SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. -- Brian Stempel forgot to get bike racks for racers at the first South Salem Church Tavern Biathlon in 2011. As athletes get ready for Monday’s race, the logistics, details and organization have become much more finely tuned.
“It’s just kind of grown organically,’’ said Stempel, who has been involved with the race since the beginning. “The first year we had 70 people participate, and last year we had about 140. It’s a nice casual event.”
The race consists of a seven-mile bike ride and a four-mile run. It starts at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1, at 9:30 a.m. The race supports The Wounded Warrior Project, Community Center of Northern Westchester and The Carpenter’s Kids Program.
Fortune smiled on Stempel in the first race when Jason Twedt, a triathlon coach at Pacific Swim Bike Run in Stamford, Conn., won the event. Twedt has since joined the team that produces the race.
“That first race, I naively thought cyclists could use kickstands for their bikes,’’ Stempel said. “But, of course, I learned they don’t have kickstands. Jason has helped turn it into a real race and made everything more official. It has been a great partnership.”
Stempel said he discussed the idea of a race with a former pastor at the church. “Whenever I ran or rode with friends, we always took the hardest path possible and that was up the hill on Church Tavern Road,’’ Stempel said. “I thought it would be a great race feature to have that hill as part of a race. Then I learned that the tavern had a past history with the church, and that cemented it. I thought we have to do a race up there.”
The Church Tavern Road hill is a significant challenge for riders and runners in the race, Stempel said. “But it’s not the only hill,’’ he said. “So many people are psychologically geared up for the big Church Tavern hill, but there are a lot more hills on the course. Logistically, that makes it hard, too. The bike ride is very technical. You have to change gears a lot.”
Despite the challenges, the race has been a hit with families and young riders. Relay teams are also encouraged. “We’ve talked about making it a duathlon, which is a run, bike, run, but we thought that would be a lot,’’ Stempel said. “We don’t want it to be too physically prohibitive.”
In keeping with the tavern theme, overall and age group winners receive tankards or pint glasses instead of trophies. All finishers also receive a medal. And in keeping with the family theme, there is a water slide for children, a post-race barbecue and live music.