Posts Tagged 'vermont'

The Revised Toughest Ten

I drafted my inaugural Toughest Ten in December 2009 and after running the Wapack and Back back in the spring and then witnessing the Peak Ultra 500 this summer, I determined that it was due for an update and have worked this post on and off for a few months. I figured I would finish it, publish it, and use it as inspiration during my post-crash comeback.

Through today, these are the toughest races that I have ever done:

1) Jay Challenge, Jay, Vermont, 29-31 July 2005, 20:09:11

Hands down, this is the grandaddy of my palmares. Just finishing the Jay Challenge was an accomplishment.  It is a bit different from others on this list because it was a three-day stage race with the overall winner achieving the lowest cumulative time. Each of the three stages would make this list on their own. I was 10th overall and know I would have done better with a faster kayak, but that doesn’t matter. Finishing was the real accomplishment. The first day was a 27 mile kayak paddle across Lake Mephramagog from Quebec to Vermont. The second day was the classic Jay Mountain Marathon, but it wasn’t 26.2 miles, it was 33. The third day was a 65 mile mountain bike ride on hilly terrain. You summited Jay Peak in both the run and bike. There was so much climbing in this race (except the paddle) that it made you silly. The race was in late July and at the time, I had never been more fit. We completed our End-to-End hike of the Long Trail three weeks before Jay, so I had a pain threshold like never before…and never since. I could go all day long, get up and do it again. The LT was 13 days and 285 miles of supreme effort, so three days at Jay was simple, yet still very hard. Pain Index: 10

2) Ironman Brasil, Florianopolis, Brasil, 30 May 2010, 9:58:53

I’ve never gone deeper. As one day races go, Ironman Brasil  will be hard to top. I earned a Kona slot and had a sub-10 on the line with 10K to go and I buried myself to reach the goals. I was delirious at the finish and it was surreal. It was an epic trip with the family, which made the race that much sweeter. Check out the report and the coda report for the blow-by-blow. Pain Index: 10

3) Sea to Summit Triathlon, Jackson, New Hampshire, 22 July 2006, 9:29:21

It was difficult to rank the Sea to Summit Triathlon third ahead of races four and five because they were all wicked hard. However, given the fitness I had at the time, this one beats out the others. The Sea to Summit Triathlon was an 112 mile jaunt from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Jackson, New Hampshire. The race consisted of a 12 mile kayak up the Piscataquis River to Berwick, Maine. Then, after a transition, you rode 90 miles to Jackson, New Hampshire. From there, you ran four miles uphill on Rt. 16 to Pinkham Notch. Then, you ran/hiked five and a half miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. Only 40 people were allowed into the race. It was a special day, though I suffered dearly. I started the morning at sunrise in the pea soup fog at sea level near the mouth of the river. I finished wearing a skinsuit and a windbreaker on the top of the mountain in gale force winds blowing cold rain and sleet at 6322 feet, the highest point in New England. If it wasn’t for my awesome crew (Debbie, Art, Mel, and Bill), I might still be out on the course. It was shorter than an Ironman, but the weather conditions, lack of organized support/aid stations, and terrain, made it tougher than any other triathlon. Bad decisions by some of the racers resulted in a challenging day for the race directors and the race hasn’t been held since. Pain Index: 10

4) Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawaii, 09, October 2010, 10:27:31

Despite the five months in between Ironman races, I still wasn’t on top form for the Big Dance on the Big Island, but I still survived the Ironman World Championship and lived to tell about it. The race report and highlights tell the story. The no-wetsuit swim was painful and I suffered dearly on the bike from the heat. The sun and its burn (mostly during the bike leg) sucked the life out of me and made for a very miserable marathon, but I never walked. I sorted of slogged my way through it. I feel like I honored my slot, though I missed my time goal. It doesn’t matter because I got to the race and got through the race. 2010 was a pressure packed year and I really haven’t been the same since then. Yeah, it’s four years on, but I left something on the course back in Brasil. I went so deep in that race that everything since then has sort of felt different. Pain Index: 10

5) American Zofingen Ultra-Distance Duathlon, New Paltz, New York, 12 October 2008, 8:28:02

The American Zofingen was also run at a time when I wasn’t quite at my top fitness, but it helped me get back to a high level after my first real long layoff. That means it hurt a heck of a lot. After I finished it, I knew that if I could learn to swim, then I could finish an Ironman. Zofingen is the toughest duathlon in the country, and maybe the toughest in the world. The first leg was a 5 mile trail run in the Mohonk Preserve. The second leg was an 84 mile bike ride around the Shawangunk Mountains. The third leg was 15 mile trail run on the same course as the first leg. Again, at 104 miles, it was shorter than an Ironman, and there was no swimming. Still, due to the terrain (major hills) and my lack of fitness, it was harder, but not by much. Pain Index: 10

6) Ironman Lake Placid, Lake Placid, New York, 26 July 2009, 10:44:48

Ironman USA in Lake Placid was an amazing race. I did it in August 2010 and it was my longest ever one day race at the time. 2.4 mile swim/112 mile bike/26.2 run. That should be enough to put it on the top of this list. However, I managed to get into top form, so it hurt, but not as bad as some of the other races on this list. I had my rough moments, and the swim was terrifying, but I managed to race within my limits and finish strong. The support was phenomenal (great volunteers) and the conditions were good. I’m sure that most people would put Ironman at the top of their list. For various reasons, it isn’t quite there for me. Thinking back, Zofingen and Sea to Summit were just plain harder, but mostly because I fell apart in both of those races. I was strong to the end during Lake Placid. I’m still proud of my first ever Ironman finish. Pain Index: 9

7) Wilderness 101, Coburn, Pennsylvania, 28 July 2012, 8:30:55

The 101 was ridiculously hard. It is my longest ever mountain bike race. I did it with teammate Arthur Roti. We were rookies at the 100 mile distance. This course is as rugged as it gets. The 30 miles of singletrack were hard, but the washboard/washed out dirt roads were even harder. I did the race on my Seven Sola SL singlespeed with a rigid fork, which was nuts. That is a brutal way to ride a race like this, but I wouldn’t do it any other way. The race organization was awesome. It was so hard that so far, I’ve had no desire to go back. Pain Index: 9

8) Wapack and Back 50, Ashburnham, Massachusetts, 10 May 2014, 11:53:20

I first ran a 50 mile trail race at the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, but Wapack made Lookout look like a cakewalk. In hindsight, Wapack is what led to this year’s left foot stress fracture that has been a real drag on my year. I haven’t run in 13 weeks. The Wapack Trail just pummeled me. I pushed as hard as ever in an effort to stay in front of Debbie. See, we aren’t that competitive! I finished and said I would never run another 50 and certainly never run a 100, but time heals and you never know. Pain Index: 9

9) Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon, New Paltz, New York, 13 September 2013 and 09 September 2012

I always knew that S.O.S. was hard from hearing the war stories of other athletes. I always wanted to do it and finally committed in 2012. I’m a weak swimmer, but the beautiful course really appealed to me and I wanted to test myself. This race is the real deal. I cramped horribly in 2012 and it slowed me a great deal. I figured I would return in 2013 and improve my time, but the cramping and suffering were even worse. After last year’s debacle, I had no interest in returning for 2014. I’m glad I didn’t because I’m injured now and the race is coming up soon. Maybe it will be a comeback race for 2015 when it celebrates its 30th year. I don’t know. It just doesn’t suit my strengths, but it is brutally hard and a finish is something to cherish. Pain Index: 9

10) Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb, Gorham, New Hampshire, 23 August 1997; 1:14:54, 21 August 1999; 1:10:37, 19 August 2000; 1:08:04, 25 August, 2001; 1:11:04, 16 August 2014, 1:17:33

I’ve done the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb five times, including this year after a 13 year layoff. Incidentally, I’ve run it once, but it is the bike race that destroys the legs and puts your heart rate into a new category. Each time, I  pushed so hard that it made me dizzy. The last 22% grade is nothing like anything you have ridden before. As far as I’m concerned, it is the hardest section of road on Earth.  It comes after 7.6 miles of constant uphill at an average grade of 12%. For a hill, on a bike, this is as hard as it gets. My best finish was in 2000 when I rode a 38 x 25 low gear, which was way too hard. This year, I rode a 39 x 27, which isn’t much better. My knees are still hating me for that decision. Back in 2009, I said, “I haven’t done the race since 2001 when the entry fee rose to $300 (though it is for charity) and the event got too popular. I’ll do it again someday.” This year was the year to do it again and I was slower, but so happy to finish. This is the shortest race on the list, but there is no resting, and it is one of the most intense. The weather at the top is the most inhospitable in the world, with constant wind and cold temperatures, even in August. It is no surprise that two of my top ten toughest races have finished on the Washington summit cone. Pain Index: 8

Former Top Ten Toughest races that dropped off the list since 2009:

Ultimate XC (Jay Mountain Marathon), Jay, Vermont, 28 July 2007, 6:51:37

The Jay Challenge has not been held in the past few years, but the race morphed into an ultra-distance trail running race, when it was reduced to one day from three. Now known as the Ultimate XC, the Jay Mountain Marathon started as a run years ago, became part of the three stage Jay Challenge, returned to a run, and eventually migrated from Vermont to Quebec. A version of the race has also been held in Moab, Utah the past two years. All of the variations and names are hard to keep track of, but the one constant is the difficulty of the courses. This run took us up Jay Peak to an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. Then, it plunged us down the backside, through deep mud, into a bushwhacking section, then into a series of streams, then to a river crossing, then through a swamp, and eventually back to town. It was 33 miles of agony. Debbie caught me at mile 16 and I hung with her for 15 miles, before she dropped me like a wet sandbag. I finished, and that is what counts. Pain Index: 9

Hampshire 100, Greenfield, New Hampshire, 17 August 2008, 7:41:57

Other than the third stage of the Jay Challenge, the Hampshire 100 is the hardest mountain bike race that I have done. It was 100 kilometers, but it felt like 100 miles. Thanks to a month’s worth of unseasonable rain, the course was a quagmire. It was one big loop, which added to its epic nature. There was a ton of climbing and there was the added benefit of racing against two teammates for the honors of fastest mate. I kept dropping off their little group, before getting shed for good. Then, I had a wild mechanical failure when a stick wedged into my lower derailleur pulley going downhill at 20mph. I came to an abrupt halt and my chain was jammed. With less than five miles to go, I was afraid that I was going to have to walk the rest of the way. I made a delicate repair, extricated my derailleur from my rear wheel, and rode it in. It was a long day! Pain Index: 8

Jay Mountain Bike, Jay, Vermont, 30 July 2006, 8:56:00 DNF

It is a testament to Jay Race Director, Dan DesRosiers, that his events show up on this list three separate times. They are unique, they are painful, and they are unmatched. He goes out of his way to make the races difficult. You feel like a champ just for finishing. Unfortunately, this one, I didn’t finish. I was a DNF at the Jay Mountain Bike, with only five miles to go in the 70 mile race. It was one of two DNF’s on this list. I stopped at nine hours and I was at least an hour from the finish. Debbie was eight months pregnant and crewing for me (no excuse). It was hot (no excuse). I did Sea to Summit  a week prior (see number two on this list, but no excuse). I just didn’t have the legs, and suffered terribly. I walked the five miles before I quit and was resigned to the fact that I just wasn’t going to make it, so I climbed off after hours of struggling on the bike. It was the brutal fresh-cut singletrack that was the last straw for me.  No regrets. Pain Index: 8

Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse, Grimbergen, Belgium, 06 August 1994, 2:19:56

I spent the summer of 1994 racing kermesses all over Belgium. In 15+ races, this was the hardest one. There have been many longer bike races over the years and many that hurt a lot, but the Borgt-Grimbergen Kermesse had the romance of racing in Belgium. I made the front group for the first time all summer. There were 15 other riders in a breakaway and I had to give it everything I had just to stay with the group and take my pulls. My heart rate hit 200bpm in this race, which was typical at the time, but still very high. This was the race where I started to burn out on road cycling. The other riders in the break were downright violent. There is no question that performance enhancing drugs (amphetamines) were being used. I risked being crashed out of the race at the hands of these merciless riders. I was happy to be up there, but wasn’t going to make it to the finish with them anyway, so I dropped off the group and finished behind them. I’ve never had to ride harder to stick with a break. Pain Index: 8

Race for the Gate, Nashua, New Hampshire, 24 June 2000, 1:08:00, DNF

I did a lot of tough road cycling events over my career. I’ve wrecked in many, but that doesn’t mean they were hard. There have been long and hilly road races. There have been intense cyclocross races where I was in oxygen debt. But, the longest cross races were 65 minutes. I did the Race for the Gate criterium when it was held as a twilight/night-time race. That alone made it different and difficult. I recall that it was a crash fest. The race was delayed by a huge pileup and people were going down left and right. The shadows cast by the large spotlights that the organizers had on the course, were very deceiving. There were more than 100 riders in this Pro/1/2/3 race and I was hanging on for dear life. I wish I had made it to the finish, but I got popped off the back with only a couple of laps to go. I was completely anaerobic and I was in danger of losing control in a corner. I was ecstatic to have made it as far as I did. It was a long criterium and it was a hard one. Pain Index: 8

Honorable Mention’s in no particular order: Ironman Mont Tremblant, Lookout Mountain 50 Miler, Ironman 70.3 Rhode Island, NipMuck Trail Marathon, 7 Sisters Trail Race, The Bluff 50km, National Cyclocross Championships (Providence), Vermont 50 Mile Ride, Vermont 50km Run, Wapack Trail Race, Six Foot Track Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, Moby Dick, Mt. Washington Road Race, Tour of the Adirondacks Road Race, Stowe Road Race, Killington Stage Race, Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon, National Collegiate Cycling Championships Road Race

Most of these races can be easily searched on my blog. Some wintry day, I’ll add the links. I look forward to the day that I displace the next race on this list and get to update it again. I’m open to suggestions. Tell me how to top these. But for now, I’ll go for a little rest and recovery.

2014 Peak Ultra

This weekend, we returned to Pittsfield, Vermont for the Peak Ultra. Debbie ran the 50 mile version of the race, which also featured divisions for 500, 200, 100, 30, and 15 miles. She ran the first and second editions of this challenging event back in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the 53 +/- miler was run on the same day as the inaugural Death Race.

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Her original plan was to return to Cayuga Trails 50, which was also this weekend, but back in March, we visited Pittsfield, and reconnected with some old friends. After spending time on the Green Mountain Trails, she quickly changed her mind and registered for the Peak Ultra instead. She was focused on the 50 mile distance, which along with the 30, had its own course. That course had some changes from the last time she ran it.

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A new bushwhack section over Wilcox Mountain and the infamous Bloodroot Mountain loop, made for a fantastic day on the trails. These trails are always rugged and yesterday, they were even muddier than usual. There was more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, which made it hilly, but not quite as hilly as the Wapack and Back 50 Miler that we ran earlier in May. The 500, 200, 100, and 15 mile runners used the same 10 mile loop, which also served as the last 10 miles of the 50 and 30 mile races. It was a little confusing with multiple start times and runners going in many different directions, but in the end, it was all good. There were a lot of helpful volunteers to assist.

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Pittsfield, home of the Death Race and Spartan Races, has become quite the Mecca for endurance sports and obstacle course racing. It all started with the ultra back in 2007, so it was cool to return and see how it has grown. Death Race has spawned an entire culture of endurance athletes. We camped on Friday night at Riverside Farm, site of the start/finish. Last night, we camped at the top of Tweed Road where it intersected with the upper section of the 10 mile loop.

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The kids and I had a great time crewing for Debbie. It helped that she was in good spirits and didn’t have any of the stomach issues that have plagued her races during the past 18 months going back to Pinhoti 100 in November 2012. We made lots of new friends at the aid stations. We saw Debbie three times at the Upper Michigan Road aid station. We drove farther out on the road to see her at the bottom of Bloodroot, we saw her at the start/finish at the start of her 10 mile loop, and then of course, when she finished.

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While she was on the Bloodroot loop, I took the kids to Sweet Georgia P’s, the organic farm in town. Then, I took them to the Vermont’s Original General Store for lunch. Her finish time of 10:56:33 was respectable for the challenging course. She said she had one low spot when she ran out of food on the Bloodroot loop, but after fueling up, she recovered. She was the first woman and I think she was fourth overall. Larisa Dannis, who has my vote for New England runner of the year, crushed the 30+ miler and took the overall win. It was fun to watch her run. She was flying.

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She and Debbie have been comparing notes on fueling and nutrition, so it was good for them to finally be at a race together again. Both of them inspire me. Speaking of inspiration, the 500 mile runners were amazing. We got to see Kale Poland finish his nine-day 500 mile odyssey. That was one of the best sporting experiences I’ve ever had. A good crowd of runners, crew, volunteers, and spectators was on hand to witness the historic finish.

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Apparently, he is no stranger to ultra-endurance racing, having completed a Deca-Ironman among other feats. I asked him if this was harder. He told me that it was “different” but also very hard because of the foul weather (heavy rain) that he faced during the first week. It was so nice to have awesome weather on Friday and Saturday, and today, was even better. It was just beautiful and perfect conditions for the runners. I was so impressed with his accomplishment.

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His partner in crime was Nick Bautista, who was starting his final 10 mile loop right after Kale finished. He too completed 500 miles in nine days. It was a wonderful site to see those two hug after sharing so many miles of trails. They were two of three remaining athletes still going for the 500.

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That third athlete and last remaining woman, was none other than Michelle Roy, a legendary member of the New England trail running community. We got a chance to spend some time with Michelle and cheered her as she started her 40th and final lap this morning. 400 miles is one heck of an accomplishment for her. Like I said, these runners are amazing inspirations. It was great for our kids to see them in action.

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Race Results

2013 West Hill Shop Cyclocross

It was a fun day at the 23rd annual West Hill Shop Cyclocross in Putney, Vermont. This is one of my favorite races of the year. It is one of the lynchpin cross races on the New England scene. With competition elsewhere in the region, it doesn’t draw the numbers that it once did, but it is still a fantastic grass-roots event.

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The whole family likes this venue, though it was chilly and raw today.  The outdoor activities were not as comfortable as they were last weekend in NoHo at the Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross. However, it was perfect for riding. These are the cross conditions I’ve been waiting all season for.

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That doesn’t mean that it was wet. Though the it rained in the morning, and it was spitting on and off, we were dry during the race. The course itself had a little mud, which is more than we have seen anywhere this fall. That little bit of moisture made for awesome traction. It was tacky and there were some ruts, but it was a lot of fun to ride.

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Thankfully, this year they lengthened the course by adding some turns in the cornfield and took us into the woods for a short loop. These little modifications made a big difference. The course suits both my teammate, Art Roti, and me. He and I had a good start in the 35+ race. We were paying attention when the race official blew a surprise start whistle before giving a 60 second or 30 second warning. That caught a few people off guard, including the course marshals who had just let a vehicle on to the course. We came around the first hard left hand bend with a vehicle in front of us. That ramped the heart rate up a bit.

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I was able to make it past with no issues and everyone stayed upright. I settled in and even rode in the number two spot through the second lap. Eventually, I fell back to fourth where I battled with Art who was in fifth. The two of us traded places depending on who was stronger on various parts of the course. We alternated pulling in the wind on the flats. This allowed us to put some distance on the chasers, but we never closed the gap to third place. We were only 30 or so seconds behind the top spot, but we were already riding above our ability today.

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Art nabbed fourth and I hung on for fifth a few seconds back. It was my best cross race of the year and I hope to keep getting stronger now that the colder weather has settled in. The Horst Engineering Cycling team was also represented by Matt Domnarksi, who finished third in the 45+ day for a podium spot. After the race, we warmed up in the bike shop and visited with friends while watching the women’s race. We don’t get to see our friends the Northcott’s as often now that we all have kids, but it was fun to see Kate Northcott crushing it out there. she is the one flying by the solar panels in the photo below while leading the race.

I’ll book my schedule for the 24th annual as soon as the date is set.

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Race Results (will be posted when available).

2013 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

The 20th Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run lived up to its billing. It was a fantastic race. Really, it was a festival-like celebration of a great course, great trails, great friends, great landowners, great expo, a great mountain, great food, great volunteers, and great weather. That last “great” couldn’t have been predicted, but it sure made all of the other “great’s” even better.

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Debbie and I celebrated the 15th anniversary since we met in the Ascutney Mountain Resort parking lot. We had our kids with us and Debbie’s brother, Thomas Schieffer, came along to assist. We camped right at the venue and the view of the stars on Saturday night was spectacular.

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Saturday’s festivities included three kids races (5K, 1 mile, 1/2 mile) and a treasure hunt in a haystack. Our son ran the 5K and our daughter ran the 1/2 mile. Each 5K finisher got a fantastic prize, a bottle of VT50 maple syrup. These same awards are reserved for the top runners and mountain bikers, so these kids really made out. Each 1/2 mile and 1 mile finisher got a little toy or bracelet. There were no trophies! The volunteers enthusiastically cheered for the kids.

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It seemed like we knew everyone at the race, starting with our teammates, Arlen Zane Wenzel, Arthur Roti, Michael Wonderly, Mark Hixson, and Race Director, Mike Silverman. Coach Al Lyman came to cheer. The list goes on. I got to ride the last 20 or so miles with Anthony Eisley. It was a blast.

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Debbie didn’t have  a great 50 kilometer race, but that was partially due to a costly wrong turn that resulted in many lost minutes and many lost spots. Still, she finished with a smile on her face. This has been a trying ultrarunning year for her, but sometimes, that is how it goes.

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I managed to put together a credible 50 mile ride yesterday and I notched another sub-5 time (4:52:46). The dry trails favored a geared bike, but I still improved on last year’s time riding my Seven Sola SL singlespeed for the second year. My totally rigid setup left my hands, arms, neck, and back aching, but I’ll keep riding this bike as long as I can. The belt drive system worked flawlessly. It is the perfect bike.

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I was able to hold my pace the whole time. I didn’t have the same acceleration on the climbs like last year, but I also didn’t fade in the last 15 miles. I was able to maintain my pace and ride within my limits. I did OK on the technical singletrack, of which there was even more. The second “serpentine” section was longer and more challenging. That is where I spent time riding with Anthony. We were both in the pain-zone, working to hold our places, but managed an occasional cheer for each other on the hairpin turns, of which there were many. I was the 8th singlespeed rider, 4 spots back from last year.

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Heck, we even rode through a wedding venue. The bride, groom, and guests weren’t there yet, but we literally rode between the reception tent and the ceremony site. The chairs and arch were pointing right towards Mt. Ascutney on a glorious morning. Saturday afternoon’s weather was as good as it gets with warm sunshine and a deep blue sky. Sunday started out colder than expected and it was very foggy. I kept waiting for the fog to lift, and it really didn’t clear until the final hour of my race.

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The trails weren’t as dusty as I expected, which was a good thing. There were only a few spots of mud. Traction was good the whole time. We owe it to the landowners for their permission to ride these amazing trails. Every year it is a battle to keep this race course intact. Not all of the athletes (particularly the mountain bikers) are courteous and respectful of this privilege. Not enough riders use proper trail etiquette and not enough riders practice Leave No Trace principles. They leave behind litter, bike parts, and assorted garbage. It’s a shame and we owe it to race management for fighting hard to keep this great event (and fundraiser) going.

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The consequences of damaging this race’s reputation are serious. The fundraising for VASS is huge and sister races, including the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run could be in jeopardy if landowners pull back on their support.  It’s hard to knock a great event like the VT50, but constructive criticism drives continuous improvement. The race would benefit if a chip timing system was adopted. Results would be more timely, more accurate, and require less volunteer intensive labor. We always complain about the lack of vegan/vegetarian options (especially entrees), but that is typical of most races.

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My only other serious complaint has nothing to do with the organization. I didn’t get to repeat my annual battle with Zane Wenzel. His wrist injury has not healed and he made the wise decision to not race. Instead, he helped and cheered. Despite my singlespeed handicap, we will do battle again. I might consider a suspension fork, which I figure would help shave 20 minutes off of my time, but I don’t anticipate going back to gears any time soon. I would run the race before using a derailleur. Mike Wonderly had an awesome race. He was 3rd in his masters division and 2014 is going to be a real battle for Team Horst supremacy. Our tandem duo of Art Roti and Mark Hixson broke their own course record despite their usual spate of tandem oriented mechanicals.

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There were some fine runs on the course. Standouts included 50 mile records set by David Le Porho and Aliza Lapierre. Both had awesome times and benefitted from the super-fast conditions. I don’t want to jinx it, but it will probably rain next year. Time will tell. The 21st edition won’t be a let down. The good feelings from this year’s race will last all winter.

Race Results

2009 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run

Today’s Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run was a muddy affair. Steady rain made the course a greasy mess. This was the Livingston Family’s 10th anniversary VT50. Debbie and I weren’t a family when we first met in the parking lot at the Ascutney Mountain Resort in 1999. She was a trail runner and I was a mountain biker. That chance meeting and the courtship that followed has yielded nine more VT50’s (seven for Deb because she missed during her pregnancy years), a marriage, a house, and two kids. Despite the craziness of the past week and the newly expanded family, we were thrilled to make the trip to Brownsville for Sunday’s race.

Of my 10 VT50’s, I have ridden nine on the mountain bike (with one notable exception in 2007 when I broke my chain at mile 17 and ran the 33 miles to the finish) and run one. That one official run was today, though it came in the 50 kilometer race. I wasn’t ready for the big one, so I opted for the baby, but it still hurt to run 31 miles. It is too bad the race wasn’t a marathon because I had a really strong first 26 before cracking and fading a bit in the last five.

Debbie was a saint for hanging out on a miserable rainy day. Not riding turned out to be fortuitous because the mountain bikers got the short end of the stick today. The conditions were fine for running, but they were appalling (though not as bad as 2003) for riding. It was a shame because yesterday’s weather was spectacular. There wasn’t much hanging around after the finish. Folks headed for the showers, cleaned up, grabbed some grub, and hit the road. Travel for us isn’t as easy as it used to be. We made four stops on the drive home to accommodate various kids’ needs.

I enjoyed running the first three miles with Leigh Schmitt. Leigh and I chatted amiably about our families, his impressive 7th place finish at the Western States 100, swimming for training, and our plans for the rest of the season. We ran together on the opening flat section of dirt road, but as soon as we hit the first dirt road climb, I let Leigh, Kevin Sullivan, and another runner go up the road. I settled into 4th place and that is where I stayed for another 23 miles.

I didn’t have much running company, but when the 50K and 50M courses intersected, I had a chance to run along with the mountain bikers. It felt weird to not be riding, but I think I was better off. The bikers all looked to be suffering with all of the mud. There were a lot of mechanical failures and DNF’s. When the riders had to dismount and walk up the steep hills, I would put distance on them, then, they would come blasting past on the next descent. I actually spent several miles with my teammate A.Z Wenzel, who had a fine ride and avenged his Josh Billings debacle with a top 40 finish.

With five to go, I really started to hurt and my pace slowed. I don’t think I was fueled properly, I was a bit chilly, and my legs were just plain tired. I lost a few spots and would have lost more if it wasn’t for Molly Housman. She was leading all of the 50K women when she caught me with a little less than three miles to go. She was kind enough to let me latch on. We talked about kids, running, the mud, and blogs. I was able to stick with her until the finish and it made the last couple of miles a little less painful. She maintained a nice pace until the end, when she decided to drop the hammer on me and gap me in the last 200 meters. No big deal. I owe her one. She had a fine run.

Leigh won the race in 4:01. Kevin Sullivan was 2nd or 3rd in 4:12. I finished around 4:44. The results weren’t complete, but I will post them when they are available along with some comments. I’m curious to see who won the mountain bike race and who won the 50 mile run.

It was a messy day, but it was still the Vermont 50. Since our little girl was born on her due date, she made this possible. It was touch and go as to whether or not we would make it this year. In the end, it all worked out. We are already looking forward to 2010 when Debbie makes her comeback. Maybe I will ride again next year. Bring it on.

Race Results


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#Cyclocross season is winding down. It’s time...but I will still miss it when it’s over. The race days/weekends spent with the @the_ccap #teamhorstjuniorsquad has been awesome. Yesterday’s @nbx_bikes G.P. of CX was another great day. The conditions were fun and challenging and the racing was fierce. @horstcycling #teamhorstsports #crossisboss #nbxgp
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Another awesome @manchesterroadrace #manchesterroadrace #shenipsitstriders #teamhorstsports
I attended the @manchesterroadrace press conference. Less than a week to go. Getting pumped. @horsteng is a Veterans Row sponsor. #manchesterroadrace #teamhorstsports #shenipsitstriders
Great fun @nohocx with the Livingston Family and our #cyclocross family. @horstcycling #teamhorstsports #teamhorstjuniorsquad #crossspikes
Cross country #running is a platform to teach so many great lessons about fitness and life. It was great fun cheering the Bolton Bulldogs at the NEMSAC XC Championships. #trailrunning #crosscountry
Great day with #teamhorstsports at the Belltown Cross even if Wade had to put on his reading glasses to identify his prize! That’s the life of a Masters racer. #crossspikes @horstcycling #horstcycling #cyclocross
Good fun with the #teamhorstjuniorsquad at today’s @stage1cycling Belltown Cross. #crossspikes #horstcycling @horstcycling #cyclocross
Eneas Freyre from @ttendurance was proud of his lap one wreck and wanted the video posted. It helps that he recovered and went on to win the race (Masters 40+ @stage1cycling Belltown Cross). It’s a good lesson to get back up, straighten your bars, and start chasing. #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross #cyclocross

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