Challenge Pocono Mountains – race tips and report

This past weekend I attended a triathlon… there was a group of 7 of us: six of them were racing; I was volunteering/spectating/cheering/taking pictures and being the official obsesser about everything. Turns out, only two of us had combed through the Athlete Guide, which was useful because it was a complicated event. For a runner like me, a tri seems overcomplicated already, so I overprepare (and will share), but for them, this is just one more, so, whatever. But for you all triathletes out there who might be considering this event, I jotted down my thoughts, well, pretty much all I saw and MOSTLY heard from everybody else.

  • It’s just 1.5 drive from NYC.
  • The “mandatory” athlete meeting didn’t seem quite mandatory 😉
  • Very small field, so you won’t feel too crowded
  • It’s very family oriented, relaxed and fun event
  • The race gave every athlete a shirt, plus a fantastic running backpack (that my husband already donated to me) full of goodies, wohoo.
  • Really well organized, there were millions of volunteers, people helping with everything and super well managed.
  • It was a million degrees hot hell, but apparently this is totally normal in EVERY triathlon (true so far for all I’ve been at).
  • There was, for some of us, ZERO phone signal at all times. If you need to meet up with people, CRAP, plan ahead. A couple of people had phones that worked. totally random (Sprint didn’t work! which was horrifying for 20 minutes, and then I LOVED IT!) Just be prepared as you won’t have access to any of the race info, so print it all out or email it to yourself. ok?
  • There are THREE spots to get to know
    1. the swim start, T1 and T2
    2. the expo/finish
    3. parking

all these places are about a 10-20 minutes drive away from each other, but you can’t park at 1 or 2. So, on Saturday, we parked at 3, took a shuttle to 2 to pick up the bibs, etc, then a shuttle back to 2, headed to 1 to drop the bikes. Race day was messier, as you have to park at 3 (or maybe you have someone to drop you off at 1, but have to be out of there by 9 am), then take a shuttle to 1, then you race, and you finish at 2, take a shuttle 3, pick up the car, and head back to 1 to pick up the bike. I, as a spectator/volunteer who doesn’t drive spent quite some time going back and forth in the shuttle. Post race, it took quite a while to get on a shuttle so be prepared.

  • Not a lot of portapotties at the start so the lines were long. Be prepared to wait (or, ehem, go in your wetsuit like most people do!). The staggered start helped with the congestion though.
  • The SWIM, some people loved it, some didn’t. The water was super clear so you could see through it, and there were fish, almost as fun as snorkeling. But, there was some really high seaweed/grass that would entangle you. At some points it was quite shallow. Some people grabbed the rocks at the bottom to propel themselves forward, that is legal I guess.
  • The BIKE course is very technical. There’s some serious SERIOUS rolling hills (mostly on the first miles) and turns that you’ll have to be quite aware of. There were also some potholes on the middle of the road. Be prepared for the bike leg. Good thing is that it is mostly shaded.
  • RUN is also quite shaded, yey, but I heard there were a few tough climbs, and that walking them was more efficient, so you can imagine…. if you like the trails, you’ll love the run (but bring appropriate shoes for it!)
  • FINISH line, was so much fun. There were water/Gatorade/towels for the finishers and a ridiculous amount of DELICIOUS food, I am not kidding: chicken parm, pasta, salad, etc. It was great. And beer! A nice gazebo sitting area, and there was a vendor with hot dogs and burgers and drinks. There was games for the kids, lots of areas to spectate and cheer and tents. It was fun for all.

Now onto our weekend…

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Overall, we had a fantastic time. We drove out of NYC,  at 11 on Saturday, got there by 1:30 (traffic!!!!), right for the athletes’ meeting. First, we parked the car, and took the shuttle to the expo.

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waiting for the shuttle in the woods, and mostly, IN THE SHADE

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We got bibs, burgers at the vendor (which were ok), lots of Gatorade and pickle juice at the expo (it’s a thing!), I got my volunteer shirt and stuff, and we got to check out the finish line area…

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We then took the shuttle back to the parking lot, and headed to start/T1/T2 to leave the bikes and stuff. Then to the hotel, dropped the stuff and headed to dinner to INTI, a fantastic peruvian place, I recommend it, I had the ceviche and the stuffed avocado. YUM.

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The town is really cute. There’s wawas and CVS so don’t stress if you forget something: there’s many stores that have Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups!!!

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Race Morning, we got up at 4 (that’s two days in a row for me! ugh), headed out at 5, transition was closing at 6:10 but first we had to park the car and get on the shuttle:

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Dan and Maggie’s shuttle-selfie. we’re in the back

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All 6 of them race ready. 3 doing the half ironman (Juan, Maggie, Dan) and three doing the Olympic distance (Dan, John, Keri)

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Lots going on at T1, meters away from the swim start

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There was a lot of action at the swim start, were I was positioned. I saw every wave into the water, it was quite exciting!! at some point a guy gets back out of the water all pissed and throws his googles towards the shore (us), and we were all worried that something awful had happened, maybe he twisted an ankle, slipped, was having serious issues..? No, his goggles broke… there was a cop there and, because he littered, or something, they were having a chat. Interesting.

Anyway, they all headed into the water, and I walked about 20 yards to watch them come out of the water. Juan was going at it, in the top 10 out of the water, for sure, and he looked great. 

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I walked a few other 20 yards and watched him out of T1, we yelled some I love yous, got some shots and we each darted in opposite directions.

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He headed out for a 56 mile bike ride, I went back to watch all the other friends out of the water. As soon as I saw the last one, two seconds later, I hear my name. Juan was out and telling me he was ok and nothing happened (before I freaked out instantly) and that his bike had a mechanical problem. Apparently, the back wheel was breaking in the hills. He went back out three times, tried to fix it, the onsite mechanic looked at it, no one could figure it out. He has a camera on the bike and I saw the video later that night, it was dangerous, the back wheel kept breaking for no reason. So glad he dropped out, those downhills were no joke and an issue like that could have killed him.

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Sad bike that didn’t get to race

So, we grabbed some of his stuff, I was done with my volunteering gig, and he waited for the shuttle for some time, to head to the finish line to wait for everyone.

challenge pocono tips report strategy poconos triahtlon 70.3 course info elevation photos reviews (23)Kerri was the first one of them to show up, fifth woman in the Olympic race and 1st in her AG, so CONGRATS Keri. It was so hot, more kudos to you all! Slowly, everyone else showed up, we ate a bunch, had lots of water, sat at the Medal Ceremony and took pictures and we had an overall fantastic day. While we all wondered WTF happened to Juan’s wheels. Two days later, they figured it out. There’s a screw (notoriously called the “drop out screw”) that needs to be adjusted when you put those zipp wheels (these are not his/everyday wheels!). He took the bike for a spin with these wheels and there were no issues, and there were no problems with them around transition, or that the mechanic could notice, because this only happens in steep heels, when the tire is on an incline, it rubs on the frame. Anyway, lesson learned and we move on.

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9 thoughts on “Challenge Pocono Mountains – race tips and report

  1. Aw man, super bummer for him! I’m surprised they can’t find a spot in the Poconos that enough cars can park at the finish! I grew up in that area and run on McDade trail (where the run course is) when I visit home!

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