Heading into the third week of Main Camp!Heading into the third week of Main Camp!

Once a year during Main Camp, boys have the chance to compete in an Ironman triathlon around camp. Just like the real Ironman, there is a swimming, running, and biking portion, and campers spend the weeks leading up to the event preparing for the race. To start, they have to swim about a half a mile, across the lengths of both lakes. Boys begin at the lower dam, swim all the way across the lower lake, run up the dam to the upper lake, and swim around the length of that one as well. They exit the lake and transition at the roller coaster, beginning the mountain bike segment.

The mountain bike segment takes them on two laps around camp single-track, finishing with two laps of a different loop for running. Since the race will circle around the Dining Hall area multiple times between swimming, biking, and running, it makes for a very spectator-friendly course for those boys not racing or opting to be “pit crew” for friends. This year, the much anticipated event will take place this Sunday, July 14th.

Getting high fives after swimming the lake course for Ironman trainingGetting high fives after swimming the lake course for Ironman training

Before the boys are able to compete, they have to show that they can complete each segment of the race. This happens in swimming when the boys sign up to participate in a timed swim, like a mock race. For running, the cross country counselors hosted a few course runs, taking boys out to see what the lap would be like. Today in mountain biking, we did some course reconnaissance as well, riding a full lap and stopping to work on skills in tricky areas.

We had a huge turnout for the camp ride: 22 boys and 4 counselors! We started down the trail known as “Toad’s Turnpike,” winding down towards the camp climbing wall. Walker, from New York, rode behind me and was smart enough to bring a Camelbak to stay hydrated on such a sunny day. He said that though he thought he wasn’t the strongest rider out there, he was looking forward to the race. Often in endurance races though, it’s not the strongest person who wins, but the one who has the most strategy and paces the best.

As we continued, we rode over some rocks and along the lower dam to begin climbing up to the top of Iroquois hill. I was riding behind Henry from Kenya. “The running will probably be my strongest section,” he told me. “I’ve run a marathon before, but it wasn’t very fast.” He said that compared to some people he knows back home, he’s not as fast. However, anyone that can run a marathon is extremely impressive in my book. Henry made it to the top of the climb with ease, navigating the steep switchbacks skillfully. “That wasn’t as hard as I was expecting!” he exclaimed once we reached the top.

Once at the top, there was a section of roots that is one of the more technical and challenging parts of the course. The root ball is knobby and difficult to pedal through, requiring one to have enough speed going in to float over the roots, but also enough bend in your knees to absorb the bumpiness and not fall off. We got off our bikes to inspect a good line, then I demoed how to ride the section while staying off the saddle in the “attack position,” keeping pedals level and brakes covered. Afterwards, the boys each tried the section one at a time, practicing their handling through rough terrain. It takes plenty of Warrior Spirit to try a section of trail that seems scary, and several boys pushed out of their comfort zone today by riding over these huge roots!

For the rest of the ride, I was riding behind Henry from New Jersey, who was looking forward to his first time competing in the Ironman. “I’ve never done this before,” he shared. “I think my strongest section will be swimming.” When we first began the ride, Henry was hesitant to ride over roots or around sharp corners on the trail. However, just over the course of the afternoon, you could tell that his confidence was growing. “I actually feel like I’m getting better,” he said excitedly, and you could tell. We climbed up the last section of the loop, and he tried riding his bike over big rocks and up difficult climbs. Even when he didn’t make it, he would quickly brush himself off and get back on, ready to try the next section of trail.

All smiles during today's mountain bike ride around the Ironman loopAll smiles during today's mountain bike ride around the Ironman loop

The boys competing in the Ironman this Sunday will be a mix of newcomers and experienced racers. No matter how many times they have competed in camp’s Ironman or how confident they feel on the day of the race, it always takes Warrior Spirit to show up on the start line. The day of the race is competitive, but it’s all in good fun. Those who choose not to race can spectate, or support their friends who are racing. The “pit crew” campers help out by giving their friends water, helping them put on shoes after the swim section, and cheering them on with words of encouragement. These boys have put in many hours of preparation and practice, and we’re excited to cheer them on this Sunday.

-Annie Pharr

More Highlights From This Monday:

  • Morning Watch: Smat, the Cherokee Tribal Leader, led us in a thought to start off the day, encouraging boys who were working hard in their progressions to reach Ranger or Warrior by the end of the session. He read a quote from Steve Prefontaine, “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift”, and encouraged boys to not give up.
  • Breakfast: Homemade French Toast, sausage patties, a grits bar, fruit, granola, and yogurt.
  • Lunch: pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, watermelon slices, orange “bug juice,” a full salad bar, and m&m cookies for dessert
  • Dinner: Fried fish filets, with wild rice, mixed vegetables, and warm dinner rolls, plus orange Jello for dessert.
  • Max M. earned Ranger in Basketball
  • Jack S. achieved Warrior in Flag Football
Working on coil pots in potteryWorking on coil pots in pottery