Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Vermont Six Gaps Ride

Yesterday’s Six Gaps ride in Vermont fulfilled a goal I’ve had for several years. This 132 mile loop with 11,600 feet of elevation ascending has been a bucket list for a long time. I’m no stranger to riding in Vermont, but I never had the right window of opportunity to bang this one out.

My Top 10 Six Gap Ride Highlights:

  1. Preparation
  2. Friends Make the Difference
  3. The Six Gaps
  4. Pavement is Faster than Dirt
  5. It was Hot
  6. Equipment Choices Matter
  7. Vermont is Beautiful
  8. The Long Trail
  9. It Isn’t Just the Legs that Hurt
  10. Solo Adventures are Special

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1) Preparation

In planning the ride over the past few years, this link was the main source of my information: Six Gaps of Vermont – Northeast Cycling Don’t click it now. The website is down. OK, try it. Is it up or down? Well, last week, and for years before that, it was up, complete with maps, cue sheets, and reports. Early in the week, I double checked a few details and confirmed the route I was going to take. I was glad that I had checked out the site because there was a fresh post about new road work on seven miles of pavement through Middlebury Gap. I wanted to have a quick reference of the route to share with a few friends who had inquired about my weekend plans, so I pulled the site up on my iPhone. I snapped a fortuitous screen shot. Then, Thursday night, I returned to print more maps and re-read some of the key posts. The website was down and the URL was redirecting to an advertisement site. I can’t believe that this happened two days before my ride, but apparently, the force behind the www.northeastcycling.com website didn’t pay their GoDaddy bill.

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2) Friends Make the Difference

The window of opportunity to get this ride done appeared 10 days ago. I had a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, and then needed to get to the Sterling Machine plant in Lynn, Massachusetts. For several months, I’ve been needing to connect with Marilyn Ruseckas, who lives in Vermont. I had to pick up a beautiful oil painting that she made. It is going to hang outside my office at Horst Engineering’s Burnham Street plant. I’ve been holding that spot on a blank white wall since we expanded to that plant in 2015. Her studio is in Warren, right in the middle of the Six Gaps loop. Once Debbie was on board with the plan, I made the call to Marilyn.

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She and her husband, Adam Whitney, are long time friends from the New England cycling community and I’ve been to her house/studio/workshop a few times. They offered their spare bedroom to me, so the plan was locked in. I got home from Atlanta early Thursday morning and spent the day working in Connecticut. On Friday I left home for Lynn at 5:30 A.M. and beat the traffic. I spent the whole day at the plant, departing after 4:00 P.M. The trip to Warren took 4.5 hours thanks to afternoon traffic in southern New Hampshire, but as I got closer to the Green Mountains, I felt more and more excited about the pending adventure. Travel to Atlanta, travel to Lynn, and then a Saturday morning ride “squeezed in” wasn’t ideal, but that was the opening I had. At the Ruseckas/Whitney household, I ate the rest of their dinner vegetables and finished their bottle of red wine. We loaded the painting in my car, and chatted some more before bed. It was so nice to not have to sleep in my car, which was the alternative plan. Adam and Marilyn fed me in the morning, I checked out Adam’s sprint car (we have a long history of precision machining race car parts for motorsports customers). I lingered longer than I probably should have, but they have a great spot.

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3) The Six Gaps

I took what appears to be the most popular route for the Six Gaps, and it matched the map on Northeast Cycling site. I drove south on 100 and parked in the center of Rochester. I started the ride there and went clockwise. All six of the mountain passes top out at more than 2,000 feet of elevation, and each climbs more than 1,000 feet.

Brandon Gap

It’s good to warm up with Brandon. The entire climb is paved, and it is a mild ascent. I’ve done this climb many times. Some of those rides were from the other direction, during the Killington Stage Race, which was a Labor Day Weekend tradition in the old days. I did the race in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, and 2000. It was always one of my favorite events. In recent years, the race was reduced from five stages to three, and moved to Memorial Day Weekend. Coincidently, the race is happening as I type. I saw signs on the road announcing the event.

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Middlebury Gap

This is another road that I’ve ridden before. At least one of those times was during the Mad River Road Race, which eventually became part of the Green Mountain State Race, which took Killington’s spot on the race calendar, and is now held on Labor Day Weekend. I stopped at a country store before the real climbing started. I topped off my bottles, but didn’t stay long. The lowlight of this gap was the dirt road descent. “Dirt road” is not that accurate. It isn’t one of the regular dirt roads. It was dirt because in the past two weeks, they ripped up all the pavement and have yet to replace it. I knew about this road work and there were signs at the base of the climb warning “cycles” to stay away. I was prepared, but that didn’t make it any easier. The road was very wet from the lack of drainage, and it was no fun to get covered in mud two hours in to a 10 hour ride. The road was rough with loose rocks, so I had to manage my speed on the descent.

Granville Gulf

The gulf isn’t an official gap, but it also isn’t flat. This section of route 100 connected the lower loop with the upper loop. I might have pushed it too hard on this section because I was a little overcooked when I got to the base of Lincoln Gap.

Lincoln Gap

This was ugly. I got to the bottom of Lincoln at about the 60 mile mark and my legs were feeling it. I hit a low spot at the worst time. Lincoln Gap Road is one of the steepest in New England with a one mile stretch that averages nearly 15% of gradient. That’s like the Mount Washington Auto Road. There is a short section of dirt road, but it isn’t a factor. About a 1/4 mile from the top, I lost my momentum and couldn’t turn the pedals anymore. This necessitated a shameful push of the bike to the crest. My ego was bruised, but you do what you have to do and none of the motorists that passed me recognized me. Phew!  I was low on water, and probably hadn’t fueled well enough in the lead up to the climb. I was worried that with nearly 80 miles to go, that I was cooked for good. Thankfully, I recovered a bit on the descent. I stopped half way down and was able to fill all my bottles from a spigot at someone’s house.

Appalachian Gap

It was good to be halfway done with the gaps, but I dreaded App Gap in the heat of the day. This one has two distinct climbs, but strung together, it’s a long way up. The first “peak” is the KOM for the Green Mountain Stage Race. You descend a little, and then the real climb begins. At the top, it is just as steep as Lincoln. The road snakes left and then right, and there are fantastic views to the north and west. Thankfully, it is paved the whole way. The downhill was rough with a lot of potholes and cracks, but was paved and generally manageable. I was out of water again, so I stopped to replenish at a convenience store in Waitsfield around the 85 mile mark. I also had an all-natural root beer, which is very rare for me. I only drink “soda” once ever 10 years or so, and usually on an epic ride like this. I wanted the calories to go straight to my brain.

Roxbury Gap

It was a short ride to Warren Village, but in that stretch of route 100, I drained all my fluids again. Mentally, I wasn’t ready for Roxbury Gap just yet, so I stopped at the country store in the village and stayed for a while. I refilled my bottles and also bought some coconut water, a bag of chips, and some Battenkill Brittle. In front of the store, I sat on a bench for 15 minutes before getting motivated to pedal again. There was a lot of activity in town, so it was fun to just hang and soak in the Vermont vibe. I got rolling, and in no time, was headed up the gap. About three-quarters of the way up, two cyclists came bombing down the hill. It was Adam and Marilyn. Yahoo!

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At first, it didn’t register that it as them and not two strangers. I was feeling the pain, but pulled over and we chatted for 10 minutes. They had just picked up their new adventure/cross bikes at the shop in Waitsfield and were out on their maiden voyage. Their plan to find me on the road worked, and I welcomed the visit. Our interconnection lifted my spirits. We took some photos and then I went on my way. I really suffered on Roxbury. I wasn’t a rookie, having done this climb a few years ago from the other direction. Yesterday, I went west to east, so the climb was paved to the top. The descent was packed dirt most of the way in to Roxbury. The road is rough and I had my first serious mechanical mishap of the day. My rear fender has been rattling for weeks, but a stripped Allen bolt prevented me from adequately adjusting the clip that supports the fender from the brake caliper. On the rough descent, metal fatigue caused the clip to snap completely. So, from the 100 mile mark to the finish at 132, I rode with my rear fender rubbing my rear tire and rattling like crazy. My mind is still numb from that rattling sound. I tried to tie it up with a reflective strap that I was carrying, but I couldn’t make it work, so I just dealt with it. After Roxbury, I had only one gap go go, but the ride to get there was a long one.

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Rochester Gap

The first section of route 12A from Roxbury south to East Granville was rough pavement. Then, it smoothed out with fresh pavement for more than six miles. I hammered this stretch and got my average speed for the day back above 14 mph. The smooth pavement kept the fender bouncing to a minimum. It was mostly flat, so I was able to turn a big gear. When I got to Randolph, I was hurting again. I stopped for the last time at a convenience store and filled my bottles. I sat on the front steps of a building across from the gas station, and drank a cream soda. I was in the homestretch, but had a false sense of comfort about the last big hill of the day. Sadly, the road conditions deteriorated. Once I got outside Randolph, I started seeing signs for road construction. I hadn’t expected this and the fresh asphalt soon turned to rough dirt and rock. That stretch last six long miles. They had coated the dirt with an oily mixture to keep the dust down, but that just made it messier. It was teeth rattling, and most certainly, fender rattling. I had to slow my pace out of necessity. I cursed out loud on multiple occasions. That stretch from 116 miles to 122 miles was the worst of the day. I wouldn’t wish that stretch of road on anyone. To prove how bad it was, I couldn’t wait to start climbing again!

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The climb turned out to be more than I bargained for. I might have been hallucinating when Marilyn described it to me because I thought she said it was “easier” than the other five. Of course, I was doing it on hammered legs. It seemed to never end. Mercifully, it was paved the entire way, but it just kept stepping up. It even climbed higher after the official sign post that marks the top of the gap. I was thinking that couldn’t be right! By the time I got to the top, I was ready for the ride to be over. I bombed the descent in to Rochester. At one point, I passed a state trooper on the side of the road. The speed limit sign said 20 mph and I was going 40 mph. For a moment, I was hoping to get pulled over! Then, I realized that would only delay my quest for food. He didn’t chase me and I was back at the Rochester green after 9 hours and 27 minutes of riding. I started the ride at 8:13 A.M. and finished at 6:48 P.M. The water stops and breaks added up to about an hour.

4) Pavement is Faster than Dirt

I have no problem riding dirt roads. I prefer when I know about them. The surprise road work on route 12A was a bummer. It added a little excitement. The wet road through Middlebury Gap was a mess.

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5) It Was Hot

So far, we have had spectacular weather for Memorial Day Weekend. 85 degrees in Vermont is warmer than usual for late May. The sun was strong and there was no breeze. I sweated buckets. I started with two large bottles and a container of coconut water. I stopped five times to replenish the fluids.

6) Equipment Choices Matter

Earlier in the week, when I was planning the ride, I thought briefly about riding one of my standard road bikes, like my Richard Sachs or my Spectrum Titanium, but I erred on the side of caution after learning about the Middlebury Gap road work, and went with my tried and trusted, Seven Axiom SL. I didn’t have the time to swap gears on those other bikes and I wanted wider tires. The Axiom has 28 centimeter tires, 53/39 chainrings, and a 11-27 cassette. It was perfect for the conditions. I removed my rack to save a little weight. I used my Dill Peak Gear handlebar bag. The Axiom is the bike that I fit the best on. The fenders were nice to have…until they broke. This bike is four years old, and recently got fresh tires, but it needs drivetrain work and a really good tune-up. This was the last big ride before it gets an overhaul.

7) Vermont Is Beautiful

It was a glorious day in the hills of Vermont. I never tire of those mountains and envision myself spending even more time there in the future. One of the most beautiful parts of the route was early on when I rode by Lake Dunmore in Salisbury. The country stores were fantastic, particularly the Ripton Country Store on route 125. That place had the charm that you think a classic general store should have.

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8) The Long Trail

I crossed the Long Trail four times. It runs along the spine of the Green Mountains and holds a special place in my heart. Ever since Debbie and I thru-hiked it in 2005, it has been my standard for adventure. The trailheads were packed with hikers enjoying the warmer than usual weather. After our mild winter, the trail has been drier than usual. Mud season wasn’t a factor and the hikers have been out in force. Debbie and I are Long Trail End-to-End Mentors, and we have helped a higher number of candidate hikers than usual. Last month, we were on the LT in southern Vermont. I’m ready to go back.

9) It Isn’t Just the Legs That Hurt

My legs are fine. It’s my neck and back that are the most sore. These rides tend to give you overall fatigue. I have that foggy feeling that is hard to describe. During the ride, my only issue was a hot spot on my right foot that wouldn’t go away. I’ll have to check the position of my cleat, but it was uncomfortable and annoying, even when I loosened my shoes.

10) Solo Adventures Are Special

Nothing is more enjoyable than a solo adventure in the mountains. It would have been nice to have company for part of the ride, but I cherish these trips. I set my own agenda. I ride my own pace. I get a lot of thinking done on these adventures. I plan business strategy, I set goals, and I use the time to reflect. Many of my thoughts end up in these blog posts. I didn’t take many photos, and it wasn’t for a lack of views. I didn’t want to stop. Once I got moving, I decided that if I was going to finish this thing, I had to roll. 10 hours is a long time to sit in a saddle. I brought my earbuds, but never used them. Some days I feel like zoning out and listening to music. Other days, like yesterday, I avoid the music and just focus on my surroundings. There was so much to see, and I was never bored. The drive home was challenging. After I washed up and loaded all the gear, I drove south on 100. I stopped at the country store in Pittsfield for some snacks. Dinner wise, nothing appealed to me, so I drove farther south. I checked out a few places on the Killington access road before settling for a sweet potato fries and a draught Long Trail Ale (a classic choice) at a local tavern. When I got going again, I was tired. Eventually, I stopped in Chester, and took a two-hour nap in the parking lot of the Vermont Country Store. I visited a lot of country stores in one day! I awoke at 11:45 P.M., feeling refreshed, so I drove the rest of the way home, stopping briefly at our Burnham Street plan to drop off the painting. I was in bed by 2:15 A.M. and never heard the wicked thunderstorm that ripped through Bolton overnight.

Thinking back to the ride, I moaned a lot, particularly on those long climbs. My Strava activity for the ride will likely remain one of my favorites. I think this is the longest single ride I’ve done. I’ve had longer rides based on time, but not as much mileage. I did the Detour de Connecticut in 2012, and that was more than 120 miles, but that also had a lot of off-road sections where  you go slower. A couple of years ago, I scouted some of these roads, when I did a 118 mile ride from Crawford Notch to Waitsfield.

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I think the lasting memory of yesterday’s ride will be the feeling I had going up Roxbury Gap with the finish within my grasp. Now I have a painting (that features the Green Mountains) that will forever remind me of this adventure. I would turn a corner thinking that the climbing was over, and the road would rise again. That feeling of suffering is hard to describe and you have to experience it to realize why it hurts so good.

2016 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

I’m going to start this blog post in reverse by writing about Kaz Rybak, the last finisher in today’s 32nd annual Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. I’ve written about Kaz before because he has been a fixture at this race over the past 26 years, half of which, Debbie has been the Race Director.

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Kaz finished the 22.5 kilometer race in 6:10:32. Over the years, he has frustrated and worried us many times, but he has also inspired us, and today, he inspired us more than ever. He violates the time cuts, he forces us to wait for hours after the second to last finisher, and he leaves us exhausted…but even still, we would never leave him in the woods alone.

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When 3:00 P.M. rolled around today, after the last of the volunteers had left, the official timers had packed up, and we were sitting in our van (it was cold!) waiting for Kaz, Debbie suggested that we go look for him. My legs were shot and I was in no condition to walk/run backwards on the course, but Debbie was willing to do it.

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We knew based on previous results that he would be coming soon, so she walked backwards on the course to the Gulf Road parking lot in Shenipsit State Forest. I drove around with the kids and waited for her. She arrived a few minutes later without having intercepted Kaz. She joined us in the van for a few more minutes, and then we saw him coming down the access road after descending the Quarry Trail. She got out and went to check on him. He didn’t stop moving. He couldn’t stop moving. If he did, he might not finish.

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This was his 26th year in a row doing the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. We don’t think he trains much anymore. He is in his early 60’s and Soapstone is a big part of his life. He always purchases two t-shirts. We know that he looks forward to this day every year. He refuses the invitation to start earlier. He ignores our advice. He relentlessly pursues the finish line. As he came down the access road, I watched Debbie walk with him.

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Our kids were irritable, but I explained to them that their Mom serves others by directing this race and we would never go home without knowing that Kaz (and every other runner) was safe. We had put together a care package for him and left it on a picnic table at the finish line at Reddington Rock Riding Club. It consisted of two Pepsi’s, two cups of a chili, and a bowl of soup.

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Kaz never stopped moving. At this point, he was sort of shuffling down the road. Debbie walked with him, I turned around, and pulled ahead. We got him some Gatorade from the back of the van, which he drank on the fly, and then crossed Gulf Road on to the dirt road headed to the finish. Debbie stuck with him and walked the last kilometer through the woods back up to the horse riding club. He shared enough intimate thoughts with her about his life that it was clear that this race means as much to him as anything.

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The kids and I drove back around and waited for him to finish. We cheered for him and took photos. Every year, he stashes his car keys in the cook shed. His car was lonely out in the open field, where hours earlier, several hundred cars were parked. He told us that he leaves his keys behind because he doesn’t want to bring them in the woods. I was thinking, that’s smart. It would really suck to get back to your car after six hours and not have your keys. This year, he left two safety pins stashed with his keys and told Debbie that he didn’t bring them during the race because every ounce matters and they would weigh him down. From a distance, I overheard this, and chuckled loudly.

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Then, we packed all of his food and drinks in to a box and he carried it across the field to his car. He was wiped out. It took a while for him to get to the opposite side of the field. As we pulled out, we honked and yelled out to him to get some rest and take care. When you have done as much adventuring and participated in endurance sports as often as we have, you have to draw inspiration from somewhere. For Debbie and me, after 25+ years of pushing ourselves to the limit, it is people like Kaz Rybak that give us that awesome feeling that motivates.

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The entire race was a success. We hosted 257 runners (177 for the half marathon and 80 for the Sampler), and fed more than 300 including the spectators and volunteers. After 13 years of directing the race, Debbie still relies on an amazing group of Shenipsit Striders club mates and volunteers from the Northern Connecticut Land Trust and Connecticut Forest & Park Association. Once again, Jerry Turk and Kerry Arsenault, from RAT Race Timing, handled the scoring. Volunteers came from everywhere, including out of state.

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The first place man was Drew Best. He was followed by Matt Shamey and Todd Bennett. The first woman was Kehr Davis. She was followed by Emma Perron and Sarah Pandiscio. The weather was perfect for runners and not so great for spectators. It was cooler than usual, with a strong west wind and intermittent clouds. Thankfully, there was no precipitation. There were several muddy spots on the trail, but the course conditions were generally good. The footing is always tricky with lots of rocks, roots, and leaves. The usual mishaps occurred, including wrong turns, and falls, causing bumps, bruises, and cuts. No one was seriously hurt. Safety is our number one goal, but when you trail run, you take risks and the responsibility is yours to bear.

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For the second year, our 9-year-old son did the 6 kilometer Sampler and had a great time. Last year, I ran with him, but we have since learned that he does better when he is on his own. So, yesterday, I decided to run the long course. I have done one or the other 13 times.

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I had a great race. I broke two hours for the third time, finishing in 1:56:54, my third fastest on the course. I gave it my all and it showed. I fell hard three separate times, the last, only a kilometer from the finish. I had a five-mile battle with Neal Leibowitz. We were never more than 10 seconds apart and traded places half a dozen times. I was stronger on the uphills and he was stronger on the downhills.

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I led him up Soapstone Mountain for the last time, but he passed me on the road after the Quarry Trail descent. I trailed him as we crossed Gulf Road, but as we made our way down the dirt road in Shenipsit State Forest, I caught my toe on a rock and went down in a heap. It sucks to fall on the road and I’m full of rash on my left (bad) shoulder, left forearm, and left leg. I’ll pay for that fall with delayed onset muscle soreness for a week or more.

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That fall gave him a gap, but I still closed in on him on the final singletrack climb before entering the riding club property. I chased him up the hill and towards the finish, but he held me off by one second. He crossed the finish line and went down on his knees. I crossed the line and listed sideways. My legs  instantly felt like jelly; I careened into the rope barriers and bumped a chip timing sensor, knocking it down as I collapsed on to my left side.

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I’ve never had that happen before. I didn’t black out, but I was momentarily incoherent. It wasn’t a pretty moment as a large crowd, including my parents witnessed it, but it symbolized that I had given it my all in an effort to catch Neal. In a weird way, I felt satisfied, but it was frightening for a few people, including my Mom. What’s the point of racing if you aren’t going to lay it all out? I got some help over to a bench, where I sat down next to Neal. We were both knackered. The EMT patched us up as we basked in the glow of having finished a tough race with a flourish. It really was a great day. I saw many grimaces, but also many smiles. The kids race was fun to watch. Introducing young ones to the sport of trail running is pure joy. Debbie and I have more work to do, cleaning pots, putting away gear, and washing our van. That work doesn’t have the same intensity as race preparation. Next year will be the 33rd edition. For now, I’ll hold the image of Debbie walking down the road with Kaz Rybak, as he slogged his way to another Soapstone finish line.

Race Results

2016 Wapack and Back 50 Mile Trail Race

Yesterday, we returned to the Wapack and Back Trail Races, and for the first time, as a family. Debbie and I ran the 50 miler in 2014 and she did it the prior year in 2013 with me as her crew. This year, she ran it solo again, and the kids and I were her crew. We drove up on Friday night after work/school, which made for a long Saturday for all of us. It is tough to go from a busy week straight to an ultra. We camped at the Ashburnham, Massachusetts trailhead in our Volkswagen Eurovan, which was fun, but it’s not like sleeping in your own bed. Debbie seemed to have more energy than the kids and me because she steamrolled her way through 50 miles.

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It was quite a contrast from last month’s Zion 100 when she ran out of gas early in the race and pushed through 100 kilometers with dead legs, no strength, and no joy. Yesterday, she was back on her favorite kind of New England trails (rocky and rooty); and she was happy the entire time. She finished in 11:32, shaving 13 minutes off her previous best time, set in 2013, which proves that hitting 40 is just a number and doesn’t mean you have to slow down (at least right away!). When she reached the finish, she was only about 12 minutes behind Meredith Marx, the women’s winner. They were close all day, but Debbie was never able to catch her. At one point, around 26 miles, it looked like she had whittled a 20+ minute gap at the 16 mile mark down to three or four minutes in less than 10 miles. That was after the really rocky and slippery section up and over North Pack Monadnock and back. It had a lot of  climbing and descending on the worst of the rocks. Meredith eventually stretched that gap to seven minutes at mile 43 and then to 12 minutes by the finish. She was stronger than Debbie on the more when there were more “runnable” sections.

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The weather was blah. The runners seemed to do well in the mild temperature (low-50’s Fahrenheit) and the mist, fog, and drizzle. One challenge for the runners was the footing. However, for the crew and spectators, it was a lousy day with the kind of dampness that makes your bones creak. The lichen and moss-covered rocks and roots were like ice. You could take a serious fall. The kids and I did a bit of hiking on North Pack Monadnock Mountain, where the rocks are vicious. They “bit” us several times. That has to be the toughest section on the course, and one of the toughest sections of any trail race in New England. In hiking it, I reminded myself why Debbie likes that section so much. When I ran it in 2013, I hated it!

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I’m biased. I think we have the toughest trails in the country. The trail goes from Ashburnham to Greenfield, New Hampshire and is more like the rugged trails of the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. Today’s Wapack is followed by tomorrow’s 7 Sisters Trail Race. We aren’t going to make it this year, but we have done it many times, and last in 2014. Long time ultrarunning acquaintance, Ian Torrence, drove from Arizona for some east coast racing and he completed Wapack and Back about 14 minutes quicker than Debbie, so he was close to her all day and we got to chat with him periodically. He noted that the course was very difficult, which is proof. He hails from Flagstaff, has raced some of the toughest trail races in the land, including the notoriously tough Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 Mile Endurance Run, a record 13 times. Debbie ran Zane Grey in 2012 and she would certainly rank Wapack and Back at the top of her tough 50 miler list.

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Wapack has more than 10,000 feet of climbing and 10,000 feet of descending and it all comes in sharp bursts. The race started at 5:00 A.M. The kids and I saw the start and then we made our way to the aid station at Windblown Ski Area (9 miles), then to Miller State Park (19 miles and 26.5 miles), back to Windblown (33 miles), and then to the finish (43 miles and 50 miles). The last 7 miles of the race are rough because you complete the 21.5 mile return leg and then have to turn around and run back 3.5 miles to the last aid station, and then run back to the finish. The time cut is tight and a lot of people settle for a 43 mile finish, which is nothing to sniff at. At 43 miles, the race runs longer than most 50’s and the 50 mile race runs more like many 100 kilometer races. I know that when I did the race, I had to be super-strong mentally to finish.

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Race Director, Jesse Veinotte invited me to try it again, but I told him that I’m still limping 24 months later. That is no lie. My plantar fasciitis and stress fracture problems with my left foot started right after my 2013 race. Jesse and his assistants, including Bob Crowley and the other volunteers from TARC were fantastic. The aid stations were stocked, the helpers dealt wit the same wet weather as we did, and they did it cheerfully. Other than the footing, the condition really were ideal  for running and there were some fast times. In the 21.5 mile one-way race, Ben Thompson broke the course record, laying down a 3:19:36, which is flying. Joanna Wang ran 5:00:13 for the women’s 21.5 mile win.

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The winner of the 50 miler was Loren Newman. He ran 9:10:56, which is a great time and now third on the all time list behind Josh Katzmann’s two times. Second man was Ben Eysenbach in 9:42:23. Meredith took the women’s win in 11:20:54, followed by Debbie in 11:32:38.

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Debbie looked good all day today. I enjoyed watching her and was happy that she was happy on the types of trails she loves. She would love to have 50 or 100 miles of rugged singletrack and never once have to go on a jeep road or dirt road. The tough courses play to her strengths. Last weekend, we had a tough couple of days of biking and running in the Berkshires and Green Mountains and I think it helped her. She doesn’t have another ultra on her 2016 schedule, so I’m not sure what is next. I’m sure something will pop up or she will find a race to focus on next. In the meantime, she has the 5 kilometer Mother’s Day Dash in Rockville, Connecticut, tomorrow.

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Her focus will shift to next week’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Races. She is the Race Director for the 13th year in a row. Soapstone is race number two in the 2016 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and race five in the 2016 Grand Tree Trail Running Series. Wapack was three in the GT and 7 Sisters (today) will be number four. So, come out and join the Shenipsit Striders at Soapstone. It’s a great event with a 22.5 kilometer main event, a 6 kilometer Sampler, and a kids race.

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I’m certain that after crewing Debbie at her favorite 50 mile trail race, I’ve got the bases covered for Mother’s Day. She pretty much got what she wanted!

Race Results

SmugMug Photo Gallery

Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop & Berkshire Hills Cycling

Last July, when Debbie and I took our kids on a backpacking trip around the Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop, we remarked that this would be a great loop to run and that the two of us should return. The 22 mile loop is made of about 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail, 10 miles of the West Ridge Trail, a mile of dirt road, and a mile of paved Rt. 9 back to the trailhead. We returned to Vermont this weekend to tackle the challenge.

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So, with our kids safely at their grandparents house, we got out for a date/mini training camp that started yesterday afternoon and continued today. It’s truly amazing how much physical activity you can fit in when your kids aren’t around. Saturday, I rode to work on my bike early in the morning, drove home after lunch, packed, and then drove two hours with Debbie to Monroe, Massachusetts in the Berkshires. We parked at the picnic area on Rt. 2 where the Deerfield River crosses under the road.

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We did a 22 mile loop up Zoar Road to River Road past Dunbar Brook until we reached Monroe Bridge. We crossed the Deerfield and then rode the incredibly steep Monroe Hill Road climb until we reached Tunnel Road. We took the unpaved road to Steele Brook Road and then back on to pavement on Rowe Road, and then back to Zoar Road. It was a fantastic loop. The dirt sections were even steeper than the paved sections and we had a hairy descent on Steele Brook Road, where things were made even more interesting by the presence of a porcupine in the road.

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Monroe Hill Road is reportedly the 2nd steepest paved climb in New England. I would imagine that the first is the Mt. Washington Auto Road. I waited for Debbie on the climb, so I’m anxious to return with the optimal bicycle and fresh legs. I want to hit it hard the next time I ride in Monroe. It was a blast. The only drawback was waiting for Debbie at the crest of the hill with flies swirling around my head. I love riding with her. After the loop, we backtracked to Shelburne Falls for dinner at Healthy Eats, one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner, we made the hour-long drive to Woodford, Vermont. We parked at the trailhead on Rt. 9 and spent the night in our Volkswagen Eurovan, which was very convenient. The sound of City Stream was lovely. It was a mere 50 meters from the van. Nothing beats the sound of running water when you sleep and then wake.

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We got on the trail shortly after 7:00 A.M. The AT/LT climbs steadily to Goddard Shelter, just below the crest of Glastenbury Mountain, so we did a lot of hiking in the first few hours. We ran when we could, but it was mostly uphill. It started raining as soon as we got on the trail and drizzled all day. We had to wear jackets, hats, and gloves. The higher elevation temperature near the summit of Glastenbury at 3,748 feet was chilly. We stopped briefly at the shelter after 2 hours and 48 minutes before taking the fork on to the West Ridge Trail. We knew that the last 12 miles would be much quicker, and they were. We covered the remaining distance in 2 hours and 40 minutes, running the last few miles on the dirt road/road in under 20 minutes. The West Ridge Trail doesn’t see much traffic at all and it was amazing to see how the arrival of spring was already over growing the trail.

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Despite being up and down with a few decent climbs, including the one up 2,857 foot Bald Mountain, we were able to run a lot of the West Ridge. We had so much fun. Both of us used our UltrAspire packs. I used the Alpha and Debbie used the Titan. We both used our lightweight hiking poles, and they came in handy on the uphill’s. It’s amazing that we covered this distance in 5 hours and 28 minutes. Last year, with the kids, it took us about 17 hours of hiking including all of the breaks. That was spread out over an evening and two full days. We had just as much fun that weekend. For this time around the loop, we pushed it, but not too hard. Debbie has a big race next Saturday at the Wapack and Back on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border in the Monadnock region. We were last on the Wapack Trail in 2014, so more fun to come as May progresses!

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When we got back to the trailhead on Rt. 9, we were surprised to see our friends, Ernie, Nancy, Kerri, and Ben. They had just finished driving back with their second vehicle after hiking the AT/LT north. They have been section hiking the AT throughout New England. It was great to see them and a total coincidence. If we hadn’t run the last two dirt/paved road miles in less than 20 minutes, we wouldn’t have seen them at all. It was a fun reunion.

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This weekend ended with another trip to Healthy Eats, as we worked our way back to Connecticut with another stop in Shelburne Falls. We figured, what the heck. When you find a place you like that makes great food, it doesn’t matter how often you dine there.

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2016 Fat Tire Classic

It was a family affair at today’s Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails in Farmington, Connecticut. FTC was race #2 of the 2016 Root 66 Northeast XC Mountain Bike Series. We missed race #1 at Hop Brook Dam when we were in Utah for the Zion 100.

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This was my 9th Fat Tire Classic. I raced the singlespeed for the third year in a row. My race was four laps of the five-mile course. Debbie’s race was two laps. Our son’s race was one lap. Our daughter did the kids race.

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We had lots of fun, though the weather was cooler than we would have liked. We had brilliant sunshine, but the air was cool and there was a constant breeze. The course was drier than I’ve ever seen it. There wasn’t a drop of moisture to be found and it was dusty.

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I’ve got a serious case of “lung burn” as it was full gas the entire time. There is nowhere to hide on this course. It is constant pedaling with no respite. I was absolutely smashed at the finish. This is a building block race as I work towards fitness, so I pushed hard.

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Debbie had a good time and is getting ready to tackle the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series. We heard that there will be modifications to the five-mile MTB course for the weekly off-road triathlon series. That course is different and less technical compared to today’s route.

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Our son got his first USA Cycling racing license this week and completed his first ever junior race. He is excited to do more mountain biking and then cyclocross this fall. I didn’t get my first racing license until I was 19, so he is already got a leg up on me.

It was great to see so many Team Horst Sports mates out there on the course. We were joined by Arthur Roti, Paul Nyberg, Anthony Eisley, Mark Hixson, and Mike Wonderly. Zane Wenzel and Erik Emanuele stopped by during their Sunday road ride. In addition to our teammates, we saw a lot of friends for the first time since cross season ended back in December.

Race Results (will be posted when online)

Zion National Park, Day 2

Day 2 in Zion National Park was last Tuesday, and it was way better than Day 1, and Day 1 was pretty spectacular. We drove Kolob Terrace Road to the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and then did the Northgate Peaks hike.

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The day after our canyoneering adventure, we wanted to stay away from crowds and see a more wild section of the park. We chose a great spot. There were hikers on the trail, but like us, they were experienced and seeking more solitude. The kids loved the hike. The out and back trail was soft and fun to walk. It wound through a lovely pine forest before reaching the viewpoint, which was awesome. We sat down had snacks, and mingled with some of the other hikers enjoying the spot.

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We topped that view by scrambling up the northern Northgate Peak, where there isn’t a marked trail. That was a blast. The kids loved it, and we lingered on the summit for a while, snapping photos and soaking in the sights. From there, we had incredible views of North Guardian Angel, the Great West Canyon, and clear to Zion Valley. We had fine weather with blue skies and big white puffy clouds. Afternoon showers were forecast, but we were done before the skies darkened and we didn’t see any rain. Our son wanted to run back to the trailhead, so I joined him and we were back at the car in 25 minutes.

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Even the drive up and down Kolob was fantastic. Outside of the park, there were several small ranches and the cows were hanging out right at the edge of the road. My only regret is that I didn’t have a road bicycle. I would love to ride the road from the valley all the way to the reservoir and back. There are also many more trailheads to explore. We have to return!

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Zion National Park, Day 1

Our “front country” day at Zion National Park was last Sunday…with the crowds. The views were spectacular, but the congestion was not. After a morning “hike” with Debbie and the kids, I was happy to break away for a three-hour run away from the crowds. As a family, we checked out the Emerald Pools.  Debbie also took the kids to the Grotto, to the Human History Museum, and several other spots accessible by the park shuttle. That shuttle is doing a good job at keeping cars out of Zion. It’s hard to believe that it’s a relatively new approach to cutting traffic in the park.

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In the valley and on the popular trails, it was very crowded, but above the East Rim headed towards Cable Mountain, I had the trail to myself. Seeing the remnants of the cable system that brought timber and building materials from the East Rim to the valley was cool. The trip down took less than 2.5 minutes, which I find fascinating.

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Hands down, this is the best of all national parks that we have been to with only one exception: Acadia. It’s not just that Acadia starts with an A, and has to come first; as a native New Englander, we just love that park. So we like both parks that start with A and Z. Utah was spectacular.

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Back at sea level for a #bicycle ride with @trailrunningmom #oldlyme #teamhorstsports Yesterday's #Vermont Six Gaps Ride was a most awesome solo adventure. 132 miles, 11,600 feet of elevation ascended, and many good memories. #cycling #bicycling #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #atlanta I'm always on the lookout for an interesting image, even in the mundane moments of life. #bdl #MD-88 #JT8D Kudos to the adult leaders who built the #obstaclecourse for the @thecubscouts Pack 157 "cross-over picnic." It was a real hit! #cubscouts #boyscouts Fun mountain bike ride to Gay City State Park via the @eastcoastgreenway #hopriverstateparktrail When we finished, he said, "My legs are wobbly." #mountainbike #cycling #teamhorstsports #snake @trailrunningmom demonstrates the use of our new @brabantia clothes dryer. #greenliving Mail commission checks to... Last step before wash and assemble. @jingalls13 getting his hands dirty @horsteng Productive Saturday shift building the #aerospace quality transition area bike racks for the #LakeTerramuggus & #CedarLake #Triathlon Series that kick off next week. #justintime #horstengineering #probono #precisionmachining #instamachinist #teamhorst #teamhorstsports #machining #cycling #sevencycles #manufacturing #madeinconnecticut #madeinusa #madeinusa🇺🇸 @jingalls13 getting his hands dirty @horsteng Productive Saturday shift building the #aerospace quality transition area bike racks for the #LakeTerramuggus & #CedarLake #Triathlon Series that kick off next week. #justintime #horstengineering #probono #precisionmachining #instamachinist #teamhorst #teamhorstsports #machining #cycling #sevencycles #manufacturing #madeinconnecticut #madeinusa #madeinusa🇺🇸

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