Tri-athletes prep for Adventure Challenge

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

BRUTAL CLIMB TO THE SUMMIT — After completing a 2.5 mile paddle and 14-plus miles on a bicycle, Emily Hursty found the climb to the Pleasant Mountain summit to be the toughest leg of the Great Adventure Challenge triathlon. Hursty will look to improve upon her 2010 time when she returns to compete on Saturday, Aug. 20. (Rivet File Photo)

Emily Hursty can still remember the pain she felt trying to climb Pleasant Mountain after paddling a kayak 2.5 miles and riding a bicycle 14 miles during last year’s Great Adventure Challenge.

“The most difficult part of the race is starting the run. I was exhausted after the bike and then having to face running up a mountain seemed unbearable,” she said. “I enjoyed the run down the mountain the most. The whole way up, people were encouraging me to keep going and reinforcing the fact that I was almost all the way up. Then, as I started my descent, the view was gorgeous and I stopped for the most scenic water break of my life. The whole way down I was able to ‘pay it forward’ and cheer on those who were on their way up.”

Relief finally came when Emily closed in on the finish line.

“Once you can see the finish line and all of the spectators (including my aunt and uncle — Cindy and David Hursty of Bridgton, who volunteer at the race and told me about it) cheering you on from the bottom you forget that you just finished one of the hardest races of your life,” Emily said.

Emily, along with other returning tri-athletes like Andrew Yip and Bill Brown, will kick their workouts into high gear over the next few weeks in anticipation of the 2011 Great Adventure Challenge, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20.

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The Great Adventure Challenge

What: 2.5-mile paddle on Moose Pond, 14-plus miles biking, 2 mile dash/hike up Pleasant Mountain.

When: Saturday, Aug. 20, rain or shine.

Where: Registration and finish at Shawnee Peak Ski Area.

Who: Rob Knowles is the event’s race director. The event benefits Good Neighbors Inc., which works with adults with intellectual disabilities, who reside in western Maine.

Fee: $60 per person or $150 per team. For more information or to register online go to


Race Director Rob Knowles reported that registration has picked up over the past few weeks, and he remains hopeful that numbers will top last year’s figures.

As the calendar turns to August this Monday, the countdown begins for competitors.

Hursty, a resident of Hamilton, Mass. who summers in Naples, competes in five sprint distance triathlons a year, but nothing truly prepared her for the Great Adventure Challenge.

“I had only kayaked a few times and I had never mountain biked before so I really had no idea what I was in for,” she said. “I hiked the mountain on my own a couple of times this year just so I wouldn’t forget how much of a challenge it is.”

Hursty’s goal, like most events she takes part in, is to finish strong and beat her time from a year ago.

Andrew Yip, who currently lives in the Boston area, also found the mountain hike as his biggest obstacle.

“The run was definitely the hardest part for me last year, probably because I had failed to eat and drink enough during the race and was starting to run out of steam. The run was also the stage that I did the least training for,” he said.

On the flip side, Yip enjoyed the mountain biking event.

“That’s my primary sport during the summer, and it’s the part of the race where I was fastest last year,” he said.

Like Hursty, Yip learned from his first Adventure.

CRUISING — Bill Brown of Cumberland Foreside and Windham cruises along the bicycle course during the 2010 Great Adventure Challenge. Brown will compete in his fifth GAC triathlon next month. (Photo by Sheila Weeman/

“My only preparation was some recreational mountain biking and kayaking. This year, I wanted to be more prepared, and I’ve been competing in XC (cross-country) mountain bike races all summer. So, I think my cycling fitness is significantly better than last year,” he said. “I’ve also been doing some trail running, and I have a new hydration plan to make sure that I stay fueled during the race.”

Based on last year’s times, Yip really would like to place in the Top 10 for the mountain bike leg and perhaps in the Top 3 for his age group in the overall race.

In three weeks, Andrew Yip will find out if his new plan worked.

Meanwhile, Erica Pond Green of Naples has had a change of plans, but it could spell good news to someone who would like to compete.

A member of Team Premier PT, Pond Green handled the cycling duties. This year, due to professional responsibilities, she is unable to compete. However, Pond Green still plans to be part of the event. Her physical therapy company is running a contest with the winner receiving either an individual entry or team entry.

“You heard it first here. To enter, ‘Like’ Premier Physical Therapy on Facebook. Then, post ‘I want to race for you at the Great Adventure Challenge.’ A winner will be randomly drawn for an individual or team on Aug. 10,” she said. “The winner will be notified on our Facebook wall.”

If any area athletes want to put themselves to the test, this Adventure will do just that, Pond Green said.

“I thought the hardest part of the bike (leg) was the last two to three miles after the Big Hill. I was anticipating that the two to three miles would take less time. Race Director Rob Knowles had said that the hill was a marker and the hardest part, so I anticipated that the finish line would be a short few minutes away,” she said, “But, at that point in the race, you are tired, and every next upturn in terrain makes your legs groan. I kept thinking ‘wasn’t the finish line closer last time?’”

Once she finished her leg of the race, Pond Green became one of the many who cheered on competitors as they concluded the mountain hike.

“The best part was cheering on the other racers, squinting up the mountain looking for our runner to return. Also the anticipation and excitement while waiting at the fence at the boat landing waiting for the paddler to come to shore to pass the badge,” she said.

For William P. Brown of Cumberland Foreside and Windham, competing in a triathlon — this will be his fourth Adventure Challenge — represents a drastic change he had to make five years ago.

“In 2006, during my annual physical, I was 50 pounds overweight, had blood pressure through the roof and suffered from severe migraines almost daily. I was in need of a serious change in lifestyle,” the 52-year-old said. “During my training at the gym, I met an individual that was specifically training for triathlons who encouraged me to give them a try. I, in fact, did and completed three of them during the summer of 2006. I was hooked and have been doing 5K road races, adventure races, and most recently military-style obstacle course races and triathlons ever since. My blood pressure is completely under control and I no longer suffer from migraines.”

Brown concurred with Hursty and Yip that the mountain climb poses the toughest challenge.

“There is little doubt that climbing the mountain after doing the kayak and riding the mountain bike is by far and away the most difficult for me. The mountain bike ride itself takes a considerable amount of effort to complete. Getting off the bike after an hour or so in a hunched over seated position and having to stand and lean into that steep hill in order to climb it will make your lower back tighten up in a hurry,” he said. “At best, the ‘run’ to the top of the mountain for someone doing all three events as an individual is a slow jog.”

While athletes stay focused on the task at hand, Brown has taken in the whole picture, and he likes what he sees at the Adventure Challenge.

“By far and away, the best part of the race is the people involved from the organizers to the participants to the supporters and volunteers. It’s a great venue, where family and like-minded people can all come together and enjoy a day of healthy lifestyles, good friends and friendly competition,” he said.

As Aug. 20 nears, William P. Brown is working hard so he can be the best he can be on race day.

“I train very regularly for these events. I am at the gym five or six times a week doing weight training including kettlebells. During the winter, I attend spin classes three or four times a week, but during the spring summer and fall, I am outside on my road or mountain bike just as frequently,” he said. “I do a fair amount of trail running, but clearly should do more. I am fortunate that I have ready lake access, living in Windham for my kayak and swimming enjoyment.”

What can Brown expect in 2011? He’s had some ups and downs in previous triathlons.

“During my first GAC, I crashed on a dry rock bed and seriously injured myself and while I was able to complete the bike ride and I tried climbing the mountain, I was unable to make it to the top without turning back,” he said. “The last two years, I completed the entire race

without incident and was quite pleased with my performance. This year, I will be shooting to improve upon last year’s performance. I have spent a little more time in the kayak and a lot more time on the mountain bike this year.”

And, there is a little side bet (competition).

“I will also be competing for the coveted Bill Brown award. There have traditionally been three Bill Browns competing in the race,” he said. “Rob (the race organizer) thought it would be fun to award the top Bill Brown finisher with his own trophy. Last year, I turned in the best time of the three Bill Browns, however not knowing Rob had decided to do this, I had departed prior to the award ceremony so it was awarded to the Bill Brown with the second best time. I will be out looking to retake the coveted Bill Brown award.”

The Challenge is on — and you can be part of it, there is still time to sign up.

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