Archive for the 'Environment' Category

2018 NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross

We raced two days at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross and they couldn’t have been more different. Day 1 was cold with brilliant sunshine, dry conditions, and lots of smiles. Day 2 was cold with incessant rain, gobs of mud, soupy puddles, and lots of grimaces.

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Shepard and I made a late decision to do both races. I had a meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Thursday and Friday. The drive back on Friday afternoon took six hours and I got home around 8:00 P.M. It took some motivation to pack the van and trailer in anticipation of a 6:00 A.M. Saturday departure, but we got it done.

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Part of my decision to do both days at NBX was the forecast. Sunday was supposed to be very rainy and I didn’t want cross in a sandy quagmire to be my only race experience of the weekend. Saturday was supposed to be clear and sunny. Also, the early starts (Shep at 8:41 A.M. and me at 10:15 A.M.) meant we could drive back and forth to Goddard State Park in East Greenwich, Rhode Island (95 minutes from home) and be back early in the afternoon each day.

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The forecast for both days turned out as advertised. Saturday’s conditions were primo for cross with the technical NBX course in great shape. It rode super-fast and was lots of fun. Sunday’s conditions were insanely bad. At least that’s my opinion. I’m so tired of racing in the muck and I’m even more tired of cleaning up after racing in the muck. This wasn’t Supercross mud (which we skipped this year), or even Bishop’s Orchards mud (which was last Sunday’s mess), but this was sandy and gritty NBX mud.

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First, I’ll talk about yesterday’s race, which was a good one for me. Shep and I got there in time to preview parts of the course. It was an early start to the weekend, but we made it happen. I’ve had so much going on at work that I was thankful to get outside on a sunny day and make the most of it. He had a good race in the Cub Juniors (9-14 year olds) and it was so much fun cheering for him. He was particular strong on the long beach run. He finished strong and was in good spirits.

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I was in the combined Masters 40+/Juniors 15-18 race which was similar to Gloucester and Northampton. At NBX in prior years, including 2017, I limped to the finish. I was shot from a full season of cross. This year, I felt pretty good coming into the weekend. I had a good start and was able to move up a few groups over the first two laps. I hurt a bit on the second half of lap three and first half of lap four, before surging a bit towards the finish of the five lap event.

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We were flying around the circuit. I had a good battle with young Johnny Meyerle and ultimate got the best of him. Dan Coady, who I battled with at Bishop’s last week, took off on both of us and moved up several places on the last lap with a strong ride. I hung on and got 22nd in a strong field. Six of the riders in front of me were the Juniors. They are super-strong.

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On Saturday, we were home by 2:00 P.M, and cleaned up by 2:30 P.M. I did some work, and then Debbie, Dahlia, Shepard, and I went out to get our Christmas tree. This was a fortuitous decision given the dry conditions. We had a relaxing evening getting it set up.

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Today was another race day and another 5:15 A.M. wake-up call. We were out of the house by 6:00 P.M. and met up with Juan and Nic Villamizar at the Bolton Post Office. Juan took the day off from crewing and spectating and we took Nic with us so he could meet up with the rest of the CCAP travel team.

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The big difference between Saturday and Sunday was that it rained all night and continued to rain all day. The precipitation turned the NBX course into a quagmire…in spots. Certain areas had six inches of soupy muck and lots of ruts. The course is known for its roots, and they were hidden in the mud, and very slippery. The short and steep climbs were super challenging and forced me to run them at times.

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Shepard had a decent race, but like me, he isn’t as strong in the rough conditions. Both of us would rather ride with confidence, and the slippery conditions didn’t permit that. The course was in decent shape for his race, the second of the day. However, our race was the  fourth of the day and the prior fields had pummeled the course, churning it into the chunky soup. I did fine in the sandy sections, and even the rooty sections, but I was losing ground in the worst of the muddy sections and on the steep climbs and descents.

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Johnny and Nic both beat me today. Dan caught me with two laps to go and I gave chase, but came up short. He seemed to enjoy the conditions, but I told him that I was fed up with the mud. I was as disappointed with the impending cleanup as I was with my results. I didn’t feel on top of my game today. I just don’t feel comfortable taking the same chances when the conditions are so harsh. I have no desire to fall, so I was thrilled that I stayed on my bike.

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The post-race changing session was hilarious. After hosing off my bikes, I changed at the van. My feet were frozen solid. All of my socks were wet and I forgot to bring a pair of dry casual socks, so I tried to put my muck boots on with bare feet. It simply didn’t work. I couldn’t get them on despite trying three times over a 20 minute span. Between efforts, I sat with the van running and my feet on the dashboard heaters with the temperature and fan cranked to the max. My attempt to thaw them didn’t work.

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In order to pack our four bikes in the trailer, I put a pair of my cycling shoes back on to finish the outside job. Then, I drove home barefoot. We were home by 2:00 P.M. and my feet were in better shape. It took an hour to clean-up and as of the writing of this blog post, I still have to give our bikes a second washing. We will also need to lubricate our chains. I’m getting tired of the maintenance. Shep’s cross season ended today and the current plan is for me to race the Zanconato Singlespeed Championships at the Ice Weasels Cometh next weekend. The advanced forecast looks like cold and dry. As long as it doesn’t rain, I’ll be there. It it is wet, then it will be a game time decision.

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Today was my 18th race of the season and 18th since breaking my leg in January at Nats in Reno. We opted not to go to Louisville for the second Nats of 2018. It’s been a nice comeback and I’ve enjoyed traveling and racing with Shepard, the Team Horst Junior Squad, and Team Horst Sports. I’m looking forward to the “offseason.”

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2018 Bishop’s Orchards CX

We were at another cyclocross race today, and the conditions couldn’t have been more different from yesterday. The inaugural Bishop’s Orchards CX didn’t disappoint. The hilly orchard in Guilford, Connecticut was an excellent venue for the CT Series of Cross finals.

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For Shepard and me, this was the wettest and muddiest race of the year. We skipped last weekend’s Supercross Cup which would have been the muddiest. The irony is that it was mild and sunny. The issue was that it rained heavily overnight. In Bolton, about an hour north of Guilford, I could hear the rain pouring down in the middle of the night. The latest deluge added another inch to an incredibly waterlogged State of Connecticut.

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Bishop’s Orchard literally had a river running through it…and we had to cross that river. Debbie and Dahlia joined us for the trip to this shoreline community, and they joined a sizable throng of spectators who donned their “muck boots” to watch some cross on a Sunday. I hope this race repeats in 2019 because I would love to do it in better conditions. I don’t mind the mud, but there is always a limit and I think we crossed it today. We left some ruts behind. I hope they will have us back.

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The orchard and farm stand venue was picturesque and the team behind the race pulled out all of the stops. The volunteers were helpful from the moment we arrived to park at the venue. They were out in force, and they were outfitted in custom-made sweatshirts to honor the event. The power wash station was a big plus on a day when our gear was in rough shape.

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The Junior races started at 8:45 A.M. with the 9-12 year-old category and then continued at 9:15 A.M. with the combined 13-14 year-old category and 15-18 year-old category.  Ethan Lezon was the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad’s only representative in the 9-12 race, and he rode well. Shepard was a little tired after spending all day yesterday at Secret Squirrel CX in Raynham, MA, but he persevered. The Bishop’s Orchards course was an absolute slog. It had a fair amount of climbing and the mud required you to run in several sections. The grass and mud clogged your gears and brakes while weighing your bike down.

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The river crossing was rideable, but it was an adventure. Shepard was joined in the race by CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad mates Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. These three have been troopers all season long. Boden had a fantastic ride today.

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The Masters 40+ race was at 11:00 A.M. Whereas yesterday I opted to race the singlespeed category, I decided to race my age group today (with gears) and get home at a  decent hour. The SS race is almost always the last race of the day. Yesterday’s trip was a 12 hour ordeal and my legs were feeling it today. I had a strong ride in Raynham, but today I was off. The Team Horst Sports Masters in my race included Andris Skulte, Art Roti, and Brett Chenail. We shared the course with the Masters 50+ race and were represented by Dave Geissert and John Meyerle.

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My first lap was a disaster. I was in too big a gear for most of it, before realizing I should just drop down to my little ring and spend the rest of my race only worrying about shifting my rear derailleur. I ended up farther back than I would have hoped, but salvaged my race by improving in the last two laps and riding some of the features that I ran the first few times through. About halfway into the race, Dan Coady caught and passed me. He built a pretty good lead on me, but in the last two laps, I clawed my way back and was able to burst past him on the last lap, which was good for the ego. Dan and I go way back, so it was just a friendly intra-race battle that makes cross so much fun.

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I was knackered afterwards and it took a while to “rough” clean the bikes and get them packed away. We had our second post-race vegan celebration in 24 hours when we stopped at the Shoreline Diner and Vegetarian Enclave, which was only a few miles from the venue. Whenever we are in the area, we make it a point to dine there and enjoy the “all-day breakfast” option. I felt much better after filling up on vegan tofu scramble and a full stack of gluten free blueberry pancakes.

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We got home at a decent hour, but had more cleaning to do, including a substantial load of laundry and more bike cleaning. When I was standing in the bike wash line after the race, I remarked to another rider that running would be such a simpler sport.

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Race Results (will be posted when available)

2018 Northampton International Cyclocross

Our family made a joyous return to Look Memorial Park for the 28th Northampton International Cyclocross. I’ve done half of them (14) dating back to 1995 when the race used to be on the UMass Amherst campus. Years ago, the race relocated to beautiful Look Memorial Park in the village of Florence, and also became a UCI two-day event. I’ve done a total of 21 NoHo CX races when you count the Saturday and Sunday races.

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This weekend, I was able to do both races even though earlier in the week, it didn’t look like Saturday was going to work out. I had a hectic week and even went to the work for a few hours on Saturday morning before the race. I had packed my gear figuring that if things were smooth at work and more importantly, I felt up to it, then I would shoot (solo) to NoHo, do the race, and then get home in time to pick Shepard up following his Boy Scouts Troop 25 hike on the Shenipsit Trail. He only raced on Sunday this weekend. Debbie and Dahlia had a full day of activities planned together.

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I was glad I raced yesterday because it got me ready for today. I hadn’t raced in three weeks, skipping the last two weekends with conflicts, so I felt a bit stale. I’m better at cross when racing regularly, especially if I’m not training much during the week. The racing keeps my speed high and my skills sharp. Typically after a layoff, it takes a race or two to get back my groove.

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Yesterday went as expected. I had no pop and was disappointed in my result, finishing about 10 spots behind where I wanted to. However, I did have fun on the wet and challenging course, and was glad to be racing again after my short break. When I’m off, it’s very typical for my average heart rate to be low. I only held 168 beats per minute and maxed at 174 beats per minute. The average was about 6 below a good race and the max was 10 below a typical race when I’m going good.

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For comparison, today went better with a 173 average and a 182 max. The numbers don’t lie. They still don’t represent peak form, but I’m looking forward to the Supercross Cup next weekend and will build on this weekend’s races.

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I love the Look Park courses. Both days were in their typical layout with Saturday and Sunday differing a bit. There were some changes in direction. Today’s race was much faster. Yesterday was windy, damp, and the course was muddy in several spots. Today, it was colder, also breezy, and most of the mud had gotten tacky. Today’s track was a bit shorter, so the lap times were quicker.

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Today, Debbie and the kids were with me, which was fun. We had to leave the house at 6:15 A.M. to get there in time for Shepard’s 8:46 A.M. start. Thankfully, we packed everything last night. The Junior 9-14 year olds had a good race and the Team Horst Junior Squad was well represented with Boden Chenail, Lars Roti, and Shepard. All three boys had good races. There were a lot of kids in Look Park today. Our friends, the Grimm’s came from Rochester, New York, and brought their kids too. Look Park is full of playgrounds and other cool areas to check out. A kid can run wild and be safe.

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In today’s races, I was riding strong, but was surprised that my result was still worse than yesterday in a smaller field. Today’s field must have been stronger because I was riding well and still not as far up as I expected. I had a decent start and latched on to a large group including rivals Brian Girard, Keith Gauvin, and Dan Coady. All three of those guys are stronger than me, so I was happy to be the caboose on their group. The problem with being last is that you have to work harder when sprinting out of every corner. You are also at a disadvantage in the technical sections as you are forced to follow other riders’ lines and deal with their mistakes.

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By lap three, I was “yo-yoing” off their group and half way through, I got popped, ending up in no-man’s land. That didn’t last long. I had to recover, looked back and saw several chasers gaining on me. They happened to be a couple of Junior riders that I know well. In the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series events, the Masters 40+ racers compete with the Junior 15-18 year old boys. This makes for interesting racing with the high horsepower juniors rubbing elbows with the savvy and technically skilled Masters.

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I don’t mind it. I’ve gotten used to racing with these “kids” and like the challenge of battling with boys who are 30 years younger. Sometimes there are complaints about their aggressive tactics and the lines they take in the corners, but I race alertly and have been able to avoid tangling with them. It’s a matter of pride to take these kids on and beat (some) of them.

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Anyway, soon after 15-year-old Nicolas Villamizar and 14-year-old Kevin Mullaly caught me, we were joined by two more riders, who turned out to be a father/son duo. I should say son/father duo because it was 13-year-old Frank O’Reilly, Jr. who ended up being the class of our group. Another racing dad, Pierre Gervez, was chasing hard and dangling off the back of our quintet. Nic promptly went to the front and drilled it. He and Kevin traded pulls on and off for the final two laps. Our group changed order several times as we all took turns pushing the pace.

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On the last lap, I was pretty gassed and was in fifth spot heading to the upper section of the course. That’s where Frank, Jr. pushed up the hill and then rode the technical muddy woods section. I ran it the first two laps, rode it the third, and opted to run it again for the final two. That was costly as I lost some ground. Nic was running it too, so we worked together to stay in touch. Frank got a few seconds on our group and after time trialing away, it grew to six by the finish. It’s worth noting that this was his second race of the day–he won the Junior 9-14 year old race. “Wow,” that’s all I can say. On the final section of road, his dad also attacked us and bridged up to his son. It sucked to give up those two spots, but I didn’t have much left.

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That left Kevin, Nic, and I to duke it out for pride. Kevin was strongest in the open ball fields that lead to the final hairpin turn and then the long straightaway to the finish. Cross is all about these intra-race battles. I was banking on the fact that he had been pulling into the windy sections and that I could come around him. Kevin led and Nic was on my wheel. He appeared to be suffering.

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Coming into that greasy final hairpin, Kevin and I took the wide line that we had been hitting every lap. I don’t think either of us expected Nic to make a bid by diving to the inside. He ended up chopping both of us pretty good and there was even some contact as he forced us even wider than we expected. He got to the front and hammered the final section. I slid a bit in the corner but eventually got traction. It took me 50 meters to get up to speed and by then, Kevin was surging past Nic on the right. I followed his wheel and then jumped left just be for the line. It took a bike throw to pip him, with Nic finishing third in our group.

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I have to say I was pleased. That’s despite the fact that it took everything I had to beat a couple of teenagers. It’s only a matter of time before they crush me in races like this, but for today, I got the upper hand. I was toast after the finish, but as I said earlier, efforts like this (when followed by rest) pay dividends. The results show Kevin and me with the same time, and Nic one second behind us. That’s racing!

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I cooled down with my teammates on the lovely Norwottuck Rail Trail. It was a good weekend for Team Horst Sports. In addition to our junior riders (the three mentioned already plus Owen and Ethan Lezon), over the course of two days, our Masters athletes performed well. They included Rich Frisbie, Arthur Roti, Brett Chenail, Andris Skulte, Wade Summers, John Meyerle, Dave Geissert, Paul Nyberg, and Keith Enderle. Even our mate, Matt Domnarski, showed up to cheer today.

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We were packed up and out of the park by 1:30 P.M.. We visited downtown Northampton for a late lunch at Paul & Elizabeth’s. We did a circuit of the town, stopping at Hungry Ghost Bread to pick up some items, before returning to the van for the trip home. Success.

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

AMC Medawisla Lodge and Cabins Revisit

The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Lodges offer amazing hospitality in gorgeous woodland settings that can’t be topped for their New England remoteness. After our family first visited Medawisla Lodge and Cabins on the opening weekend in July 2017, I wrote about our adventure.

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I returned this fall for the AMC Board of Directors annual retreat. I won’t hide my bias. I’m a huge supporter of not-for-profit AMC, and I am a big fan of our organization’s legendary mountain hospitality. Our historical strength has been in the mountains of New Hampshire, but we operate through the Appalachian region in New England and the mid-Atlantic. I’m an unabashed champion of the effort to grow our presence in Maine and New York. The resources generated by our lodging operations fund critical mission oriented efforts including conservation advocacy, climate science, outdoor education, land management, and youth opportunities.

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Medawisla is the crown jewel in AMC’s network of Maine lodges, but it isn’t necessarily better than the other two locations. All three, Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins, and Medawisla offer authentic Maine sporting camp experiences, though each one is unique.

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Medawisla is the newest and represents a more modern approach. One example is that each cabin has a propane stove rather than a wood stove. Though off-the-grid, the Medawisla cabins have electric power, including lights and outlets, whereas the cabins at Little Lyford and Gorman have propane lanterns and there is no electricity.

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It had been nearly 14 years since I visited Little Lyford. Back in February 2014 when Debbie and I skied into the camp with AMC friends, it was known as Little Lyford Pond Camps. That wasn’t long after AMC acquired the property, and prior to substantial renovations including the construction of a new lodge.

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Little Lyford was AMC’s  initial recreation hub in the middle of the Maine Woods Initiative, which at the time was a burgeoning broader land conservation effort.

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The AMC website offers a succinct description of our Maine efforts:

The Maine Woods Initiative is the Appalachian Mountain Club’s strategy for land conservation in the 100-Mile Wilderness region. The Initiative is an innovative approach to conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, responsible forestry, and community partnerships. To date, AMC has purchased and permanently conserved 70,000 acres of forest land, created over 120 miles of recreational trails, opened three sporting camps to the public, established an FSC®-certified responsible forestry operation, and developed a partnership with local Piscataquis County schools. 

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Debbie and I have been AMC volunteers dating back to the early 2000’s, and this is my third year serving as a director. I was thrilled to return to Medawisla and see its improved operations during my favorite season of the year. The foliage in west-central Maine peaked weeks ago, but there was still some color in the trees. Not all the leaves had fallen.

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There was snow on the ground when we arrived, and the Nor’easter that walloped New England on Saturday brought several more inches of the wet white precipitation on Saturday afternoon and evening.

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Last Thursday, I spent the day at work and then in the late afternoon, picked up Dalia at school, and then we went to Windham High School to cheer the Bolton Center School Cross Country Team (Boys and Girls) at their middle school league championships. Shepard is a 6th grader on the team and Debbie is the coach. I was home by 6:30 P.M., packed the car, and hit the road again. I was in Portland by 10:00 P.M. and stopped for the night at my Aunt Terry’s house.

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Terry is always a great host. She didn’t visit Medawisla with us in 2017, but she was with us on the first part of that trip to Baxter State Park. After arriving in Portland, I didn’t stay up long. In the morning, we chatted a bit before I did my regular morning Huddles by phone. I had to answer some emails and do a little project work before we parted company.

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I drove to Greenville and got there in about three hours. I stopped a few times on the way, including once for gas. Each time, I checked my messages and did a little work knowing that once I got to Medawisla, my connection with civilization was going to be a bit weaker.

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Just past Greenville, I stopped at Lily Bay State Park. The gate was closed, but I parked at a turnout a little farther up the main road. I pulled out my bicycle and changed into riding gear. I rode 25 minutes back towards Greenville until I reached the high point where there were great views of Moosehead Lake.

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On the return trip to the car, I made a detour into the park and rode down to the lake’s edge. My ride took 65 minutes and then I hopped back in the car for the final 45 minute drive to Medawisla. I got there about 2:30 P.M. in time for the official start of the meeting.

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The lodge operations have come a long way since that first weekend in 2017. There is an established “croo” and they were awesome. The croo’s cooking was excellent–I’ve never had better food at an AMC facility. At the  Maine lodges, the food itself has become a draw. The staff was very accommodating of my vegan diet. They not only served me sides, but they made unique vegan offerings that mimicked each course served to the omnivores.

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The board meeting itself was very productive and educational. With the Maine theme, we talked a lot about the forest economy and the tourist economy. Both are key to the state’s fortunes. AMC has done a lot to spur economic development in Piscataquis County through sustainable forestry and through recreation. Both efforts are core to our mission.

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We got to hear from expert leaders involved with economic development, forestry investment, higher education, and the outdoor apparel/gear business. We also learned more about the evolution of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. AMC’s focus has been on the 100 Mile Wilderness, which is the last (or first) 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail extending to/from Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park.

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These lands have been heavily used as an industrial forest over the last two centuries. The timber, paper, and pulp industries are much smaller and the communities in this region have fallen on hard times. Many mills have closed. However, the remaining ones are seeing new investment. Folks in Maine realized long ago that the economy can’t just be dependent on logging, but needs a boost from other sectors, including tourism.

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Though I grew up in Connecticut, half of my family’s roots are in Maine, so I’ve always been an interested observer. My mother grew up in Upper Frenchville in Aroostook County, the northernmost part of Maine. I have many cousins, aunts, and uncles who still live in Maine. My grandparents are gone, but I always enjoyed visiting them. It was a long drive–500 miles–from my home to theirs, but it was through a beautiful landscape. I miss those days of piling in to the back of our family car and heading north.

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On Friday night, we got to look through the lodge’s telescope. It was a “homemade” model, but not a hack job by any means. It was made by a noted scientist and it was awesome. It was only a few days after the full moon and it was clear, so we got a great look at the surface and all its craters. AMC is working on International Dark Sky designation for our Maine project and facilities. This would be a great accomplishment as Dark Sky destinations are sought out by astronomy buffs.

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At Medawisla, I saw some of the local landscape. I got out early both on Saturday and Sunday morning for short runs on the nearby trails. They were cut with cross-country skiing in mind, so they were wide and easy to follow. There are many old logging roads in the area that are also used as trails, especially in winter. In the north country, there has always been conflict between motorized and non-motorized recreation. Both are important to Maine. I won’t wade into this debate, but it’s worth noting that there is a shift towards more non-motorized activities including hiking, cycling, skiing, paddling, and fly fishing. ATV’s and snowmobiles are still seen all over the state, but their popularity is reported to be waning as demographics change.

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On Saturday afternoon, some of us ventured out and toured the other two lodges. We first drove to Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins and walked around. Then we drove over to Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins. They are about eight miles apart, but separated by rough and unplowed logging roads. The entire trip took about three hours. By the time we got to Little Lyford, it was snowing heavily. These facilities close during the shoulder season as they prepare for winter and as the roads become impassable. Both Gorman and Little Lyford will reopen right after Christmas, whereas Medawisla (the access road is plowed) will remain open. Gorman and Little Lyford are a bit more rustic than Medawisla, have their own character, and are in beautiful spots. In the winter, you park about eight miles away and the only way to get to the camps is on your skis or snowshoes. Staff hauls in your extra gear using the snowmobiles.

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AMC is fortunate to have an amazing team of full-time employees. The entire Maine Woods Initiative “croo” that hosted us were informative, helpful, inspiring, and gracious. They are passionate about their work and great representatives for AMC’s conservation, education, and recreation mission. A trip to Maine would be well worth your time and effort.

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I was disappointed to not get out on Second Roach Pond like we did in the summer of 2017. I wanted to paddle some, but the lake was already iced over and conditions weren’t good for water-sports. My only other regret from the weekend is that I didn’t have time to try the Medawisla sauna. Now I have another good reason to go back!

2018 Gran Prix of Gloucester

Every year, the Gran Prix of Gloucester is the biggest cyclocross race in New England. It is occasionally referred to as the “world championships of New England.” It draws the best competition and with that, comes bragging rights in the region.

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Team Horst Sports and the CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad ventured to Cape Ann on the north shore of Massachusetts for the 20th anniversary of this classic. For me, it was a mixed bag. My form is reaching a peak, and I’m stoked about that, but on Sunday, misfortune hit me again as I flatted with 2.5 laps to go on the gnarly course. I was riding strong, just inside the top 40 overall, in a field of 105 Masters 40+ and Junior 15-18 year old racers. Since when is top 40 “riding strong?”

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When you are Gloucester. The competition was fierce and the racing was flat-out. I was a long way from the pit, and had to run more than half a lap to get to my bike, which is my singlespeed. So, the last two laps were like a parade for me, just trying to finish. With the singlespeed on this course, there was only so fast I could go. I couldn’t make up any ground and truthfully, lost two more spots even after I pitted. In total, I lost nearly 25 spots. Oh well.

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Alas, that was not the highlight of the weekend. Saturday went better for me, despite the extreme conditions. Our 11:30 A.M. race was cold, rainy, and very muddy. It made for some of the toughest cross conditions in memory. I managed 36th in the stacked field of 102 riders. I was the 21st Masters rider. There were 15 Juniors in front of me, and they were very fast. I was satisfied with this result because I often struggle in muddy and slick conditions. I hung in there and was able to beat all but one of the group of six that I was battling with over the last two laps.

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Most of them were juniors, including the one guy who got away from us with 1.5 laps to go. I gave it my all, and led our group for the entire last lap and a half, stringing them out in the process. I nearly caught that lone rider on the line too, and finished only one second behind him. On Saturday, I had good power and that is why Sunday’s result was so frustrating. I felt even better yesterday in the dry and cool conditions, and normally have a strong second day when we have a double race weekend.

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The rest of the team also had a good weekend. Despite Saturday’s rain and cold, we enjoyed the beauty of Stage Fort Park. We did a few rides up the coast and around the point in East Gloucester. The cool down after yesterday’s race was another highlight because three of the Junior Squad members joined us for the coastal ride and we all enjoyed the ocean views.

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On Day 1, some of us hung around all day, and the weather improved. By late afternoon, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. We watched the Elite Women and then the Elite Men. The guys had a great battle and it was a very entertaining race to watch.

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It was a lot of work to pack up, but the entire team spent time together at a local hotel. We shared a fun meal and recounted the first day. Day 2 was all about the racing, and then we packed up again, with most of us leaving early in the afternoon before the racing was over. Two races 2.5 hours from home on an October weekend is a lot. However, for Gloucester, it was worth the effort.

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Shepard had a fine weekend, finishing 20th on Sunday and 19th on Saturday in a strong Cub Juniors 9-14 field that shared the course as the same time as the Category 4/5 Women. He got to ride in traffic and experienced the excitement of Gloucester for the second year in a row. Sean Rourke, Boden Chenail, Lars Roti, Owen Lezon, and Ethan Lezon all had good rides. So did the children of other Team Horst members: Nate Summers, Amanda Meyerle, and Johnny Meyerle (in the combined Masters/Juniors race with me).

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On the Masters side, Art Roti, John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, Wade Summers, Dave Geissert, and Keith Enderle all raced hard. Dave got the “flat bug” like I did. Other than our misfortune, the other guys were strong. Tim Rourke did yeoman’s work as a course marshal, with the awesome finish line location. His volunteer work was a symbol of our experience at Gloucester. It was all good.

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Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2018 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

After today, I’ve now raced the Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross a dozen times. The race started in 1983, but I didn’t start racing cross until 1995. It’s always been one of my favorites. It helps that Mansfield Hollow State Park is only 25 minutes from home.

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We had a huge turnout from Team Horst Sports on a mild, but cloudy day in Mansfield, Connecticut. It as a great Saturday of cyclocross. Dahlia and Shepard raced at 8:45 A.M. and 9:15 A.M. respectively. I did the Masters 40+ race at 11:00 A.M. Then, I raced the Singlespeed race at 3:45 P.M. In between I brought Debbie and the kids home.

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I returned on my own for the last race of the day and five more laps of pain. We had a good CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad turnout. Dahlia was joined in the Juniors 9-11 year old race by Owen Lezon, Ethan Lezon, and Adela Chenail. Then, in the Juniors 12-14 year old race, Shepard was joined by Boden Chenail, and Lars Roti. In the Juniors 15-18 race, we were represented by Liam Hangen.

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In the Masters 40+ race, I was joined by Arthur Roti, Rich Frisbie, Brett Chenail, and Andris Skulte. In the Masters 50+ race we were represented by Wade Summers, John Meyerle, and Dave Geissert. Keith Enderle was our lone rider in the Masters 60+ field.

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The kids and the Masters did great. I had a pretty good day. I didn’t feel super in the 40+ race, but had a good battle with Jeremy Brazeal and Christopher White. We traded places a few times. I made a few mistakes and that helped Jeremy get the gap that he used to hold me off. Chris was quicker on the technical parts of the course, but I was stronger on the flats and open field sections.

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It was  long course, which made it hard. When I returned for the Singlespeed race, but legs were sore. I was bummed out when I learned that it was also 45 minutes long and that we were likely to do five laps. I was hoping for one less. In the end, I did 10 laps of the course. Surprisingly, my Singlespeed time was only 28 seconds slower than my time with my geared bike. I didn’t expect to ride nearly as fast with one gear, but I did. My race-long battle with Keith Burgoyne and Eric Wyzga likely contributed to the high pace.

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All three of us pushed each other. Keith had the advantage because it was his only race of the day, and with 1.5 laps to go, he attacked us and got a gap that he held the rest of the  way. Eric pressed me, but I was able to distance him in the last half lap and hold him off. It was fun. I’m glad I went back for the second race and I hope it pays off. I’m trying to do as many of the 12 Zanconato Single Speed Cyclo-Cross Trophy Series races as possible. If I get 8-10 of them, then I would be thrilled.

Much appreciation to Race Director Ron Manizza and all of the volunteers. It’s worth noting that I love my Seven Mudhoney SL singlespeed cross bike. It fits great and it handles amazingly well.

Race Results

2018 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

Any regular reader of this blog would know that the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run plays an important role in our family history. Every year, I share a link that tells the story of how Debbie and I met at the 1999 race.

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This year was the 25th anniversary of the VT50, which was founded in 1993. We missed the first six years, but the annual event has been on our schedule for the last 19 years. We only missed once, in 2015, when Debbie had the opportunity to run ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI.

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We have no regrets about skipping that edition. Her UTMF accomplishment led to her qualification and entry in the 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run, and now we are part of the Hardrock community too. Three years ago, when the UTMF opportunity presented itself, we needed a break from the routine of the VT50. We came back to the race in 2016 loving it more than ever.

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The NipMuck Trail Marathon is another event that we have run or volunteered at more than 15 times. This year, we missed NipMuck because it was also yesterday, a clear conflict with the VT50, which happens every 5-6 years. We were bummed to be away from our Shenipsit Striders friends and that community too, but the VT50 takes precedence for us because it came first.

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We share the same anniversary as Race Director Michael Silverman, who also got his start in 1999. I came into this year’s race without the best preparation. I haven’t done much endurance, but I am still fit. Debbie opted to ride the race for the second year in a row. Her long history with the event is primarily as a runner. Mine is as a rider, though I’ve run it in the past too.

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Our kids joined us and the race has become important for them too. They do the kids mountain biking and trail running races on the Saturday before the big event. Debbie was asked to help coordinate the kids races and she obliged, so after a brief stop at Horst Engineering, we made it to Brownsville a little after noon. Deb’s mom, Barbara, came along to assist, as she has done many times in the past.

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Saturday afternoon had some of the best weather in recent memory. Rainy conditions have persisted for weeks and it was gloomy right through Friday evening. Saturday dawned nice, and the afternoon was spectacular, which was great for everyone. Shepard did the two-mile mountain bike race, which is just a sampler. Then, he did the 5K trail run, which was a bit more substantial given the hilly course. Dahlia skipped the bike race, but did the kids one mile run. She did get lucky in the raffle, and won a 24″ Cannondale Cujo bicycle. We had four bikes between us, but managed to squeeze a fifth one in the van on the drive home.

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After the Saturday afternoon fun, I did a little ride with some friends. It’s tradition that we scope out the first few miles of the course. For the second year, we spent the night with friends at a local rental house. Over the years, our accommodations have varied, but the current situation where we stay close to the mountain, has been working out great.

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The clear and dry weather made for a cool start on Sunday morning. It was only in the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) at 6:00 A.M. when wave-one set off. That was my wave, and it took me a little while to warm up. I was riding my seven-year old Seven Sola SL singlespeed, but with a new set of wheels. I had brand new tires, new rotors, a new rear cog, and a new belt. The work was done by Bicycles East, and they did a fine job.

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Sadly, descending a steep hill at the seven mile mark, I hit a really rough section of rocks and blew out my front tire. I had a headlight, but I never saw what I hit. I just knew it was bad. I know those rocks well and it was right before a right turn onto a dirt road. I got to the road, but had no air left in my tubeless tire by the time I made the corner. The tire was ajar on the rim. I thought about reseating it and attempting to get it to seal with the ample sealant sloshing around in the new tire, but I erred on the side of caution, removed the tire, and installed the single spare inner tube that I had in my pack.

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I wished I brought two, but I only had one. It was a calculated risk on a brand new set of tires with fresh sealant. Alas, I lost about 10 minutes and never got the tire to seat perfectly on the rim. Being a brand new tire, it was tight fit and I only had a small emergency frame pump. I did the best I could in the limited light with cold hands. It was only about 45 minutes into the race and I didn’t have the energy to chase. I had been riding well, in the top five of the singlespeed class, but after a long work week and some questionable motivation, I decided to change my goal.

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I soft pedaled to the first aid station on my wobbly front tire, stopped, and waited for Debbie. I got a little chilled waiting for her, but I stood there patiently until she arrived about 15 minutes later. She was OK with me tagging along, and we spent the next six hours together. I had never seen the course at a slower pace and I had never done it with her, which after all these years was a joy. I had also never stopped to take pictures, but this year I took many. I’m glad that I carried my iPhone 6s in my pack. It gave me something to do other than ride and cheer for Debbie.

She wasn’t on her best day, but she persevered and I was proud of her. I was able to offer up some constructive coaching and riding tips. By the end of the race, she was a better mountain biker than when she started. Her legs were heavy after running the 80 mile Ultra-Trail Harricana only three weeks ago, but she still pushed hard. I could tell that she wasn’t having as much fun as she would have liked, but that’s OK. We had a beautiful day together in the Vermont woods.

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It remained chilly for most of the morning, but the last few hours were more pleasant as the sunlight and humidity increased. I was careful with my front tire and made it to the finish without another puncture. I hope I didn’t do any damage to the wheel. I had sealant leaking out of some spoke nipple holes, so I know there will be a little work to do. I’ll get the bike washed up and likely get the advice of the Bicycles East team.

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Speaking of team…Team Horst Sports had fantastic representation in Vermont. I’ll list the names: Arlen Zane Wenzel, Arthur Roti, Mark Hixson, Brett Chenail, Randall Dutton, John Meyerle, Anthony Eisley, and Joseph Dickerson were all finishers. One shout out goes to Johnny Meyerle (John’s son) who had an amazing ride finishing 20th overall. He has worked hard for that result and deserved it. It’s great to see a CCAP junior just crushing it. Teammate Erik Emanuele was just a spectator, but he was a great help all weekend. We even had several former members who are still part of our “family” do the race, including Ted D’Onofrio and Cheryl Jackson. So many other friends were finishers too. We know so many people, that this race has turned into an annual reunion.

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The course was tougher than ever with a little extra singletrack. The trails weren’t too wet, which was great because we hate to do damage. The only real mud was in the fields. The volunteer corps appeared stronger than ever and I have nothing but good things to say about the aid stations. They were packed with great food and drink options. My only gripe is about the riders/runners and not the race itself. It relates to the amount of trash that was left on the course. At my slower pace, I was able to see more of the race than ever before. I was also behind 500 or so people.

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The litter was horrendous. I would have needed several trash bags to fit it all. How come full/unused energy bars, gels, and food don’t fall out of people’s pockets? Why is it predominantly  “empty” wrappers that end up on the trail? I think it is ridiculous that endurance athletes and outdoors people can’t pack out what they bring with them. I feel bad for the volunteers who have to go back out on the course and pick up all that stuff. I shared my concerns with Michael Silverman and we were both disappointed while discussing it.

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I can’t end this post on a downer. There was a great vibe at Mt. Ascutney. It is awesome to see Ascutney Trails reviving the mountain and bringing new people to the sport of mountain biking. I loved seeing so many kids riding and running on Saturday. It was great that more money was raised for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport. This was the second time that our family  has been to both the Vermont 100 and the Vermont 50 in the same year.  Both events drive revenue for VASS.

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I don’t know what might cause us to miss the VT50 in the future, but for now, I’m happy that we are continuing our streak again.

Race Results


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My first ever The Ice Weasels Cometh was my 19th and final #cyclocross race of the season. I had a strong ride and was very happy considering that my second race of calendar 2018 (last race of last season) ended up with me breaking a leg. #iceweasels was a much better result and it’s great to finish with peak fitness. Doing most of the @zanksscx gave me a fresh reason to push through this cross season. Today’s race was a solo adventure but I saw lots of teammates and friends. #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #sevencycles @seven_cycles #zanksscx #horstengineering #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross
Sunshine! ☀️ Despite what others may say... #cyclocross in December is SO much better when it is sunny. Today @nbx_bikes Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Day 1, it was cold but clear and dry. I wouldn’t call it a beach day, but it was pretty good. I’m not so sure about Day 2 forecast for tomorrow. #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #nbxcx #crossspikes #crossisboss 🚴🏽
It was “moist” at the CT Series of Cross finals @bishopsorchards #cyclocross #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstengineering #ctseriesofcx #crossspikes @the_ccap #crossisboss
More #secretcx fun. Tom and Brett represented in the Masters race. #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng @racerockhard #cyclocross
#secretcx was really rad. The modified course (due to wicked wet fields) was “mountain bikey” and mint. They shouldn’t change a thing. #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @horsteng @racerockhard #cyclocross
Three fun videos from the @nohocx Juniors 9-14 year old race this morning. These kids are all champs! @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad #horstengineering @victuscoffee @bicycleseastct #teamhorstsports #crossspikes #cyclocross #crossisboss
Last night’s @lutzmuseum Children’s #Poetry Reading was lovely. Our little #poet thrives in environments like this.
Good sunrise 🌅 ride. The extra sleep 💤 helped. The leaves 🍁 were lovely. #connecticut residents: Vote YES on Question # 2 #openspace #valleyfalls #boltonheritagefarm #cycling #hiking #trailrunning #sevencycles @ctforestandparkassociation 🚴‍♀️
🍁 ☀️ #october #autumn

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