Archive for the 'Environment' Category

2022 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

Today’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Races were the first “normal” version since 2019. We (the Shenipsit Striders) had a great turnout with more than 225 finishers between the 15.5 mile long course and the 6 kilometer Sampler.

This race has always been a family affair. Most folks know that we have been associated with it for the past 22 years. This was the 18th time I’ve done one of the two races. I originally planned to skip today’s race. I was going to go, but just volunteer, spectate, and take photos. However, yesterday, I told Debbie that I needed to spend some time in the woods and figured running the race was a good way to do that. I didn’t pre-register, but was happy to pay full price this morning.

The day dawned warm and drizzly. It was quite damp after a few weeks of uncharacteristically dry spring weather. That made the rocks and roots on the trails a bit slippery. That may deterred some of the pre-registrants from showing up today, but we were still pumped about the crowd. The grounds at Reddington Rock Riding Club in Stafford were buzzing.

Debbie was the Race Director for more than 15 years, but gave up that role a few years ago. Now, we are just part of a fantastic volunteer team. Kudos to Dan Tourtellotte who took the reigns from Debbie. The course was well-marked (maybe too well marked!) and the post-race meal (Rein’s Deli veggie chili, pickles, chip, drinks, etc.) was awesome again.

After nearly catching me in 2021, Shepard opted to skip the race as his focus is on track. He had his toughest workout of the season on Saturday, so he brought his bike and used it to explore Shenipsit State Forest and cheer for runners on the course. Debbie wasn’t an official racer, but she swept the the short course and then spent some time removing course markers on the first part of the long course where the courses overlap.

This spring, she organized the Shenipsit Striders Run Club for kids. I think this is her third year doing this. She had nearly 30 registrants. She averaged more than 20 participants each Tuesday and Thursday over the last few months. The culmination of their training was today’s Sampler. About 15 of her kids came to run the race, including Dahlia.

Dahlia had a good run. She was 6th overall and 2nd female but more importantly, she had fun. I was the other family member to pin on a bib number. I also had fun. Like I said, I didn’t plan to run, so there was no special preparation. My back was a bit stiff (and now it’s stiffer), but my legs felt good. The race was fast as the front group went out hard.

I backed off and ran my own pace. I did fade a bit in the last four miles, but that’s happened many times at Soapstone. I had to let the group I was with go as they pulled away from me and finished a few minutes ahead. I was still pleased with my time. It was slightly faster than last year. As the rain stopped and the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, it got warm. That meant it was muggy too. The conditions were a little uncomfortable, but that was OK.

Over the years, Shenipsit Forest has taken a beating. It gets heavy ATV and off-road vehicle traffic. Many of the trails and roads are rutted out. Indiscriminate logging has also left the forest ugly and barren in spots. It’s unfortunate, but the forest gets very little attention and the trails get very little (if any) maintenance. Even still, the fact that we have these woods to run is still positive.

The top three men in the long course race were James Boeding, who had a stellar sub-two hour time, Samuel Alexander, and Austin Frank. The top three women were Kassandra Spitler, Lesli O’Dell, and Molly Alexander.

I frequently joke that I “hate running.” I’m not sure when I’ll race again, but I’m sure I’ll do some more trail running this spring and summer. After all, I can’t hate it that much.

Race Results

2022 Traprock 50K

Today’s Traprock 50K really hurt. I didn’t even make it the whole way. I stopped after two laps and approximately 34 kilometers. Debbie kept going and even she suffered, but she still finished within a minute of her 2021 time and took another win.

We have a long history with Traprock, going back to its founding, so it was nice to do it again. I think this is my second time not finishing, which is OK. I felt like crud, which was about the same as how I felt half way through the MT. TAMMANY 10 three weeks ago.

I’m due for a break from competition, so this is a good point to seek a reset. I haven’t got anything else planned so that is good. In the coming months, I’ll be happy to commute to/from work (by bike), run a few days a week, and get in an occasional swim at the YMCA.

We had good weather for today’s race and the trails were in good condition too. There were a few wet and muddy sections, but you could easily navigate them and keep your feet dry. Debbie caught up to me on the second lap around the 19 mile mark as I was walking. I never really ran again. I jogged the downhills, but knew that attempting another lap would be detrimental in many ways.

There was nothing to gain, so I got to the finish line, donned some warm clothes, and hung out until she finished the race. She will likely rest her legs over the next few weeks before starting to run again. Congratulations to all of the finishers (of the 17K too) and thank you to the volunteers. Traprock packs a punch. That’s part of what makes it special.

Race Results

2022 MT. TAMMANY 10

There isn’t too much to report about yesterday’s MT. TAMMANY 10 trail race in Delaware Water Gap. This is an awesome grassroots affair with low key promotion. It’s held on a brutal low-key loop course that you do 10 times. The location is very popular with hikers/walkers of all types. We spent the day with an incredibly diverse group of people, which was very cool.

The course includes the 1,200 foot climb up the steep side of Mt. Tammany with an average gradient of nearly 20%. The descent is a little more gradual but just as gnarly. The trail is 100% rock. There are no smooth spots.

You can check out the full description here. For a taste, here is an excerpted highlight:

This will not be for the faint of heart. The 10, 10, in 10! 10 Climbs, over 10000 ft of gain, in 10 HRs. Hence the name MT. TAMMANY 10. An almost 40.0 mile run traversing one of the toughest sections of trails in the DWG area. This event is not for the faint of heart. Expect no PRs here! These will be the toughest and slowest miles most of you will ever cover. Seasoned ultrarunners accustomed to this type of terrain may still fall, get bruised, strained sprained and cut. Stay alert, stay focused, stay the course, and you will have a great day on the course. Probably one of the most satisfying ultras you will ever run. This course will have some great mountain views on the climb and majestic waterfalls along with the sound of rushing water on the decent. 

Debbie last ran MT. TAMMANY 10 in 2018. That year had some snow, which filled the space between the rocks. When I signed up, that was my memory of the downhill…smooth with a few sharp rocks. Instead, it was rough as all heck with tons of sharp rocks. There was no trail. It was just running through scree.

It hurt bad. The total distance was 37.5 miles and my GPS registered 12,641 feet of elevation gain and another 12,641 feet of elevation loss. My quads were blown. I’ll limp for days if not weeks. As for the weather, we had a little of everything, which is normal for the Northeast in March. It started out clear and cold. It got windy. It rained lightly on and off for several hours. The sun peeked out. It got windy again. It rained some more. It clouded up and got raw and cold. So, the weather was normal.

Race Director Alex Papadopoulos from Athletic Equation has a small cadre of helpers that do a great job. We saw Alex in January at the HURT 100 which he finished for the 16th time.

The race was limited to 55 entrants. On race morning, there were 50 official starters. At the end of the day, there were 28 finishers. With a loop course where your return to the (only) aid station/start/finish after the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th laps; you need a strong mindset to get this one done.

Debbie had another good day. I led her through four laps, but on the fifth, she took the lead and never looked back. She passed me on the steepest part of the descent when I was taking it gingerly. Another guy came by me like he was being chased. As he passed, he yelled, “A crazy fast chick is coming after us!” I knew exactly who he was talking about.

She put more than an hour into me in the second half of the race as I slowed to a crawl. My legs couldn’t take take the downhill and every lap, I was begging for the climb to start again. I was going faster up the hill than down the hill. I came to finish and despite a few shaky moments (mentally), I persevered.

Debbie was first woman and 11th overall. Justin Lewandowski was the first male finisher. One interesting thing happened to me during the race. About halfway through, as I was finishing the descent by the two stream crossings, a hiker yelled my last name as I ran by. I was in hot pursuit of Debbie (as I still held out hope that I could catch up), but I paused to look back and had an exchange with this person. He identified himself as my Boston University classmate from the 1990-1991 timeframe. I knew exactly who he was because we were in Army ROTC together. It was a neat moment, but I wasn’t stopping. Thankfully, he found his way to the finish line and a very nice hand written note with his contact information was on our stuff. I’m not sure if he had a connection to the race and I have no idea how he knew it was me running full tilt downhill in the woods, but I’ll find out.

Before and after the race, we stayed in a hotel in Rockaway, New Jersey. We joked that our room had the “best view.” The view was literally of Best Buy’s front entrance. Last night’s dinner was at Chipotle in Rockaway, which was basically fuel. It was 1/4 mile away across the mall parking lot from the hotel, but we still drove. I would have never made it on foot. This morning’s breakfast at Planted Eats in Montville was much better. It was a real find and in addition to our meals, we picked up a bunch of stuff to go.

On the way back to Debbie’s parents in Connecticut, we stopped to stretch our legs at Nyack Beach State Park. It was a real gem. The Palisades Park Conservancy has some jurisdiction. We walked down to the Nyack River Trail/Nyack Beach Bikeway along the Hudson River, and took it a mile north. It goes farther and I hope to return with a bike.

The stone dust covered track appears to have gone through some recent reinvestment. It was chilly and breezy along the river, but it was good to move our legs as best we could.

We had an early supper at the Schieffer’s and that capped a successful weekend. Next up: Traprock 50K on Easter Weekend.

Race Results

1950’s Katahdin Trip Plan: a Wonderful Gift

Back in August, I got a message from Vianna Zimbel. She is a friend from the local endurance sports community. We both have a passion for triathlons, mountain biking, and many other outdoor activities.

She wrote:

Hi Scott- I know you have a special affinity for the AMC, and your license plate would infer Katahdin too! I have a 1952 AMC Katahdin guide book and map that I’d like to give you, if you’re interested. I’m sure the scene has evolved over 69 years! I had contacted The Book Moose in Lincoln NH to see if there was re-sale value, but because my father put our name & address on the documents, he wasn’t interested. LMK.

I wrote back confirming my love of KTAADN (Thoreau’s spelling as displayed on my plates)

I can drop off at Horst if that’s a ‘yes.’ I’m so glad these items that have been gathering dust will have a solid landing spot with you.

We made arrangements and within hours, she had swung by the shop with these incredible heirlooms.

Everything was neatly folded and packed in the same envelope that stored them for more than six decades. The contents:

  • Map of the Maine Woods
  • 1952 Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) Katahdin Section Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Maine
  • 1973 AMC White Mountain Guide Supplement, list of 4,000 footers in New England?
  • Letter from her father Joseph to his friend Chuck. This is the special part of the package. On one side is a handwritten message to his friend and on the backside is his “Tentative check list” for their Katahdin trek.

Vianna knew a bit about the story including the fact that her father was a military veteran and outdoorsman. We both chuckled when she read me the letter, including the bit about the $29.95 sleeping bag and liner. The letter isn’t dated, but based on the date of the guide, the trip was in the early to middle 1950’s. Seeing that the White Mountain info, including the list of 4,000 footers in New Hampshire was in the envelope, her father likely continued to adventure in the New England mountains.

Katahdin is a special place for me. My Mom and her family are from Aroostook County in Northern Maine. She grew up in Upper Frenchville, and during my childhood, we made many trips north to see my Mémère and Pépère. The route was I-95 north to Route 11. Between those two roads, the westward views to Katahdin became imprinted on my mind. It was the first big mountain I ever saw and has become an important part of my life. When I was an infant, my father and mother climbed it with her siblings and it’s become a generational ritual for the Roy Family.

My Mom’s youngest sister is Therese. Aunt Terry lives in Portland, and gets back to The County several times a year. Every time she drives north (and back south), she texts me a photo of the mountain.

I visited Baxter State Park on various Scout trips in the 1980’s. I made a solo trip during college. Debbie and I were engaged at the I-95 scenic viewpoint in the year 2000 on a drive north to introduce her to my Mémère. I made a solo trip to celebrate the last day of my 30’s.

We were last there during our 2017 Mountain Katahdin Family Adventure. It was awesome to climb the mountain with Debbie and our kids. I’m most certainly headed back later this year to celebrate my 50th birthday. In addition to AMC, we continue to support the Friends of Baxter State Park, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.

I’m looking forward to creating more memories. I’ve never hiked the mountain in winter, so that is definitely on my bucket list. Someday, Debbie and I intend to hike the Appalachian Trail south to north and we intend to finish on Katahdin. Vianna can be assured that I will make sure her father’s mementos get passed on to another Katahdin lover in the future. After all, the mountain will be around a longer than any of us.

Oahu

It’s been several weeks since we returned from Hawaii. The New England weather has been harsh and unforgiving with lots of cold, ice, and snow. Even still, the buzz from the trip hasn’t worn off. I was glancing through the photos and it warmed me (a little).

Clearly, the highly of the trip was the HURT 100, which I wrote about already. Debbie smashed the race. She has done a few interviews, including one with the entire family on the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. The race wasn’t the only activity of our week on Oahu. We had fun in other ways and I wanted to share.

Our basecamp was at the home of a friend in Hawaii’ kai east of Honolulu. We stayed there once before, 11 years ago when I did the IRONMAN World Championships. During that trip, we spent a week on the Big Island and then a week on Oahu. It was great to return to the Kumukahi House as it had a nice renovation since we were last there. The location was perfect.

On our first full day, we hiked Mt. Olomana and then spent some time at Kailua Beach Park. Olomana was a route that Debbie first found on the Fastest Known Times site. At first she thought we would hike it as a family and then she would try for the FKT. The problem was that when we drove to the trailhead, there was a massive rainstorm. The deluge turned the trail into a muddy mess. It was way to dangerous to attempt an FKT, so we just focused on the hike, which took all the energy we had. The round trip was a blast with sections of hand over fist climbing and some serious vertical.

On the summit, we met some very nice locals who were familiar with HURT and had friends who were participating. The views were spectacular. The descent was like a slip and slide because the mud was like grease. It was warm and muggy.

After our hike, we drove over to Kailua Beach Park and spent some time sampling the sand and sea. The sun had retreated behind clouds, but the kids still had fun playing in an stream that was flowing into the bay.

On our second full day, we drove to the southwest corner of the island. This took about an hour. It was much more arid and a lot less congested. We parked at Poka’i Bay Beach. Debbie and the kids spent the morning playing in the bay and exploring the surrounding area. I did my own FKT on Mt. Ka’ala, which I also covered in a separate blog post. The out and back took me about five hours and it was hot! It felt great to swim in the bay when I got back to the beach.

After cooling off, we did a drive. We headed for Hale’iwa with a few short stops along the way. One of those stops was at the tourist trap otherwise known as the Dole Plantation. We couldn’t even get a piece fresh pineapple! Enough said. The Covid-19 related restrictions were almost comical and we did one lap of the gift shop before giving up on finding any healthy snacks. We simply got back in the car and headed for Hale’iwa.

I recalled being there 11 years ago, so we parked and then walked to the lot where several food trucks park. We had dined there before, though the trucks had changed a bit. We had some food and then visited a few of the north shore beaches in town. The waves were pretty big (15 to 20 feet) and there was a high surf warning. We watched some surfers from afar and soaked in the vibe. It had been a long day so we opted to stay in Hale’iwa and get food at a local Mexican restaurant before making the drive back to Hawaii’ kai.

Friday was the day before the big race, so we kept things a little more low key. In the morning, we visited Pearl Harbor, which was amazing. We also visited 11 years ago and the focus then was the USS Arizona Memorial. This time we did the USS Missouri Battleship Tour which was awesome. We spent more than three hours exploring the massive ship. There were so many highlights. I particularly liked the machine shop. This historic ship is massive. I still can’t get over the fact that more than 3,000 sailors lived on the boat in the 1940’s an 1950’s. The kids really enjoyed the visit and they learned a lot.

The kids wanted to see a different kind of beach, so on our way back through Honolulu, we stopped at Waikiki and spent a few hours on the beach. We scored an incredible parking spot right across the street from the beach. It didn’t even cost us a penny because the parking meter was missing. Just as we arrived, a car pulled out and we pulled in. That made my day. Waikiki is not my kind of beach, but I have to admit that the people watching was entertaining. Even still, I had enough and we returned home in the early afternoon so that Debbie could get all here gear for the Saturday race.

My HURT post covers our weekend endeavor. Sunday afternoon, after the race, my cousin Amy, her husband David, and their infant daughter visited us at the Kumukahi House. It was great to catch up with them. They have been Hawaii residents for 15 years, but Amy grew up in Connecticut and our family is very close. It was so nice to spend the afternoon with them. We got takeout and just hung out.

Monday was our last day in Hawaii as we had a late afternoon flight that would return us to Boston. The kids wanted to go to the beach again, so we got a referral to the local end of Waimanalo Beach and it was another trip highlight. It wasn’t crowded, the sand was nice, and the water was beautiful. I had a nice swim and the kids had a blast in the waves, which were small but fun.

It was hard to leave such a beautiful island behind, but work and school were pulling us back to New England. I would love to return to the Big Island. Plus, I would love to visit Maui and Kauai on a future trip. We have more exploring to do.

2022 HURT 100

The Livingston Family’s 2022 HURT 100 expectations were exceeded by a hundred miles! Debbie ran a monster race to claim the victory and finish 7th overall at this island of Oahu classic ultra in its 21st edition. In my estimation, HURT is defined by two things: 1) the course and 2) the “ohana” or extended family that makes up the heart of the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team’s community.

I’ve organized this post so that it is easier to follow. I’ve created sections for Debbie’s ultra history, HURT pre-race, each of the five laps, post-race, and a summary.

Debbie and I have been a thing since 1999 which means I’ve been around for the entirety of her 23 year ultrarunning career. I’ve seen nearly all of her spectacular performances. Among her 100+ ultras, I’ve seen all but a few. One thing I’ve witnessed is all of are her 100 milers. All that running has actually improved my writing! That number of hundreds is 12, though there are two DNF’s in that total (they build character).

Among the “shorter” races, there have been some incredible performances. At dinner last night, she cited the 2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra (70 miles) as her best ever performance. There have been so many others to recall and smile about. She has an incredible palmares. However, when asked about her ultrarunning, most people want to know about the longest of these races, which means hundreds. With her HURT finish, that dozen-long list is pretty cool to see. She hasn’t taken the easy route. Her choices include some of the tougher options, including several iconic mountain races with gnarly courses.

HURT 100 has been on her wish list for a long time. She knew the course would be ideal for her strengths. It’s a hilly race on very difficult terrain, but at sea level. The hills are short and steep. Undulating would be a good description. The longest climb is probably less than two miles and it isn’t a relentless grade, but rather has a bit of up and down. That’s quite different from the climbs at Bighorn, Tahoe, or Hardrock. Those are all races at altitude where she hasn’t performed at her best. She is an incredible downhill runner, especially on technical terrain, so the HURT course was one she wanted to try. HURT is known for its’ roots. After all, the best known video about the race is called ROOTED.

HURT’s own description of the event is very informative and worth sharing as an overview and the Book of HURT is a great resource. Check it out:

The Hawaiian Ultra Running Team’s Trail 100-Mile Endurance Run, referred to hereafter as the “HURT100”, is a very difficult event designed for the adventurous and well-prepared ultrarunner. It is conducted on trails within the jurisdiction of the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)Division of Forestry and WildlifeNā Ala Hele program. Nā Ala Hele has turned traces of pig trails through the rain forest into people-friendly, single-track paths. The event organizers are very grateful for the staff’s untiring year-round commitment to trail maintenance for all users, and help in preparing for this annual event.

A detailed description of the HURT100 including the registration process can be found in the latest edition of the Book of HURT.

The About section of the website is loaded with info including course maps and descriptions. The Book of HURT has excellent course overviews, race history, logistics, more maps, and a lot of other data.

  • 100 miles over 5 laps (partial out and backs) in a semi-tropical rain forest.
  • 24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain (and 24,500 feet of cumulative loss) over the course of 100 miles.
  • 99% single-track trails, 1% asphalt.
  • Moderately packed soil, generously interspersed with roots, rocks, puddles, and mud wallows.
  • Narrow trails through forest, along exposed ridges, and past vertical embankments.
  • 20 stream crossings (four per lap).
  • Three aid stations per lap.
  • 36-hour time limit.

This statement is hyperbole, but getting into HURT 100 may be as challenging as finishing. Annually, the race’s initial entrant list is limited to 136 runners (slots) and normal attrition results in approximately 125 starters. Of the 136 slots, only 118 are part of the lottery. The others are reserved for the prior year podium finishers and 10 HURT Board discretionary picks.

There is a wait list and when Debbie missed out on the regular 2022 lottery, she was 55th on the waitlist. She has missed out in prior HURT lotteries as well, including 2020, the last time the race was held. 2021 was a miss as a result of the pandemic related cancellation.

125 starters is 20 less than the Hardrock Endurance Run, which is probably the most limited iconic ultra in the world. The Western States Endurance Run has the highest demand and is the most sought after, but it is larger with more than 350 entrants and even more hoopla. These are three different kinds of races, though all are held in incredible surroundings. Hardrock has even more vert and is at high altitude in big mountains. Western States is the grandaddy of the sport, boasts the most competitive field (other than maybe UTMB a much larger race), but has less climbing and less ruggedness. WSER does have high heat. HURT 100 has a mix of everything. The course is the most gnarly of the three, it’s hot AND humid, it’s got a ton of climbing, it has the most single night of darkness (more than 13 hours), and of course…it’s on the island of Oahu in Hawaii which just raises the fun factor even more.

We hadn’t been to Hawaii since 2010 when I did the IRONMAN World Championships. Our kids didn’t remember that trip and we have been looking for a reason to get back to the islands for more than a decade. For more than a year, our family kept a placeholder in the calendar in case she got in during the June lottery. However, when she ended up so far down on the waitlist, we deleted the calendar item. We never thought that so many waitlisters would get in. Of course, we also didn’t fully anticipate the impact of the pandemic, the delta surge, the omicron surge, the airline challenges, Hawaii’s travel requirements, and the race’s vaccination requirements. HURT normally attracts a broad entrant list with folks from all over the USA and elsewhere around the world. Asia, and particularly Japan, normally has several entrants. Despite the volatility with the entrant list, this year’s starters were a diverse group of men and women.

After the summer, Debbie and I lost track of the HURT waitlist process and moved on, but then on November 5th, she got an email, inviting her to register. She was given three days to decide and process registration before they would move to the next person on the waitlist. The message reminded her about the race’s requirements and Honolulu’s requirements, including vaccination for runners, pacers, crew, and volunteers. We talked about it over a few days, I got support from my colleagues at HORST Engineering, we discussed the impact on Shepard and Dahlia’s schooling (because we wanted to include them) and ultimately committed to the trip. We knew there would be risks but couldn’t have anticipated how logistically challenging it would get as the pandemic raged on.

So essentially, with two months notice, she accepted. She was confident that she was in great base shape and could ramp up to 100 mile distance preparation in eight weeks. Her last 100 was Bighorn back in June. That was her last ultra distance trail race. She rode the Vermont 50 on her mountain bike and has done several trail running FKT’s, but the busy fall was mostly focused on her coaching middle school cross country for Bolton Center School. Her 20+ year base of fitness made this possible.

Leading up to the trip, we had to navigate the holidays, the Covid-19 omicron variant surge, flight cancellation worries, and host of challenges. It was touch and go, but when travel day arrived, we were ready to go.

Pre-Race

We traveled to Honolulu on a direct flight from Boston. We arrived on Tuesday the 11th January, which gave us several days to adjust to the time change (five hours behind) and get used to the heat and humidity. We decided to get up early every day to keep some semblance of normalcy. On our first full day, we hiked Mt. Olamana with the kids. It was awesome and gave us a taste of the Oahu trails. We had an early morning rainstorm that turned the trail into a greasy muddy mess. Thankfully, by race day, the trails dried considerably and were only wet in spots. I’ll write a separate post about this hike and some of our other activities including our visit to Pearl Harbor and various beaches. Last week, I wrote about my FKT on Mt. Ka’ala. There is no question that we packed in a lot of activity.

We had the good fortune to stay at the home of friends in Hawaii’kai. This headquarters was a great spot and within 30 minutes (unless there was bad rush hour Honolulu traffic) of the start/finish/aid station at the Nature Center, the Paradise Park Aid Station, and the Nu’uanu Aid Station. The race was on the weekend, so traffic was minimal and it was easy to get around. The main transportation challenges related to the slow and narrow roads. Plus, parking for all three aid stations required a least 1/2 mile walk. This isn’t a big deal, but you had to factor it in. Crews only had access to the Nature Center and Paradise Park so you could easily manage that back and forth.

The course is a called a “loop” but that is not really true because the trail is not continuous. It’s shaped more like a “tripod” or “t-bone” with out and backs to each aid station and a central section of overlapping trail. You cover 20 miles each loop, but using only 13 miles of unique trail. At times, especially at night, it was a bit confusing. The first leg was marked with white ribbons, he second section with green ribbons, and the third section with orange ribbons. If you saw a blue ribbon, it meant you were headed down a different (wrong) trail. Overall, the course was marked well.

Race packet pickup was a frill free drive-thru affair on Friday afternoon at a local school. Then Debbie and I got up early on Saturday around 4:15 A.M. We left the kids at the house and we got to the Aid Station in time for the final Covid-19 protocols which included a temperature check. Once that was done, she got her number (67) and her wrist band, which was traditionally blessed with special water from a stream on the course. She had an hour to place her three drop bags in the proper location and mingle a bit while shaking out any pre-race nerves.

Loop 1

The race started promptly at 6:00 A.M. The course funnels over a footbridge and then goes uphill immediately. Crew weren’t allowed to see their runner until late morning, so that pretty much meant that they were on their own for Loop 1. I drove back to the house to pick up the kids. I helped them get packed for the day and then we drove to the KCC Farmers’ Market on the campus of Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu. The market was packed but we walked around and got some food for the day and some items to bring home.

After the market, we drove back to the Nature Center in time to see the first runners arrive. Debbie was already leading the women. We knew it was going to be a long day and night and there was a long way to go, but we didn’t mess around and helped get her out of the aid station quickly. I ran up the hill with her and encouraged her to keep the pace.

When she was out of sight, I returned to the kids. It was getting really hot and it wasn’t even 11:00 A.M. We drove to Nu’uanu and found a parking spot about 1/4 mile from the aid station. We checked in with the volunteer coordinator, submitted our Covid-19 paperwork, showed our vaccination cards, and got our temperature checked. They issued us a wrist band and we got our first assignments. Shepard and I helped unload supplies, including fuel for the generators. Dahlia met the kitchen crew and learned the ropes. All food was individually bagged. Sadly, there were a lot of plastic bags, but this was a compromise in an effort to keep people healthy.

Throughout the afternoon, the kids helped in and around the kitchen. They rolled rice balls, made ice bags, and prepared lots of other foods. When runners arrived, they would approach them and offer ice and other items from the tables. I helped fill hydration packs, fetch items, and I took a lot of photos. I spent a lot of time down by the stream crossing. I assisted by calling out numbers of the runners as they made their way across the stream. Another volunteer was radioing their numbers up to the aid station, which was about 500 feet up the hill. By the time each runner reached the station, their drop bag had been found and set on a bench. The aid station crew were fantastic and the processes were well oiled.

Loop 2

The kids and I worked our designated shifts from noon until 6:00 P.M. I’m so happy that Debbie had signed us up to volunteer. Both kids were worried that they would be hot, tired, and bored. Neither of them wanted their shift to end and they both asked to come back. Thankfully, they made a lot of friends, including with Freddy, the aid station captain, and he was thrilled with them. We got to see Debbie come through on Loop 2, which was neat. By the time we left to head back to the house, it was getting dark, and the runners who were arriving, were showing fatigue. The male front runners were already lapping those at the back of the pack.

Loop 3

I took the kids back to the house and changed into the gear I would need to run with Debbie overnight. I posted updated on social media, said goodbye to the kids, and drove back to Nu’uanu. I checked in with Freddy again and helped in the same fashion as I had earlier in the day. Eventually, Debbie arrived towards the end of her Loop 3 and she was still leading. The main chasers were Mele DeMille, Anna Albrecht, and Yukari Hoshino. Alyx Luck Barnett and Denise Bourassa were a little farther back, but all of these women were still in the running at the halfway point of the race. Anna and Denise are past winners. Anna won when the race was last held in 2020 and Denise won in 2016. Anna is 27 and an awesome up and comer. Denise is 52 and a stellar veteran runner. Debbie and Denise did battle at the Pinhoti 100 in 2012. It’s crazy to think that was 10 years ago. Denise won the race but because she had already finished in the top 10 of the 2012 Western States Endurance Run, the Golden Ticket for the 2013 WSER went to the 2nd and 3rd place women. Debbie finished 4th at Pinhoti and that was the closest she has come to nabbing a Golden Ticket of her own. Denise went on to finish 7th in the 2013 WSER.

Loop 4

I figured it would take close to two hours for Debbie to get back to the Nature Center, so I continued to aid other runners for an hour or so before heading back to the Nature Center. When I did drive there, I parked and then rested a bit in the car. I ate some food and then packed a bag of gear for her. She had a drop back at the aid station, but I augmented that with a change of shoes and socks. She chose to tackle the race with a pair of Altra Olympus sneakers. I hiked up and waited for her. When she arrived at 10:18 P.M., she told me she wanted to change her shoes. Ever since she crossed the stream on the first lap, her feet had been wet. The dry socks and shoes would help until she had to cross the stream again.

Mele was 16 minutes back, Yokuri was 39 minutes back, and Anna was 57 minutes behind. With 40 miles to go, all of them were still in contention, but if Debbie could get through another loop in the lead, she would be in good shape. The overnight loop was bound to be the most difficult and I’m glad I was there to pace her. On the big climb out of the Nature Center, she took out her trekking poles for the first time. I led her up the hill, picking the best line through the roots. The moon was bright but it as still very dark under the jungle canopy. On this stretch, her UltrAspire Lumen 600 waist light battery died after using it for eight hours. She had a spare as planned, so she took a minute to swap it out. She had used her UltrAspsire headlamp for the hour of darkness at the start of the race, but had used it sparingly since. It was her second backup. I also used the UltrAspire Lumen, alternating between the high and middle settings. You have to use that high setting sparingly to conserve the battery, so I saved its for the technical descents. I was impressed with Debbie’s condition. She was hiking steadily and aside from some foot pain due to constantly having wet feet, she wasn’t complaining about any other issues. She had yet to have a real low point. Her gut was good too.

She ran a very strong descent into the Paradise Park Aid Station. The aid station had a pirate theme. Nu’uanu had a tiki bar theme. Both aid stations were stocked with anything you could want or need at an ultra with tons of vegan options. She didn’t stay long at the aid station. She drank some Skratch to get some electrolytes. She had a little miso soup with rice. She asked for grapes to go. At this point, she started to drink cola with caffeine. She doesn’t consume anything with caffeine unless its during a race. It was a little before 1:00 A.M. when we departed the aid station and started the climb back out. There were few beautiful spots on the climb where you could see the canopy in the moonlight. You could also make out the stars and they were stunning. We passed Mele as she was coming down and by my math, Debbie had at least a 12 minute lead. It turned out to be 16, which means she was at least matching Mele’s pace. On the climb, we subsequently passed all of the other top women as they were descending to Paradise Park. Seeing them made Debbie push even harder.

We eventually made it up to the “flat” section in between Paradise Park and Nu’uanu. This was up on a ridge that had awesome southern views over Honolulu and Waikiki. The lights of the city were gorgeous. This was one of my favorite spots on the course. The trail was getting slick as condensation collected on the rocks and roots. Debbie says she didn’t fall once during the race. Many other runners suffered different fates. There were several twisted ankles and the roots were largely responsible for this. Debbie described running through the root sections like running through tires on a high school football obstacle course.

Debbie really pushed the downhill into Nu’uanu. The section along the stream was muddy. She mentioned the the jostling had caused some discomfort in her stomach and that she was going to be cautious about her food intake. She made a very quick turnaround at the aid station. She stuck with Skratch and cola, plus another bag of grapes. At this point, she was anxious about her chasers and wanted to get back on to the climb to see if she could gauge where they were at. Throughout the day, she had identified the points at which they would pass each other on the out and back sections. I gave her words of encouragement and she powered up the climb. Mele was the first to arrive on the descent and I calculated about a 20 minute gap. It was hard to tell but it felt similar to Paradise Park. Without a mobile connection, I couldn’t tell what the actual gap was. After the race, we we were able to see that it was 25 minutes, which meant Debbie had actually stretched the lead. Yukari was still in third and she was followed by Anna. We saw both of them on our way back up to the flats.

The downhill section to the Nature Center is known as “the pipes” because there are exposed concrete pipes all the way down the middle of the trail. I don’t know if they were previously used for drainage, but this section of trail is horribly rutted. There are lots of rocks and deep crevasses. It was muddy and slick, but Debbie ripped the descent. She led me which is normal as I’m a tentative downhiller. I shouted encouragement from behind. My thinking was that if she got to this section on the last lap with a healthy lead, that no one would catch her. She was in her element navigating this tricky descent. We got back to the Nature Center at 5:15 A.M. It had taken us nearly seven hours, which was her slowest lap, but everyone was slower in the darkness. She complained again about her stomach so she stuck with just cola.

Loop 5

This was my last stop, but I chose to exit the aid station with her and hike a little ways up the hill. I gave her a final round of encouragement. I was worried that she had to cover the next seven miles without a pacer. The others had support, but I knew Debbie was great at navigating the tricky course and she had her wits with her. I gave her a kiss and she kept climbing. I hiked back to the car, drove down the road, and found a spot where I could connect to the Internet. I posted my first social media updates in more than seven hours. I was also able to monitor the live tracking. It hadn’t been updated yet, so I drove back to the house and checked it again. What I saw was that Debbie had grown her lead at the Nature Center to 31 minutes but it was over Yukari. Mele was a further one minute back and then Anna, who was starting to charge, was another two minutes back. The women’s race was turning into a real battle with second, third, and fourth all within four minutes with 20 miles to go.

Shepard had set his alarm, so he was up when I arrived at the house. The sunrise looked to be spectacular. Dahlia was still asleep, but I roused her and asked her to eat some breakfast and prepare for the day. She wanted to do some more volunteer work at Nu’uanu. I knew we had several hours to kill. I washed up and then Shepard and I drove overt to Koko Crater. We were excited and wanted to do a walk. It was a beautiful morning and the famous abandoned railway to the top was jammed with people. We did the up and down hike from a distant parking lot in 51 minutes. We had a spectacular view from the top but couldn’t believe how many people were up there. Between the top and the bottom there had to be 1,000 people.

We drove back to the house and as expected, Dahlia was ready to go. Shepard grabbed his gear and we drove to the Paradise Park Aid Station. We had to park outside and walk 1/2 mile too the station. When we got there he said he wanted to run with his Mom. The original plan was for him to run in with her from Nu’uanu, but he said he was feeling good and wanted to go with her from 12.5 miles out. We checked him in as pacer. Debbie arrived a few minutes later and she was in good spirits, but she knew they were chasing her and she knew Anna was moving up. She left her lights in her drop back, drank some Skratch and cola, and then took off with Shepard. When I was able to get the live tracking, I saw that Mele arrived 33 minutes behind Debbie and Anna was one minute behind her. Yukari had faded, losing a chunk of time. This was shaping up to be a battle between Anna and Mele and the question was whether or not Debbie could hold on.

Dahlia and I walked back to the car and drove to Nu’uanu. This is when things really got interesting. I dropped off Dahlia so she could help the other volunteers. She returned to the kitchen. I parked the car up the road and walked back. The aid station volunteers were starting to pack away some of the items and I pitched in, putting away tiki torches and stuff that was no longer needed. I went down to the stream to see the volunteers who were spotting numbers. I took some photos. I was stoked when Debbie arrived with Shepard. They got to the aid station at 9:17 A.M. She was moving well and Shepard was encouraging her. There was only seven miles to go and the question would be whether or not she had a big enough lead. She had yet to falter or have a really bad patch so again, I figured that if she could get up and over one more big climb, no one would catch her on the descent to the finish at the Nature Center. We had at least an hour before we needed to leave, so we continued to help runners as they arrived. Some of them were on Loop 4 and some of them were on Loop 5.

One runner we were waiting for was our Hawaii’kai housemate, Timmy Glickman. Timmy had a strong first two loops but had struggled on Loop 3. He was due in at Nu’uanu on his Loop 4. Debbie had lapped him, but when he arrived, I gave him lots of encouragement. He DNF’d HURT in 2020 and was determined not to quit this year’s race. The organizers were going to have to pull him before he stopped. He rested a bit at the aid station, but then with a determined expression, he marched down the hill to the stream and kept going.

The other excitement at the aid station came when Anna arrived. She looked great. She had caught Mele and chopped 10 minutes off of Debbie’s lead between Paradise Park and Nu’uanu. Anna had stopped at the aid station but was jumping up and down waiting for her pacer. She clearly had gotten a second wind and was hammering. Mele arrived one minute later and the race was on. She didn’t even stop at the aid station. She crossed the threshold at the station and immediately turned around, beating Anna out. Anna quickly went after her. Mele’s pacer had been waiting for her and ran down the hill too. A few minutes later, she returned saying that Mele was going it alone. The lead was down to 24 minutes. By my math, this was enough but I was still worried. With Anna and Mele doing battle, they could either close the gap further or they could blow each other up. At the 92 mile mark, things were very exciting.

After the race, Shepard told me that Debbie didn’t panic, but that she was definitely flustered. They had passed Anna and Mele and thought the gap was closer to 15 minutes, which you could easily lose in the last two hours of an ultra like this. Dahlia and I helped out a few more runners, and then said our goodbyes to our fellow aid station volunteers. We drove back to the Nature Center for the final time. We parked and walked up to the finish line. It started to get hot, especially in the sun. At this point, it was just a waiting game. I expected Debbie in the next 20 minutes. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we weren’t allowed near the finish line, but they other volunteers promised us that when Debbie finished, we could enter the area to congratulate her and take photos.

I went around the backside of the aid station and walked up the hill so that I could see when Debbie and Shepard were coming. Gaps between runners were big but when one of the men she was chasing, Masazumi Fujioka, arrived, I knew that she was getting close. Less than three minutes later, she came flying down the hill. She looked possessed. I yelled for her, snapped a few photos with my Canon SLR, and handed my iPhone to Shepard. I asked him to shoot some video. She had to navigate the footbridge and then a sidewalk section that got her into the finish area. I ran around to the front and saw her reach the end. There is an awesome sign and then a bell that you are asked to ring, signifying your completion of the race. It was emotional for all of us, but especially Debbie. She leaned her head on the sign and soaked in the adulation. Shepard stood back and watched. Dahlia ran over and hugged her Mom. I stood back and watched as the race volunteers presented her with several amazing gifts, including a lei, a crown of flowers, a wood plaque to hold a bronzed face mask, a fleece, an aloha shirt, sunglasses, a hat, and a belt buckle.

All of this was fantastic, but simply knowing that she had scored a victory on such an iconic course was enough to give her joy. She was amazed with her own performance. She finished in 29 hours, 9 minutes and 10 seconds also good for 7th overall. She beat her goal of breaking 30 hours. Anna was the next woman to show up. She was 21 minutes behind indicating that she had pulled there minutes closer, but it wasn’t enough. Debbie’s lead had been secure. She told me that Shepard had urged her on and that coming down the pipes section in the last three miles that she was taking huge risks. She said she “switched off her pain receptors” and flew down the hill.

Shepard said she was grunting and making noises with every painful step. Mele must have cracked in the final seven miles because she had been gapped by Anna and finished 12 minutes behind Anna after leading her out of the aid station at Nu’uanu. Both of them gave it their all. Anna ran out of trail.

She didn’t run as consistent a race as Debbie, and afterwards said that she struggled earlier in the day, gave up too much time (more than an hour), but stuck with it and eventually turned her race around. She didn’t catch Debbie, but she still had a fantastic result. Mele held off Yukari for third. All of them deserve credit for giving pushing so hard all the way to the finish.

Post-Race

In the end, only 46 runners finished the full 100 miles within the 36 hour cut-off time. 77 runners didn’t finish. That’s not the race’s highest attrition rate in race history, but it is up there. Among the men, the top three were Pete Mortimer (23:59:34) who gave it his all to break 24 hours, Sergio Florian (25:30:16), and Cory Logsdon (26:03:44). It’s worth mentioning 4th because Anthony Lee led the race for a long time. He faded but still had a strong result. As noted, the top women were Debbie (29:09:10), Anna Albrecht (29:30:40), and Mele DeMille (29:42:07). HURT maintains an all-star list of winners. Debbie is not the first Connecticut resident to prove their muster on this course. Our friend, Matt Estes, won the race in 2007 in a then record time of 20:43.

She had quite a January. Her birthday was last Monday (the 10th) and she is the January “calendar girl” in the Breaking Trail Calendar “celebrating trail divas over the age of 40 and the Connecticut trails they traverse.”

The kids wouldn’t be happy if I neglected to say something about our rental car. It was a Nissan Sentra with 25,000 miles on it that definitely had been “driven like a rental” before we got it. It was the butt of many jokes thrroughout the week, but with all paved roads between the aid stations (a very rare occurrence), it was an economical drive that worked fine for our purposes. It made for some interesting zero to 65 merges onto the H-1 freeway, but we survived. Debbie’s skillset honed during 23 years of running on New England trails was ideal for this course. She is good in the heat and shines on technical gnarly trails. HURT’s terrain is likely the toughest she has encountered in a 100 miler and the climbing is immense.

What’s next? Debbie is bound to suffer some adrenal fatigue. A week later, she is walking fine and I bet she starts running easily again by Monday. However, she will have to take it easy given how deep she went. We did some skiing and snowboarding yesterday because the New England weather is cold and snowy. It’s another story but she got into Hardrock again. The race goes clockwise this time, so she is very excited to take it on. She wants to improve on her 2017 time and feel better doing it. I know that she will start planning the Colorado trip with the goal of arriving at least two weeks before the race so that she can properly acclimatize this time. In between now and July, she will be running Mt. Tammany 10, Traprock 50K, and probably another long ultra. I’m not sure if it will be a 100. She is interested in that Connecticut Ultra Traverse. We last did the entire CUT 112 as part of our 2020 New England Trail FKT. I think the CUT is too much too soon to Hardrock, but she will decide. I’m sure there will be an FKT or two mixed in this spring. I’m hoping to join her on an adventure or too. She will have to get her mountain climbing legs back by July.

She has done a few interviews this week. First she joined Ian Golden and Ellie Pell on the Trails Collective Podcast. It’s available in several video and audio formats. Just Google it. This link will take you to the recorded Facebook Live version.

On Friday night, Art Byram and Jimmy McCaffrey interview our entire family for the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. That was fun. It was cool for Art to involve the kids and get their perspective on the race and on their Mom. Of note is a recent interview with Ellie Pell who recently nabbed a WSER Golden Ticket with a 2nd place finish at Bandera.

It’s hard to put a succinct final HURT 100 summary together. I may need more time and perspective, but the HURT ohana was very special. The volunteers were amazing. The spirit of aloha permeated the race and our entire trip. Hawaii is a special place and the island of Oahu is beautiful. Honolulu is a vibrant city, but its omnipresence didn’t detract from the race because the course was rugged and beautiful in its own right. This trip was about family so the fact that Dahlia, Shepard, and I were deeply involved in helping Debbie to one of her best performances is a special feeling. I’ll leave it at that.

HURT 100 Live Results

HURT 100 Final Race Results

Mt. Ka’ala Sea to Summit to Sea 

Yesterday, I ran/hiked Mt. Ka’ala Sea to Summit to Sea.

It is described on the Fastest Known Time site:

Mt Ka’ala (4,025 feet) is the highest summit on the island of Oahu.  Start at Sea Level (0 ft) elevation at Pōkaʻī Beach (Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park) run Waianae Valley Rd until you reach Mount Ka’ala Trail which will take you up to the summit of Mt. Kaala. The Mount Ka’ala Trail technically ends at the top when it runs into Mt. Ka’ala Rd, there is a sign on the fence that states end of the trail no trespassing past sign. So this is where the official turnaround for the fkt will be. The true summit (4,025 ft) is a few feet past the sign around the government-owned radio tower, you can probably walk past the trail end sign to the true summit and not get any trouble but proceed at your own risk. To finish the route, from the trail end sign you return the exact same way that you came all the way back down to sea level (0 ft) at Pōkaʻī Bay Beach Park and touch Pōkaʻī Beach.

I wanted to do something fun and hard while we were visiting Oahu and this was the route that made the most sense. It took us a little more than an hour to drive from East Honolulu. The beach was decent with calm water in a small bay, so Debbie and the kids had a place to hang out for four hours.

I read about the route on the FKT site and then further researched it on All Trails. The first (and last) four miles were on the road which was blazing hot, even at 9:00 A.M. I suffered even before the road started to pitch up in mile three. My body wasn’t acclimated to the heat. I felt better on the return leg.

Once the road started to climb, the surface changed to concrete, which was interesting. Unfortunately, there was a lot of garbage along this stretch of road. This included piles of trash, mattresses, old appliances, building materials, and abandoned vehicles. It was a real eyesore.

Eventually the road reached a gate. This is where most hikers start. Without the road run, the hike is half the total distance at 7.1 miles. My round trip ended up being 14.2 miles. Beyond the gate, the road continues for a little ways before turning to dirt and then narrowing into the trail. Once it turns to singletrack, it gets rugged and steep.

The steepness can’t be underestimated. There are long sections of 40% gradient. These sections have ropes (and some cables) that are permanently installed. It was a real shoulder workout. The ropes were in good shape but I always made sure to check and to also have contact with the ground, a tree, or a root to be safe. I didn’t want to put my full weight on a rope, have it break, and go flying. There were some sketchy spots but it was manageable. One thing I read about online that came in handy: I wore gloves. When I packed for the trip, I thorough in a pair of garden gloves. These had little “nubbins” for grip, which protected my hands. If you do this run/hike, gloves are essential.

I saw five other people on the trail. I passed a two-man group on the way up, and then a two women and a man on the way down. The best views were from the flanks of the mountain. The top was a wide table land with a marsh. There were hundreds of bog bridges with chicken wire (for grip) nailed to them. The trail was very overgrown. The top was ugly with the large radio tower installation. Apparently, there is an access road that goes all the way to the top but you can’t walk on it.

I didn’t linger at the summit. It had taken me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get up there. It was faster on the way down. I ran out of water with two miles to go. I wanted to run 7.5 minute miles, but could only manage 8.5 minute miles. By the time I got back to the beach, I was seriously overheated and it took several minutes to recover. Eventually, I joined the kids in the water and that helped cool me down.

This was a great route and a cool experience. The idea of going from sea level to the highest point on the island and back, was neat. If you only want to do the trail section, then you will still be delighted. This is a total body workout and it’s worth the effort. Don’t underestimate he physicality.

2021 Northampton International Cyclocross

Yesterday was the 30th annual Northampton International Cyclocross at beautiful Look Park in Florence, Massachusetts. Next week’s West Hill Shop Cyclocross in Putney, Vermont is also turning 30. These are two of the longest standing CX races in New England. They are also two of the oldest in the country.

NoHo CX took a year off in 2020 because of pandemic, but it was back for 2021 and we had a blast. Kudos to Adam Myerson, the folks at Cycle-Smart, and the Northampton Cycling Club. This year, Shepard and I only raced on Sunday. The event has been two days for many years and we often do the double, but yesterday was the CT Middle School Cross Country Championships, and we were there to support Dahlia (who ran), Debbie (who coached), and the rest of the Bolton Center School team.

That meant I was fresh for today’s race and I’m glad I was because it was competitive and super fast. I’ve done 17 NoHo’s (or predecessor races including the UMASS Cyclocross at Orchard Hill). My first one was in 1995 and it was my third ever cyclocross race. West Hill Shop ended up being my fourth. So, both of these races are special to me. In the last 26 years, I’ve done more than 230 cyclocross races. Now I get to do them with my family. That’s pretty cool. I guess you could say I like cyclocross.

The 50+ field in today’s race was stellar. I think it may have even been stronger than the Gran Prix of Beverly back in September. That was my previous best result in a long time, not counting last week’s win at Cheshire Cross. Winning was fun, but the quality of the riders in today’s race was better, so my fifth place finish is notable.

When crunching the numbers, I can see that I was ranked ninth coming into today’s race and that was confirmed with my call-up. I was the first rider to get a spot on the second row behind the eight riders on the front row. That worked out for me because I was able to choose my lane and opted for second from left close to the barriers. I ended up having a good start and making it around the first big hairpin in sixth place after picking up a few spots in the long straightaway before the first big turn.

I rode a smooth first lap and held my position. It was on lap two that the front group started to breakaway and the field fractured. We also started to hit lapped traffic, which was a factor throughout the race. We were the third field to start in our race. The Category 3 Men (55 of them) started at 10:45 A.M. The 40+ Masters (39 of them) started a minute later, and the 50+ Masters (51 of us) started a minute after that. So, there were nearly 150 guys flying on this course all at once.

I mostly raced with my group, but occasionally we were blocked by slower traffic and had to settle into the paceline while waiting for a good spot to pass. The lower section of the course was faster than ever while the upper section was a bit more technical. The entire race was done at blazing speed. I averaged 14 miles per hour, which is pretty quick for a 46 minute CX race. Contrast that with last week’s hilly, technical, and muddy course in Cheshire where I averaged less than 12 miles per hour.

I think I’ve already said it a few times, but today was fast, really fast! Enough about the speed. I had a blast and I’m happy with the result. The weather was fantastic. It was cold in the morning, but I ended up going with shorts and short sleeves which is great for early November. The sunshine was as good as yesterday. It was brilliant and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Two years ago, it was in the teens (Fahrenheit) at NoHo, so a temperature in the low-50’s is balmy compared to that.

I rode a clean race. I only had to get off and run one twisty and slippery section when I came up on lapped traffic and someone dismounted in front of me. A few guys around me had crashes and that hurt their chances at a top finish as they had to chase back on. Our race was won by Jean-Francois Blais. He also won yesterday. He was pretty far out front. Roger Aspholm was second, Andy August was third, and Vincent Bolt was fourth. I was with Vincent with 1.5 laps to go, but he pulled away. He may have had an incident earlier in the race that set him back, but he flew by me. We encountered a long train of more than 10 lapped riders. He did a better job at working his way past them. By the time I got to the front of the group after nearly a full lap of riding, he was gone.

I was in a strong group that included Bart Lipinski and Christopher Curven, but I pushed incredibly hard on the last lap going through the upper section so I could maintain my position in front before we hit the pavement and the final four winding turns before the finish. I knew I had to be in the front in case we encountered more lapped traffic (which we did). I sprinted against a Category 3 rider in order to keep my speed high and avoid getting passed in the final stretch. I knew I was in the top 10, but was pleased to see the actual result, fifth.

I did a nice cool down on the bike path with teammate Andris Skulte, and then had a lot of fun cheering on Shepard and his CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad mates. This was Shepard’s first cyclocross race since August. His focus over the last 2.5 months has been cross country running, but that wrapped up with the state championships last week. It’s great to have him racing cross with me again, at least for a few more weekends. He had a good race for his first one in a while. His shifting (chain skipping) was acting up, but he hung in there and finished strong and in good spirits.

Team HORST Sports had a great turnout this weekend, with riders in all of the Masters age groups and all of the Junior age groups. There were several other notable performances. The 30th Northampton International Cyclocross was awesome. Debbie, the kids, and I celebrated at Pulse Cafe where we enjoyed another great meal.

Race Results

2021 Cross Country Championship Season

The 2021 Cross Country season has come to a close and we are going to miss it. Yes, there are still some runners competing, but for the Livingston Family, we wrapped things up today at the Connecticut Middle School XC Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester. 

Our household has been totally absorbed in XC since late August. Debbie is the coach of the Bolton Center School (BCS) Girls and Boys teams. Dahlia is a 7th grade member of that middle school team. Shepard is a freshman member of the Bolton High School (BHS) team. I’m a super-fan.

Before this state championship run, we had the NCCC conference championship. For BHS, those were held on the home course back on 21 October. For the BCS crew, their league meet was the NEMSAC conference championships at Lebanon Middle School on 27 October. 

Wickham Park has been the location of the latest stretch of awesome state championship races. Over the past week, more than 4,000 people have run at Wickham, Connecticut’s premier XC destination. Today alone, there were more than 2,500 kids running in the park. 

The first big championship event at the park was the CIAC XC Divisional Championship on Monday 01 November (postponed from Saturday 30 October). BHS coach Paul Smith refers to the “class meet” as his “Christmas.” After season of training his runners all season, building towards a peak, this is the race where he gets to “open his presents.” 

For BHS, this is the the big one and the girls team did awesome in the Class S race. S is the smallest school category, but it is still competitive. The high school championship races are all held on the same 5,000 meter (5K) course. The Bolton girls finished second to Somers, qualifying for the State Open Championship. They were led by Meghan Minicucci, who finished second behind Rachel St. Germain of Somers. All of the Bolton girls ran strongly. They will lose a few seniors to graduation, but should be strong again in 2022. As for Rachel, we’ve seen a lot of her this season because Somers and Bolton are both in the NCCC, and she has dominated every race. This was a good race for the BHS girls and they should be proud of their State Open qualification. 

The BHS boys finished 4th. They didn’t qualify for the State Open, but without any graduating seniors in their top seven runners, there is room for improvement in 2022. Silas Gourley led the team with an 11th place finish. This gained him All-State honors and an individual State Open qualification. 

Shepard finished 19th, falling short of the top-12 goal that would also have qualified him for the State Open. He was disappointed with his time, running a bit slower than the Wickham Park Invitational last month, but less than 10 freshman ran faster than him across all classes, so he has to be pleased with this race and his entire XC season. He and the Bolton boys have a lot to look forward to in the future. 

Yesterday, Debbie picked up Shepard at school so they could meet me at the park to cheer on the Bolton girls and Silas. HORST Engineering is only 1.7 miles from the park, so its easy for me to get there by bike. I love the place and pass through at least four days a week on my bicycle commutes to/from work. 

I always get pumped for the State Open. I’ve been attending most every year for the last 10 years. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. A few years ago I wrote about the 1989 East Catholic Boys XC Team that won the Class MM Championship and finished third in the State Open. That is one of my favorite high school memories as I was a member of the team. I hope that both of my kids experience the State Open during their high school careers. If they keep progressing, they just might. 

Yesterday’s races were amazing. The boys went first. We knew many of the runners, including Silas. He ran his best race of the year in a very competitive field. The battle for the top spot was thrilling with Conard’s Gavin Sherry and Callum Sherry besting Manchester’s Aidan Puffer. They all had fast times. Notable finishers that we know were Luke Anthony (East Lyme) in 6th and Luke Stoeffler (Tolland) in 17th. Both qualified for the New England Championships with their top 25 finishes. That meet is next week in Vermont. 

In the girls race, Bolton hung tough with the big schools that typically shine at the State Open. They finished 16th, which when you think about how many high schools are in Connecticut, is pretty darn good. Again, they were led by Meghan, who set her personal best. The weather was gorgeous, which made for fast running. The course was a bit soft from all the recent rain, but yesterday we had brilliant sunshine and a deep blue sky. She was 9th and was Bolton’s lone qualifier for the New England meet. This result makes her one of BHS’s best ever runners. 

Worth noting is that once again, Rachel St. Germain dominated. She won by more than 40 seconds. This was the performance of the day. Shepard was very inspired after watching the State Open. He joined me last year too. He said his goal is to qualify both with the team and on his own. It will be fun to watch him pour the effort into getting better. 

We were back at Wickham today for the CT Middle School State XC Championships. Debbie took the bus with Dahlia and the rest of the team. I rode to work and then rode back to the park to meet them. Shepard rode over with our friend Chris Duffy, whose kids also attend Bolton schools. 

Right after I arrived at the park, I jumped in the “Mom & Pop” race which is hosted by the Silk City Striders. I jogged it while Shepard raced it. Debbie ran it too along with several friends. Bolton finished second to Fairfield in the competition for most participants. Our goal was to win, but we were close and are hungry for next year! The race was held on the shorter 1.7 mile course. 

This is the biggest race of the year based on total participants. They split the state in two (East and West) and hold A races for each half for boys and girls. The A race is held on a 2.3 mile course. Then they held four more B races on the 1.7 mile course. Some of these races had 400 kids in the field. It was amazing to watch.

Dahlia joined her team in the East A race and they did well. Her friend Clara Toomey was the top BCS finisher. Dahlia followed her. Both were in the top 100, which is actually quite an achievement. They are 7th graders and will get another crack at it next year. Bolton was 11th in the East team results. 

The BCS boys also did well. They were led by Christopher Allinson, who was 54th, a good result. This is the same place Shepard finished in two years ago. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 cancellation, Shepard didn’t get to beat that result as an 8th grader. Chris will be on the BHS team next year and he has a lot of potential. 

All of Coach Debbie’s runners did well and she has taught them how to love running while become better people. She has given them a lot of confidence and life skills related to exercise, nutrition, stress reduction, strength, and balance. I’m biased, but I’ve observed her methods and they are effective. I know the parents are very appreciative of her coaching and the kids love being on the team. 

In about nine months we will start gearing up for the 2022 season. I’m already getting pumped! 

Race Results

NCCC XC Conference Championship

NEMSAC XC Conference Championship

CIAC XC Divisional Championship

CIAC XC State Open Championship

CT Middle School State XC Championships

2021 Keene Pumpkin Cross

Today I returned to the Pumpkin Cross in Surry, New Hampshire. Surry is just outside Keene, where I have fond memories of past bike races. I was last at the Keene Pumpkin Cross in 2015. Prior to that, the last time I raced cyclocross in the Keene area was when Team HORST Sports joined forces with Team Frank to host the Frank-N-Horst Cross at Jonathan Daniels Elementary School. I raced Frank-N-Horst in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004.

We had a lot of cycling friends in the Keene area, which is a lovely community. On the road, I did the Keene Road Race/Optical Ave. Criterium (race weekend) in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000. Today, we drove by the road race finish line and the Frank-N-Horst course and that brought a smile to my face.

I remember when the road race finished in front of Peerless Insurance. It was a crazy final kilometer as you screamed north on Route 12 after more than 50 miles of racing. You took the Maple Ave. exit on the right, and then at the bottom of the ramp, made a hard 90 degree left turn, went under the overpass for 12, and sprinted 150 meters to the line. When I did the Cat 3 race in 1998, I came through the final corner banging bars with Keith Berger. He accelerated from the scrum to win the bunch sprint in brilliant fashion. I finished 8th.

So, it was good to be back in the Keene area today. Pumpkin Cross was a fantastic race. After an overnight storm with heavy rain, the course was heavy, wet, and gnarly with several mud bogs. I used my mud tires and they came in handy. I did the Men’s 50+ race. We started 30 seconds behind the 40+ men, and the 60+ riders started behind us. I finished 4th, but was hoping for more. If I had one more lap, I would have had a shot at the podium because the third placed rider appeared to be fading and I was closing in.

The race was short and slow at just over 40 minutes and just under 7.5 miles. The conditions were not ideal for speed. I tend to do better on the power courses that are also technical. This race was a slog. There were a few fast sections, but they weren’t sustained. The course was well-designed with a tough asphalt climb, a technical turny section, several challenging off-camber hills that you had to traverse, two sand sections, a set of tall barriers, two logs to dismount and run over, and a gnarly woods section that forced me off the bike twice/lap. That’s a run-on sentence, but that’s what this course felt like!

Some guys rode the woods section, but I didn’t take a chance. I got off twice. Once for the steep downhill onto the wood bridge over the muddy stream, and once again to get around a deepish mud bog at the exit from the woods. So, I was getting off five times per lap. Mike Rowell won our race and he rode all the tough stuff, which was an advantage. I was a bit nervous, so I got off.

Surry Mountain Lake Beach is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers day use facility located on the Ashuelot River and it is beautiful. The leaves were colorful. Debbie and I drove up this morning. Our kids spent a chill weekend with Debbie’s parents. The only other Team HORST rider at the race was Alexandra Miller-Davey. She did the women’s race and did very well. It was fun to watch her ride.

We got to see our old friends, Chris and Kate Northcott and their children. They were on Team Frank back in the day. We had fun catching up with them. It wa also fun to see old teammate Kathryn Kothe. Kudos to the race organizers and volunteers for putting on an awesome grassroots events. After a cool down, we made the drive home, and stopped at India House in Northampton. It was neat to learn from one of the owners that they are a 38 year-old family business. Earlier this week, HORST Engineering celebrated 75 years in business.

When I got home, I cleaned my bikes so that they are ready for next week’s Belltown Cross in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Race Results (2021 Pumpkin Cross)

Race Results (1999 Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross)

Photo Credits: Debbie Livingston took the shots of Alex and me.

2021 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race

Today’s Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race brought back amazing memories for Debbie and me. The schedule worked out that we were able to make the drive to the Berkshires for this classic Western Massachusetts Athletic Club (WMAC) event.

I was a little sad to see how few people participated. The WMAC trail races have shrunk considerably over the last 10 years. The club doesn’t do much marketing, hasn’t embraced social media, and has struggled to develop a new generation of volunteers/members. We hadn’t been at the race since 2017 and we were happy to return. I remain appreciated of all the work of the WMAC volunteers and their passion for trail running is unmatched. They have been hosting races for a long time. Back in the early 2000’s, the Grand Tree Trail Running Series was hugely popular and the runners were fast. Take a look at some of those early results. The fields were stacked with talent.

Debbie and I have been affiliated with WMAC for more than 20 year. She ran her first Monroe Trail Race on 10 October 1999. Thats’s 22 years ago to the day. My first time at Monroe was a year later on 08 October 2000. It must have been a Leap Year.

This event used to be part of the WMAC Trilogy, which was made of the Greylock Trail Race (June), the now defunct Savoy Trail Race (August), and Monroe Dunbar Book (October). 1999 was Debbie’s first year of trail running. Of course, we met a week earlier at the 1999 Vermont 50 and hadn’t had our first date, so I didn’t know about Monroe. However, a year later, in 2000, I made the trip as her boyfriend and ran the 2-mile “sampler,” while she was out running the 10.5-mile race.

I’ve done both the short and long courses for a total of seven times. I bet she has done the race between 10 and 15 times. We would have to go through all of the records to find out. In 1999, the VT50 was the first Sunday in October. The race eventually shifted to the last Sunday in September, so there is now a two week gap between the VT50 and Monroe. After that first trip to Dunbar Brook and the Deerfield River, I fell in love with the area. The roads, dirt roads, trails, and views are amazing. In a normal year, the foliage is spectacular. This year, it was even better.

The original plan was for today to be a family trip. Well, it was still family trip, but minus one. Shepard remained home after being out all day yesterday and running the Wickham Park Invitational. Even though tomorrow is a holiday (no school), Bolton House School Coach Paul Smith traditionally holds the hardest workout of the year on the Monday following Wickham as he builds his athletes towards a peak. Shepard has a bit of dread coming off a big block of training and racing, so we let him chill today rather than dragging him along to join me on a bike ride while Debbie and Dahlia ran.

We got up around 7:00 A.M. and made the two-hour drive which included the section of Route 2 from Greenfield to Monroe. This is known as the Mohawk Trail. You pass by Zoar Gap on River Rd. and make your way along the Deerfield River until you get to the race start near Dunbar Brook. The Deerfield is very popular with paddlers (kayakers and rafters).

Even though it was a small turnout, it was great to see some old friends. Of course, Todd Brown was there. He is running the Boston Marathon tomorrow, so he only did the three-miler. That was nice because Dahlia was able to ride with him. Runners in the the short race carpool to the start by getting rides with race volunteers because it is a point-to-point course. It’s actually the last three miles of the 10.5 mile race. Many of the WMAC volunteers that we saw this morning were there when Debbie ran her first Monroe in 1999.

Debbie said her goal was to run under 1 hour and 45 minutes and she met her goal, coming in just under that target. Her best time is around 1 hour and 33 minutes. It’s the third fastest female time behind Kehr Davis and Nikki Kimball. Come to think of it, Kelsey Allen has also smashed that course and could have the fastest time. I’ll have to check. Debbie set that time when she was 28 years-old. She was 24 when she ran her first Monroe and will be 47 in January. She ran 1 hour and 35 minutes in 1999, so to lose only 10 minutes in 22 years isn’t bad.

Dahlia was the first “woman” in her race (4th overall) and got a pint glass to commemorate the achievement. She said there was some “shoe sucking” mud on the course. She also said the trail along Dunbar Brook was very pretty. She had fun and was rewarded with snacks and a Coca-Cola, which isn’t her normal fare.

While they were running, I did the River Road/Zoar Gap loop on mixed surface. I first did a version of this loop with Debbie in May 2016. It includes the vicious road climb up from the dam in Monroe. The descent back towards River Rd. is on dirt and it is super-sketchy. Back when we first did it, I used an old cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes. Today, I had my Seven Evergreen XX with disc brakes. I used my 650B wheels with 42c file tread tires. It was a great ride and the foliage was awesome. The loop was about 18 miles and it took me 90 minutes. I was back in time to hang out with Dahlia and then we both saw Debbie finish.

On our way home, we stopped for a late lunch at Pulse Cafe in Hadley. It was quality time in the Berkshire and quality time spent with Little D.

1999 Race Results

2000 Race Results

2021 Race Results (will be posted when available)

2021 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross & Wickham Park Invitational

Today was my 14th Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross Race. The event dates back to 1983, but I only started racing cross in 1995, so I wasn’t at the early editions. I think the race keeps getting better. It looked like there were a record number of junior riders there today. The CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad was out in force and did great. The group included Luke Wilson, Alexandra Miller-Davey, Boden Chenail, Lars Roti, Brohm Citroen, Ethan Lezon, and Owen Lezon. Eli Skulte led the way in the kids race.

Our Masters riders were also strong. Andris Skulte did the Men’s Cat 4 race. I was in the 50+ age group along with Wade Summers and John Meyerle. We started a minute behind the 40+ group which included Brett Chenail after his recent upgrade. He is racing with the fast Masters now! Following my age group were the 60+ and we were represented by Dave Geissert, Paul Nyberg, and Keith Enderle.

Both of those guys also helped Race Director Ron Manizza with course set up. I think their input was helpful because the track was fast and flowy after some nice tweaks. I probably could have done better with a bit more climbing, a bit more sprinting, and a bit more sand running, but alas, it is what it is. It was also nice to see Coach Art Roti and Coach Laura Becker. Laura rode there from Manchester but that didn’t stop her from being the loudest spectator on the course. She cheered like mad and it was appreciated. It was also great to see Eric Wyzga, a dear friend from both the trail running community and the cyclocross community. Over the years, he and I have banged bars numerous times and I look forward to doing more singlespeed events with him as the season progresses.

I still rode a decent race though I didn’t quite fulfill my first row second spot call up. I had a good start and went into the woods in third or fourth, but eventually faded to sixth where I battled for a while. I ended up seventh and some of my technical mistakes were costly. I biffed the sand on lap one and I had to get off my bike on the steep “ride up” with two laps to go. I had a few other clunky corners, but in the end, was happy with the result.

A month ago, I was absolutely flying and riding out of my mind, even feeling “the zone” in a few races, but the past few weeks have been a struggle as I have suffered a “cycle down” period which is natural. I would like to be closer to the fastest 50 year-olds, but I’ll keep trying. Work has been a bit more rough, I haven’t slept as well, and a pesky sore ankle/foot (after twisting it) have held me back a bit.

I also rode the Vermont 50 at a fairly intense pace and that may help in the long run, but it tired me out for a week or so. Needless to say, cyclocross season is long. I just started thinking about (and planning) the national championships in Chicago in December. It seems like a long way off, but it will be here quicker than I probably realize. There is still some fun local racing to do between now and then.

After the race, I had to get out of there rather quickly. I would have loved to hang out, but Shepard and the rest of the Bolton High School Cross Country Team were running at the Wickham Park Invitational. Wickham is a magical place and I pass through nearly every day. Heck, I was there yesterday. It’s on my normal commuting route to work.

I parked about a mile from the back side of the park at the local school and then rode one of my CX bikes over the course. It was a great way to spectate and was much faster gettin around with two wheels compared with running/hobbling. Debbie was already there. She rode from home via the rail trail and East Coast Greenway which is the route I like to take.

One highlight was the BHS girls winning the small school division with Meghan Minicucci taking first with a very strong run. The rest of the girls ran well too and that bodes well as we approach championship season towards the end of the month.

The boys also did well. Silas Gourley led them in fifteenth and Shepard was twenty-fifth. He was very happy, got a trophy, and was the second fastest freshman in the small school race. He ran 18:22, his fastest 5K yet. That’s great for the demanding Wickham course, which was wet (and slow) in spots. The weather could get worse by the time they return here on 10/30, so this was good practice.

After the race, I headed to work for a few hours. It’s only a mile from the park and thanks to my nice shower at work, I didn’t have to remain dirty from all of the morning activities.

Mansfield Hollow Race Results

Wickham Park Invitational Results

2021 Winding Trails Triathlon Series

The 2021 Winding Trails Summer Triathlon Series wrapped up on Tuesday night. I know this race and venue quite well. I’ve now done the triathlon 57 times since 2009, however prior to the 2021 seriesI had only done one night of racing there since 2017. 2020 was a lost year as non-members weren’t permitted to race due to the pandemic.

My Winding Trails (WT) races tend to come in waves. When I’ve been committed to the full series, I’ve been “all in.” This year was one of those years as I completed nine of the 10 races, only missing once, the week we were on vacation in Montana. In addition to the triathlons, I’ve done many other races at the venue including cyclocross races, adventure races, and mountain biking races. Debbie and I even hosted our Jack & Jill there 20 years ago this summer, so the place holds a special place in my heart.

The race is now a family affair. Debbie repeated her series win from 2019 by completing eight of the 10 races. She missed the week we were in Montana and one other. Shepard did six races squeezed in around camp and our family travel. He is getting stronger and stronger and I would imagine that in the next few years, he will be beating me without too much effort. Dahlia has been a loyal cheerleader, coming along to enjoy the wonderful facility that Winding Trails is.

The racing is fun, but the community is the real reason why we love WT so much. The Schulz Family (Ken, Aubrey, Kai, and Rayna) are dear friends we met years ago through WT. We were racing with Ken and Aubrey before they had kids and now when the eight of us are together, we enjoy WT even more. Most weeks, after the race, we tailgate in the parking lot or under the pavilion. I can’t recall which kid coined the term “Grand Feast” but that is how we refer to our post-race meal. It’s become a tradition and we missed it in 2020. By the end of 10 weeks, I’m usually tired of the racing, but I’ll never tire of the Grand Feast.

I had a strong series, finishing 2nd overall to Mick Hains. He is also a defending champ, and at 23 years-old, could be my kid. However, he isn’t my kid, but rather my “rival.” I was only “close” one week and that was because he was playing with me. When he decided to pull away on the run, he did it on command. He and I have a fun connection as we both attended Boston College. He ran track and cross-country at BC. He graduated in May 2021…and I graduated in May 1995. That tells the story.

I’ve got stats on most of my 1,200+ career races and the Winding Trails info makes up a rich dataset. I’ve been able to see over a 13 year period how my performance has evolved related to my age, training, stress level, and other factors. The course has changed several times, but I’ve been able to extrapolate and adjust for those changes.

The current course is about .9 shorter than the course was in past years and my times are consistent, which means I have gotten a bit slower, but that is to be expected as I approach my 49th birthday this fall. This year, when you eliminate week five when the race was run as a duathlon due to a thunderstorm, my range of finishes was within 2 minutes and 05 seconds. However, when you eliminate this week’s race (race 10), my worst one due to fatigue following last weekend’s REV 3 New England “half iron-distance triathlon” then that range from fastest to slowest was only 1 minute and 17 seconds.

That’s pretty good considering that these are training races and I don’t do any special preparation or resting in advance of them. Some Tuesday’s at work were long and hard. Some Tuesday commutes to WT had horrible traffic on I-84 and Route 4. The conditions for a great race aren’t optimal when you are rushing to get there for a 6:15 P.M. start. This year we had a lot of bad weather. There were multiple nights with oppressive heat and humidity and we competed in the rain at least five times. Typically, my only warmup is riding my bike the 1/4 mile to the transition area and then jogging the 1/4 mile to the waterfront. None of that is optimal, but I’m used to the rhythm.

Getting whooped by Mick was assumed and the two weeks that he was on vacation visiting his girlfriend in Colorado were a gift as I won both races, harkening back to the years when I was legitimately battling for the top spot at this race. My other main rival was fellow master athlete John Hirsch. John and I are evenly matched when it comes to overall time, but we rarely see each other during the race. We sort of do our own race and occasionally one of us will pass the other. He had a bad mechanical one week, and missed a turn another week. Without those mishaps, our points would have been even tighter. Given our differing strengths, we weren’t really going head to head.

He is routinely the fastest swimmer and I’m terribly slow in the water, so, I am always at a deficit heading into T1. Most weeks, I had the fastest bike leg, so I would claw back time on him and Mick. Normally I would pass everyone but Mick. A few weeks John was able to stay in front. Then, I would just try to hang on for the run. My run times are trending slower by about a minute, which is disheartening and I haven’t put my finger on the problem, other than age and fatigue.

If I’m in front of John, I can usually outrun him, but there are some other young guns who smoked the run on various nights. This week’s race was an anomaly for me with a finish outside of the top three, but I had already solidified my 2nd place overall, so when I started to get passed after the bike, I had to check my ego and just get to the finish. After the trip to Montana, some extra intensity at work, and REV 3, I was toast headed into week 10. My fitness had waned considerably.

I’m taking a forced “break” over the next few weeks as I use some active rest to transition to cyclocross season which is a primary objective for 2021 as my racing age will be 50+ for the first time. That’s a big deal as I’ll be the youngest in my age group. It has given me renewed motivation to compete hard for some results. The good thing about WT is that the 49 to 51 minute race is nearly identical to a masters cyclocross race and the intensity (measured by average heart rate) is comparable. WT is great training for cyclocross season.

So, the final overall podium was Mick followed by me and then John. On the women’s side, Debbie was first, followed by Darcy Foley in second and Laura Stanley in third. There were some strong age group finishes as well, but you will have to consult the results to see who took honors.

The Winding Trails staff and volunteers do a fantastic job. This year, they were challenged with the Covid-19 related stuff and the wild weather. Our family appreciates the work they do to put this on. I think this was the 17th year for the series. They have some nice sponsors and I came to appreciate the bucket of ice-cold beer (including my preferred non-alcoholic brand) that Trek Newington brought each week. The timing guys do a great job and the results are always prompt. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the event.

Following the storms, we had some great sunsets and that is the memory I’ll hold on to as I contemplate 2022. There is no rush to decide if we compete again, but odds are we will be there for at least part of the series. After all, the Grand Feast tradition must continue.

Race Results (Full Season Search)

Race Results (Series Standings)

Past Year’s Winding Trails Posts

Coda: I’ve got one revision to the original post. I recalled that I do have one “criticism” of the race series. The bike leg is too short! Yep, I nearly forgot to mention it, but it is advertised as “5 miles” but it is barely 4.2. In past years, it was longer. I know that I’m a bad swimmer and that a longer bike and run (especially bike) would help me, but that isn’t the reason for requesting a course change. A “proper” triathlon should NOT have a bike leg that is shorter (in time) than the run. I’m curious what others think. I’m not advocating for a 10 mile loop, but I would settle for 5.5. It should be longer. It should push my average overall time to 55 minutes. That would be fair. Plus I might have a better shot of winning!

REV 3 New England

Yesterday’s REV 3 New England was my first “half iron-distance” triathlon since REV 3 Quassy in 2013. I did a fair number of “half’s” in the 2009-2013 timeframe, which was also the era when I did four full IRONMAN races. I’ve done other ultra-distance endurance events since 2013, including multisport races, but this was my first “true” 70.3 distance event (1.2 miles swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run) in a while.

What’s even more remarkable than my comeback is that this was Debbie’s first long distance triathlon ever. Her triathlon history consists of sprint events only, and most of those off-road. The XTERRA French River event in 2006 may have been her longest prior triathlon. Her only road triathlon in the past 22 years was the Lake Terramuggus Sprint (training race),and that was only two weeks ago.

Of course, going long isn’t a problem for her considering her adventure racing and trail running exploits. However, I think the uniqueness of a pure triathlon, the intensity, and this distance is what made her finish noteworthy. She and I are very proud of her accomplishment, and that was the highlight of the day for me.

The main reason for doing this race was to establish a qualifier for the SOS Triathlon (New Paltz edition) which I am planning to return to after finishing in 2012 and 2013, and which she wants to do for the first time. SOS is a story unto itself and I’ll save it, but I linked to my prior posts. On top of that, this was the 2020 REV 3 New England…but in 2021…sort of like the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo last week. We planned to do SOS last year, but with the Covid-19 pandemic, the race was cancelled. Then we planned to do the race this year (next month), but again have postponed entry, this time to 2022. REV 3 remained on the schedule and since Memorial Beach (start/finish) in Webster, Massachusetts is only an hour away, we stuck with it.

Our training and preparation was not optimal. We sort of “got it done.” The day after the race, I’m admitting that approach wasn’t ideal and is more suited to a 29 year-old than a 49 year-old. I paid the price for my lackadaisical planning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fit, and I put in a 100% effort, but there was no specific preparation leading up to this race. I still had fun.

Both of us have gotten fit over the course of the summer by commuting to work, racing the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series (seven Tuesday night’s since early June for Debbie, and eight for me), and mixing in a few other events including the aforementioned Lake T. Last week we had a family trip to Montana and squeezed in a failed FKT attempt (trail running) up and down Saddleback Mountain, but that did more damage to my legs than good. She wasn’t impacted by the attempt but the five mile descent of that 9,000+ foot mountain trashed my quadriceps.

We both battled colds before and during the trip as illness made its way through our family. Again, if I was 29, I would have bounced back from a little adversity, but lately I’ve been feeling my “age” as it relates to sports. I draw inspiration from friends like Janit Romayko, who are racing triathlons in their late-70’s which is very much a goal of mine, and they would be the first to admit that you have to adjust your expectations. Even still, I want to push hard and can’t help comparing my times with the the 2010 era when I could laid down a 4:37 at Timberman 70.3.

Now, I wasn’t expecting to break 4:40, but I would have loved to break 4:50 and would have settled for breaking 5:00 hours, which I’ve done nearly every time regardless of the course and conditions. As for yesterday’s conditions, it was mild and muggy early in the morning and then warm and muggy by mid-day. I finished in 5:10:19 and know exactly where 15 minutes were lost. Alas, there is no getting that time back now.

Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg was calm and fun to swim in. You read that Native American name correctly. Some folks call it Lake Webster or use the shorter name Lake Chaubunagungamaug, but either way, it’s iconic and lovely. The lake is just north of the Connecticut border. That part of our state is called the “Quiet Corner” and it is fantastic, especially for cycling.

The bike course was a tri-state loop (done twice) that went clockwise through Douglas State Forest in Massachusetts, across the Rhode Island border, up the flank of Badger Mountain and near the top of Buck Hill. These are Rhode Island mountains…not Montana mountains. From there, the course headed west into Connecticut, then north into Thompson, where it veered onto the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The first big loop of the course included two laps of the speedway track, which was fun and unique. I’m familiar with the track (and turns) from racing KMC CrossFest on a few occasions. From Thompson, the course headed north back across the Massachusetts border into Webster.

Without the speedway laps, the loop was about 26 miles. Last month, on a Sunday afternoon, Debbie and I were joined by our son Shepard for a preview ride, so we were familiar with the roads. The asphalt surface was in decent shape. There were a lot of cracks and small holes, but nothing too treacherous. Since we did the practice lap, the roads were swept, which was nice to see. There were a handful of tight turns, which made for some fun riding. The course was moderately hilly, which means there were challenging uphills and fast downhills. I was able to stay in my aero tuck for most of the descents, but I opted to go into my cowhorn bars and feather my brakes for the steepest downhills and tightest turns. I liked the route and I didn’t mind the double lap because it gave me a chance to improve my lines and pacing on the second time around.

The run course was interesting. In the pre-race (virtual) meeting, we were warned that it would be different. It stayed close to the lake and had multiple out-and-back sections in the neighborhoods bordering the lake. Like the bike loop, it included a few sections of busy Route 16 which parallels the even busier Interstate 395. There was good police and volunteer coverage on the main road, but you had to be cautiously aware of the traffic on both the ride and the run.

The out-and-backs were tolerable, but by the last half of the second “loop,” I had enough of the run course and wanted to finish ASAP. Thankfully, there was only one set of cones to run around. The other out-and-backs, which we did five times in total, had lollipops which didn’t kill your momentum as much as that cone section did. As I said, it was tolerable. One highlight was seeing the other 138 or so “half” finishers, the 112 or so “Olympic” finishers, and a dozen or so relay finishers. I even think a dozen folks did the Aquabike. It’s worth noting that on Saturday, another 110+ folks did the Sprint version of this race. All in all, more than 350 people competed at REV 3 New England, which is probably less than hoped for, but being a first time race that was postponed a year due to a pandemic, it’s better than nothing.

I’ll give credit to the organizers and volunteers for being cheerful, inventive, and supportive. Events like this are complicated whenever you promote them. Open road bike courses of any distance are harder and harder to come by. A 26 mile loop with a diversion onto a race track for extra mileage is a treat, especially when it is in the middle of a race. Aside from a few sketchy moments on Rt. 16, the course was safe (in my opinion). My only complaint is that with the two bike loops on the speedway and the multiple out and backs on the run, it would have been easy to cheat or “inadvertently” miss a section of the course. Now, I never expect this of a competitor, but race organizers and officials (I didn’t see anyone from USAT) have the responsibility with fair sport to ensure that everyone completes the course. I know that there were people that missed or skipped sections of the course. I just hope they weren’t in front of me. Additional timing mats would help, but then someone has to review the results and scour it for discrepancies. Luckily, this was not a huge race (participant wise) as it could have been chaos out there. It was already confusing. I made one short wrong turn on the bike when a volunteer was waving a flag but I couldn’t tell which direction she was pointing. There was a pink arrow on the ground pointing right, but I didn’t notice it was for the run. I studied the course closely and visualized it in my mind repeatedly and that was my one small error. I hope others put as much effort into completing the course.

Part of Debbie and my sub-optimal preparation was getting up at 4:10 A.M. to drive out to the course so we could get our race packets, bib numbers, body marking, and transition logistics sorted out by the 7:00 A.M. wave start. Seeding was a self-selection and the race timing relied on our ankle chips. I worked every day since returning from Montana, including Saturday, the day before the race. We got help with childcare as Shepard had to catch a bus to camp around the time we were finishing loop one of the bike ride. Dahlia participated in the Coventry Farmer’s Market “Kids’ Market” so Mrs. Schieffer pitched in to supervise that activity. All of this was complicated by the postponement from 2020, but even if we had the race a year ago, we would have had family logistics to deal with. That’s life.

The swim was straightforward aside from a nasty left calf cramp with about 200 yards to go (out of 2,000). That sucked and I still have a golf ball sized knot to work out. That dogged me for the subsequent ride and run. As for “training,” last week, in Glacier National Park, I swam across Lake McDonald and back. That was about 4,000 yards and was my longest swim in years. I guess you can call that preparation. The weekly swim at Winding Trails is about 300 yards, so if you do it seven times, it will add up to a half IRONMAN type swim. Anyway, we haven’t been swimming much and it showed. We were both slow. It was my slowest ever swim of this distance and truthfully, it wasn’t all that bad…aside from that painful cramp.

The bike is usually my strength, and given the hilly nature of this course, I was satisfied with the result. I’m sure the left leg pain limited my potential but this wasn’t my slowest ride of this distance. I lost the one gel I was carrying and the only other calories I had were in a 24 ounce water bottle of Skratch electrolyte drink. That proved to be a bad mistake as I was under-nourished and ended up bonking with about 10 miles to go. I hung on gamely, but it hurt and I was depleted going into the run.

For most of the ride, I was on my own. Once I passed a bunch of folks in the first half of the first lap, there were huge gaps until I started catching riders from the Olympic distance race that started an hour later. Thankfully, I had one contestant to battle with for a good chunk of the race. The eventual female winner was Allison Gadaleta from Brooklyn, New York. On the bike we were evenly matched. She caught up to me on the Buck Hill climb the second time around and we kept each other in sight, while swapping positions a few times. After the series of climbs before and after Buck Hill, I was able to blast the descents, but she clawed her way back up to me as we approached the speedway for the second time. Then it was her turn to put the pressure on me, which was also around the time that I was fading. I should have stopped at an aid station for some energy food, but I wanted to keep her in view, so I pressed on.

She dropped me hard on the climb past the speedway and then put further distance into me on Rt. 16 so by the time we got back to T2 (transition to run), she had a good gap and I couldn’t see her any more. I had to dig deep on the long stretch of road that led back to Webster and I was hurting.

I’ve never been more happy to eat gel, which is actually a rare thing for me. I avoid them, but thankfully, I left a few in transition “just in case.” As I started the run, I stuffed a flask of UnTapped Mapleaid in my pocket. Considering that I was low on fuel throughout the bike, this wasn’t enough for the run either, but it’s what I had. I described the run course with the exception of the first mile, which was mostly on trail with some undulating sections. This was not part of the plan and wasn’t on the race map or .gpx file. I had the courses loaded on my Garmin Fenix, but using them for navigation would have been a waste of time. We learned after that for “safety reasons” the section of course going in and out of Memorial Beach was changed to include the woods and fields along the lake. It was my favorite section and I would have gladly done another 12 miles on trail, but it would have made for an even slower half marathon.

Somewhere around the three mile mark, I spotted Allison, and reeled her in. She kept pace, which was motivational, and then I put some distance into her. With all of the out and backs, I saw her several more times, which was fun. I cheered for her knowing it would bring good vibes to me. I had five pretty good miles and then I slowed dramatically. After that, I basically fell apart, aside from a small rally in the last two miles when I could “smell the barn.”

I went out at an enthusiast pace in the mid-7 minute mile range, but stunk it up after that as my legs refused to move any quicker. I could also chalk up the issues to my poor nutrition plan as my energy flagged. With about four miles to go, I slowed but didn’t walk, and decided to totally stop at an aid station. Looking back, mile 9 was terrible. Strava says it was 9:24, a full 50 seconds slower than mile 8. I cracked. I needed more fluids than I was getting by running through the stations. So, I stopped and drank five cups of water. I poured three more over my head, and then chased it all with two cups of Coke. I never drink soda, so if it comes down to that tactic, I’m toast. I was overheating as the day warmed, I was low on energy, and I needed a sugar/caffeine boost to get my to the finish. This is not my preferred approach, but it was better than being forced to walk. It worked. I banged out a few more miles below the 9 minute barrier, which is nothing special, but I reversed my slowing trend. At mile 11, I repeated the entire sequence, pausing for a minute to take in copious amounts of water and Coke with the goal of kickstarting my push to the line. That also worked as I was able to speed up marginally. Only a few people passed me in that bit, so in the end, I held it together, but not without a lot of suffering.

Stopping to regroup on both occasions turned out to be a good approach. It was a coincidence, but my race number was 49, which is also my racing age. I’m the “old guy” in my age group now and look forward to joining 50+ for the first time in 2022. I have no desire to do another “half” and certainly not a “full.” My last IRONMAN was also back in 2013 and I’m pretty much done with that. Back in 2010, I told my son that we would do one together when he was 20, which you can translate as “some day.” The good news (for me) is that is at least five years away.

SOS will be an adventure, assuming we do it in 2022. Debbie now has her qualifier. She had no real expectations and came close to breaking six hours. That’s awesome, especially because she was riding a gravel bike with traditional drop bars. She has almost zero long distance swimming experience and has done almost no training in the water other than the weekly Winding Trails Series. She rides a little, but not nearly as much as me. Of course, her strength is running, and it showed, as she was just getting warmed up around the five hour mark. She finished strongly.

With this crazy run course, I was able to see her twice. She was on her first loop when I was finishing up. I was excited to intercept her and we cheered for each other. When I finished, I was knackered. I sat in a folding chair, for what seemed like an eternity. Allison finished a few minutes after me. I got to watch her “break the tape” and I congratulated her. A volunteer gave me a couple of bottles of ice-cold water. I drank half and poured the other half on my head. Eventually, I made my way back to the lake, took a dip, washed off, and changed into some drier clothes. I rode my bike back onto the course hoping to see Debbie, but I mis-timed it and we didn’t connect. She ended up behind me and finished before I spotted her. I made my way back to the line and she was already done. I was a bit dazed.

After the race, there was no awards ceremony and the expo area was small. There were some post-race snacks, an awards table, and some people hanging out. I did score third in my age group (and 10th overall), which landed me a commemorative towel. I would have preferred $10,000 but thankfully I don’t do this for a living and the towel is nice. I mostly compete against myself, hence the reference to 70.3 race times from 13 years ago. I’m intent on defying the aging athlete process, but realize that the fact that I can do what I do is an achievement worth honoring.

Debbie and I chatted with some friends before packing up and heading home. So, REV 3 New England wasn’t an “A race” for us, but it was definitely a “B” or “B+.” We are both glad we competed and it got Debbie the qualifier she needed while giving her experience with a longer open water swim with race conditions.

My cramped left leg is still stiff as a board. My back, neck, and shoulders are also tight from riding in an aero tuck for 56 miles. I guess it could be worse. I have to pull it together because the finale of the Winding Trails Series is tomorrow night and I have to hold on to my position in the rankings. You can call this REV 3 race a success, but with an asterix, or two.

Race Results

2021 Bighorn Trail Run

I officially declare that big time trail running events are back. It was the big time last weekend at the Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run in Dayton, Wyoming. By my count, more than 1,100 runners started one of the four events, which makes this a large race. It looks like there were 174 finishers in the marquis 100 mile distance, out of about 274 starters. There were 101 finishers in the 52 miler, 231 finishers in the 32 miler, and 357 finishers in the 18 milers.

This was Debbie’s first 100 since the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run in August 2017. That was the same year that she ran the Hardrock Endurance Run. 2017 was a big year for her running exploits. Those two races were the toppers, but she also ran Traprock 50K, Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, several shorter races, and some non-race mountain adventures. In 2018, she ran six ultras including Vermont 100K and Ultra-Trail Hurricana (125K) but no hundreds. In 2019, she repeated Traprock 50K and Manitou’s Revenge, and then ran Never Summer 100K for the first time.

She was supposed to run Bighorn in 2020, but everyone reading this should know that the race was cancelled. Some ultras were held last year, but she only did one. That was the Blue2Blue Ultra, a rugged 50K. In addition to that race, she put all of her endurance sports energy into FKT’s, which was a welcome diversion. I joined her on many of these adventures. There were several notable ones, but our New England Trail Adventure was the toughest and best. So, she has certainly been active, but she hadn’t attempted a 100. In the end, Bighorn became her 11th one attempted and 9th one finished.

In her build up to this big 2021 event, once again, she ran Traprock 50K. She followed that with 71 miles at Run Ragged three weeks prior to Bighorn. In addition to these races, her preparation included some solid training in the first half of 2021 including several more FKT’s. There were even some shorter events as things started to open up.

Speaking of “opening up,” prior to our Wyoming trip, our last flight was in February 2020 when we took a trip to Utah with the kids. From the time that we returned from that trip, it’s been a wild ride for us and most everyone in the world. So, as we approached June of this year, we were excited to do something both difficult and fun with a group of people.

The Bighorn website is a great resource. Check it out for the race’s mission, the history, the sponsors, and specific details about the course. However, this summary is worth sharing as an introduction to this year’s race: 

The Bighorn Mountain Trail 100 is an epic mountain endurance adventure crossing through Little Bighorn and Tongue River areas of the Bighorn National Forest. Participants have 34 hours to navigate this remote, technical out-and-back course (average 2.94 mph). Mother Nature provides over 20,500 feet of ascent and 20,750 feet of descent testing the most seasoned ultra-runners with 76 miles of technical single-track trail, 16 miles of rugged 2-track jeep trail road, and 8 miles of gravel road. The Bighorn 100 is one of the classics, demanding you to reach deep down to your core of mental and physical fortitude.

 
Our event is truly remote. Stretches of 18-mile technical trail will serve as your only way in and out of the backcountry. Have no fear; we have a family of trail crew volunteers that are crazier than you. They’ve been on the trail for weeks leading up to this event preparing the trails for the adversity you are about to experience. 

On Thursday we did a short run on the outskirts of town and got a look at the bigger mountains where we were headed for the race. Thursday also included a welcome reception at a local coffee shop, race registration, and a pre-race meeting. Sheridan also hosted its first Thursday night street festival and farmers’ market. 

On Friday morning we drove to Dayton for the start of the race. Runners and spectators took school buses from the finish line at Scott Bicentennial Park to the start four miles away. The course is an out (48 miles) and back (52 miles). 

Bighorn is a very difficult race to crew. We were warned about the challenges. I ended up driving about 450 miles while Debbie ran 100 miles. With the mountainous terrain and road layout, you had to drive back to Dayton when going from aid station to aid station. This is an odd quirk of the race, but that’s how it goes.

In addition to the start and finish, you can only get to three aid stations and see your runner up to five times. For the average runner, this means there are large gaps between seeing their crews. Debbie didn’t use any drop bags as she counted on me making it to the aid stations and opted to be self-sufficient in between. 

I made it to these aid stations:

Mile 13.5, Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station: early in the race, I saw Debbie at this lovely spot around noon. It was a lively gathering and I got to see a lot of runners come in.

Mile 30, Sally’s Footbridge Aid Station: I actually didn’t see her. I missed her at this one because I got there 10 minutes after she departed a little after 3:00 P.M. I was too slow to leave Dry Fork, I stopped to take pictures of a moose, I stopped to post on social media (where I had a good signal), and I made a wrong turn. Those factors cause me to blow it and miss her. That was a bad mistake that should never have happened. I was warned making it there was hard, but I made it even harder with my errors. It had taken me nearly three hours to drive there. This aid station had the worst roads with the last 2.5 miles extremely rough. That section included three shallow creek crossings (no bridges).

Mile 48, Jaws Trailhead Aid Station: this was the high point on the course (8,800 feet) and the turn around. It was also the start of the 52 miler on Saturday. I saw saw more moose on the drive. I waited quite a while for her to arrive a little before 9:00 P.M. I enjoyed the photography here and had great light in the golden hour. When Debbie arrived, she was hurting. She took about 20 minutes to recover in the aid tent. I helped her by refilling her pack, rubbing her legs, and getting her food. She tried to take an amino acid capsule, but it caused her to vomit all of her food. That kind of sucked and she was at a low point. She rallied, got moving, and I ran with her for 1/2 mile or so until the trail went back into the woods.

Mile 66, Sally’s Footbridge Aid Station: she didn’t want me to return to Footbridge, but I wanted to go. Since darkness had fallen, it took her a while to cover the 18 miles even though it was all downhill. I decided to park the car a few miles from the aid station and run the last bit to avoid any risk with the rough roads. I couldn’t afford to get stuck or get a flat. I ran it almost as fast as I could drive it. I didn’t carry any of her gear, but I packed some energy food in case she wanted any.

She planned to rely on the aid station and wasn’t expecting me anyway. Thankfully, I packed gloves, a hat, and a warm jacket. It was freezing as I was there for several hours between midnight and 3:15 A.M. when she arrived, she was in decent spirits and was happy to see me. I had spent several hours trying to stay warm by a fire. The temperature had dipped to the low 40’s Fahrenheit. That made a 35+ degree swing from the afternoon highs. That can make for challenging running conditions. I saw a skunk on the drive.

Mile 82, Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station: I returned to Dry Fork and also waited for several hours for her to arrive around 9:15 A.M. I saw a spectacular sunrise on the drive back up the mountain and then another moose on the way back down. Her quadriceps were sore after a wicked climb that lasted a long time, but she was lively, and motivated to finish. I helped her freshen up, change her socks, and change up her pack.

Throughout the race, she used her UltrAspire Zygos and her UltraSpire Spry. She used her UltrAspire lights on her waist and head. She used Altra Olympus shoes with both Injinji and Darn Tough socks. She wore a Patagonia Capilene shirt and running shorts. For part of the race she used XO Skin calf sleeves. She alternated between her Patagonia hat and a Buff. Her jacket was a Patagonia Houdini, her sunglasses from Julbo, and her poles from Black Diamond. She tracked the race with her Garmin Fenix 6s. Her only “sponsor” is UltrAspire (we have a fondness for the company and more importantly the people behind it/associated with it), but its always worth mentioning the other gear when it works well.

All of the dirt roads were rough and very dusty. They were so rough that my rearview mirror kept falling off of the windshield. I had to stop several times to reattach it. It would hold for a while and then fall off again. I’m glad I was driving a rental (Nissan Rogue). Dust was a challenge for the runners too as it made for poor air quality. They were covered head to toe in dust and were forced to breathe it in.

We didn’t know too many people at the race, but met some new friends. One old friend who was there was Bogie Dumitrescu. Debbie and Bogie got to run many miles together and he had a strong run in preparation for Hardrock next month. Bogie is an accomplished ultra runner. He has one Hardrock finish from 2015 and it was epic.  Several years ago, Bogie was in Connecticut, so he came to visit us.

I can’t recall if he came for a race, but he took the bus to Hartford. He felt bad about calling for a ride from the station (we didn’t know this), so he walked the 14 miles to Bolton. I was running an errand while we were waiting for him to arrive and drove by him a few miles from my house. He had a backpack and was walking on the side of the road. I took a double take as I went past and then told my son who was in the back seat that we had just gone by Bogie. We turned back and sure enough, it was him. We loaded him in the car and took him the rest of the way home.

So, it was great to see Bogie at Bighorn. We last crossed paths at Never Summer in 2019.

After Debbie left Dry Fork for the second time, I drove back to Dayton for the 8th time in 24 hours. That’s crazy. The parking lot at Bicentennial Park was full, so I left the car at the post office. I’ve used that technique many times over the years. It’s federal property and my thinking is they won’t tow you or bother you. This was even used to great effect during Spring Break 1994 when I drove from Boston to Key West and had nowhere to stay. We just “camped” at the post office.

Anyway, I parked the car, donned a pack full of water, and ran backwards on the course until I ran into Debbie. This allowed me to see lots of finishers. By this point around mid-day on Saturday, the 50K and 18 milers were mixed in with the 100 mile finishers. This made for an interesting and joyous combination with an eclectic mix of runners. It was blazing hot again and the five miles of dirt road leading back into Tongue River Canyon was a harsh surface to run.

The whole race has incredible views and the canyon is no exception. On my hour-long run towards Debbie, I passed all of the leading women. When I reached her, I had just passed the 5th place women and knew that Debbie would be able to run her down. She was already pushing hard by the time I reached her and it didn’t take much to get her to pick the pace up even more. That last section of trail along the river was very rocky and steep (downhill headed towards the finish).

We hooked up and I paced her the final five and half miles back to the finish. She was really strong on the dirt road. It was mostly flat, but there were a few ups and she had to walk a little. Even with that, she averaged a 10 minute mile, which is fantastic after 95 miles.

The sun was beating down and she picked up some ice at the last aid station with two miles to go. She savored the final stretch and was excited to enter the park. The finish line was at the back of the park along the river. She crossed to loud cheers and within minutes, was soaking her legs in the cool creek.

I fetched our stuff from the car, we rinsed off in the water, and we lounged all afternoon in the park as other finishers arrived. It was an awesome party and the biggest and best event we had attended since the pandemic started. That’s why I said this was a big time race.

There were some amazing performances. In recent years, wet weather and slippery trails slowed some runners, but this year’s event was dry. The heat was a factor and the altitude is always a factor, but generally folks ran fast. The top three men were Tyler Fox, David Ayala, and Seth Wealing. The top three women were Maria Sylte, Sarah Riordan, and Kristina Pattison. They had a great battle. With 18 miles to go, the top two were together and third was less than 15 minutes behind. At the finish, the three of them were all within 23 minutes and it was Maria who came out on top. In addition to the overall women and men, there were many age group athletes who had fantastic runs.

This race has some amazing volunteers. It’s rare that I criticize anything at an ultra of this magnitude because we have so much appreciation for the effort it takes to produce and event like this. Also, the trail running community is caring and supportive so the odds of having an issue are low. There was nothing of the sort as this was a true community race with support from many local sponsors. With such a long history, Bighorn is part of the fabric of Wyoming. Even the wait staff at our hotel were wearing Bighorn t-shirts. All of the interactions were thoughtfully scheduled. If you love trail running and appreciate stunning beauty, this is a race to attend. You have the shorter mileage options, or you can go for the 100.

Debbie was pleased with her race. She finished in 27 hours and 54 minutes. She put 11 minutes into the woman competitor who she passed with five miles to go, and finished 6th overall (2nd in the 40+ age group).

We lingered at the park late into the afternoon before driving back to Dayton where we rented a hotel room for the night. On Sunday morning, we returned to Dayton to a local coffee shop for breakfast and to mingle with some other (sore) runners. That was our final Bighorn event and it was a fitting end to a fantastic event.

Race Results

Race Photos (Mile 90 Photography)

Race Photos (my SmugMug Gallery)


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Helping out our neighbors: the kids are playing “farmer” this weekend. 🐓 🐐
Pumped to be back at the @newenglandairmuseum for Women Take Flight 2022. I brought Little D to help!
Little D says my artistic ability is lacking and that I’m better at business and cycling. Even still, we had a great afternoon @thefirestonect and then at the library. Florence was lovely company at our cafe table. The librarian pointed out a book option and then I reminded all within earshot that you can’t judge a book by its cover! #art #painting
Well that was pretty incredible. Congrats to @trailrunningmom Congrats to ALL the participants whether they finished or not. Mahalo to ALL of the volunteers. More will be written about this ohana when we get home.
@trailrunningmom was holding steady as she departed Nu’uanu for the last time at 92.5 miles. Shepard is having fun but it’s all business now. There is a pitched battle for second place and if they keep pushing, it’s a threat to Debbie’s lead. I’m doing the mental math and she has to keep pushing too. Anna and Mele left the aid station together and are throwing down.
I said I would only post two more times, but I’m posting three. A big shout out to fellow New Englander, our “adopted” runner and Hawaii “housemate” Tim Glickman. I’m pulling for him to persevere. He came through lap four at Nu’uanu at 72.5 miles and was hurting but we agreed he would NOT quit. They will have to make him stop. I told him to just keep moving forward.
We made it to Paradise Park Aid Station (Manoa) just in time to catch @trailrunningmom at mile 87 (or so). Shepard is on pacing duty now and he decided to go from here rather than Nu’uanu. That’s cool. She is up to 7th overall which is also pretty cool. She hasn’t faltered yet and we don’t expect her to. I’ll post after Nu’uanu and then at the finish…and then I’m done!
@trailrunningmom is on the final lap (five) now and back on her own. This images are from our overnight “date.” We ran to Manoa and then to Nu’uanu and then back to the Nature Center. She is hanging tough, just like the sign says. I’ll meet back up with the kids and track down their Mom again soon.
It’s been seven hours since the last report. I joined @trailrunningmom for lap four/the graveyard shift. This sequence includes her return to the Nature Center after lap three and then our trek to Manoa. She is running so well on this gnarly course.

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