Small Town Triathlon Showcases NEPA’s Natural Beauty
Once again, southern Luzerne County’s Butler Township will play host to the Strive Olympic Triathlon. Since 2016, the rigorous multisport race has welcomed some of NEPA’s most dedicated athletes. And now, as the race enters its fourth year, triathletes from all over the country are starting to take notice.
Strive got its start when triathlete and current Race Director, David Bass, decided to dream up the ideal race. It was the perfect way to give back to so many athletes with whom he had competed over the years. Along the way, David was guided by a few basic principles. “Everything we do is designed to make the race memorable for the participants. Safety, ease of participation, low stress, and fun – those are the things we think about when planning each year’s race.”
A race designed for athletes by athletes.
By late July of 2016, the courses had been set and eager racers were lining up for the very first Strive Triathlon. And many athletes return year after year. Some, with an eye on the course record, and others only aiming to top their personal best.
The race has experienced incredible growth within its first few years – leading many in the local endurance fitness community to wonder if the sport had found a perfect home in Northeastern Pennsylvania. According to Bass, “It is an ideal setting for a race.” And just one visit to the iconic course on the western periphery of the Pocono Mountains reveals that this may likely be the case.
It also helps that Strive is sanctioned by USA Triathlon (USAT), the national governing body for triathlon events. “All participants are eligible to qualify for USAT Nationals by racing with us.” Bass continues, “We have sent quite a few local racers to Nationals over the last 3 years.”
The race kicks off in the cool, clear waters of the Lake of the Four Seasons in the gorgeous Beech Mountain Lakes Community in Drums. “The entry into the lake is on a sand beach which is really nice for the athletes and spectators,” Bass notes. Athletes dive in for a crisp 1,500-meter swim. The cool, stream-fed, 168-acre lake offers ideal triathlon conditions. The green, tree-lined perimeter reflecting on the calm, glass-like surface provides an unmatched pre-race scenery. And in the thick of it, the water churns as racers stroke and kick for position.
Athletes hurry out of the cold lake and onto their bikes at the spectator friendly transition area. From there, they embark on a grueling 22.5-mile loop along Honey Hole Road. The road course treats cyclists to the magnificent scenery of Nescopeck State Park. As the typical July morning haze lifts from the road, cyclists must take care to avoid distraction as they encounter the park’s abundant wildlife.
Cyclists may catch a glimpse of the occasional turkey vulture or deer on the winding road course. And while the park offers fresh mountain air and some truly inspiring sights, racers must eventually turn their bikes back toward the lake for the final transition.
After the rigorous bike ride, athletes trade their two wheels for sneakers and take back to the road. In the final leg of the triathlon, they encounter the 6.2-mile run course. Throughout the intense loop, runners take on a few short trails and a stretch of country road.
The terrain consists of pavement, gravel, dirt and grass. A few hills also stand in the way, you know, for good measure. No matter where your strengths lie, you better make sure you have enough left in you for the run course.
“The Strive Triathlon is a celebration of the sport.”
It’s not just about the athletes. “500 or more people will be there on race day: 200+ athletes, 100+ volunteers and another 200 or so spectators,” according to Bass. That’s quite the draw for what might be considered a small triathlon. Many of the racers, spectators and volunteers are local. Though Bass notes, they have seen substantial participation from several different states, including a large group from the greater NYC area.
The Strive Triathlon is more than just a race, it’s a budding NEPA tradition. A palpable excitement fills the race day air. Athletes, volunteers and spectators feel it all the same. There is a community forming here between local volunteers, athletes and their families and curious spectators. “Last year, it felt like a great big party,” Bass remarked. “And that’s how race day should feel!”
You’ve got to check it out.
Mr. Bass encourages anyone feeling even the slightest interest to come and watch the event, or volunteer. Maybe you’ll be inspired to train for the next one, or perhaps you’ll be excited by the intensity of the race. Or, you just might light a fire in the heart of a future triathlete. “Either way,” Bass explains, “the triathlon community is very welcoming.”
Where: Beech Mountain Lakes Community
1 Burke Dr.
Drums, PA 18222
When: Sunday, July 28, 2019
The race is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. and end roughly between 11 a.m. and noon.
An awards ceremony including food and drink will be held at the conclusion of the race on the deck of the Lakeside Restaurant.
Interested in volunteering?
Please, feel free to reach out.