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2021 The Night Weasels Cometh

The Night Weasels Cometh was last night in Lancaster, Massachusetts. A late change was made earlier this week. The venue was changed from Ski Ward in Shrewsbury to the Lancaster Fairgrounds. This was my sixth Night Weasels in the last nine years.

Last night I did two races. This is the first time I doubled up at a Weasels and it was my first double of the year. I won’t be making this a habit. The second race is always rough. Yesterday’s main event was the singlespeed race at 4:45 P.M. The second race was the Elite Men/Elite Masters 40+ at 8:30 P.M. I was good in the SSCX race and managed to keep my heart rate high, but in the second race, I was well off the back.

This was my first singlespeed race of the year. The New England singlespeed series was a priority for me in 2019 when we last had a full season, but this year, I’m picking and choosing which events I’ll ride with one gear. I’m more focused on the Masters 50+ races. Yesterday’s 50+ race was around 2:30 P.M. and I couldn’t get there in time, so I made singlespeed the focus.

I went to work in the morning before returning home to pack the van and pick up Shepard who joined me for the ride up. Debbie and Dahlia went to an alumni event at Springfield College, her alma mater. They came to watch the singlespeed race and brought me some veggie snacks from a local farm stand.

Late day races are tough; night time races are tougher. The Night Weasels Cometh used to be on the Wednesday night of Holy Week, but since both the Providence and Gloucester cyclocross races were ended, Weasels moved to a Saturday. It’s been several years like this. The venue change from Ski Ward to the fairgrounds is because of extreme mud at the ski resort. Ski Ward is hardly a resort, but it was a fun spot. Even still, I prefer the fairgrounds. I’ve raced there many times at the Minuteman Cyclocross and the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross. Both of those events are at that venue, so when the Weasels crew needed a quick change, they were able to secure the Lancaster course as a last minute alternative.

The course was fast and technical. I love it. It was easier in the daylight. The night race was very hard with a lot of dark spots. They used a bit of artificial light and I had a small handlebar light, but it was still sketchy. I had a bad start position (they didn’t use Cross Results points but rather used series points) for the singlespeed race, but I moved my way up. I ended up finishing 6th and had a shot at sprinting for 5th, but couldn’t catch the rider in front of me. It felt god to use my singlespeed Seven Mudhoney SL.

In between races, I stayed warm, sold some Cross Spikes, and snacked. Debbie and the kids left after my first race, so I was on my own. Earlier in the day, Brett and Boden Chenail did the Men’s 4/5 race. It was their first Weasels. I look forward to hearing what they thought of the course. Wade Summers did the 50+ race that I missed. We had other teammates in Baltimore for Charm City. At the start of the Elite Men’s race, there was a massive crash on the long gravel straightaway. I had a decent second row start, but the crash happened right in front of me and I got spooked. Thankfully I avoided the carnage as I swerved to the left. A bunch of folks past me and I couldn’t make up the ground.

I averaged nine beats per minute less and mostly took it easy on the last few laps as it was very dark and I wanted to avoid any trouble. I didn’t get home until 11:20 P.M. but I was satisfied with a hard Saturday afternoon/evening of racing. Next up: the classic Mansfield Hollow CX.

Race Results

2021 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

After the cancellation of the 2020 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was great to return to Ascutney for the 21st time. In the last 23 years, we have only missed the race twice. Once when everyone missed it (last year) and once when Debbie had a race in Japan.

Most people who know us are aware that Debbie and I met at the 1999 race, but “most is not all” and we continue to come across people who are not aware of that story and our connection with the event. It’s a cool story so we keep sharing it. Yesterday was the 19th time I’ve done the race in those 21 years. It was Debbie’s 16th finish and it was Shepard’s second. Dahlia was our chief spectator and fan.

We drove up on Saturday afternoon and spent the night with friends at a rented house near the start/finish. This is a tradition that has continued for many years. This past weekend’s weather was spectacular. Saturday evening was beautiful and mild. Sunday morning was slightly overcast and foggy, but warm. By the time I finished, the sky was clear and we had brilliant sunshine and a clear blue sky. There was a slight breeze but it was great riding/running conditions. Consistent rain during August and September including a few days before the race, made the trails soft and fun to ride. There were only a few muddy spots. The overall conditions were glorious and some of the best ever.

My main focus this fall is cyclocross, so I didn’t want to jeopardize my season with an ill-timed crash or by “blowing my legs” with an effort that took too much out of me. I went into the race knowing I was going to hold back. I even thought I might ride with Shepard, like I did in 2019, but we started in separate waves (I was 10 minutes ahead) and I never eased up. He ended up riding his mother’s pace because he had a cross country meet scheduled for Monday (tonight) and also couldn’t afford to overtax himself.

Debbie is on the race committee, and normally oversees the kids events (held on Saturday), but due to the scaled back nature of this year’s event, they weren’t held. She is excited to bring back the kids run and ride in 2022.

I rode singlespeed and ended up 7th in that small group. I was happy with my time of 5h19m19s. This year’s course was a true 50 miles, if not a bit longer, and had even more gnarly singletrack. In my opinion, it rode slower than in recent years. That didn’t stop twins Carson and Austin Beard from tearing it up. They finished in just over four hours. First female was pro mountain biker (and former Olympian) Lea Davidson in a stellar 4h35m14s. She was 20th overall out of 476 finishers.

We also had a lot of runner friends at the event. Between the 50 mile and the 50K, there were 266 finishers. So, the overall numbers were down a bit in 2021, but the race was still an important fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport. I avoided crashing (as planned), Shepard and Debbie had a good time together, and we spent quality time in the Vermont woods.

It was awesome to reconnect with friends we hadn’t seen since 2019. Everyone I spoke with was grateful to be there and thankful that the race happened as planned. Team HORST Sports members competing in addition to Debbie, Shepard, and me were Arlen Zane Wenzel and Anthony Eisley. We were already going to have a small squad, but it was made smaller by the abrupt absence of Arthur Roti and his usual tandem partner, Mark Hixson. Mark couldn’t make it but Art had a sub. Unfortunately, he too was a late scratch after facing some of his own challenges. We wish them both well and hope to see them again in 2022. That meant it was the first year in a long time that the race had no tandems. As usual, the volunteers were phenomenal. The aid stations were stocked with awesome food and beverages. I only stopped a few times. I went the distance on three bottles of UnTapped Mapleaid, one maple syrup packet, one Clif Z Bar, two Fig Newtons, a banana, and two cups of Coke.

I rode many miles with fellow singlespeeder David Skrocki. At 56 years old, he rode like a stud. I distanced him around mile 30 before fading myself around mile 40. The bulk of the singletrack is in the last half of the race. The entire second half is vicious. That last section of hard stuff around mile 45 couldn’t end quick enough. It was beating me up badly, but I hung on. Without any suspension, my body was taking the blows. I’ve had great fitness throughout the month of September. I’m planning some “rest” so that I gain regain that speed that I need for cyclocross. The 2022 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run is on September 25th. Registration will open on May 25th. I’ve got those dates in my calendar.

Race Results

2021 CCAP Newtown CX

I’ve been on some great form, but knew that my preparation for today’s CCAP Newtown CX was lacking. It’s not that I haven’t trained enough. It’s the opposite. I wasn’t able to rest at all coming in to today’s race. Yesterday, I ended up driving to Windsor, Vermont to join a Boy Scouts Troop 25 hike up and (and down) Mt. Ascutney. This weekend, we had some complex family logistical maneuvers. I took Shepard and his friend (and fellow Scout) Mateo on their trip while Debbie did a separate Scout trip with Dahlia’s troop. Their adventure was via bicycle on the Hop River State Park Trail followed by an overnight campout at Gay City State Park.

Unfortunately for Shepard, Mateo, and me, the six mile trek took longer than expected. We were part of a large group and the decision had been made to stick together. This meant that the stronger hikers did a lot of waiting. Instead of our legs being sore, it was our butts that were sore from sitting on logs and rocks. It took us eight hours to cover the distance that we should have been able to do in three hours. That was a bit frustrating, but it was a lesson in patience and camaraderie for all of us. It was great to be on a beautiful mountain in Vermont, but we were out there longer than planned. I packed enough food and water for six miles, not eight hours, and there is a difference.

We made the best of it. Shepard and I showed Mateo around Brownsville, we stopped at the deli for drinks and snacks, and then headed south. We need more sustenance, so we headed to Northampton and had a late dinner at La Veracruzana. Shepard and I left our house at 7:15 A.M, and we didn’t get home until 10:00 P.M. After five hours of driving and eight hours of walking in the woods, I wasn’t “feeling it” when I got up this morning.

I still wanted to race. Every event can’t be an A event. I figured that even without the best lead in to the race, I could manage a decent result and have some fun while building towards future races. I had a front row start position for the Men’s 50+ race, and made the best of it, leading for part of the first lap before ceding my position to Roger Aspholm. He went on to ride straight through the Men’s 40+ field. They started a minute in front of us, and he was the fastest Masters rider of all.

I was also passed by Ciaran Mangan and Robert Campos. I ended up in 4th and that’s where I finished after riding the rest of the race without much pressure. I didn’t have the same oomph that I had at GP of Beverly or at this week’s CCAP Rocky Hill CX Training Series.

I made one mistake, but it wasn’t too costly.”Riding the edge,” I took one corner way to fast and slid out. I was inspired to test the edge after listening to the Fast Talk Labs podcast with guest Stephen Hyde. This episode is highly recommended. I got a nice raspberry on my right forearm. If this was rec league softball and I was stealing second base, I would have definitely avoided the tag. Unfortunately, this is cyclocross and there is nothing to gain by going head first into the ground. The 40+ rider who was right behind me did a masterful job at not running me over. I got up rather quickly, remounted and took off again.

Falling is part of this game, but it is never fun. Thankfully this wasn’t a bad one. The Newtown course is known for its climbing. It is quite hilly. Today, the grass was longer than usual, so the field sections were lumpy and slow. The weather was fantastic. We had awesome sunshine which boosted spirits. Team HORST Sports and the Team HORST Junior Squad were out in force.

Our Juniors included Boden, Owen W., Lars, Tanner, Owen L., Luke, Luca, and Alexandra. Our Masters/adult included Brett, Andris, Art, John, Wade, Keith, Paul, and Justin. We even had an entrant in the kids race. His name was Eli and he earned himself a contract extension with a dominating performance. Coach Laura was there too, and this was after running 50 miles yesterday!

I made the trip solo. Debbie and Dahlia were still camping when I left. They returned home to get Shepard and then picked up one of Dahlia’s friends so that they could spend part of the day a the Adventure Park in Storrs. That’s what she wanted for her 12th birthday. After that we had a family party. I expect that they will join me at some cross races later in the season. They missed a good one today. The CCAP volunteers were fantastic. Newtown CX has become a staple on my race calendar.

Race Results

2021 Gran Prix of Beverly Cyclocross

Yesterday was the inaugural Goldberg Properties GP Beverly Cyclocross p/b Old Planters Brewing Co. That’s a mouthful, and you can refer to it as the Gran Prix of Beverly, the GP of Beverly or simply, Beverly. This race may be new, but racing on the North Shore of Massachusetts is not. There is a long history of marquis events in the communities Beverly, Salem, and Gloucester.

This race rose from the ashes of the Gran Prix of Gloucester, which has a storied past and was last held in 2018. For 20 years, it was one of New England’s premier cyclocross races and one of the best in the country. Sadly, for a variety of a reasons, including a lack of community support, the race was canceled. The iconic seaside course set Gloucester apart from other races, so it’s amazing that Race Director Paul Boudreau, the Essex County Velo Club (ECV), key sponsors, and a cadre of volunteers created this new and even better version of the event.

Beverly also has a sister race, a criterium, also called the Gran Prix of Beverly, that I’ve never done. It’s also been a few years since the criterium has been hosted on the streets of this city north of Boston. I know Beverly quite well. It’s only 20 minutes north of Lynn, where HORST Engineering’s Sterling Machine operation has been located since 1966. We recently closed that factory, but that’s another story for another time. In an attempt to keep our operation on the North Shore, over a five year period, I looked at a lot of buildings in Beverly and even drove past a few on my way to/from yesterday’s venue. Alas, it was not to be, so I’ll only be visiting Beverly for bike races.

This new course made use of Dane Street Beach, Lyons Park, and Lothrop Street. It was a fantastic layout. The course was technical with lots of twists and turns packed into a small area. It made ample use of the beach and there were multiple sand sections. Some were rideable (for me) and some I had to run. I was dismounting about five times a lap, which really jacks your heart rate. My heart rate averaged 181 and maxed out at 191 which is a very positive sign for my fitness and proves that I really pushed. My right shoulder and right arm are sore, so I know that it was a hard course with extra bike carrying sections. I read that the course was a Tom Stevens design, which gives the race even more credibility because Tom has created some of the best cross courses ever.

The race was built around the late-summer vibe of the beach and Lothrop Street. There was a large beer tent and there were more spectators at this race than I’ve seen at a cross race since the last time I was at the national championships (in Reno). The party was hopping! The race schedule was compact with events at 2:00 P.M. 3:00 P.M, 4:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M. The Masters races (50+, 60+) were in the three o’clock time slot.

This format was fun and interesting as it allowed for the excitement to build through the afternoon and the day culminated with the Elite Women and Elite Men as “happy hour” was kicking off. It helped that we had incredible weather with the temperature in the high 70’s, brilliant sunshine, and a deep blue sky. Between the beach, the beer tent, the ocean, the spectators, and the athletes, this made for an awesome atmosphere.

I traveled to the race solo, but several other Team HORST Sports mates also competed. Keith Enderle and Wade Summers joined me in the Masters race and Justin Scott did the Elite Men’s race. A fair number of other friends from Connecticut also made the 2+ hour drive. I went to work for a few hours in the morning and then headed north around 11:00 A.M. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t join me. Debbie and Dahlia went to Simsbury to watch Shepard and the rest of the Bolton High School Cross Country Team compete at the Stratton Brook Invitational. Shepard’s race started at 11:20 A.M., so there was no way to make both events. He will join me a the cyclocross races in November and December, but for now his focus is on running. I was sad to miss him at yesterday’s, which was his first high school competition. The good news is that it was a good start for him.

This weekend, there are races galore. I have friends doing 100 milers (Virgil Crest), running half marathons (Surftown), racing XC, riding MTB’s, running even longer (Tour des Geants), and doing a host of other events. Many of them got to compete on a solemn day (9/11) with awesome weather.

As for my race, it was stellar. I had fun, felt good, and had a high placing (5th) in a strong field of veteran riders. It met my expectations which are always very (too) high, and came close to beating my expectations. I definitely didn’t execute as well as I could have, but strong legs helped me overcome some mistakes. Those mistakes included a poor start when I missed my pedal. I had a second row call up, but just botched the start and had to make up about 15 spots that I lost the first quarter lap as the race strung out.

I chose to ride without a bottle, but could have used a sip of water half way through the event. Without hydration, I had to suck it up and get through. The middle of September is early for a race of this caliber and high 70’s is definitely up there for cyclocross temperatures. We are more used to racing in harsh, cool, and wet fall conditions.

A summer full of off-road triathlon helped prepare me for yesterday and I was able to manage the heat fairly well. The race ended up being six laps. With three to go, I had moved up nicely, erasing my first lap deficit, but realized that if I kept pushing to make up ground, that I could blow up. Some of the guys I caught had clearly gone out too hard and were fading in the heat. So, I eased off the gas slightly, and managed that fourth lap, saving a little for laps five and six.

I was a little surprised when I was able to keep making up ground. By the last half of the last lap, I had worked my way all the way up to 4th place. I didn’t know this at the time. I knew I was moving up, but with some lapped riders from the 60+ race on a tight course, I couldn’t determine my exact position, but I knew it was good. My second major mistake came on one of the beach sections on the last lap. I rode three quarters of the way through that sand stretch, but had to dismount for a final push (of the bike) for the last 30 feet like in prior laps. However, this time, my bike got tangled up on a course stake, which forced an abrupt halt. It took a few seconds to get going again and that was costly.

I pushed hard to keep the gap that I had to the rider behind and my legs were really burning as we approached the final few turns, I could sense pressure from behind. I figured that the “sprint before the sprint” was important, so I buried myself on the final few straightaways after a series of tight turns. As it turned out, Bart Lipinski, who had traded spots with me a few times earlier in the race, made his own surge and was closing the gap to me.

Coming into the last sharp right hand corner off of a five inch curb, I opted to cut it sharp on the inside and that was a big mistake. I lost some momentum, he swung wide, carried his speed, and launched a strong sprint on my left. I rallied and pulled even, but he had more speed, pipping me on the line for 4th. I didn’t know it was 4th, but I was still disappointed at losing a spot at the end like that.

Bart and I had closed down our own gap to David Hildebrand, who finished third. Dave was having some tire issues and new we were coming, but was in no real danger of getting caught. It’s frustrating that I made a bad call on that final corner/curb. The rider in the front always has the advantage and shouldn’t have left the outside open for Bart to pass. Kudos to him for staying close enough to strike at the end. We had a good battle. Ahead of the three of us, but not within striking distance were Sam Morse and winner Paul Richard who rounded out the podium with David.

Regardless of the results, it was a lot of fun and the race was a good test. I’m pumped to be the “young guy” in my new age group as it has refreshed my motivation for the sport. It’s going to be a good season. I hope that Beverly returns in 2022 because I loved everything about this race. I cooled down and then watched the Elite Women and Men. A big shout out to three junior riders who lined up with the top men. Miles Mattern, Ben Stokes, and Nathaniel Gervez were all flying out there. Expect big things from these “kids.”

I stopped at the new Whole Foods on Brimbal Ave. and then drove home. I called Debbie to get the Stratton Brook race results and hear about the day. It was a picture perfect end-of-summer evening. I cranked the tunes and drove towards the sunset.

Race Results

2021 CompEdge Cross @ Blunt Park

Cyclocross is back! I did do seven races in 2020, but they were small events or training races. The vibe was good, but nothing like previous years. So, now that the 2021 season is underway, we are stoked. It’s going to be so much better than last year.

We have a lot to look forward to after all of last year’s cancellations. My current expectation is that Team HORST Sports and the Team HORST Junior Squad will be represented all over the northeast and especially in New England, between now and mid-December. We have the CT Series of Cross to look forward to as well as some larger races. I know that some of our riders are going to fly the team colors at national events.

If all goes well, we will have a strong contingent travel to compete at the USA National Cyclocross Championships in Chicago in December. Additonally, Arkansas is hosting the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships in January 2022, so we look forward to that race (spectating) as well.

Things kicked off yesterday in Springfield at the traditional opener, the CompEdge Cross @ Blunt Park. In past years, this race was fast, dry, hot, and dusty. This time, its was unseasonably cool and damp. It didn’t rain, but humidity was high, and we have had so much rain that it made the trails and grass moist and slick.

It was a weird kind of slippery. It wasn’t muddy, but it was greasy. This course is flat, but very technical with lots of roots and some rocks. It’s the roots that are challenging and this would be considered a gnarly track by any standard.

The Cyclonauts did a good job promoting this event. It will take me a few more races to get my “cross legs” which includes my bike handling skills. The latter was atrocious. I didn’t warm up well enough and I didn’t figure out the good lines until the last lap of the five lap Masters 50+ race, and by then, it was too late.

I was happy to do my first 50+ race and that has me very motivated to do a full season of events (15-18 races). I may mix in some singlespeed category racing, but that will only be for fun. Shepard will be focusing on cross country running for the next few months as he joined the Bolton High School team. He will skip most of the the CX races until November. Today was an exception, as he rode, but without expectations, and he had fun.

The Team HORST Junior Squad was well represented. One really nice thing the Cyclonauts did is their policy that all junior riders race free. You have to support a club that helps get kids on bikes and removes a small barrier (because there are many) like the event registration fee.

Joining Shepard were Sean, Boden, Alexandra, Lars, Owen, and Ethan. The kids were happy to be racing again too. We have a total of 12 children (ages 9 to 16) on the team and that is stellar. As for the “old dude” masters, I was joined by Brett, Matt, Wade, and Art.

I was “all over my bike” for the first four laps, but finally settled down and was able to pick up a few spots. I had a few minor falls and one weird incident. I slid off the trail and snagged a sharp branch with my brand-new skinsuit. The stick ripped a gaping hole on my left leg. It didn’t cut me, which was good, but it tore away a huge hole (my entire thigh) in the left leg of my suit. That was an expensive mistake.

I felt bad passing Art with 1/4 lap to go, but that’s racing. I nearly caught Matt, who had an excellent ride. I needed another 50 feet of tarmac to have a chance at passing him before the finish line. My last lap was my fastest, which is good in a way. Like I said, I’m looking forward to the races ahead. This was just the beginning, and if I can stay healthy in my 26th year of racing cyclocross, then it will be an excellent season.

Race Results

Pequot Trail

Yesterday, Debbie and I ran the Pequot Trail out and back (16 miles). We went north to south and back in about 2 hours and 49 minutes. It was a good effort on a rough day. I don’t think I could have picked a worse time for a hard run. We started at 2:30 P.M. when it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 90% humidity. I worked until noon, before making the hour drive from our home in Bolton, so getting going was very hard.

It took me about four miles to even feel like running, but by the point, I was committed. Debbie sort of dragged me along on this one. We had to pick up Dahlia at Camp Yawgoog in Rhode Island after her dinner. After being empty nesters for the past week, the run was one last opportunity to do something together. My original plan was to take Friday off and do the run in the morning, but storm planning and other work priorities got in the way. I was fortunate to leave at noon and credit Team HORST for covering me.

This was a new trail for both of us, though I spent a lot of time in this area during my youth. Lake of Isles Scout Reservation is where I spent many of my summers. The camp is now defunct as it was acquired by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation as part of their Foxwoods holdings. Lake of Isles is now the name of one of their golf courses. I have many great memories from my years at Scout camp.

The Pequot Trails goes right through that area.

The Connecticut Walk Book description of the Pequot Trail:

Length: 8 miles

Towns: Preston, Ledyard

Trail Overview: The Pequot Trail connects Ledyard with Preston and offers occasional views of the Thames River valley as well as a few gradual climbs, old pastures, and overgrown woods roads. At an elevation of 330 ft., Rose Hill is the highest point on the trail. The trail passes through Preston’s Lincoln Park, a recreation area with a jogging track, facilities and multiple ball fields. The trail even follows part of Lincoln Park’s dog walking trail to Rose Hill Rd. Between Rose Hill Rd and the trail’s southern terminus keep your eyes peeled for at least four geocaches and one letterbox. Near the southern trailhead is the Mashantucket Pequot Burial Ground, which is not open to the public and should not be entered.  The southern trailhead is within walking distance (by road at this time) of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Museum and Research Center, the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation and the blue-blazed Narragansett Trail.

Near the northern terminus, the trail follows and crisscrosses power lines in a few places. Soaring hawks are often seen above a pair of beaver-inhabited wetland ponds that surround a small rock ridge. Just south of this ridge is a mysterious historical area called Hellgate. Nearby land deeds can be traced back to ownership by the Mohegan Sachem Uncas. Hikers of the Pequot Trail will be surrounded with local history.

The trail was a mix of horribly overgrown singletrack, badly overgrown old farm roads, and a few sections of asphalt road. Even the tarmac sections were moderately overgrown! The them was overgrown with lots of prickers. There was no way around them and we both got torn up pretty bad.

With the humidity, we were soaked to the bone and I had some rough chafe in various spots which didn’t hurt during the run, but it is impairing my typing at this moment! There was about 1,900 feet of elevation gain and the terrain was rugged with lots of rocks, roots, blowdown, and other debris on the trail.

Even the powerline section was overgrown. We have had one of the wettest summers on record and that has contributed to the extra vegetation growth. We had a massive storm on Thursday which dumped up to five inches of rain on parts of Connecticut, so the trail was quite muddy in spots.

So, both that trail conditions and my personal condition weren’t conducive for a hard effort, but Debbie pulled me along. We ended up trading time on the front, alternating the lead based on whether it was climbing (me) or descending (her).

The last four miles were pretty ugly as we started to run low on water and the late afternoon sun penetrated the haze. That warmed things up even more. When we finished, we were both spent. We had parked on Wilderness Acres Dr., a dead end road that was 1/4 mile from the trailhead. After the run, we sat on our bike rack as I poured gallons of water on my head in an attempt to cool off.

After toweling off, we drove to Hopeville Pond State Park and took a dip in the murky water. It wasn’t very satisfying. After that, we stopped for a quick meal at Chinese restaurant in Griswold, and then continued to Yawgoog where we reunited with Dahlia. We enjoyed the end of camp show at the amphitheater. We were thrilled to see her but its was also work. After hauling her foot locker back to the car, going through all the checkout procedures, and driving home, it was 11:30 P.M. when we crawled into bed.

2021 Winding Trails Triathlon Series

The 2021 Winding Trails Summer Triathlon Series wrapped up on Tuesday night. I know this race and venue quite well. I’ve now done the triathlon 57 times since 2009, however prior to the 2021 seriesI had only done one night of racing there since 2017. 2020 was a lost year as non-members weren’t permitted to race due to the pandemic.

My Winding Trails (WT) races tend to come in waves. When I’ve been committed to the full series, I’ve been “all in.” This year was one of those years as I completed nine of the 10 races, only missing once, the week we were on vacation in Montana. In addition to the triathlons, I’ve done many other races at the venue including cyclocross races, adventure races, and mountain biking races. Debbie and I even hosted our Jack & Jill there 20 years ago this summer, so the place holds a special place in my heart.

The race is now a family affair. Debbie repeated her series win from 2019 by completing eight of the 10 races. She missed the week we were in Montana and one other. Shepard did six races squeezed in around camp and our family travel. He is getting stronger and stronger and I would imagine that in the next few years, he will be beating me without too much effort. Dahlia has been a loyal cheerleader, coming along to enjoy the wonderful facility that Winding Trails is.

The racing is fun, but the community is the real reason why we love WT so much. The Schulz Family (Ken, Aubrey, Kai, and Rayna) are dear friends we met years ago through WT. We were racing with Ken and Aubrey before they had kids and now when the eight of us are together, we enjoy WT even more. Most weeks, after the race, we tailgate in the parking lot or under the pavilion. I can’t recall which kid coined the term “Grand Feast” but that is how we refer to our post-race meal. It’s become a tradition and we missed it in 2020. By the end of 10 weeks, I’m usually tired of the racing, but I’ll never tire of the Grand Feast.

I had a strong series, finishing 2nd overall to Mick Hains. He is also a defending champ, and at 23 years-old, could be my kid. However, he isn’t my kid, but rather my “rival.” I was only “close” one week and that was because he was playing with me. When he decided to pull away on the run, he did it on command. He and I have a fun connection as we both attended Boston College. He ran track and cross-country at BC. He graduated in May 2021…and I graduated in May 1995. That tells the story.

I’ve got stats on most of my 1,200+ career races and the Winding Trails info makes up a rich dataset. I’ve been able to see over a 13 year period how my performance has evolved related to my age, training, stress level, and other factors. The course has changed several times, but I’ve been able to extrapolate and adjust for those changes.

The current course is about .9 shorter than the course was in past years and my times are consistent, which means I have gotten a bit slower, but that is to be expected as I approach my 49th birthday this fall. This year, when you eliminate week five when the race was run as a duathlon due to a thunderstorm, my range of finishes was within 2 minutes and 05 seconds. However, when you eliminate this week’s race (race 10), my worst one due to fatigue following last weekend’s REV 3 New England “half iron-distance triathlon” then that range from fastest to slowest was only 1 minute and 17 seconds.

That’s pretty good considering that these are training races and I don’t do any special preparation or resting in advance of them. Some Tuesday’s at work were long and hard. Some Tuesday commutes to WT had horrible traffic on I-84 and Route 4. The conditions for a great race aren’t optimal when you are rushing to get there for a 6:15 P.M. start. This year we had a lot of bad weather. There were multiple nights with oppressive heat and humidity and we competed in the rain at least five times. Typically, my only warmup is riding my bike the 1/4 mile to the transition area and then jogging the 1/4 mile to the waterfront. None of that is optimal, but I’m used to the rhythm.

Getting whooped by Mick was assumed and the two weeks that he was on vacation visiting his girlfriend in Colorado were a gift as I won both races, harkening back to the years when I was legitimately battling for the top spot at this race. My other main rival was fellow master athlete John Hirsch. John and I are evenly matched when it comes to overall time, but we rarely see each other during the race. We sort of do our own race and occasionally one of us will pass the other. He had a bad mechanical one week, and missed a turn another week. Without those mishaps, our points would have been even tighter. Given our differing strengths, we weren’t really going head to head.

He is routinely the fastest swimmer and I’m terribly slow in the water, so, I am always at a deficit heading into T1. Most weeks, I had the fastest bike leg, so I would claw back time on him and Mick. Normally I would pass everyone but Mick. A few weeks John was able to stay in front. Then, I would just try to hang on for the run. My run times are trending slower by about a minute, which is disheartening and I haven’t put my finger on the problem, other than age and fatigue.

If I’m in front of John, I can usually outrun him, but there are some other young guns who smoked the run on various nights. This week’s race was an anomaly for me with a finish outside of the top three, but I had already solidified my 2nd place overall, so when I started to get passed after the bike, I had to check my ego and just get to the finish. After the trip to Montana, some extra intensity at work, and REV 3, I was toast headed into week 10. My fitness had waned considerably.

I’m taking a forced “break” over the next few weeks as I use some active rest to transition to cyclocross season which is a primary objective for 2021 as my racing age will be 50+ for the first time. That’s a big deal as I’ll be the youngest in my age group. It has given me renewed motivation to compete hard for some results. The good thing about WT is that the 49 to 51 minute race is nearly identical to a masters cyclocross race and the intensity (measured by average heart rate) is comparable. WT is great training for cyclocross season.

So, the final overall podium was Mick followed by me and then John. On the women’s side, Debbie was first, followed by Darcy Foley in second and Laura Stanley in third. There were some strong age group finishes as well, but you will have to consult the results to see who took honors.

The Winding Trails staff and volunteers do a fantastic job. This year, they were challenged with the Covid-19 related stuff and the wild weather. Our family appreciates the work they do to put this on. I think this was the 17th year for the series. They have some nice sponsors and I came to appreciate the bucket of ice-cold beer (including my preferred non-alcoholic brand) that Trek Newington brought each week. The timing guys do a great job and the results are always prompt. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the event.

Following the storms, we had some great sunsets and that is the memory I’ll hold on to as I contemplate 2022. There is no rush to decide if we compete again, but odds are we will be there for at least part of the series. After all, the Grand Feast tradition must continue.

Race Results (Full Season Search)

Race Results (Series Standings)

Past Year’s Winding Trails Posts

Coda: I’ve got one revision to the original post. I recalled that I do have one “criticism” of the race series. The bike leg is too short! Yep, I nearly forgot to mention it, but it is advertised as “5 miles” but it is barely 4.2. In past years, it was longer. I know that I’m a bad swimmer and that a longer bike and run (especially bike) would help me, but that isn’t the reason for requesting a course change. A “proper” triathlon should NOT have a bike leg that is shorter (in time) than the run. I’m curious what others think. I’m not advocating for a 10 mile loop, but I would settle for 5.5. It should be longer. It should push my average overall time to 55 minutes. That would be fair. Plus I might have a better shot of winning!

REV 3 New England

Yesterday’s REV 3 New England was my first “half iron-distance” triathlon since REV 3 Quassy in 2013. I did a fair number of “half’s” in the 2009-2013 timeframe, which was also the era when I did four full IRONMAN races. I’ve done other ultra-distance endurance events since 2013, including multisport races, but this was my first “true” 70.3 distance event (1.2 miles swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run) in a while.

What’s even more remarkable than my comeback is that this was Debbie’s first long distance triathlon ever. Her triathlon history consists of sprint events only, and most of those off-road. The XTERRA French River event in 2006 may have been her longest prior triathlon. Her only road triathlon in the past 22 years was the Lake Terramuggus Sprint (training race),and that was only two weeks ago.

Of course, going long isn’t a problem for her considering her adventure racing and trail running exploits. However, I think the uniqueness of a pure triathlon, the intensity, and this distance is what made her finish noteworthy. She and I are very proud of her accomplishment, and that was the highlight of the day for me.

The main reason for doing this race was to establish a qualifier for the SOS Triathlon (New Paltz edition) which I am planning to return to after finishing in 2012 and 2013, and which she wants to do for the first time. SOS is a story unto itself and I’ll save it, but I linked to my prior posts. On top of that, this was the 2020 REV 3 New England…but in 2021…sort of like the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo last week. We planned to do SOS last year, but with the Covid-19 pandemic, the race was cancelled. Then we planned to do the race this year (next month), but again have postponed entry, this time to 2022. REV 3 remained on the schedule and since Memorial Beach (start/finish) in Webster, Massachusetts is only an hour away, we stuck with it.

Our training and preparation was not optimal. We sort of “got it done.” The day after the race, I’m admitting that approach wasn’t ideal and is more suited to a 29 year-old than a 49 year-old. I paid the price for my lackadaisical planning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fit, and I put in a 100% effort, but there was no specific preparation leading up to this race. I still had fun.

Both of us have gotten fit over the course of the summer by commuting to work, racing the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series (seven Tuesday night’s since early June for Debbie, and eight for me), and mixing in a few other events including the aforementioned Lake T. Last week we had a family trip to Montana and squeezed in a failed FKT attempt (trail running) up and down Saddleback Mountain, but that did more damage to my legs than good. She wasn’t impacted by the attempt but the five mile descent of that 9,000+ foot mountain trashed my quadriceps.

We both battled colds before and during the trip as illness made its way through our family. Again, if I was 29, I would have bounced back from a little adversity, but lately I’ve been feeling my “age” as it relates to sports. I draw inspiration from friends like Janit Romayko, who are racing triathlons in their late-70’s which is very much a goal of mine, and they would be the first to admit that you have to adjust your expectations. Even still, I want to push hard and can’t help comparing my times with the the 2010 era when I could laid down a 4:37 at Timberman 70.3.

Now, I wasn’t expecting to break 4:40, but I would have loved to break 4:50 and would have settled for breaking 5:00 hours, which I’ve done nearly every time regardless of the course and conditions. As for yesterday’s conditions, it was mild and muggy early in the morning and then warm and muggy by mid-day. I finished in 5:10:19 and know exactly where 15 minutes were lost. Alas, there is no getting that time back now.

Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg was calm and fun to swim in. You read that Native American name correctly. Some folks call it Lake Webster or use the shorter name Lake Chaubunagungamaug, but either way, it’s iconic and lovely. The lake is just north of the Connecticut border. That part of our state is called the “Quiet Corner” and it is fantastic, especially for cycling.

The bike course was a tri-state loop (done twice) that went clockwise through Douglas State Forest in Massachusetts, across the Rhode Island border, up the flank of Badger Mountain and near the top of Buck Hill. These are Rhode Island mountains…not Montana mountains. From there, the course headed west into Connecticut, then north into Thompson, where it veered onto the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The first big loop of the course included two laps of the speedway track, which was fun and unique. I’m familiar with the track (and turns) from racing KMC CrossFest on a few occasions. From Thompson, the course headed north back across the Massachusetts border into Webster.

Without the speedway laps, the loop was about 26 miles. Last month, on a Sunday afternoon, Debbie and I were joined by our son Shepard for a preview ride, so we were familiar with the roads. The asphalt surface was in decent shape. There were a lot of cracks and small holes, but nothing too treacherous. Since we did the practice lap, the roads were swept, which was nice to see. There were a handful of tight turns, which made for some fun riding. The course was moderately hilly, which means there were challenging uphills and fast downhills. I was able to stay in my aero tuck for most of the descents, but I opted to go into my cowhorn bars and feather my brakes for the steepest downhills and tightest turns. I liked the route and I didn’t mind the double lap because it gave me a chance to improve my lines and pacing on the second time around.

The run course was interesting. In the pre-race (virtual) meeting, we were warned that it would be different. It stayed close to the lake and had multiple out-and-back sections in the neighborhoods bordering the lake. Like the bike loop, it included a few sections of busy Route 16 which parallels the even busier Interstate 395. There was good police and volunteer coverage on the main road, but you had to be cautiously aware of the traffic on both the ride and the run.

The out-and-backs were tolerable, but by the last half of the second “loop,” I had enough of the run course and wanted to finish ASAP. Thankfully, there was only one set of cones to run around. The other out-and-backs, which we did five times in total, had lollipops which didn’t kill your momentum as much as that cone section did. As I said, it was tolerable. One highlight was seeing the other 138 or so “half” finishers, the 112 or so “Olympic” finishers, and a dozen or so relay finishers. I even think a dozen folks did the Aquabike. It’s worth noting that on Saturday, another 110+ folks did the Sprint version of this race. All in all, more than 350 people competed at REV 3 New England, which is probably less than hoped for, but being a first time race that was postponed a year due to a pandemic, it’s better than nothing.

I’ll give credit to the organizers and volunteers for being cheerful, inventive, and supportive. Events like this are complicated whenever you promote them. Open road bike courses of any distance are harder and harder to come by. A 26 mile loop with a diversion onto a race track for extra mileage is a treat, especially when it is in the middle of a race. Aside from a few sketchy moments on Rt. 16, the course was safe (in my opinion). My only complaint is that with the two bike loops on the speedway and the multiple out and backs on the run, it would have been easy to cheat or “inadvertently” miss a section of the course. Now, I never expect this of a competitor, but race organizers and officials (I didn’t see anyone from USAT) have the responsibility with fair sport to ensure that everyone completes the course. I know that there were people that missed or skipped sections of the course. I just hope they weren’t in front of me. Additional timing mats would help, but then someone has to review the results and scour it for discrepancies. Luckily, this was not a huge race (participant wise) as it could have been chaos out there. It was already confusing. I made one short wrong turn on the bike when a volunteer was waving a flag but I couldn’t tell which direction she was pointing. There was a pink arrow on the ground pointing right, but I didn’t notice it was for the run. I studied the course closely and visualized it in my mind repeatedly and that was my one small error. I hope others put as much effort into completing the course.

Part of Debbie and my sub-optimal preparation was getting up at 4:10 A.M. to drive out to the course so we could get our race packets, bib numbers, body marking, and transition logistics sorted out by the 7:00 A.M. wave start. Seeding was a self-selection and the race timing relied on our ankle chips. I worked every day since returning from Montana, including Saturday, the day before the race. We got help with childcare as Shepard had to catch a bus to camp around the time we were finishing loop one of the bike ride. Dahlia participated in the Coventry Farmer’s Market “Kids’ Market” so Mrs. Schieffer pitched in to supervise that activity. All of this was complicated by the postponement from 2020, but even if we had the race a year ago, we would have had family logistics to deal with. That’s life.

The swim was straightforward aside from a nasty left calf cramp with about 200 yards to go (out of 2,000). That sucked and I still have a golf ball sized knot to work out. That dogged me for the subsequent ride and run. As for “training,” last week, in Glacier National Park, I swam across Lake McDonald and back. That was about 4,000 yards and was my longest swim in years. I guess you can call that preparation. The weekly swim at Winding Trails is about 300 yards, so if you do it seven times, it will add up to a half IRONMAN type swim. Anyway, we haven’t been swimming much and it showed. We were both slow. It was my slowest ever swim of this distance and truthfully, it wasn’t all that bad…aside from that painful cramp.

The bike is usually my strength, and given the hilly nature of this course, I was satisfied with the result. I’m sure the left leg pain limited my potential but this wasn’t my slowest ride of this distance. I lost the one gel I was carrying and the only other calories I had were in a 24 ounce water bottle of Skratch electrolyte drink. That proved to be a bad mistake as I was under-nourished and ended up bonking with about 10 miles to go. I hung on gamely, but it hurt and I was depleted going into the run.

For most of the ride, I was on my own. Once I passed a bunch of folks in the first half of the first lap, there were huge gaps until I started catching riders from the Olympic distance race that started an hour later. Thankfully, I had one contestant to battle with for a good chunk of the race. The eventual female winner was Allison Gadaleta from Brooklyn, New York. On the bike we were evenly matched. She caught up to me on the Buck Hill climb the second time around and we kept each other in sight, while swapping positions a few times. After the series of climbs before and after Buck Hill, I was able to blast the descents, but she clawed her way back up to me as we approached the speedway for the second time. Then it was her turn to put the pressure on me, which was also around the time that I was fading. I should have stopped at an aid station for some energy food, but I wanted to keep her in view, so I pressed on.

She dropped me hard on the climb past the speedway and then put further distance into me on Rt. 16 so by the time we got back to T2 (transition to run), she had a good gap and I couldn’t see her any more. I had to dig deep on the long stretch of road that led back to Webster and I was hurting.

I’ve never been more happy to eat gel, which is actually a rare thing for me. I avoid them, but thankfully, I left a few in transition “just in case.” As I started the run, I stuffed a flask of UnTapped Mapleaid in my pocket. Considering that I was low on fuel throughout the bike, this wasn’t enough for the run either, but it’s what I had. I described the run course with the exception of the first mile, which was mostly on trail with some undulating sections. This was not part of the plan and wasn’t on the race map or .gpx file. I had the courses loaded on my Garmin Fenix, but using them for navigation would have been a waste of time. We learned after that for “safety reasons” the section of course going in and out of Memorial Beach was changed to include the woods and fields along the lake. It was my favorite section and I would have gladly done another 12 miles on trail, but it would have made for an even slower half marathon.

Somewhere around the three mile mark, I spotted Allison, and reeled her in. She kept pace, which was motivational, and then I put some distance into her. With all of the out and backs, I saw her several more times, which was fun. I cheered for her knowing it would bring good vibes to me. I had five pretty good miles and then I slowed dramatically. After that, I basically fell apart, aside from a small rally in the last two miles when I could “smell the barn.”

I went out at an enthusiast pace in the mid-7 minute mile range, but stunk it up after that as my legs refused to move any quicker. I could also chalk up the issues to my poor nutrition plan as my energy flagged. With about four miles to go, I slowed but didn’t walk, and decided to totally stop at an aid station. Looking back, mile 9 was terrible. Strava says it was 9:24, a full 50 seconds slower than mile 8. I cracked. I needed more fluids than I was getting by running through the stations. So, I stopped and drank five cups of water. I poured three more over my head, and then chased it all with two cups of Coke. I never drink soda, so if it comes down to that tactic, I’m toast. I was overheating as the day warmed, I was low on energy, and I needed a sugar/caffeine boost to get my to the finish. This is not my preferred approach, but it was better than being forced to walk. It worked. I banged out a few more miles below the 9 minute barrier, which is nothing special, but I reversed my slowing trend. At mile 11, I repeated the entire sequence, pausing for a minute to take in copious amounts of water and Coke with the goal of kickstarting my push to the line. That also worked as I was able to speed up marginally. Only a few people passed me in that bit, so in the end, I held it together, but not without a lot of suffering.

Stopping to regroup on both occasions turned out to be a good approach. It was a coincidence, but my race number was 49, which is also my racing age. I’m the “old guy” in my age group now and look forward to joining 50+ for the first time in 2022. I have no desire to do another “half” and certainly not a “full.” My last IRONMAN was also back in 2013 and I’m pretty much done with that. Back in 2010, I told my son that we would do one together when he was 20, which you can translate as “some day.” The good news (for me) is that is at least five years away.

SOS will be an adventure, assuming we do it in 2022. Debbie now has her qualifier. She had no real expectations and came close to breaking six hours. That’s awesome, especially because she was riding a gravel bike with traditional drop bars. She has almost zero long distance swimming experience and has done almost no training in the water other than the weekly Winding Trails Series. She rides a little, but not nearly as much as me. Of course, her strength is running, and it showed, as she was just getting warmed up around the five hour mark. She finished strongly.

With this crazy run course, I was able to see her twice. She was on her first loop when I was finishing up. I was excited to intercept her and we cheered for each other. When I finished, I was knackered. I sat in a folding chair, for what seemed like an eternity. Allison finished a few minutes after me. I got to watch her “break the tape” and I congratulated her. A volunteer gave me a couple of bottles of ice-cold water. I drank half and poured the other half on my head. Eventually, I made my way back to the lake, took a dip, washed off, and changed into some drier clothes. I rode my bike back onto the course hoping to see Debbie, but I mis-timed it and we didn’t connect. She ended up behind me and finished before I spotted her. I made my way back to the line and she was already done. I was a bit dazed.

After the race, there was no awards ceremony and the expo area was small. There were some post-race snacks, an awards table, and some people hanging out. I did score third in my age group (and 10th overall), which landed me a commemorative towel. I would have preferred $10,000 but thankfully I don’t do this for a living and the towel is nice. I mostly compete against myself, hence the reference to 70.3 race times from 13 years ago. I’m intent on defying the aging athlete process, but realize that the fact that I can do what I do is an achievement worth honoring.

Debbie and I chatted with some friends before packing up and heading home. So, REV 3 New England wasn’t an “A race” for us, but it was definitely a “B” or “B+.” We are both glad we competed and it got Debbie the qualifier she needed while giving her experience with a longer open water swim with race conditions.

My cramped left leg is still stiff as a board. My back, neck, and shoulders are also tight from riding in an aero tuck for 56 miles. I guess it could be worse. I have to pull it together because the finale of the Winding Trails Series is tomorrow night and I have to hold on to my position in the rankings. You can call this REV 3 race a success, but with an asterix, or two.

Race Results

Chester 4 on the 5th Road Race

Today we returned to the Chester 4 on the 4th Road Race for the first time since 2012. I didn’t run it in 2012, but Debbie did. My last time running was actually in 2010. That’s a long time ago.

This year was my 9th time running since since 2001 but most of those runs were in the 2000’s. This was the first time the kids got to run which was pretty cool.

Every six years, the race is on the 5th instead of the 4th. That happens when the 4th falls on a Sunday. After five straight days of rain, we finally had a dry day. It was foggy and overcast, but the temperature was mild.

Debbie and Shepard both had strong runs. I had no shot at keeping up with Shepard. Dahlia also ran well. My father and nephew came out to watch us, which was cool. Chester is a picturesque village.

We hadn’t run a road race in a while, so it was fun to do another. In a normal year, there would have been more than 500 runners in the field. The numbers were down a bit, but folks were having fun.

Race Results

2021 Bighorn Trail Run

I officially declare that big time trail running events are back. It was the big time last weekend at the Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run in Dayton, Wyoming. By my count, more than 1,100 runners started one of the four events, which makes this a large race. It looks like there were 174 finishers in the marquis 100 mile distance, out of about 274 starters. There were 101 finishers in the 52 miler, 231 finishers in the 32 miler, and 357 finishers in the 18 milers.

This was Debbie’s first 100 since the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run in August 2017. That was the same year that she ran the Hardrock Endurance Run. 2017 was a big year for her running exploits. Those two races were the toppers, but she also ran Traprock 50K, Manitou’s Revenge Ultra, several shorter races, and some non-race mountain adventures. In 2018, she ran six ultras including Vermont 100K and Ultra-Trail Hurricana (125K) but no hundreds. In 2019, she repeated Traprock 50K and Manitou’s Revenge, and then ran Never Summer 100K for the first time.

She was supposed to run Bighorn in 2020, but everyone reading this should know that the race was cancelled. Some ultras were held last year, but she only did one. That was the Blue2Blue Ultra, a rugged 50K. In addition to that race, she put all of her endurance sports energy into FKT’s, which was a welcome diversion. I joined her on many of these adventures. There were several notable ones, but our New England Trail Adventure was the toughest and best. So, she has certainly been active, but she hadn’t attempted a 100. In the end, Bighorn became her 11th one attempted and 9th one finished.

In her build up to this big 2021 event, once again, she ran Traprock 50K. She followed that with 71 miles at Run Ragged three weeks prior to Bighorn. In addition to these races, her preparation included some solid training in the first half of 2021 including several more FKT’s. There were even some shorter events as things started to open up.

Speaking of “opening up,” prior to our Wyoming trip, our last flight was in February 2020 when we took a trip to Utah with the kids. From the time that we returned from that trip, it’s been a wild ride for us and most everyone in the world. So, as we approached June of this year, we were excited to do something both difficult and fun with a group of people.

The Bighorn website is a great resource. Check it out for the race’s mission, the history, the sponsors, and specific details about the course. However, this summary is worth sharing as an introduction to this year’s race: 

The Bighorn Mountain Trail 100 is an epic mountain endurance adventure crossing through Little Bighorn and Tongue River areas of the Bighorn National Forest. Participants have 34 hours to navigate this remote, technical out-and-back course (average 2.94 mph). Mother Nature provides over 20,500 feet of ascent and 20,750 feet of descent testing the most seasoned ultra-runners with 76 miles of technical single-track trail, 16 miles of rugged 2-track jeep trail road, and 8 miles of gravel road. The Bighorn 100 is one of the classics, demanding you to reach deep down to your core of mental and physical fortitude.

 
Our event is truly remote. Stretches of 18-mile technical trail will serve as your only way in and out of the backcountry. Have no fear; we have a family of trail crew volunteers that are crazier than you. They’ve been on the trail for weeks leading up to this event preparing the trails for the adversity you are about to experience. 

On Thursday we did a short run on the outskirts of town and got a look at the bigger mountains where we were headed for the race. Thursday also included a welcome reception at a local coffee shop, race registration, and a pre-race meeting. Sheridan also hosted its first Thursday night street festival and farmers’ market. 

On Friday morning we drove to Dayton for the start of the race. Runners and spectators took school buses from the finish line at Scott Bicentennial Park to the start four miles away. The course is an out (48 miles) and back (52 miles). 

Bighorn is a very difficult race to crew. We were warned about the challenges. I ended up driving about 450 miles while Debbie ran 100 miles. With the mountainous terrain and road layout, you had to drive back to Dayton when going from aid station to aid station. This is an odd quirk of the race, but that’s how it goes.

In addition to the start and finish, you can only get to three aid stations and see your runner up to five times. For the average runner, this means there are large gaps between seeing their crews. Debbie didn’t use any drop bags as she counted on me making it to the aid stations and opted to be self-sufficient in between. 

I made it to these aid stations:

Mile 13.5, Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station: early in the race, I saw Debbie at this lovely spot around noon. It was a lively gathering and I got to see a lot of runners come in.

Mile 30, Sally’s Footbridge Aid Station: I actually didn’t see her. I missed her at this one because I got there 10 minutes after she departed a little after 3:00 P.M. I was too slow to leave Dry Fork, I stopped to take pictures of a moose, I stopped to post on social media (where I had a good signal), and I made a wrong turn. Those factors cause me to blow it and miss her. That was a bad mistake that should never have happened. I was warned making it there was hard, but I made it even harder with my errors. It had taken me nearly three hours to drive there. This aid station had the worst roads with the last 2.5 miles extremely rough. That section included three shallow creek crossings (no bridges).

Mile 48, Jaws Trailhead Aid Station: this was the high point on the course (8,800 feet) and the turn around. It was also the start of the 52 miler on Saturday. I saw saw more moose on the drive. I waited quite a while for her to arrive a little before 9:00 P.M. I enjoyed the photography here and had great light in the golden hour. When Debbie arrived, she was hurting. She took about 20 minutes to recover in the aid tent. I helped her by refilling her pack, rubbing her legs, and getting her food. She tried to take an amino acid capsule, but it caused her to vomit all of her food. That kind of sucked and she was at a low point. She rallied, got moving, and I ran with her for 1/2 mile or so until the trail went back into the woods.

Mile 66, Sally’s Footbridge Aid Station: she didn’t want me to return to Footbridge, but I wanted to go. Since darkness had fallen, it took her a while to cover the 18 miles even though it was all downhill. I decided to park the car a few miles from the aid station and run the last bit to avoid any risk with the rough roads. I couldn’t afford to get stuck or get a flat. I ran it almost as fast as I could drive it. I didn’t carry any of her gear, but I packed some energy food in case she wanted any.

She planned to rely on the aid station and wasn’t expecting me anyway. Thankfully, I packed gloves, a hat, and a warm jacket. It was freezing as I was there for several hours between midnight and 3:15 A.M. when she arrived, she was in decent spirits and was happy to see me. I had spent several hours trying to stay warm by a fire. The temperature had dipped to the low 40’s Fahrenheit. That made a 35+ degree swing from the afternoon highs. That can make for challenging running conditions. I saw a skunk on the drive.

Mile 82, Dry Fork Ridge Aid Station: I returned to Dry Fork and also waited for several hours for her to arrive around 9:15 A.M. I saw a spectacular sunrise on the drive back up the mountain and then another moose on the way back down. Her quadriceps were sore after a wicked climb that lasted a long time, but she was lively, and motivated to finish. I helped her freshen up, change her socks, and change up her pack.

Throughout the race, she used her UltrAspire Zygos and her UltraSpire Spry. She used her UltrAspire lights on her waist and head. She used Altra Olympus shoes with both Injinji and Darn Tough socks. She wore a Patagonia Capilene shirt and running shorts. For part of the race she used XO Skin calf sleeves. She alternated between her Patagonia hat and a Buff. Her jacket was a Patagonia Houdini, her sunglasses from Julbo, and her poles from Black Diamond. She tracked the race with her Garmin Fenix 6s. Her only “sponsor” is UltrAspire (we have a fondness for the company and more importantly the people behind it/associated with it), but its always worth mentioning the other gear when it works well.

All of the dirt roads were rough and very dusty. They were so rough that my rearview mirror kept falling off of the windshield. I had to stop several times to reattach it. It would hold for a while and then fall off again. I’m glad I was driving a rental (Nissan Rogue). Dust was a challenge for the runners too as it made for poor air quality. They were covered head to toe in dust and were forced to breathe it in.

We didn’t know too many people at the race, but met some new friends. One old friend who was there was Bogie Dumitrescu. Debbie and Bogie got to run many miles together and he had a strong run in preparation for Hardrock next month. Bogie is an accomplished ultra runner. He has one Hardrock finish from 2015 and it was epic.  Several years ago, Bogie was in Connecticut, so he came to visit us.

I can’t recall if he came for a race, but he took the bus to Hartford. He felt bad about calling for a ride from the station (we didn’t know this), so he walked the 14 miles to Bolton. I was running an errand while we were waiting for him to arrive and drove by him a few miles from my house. He had a backpack and was walking on the side of the road. I took a double take as I went past and then told my son who was in the back seat that we had just gone by Bogie. We turned back and sure enough, it was him. We loaded him in the car and took him the rest of the way home.

So, it was great to see Bogie at Bighorn. We last crossed paths at Never Summer in 2019.

After Debbie left Dry Fork for the second time, I drove back to Dayton for the 8th time in 24 hours. That’s crazy. The parking lot at Bicentennial Park was full, so I left the car at the post office. I’ve used that technique many times over the years. It’s federal property and my thinking is they won’t tow you or bother you. This was even used to great effect during Spring Break 1994 when I drove from Boston to Key West and had nowhere to stay. We just “camped” at the post office.

Anyway, I parked the car, donned a pack full of water, and ran backwards on the course until I ran into Debbie. This allowed me to see lots of finishers. By this point around mid-day on Saturday, the 50K and 18 milers were mixed in with the 100 mile finishers. This made for an interesting and joyous combination with an eclectic mix of runners. It was blazing hot again and the five miles of dirt road leading back into Tongue River Canyon was a harsh surface to run.

The whole race has incredible views and the canyon is no exception. On my hour-long run towards Debbie, I passed all of the leading women. When I reached her, I had just passed the 5th place women and knew that Debbie would be able to run her down. She was already pushing hard by the time I reached her and it didn’t take much to get her to pick the pace up even more. That last section of trail along the river was very rocky and steep (downhill headed towards the finish).

We hooked up and I paced her the final five and half miles back to the finish. She was really strong on the dirt road. It was mostly flat, but there were a few ups and she had to walk a little. Even with that, she averaged a 10 minute mile, which is fantastic after 95 miles.

The sun was beating down and she picked up some ice at the last aid station with two miles to go. She savored the final stretch and was excited to enter the park. The finish line was at the back of the park along the river. She crossed to loud cheers and within minutes, was soaking her legs in the cool creek.

I fetched our stuff from the car, we rinsed off in the water, and we lounged all afternoon in the park as other finishers arrived. It was an awesome party and the biggest and best event we had attended since the pandemic started. That’s why I said this was a big time race.

There were some amazing performances. In recent years, wet weather and slippery trails slowed some runners, but this year’s event was dry. The heat was a factor and the altitude is always a factor, but generally folks ran fast. The top three men were Tyler Fox, David Ayala, and Seth Wealing. The top three women were Maria Sylte, Sarah Riordan, and Kristina Pattison. They had a great battle. With 18 miles to go, the top two were together and third was less than 15 minutes behind. At the finish, the three of them were all within 23 minutes and it was Maria who came out on top. In addition to the overall women and men, there were many age group athletes who had fantastic runs.

This race has some amazing volunteers. It’s rare that I criticize anything at an ultra of this magnitude because we have so much appreciation for the effort it takes to produce and event like this. Also, the trail running community is caring and supportive so the odds of having an issue are low. There was nothing of the sort as this was a true community race with support from many local sponsors. With such a long history, Bighorn is part of the fabric of Wyoming. Even the wait staff at our hotel were wearing Bighorn t-shirts. All of the interactions were thoughtfully scheduled. If you love trail running and appreciate stunning beauty, this is a race to attend. You have the shorter mileage options, or you can go for the 100.

Debbie was pleased with her race. She finished in 27 hours and 54 minutes. She put 11 minutes into the woman competitor who she passed with five miles to go, and finished 6th overall (2nd in the 40+ age group).

We lingered at the park late into the afternoon before driving back to Dayton where we rented a hotel room for the night. On Sunday morning, we returned to Dayton to a local coffee shop for breakfast and to mingle with some other (sore) runners. That was our final Bighorn event and it was a fitting end to a fantastic event.

Race Results

Race Photos (Mile 90 Photography)

Race Photos (my SmugMug Gallery)

2021 Run Ragged Last Person Standing Race

It’s not often that I write about one of Debbie’s races while it is still going on, but that is the case this morning. She started the Run Ragged Last Person Standing Race at 8:00 A.M. yesterday and stopped just shy of 7:00 A.M. today after completing 23 five kilometer laps for a total of 71 miles.

When she stopped, there were still five runners headed out for a 24th loop/hour. It’s almost noon, and I know that there are three runners still on course and in contention to be the last woman or man standing. This was Debbie’s first time running an event with this format and it was a good experience.

I won’t describe all of the rules of this event, but you can read about it at the race signup page and in the runner guide. The gist of it is that the race was held on a rugged (lots of rocks and roots) hilly (500 feet of vertical gain) five kilometer loop. The goal was to complete one loop every hour until only one person was left. The race will not stop until one person completes a final lap inside the 60 minute time limit. The win will not go to the fastest runner but rather to the runner who has the most endurance (physical and mental). That runner would arguably run the “smartest race” conserving energy, fueling properly, pacing consistently, and using the best strategy. Mental toughness is a hallmark of this format because you have to have serious grit to keep going.

The Ragged loop could be completed in 40 minutes or less, but on average, runners completed it in 45 to 55 minutes. As the race went on, the remaining runners came closer and closer to the 60 minute limit leaving themselves very little time to rest or prepare for the next loop. Some runners didn’t complete their laps in time and were automatically DNF’d.

Debbie had her own little aid station set up at the start/finish. She brought a big blue tarp to cover all of her gear. On Saturday, it rained most of the day. Overnight, the rain stopped, but the temperature remained in the low to mid 40’s Fahrenheit. It was raw and uncomfortable and unseasonably cold for Memorial Day Weekend. I would imagine that most New Englanders stayed in side yesterday and today. After a few weeks of warmth and very dry conditions, this weekend’s weather is just plain awful, unless you adore trail running (like us). By the time we got home, it was pouring again, which will make it even harder for the hearty runners still on the course.

The Connecticut Trail Mixers did a fantastic job hosting the race. Their volunteers were numerous and helpful. Race Director Stacey Clark barely slept. She got extra help from Karen Prado. The two of them were tracking all of the 42 runners who started when the left for a lap and returned from a lap.

Debbie started the race on her own, but Laura Becker spent the afternoon crewing for her while I was at work. I also spent time shuttling our son to a birthday party and then to Debbie’s parents house where our daughter was spending part of the weekend. I left the Schieffer’s by 6:00 P.M. and was at the venue in time to see her start her 7:00 P.M. lap.

Parking at the trailhead was limited, so I parked at the assigned grocery store parking lot a mile away. I brought my commuter bike and shuttled gear, food, and water to the trailhead with three bike trips. Eventually, I was able to move my car to the trailhead around midnight after there were fewer runners remaining, less volunteers hanging around, and no day hikers at the Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve.

Debbie and I were in this area last month when we ran the Metacomet – Timberlin Loop, but we hadn’t been on this segment of the Metacomet Trail since our thru-run on last year’s New England Trail E2E Adventure. The Metacomet is likely the toughest trail in Connecticut and is known for numerous rocks and roots.

Debbie felt good about her race. Up until 2:00 A.M., her laps were very consistent. She frequently left herself five to eight minutes to rest, fuel up, and swap gear. Runners were given three minute and one minute warnings. They had to be back in the start corral prior to the start of the next lap. Otherwise, they were disqualified. Most of the runners who dropped out, did so voluntarily or they missed an hourly time cut.

Her roughest lap was the one between 2:00 and 3:00. That’s when she first talked about stopping. Her rnext lap was a little better, and then the 4:00 A.M. lap was better than that. She rallied a bit and decided to keep going. In between laps, I hung out and chatted with volunteers. Several times, I returned to the car to don more clothes, drape myself in a sleeping bag, eat, and rest. I didn’t really sleep at all.

After her 6:00 A.M. lap, I ran a loop in the reverse direction so that I could experience it and take some photos. I cheered for all of the remaining six runners on the course and thanked the volunteers who I encountered. The trails were muddy and challenging. This was a true test for any runner and these were strong runners.

Debbie was very happy with her race. She has been running strong all year and is building towards her “A race” the Bighorn Trail Run, next month in Wyoming. With the race less than four weeks out, it didn’t make sense to thrash her body this weekend. She completed 71 miles, which sets her up nicely to run a mountainous 100+ miles at Bighorn.

Justin Kousky, Lance Reed, and Julie Melanson Fraysier are the last three on course. When the results are posted, check back to see which one of them was the last standing. They are all amazing runners with incredible perseverance. Kudos to them.

Check out the CT Trail Mixers Facebook page for live results/posts.

Race Results (will be posted when available)

2021 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race

About half way through today’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, as the heat was rising and the hills were taking their toll, I grew worried about Shepard’s first attempt at running the 15.5 mile long course. This was his longest ever run of any type. A few years ago, he did one lap of the 11 mile Traprock course. He was running on tired legs after yesterday’s Bush Hill MTB Race and Friday’s one-mile time trial (at school). I feared this might be a little too much activity. I was concerned he didn’t carry enough water. I didn’t want him to struggle and have a bad experience.

What I really should have been worried about, was getting caught by him!

I eked out a 24 second advantage, a slim margin over the course of 2.5 hours of hard trail running on the second “hot” day of 2021. Saturday was even warmer. The heat caused problems for yesterday’s mountain bikers and today’s trail runners. I saw a lot of cramping and even some vomiting. Some people suffered, but he had an incredible run. After crossing the line, he grimaced for a moment and then broke into a smile. He wildly exceeded his own expectations and I was even more thrilled than he was, despite the fact that he he nearly caught me.

Debbie was only eight minutes behind him, so the three of us got to share in the excitement at the finish line where Dahlia, who ran the short course (3.8 mile Soapstone Sampler), was waiting for us.

he 2020 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race was cancelled at the start of the pandemic, so today’s race was a fantastic comeback for New England’s second oldest trail race. Only the NipMuck Trail Marathon is older, and only by one year.

The 2019 edition was the 35th anniversary and it also was Debbie’s final one as the Race Director. She was in that role for 15 years, including the first few as co-director with the late (and legendary) Jerry Stage. There are a few old-time Shenipsit Striders still going strong, and we saw two of them at today’s race. Willi Frederich and Tom Curtiss were both there and though time has taken its toll, their indomitable spirit and pride in our “club” has helped keep both them and the club going.

This year’s Soapstone felt very different, and I’m not referring to all of the adjustments and precautions because of COVID-19. I’m referring to the fact that all four of us were just participants. Debbie did a small amount of work in the background, but she had no race-day responsibilities.

Dan Tourtellotte is the new Race Director. He mentored with Debbie in 2019 and got support from other club members to pull of this year’s modified version of the race. I won’t get into all the particulars, but it was a simpler affair with no food, no awards, no kids race, etc. The focus was on the race and the course, and that was fine.

Our kids did miss the days when we had to pack the van full on race morning and you could barely see them behind the piles. They missed Rein’s Deli vegetarian chili. We actually stopped there on the way home to get some takeout, but the line was out the door and we couldn’t stay. Debbie had a good run as Race Director (pun intended), but it was time for her to hand the race off to another steward.

One thing Debbie did organize in 2021 was the Shenipsit Striders supported Bolton Run Club. She coached more than 20 children for a spring running series on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They met each time at the commuter lot in Bolton Notch and did training runs as a group. The culmination of the program was entry into today’s race, and many of them participated in the Sampler. Debbie is justifiably proud of all her kids as many have developed a love of running and fitness. That’s all you can ask for.

We saw a lot of friends at the race, some whom we had not seen since before the pandemic started. Notably, it was fantastic to see Randall Dutton, Tom Ricardi, Joanne Ricardi, and Cole Ricardi. We also saw Bruce Giguere, Paul Funch, and Brett Stoeffler. Carly Eisley came to race. So did Rich Fargo, all the way from northern New Hampshire.

We saw a lot of other friends from the club and the local running community. There are too many to name and thankfully, over the last year, we have seen them on one occasion or another. 62 runners finished the Sampler and 132 runners finished the long course.

As usual, the Shenipsit Striders put on a great event. There was strong volunteer support. The aid stations were simple affairs, primarily with water and chips (in a bag). Shepard said he saw OREO cookies. I can’t confirm that. I didn’t stop once. I ran straight through them because I wore a hydration pack and carried what I needed.

I probably should have stopped at the third and final aid station for some water because I got a 1/4 mile past it, took a sip from my hose, and realized I was empty. That made for a tough final four miles as I was parched. I was hoping there would be a jug of water at the top of the Quarry Trail after the last big climb up Soapstone Mountain, and before the final descent, but there wasn’t. I was thirsty, but I pressed on.

I ran a chunk of the race with Michael Minopoli and Jeremy Beebe. We were joined at one point or another by other runners, but for most of the time, the three of us were within sight of each other. I met them for the first time today and enjoyed their company. I saw Brett early on, but only because he made a wrong turn.

I also saw Neal Leibowitz. He went flying past me, but sadly I caught up to him after he sprained his ankle. He was hobbling and I figured he would call it quits at an aid station, but he pressed on and finished. Kudos to him, but I warned him to ice his ankle. I made a similar mistake 20 years ago, finishing the Savoy Trail Race Sampler (in wicked heat) after spraining my ankle, and it has never been right since then.

The race was won by Benjamin Hearon. He was followed by Adrian Massie, and then Brett was third. Caitlin Roston was the first female. She was followed by Debbie, and Elizabeth Bove was third. I think the standout performance of the day was by Rich. He was sixth overall and about 4.5 minutes in front of me. I couldn’t keep up with him when he passed me. He is 61 and a real inspiration.

You can’t compare this year’s course with past years. It was similar to 2019, but even longer. The start and finish were in the same spot in the field at Reddington Rock Riding Club. That was so each runner could cross the timing mat at start and finish. The race was done on net time so that we could start people in small groups that were spread out. Whether it was necessary or not, it worked. However, the race is now more than 15 miles long. In past years when the times were scorching fast, the race was as short as 13.6 miles with a different mix of trails.

After our finish, we stayed for a short while and watched some of our friends finish. We got to see a few of them cramp, which caused some chuckles. We didn’t stay too long because runners were asked not to linger. Normally, we would have stayed until the last runner finished and everything was packed back into the van. In prior years, that was usually 3:00 P.M. It felt weird to be home by 1:00 P.M. while runners were still on the course. Another issue was the thunderstorm that rolled through just after we departed. I know some runners were caught in this. The temperature dropped quickly which may have helped some, but I’m glad that we finished before the rain started to fall.

This was a different Soapstone, but it still had the best feature…the course. Soapstone will always be a classic. The race is tough and hilly like most Connecticut trail races. That’s how we like them!

Race Results (Long Course)

Race Results (Sampler)

2021 Bush Hill MTB Race

Today’s inaugural Bush Hill MTB Race in Manchester, Connecticut nearly felt like a pre-pandemic event. The vibe was awesome, the weather was awesome, and the competition was awesome. The only thing that sucked was the pollen, which was made worse by the dry conditions and persistent dust. However, my complaints and sneezing are acceptable given how much fun we had.

Team HORST and the CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad were out in force for the second week in a row. It seemed like there were more than 150 kids in the morning junior races, which included beginners and Category 3 racers between the ages of 9 and 17. I’m sure there were some younger ones too.

Dahlia had a great race, completing three laps of the technical and fast course. She was all smiles, which made Debbie and me smile. After her race, we rushed to her soccer game back in Bolton and she had a great game. Eventually we returned to Bush Hill Farm Preserve for the afternoon races.

Joining her in the morning races was Lars Roti and Tanner Pierce, plus many friends from other teams. Both boys had fantastic races and they hung around the rest of the day to cheer on their teammates and to play in the dirt pile/jump.

Shepard and I started at 1:00 P.M. with the Category 2 and Category 1 racers. I was in the last wave, with the singlespeed competitors. Shepard was in the Category 2 Junior 12-17 field. He and his three teammates, Owen Wilson, Boden Chenail, Sean Rourke, and Alexandra Miller-Davey did well. Sean was third in the Category 1 Juniors. Alexandra was also third amongst Category 2 Juniors. Owen, Boden, and Shepard did battle between each other and finished in that order, taking 4th, 5th, and 6th amongst the boys.

Arthur Roti and Brett Chenail were in the Masters field, but Brett’s race ended shortly after the start because of a broken derailleur. I had a decent race, but the steep climbs were hard on my legs. Thankfully after the first lap of congestion, things spread out. I went out with the singlspeed pack (seven of us), but decided to settle into a tempo after the first hard lap. I didn’t want to blow up and fade like last week, but rather wanted to ride consistent laps and ideally pick it up at the end.

My plan worked perfectly. I was happy with my steady heart rate and rode within my limits. I didn’t have to get off on the toughest climb and was pleased to ride it every lap. I ended up in a battle with Sam Veggeberg. I caught up to him with two laps to go and we raced each other all the way to the finish. With one to go, I had about 10 seconds on him, but he surprised me and closed down the gap on the big climb on the last lap. He charged over the top and railed the descent, but I stayed within five seconds of him through the fields and then caught back up on the doubletrack climb before we went into the woods for the last time.

He hammered through the singletrack, but I clung to his wheel. I got in his draft as we weaved our way through the last section of field as we approached the finish. There were several turns before the final right hander on to the gravel straightaway that led to the finish. I passed him before the final turn, flew through the corner, and opened up my sprint immediately hoping to get a gap. I could have drifted right and shut the door on him, but I wanted to play fair and held my line. He started to gain on me and pulled even as we approached the line. It was hard to discern where the exact finish was but I threw my bike at the moment that I though we hit the line and wasn’t sure who got it.

It turned out that the official gave me 5th spot relegating him to 6th, which pleases me, especially because he is half my age. I was toast after the finish and never got to thank him for the battle, so if he reads this, kudos to him for pushing me all the way to the finish.

I was well off of Anthony Vecca’s pace. He won our category for the second week in a row, but I felt better about today’s race and am looking forward to more clashes over the summer and into cyclocross season.

This event hosted by CCAP was a massive success and the Bush Hill Farm Preserve is a great venue with some fun trails. I can’t wait to race here again. The short track (1.8 miles) would make for a great weekly training race course. I’m biased because it is only 15 minutes from home.

2021 Governor’s Guard Roundup MTB Race

Bike racing is back.

It had been a while, a long while, but the 2021 mountain bike season got underway yesterday at the Governor’s Guard Roundup in Avon, Connecticut. Reportedly, more than 150 kids competed in the junior races, which for me, is the highlight.

The CCAP Team HORST Junior Squad had seven children at the event and they were thrilled to be racing. They have been practicing weekly throughout the pandemic but yesterday they got a chance to push themselves while seeing many of their friends. The CCAP (Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program) is responsible for boosting junior participation throughout Connecticut.

Last fall, we did a few cyclocross training races and the Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race, but in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, they felt different. Despite the pandemic still having a grip on society, yesterday’s event felt more normal and that may mean we are headed in the right direction.

We hope more events make a comeback. Some organizers are ready to go, while others are still reluctant to host. I won’t delve into the reasons why, but I feel safe doing outdoor events. In addition to our juniors, several of our masters cyclists also took part in yesterday’s race.

The new course was on the grounds of the First Company Governor’s Horse Guards. The website explains:

It is the nations oldest continuously serving military unit, provides ceremonial escort to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other Elected Officials of the state as well as providing The Adjutant General a supplemental force for supporting the National Guard.

I did not know that. It was neat to see the horses and their grounds. The course was a fast track that wound through fields and woods. There were a few steep hills, some roots, but the dirt singletrack was mostly smooth and lined with pine needles. It isn’t too often that you average 13 mph in a Connecticut mountain bike race. The event had a cyclocross feel to it, which I love.

The kids would have preferred more “gnar” but this was a good course for a a season opener. There are three more events in the CCAP spring MTB series and we are hoping for a strong cyclocross season this fall.

All of the kids had good rides. Alexandra Miller-Davey made that podium (2nd spot) for the Cat 2 girls, which is fantastic. Shepard said he “blew up” on the last lap, but had fun. They were joined by teammates Lars, Tanner, Owen, Boden, and Sean. I did the singlespeed race and finished 4th…out of four riders. 🙂 I had fun too. Amongst the adults, Dave Geissert also made the podium in his category. He and I were joined by teammates Art and Brett. Coach Tim did het lap counting, of which there were many. Without him yelling “stop” some of us may still be out there doing loops in the woods. We are all looking forward to the Bush Hill MTB next Saturday in Manchester.

2021 Traprock 50K

New England trail running came back in a big way today with the Traprock 50K at Penwood State Park. COVID-19 rules were in place and the start list was mostly Connecticut residents with a few Massachusetts and Rhode Island folks mixed in for good measure. Maybe there was someone from New York too.

Most of the runners were on deferred entry from the cancelled 2020 edition. Also, the 17K is being run separately tomorrow. We had wave starts in small groups starting at 7:00 A.M. The race directors and volunteers did a fabulous job with this whole modified affair.

It was awesome to pin on a bib number and run hard. I’m not exactly sure how many starters there were, but as of this post, there were 108 finishers. The fastest time was set by race winner Dan Grip. He was followed by Justin Kousky and Byron Critchfield. The fastest female was Rachael Whitbeck. Notably, she was 7th overall. She was followed by Debbie and then Liz Allen.

After two days of heavy rain and wet snow, we were worried about the trail conditions. Thankfully, much of the course is on the spine of a traprock ridge (Metacomet Trail) so it drains well. There were a lot of soft spots and some mud and standing water in the hollows and other low lying areas. You could skirt it if you wanted to. Some of the stream crossings required rock and log hopping if you wanted to keep your feet somewhat dry.

The weather was good. It was in the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) when we started in the first wave, but warmed up to the high 40’s by late morning. It was overcast and grey most of the time. There were a few moments when the sun broke through the clouds, but they were rare. There was a light breeze and it was definitely cooler on the eastern side of the ridge.

Traprock is run in a narrow envelope. This year, they change the course so that there were no overlapping sections, no out and back, and for the first time ever it was a complete loop. There were points where you could see runners heading back towards the start/finish on the other side of the course because it was so narrow and in a few places, the trails nearly touched. It is worth noting that the course was very well marked. I had loaded the course .gpx file on my Garmin Fenix, but only had to refer to it a few times to reinforce that I had made the right turn. Along with the rocks and roots, there were many turns. Thankfully, I had ZERO falls. There were a few close calls, but I stayed on my feet!

I liked this year’s course. I much preferred the last mile compared with previous years when you finished on the rocky and steep descent of the Metacomet. As noted, the volunteers were awesome, even though I didn’t need much from them. There was one aid station that was at a point on the course where they could serve both outbound and inbound runners as both sides of the course went by this point. I stopped exactly once to fill a water bottle on the last lap. Other than that brief interlude, I used some food and hydration that I stashed at the start/finish and carried everything else.

Once again, I used my UltrAspire Momentum vest. I ate 2.5 Go Macro bars, ingested one Untapped maple syrup packet and used their Mapleaid powdered drink in a flask. I could have used some salt capsule but we were all out. On lap three, I was cramping badly in both calves.

After the race, I had to sit for 45 minutes and work the cramps out of my legs. Every time I tried to untie my laces, my legs (adductors and calves) were pulsating violently. Each runner was given a designated “stall” to set up their own mini aid station. Mine was next to Brian Vanderheiden. He only finished two minutes behind me, so we were hanging out after the race. He loaned me his Hypervolt percussive massage device with me and it worked wonders. after about 10 minutes I was able to get my shoes and socks off, but it wasn’t easy. He even helped me gather some stray items that had rolled away from me, saving me the agony of getting up. Brian gets the hero of the day award. I’m going to have to invest in one of those percussive devices. It really worked!

Liz Allen was sitting on the other side of me. After she and Debbie finished, we had some good laughs.

I didn’t have as strong a race as I wanted, but I’m still happy with the outcome. I just wish that my legs didn’t hurt so bad in the second half. I slowed considerably after going out a bit two hard on the first of three 10.5 mile loops. There were moments during the race, especially early on, where I didn’t see another runner for more than an hour. I was lonely, so it was nice when I started to lap the runners who had started in waves up to 90 minutes after us.

Our kids spent the day with my parents. Their help is appreciated. So, we had a little extra time after the race. We went to Flora in West Hartford for the first time in a very long time. It was fantastic.

The best part of the race was seeing the other runners. There were no spectators allowed, which was sad, but seeing real runners at a race was very cool. Every time I finish Traprock (this was my fourth finish in five tries and it was Debbie’s sixth finish), I swear I will never do it again. I’m swearing this time too, but I doubt I stick to my plan.

Race Results


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