Archive for the 'Family' Category

2022 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2022 Traprock 50K

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2022 MT. TAMMANY 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Results

2022 Bolton Road Race

Today was the 44th annual Bolton Road Race. It’s our hometown race and I’ve done it nine times since 2005. It was canceled last year, but was one of the last events in 2020 before the Covid-19 lockdown took hold.

The whole family ran today’s race. I’m no longer the fastest runner in the household. I’ve passed the torch to our son, Shepard. He ran 30:32 for the five-mile event. That’s respectable for a hilly course on a cold and windy day. That was good for 6th overall and 1st Bolton resident. Debbie and I have both been first town resident in the past, so this is a nice milestone. His Bolton High School Cross-Country teammate Meghan Minicucci was first female Bolton resident.

I chased him valiantly, but never closed the gap that he established the first mile. I ran 31:06 and was two spots behind him. That’s a good result for me. My best ever time was 30:08 in 2013. I doubt I’ll run that fast again, but I expect Shepard to go sub-30 next year.

Debbie ran 37:03, good for 4th in her age group. Dahlia ran 44:07 good for 1st in her age group. We had a lot of fun. The bright sunshine took the edge off of the cold. Yesterday’s snow and ice had melted (at least from the roads).

Will Sanders dominated again, running 25:38 for the win. The first woman was Anna Shields in 30:28. Shepard chased her the entire race but she held him off for a nice result. We saw lots of friends. Many folks came out to cheer for the runners. I’m proud of the kids. They inspire me to keep going as a masters runner.

Race Results

2022 Colchester Half Marathon

Today’s 30th edition of the Colchester Half Marathon was a chilly, windy, snowy, and icy affair. That makes it a typical Colchester “half.” Many of them have been like this. This was my sixth time, including the last three in a row, but more importantly it was Shepard’s first. Correction: it was his first on his own two feet. In the 2007 edition, when he was six months old, I pushed him in our Chariot CX-1 “jog stroller.” I guess you could say that he already knew the course.

Debbie also ran, but I’m sure she would say the best part of the day was seeing our son enjoy his post-race “runner’s high.” I did the entire race with him, which was fun. I felt strong and could have gone ahead, but I really wanted to stick with him. After I paced him up the final grinding hill, he crossed the line first (clearly) as he surged ahead at the finish. Oddly, they show me in front of him in the results, which makes me look like a bad Dad. We had consecutive bib numbers and they had to have given us the wrong ones. Bad Dad.

His goal was to break 1:30, and he just missed, running 1:30:22 on a tough course in tough conditions. He was toast after the finish and I’m sure he will sleep like a baby tonight. Yesterday’s snowstorm followed by plummeting temperatures meant that the roads were quite sketchy. They had been plowed, but some of the asphalt backroads were icy. The two dirt road sections, that total a few miles, were a challenging snow and ice covered mess with limited traction. Thankfully we did not fall.

I opted to use my Altra Lone Peak trail runners with a lugged tread. He used the Altra Escalante road shoe. Right before the race, I actually switched to my Escalante’s, but after getting some “intelligence” from other runners, I switched back to the trail shoes. I’m not as sure-footed as Debbie, or as confident on my feet as I used to be, so I played it conservatively. My quads took a pounding, but that’s what Colchester does to you.

Shepard and I stayed together and he even led for long sections. He was steady until the 11 mile mark when he started to fade. Of course, everyone fades in the last two miles at Colchester as the incline steepens and drags on forever (well to the finish). The last mile has more vertical gain than any of the previous 12. Despite my encouragement, the goal time slipped away. After a few minutes of being hard on himself, he realized that he had a good run, especially given the conditions and terrain. If he wants to run a “fast half,” there are better courses and better times of the year.

It’s been one month since Debbie ran the HURT 100 and after some rest, her fitness is starting to come around again. Colchester wasn’t anything like the Oahu jungle. Today, it was in the 20’s Fahrenheit. This was my first race of the year. I hadn’t pushed hard since my Mt. Ka’ala run, and hadn’t pinned on a number since mid-December when I did CX Nats in Chicago.

We saw a lot of friends at today’s race. I’m always impressed with the runners who do multiple loops. Some did three laps for a total of 40 miles. That’s hard core and something that doesn’t interest me. If it was all trail, I might consider it, but running distances like that on asphalt (even if there is a little dirt road), is nuts.

Colchester has awesome volunteers, and none more so than Race Director Rick Konan, who really made us laugh. Mid-race, he was standing at the top of the steep dirt road climb and yelling like a madman. Shepard and I were just behind the first woman, Brittany Telke. He told her she was first woman and then screamed (with his usual vigor) at Shep and said, “You’re second woman!” We were wearing hats and sunglasses, and Shepard’s luscious locks were spread across his shoulders. We explained to Rick that Shep was a boy, and he apologized profusely and then ran next to us for 100 yards telling us a story “from the 1970’s” about buying fancy “white shoes” that apparently made him look like a girl. I think he as trying to make Shep feel better! Even still, with all of Rick’s encouragement, I was motivated to run faster. I just wish that I could grow hair like that, so Rick cheer madly for me.

Race Results

Oahu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 HURT 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Race

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

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

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

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

Loop 1

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

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

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

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

Loop 2

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

Loop 3

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

Loop 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loop 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HURT 100 Live Results

HURT 100 Final Race Results

Mt. Ka’ala Sea to Summit to Sea 

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

It is described on the Fastest Known Time site:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 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


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

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