Mike Galoob wins Challenge in record time

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By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

Mike Galoob almost didn’t sign up for the Great Adventure Challenge because he doesn’t own a suitable kayak.

His fellow competitors might find it hard to believe that Galoob borrowed one at the last moment after the 37-year-old from Peace Dale, R.I. scorched the 84-participant field in record time Saturday.

Galoob built over a five-minute lead after the first leg of the GAC triathlon and held off a valiant charge by defending champion Rick Nelson to claim the overall title. Galoob’s record overall time was 1 hour, 58 minutes, 30 seconds.

Nelson, who was able to trim about two minutes off Galoob’s lead with the field’s best time in the 14-plus mile bike event, settled for second in 2 hours, 2 minutes, 37 seconds.

Nathan Priest, who posted the fastest time climbing Pleasant Mountain, was third in 2:13.19.

“I hadn’t done any multi-sport races before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping to be competitive in the bike and run legs,” Galoob said. “I’ve been riding and running all summer and have done a couple of bike and running races. I didn’t know how competitive the kayak leg would be. I saw some very fast boats in photos of previous events, and the paddling course record is quite fast.”

Once Galoob found a good kayak, he located a camping site nearby and packed up his family for a weekend trip to Maine.

“I hadn’t practiced paddling in years and the boat was very tippy and uncomfortable for me. I was surprised how sore my legs were when I finished the paddle,” he said. “It took several miles into the bike ride for them to start to recover. But while I felt pretty terrible during the switch from paddle to run, I think it was ascending the ski slope at the end that was truly difficult. It was hot and steep, tough to keep moving, let alone trying to do it quickly. I’m still sore this morning (Monday).”

Galoob was happy with his kayak (23:57) and bike performances (1:06.30, the second fastest time). He has been training since June, having competed in a couple of bike and running races this summer.

“I was able to pace well and actually have fun on the bike ride,” he said. “Although now I know how hard the hill climb is, I would have gone faster on the bike as there’s no point in saving energy for the hike since you’re going to suffer no matter what!”

While setting a course record was extremely satisfying, Galoob was most pleased about the Great Adventure Challenge, in general. He said the atmosphere was “fun and relaxed despite the competition.”

“It was a perfect venue to bring your family and friends, and was all the better in raising money for a good cause,” he said. “The variety of sports makes it interesting, but also the setting. Racing across lakes, through the woods, and up mountains makes it more enjoyable than just completing a certain number of miles.

Thanks again to Rob and all the support crew for hosting a great event!”

For Rick Nelson, his Achilles’ heel came back to haunt him. Winner of the 2010 Challenge, the 36-year-old from Edgecomb hoped to produce a better showing in the kayak leg of the triathlon, but instead posted the 29th best time in 29:10, putting him behind the eight-ball.

“My main strategy change from last year was to bring a better kayak and cut a few minutes off my kayak time. Sadly, while I had a much better kayak, I still can’t paddle in a straight line so I managed to have a slower time than last year. Mission failed,” he said. “Last year, I was able to overcome that because the biking competition wasn’t as strong (I’m a mountain bike racer so it is by far my strongest discipline), but Mike (Galoob) is a strong rider and you can’t erase a six-minute deficit against somebody like him. I can’t wait to come back next year and go head-to-head again.”

Nelson relied on his strength — biking — to slightly close the gap between himself and Galoob. While he settled for runner-up, Nelson welcomed a more competitive field.

“I was happy to see more competition in the solo field this year. The solos were stronger and deeper this year. It’s always nice to have a real race for the front,” he said. “I suspect that this will only improve as the word gets out.”

Spending a little more time running hills in preparation for this year’s GAC, Nelson enjoys just about any physical competition.

“Having specific events to prepare for really motivates me to push myself physically on a daily basis,” he said.

Nathan Priest of Portland placed third overall in 2:13.19 in his second GAC. Priest won his age group, this time around. The 28-year-old’s strategy heading in was to be better in all three events, especially biking and kayaking.

“My strongest event is the run up and down Pleasant Mountain because I am a natural runner and run all the time,” he said. “The toughest event has to be the biking part, only because my bike is a mid-90s Trek without shocks. Talk about taking a toll on the body! It was long and grueling.”

As he expected, Priest fared well in the kayak (fifth) and the run (second best time of 27:02), but the bike portion was difficult, posting the 11th overall time — 14 and 16 minutes behind leaders Galoob and Nelson.

Meanwhile, returning GAC competitor Jennifer Fraunhofer was the women’s champion, finishing in 2 hours, 33 minutes, 11 seconds.

Newcomer Angela McLeod, 36, of Berlin, N.H., was second overall in 2:46.32 and won the 34-plus age class ahead of Jennifer Genovese, 39, of Portland, who had a combined time of 2:52.42.

Watching her husband, Michael (he was 16th overall), compete in the GAC last year, Angela decided to compete this year. She had never paddled a kayak before, so Angela made three trips onto the lake to practice. She was just about two minutes behind Fraunhofer after the kayak — not too bad for the rookie.

A summer resident at Moose Pond, Angela liked the cycling best, although there were a few scary moments when the bike became a little “tippy” in the rock-scattered portion of the course. During the bike leg, Fraunhofer opened up more distance, finishing the 14-plus mile course in 1:26.35 compared to Angela’s 1:37.37.

“It was a really fast course. The hardest part was the rocks,” she said.

The mountain climb was a love-hate moment. Angela liked the fact that for the first time in the race she was able to converse with other competitors — either those heading up the steep grade or those happily making their descent. When she met up with her husband, who was on his way down, Angela suddenly realized she was in the hunt as one of the Top 5 women.

“I had no idea I was that close,” she said. “I was really excited to learn that I had won my age class.”

What racers had to say

Andrew Yip, 31, of Boston had improvement on his mind as he entered his second Great Adventure Challenge.

Having competed in a number of mountain bike races this summer in preparation for the GAC, Yip learned from his first visit here he needed a better plan.

“I learned that I needed a plan to eat and drink more during the race, as I was starting to bonk when I got to the run last year,” said Yip, who grew up spending summers in Lovell. “This year, I think the hardest part was actually waiting for the start in the morning. I put a lot of preparation into the race and really wanted to meet my goals.”

Mountain biking was Yip’s favorite leg of the triathlon.

“It’s my favorite of the three disciplines, and once I got a few miles into the bike section, I was feeling really strong and thought that I had a good chance of finishing well,” he said. “I’m super happy to say that I met both my goals. I wanted to be in the Top 10 for mountain biking (I was seventh), and I wanted to be in the Top 3 for my age group in the overall race (I was third).”

Yip, who was 15th overall in 2:24.52, wants to keep getting better every year.

“I think it’s just a question of more training. I hope that there’s still room for me to get faster on the bike and run stages,” he said. “I love the challenge that comes with this being a multi-sport event. Coming into the transitions, I’m never sure how the next leg is going to turn out, and that keeps things exciting.”

Ralph Calarusso, 53, of Brockton, Mass. was 30th overall in his GAC debut, finishing in 2:42.58. He found the bike and mountain run legs as the event’s toughest assignments.

“(The toughest parts) — the steepest part of the bike where we had to walk and the downhill on the mountain climb (bad knees),” he said.

When asked what were his highlights, Ralph said, “All of it, saying I did it and bragging about it.” He also nearly accomplished both of his goals — beating two neighbors from Alpine Village. He beat one, and missed the other by three minutes.

“Both of them are in their 30s, so I take pride in that,” he said.

If he were to compete in the GAC again, what would he do differently?

“Actually train for it. It was my first time ever in a single kayak. I have done some mountain biking, but never more than three miles on semi-flat terrain. I still can’t run (train) because of bad knees. Can’t get around that one,” he said. “After doing 32 marathons and 100 triathlons, this ranked as one of the toughest things I have ever done. It was awesome.”

If he could change anything, Ralph would like an earlier start (the event scheduled start time is 9 a.m.) and more age classes.

“34 and up is a big class and it is tough for us mid-50s guys to compete with the mid-30s to early 40s guys,” he said. “If only two classes, how about 45 and up?”

Garrett Gustafson, 33, of Brunswick was a member of a team in his first GAC appearance.

“This was my first mountain bike race ever and my first competitive event in several years,” he said. “Pratt’s Hill climb was the toughest. While my butt was pleased to be off the seat for a few minutes, my legs were so tired that it would have been hard to walk on flat ground, so pushing the bike up was pretty difficult. The erosion control ditches seem like good places to stop for afew seconds, but there was a pack of riders behind me that spurred me on.”

And the best part of the race? “Finishing my leg (mountain biking), despite crashing over the finish line. I guess that I forgot to slow down before stopping. I was happy to have finished, believe that I did reasonably well for a rookie, and have family and friends cheering for me,” he said. “I’m also not sure I that I could have pedaled much farther.”

His goals for the day? “Goal 1 was to finish, that was accomplished. Goal 2 was to finish in the upper half; the team did not succeed in this, but I believe my bike time was in the upper half of all riders. Goal 3 was to beat my friend’s team; we failed that.”

Garrett has thought about going solo in 2012, but his team seems interested in repeating to improve their times.

“Now that I have seen the bike course, I clearly need to increase training time and distance, hill work and toss in some hill running,” he said.

Garrett enjoyed his first GAC experience.

“Everyone was so nice to talk to; pre-race tips and suggestions, their experiences from previous years and how they did this year,” he said.

Ben Bruns, 35, has nearly come full circle. He was born in Bridgton, lived in many towns in New Hampshire as a child, went to school in Massachusetts, and now resides in Waterford. Competing in his “first event of any kind,” Ben was 32nd overall in 2:44.11.

“The kayak was the toughest for me mainly because of lack of training and the fact my left leg fell asleep and I fell in the water trying to exit the boat,” he said. “The best part was the hill climb at the end of the event. There’s not much you can do to prepare for it — it’s all about pushing yourself to the limits.”

Ben’s goal was to place in the middle of the pack. He ended up placing 17th in his age group. “Mission accomplished,” he said. Ben plans to return to the GAC next year and he will “train more equally for all three events, not just the bike.”

“I enjoyed being out in the field with people with many different fitness levels all trying to achieve the same goal,” he said. “It’s almost magical!”

Jennifer Genovese, 39, of Portland found herself “hooked” after competing in her first Great Adventure Challenge.

“I love mountain biking and just this summer started really getting into trail running. I am a first-time GAC competitor and I am hooked. I wish there were more off-road triathlons available for people like me,” said Jennifer who was the fourth woman overall in 42nd place with a combined time of 2:52.42. “I have to be in the woods — there is nothing like it.”

She ran in the Trail Run Series at Whittaker Woods in North Conway a couple of times this summer and at the Saddleback Mountain Run last weekend. She also takes part in the 12 Hours of Bradbury every year.

One lesson learned Saturday was Jennifer needed a longer boat.

“I used a 10-foot kayak and it felt like the wake of everyone else was pushing me backwards,” she said.

She also learned she needed to prepare her body better for the grueling physical challenge.

“There is more need for carbs. I used gels and blocks as well as Gatorade, but by the time the hike up came, my body was having a hard time,” she said. “I will research better ways to replenish.”

Like many competitors, Jennifer found the mountain climb to be the most taxing.

“The hike up and the run down was my worst part. My legs were tired on the way up and it was very hard to control my breathing. At one point, I was getting the chills even though it was 80-plus degrees, not sure what that was about but I kept going,” she said. “The run down was rough on the body too. It felt like I was going to lose all control.”

The best part was the bike portion.

“The biking leg was my best part because that is what I do best and I made up a lot of lost time from the kayak here,” she said. “It was very exciting passing all those that got out of the water before me. I am absolutely thrilled I achieved second place in the Women’s 34-Plus category — so much better than I anticipated. I liked that the atmosphere was not overly competitive and that the whole purpose of the event is to raise funds for a good cause.”

Jeremy Hammond, 38, of Gorham found battling a hot day as difficult as tackling the three events.

“It was hot and humid, and I felt dehydrated. Although the GAC provided plenty of rest stops with water and Gatorade which helps, I should have hydrated more prior to the race to account for the weather,” said Jeremy who competed in the LADU Duathalon (5K run, 14-mile road bike) in July.

Jeremy’s goal heading into the triathlon was to finish in 2 hours, 30 minutes.

“I did not quite make that goal,” said Jeremy, who logged a combined time of 3:05.47 for 54th overall. “I am planning on competing next year, and I will change my hydration schedule. Participation in the competition was great. The event staff was really helpful and supportive.”

Emily Hursty, 27, of Hamilton, Mass. returned for her second GAC. She competed in two other triathlons this season and a handful of road races.

“I had a lot more fun with the race the second time around. This is a very difficult course and it was very overwhelming the first time through,” she said. “This year, I knew what to expect on the kayak, the bike and climb so it didn’t seem as daunting.”

What is the toughest part of the race? “I think this is a tie between the hill on the bike course, where you have to carry/push your bike up because it’s too steep to ride and the first half of the climb up the mountain,” Emily said. “By the time I reached the hill on the bike course, I was tired but unlike last year, I knew it was coming so I could mentally prepare myself. Climbing up the first half of the mountain is so steep that with every step I was nervous my legs were just going to give up. I ended up climbing up backwards just to give my poor legs a change of pace. Both are very difficult and can be defeating.”

Emily feels the best part of the race is the people it attracts.

“Everyone I encountered on the bike course and on the mountain was full of encouraging words. I saw numerous people stop to see if others were okay, and I saw many people offering up their own water and Gatorade to their competitors,” she said. “I have competed in numerous races throughout the years and none of them have the spirit that this race has.”

Emily’s goal this year was to finish and to hopefully beat her time from last year.

“I finished so that goal was achieved and I know I did better on the kayak portion than I did last year. This year, I felt more successful,” she said. “I will definitely do this event next year, but I don’t think I would do anything differently. I had a blast out there this year. Convincing a few of my friends to join me might be the only change I would make! I enjoyed being out on the bike the most this year. The course is so challenging, but so entertaining at the same time. There are so many different elements of the course like roads, dirt roads, grass, sand, rocks, mud, etc. You name it, this bike course has it. I never knew what I was going to ride into and it made that leg of the race fly by for me.”

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