Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Great Adventure Challenge

 A Family Vacation with an Adventure Challenge

I have been wanting to participate is this event for several years but have been unable to make the trip up to the little town of Bridgton ME. This year my family decided we would make  Bridgton our destination getaway and I would be able to try out this race I have heard all about.

First, Bridgton ME is a cute, quaint town centered in the lakes region of Maine. My wife, 9 month old daughter and I spent a couple of days exploring the local trails, swimming in the lakes, crawling in the grass and eating food. We loved eating at Beth's Kitchen Cafe (a big shot out to their oatmeal dish) and spent our nights at the Pleasant Mountain Inn, a comfortable Inn with a restaurant attached (The Campfire Grill) which was a nice convenience having a baby.  On our next trip I would like to spend more time so we can explore Moose Pond and Highland Lake on the kayak, run the dirt roads and hike up some of the trails up to Pleasant Mountain with the family.

Chillin' in Bridgton

Parenting..Its the new Multisport!

Our trip concluded with the Great Adventure Challenge, an adventure style triathlon consisting of  2.5 miles of paddling, 16+ miles of mountain biking, then a run/fast walk up Shawnee Peak.  The organization of this race was superb.  A thrilling kayak start, very well marked  course, plenty of aid stations with water and Gatorade and bike support, photographers throughout the course, and a great finish with shaded canopies for racers and spectators. A full barbecue followed with burgers, dogs, macaroni and potato salad and ice cream. More than enough to eat after a hard day of work.  I also dig the purple race shirts.  What really blew me away though was the volunteer support.  From transporting kayaks to the finish, taking bikes at the transition, dishing out food and hydration and cheering racers from first place to last place, they made the day feel special.

View of Pleasant Mountain and Moose Pond

On Left. View of Pleasant Mountain and Moose Pond. Paddle the pond (though actually quite a large lake), mountain bike around the mountain, the run up and down the mountain.

Kayak Start and transition to bike. Photobombed by cute bab

The event began with a race meeting where director Rob Knowles, a friendly, charismatic man addressed the racers of course details and announced some sweet raffle giveaways that all participants were automatically entered into. These giveaways included a kayak from Saco Bound, 2 tickets for skydiving at Sky Dive New England, and 3 bike stands from Andy Stands. Given that this race cost $60.00 for  a soloist, this may be one of the best triathlon deals out there.

Though the kayak course may be shorter than others, the 2.5 mile course felt plenty challenging and my arms felt fatigued. Kayaks came in all sizes and shapes. Having a surf ski race boat definitely gave me an advantage. I like to describe the difference of a surf ski to a rec boat similar to that of a carbon 29er mnt bike and a hybrid mountain bike. Surf skis are fast, fun, and allow for a different sort of paddling, just as a higher end mountain bike would provide over a hybrid.  My Stellar SEL advantage performed nicely averaging 6.8 mph and coming in 4th overall in the kayak leg.  Kris Freeman, paddling a Stellar SES in the excel layup, won and broke the course record finishing about 1 minute ahead of me. Moose Pond is simply beautiful with Pleasant Mountain looming over the western coast.

This tri definitely sides on the biking portion. With 16+ miles, racers will most likely be on the bike longer than the paddle and hike/run combined. The bike is about 80% non technical double track, dirt roads, and grassy trails. The other 20% is moderately technical and only a few areas that some folks may want to walk.  Because of this, the course is suitable for all levels. I saw high end mountain bikes that ripped up the course and other beginner riders using rigid frames. The best riders are the ones having the most fun, and I saw plenty of fun! For me, I had some mechanical problems along the way causing 3 chain drops and a light crash. I later found out the I broke off some teeth on the pulley wheel of my rear derailleur.  I was able to pass one rider around mile 5 but then got passed by 2 bikers near the end of the course. 

The last portion was a hike up Shawnee Peak. A tough hike all the way up, but a spectacular view at the top. There really was not much running, only briefly on a few of the flatter spots.  I was able to pass the 2 cyclists that passed me earlier and built a lead on the hike. Uphill running is one of my stronger suits. With that said, the heat was getting to me, and it was a struggle to not let up my lead. As I got to the top I took a moment to enjoy the view before running down the very steep descent. The run down was harder on my legs then the hike up. Take your time and watch your line, no need to face plant in the home stretch. .
Doing the Bird as I finish up the downhill run. 

In the end Kris Freemen, Olympic Nordic skier, crushed the course surpassing Mike Galoob's prior course record by almost 10 minutes. Hey Mike, you reading this?.... I think you may need to come back next year. I ended up finishing 3rd overall, 2nd in the solo division and first in the old-ish man age group.

Placing 2nd as a soloist.
A great day at Pleasant Mountain and a great weekend in the town of Bridgton!! Do check out this race and if you have any questions about the race please ask below in the comment section. If you are looking for a similar adventure tri, check out the Great River Challenge on October 4th in Northfield, MA.

On Left:  Director Rob Knowles and I at the bast of Shawnee Peak. Rob does a tremendous job putting together a fun adventure style race with proceeds going towards supporting people with disabilities. We all hope to see him continue this race for years to come so please consider this event as a destination for 2016.

 On Left: First place team "The Old Guys" with a team record time of 1:57. This would also have been a course record if it was not for Kris Freeman's amazing time of 1:49. This shows you the level of competition this year!

The Family!