The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 24, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

The Lunar Quarry 12 races through the dark

RUTLAND-The race season is winding down at Pine Hill Park in Rutland, but it's not over yet! Thus far, athletes have enjoyed the Droopy Pedal Mountain Bike Series, which wrapped up earlier this month, the Sunset 5k running contests and a "duathalon" which challenged participants with a 10k mountain bike ride followed by a 5k run. Now, there are just three races left. They include another running event called the Leaf Chase 10k on October 7, The Lakes Region High School Mountain Bike Race is on Sept. 22 and then there is the much-anticipated return of the Lunar Quarry 12-hour mountain bike race Sept. 15. This event is quite unique in the region; it is a relay race that runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. That is not a typo; the race is run mostly in the dark.

Riders have to equip their bikes with a light that meets certain specifications. Teams of up to four riders (solo participants are allowed as well) compete to see how many laps around a fixed course they can complete within the 12-hour window.

There is much more than racing going on too. A total of seven bands will play throughout the evening, movies will be shown on the huge walls and there is even a biathlon-style paintball-shooting event.

All the festivities take place inside the 100-year-old granite quarry that is inside Pine Hill Park. The site houses some dilapidated buildings that were used when the quarry housed a large rock crushing machine many decades ago. Michael Smith is the president of the 501 c3 called the Pine Hill Partnership and that organization oversees the maintenance of the trails. Michael and others recognized the potential of the quarry and converted it into a usable space with the help of Mary Ann Levins and her family and Karl Larson from the Rutland Country Club. These volunteers did much of the work by hand, removing debris and garbage. Backhoes from the Rutland Recreation Maintenance Department and 45,000 pound excavator and operator donated by Mac Steel in Rutland helped move the massive granite blocks into a cohesive order. Augie Levins worked long hours on a tractor to dig a 250-foot drainage ditch to empty out water.

The fruits of these labors can be seen today in the beautiful quarry amphitheater. It is the perfect spot for Pine Hill Park to finish their races or for theater performances like the Rutland Youth Theater performance of Shakespeare earlier this summer. There is even a brick oven for pizza, which was utilized at the end of the last Droopy Pedal Mountain Bike Race.

Lunar Quarry 12 is the perfect opportunity to come to the park and see the transformation Michael Smith says, "where else than a 100-year-old rock quarry amphitheater in Pine Hill Park would you see the combined elements of night endurance mountain biking, paintball, movies, art, bands, bonfires, and wood-fired pizza. It's a great deal of creative out-of-the-box fun." 

Ejay Bishop is Superintendent of the Rutland Recreation and Parks Department and he says, "The event brings racers in from throughout New England and also welcomes our local racers. We are excited to see that William Notte, Dave Wallstrom, Christopher Robinson and Sean Sargeant four Rutland City Aldermen will be a team in the LQ12."  Bishop also encourages everyone to come and enjoy Pine Hill Park and the Giorgetti Athletic Complex for all the other things it has to offer. "Over the course of any year you can go for a walk or run, mountain bike, fish, picnic by the river, play baseball, softball, any outdoor field sport, throw a frisbee, enjoy one of the biggest indoor skate parks in New England, have your bike repaired, play hockey, broomball, curl, practice your figure skating or just ice skate for fun, play indoor soccer, lacrosse, field hockey or even flag football," Bishop says. "Pine Hill has become a destination for people throughout the country and beyond and the Giorgetti Arena attracts athletes from New England and New York both of which help the region as an economic driver.  These two parks are a unique blend of recreational opportunities backed by public resources with community ownership and support."

Cindi Wight is the Recreation Director and she is looking forward to the event as something fun for the whole family. She says, "The movies on the wall, pizza in the outdoor oven, jack-o'-lanterns out on the trails and tents scattered all around made for a very fun event. My girls and I are looking forward to helping out again this year and being a part of this high-energy event. Kudos to Mary Anne Levins and Michael Smith for organizing year two of the LQ12. It is a great event for Rutland."

Everyone involved has expressed their extreme gratitude to the dozens of volunteers who work tirelessly to make Pine Hill Park what it has become and who make Lunar Quarry 12 a unique and successful event.