Archive for the 'Sport' Category

2019 West Hill Shop Cyclocross

It’s hard to believe that I hadn’t been to the West Hill Shop Cyclocross since 2015. This was the 29th annual race in Putney, Vermont and it was my 13th time doing it. It’s one of my absolute favorite all time events and I was trilled to spend the day with Shepard. Most of our Team HORST Sports and CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad teammates were at Supercross Cup in New York. After several years attending that event, we decided to skip. We heard the rest of the team had a blast, though we were happy for a day trip and we were happy to visit Vermont.

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It was a long and cold day. We left the house at 6:15 A.M. and didn’t get home until 6:30 P.M. after making the drive north. The challenge is that when Shepard races the Cub Juniors and I race the Singlespeed, they are usually the first race of the day and the last race of the day. When we arrived, it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit and that isn’t the most fun temperature to ride in. By the early afternoon, the mercury had climbed into the mid-30’s but then by the time the singlespeed race started at 3:15 P.M., the sun was already low in the sky and the temperature was falling again.

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What made today special was that Shepard did the two-lap (15 minute) junior race and then he joined me for the multiple lap (five or six? over 45 minutes) Zanconato Singlespeed Cyclocross Series race. The last race was the largest field of the day because it was also combined with the Men’s Category 3/4 race.

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It was great to some old friends. Craig Damaschi drove up from Connecticut. He and I went to East Catholic High School together and raced on the cross-country team. We were teammates on the 1989 State Championship squad that I wrote about a few weeks ago. When I met Craig in 1986, I had already started mountain biking, but he was my introduction to road cycling, which led to bicycle racing and eventually cyclocross. He was steeped in European cycling tradition. His Italian heritage was a huge factor. He had stacks of old Winning magazines and was a Velo News subscriber too. He and I spent hours riding and talking about riding. It’s great to see him back on a bike and pushing hard in cyclocross.

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Everything about this race is classic New England grassroots cross. The bike shop itself is a big part of what makes the race (or any event held there) special. The shop has lots of character. The entire town of Putney is neat and we love it there. We are members of the Putney Co-Op and that is where Shepard and I enjoyed lunch. It was only a short ride up the street from the bike shop.

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On the way back to the race venue, we stopped at another awesome local business, the Green Mountain Spinnery,  which is adjacent to the bike shop. He was wondering what was inside, so I said, “It’s open, let’s go take a look.” We have been there several times, but he didn’t remember because the last time was 10 years ago. For many years, Debbie and I went on the post-Thanksgiving Putney Craft Tour which often featured the spinnery. We haven’t gone in 10 years, but I wrote about the 2009 version. The spinnery hasn’t changed at all and he was thrilled when we were offered an impromptu tour. The old equipment is fascinating.IMG_5559IMG_5561

I left him to hang out at the bike shop and I went for a substantial warmup. I took the freshly paved Westminster Road out to the town line and back. It’s normally beautiful and on this late fall day it was lovely. The long warmup helped and I had a good race. My start was fantastic as I was in 4th for the first 1/4 lap, but I blew a turn on a very slick corner and drove my left knee into the ground. I recovered and only lost three spots, but that forced me to chase. It was unfortunate but that sketchy corner caught more than one rider off guard.

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I eventually settled into a group of three that was battling for 5th place. Anthony Vecca, Henry Lord, and I traded places throughout the race. Anthony had 10 seconds on us at one point but Henry put in a surge and I stuck with him. We eventually closed in on AV, and I thought I was the strongest going into the last lap. On the lower section of the course (which was different from when I last did it–I liked it, especially the numerous twists and turns) I pushed to the front and we fought hard on the double run-up.

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As we approached the final few turns, I sprinted past them to take the lead figuring it was my best shot to get to the finish line ahead of them. I didn’t think anyone could come by me on the fast final straight, but AV did and I was bummed. After we crossed the line and I cursed, he said, “You deserved that.” I wasn’t quite sure what he was referring too as we were racing cleanly, but then I figured it was “payback” from the 2018 West Rock Superprestige MTB Final (also singlespeed) when I beat him by mere seconds in a last lap surge. I think that demoralized him, so I guess he is right. He got me back today.

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Shepard rode well. It was his longest ever CX race and also the first time he raced twice in a day. Racing with the adults is going to make him faster. He said that he was good for three laps and then he bonked. Yesterday, he was outside in the cold with Boy Scouts Troop 25. They had an 8-mile hike. Today was another long day, so we have to make sure he recovers and stays healthy. After the race, I let him go into the shop where the wood stove was cranking. They also had a barrel fire going on the outside and it was a popular spot. While he warmed up, I packed the trailer and the van as the sun set. It was another great cyclocross weekend.

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Race Results (will be posted when online)

2019 Northampton International Cyclocross

The Livingston’s had a fantastic weekend in the Massachusetts at the 29th Northampton International Cyclocross. I’ve done 16 of them, including the last five years in a row. The Pioneer Valley has a lot of great culture and Look Park in Florence is a perfect place for a cross race.

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Team HORST Sports and the Team HORST Junior Squad had a strong presence at this weekend’s competition. We had a nice spot on Club Row made it a family affair. From the Masters squad, we had a great team of riders:

  • Dave Geissert
  • Keith Enderle
  • Wade Summers
  • John Meyerle
  • Arthur Roti
  • Andris Skulte
  • Brett Chenail
  • Rich Frisbie
  • And me!

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From the Junior squad, we also had a strong turnout:

  • Alexandra Miller-Davey
  • Sean Rourke
  • Boden Chenail
  • Lars Roti
  • Owen Lezon
  • Ethan Lezon
  • Shepard Livingston

Arlen Zane Wenzel and Erik Emanuele were a bit help on Saturday. They came up on Day 1 to support the team. We also had strong support from the family of our racers. With Club Row, the food trucks, the expo, and a great park–NoHo CX is a spectator friendly event.

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Debbie, the kids, and I stayed over on Saturday night at the Hampton Inn in Hadley. The Miller/Davey Family and Lezon Family joined us for dinner at Paul & Elizabeth’s in downtown Northampton. We enjoyed dessert at Herrell’s where they have some nice vegan ice cream options.

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My Day 1 race was a certified disaster, but I hung in their and finished. I hit the deck no less than three times including one spectacular last lap crash when I hooked my handlebars on a course stake. That sent me to the ground in a heap. I bounced back. I was super-strong, but was all over my bike and made a lot of costly mistakes. I was battling for 13th and ended up 19th off the back of the small group that I was with the entire race. It was frustrating because I squandered an opportunity for a nice top 15 result in a competitive field. The course was greasy and I was just “off.”

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Today was a bit better and the combo Masters 40+/15-16 year-old field felt faster, but I was down in 22nd spot. I had a shot at 19th again, but just didn’t have the legs on the last lap when repeated attacks from my “new” rival Miles Mattern (age 13) finally broke me. He was hopping the barriers and railing every technical turn which forced me to chase him repeatedly. All of those big efforts to close the gaps that he was opening finally did me in. It wasn’t even his first race of the day! He won the Cub Juniors 9-14 year-old race earlier in the day (he won it on Saturday too). Even worse is a few guys snuck in between us in the last 1/4 lap. I could say I was frustrated again, but alas I rode better today and was actually happy with the result. Remember the name “Miles Mattern’ because you will read or hear it again.

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Unlike prior years, the 17-18 year -old boys started two minutes in front of us. The 40’s were combined with the younger juniors (ages 15 and 16), but they are nearly as fast. Frank O’Reilly Jr. won both days and he is only 14 years old. The young kids can really race.

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Speaking of young kids, Shepard did well. He did the shortish (only two laps) 9-14 Cub Juniors races both days and finished 13th on Saturday and 10th today. He was happy with how he raced and had a ton of fun hanging out with his friends at Look Park. It really is a fine venue.

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The Northampton International Cyclocross used to be one of the biggest races in New England, but it has shrunk in size and stature which is sad. With the loss of the Gran Prix of Gloucester from the race calendar, it still is the biggest race in the region (648 racers yesterday and 605 racers today), but is proof that cross participation is down. I did check and the NoHo participation numbers are generally comparable to the last five years, so I should be careful to comment without actually studying the data. The feeling is that there were less people, but I could be wrong. In New England, there used to be several big races per year, but like Gloucester’s loss in 2019, we lost the Providence Cyclocross Festival several years ago, which means that two of the big three events are now defunct.

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I wasn’t sure how I would feel after a double race weekend, but it’s Sunday night and I’m pleased with how things turned out. We had a lot of bicycles to wash, clothes to clean, and gear to unpack, but it was worth it.

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My father Stanley came up to watch this afternoon. He helped us pack all the gear at the park and then joined us for lunch at Pulse Cafe in Hadley, which is an awesome plant-based restaurant and farm store. We had a great brunch and even packed dessert which I’ll use to “refuel” after this weekend’s big effort.

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Race Results (Day 1)

Race Results (Day 2)

2019 Cheshire Cross

After yesterday’s Connecticut Middle School XC Championships, I did some CX. Cheshire Cross, which is one of my favorite races, got even better. The already challenging course was made more difficult with some strategic reroutes to avoid use of the ball fields. A week of rain forced the organizers to do more in the woods and to make better use of the back field.

That meant we had more rocks, roots, twists, and turns. I liked this tighter new version of the course which is part of the Zanconato Singlespeed CX Series. The  tricky woods section that includes lots of singletrack, sharp rocks, and roots was still there. Heckle Hill was unrideable for me because my gear choice doesn’t permit it. OK, my legs are just weak!

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The shorter sandy hill with the stairs was all chewed up, so I ran that too. They took the barrier out, which I disapprove of, but you can’t have it all. I liked the back field with the repeated corners. Those sections favor me.

I had a race-long battle with my CX rival Eric Wyzga. I thought I had my tire pressure dialed in before the start, but when I got to the line, they felt soft. I was seeded 7th by www.crossresults.com, but got to start 5th (and on the front row) because of my CT Series of CX points. The start was narrow and I got swarmed in the first 50 meters as I was cautious with my soft front tire on the Jeep road rocks. Thankfully, the tires held air for the full race, though they were softer than I would have liked.

I settled in and was battling for the 5th spot before I faded a bit. Eventually it was just Eric and me fighting for the 7th spot. Keith Burgoyne was chasing us, but we had some space to right more tactically. Even still, we were riding all out. I had a gap with two laps to go, but he closed it down and was pushing me the whole way. We were bumping each other each time up Heckle Hill. Thankfully, he had to run it too.

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Each lap I figured I would bury myself on the run-up to stay in front of him knowing that it would be hard for him to pass me on the technical descent before the finish. On the last lap, he was right on my wheel at the bottom of the hill, which was lined with crazy spectators. Some of them were in costumes, which is a Heckle Hill tradition. They were cheering wildly for the eclectic singlespeed racers, which was motivating. Eric was right on my tail coming up the hill and he yelled for me to “go” and I remounted just in front of him, fumbling a bit on the pedals.

I got clicked in and then rode defensively on the final descent making sure there was no room for him to pass. I sprinted furiously and we were practically next to each other when we hit the line. I was able to beat him, which was satisfying, but even more satisfying was the competition and his thrilling reaction when we caught our breath. He was so stoked to battle like that. Our singlespeed rivalry is growing as it seems like each week we are rubbing shoulders with each other. One of the things that makes cross great are these intra-race rivalries. You don’t have to be fighting for the podium to have fun.

Race Results (will be posted when live)

2019 Connecticut Middle School State XC Championship

Yesterday’s Connecticut Middle School State XC Championship was the culmination of another great season for the Bolton Center School Boy’s and Girl’s XC teams. This was Debbie’s second year as coach. She and her assistant, Donald Rowe, make a great team. They have molded these girls and boys into athletes in every sense of the word.

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Debbie weaves overall health into their training so they don’t just run. This approach includes nutrition, sleep, body work, and mindfulness. She uses many of the same techniques that have allowed her to run strong for more than 20 years.

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On Friday night, for the second year, the Doyle Family hosted a “pasta dinner” which we hope becomes an annual tradition. On Saturday, we spent the day at Wickham Park in Manchester, which is the the best XC running venue…period. I was also at the park on Friday afternoon for the CIAC High School State XC Championship. I brought Shepard and we watched some awesome running.

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After a week of rain, the course was damp, but not too muddy. There were spots where you had to be careful, but it was a faster track than last year. Even still, more than 10 kids lost their shoes (yep) yesterday even after being warned to “tie them tighter.”

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Tiarnan Doyle had a huge improvement over 2018 and he was our standout individual runner finishing 10th overall. He deserve mention for his improvement and his strength. Hopefully he sticks with running and competes in high school next year.

Our teams didn’t have as good overall finishes as last year, but we lost some strong 8th graders to graduation. I see both the boys and girls getting stronger in the coming years, especially as Debbie builds an even better youth running culture in our town.

Race Results

30th Anniversary: 1989 Connecticut State Open XC Championship

Tomorrow is the Connecticut High School State Open Cross-Country Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester. In recent years I have gone to watch and cheer on the runners. Tomorrow will be no different. Last night, I visited the Mary Cheney Library on Main Street in Manchester and dug through the archives of The Hartford Courant and Manchester Herald. I used their last remaining microfiche to review film that captured some amazing memories.

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I wrote about the 1989 State Open back in 2009 on the 20th anniversary of the East Catholic High School XC Team’s state championship season. 10 years later, I’m revisiting that magical season and reliving it through my own kids. Shepard will participate on a similar course on Saturday when Wickham Park hosts the Connecticut Middle School XC Championships. He and his teammates will run on the same ground that I ran on 30 years ago. Debbie is the coach of the Bolton Center School Boys & Girls XC Teams, so this is very much a family affair.

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30 years ago, my East Catholic High School cross-country team won the Class MM State Championships on the same course. I was a Senior member of the team and was the 4th runner on the team. With that race, we met the expectations of our coach, Paul Haggerty, and ended a multi-year state championship drought (all sports) for the school.

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Six days later, on the same course, in epic conditions (wind, rain, and mud), our team placed third in the State Open, which exceeded expectations. Even more spectacular, was the surprise individual victory by my teammate Christopher Ray (a Junior). Chris was seeded 25th and had shown promise all season long, but didn’t have any comparable results. He experienced heartbreak a year earlier in 1988 when he finished 26th, one spot out of the All-State rankings.

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In 1989, he defied all expectations with his victory. During the season, he won dual meets and placed high in the invitationals, but was never first in such a talented field. To go out and beat all of the favorites on a muddy course, proved his potential. We ended up getting tons of well-deserved attention for both the team and individual results. Our number two runner, Daniel Feehan, also exceeded expectations with an 11th place finish. Dan Thiery was fourth runner for the team that day. I was third, Sean Valencia was fifth man. Greg Ciaglo and Craig Damaschi rounded out our seven-man team.

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1989 was the year that I really learned about setting goals. Our young coach, Paul Haggerty, was an excellent runner with great discipline. He was credible because he could run with us and often outrun us. He was non-traditional. We did focused track workouts in the fall. We did tons of plyometrics, including bounders, and striders. He also made us run a lot of hills. He was a stickler for stretching. Like any group of teenage boys, we drove him absolutely nuts. The night before the class meets, we even phoned him from a pizza parlor and faked like we had been arrested for causing trouble. Looking back, I actually feel sorry for what we put him through, but it was classic rebelliousness at the time.

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Coach Haggerty had a saying, “You peak when the leaves fall.” He also said it was good luck to catch leaves. I still maintain that superstition today. All season, we underwhelmed and underperformed. I remember that tensions were high, especially with some of the parents, because he had us training right through the early and mid-season races. We were going to peak late, which in his book, was right on time. He didn’t care about anything but the last two races. In pre-season, he assessed our talent and set winning the Class Meet and finishing top five in the State Open as the prime objectives. Everything else was training.

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We nailed it and much of the credit goes to his coaching. He molded us the way he wanted and fortunately, we all performed. One week after the Open, as a bonus, we went to the New England Championships and as a team, flopped. Several of us actually got sick. With the exception of Chris Ray, who took third place and was again the top Connecticut runner, the rest of us were cooked. We had peaked at the right time and then we were done.

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It is cool to look back on that season and the end result, which was great success. My goal and objective setting in business and sport were permanently influenced by what we accomplished back then. Same for teamwork. Looking back after 30 years, I am now a coach and mentor to others and I truly understand what Coach Haggerty’s methods were about.

 

CIAC Boys Team & Individual Champions, 1932-2013
CIAC Girls Team & Individual Champions, 1973-2013

There are some amazing runners on these lists and the fact that the girls didn’t compete until 1973 says a lot about the sport in those days. Thankfully, they get equal billing in 2019. 

2019 Belltown Cross

We returned to the Belltown Cross today, though it was at a new venue in East Haddam, Connecticut. I thought that the fairgrounds on Quarry Road were much better than the RV park course of the past.

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Team HORST Sports had a huge turnout. We were represented in so many categories:

  • Junior Boys 9-12
  • Junior Girls 13-14
  • Junior Boys 13-14
  • Junior Boys 15-18
  • Masters Men 40+
  • Masters Men 50+
  • Masters Men 60+
  • Category Men 3/4
  • Singlespeed

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I think the Fat Bike race may have been the only one we were missing from! That’s OK because between the crazy (and in costume) Laurel Bicycle Club and hosts Stage 1 Cycling Club, they had it covered.

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We spent the better part of this fall day at the race and it was really nice. Cyclocross is a very family friendly sport and a fairgrounds (even without the fair) is a good venue even for those just spectating. It was cold early in the morning, and then some bright sun warmed things up, but by noon, it had clouded up and cooled off again. Just as we were packing up around 4:30 P.M., it started to rain. Thankfully we got all the racing in before we got wet.

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The Stage 1 Cycling Club/Airline Cycles crew did a fantastic job. They know how to put on a good event. The prizes were excellent, with many coming from donors. The DJ played excellent music. The podium was unique. The race had a fun vibe that people enjoy.

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Plus, the course was well-laid out and challenging. It was mostly flat and fast, but there were some cool turns and a neat section through dirt/sand pit area. There were several fun whoops and then a double run-up/ride-up depending on your power and skill. The race was mostly on grass with the exception of the dirt area and the long tarmac finishing stretch. There was even a “Disco Barn” complete with a disco ball and smoke. You had to ride right through it before taking the 90 degree left on to the finishing straight. The Team HORST Junior Squad had some nice results in the morning events with several top 10 finishes. Then the Masters team members crushed it, grabbing a few podium spots.

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Shepard had to persevere again after a mechanical and bike change for the second week in a row. He had rough start, getting tangled in the course tape in the narrow first turn. then, his chain slipped off the front ring and got jammed between the ring and the chain guard. He ran to the pit an got on his mountain bike. He steadily worked his way back and finished 10th. He was unhappy, but yet pleased with his grit and the lessons learned. We will dial in his bike one of these weeks!

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Dave Geissert was one our Masters stars, winning the 60+ race. Wade Summers cam close in the 50+ race, getting narrowly beat by Steve Sadler from the Stage 1 team. Rich Frisbie just missed the 40+ podium, finishing 4th.

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I did the singlespeed race even though the event was NOT part of the Zank SSCX Series. We started with the Men Cat 1/2/3 race, so it was a bit longer than the recent races. I didn’t mind that, though with their two minute head start, the leader, Greg Gunsalus, caught me halfway through the last lap which meant my race got cut short by one lap. I still got in a good workout. I am taking next weekend off from racing as I have an Appalachian Mountain Club Board of Directors meeting to attend. I’ll be back at it at Cheshire CX, which is in the Zank series.

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With 329 riders, the race was well attended for a grassroots event. My hope is that in 2020 we return to the fairgrounds.

Race Results

2019 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

Saturday was an ideal day for cyclocross in Connecticut. The leaves are reaching their peak and it was a beautiful day at Mansfield Hollow State Park. We had a typical fall day with two much to fit in. We started the day watching Eliud Kipchoge’s amazing marathon in Austria (via You Tube).

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Debbie took Shepard to the race in the morning so that he could race with the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad. I went to see my HORST Engineering colleagues tee off at our annual company golf tournament. I was surprised and pleased to see that Team HORST raised the bar yet again. They designed and manufactured precision golf tees. We first made an earlier version for a Family Day event many years ago. They dusted off the design, made some improvements and cranked out a batch (on a Swiss screw machine) before the tourney. I actually see a market for these, so HORST Tees may be the next Cross Spikes. There are interesting similarities between the designs.

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After that, I went to work, for several hours. I tried to navigate from our Burnham Street plant to our Cedar Street plant, but was thwarted by awful traffic.

I should have known better before making the attempt, but the Hartford Marathon created insurmountable congestion and many streets were closed. I aborted the attempt to swing by the other shop and just headed for Mansfield Hollow  for the Zanconato Singlespeed Cyclocross Series event. I had to stop at home and grab something that I forgot to pack.

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By then, after lunch in Willimantic and a side-trip too the bike/skate park, Debbie had returned home with the kids for a more relaxed afternoon. I had an OK race, but I’m still not on cyclocross form. I’m hoping for things to click in the next few weeks so I can get back up to the speed that I finished last season with.

I had a great start, for the first 150 meters, hitting the off-camber hill in 4th, but by the end of the hill (after a very bad line choice), I was 14th. I was able to move my way back up to 8th, but ended up in no-man’s land for the remainder of the shortish race. I was hoping for the full 40 minutes as I’m just trying to work my way in to shape, but sadly, the race was over in 30 minutes. I can’t blame the officials and volunteers (thank you) for wanting to get home. The Zank SSCX races are always last of the day.

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I didn’t linger long. I cooled down, caught up with a few friends, and then returned to Topstone Golf Course in South Windsor to reconnect with the finishing golfers and participate in the awards ceremony. That was a lot of fun, but it was the end of a long day. Debbie phoned in a Thai food order for Sawadee. I picked it up after the conclusion of the ceremony. We were wrapped up by 8::15 P.M., and watched another inspiring event, the IRONMAN World Championships (via Facebook Live), while we were eating. It’s been nine years since I did that race, and the coverage brought back amazing memories. Then I had to unpack my car and repack the van with my stuff and Shepard’s stuff. We are headed to the Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross in the morning while Debbie and Dahlia are headed to the Monroe Dunbar Brook Trail Race.

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Cyclocross weekends (especially double race weekends) require a lot of logistics. Fortunately, it is dry this weekend. When it is wet and muddy, things can be a real mess and it is even more work. Thankfully, that was not the case, but there is still bike work, laundry, food prep, and a host of other steps required to be ready to race. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it.

Race Results


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