My newspaper, The News Reporter, ran an editorial yesterday about the Bike & Hike Personal Endurance Challenge, and how "a hard pan trail would be a nice addition to the event," and how "the event has one sticky challenge: that cyclists must dismount their bikes and walk them through mud, soft sand and red bugs along the trail. For both serious and amateur cyclists alike, this isn't much fun."
The High family here at The News Reporter has been very supportive of my projects over the years, including Take the Lake, allowing me to use
their resources after and even during business hours – and we're talking a lot of hours. They understand the value Take the Lake has for their community and have embraced it as the latest of their efforts to serve the county they have loved for decades before I arrived and will for decades after I leave.
A cycle-ready trail through the park would undoubtably be great for residents (and me!) to ride around the lake –- whether inside the park or around it -– and would be a big draw for tourism. No one argues that such a trail would be wonderful for the community.
But that is at best something we may have in the distant future, and at worst — given the environmental challenges -- something we may never have.
I do hear people complain about the "Hike" part of the Bike & Hike, but first, just look at the growth of the event - 222 people finished in 2009, 447 people in 2010, and 559 this year.
Certainly, the least favorable part of the Bike & Hike (for many, but not all people) is the hike along the beautiful state park trails. But that is part of the Personal Endurance Challenge, and not arbitrarily, as it is the only way a person can take a bicycle around the lake.
Second, we have surveyed our participants each of the past three years, asking to rate the "hike" part of the Bike & Hike, with the following four options: "Tough, but not good," "Tough, but good," "OK," and "Awesome."
The "Tough, but not good" group has always been fairly well represented, but never in the majority. The results have been clear and consistent over the three years (albiet, with 2011 results still coming in) that the majority likes the "Hike" part.
An average of 21 percent over the three years said the hike was "Tough, but not good," while nearly twice that number, 37 percent, said it was "Tough, but good."
That alone is convincing, but when you add the respondents who said the hike was "OK," (31 percent) or even "awesome" (11 percent,) it's clear that about four out of five participants see the hike as a valuable part of the Take the Lake Bike & Hike.
Now, obviously, in casual conversation, many people will talk candidly about how the trail is the toughest part of the Bike & Hike, and will commiserate about it -- we all know that it can be fun to hate something -- but when asked formally about their opinions, they come across loud and clear.
How about my opinion? I think the hike is about a mile too long, and if I owned the park and had a small fortune, I would shorten it to about two miles for Take the Lake, and then lengthen the ride to about 30 miles. But, as far as our reality today and in the near future for Take the Lake, that's it -- that's the mountain we have to climb.
Take the Lake is a set of four Personal Endurance Challenges, with intimidating and impressive goals designed to challenge the average person. We encourage people to train for weeks or months and to prepare, and many people do that. It is from these people that we get the most inspiring stories of success.
While most people take the Walk / Run, the Paddle and the Swim seriously, the Bike & Hike –– even with that "sticky" hike -- is like some kind of frat party, and people don't take it nearly as seriously. Compared to the other three, riding a bicycle 12 miles, and walking three miles is a piece of cake.
Paving the entire route would make this just another bike ride, and we would have to find some way -- possibly requiring two or three laps -- to make it a real Personal Endurance Challenge, or we would remove it as a Take the Lake PEC.
Our strategy from the start with the Bike & Hike has been to prepare participants mentally for the hike. In brochures, newspaper articles and on our website, we are straightforward that the PEC includes a three-mile hike along a wooded trail. Do we describe reports of red bugs, mud and other things found in nature? No. We keep our cautions to reasonable safety concerns for all four of our PECs, understanding that most people have, at one time or another, been outdoors.
Our latest strategy is to invite someone else to organize another event that will cater to people who don't want to "Take" Lake Waccamaw. The Take the Lake committee members have volunteered countless hours organizing this community event. They are not paid, and they are not the parks and rec dept., as in, they are not charged with offering any and every fitness event or program that may be good for the people of Columbus County.
That being said, I will organize an event next spring, and will look for a qualified organization or group to take it over. Tentatively called the "Big W" or the "Horseshoe Bike Ride," it will begin at Elizabeth Brinkley park. Participants will ride down to the dam, turn around, and will ride around most of the lake to the state park picnic area. They'll turn around again and return to EB Park.
That ride will be about 26 miles long, and those who would like a shorter excursion will simply return to EB Park after riding to the dam, for only about 13 miles.
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DID YOU KNOW...
that the second-most-popular Boy Scout merit badge in the U.S. is for Swimming? And the ninth-most-popular is Personal Fitness? Yes!
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