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Saturday, September 9, 2000 -- Sherando, VA
Odyssey Off Road Triathlon
Story and photos by Dawn Taylor

[Details] [Coverage]

"The hardest thing I've ever done"

Such were the sentiments of 2nd place finisher, Brett "Sorry" Morrow and many other competitors who finished the unconventional Odyssey Off-Road Triathlon at Sherando Lake, VA on September 9. Brett, a 21-year-old who recently completed a solo, unsupported, cross-country bike tour across America said the 4 hours and 48 minutes it took him to complete this race were harder than any day he spent biking across the country, including his 170-mile days.

First place finisher, Peter Penzell, who finished in 4:33 appeared to be the only competitor who found the event to be less than intimidating "This seemed so short after last weekend," he said. Peter, a midshipman from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD was referring to the back-to-back 100-mile road race and the Shenandoah 100-Mile Mountain Bike race he did just days before. After the Odyssey race, he said he felt like heading back out for a "spin" to cool down. He was then gearing back up for yet another bike race the next day.

Brett and Peter were two of the many accomplished athletes who competed in the race. Others with impressive athletic resumes included local Chris Caul who is an accomplished mountain bike racer and 5-time Odyssey Off-road competitor. In addition to finishing in 6th place, Chris took home the series championship award, which he earned after also competing in the June race placing 2nd. Fourth place Daniel Edwards is an accomplished ultra-runner who recently ran the Badwater 100-Miler. This was Daniel's second time on a mountain bike, which didn't seem to affect him on this highly technical course -- even though he did the second 11-mile loop with no brakes! Fellow New Yorker, Alastair Vere Nicoll, apparently also a quick study, handily finished the race despite that the last time he was on a bike was '94 and this was his first time on a mountain bike ever! Not bad for two guys who train in Manhattan.

Juxtaposed with these experienced racers were others who bravely chose the infamously tough Odyssey Off-Road Tri for their first triathlon experience. Like Bill Wills who drove from Tallahassee, FL to compete in his first race of any kind. Bill completed the 1-mile lake swim, 8-mile technical trail run and first loop of the 22-mile bike -- a valiant effort for any athlete. Kush Bambrah, who also had never raced before, just learned to swim last month and chose this triathlon to demonstrate his new skill. Kush also completed the first bike leg before calling it a day. Winning the perseverance award was Maryland attorney, Layla Hughes, who came in at a time of 10:25. Layla, who was competing in her first tri, was especially proud of her accomplishment. As a diabetic, she had been concerned about her physical ability to compete in such a demanding sport and stopped several times during the race to test her blood sugar level. At the finish line, she began chanting an ecstatic mantra, "I can't believe I did it! I can't believe I finished!" Layla was one of seven women to finish this race, which has had only one woman to ever finish within the official cut-off time of 6 hours.

The Odyssey Off-Road Tri offers an uncommon challenge to competitors, despite their level of racing experience or athletic ability. Race director, Don Mann of Odyssey Adventure Racing, designed the course to "entice" traditional athletes into adventure sports. With it's grueling rocky climb in the run and the notorious 1-mile uphill push-a-bike hike, the race provides a test for competitive athletes to finish within the aggressive cut-off time and less experienced racers to just finish.

The delightful venue of Sherando Lake Recreation Area is an ironically serene setting for such a grueling race. After the event, racers relaxed with their friends and families on the lawn, ate and listened to music. Some even received post-race massages from competitor Jamie Webster's mom, Ann. Despite what their goals were when they signed up for this event, each of the 53 competitors who raced was able to walk away with a well-earned feeling of athletic achievement.

For more information on this race, as well as Odyssey's other events, check out the Beast of the East website; write oarinfo@aol.com; or call 757-425-2445.