The race was held in the beautiful Quemahoning area just south of Johnstown, PA. We didn’t get to enjoy its full beauty thanks to a foggy morning. Driving there was like traveling through dense cotton candy. At the last minute, I decided to travel to Johnstown Friday night after work rather than getting up around 4 a.m. on Saturday to arrive on time. So I had a very restful night and slept until 5:30.
I arrived at the check in, picked up my bib and headed back to unload and that’s when I found Brians36 and her friend, Robin. This was my first tri—it was more a duathlon—and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I gathered up my bike, bike shoes, helmet, hydration pack, ball cap, and food and headed to the pavilion to set up before taking the car to the parking area. There were no stands for the bikes, so I had to lay it on the cement, and organize my running shoes, cap, etc. hoping for a quick transition into running mode.
It was cold; maybe high 40s, and damp!! Despite wearing jackets, almost everyone was shivering waiting for the start. Finally, the Queen herself, Marcia, arrived to explain the race (12 miles biking followed by a 5 mile run carrying a blow-up sword), timing chips, and the Black Death—an optional, very challenging 7-mile trail run. And to get there, you had to bike another 6 miles to reach the trail run. She warned of bush whacking, mud, prickle bushes, men bearing strange gifts, and steep climbs. No thanks. I opted for the easy and fun obstacle course—and fun it was.
The bike course followed the road around the lake. Lots of rolling hills, none very difficult until about the mid-way point. The ride went from fun to a real challenge. Quickly I geared down and tried to pedal fast. But even on the easier gears, it got very difficult. The road just kept climbing and climbing. Many riders were off their bikes almost immediately. I climbed on ‘til I reached the barking dog (maybe 2/3 of the hill??) and decided the smarter strategy would be to walk rather than trashing my legs early in the race.
We were rewarded at the top by a wonderful downhill run for more than a mile. At one point, I was riding at 27 mph. Heaven help me if a squirrel or chipmunk decided to play chicken. The rest of the ride was a gradual downhill with rolling hills. It kept the ride interesting.
I crossed into the chip area with a time of 1:09. Then a quick rush to change socks and shoes and exchange a helmet for a ball cap. The first mile was a slight decline. My legs felt fine, but my feet were not okay—my toes and the balls of my feet were numb from the cold. It took awhile before they warmed up and I had any feeling in them. Next year if it’s chilly, I’ll wear my shoe covers to keep my tootsies cozy.
No one warned us about the hill on the running course. After making our first right off the main road (roughly a mile into the run), the climb began and it didn’t stop for a long time. I walked most of the hill. And of course, what goes up, must come down. So the long climb was followed by a similar, rather steep downhill. It felt great to be running again. There were small stretches of level and some rolling hills. Inside of a mile of the finish, my left quad began to cramp from the all-out run down the hill. I stopped for a minute to stretch and massage it. After that it was fine and I finished the race with a time of 1:58:48 according to my Garmin. I’ll have to wait until the results come out to see what the chip time was.
I grabbed a bite to eat, did some stretching and waited for Brian36 and her friend so we could tackle the obstacle course together. They took a few minutes to recover from the run, and then we headed up the hill for our last challenge, which wasn’t timed. I’m not sure I remember all of them, but here’s what I remember:
The first obstacles were extremely easy—jump or step over some ropes of various heights, a jump over a faux moat, dipping your hands in shaving cream, etc.
The 2nd obstacle was getting through a spider’s web of twine wrapped every-which way through some trees. People were tripping, twisting and getting hung up in the maze, but it was fun. Behind us a blond said—here’s how you do it—and proceeded to get on her belly/hands/knees and slide under the maze of twine. Yes, it was quick, but not in the spirit of the games. So after trying her way for a short distance, I popped back up and went through the tangle.
The 3rd obstacle was gathering 5 pieces of firewood and carrying them to a new destination—the wood was light-weight, so there was very little challenge.
Next, we crawled under a tented tarp to find clear pieces of “glass.” The volunteer was giving hints where to find the glass, and again, not much of a challenge, but it was fun.
Then we did a series of track-and-field like challenges. Walking a short distance with an apple between our knees, running through a grid (like running through tires), and running down a 2 x 4 and then plunging belly-first in same to scramble across a sand pit.
The last challenge had us scooping water from the lake with our hands and running into the grass to deposit the water into a plastic cup.
I finished 7th (out of 16) in my age group and 38th overall out of 87 with an overall time of 1:58:47 (bike: 1:00:12; run: 58:34). I am a consistent middle-of-the-pack athlete.
For our efforts, we received a lovely crown of paper flowers with streamers, and a cool medal.
After that, we headed to our bikes and rode them to our cars, loaded up, and headed to Camp Harmony for the Medieval Feast (also medieval jousting, fencing, and other demos) and the rest of our shwag. Marcia, the volunteers, and the sponsors were unbelievably generous.
The bags held our shirts (we got to order 1 from 3 different designs), DelGrosso’s organic spaghetti sauce, bubbles, pens, gift certificates and discount coupons, and several other items. AND we each received a trophy with our name engraved AND we received a shield with our names. The gifts had us all laughing. It must have taken the volunteers countless hours to provide all this fun for us.
The registration fee covered our lunch, too. Choice of veggieburger or hamburger or hot dog, vegetables, cookies, beverage, fruit and macaroni salad, and . . . some roasted pig. The whole hog was laid out on a serving table.
There were raffles with some pretty nice gifts, and big trophies for the winners. A great day; the Women in the Wild is already on my calendar for 2011.