get sick. Last time, we arrived in Colorado about five days before the race. This year, she arrived in Colorado (with the kids but without me) almost nine days before the race. The goal was to get a handful more days at elevation. Also, this time, rather than spending pre-race days in the town of Durango, she stayed at Purgatory Resort in between Durango and Silverton at a higher elevation of 8,793 feet. She and the kids did hikes, some mountain biking, and other fun activities. I met them on the Wednesday before the race, which started on Friday 7/15 at 6:00 A.M.

She had a good start. After seeing her off, the kids and I drove the long way around to Chapman Gulch aid station at the 18.1 mile mark. We hiked about two miles from the town of Ophir to reach the aid station. Each time we saw her, I posted race updates on my Instagram and Facebook feeds as soon as I could get an Internet connection. After Chapman, we saw her in Telluride at mile 27.8. She still looked good, but she had to endure the first of the day’s heavy thunderstorms as she was descending to the aid station.

Apparently, she started to suffer on the climb out of Telluride. It was hot and more humid than usual. She started to struggle with her digestion, and her stomach went sour. By the time we saw her again, at mile 43.9 in Ouray, it was dark and she was hurting. We were tracking her all afternoon and I could tell that something was wrong. At first I worried that she was caught in a storm and had to hunker down, but the other runners that she had been with were still moving. Then I thought she might have stopped for an extended stay at one of the remote aid stations. She was just moving slowly. It took her a lot longer than planned and many runners had passed her on the climb up to Kroger’s Canteen and the subsequent descent through Governor’s Basin. Even the long descent on Camp Bird Road went much slower than planned. She should have been able to fly on those downhills, but her gut was bad and in an ultra, when you can’t digest food, you just get weaker and weaker. She was also having trouble hydrating. Even taking in water was a challenge as it also triggered vomiting.

When she arrived in Ouray, we had assembled our full crew and were prepared for anything. The original plan was for her to continue on her own until she got to Animas Forks at about 59 miles, and then I was to join her for the 34 mile stretch to Cunningham Gulch. The plan was for Shepard to pace her from Cunningham to the finish. It took her 41 hours in 2017 and she wanted to beat that time by a few hours. In hindsight, and given the circumstances, to have a time goal was probably a mistake. When from Connecticut, Hardrock is the type of race you simply want to finish, even if you have finished before.

When she arrived at Ouray several hours behind schedule, I was worried. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we were hammered by a series of heavy thunderstorms, but it was clearing as night fell. When she arrived, she decided to make an attempt at eating solid food but it didn’t go well. The first thing she wanted was a full change of clothes, socks, and shoes. Once that was done she tried to eat a bit and then she decided to rest. She laid down on a tarp that we had put on the ground. We wrapped her in blankets and she slept for 40 minutes. While she was sleeping, in consultation with the other members of our crew, I decided to go with her. I didn’t have my best running shoes as the original plan was to go back to our hotel in Silverton before joining her at Animas Forks around 2:00 A.M. Thankfully, I had already prepared my pack and it was in the rental car.

I had enough clothes and gear, including my lights and the old pair of running shoes that I was wearing. I felt comfortable going with her. When she awoke, I told her the plan. She insisted she was OK to go on her own, but I wouldn’t accept that. Her main concern was that the kids would be inconvenienced and that they “didn’t have their toothbrushes.” I reminded her that we were here to support her and that she should be the number one focus. We arranged for friends Amy Relnick and John Hulburd to take our kids and the rental car back to their home in Ridgway. The original plan was for me to drive the kids back to Silverton, put them to bed, and then get a ride to the Animas Forks aid station from Heather and Josh Freeman. Her total time at Ouray was 58 minutes. This was also her longest stop in 2017, but it was only 18 minutes.

We departed Ouray at 10:17 P.M. It didn’t take long to confirm that her stomach was still off and that she remained very weak. We wound our way out of Ouray and started the long climb to the Engineer aid station. It took us forever to get there and she repeatedly threw up on the way. She couldn’t ingest food or water. Even though her stomach was empty, she suffered from dry heaves and the only thing that came up was stomach acid. This was a harsh way to experience Hardrock, but she kept moving, albeit slowly, all the way to Engineer. On the way, we did hook up with Scott Slater, the other Connecticut runner. We’ve known Scott and his wife Sarah, for many years. He was hurting, but he was moving steadily. Eventually, Scott pulled away from us with the help of his pacer. We didn’t get to Engineer until 2:36 A.M. This was several hours behind schedule and I’m sure that was disappointing for Debbie.

She sat down on a log and we debated what to do. She discussed her situation with someone at the aid station, but their intention was to keep the runners uncomfortable. It was cold and there was nowhere to rest. Thankfully she had brought warm clothes as she put all of them on, including pants. They didn’t want runners to stay too long because we were a long way from additional help. She didn’t attempt to eat or drink. After 12 minutes, we got moving again. The next stretch, about 1.5 miles, steadily uphill through a huge meadow to Engineer Pass, was painfully slow. At one point, we stopped and turned off our lights in an attempt to see as many stars as possible. However, the moon (though waning) was huge and bright. That made it easier to see the trail, but harder to see the stars.

It was nice to finally reach the top of the climb after more than 5,000 feet of climbing since Ouray, but I could tell that she was demoralized. On the descent to Animas Forks her pace remained slow. All she could do was walk and I’m sure she was already thinking about stopping, but we were silent about the matter. I apologized for not having much to say, but we were tired and there wasn’t much to do other than put one foot in front of the other. It was a long downhill that wound all the way through the ghost town. We arrived at 5:56 A.M. as the sun was rising. It was beautiful, but at least four hours behind schedule. I don’t think Debbie could wrap her head around how far she had to go. She understood the distance, but I don’t think she wanted to be out there for another day.

When we arrived at the aid station, Heather and Josh were waiting for us. They spent all night there and we are so thankful for their support. Debbie checked in and went to the medical tent. She sat down in a chair and talked over her condition with the volunteer medic. I gave Debbie some space to make the decision on her own. After a few minutes, she exited the tent and confirmed that she was going to stop. As difficult as it was to agree, I supported her decision and also thought it was best. She hadn’t eaten anything in 14 hours and she was having trouble taking in water. With more than 40 miles to go, that was a recipe for disaster and eventually the time cut would be a factor. She could have tried another extended break/nap, but it was likely to be futile. The aid station captain clipped Debbie’s wrist band and that was that.

Heather and Josh gave us a ride back to Silverton, which was no easy task. The road is treacherous. Josh’s pickup truck was capable of navigating the terrain and he had driven the road before, so we were in safe hands. I drove the road five years ago as the Animas Forks aid station was close to the old aid station known as Grouse Gulch. We got back to Bent Elbow shortly after 7:00 A.M., showered, and napped. Later in the morning, Amy and John drove our vehicle and the kids back to Silverton so we could reunite with them. We hung out and cheered on the early finishers.

There were many outstanding performances. The men’s race saw a fantastic battle between Kilian Jornet, Francois D’Haene, and Dakota Jones. Kilian took the win in record fashion. The women’s race was dominated by Courtney Dauwalter who finished sixth overall and also in record time. She was followed by Stephanie Case and Hannah Green but the gaps were huge.

I mentioned how Amy, John, Heather, and Josh were so helpful. Throughout the race, we also got support from the Schomburg Family. Matt is a longtime friend and fellow adventurer. He is a United States Forest Service ranger from New Hampshire, but is on assignment in Colorado. Matt and his wife Christina and their two children Olive and Cadence, helped out in Ouray. They are huge fans of Debbie. My friend Mike McGill came to see us in Telluride. He is a mountain biker and skier and spends part of the year in the mountain town. He rode his bike down to the aid station and it was great to see him.

Everything about Hardrock is special. The Run Committee and other volunteers do a great job. There were more than 350 volunteers. The food was fantastic. The aid stations were stocked. The events during Camp Hardrock were excellent. Debbie participated in a Women of Hardrock forum as there were a record number (27) of women in this year’s field. I won’t wade into the various controversies related to the lottery. I’ll simply say that Debbie was happy to be part of the race in 2017 and again in 2022.

I mentioned Scott Slater. We had many other friends in the race and at the race. I’ll highlight the other runners with New England roots: Jeff List, Rob Lalus, and Dima Feinhaus. All three had strong races. Congratulations to all of the runners, but especially the Hardrockers, who are the official finishers. They persevered.

What’s next for Debbie? I don’t really know. We haven’t discussed it. She is exploring what might have gone wrong. Of course, we have already referenced the elevation as a huge factor. There is also some concern that she inadvertently ingested caffeinated energy drink too early in the race. We have seen caffeine have a negative effect on her in the past, and she did not want any of the stimulant until the end of the race. There is some correlation between over-doing caffeine and stomach sickness.

She and I have spoken of a “next phase” when it comes to ultrarunning an endurance sport. I’ve been needing a break after several years of challenges between the pandemic and work. I don’t have the same motivation to push and suffer. This could be a temporary pause for me, but I’m not excited for her to sign up for another big race. We are both returning to the Vermont 50 in September. It’s where we met and we have only missed one year since 1999. We have mountain biked the last three editions, but this year, we decided to run the 50K for a change of pace. I’ve run it once before and she has run it several times. She has been doing the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series and there are several weeks to go. I don’t think she is signed up for anything else.

Her recovery from Hardrock should be quick. After 120 ultras, dozens of FKT’s, and many other races, she will have to decide what motivates her. These events have brought us to some amazing places. I can’t make that decision, but given the time commitment an impact on our family, whatever direction she goes will require some discussion.

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