Archive for the 'Sport' Category

Winding Trails–Triathlon in a Tempest

I had to document the events of this week’s Winding Trails Summer Tri Series race. I don’t often write about individual weekly training races, but last Tuesday’s race was amazing. Over the years, I have used the various weekly series races including Winding Trails, the Lake Terramuggus Triathlon Series, the Bolton Summer XC Series, Wickham Park Summer XC Series, Rentschler Field Criterium, and Wompatuck State Park Circuit Race to build fitness and hone skills while “shaking out the legs” after a long day of work.

2015_Winding Trails Triathlon Tempest

The big races are usually on the weekends, but I’ve found the weeknight series races to be just as competitive and even more enjoyable. The entry fees are lower and the camaraderie level is high. The Winding Trails series has become one of my favorites. Since 2009, I’ve done it 27 times. I have that course dialed in.

Each year, there are 10 races in the series. In 2014, I did the first race and then had to stop because of my foot injury. If I were still a hockey player, I would only say, “a lower body injury.” I missed the remaining nine events, but Debbie got the off-road triathlon bug and did five of them. So, coming in to 2015, I made the series one of my main objectives. I finished tied for second in 2013 and wanted to have a strong 2015 comeback with the overall title in mind. The scoring is based on eight races, so to finish in the top three, you can only afford to miss two. I skipped the race two weeks ago when I did the Pat Griskus Triathlon on Wednesday night instead. I needed to save my legs for that A race.

In the end, it is just a Tuesday night “scrimmage,” but I take them seriously. The competition is solid for a local event and I like seeing the same folks every week. The staff and volunteers are excellent. This week was race number six. Debbie had done all five, but skipped this week because she is at the Speedgoat Trail Running Festival this weekend, and like Griskus was for me, Speedgoat is an important race for her. Our son was at camp and our daughter stayed with Debbie, so I went alone.

I drove straight from Sterling Machine in Lynn, Massachusetts, arriving in Farmington at 5:50 P.M., only 25 minutes before the start. I was stuck in the usual nasty Route 4 traffic. With all the stop and go, I was able change in the car. After registration, I placed my gear in transition, and did a short warm-up.

The weather looked to be the best of the year. Every Tuesday has been marked by heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. It was warm and a bit muggy, but I thought it would be a dry race. Wow, I was wrong. We started at 6:15 in Lake Dunning. I didn’t see it, but after the race, several people told me that as we were diving into the water, a bolt of lightning appeared in the distance. I didn’t have the best swim. I wandered to the right towards the buoy line and wasted some valuable strokes. Then, when I was working my way back to the left, I kept bumping into another guy. Thankfully, I was disguised in my wetsuit and goggles. I was frustrated but also embarrassed. I eventually got past him.

I had trouble removing my wetsuit. I always remove it in the water because I put my mountain bike shoes on at the beach and then run the ¼ mile to transition. It got hung up on my timing chip, which was comical. Photographer Chris Moore caught the moment perfectly. Even he admitted that he was scared off by what was to come!

I picked up some spots on the way to transition and started the mountain bike leg with about eight guys in front of me. I quickly passed three of them, and then picked up a couple more. I was locked in after a week without racing and hammered the first few miles. We were in thick woods, but I did notice that the sky had darkened. I was wearing dark lenses and wished I had worn clear instead.

I worked my way up to fourth by the third mile, with a strong rider tailing me the whole time. I couldn’t tell who he was. The top three of Jon Arellano, Roberto Diniro, and Ken Schulz were in a group riding close together. Jon and Roberto, the two “Yaleies” were slightly ahead of Ken. I know that because they have “Yale” on the back of their shorts. As I passed, Ken confirmed that there was no one ahead of them, but I still had this other guy hot on my tail.

I caught up to Jon and Roberto and surged past on the sandy hill before the four mile mark. I still didn’t hear thunder, but it was dark and breezy. I never looked back. Recently, I’ve purposely avoided looking back. I wasn’t worried if they were hanging on. I just went as hard as I could, taking every corner with as much speed as possible. I nearly crashed in the sandy right hand corner before the left over the bridge. I’m pretty sure that the guy who tailed me the entire time was the one who stuck with me all the way to transition. He was pressing me hard when I took that corner hot. After I recovered, he said, “Whoa, I’m good” or something like that to signify that he wasn’t trying to pass me. I got a look at him in the last 100 meters of the course as I reached down to undo the Velcro straps and get out of my shoes. He opted to keep his while I chose to dismount barefoot. I would have to drop him on the run.

I was a little confused coming out of transition. We were rubbing elbows and I quickly pushed ahead. I thought I had a good gap, but never bothered to look back. I was startled when 1,200 meters into the run, I had company. It was Jon. He closed the distance that I built up in the last mile of the bike leg.  He and I went stride for stride for a while. He sat on me until the steep downhill. At that point, he blew by me. I never let him get more than two seconds ahead.

The wind picked up, leaves and branches were falling on the ground, and I swear I saw hail. Then, it started to pour. It was so dark that I put my sunglasses on my head. Then the rain got heavier and the thunder and lightning went crazy. It was right over our head. I didn’t have a second to worry about all the other racers. I was in a dogfight on this run. As the rain got heavier and heavier, it was as if buckets were being poured on our heads. My sunglasses were going to blow off, so I held them in my hand.

Jon doggedly pushed the pace and all I could do was hang on. My contacts were starting to wash out of my eyes, so I pulled my ball cap down tightly to keep the rain out. When we got to the last big hill with less than a mile to go, I figured I would jump him and see if he could hang on. I knew that if I couldn’t break him, that I would be forced to wait for a sprint. The trail was flooded with inches of water eroding the soil. It was ankle-deep in spots.

I pulled up along side and he wouldn’t let me pass. He wanted it as badly as I did. I love this kind of racing, and even better, it was Tuesday night! I backed off and tucked in behind him again. He led me all the way over the footbridge and around the final bend. Normally there are folks watching, but it was deserted. I passed him on the left, kicked it hard, and thought I had it. I couldn’t see a thing. It was raining so hard. I saw the line and someone (maybe Sharon McHale like usual) was holding the ropes to separate those transitioning from bike to run from the finish. I went for the wrong timing mat before making a jerky last second adjustment to get across the right finish line. I got him just before the line.

Usually, there is a big crowd, but all the people were huddled under the pavilion. Everyone was soaked to the bone. It was unbelievable how hard the rain was coming down. Jon  paced me to my fastest run of the year and second fastest total time, but the results were wasted. The organizers made the right call. Less than 1/3rd of the competitors were able to finish, so they are not counting the results. I heard that only your best seven races will count towards the overall results. I learned after the race that the second wave was delayed by 15 minutes and combined with the third wave. That bolt of lightning as we entered the water was real. The delay and the timing of the storm hitting during the wave two/three bike leg made for a mess. Most of them were stopped after the bike and never started the run. As far as I know, everyone was safe. We were just wet. Those conditions can be dangerous, especially when they catch you by surprise, but when it works out OK, it makes for a great story.

I was happy to finish. I grabbed my bike and also huddled under one of the pavilions. I was wild-eyed as if I had seen a ghost. Those were some of the most intense weather conditions I’ve ever competed in and to top it off, with a fierce battle raging while the storm was raging. I loved every moment of it. The results are a little messed up, or I’m confused. Kudos to Dave Arnold and his team for hanging in there. Their timing gear got drenched. I don’t think Joel Emmendorfer was between us. He and I had a battle the week before, but I’m pretty certain that it was Jon and me fighting it out on the run. Who knows? With the weather the way it was, the whole thing could have been a dream.

Race Results

Scott Is Done

This past Sunday afternoon, Scott Jurek broke Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Appalachian Trail speed record. Both were supported, but she went North to South. He went the harder, but more romantic way, South to North. I wrote about the attempt two weeks ago when Debbie and our kids found him on the trail in Massachusetts. A lot has been written about the attempt and success. Just Google it.

This video interview is candid and entertaining. It also touches on the important reasons why endurance athletes take on challenges like the AT speed record. I get it. I’m inspired by it. Jurek mentions his connection to the land and the importance of trails. Enough said.

The social media craze around this attempt was amazing. Jurek is a well-known name. Jennifer Pharr Davis’ attempt was much lower key. As was Karl Meltzer’s first attempt in 2007. Karl is planning an attempt on the record (though North to South) in 2016. I wrote about Karl’s 2007 attempt back then, and followed up with a post when he finished the trail, but missed the record several weeks later.

I’m thrilled that the AT got this much attention but concerned about overuse. I’m also thrilled that east coast trails were tested by a west coast trail runner/ultrarunner/super-hiker who admitted that he didn’t do any reconnaissance in advance of the attempt. He suffered dearly for that decision and nearly missed the record as a result. The White Mountains are not to be taken lightly! And Maine, it just gets harder when you get there. I’ve railed against a west coast bias for years. The running media just doesn’t give east coast trails and east coast runners nearly the respect that they deserve. Scott Jurek, a man with Seattle and Boulder roots, who came out of the mid-west, but made a name for himself by winning a major race in California a record seven times in a row, suffered for 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. That proves that our trails, east coast trails, and especially New England trails, are incredibly challenging.

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2015 Falmouth Triathlon

This morning, I raced the Falmouth Triathlon for the first time, and had an absolute blast. This event has been on my wish list for years.

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My uncle and aunt have been part-time Falmouth residents for 37 years, and we enjoy visiting them at their place. They have hosted us many times, and for various Cape Cod events including the Martha’s Vineyard Half Marathon, the Martha’s Vineyard 20 Miler, and the Cape Cod Marathon. Their house in Falmouth Heights is 1.5 miles from the start/finish of the triathlon, which is located on Surf Drive. We built a family gathering around the event, so it was fun to have some spectators.

Debbie stopped by during her morning run and captured some fun images during all three stages of the race. The swim was 1/3rd of a mile, the bike was 9.6 miles, and the run was 3.1 miles. My partner for part of the weekend was my Hartford Extended Area Triathletes teammate, Ken Schulz. We met up last night at packet pickup, and then again this morning at 5:15 A.M. We rode over to the race and warmed up together.

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Yesterday, I scouted the venue and did a couple of laps of the bike course, which is very scenic. The bike leg is now one of my all time favorites. I wish it was longer! The loop starts on Surf Drive, heads west towards Woods Hole, and goes past the iconic Nobska Point Lighthouse. Then, it takes a right and heads east on Woods Hole Road past the golf course. It takes a right on Elm Street and heads south towards the beach. It takes a left back on to Surf Drive and finishes at Surf Drive Beach. The roads are narrow, windy, and undulating. The pavement was in good shape. It’s a fast course, and a real joy to ride with all of the twists, turns, and corners.

Falmouth is promoted by Streamline Events, a professional race management organization. This was a big race, with more than 800 registrants and nearly 700 finishers. In addition to their staff, they had good volunteer support. I would describe the race as no frills, and high quality. Triathlon has gotten quite expensive, and this race was no exception, but the value I place on the racing is highlighted by the quality and unique characteristics of the courses.

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In the case of this long running race (nearly 20 years), an ocean swim with Martha’s Vineyard in the background, the previously described bike course, and a run along the coast and on the Shining Sea Sea Bikeway, they have the course to draw strong participation. The race is friendly to first timers, so there were a lot of beginners, which is great to see.

Ken and I weren’t the first to set-up our spots in the transition area. Some early risers beat us there, but it was still super-easy to roll out of bed and ride over in less than 10 minutes. There was a little chop during the swim with a strong wind coming from the west. The wind and current pushed us back towards shore on the counter-clockwise rectangular swim course.

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That wind proved to be an added challenge on the bike leg when we rode straight into it. We got some shelter after the lighthouse and then the wind was with us after we turned and headed east again on the back side of the course. I was scheduled to start in wave nine with the 40-44 me  and Ken was scheduled for wave seven with the 35-39 men. Wave starts were three minutes apart. When we got to packet pickup last night, we talked about the situation, figured their would be hundreds of people to navigate around on the tight course, and petitioned to join the Elite Wave.

That was a wise decision because we got to start at 7:30 A.M. and had much less traffic to deal with. Ken was fourth out of the water. He is a very strong swimmer. I ceded two minutes to the leaders for a 79th place swim, which is ugly, especially for a short race. I always leave myself a big hole to dig out of and a lot of folks to pass.

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I had a strong bike and was 6th fastest on that leg averaging 26.1 mph. I let it all hang out and that probably cost me on the run, which was slower than I wanted. I didn’t catch Ken until the last mile of the bike, so he had an excellent ride. He was third on the road, so when I went by, there were only two guys in front. He is very fast in transition, so we were battling as we exited for the run. Ken was actually gunning for the Jet Blue Transition award, which would have scored him a flight anywhere in the USA, but his combined T1 and T2 times were a mere five seconds behind the winner, who happened to also get 2nd overall.

When I started the run, there were a lot of bikes to navigate on Surf Drive, but I was able to get in a rhythm. It was a warm morning with a blazing sun. I didn’t see first and second until the bike path when they were headed back at me after the 1.6 mile turnaround. They had a big gap, so I had to bear down and push in an effort to hold off those chasing me and anyone who started in a later wave that might be faster. I ended up with the 4th fastest run. Clearly, biking and running are my strengths, and swimming is not.

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The finish was on the beach after a short 100 meter sprint over a dune and on to the sand. My Mom was there at the finish, which was pretty cool. I know she was happy that the race, and associated suffering, were over in less than an hour, rather than in 10 hours like at an Ironman. At the long races, she worries a lot more.

This finish was exciting and I crossed the line in third. Ken wasn’t far behind. I ended up fourth overall because a 26 year-old “young gun” who started in a later wave, bumped me back a spot Ken was 16th. We were both very happy with our results. The win went to Raymond Botelho, and he was followed by Abraham Rogers. Both are 42, so I finished third in the Elite Masters age group. The result wouldn’t have changed if we were in the regular age groups. Triathlon is a sport dominated by top-tier masters racers. The fist woman was Claire Twark. She was followed by Kathryn Sweeney and Deborah Stevens.

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Ken and I packed up and rode back to the house, and then went for another short cool down ride along the coast. We washed up and returned to the start/finish for the awards ceremony. Both of us met our objectives for this race and we look forward to competing again in the future. I finished in 51:02, and breaking 50 minutes is future goal. I’ve now tested the legs twice this week. I did the Pat Griskus Triathlon on Wednesday. Next up is a return to the Winding Trails Summer Off-Road Tri Series on Tuesday. After that I’m taking a week of “rest.”

Race Results

2015 Pat Griskus Triathlon

Last night, I returned to the Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon for the sixth time. I missed last year’s race because of my injured foot, but had raced the previous five years since I made my return to triathlon in 2009. Griskus is probably my favorite triathlon. I just love the format and the vibe. The sprint distance is perfect for me, especially during a year when I’m not going “long.” I love the course around Lake Quassapaug in Middlebury, Connecticut, and the idea of a mid-week race in July is great.

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The only significant change since the last time I raced Griskus was the swim. They used to start the men and women simultaneously on two parallel courses. Now they do a wave start and instead of an out and back, it is a rectangle. I insist the swim was longer than the 1/2 mile that they said it was. It was certainly longer than past races. The longer swim relative to the bike (10.5 miles) and run (3.1 miles), was not good for me, but that’s life.

I conceded 3-4 minutes to the other top competitors and that is hard to make up. I passed a lot of folks after my 14 minutes in the water, but there were still eight in front of me when I reached the finish. One minute less on the swim could have helped me pick up for more spots in the standings. Regardless, the placing, whether it be overall, or in my age group, is not why I do these races.

I saw so many friends. This was my first USAT race since August 2013. Last year was a mess with the plantar fasciitis and stress fracture that plagued me all year, and then got worse when I fractured my scapula Labor Day Weekend. I’ve done several weekly “scrimmages” at Lake Terramuggus and Winding Trails, but Griskus was my first race against some of the best triathletes in Connecticut. This race is great for beginners and there were more than 30 first timers. Rookies are celebrated at this race, so it is a great way to experience triathlon. The post-race festivities are always a lot of fun.

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I ended up 9th overall and 2nd in my age group, though I was technically the third 40-44 athlete. Chris Thomas was 2nd overall and the top 3 don’t get to “double dip” in the age group awards. I gave it my all last night. My bike and run were solid. I rode my new Zipp wheels on my Seven Kameha SLX for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to give up my Zedtech 8 (front) and 10 (rear) when Zipp had a major hub recall earlier this year. They replaced my wheels with a new 808 (front) and Sub-9 Disc (rear). It’s a fast setup and felt good. I had one mishap on the bike course. I had a late arrival at Quassy Amusement Park and had to rush my preparation in transition. I did a sloppy job at putting my frame number on my bike. I used electrical tape and it came loose during the ride. With three miles to go, the number and a wad of tape got jammed in between  my rear wheel and the chain stays. I rode it that way for a mile or so, but it was loud, annoying, and was causing drag. I stopped, hopped off and pulled it out before getting going again. That cost me 30 seconds or so and was a rookie mistake. I picked off a few guys on the run course, but ran out of time to make up more ground. I was still very pleased with my effort.

Next year will be the 30th anniversary race, and I’ll likely return.

Race Results

The Long Trail

10 years ago this week, Debbie and I finished our Long Trail (LT) End-to-End hike. It was a wonderful experience that has left lasting memories. Our life for the outdoors, hiking, and trails is epitomized by those 13 days. I wrote about the LT five years ago when our anniversary coincided with the 100th anniversary of the trail. Debbie and I still help the Green Mountain Club in our role as LT End-to-End Mentors.

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For the past 10 years, we have helped 30-40 candidates a year. The story I wrote for the 2006 Summer/Fall issue of Appalachia, is still relevant. However, we have learned so much more about lightweight backpacking and fast-packing. We would definitely change our packing list and approach to the hike if we had to do it again today. Many of those lessons are shared in the standard email that I share with people who wish to hike the trail.

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The Long Trail and Appalachian Trail (AT) have been on my mind lately. Many people have been inspired by Scott Jurek’s quest to break the Appalachian Trail speed record (supported). He is less than 190 miles from Katahdin as I type and it is still up in the air if he is going to break Jennifer Pharr Davis’ fantastic record. I wrote about his attempt and our connections to Jurek last week when he passed through Massachusetts, and Debbie and our kids met up with him to offer their support. Yesterday, Outside Magazine published an update on his progress and how hard the attempt has been.

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Jurek has a crew with him. When we did our hike, we were self-supported. We mailed two food drops to destinations near the trail and we retrieved them during the trip. I would love to try the LT again some day, but totally self-supported with no drops. That would be cool. Hiking the AT is another “to do” list item. I frequently think about that opportunity. That would be a fun family adventure.

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To celebrate the anniversary of our LT hike, we returned to Vermont last weekend with our kids for a shorter trip. They have heard so much about our 2005 adventure and we wanted to share more of the experience with them. We frequently hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, but hadn’t been on the LT with them in recent years. Though they had done multi-day hiking, they hadn’t done it backpacking style where you have to carry your own gear and food. We recently got our 8-year old son a backpack. He tested it out at a recent camporee with his Cub Scouts pack. Our 5-year old daughter split time with about 60% of the time on her own feet, and 40% in our Deuter kids backpack, which Debbie carried. When loaded with a kid, food, and other gear, it weighed nearly 50 pounds. We are fortunate that our little girl is small for her age.

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We chose to hike in southern Vermont and did the 21 +/- mile Glastenbury Mountain/West Ridge loop. We parked at the Green Mountain National Forest trailhead on Rt. 9 just east of Bennington. Last Friday evening, we hiked the 1.6 miles to the Melville Nauheim shelter. We took the chance and didn’t carry a tent. We figured that even though it was July 4th weekend, that we would find space in the shelters. We carried a tarp just in case.

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The kids got to meet some LT hikers who were just starting their journey. They also met some AT thru-hikers who were well on their way northbound to Katahdin. On Saturday morning, we departed the shelter at 7:15 A.M. We showed the kids how to treat water on the trail. We hiked 8.5 miles north on the LT to the Goddard shelter. We arrived at 3:45 P.M., so it was a long day. Not only was it long, but it was wet, really wet. It started raining at 9:00 A.M., and didn’t stop until after 5:00 P.M. when we were at the shelter. Southern Vermont had already seen a record amount of rainfall in June, so the trail was waterlogged. It poured all day and turned the trail into a muddy quagmire.

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It was a character building kind of day on the trail. We all had our low moments, but taught the kids how to cope with those feelings. When our son emerged from the trees in to a clearing and spotted the shelter, he was elated. We stayed at Goddard on our second night in June 2005. It was rebuilt in September 2005, but it was in the same spot. After dinner, the skies cleared and we walked to the summit and enjoyed a 360 degree panoramic view from the top of the Glastonbury Mountain fire tower. It was spectacular and we explained to the kids that those types of experiences are what make the long walks worth it.

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Unlike our first night when we had a fitful sleep because of a shelter-mate with a snoring problem, the night at Goddard was awesome. Everyone slept well. The fact that we were knackered probably helped our slumber. On Sunday morning, we departed at 7:15 A.M. again after a quick snack. We took the West Ridge Trail south and looped back around to a dirt road just off of Rt. 9. We got to the end of the trail at 3:30 P.M., and covered another 9.5 miles. We had a beautiful day not the trail. West Ridge sees less traffic and cuts through the Glastenbury Wilderness, so the trail wasn’t as muddy, though it was overgrown. We saw lots of moose droppings, but no moose.

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We had some great moments on the trail. The sunshine on Sunday was glorious. Our son was pretty tired by mid-day, and we helped him by carrying his pack part of the time. We had some nice views from the summit of Bald Mountain and the kids got a taste of what it is like to experience multiple false summits on a long uphill climb. We were all happy to reach the road at the end of the day. Debbie ran ahead to fetch the car so we didn’t have to walk on Rt. 9 with the busy traffic. She picked us up, we returned to the trailhead, and washed off in City Stream. We took the backroads into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and stopped in Shelburne Falls for dinner. We met up with Debbie’s brother, Tom, and enjoyed a meal at Hearty Eats, a wonderful vegan/plant-based cafe. We spent a little time on the Bridge of Flowers, and then headed home to clean up and put the wraps on another weekend of family fun.

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That story I wrote 10 years ago had the sub-title: Miserably wet feet, too little food, and no ride home at the end—a couple’s most cherished adventure to date

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I don’t think Debbie would argue. Despite climbing all of the New England 4,000 footers, hiking, running, and biking all over the world, the Long Trail trip still is our most cherished adventure to date.

2015 Nipmuck South Trail Race

Today was the Nipmuck South Trail Race, the second of the Shenipsit Striders 2015 races, race five in this year’s Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series, and race eight in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. Thankfully, Mansfield Hollow State Park is only 25 minutes from our house.

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I really didn’t want to go far today. Debbie went early to help with the pre-race stuff and I followed with our kids. We got there just before the start, grabbed some shots, and then drove to the seven mile turnaround on Old Turnpike Road, just off Rt. 44. Nipmuck South is a generally flat course with some tricky footing (rocks and roots) in spots.

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The heavy rain that started last night and continued into this morning made for a bit of a mess. Thankfully, the Nipmuck Trail drains well and the mud was only in select spots. I happened to find one of those spots near the turnaround aid station that was manned by David Merkt and Nicole Gibeau. The total length of the course is 14.1 +/- miles.

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There were a lot of Shenipsit Striders, as you would expect, in attendance. Some volunteered, some ran, and some did both. There was a tight battle for first place, with Brett Stoeffler prevailing over Todd Bennet. Jim Harron was third. First female was a dominant Kehr Davis. She finished fifth overall. Eric Wyzga had to work very hard to keep her five seconds behind his fourth place spot. Kehr was followed by Darby Dustman, who was only 15 seconds in front of Debbie, who grabbed the third spot.

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I saw a lot of smiles on the trail today. The rain and cool temperature made for great running conditions. No one was deterred by the mud. Race Director Scott Edington organized a good event on behalf of the club. It was another fun trail running event.

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The two overall winners earned a jar of honey and a bottle of maple syrup. They also earned apple pies from NipMuck Dave for winning the “trilogy” series that included the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, Goodwin Forest Trail Run, and Nipmuck South.

Race Results

Trail Running, Scott Jurek, the Appalachian Trail, Western States Endurance Run, and So Much More

This weekend, there is so much trail running activity, it’s almost unbelievable. Debbie and I have been around this sport since 1999 and its amazing to see the growth. Last weekend, we were at the Mt. Greylock Trail Races, which was 17 years in a row for Debbie. We met at a trail race (the 1999 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run), so trails, running, and the trail running community are very important to me. The sport has been a huge part of my life. Because so much of my trail running experiences involve Debbie, it is as important to me as cycling, which is another one of  my true loves. Writing is another passion, so the collision of this weekend’s events, news, and friends is a joy to share.

This morning, Debbie and our two kids drove back to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, to intercept and cheer for Scott Jurek on his Appalachian Trail (AT) supported speed record (fastest known time). I had a crazy week at work and had to spend some time at Horst Engineering’s East Hartford plant, so I missed the trip. I was able to help them track and find Jurek from afar. Jennifer Pharr-Davis has the overall AT speed record, 46 days 11 hours and 20 minutes. She set it in June/July 2011 and went from Maine to Georgia. She broke Andrew Thompson’s 2005 record. Karl Meltzer attempted to break Thompson’s record in 2008, but fell short.

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Debbie and I took our son to see Karl in New Hampshire/Vermont and cheer him on during his record attempt. Despite his promotion of the trip, sponsorship, and the emergence of social media, there was far less fanfare than today. Thompson broke Pete Palmer’s 1999 record. Palmer broke David Horton’s 1991 record. Trail running has come a long way! The AT record is really more about speed-hiking than trail running, though Jurek, Palmer, Horton, and Meltzer are all known for their ultrarunning prowess. Jurek has his work cut out for him if he is going to beat Pharr-Davis’ time. Debbie and the kids  found him just north of Goose Pond and joined him until he crossed Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. The AT crosses the Pike on a footbridge that we have driven under hundreds of times in our lives. I’ve never actually been on the bridge. Debbie was last on it when she was leading trips for the Springfield College Outing Club in the mid-1990’s.

Jurek’s attempt is being followed by many people all over the world. He has had crowds of runners join him on the trails and many other folks coming out to greet him. When my family first saw him today, he was in a group of eight, including Meltzer, who is crewing and pacing. Social media, GPS technology, and real-time tracking have made this attempt an inspirational spectacle to follow. The Maine based mapmaker, Delorme, is helping with the Scott Jurek AT15 tracking website. Horton had a lot less attention in 1991. Ironically, Horton is getting more attention in 2015 because he has been helping out as part of the crew. After seeing Jurek and then running/hiking along with him for 10 minutes or so, they went in search of the crew and found Horton. We packed a goodie bag full of items, including Shenipsit Striders t-shirts, vegan “cheese,” and vegan chocolate with the plan to deliver it to Jurek and crew.

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David Horton is a wonderful race director and one of the legends of our sport. We last saw him at the 2013 edition of Hellgate, one of the races he directs. Our son told me that “Mr. Horton” gave them all kinds of energy “junk food” to eat including GU Chomps and other sweets. My daughter must have been thrilled! Debbie and I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years, and like Jurek, I observe a vegan diet. I stopped eating eggs and dairy in 2008 after failing miserably at 7 Sisters that May. In 2009, with a changed attitude and changed diet, I had my best ever time at 7 Sisters. Debbie gave up her streak of 7 Sisters finishes after 16 years in a row, when she did the Miwok 100K Trail Run last month. Scott Jurek won Miwok three times.

The race director of 7 Sisters is Fred Pilon. When Debbie and the kids were with Horton this morning, Fred showed up to run with Jurek. Fred is an Editor Emeritus of Ultrarunning magazine, and a major influence on the growth of ultrarunning and trail running. Another Editor Emeritus is Tia Bodington. She is the Race Director of Miwok. We saw her last month in Stinson Beach at the finish. When I got home from work today, I fetched the mail and the latest issue of Ultrarunning was in the pile. Amazing. They timed the publication and shipment perfectly! Are you starting to understand more about the trail running community?

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We have been following Jurek’s progress since he started on the AT in Georgia, three weeks ago. We were hoping to catch him in Connecticut, but he came through yesterday and the timing didn’t work out. The “cheese” and chocolate that Debbie brought to him and the crew came from Divine Treasures, one of our favorite local businesses, in Manchester. We were inspired to contribute some vegan “treats” when we saw that someone picked up Vegan Treats for the Jurek team when they were in Pennsylvania last week. We have been to Vegan Treats several times over the years including a couple of times on our way home from the Laurel Highlands Ultra.

Jurek is well-known for his ultrarunning exploits. Debbie and I first met him in the early 2000’s when she went west to race in California and Washington, where he used to live. Notably, we saw him in 2007 when he attempted Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc for the first time. Debbie also attempted it, as did Karl Meltzer, and Hal Koerner. Our friend, Nikki Kimball, who traveled with Debbie and also ran her first ultra at the 1999 Vermont 50, won UTMB in 2007, but the others mentioned didn’t finish. It was a tough weekend for all, but we did have a nice meal together in Chamonix. Jurek has amazing palmares, and his race resume is punctuated by his seven consecutive Western States Endurance Run victories.

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Western States is happening right now, as I type. So, Jurek, one of the all time WS100 champs is in Massachusetts while Kimball, and several other friends, are at the race in California. Tia Bodington is a member of the Western States Endurance Run board of directors, and she is running today too, as is one of our fellow Shenipsit Striders, Sean Greaney. His crew, Jordan Leigh and Steve LaBranche, are also Shenipsit Striders. A year ago, Debbie was at WS100, pacing and crewing Larisa Dannis to her second place finish.

There was a big trail running relay in Massachusetts yesterday and today. The Ragnar Trail Relay was at Northfield Mountain, just east of the Berkshires and not far from the Appalachian Trail. We had many friends at that event. Has this sport grown or what?

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Tomorrow, the Shenipsit Striders are hosting our second major trail race of 2015, the Nipmuck South Trail Race in Mansfield. Last month, Debbie race directed the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. It is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series that Debbie and I founded, and also part of the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. I’m on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association the non-profit organization responsible for the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. Next month, Debbie and I are headed to Utah so that she can run the Speedgoat 50K. The Race Director is the “Speedgoat,” Karl Meltzer. Another important record on Scott Jurek’s resume is his 2010 24 Hour USA Record. He held that until it was broken.

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The week that Jurek was in France for his record attempt, I moderated a YPO-WPO Tri Sports Network Global Conference Call that featured him as a resource along with Debbie and fellow ultrarunning champion, Krissy Moehl. We spoke about the impact of the book, Born to Run, on the sport of trail running. Jurek featured prominently in the story. A movie version of the book is in production and due to come out soon, just like the movie version of Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the WoodsWhen that film comes out, we are bound to see a boom in the number of people interested in AT thru-hiking.

So, if Jurek is going to break the AT record, he has more hiking/running to do over the next couple of weeks. The toughest part of the trail is ahead of him. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine await. Those states are home to some of our favorite trails. Debbie and I spend a lot of time in those mountains and we know how hard it will be for him. Pharr-Davis, like Meltzer, when north to south. They tackled the toughest trails first. Jurek is doing it the other way around and I like his style. I would want to finish on Katahdin too. That mountain is one of the most special places in the world for me. I was last there in 2012.

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Once Jurek gets to the White Mountains he will get to see the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Huts. We have spent many nights in the huts and have done some tough runs in the White’s. Debbie and I are both members of the AMC Board of Advisors. AMC volunteers maintain many miles of the Appalachian Trail in New England, including the stretch through our home state of Connecticut. Before he hits New Hampshire, he has to go through Vermont and the southern Green Mountains. That is where the Appalachian Trail overlaps with the Long Trail (LT). This weekend is also the 10th anniversary of the start of our Long Trail End-to-End Hike. Volunteers from the Green Mountain Club maintain the section of the AT that overlaps with the LT. When Jurek does get to the White’s, he will climb many 4,000 footers, the same hills that Debbie and I have climbed many times before.

For Scott Jurek, there is no question that the trail ahead is tougher than the trail behind. When Debbie was with David Horton earlier today, she sent a text to our longtime trail running friend, Stanley Tiska. His backyard in Hinsdale, is practically on the Appalachian Trail. She told him about Jurek and he ended up running backwards on the trail to intercept him. He got to run four fun miles with him. Tiska was an early mentor for Debbie when she was a 24-year-old rookie trail runner. In those days, all of the “men” on the trail running circuit, referred to her as Pony Tail.

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Debbie and I are fortunate to have been part of the trail running community the past 17 years. We have met some awesome friends. We have developed an even deeper appreciation for conservation, education, and outdoor recreation. Our support for many of the organizations I’ve mentioned includes our volunteerism and our philanthropy. Through Horst Engineering, we are members of 1% For The Planet and support many environmental organizations. We love the trails. When Debbie and the kids headed out this morning, I knew I was missing out, but truth be told, I didn’t miss anything at all. Their adventure got me excited and all of these great memories came flooding back. My blog has chronicled this journey, at least over the past eight years since I’ve been publishing it. In this post, I’ve missed as many connections as I’ve remembered, but that is how it goes. I’m sure I’ll remember more later.

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Thank you Scott Jurek for continuing to inspire and for unleashing all of these great thoughts for me; your running has brightened my day.


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@mikewardian at the #Speedgoat50K #Quadbanger @snowbird Softening the legs up before his next race. Definitely not a vegan trophy...but a nice hard earned handmade memento. @trailrunningmom was 5th in the Vertical Mile, 20th in the #Speedgoat50K and 1st in the Quadbanger. Better than @letourdefrance (which also ended today) she was first female in the final general classification (only woman to do all three). She saved her two hard falls until the last "stage." This woman is all blood and guts and the toughest chick I know! Our kids will get a kick out of the #Speedgoat trophy. #pursuitstrong @pursuitathlete @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #ultraspire #teamhorstsports #teamlivingston Just before the start of #speedgoat50k #Quadbanger @snowbird @mikewardian doing the only thing he does nearly as much as running! Posting on #instagram #twitter and #facebook #speedgoat50k It's been fun hanging with all these crazy runners. One more crazy race. Start of the inaugural #Speedgoat #Quadbanger. 20 or so brave souls started from top of 11,000 foot Hidden Peak. Four timed 2.5 +/- mile descents with total of 10 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation loss. They ride the Peruvian Chairlift up each time. Karl Meltzer and his team of volunteers and #Snowbird staff have been amazing hosts. @snowbird @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #julbousa #teamhorstsports #speedgoat50k @trailrunningmom finished #Speedgoat 50K in 8:51:54. She said the course "ran" more like a 50 miler. Tough landscape for a Connecticut resident. I'm proud of her. #teamhorstsports #teamlivingston @trailrunningmom on the last big climb (again up to Hidden Peak) @snowbird #snowbird for the #Speedgoat 50K. She crested the 11,000 foot summit at 27 miles in 7h40m. What a crazy race. Mostly downhill from here. I hope she rips it. #teamhorstsports @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #julbousa #trailrunning #ultrarunning @trailrunningmom bombing down Mt. Baldy at #Speedgoat 50K. @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #julbousa #teamhorstsports #trailrunning #ultrarunning @trailrunningmom came through 21+/- miles at #Speedgoat 50K in 5:40 or so. 11,000 feet of up and 11,000 feet of down on this beast of a course. @snowbird #snowbird #teamhorstsports #trailrunning #ultrarunning @ultraspire #ultraspire @julbousa #julbousa

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