Triathlons: Up for the Challenge?

   On your mark, get set … dive in, cycle on, and sprint away to honor the men and women who fought for our freedom.
   On Saturday, Aug. 3, runners, swimmers and cyclists will compete in the 8th annual Willow Creek Triathlon, sponsored by Northwest Savings Bank, Zippo/Case, and Dresser Piping Specialties.
   “The proceeds from the Willow Creek Triathlon benefit the transportation program of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) of McKean and Warren Counties,” said Sean Oschman, a Willow Creek Triathlon race director and committee treasurer. “The monies are used for the purchase and repair of DAV vans, which contribute the necessary help to get local veterans to Veteran’s Hospitals, primarily in Erie, PA.  So many people have made amazing sacrifices for our country and our freedom.  It’s our responsibility to give back to them and make sure they are appreciated and cared for.”
   Gregg Reynolds, also a Willow Creek Triathlon race director, added, “Doing this event for our veterans is the reason why we are all here. The community - Bradford, Olean, Salamanca, Ellicottville - has really rallied behind the event, both from a sponsor standpoint and a participant standpoint.”
   The triathlon begins with a 300-yard swim at Quaker Lake in Allegany State Park in New York. Participants then bike 15 miles out of the park toward the Pennsylvania state line. Finally, runners depart from the Corydon Hotel, 3307 W. Washington Street in Bradford for a three-mile run to the finish line at Willows Restaurant, 2669 W. Washington Street.
   “It’s a beautiful and ‘natural’ course that has been laid out for us,” Oschman said, noting the course has not changed since its inception.”
   Started by Doug Yohe in 2006, the Willow Creek Triathlon takes place the first Saturday each August. Oschman mentioned that Yohe often volunteers with the Warren DAV, helping with the organization’s annual fishing tournament and other events.
   “When the DAV began to get strapped for new fundraising ideas, Doug came up with the concept of a triathlon,” Oschman explained. “He measured the course, got through the red tape and had the event finish at the Willows - the restaurant he owned at the time.”
   “Doug remains active on the committee,” Reynolds added.  “The group is tremendously committed, meeting even through the winter months to make sure the event goes off without a hitch on race day.”
   According to both Reynolds and Oschman, the event is not overly competitive. Rather, the focus is on creating a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere.  The event is not only a wonderful way to honor veterans, but it’s also a great avenue for encouraging health and wellness throughout the community.
   “My favorite part is seeing so many people commit to the triathlon to better their health or to compete in honor of our veterans. It’s a very unique flavor for a triathlon,” Oschman said.
   The Willow Creek Triathlon marks Reynolds’ first triathlon, and since that time, he’s competed in multiple Ironman events.  “This triathlon really holds a special place in my heart,” he said, noting that many have used the triathlon as a stepping stone toward greater fitness and a healthier lifestyle.  “Having this local event has really shown folks what is possible if they put their mind to it.  People that never thought they would finish a triathlon have worked their butt off to get across the finish line, and that’s a special thing to be a part of.”
   While the triathlon is open to most age groups, Reynolds said, “Safety is the driving force here, so in most cases, the under 14 competitors are either part of a team or have a parent/relative with them for the event. The parents of the competitors and race staff need to be comfortable that those competing can do so safely.”
   Oschman agreed, noting that while the course is “definitely within the reach of first-time participants, safety is the top priority. “Participants shouldn’t enter if they have not trained for this event,” he said. “If anyone has questions in regard to this, they can contact me to discuss it.”
   Upon finishing the triathlon, participants are invited to the Willows Restaurant for more fun and entertainment with raffles, food, refreshments, a band, and the awards ceremony.  (Place finishers are determined by the electronic timing devices provided by Runner's High.)  Awards are given for the winners in categories of top racer, top three overall male and female individuals, top female team, top male team, youngest combined team, oldest combined team and the top in each age group.   A tribute to the veterans will take place during the awards ceremony, and a Mobile Vet Center will also be on-site.
   Top male and female individuals also receive a special award, the Thom Maholic Memorial Award, in honor of Master Sergeant Thom Maholic, a Green Beret with Special Forces in Afghanistan who lost his life in a battle with the Taliban in June 2006. 
   Braveheart awards are given to those determined people who make an extra effort under extenuating circumstances to compete in and complete the triathlon.
   “This year, we’ve added a “Clydesdale” (males over 200 lbs.) and “Athena” (female over 150 lbs.) division,” Reynolds said. “This is done to add a level of competition, if the athlete chooses. Think of it as leveling the playing field a little bit. We want to make sure that there is a way for everyone to compete if they want.”
   The Willow Creek Triathlon is capped at 400 participants, so pre-registration is key for anyone wishing to compete.  Entry fees are $40 for an individual and $80 for a team if pre-registered by July 21. After that date, registrations fees are $50 and $90, respectively. For more information, visit www.willowcreektriathlon.org.
 
RACE TO THE PEAK
 
   The countdown has begun! Peek’n Peak Resort in Findley Lake, NY will host its 2nd annual “Race to the Peak” Triathlon on Sunday, July 21.
   The multi-stage competition will kick-off at 9am at Findley Lake and conclude at Peek’n Peak Resort. Last year, over 70 athletes participated in the challenging course.  The Peak hopes the success of last year’s triathlon will attract more individuals who are excited to race towards the finish line.
   If you missed out on the triathlon in 2012, here is what this year’s competitors can expect:
   The Peak Tri begins with a 0.4-mile swim, which circles around an island located in Findley Lake. Next, competitors pedal 15 miles through the countryside, towards the entrance of the resort. A 3.5-mile run will wrap up the event, ending at the base of the ski hills.
   Last year, then 16-year-old Kyle Gronostaj took the first place finish in his first-ever triathlon competition. He completed the course in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 43 seconds, and hopes to defend his title at this year’s race.
   While the weather was not desirable in the inaugural triathlon, with rain pounding brave athletes as they crossed the finish line, this year the Peak hopes for better conditions.
   39-year-old mother Pamela McCormick finished first for the females and just crossed the finished line before the rain caught up to her. She was not a triathlon beginner and compared “The Race to the Peak” to her previous contests.  “Course-wise, I think this one was a little harder, but it was one of the more fun ones,” she said. “I did start to feel it in my legs once the bike portion started, but it was so much fun.”
   Inaugural racer Andrew Lincoln also commented on the event.  “I felt the race was well organized and the course was challenging with numerous hills on the bike and one big hill in the run,” he said.  “I plan to come back and participate again and hopefully be able to run the hill without stopping!”
   Peek’n Peak Marketing and Events Manager Tiffany Cook not only thinks the Peak is a great venue for this challenging event with the varied terrain, but she also believes the location is perfect for out-of-town individuals.
   Scott Enterprises Marketing Manager Alison Scott agreed. "We are excited for this year's ‘Race To The Peak’ and are hoping for a great turnout,” she said. “New this year is the option for Relay Teams.  In addition, we have special overnight package rates for any participant who would like to bring their family and stay the night prior to the race or get a room and relax after the event."
   While the resort is known for its winter recreation with 27 ski slopes and trails, 4 progressive terrain parks, lessons from their renowned snowsports school, a multi-lane tubing arena, and the BagJump air bag, it is more than just a ski resort.  You will not have a dull moment during the “Race to the Peak” weekend. While the competition is fun and fierce, the event also provides awards, unique giveaways, refreshments, food and much more.
   Jim Samuels, who competed in the triathlon last year, explained the scenic race: “If the view from the top doesn’t take your breath away, the run up there will.”
   Don’t miss out on the 2nd annual Race to the Peak Triathlon!  Peek’n Peak is inviting athletes of all different levels to participate. Register today at PknPk.com/peak-tri, or go to Active.com.  For more information and special overnight packages call 716-355-4141 ext. 7154. 
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