Archive for the 'Sport' Category

2023 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run

The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run (MMT 100) has been on Debbie’s running wish list for 20 years. Despite attempting the run for the first time, it will remain on her list of things to complete because she “retired” (at mile 38) before reaching the finish line of this past weekend’s race.

She noted the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) used the word “retire” and not the usual DNF to describe her predicament. That feels better, but it still doesn’t take the sting out of falling short of a goal. Last week, we were talking about this with our 16-year-old son who is still learning to cope with the negative feelings one can have when falling short of a goal. Debbie told him it isn’t realistic to reach every goal you set. His personal best for the 1600 meter run has been stuck at 4:47 despite trying four or five times to lower it over the last month. Saturday, he had another track meet…and he ran 4:47 again. This is fast, but he wants to go faster. He will learn that you can’t just decide to reach a goal. There is a lot more to it. I’m confident that he will gain the wisdom necessary reach many goals in the future.

In her case, she wasn’t trying to run a fast mile, but rather to run 100 miles for the first time since coming up short at the Hardrock Endurance Run last July. It’s a bummer that she didn’t finish Hardrock or Massanutten. At least in the case of Hardrock, she previously finished it (in 2017). If she intends to finish Massanutten, she will have to try again. This situation is more like her 2014 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run finish when she returned to complete the race which she failed to finish in 2013. 10 years later, maybe the same pattern will repeat and she will return to Massanutten to earn a coveted belt buckle. Debbie has been incredibly resilient and she has always managed her injuries well. This time, the circumstances were different.

Just getting to the start of the MMT 100 has been a journey. The main reason why this was her first attempt after years of desire is because most years, the race conflicts with the Soapstone Mountain Trail Races. This year, it conflicted again, but for the first time since 1999, she chose to miss Soapstone, a race that is as close to her as any other. It was her first ever trail running race, and she went on to be the Race Director for more than 17 years, so there was no option to do MMT 100. Missing a race that you are so closely associated with is a big deal, especially when you had a 23 year streak of being at the start as either a runner, a volunteer, or an RD. The good news is Soapstone is in good hands with our friends from the Shenipsit Striders, and it’s healthy to break these streaks.

The last time a big Livingston Family streak was broken was in 2015 when we missed the Vermont 50 to go to Japan for ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI. Like Soapstone, we had been there every year since 1999. In the case of the VT50, we missed, but then in 2016, we started a new streak. If Debbie opts to return to the MMT 100, then Soapstone will likely have to wait until 2025.

The irony is that it was physically possible to maintain our Soapstone streak because we drove back to Connecticut in time. However, that required nearly 500 miles of overnight driving in nasty weather. Since we had already made the decision to skip and because we should have still been out on the Virginia trails, it didn’t make sense to force the issue. Instead, we rested and recovered from a 44 hour adventure that included 1,000+ miles of driving, a night in a tent, and a lot of heavy rain.

The reason for Debbie’s “retirement” is a bum ankle. She went into MMT 100 with an injury, which is never a good thing. She has been battling ankle soreness since early April and hasn’t been able to resolve the issue. She said it was feeling better as MMT week approached, but 33 miles into the race at the Elizabeth Furnace Aid Station, it was hurting badly. She sat in a chair and I rubbed her sore calf and ankle, which was swollen. She was frustrated. I had last seen her at Edinburg Gap (mile 12) and she was in good spirits. At Edinburg, she was running strongly and having fun on a beautiful Saturday morning in the Shenandoah Mountains. She said she could feel the ankle, but it was holding up. Of course, 12 miles into a 100 mile run isn’t the time to be overconfident about anything.

Nearly five hours passed between when I saw her at Edinburg Gap and when she arrived at Elizabeth Furnace. I had time to explore the area around Elizabeth Furnace. I had my bicycle, so I rode towards Shawl Gap before heading over to the local airport. Then I rode back in time to rendezvous with her.

Apparently, the first 1/3rd of MMT 100 is the most technical and demanding. It gets slightly easier after that, but then the cumulative effects of every step start to take their toll. After I saw her at Edinburg Gap, she had to traverse a tough section of trail that required a lot of “side-hilling.” This is where the strain on her ankle got worse. By the time she arrived at Elizabeth Furnace, the pain was intense and the feeling in her ankle was like after her last long training run two weeks ago. She had rested the ankle since then, but “rest” in our household still means cycling, hiking, and a little running. She probably did too much running but that is what she does. She runs.

At the aid station, she opted to change socks, tape the ankle, change clothes, fuel up, and attempt a “reset.” Despite her mental fortitude, she struggled to make it five more miles to Shawl Gap Aid Station, and was visibly defeated when she arrived. I walked 1/4 mile up the trail to wait for her and I had to wait a lot longer than planned. Several arriving runners told me that she was going slowly when they passed her. When she arrived, she was limping badly, and favoring her other leg (which took a subsequent beating).

She said she couldn’t run the downhills or the flats, which was not good with 63 miles to go. She had been passed by dozens of other runners which is demoralizing. Other than this ankle problem, she was strong, but she couldn’t demonstrate that. Her stride was off, she had fallen once, and she risked further injury. The obvious decision was to hand over her number and transponder. We talked about the situation for a minute. Then she sat down in a chair, removed the four safety pins holding her number to her shorts, and handed it to me. I carried the items over to the aid station captain, which formally ended her MMT 100 attempt.

We put some ice on her ankle and she chilled in a chair for a few minutes while I gathered her gear. It started to rain a bit as we packed the car for the drive back to the start/finish where our tent was pitched in a field. As soon as we got on the road, it started to pour. The rain came down with serious intensity. It had been in the forecast, but the volume caught us by surprise. For a moment, it felt better to be inside the car rather than out on the trail. Of course, several hundred runners were still out there and they were going to have to battle the elements. There were many strong performances and we cheered for everyone we saw on the trails. This races draws a hearty crowd and they proved their mettle!

Throughout the afternoon, the rain came steadily and increased to downpours at regular intervals. We made the drive back to the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center. I packed up our remaining items, broke down the tent, and got everything to fit in the back of our Subaru Outback, including my bicycle. We found the bath house and rinsed off in the showers before starting the drive home around 4:00 P.M.

We stopped for dinner, and then kept going. We tried to find a hotel on route so that we could spend the night and finish the drive in the morning, but there were no vacancies. We even tried one hotel in person because the website said there were rooms available, but when I inquired in the lobby (it was after 11:00 P.M.), there was nothing to be had. We hit the road again. We pulled over at a rest stop and I closed my eyes for a few hours. When I awoke, we continued and pulled into our driveway around 4:50 A.M. It was an adventure for sure.

The VHTRC is fantastic. Though we didn’t get the full MMT 100 experience, we could tell that it is a beloved even with awesome volunteers. The aid stations that I saw were stocked full of great food options and staffed by smiling people. The race appeared to be organized in top notch fashion, yet it had a nice low key vibe. The people involved in a race (volunteers, runners, crews, families) make a race and that is why MMT 100 is a good one.

Debbie has some healing (and work to do) before running long again. She has several big goals remaining for 2023, so it’s important that she figures out this ankle thing. I know it will make her smile if our son goes and runs a 4:46 mile tomorrow, but she will also support him if he falls short of his own goal.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to experience more of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. Next time we have to spend more time in Virginia!

Race Results

Photo Gallery

Little Cayman Loop

Running around Little Cayman was a really cool way to see this sister island. We spent the first part of this amazing week on Grand Cayman. I represented HORST Engineering at a health care symposium hosted by one of our key suppliers/insurers. We have a self-funded health plan and we are members of an insurance captive so the symposium doubled as our annual meeting. The captive includes more than 20 other mid-sized businesses proactively looking for ways to provide better quality and lower cost benefits to our employees.

Debbie and I had never been to the Cayman Islands, so when the opportunity was presented we decided to take full advantage. Last year was HORST Engineering’s first year in the program and two of my colleagues represented us at the conference. They enjoyed the trip with their spouses and had great things to say about their hosts and the accommodations (resort setting).

Grand Cayman was cool, but it has developed rapidly and the associated costs are becoming a bigger issue for the island’s full time inhabitants (about 69,000) and visitors alike. Congestion, accidents, and other issues are having a negative impact on the island experience. Apparently, it got even more crazy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic with a surge of new interest from outsiders. This week’s edition of the local newspaper, the Cayman Compass, reported on two recent fatal hit and run collisions with cyclists. I hate reading about that type of news, but I can see why. Even running was difficult as the roads are not cyclist or pedestrian friendly. Grand Cayman has few sidewalks and narrow or non-existent shoulders. There are almost no street lights (they replaced them with rotaries) so traffic is always flowing. It’s hard to cross the street when there are no breaks in traffic.

The conference started late on Sunday and wrapped up mid-morning on Wednesday. We had a few pockets of time to explore. Debbie didn’t attend all of the business sessions so she got some extra beach time. We did some running and swimming, and generally enjoyed the weather, which is spectacular. That means hot, humid, and sunny. It’s hot all of the time, even at night. The salt air has healing characteristics and the ocean water is amazing. It’s clean, warm, and a brilliant shade of blue.

We decided to stay for two extra days. The conference hotel was sold out and at first, we booked a neighboring hotel for Wednesday and Thursday, but we made a switch. Several months ago, when I was doing some Internet research, I checked the Fastest Known Time website. I searched for runs and was surprised and pleased to see that there was a previously established route on Little Cayman, which is 91 miles east of Grand Cayman, and known as one of the two sister islands. The other sister island is Cayman Brac, which you can see from the southern and eastern points on Little Cayman. Little Cayman is about 10 square miles and Cayman Brac is only slightly larger. We were able to cancel our Grand Cayman hotel and instead, book a small one-bedroom bungalow (with a kitchen and laundry) on Little Cayman.

The only way to get from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman is on a small plane. I’m sure you can get there on a private plane, but Cayman Airways has a commercially available flight (usually daily) on a de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. The 35 minute flight was a cool experience for an aviation/aerospace fan like me. The Twin Otter seats 17 passengers plus two pilots. On our flight, there was only six passengers, plus the two pilots. We had an extensive conversation with the captain, who was originally from Africa, but found his way to the Cayman Islands many years ago. There were no flight attendants and very limited ground crew (at Little Cayman). After landing, he rolled the baggage cart over to the terminal. That’s neat.

The runway crosses the island’s main road, so if you are driving, cycling or running when a flight is arriving or taking off, look out! Twin Otters like the one we took are powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-20 turboprop engines. The plane is known for its ability to make short takeoffs and landings, which we witnessed on the tiny Little Cayman airstrip.

Before this week, there was only one Cayman Islands entry on the FKT site. A fellow by the name of Dave Stock created the Little Cayman route and completed it in 2018. His write-up says he has the goal to do an FKT on all three of the Cayman Islands, but so far, Little Cayman is the only one that has been logged. We tried to reach Dave through social media channels, but didn’t have any luck. His brief report on the 22.4 mile loop (a circumnavigation of the island) highlighted the most important factor: oppressive heat and humidity.

We started our run just before 7:00 A.M. We could have started earlier, but we made a tradeoff. We had a full night of sleep and some food before starting. We were worried that running at dawn or dusk might expose us to the nuisance of mosquitoes, but we don’t know for sure if that would be a factor. The island is very rural with only about 160 full time residents. For the first few hours of the run, only four vehicles passed us, so doing it at night with lights/reflective clothing would be safe. I don’t think there will be a “next time” for us, but we would recommend to others that they consider that strategy. Of course, you would avoid the sunshine, but the heat and humidity are present 24 hours a day. Even at night, the temperature remains in the 80’s (Fahrenheit).

Despite a slight headwind, we went out at a good clip, running 8:15 to 8:55 miles for the first nine miles, but our bodies eventually told us that was a foolhardy pace to sustain. Our first mile above nine minutes was mile 10, but several more followed. It was slightly overcast, but by 9:00 A.M. the heat of the sun was already baking us. We made two beach stops to splash (salt) water (which is warm, not cold) on our arms, legs, shoulders, and heads in an attempt to cool off but results were marginal. The water is very warm here. It’s not refreshing at all.

Most of the houses are connected to the grid, so they have electricity, but water is stored in cisterns as there is no “city water.” Air conditioning in most buildings is produced by heat pumps. I switched from a ball cap to a wide brim hat. Debbie was lucky she brought a bandana because she used it to cover her shoulders. It also worked well when she soaked it with water to cool off her head. Things really started to heat up in the second half. The combination of broken asphalt, sand, and gravel roads were easy to navigate and we ran at the edge to try to get some relief from the sun. The vegetation is low lying so there really wasn’t much shade at all. I used Altra Escalante road shoes, but Debbie used her Altra Mont Blanc trail runners. Both worked fine.

Thankfully, around mile 16, we ran by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) on the island’s north shore. We didn’t see anyone there (we called out through the doors), but the place was open, and they had an outdoor sink. We assumed the water was potable. We took a sink shower and refilled our UltrAspire hydration packs. This was life saving. When Dave Stock did the route in 2018, it appears he was accompanied by someone on a bicycle who helped by carrying extra water in a basket. We were self-supported, so relying on CCMI wasn’t part of the original plan, but it worked out. I’m sure they do good work at the institute and we are grateful for their sink!

Late in the run, I had to mix in some intermittent walking as my legs were blown. As usual, Debbie got stronger as it got longer, and she waited for me. Before we started, we debated doing the FKT individually, but I’m glad we stuck together and did it as a team. Naturally, I led the first half and then faded, while she guided us home with a strong finish. We had designs on running faster, but ended up doing it in 3 hours and 33 minutes. It was a good training run for Debbie as she has several ultramarathon trail races on the calendar for 2023. I was just tagging along.

As noted, the road surface was a mix of pavement, gravel and sand. Some of the sand sections were slow. It wasn’t deep, but there was enough that you felt the drag. The island is lovely. There were some great ocean views along the route. Also there were multiple interior salt ponds. They have a pungent smell, but they are frequented by amazing birds, of which there are many, including the rare Red-footed Booby and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Judging from the number of “For Sale” signs (some existing structures, but mostly raw land) that we saw, Little Cayman is at risk of having a development problem too. We read in the Cayman Compass that some people want to see the airstrip and other infrastructure expanded so that more people can get here. I’m sure some of the long time residents who enjoy the seclusion wouldn’t be happy with more development, but the businesses that are on the island would probably benefit from more customers.

We were fortunate to see three Rock Iguanas at different points along the route. They are endangered and there were numerous signs warning motorists to stay alert and watch for them on the road. Collisions are a risk to these reptiles. Little Cayman is my kind of island. The beaches are remote, the location is very rural, and accommodations are rustic. Along with Cayman Brac, Little Cayman is mainly known as a hard core SCUBA diving destination. Birders and fishing enthusiasts like it too. Now, it’s known as an FKT destination!

Debbie and I were happy to spend some time together, but whenever we have a fun trip to a new place, we wish our kids were along for the adventure. I guess we will just have to return to the Cayman Islands to share the experience with them.

2023 Hoppin’ Hodges 5K

Happy Passover! Happy Easter!

Today we were back at the Hoppin’ Hodges 5K, which has been an Easter tradition. It was our 7th time running it since 2011. The first four times that we ran it, it was on the Hop River Trail (rail trail) in Vernon. The last three times, it has still been on the Hop, but in Andover.

Janit Romayko has kept this tradition going. It is a fundraiser in honor of her late husband, James Hodges. The beneficiary of proceeds is usually the Friends of Valley Falls which is one of my favorite local conservation oriented nonprofits. We live on the rail trail in Bolton, so the start/finish line was only 4.5 miles from our front door.

Shepard and I rode over on our bikes. Debbie and Dahlia met us there. They drove in the car. Debbie, Dahlia, and I raced this fun event. Shepard did some running, but he just started track season, so a 5K on the rail trail wasn’t part of his training plan. I did enjoy riding with him to/from the race. We had bright sunshine, but it was chilly at the 9:00 A.M. start.

As usual, we saw some friends. There was a large contingent from the Run 169 Towns Society. It was also great to see Tony Bonanno and Art Byram. They did Art’s traditional Hoppin’ Hodges 50K which involves getting up very early, running 45 kilometers on the rail trail and then finishing with the 5K race. That’s cool.

Speaking of cool, we saw 82 year-old Charles Merlis, who has been a fixture at this race over the years. He also run’s one of the other races that Janit promotes, the Scrooge Scramble. He was a bit late getting to the start today, so Debbie and Dahlia helped him put on his angel wings. You read that right!

After the finish, Charles, who is a very colorful character, plopped himself down on a bench while he fought to catch his breath. He told Shepard and me that “I used to have a death sprint!” Then he said, “Now I have a barely alive jog.” I want to be as active as him when I get to be his age. Keep running Charlie!

Race Results

2023 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

After 13 years, I returned to run the Northern Nipmuck Trail Race in Union, Connecticut. The classic Grand Tree race had a 10 year hiatus, but returned in 2022 after Race Director Tony Bonanno resurrected it. The past two years, it’s been run with a small field.

It was my 9th time doing the race, but first since 2010. I last wrote about it in 2012. Debbie ran it that year, then didn’t run it for the 10 year period that it wasn’t held. She returned to run it last year and was thrilled that Tony and the Shenipsit Striders brought it back. It has always been one of her favorite races. Our club already promotes the NipMuck Trail Marathon and Nipmuck South, so we have the ‘Muck covered.

I was last on this gnarly section of the Nipmuck Trail in April 2020 when Debbie and I ran the Nipmuck End-to-End during the mad COVID-19 Fastest Known Time (FKT) craze. That was an epic adventure. We ran the entire trail including the sections used for all three Striders races plus the defunct Breakneck Trail Race.

My first Northern Nipmuck in 2002 (21 years ago!) was a major fail. I was just starting to run tougher trails in an attempt to keep up with Debbie. My cyclists legs hadn’t yet been conditioned to trail running. I don’t think they ever will be, but at least I can finish now. That day in 2002, I got a ride back to the start/finish after bailing at the 12 mile mark (twin tubes aid station). My legs just didn’t work anymore. It was humbling. I didn’t return until 2004, but then six consecutive finishes culminating with that 2010 race.

My best time was 2:22:15 in 2009. Today, I ran my slowest ever time, a 2:44:55, but that doesn’t matter. At 50, I’m happy to be out there running and feeling good. Today’s conditions were kind of normal for late March on the Nipmuck Trail. It rained most of the day yesterday, so the trail was soggy in spots and slippery most everywhere. It warmed up nicely from the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) to the high 40’s. The sun shone brightly, so the south facing portions of the trail dried up a bit.

This section of the trail is very undulating. My GPS tracked about 3,000 feet of vertical gain and 3,000 feet of loss. It’s rocky and there are lots of roots. Debbie was the first woman in this small field. She finished seven or eight minutes behind me. I felt good. I went out conservatively. I would have liked to have a negative split, but there is more climbing on the way back. I think I got to the half way point in 1:21 or 1:22. The race was always listed as 16 miles and very well may be that long. There is so many sharp ups and downs and so many sharp turns, that it is hard for a GPS to capture all the distance. My watch said 14.88 miles, but who is counting? Miles six and 10 were my two fastest. The grade adjusted pace was the same for both. Now we are talking nine minute miles on what is the “smoothest” and fastest section of the course. This is the same section of trail. Mile six on the way out and mile 10 on the way back.

Of course, right after you run a “fast” nine minute mile, the next mile is over 11 minutes. That’s Nipmuck! It isn’t just that this section is hard; it is also very beautiful. The moss covered rocks are awesome. The trees are fantastic. The trail crosses through the Yale Forest and also Hull Forestry’s property. You don’t run through Bigelow Hollow State Park, but that is where you park. The park is one of the most lovely in the entire state. It’s worth checking out.

A year ago, we were in Delaware Water Gap for the TAMMANY 10. That hurt. I’m glad we opted for Northern Nipmuck this year. It was a much more manageable distance for me. Kudos to Tony and the Shenipsit Striders volunteers. If he hosts us again in 2024, I’ll likely be back.

Race Results

2023 Bolton Road Race

Today’s 45th Bolton Road Race was another family affair. Debbie, Shepard, Dahlia, and I all ran our hometown race. We had great weather for early March with clear skies and brilliant sunshine. It was chilly, but the breeze was light and in the sun it was pleasant. I was able to wear shorts and shortsleeves, which was great after a cold winter. Even yesterday’s weather would be described as “raw.”

Shepard had a very good race, which was a nice bounce back after the Colchester Half Marathon, which put the hurt on him. Today he was third overall and just missed breaking 30 minutes. He ran 30:02 on the hilly course. He was the 2nd Bolton resident. Mentally, this was a boost for him as he heads into outdoor track season.

I had an OK race. I was about half a minute slower than last year, but I’m also a year older and in my new age group. Debbie had a solid race, as did Dahlia. It was great to see our friends Steve and Laura Becker. This was Laura’s first race since the birth of their child in December, and on a her own birthday. It was a special day indeed.

The star of the show was Little Liam Becker. He slept most of the time, but it was still great that he came out to “cheer us on.” He was motivating me to run fast.

Race Directors Brian Miller and Kelly Catlin, along with all of their volunteers did an excellent job. We have lived in Bolton for 18 years. This was my 10th time running the event. It’s cool to think that it started in the late 70’s. Since the kids starting running with us, this has become one of my favorite days of the year.

Race Results

Photo Credit: thank you to Laurie Brooks for the Livingston Family action shots.

2023 Colchester Half Marathon

It’s been two months since my last blog post. Coincidentally it’s been two months since my last race, which was on December 25th. I guess I didn’t have anything else to write about.

Today was the 31st edition of the Colchester Half Marathon. This is one of my favorite races. It’s the seventh time I’ve done it. I first did it in 2017. This was the fourth year in a row that Debbie and I have done it. This was Shepard’s second time running it with us after his debut in 2022.

It was a bummer but he had an off day today. We ran stride for stride for about eight miles. Then, he started to struggle. We got caught by a group of three runners (including Peter Oviatt and Ryan Lerner) and I chose to latch on to them. This kept the pace high and when we hit the first of the serious (dirt road) climbs in the second half of the race, he was hurting.

He hung tough but I gapped him. As we crested the second of the big climbs I had about 20 seconds on him but was just off of the group. I looked back and decided to let them go so that he would keep me in his sight. We ran that was for about three miles with him about 30 seconds behind me. The three fast dudes pulled away and we were in no man’s land until we got caught by another runner.

I let him go as well and when we came off the last of the dirt with about 2.5 miles to go, Shepard was slowing even more. I made the decision to push ahead in attempt to break the 90 minute mark. As I made the final turn on to the long uphill to the finish, I yelled across a field for him to hang in there.

From that point I focused on just keeping the past. Those last few miles are always brutal and even though were averaging 6:35’s earlier in the race, it was hard to break 7 now. With about two miles to go, Adam Bulewich caught me. He was running like a metronome. His pace was steady and strong and I couldn’t match it. He bridged up to the guy who had passed me a few miles earlier, but I never gained on them.

The last mile was a slog. By this point, it had started to snow steadily. The temperature never got about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but mercifully the wind wasn’t bad. The road conditions were also good since it’s been dry this week. The dirt was hard packed and smooth. There was no ice.

I finished in 1:28:21 and am happy with the time. I ended up 15th and second in my age group. Oviatt (who is in my age group) and Lerner finished in the low 1:25 range and though I wish I had gone with them, I’m glad I hung back to keep an eye on Shepard until I knew he was in the homestretch. I doubt I would have been able to stick with them the whole way, but if I had gone with them earlier, I might have shaved a minute or two off my own time.

Unfortunately, Shepard had a mental meltdown and walked big portions of the last two miles. It was a good lesson for him. Last year, I ran behind him and encouraged him.We finished in just over 1:30, but this year, he was on his own for that last stretch and it was ugly. He didn’t run much the last three weeks and he paid for it. That’s OK. Track season is coming and he will have more chances to perform to his own expectations.

Debbie had a good run. Dahlia was a race volunteer. The post-race spread was even better than usual. The food was fantastic and the cafeteria at Bacon Academy was jammed with happy runners. That festival is one of the reasons that this early season race is so popular.

Thank you to the volunteers for putting on another great edition of this race.

I won’t wait two more months before blogging again.

Race Results

2022 Scrooge Scramble

After a two year hiatus, the “official” Scrooge Scramble made its return on Christmas Day. For the Livingston Family, this was our 15th time doing the race since 2004. We also held our own versions in 2020 and 2021 when the race was cancelled.

This year, new race leadership brought back the 40 year-old event. It benefits the Cornerstone Foundation in Rockville whose mission it is to care for the homeless.

This has been our family tradition on Christmas morning. We spend time together and then make the 20 minute drive to Rockville. Today it was frigid. The temperature was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but the bright sunshine made it feel a bit warmer.

We saw some of our usual friends from the running community. Mercifully the course was an older version, which was just fine. The last few editions were 1/2 mile loops, but this year was the out to the Ellington town line and back. Mentally, it was easier to to go out and back.

We didn’t have much of a warmup. That didn’t stop Shepard and me from pushing. We had fun and now that I’m typing this while enjoying brownies and chocolate, it was worth it. Dahlia and Debbie ran together. We were back home by 11:00 A.M. We got in our run, helped out a worthy cause, and spent some family time together on a special day.

Race Results

Iron Trail/Stone Man Mountain Out & Back

Debbie and I had a short day trip to the northwest corner of Connecticut. We ran the Iron Trail from Beckley Forge to the top of Stone Man Mountain and back.

This is a lovely part of the state. The Iron Trail is a Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail. I ran it in the summer of 2020. I wrote about that run in the middle of a longer story about Debbie’s Connecticut Appalachian Trail FKT.

Today’s conditions were much different. Friday’s storm brought rain to the Hartford area but Canaan and other towns in the northwest hills got nearly six inches of wet snow.

This made the trail conditions treacherous and difficult. We wore our micro-spikes but it was still awkward. One section of the Iron Trail traverses water company property on an old logging road. That section gets heavy ATV use. When last ran it, it was in rough shape. Today, it was awful. Some of the ruts were 15 inches deep.

Aside from the trail damage, the snow brought beauty to the woods. The views from Stone Man were fantastic. There was no womens’ FKT on this out and back 11 mile route, so we didn’t have to push it in order to establish a time. In these conditions, the mens’ time was way out of reach. This was still a hard effort and took us just under three hours.

Parts of the route were hard to follow. The blue blazes on the trees were faded. I didn’t find the Iron Trail mentioned on CFPA’s website which makes me wonder/worry that the trail is no longer being maintained. Thankfully, we were able to follow animal tracks. Most of them were headed in the right direction, including many “cat” tracks. I suspect it was a good sized bobcat that left those in the snow. Debbie and I had a good time running together. It was cool that Debbie got to see the Beckley Forge. We want to bring the kids out that way to see both the forge and hike to the summit of Stone Man.

2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships

The 2022 USA Cyclocross National Championships returned to Hartford, Connecticut after five years. It’s been an eventful five period since January 2017. The state of cyclocross is in flux, but last week’s races were a fantastic celebration of the sport. It was also a celebration of the cycling community and especially the New England cyclocross community.

Everything culminated with last Sunday’s elite championship races at Riverside Park. The setting was perfect. The day dawned cold and wintry, and by sunset, a snowstorm had settled over the area. The snow was the perfect ambience for the final two races of the week.

There were so many highlights from the week, but on Sunday it was Clara Honsinger’s dominance of the elite women and Curtis White’s hard fought victory over Eric Brunner and the rest of the elite men, that stood out.

You can search the Internet for reports, analysis, video, and many more photos.

Included here are some of my images from the day.

It is worth noting that HORST Cycling, the predecessor to Team HORST Sports, promoted the first ever cyclocross race at this venue 19 years ago in 2003.

We laid out a Riverside Park course for the first time and it way back then, we envisioned that it was a national championship worthy venue and location. Hartford has now hosted CX Nats twice. That’s pretty cool.

2022 Manchester Road Race

What a great day! The 86th running of the Manchester Road Race (MRR) was spectacular. The event has been at legendary status for a long time, but in my opinion, it just keeps getting better. It’s so cool for a big race to be in our “backyard.” Today’s weather was fantastic. It was cold (low 30’s Fahrenheit at the start), but there was no wind and the sun was shining brightly.

With such great weather, the spectators were out in force. There had to be more than 30,000 people cheering from the sides of the roads. It was awesome. The four of us ran well and for the first time in 10 years, we wall ran independently. For the last five years, I ran with one of the kids (not counting the COVID-19 virtual version), but this year I was able to give it my all. Both kids are now strong enough and skilled enough to navigate a race with more than 9,600 runners. This was Shepard’s 10th MRR and Dahlia’s 7th.

Once again, HORST Engineering sponsored Veteran’s Row.

One reason why I wanted to run this one hard was because it was my first year in the 50-54 age group. 50 is a milestone unto itself and I wanted to see how my time would compare with prior years. This was my 33rd MRR and 28th in a row. My first was in 1985. The race was much smaller then.

Debbie ran her 24th overall (and in a row). It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without running the race. Our tradition is a shared tradition. So many other families have long streaks as well. Our friend Todd Brown did his 46th MRR today, and they have all been in a row. Last night, we sat with him at the annual pasta dinner at the Elk’s Club. It was fun to reminisce. Amby Burfoot was also at dinner. He finished his 60th MRR today. That’s the most of anyone…for now. He also won the 75-79 age group for good measure.

The race is full of traditions. We walked over from Spring Street around 9:00 A.M. At 9:10 A.M. we took the annual Shenipsit Striders “team photo” in front of St. James Church. I’ve been the photographer for as long as I’ve been a Strider, which is about 22 years. After the photo, I do a warmup (in recent years with Shepard) in the streets behind the church. We wind our way past the old Cheney Mills (now apartments) and by the Cheney mansions.

This year, I went for a second short warmup and trip to the port-a-potty. I normally wait until the last moment to get into the runner corral for my seed group (under 30 minutes) just before the national anthem is sung. This is usually at 9:50 A.M. The race starts sharp at 10:00 A.M.

Today, I found Shepard in the corral. He had already lined up. There were about 150 people in front of us and more than 8,000 behind us. This year’s official registration numbers were more than 9,600 runners, though the results show 8,304 finishers. Last weekend, nearly 1,000 children participated in the Little Manchester Road Race. I’m sure some people didn’t start and some people didn’t finish the 4.748 route. Among the finishers were some great champions. The men’s race was won by Conner Mantz of Utah. He broke the course record, finishing in 21:04. The women’s winner was a repeat from last year. Weini Kelati couldn’t best her own course record, but she won again and kudos to both of them.

All of the Livingston’s had good runs today. Debbie was probably the least satisfied. She hasn’t felt fast and is searching for more speed. Of course, it’s all relative. She was still sixth in the 45-49 age group with a respectable time of 34:52. I know she was hoping for better and I’m sure she will increase her focus in 2023.

Dahlia was also a bit slower than last year, but this was her first time running on her own without a parent to support her. She did great navigating a high density field of runners and nabbed third in the under 13 age group. She was disappointed with her 36:18 but cheered up when she learned about her podium position. She is excited for 2023 when she joins the high school cross country team. I bet her time plummets.

Speaking of plummeting times, Shepard was the MVP of the family today. He absolutely crushed the race, posting a 26:14. That earned him ninth in the highly competitive 14-18 age group. Five of the guys in front of him were 18 year old college freshmen. He had a great battle with his Rockville High School rival, John Glidden. Bolton and Rockville are in the same conference, so Shep and John have battled each other for two years at events ranging from the 800 to the 5,000 (cross country). Last week, they were both honored at the Connecticut XC All-State banquet. I expect their rivalry to continue on the track this spring.

Today, John went out very hard and it looks like he paid the price after the hill. He and Shep traded spots, but eventually John got him back and held him off by two seconds. Lucas Thompson of Simsbury squeezed between them. He nipped Shep by 13/100ths of a second. Shepard’s time was far better than my best, which was 27:00 in 2009.

I’ve slowed, but I’m still proud of my ability to run fast. Today I ran 27:43 and that got me second in the 50-54 age group. I was well behind Brian Murray of Coventry who ran 27:02, but I’ll take it. I did several morning workouts over the last month in an attempt to hone some speed. I haven’t run much on the road, but having done this race so many times, I know exactly how to pace it. I felt good today and this was a good time. I ran a second slower in 2016 and hadn’t put up a significantly faster time since 2012, 10 years ago. I went out hard but not too hard. I ran the hill steadily. I kept Brett Stoeffler in site until the top, but that’s when I started to falter. The uphill is my strength and I usually struggle from the top of the hill until the 3.5 mile mark. I kept things in check and lost a few spots, but was able to mostly hold my ground. I was able to accelerate a bit towards the end, but lost a few more spots on Main Street. Regardless, I’m pleased with how my 50 year-old body responded. It was a bit of mind over matter.

There is so much more I could write about the race, but I’ll stop here. I love this race. My family has come to love this race. We saw so many friends today. One friend I’ll mention is Eric Fleming. He and his wife Julie brought their three kids down from their home outside Boston. Eric grew up in Manchester and we were HORST Cycling teammates dating back to 1997. He texted me this morning before the race and we were able to connect in front of St. James. It was so nice to see him.

My legs are sore from the pounding they took on the pavement, but I’ll be buzzing for the next few days. The pain is worth it.

Race Results

Full Replay – TV Coverage

2022 Secret Squirrel CX

Secret Squirrel is one of my favorite cyclocross races. It has a great vibe. Here is the good and bad from the 2022 edition. Shepard and I have raced this modern New England classic on several occasions. We returned this year, but only he raced. I was the driver, mechanic, and spectator.

Some good things about this race include the fun and challenging course. With the right mountain bike (light and fast) you have an advantage over a cyclocross bike, but cross is cross and it should be raced on a proper cross bike. The Raynham, Massachusetts course is undulating, tight, twisty, sandy, and full of roots. There is very little open space to ride fast. I wish they added more field riding, but it is what it is and that’s why it’s Secret Squirrel.

The under 19 Junior race was at 8:30 A.M. which was early for us. Plus the race was $30. The races was only scheduled for 20 minutes. The drive from Connecticut was an hour and 45 minutes. For these reasons, it was a bad value.

When I registered Shepard, there were only nine boys signed up for the U19 race. The better value today was the Amateur Men field. It was a 10:30 A.M. start and was $45 which made me cringe. That’s expensive, especially when you consider that it was sold out with 110 riders. At least the race was scheduled for 40 minutes.

110 is a lot of riders on a tight course. I think there were a few other big fields as well. Shepard started in the fifth row and had a lot of ground to make up. He had an OK start, but it was so log jammed that he lost a minute and 44 seconds to the leader on lap one. That’s tough. The hole shot was very important today.

He steadily worked his way up in the field and finished 5th. This was his first cyclocross race of the season. His focus has been cross country running and he had a very good season. Thankfully, he had fun and I loved watching him.

I was disappointed that they only went three deep for prizes. They took in nearly $5,000 for this one field of 110 riders and only gave merchandise to the top three finishers. That was a bummer.

Secret Squirrel was still fun. Even though we didn’t stick around, we saw some friends. Teammate Tom Ricardi also raced. He said that his son Cole joined him too. That’s cool. Like Shepard, it had been a long time since he raced cross. I also had fun cheering for Barry Ralston with his wife Carolyn and daughter Hunter. Their family also shares a passion for endurance sports. For a moment, I wished that I was racing, but then the feeling passed. I didn’t even bring a cross bike with me. Watching was good enough.

Race Results

Connecticut Cross Country: 2022 State Open Championships & Middle School Championships

Today marked the end of the cross country (XC) season, at least for our family. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the middle schoolers at Bolton Center School (BCS) and the high schoolers at Bolton High School (BHS). We have been at the center of this action. Debbie is the BCS coach, Dahlia is an 8th grader on the team, and Shepard is a sophomore at BHS.

Yesterday was the high school CIAC Open Championships at Wickham Park. The race was six days after the Divisional Championships on the same course. This was Shepard’s first time competing at the top level. I did the Open 33 years ago in 1989 when my high school team qualified and competed in the event. I was stoked that Shepard got this opportunity.

This was the most competitive field he has been in. The fastest teams and individuals came together and there were 177 finishers. Shepard was 61st. His time was a bit slower than last week, but it was unseasonably warm with the temperature at least 15 degrees warmer than last week. His place relative to his peers was very good. It was also very good relative to the other underclassmen. This bodes well for 2023. He has aspirations to improve and I’m sure he will.

Shepard’s teammate, Silas Gourley, ended his high school XC career on a high note, finishing 74th. They have gotten great coaching from Paul Smith and Matthew Ferraro. It was awesome to see the top runners all compete against each other. I found myself cheering for the other schools in Bolton’s league and division. Those are the runners we see throughout the season. Most are small schools like Bolton and seeing their achievements is inspiring.

The Open Championships is very different from the other races these boys have run. With so many fast runners who are evenly matched, you have to be comfortable with the bumping and jostling that are part of the game on a tight course. The best of the best typically go out fast, get some space, and hold on. The danger is if you go out too hard, you can blow up badly.

Clearly, that happened to some of the boys we know. The flip side is that if you go out too slow, you get boxed in, and can never make up the ground. Shep feels like he could have gone out quicker. He was able to pick it up in the second half of the 5K course. In the end, he was happy with his race and grateful for the experience. That should pay dividends in the future.

Today, we were back at Wickham Park for the third time in a week for the Middle School Championships. Yesterday’s Open Champs was a relative intimate affair with about 180 boys and 180 girls. Today, There were more than 2,200 runners split almost evenly between boys and girls. Add in the coaches, families, and spectators, and you have a lot of people in the park. Even the “Mom & Pop Race” had more than 100 runners. Shepard, Debbie, and I all ran the 1.7 mile race, which was held on the B race course.

Dahlia and the BCS team competed in the girls A race in which there were about 400 starters. They did the 2.3 mile course. She finished a very respectable 51st, just missing out on the medals by one spot. I think this is awesome and I know it will fuel her for the future. She was disappointed for a few minutes, but ultimately, was quite happy with her result. Next year, she will join her brother at Bolton High School. Debbie and her assistant coach, Christa Parisien, have done a great job sharing their love of running with their athletes.

It’s been a very busy summer/fall. Shepard had practice six days a week since late August. Debbie and Dahlia had practice four days a week. Their meets were weekly with a handful more on the weekends. We are looking forward to a break over the next month as we transition to winter activities. The downtime and rest will be welcome, but I’m sure we will miss the joy of XC.

Race Results CIAC Open Championship (High School)

Race Results Middle School Championships

2022 CIAC Cross Country Divisional Championships

Today was the Connecticut XC Divisional Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester. Wickham is my favorite park, autumn is my favorite season, and I love cross country running, so this was a near perfect day.

I dropped Shepard off at Bolton High School around 8:40 A.M. so that he could take the bus with the team. Then I rode to work at HORST Engineering, which is is only 1.5 miles from the park. After some time at the shop, I rode over to the park to meet up with Debbie and Dahlia.

The weather was spectacular for both running and spectating. This last weekend in October didn’t disappoint. When I was running cross country more than 30 years ago, these races were referred to as the “Class Championships.” In Connecticut, schools are divided by size (number of student enrolled at each school). There are six divisions, so the divisional championships hosted 12 races.

Girls Divisions:

  • LL Division – 685 and over
  • L Division – 561 – 684
  • MM Division – 406 – 560
  • M Division – 325 – 405
  • SS Division – 227 – 324
  • S Division – Up to 226

Boys Divisions:

  • LL Division – 738 and over
  • L Division – 580 – 737
  • MM Division – 422 – 579
  • M Division – 335 – 421
  • SS Division – 235 – 334
  • S Division – Up to 234

Bolton High School is one of the smallest schools in the state, so we are in S Division. The top teams and individuals in the divisional championships go on to race in the Open Championships. The State Open is next Friday afternoon. Team qualifiers include the top two teams in each division plus the eight fastest (cumulative time) teams who didn’t qualify by placement.

Individual qualifiers include the top 12 finishers in each division plus the 30 fastest finishers who didn’t place. Runners who are part of a qualifying team are not removed from the results. The rules are straightforward, but you have to crunch some numbers to get to the full qualification list.

The Bolton boys and girls teams gave it their all. They have had a good season and this was the most important race of the year. Coach Paul Smith and his assistants, including Coach Matthew Ferraro, have done a fantastic job training the runners. Coach Smith has more than 20 years of experience and has his team’s program dialed in. His track record is stellar. Last year, the girls set the bar high by finishing second overall and qualifying for the State Open, but several top runners graduated. Today they were a respectable fifth place. The runners have trained so hard.

The boys have been consistently good all season. They were second in last week’s NCCC League Championships behind Suffield High School. We knew coming into today’s race that they had an outside chance at finishing second and qualifying for the Open Championship. Shepard follows all the results and statistics and his assessment was that Immaculate and Hale Ray were the favorites among the 21 Class S schools.

Immaculate’s results pointed to them having a lock on the top spot, but there was always a chance Bolton could have a great day couple with an off day for Hale Ray. In the end, that didn’t happen and the boys finished third, which is still a great accomplishment. Several of the boys got personal bests on the tough Wickham Park course.

This was Shepard’s second year on the Bolton team. As a freshman, he ran well, but didn’t qualify for the State Open. Last year, he went to watch his teammate Silas Gourley, who qualified. This year, the Open was one of Shepard’s big objectives. He has put in a lot of work to get faster. Both Silas and Shepard had excellent races today. They went out strong and were just off the front group. Eventually the top two runners, Michael Kraszewski of Hale Ray and Seamus Reidy of Immaculate, pulled away.

Shepard and Silas found themselves battling for third place with a group of five other runners who had separated themselves from the others behind. We were able to watch them at five points on the course plus the finish. Wickham is an awesome venue for XC. Parker Cook of Old Saybrook, Matthew Kraszewski of Hale Ray, and Ben Campion of Somers pulled ahead in the last mile, but Shepard and Silas kept them close. In the end, Shepard closed the gap a little, held off the chasers, and finished 6th. Silas had a good kick and hung on for 9th. Shepard’s time of 17:12 was his personal best for a 5K cross country course.

He was thrilled with his result. He and Silas did the best they could to help the team finish as high as possible. Both boys earned All-State honors and qualified for next Friday’s Open Championship (4 November). They will be back at Wickham Park on the same course at 2:45 P.M. The girls will precede the boys at 2:00 P.M.

All of this running brought back incredible memories for me. I was anxious all week and before the race, I was more nervous than before any of my recent races. I last ran in the State Open in 1989, which was a magical year for my high school cross country team. I really wanted Shepard to experience the same excitement. It would have been awesome for the entire team to qualify, but they will try again next year.

In 2019, on the 30th anniversary of East Catholic’s Divisional Championship win and Open Championship finish (third), I wrote about that season. This afternoon, I shared the blog post with Shepard. He is stoked to be competing next Friday with some of the best runners in Connecticut. I’ll be watching and cheering (loudly).

Divisional Championships Results

NCCC Championships Results (Boys Varsity)

NCCC Championships Results (Girls Varsity)

2022 Belltown Cyclocross

At today’s Belltown Cyclocross in Portland, CT, we had proper cyclocross weather. That messed with my head. I was already lacking a bit of motivation coming into my second cross race of the season, and then it started to pour.

The weather was fine all day until around 3:00 P.M. when it started to rain steadily. From there, the intensity increased. Unlucky for me was that the singlespeed category’s race, which I chose to participate in, didn’t start until 3:30 P.M. By the second lap of our race, the course had turned into a muddy and sandy quagmire.

As I said in my short Strava post, it was ugly.

I decided to gut it out, but it wasn’t my finest race. I had a decent start amongst the small field of riders, rode the first lap in third place, and eventually fell back to fifth. I had a few battles with Ryan Zwick for fourth, and I had to hold off a fast finishing Ryan Hallisey for my spot. I was sloppy on the technical stuff and more concerned about staying up right. The course was nothing like the one I spent half the day warming up on. The lines were all different and it was super sketchy in spots.

Most of the Team HORST Sports and Team HORST Junior Squad riders raced earlier in the day when it was cool but dry. They all did awesome. I love watching kids race bikes. I love rooting for my Masters teammates too. For the next week, I’ll be picking sand and grit out of my teeth and ears. Thankfully I raced my belt drive Seven Mudhoney SL. It is easier to clean than a geared bike.

I don’t have much more to say about this race. I do want to thank the Stage One/Airline Cycles crew for putting on another good event. They were out in force, had great volunteers, and great race production. The simple addition of a deejay with good music and a strong announcer (Thunder aka Jake Kravitz) makes all the difference.

It was nice to see some friendly faces. This year, cyclocross is a week to week thing for me. I don’t really want to become a fair weather rider, but I can’t help glancing at the weather forecast. I have no desire to trash my gear or my body. For the moment, I’m tentatively planning to go to Putney next Sunday for the 31st annual West Hill Shop race. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve got five days until registration closes. That’s more than enough time to think about it.

Race Results

2022 Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross

The Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross started in 1983. That makes it one of the oldest cyclocross races in the country. I’ve done it 15 times. My first was in 1995, which was the first year I started doing cross. Today was my 240th ever cyclocross race. That’s crazy.

Today I returned and it was my first cross race of the 2022 season. I was joking that it could be my “first and last.” I haven’t felt the cross vibe, but after today’s race, there is a possibility that I will get it back. My 2021 season was my best ever. It was my first in the 50+ age group and I went all in. I did 19 races culminating with the national championships in Chicago. I rode stronger than ever, including my pre-masters years. The accumulation of everything, including wisdom, helped me reach a very high level.

I was planning a down year this year, and didn’t expect the national championships to return to Hartford. For that reason, I’m testing my fitness to see if I can get fast enough to be competitive in either my age group or in the singlespeed division, or both.

Today’s race was a start. I know I can go quicker, but I’m going to need some practice, including technique and intensity. Long distance trail running isn’t the best preparation for cross. Today’s race was long at an hour plus and I really faded with three laps to go. They were long laps between eight and nine minutes. It hurt.

Last year, leading into the cross season, I did nine Winding Trails Tri Series races. Those off-road sprint triathlons are 48 to 52 minutes which is exactly what most cross races are so I had great training going into last season.

This year is quite different and I’m a year older with a bit less motivation. That being said, I had fun today and it was awesome to see all the kids from the Team HORST Junior Squad. They are crushing it! We also had a strong masters team turnout. I won’t name everyone because pretty much the entire team was there. It was also great to see so many friends, some who I haven’t seen since last December.

The course was a bit different, but still excellent. It was a lovely fall day and the foliage is at peak. Mansfield Hollow State Park is a great venue. Kudos to Ron Manizza and the volunteers who have made this race possible for nearly 40 years. Tonight I’m going to look over the calendar and see what race I pick to do next.

Race Results

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