Archive for the 'Family' Category

2021 Santa’s Run

Today our family returned to the Santa’s Run after a one year layoff because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve returned to a lot of fun races after most were cancelled in 2020. This was my 10th time doing this classic Glastonbury, Connecticut race.

I first did it in 1989, but then didn’t do it again until 2000. Over the last 21 years, I’ve done it eight times. The past few times, we have done its as a family. Today was one of those days. I ran with Dahlia, who had a decent run. She went out a little hard (I was behind her for the first mile) and paid the price, but she hung in there and still scored first in her age group.

Debbie ran the first mile with us before she picked up the pace (or rather held the pace the three of us were on) and also got first in her age group. Shepard blasted the run, going 20:36 for the 3.5 miles, which was good for 8th overall. There were a couple of 17 and under runners in front of him, so he only got third in age group, but he was happy considering that the had a cyclocross race yesterday in Southwick.

Santa’s Run was much smaller this year. The usual festive atmosphere in the Glastonbury High School gym was moved outside and it was different. Thankfully, the weather was fantastic. The temperature was in the low 40’s Fahrenheit, but it felt warmer in the bright sun. The raffle was done outside and there were no awards. It was low key but still fun.

We saw fewer friends, but some were still there. Of course I have to mention Todd Brown who was wearing bib #1 again. He is Mr. Glastonbury. After the race, we stopped at Boston Hill Tree Farm in Andover to get our Christmas Tree. We have a special connection with that place and the owner. She has attended Debbie’s yoga classes for years. That completed another tradition that we missed in 2020 because when we went to get our tree last year, the farm was closed. Santa’s Run and a Christmas Tree run made for a fun Sunday.

Race Results

2021 The Ice Weasels Cometh

I got my mojo back at yesterday’s The Ice Weasels Cometh at The Wick in Southwick, Massachusetts. I had a good ride in the singlespeed (SSCX) division. This version of Ice Weasels was a lot of fun. It was my third time doing the the December Weasels race but it was Shepard’s first. He joined me for the trip. I did the 2018 and 2019 races when it was held in Medfield. The race has been at a half a dozen different venues since its founding.

I’m a six time The Night Weasels Cometh veteran, which is held in October, so I’ve had my share of Weasel shenanigans. Last week’s Bishop’s Orchard race was one to forget, so I was happy to to end the New England season on a positive note. This was a decent ride, but not a great ride. It was good enough for me leading into Nats week. I’m still banged up from various crashes and the long season (this was my 17th race since late August), so a few days of rest will do me some good.

The Wick is a motocross track. We used various parts of it including the wooded sections. One aspect of the course was the deep and sandy ruts left behind by recent dirt bike races. The course was generally fast with one distinct muddy section. The loose sandy dirt and leaves were the main challenge. There was one set of barriers (with the infamous skinny daredevil option) and one large log. Both required me to dismount and run them.

As usual, Ice Weasels had a strong turnout with nearly 400 racers across all of the categories. Shepard did the U19 race that was held in conjunction with the Killer B Men. That was the second largest field of the day behind the combo Singlespeed/Fat Bike race that I did.

The Masters field was also large. Team HORST Sports and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had a large turnout for this season finale. The list in addition to Shepard and me: John Meyerle, Tom Ricardi, Cole Ricardi, Paul Nyberg, Alexandra Miller-Davey, Matt Domnarski, Boden Chenail, Brett Chenail, Lars Roti, Tanner Pierce, Andris Skulte, and Wade Summers. Only a handful of us are headed to Chicago for Nats so this winds down the cyclocross season for the rest.

The weather was good. It was cold but dry. I was better prepared than last week with various warm clothes options. I made sure I stayed warm in between Shepard’s race at noon and my race at 3:00 P.M. Last week, I got chilled before my start and never recovered.

I had a race long battle with Masters rivals Anthony Vecca (AV) and Christopher Curven. We traded places at various times. Each of us had a strong section of the course where we were putting that hurt on the others. However, none of us could get away from each other and we stuck together coming into the sprint. Lapped traffic added to the challenge as there were more than 100 riders on the course.

Each of us had to deal with the same circumstances so no one had an advantage. Chris led out the sprint after taking the final fast corner in the lead. It was a funny sprint with only one gear. We came into some lapped traffic right at the line but it didn’t seem to matter. I came around Chris but AV came around both of us. He had the stamina to heckle me as he passed yelling something like “come on old man.”

That’s what I love about AV. He has had the best of me lately but I’ve prevailed in the past. We give each other no quarter. Next weeks SSCX Nats race predictor has us finishing next to each other, so I sense a rematch is in the making. This was a great way to end the New England cyclocross season and I’m already looking forward to next fall and more Weasels fun. In the meantime, I have two Midwest races left to go and then this entire season is a wrap.

One other cool thing that happened yesterday was that Debbie was selected in the Hardrock Endurance Run lottery. I won’t explain the whole story but you can refer back to the 2017 Hardrock report, her first finish of that spectacular event. Only 145 lucky (and talented) athletes get to do Hardrock each year. It will ave been five years since her last run in the San Juan Mountains. The 2017 preview post also has some background on the lottery. Sitting in the van in between our races, I opened Twitter, and discovered the news. She and I both forgot to follow the lottery live (from Colorado), but once the news hit, I called her and she was pumped. 2022 is going to be another big one.

Race Results

2021 Bishop’s Orchard CX

I’ve had an amazingly good cyclocross season, but yesterday was an “off day.” In France, competitive cyclists call it “un jour sans,” which translates, “a day without.” I like the Bishop’s Orchard CX course, but I didn’t like it yesterday.

Six laps around the orchard was six too many for me. I crashed (hard) twice during warmups, was cold, out of synch, and I had dead legs. That’s a bad combination. I even got out sprinted at the finish line with an uncharacteristically poor attempt to pass on the left where there was no room. To avoid crashing into the large four foot wide plastic barriers (pallet cubes), I had to slam on my brakes and skid across the finish line. I shouldn’t even have been sprinting for 12th place, but my ego got in the way and I wanted to fight until the end. That move was symbolic of my race. Nothing went right.

I’ve really had an awesome season. I’ve felt strong in most races. Consistency helped me win the 50+ age group in the CT Series of CX. I might not have put an exclamation point on the series win (with a strong finish yesterday), but I did all of the races and had a lot of fun.

I’ve fallen off my bike more than a few times, but that’s part of the sport. I’ve destroyed some bikes and bike parts, but that’s also part of the sport. My results were even better than expected, so I can’t complain. I heard a great saying recently. It was in a business context, but it is applicable here too.

“There is no winning and losing. There is only winning and learning.”

I plan to recover a bit this week and give it a go at the Ice Weasels Cometh on Saturday afternoon. This will be my 2021 New England cyclocross season finale. If all goes well, it will be a final effort/tune-up before the USA Cyclocross National Championships in Wheaton, IL.

On a positive note, yesterday was a really good day for others on the team. Paul Nyberg nailed down third place in the CT Series of CX with a third place finish in the race. He had a really strong season. Several other Team HORST Masters riders rode well.

The CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad also had some great results. Luke Wilson has had an awesome year in the Junior Boys 9-12 year old age group. He came into the race leading his division and I think he held his spot. Alexandra Miller-Davey’s breakout year continued. She was strongest in the Junior Girls 15-18 age group. She won the race and the series title. Two CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad champs is fantastic. More importantly, these kids have learned to love the bike!

Boden Chenail took his first big win in the Junior Boys 15-18 race and was second overall in the series. Shepard was second in the race, which was a nice result for him. With cross country running taking up most of his time this fall, he has only been able to do four cross races, but he is having fun.

One thing for sure is that we were all cold. Snow fell lightly throughout the day and the temperature hovered around freezing. The course was slippery, slow, and hilly. Normally, I like that, but I suffered more than usual. The folks at Bishop’s Orchard and the volunteers, including a few standouts (Rob Stiles and Jake Kravitz) did an amazing job. This race always has a good vibe. Even though I’ve struggled there, I’ll keep it on the list.

Race Results

2021 Manchester Road Race

I think the highlight of today’s 85th running of the Manchester Road Race was the weather. It started out cool, but with brilliant sunshine, it turned out to be very pleasant which made for an awesome day. After last year’s “virtual” edition, people were stoked to be back running the streets of Manchester. This was my 32nd overall and 27th in a row. I’m going to keep going as long as I can.

The Livingston’s had a fantastic race. Shepard scorched the 4.748 mile course in 28:02, good for 17th in the competitive 15-18 age group. Coming off his freshman cross country season, this was remarkable. That time is one second slower than my 2019 time and only 62 seconds slower than my personal best set in 2009.

I told him we have a showdown coming in 2022 when I’ll be in the 50+ age group for the first time. I plan to train a bit and then run it hard. Of note is that he ran 90 seconds faster as a 15 year old compared with my time at the same age in 1987. I think I have one of the best “data sets” (all in Excel) of any MRR runner.

Debbie beat her time goal and met her place goal by breaking into the top three of her age group (third in 45-49) in 32:58. That’s her first ever podium finish at the MRR. That’s pretty good for an ultra-distance trail runner. She is thrilled with this result and has been putting in some hard work, so it is deserved.

I ran with Dahlia and she might have been the standout Livingston performer of the day, running 35:59 for 6th in her 13 and under age group. She just wrapped up her 7th grade cross country season and will get another shot at a top finish in this age group next year. I loved running with her because she was a star. She got SO many cheers from SO many people. Lots of folks knew her and as the “fastest short person” she got tons of applause from strangers too.

Mrs. Schieffer joined us and she walked the course, which is pretty good given that in the last 18 months, she had double knee replacements. Kudos to her for persevering.

We saw lots of friends including some in costume. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force, and we took our traditional photo at 9:15 A.M. in front of St. James Church.

Since I ran with Dahlia, I was able to take a lot of photos and a few videos. That was neat. It’s rare for me to go slower than race pace, but I’ve done it a few times now, mostly with the kids. It’s a fun non-competitive way to enjoy the race.

HORST Engineering sponsored Veteran’s Row for the fourth consecutive year. The overall race production was a bit smaller than in 2019 and prior years, but that was mostly out of precaution for everyone’s health and safety. There were about 7,400 official finishers, which is quite a bit less than past years. The race accommodates up to 15,000 registrants. Covid-19 isn’t the only factor in the lower numbers. The entry fee has climbed a bit in recent years and there is a lot more competition for other Thanksgiving Day races and events in Connecticut and elsewhere.

The good weather certainly helped runners achieve fast times. The overall performance of the day has to be Weini Kelati’s record setting win. She smashed the previous course record by 62 seconds, which is remarkable. She ran 22:55 and finished 18th overall. Keira D’Amato was second and she also broke the previous course record.

The first place male was Ben Flanagan in 21:23. He bested Leonard Korir by 12 seconds. These were standout performances by some of the top runners in the country. Manchester always attracts a quality field of elite runners.

I’m sad that the MRR is now in the rearview mirror for 2021. As noted, I’m planning to run fast in 2022. It may be a year from now, but it’s a goal worth aiming for because the tradition has to continue.

Race Results

2021 West Hill Shop Cyclocross

Today’s 30th annual West Hill Shop Cyclocross was a memorable one. It might have been the muddiest edition ever. It was my 14th time doing the race since my first time in 1995. That was the first year I did cyclocross. Last week, I was at the 30th Northampton International Cylcocross, which I also did in 1995.

This great photo credit: Todd Miller

West Hill Shop, or “Putney” as we often refer to it, is one of my favorite races of any type that I’ve done in my long endurance sports career. I absolutely love this event. I’ve done it in several eras. I’ve done it as a single person, a married person, and as a Dad. Today, I got to race at the same time as Shepard. He did the Men’s 3/4 category and I did the singlespeed, which started together at 3:15 P.M.

Debbie and Dahlia joined us on the day trip. We left home just before 9:00 A.M. and drove to Brownville to check out our land. Everything was good there. We stopped at the local deli for lunch, ate it in the van, and then drove back south to Putney. We arrived around 1:30 P.M. which gave us time to do a lap of the course and then warmup in town.

After one lap of the course, we had no interest in doing another. It was muddy and wet. There was no reason to gum up our bikes any more than we did on that one loop. This year’s course was a slight variation of that we have used over the last 10 years. With the mud, the pace was slow. I had to get off five times per lap. Once for the double barriers, twice one the hill (run-up), and twice in the upper field section where there were couple of really tight turns in the mud.

I felt better than yesterday (The Governor’s Guard Rodeo), but still had to manage my effort. Especially on a singlespeed, this was a big gear slog. You could only go so fast. I had no chance keeping up with the fast guys at the front. For the first few laps, I was in a second group. I had a few bobbles on the first lap, chalking it up to only one warmup lap, but settled in and pulled away from that group. I had no one to chase and just rode my pace trying to pick better lines each lap. I finished 5th.

Shepard had a good ride and we both had fun. We were cold and muddy (had I mentioned that) afterwards. We packed the worst of our gear in a bin, put on our warm clothes, and drove home. When we got there, we washed our bikes in backyard and then started a heavy load of laundry.

Putney is one of those races that has a great vibe. I hope that never changes.

Race Results (will be posted when available)

2021 The Governor’s Guard Rodeo (Cyclocross)

This is a quick report one The Governor’s Guard Rodeo held at the First Company Governor’s Horse Guards farm in Avon, Connecticut. This was the penultimate race in the CT Series of Cross.

The finale will be in 15 days at Bishop’s Orchard CX in Guilford and I’m looking forward to it. Today’s race wasn’t very eventful. I was underwhelmed with the course and my performance, but I’m still glad that the folks from Cheshire Cycle put on the event.

They also hosted The Governor’s Guard Roundup MTB Race back in the spring. That was the first time we used this venue, so today’s race was the second. My feelings are that the course was unremarkable other than one giant/deep mud puddle, a few other muddy sections, and a nasty wet/muddy sand section that sucked the life out of my legs.

There were several fast sections including a gnarly descent, so overall the pace was a quick one. Despite the fact that my legs were hurting today, I would have preferred a few more dismounts (there was one set of barriers) including at least one stiff run-up. Saturday races can be tough for me. It all depends on the kind of work week that I had. This week, I was lacking some motivation to race.

Tomorrow, I’m racing at the 30th anniversary West Hill Shop Cyclocross in Putney, Vermont, so this is my first and last double weekend of the year. I’m also going to skip racing next weekend to chill a bit as I gear up for the final push towards Nats in Chicago. I don’t want to burn out now. I’m sure that I’ll have fun racing SSCX tomorrow and then a week off from racing will do mme some good.

I had high hopes to get another crack at a win today with the Really Rad Festival of CX drawing away much of the top Masters talent, but I spent too much time falling off of my bike to contend. My first fall came when I was leading Matt Krause and Herb Grignon on lap three. I slid out innocently on some pine needles, but by the time I got back on and sorted out my chain, which had fallen off, they were gone. I never closed the gap and they battled it out for the win while I spent the rest of the race chasing in no-man’s land.

I had another fall in the mud pit. It was getting deeper and looser as the race went on and I hit something in the middle (about hub deep) that through me to the left and straight into a tree. That required a dismount and a long run through the mud, which cost me more time. I had a few other bobbles, so this was hardly a “clean” race.

Alas, I’ve had a great stretch and even in a small field, third place is respectable, but I’ll need a another top placing at Bishop’s if I’m going to hold on to a series podium spot. Kudos to Matt (who won) and Herb (who was second) and the other competitors. I earned a few six-packs for my effort, including a non-alcoholic one, which is what I’m sticking with until after Nats. I feel better and sleep better when I avoid alcohol completely. I’ve hardly had a drink in three years, but if I’m going to imbibe, December is a good time. The weather was spectacular with another mild day. It was cool in the morning, but it was nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we raced and the sun was shining brightly.

We had another nice turnout from the Team HORST Sports Masters racers and also the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad. Shepard had a Shenipsit Trail hike with his Scout troop, and Debbie took Dahlia to a Scout event with her troop at Devil’s Hopyard State Park, so I was solo today.

I’ll miss these local races after the season winds down, so I’m enjoying the fact that we have a few more to go.

Race Results

2021 Northampton International Cyclocross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2021 Cross Country Championship Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

NCCC XC Conference Championship

NEMSAC XC Conference Championship

CIAC XC Divisional Championship

CIAC XC State Open Championship

CT Middle School State XC Championships

2021 Cheshire Cross

After a one year hiatus, Cheshire Cross returned and it was a blast. I wish I had more time to hang out, but I had to leave immediately after my race because of a schedule business trip that started on Sunday afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, though the course was still muddy in spots after the heavy rain that we had yesterday and earlier in the week.

Cheshire has a great vibe, with the centerpiece being Heckle Hill. The fans on the hill were so loud and I loved it. The infamous climb is a feature that is hard and has character. The timing of this year’s race, falling on Halloween, made the fun factor even better. Since I last raced Cheshire in 2019, I was motivated. Being in my new 50+ age group was another exciting aspect of today’s race and I had something to prove after mishap at the start of last week’s Belltown CX.

My crash severely hurt my chances at winning Belltown, which was a course I loved and suited me. The technical and hilly tracks have been a strength of late, so a bounce back race at Cheshire was welcome given how gnarly the Cheshire Park course is. Despite being super-motivated to race today, I was still unsure how things would go because my main geared cyclocross bike is undergoing emergency repairs at Seven Cycles.

Earlier this week, my friends at Bicycles East stripped the Mudhoney PRO frame, boxed it, and I drove it to Seven in Watertown, Massachusetts. The diagnosis was a right side titanium lug pulled away from the carbon fiber seatstay. Seven deemed it an important repair because the carbon tube could have been compromised and failed. I managed to finish the race after the frame was damaged, but that didn’t mean I could do another race or several more races without a failure.

The Mudhoney PRO is my only modern geared cyclocross bike that is worthy of racing. In my basement, I have at least one older bike that I could have used but I wouldn’t feel comfortable on it, whereas my Mudhoney SL singlespeed is identical to the PRO, but without gears. I had no choice but to race that bike today. I thought about switching too the singlespeed category, but figured that if I scored any points in the 50+ age group, it would help my overall standings.

When I arrived at the course and realized that due to the rain, the use of the longer flat sections on the ball fields that were a feature in past Cheshire races was out of the question, my mood improved. The rest of the Cheshire course is hard, technical, twisty, and heavily wooded. Between the woods, the sand, and mud, the course was going to ride slow. That favored me in this situation as I only had one gear and it was a hard one to push, but still not big enough that I would be spun out. Shifting would have been nice, but if there was to be a race where I could get away with one speed, this was it.

I had a much better start this week. I was first call up and got off the line in third place and held that position through the first few turns. I stayed there for the better part of the first lap before moving up to second. Then by the end of the third lap I had taken the lead with a few rival riders trailing behind me. I continued to apply pressure in the uphill sections that were rideable (for me) and also pressured them in the muddy sections.

I had to run most of Heckle Hill because I couldn’t get far without a derailleur. I also had to run both the timber beam and the double barriers since bunny hopping was out of the question (for me). So, I had to get off three times a lap. I don’t think it penalized me because those were slow sections. I was gassed at the top of the big hill, but so were the guys who rode it. By the fourth of six laps, I was stretching out my lead on those tougher sections. When we doubled back, I could see the riders chasing me, but as I caught other riders from the 40+ field (they started a minute in front of us), I knew I was riding well.

I didn’t have any incidents and was able to recover quickly from a few botched turns. Pushing the big gear was hard on my knees. I was able to get heart rate high and keep it high. I nearly covered 10 miles in about 48 minutes so it was a relatively slow course. There was nearly 1,000 feet of climbing, so that was a big factor.

I was thrilled to cross the line first in the age group, notching my first win in a long time. Orchard Cross in New Hampshire drew away some of the Masters competition, but it still felt good to reach a goal. I’m excited for the rest of the season and plan to carry this fitness as far as I can. Team HORST and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had a good day. We had riders in all three Masters age groups, 40+, 50+, and 60+. We had riders in all of the Junior age groups as well. We even had a presence in the kids race and women’s race.

I know we have had some good battles with our friendly rivals on the Stage 1 Airline Cycles team. I’m going to need my geared bike back by next weekend at the Northampton International Cyclocross is a very different course with long fast flat sections and hard packed ground. The thick grass and mud at Cheshire Park was quite different. Fingers crossed that everyone working on the fix has good luck…and the parts they need to get the job done.

I’m looking forward to racing my singlespeed again, but just not next weekend.

Kudos to the crew at Cheshire Cycle Race Team and other volunteers who promoted today’s race. The next CT Series of CX race is in two weeks in Avon.

Race Results

2021 Belltown CX

There was a lot going on at Day 2 of the Belltown CX. It was a battle, a competitive battle. I didn’t race on Saturday but I gave it my all today. I wanted a good result in the Masters 50+ race, but it could have been even better. However, there is no way to know. I felt great, but I didn’t get to fight for the win because of a hard crash at the start.

I’m not sure what happened but I had first call up and picked my spot on the front row. It was a crowded front row with too many riders (my opinion) on a narrow piece of land. That’s a subtle complaint. I got into my pedals OK, but was several riders back after 100 feet as we wound up to full speed. The course tape narrowed slightly. Someone in front of me checked up and swerved into my wheel. I don’t know who it was and it doesn’t matter. These things happen.

In an instant, I crashed hard on my left shoulder, hip, and knee. Even the left side of my helmet was muddy, which means it touch the ground, at least for a moment. Then, to make matters worse, at least three other riders crashed into me, falling on top of me. Thankfully this wasn’t on asphalt. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve got a potentially serious problem with my Seven Mudhoney frame. I didn’t find the issue until I was washing my bike six hours after the race, so it’s a non-factor in this report because the bike held up for the subsequent 47 minutes of riding.

I wouldn’t say I was dazed because my head is fine and a didn’t hit it, hard but the feeling was more of being shaken up and frustrated. My heart rate was jacked up as I assessed the damage. My number was partially torn off of the left side of my dirty jersey. My shorts and gloves were also soiled after planting them into the ground. I slowly picked myself up as the the racers who made it through cleanly took off like crazy men. I would have done the same thing if my “friendly rivals” had a mishap and it was to my advantage. Those that crashed with me also got going as I stood up and fiddled with my bike. I had to put the chain back on and also straighten my handlebars, which had turned 45 degrees to the left.

I was the last one to make it off of the initial straightaway before we entered a wooded section. My bike didn’t feel right. I hadn’t even noticed that my saddle was also turned to the left. I had to hop off again, straighten it, remount, and get going, losing more precious time. I did my best to start chasing, but my legs felt like lead for the remainder of the first lap. There has to be some sort of physiological reaction as the adrenaline was pumping. It was probably the flight or fight mechanism. I picked off a few of the back-of the-pack riders as I worked my way through traffic. My first lap ended up being 7:17 while the leader (Steve Sadler) was 6:24 and the eventual winner (Ciaran Mangan) was 6:34. So, I was 53 seconds back.

As I suffered, I ceded another 10 seconds on lap two, completing it in 6:46 while the Ciaran did it in 6:36. I lost six seconds to him on lap three and another five seconds on lap four before I started to settle in and claw back time. On lap five, I started to really motor, working my way through the field and I took back six seconds. I had several teammates and friends cheering for me and that was motivating. It was great to see Arlen Zane Wenzel. He was coaching me as I closed the gaps to the riders in front of me. Special thanks to Laura Becker who was her usual loud self. She has to be my favorite cheerleader! Also thanks to David Hildebrand who gave me some encouraging tips as I was tracking down the riders who were still in front of me. On lap six, I made up another 11 seconds, but on the final lap I gave back two seconds. One can only speculate what would have happened if I hadn’t crashed.

My charge brought me all the way up to third place. Steve continued to stay between Ciaran and the chasers, which included Wade Summers, Jeremy Brazeal, and Richard Nadeau. I was happy to get past all three of them with a half a lap to go and held them off for the third and final podium spot. It was a bittersweet podium because I feel like I could have been up a step or two. This course was made for me. Wade, Jeremy, and Richard had a tight battle for 4th, with Wade taking it three seconds behind me. Jeremy and Richard had a sprint a further three seconds back with Jeremy prevailing.

Steve ended up in second in 47:45, 17 seconds in front of me and Ciaran took the win in 47:12. Congratulations to them. I finished in 48:02, 50 seconds behind first. Again, I can only speculate how the race would have gone had I been able to battle directly with Ciaran rather than chasing the entire race. As they say, “that’s bike racing.”

I loved the course. It was “gnarly” which means technical, hilly, and hard. There were several long hard sand sections. I was able to ride it and even bunny-hop over a wooden step coming up from the beach. Farther up the hill, there was a set of double barriers. There were several steep climbs, and there was one wicked run-up. There were several spectators camped out on the side of the run-up and they were also offering me encouragement every lap as I dug deep. I used my Long Cross Spikes and they were awesome. I was very strong on the hill sections. Other than the crash, and spending some time wrapped in course tape on lap two, the rest of my race was ridden cleanly.

Kudos to the Stage 1 Airline Cycles Team for hosting the event. They always do a great job with their races. Debbie and Dahlia were at a Scout Camporee, so only Shepard joined me, and he didn’t race. He has to save his legs (and not take chances) in advance of next Saturday’s Connecticut State Championship Cross Country meet at Wickham Park. He just had a very good race at the NCCC Championships on Thursday.

Over the course of the two days, Team HORST Sports and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had another strong turnout with some great results. I won’t list them all, but we had many podiums. There was some great riding by the team.

I’m nursing some wounds on my leg, arm, shoulder, and back (tire tracks!) and I’m sure that I’ll be stiff in the morning. I’ve also got to resolve this bicycle issue. I’ll be reaching out to our friends at Bicycles East in Glastonbury. They are adept at troubleshooting problems like this. Hopefully, the bike doesn’t have to go back to Seven Cycles, at least not until after the season. I’ll report back! In the meantime, I’ve got a singlespeed “pit bike” and it is on to another CT Series of CX race at Cheshire CX this coming weekend. I’ll be there one way or another.

Race Results

2021 NCCC Cross Country Championships

This year’s NCCC Cross Country Championships at Bolton High School were a smash hit. The late-October weather was spectacular and the running was even better. I saw lots of great performance, lots of perseverance, and lots of smiles.

It was nice for our hometown team to host the event on our challenging 5,000 meter course. The Boy’s Varsity race was at 3:00 P.M. The Girls Varsity & Junior Varsity (combined) followed. The Boy’s Junior Varsity went last. A very nice awards ceremony wrapped up the proceedings as the sun was setting on a lovely afternoon.

The boys race overall team title came down to the “6th man” with Suffield prevailing over Ellington. They were tied with 72 points but the tie breaker was based on the position of the sixth runner for each team, which is proof that every spot matters. Behind those two squads in third, was our team, Bolton. This was a nice improvement for the Bulldogs as they approach their late season peak.

On the individual front, the top three boys were Griffin Mandirola (Suffield), Damian Smith (Ellington), and Jack Dendinger (Canton). Bolton placed three boys in the top 18, which qualified them for All Conference. They were Silas Gourley in 9th, Shepard (Livingston) in 10th, and Mason Fox in 17th. Sam Brudz just missed All Conference, finishing in a strong 20th.

Isaac Swenson, Jack Martin, and Robert Giering rounded out the Bolton team. Shepard was very happy with his race. He was honored for being the top freshman finisher. Even though he has a strong foundation of running and cycling, this has been a big step up to high school varsity. Debbie is the Bolton Center School (middle school) coach so it is neat to see how her athletes have progressed and “graduated” to the high school ranks. With Coach Paul Smith’s guidance, Shepard has set some goals and he is tackling them. He has faced “injury” for the first time in his running “career” but is learning from the process. Practice is 2 hours and 15 minutes a day, six days a week. This includes the running, stretching, strength training, workouts, and other prep. His school work and other commitments have added to the freshman “load.” This season is bringing back great memories from my best year of XC in 1989.

The team is improving just in time for the Class S State Championships a week from tomorrow at Wickham Park. I’m always spouting a famous phrase that my high school coach, Paul Haggerty, used to repeat: “You don’t want to peak until the leaves fall from the trees.”

In the girls race, Bolton finished second behind a strong Somers team. A slim nine points separated the two teams. This was a disappointment, but Somers is formidable and the girls can improve on this result next week at Wickham. Third place went to Suffield.

The top three finishers were Rachel St. Germain (Somers), Emily Bridges (Suffield), and Megan Minicucci (Bolton). The rest of Bolton’s top five girls were also All Conference. They were Anna Carini in 7th, Taylor Michaud in 8th, Nora Carini in 11th, and Sophia Balskus in 18th. Emily DeNunzio narrowly missed in 19th. Lana Houlberg rounded out the top seven.

Bolton’s JV runners also ran well, which bodes well for next year and the year’s to come. As noted, the CIAC Class Meets/State Championships are Saturday 30 October at Wickham Park in Manchester. Bolton is racing in Class S with the boys race at 2:05 P.M. and the girls race at 2:35 P.M.

Race Results

Photos:

Boys Varsity

Girls

Boys JV

Awards 

2021 Keene Pumpkin Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results (2021 Pumpkin Cross)

Race Results (1999 Frank-N-Horst Cyclocross)

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

The State of Manufacturing 2021

My emotions have been running high during this 75th anniversary year at HORST Engineering. It’s been a year of reflection as we struggle to overcome the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and recession. Despite the stress of the situation, I’ve remained incredibly optimistic about our business and the future of manufacturing in Connecticut. Immense pride drives us to persevere through one of the best times, and one of the worst times in our history. Over the last five years, there has been renewed interest in supporting local manufacturers, but some momentum has been lost during the pandemic. So, at the start of Manufacturing Month, it is important that I share the message that we need policy makers and other advocates to redouble their efforts so that manufacturers recover from the pandemic slowdown, and thrive again.

Growing up around this family business, I never thought that I would be leading our company towards a diamond anniversary. In 1996 when we celebrated our 50th, I organized a modest celebration, but as business careers go, I was just a rookie with a lot to learn. I was less than a year into my “full time” career when we hit that milestone, and I had no idea what I was in for. We were slowly clawing back from that awful early 1990’s recession that changed the aerospace manufacturing economy forever. The fall of the Berlin Wall, and end of the Cold War triggered a massive wave of downsizing and consolidation among the big defense manufacturers. The large customers made a strategic shift to outsource most of their part production. 

The aerospace manufacturing supply chain is made of thousands of small businesses. Those that hung in there were poised for growth. 

Long lead times and deep backlogs are the main reason why aerospace and other advanced manufacturing businesses are often last into a recession. It also means they usually are the last out. When I started my career at HORST Engineering, we were hurting. Thankfully, we stabilized and started to make a series of investments that set us on the right path. Over the last 25 years, our growth has come in cycles. As the military aerospace sector struggled to adjust, the commercial aerospace sector was beginning to take off. That’s right around the time that the world started to “get flat.” As the global economy recovered, and low cost airlines emerged, air travel became more affordable and a travel boom ensued. 

Those that innovated, embraced the use of computer technology, and leveraged the beginning of the Internet era, made the leap from old-school manufacturing to advanced manufacturing. Our company could no longer compete in the wide ranging markets (i.e. typewriter components, hardware, machines, etc.) that we had supplied parts to in the past, but with aerospace and a few other high technology industries, we were able to reconfigure our enterprise to do the high mix/low volume, precision products that are critical to Connecticut’s success. 

The cycles continued and our business rode the waves. Growth was interrupted in September 2001 when the terrorist attacks on 9/11 dealt another blow to the aerospace industry. In the period that followed, passenger air travel struggled to recover, while defense industries returned to the fore. We adjusted our approach and persevered; a common theme in our history.  Security became paramount and with the necessary changes that were implemented, commercial aviation soared again. 

In 2008, it took a global financial crisis and a Great Recession to stop the growth. At HORST Engineering, we didn’t bottom out until 2010, and then it took several years to recover from the economic meltdown. Another period of intense innovation, technology investment, and renewed interest in American manufacturing followed. The high cost of energy drove new aircraft programs geared towards fuel efficiency and improved reliability. 

As a supplier, if you kept pace, you were rewarded with more business even as high precision work went offshore. Our family business has never made “cheap crap” and we never will. Our Core Purpose is to “help people fly safely” and whether that is taken literally when we make critical “flight safety” fasteners for jet engines or metaphorically when we do similarly close tolerance work for our non-aerospace customers. 

One of the special aspects of aerospace technology is the trickle-down effect. Aerospace is literally “rocket science” and the knowledge gained benefits so many other industries. HORST Engineering’s capabilities have been honed by our aerospace work. We are also part of a network of suppliers. That ecosystem is vital to the success of manufacturing in Connecticut and throughout New England. We have one of the highest concentrations of high tech suppliers in the world. Within a short distance, we can reach other suppliers who specialize in heat treatment, coatings, testing, and other special processes. We count on them, and they count on us. Some of our longstanding suppliers have done business with us for more than 60 years. These connections are what make our supply chain so deep, and so amazing. 

When you measure success in financial terms, we had a heck of a run between 2013 and the first quarter of 2020. Over the years, we have tried a lot of different things in an effort to grow and diversify. This has included prior expansions and acquisitions. 2019 was a “banner year” and we reminded everyone on Team HORST what that looks like. After sharing the success, we launched our biggest project in company history with the acquisition of a large, but blighted building in our “hometown” of East Hartford. We knew that the aerospace super-cycle was getting old but we had prepared for a downturn. 

On the commercial side of our industry, a duopoly exists and one of the two companies at the top was really struggling. So, when 2020 kicked off, we were literally bracing ourselves for what might come. The good news is that we had built a strong balance sheet and our past history of reinvestment gave us the protection that we thought we needed to ride out another down cycle period while still executing a construction project and move. 

This has been quite a downturn. When we built our 2020 business plan, “pandemic” wasn’t one of the threats that we listed. I am proud that we were quick to react, even quicker than most companies. Our first Covid-19 Task Force meeting was on March 16th, 2020. I was following the news coming out of Asia and was aware that the Covid-19 virus was cause for concern, but how could you predict how bad this would be? Throughout 2020, we worked very hard to keep our people safe. We were an essential business and as a manufacturer, we had a built in advantage because “safety” is part of our everyday habits. 

Things got worse as the year progressed. The speed of the downturn was quicker than past cycles and even as businesses that are part of the “stay-at-home” economy have flourished, the transportation and hospitality sectors have languished. We aren’t guessing when permanent improvements will kick in, but we are optimistic that we will grow again. In the meantime, we completed our renovation, executed a huge move, made a difficult decision to consolidate our Massachusetts operations, and increased our focus on lean enterprise. You don’t get opportunities like this too many times in your career. I’ve been saying that we are a “75 year-old startup.” We have the benefit of an incredible legacy and we are now in a state-of-the-art factory. 

Committing to an expansion plan in East Hartford, Connecticut in the midst of the doldrums is a bold endeavor, but we are making it through and poised for an upturn. Many have questioned why we would pour so much money into a project in a high cost location. I wondered too, but when I did the deep thinking required before initiating the investment, I determined that advanced manufacturing was here to stay. Connecticut has a lot of issues, and in my younger idealist days, I thought that I could single-handedly change the politics, the negative vibe, and the economy. 

I’ve wizened and realized that there is less in my control, but that I can still make a difference. We took a 50 year-old dilapidated building and transformed it. It’s incredible. Over the last two and a half years, we have gotten much-appreciated support from our town and the state. Even the federal government stepped up and we have used the contributed resources as intended. The combination of outside support with our own savings were vital to the success of this project.

Our employees, suppliers, advisors, and customers all had to deal with the same circumstances. We are getting through this and now that we are operating from our new factory, we are even more excited about the future. The technical schools are also regaining their footing. After some setbacks, Goodwin University, Asnuntuck Community College, Manchester Community College, and the other institutions who help train the next generation of talented manufacturing workers, are making progress again. Skills have always been a competitive advantage for the people of Connecticut. Job growth will return, and wages will grow. 

Productivity will offset inflation while improving quality. For many years, I spoke loudly about how “high tech” manufacturing was, and is. I argued that technology wasn’t video games and apps, but that technology was a rocket engine and a space suit. I always pointed out that HORST Engineering had parts on these life-changing products. I described manufacturing as clean and advanced even as our own factory was a step behind the standard that I desired. I envisioned a “dream factory” that would be the culmination of teamwork and success. 

As I walk across our new factory floor, one that you “can eat off” (just not in Covid times!), I recognize how far we have come. My grandfather, Horst Liebenstein, fled Germany in 1938, and that gives me a unique perspective. He immigrated at Ellis Island, he Americanized his name to Harry Livingston, and eventually made his way to Hartford, a thriving industrial center. He met his spouse, Sylvia, and they started a family. They then founded our company in the North End on Garden Street, just over a mile from the Connecticut River. The entire Connecticut River Valley is a corridor of manufacturing prowess. The Aerospace Component Manufacturers refer to it as “Aerospace Alley.” 

I grew up in this business with my father Stanley, Uncle Steven, and mother Adeline as mentors and guides. They took risks before me and added to the foundation that my grandfather built. With the help of many key employees, we have capitalized on the head start that our predecessors gave us. I have no idea what the future will bring, but we will be ready. As noted, we have gotten good support from many, including the State of Connecticut, but policy makers need to know that more should be done. Retirements and competition will require more investment in programs to develop manufacturing skills. My hope is that a reckoning in higher education will redirect more people to skills oriented programs that won’t leave them indebted and unhappy in their jobs. 

Doing business here doesn’t have to cost so much. Policy makers still need to moderate regulations and ease up on taxes. I’m worried about health care costs and about the impact of the pandemic on business travel. I’m worried about a lot of things, but we stayed in Connecticut, we are investing, and are diversifying here.

I want our story to inject a bit of joy. East Hartford, Connecticut, and New England may not reclaim past industrial glory, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be better. Lean enterprise is all about respect for people and continuous improvement. Manufacturers understand that more than most businesses.  Let’s build on that theme. I probably won’t be around in 75 years, but my kids should be. By then, they will have kids and grandkids of their own. One of the benefits of being the steward of a family business is that you are guaranteed to have a long-term mindset. 

You look back, and then you look ahead.

2021 Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999 Race Results

2000 Race Results

2021 Race Results (will be posted when available)

2021 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross & Wickham Park Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mansfield Hollow Race Results

Wickham Park Invitational Results


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