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2018 White Mountains Family Adventure #1

This past weekend, we had another great White Mountains family adventure. Our 2018 summer trips have been low-key. We opted to not travel far after a busy 2017 summer with two trips out west. This year, we decided to just spend time in the mountains of New England, and only two to three days at a time.

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Last month, we went to NEMBAfest for a mountain bike themed trip. Two weeks ago, we were back in Vermont, but just for a couple of days when Debbie ran the Vermont 100K. In the summer of 2017, we didn’t make it to our beloved White Mountain Huts, but we did visit Baxter State Park and we climbed Mt. Katahdin.

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So, this year, we decided to return to the huts and help the kids tick more 4,000 footers off their lists. It was a last-minute trip, so Debbie was challenged when tasked to plan the logistics because many of the huts were booked. She eventually figured out an itinerary that was a close approximation to our 2012 trip when we took the kids on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway to the summit, and then hiked “down” to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, stayed the night, hiked to Mizpah Spring Hut, stayed the night; and then hiked back to Crawford Notch.

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It’s hard to believe that was six years ago. Our kids were tiny, and we carried our daughter a good chunk of the way. This year, I had a hard time keeping up with the kids. They are turning in to powerhouse hikers. I was especially impressed with Dahlia. I already knew that Shepard had developed into a tough tramper, but in the past year, she has come on strong. This time, they hiked the entire way!

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Last Friday, I worked in the morning, but was able to get home by noon. We were already packed, and we made the drive to Twin Mountain, New Hampshire in about 4.5 hours after only one brief stop. We started at the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead shortly after 4:00 P.M., not far from the Cog Railway Base Station. We hiked the 3.1 mile steep trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It was raining lightly at the start, but by the time we got to the Hut, the late day sun had broken through the clouds. We arrived after 2 hours and 45 minutes of walking. We were nearly an hour late for dinner, but the Croo had saved food for us. It was a beautiful trail with lots of fun stream crossings.

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After dinner, we experienced an amazing sunset. It was a wonderful way to end the “work week.” We awoke on Saturday to a mix of clouds and partial sunshine. After breakfast, it looked like we were going to be socked in by more clouds, but on our 1.6 mile hike to the 6,322 foot summit of Mt. Washington, the skies cleared a bit more. This was Dahlia’s first ascent of the mountain, though she stood on the summit back in 2012 when we took the train.

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Shepard and I climbed the mountain in 2015, the last time I rode the Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb. So, he already had this one checked off the list. We snapped some pictures on the summit and then headed back down to the hut. On the way down, the clouds parted some more, and the sun shone even more brightly. It was turning out to be a really nice day. We refueled at he hut where we had left Dahlia’s pack hanging on a hook to save her from carrying the load. After we “geared” up, we started the traverse to Mizpah Spring Hut.

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This included the short but steep climb to the top of Mt. Monroe at 5,372 feet. Then, we went over Mt. Franklin at 5,001 feet, which isn’t on the official 4,000 footer list (the saddles between its summit and the adjacent peaks is not below the required 200 feet required for eligibility). We continued over Mt. Eisenhower, which at 4,760 feet is an official one, and then we summited Mt. Pierce, at 4,312, our fourth official peak of the day.

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The descent from the Pierce summit to the Hut is doozie, but we still arrived shortly after 4:00 P.M., more than an hour faster than we expected. The trip from Lakes of the Clouds was about 6 miles. We made good time despite a leisurely pace that included lots of breaks for photos and snacks. Both of the kids did great, and it was awesome to have such good weather. The predicted thunderstorms never materialized.

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We spent time lounging around, going over to the spring, exploring the Nauman Tentsite, resting, and listening to the Hut Naturalist’s talk. Dinner was fantastic, and we had great conversations with many new acquaintances.

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I was whooped, so I retired early while Debbie and the kids played games in the hut library. Despite having a snorer in our bunk room for the second night in a row, I slept OK. The weather on Sunday was even better. After breakfast, we made a leisurely descent down the Crawford Path to the notch. It was a little less than 3 miles. The trail was wet from more than a week of steady rain leading up to our trip, so we took care to remain on the rocks. Near the bottom, we bumped into our trail running friend, Larisa Dannis, who was heading out on a “Double Eisenhower Traverse.” She is an amazing athlete and super-hiker.

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When we reached the notch, Debbie handed me her pack, and she ran about 4 miles via Mt. Clinton Road (which is closed because it is impassable by car) and Base Road to fetch our car at the trailhead. The kids and I spent some time at the AMC Highland Center, horseing around on the playground, and rocking in the chairs on the front porch.

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Debbie returned with the car and we packed up. We spent another 24 hours in Cohos County. We drove 30 minutes northwest to visit with friends who live there. They were gracious hosts. We explored their land and then took a leisurely 6 mile canoe/kayak trip down a section of the Connecticut River. We saw two Great Blue Herons, and many other lovely birds. Shortly after noon on Monday, we were back on the road. We reached home a little after 5:00 P.M. and we were flatlanders again.

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2018 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Race

Despite this being the 30th anniversary of the Vermont 100 Endurance Race, and the 20th year of Debbie’s ultrarunning career, this was only the second time that we have been to this event.

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That’s surprising considering that we have been to the VT100’s sister race, the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, all but one time since we met there in 1999. Both events are held annually to support Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports.

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The VT100 course doesn’t suit Debbie’s strengths. It is hilly, but the hills are rolling, rather than the steep terrain that she prefers. The footing is not challenging, which is the opposite of the rugged rocks and roots that she thrives on. Given the VT100’s heritage as  a horse race, there is a lot of horse trail, and rolling dirt roads, which are wider than the singletrack that she loves.

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It’s kind of the opposite of what she likes, but running 100 miles, or 100 kilometers, is still a great challenge regardless of the course difficulty. The 100 miler has about 17,000 feet of elevation gain, and the 100K about 9,000 feet. That’s nothing compared to the Hardrock Endurance Run’s 33,000 feet, but course variation is a welcome part of the sport.

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Hardrock conflicted in 2017 when Debbie was fortunate to gain entry via the lottery, and then finish the classic. In 2018, Hardrock again conflicted with the date of the VT100, but she wasn’t lucky like 2017, and we wanted to return to Vermont anyway, where the ultrarunning community vibe is also fantastic. Unlike last year, when she ran two 100 mile races with Hardrock, and then the Cascade Crest Endurance Run; this year, she decided to give her body a rest, and only run shorter ultras. Shorter ultras? Does that even make sense?

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Another race that has conflicted with the Vermont 100 date is the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, which she ran in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, on the same weekend as the VT100, she ran the Speedgoat 50K. I don’t know what conflicted in 2016, but we didn’t go to Vermont. So, it worked out that this was the year to make a return visit to the Green Mountain State in July.

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In 2018, she has run the MT. TAMMANY 10 (38 Mile), Traprock 50K, The North Face Endurance Challenge Massachusetts (50 Mile), and she did a solo self-supported FKT on the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop. She has at least one more ultra remaining, but could rally and register for more. She is kind of waiting to see how things go. She is running the Ragged Mountain 50K next month, and then she riding the Vermont 50 in September. So far, she has no plans crafted for 2018, and like every year, lotteries will be a factor. The biggest, best, and most popular ultras are mostly exclusive affairs.

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Following the pounding of the 2012 VT100, she swore that she wouldn’t run it again. She has remained true to her word, because yesterday, she ran the 100 Kilometer “junior” version, and even thought the dirt roads were hard on her legs, there is a big difference between 100 miles and 100 kilometers. One of those differences is that she didn’t have to run in the dark. The 100 miler started at 4:00 A.M., but the 100 kilometer started at 9:00 A.M. She finished in 11 hours and 46 minutes, so she made it to the finish just before it was too dark to see without lights.

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This part of Vermont is special to us for many reasons, but mainly because it is where we met. We love Mt. Ascutney, and we had many fine views of the monadnock. Like we normally do, we made this weekend a family adventure. We were joined by Shepard and Dahlia. They have grown up crewing for their Mom, so this weekend was no different. They are less work for me, and more helpful than ever. Shepard became a first time pacer, running from Bill’s aid station at 50.6 miles to Polly’s aid station at 57.2 miles. His mother as thrilled to have him along, and he learned a lot in the process.

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When she got to Polly’s, she was gaining strength, and he was flagging a bit, so he stopped there, and she pushed on, hammering the final 5.1 miles in 53 minutes, a very fast kick. She left Polly’s without lights. I ran after her to remind her, but she was a 100 yards down the dirt road and just said she didn’t need them and that it was extra motivation to get in before dark. I still think she should have run back to grab them, but sometimes I fail to question her on these matters. I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but she flew that final stretch anyway.

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The entire day was magical. The kids and I saw her at the start, at six aid stations, and then the finish. We were all tired when this one was over. We camped both nights at Silver Hill Meadow, which is a VT100 tradition. The Shenipsit Striders were out in force. We had many club members compete in the 100 miler. Debbie, Faith Raymond, and Kevin Hutt did the 100K, and it was fun to see them and be around their crews. Sadly, we didn’t see much of the others during the day. We got to the aid stations before all but he top few 100 milers, and then we were gone before our 100 mile friends arrived.

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We also missed the Pretty House aid station, which is manned by our club. The 100 miler has nine additional aid stations (the first nine) before meeting up with the 100K course. It’s that first section of the course that the 100K skips. From aid station 10 on, the courses are the same. Even at Camp 10 Bear, where runners come and go in both directions, and visit twice, we missed our other Shenipsit Striders friends.

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Each of the major aid stations has a theme and we went to some good ones. We visited Camp 10 Bear for the first time at 9.3 miles. Then, we went to Margaritaville at 20.8 miles. We returned to Camp 10 Bear at 31.7 miles. We continued on to Spirt of 76 at 38.5 miles (76 for the 100 milers). We visited the aforementioned Bill’s at 50.6 miles, and then we wrapped up at Polly’s at 57.2 miles. The finish was at the 62.3 mile mark back at Silver Hill Meadow.

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We were able to see only a handful of 100 milers. We frequently saw the top five or so men. Then, at our second Camp 10 Bear visit, we saw many middle and back-of-the-packers. I may have a follow-up post when the race results are published so that I can share more stories and stats. With mobile phone reception nearly non-existent, race communications and results tracking were very challenging. I only posted on social media one time, when we were at Bill’s. That high point was the only spot where I had an AT&T signal. I spent 10 minutes on my iPhone and my daughter gave me grief for it!

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We saw so many friend during the course of the day. We also met some new ones. I could go on and on about the people we spent time with. It was pure joy. There were lots of families, so our kids weren’t the only ones. Sometimes, that’s not the case. You would be surprised how many people leave their family at home and make this a solitary pursuit. We have chosen the opposite approach, and our family loves it. We packed the kids bikes and they explored some the meadows, trails, and dirt roads on their own.

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There were some strong performances in both the 100 mile race and the 100 kilometer race. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the women’s fields. They had some tight racing with a fast lineup of 100 mile runners. In the 100K, the top three women were 2nd, 3rd, and 6th overall. That third place spot went to Debbie, and she was happy with the result. She went out pretty fast, had a bad patch, but then recovered. Lori Wetzel and Jec Ballou traded places with Debbie in the first 20 miles, before the three settled in with Lori out front, Bec chasing close behind, and Debbie a little ways back.

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Every time we saw them, Lori and Jec appeared to be within two minutes of each other. It was fantastic to watch over 40+ miles as they fought it out for the win. Lori (11:11:13) prevailed by only one minute and 53 seconds over Jec (11:13:06) , which is amazing. Debbie was 33 minutes back (11:46:27), but at one time, that deficit had grown to nearly 50 minutes. It was her final charge from Polly’s that closed the gap, but by then, she had run out of “real estate.” Still, she was thrilled to be on the podium. Brian Rusiecki was the class of the men’s 100K field, posting a 9:39:12 for the win. Second and third went to Gregory Esbitt (11:33:06) and Bryan Bourque (11:35:05) who also had a tight race for their podium spots.

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I didn’t follow the 100 mile race as closely but saw the awards ceremony and there were some great performances. The men’s winner was Jason Lantz (15:36:49). He was followed by Ryan Witko, and Jinks Alexander. We saw all of them on course. The top women were Lindsay Simpson (18:02:21), Riley Brady (18:35:07), and Kathleen Cusick (18:36:42, and who won in that 2012 battle that Debbie was part of). A shout out goes to Jordan Grande, a fellow Shenipsit Striders mate who ran the race of her career, finishing 8th in 19:58:42.

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Another longtime friend and club mate is NipMuck Dave Raczkowski. Dave has been written about and photographed many times over the years. I knew he was racing, but was thrilled to spot him on course. The kids and I were driving from Camp 10 Bear to Spirt of 76, and we spotted him exiting the woods as he arrived at Lillians aid station. It was on a main road, so I pulled over, parked with the hazard lights on, and ran back to greet him. I shot some photos and video with my iPhone and wished him well. Fittingly, I got to see him finish, nearly 20 hours later.

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I shot more than 1,000 photos and put most of them in a gallery on my SmugMug site. I didn’t have much time to sort and edit, but I enjoyed skimming through them and seeing so many joyful images that captured the spirit of the weekend.

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Amy Rusiecki has been the Race Director for a few years now. It was our first time seeing her in action, and she ably led a huge cadre of dedicated volunteers. Amy even ran a leg of the 100K as a blind runner’s guide. That was cool to see. She was up all night like the runners, and was back at the finish line in the morning, greeting the runners as they arrived. She was at the line right up until the 30 hour cutoff of the 100 miler.

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On our Friday afternoon drive north, Debbie told me that a little “controversy” was brewing over the race’s “unequal” awards/recognition. These are always thorny matters to discuss, and I’ll mainly avoid the drama. Earlier this week, social media erupted with chatter about the 100 miler men awards going 10 deep and the women awards only going five deep. I don’t know all the details. Today, they honored 10 men and 10 women, but it appeared to be an awkward moment when they called up the top 10 females, and didn’t have (or give) extra awards for places six through 10. In the 100K, which drew a smaller field, the top three men and top three women were honored, and given prizes.

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This situation may have been one blight on an otherwise fantastic weekend and a fantastic effort by the organizers to put on a great event. It should be noted again that this event races a large sum for the nonprofit Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. The last time I wrote about gender issues at length, was 11 years ago after the 1st Annual Herc Open Vermont Speed Hiking Competition. It turned out to be the first and last Herc Open. My blog post drew attention at the time, but that was before social media exploded. Otherwise, it might have spurred even more discussion at the time. I’ll save further comment for another time. Maybe the issue deserves a focused blog post. Debbie is the perfect resource to consult on the subject, but for today, I’m going to focus the rest of my writing on the race itself.

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I had a blast hanging out with Shepard and Dahlia. They had their “moments” of frustration and tiredness that led to the usual bickering. However, they were really fantastic crewmates. We experienced the race in a totally different way than we did in 2012 when they were much younger. Thankfully, that weekend, I had our “go to” pacer/crewmate Danny Roy, and my mother-in-law, Barbara Schieffer, helping out. This weekend, I was able to manage the kids and play “crew chief” without the help of others.

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After we greeted Debbie at the finish line, we wandered to the food tent, helped her refuse, and change. Then, we made our way back to the tent city in the upper meadow.

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We had a restless night of sleep, listening to the roar of the crowd as each new finisher arrived. This continued until the early morning before it tapered as fewer and fewer runners remained on course. We got up, ate breakfast, and hung around, chatting with friends.

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That last 90 minutes of an ultra is always very special. You see some amazing grit. Raw emotion and physical effort are on display. The love of crew and family coupled with the desire of the runners, and the cheers of the spectators, makes for a delightful experience.  I spent the final hour and a half, standing in the rain (which started around 8:00 A.M.), and soaking in as much of the Vermont 100 spirit as I could. This race has a vibe that rivals most other races.

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It’s really something you have to experience. It is a great race to volunteer at. It’s also a great race to crew, pace, or spectate. You don’t have to run to experience the joy of this community. After 10:00 A.M., arrived, we made our way back to the big tent for more socializing and then the award ceremony.

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It appears that Debbie is the first person to finish all of the VASS races: the VT100 run, the VT50 run, the VT50K run, the VT50 bike, and now the VT100K run. These are unofficial records, but we learned of this unique feat from a good source. All that would remain for her to finish is the original race that got this all started…the Vermont 100 Endurance Ride (horse race). Today, two people joined an esteemed group (which now totals six) who have finished both the 100 mile run and the 100 mile horse ride.

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Last night, after she left Polly’s, she could literally “smell the barn.” I’ve been her crush the final miles of an ultra many times in the past. She has also suffered to the finish in misery, but more times than not, she has rallied and summoned the strength (mental and physical) to finish strong, like few other runners I know. Last night, she was feeling good, was motivated, and she “smoked” those final miles. It’s fitting that the event has a horse theme because some horse riding may be in her future.

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Live 2018 Results Tracking (100 Kilometer)

Live 2018 Results Tracking (100 Mile)

Results Archive

SmugMug Photo Gallery

2018 NEMBAfest

It’s been three weeks since Debbie, the kids, and I joined our Team Horst Sports mates at NEMBAfest in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. However, I still wanted to say a few things about the experience.

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It was our first NEMBAfest, though some of our teammates are veterans. I can’t believe it took us so long to ride the Kingdom Trails. Debbie and I passed through a few times more than 10 years ago. Horst Engineering has a customer in Lyndonville and I’ve visited a few times. We have also been to Jay Peak on a few occasions for the Jay Challenge, Ultimate XC, and a variety of other endurance events. I had ridden the roads in Burke, been up the access road at Burke Mountain, swam in the Passumpsic River, but I had never ridden the mountain bike trails until this year.

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10 years ago, I even posted a “weak” blog entry about a trip through Burke. There are some bad links in it and I’m not going back to fix it. The photos from the most recent trip are much better anyway.

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We are longtime NEMBA members and supporters. The festival attracted more than 1,700 mountain bikers and is bigger than ever. Dirt Rag had a nice story about this year’s festival and the photo at the bottom of their post is of three CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad riders (Sean, Lars, and our son Shepard). The festival combines good food, an expo (gear, clothing, bikes, etc.), music, and LOTS of riding.

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Trail conditions were spectacular. On Friday, we got there in the late morning. It was hot, dry, and dusty. We camped in the “quiet” family camping section on a hill overlooking a small pond and the Chapel of the Holy Family. It was an amazing spot and we had about as spectacular a sunset as I’ve experienced anywhere.

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Saturday and Sunday were a little damp with periods of rain, but it was welcome and hardly a nuisance. The moisture “calmed down” the dust and the trails took on a tacky texture which made them much more fun to ride.

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We did group rides with CCAP crew on Friday afternoon, and then did our own Team Horst Junior Squad rides on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Debbie and I squeezed in a couples ride and got in other individual rides too. I rode more than 75 miles that weekend. Even our son got in more than 60 miles on the trails. It was pretty awesome. Our daughter, still on 20″ wheels, got in more than 20 miles and loved hanging out at the expo.

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I’ll sum it up by saying that we hope we can make the date in 2019, because we can’t wait to go back. I’m guessing we will make it back to Kingdom Trails before June of next year, but attending NEMBAfest again is a top priority.

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2018 West Rock Superprestige MTB Finals

The West Rock Superprestige finals absolutely rocked. It was a full Team Horst Sports and family affair yesterday at West Rock Nature Center in Hamden, Connecticut.

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The event actually started with a 5K trail race, the first ever at this venue, which was great for Debbie and Dahlia. We got there in time for the 8:30 A.M. start so they could do the two lap (1.5 kilometers each) course.

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It was great to see some of our running friends at a mountain bike race. Like us, some of them are “blended” families and do both sports. Debbie was third woman finishing behind Kerry Arsenault, who was there with her partner (race timer Jerry Turk); and Grace Mattern. I shadowed Dahlia and ran with Rachel Mattern (Grace’s Mom), who were visiting with her family from Rochester, New York. We normally don’t see them until fall when the cyclocross season is in full swing, so it was fun to spend a summer day with them.

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Even Dahlia came home with swag, finishing second in her age group to Grace, who is a fine multisport athlete. There wasn’t a whole lot of under-18 females, which suited Dahlia just fine. The race organizers were very generous with their prizes. Grace’s Dad, Craig, and brother, Miles, finished on the podium in their mountain bike races too. Miles actually won the 9-12 year old boys race. Like us, they did scored some nice prizes.

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In that junior mountain bike race that Miles won, there were 32 boys and girls, which was a fantastic turnout. Shepard had his best ever race, finishing third, just behind Cade Fravel. They were several minutes behind Myles, but Cade and Shepard had a great battle. Shepard had a conservative start, but moved up from 8th to 3rd, and was challenging Cade by the end of the five lap race. Both boys wouldn’t give an inch and they hammered the final lap with Cade posting a 10 second advantage. It was fun to watch. They were toast at the finish, but it was a breakthrough race, at least for Shepard. I think he learned how to push past the pain point.

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We had several other CCAP Team Horst Junior Squad racers compete today. In the 9-12 field, Shepard was joined by Boden Chenail and Lars Roti. In the 13-14, Sean Rourke took second. He was joined in the field by Weston Winbourne, and by his sister, Molly Rourke, who was second place amongst the girls. In addition to the Team Horst Junior Squad kids, there were many other kids who are indirectly related to us including members of the Meyerle and Summers families. Their children are on different CCAP squads, but their parents are affiliated with Team Horst. They are all family to us!

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I did the Men’s A race at noon and was in the singlespeed category. We had a blistering fast start on the technical West Rock course. My first lap was kind of bumpy, but I settled in and eventually took the lead amongst the singlespeeders. The race was 10 laps, which was solid for the 1.2 mile short track loop. By the middle of the day, the temperature had risen to the high 80’s under a blazing hot sun, but fortunately, we were mostly in the shade on the heavily wooded course.

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I knew I was being tailed, and with three to go, one of my West Rock rivals, Marty Waters, made his bid, shooting past me on the most technical section of the course. There was a brutal rock garden and my Seven Sola SL is rigid, a distinct disadvantage on this section. At times, I felt like a pinball. He got a gap, but I kept him in sight. Over the next two laps, I closed in on the climbs, only to see him pull away on the rocky and rooty sections of the course. Still, I felt like I had managed my effort and had something left in the tank.

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In the second half of the second to last lap, Anthony Vecca caught us and moved to the front of our three-man group. I had a rough penultimate lap, bobbling several times and I even had to get off and push through the worst section of rocks when my wheel got jerked sideways, forcing me to lose all my momentum. Anthony took off and I wasn’t sure if we were going to stick with him, but Marty kept contact as I dangled off the back of the group. Once again, I closed down the gap on the final climb and almost made it back up to them by the start finish with one to go. We started the final lap pretty much all together.

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The first half of each lap was more technical, so I let it all hang out in an effort to keep them close, knowing that if I could, once we got to the more hilly second half of the loop, I had a shot at the win. When we got to a section where there were a series of three logs, I went left, and Marty went right. I cleared the final large log cleanly while he was slow to get over it. I heard him moan a bit as I accelerated away, and I thought I might have broken him.

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Anthony was only a handful of seconds up on me, but I thought that he also may have played his cards too soon. We crossed the small stream and then hit the long leg burning wooded climb that led to the grass climb before the big descent. I felt like this was the spot to make my move, so I came up on his left, called out the pass, and just buried myself to get by him. He yielded, which gave me confidence, but I still figured he would grab my wheel and hang on. This was the only lap I opted to not take a sip from my bottle. There were only two or three spots on the course where you could even get your bottle out of your cage, and this was one of them. I didn’t want to take the chance at a bobble and just pedaled as fast as I could on the gradual incline.

I never looked back, but pushed extremely hard all the way to the hairpin left at the top of the descent. We were hitting 30 miles per hour on this downhill. I wasn’t brave enough to stay off the brakes completely, and needed to tap them a few times towards the bottom where the trail dumped out into a field. There was one more steep descent and then a winding section through the woods with four tough wood bridges to navigate before the final climb.

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I thought I heard Anthony behind me, but still never looked. At this point, I didn’t know that we had cracked Marty, so I kept pushing. The big climb had a sharp left and then another sharp left before the final hairpin right, which was all gravel. All of the turns were loose dirt and it was hard to keep traction, especially while pushing such a big gear (singlespeeders have only one). I had to really stand and grind it out, but in each of the turns, I gave it my all, hoping to distance my rivals. I got to the crest of the hill as it turned right into the top of the grassy field by the team tents, and just hammered.

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I came through the final hairpin left hand turn, which had some sneaky gravel on it, and on to some broken pavement just before the finish line. I punched it one final time, sensing that I had to keep on the gas. That last effort was crucial because Anthony was right on my wheel, and I ended up crossing the finish line with less than a bike length lead. Our timing chips said we were separated by 1.00 seconds after 64 minutes of racing.

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We were 7th and 8th overall. Six guys with gears were in front of us. We had dropped Marty on the last climb, but he finished a valiant third. I thanked them both for the hard racing. It really was a great battle. With more than 1,200 feet of climbing in just under 11 miles of racing, this is a tough race. My heart rate averaged 174 beats per minutes, which is consistent with the hardest of my 45+ minute cyclocross races, but I had a peak heart rate of 196, which is 12 beats higher than I’ve seen in many years. 184 was the highest recorded rate in the 2017 cyclocross season. I don’t know if that is a good or bad sign, but that figure was posted right at the finish line, which highlights how hard that last lap was.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with the prestige of the top step of the podium, a six-pack of Yard Party Pale Ale, $25 (to reimburse a portion of my entry fee), and a Hammer products shaker bottle. That is more than enough swag to make a Masters racer very happy. I would have sprinted for the glory alone!

There were several other Team Horst Sports mate in the A race, including John Meyerle, Brett Chenail, Art Roti, and Joseph Dickerson. Tim Rourke (Sean and Molly’s Dad) won the Masters B Race.

There were many cheering throngs of spectators. The course is laid out perfectly for those who want to watch. You can get to four or five spots every lap. The yelps from Team Horst families was motivating.

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I only made two of the five series races this year, but Shepard made three of them. A big thanks goes to Kurt D’Aniello, Annalisa Paltauf, and the rest of the crew/volunteers from D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles and the Laurel Bicycle Club. They were fantastic hosts and promoters. Their swag was generous, and the post race food/beverage was really appreciated. They did a fine job with the entire series.

Sadly, we couldn’t hang around long. We packed up and took Dahlia to summer camp. After Shepard, Debbie, and I unpacked and cleaned the gear, we headed to Flora Food + Drink for a celebratory meal. Debbie and I were there a week ago, and we were thrilled to return. We ended a Team Horst themed day by seeing our friends, Keith, Paula, and Erin Enderle at the restaurant. They were having a celebration of their own. Keith is a teammate and he is getting pumped for cyclocross season. So am I!

Race Results

2018 Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop Adventure

On a scorching hot and humid day, Debbie returned to the Mohawk Trail/Appalachian Trail Loop to finish the job we couldn’t get done in 2017. The difference this time was that she didn’t have me along to hold her back. She did say that it would have been nice for me to have come to clear the trail of spider webs like I normally do. This time, she was on her own!

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She completed the 36 miles in 9 hours and 38 minutes. The loop has about 8,100 feet of ascent and 8,050 feet of descent depending on which GPS you are wearing. The point is that it is a lot…for Connecticut. The Mohawk Trail is as rugged as it gets. Last year, we saw no one on the trail. She reported that this year was no different. She never saw a person until she reached the Appalachian Trail, which is heavily traveled and in much better shape.

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We did read that our friends at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association sent the summer trail crew to Cornwall Bridge last week. They completed a bridge extension across Furnace Brook on the Mohawk Trail in Cornwall. I’m going to arrange for them to go back and do some “brushing” on the trail.

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The Mohawk Trail is overgrown with lots of blowdowns. The blue blazes can be hard to follow in some spots. It is full of rocks and roots (which won’t change). She had lots of scratches on her legs from the overgrowth.

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I guess you could say this was a successful FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempt, but there was no female entry on the discussion board, so it was a simple attempt to just finish it and get in training miles for the upcoming Vermont 100K.

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I’m sure this loop has been done many times over the years and some folks may not know or care about FKT’s, but it looks like the male entry on the discussion board by Scott Gregor, appeared a month after our failed attempt in 2017. This is his Strava file for the run. We completed a “loop,” but we bailed on the last section of trail  and ran up the road to where our car was parked at Mohawk State Forest. We were running out of time and had to pick up our kids at my in-laws, but chances are I would still be lost in the dark if we continued on.

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Debbie chose to do this primarily to prepare for the upcoming 100K in three weeks, so she didn’t destroy herself. If it was cooler and the trail was less overgrown (maybe she will try again in the fall, or next spring before everything sprouts), then I’m sure she could go quicker. When I fully heal, I would love to go with her again. Of course, then her effort wouldn’t be solo, and not a “true” FKT.

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This time, she parked at Cornwall Bridge, where we originally planned to park in 2017, and it turned out to be a better spot. She started there and did the section we missed first, going in a counter-clockwise loop. She got that rugged section done right away. Just like 2017, yesterday was the warmest day of the year. Once again, she stopped at Mountainside Cafe, which is conveniently located off the trail. It’s nearly at the northern intersection with the AT. Last year, despite the cafe stop, we were short on water at several points during the run. This year, she dropped water at Mohawk State Forest, which was a good decision. She refilled there and then again at the cafe, and had enough to get to the finish. Last year, a water drop or two would have made a big difference for us.

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I worked in the morning at Horst Engineering‘s Burnham Street plant, but when the shift ended at noon, I changed up into my cycling kit. Then I rode my bike from East Hartford to Cornwall Bridge with the idea of meeting her at the trailhead and seeing her finish. She was hoping to do it in nine hours or less, but it turned out to be a bit longer. She messaged me a few times, so I knew of her progress. I took a winding route on some of the most beautiful roads in Connecticut.

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I crossed the Connecticut River in South Windsor. I rode past Penwood State Park, through Simsbury and into New Hartford. I rode around the bottom of Barkhamsted Reservoir and then rode between People’s State Forest and American Legion State Forest on the Farmington River. I cut through Riverton and then rode northwest to Norfolk. From there I cut south and skirted past Dennis Hill State Park and John A. Minetto State Park. I took a beautiful diversion on Hodges Hill Road, University Drive, John Brown Road, and Pothier Road. John Brown was an abolitionist and there is a cool historic marker at the site of his former home. I stopped for a photo. I only snapped a few photos during the ride, but this felt like a good spot for one.

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I hit Route 4, but then took another diversion on Route 63 and then back to Route 4 via West Side Road and Bartholomew Hill. That was a hard finish. From there, it was back to Route 4 for the final (mostly downhill) five miles. That last descent was the last ascent in 2017 when we bailed on the last part of the Mohawk and took the road instead. I traversed it much faster on my bike!

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Debbie slowed a bit at the end of her run, and I made it to the trailhead about 25 minutes before she did. I spent the time sweating and swatting flies. My ride was just shy of 75 miles and I felt pretty good despite the heat. I had stopped once to refill all my water bottles at a convenience store, but otherwise kept moving and covered the distance in 4 hours and 55 minutes. I used my Seven Axiom SL super-commuter and had my Dill Pickle handlebar bag jammed with a shirt and shorts to change into. I strapped my Crocs to the rear rack.

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She arrived and I shot a short video and snapped a few photos. She was beat, but happy. She didn’t go too deep into he pain cave since she has to recover for Vermont, which will be a different kind of race, with a lot more dirt road running. She ran the full 100 miler in 2012, but opted to do the 100K this year as a change of pace. Also, we think she has the opportunity to be the first person to finish the Vermont 100 Mile, Vermont 50 Mile, Vermont 50K, Vermont 50 Mile (on a mountain bike), and the Vermont 100K. All that would remain is the horse race version of the Vermont 100, and I wouldn’t doubt her if she decides to learn how to ride so that she can do this too.

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After her finish, we refueled and then drove down into the village along the Housatonic River so that we could go for a dip and watch off the grime. After our quick change, we drove back up the hill to Mohawk State Forest to retrieve the empty bottles that she left behind. From there, we drove to Flora Plant Food + Drink in West Hartford Center for a vegan date night meal. I celebrated with a beer and the food was great. Afterwards, we crossed the street to pick up some groceries at Whole Foods and test out our new expanded Amazon Prime discount app bar code. I botched it, but customer service reimbursed us.

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She remarked that it’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly when you fill it with all of this activity. I agreed.

The Perils of Bicycle Commuting

Last night, on my bicycle commute from work I had a run-in with a motorist. Technically the confrontation was with a backseat passenger. No one was hurt. It was just a verbal spat that result in an arrest for the (drunken) harassing behavior and drug possession.

Commuting is a great way to combine exercise and low impact transportation while getting outside. This year, I’m traveling less, spending more time at our plant sites, and commuting more than ever. The rationale is simple. The distance from home is about 11 miles, I have to go to work anyway, and I love to ride. I have several routes and variations of those routes that keep it interesting and allow a manageable commute of 11 to 17 miles, that can usually be done in an hour or less each way. My ride home typically takes five to 15 minutes longer because it is uphill.

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If there is a single drawback to bicycle commuting, it can be described in one word: motorists. If there were no cars or trucks on the roads, I would love to ride even more. I see a lot of crazy conduct on the roads of Connecticut (and Massachusetts) where I do most of my riding. Cycling offers a unique vantage point and with nothing blocking or filtering your view, you take it all in. That includes seeing a lot of ignorant drivers. I see it all of the time, but rarely write about it. I’m sort of numb to it. However, if you were a new cyclist or if you were less tolerant of the risks, you would likely stop riding on roads altogether. In recent years, many people have told me how they no longer ride on the roads.

I certainly don’t recommend riding on the roads that I use for commuting. I’m a huge advocate for safe riding and especially bicycle commuting, but for the average rider, the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. I’m on Burnside Avenue all of the time and that road has seen three cyclist related deaths in recent years. They have done work to make the road safer by limiting it to one vehicle lane, and by adding a bicycle lane, but that was only in response to the accidents.

Around here, the roads are terrible and getting worse. Despite being fenced off from traffic, even sections of the local paved bike paths have hazards that include cracks, potholes, glass, and weeds. The city streets have even bigger potholes. They are narrow and lack shoulders. They have faded paint/markings. There is even more glass. They have cracks and frost heaves. It’s nasty, but in a weird way, I know every flaw and still enjoy riding these roads. It’s the act of commuting, and not the environment, that keeps me doing it. My routes aren’t entirely devoid of beauty. Sections of the East Coast Greenway are lovely. Riding through Wickham Park is beautiful.

I left Horst Engineering’s Burnham Street plant at 5:53 P.M. I rode up Burnham Street, cut through the industrial park, and accessed the bike path from Tolland Turnpike. This is a typical route for me. I ride this section of path several days a week. It has huge cracks, and at this time of year, long weeds spout from them. It’s unfortunate that this section isn’t maintained. When they extended the East Coast Greenway from Manchester to Bolton, I was against asphalt. I didn’t want them to pave it. I preferred cinder or dirt like the Hop River State Park Linear Trail. The photos show what happens when you fence off a bike path and then neglect it.

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It was a hot evening with the temperature in the low-90’s Fahrenheit. It was the kind of summer night where if you didn’t have your air conditioning blasting, then all your windows were rolled down. On a bike, there are no windows and there is no air conditioning.

I got off the path near Wickham Park and then took Burnside Avenue (Rt. 44) to Middle Turnpike and then to Center Street. I was in a rush to make a “belt test” for the kids at Park’s Taekwondo, so I just went straight up 44. It’s not a pretty road, but not every bicycle commute is pretty. Sometimes, you just have to get from point A to point B. On this road, I saw a usual number of distracted drivers, and at a stoplight, reminded one to put away her phone.

I made my way up Center Street towards downtown Manchester. When you ride your bike straight up 44 like this, you are prepared for something to happen. At this point, I was listening to some music, and minding my own business. A car came rolling by me and a person in the back seat on the passenger side hung out the window screamed, “Get out of the road.”

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I tapped my EarPods twice to stop the music and waved at the guy in a dismissive manner. He proceeded to flip me off and shout some obscenities. I was riding nearly as fast as the car, so I accelerated a bit. I was in that kind of mood. Most of the time, I just ignore people, but like I said, it was Monday night, the end of a long work day, and it was hot. I was a little frustrated too. In situations like this, I usually weigh my options before responding, but sometimes your reaction is spontaneous. There were a lot of other cars around, so I “let him have it,” shouting back and telling him where he could go.

They had to stop at a red light, and I planned to just ride past them, but as I cautiously approached, he swung open the car door as if he was going to “door” me, all the while yelling at me. I easily swerved out of the way. He was one of four people in the car. Two men were in the back, and two women were in the front. I rode up on to the sidewalk to give myself a little space. You never know what a lunatic like this will do, so I figured that rather than get run over, or worse, get shot, I should be careful.

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As I was riding on the sidewalk, they pulled past me once again and this guy was again hanging out the window and shouting obscenities. This time, I decided to “blow kisses” in his direction. I realize, that wasn’t very mature. We discussed my approach at the dinner table later in the evening, and my kids found it amusing, but Debbie wasn’t impressed. My daughter thought that I was using some figure of speech, but no, I told her that I was literally blowing kisses in his direction. I hopped back on the road and kept riding. It wasn’t long before I caught them again. This time, they were sitting at the light at the Center Street/Main Street intersection. I slowly pulled up behind them, pulled out my iPhone, and snapped a photo of the car’s license plate. The driver saw me in the rearview mirror and I knew she wasn’t happy with me, or the guy in her backseat.

I pulled alongside them and pointed at her and said, “He isn’t the only one that’s going to get in trouble. You are.” Just then, the light turned green. They turned left on Main Street and I rolled through the intersection continuing on Center Street. I spotted a Manchester policeman in his SUV on the opposite side of the intersection. I pulled over. He apparently saw part of my interaction with the car, was trying to figure out what happened, leaned out of his truck, and yelled from across the street, “Do you want me to go after that car.” I replied, “They were harassing me.” That was enough for him. He took off. I figured I would keep riding. I knew I could always call the police later and send them the photo.

I got about a half mile up the road and the policeman was parked on my side of the street facing my direction. I came to a stop, he got out of his truck and approached me. The last time a policeman stopped me on a bike, I was the one who got a written warning. That was for running a red light in Truckee, California. That was a memorable ride, with the ticket writing moment captured by my iPhone camera. Now, this ride was becoming memorable too.

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Officer Johnson was very kind. He asked me if I had a photo of the car and its license plate. I confirmed that I did. He proceeded to tell me that he was a cyclist, loved to ride, and confided that it was “nuts on the roads.” Like me, unless commuting, he heads for more rural roads. I explained how I commute to East Hartford nearly every day and have done so for a very long time. He was sympathetic after I described the incident and would have talked all evening, but I told him I was in a rush. He thanked me, gave me his phone number, asked me to text him the photo, and then to follow-up with my contact information.

I sent the photo immediately, and then rode off. I got to the belt test in time and both kids passed. Afterwards, I sent the rest of the information and thanked him. Then, I rode the rest of the way home. When I got there, I had another message from him. He indicated that he caught them, and arrested the kid in the backseat. I thanked him again. His final reply: “You’re welcome and you did your part also, made it easy for me.”

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So, I guess you could say it was a happy ending. It’s natural for me to feel odd when someone gets in trouble, but if I recall my own anger and frustration when the car first passed me, but I figure that this guy got what he deserved. It’s important to report incidents like this and advocate for cyclists. If you choose to ride, do it as safely as possible and don’t ignore the risks.

2018 Mt. Greylock Trail Races

We made it to the Berkshires for the Mt. Greylock Trail Races. This was Debbie’s 20th consecutive year. I’ve joined her for 17 or so editions during this streak. The kids have been doing them since they were in-utero. I don’t know what 2019 or the future will bring, but for now, it’s a nice accomplishment.

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Todd Brown did his 21st consecutive Greylock/Mt. Washington Road Race double. We only did the double twice. Curt Pandiscio did his 24th Greylock. He mentioned that there is at least one other person with more than 24. Debbie is up there on the list considering she did her first one when she was 24 years old in 1999, the same year I met her. We didn’t connect until October. That meant she had a summer full of racing on the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series circuit before doing her first ultra at the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run.

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Last year, she did the short course 5K because Greylock was the day after Manitou’s Revenge Ultra. The schedule worked out differently for 2018. Manitou’s is next weekend, and sadly, she will miss it for another commitment. That meant that today she could go long (13.5 miles). I did the 5K with Shepard and Dahlia.

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Shepard gave it a go, and nearly got his first Greylock win. He has improved his time every year and came home with a second place trophy for his efforts. If he keeps at it, he will get a win. That’s unless he moves up to run the long course.

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Debbie also earned a trophy for her efforts, though we studied the past results, and the competition isn’t as fierce as the old days. That’s pretty much true for all Grand Tree races. The fast guys and girls have moved on to ultras, other events, or retirement.

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That’s what makes Debbie’s streak so remarkable. She has been very durable. Last weekend, she did the 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge at Mt. Wachusett. She takes care of her body and it shows.

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Last weekend, I got to ride up Mt. Wachusett. This weekend, I rode up Mt. Greylock. After she finished, I changed and rode up Rt. 8 to North Adams. From there, I took the toll road to the summit. The views were spectacular. It was a hot day, but there were still a lot of tourists and hikers.

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I met them back in Adams, and after a quick parking lot change, we headed for Northampton. After a brief stop at the Hungry Ghost Bread, we went to an early dinner at Paul & Elizabeth’s. It was a good Father’s Day.

Race Results


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Newtown #Cyclocross was a blast. @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports #crossspikes
The @lego 5K Family Road Race is always so much fun. #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports #lego #running 🏃🏽‍♂️🏃‍♀️
I made a quick afternoon trip to #centralpark for the @appalachianmountainclub YOP 50th anniversary celebration. We heard several exceptional speakers highlight the importance of getting kids outdoors. AMC will help get 9,000 kids outside in 2018. Despite my car and train adventure, I saw a lot of trees on a lovely day. I wish I could have taken a park lap or two on bike or foot. Sadly, I came straight from work and had no time. 🚙 🚊 🌲 #appalachianmountainclub
Lovely day for the first XC meet of the season. 🏃🏾‍♀️🏃🏽‍♂️
Dodge Pond at Camp Kirkham #newhampshire
Welcome to #vermont
Is it too much to ask for ALL air travel to be like this? An early A.M. smooth flight with only 29 of 250 seats filled on a new @southwestair @geaviation powered @boeing #737 no delays and a great #chicago sunrise. I had five rows to myself. 😀 Also nice to know that @horsteng has many parts on this plane. Back from @imts Back to #hartford and back to reality. ✈️ #southwestairlines #boeing #geaviation #horstengineering
It was an intense two days @imtschicago I gathered enough ideas 💡 to launch projects @horsteng that would take another 72 years to finish! I think we will meet with the folks on #teamhorst and pick a handful to accomplish. I’m always inspired by #manufacturing technology. #imts2018 #chicago #yoda ### #precisionmachining #machining #instamachinist #cncmachining #cnc #aerospace #crossspikes #familybusiness #sterlingmachine #horstengineering #madeinconnecticut #madeinnewengland #madeinusa 🇺🇸
@trailrunningmom is approaching the 100 kilometer mark of @uthc while I’ve been enduring my own struggle. Our kids are opposites (no surprise there) and one of them requires constant nagging if we expect to get anywhere on time, and with the right gear. Guess who? It results in nasty conflict with Dad. I had an idea. What about a checklist and some empowerment? This approach works @horsteng Well, it works at home too! #cyclocross #ultrarunning #trailrunning #uthc #utwt #teamhorstjuniorsquad #teamhorstsports

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