Archive for the 'Family' Category

2018 NEMBAfest

It’s been three weeks since Debbie, the kids, and I joined our Team Horst Sports mates at NEMBAfest in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. However, I still wanted to say a few things about the experience.

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It was our first NEMBAfest, though some of our teammates are veterans. I can’t believe it took us so long to ride the Kingdom Trails. Debbie and I passed through a few times more than 10 years ago. Horst Engineering has a customer in Lyndonville and I’ve visited a few times. We have also been to Jay Peak on a few occasions for the Jay Challenge, Ultimate XC, and a variety of other endurance events. I had ridden the roads in Burke, been up the access road at Burke Mountain, swam in the Passumpsic River, but I had never ridden the mountain bike trails until this year.

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10 years ago, I even posted a “weak” blog entry about a trip through Burke. There are some bad links in it and I’m not going back to fix it. The photos from the most recent trip are much better anyway.

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We are longtime NEMBA members and supporters. The festival attracted more than 1,700 mountain bikers and is bigger than ever. Dirt Rag had a nice story about this year’s festival and the photo at the bottom of their post is of three CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad riders (Sean, Lars, and our son Shepard). The festival combines good food, an expo (gear, clothing, bikes, etc.), music, and LOTS of riding.

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Trail conditions were spectacular. On Friday, we got there in the late morning. It was hot, dry, and dusty. We camped in the “quiet” family camping section on a hill overlooking a small pond and the Chapel of the Holy Family. It was an amazing spot and we had about as spectacular a sunset as I’ve experienced anywhere.

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Saturday and Sunday were a little damp with periods of rain, but it was welcome and hardly a nuisance. The moisture “calmed down” the dust and the trails took on a tacky texture which made them much more fun to ride.

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We did group rides with CCAP crew on Friday afternoon, and then did our own Team Horst Junior Squad rides on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Debbie and I squeezed in a couples ride and got in other individual rides too. I rode more than 75 miles that weekend. Even our son got in more than 60 miles on the trails. It was pretty awesome. Our daughter, still on 20″ wheels, got in more than 20 miles and loved hanging out at the expo.

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I’ll sum it up by saying that we hope we can make the date in 2019, because we can’t wait to go back. I’m guessing we will make it back to Kingdom Trails before June of next year, but attending NEMBAfest again is a top priority.

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2018 West Rock Superprestige MTB Finals

The West Rock Superprestige finals absolutely rocked. It was a full Team Horst Sports and family affair yesterday at West Rock Nature Center in Hamden, Connecticut.

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The event actually started with a 5K trail race, the first ever at this venue, which was great for Debbie and Dahlia. We got there in time for the 8:30 A.M. start so they could do the two lap (1.5 kilometers each) course.

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It was great to see some of our running friends at a mountain bike race. Like us, some of them are “blended” families and do both sports. Debbie was third woman finishing behind Kerry Arsenault, who was there with her partner (race timer Jerry Turk); and Grace Mattern. I shadowed Dahlia and ran with Rachel Mattern (Grace’s Mom), who were visiting with her family from Rochester, New York. We normally don’t see them until fall when the cyclocross season is in full swing, so it was fun to spend a summer day with them.

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Even Dahlia came home with swag, finishing second in her age group to Grace, who is a fine multisport athlete. There wasn’t a whole lot of under-18 females, which suited Dahlia just fine. The race organizers were very generous with their prizes. Grace’s Dad, Craig, and brother, Miles, finished on the podium in their mountain bike races too. Miles actually won the 9-12 year old boys race. Like us, they did scored some nice prizes.

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In that junior mountain bike race that Miles won, there were 32 boys and girls, which was a fantastic turnout. Shepard had his best ever race, finishing third, just behind Cade Fravel. They were several minutes behind Myles, but Cade and Shepard had a great battle. Shepard had a conservative start, but moved up from 8th to 3rd, and was challenging Cade by the end of the five lap race. Both boys wouldn’t give an inch and they hammered the final lap with Cade posting a 10 second advantage. It was fun to watch. They were toast at the finish, but it was a breakthrough race, at least for Shepard. I think he learned how to push past the pain point.

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We had several other CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad racers compete today. In the 9-12 field, Shepard was joined by Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. In the 13-14, Sean Rourke took second. He was joined in the field by Weston Winbourne, and by his sister, Molly Rourke, who was second place amongst the girls. In addition to the Team Horst Junior Squad kids, there were many other kids who are indirectly related to us including members of the Meyerle and Summers families. Their children are on different CCAP squads, but their parents are affiliated with Team Horst. They are all family to us!

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I did the Men’s A race at noon and was in the singlespeed category. We had a blistering fast start on the technical West Rock course. My first lap was kind of bumpy, but I settled in and eventually took the lead amongst the singlespeeders. The race was 10 laps, which was solid for the 1.2 mile short track loop. By the middle of the day, the temperature had risen to the high 80’s under a blazing hot sun, but fortunately, we were mostly in the shade on the heavily wooded course.

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I knew I was being tailed, and with three to go, one of my West Rock rivals, Marty Waters, made his bid, shooting past me on the most technical section of the course. There was a brutal rock garden and my Seven Sola SL is rigid, a distinct disadvantage on this section. At times, I felt like a pinball. He got a gap, but I kept him in sight. Over the next two laps, I closed in on the climbs, only to see him pull away on the rocky and rooty sections of the course. Still, I felt like I had managed my effort and had something left in the tank.

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In the second half of the second to last lap, Anthony Vecca caught us and moved to the front of our three-man group. I had a rough penultimate lap, bobbling several times and I even had to get off and push through the worst section of rocks when my wheel got jerked sideways, forcing me to lose all my momentum. Anthony took off and I wasn’t sure if we were going to stick with him, but Marty kept contact as I dangled off the back of the group. Once again, I closed down the gap on the final climb and almost made it back up to them by the start finish with one to go. We started the final lap pretty much all together.

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The first half of each lap was more technical, so I let it all hang out in an effort to keep them close, knowing that if I could, once we got to the more hilly second half of the loop, I had a shot at the win. When we got to a section where there were a series of three logs, I went left, and Marty went right. I cleared the final large log cleanly while he was slow to get over it. I heard him moan a bit as I accelerated away, and I thought I might have broken him.

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Anthony was only a handful of seconds up on me, but I thought that he also may have played his cards too soon. We crossed the small stream and then hit the long leg burning wooded climb that led to the grass climb before the big descent. I felt like this was the spot to make my move, so I came up on his left, called out the pass, and just buried myself to get by him. He yielded, which gave me confidence, but I still figured he would grab my wheel and hang on. This was the only lap I opted to not take a sip from my bottle. There were only two or three spots on the course where you could even get your bottle out of your cage, and this was one of them. I didn’t want to take the chance at a bobble and just pedaled as fast as I could on the gradual incline.

I never looked back, but pushed extremely hard all the way to the hairpin left at the top of the descent. We were hitting 30 miles per hour on this downhill. I wasn’t brave enough to stay off the brakes completely, and needed to tap them a few times towards the bottom where the trail dumped out into a field. There was one more steep descent and then a winding section through the woods with four tough wood bridges to navigate before the final climb.

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I thought I heard Anthony behind me, but still never looked. At this point, I didn’t know that we had cracked Marty, so I kept pushing. The big climb had a sharp left and then another sharp left before the final hairpin right, which was all gravel. All of the turns were loose dirt and it was hard to keep traction, especially while pushing such a big gear (singlespeeders have only one). I had to really stand and grind it out, but in each of the turns, I gave it my all, hoping to distance my rivals. I got to the crest of the hill as it turned right into the top of the grassy field by the team tents, and just hammered.

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I came through the final hairpin left hand turn, which had some sneaky gravel on it, and on to some broken pavement just before the finish line. I punched it one final time, sensing that I had to keep on the gas. That last effort was crucial because Anthony was right on my wheel, and I ended up crossing the finish line with less than a bike length lead. Our timing chips said we were separated by 1.00 seconds after 64 minutes of racing.

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We were 7th and 8th overall. Six guys with gears were in front of us. We had dropped Marty on the last climb, but he finished a valiant third. I thanked them both for the hard racing. It really was a great battle. With more than 1,200 feet of climbing in just under 11 miles of racing, this is a tough race. My heart rate averaged 174 beats per minutes, which is consistent with the hardest of my 45+ minute cyclocross races, but I had a peak heart rate of 196, which is 12 beats higher than I’ve seen in many years. 184 was the highest recorded rate in the 2017 cyclocross season. I don’t know if that is a good or bad sign, but that figure was posted right at the finish line, which highlights how hard that last lap was.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with the prestige of the top step of the podium, a six-pack of Yard Party Pale Ale, $25 (to reimburse a portion of my entry fee), and a Hammer products shaker bottle. That is more than enough swag to make a Masters racer very happy. I would have sprinted for the glory alone!

There were several other Team Horst Sports mate in the A race, including John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, Art Roti, and Joseph Dickerson. Tim Rourke (Sean and Molly’s Dad) won the Masters B Race.

There were many cheering throngs of spectators. The course is laid out perfectly for those who want to watch. You can get to four or five spots every lap. The yelps from Team Horst families was motivating.

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I only made two of the five series races this year, but Shepard made three of them. A big thanks goes to Kurt D’Aniello, Annalisa Paltauf, and the rest of the crew/volunteers from D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles and the Laurel Bicycle Club. They were fantastic hosts and promoters. Their swag was generous, and the post race food/beverage was really appreciated. They did a fine job with the entire series.

Sadly, we couldn’t hang around long. We packed up and took Dahlia to summer camp. After Shepard, Debbie, and I unpacked and cleaned the gear, we headed to Flora Food + Drink for a celebratory meal. Debbie and I were there a week ago, and we were thrilled to return. We ended a Team Horst themed day by seeing our friends, Keith, Paula, and Erin Enderle at the restaurant. They were having a celebration of their own. Keith is a teammate and he is getting pumped for cyclocross season. So am I!

Race Results

2018 Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop Adventure

On a scorching hot and humid day, Debbie returned to the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop to finish the job we couldn’t get done in 2017. The difference this time was that she didn’t have me along to hold her back. She did say that it would have been nice for me to have come to clear the trail of spider webs like I normally do. This time, she was on her own!

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She completed the 36 miles in 9 hours and 38 minutes. The loop has about 8,100 feet of ascent and 8,050 feet of descent depending on which GPS you are wearing. The point is that it is a lot…for Connecticut. The Mohawk Trail is as rugged as it gets. Last year, we saw no one on the trail. She reported that this year was no different. She never saw a person until she reached the Appalachian Trail, which is heavily traveled and in much better shape.

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We did read that our friends at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association sent the summer trail crew to Cornwall Bridge last week. They completed a bridge extension across Furnace Brook on the Mohawk Trail in Cornwall. I’m going to arrange for them to go back and do some “brushing” on the trail.

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The Mohawk Trail is overgrown with lots of blowdowns. The blue blazes can be hard to follow in some spots. It is full of rocks and roots (which won’t change). She had lots of scratches on her legs from the overgrowth.

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I guess you could say this was a successful FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempt, but there was no female entry on the discussion board, so it was a simple attempt to just finish it and get in training miles for the upcoming Vermont 100K.

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I’m sure this loop has been done many times over the years and some folks may not know or care about FKT’s, but it looks like the male entry on the discussion board by Scott Gregor, appeared a month after our failed attempt in 2017. This is his Strava file for the run. We completed a “loop,” but we bailed on the last section of trail  and ran up the road to where our car was parked at Mohawk State Forest. We were running out of time and had to pick up our kids at my in-laws, but chances are I would still be lost in the dark if we continued on.

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Debbie chose to do this primarily to prepare for the upcoming 100K in three weeks, so she didn’t destroy herself. If it was cooler and the trail was less overgrown (maybe she will try again in the fall, or next spring before everything sprouts), then I’m sure she could go quicker. When I fully heal, I would love to go with her again. Of course, then her effort wouldn’t be solo, and not a “true” FKT.

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This time, she parked at Cornwall Bridge, where we originally planned to park in 2017, and it turned out to be a better spot. She started there and did the section we missed first, going in a counter-clockwise loop. She got that rugged section done right away. Just like 2017, yesterday was the warmest day of the year. Once again, she stopped at Mountainside Cafe, which is conveniently located off the trail. It’s nearly at the northern intersection with the AT. Last year, despite the cafe stop, we were short on water at several points during the run. This year, she dropped water at Mohawk State Forest, which was a good decision. She refilled there and then again at the cafe, and had enough to get to the finish. Last year, a water drop or two would have made a big difference for us.

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I worked in the morning at Horst Engineering‘s Burnham Street plant, but when the shift ended at noon, I changed up into my cycling kit. Then I rode my bike from East Hartford to Cornwall Bridge with the idea of meeting her at the trailhead and seeing her finish. She was hoping to do it in nine hours or less, but it turned out to be a bit longer. She messaged me a few times, so I knew of her progress. I took a winding route on some of the most beautiful roads in Connecticut.

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I crossed the Connecticut River in South Windsor. I rode past Penwood State Park, through Simsbury and into New Hartford. I rode around the bottom of Barkhamsted Reservoir and then rode between People’s State Forest and American Legion State Forest on the Farmington River. I cut through Riverton and then rode northwest to Norfolk. From there I cut south and skirted past Dennis Hill State Park and John A. Minetto State Park. I took a beautiful diversion on Hodges Hill Road, University Drive, John Brown Road, and Pothier Road. John Brown was an abolitionist and there is a cool historic marker at the site of his former home. I stopped for a photo. I only snapped a few photos during the ride, but this felt like a good spot for one.

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I hit Route 4, but then took another diversion on Route 63 and then back to Route 4 via West Side Road and Bartholomew Hill. That was a hard finish. From there, it was back to Route 4 for the final (mostly downhill) five miles. That last descent was the last ascent in 2017 when we bailed on the last part of the Mohawk and took the road instead. I traversed it much faster on my bike!

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Debbie slowed a bit at the end of her run, and I made it to the trailhead about 25 minutes before she did. I spent the time sweating and swatting flies. My ride was just shy of 75 miles and I felt pretty good despite the heat. I had stopped once to refill all my water bottles at a convenience store, but otherwise kept moving and covered the distance in 4 hours and 55 minutes. I used my Seven Axiom SL super-commuter and had my Dill Pickle handlebar bag jammed with a shirt and shorts to change into. I strapped my Crocs to the rear rack.

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She arrived and I shot a short video and snapped a few photos. She was beat, but happy. She didn’t go too deep into he pain cave since she has to recover for Vermont, which will be a different kind of race, with a lot more dirt road running. She ran the full 100 miler in 2012, but opted to do the 100K this year as a change of pace. Also, we think she has the opportunity to be the first person to finish the Vermont 100 Mile, Vermont 50 Mile, Vermont 50K, Vermont 50 Mile (on a mountain bike), and the Vermont 100K. All that would remain is the horse race version of the Vermont 100, and I wouldn’t doubt her if she decides to learn how to ride so that she can do this too.

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After her finish, we refueled and then drove down into the village along the Housatonic River so that we could go for a dip and watch off the grime. After our quick change, we drove back up the hill to Mohawk State Forest to retrieve the empty bottles that she left behind. From there, we drove to Flora Plant Food + Drink in West Hartford Center for a vegan date night meal. I celebrated with a beer and the food was great. Afterwards, we crossed the street to pick up some groceries at Whole Foods and test out our new expanded Amazon Prime discount app bar code. I botched it, but customer service reimbursed us.

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She remarked that it’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly when you fill it with all of this activity. I agreed.

The Perils of Bicycle Commuting

Last night, on my bicycle commute from work I had a run-in with a motorist. Technically the confrontation was with a backseat passenger. No one was hurt. It was just a verbal spat that result in an arrest for the (drunken) harassing behavior and drug possession.

Commuting is a great way to combine exercise and low impact transportation while getting outside. This year, I’m traveling less, spending more time at our plant sites, and commuting more than ever. The rationale is simple. The distance from home is about 11 miles, I have to go to work anyway, and I love to ride. I have several routes and variations of those routes that keep it interesting and allow a manageable commute of 11 to 17 miles, that can usually be done in an hour or less each way. My ride home typically takes five to 15 minutes longer because it is uphill.

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If there is a single drawback to bicycle commuting, it can be described in one word: motorists. If there were no cars or trucks on the roads, I would love to ride even more. I see a lot of crazy conduct on the roads of Connecticut (and Massachusetts) where I do most of my riding. Cycling offers a unique vantage point and with nothing blocking or filtering your view, you take it all in. That includes seeing a lot of ignorant drivers. I see it all of the time, but rarely write about it. I’m sort of numb to it. However, if you were a new cyclist or if you were less tolerant of the risks, you would likely stop riding on roads altogether. In recent years, many people have told me how they no longer ride on the roads.

I certainly don’t recommend riding on the roads that I use for commuting. I’m a huge advocate for safe riding and especially bicycle commuting, but for the average rider, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. I’m on Burnside Avenue all of the time and that road has seen three cyclist related deaths in recent years. They have done work to make the road safer by limiting it to one vehicle lane, and by adding a bicycle lane, but that was only in response to the accidents.

Around here, the roads are terrible and getting worse. Despite being fenced off from traffic, even sections of the local paved bike paths have hazards that include cracks, potholes, glass, and weeds. The city streets have even bigger potholes. They are narrow and lack shoulders. They have faded paint/markings. There is even more glass. They have cracks and frost heaves. It’s nasty, but in a weird way, I know every flaw and still enjoy riding these roads. It’s the act of commuting, and not the environment, that keeps me doing it. My routes aren’t entirely devoid of beauty. Sections of the East Coast Greenway are lovely. Riding through Wickham Park is beautiful.

I left Horst Engineering’s Burnham Street plant at 5:53 P.M. I rode up Burnham Street, cut through the industrial park, and accessed the bike path from Tolland Turnpike. This is a typical route for me. I ride this section of path several days a week. It has huge cracks, and at this time of year, long weeds spout from them. It’s unfortunate that this section isn’t maintained. When they extended the East Coast Greenway from Manchester to Bolton, I was against asphalt. I didn’t want them to pave it. I preferred cinder or dirt like the Hop River State Park Linear Trail. The photos show what happens when you fence off a bike path and then neglect it.

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It was a hot evening with the temperature in the low-90’s Fahrenheit. It was the kind of summer night where if you didn’t have your air conditioning blasting, then all your windows were rolled down. On a bike, there are no windows and there is no air conditioning.

I got off the path near Wickham Park and then took Burnside Avenue (Rt. 44) to Middle Turnpike and then to Center Street. I was in a rush to make a “belt test” for the kids at Park’s Taekwondo, so I just went straight up 44. It’s not a pretty road, but not every bicycle commute is pretty. Sometimes, you just have to get from point A to point B. On this road, I saw a usual number of distracted drivers, and at a stoplight, reminded one to put away her phone.

I made my way up Center Street towards downtown Manchester. When you ride your bike straight up 44 like this, you are prepared for something to happen. At this point, I was listening to some music, and minding my own business. A car came rolling by me and a person in the back seat on the passenger side hung out the window screamed, “Get out of the road.”

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I tapped my EarPods twice to stop the music and waved at the guy in a dismissive manner. He proceeded to flip me off and shout some obscenities. I was riding nearly as fast as the car, so I accelerated a bit. I was in that kind of mood. Most of the time, I just ignore people, but like I said, it was Monday night, the end of a long work day, and it was hot. I was a little frustrated too. In situations like this, I usually weigh my options before responding, but sometimes your reaction is spontaneous. There were a lot of other cars around, so I “let him have it,” shouting back and telling him where he could go.

They had to stop at a red light, and I planned to just ride past them, but as I cautiously approached, he swung open the car door as if he was going to “door” me, all the while yelling at me. I easily swerved out of the way. He was one of four people in the car. Two men were in the back, and two women were in the front. I rode up on to the sidewalk to give myself a little space. You never know what a lunatic like this will do, so I figured that rather than get run over, or worse, get shot, I should be careful.

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As I was riding on the sidewalk, they pulled past me once again and this guy was again hanging out the window and shouting obscenities. This time, I decided to “blow kisses” in his direction. I realize, that wasn’t very mature. We discussed my approach at the dinner table later in the evening, and my kids found it amusing, but Debbie wasn’t impressed. My daughter thought that I was using some figure of speech, but no, I told her that I was literally blowing kisses in his direction. I hopped back on the road and kept riding. It wasn’t long before I caught them again. This time, they were sitting at the light at the Center Street/Main Street intersection. I slowly pulled up behind them, pulled out my iPhone, and snapped a photo of the car’s license plate. The driver saw me in the rearview mirror and I knew she wasn’t happy with me, or the guy in her backseat.

I pulled alongside them and pointed at her and said, “He isn’t the only one that’s going to get in trouble. You are.” Just then, the light turned green. They turned left on Main Street and I rolled through the intersection continuing on Center Street. I spotted a Manchester policeman in his SUV on the opposite side of the intersection. I pulled over. He apparently saw part of my interaction with the car, was trying to figure out what happened, leaned out of his truck, and yelled from across the street, “Do you want me to go after that car.” I replied, “They were harassing me.” That was enough for him. He took off. I figured I would keep riding. I knew I could always call the police later and send them the photo.

I got about a half mile up the road and the policeman was parked on my side of the street facing my direction. I came to a stop, he got out of his truck and approached me. The last time a policeman stopped me on a bike, I was the one who got a written warning. That was for running a red light in Truckee, California. That was a memorable ride, with the ticket writing moment captured by my iPhone camera. Now, this ride was becoming memorable too.

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Officer Johnson was very kind. He asked me if I had a photo of the car and its license plate. I confirmed that I did. He proceeded to tell me that he was a cyclist, loved to ride, and confided that it was “nuts on the roads.” Like me, unless commuting, he heads for more rural roads. I explained how I commute to East Hartford nearly every day and have done so for a very long time. He was sympathetic after I described the incident and would have talked all evening, but I told him I was in a rush. He thanked me, gave me his phone number, asked me to text him the photo, and then to follow-up with my contact information.

I sent the photo immediately, and then rode off. I got to the belt test in time and both kids passed. Afterwards, I sent the rest of the information and thanked him. Then, I rode the rest of the way home. When I got there, I had another message from him. He indicated that he caught them, and arrested the kid in the backseat. I thanked him again. His final reply: “You’re welcome and you did your part also, made it easy for me.”

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So, I guess you could say it was a happy ending. It’s natural for me to feel odd when someone gets in trouble, but if I recall my own anger and frustration when the car first passed me, but I figure that this guy got what he deserved. It’s important to report incidents like this and advocate for cyclists. If you choose to ride, do it as safely as possible and don’t ignore the risks.

2018 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

We made it to the Berkshires for the Mt. Greylock Trail Races. This was Debbie’s 20th consecutive year. I’ve joined her for 17 or so editions during this streak. The kids have been doing them since they were in-utero. I don’t know what 2019 or the future will bring, but for now, it’s a nice accomplishment.

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Todd Brown did his 21st consecutive Greylock/Mt. Washington Road Race double. We only did the double twice. Curt Pandiscio did his 24th Greylock. He mentioned that there is at least one other person with more than 24. Debbie is up there on the list considering she did her first one when she was 24 years old in 1999, the same year I met her. We didn’t connect until October. That meant she had a summer full of racing on the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series circuit before doing her first ultra at the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run.

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Last year, she did the short course 5K because Greylock was the day after Manitou’s Revenge Ultra. The schedule worked out differently for 2018. Manitou’s is next weekend, and sadly, she will miss it for another commitment. That meant that today she could go long (13.5 miles). I did the 5K with Shepard and Dahlia.

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Shepard gave it a go, and nearly got his first Greylock win. He has improved his time every year and came home with a second place trophy for his efforts. If he keeps at it, he will get a win. That’s unless he moves up to run the long course.

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Debbie also earned a trophy for her efforts, though we studied the past results, and the competition isn’t as fierce as the old days. That’s pretty much true for all Grand Tree races. The fast guys and girls have moved on to ultras, other events, or retirement.

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That’s what makes Debbie’s streak so remarkable. She has been very durable. Last weekend, she did the 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge at Mt. Wachusett. She takes care of her body and it shows.

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Last weekend, I got to ride up Mt. Wachusett. This weekend, I rode up Mt. Greylock. After she finished, I changed and rode up Rt. 8 to North Adams. From there, I took the toll road to the summit. The views were spectacular. It was a hot day, but there were still a lot of tourists and hikers.

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I met them back in Adams, and after a quick parking lot change, we headed for Northampton. After a brief stop at the Hungry Ghost Bread, we went to an early dinner at Paul & Elizabeth’s. It was a good Father’s Day.

Race Results

Boy Scouts & Cape Cod Adventures

Last weekend, I joined Shepard and Boy Scouts Troop 25 (Manchester, CT) for their spring trip. Since each boy spends seven years on the trail to Eagle Scout, the troop has a seven-year rotation of locations. This year’s trip was to Cape Cod.

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We drove up late on Friday evening, making our way to Camp Greenough in Yarmouth. The troop had a large site at this Scout camp, used as a summer destination for the Cape and Islands (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).

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It worked out to be a good base camp for our Cape adventures. On Saturday morning, I was up early, so I consulted the Internet and discovered that the Scout camp trails were part of a larger network that included land trust property and other open space that was adjacent. I found a link for NEMBA Greenough Trails, which was great. NEMBA is the New England Mountain Bike Association, and we are long time members. I had my bike, but decided to go for a trail run instead. I was back before the boys even got up.

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After breakfast, we split up into three groups. There were more than 100 Scouts, Staff (leaders), and parents/guardians (mostly Dad’s). We spent the first half of the day a the Cape Cod National Seashore. 

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Our group first visited Coast Guard Beach, a short walk from the parking lot. We got a tutorial on surf fishing. After spending some time on the beach, we returned to the cars, and made our way to Fort Hill. There, we did a short hike that took us through some marsh land around Salt Pond Bay, and then on to a great overlook. We learned about the Native American history of the area and enjoyed the beauty.

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The walk brought us back to the Penniman House, which has been beautifully restored. We learned a bit more history and then piled into the cars for the short drive to the Salt Pond Visitor Center. We saw two great movies about the seashore and the history of the Cape Cod whaling industry.

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It was sad to see how innocent whales were slaughtered, nearly to extinction. After the movie, we toured the museum and its informative exhibits. All three groups regrouped for lunch in the amphitheater.

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After lunch, our group drove back to Yarmouth to tour the Whydah Pirate Museum. This was the highlight of the trip for me. Both Shep and I loved the history of this place. I’ll leave it to you to read up on the museum and its story, but it is highly recommended. The Whydah is the only pirate ship every found. The shipwreck off the coast of Wellfleet, inside the boundaries of the National Seashore, was discovered by Barry Clifford in 1984. The site is an archeological gold mine (literally), but even more important than the sunken treasure, are the artifacts that explain what pirate life was like in 1717, the year the ship went down in a powerful Nor’easter.

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After our museum visit, we made our way east again to Linnell Landing Beach in Namskaket where the entire troop reconnected for an afternoon swim in the chilly waters of Cape Cod Bay. All day we had fantastic weather, and it was an awesome ending to a day packed with fun.

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Dinner was back at Camp Greenough. Songs around the campfire ended the festivities as the boys were calling for bed. They were knackered. The Sunday agenda called for another museum and gardens visit before returning home. Shepard and I skipped out on the troop activity as we had a different adventure planned. We packed our bikes because the Secret Squirrel Mountain Bike Race was at Freetown-Fall River State Forest, and was practically on our return route home.

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We broke camp by 6:45 A.M. and were in Freetown by 8:15 A.M. We had a blast at the race and then drove home through Providence where we stopped for a late lunch at Tallulah’s Taquiera which was conveniently located one block from Like No Udder. It was a fun ending to a great father/son weekend with the Scouts.

2018 Secret Squirrel MTB Race

Yesterday, Shepard and I did the Secret Squirrel MTB Race at Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. This was Race #3 in the Bubba Trophy Series. Unfortunately, we missed Saturday’s Belltown Throwdown in Connecticut, but that was because we were having our own adventure on Cape Cod with Boy Scouts Troop 25. On this National Trails Day Weekend, we still got outside. Heck, we were outside most of the time.

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Secret Squirrel was conveniently located on our return route from the Cape, so an early Sunday departure got us to the venue in time for Shep’s 9:00 A.M. Novice Juniors race. He did one 6.3 mile lap in the rocky forest. It was a great learning experience and he had fun. These trails are flat, but so rocky, that they are amongst the most challenging on the New England circuit. They make the worst sections of Case Mountain look smooth by comparison. Long rock gardens sections are broken up with a few fire road transitions, but even the “roads” are rough.

My race wasn’t until noon. It was my first time “pushing it” since my Reno wreck. I’ve made good progress over the last five months. I’ve done a lot of bicycle commuting, a little mountain biking, but no real “training.” This was my first race since USA Cyclocross Nationals, and the first time I got my heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time.

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My left leg still has some issues. The broken bone (fibula) is healed, but I still have pain related to the soft tissue damage and built up scar tissue (fibrosity) that is reducing my range of motion. I’ve been doing therapy to restore the fine motor control in my ankle. It is appropriately sore after yesterday’s effort. Time will be the best healer for this injury. I should be feeling even better by September when cyclocross season begins.

No photo or video would do the Freetown course justice. You just have to experience what it is like to bounce from rock to rock. I was able to ride 99% of the worst sections, but had to occasionally get off. I used my standard rigid Seven Sola SL singlespeed with Niner carbon fork. That’s a pretty harsh setup for a course like this, but it is all I ride. Each of the most difficult sections of the course are named, like sectors of pave in Paris-Roubaix. Here is a description in the words of the Race Director:

You may or may not have seen that people have varying opinions on what “mountain biking” is.  As far as we’re concerned it’s a wide spectrum, and we live on the challenging end of that spectrum.  That being said, this is the fastest and most fun Freetown course that we’ve ever designed.  We start off with the absolute fastest and longest hole shot in NEMTB history, yet somehow the most technical fire road in New England.  Then you’re immediately pummeled by “Screw You Roadie” which leads into “Little Landon Africa” which is super fun.  That’s where the course meets “Pukwudgie Ambush” which is where the Novice class finally sees a rock garden, because Novice skips the first two tech sections.  Then you get some more fire road before hitting a tech trail that takes you to “Bring the Payne” which is really just “The Demotivator” backwards but without the big impossible rock garden.  Then you hit a little more tech before a fire road that leads you to a grassy field finish that may or may not have a Red Bull Flyover that will give you anxiety in front of your friends as they cheer you through the finishing arch if you don’t crash in embarrassing fashion right in front of it.  Then it’s over, unless you’re an Expert and you have to do it again.

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Each of the named sections had a sign marking the beginning and end of each section, complete with the name of that section.

I did the two lap (11 miles each) Expert singlespeed race and pretty much brought up the rear of the field. I wasn’t dead last, but I was pretty close. I started slowly and steadily and attempted to maintain my pace. It would have been nice to have even lap times, and break two hours, but I did a 1:01:42 and then a 1:05:48. I rode within my limits and didn’t take any risks that would have resulted in a fall. It felt good to hammer a bit. Three miles into the second lap, I caught my only rider of the day. Peter Geloso had dropped back and gone into “coasting” mode. He won the singlespeed race on Saturday at Belltown, and was “blown” from the effort. I don’t fault him for cruising in at Freetown. We chatted a bit and then I kept going while he finished about three minutes behind me. I’ll see Pete again at the upcoming West Rock Super Prestige Series. My goal is to get my fitness back to a level where I can battle him on even turf.

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After a weekend away from home and two nights camping out, Shep and I packed quickly and hit the road. We returned to Connecticut through Rhode Island, stopping in Providence for a late lunch/early dinner at Tallulah’s Taquiera which was conveniently located one block from Like No Udder. We’ve been to the Like No Udder ice-cream truck, which was parked out front, but hadn’t been to the shop. It’s been on my “to-do list” for a while now, and was the perfect plant-based reward for a good effort in the woods.

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I’ve got some work to do to get back in shape before cross season, but I have 12 weeks to increase the intensity, and then four months of cross to build my fitness for a return to the national championships, which are in Louisville in December. That’s something to shoot for.

Race Results


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I ❤️ the @eastcoastgreenway ### #eastcoastgreenway #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #carfreecommute
Finally made it to the @breakawaybrewhaus in time! Technically I was late, but Matt and Cindy are Bolton neighbors. I left my empty bottles a month ago and now they are full again. You can easily fit three in a @dillpicklegear pannier. I’m STILL waiting for my pannier’s lost mate to find its way home. #carfeecommute @horsteng #teamhorstsports #crossspikes @seven_cycles #sevencycles #bicycle #beer 🚴🏽🍺
A fun filled day of #mountainbike goodness at the West Rock Superprestige Short Track final. The @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad and the older dudes on #teamhorstsports all rode like champs. We gave it our all and left it all out there on the gnarly course. There must have been at least 15 of us in a variety of categories, plus a couple of runners; and our families, who cheered like madmen/madwomen. Big thanks to the Laurel Bike Club/D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycle. @horsteng #crossspikes
A 5K #trailrunning race was a great way to kick off today’s West Rock Superprestige Short Track #mountainbike finale. It suited the Livingston women just fine. @trailrunningmom and Little D were both on their respective podiums after two laps of the gnarly course. It was a small but dedicated group of runners who came out for the inaugural run. Good work by the Laurel Bike Club/D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycle crew. #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders 🏃‍♀️⛰🏆
Old Lyme to Bolton with a diversion to see one of my favorite barns. #madeinusa @horsteng @seven_cycles @dillpicklegear #sevencycles #horstengineering #crossspikes #teamhorstsports #july4th #independenceday
Anytime a #triathlon swim is canceled (due to a #thunderstorm ⛈), the advantage goes to the Livingston’s. We rarely lament a run 🏃‍♀️when it replaces a swim. 🏊‍♂️ @trailrunningmom took the victory in the mud. 🚲 Shep notched a Tiny Tri win. Boy did it rain ☔️at #windingtrails tonight! 🌩 ### #Duathlon #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes
I rode from @horsteng to Cornwall Bridge to see @trailrunningmom finish her 36 mile (+8,094 feet ascent/-8,048 feet descent) solo training run on the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop. Better her than me! She crushed it on a hot day in 9h38m. I had a lovely ride on some of the best roads in #Connecticut and arrived at the trailhead 20 minutes before she did. We followed it up with a date @floraweha ☀️ 🚲 🏃‍♀️ #trailrunning #cycling #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders #ultrarunning @seven_cycles #sevencycles @appalachianmountainclub @ctforestandparkassociation @ultraspire #ultraspire #veganathlete
Passed through #Toronto late in the day yesterday during a short biz trip and discovered #dufferingrovepark the fabulous #reflexologyfootpath and the farmers market.
#nembafest was an absolute blast. This morning, #teamhorstjuniorsquad and #teamhorstsports put in one more monster #kingdomtrails ride. These #trails are awesome. We saw so many friends out there. The rain calmed down Friday’s dust. We missed some other big events like #manitousrevengeultra and @wser , but this event is on par. 3,000 riders in the hills of #vermont Today was the #mountainbiking equivalent of a #powderday 🚵‍♂️⛰ ### @nemba_mtb @kingdomtrails @horsteng @the_ccap #horstengineering #crossspikes

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