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Leadville 100 MTB 2016 – Race Report by Lisa Pivin

The Leadville 100 is unlike any other mountain bike race. Months of training – by amateurs and pros alike – lead to the culmination of this epic race in Leadville, Colorado. The race starts and finishes in downtown Leadville at 10,400 feet. It’s a grueling out-and-back course totaling 104 miles including 5 major climbs with up to 25% grades, the final climb reaching over 12,400 feet in elevation. The course spans graded dirt forest roads, rocky jeep double-track, and paved street, with a short stint of single-track. Those who finish under 13 hours receive a Finisher’s medal; those under 12 hours get a Small Buckle. Sub-9 hour finishers get the coveted Big Buckle.   According to Josh Colley, the race director, most finishers come in around the 11-hour mark. The pro racers shoot for under 6 ½ hours.

Leadville course profile

The race itself is a very special event, bringing together riders from around the world – pro mountain bikers to Tour de France stage winners to amateur racers – into the “Leadville family.”  The event is the brainchild of Ken Chlouber, former mine worker, to support the local economy after the Climax mine closed in the early ’80s, leaving 25% of the town unemployed. You’ll find Ken along the course, encouraging riders with a hearty “Giddy-up!” or a “Go get ’em” in his good-natured drawl. “You are better than you think you are!” he shouts to all in the pre-race meeting, “You can do more than you think you can!” His partner Marilee gives each and every sub-12-hour finisher a hug at the finish line – an emotional and personal touch. Lifetime Fitness has done an excellent job keeping the race’s spirit alive, true to its humble grassroots beginning and tied to its commitment to helping the town of Leadville. Each year, the Leadville Race Series provides a $1000 scholarship to every Leadville High School graduate. (Denver Post article: How the Leadville 100 Saved a Town and Created a Community)

Entry is by lottery with thousands of submissions (other entry options include qualifier races, Camp of Champions, and the stage race). With the participation capped at ~1600 entrants, simply securing an entry is a reason for celebration and is the starting ticket to the adventure of a lifetime.

Race Crew

While it’s possible to complete the race relying solely on aid stations and the designated drop-bag location (the aid stations are well-equipped and the volunteers are amazing!), having your own race crew provides familiar faces and extra motivation at a time when you need it most. Your race crew ensures your personal race-specific nutrition will be ready. They will have your spare parts or extra clothing, will take extra clothing no longer needed, and will give you the encouragement to keep riding.

My friend Brenda immediately volunteered to crew, as soon as I learned I’d gotten in the lottery.   Brenda had supported at Leadville a few times – she was a pro at it. My brother-in-law Jeff had never crewed before, but was happy to help. Brenda’s husband Scott was a 2-time Leadville Finisher. He seemed eager to be sitting on the sidelines supporting us, instead of suffering on the course.

We selected Lost Canyon as the site for our aid station. At the base of Columbine, it’s less crowded than Twin Lakes and is a good breakpoint before tackling the long, steep climb. We met Brenda and Scott for a planning dinner. Brenda arrived with a notepad and pen. What type of mixes did I want in my bottles? Would they be pre-mixed or would she need to mix them?   Did I want to swap out my hydration pack for a new one? What food should be ready? How long did I plan to stop? I stammered, and admitted that I hadn’t thought of any of this yet! I said that I liked Lay’s potato chips, and she promised to have a big bowl ready for me. I was confident we would be well cared for in our race!

Best Crew Ever – Scott, Jeff, Brenda (with Brenda’s friend)

Training

I began training the day I entered the lottery.   David helped me break down my training into 2 sets of 16 weeks, with long weeks (15 hrs), shorter weeks (10-12 hrs), and recovery weeks (8 hrs), with races baked in.   Setting my weekly goal in Strava was instrumental in tracking my hours to my goal. A typical week was: 2 days on the trainer (3-4 hrs total) and 4-5 days of riding (2-3 mtn rides, 2 road rides), with a lot of solo and pre-dawn rides requiring night lights. Long mountain rides (4-6 hrs) were essential to learn how my body reacted to longer durations on the bike, and to get a feel for pacing and nutrition.

I did a lot of climbing (South Mountain towers, Mt. Elden, Mt. Ord) to get used to suffering through endless climbs.  Learning how to suffer is key.   You learn to push through the burning in your legs, when they are whining that they are tired and sore and want to stop. You think ahead to the rest days, and use those days wisely to focus on recovery. At times, I would take an unscheduled recovery day – but tried to do so only when I truly needed the rest, not just because my legs were complaining.

Training is a sacrifice. I went to bed early and got up early. I rode in the dark. Alone. A lot. I used many vacation days and weekends for training rides. I declined outings with friends and family. I missed kids’ soccer games. To balance, I joined friends’ activities when I could, and tried to focus on quality family time vs quantity. The results of my training showed as Strava reflected more and more PRs. My endurance continued to build. I felt stronger than ever!

The focus on climbing, endurance, and suffering was good. In hindsight, I would also have practiced starting out faster and maintaining a faster pace, as well as improving technical descents. These skills are critical at Leadville for both the mass start, as well as the long Powerline and Columbine downhills.

The Mindset

At the Leadville “Camp of Champions” in July, I pre-rode the entire course, 60 miles on each day. Some of us struggled to complete the 60 miles on the 2nd day. “How are we going to do 100 miles?” we asked. We could barely do 60. Dave Wiens, world champion and 6-time Leadville winner, told us it was a mindset. “Today, you told yourself you were going to do 60, and you did it. On race day, your mind will be set for 100, and you’ll do it then too. You’ll see. It’ll be different. It’s all in the mindset.”

Before the Race

We arrived in Colorado ten days before the race, to allow time to acclimate to the elevation and to pre-ride key parts of the course. David did similar preparation last year, and helped map out my pre-rides and taper plan: 3 ride days with a recovery day in between each, and 3 full rest days before the race.

There were a few parts of the course that I was most nervous about:

  • The start: It would be crowded. With over 1600 anxious and ambitious racers, it could be a dangerous part of the race. I planned to stay on the outside, to be able to swerve if needed.
  • Kevin’s: I’d heard it would be packed, with three lanes of riders – left, middle, right – all the way up. Same as the start, I planned to grab an outside line.
  • Powerline: I was not confident in my descending skills, especially around ruts. And Powerline was a long downhill, lined with ruts. My palms would literally start sweating watching Go-Pro videos of the Powerline descent!

I soaked in as much descending advice as I could. Weight back. Head up. Elbows loose. Look where you want to go. I read articles and watched You-Tube videos. I attended a downhill clinic hosted by Dave Wiens. “Heavy on the handlebars; light on the pedals”, he told us, “Look ahead. If you find yourself in a tricky situation, let off the brakes and roll through it. Your tires will eat that stuff up!” In the days before the race, I practiced Powerline descent, repeating the same mantra aloud (“Heavy on the pedals. Light on the handlebars. Weight back. Head up! Look ahead!”), learning where I could ride along the ruts, and where I would need to cross over them.

There are 3 cut-off times in the race: Twin Lakes Outbound (10:30am), Twin Lakes Inbound (2:15pm) and Pipeline Inbound (3:15pm). David helped me map out my splits to make all the cutoff times comfortably and finish in 12 hours. I wrote out my splits and the downhill tips, and taped them to my handlebars. I was as ready as I was going to be.

Pre-race splits planning

Splits taped to handlebar

Notes to self!

The Start

David and I took our bikes to the start and quickly split up to pick a prime position in our respective corrals. David came to my corral so we could have a quick good-luck kiss and picture before the race. The race organizers removed the gates between the corrals and moved us all up closer to the start. I took off my sweatshirt and jacket, handed them to Brenda, and waited for the start. This is always the part of a race that makes me the most nervous!

In corral, waiting for the start. Cold!

Before the race

The starting gun went off and it wasn’t long before my corral was moving.   The start is neutral – no one is allowed to pass the leading motorcycle – so the pace is reasonable to avoid crashes. Still, I stayed as far right as possible.   We rode up 6th Street and onto the road that started the course. The pace began to pick up and gaps opened up for passing. I continued to stay as far right as possible to dissuade anyone from sneaking up to pass on my right, which I hoped would reduce my crash risks. I darted where I could through openings to pass others, and hugged the outside as much as possible.   I tried to keep what seemed felt like a decent pace but also didn’t want to start out too hard, knowing I would need the energy later. We followed the paved road to another road (still paved), then crossed the railroad tracks onto the dirt jeep road, following that to St. Kevin’s climb.

Outbound to Twin Lakes

As promised, the St. Kevin’s climb broke into 3 lanes – left, middle, right. I stuck with the right-hand lane, so I’d have less risk of being impacted by a falling or stopping rider. The pace was moderate at first, then became slower and slower.   At least everyone was still riding. I pedaled as slowly as I could without falling over. This was requiring some real balancing skills! It wasn’t long before I realized I couldn’t pedal any more slowly.   I was down to four options: clip the wheel of the rider in front of me, roll off the side of the mountain, fall over, or put a foot down. I put a foot down, got off the bike, and started walking. By now, the riders in front of me were walking, and it was a big Walk Fest. As we got past the switchback, the pack of riders started to thin out and I was able to ride for short time before having to stop and walk again for same reason as before. I got back on at the earliest convenience and was able to ride the rest of the way up to Carter Summit aid station, on target with my splits.

It had only been about ten miles to this point, so I wasn’t in need of any aid or support. Also, I knew there was a nice, fairly long descent to Hagerman’s Pass and Sugarloaf. I passed the Carter Summit aid station without stopping and followed the nice, long, gradual decent on paved road. The road hairpins into a dirt road to begin Sugarloaf climb. Sugarloaf is a nice, gradual gravel climb with some easy switchbacks and beautiful views. I used this time to focus on my breathing… in through the nose, out through the mouth.   I climbed Sugarloaf without issue to the top of Powerline, still hitting my splits.

At the top of Powerline, I exhaled fully to relax, and went into attack position to begin the descent. The descent turned out to be easier than I expected – and it was actually fun. I was even able to pass a few riders on the way down, and roll across the ruts as I’d practiced. Of course, I got passed as well – but I certainly wasn’t expecting to pass anyone myself, so that boosted my confidence. I talked aloud to myself the entire way: “Head up! Look ahead! Roll, roll… and cross…here…” The most dreaded segment over, I rolled the rest of the way down, and yelled “Yeah!! I did it!” to the photographer at the bottom.

Bottom of Powerline descent – Yeah!! I did it!

From here, there is a stretch of paved road ideal for pace lines. I looked around for others to partner with. I rode some wheels but when I tried to pull, I dropped them. When other riders came along, I tried to catch their wheels, but they were too fast for me.   Finally, I was able to catch a wheel for a bit.

Enjoying the short but sweet single-track

I was worried about the time. Twenty minutes until the first cutoff, and no sign of Twin Lakes. We merged to the single track, which began with a short, steep downhill. I rolled through the single track as quickly as I could. I had the entire trail to myself – pretty crazy after the intensely crowded start!

The single track leads to a road through a rural neighborhood. With only 5 minutes before the cutoff, I saw the lakes. I sprinted across the road to them, over the dam, and past the aid tents of the various support crews. I got a lot of cheers and “Go, girl!” shouts. I sprinted down the road, dodging others who’d stopped for their crews. I would be at my own aid station at Lost Canyon in about ten minutes.

Lost Canyon Aid Station and Columbine Climb

I knew roughly where my crew would be set up at Lost Canyon, and quickly spotted the large yellow umbrella. Jeff was grinning and ringing the cowbell wildly. He grabbed the bottles off my bike, and replaced them with refilled bottles.   Brenda pulled the bladder from my hydration pack – I didn’t want the extra weight while climbing Columbine, but I wanted to keep my pack since it was filled with essentials such as a tube, a pump, a multi-tool, a rain jacket… just in case. She brought the bowl of salty Lays chips, as promised. I scooped up a pile with both hands and stuffed them into my mouth. After the few minutes of replenishment, I was on my way up Columbine.

Lost Canyon inbound – Thank you, support crew!

The first 5 ½ miles of Columbine are a relatively gradual climb. The crowds where thinning out. There were no longer multiple lanes of riders. We were single file on the double track and everyone was still riding. I felt strong.

“Leaders!” I heard someone yell, and three riders zoomed downhill on the left. For the remainder of the way up, it was a slow slog of climbing on the right side of the road, with racers coming downhill fast on the left. With riders coming down, it was difficult to pass, so I’d go around people on the right when I could, sneaking a quick pass on the left if the coast looked clear. I settled into a pace, and set my mind for two more hours of climbing. I imagined I was doing my usual training ride up Elden Lookout Road. It was very slow going. After a while, I began hating life. At 45 miles in, this was the first point in the race where I truly started to suffer.

Eventually I reached the treeline. Here the road becomes much steeper and rockier, the ‘goat trail’. I rode what I could – only a few pedal strokes – then got off to walk. Same as the person in front of me, and the person in front of him, and so on. It was a long line of people walking their bikes up the steep hill. I watched the minutes tick away, as I fell further behind on my splits. The road was rocky, steep, and narrow, with more people coming down at a pretty fast clip. Eventually the grade started to ease up and I was able to ride for a bit. I saw David coming down and yelled his name – I was glad to be on my bike and not walking when he went by me!

The rest of the climb was a mix of riding and hiking. In my pre-rides, I’d been able to climb this part of Columbine, but after nearly 50 miles, my legs were not willing to oblige. I climbed what I could and walked what I couldn’t. I was getting further and further behind my splits. I saw Ken to the side of the road, next to a Jeep. A big grin on his face, he gave us a hearty “Go get ’em!” and “Dig deep!” Eventually the top flattens out a bit, and you can see the trail leading to the aid station – which still seemed like a long way away. I buckled down, and continued to climb. By now, I was close to 45 minutes behind my split. I knew I wouldn’t have time to stop at the top. I reached the Columbine aid station, but instead of rolling up to it, I followed the turn-around loop and immediately started back down the mountain. I shook my remaining water bottle, and estimated I had about 6 oz left – enough to get me to Lost Canyon, where my crew would give me a refilled bladder and new bottles.

Columbine Descent back to Twin Lakes

I passed what seemed like many riders on the Columbine descent, still climbing and looking most miserable. “You’re almost there!” I told them. I let off the brakes as much as I dared, but didn’t have the confidence to go as fast as I should have. As much time as I’d lost in the Columbine climb, I lost quite a bit in the descent as well.

At Lost Canyon, I didn’t see the yellow umbrella anywhere. I blasted down the road and when I hit the left turn to the gate, I realized I’d missed my crew. I quickly recalculated:  I should be at Twin Lakes in 10 minutes and could refill my bottles there. I checked my splits charts. Maybe I didn’t even need my hydration pack bladder to get to the end of the race. Maybe I could make it to the end of the race simply on the bottle refills from the aid stations. It would be tough. Not to mention it was probably not the best of ideas. I had to trust my crew was planning to find me on the course and get me my water.

They were. Jeff told me later that I looked straight at him and blew by. I don’t remember that at all; I was just looking for the yellow umbrella. Brenda realized my mistake immediately, and grabbed Scott: “Get in the truck! Now. You can’t make Twin Lakes, but you can catch her at Pipeline. GO!”   And he did. Best crew ever.

I made it to Twin Lakes, desperate to refill my water bottles. A support crew pointed to a tent with several people in light blue shirts. “That’s the Life Time aid station. They’ll give you everything you need!” And they did. Water. Roctane. Bananas. PB & J sandwiches. They refilled my bottles. Offered to lube my chain. I was so grateful. I thanked them and went on my way.

Inbound to Pipeline

The single-track – which seemed to take forever coming down – was very short going up. I made an effort on the short steep climb at the end of the single track, but it was much too loose. I jumped off the bike and hiked as quickly as I could to the top.

From here, I rode as fast as I could. Unfortunately, it was hard to find anyone to partner with on the paved road by the fish hatchery, so I put my head down and pedaled through the wind to Pipeline.

I had lost so much time! I was nearly an hour behind my splits. I knew the cutoff at Pipeline was 3:15pm. I could see the aid station up ahead as I watched my Garmin. 3:13…3:14…3:15… I wasn’t going to make it. I stood out of the saddle and sprinted as hard as I could. I figured if I was making a valiant effort, they simply wouldn’t have the heart to pull me from the race. I could hear cheers as I passed through the aid station. I looked at my Garmin. 3:16. I sprinted harder. Suddenly I heard, “Lisa!! STOP!!!” Scott ran up to me, holding a full bladder for my hydration pack. “Geez! I’ve chased you this far! I can’t chase you anymore!” It was like seeing an angel. He unzipped my Osprey and wiggled the bladder inside. “They didn’t stop you. You need to go. NOW!”

Scott would later tell me that the cutoff was based on chip-time, not clock time. With all the corrals of racers in front of me at the start, my group had rolled past the ‘start’ sensor a full 2 minutes after the gun. I had officially made the last cut-off, by the skin of my teeth.

Powerline Climb

The Powerline climb was absolutely miserable. I was hurting, and quite honestly, hating life. I could barely push my bike up the first steep incline. The top – which I knew was a false summit – looked so, so far away. I must have looked pretty bad, because an onlooker told me to hang onto the seat and proceeded to drag the bike (and me) up the hill. I tried to tell him “No” and “I can take it from here” but he kept going. He was hiking at a rapid pace and I was barely hanging on. At top of the climb, I stood in the shade with a couple of other guys, taking an exhausted break. “I didn’t ask him to pull me…” I told them. They didn’t seem to care at all. “Good…job…” one guy moaned, and I think he meant it.

Video of me suffering on Powerline climb. (red jersey, dark tights)

I kept my stop as short as possible. As I started pedaling again, the onlooker gave me such a hearty push that I nearly lost control of the bike. I went on to tackle the remaining four (4!) false summits.

During my pre-rides of Powerline climb, I was able to make all the false summits, except that initial steep climb. Now, at 80 miles in, I couldn’t at all, and had to walk to the tops. I looked down at my Garmin – 1 mph! In an entire hour, the mileage had literally ticked from 80 to 81. I was truly hating life. The worst part? By calculating the time and the remaining miles, I knew there was no way I could make it back to the finish in under 12 hours. I wasn’t even to the top of Powerline yet. I had to quickly reset my goal and mindset to finishing as close to 12 hours as possible, and definitely under 13.

I climbed as much as I could on Powerline and passed others whenever I could. It was a mess of suffering all around. On one climb, the guy walking next to me said, “Look…I think we’re almost there…”   I told him, “Actually, I think that’s the third of five false summits.” “You’re kidding…” he responded. No. I never kid about false summits.

I lost track of the false summits myself. Eventually, I made it to the 4th or 5th one, and rode the rest of the way to Carter Summit aid station at the top of the final summit.

Inbound to the Finish

The hydration pack was heavy. It felt like 3 full liters of water. I ended up needing the entire amount, so I was grateful for it. I headed toward Sugarloaf, looking forward to the downhill.

The air was chilly, and getting colder as the skies seemed to be getting darker. At the bottom of Sugarloaf, I stopped for several minutes to put on my jacket. This was a really bad idea. Not only did I lose momentum from the Sugarloaf descent, but with the Hagerman Pass climb ahead, I heated up quickly and spent more precious minutes removing my jacket and stuffing it back in the Osprey. Idiot.

The Hagerman climb was long and slow. Eventually I reached the top, after what seemed like another hour. Only St Kevin’s left.

There are a few punchy climbs on St. Kevin’s inbound, and I set my mind to making them all, as I had done in the pre-rides. My legs were cramping badly though, and I just couldn’t make the end of the climbs… even though I could see the top!  I pedaled through the cramps as much as I could, but simply couldn’t climb anymore, and had to jump of the bike to walk the last bit of each hill. Again, the long descent was welcome, but surely not fast enough. I was just hoping I could make it back to the finish before 13 hours. Only Boardwalk left, including one short steep climb called “Bitch Hill.” Then the final 6th Street climb that rolls down into the red carpet finish line.   I checked the mileage on the Garmin – 100 miles. Only 4 left. Almost there.

The Finish

The remaining few miles on Boardwalk were a blur. I remember trying Bitch Hill, and having to walk to the top.   I remember seeing the cars moving up ahead – that’s when you know you are almost back to Leadville. Take a left at the fairgrounds onto the pavement, then up a bit, then take a right on 6th…and follow the climb up to the medical center. The… last…climb.   I stood out of the saddle at the top of the climb, and tried my best to pedal with effort onto the red carpet. I saw David and Jeff and Scott to the right of the finish area, cheering me on. I think the announcer read my number, and people cheered. I’m not really sure. All I remember is seeing Brenda at the end of the red carpet, holding up a Finishers medal. She put it around my neck and said, “Well, you won’t get a hug from Marilee, but you’re getting a hug from me, and that’s just as good.” She gave me a giant hug and I was done. 12 hours and 50 minutes later…I was done.

Crossing the red carpet. Hooray!!

Afterthoughts

Immediately after the race, people start asking, “So, are you gonna do it again next year??” It is some sort of sick humor. At the time, your response is, “No way! Never again.” I’d even texted a colleague & fellow cyclist who’d been tracking my race progress: “If I ever say I’m going to do this again, shoot me.”

A friend met her goal of finishing under 12 hours, after a previous attempt in 2013.   I was proud of her! “Great work…unfinished business,” she posted to my Facebook page, “I would come and crew for you any day.”   I looked up her 2013 finishing time – it was identical to mine: 12 hours and 52 minutes. That solidified my resolve to return. Look for me in 2018 – I’ll be there!

Tips from Others

  • Find a gear you can sustain. Then pick one gear lower.
  • Find others to pace with on the paved road by the Fish Hatchery (between Powerline and Pipeline). Wait if you have to. Don’t go at it alone in the wind.
  • Powerline has five false summits (this one was invaluable for mental preparedness!)

Other Notes

Nutrition – a gel every ~45 minutes (PowerGel, HoneyStinger, Gu). Sleeve of Cliff Shot Bloks up Columbine. ½ banana, chips at Lost Canyon inbound. ½ banana, ½ PB&J, chips at Twin Lakes inbound.

Fluids – started with 1.5L water in pack, 24oz bottle water, 20oz bottle Roctane. New 24oz water and 20oz Roctane at Lost Canyon outbound. Refilled 24 oz water, 20oz Roctane at Twin Lakes inbound (+ paper cups of Roctane). Bladder refilled w/ 3L water at Pipeline inbound aid station.

Nature breaks – one pit stop to visit the trees between Twin Lakes and Lost Canyon

THANKS TO:

  • The Best Crew Ever – Brenda, Scott, Jeff – for the amazing support, and especially to Scott for chasing me down on the course to bring me much-needed water!
  • David & Lovina Pivin – for taking care of the kids, so we could spend the 1 ½ weeks in Colorado
  • Emily Pivin – for holding down the fort while Jeff spent the week in Colorado to crew for us
  • Emma & Dana Pivin – for being understanding and supportive, as I missed games, events, and other fun activities during my training
  • David Pivin – for being a supportive coach and husband. Thanks for supporting me!
  • All my friends, family, and fellow cyclists who supported me in my training, tracked me during my race, and sent me notes of support and encouragement. You all rock! I’m a lucky girl. 😀

In Genealogical Research, it Is Always Best to Look in the Right Place

When doing genealogical research on the internet you have access to great resources but searching through print archives and publications located in the area that the people lived can produce some surprising results…

 …IF you know the right place to look!

This is the story of some of my genealogical research done in two trips to the area of New England where I grew up and to Quebec and Nova Scotia, Canada where my older ancestors lived and died. The first chapter of this adventure took place in August of 1999. The narrative is based on a daily log that I kept on my laptop that I used to record all my genealogy research. My wife Lovina and I were on a visit to her sister in RI. Our plans for this trip would also include a day trip to attend a Pivin Family Reunion and then for me to spend a week traveling through Quebec and Nova Scotia to visit my cousins while Lovina continued her visit with her sister.

The second chapter of the adventure is about continuing my search in RI, two years later, in 2001, based on some of the significant discoveries on the first trip. This is where I attempted to solve the mystery of the identity of my great-grandfather’s parents, whom I believe lived their whole lives in Quebec, Canada.

Chapter 1 – A Taste

Friday, August 20, 1999 in Warwick, RI

I planned to pick up a rental car and drive with my wife and her sister, Jane, to Bristol, where we had all grown up. We could all have lunch with my wife’s father at the Lobster Pot. Things didn’t quite go according to plan, but it turned out to be my lucky day!

JBLauzonGrave

Cemetery monument of Jean-Baptiste Lauzon and his wife Ellen Messier in Warren, RI.

I drove toward Bristol, thinking I would visit the rectory at St. Mary’s Church in Bristol to possibly find out more about my Pivin Grandparents. Along the way, I decided to go to the a cemetery in Warren to try and find my grandfather Peter Jeffrey’s grave which I seem to remember visiting with my parents in my childhood. I had a recollection of a tall white marble tombstone and believed it was the marker for my mother’s father. I searched all over the cemetery and could not locate it.

I decided to go to St. Mary’s Rectory in Warren and ask if they had any records of the grave locations. They had none for any Jeffrey. Then the clerk suggested that I check the other two cemeteries which were next to the one I was looking at. The cemetery of the French Church, St. Jean Baptiste, was where I checked next.

This was the church my grandmother Emma Jeffrey attended, it was in the same block she lived in. I probably should have gone there first. Looking for the same marble gravestone I remembered, I didn’t find one marked Jeffrey, but there was a familiar shaped one marked Lauzon. This was my grandmother’s maiden name, but on my father’s side. I read the names: Jean B. Lauzon and Ellen Messier. Hmmm…

JosephPivinGrave

South Side of Lauzon monument with their son-in-law Joseph Pivin and his wife, their daughter, Mary Lauzon and grandson Oscar Pivin and his wife, Ida.

I didn’t know if they are related to my Pivin grandmother for sure, but then I moved around the south side of the monument and my jaw dropped. There were the names of my grandparents, Joseph Pivin and Mary (Lauzon) Pivin with their son Oscar and his wife Ida! Here were my grandparents and aunt and uncle on one side with what must be my great grandparents on the front. I would have to confirm this, but it looked promising.

We called my father-in-law to say we would be stopping to pick him up to go to lunch, but he said he didn’t want to go out to eat so we stopped at another restaurant (Quito’s) to get some clam cakes and a fish platter to-go for him. I decided to do some more research while they visited with him, so I went to the office of the Bristol Phoenix newspaper to look for the obituary of my grandmother whose gravestone I just found. I knew she had died 22nd of July, and the tombstone said 1953, I asked to see their archives for that month. On the front page of the July 24th issue was an article about a trial of a 21 year old man named John McKenna who was arraigned in the hit-and-run death of my grandmother. The article was continued on page 2, ironically right next to her obituary.

I remember the funeral very well, it was held at her house on Hope Street, with the living room set up like a funeral parlor room. I remember the smell of all the gladiolus bouquets and how she looked like she was asleep with a rosary entwined in her hands. I was only 7 years old and this was my first experience that I recall with the death of a family member.

I read through the obituary and found the confirmation that J. B. Lauzon was her father and another precious fact: She was born in St. David, Quebec. This is a small town halfway between St. Germain de Grantham and Sorel, which were homes of my ancestral Pivins. Now I have a thread to follow with this line into the excellent records of the Quebec parishes. Her mother was listed as Helen Messier. Chances are good that I can follow both of these lines in the Blue Drouin Quebec Marriage records.

I could not believe how this has turned out. Thinking I was looking for grandpa Jeffrey, it was an incorrect memory as far as the name on the tombstone, but I hit the jackpot on finding my father’s grandparents and a lead on where to look for more info on the line. One more generation back on these two people and I will have determined a full five generations back on my ancestry.

Monday, August 23, 1999 in Warwick, RI

Woke up to the sun shining in the window; I hope this lasts. I Headed for American-French Genealogy Society (AFGS) in Woonsocket, RI at 11:30. After an introduction by one of the volunteers I was underway on my research. The first thing I tried was to look for J. B. Lauzon in the Blue Drouin marriage index. No luck.

I tried an alternate method with J. B., looking for his death record, but that was also fruitless. I did, however, find the death record of grandfather Peter Jeffrey which allowed me to fill in that blank. He was 44 when he died and that was in 1906, only two years after my mother was born. That must have been very tough for my grandmother. She never re-married and she and my mother went back and forth to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia over the next few years as my grandmother tried to make ends meet.

Working on the Messier side of my grandmother’s parents had a much better results, as I was able to trace back through several generations and the marriages linked well. I also had luck in tracing the Ferron line of my great-grandmother, adding several marriages there.

Our visit came to an end and we headed back to Arizona, disappointed that I did not find great-grandfather Jean-Baptiste’s parents.

Chapter 2 – Looking in the Right Place

In July of 2001, after returning from the continuation of the search for the parents of Jean-Baptiste Lauzon in RI, I wrote the following summary of my trip and sent it to my fellow researchers with ancestors in Canada on an email list-server:

I just returned from a visit to RI, where my most recent ancestors lived and am delighted to report that after much searching I have found the identity of the parents of my great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Lauzon. I have been dead-ended for many years and this discovery came after many repeated efforts down many dead-end alleys.

Those of you who have been searching in the US may benefit from what I have learned about church and civil record-keeping and the people who are in charge of the archives.

This search was for the last couple to complete my 5-generation chart. I got very close to completing this when I found my great-grandfather’s tombstone on my last trip to RI two years ago. This was also when I drove through Quebec, New Brunswick, Cape Breton and Halifax, Nova Scotia, meeting many cousins and people I had met on the internet doing research.

The tombstone was etched with his death date and I though it would be a simple job to find the record of his death. I found his wife’s record, who pre-deceased him, in the town of Bristol records, but there was nothing for him. Did he die somewhere else?

Searching through the state archives yielded nothing. I was getting discouraged. I tried to contact the people at the church connected with the cemetery, but got no response.

Now, two years later on this trip, I am determined to solve this mystery. I return to St. Jean’s church in Warren where I was told to go to another church in the town where the records were kept. No death record. There had to be something more than just a record that the burial took place there. The clerk at the rectory suggested that I look for a burial permit at the town hall. This would have been required to bury Jean-Baptiste Lauzon in Warren.

At the town hall in Warren, burial permits were kept in a cardboard file box, sorted by year and wrapped in rubber bands. Flipping through them, my excitement grew as I found his permit. Wow, nothing like I expected, he was buried in Warren with his wife, but died in Bristol, the adjacent town where his children lived and where I spent the first 20 years of my life. I am hot on the trail now…

I had never thought to look there in all my previous visits. I went to the town hall in Bristol and the clerk emerged from the vault with a huge tattered volume and again my excitement grew as her finger ran down the page and yes, there he was. My eyes quickly moved across the page to the right columns where his parents were listed: Jacques Lauzon and Hermine Brouillard.

Oh boy, I was on a roll! Now to race across the state (only about 25 miles) to the AFGS library and their copy of the huge Blue Drouin marriage index.

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The Blue Drouin

Two years ago I had searched the marriage indices and even a collection of Lauzon marriages but to no avail. My grandparents were not in the index and there was no way to connect to a particular Lauzon couple out of the many that were there. Could this be another dead end? Would Jacques Lauzon be in the index?

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Jacques Lauzon’s record in the Blue Drouin Marriage Index of Quebec Marriages

The above re-creation of the Drouin Index entry for my grandfather’s parents shows what I found. The groom with his parents and the bride and her parents and the date and location of the marriage. From this entry, I could easily continue back through hundreds of years of family history since both of their parents’ marriages were listed as well.

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The Red Drouin

Once you get one marriage in this huge index, you are taken on a journey way back many generations to the late 1700s and can carry each of these back further in the Red Drouin index that covers back to the pioneer days of the early 1600s in Quebec when most of the French immigration took place.

I could not contain my joy in the library atmosphere of the AFGS and let out a loud “YES!” when I found Jacques Lauzon and Hermine Brouillard. This has been my best day of researching, ever. I continued to work my way back in the index and added more than five generations to my father’s lineage as well as connecting to families before 1760 in the Red Drouin.

Epilogue

I learned that church records and even civil records in the US are nothing like those in Canada for completeness. I learned that childhood recollections can be faulty and assumptions about where people lived can be wrong. One bit of advice to help with research: Talk to your elder family members before they join their ancestors. You will learn many things that are not found in any church or civil records and maybe even where to look for more information.

The Mystery of the Picture of Mom and the Old House on Isle Madame

Marie Jeffrey 1915

Marie Jeffrey in  1915

All I knew from when I was a kid and I first saw this picture, was that this was a picture of my mother next to a house on Isle Madame, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was in or near the town of D’Escousse, where she was born. Taken around 1915, when she would have been 11 years old, I thought it might be a picture of the home of a member of the Kavanagh family, my grandmother’s maiden name. In early September 1999, I spent three days on the island and could not seem to locate it. But on the last day, Vic Dawson, whom I first met on the internet and had been my guide around the island, took me to visit with Val Poirier, my 2nd cousin and closest relative still on the island.

Val told us quite a few stories about the people on the island. I asked where the Kavanagh family lived and he said that it was just down the road, but that house had burned down in the 60s and possibly not by accident as there was a dispute over ownership. This was a disappointment and it looked like I was not going to see the old house. Then I showed him the picture of my mother in front of an old house and I wondered if he knew where it was.

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2nd Cousin, Val Poirier

In this audio clip, ValPoirier gives me a surprise answer to my question about the house in the picture. “You’re sittin’ in it!”

Val attested to all the changes that had taken place in the past 84 years since my mother stood outside: the windows and the mud room have been moved, the dormer and cellar doors added. This is the oldest, continuously occupied house on the island, built over 200 years ago and has remained in the Poirier family ever since! Below, I am standing near where my mother stood over 80 years earlier.

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Dave Pivin, at the old house in 1999

View from Front Door

View from Front Door

Postscript:

In April of 2009, my cousin, Val Poirier, pictured above, passed away. The home was kept in the Poirier family and was beautifully renovated as a summer rental along with another Poirier family home on the island by Wayne & Cecilia Poirier. Photos of both homes be seen at this site, along with their history.

A Secret to Achieving Permanent Weight Loss
 (Other Than Divorce)

This article by me appeared in the monthly newsletter “Much Ado About Mensa” for July 2012.

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No, it’s not some miracle pill or buying your food from some over-hyped diet plan or even hiring a personal “coach.” I’m just going to skip right to the answer, simply put:

DON’T EAT SO MUCH!

Sure, easy for me to say. But here is what I have learned over the past 10 years since I weighed over 300 pounds and how I permanently lost over 100 pounds. How you do it makes all the difference. It’s neither quick nor a diet. It’s about un-learning the bad eating habits that got you to that undesirable weight and how you educate yourself in good habits that result in permanent loss.

First step in the process of adding years to your life is to discuss your current condition with your doctor and formulate a plan. Set a goal to achieve your ideal weight over an appropriate time scale. You will find that you will have to make some changes. Like I said, it’s bad habits that got you to where you are at. It may or may not involve changes to your current exercise routine, but the highest priority, the one with the most leverage, in my opinion, is to consume fewer calories.

Here’s what my doctor suggested to me: “Try restricting your calories to less than 1800 per day to start out.” He didn’t tell me to exercise beyond what I did at work or my infrequent hiking/walking. He gave me a “cheat sheet” of good nutritional meal plans with typical calorie counts. Seemed reasonable, but I then realized that it not only is it important to keep your diet balanced to stay healthy, you need to understand the nutritional value of what you eat along with the costly calorie “penalty” of continuing to eat the same quantity of the items you like.

The learning process for food value is a key to success in the long term and there are many aids in that area, ranging from printed calorie/nutrition guides to on-line programs that help you track everything you eat. And yes, it’s true, “there is an app for that.”

Read the labels on packaged food and visit the nutrition pages on restaurant web sites. If you simply record the calories of everything you currently eat for two weeks without trying to reduce your intake or change your choices you may be surprised. Weigh yourself at the start and end and see what average calorie count per day has resulted in what weight change. From there, calculate what your new average should be to lose 1.5 to 2 pounds per week by using the estimate that 3,000 to 3,300 less calories per week will mean losing about 1 pound. (YMMV and it works both ways.)

So, back to my case. I first used a program on my Palm PDA that had a database of common foods and I entered everything I ate into that. This allowed me to manage to my budget. I found it was easy to do that and so much so that I was able to easily stay under 1600 calories. In this way I lost my first 80 pounds at the average rate of 1.5 pounds per week. The doctor was pleased, my blood pressure went down, my tri-glicerides got more into balance, although he said I could exercise more. However, this is not the end of the story…

Even though I dropped the weight, I wasn’t close enough to being at a healthy weight. I had slacked off a bit in my calorie tracking and still didn’t exercise. However, I had learned a whole new set of “good” foods and what to avoid at all cost. I had drifted back up by 20 pounds over the course of a few years and then a wake-up call. A coronary artery blockage sent me to the emergency room. In spite of passing a treadmill stress test the week before and always having consistently low cholesterol I had to have five stents put into two blocked coronary arteries.

I needed to continue my weight loss and complement this with some exercise once I was released to do so by the cardiologist. At this point, I retired from working and had a lot of free time so I started riding bike a few days a week around the neighborhood. First 2 miles, then 4, then 6, then 8 and finally 10 miles each time I went out. I also began doing it more often until I was out every day, making friends with the other “regulars” running or riding in the neighborhood.

So over the past 10 years I learned what I can eat habitually yet still stay under 1600 calories average. I can still have pizza, chocolates, burgers and the like, but I just have to stay in budget. Speaking of budget, I now spend less on food! Holidays provide challenges, but keep the average around your budget and you will do fine. Today I use an app on my iPhone that tracks everything and even has a bar code scanner for packaged food UPC codes to lookup the information automatically.

In summary, I have learned that diets can’t possibly work, since they are always temporary. Only a permanent change in habits can achieve permanent weight loss and a longer, healthier life.

Photo at the top shows “before” on an Alaska Cruise in 1998 where I was approaching 300 pounds and below is “after” where I have lost over 100 pounds and completed a bike ride of 25 miles with daughter-in-law Lisa.

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Poppin’ with Pop – A Recollection

After many years of absence, I returned to the neighborhood where I spent the early years of my life. I was walking down the street I had walked so many times on the way to school or to the corner store for an ice cream. Although the homes and street were familiar, the picture seemed much different now.

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I brought my son to see my old neighborhood, to see where I grew up and he walked beside me now, gazing up at the trees that shaded the sidewalk as they had done for me then. It was mid-summer now and the leaves have reached maturity, especially the maples, first to sprout in the spring, with reddish-brown buds. Gazing across the street, a single tree stands deep green against the blue sky. A humid rush of air blows past me and tips the leaves back, exposing lighter green undersides.

The trees had always provided a dense shade for much of the block in front of the house, but the branches seem now to be hanging lower than I remember. Some places I even have to duck to miss.

Glancing down at my son I am struck by the realization that I was his height when I the memories were last imprinted on my mind. I remember how I often ran down this sidewalk and leapt into the air, stretching my arm out as far as I could to reach the leaves.

I encourage my son to jump to get one of the low-hanging maple leaves. It’s time to pass on to my successor generation some key knowledge which is bound to prove useful later in life. He runs ahead and captures a prize leaf. Maples always were the best. Large smooth surface, tender to the touch, broad enough to hang well over both sides of a small fist. Perfect ammunition for a ‘popper’ and room enough for several re-loads.
I don’t remember who it was taught me how to pop leaves, but it is something which I always did whenever leaves were within reach. Taking the hard won leaf from my son’s hand I begin to describe the process with the slow, deliberate motions of a magician. I place the leaf over my left hand, ample coverage even for my large fist. Holding my left hand out about a foot from my stomach I bring my flat open right hand down quickly on the loaded popper and POW! Oh, what a sweet sound!
Not waiting for further instruction, my son leaps for fresh ammunition. Dropping back to earth he notices that he missed a leaf but came up with another play-toy of the Maple tree, the “propeller.” Before he jumps again I take the propeller from his hand and say “Wait, look at this! Time for a nature lesson.”

Later in the year, these v-shaped wings will dry out and drop from the tree on their own, spinning down slowly to earth and depositing themselves on the ground. With the rains of spring they will sprout into a very fast growing maple tree.

But there is another use for these flying seeds. While they are still green and moist with sap, you just have to break the two halves apart and you have a Pinocchio nose kit for two.

By splitting the end with the seed in half, and peeling out the seed, we both placed the sticky propellers on our noses, prepared to go up for ammunition again.

His next jump resulted in success, now that this leaf snatching had a purpose. Anxiously, he placed the leaf on his hand and smacked it hard with his open hand and there was no pop…

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Aw, you got a blank, it happens sometimes.”

“No really, what did I do wrong?”

“Ahhh..the secret!”

“You need to form a circle with your fingers, keeping the fist slightly open, instead of a closing it ,” I said.

Aided by this age-old secret, he again smacked the leaf and fist and squealed with delight when it popped loudly.

“History Detectives” – A Personal Experience

The premise of one of my favorite PBS shows, “History Detectives” is that people bring artifacts to the team of investigators to get a question answered about the article. For example, “Was this an original Ronald McDonald costume?” The investigators followed leads and interviewed experts to answer the question and usually delight the owners of the artifacts.

So I have recently tried to organize my large collection of old slides, prints and negatives by putting them into storage boxes, arranged chronologically as best I can. This required looking through each packet or envelope to guess when they were taken as not all of them were marked or had writing on the back. I have a stack of 14 boxes but only one box of the very old ones.

As I was going through some of the negatives in the oldest box that had been saved by my mother in old shoeboxes, I found this one that triggered a renewal of a search for the identity of the photo on the wall above the fireplace. It was taken at Christmas in 1949. I would turn 4 in two weeks. My sister Dolores was 17 and in her senior year of high school.

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Every year, my mother would put all the Christmas cards on the fireplace. Above them was an old black and white photo of a Navy ship. That ship, I was told, was one that my father had helped build during WW2 in the shipyard in Providence, RI. He had learned the plumbing trade from his father and took the job to help in the war effort as he was not drafted when the war started. This photo stayed up on the wall well into the 1950s.

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In the early 60s it was taken down and replaced with one of my paint-by-numbers paintings and I lost track of it. Several years ago, I tried looking through Naval history sites on the internet, but didn’t get very far in my search and I gave up. So now, after over 60 years, I tried again to search for the ship that my father helped build.

I began to collect what little I knew about the ship’s construction to start a search. It was built during the war in the shipyard in Providence. I recalled that that dad called it the Kaiser shipyard. So now off to Google.

‘Kaiser shipyard Providence’ search term led to Kaiser Shipyards in Wikipedia. The shipyard in Providence was located at Fields Point, just south of downtown at the head of Narragansett Bay. The Fields Point Wikipedia entry led to the name Walsh-Kaiser Company, that had taken over operations of an earlier attempt to establish a shipyard under the Emergency Shipbuilding Program shortly after Pearl Harbor.

Walsh-Kaiser Shipyard in Providence started with Liberty Ships, made famous for the extreme rate of launches, although no records were set at that location, Kaiser had built the SS Robert E. Peary at Richmond, CA yard #2, that launched in only 4 days, 15 hours, 29 minutes from the time her keel was laid.

So looking through the Walsh-Kaiser page there was a list of all the ships they built in the period from 1943 through September of 1945: liberty ships, frigates and Artemis class attack cargo ships. Referring to the photo on the wall, that I clipped and adjusted below, I noted that it was not a liberty ship, or a frigate, based on a comparison to ships of that type, so it had to be one of the Artemis class cargo ships. But which one?

So each of the ships listed by name had a link to more details and some photographs. I started down the list and noted that the first one pictured was first of the class, the Artemis and she had the same characteristic shape and I was sure I was on the right track. Then I clicked on the link to the USS Sirona AKA-43 and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was the same photograph that hung over the fireplace.

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