2011 TRY ALL BY FIRE by Amy Moritz
The event was created to celebrate the finish line — and to celebrate the outdoors. More than 200 people embraced all that the Hyner View State Forest area had to offer on a mid-August weekend to play in the woods. They ran, hiked, biked and kayaked to participate in the inaugural TRY ALL BY FIRE event hosted by healthy snack company Try Chips.
The Western Clinton Sportsman Association served as home base for the event in which the entire group combined to travel 4,414 miles to the finish line. Participants created their own course and picked their own sport of choice to travel to the finish line. That’s right, no starting. Just a finish.
Tim Schlitzer and Jerry Amabile of Try Chips wanted to create an event that was about people getting out, being active, trying new things. They wanted to create a finish line, but not have a race. Races separate people. These guys are about bringing people together, about celebrating the journey — each persons own unique journey, whether that be a multi-day bike ride or a mile walk from the car to the finish line. Instead of taking who you are and trying to fit it into the confines of a race structure (5K, marathon, triathlon, century bike ride, etc.), the event let you be who you are. The actual doing would flow from there. And all of it was cause for celebration.
One of the longest adventures was created by Mat Creacraft, who rode his bike from Delta, Pa., for a round-trip total of 432 miles. He spent more than 28 hours on the bike over five days as he pushed the limits of his comfort zone.
“Before this trip, I never rode an overnight ride more more than 90 miles in a day so this was definitely a challenge for me,” Creacraft said. “I am glad that I did it and I did a lot better than what I had hoped for.”
Several groups took to the local trails, running or hiking parts of Black Florest, T2 and Donut Hole trails for the better part of 27-some miles. While getting a chance to challenge themselves on a variety of terrain (and with a few rattlesnakes) the collection of people enjoying the best of the outdoors and sharing the experience was a highlight of the day.
“I loved the connections made with people who are like-minded adventurers who are also healthy, positive individuals who live each day to the fullest,” said Shelley Starkey, a native of Pittsburgh who now lives in Oregon. In town to visit family, she joined in the event and hiked nearly 17 miles making new friends along the way.
Others made the trip with groups of friends, including a contingent from the Lancaster Bike Club, which enjoyed not just cycling but kayaking, hiking, hang gliding, dancing and camping. Tom Oswald led a group from his bike shop, Oswald Cycyle Works, 72 miles to the finish line from Mansfield, Pa.
Families enjoyed time outdoors together, free from the time and energy drain of the couch, television and smart phones. The Kowalski Family went over 46 miles via kayaks and mountain bikes while The Forsythe Family enjoyed some trekking, even when their son, RJ, was stung by bees.
The finish line was a celebration, complete with a drum circle, hugs, smiles and cheers. Oh, and there were finger puppets, smoothies from Sheetz and beer from the Yorkholo Brewing Company. There was plenty of food and live music from Hoots and Hellmouth and Lock Haven band The Echo & Sway to cap off the celebration. But the event was more than just a party in the woods. It was about embracing an outdoor lifestyle, whether you were a seasoned endurance athlete, a beginner or a young family.
“We wanted people to make this their own, whether it was a three-day journey, a one-day event or just parking around the corner and running a mile to the finish line,” Schlitzer said. “Whatever you wanted to do. We wanted people to try anything, just get to the finish line under your own power and make it a journey of own making. We didn’t want something laid out with check points. We wanted people to make it their own story. Honestly, we did not think it would be this massive and this inspiring. We’re so overwhelmingly pleased that so many really got the spirit of what we wanted to do.”
Fanning The Fire by Amy Moritz
It’s not about where you start.
It’s not about how fast you go, how far you travel or even how to travel.
It’s all about celebrating the journey together.
That’s the driving force behind the unique event created by Try Chips set to take place Aug. 13 at the Western Clinton Sportsmen’s Association’s Nature and Environmental Center in Renovo, Pa.
The idea started when Try Chips founders Tim Schlitzer and Jerry Amabile heard the story of a friend who decided to hike from his house to the start of a trail race, making it a 100-mile total day. The notion for a finish-line event grew more after the two ran a marathon in Chile. It was around the time of the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception and people hiking and camping along the marathon route as they made a pilgrimage to a church.
The idea of the journey to the finish line intrigued the two. So they shared the idea with their friends Dave Hunter race director of the Megatransect and Craig Fleming, race director of the Hyner View and Rothrock Challenges. They got together with Ray Werts from the West Clinton Sportsman Association and,the event Try All By Fire was born.
“We decided that we wanted to do an event with one big finish line,” Tim said. “At a race, everyone starts together, but a lot of times, by the time I finish, most people have already started to go home. We thought it would be great to have everyone plan to finish together, to have the best finish line experience and make it one big party.”
There is a finish line, but there is no starting line. Participants create their own way to the finish line, choose their desired activity to get them there and their own desired distance. Registration is based on distance and event with a full chart on the event categories tab on the website.
Participants can bike, hike/run, kayak/canoe or do a multi-sport combination or execute a creative endeavor (for example, there is hang gliding facility nearby) to arrive at the finish line. Distance categories vary for each activity, but start with as little as one mile for “go native” status, increasing to “go tribal” and “go primal.” Registration for each level includes event swag and admittance to the post-race celebration.
“The finish line itself is in the middle of the coolest area. There are tons of trails that bring you there. It’s a labyrinth of trails in the area,” Tim said. “There are some great country roads for biking. The area is right on a river, so you can kayak there. Really it’s just about any way you want to get there other than just in your car. You can park your car around the block and run for two miles or you can create a 100-mile multi-sport journey. It’s all in your hands.”
How to figure out how to get there?
The website will have a forum where people can link up with others, post their routes or look for soul mates on the road. The site also contains links to resources and maps, helpful in planning your own adventure. Indeed, there are only three rules for the event — find an active way to the party, arrive between 4-6 p.m. on Aug. 13 and (most importantly) have fun.
“One of the most fun parts of participating in outdoor athletic events is enjoying the company of fit, healthy, like-minded people afterward,” said Tom Oswald, owner of Oswald Cycle Works in Mansfield, Pa. “This skips all of the competition and anxiety and gets straight to the good stuff.”
Oswald plans to bike around 70 miles from his shop in Mansfield to the finish line. (His route is online for those who want to join in his road cycling adventure.)
Laurie Reinhart, an ultra runner from Pennsylvania, isn’t sure how she will get to the finish line, but is excited for the journey. “What intrigues me about this event is the excitement of meeting new people who are doing things different from what I’m doing, yet they are probably very similar to those I love seeing at every trail race event that I do,” she said. “And I think the party will be the bomb!”
Indeed if the journey isn’t exciting enough, the post-race party is planned to be a big blow out, including a pig roast, plenty of food and live music, including headliner Hoots & Hellmouth. Other surprises are in store for participants, who will have access to showers, overnight camping and breakfast the next morning.
Those who just want to attend the party, or who are support crew for participants, can register as “go naked” status. But really, why wouldn’t you want to TRY?
“You make it a three-day journey, a one-day event or just park around the corner and run a mile in,” Tim said. “Whatever you want to do. TRY anything to get there under your own power and make it a journey of own making as opposed to something laid out for you with check points. Register today and make your own story.”
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