Archive for the 'Sport' Category

Crash! Part Deux: My 2018 USA Cyclo-Cross National Championships Story

Well, the diagnosis is in. Sometimes, thing just don’t go as planned.

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I broke my leg.

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It’s a clean break of the fibula, also known as the calf bone. It happened about five or six minutes after 3:00 P.M. Pacific Time on Saturday afternoon in the singlespeed race at the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. This was first diagnosed on Monday afternoon at the UConn Health sports medicine clinic in Storrs. It was confirmed today when I returned for another X-Ray, and to get a cast put on.

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I fell on the dreaded off-camber hill on the back side of the Reno course. I’ve replayed that moment in my head, and I still can’t figure out exactly what happened. I’ve pieced together a probable explanation using my memory, some video, and the analysis of the orthopedic doctor. There was heavy traffic in the field of 135 riders, which was the largest of the week. The course was in rough shape after week full of racing, and because it was the last race of the day. I was tired after a week of travel, promoting Cross Spikes™, and racing in the Masters 45-49 Championship, but I only needed to get through one more event. It was the 25th of the season, the most in my 20 year cyclocross career. The singlespeed race was the last non-UCI amateur race of the week and before the Sunday UCI level elite races. The hill had dried out and was very slick with lots of loose rock. I started in the fifth row and was running around 45th at the time of the crash. I’m not a great bike handler, but I’m also not terrible. I wasn’t intimidated by the course, and had been around it more than a dozen times, but I made a mistake, and it cost me.

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I’ve watched this Instagram video captured by @jarednieters that shows the crash, and replayed it numerous times. If you want to see an overview of the singlespeed race with highlights including the start, sand pit, and off-camber mayhem, then check out this CXHAIRS clip. video focuses on the off-camber carnage. The still photos are screen shots from @jarednieters’ video.

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He panned away for a split second at a critical moment during my fall and the perspective is from the right side of the course, so it’s hard to tell exactly what happened to my left leg. After reviewing my X-Ray’s and manipulating my leg, the doctor thinks that it was blunt force that caused the break and not a twisting action. My guess is that I had my leg out for balance and support, and when my rear wheel kicked out, I planted my foot and it got jammed on the ground or smashed against the hillside, and/or against the course stake. Whatever I collided with, forced me back and I fell backwards on the steep downward facing slope. My bike ended up pointing in the opposite direction.

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As soon as my leg impacted, I knew something was wrong. It felt like everything in my calf just got yanked like the worst muscle pull ever, but it wasn’t a cramp. I know that feeling all too well and that is quite different. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, it was an ugly and awkward crash despite the relatively low-speed.

I sprung up because there was a line of riders behind me. My response was to grab my bike, start pushing, and remount without losing much time. I’ve crashed a lot and that surge of adrenaline is usually all you need to get going again. My problem was that this time, something was different. The pain in my leg/foot was intense, and I could barely move. A gap opened up between me and the riders in front. Several other guys took the low line to get around the traffic jam that I caused. I didn’t notice the cuts on my right arm or the scratches on my back.

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As soon as I remounted, I realized that I had no strength and the pain was excruciating. I was blocking riders, but I thought I could just get going again. I was sorry to hold them up. Eventually, I was able to make some forward progress. I got my right foot clipped back into my pedal as I approached the super-steep S turn descent, and either I got my left foot in the pedal or I was resting it on the pedal. I think it was out because all week, including my reconnaisance laps earlier in the day, I had been taking my left leg out for the steepest part of the descent.

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This time, I got around the bottom left hand corner, but had trouble getting my left foot back in the pedal again. It wasn’t until I got through the rutted section and over the berm along the sidewalk next to Herman’s Pond, that I was able to clip my Sidi Dominator into my Shimano SPD, and it hurt like heck. I got passed by another stream of riders because I couldn’t apply any pressure to the pedals. I rode around the pond, over the bridge, up the road, under the walking bridge, and into the Dinosaur Park. Even before I got to the start/finish straight, I was in bad sorts. Riders were blowing by me despite my effort to get back up to speed. I rode through the finish line at half speed, and kept going through the field, up the false flat, past the pit and up to the set of stairs. And to think that these are the same stairs that Christopher Blevins, Cody Keiser, and Tobin Ortenblad were bunny hopping in Sunday’s elite races.

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The crowd was going bonkers. As I approached the steps, I think I got my right foot out and swung my leg over my saddle to dismount, but when I shifted all my weight to my left leg, it just gave out. I couldn’t support myself, and didn’t have the strength to twist it out of the pedal. I don’t know exactly what happened next, but I think I rolled up to the stairs and used my right arm to push my foot out of the pedal. I’ve had to do this before, but typically after a mountain bike crash, when you get tangled up and the bike is on top of you. Usually, it is no big deal. I don’t remember much else, other than I walked up the steps carrying my bike and couldn’t continue. At that point, there were probably still 75 people behind me. The first lap was 1.9 miles long. I crashed at about 1.3 miles and made it another 0.6 miles. I tucked myself into the inside corner by the course tape and leaned on my bike to catch my breath and assess the situation.

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Several fans were heckling me. One guy, who I think was shirtless, had multiple one dollar bills tucked in his pants. He was yelling at me to take a dollar or two from his waistband, but I had no interest. I just wanted to get off the course. I spotted a course crossing a hundred feet further up on the right-hand side in a bend. Two marshals had a pink course ribbon draped across the opening to keep spectators back. I remounted, but again, couldn’t get my left foot in the pedal, so I just rested my foot on top and pushed with my right leg, which I was able to clip in. I made it to the opening and signaled to them with my arm that I was coming through. They dropped the ribbon and I coasted 10 feet, got off, and fell on my back in the grass with my singlespeed Seven Mudhoney SL beside me. It was my first race on that brand new bike. I hit stop on my Garmin 920XT and now have those 10+ minutes memorialized on my Strava feed.

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It took a minute or two for me to compose myself, but I immediately felt cold because I was ony wearing a shortsleeve skinsuit. I got up and remounted, but only clipped in my right foot. I let my left leg dangle and I pedaled one-legged across the field, and over to the Race Expo where the Horst Engineering tent was located. It was only 500 feet away. As I approached, I saw Art Roti, my teammate, colleague, and friend. He was talking to someone who had stopped by the tent. He saw me and was surprised. I rolled up and said something like, “I’ve got a big problem.” As I slowed to a stop, I thought I was going to fall over, so I asked them to help me and they immediately grabbed me. They helped me off, and I told them about the crash and how bad my leg hurt. He said he would get my jacket. I told him where it was in the truck. He brought over my Team Horst edition Patagonia Nanopuff and I donned it. I took off my helmet and wanted a dry hat, so I limped back to the truck, and dug it out of my bag.

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I knew that the medical tent was only a few hundred feet away, so I shuffled over. Two EMT’s, including local athlete, volunteer, and uber rescuer, John Kennedy were treating another athlete who also crashed. John had been super helpful all week-long. I slumped into a folding chair and they began attending to me. I told them the big problem was my leg above my ankle, but that the pain was radiating throughout my foot. I described the crash and they did their best to determine the extent of the injury. I think I talked them into the high ankle sprain explanation, or pulled calf, but there was no way for them to tell. They helped me remove my shoe and sock. The best they could do was tape it with an ace bandage and then tape an ice pack on. John wasn’t keen about my travel plans (an 11:30 P.M. “red eye” flight through Chicago to Hartford). He warned me about blood clot risk, told me to wear my compression socks, elevate the leg, and move around. He encouraged me to seek medical attention. They washed out the cuts on my right arm and put on a few Band-Aids.

I got back to our tent and Art helped me change at the truck. While he packed my bike, I sorted through the remaining Cross Spikes™ and packed them while sitting there with my feet propped up on the table. It was a bummer to hear the announcers still calling the race that I was supposed to be in. Jake Wells won, earning his second national championship jersey of the week. After the bike was boxed, we took down the tent and packed up the remaining gear. I was cold, so I got in the passenger seat of the truck while Art went to say goodbye to our Expo neighbors.

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We drove back to the house. I went inside while he got all the bikes ready so BikeFlights/FedEx could pick them up on Monday; and so our friend, Darron, could ship back the remaining inventory and gear. I showered with my bad leg hanging outside of the tub in an effort to keep the ace bandage dry.  I packed my bag, got to the couch, and put my foot up. He got some frozen peas from the freezer and we taped it to my leg. We called Greatful Gardens, where we ate twice earlier in the week, and ordered take out. They have fantastic vegan options. On his way to the restaurant, he stopped to refuel our rental truck, and he picked up some beer at a local tap-room.

We had dinner back at the house, and were eventually joined by our hosts, Addie and Darron. The four of us split the beers and then tested some of their home-brewed porter and cider. We had a great chat about cyclocross, work, family, and life. After hugs, we were on our way to the airport by 9:30 P.M. We returned the truck, walked to ticketing, checked our bags, went through security, and then walked to the gate. I laid down on the floor with my leg up on a chair, and waited there until boarding.

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I had a middle seat, but was able to switch to an aisle seat on the left side of the plane, so my leg was still pinned in. There was a woman sitting in the window seat, but at least we had an open seat between us. I just wanted to get home. I slept a little. I got up a few times, walked the aisle, and used the bathroom once. We arrived in Chicago at 5:30 A.M.  We deplaned and then walked to our connecting gate, but I was in agony. About 1/3rd of the way there, I laid down on a bench. We stayed there for 45 minutes, and then walked the rest of the way to our gate. There was no good place for me to put my feet up, so once again, I laid on the floor and rested my legs against the window facing the tarmac. Art went to get some breakfast while I rested.

After a while, I needed to use the bathroom and I was thirsty, so I walked back towards the other gate and got a steamed soy milk at Starbucks. When I got back to our gate, Art said the flight was delayed. After another 90 minutes or so, we boarded. When I gave the gate agent my ticket, I told her that I was going to need assistance at BDL and she assured me that someone would be there to give me a ride. We waited a long time but never took off.  Then, the pilot came on the PA system and told us that we were overweight and needed to unload 1,000 pounds of fuel. I had an aisle seat, again, on the left side with a passenger next to me. The process of removing fuel took another 30 minutes while were strapped in. During the flight, I got up and went to the bathroom a few times while walking the aisle to stretch my legs. We arrived in Hartford around 11:30 A.M.

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I deplaned ahead of Art. There was no one to assist. At the top of the jetway, there was a gate agent, but no one else, so I just started walking to baggage claim. I stopped and used the bathroom and then continued. Art eventually caught up to me. He helped me get my bag off the conveyor belt and we waited outside. His shuttle bus came first.

I got to the LAZ Fly self-parking lot and gave the driver a tip after he helped me carry my bag down the steps. Unfortunately, when I gave him the tip, I lost my LAZ Frequent parker card. I got my car started and checked everywhere, but I couldn’t find it. I went to check outside on the ground where the bus dropped me, but it wasn’t there. At the ticket booth, I used the call button, but it went to voicemail. It was freezing cold outside and I was exhausted. I saw another shuttle bus and went up to it and knocked on the door. The driver helped me call dispatch. Then, we went back to the machine and called again. This time, someone answered and she processed my transaction. I paid with a credit card and the gate went up. I was free!

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I got home 35 minutes later around noon. It was great to see my family. I showered and then spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch, with the kids, watching the USA Cycling YouTube livestream of the Women’s U23 race, Men’s U23 race, Elite Women’s race, and Elite Men’s race. After dinner, Debbie helped me upstairs. We propped my leg up on a pillow in our bed. I had a restless night of sleep. When I got up, I knew that my leg was messed up and it didn’t feel like an ankle sprain. I got up and made my way to the basement where I located the walking boot and crutches that I saved from a prior stress fracture injury in 2014.

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Debbie helped me get my leg in the boot and made some breakfast. I wrote an email to the doctor who helped after the 2014 crash that resulted in my broken shoulder, cc’ing my primary care physician, who is also the “team doctor” for the Hartford Extended Area Triathletes. I drove to work, and did our Senior Leadership Team Daily Huddle on the way. By the time I got to the shop, the doctor had replied, confirming that someone in his office could see me today. His assistant called me and we scheduled the appointment for 1:00 P.M. I read some email and then attended a meeting with our Controller, our CPA, and his partner.  We discussed accounting and finance matters for nearly two hours. I dealt with some HR stuff and then did a 30  minute telecon from the car on another business matter.

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By the time I got to the appointment, I was tuckered out. A junior doctor met with me, asked a bunch of questions, and manipulated my leg. In Reno, I reported that the pain was six on a 10 point scale, and repeated that to the doctor in Storrs, though there were moments when he squeezed my leg and the pain was probably a nine or 10. He was joined by a osteopath who further discussed my symptoms. Then, I was walked over to radiology where they shot three X-Ray’s. I was in terrible pain as they moved me around on the table. When I got back to the examination room, I was sweating profusely. This was harder than the race!

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The two doctors came in and gave me the bad news. They put the X-Ray’s up on the digital monitor and you could clearly see the break in the fibula. I was devastated. After one of my best cyclocross seasons, I had blown it in the last race. I also knew that the resulting recovery was going to have a huge impact on my heavy meeting and travel schedule. I was due to fly to Nicaragua this coming Saturday, but it was evident that I shouldn’t have even traveled back from Reno without first visiting the hospital. Flying to Central America was not going to happen. I also had several important planning meetings that would be impacted. I hung my head as they talked through the next steps.

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The big concern was whether or not the fracture was displaced. The osteopath wanted the orthopedic surgeon to review the images, but he was in surgery at the Farmington office. They got me back into the walking boot and scheduled me for a followup visit on Thursday morning, which was today. They told me to wear the boot all of the time, even while sleeping. They asked me to elevate my leg as much as possible, in an effort to get the swelling down.

Tuesday morning, I got really good news from the surgeon. He emailed to say that the break looked clean and that with a cast, the bone would heal on its own. He said to keep the appointment as planned and that he would see me then, with no change to the orders that they had given me. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I participated in meetings remotely while resting on the couch. Wednesday night, I attended the Connecticut River Valley Chamber of Commerce with my family and the Horst Engineering Senior Leadership Team. It took a big effort to put on a suit and get to the event, but I was honored as the chamber’s businessperson of the year. This award is a nice reflection on the success of our family enterprise and is shared with all my colleagues. By the time we got home last night, I was wiped out and anxious for today’s appointment.  This morning I got up, packed a rucksack, and drove back to UConn.

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The orthopedic surgeon was on duty. He is the same doctor who treated me in 2014 and despite the circumstances, it was nice to see him. Yesterday, he had three major surgeries, including one on the knee of a man who was in a horrible skiing accident. My case was “easy peasy” as he put it. They took me to radiology for one more X-Ray to make sure nothing had changed since Monday afternoon. We talked over my crazy travel schedule and the stupidity of my trip back from Reno. The X-Ray looked good, and he said the cast should do the job. His assistant presented me with a color palette to choose from. I chose black and orange to match our Team Horst Sports kit. He was thrilled and insisted on casting it himself rather than delegating it. He said it was one of his favorite procedures.

I was in and out in a half an hour with another appointment scheduled for two weeks from today. He said my prognosis was good and that given the circumstances, I was very lucky. We talked about my upcoming travel, races, and other stuff. The Nicaragua trip is off for me, and I don’t have to fly again until the end of February. Ski season is over before it even started. I was planning a March duathlon and I’m registered for the Mt. Tammany 10! (40 mile trail race), the Traprock 50K, and the Rasputitsa Spring Classic. Those races are all on hold until I get better. The good news is that even if I miss the spring campaign, I should be back up to speed for the summer mountain biking and triathlon seasons, and of course, the fall cyclocross season. That’s what matters.

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The pain sucks and this is a huge disruption, but much like my 2014 year of setbacks, I’m going to focus on other things. I’ll rest, improve my sleep, do some yoga, and work on my core strength. I use a standing desk and don’t have a chair in my office, but in the coming weeks, I’ll figure out how to stay off of my feet and take it easy.

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At dinner with the family on Monday night, our daughter asked if I’ve ever cried as an adult?

She said, “I mean, not from being sad, but when something hurt?”

I said, “Yes, many times. I cried three times at the doctor’s office today.”

She replied, “I cried twice today. At the trampoline park, she was jumping and a girl swung her fist and accidentally hit her in the chest. She said, “You know, like when it knocks the air out of your lungs and the water out of your eyes.”

I said, “Yeah, that hurts.”

She went on, “then, when I was with Mommy, a boy stepped on my toes and didn’t even notice. I cried again. His mom made him apologize five times. She told him to look me in the eye and say it like he meant it.”

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I didn’t predict this crash, but by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, I was pretty burnt from the long season, the crazy start to the year, and from being on the road since Tuesday morning. Despite a solid build-up, strong motivation, and a new singlespeed bike, I wasn’t 100%. I had also started thinking about the trip home. So, couple those thoughts with 134 other guys on a tough course, and I’m not surprised that I got hurt. That was my first DNF at a cyclocross race in four years.

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How the rest of the week went:

The 2017 USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships were in Hartford and it was a spectacular event. Being in our “backyard,” we had a lot of involvement. Horst Engineering hosted an Open House & Plant Tour for a group of friends and out-of-town guests. Several key volunteers from the Reno CX Nats Race Committee, including Darron, and his friend, Race Director Coby Rowe, joined us for the tour. As the 2018 race approached, they insisted that we come to Reno, be part of the Expo, and participate. Art and I are really glad that we made the trip. They returned the favor by being great hosts.

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I had challenges all week-long. On the trip out to Reno, I lost my toiletries bag on one of the airplanes. The bag fell out of my carry on. It contained my toothbrush, toothpaste, and two sets of contacts. I didn’t have a contacts backup plan, so Debbie had to work with my assistant at to ship a set via UPS Next Day Air. I got them on Thursday only a few hours before my race.

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I have been to Lake Tahoe on two occasions, when Debbie participated in the 2013 and 2014 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs; but I had never made it to Reno. We had a blast in town and at Rancho San Rafael Park, which proved to be an excellent venue. The course was much faster than the Hartford track, and that was also because of the dry conditions. It was wetter on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by the second half of the week, and after a couple of big wind storms, the course was mostly dry. One of those windstorms destroyed the Horst Engineering tent, which is the second tent we lost to wind this season.

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In addition to three great meals at Greatful Gardens, we dined twice at Laughing Planet Cafe, which had a great shrine to Reno native, Greg Lemond. We also picked up açaí bowls at Basik Acai, a cool spot. I’ve been to their sister location in Kona, Hawaii, but that was back in 2010. We avoided the casinos, but did attend the Mechanics National Championship.

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Art did the Masters 40-49 Non-Championship race on Tuesday, but I came straight to the park from the airport via Uber, and just watched. Our big race was the Masters 45-49 Championship on Thursday afternoon I had an OK ride, consistent with my start position, and finished 37th in a field of 98. I was hoping for top 30, but faded on the last lap, let some gaps open up, and had to settle for a mediocre result. The 4,700 foot elevation at the park was a factor in the race. Fellow New Englander, Adam Myerson won for the second year in a row, proving his fitness and cyclocross prowess.

When we weren’t racing, we were hanging out at the Expo, meeting Cross Spikes™ customers, and gaining new customers. Many people came up to us and told us how our spikes were a big help to them and they love the product. We helped many people install their spikes. It was a lot of fun. During the first few days, the wind caused us a lot of problems. It was difficult to keep our tent up, but later in the week, after the winds calmed, we were able to stand around without freezing our butts off.

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Early in the week, we also had the pleasure to work the pit for Richard Sachs, our longtime friend from Connecticut. Richard sponsored Team Horst Sports in the late 1990’s and I’m fortunate to have three of his bicycles. Also, Horst Engineering recently partnered with him to launch the Richard Sachs Seat Lug Survival Kit. I still ride one of my Sachs bikes on the road, I have an old cross bike hanging in the basement, and I have my original 1989 Sachs frameset mounted on the wall of my office at work. Richard was in the Masters 65-69 Championship, but he too struggled with the altitude and had a sub-par race. Still, he kept his spirits high and enjoyed the trip.

All week-long, we watched cyclocross and cheered for our friends, especially those from New England. In our race, old friend, Chris Peck, wearing a Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program kit, charged to 5th place after starting way back in the field. The Team Horst Junior Squad is a CCAP team. On the weekend, we helped out local rider, Nic Villamizar, who competed in the Junior 15-16 Championship as a CCAP rider.

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Watching the Elite Races on Sunday got me fired up for more cyclocross. Now, I can’t wait for September when Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad start their new season. As they say, “Cross is coming!” The national championships are moving from January to December, so I’ll get another crack at a 2018 championship race when they are in Louisville, Kentucky later this year. I may not be an elite cross racer, but I love the sport dearly and still fight for position in every race I enter. Sunday afternoon’s women’s race saw an awesome battle that came down to Ellen Noble chasing 13 time champion Katie Compton. Katie prevailed for her 14th title. Kaitlin Antonneau finished third. That means that all three women on the podium are Cross Spikes™ ambassadors.

That was followed by a men’s race for the ages. A group of six turned into a group of five and after a series of attacks, more challengers dropped off the pace and the race came down to a fierce battle between four-time champ Jeremy Powers and defending champ Stephen Hyde. Stephen got past Jeremy in the second half of the last lap and took the win. Kerry Werner hung on for third place. That means that all three men on the podium are also Cross Spikes™ ambassadors.

Click here for full coverage of the Sunday races. Fast forward to 4:15:00 for the women and 6:03:00 for the men. If you have time, watch all the races, including the Men’s U23 race that had some spectacular highlights.

A special moment from Saturday afternoon was a visit from my friend Tony Lillios and his daughter Iva. They drove down from Incline Village, where they live near Lake Tahoe. They arrived minutes before the singlespeed race, but we had time to exchange hugs and get a photo taken. They watched me complete one lap, and then they watched me in agony. Still, it was great to see them. Once Tony saw cross live, I think he was hooked.

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As I sit here on my couch and wrap up this blog post, I’m looking back on the whirlwind of the past 10 days. I went from some emotional and physical highs to some serious lows, but despite being laid up, I’ve already bounced back. That proves that we are resilient beings. I owe a big thanks to Art for helping me get out of Reno and back to Connecticut. I shouldn’t have taken that risk, but I’m glad that I got the treatment locally and wasn’t stranded in Nevada. Debbie and the kids have already swung into action and are helping me around the house. The Horst Engineering Senior Leadership Team is proving that they don’t need me, at least not every day, which is better for the business. Team Horst is our number one Core Value. Another one of our Core Value’s is Perseverance, which is a word I love, and a perfect idea to end this story with.

In hindsight, I probably should have taken those dollar bills from that heckler. It would have been a down payment towards my medical bills.

2017 Appalachian Mountain Club Photo Contest

The Appalachian Mountain Club recently announced the results of its 23rd Annual Photo Contest. I’ve been an active participant since the mid-2000’s. I started a continuous string of modest success in 2009. Success continued in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Per the rules, because I was honored in each of those “odd” years; I had to “sit out” the “even” years of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. Of course, I still took photos and as luck would have it, some of my best AMC contest qualifying images were shot in those off years, but were never entered in any contest. I’ll have to put a gallery together of the best images that I never submitted, and we will see what folks think.

Regardless, I was back at it in the official 2017 contest and am pleased to say that one of my images was chosen as an Honorable Mention in the People Outdoors category.

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The image titled: “Look Out! And Where Does This Trail Go?” was taken on Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine, on 02 July 2017 during our EPIC family hike and adventure. There were so many great images that came from that trip, but I selected what I thought was the best one that fit the contest’s criteria for that category, and I’m glad that the judges agreed.

I have to admit that even though I was carrying, and using my Leica MP Rangefinder throughout that trip, this image was taken with my iPhone 6s. This is proof that sometimes the quality of the image is less about the quality of the camera and more about the composition and capturing the moment. I frequently use my iPhone to take video, but also convenient still images that are easy to upload to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. I just pressed the “shutter” and the iPhone, which was set on auto, handled the settings.

The metadata captured the data: 11:23:23 A.M., ISO 25, 4.15mm,  f/2.2, 1/1282

I can picture the exact spot on the Cathedral Trail where I was hiking behind Dahlia and Debbie and spotted them ascending as the wind picked up. I took several photos in the series, but this is the one that captured the moment perfectly. The honored image is pictured above, but also included in the fully sequence below. The images were taken over a six minute span as we worked our way up the trail.

Debbie’s UltrAspire hydration hose is obscuring her face, but that’s something I didn’t notice,and since I snapped this action shot in the moment, can’t change. What works in this image is the position of their legs, Debbie’s hand on Dahlia’s shoulder, and Dahlia’s hand on Debbie’s knee. The definition in Debbie’s leg muscles demonstrates the effort of climbing this great mountain. Admittedly, back in 1999 when we met in the Ascutney Mountain parking lot at the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, her strong calf muscles were one of the first things I noticed about her; and 18 year and many miles later, still make me smile. These were some of the smaller rocks on this trail, and they still dwarf our 8-year-old daughter. The lichen covered granite has great texture, and the presence of a couple of blue blazes on the rocks gives faint indication of the direction of the trail in this boulder field.

The four AMC contest judges are highly respected in the New England photography community, and deserve a shout out for their AMC related work. These descriptions are from the AMC website contest page:

Jerry Monkman is a conservation photographer and filmmaker based in Portsmouth, N.H. He is the author of 10 books, including AMC’s Outdoor Adventures: Acadia National Park, the winner of a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award. He was recently honored with the North American Nature Photography Association’s 2017 Mission Award. You can find his work online at ecophotography.com.

Allison W. Bell is a designer and photographer in Whately, Mass., specializing in cultural and natural history projects. With Nancy Slack, she is co-author of the award-winning Field Guide to the New England Alpine Summits (AMC Books). Her latest book, Glorious Mountain Days, is due out later this year.

Paul Mozell is proud to have served as a judge in the AMC Photo Contest nearly every year since its inception. He is a photographer of landscapes, architecture, and business and family portraits, as well as a photography educator. He has been an AMC member since 1975. See galleries of his work at mozellstudios.com.

Jim Salge is a nature photographer, writer, and educator based in southern New Hampshire. He is a former weather observer at the Mount Washington Observatory, and the White Mountains remain a primary focus of his work. He currently serves as Yankee magazine’s fall foliage forecaster and blogger, and he teaches high school physics in Bedford, N.H. View his online portfolio at jimsalge.com.

Congratulations to all of the winners in this year’s contest. I don’t have time to submit to all of the different contests out there, but AMC’s will always be my favorite, and you can be sure that I’ll try again in 2019.

2017 Contest Results and Slide Show

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2017 Scrooge Scramble

Merry Christmas!

It wouldn’t be Christmas in the Livingston household if we didn’t run the Scrooge Scramble. This was the 12th time in 13 years that Debbie and I have done this race on Christmas morning. We started doing it as a couple, then we transitioned to pushing the kid (or kids) in the jog stroller (Chariot), and now they run it with us. This was my 50th (and probably last) race of the year.

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Today’s 27th edition was slightly modified due to the snowstorm. The heaviest snow fell overnight and early in the morning, but it was still snowing lightly during the race. Three  or four inches fell in total. Longtime Race Directors, Janit Romayko and Mary Lou White did their best to coordinate today’s race and adjust for the conditions.

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The start was pushed back 30 minutes to 11:00 A.M., to accommodate folks who were delayed by the weather. The numbers were down from the 200+  runners in 2016, but we still had a good turnout, and the donations will still have a positive impact on the The Cornerstone Foundation, which operates the community shelter/soup kitchen that doubles as the start/finish line.

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Another change was that the normal out and back course was modified to be a 1/2 mile loop around Rockville’s Talcott Park. We heard that the neighboring town of Ellington wouldn’t permit us to run the normal route into their town, and back, due to the snow.

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Before the race, I joined Bruce Christensen and a few other runners in a shovel brigade. We cleaned up the snow and ice on the most slippery corners.

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We ran the loop six times to get the 5 kilometers. The race was about 1/10th of a mile long. On the way to Rockville, we dropped Debbie off on the rail trail so that she could do a little workout.

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This is always part of the tradition. The kids and I registered (there is no fee but donations are welcome), and then mingled with many of our friends from the Silk City Striders and Shenipsit Striders.

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This year’s race got some press, thanks to a timely story in the Hartford Courant, written by Lori Riley, and published in Sunday’s sports section. I got a call from Lori on Saturday night, and she quoted me in the article. Just like in prior years, Platt Systems “donated” their timing services. I chased Josh Merlis around for six laps. Each lap, I would close in at the top of the hill when he stopped for 1) a kiss from his fiancée Michelle, and 2) a Munchkin. By the sixth lap, it looked like he was only stopping for a kiss and that after three or four Munchkin’s, he had enough. He held me off for “the win.”

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Shepard had another fine run. It won’t be long before I’m chasing him. Dahlia and Debbie ran together and got a big ovation at the finish. One more snow squall hit as we were leaving Rockville for home, but as we came into Bolton, the sun burst through the clouds, reflecting off the beautiful snow. It has been a great day already.

Merry Christmas!

Race Results

2017 Elm City Cyclocross

This morning, we were back in New Haven’s Edgewood Park for the Elm City Cyclocross. The race was hosted by the gang from Amity Bike and was the finale of the CT Series of Cross. It doubled as the finals of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) Cyclocross Series.

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This is the third year that I’ve done Elm City and this course never fails to disappoint. We didn’t have the post-Nor’easter snow and mudfest like 2016, but we had enough snow and ice to make it challenging. Whereas last year’s post snowstorm race was wet and a mild, this year was frigid. We awoke to a morning temperature in the low teens (Fahrenheit) and it rose to the mid-20’s by the late morning. By early afternoon, the temperature had peaked around 30, and then it started to go down again.

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The Junior riders started at 9:30 A.M., and no one could blame them for having cold hands and feet. Unfortunately, not all of the 9-12 year old racers got to do two laps of the course. We are going to sort this out for 2018 because 10-14 minutes isn’t enough for these boys and girls. For all the preparation, travel, and investment, they deserve to do two laps (minimum) at every cross race in New England, and especially in Connecticut, where junior racing is championed.

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Boden, Shepard, and Lars were the Team Horst Junior Squad competitors in the Cub Juniors and then ended the season on a high note. Boden had a great race, finishing 4th, and Shepard cracked the Top 10 with his 9th place finish. In the 13-15 year old race, our riders were Cole and Sean. They both had strong rides on the technically demanding course.

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As usual, the Masters fields were fiercely competitive. The 40+, 50+, and 60+ riders were all on course at the same time. This track is narrower than most, so there were times when lapped traffic made it hard to pass. I heard my fair share of verbal battles, but everyone kept it civil. We all care about one thing, riding strong and being safe, but competitive spirits often result in “banter” especially when it includes the sayings, “rider back,” “on your left,” or “on your right.”

For the third race in a row, my legs were empty. My only explanation is that it is a long season and I need some rest. Training hard at this point of the year isn’t going make a difference, but I have to stay sharp for another month. I thought today would be the day that my legs would come around. I was motivated, but alas, they were weak.

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I had an OK start, but halfway through the first lap, Joe Kubisek and Brian Girard were already 20 seconds up the trail. I can’t match Joe’s power, but at several races this year, I was close to Brian. He does better on the technical tracks, and today’s snow, ice, and mud made for a challenge. I did the best I could. I ended up riding in third spot for most of the six lap race, occasionally trading a spot with another chasing rider, but I didn’t slip past fourth until the last lap.

There was a large group chasing me and on the narrow course, I was able to see them frequently. Despite pushing, I never got a gap, which was frustrating. Brian was way out of sight, but I kept pulling in an effort to stave off the guys that were trailing me. On the second to last time up the climb, Rob Stiles jumped me on the hill and I had no answer. I kept the gap manageable and figured I could close it down by the time we got to the short road section through the start/finish.

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I knew that my own teammates, Arthur Roti, and John Meyerle, were in the chase group because they were getting loud cheers. Both of them have come on strong late in the season and this may have been their best race of the season. As I chased Rob coming into the last lap, we hit some heavy lapped traffic. I got around a few guys, but a few more blocked me as I came on to the road.

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Once I got past them, there were two more to contend with and on an icy left hand turn, one of them laid it out on the ground. I had to stop to avoid ramming into him. I got off, and had to run around him, and in the chaos, one of the chasers jumped past me in pursuit of Rob. I had trouble clipping in after dismounting in the snow.

I was frustrated. In most any other race, I would have had no problem bridging to the guys in third and fourth, but today was different. I had nothing left and had to fight just to keep my own teammates at bay. In the end, that was cool that they were the ones chasing me. I figure that my effort helped drag them along to some of their best results of the year.

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John even made a move past me on the climb, which was really impressive. I got him back on the long stretch that led to the big descent. I held off John and Art in the windy final section and had to sprint giving it every last bit of effort to hold them off. We finished fifth, sixth, and seventh, but I was still disappointed that I squandered an opportunity for the podium.

John,, Art, and I were joined by Wade Summers, Andris Skulte, and Brett Chenail. We had a great showing in the 40’s. We had even better results in the 50’s, where Mike Wonderly took the win. This course is made for Mike and his skills. Tom Ricardi was also in the 50’s.

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After the race, I had two things that made me feel better. The first was lunch at Claire’s Corner Copia in downtown New Haven. Claire even stopped by our table to bus it and clean up. After 42 years in business, it’s great to see the founder out there doing the “dirty work.” I would expect nothing less. She welcomed us to her city and her cafe, and gave us a bunch of tips about the New Haven museums, but today wasn’t a day for museums. We needed to get home, if only to warm up.

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The second thing that made me feel better was a glass of SAP from Tree House Brewing Company. I stopped at Tree House on Friday evening during my nasty five-hour drive home from Sterling Machine. I assure you that the beer was worth the wait.

Thank you to the Elm City CX crew, the CCAP, and congratulations to all of my fellow riders for a fantastic 2017 CT Series of Cross.

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Race Results (will be posted when available)

2017 NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross

This weekend’s NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross was another fantastic adventure with family and friends. This was the final two races of the Northeast Cyclocross Series, and signals that the New England season is winding down.

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All that remains are the CT Series of CX finals at Elm City CX on 19 December in New Haven, and a smattering of other local races in Massachusetts over the new few weeks. A lot of riders will hang up their wheels after NBX.

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I didn’t leave anything in the tank after my efforts in the Masters 40+/Juniors 16-18 (combo) races yesterday and today. I was empty yesterday, but somehow rallied to push through another tough race today. I didn’t have good legs either day, but persevered. Today, I was literally cross-eyed as I pushed to limit my losses after a costly series of early race mistakes.

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One of the great challenges of cyclocross is executing a “clean race.” Even if you have the best legs, you can give up a lot of time with a bad start, poor bike handling, and mechanical issues. Fortunately, other than a bent brake lever or two, my mechanicals were minor. The very rooty and unforgiving Goddard Memorial State Park course is very hard on bicycles. There were lots of punctures, broken wheels, and broken bicycle frame. It was carnage for some folks. My legs weren’t good, so that meant that my self-inflicted mistakes had even greater consequences.

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My pain came from not having my A-game bike handling skills on a tough course that had a lot of mountain bike features. There were lots of loose sandy corners, lots of ups and downs, twists and turns, and lots of roots.

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This Warwick, Rhode Island seaside park and race course is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t suit my strengths, but it does have features that make me a better bike racer. This race will always be special since it was one of my first ever cross races back in 1995. I’ve done it many times over the years, but not since 2013. It always falls on the first weekend of December, which coincides with a holiday party that Debbie and I have attended every year since 2003. This year, the party was in Woodstock, Connecticut, so I was able to squeeze that in between Day 1 and Day 2.

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We had a great turnout from Team Horst Sports and the Team Horst Junior Squad. Shepard did the Juniors 9-14 year old races and had a good time with his teammates. We have watched our Junior Squad improve in so many ways since those early season races back in September. Thankfully, the weather was dry. It was cold, but tolerable. In addition to the junior race, we had good representation in the Masters 50+ race, and of course, in the Masters 40+.

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Yesterday turned out to be the better of my two races. I think the long beach run favored me, as did the extra few uphills. Today, there was less running and my legs were just blown, probably from racing yesterday, and dancing last night. There were some dance instructors at the party, and I actually learned both the Salsa and the Merengue, so all is not lost.

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Today, I had a rough start, recovered almost all the places I lost, and then promptly gave them back when I went down on a steep uphill and got my bike hopelessly tangled with another rider’s. We had to calm down and get them unhooked before jumping on and chasing the 15 or so guys that got by us. The trouble with losing time early in a race like this, is you can ride your butt off for the remainder of the race, turning laps even with the same guys that passed you, but still never make up the time. When you are flat-out, going 100%, you just can’t accelerate from there. One bright spot was the last lap of today’s race. I buried myself to make up ground. I caught up to teammate Arthur Roti, and felt bad passing him, but I was just giving it my all. If I rode that pace for the whole race, things would have been better, but I proved to myself that I could suffer.

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In the end, I was very happy with the race weekend. Having such a great team is a fantastic boost. The kids are loving the racing. This race has a great vibe. It’s even worth noting that Goddard Park is beautiful. The park has lovely stonework, including the infamous stone steps that we have to run up.

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I’m going to enjoy the recovery over the next few weeks. I’m going to skip racing next weekend and aim for a good day at Elm City. I’m working plans to be at the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships in Reno, Nevada next month. Punishing my legs this weekend will pay dividends provided that I get the proper “rest” and stay fit over the next month.

Race Results, Day 1

Race Results, Day 2

2017 March Farms Cyclo Madness

We returned to March Farms Cyclo  Madness for a special Black Friday cyclocross race. Last year’s March Farms event was a complete white out in an epic snowstorm. The organizers moved the date of the race from late December to late November, in hopes that the weather would be better.

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They made a good call. This is the third year that Shepard and I have done this race, and this is the best weather that we have had. It was cold in the morning, but brilliant sunshine made it feel warmer. There was a light breeze, but it was nothing like last year’s blizzard. The course was on the “other side of the street” from the 2015 race, and we finally got to see it properly.

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This is the most hilly race we do. The farm is in a picturesque setting in Bethlehem, Connecticut. This was penultimate race seven in The CT Series of Cross. The finals are at Elm City CX on 17 December. I made up some points on my friendly rival, Stan Lezon, who was holding third spot in the series behind Eneas Freyre, Travis Burleson, and Joe Kubisek. Stan finished two spots behind me today.

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I had a race-long battle with Travis. We were chasing Eneas, an out-of-state rider, and Joe. We shared the workload, alternating pulls for nearly an hour. It was slow going. This is what you call a “heavy course.” The rough grass and serious elevation gain with multiple sharp ups and downs made for a super hard track. There was a little mud, especially in the cornfield. There were no barriers. Some folks had to run numerous climbs, but I was able to ride everything but the long run-up after the stream crossing.

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I spent a lot of time in my little ring. Everyone did. Debbie and Dahlia joined us and after the race, we did some Christmas shopping at the farm store. Team Horst Sports had a strong turnout. Tom Ricardi, Keith Enderle, and Dave Geissert were in the Masters 50+ race. Wade Summers, John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, and Tim Rourke joined me in the Masters 40+ race. Cole Ricardi and Sean Rourke did the Juniors 13-15 year-old race. Shepard was joined by Lars Roti, Boden Chenail, Owen Lezon, and Ethan Lezon in the Juniors 9-12 year-old race. The Juniors races were full fields with 30 kids in each.

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Unfortunately, the 9-12 year olds only did one lap. This also happened at the Cheshire Cross. The organizers of the CT Series and the CCAP need to get together to agree on standard/minimum distances for these kids. For some of them, the race was over in seven minutes. They had already shortened the course to avoid some of the steepest hills, so they should have had them do at least two laps. Our boys were frustrated.

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Thankfully, my legs weren’t sore after yesterday’s Manchester Road Race. I ran with Shepard, so for me, it was like a tempo run. I had good power today, but it was still a hard effort. Our race was one lap too long. I would have gladly given one of our laps to the Juniors. My time was around 55 minutes, and I had to pedal the entire time. There was no coasting on this course.

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I heard a lot of complaints about the climbing, but people were generally smiling. I think most cyclists like to complain about hills. It’s part of the sport. The fact that this race was on Black Friday may have caused registration to be lighter than a weekend event, but I think it was a nice touch. Horst Engineering is closed today, so this was a great way to spend time outside.

Race Results (will be posted when online)

2017 Manchester Road Race

The weather for today’s 81st running of the Manchester Road Race was spectacular. It was cold at the start, but he brilliant sunshine warmed things up just enough to make it a great Thanksgiving Day on the roads of Manchester. This was my 28th MRR and my 23rd in a row.

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A few weeks back, Fox 61 News interviewed me as part of  a series that they did on longtime MRR runners. The premise was to share your favorite part of the course and talk about your MRR experiences. Naturally, the hill, near the top, is my favorite part of the course. It’s closest to my house in Bolton a few miles up the road and a pivotal point in every race.

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I really do love this race. Today, I shadowed my son, Shepard. It was only the third time that I haven’t “raced” Manchester. It was tough to hold back because I entered a new age group (45-49) this year, and my previous times would have had me on the podium (likely 2nd) for that division.

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That’s OK, the race has become a family affair for me. I’ll get a chance to run it again in the future. I’ve been doing a lot of cyclocross, but counting today, I’ve only run six times in the past month for a total of 25 miles. I would have had to race on guts today, which isn’t a problem for me, but it was smarter to keep an eye on Shep and save my legs for tomorrow’s (Black Friday) March Farm Cyclo Madness.

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Shep runs better on his own, so I started with him, but hung five seconds behind him the whole time, monitoring his progress and make sure he didn’t get tripped in the crowd of 12,000+ runners. I didn’t want to influence his race for better or worse. In the past, the presence of Debbie and I has resulted in meltdowns, especially when the effort got hard. Today, he ran a smart race, all on his own, with good pacing, and a strong finish. He had an Under 38 minutes seed card, and his goal was to break 35 minutes. He has improved every year and this year was no exception. He smashed his personal best, running 32:52 (gun time) for 8th in the 13 and under age group. He was very happy. He has two more years in this age group, so there is opportunity for improvement.

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He is into the stats, but I reminded him that the important thing is to continue to love to run. Right now, he is having a blast. I’ve seen a lot of kids burn out, but given our family passion for endurance sports, that is unlikely, especially if we balance the running with cycling, triathlon, hiking, and other fun activities. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious how much he and our daughter can improve.

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Debbie and Dahlia ran together and achieved their goal of breaking one hour for the event. They finished in 57:56. Dahlia’s legs hurt. Debbie taught her how to use a mantra, “strong and steady, strong and steady,” to get through the 4.748 mile course. I’ve heard that mantra a lot this year, and especially at the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run and Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run.

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Shep’s legs are going to hurt too, so he has to relax before tomorrow’s cyclocross race. I think mine will be OK. I ran in Central Park in Manhattan on Tuesday, to soften them up a bit before today’s race. Early this morning, I went for a road bike ride and scouted the course in reverse. It was fun to see all the volunteers setting up the course and to see all the police involved with the pre-race security measures.

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We saw lots of friends, which isn’t hard to do in Manchester, and had a blast. Deb’s mother, Barbara Schieffer, is a superfan. She joined us to watch our bags and cheer us on. The Silk City Striders and Shenipsit Striders were out in force. I heard Shepard get some cheers from spectators and that motivated me too. It’s too soon to tell if I’ll run hard in 2018. I have to keep my streak going, and if I’m serious about running fast again, I’ll have to run more and ride less.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Race Results


Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes

Instagram

@thecubscouts #pinewoodderby never gets old. Pack 157 Bolton, Connecticut #cubscouts So that little injury caused by my @renocxnats crash on Saturday afternoon wasn’t so little after all. It’s a broken leg (fibula). Prognosis is good, but it hurts like heck. My blog post report with blow by blow details is linked in my profile. #cxnats #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #crossisboss - - -

This #lifedeathcyclocross stuff is true!!!! I crashed out of the Singlespeed Championship @renocxnats (on the dreaded off-camber) but not before having more fun. @artroti43 raced on the frosty course ❄️ at day break. 🚴🏽 We met a lot more @horsteng #crossspikes customers. I hung with little bunny hopper 🐰 Miles, the Junior 11-12 year old Silver Medalist.🥈I cheered for Nic, who represented @the_ccap in the Junior 15-16 age group. @sportstert and Iva came down from Tahoe to cheer LOUDLY for me. 🎺 I got my badly sprained ankle taped and iced. I had a beer. 🍺 I’m even looking forward to my red eye flight home ✈️ . Best of all, I’ll see @trailrunningmom and the kids on Sunday. I can’t explain the sensation, but despite the pain, I’m ready for next #Cyclocross season to begin... after some rest. #teamhorstsports #cxnats #horstengineering @parkavebikeshop #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross #crossiscoming You could say that at least for this week, I’m married to my #bicycle - - -

@renocxnats #cxnats @seven_cycles #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #crossspikes @horsteng #chapelofthebells #Cyclocross #lifedeathcyclocross Good day representing @horsteng at @renocxnats in the 45-49 age group. It’s a great course. The wind was blowing hard, but the sun finally came out. I’m happy with 37th place but should have made a move to get to 29th, which was 30 seconds ahead. That’s a long way when you are going flat out and cramping. 4,500 foot elevation was a factor. I’m disappointed that they cut one lap of my race when I wasn’t close to getting lapped by the leaders. You train this hard and come all this way; and you want to get the most racing for the $ and time invested. They only let 25 riders do the full six laps. The only positive to come out of that was that I watched fellow New Englander @adammyerson execute a perfect final sprint to win the Stars and Stripes again. Teammate @artroti43 had a good ride too. 
@seven_cycles #sevencycles #horstengineering #teamhorstsports @bicycleseastct #crossspikes #cxnats #renocxnats #Cyclocross #crossisboss @therichardsachs didn’t have the race he hoped for but it was still great to see him @renocxnats and “pit” for him. He said he officially started his second off season, but first of 2018. @artroti43 and I played soigneur/mechanic for 90 minutes, but minus the massage! atmo #renocxnats #richardsachs #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #hauteframebuilding #Cyclocross #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross I previously hadn’t published this image, but it recently received an Honorable Mention in the 2017 @appalachianmountainclub Photo Contest for the People Outdoors category. Check out my blog (link in profile) for the interesting story of his photo (shot with this iPhone 6s), a trip report from this amazing Maine adventure, and past contest history. I love this image of two of my favorite women. I’m barred from submitting images to the 2018 contest, but I’ll be back in 2019. #appalachianmountainclub #baxterstatepark #katahdin Congratulations to Master Park, the Park Family, and the entire team at Park’s U.S. #Taekwondo at the Grand Opening of the new facility in the former VFW building. Our kids love it! So much better than being next door to the pawn shop and liquor store.😊#tkd 🇺🇸🇰🇷 This morning, the @trinitycollege Main Quad was bathed in beautiful sunshine ☀️but it was frigid and the wind was blowing! ❄️ The chapel was packed with an overflow crowd to celebrate the (shortened) life of a lovely friend. She will be missed. #circleoflife 🌏

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