Archive for the 'Sport' Category

2017 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

The 33rd annual Soapstone Mountain Trail Races are in the books. Once again, the Shenipsit Striders did a fantastic job organizing these classic races. It was Debbie’s 14th year as the Race Director, which is both a great honor and a big responsibility.

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Thankfully, we have the support of a great running club and a cadre of wonderful volunteers. The joyous feeling of pulling into the driveway after another successful Soapstone never gets old. We have lots of cleanup ahead, but even before we got home, the accolades were flowing in via social media and email.

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Safety is always the first priority and aside from a few twisted ankles requiring ice, and a scrape or two, the race was incident free. We only had two DNF’s out of 144 starters in the 22 kilometer long course event, and all 78 runners in the 6 kilometer Sampler finished.

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This was my 14th time running Soapstone since 2001. I’ve done the Sampler five times and have now done the 22K nine times, including today. This wasn’t my fastest, but it wasn’t my slowest either. It was my slowest since 2006. I didn’t have good legs. After the 9  mile mark, I slowed considerably and despite pushing hard, couldn’t keep my pace high.

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It sucks to lose ground like that, but my legs were blown. Still, the weather was awesome for running and I had a great time in the woods. Back at the finish line, it was a festive atmosphere with so many friends to greet and catch up with. It was great to see cyclists teammates and friends, Tom Ricardi, Randall Dutton, Anthony Eisley, and Jonathan Tarbox, out running trails.

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First male was Neil Clauson. He was followed by the amazing master runner, Brett Stoeffler. Third was Andrew Baird. On the women’s side, the victor was Kehr Davis. She was followed by Bonnie Lathrop and Caitlin Cunningham. I see-sawed with Kehr for a while, but around the 10 mile mark, she just took off and I had no response. From there, I got caught by a few other guys and then faded.

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The Sampler was won by Charlie Grillo. He was followed by Luke Stoeffler, and then Bruce Christensen. Melissa Emmerich was the first woman.

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I’ve got my usual nicks and dings, including sore ankles, but you won’t get any complaints from me. Our son did the Sampler and our daughter did the Kids Race. It was fun to see so many other families enjoying the day together.

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Much appreciation to our hosts the Reddington Rock Riding Club. We got great support from Horst Engineering, Tailwind Nutrition, the Northern Connecticut Land Trust, and Nature’s Grocer. It’s also worth noting that Debbie’s Mom, Barbara Schieffer, did another fantastic job in the cook shed. For $25, you get an awesome race with a great meal afterwards.

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Look for other great Shenipsit Striders races that are part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series.

Race Results

2017 Mother’s Day Dash

Today, I ran my 11th Mother’s Day Dash since 1999. My first “Dash” was run even before I met Debbie. This  year, it was a family affair, with Debbie and both of our children racing this classic 5K in Vernon/Rockville, Connecticut.

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11 races is a pretty good data set. The course has changed slightly, but it is still 3.1 miles. This year’s course was the same as last year.

Mother's Day Dash 5K Chart

Last year, I ran my fastest time (17:33) and this year (18:15), I ran my 5th fastest time. So, it was about the middle of my range which peaked (18:49) in 2007. That was a slow year!

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I’m happy with my run given the 39 degree Fahrenheit temperature and cold rain. The field wasn’t that fast, so I had no one to chase and no one to push me either. The Livingston’s did pretty well, coming away from the race with three medals, and four gift certificates.

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The star of the show was our 7-year-old, and she wasn’t even one of the award winners. She gets an award from Debbie and me for being “tough” and running on her own in grim conditions. After I finished, I donned a jacket and ran back to see her. She was just trucking along.

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The flat and fast course suited our 10-year-old son, and he is getting faster by the race. It was great to see some of our Shenipsit Striders friends. Tom Curtiss is a fixture at this event.

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Jessica Willis was our cheering gallery and she got some fun photos and videos. She was there to cheer on Matthew Davis, which was good fortune for us!

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We celebrated by eating lunch at a restaurant (Simply Thai) that we didn’t have a gift certificate for. That’s just how it goes.

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I know that Debbie loves running on Mother’s Day, and there is no better place to do it than at our former hometown race.

Race Results

Breakaway Brew Haus

It’s no secret that I love entrepreneurial businesses. I also love good beer. Beer and business make a great combination. Tonight, my son and I finally got a chance to visit our local neighborhood craft brewery…on our bicycles.

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The aptly named Breakaway Brew Haus, is the brainchild of our neighbor, Matt Soucy. Matt is a longtime friend from both the cycling and manufacturing communities. Years ago, he worked (for a brief time) with me at Horst Engineering, and that was after years as a machining industry supplier.

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His history of working in and around small businesses has certainly helped with the launch of his new business in our hometown of Bolton, Connecticut. I have to say that it’s pretty cool to have a microbrewery 1/4 mile from our house. I can get there in four minutes by bicycle, via the Hop River State Park Trail, and I only have to travel on a paved road (Steeles Crossing) for 500 feet. That’s local!

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You know the beer is fresh when the proprietor (in his socks), labels your bottles, pours your beer, and caps your bottles, right before your eyes. For now, Matt is operating (by permit) from his garage, but by judging the taste of his recipe, and my knowledge of his entrepreneurial spirit, he is going to grow into bigger digs, and that will require a move out of his house.

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He launched three weeks ago and has sold out every week. Last week, he remained closed on his retail days (Friday and Saturday) so that he could increase capacity. So, I seized the opportunity tonight to ride over just before his 6:00 P.M. closing, and nab his last two (literally) bottles of beer. My choice was:

  • Wandering Fool #2
    • “New England” style IPA (DIPA, 9.0%).
    • His marketing materials (a simple weekly email) describe this IPA as having a “rich malt profile, beautiful golden color with a deep hop aroma.”

This is one of three standard beers on tap. The other two are:

  • Bonfire Stout #1
    • Oatmeal Stout with South American Cocoa and Coffee (DIPA, 6.7%)
    • A very easy Stout with well-balanced subtle rich Cocoa and Coffee notes
  • Face Plant Ale #1
    • “New England” style IPA (DIPA, 8.0%)
    • Delicious light malt profile, light hazy color with layers of hop aroma

I’ll champion any local business, but especially one in my hometown, led by an entrepreneur who I’ve worked with in the past. His wife, Cindy, helps out too, so this qualifies as a family business; and that makes me an even bigger fan. I told Matt that I hope he outgrows his garage, but that he also finds a good commercial building in town so that we can keep him on the local tax rolls.

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If you tried clicking the link to his website, you know that it isn’t live yet. If you are finding this post weeks, months, or years after I wrote it, then the site is likely up and running and Matt is either a beer mogul, or he sold to one of the giants for bazillions. Sophisticated marketing isn’t needed when demand outstrips supply. A simple email and word of mouth have led to three weeks of sell outs. He has to keep building capacity if he is going to scale production.

The Journal Inquirer covered his story the week of his opening. That press alone contributed to the early buzz about his beer. For now, I’m content to be able to ride from my house to his. I’ll have to ride longer if I expect to burn off the calories gained from a 750ml BBH branded bottle. Given the name “Breakaway,” I’ll count on this brew being a cycling performance enhancer.

Bicycle Talk

It’s been a few months, but I was a guest on Episode 35 of Bicycle Talk, the radio show/podcast hosted by Ron Manizza on WHUS in Storrs, Connecticut. Over the last year, I’ve been listening to Ron’s show, and enjoying it.

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Last fall, I saw Ron at several cyclocross races, and then again at the Cyclocross National Championships, where he was helping out. Ron has forged his career in the bicycle industry as a bike shop owner, manufacturer’s representative, and race promoter. He has worked tirelessly to introduce people to cycling and make the sport better and stronger. He was “in the right place at the right time” on Day 1 of the “Nats’ when he shot a video of the first lap of the Men’s 40-49 Non-Championship Race. That video went viral. It got more than 155,000 views on Facebook, and was seen countless times on other sites. I was in that race and it will be a memory I hold forever. After Nats, I reached out to him with some ideas for Bicycle Talk. He invited me to come on the show. I accepted the invitation, and had a fun time.

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That day, his partner and co-host, Fran Storch, was under the weather, so he was shorthanded in the control room. She normally plays a role in the live production and he had difficulty with the recording. Unfortunately, the first 10 or so minutes of the broadcast were lost. That included my intro and “Ron’s Rant of the Week,” which I did for him. I chose the topic of “training wheels.” He subsequently recorded a “rant” on the same subject, which works. He salvaged the remaining recording and it came out pretty good.

Ron continues to have interesting guests on the show. Bicycle Talk deserves a wider audience. Make sure you check it out!

2017 Promise Land 50K ++

I had a fantastic Promise Land 25K trail race in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The problem is that Promise Land was 50K++.

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Debbie and I made the trip south for the third race of the 2017 Beast Series. We were last in Virginia in December for Hellgate, the finale of the 2016 Beast Series. Hellgate had record cold and Promise Land had near record heat. Hellgate is 62 “Horton Miles,” but really 66. Promise Land is 31 “Horton Miles,” but really 34. Both races are directed by the legendary David Horton.

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Both Debbie and I suffered through yesterday’s race. We drove down on Friday morning after a shortened work week that felt like two work weeks crammed in to one. We used to bang out these types of trips frequently, but I don’t have the same energy as before, and the driving takes its toll. Four business related phone calls helped pass the time, and I was still able to get some “work” done while on the road.

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We left at 4:30 A.M. and had our tent pitched at the Promise Land Youth Camp by 5:30 P.M. We had three brief stops for lunch (once again at the fabulous Pot O Pho in Winchester), fuel and to stretch our legs, but then pushed on until we reached Natural Bridge State Park in the mid-afternoon. There, we loosened up during a four mile run on the Monacan Trail.

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After drying off and hopping back in the car, it took another 45 minutes to get to the camp in Bedford. Promise Land had 304 finishers, so it is a good-sized ultra. The course is beautiful. The 14,800 feet of elevation change (including more than 7,000 feet of climbing) is stout. The combination of rugged single track (rocks and roots), grassy single track, double track, gravel roads, and dirt roads was super challenging.

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The highlight of the race is Apple Orchard Falls, which comes at the 28 mile mark, and on the steepest hill (mountain) on the course. The falls are stunningly beautiful. All of the running along Cornelius Creek was fantastic. The long hike back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway wasn’t going well for me, so when I reached the best viewpoint for the falls, I had to stop and dig out my iPhone to snap a few photos. Some kind hikers offered to take a photo of me with the falls. I was happy to stop and catch my breath.

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Promise Land really was a tale of two races. Truthfully, I was hurting by the halfway mark, but measured it halves, I ran pretty well for 25K. I was on track for a 5:52, but totally blew up as the day heated up. I finished in 6:30:23. The last eight miles were particularly ugly as I walked a lot. I won’t make any excuses because my main goal was to finish. While crewing at Hellgate, I was inspired to run another ultra. It had been several years, so I told Debbie that if she wanted to come back and run of Dave’s spring 50K’s, that I would join her.

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She had an equally tough day. It culminated with double calf cramps in the final four miles. She fought the pain for a while, but when the cramp climaxed, it was so severe that it brought her to the ground. Her menstrual cycle started right after our Friday afternoon run, which is unfortunate timing, but that is how it goes. I’ll leave the rest of the story to her, but she finished in 7:00:36, and was the fourth woman over 40 years old.

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The race winners were Michael Owen and Rian Landers-Ramos. Second male was Brian Rusiecki, a fellow New Englander, and the Hellgate champion. He and his wife, Amy, are longtime friends from the trail running community.

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Another friend at the race was Bill Markunas, who helped us represent the Shenipsit Striders. Bill hails from Connecticut, but lives in Virginia now. He broke eight hours while carrying a 30 pound rucksack. Bill attended Debbie’s most recent trail running camp and is a lot of fun to hang with.

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Another ultrarunning community friend is Geoffrey Baker. Geoffrey is also one of my favorite photographers. Undoubtedley, he is one of the best ultrarunning photographers in the country, but to limit him to that category is unfair. His images have graced the cover of Ultrarunning Magazine on numerous occasions. I love seeing his work because he puts so much creativity and technical expertise into the process. I enjoyed catching up wtih him on Friday night and I enjoyed taking his portrait.

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Gene Potter of Charlottesville, Virginia, deserves a big congratulations. He has finished all 17 Promise Land races. He was recognized at the pre-race meeting. After the meeting, 100 pizzas were delivered. When darkness fell, there was a massive bonfire. Beast Series races attract a younger crowd than many other ultras. The popularity of ultrarunning at Liberty University (where Dave Horton is a professor) and Virginia Tech, means that these races bring in many youthful faces. I think that is awesome. Debbie has now run four of the Beast Series races, dating back 10 years to 2007: Mountain Masochist, Grindstone, Hellgate (twice), and Promise Land.

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Dave Horton’s team of volunteers were fantastic, as usual. The aid stations were staffed incredibly well, and stocked with food and drinks. I opted to carry my UltrAspire hydration vest. I filled the bladder three times, I carried a flask with electrolyte drink that I refilled five times, plus I drank copious amounts of water from my reusable UltrAspire cup. I took two gels and ate one energy bar. Oh, and I had several slices of watermelon before that nasty climb up to the waterfall.

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Both Debbie and I were knackered after the race. We didn’t spend much time hanging out. We showered up, broke camp, and hit the road.

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It took us 4.5 hours to get to Washington D.C., where we stayed at a hotel. We had an awesome meal at Fare Well. This morning, drove over to the Lincoln Monument. We parked, and walked around a bit to stretch our legs. The tourists were already out in force. After our jaunt, we were back in the car and it took 6.5 hours to get home.

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I told Debbie, “I’m sticking with cycling.” I’m pretty sure I said that the same thing the last time I did a long race. Let’s see how long I can hold out before I’m tempted to register for another ultra.

Results

2017 Fat Tire Classic

Today I did the Root 66 Race Series Fat Tire Classic for the 10th time. My first Classic at Winding Trails in Farmington CT, was in 2000. It’s a fantastic venue. I’ve raced there 61 times since 1999. The races I’ve done include mountain biking, cyclocross, triathlon, and adventure racing. That’s pretty cool.

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Much appreciation goes out to Chris and Jill Logan, the Root 66 crew, and Jimena Florit and the folks at Winding Trails. The Team Horst Sports Junior Squad had five racers compete and our Masters Cycling Team had five racers compete. Debbie joined me to watch and hang out with the team. Our son finished the two-lap Cat 3 Junior race and he was thrilled. At 10 years-old, he is still learning how to ride, so today was definitely progress. Our daughter, who is seven, did the kids race. Debbie got to run around the nice trails.

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This was my first mountain bike race of the year. I just got my bike back after it was repaired by Seven Cycles. Two weeks ago today, I discovered that the top tube was cracked. I wrote a post all about the crack and the repair.

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My belt drivetrain is still giving me a little grief, but I was able to get through today’s race despite breaking my rear skewer. That happened mere minutes before the start when I was trying to add some tension to the belt. It’s unfortunate, but the team at Seven Cycles had to disassemble and rebuild the bike in order to fix the frame. That’s OK. I was just happy to be riding the bike today. Two weeks ago, the prospect of that looked grim.

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The course was run in reverse from prior years and I liked it. It was dry despite a lot of recent rain. There were only two muddy spots, and it was only enough to get a little spray in the face. I had a decent ride. 10 of us raced Cat 1 singlespeed. I got the hole shot, but dropped back a bit in the first section of technical singletrack. Charlie Beal, Kurt D’Anniello, and I battled for the first two laps, trading places before we settled in.

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Eventually Charlie dropped back a spot. Kurt and I continued to duke it out for the 4th spot in the field. I thought I had him, taking the lead after the start of the 4th and final five-mile lap. I got a small gap through the hilly and technical section, but he reeled me in about half way through the lap. I struggled on a technical uphill where we had to hop a log and my right quad started to cramp. I grunted hard, revealing my suffering.

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We exchanged a few words before he pulled away. I kept the gap manageable and then pulled him back at the base of the long Jeep road climb with about 1.5 miles to go. He hammered up the hill. I followed, standing up out of the saddle and rocking my bike back and forth. After only a few pedal strokes, both legs viciously cramped simultaneously. It was my adductors, which is kind of weird, but it was seriously painful. I sat back down and watched Kurt ride away. It took every ounce of energy I had left to pedal to the top without getting off.

I contained the damage and rode scared, worried that Charlie or someone else would catch me while I struggled to the finish. I made it to the line in 5th, which is fine. I had a blast, and the sunshine was glorious. It was fun to see Kurt after the finish and give him a congratulatory handshake for being a fierce competitor. Both of us will be happy if we can build our fitness to a peak this fall when cyclocross season (the main event!) comes around.

Now I have to focus on recovering. I’ve got a busy work week starting tomorrow and then a little bit of trail running next weekend.

Race Results (should be live soon)

Seven Cycles

Two weeks ago, when loading my beloved singlespeed Seven Sola 29SL into the trailer prior to the Hop Brook Dam Mountain Bike Race, I noticed that the top tube was cracked. It was a bummer and I missed the race. We still went to Middlebury, CT because our son did the Junior race.

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I hadn’t ridden that bike since the prior Monday at the Dirty Duathlon in Glastonbury, CT. It’s possible that the crack appeared before that ride, but it certainly got worse on the bumpy course at the Longo Preserve.

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I wrote about this bike in 2012, though I’ve been racing it hard since 2011. It is made from Titanium, and the crack went from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. so the top tube was nearly severed. It would have been ugly, if  it came apart while riding. The crack started at the bottom of the weld and worked its way in both directions.

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Titanium failures are rare, but they do occur. Usually, the root cause was a bad weld. One of the benefits of a raw Titanium frame is that it can be repaired. I reached out to the team at Seven Cycles in Watertown, MA. They came up with a game plan and I dropped it off the next day. Fortunately, I had to be at Sterling Machine in Lynn on Tuesday, so the timing was good. We work with Titanium all of the time, but not tubing. Our raw material is solid bar stock and plate. Also, we don’t weld it. Our experience with the strong (but light) metal is exclusively with machining, grinding, and thread rolling.

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One week later, I picked up the repaired bike, and it looked like new. They couldn’t match the decals perfectly, but that is minor considering the extent of the repair. They completely disassembled the bike. They cut off the top tube. They cut the down tube away from the head tube. They replaced the head tube and the top tube. Finally, they re-finished the frame, and rebuilt it with all of the parts.

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They did the best they could to tune the Gates Carbon Belt drivetrain, but it still needs some work. It’s too bad because I had the tension of the belt dialed in perfectly, and it hadn’t slipped in five years. After I picked up the bike, I drove over to the Middlesex Fells to test itout. Unfortunately, the belt is slipping on steep climbs, so we have some tuning to do.

The fact that they repaired the frame is fantastic. I’m glad this frame didn’t end up in the scrap bin. All of my Seven’s are “lifetime” bikes. Kudos to everyone involved with the repair. Despite needing to do more tweaking with the set-up, I’m pleased with the outcome, considering that two weeks ago, this bike was unrideable.

I raced the bike today at the Fat Tire Classic in Farmington, CT.


Horst Engineering

Thread Rolling Inc.

Sterling Machine

Horst Spikes

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Late night #carfreecommute via the #hopriverstateparktrail #railtrail #bicycle Fantastic and "educational" @hookerbeer tour with @ypoglobal friends. #hookerbeer #beer #ypo #manufacturing #craftbeer #madeinhartford #madeinconnecticut 🍺🇺🇸 Start of this morning's 33rd annual #soapstonemountaintrailrace. @trailrunningmom warned the 225 runners that there are rocks and roots on the course. She then offered the patented #shenipsitstriders start line money back guarantee. #trailrunning 🏃🏻⛰ #carfreecommute #burnsideavenue @horsteng #horstengineering #teamhorstsports #biketowork #biketoworkday #bicycle Broke out the #bridgestonemb1 and the #trailabike for a post-dinner Monday night #railtrail spin with the family. It's nice to have daylight at 8:00 P.M. #hopriverstateparktrail Little D at the #mothersdaydash 5K in Rockville. #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #running @trailrunningmom doing her #trailrunning thing. He is learning the lines. He taught me a new saying after a particularly rugged, technical, and bouncy section. He said, "That was a serious chamois adjuster." #mountainbike #mountainbiking #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #Friday evening ride on the newly named #BreakawayBrewHaus Loop. Congrats to Our neighbor Matt on the launch of his new business. #tgif #happyhour #teamhorstsports #bolton #hopriverstateparktrail #beer #bicycle 🚴🏽🍺

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