Looking for a one-of-a-kind sports experience that combines the physical challenge of competition with a fun, family-friendly and a majestic natural setting? The Lake Lure Olympiad has all of that and more. On August 15-17, Rumbling Bald Resort and Chimney Rock State Park will host the 10th Annual Lake Lure Olympiad in the small mountain community of Lake Lure, NC. An annual nonprofit sports festival that has raised nearly $250,000 for area charities over the last nine years, the Olympiad offers a variety of events to suit a wide range of athletes.
Festivities kick off with an opening ceremony on Friday, August 15th. Events include the 10K Dam Run, a 1-mile Family Fun Run, a barbecue on the Beach at Rumbling Bald Resort, a dazzling water ski show performed by the Lake Lure Ski Club and fireworks. And what Olympiad would be complete without a ceremonial Lighting of the Torch?
The weekend is centered on a unique 3 Races in 3 Days Challenge. First up on that Friday is the 10K Dam Run—a course of medium difficulty that winds along Buffalo Shoals Road, crosses Lake Lure Dam and finishes at the Beach. Saturday’s showstopper is the USAT-sanctioned Lake Lure Triathlon, consisting of a 750-meter open water swim, 20K bike and 5K run that ends on the Beach. The grand finale is the Race to the Rock on Sunday, August 17th wherein athletes choose between a 25-mile bike race or 5K run up the entrance road to Chimney Rock State Park. The final 3 miles of the Rack to the Rock are straight up an average 6% grade incline to the top of iconic Chimney Rock—a challenge fit for serious amateur athletes.
The menu of athletic events at the Olympiad is one of the things that has kept Kelly Felten of Cary, NC coming back since 2007 to compete. “I have done the 10K run and the triathlon, but my husband [Jonathan] is the real athlete in our family. The 3 Races in 3 Days is perfect for him as he is always looking for a fitness challenge.” Kelly also offers this advice to potential Olympiad competitors, “The swim is top notch in the calm, relatively clear waters of Lake Lure. The bike is naturally pretty hilly (nothing crazy steep but definitely a lot of them), so my advice to anyone training for the triathlon or the ride to the rock is to make sure they get their hill training in.”
Fellow veteran Olympiad participant Brad Hecker of Mebane, NC knows a thing or two about athletics. He is the Director of Women’s Basketball Relations for the Atlantic Coast Conference. He even chose Olympiad sponsor and host Rumbling Bald Resort as the site for the inaugural Collegiate Community Triathlon in 2012 while campaigning for the official NCAA recognition of triathlon as an emerging varsity sport for women. As an amateur athlete himself, Brad’s hectic work and family schedules mean he only has 2-3 opportunities to race during the year. He’ll be in Lake Lure for the 3 Races in 3 Days Challenge again this year.
What keeps him coming back to the Olympiad? “It’s a chance to take part in the personal challenge of the athletic events while enjoying a family vacation. There’s a relaxing atmosphere, great people and a dedicated volunteer group with an ‘old school’ attitude. They are so welcoming and treat you like family. The whole community opens their arms and embraces [the Olympiad].” Racing on closed roads that not only provide an athletic challenge but also have such beautiful views sets this event apart from the rest. “The bike race is the closest any novice in the area is going to get to the Tour de France experience.”
But the weekend isn’t just for serious adult athletes. The casual athlete or novice/lapsed runner can also ease into the action with the Couch to Cart Path Run. It’s a 2-mile run along a relatively easy, flat course; the event is open to runners age 8 and older.
In addition to the Couch to Cart Path Run, kids can compete and earn medals just like Mom and Dad by entering the Junior Olympiad. Young athletes aged 4-14 compete in one or more Junior Olympiad events, such as 40 yard dash, obstacle course, standing broad jump, and basketball shoot. The children celebrate their day of friendly competition and the Olympic spirit with medal ceremony, too. The children’s events and family-friendly atmosphere are an extra attraction for competitors like Kelly. “We always bring our children, which is not something we typically do when competing in an event. But there is so much to do with them [here] when we aren’t competing, we choose to include them. I have a 5 year old that will participate in the Junior Olympiad this year. It is a great way to introduce kids to the competitive sport experience. Fun with a healthy spin and medals. A win-win.”
In addition to the running and triathlon events, participants can also compete in a golf tournament (18-hold scramble or Captain’s Choice) on RBR’s award-winning Bald Mountain Golf Course or pickleball. Yes, there is an official sport called pickleball. No, there are zero pickles involved in the actual playing of game. Pickleball combines the skills of tennis, badminton and ping pong and is played on an abbreviated tennis court.
The weekend literally has something for everyone. That combination of athletics, amenities and ambiance are what make the experience so pleasurable for competitors, their families and spectators. Kelly agrees, “Lake Lure is one of our favorite places to visit. We only wish it was closer to the Triangle so we could come more often. I love that the Olympiad is very family-friendly, but still a competitive event where you can get as much or as little adrenaline as you want. With so much going on, I am always impressed at how well-run the events are and the staff have always been very friendly and welcoming. Even though I have been coming for multiple years, I always discover some new pleasant surprise when I come.”
For example, on the other side of the lake, the Dirty Dancing Festival also swings into action during the Olympiad weekend (Friday 8/15 beginning at 7 p.m.). There’s a free lakeside screening of the film but donations are appreciated. Guests can bring blankets, chairs and picnic fixings (but not alcohol). Food and beverages are also for sale on site. On Saturday, the festival is all-day event with live bands and dance performances, a beer and wine garden, games, dance lessons, food and craft vendors, and the lake lift competition á la Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.
Not only is Rumbling Bald Resort on Lake Lure is the main venue for most of the Olympiad events, but the mountain resort also offers Olympiad participants the added convenience of lodging at the same site. It’s the best of all worlds—a gamut of competitive and family events to choose from, as well as festival, food, entertainment and lodging options in a centralized location. According to Brad Hecker, competitors should take advantage of that opportunity. “Take the week before the Olympiad and make it a vacation. Swim the lake, ride the roads and immerse yourself in the event.”