I saw them as soon as I pulled into Sunny Rest Resort in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Naked people. A trio of Top Gun–types sporting shades and six-pack abs were doing strides down the starting-line straightaway, and a tall, gray-haired man was bellowing jokes into a microphone.
Completely in the buff.
I parked about 50 yards from the transition area, cut the engine, and sat—paralyzed. I don't know if I can do this, I thought, while staring at nude racers racking their bikes. This was the Bare Hare Duathlon, a 1.5-mile run, nine-mile mountain bike, and 5-K trail run set amongst the leafy, rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains. Clothing optional, of course. After a few minutes, I willed myself out of the car, still clothed, and looked around. I took a few deep breaths.
When in Rome… I stripped down to knee-high rainbow socks and a cycling cap, and started laughing. That's not so bad. After all, I hadn't come here to race fully clothed among a bunch of naked people.
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In fact, I was at the third running of the Bare Hare specifically for a whopping dose of goofiness. After two years of serious racing that included a couple of Ironman events, I was mentally fatigued and yearning for a race that was priority nothing—something that a goal-oriented girl like myself couldn't possibly take seriously. Running and mountain biking in the buff? Even I couldn't turn that into a case of race-day nerves.
At the start, I lined up with the seven-minute-per-mile group and waited for the countdown. We took off—fast. The first running leg started on a flat stretch of pavement, banged down a gravel road, then shot back up through an area dotted with RVs and mobile homes inhabited by nudists drinking coffee, reading the Sunday paper, and walking their dogs like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Though it was just after 9 a.m., the temperature was already in the 80s. I could feel my glaringly white, usually concealed parts bouncing along, dripping with sweat in the hot summer sun. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't exactly comfortable. Jog bras were invented for a reason. Soon, though, thoughts of racing replaced those of bobbing breasts. Two men had fallen into stride with me. The fit, muscular guy to my right looked at his watch.
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"You know you're doing 6:20 pace right now?" I laughed to myself. Here we were, no pants, and this guy is talking splits. I crested the final climb and dashed into the transition area, where I changed shoes, strapped on my helmet, and hopped aboard my mountain bike for two loops of the 4.5-mile course.
Confession: Riding naked was so much fun I wish I could do it everywhere. Unlike the run, where I was self-conscious about all the bouncing, I felt free riding my bike with breezes blowing where I normally don't feel air flowing. I couldn't stop grinning as I blazed through the woods and barreled down rocky descents wearing nothing but high socks and a helmet. At the final stream crossing, water splashed up on my butt. I glanced down and saw my sticky, sunscreened skin was speckled everywhere with dirt and mud. This is awesome! I rode through a cool tunnel of rhododendrons, hit the hot, exposed pavement, and cranked into transition for the final running leg.
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The trail run followed much of the bike loop. My quads protested on the descents, but I felt comfortable and surprisingly natural running through the woods in my birthday suit. Absorbed by the beauty of the pine forest, I was surprised to find myself back on the road--3.1 miles had ticked by quicker than usual. I made the turn toward the finish, raised my arms, and crossed the line grinning like an idiot.
I had a strong urge to put my clothes on after the race. But everyone was milling about, laughing in that postrace glow, and I didn't want to look like a party pooper. So I toweled off and enjoyed the awards ceremony. Later, as I drove home, I was over the moon (ha!) with excitement. After spending so much time inside a dark training cave, I finally found my escape—following the light of bare butts running in the bright sunshine.
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