Balance: Life is all about balance. I’ve been trying to live my life by these words for quite a while. In today’s society, an individual is defined by his or her job. With the United States population becoming “workaholics” many people forget that a job is a job and only your own personality defines who you are.
Keeping this is mind, aside for my love of music and performing, I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and riding my bicycle. Yes, riding a bicycle. Now you may ask, many people love to ride bikes, why are you writing a blog post about this? Well, the answer is not just biking, but mountain biking. For the past 8 years I’ve been compelled to ride my bike up and down some trails that people just walking wouldn’t dare to traverse. There is nothing like getting out into the woods, away from everything, with nothing else than great trails and company. No motors, no fuel, just exercise and great times. After years of riding I felt the need to push my love to another level. How could I show the world my alternate love of riding and the great areas to ride in my hometown of Tamaqua, PA? The answer was to organize and promote my own mountain bike race! Voila! The Reading Anthracite Coal Cracker Classic (CCC) was born!
Last year, my long time friend and colleague Aaron Berger and I organized and produced the first Coal Cracker Classic on 10/10/10. The event drew 86 racers from around the east coast and propelled our little event to the next level. This year, however, we were lucky enough to get involved with the largest mountain bike race series in the nation: the Mid-Atlantic Super Series – M.A.S.S.. Combined with the draw the M.A.S.S. brings (people raced from Florida to Massachusetts) and using social media like fiends (promo videos, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), we were able to bring 258 racers to our little town this year! Aside from holding a race on 9/11 and a prior week of the most rain PA has received since the 1950s, the race went off without a hitch and was enjoyed by hundreds.
With all our triumphs, there are always pitfalls. Our largest pitfall this year was in regards to course marking problems. Before I explain, keep in mind we sectioned the start of the race on rider ability and class. There are four classes (beginner, sport, expert/elite, and endurance). Each class is then divided by age and sex groupings. Class also determines miles ridden, for instance beginners ride 7 miles, sport 14 miles, expert/elite 20 miles, endurance 40 miles. Prior to race day, we had some problems with local people ripping down and changing directional signs and tape that can adversely affect a race. Unfortunately, we had some of those problems on race day with about 40 sport racers getting lost within the first 20 minutes. Obviously, this spelled disaster for the race and had Aaron and I scrambling faster than being trapped in a burning building. After gathering everyone back together, we luckily had the time to restart the sport race and get everyone back on track. I feel as though we did our best with the situation at hand and luckily had it back under control before too many problems arose.
The second road bump we encountered was reactions to our expert/endurance course. Unlike many other race courses, we tried to exemplify Tamaqua and Northeast PA to the best of our ability. Building trails here is one of the hardest things you can possibly do (we found out the hard way). Three months and over 300 man-hours left us with the hardest 12 miles of single track you can find in any race. Growing up in the area, riding mine land terrain around here meant steep drops, lots of climbing, hike ‘a’ bikes, and overall pain. I figured such a course would truly test the limits of the riders and make them feel as though they accomplished something great, rather than pulling 8 laps on a flat course somewhere. Reactions were varied. You either loved it or hated it. This was relevant with half of the endurance group dropping out after one lap. True the course can use some improvements, however, it is still raw, painful, and beautiful. True mountain biking for real riders.
In the end, both Aaron and I had an amazing time putting together this race and starting something in our little town that I hope continues. We showed a small town about something they’ve always had, but never took to heart, and that exercising could be fun and full of adventure. But most of all, we showed a small town that two kids can do whatever they put their minds to and not only help, but showcase a town to the world. I also have a message for those who continue to slander the race, promoters, and overall experience they had due to the course marking mess or course difficulty on the internet…..
We are volunteers doing this for the love of the sport.
It is not easy to run a race, especially with only a small team volunteers. If you are going to bring something down that we are actually doing for you, try to understand, everything we’ve done, we’ve done to the best of our ability from promotion and land rights to course building and paperwork.
I’d like to throw a quick thank you out to those who made this possible. Dean “Dutch Eagle” Leone for his outdoor expertise. The Berger and Chwastiak family for day of support. Volunteers: Ronni Novack, Joan Nowak, Kevin Keller, Chris Bolish, Danny Porreca, Jay Gurcsik, and Megan Zammer. I’d also like to thank the M.A.S.S. series for showing interest in the race and adopting it into the series. Finally a HUGE thank you to Reading Anthracite, Jason Boris and the ESRC, Green Mountain Cyclery, and the Tamaqua Area School District for all their hard work as our main sponsors in support the Coal Cracker.
What a proverbial “ride”
P.S. Will be on an East Coast tour starting on 9/20. Check back for updates and hope you can make it to one of these cities!