By Ian King
James River Off-Road Triathlon Brings Cross Tri Back to the River City.
Recently, we reported that RunRideRace would be holding an off-road triathlon in downtown Richmond, Virginia after the long-standing XTERRA East Championship was cut as part of the reorganization of the XTERRA Pan America Tour. Instead, enter the hero Mark Junkermann and RunRideRace, a local event organizer in the Richmond area, as the James River Off-Road Triathlon is taking place on June 12, on a course nearly identical to the one that so many of us fell in love with and idolized in downtown Richmond.
The main change to the race that is allowing it to take place under a different organizer is a slight shift in the staging area for the transition and finish area, making some slight modifications to the course. From gun to tape, it will feel similar and keep the same unique urban cross triathlon vibe as the XTERRA race always had, but in a way more sustainable for a smaller race organizer. First, the race will be only one distance, somewhere in between the former sprint and championship distances. Final course approvals are still pending and subject to change with river levels, but RunRideRace is planning on hosting a course of a 1,000 meter swim, 17.4 kilometer mountain bike mile bike, and 8.8 kilometer run, in addition to relays and a standalone trail run with the same course as the triathlon.
Swimmers will navigate the submerged rocks and sand islands in the James River, including the short barefoot, goggle-fogging, heart rate-raising run on Belle Isle around the halfway mark. Upon exiting the water, the run to the new transition area is much shorter than the past, with the new transition area right next to the historic Tredegear Iron Works. Then, current plans for the bike course have athletes taking the footbridge from the mainland onto Belle Isle, from Belle Isle to the Lost Trail, reminiscent of the earliest days of the XTERRA course.
Exact details are still undetermined, but the course will join Buttermilk, Forest Hills, back to Buttermilk, then across to the North Bank Trail in the clockwise direction that the XTERRA course went for the last several years. We can only hope that Party Rock on Buttermilk and the Reedy Creek crossing in Forest Hill keep their old cast of characters, including the luchadores, Mickey Mouse, and the rest of the gang. Veterans of the race may notice the incredible amount of work that local riders through RVA MORE have done to keep the trails in pristine condition. Athletes then will drop back down from North Bank into transition area before heading out onto the run course, following a similar clockwise direction across the Belle Isle foot bridge. After some time on the fire roads of the James River Park System and some more time on Buttermilk Trail, runners will also contend with some of the noteworthy stairtowers from the river level up to the city and back. A notable absence from the run course will be the Manchester Wall, also known as the “Mayan Ruins.” If the mighty James cooperates, athletes will still get the experience of boulder hopping across to Belle Isle via the “dry way” crossing, testing athletes’ ability to do more than run in a straight line. Finally, athletes will run onto Belle Isle then back again across the footbridge, with a shorter stretch upon descending from the footbridge into the finish.
As far as the rest of the race, RunRideRace is not holding the event as part of the XTERRA series, whether as a championship race or as part of the America Tour, so no points are on the line. This may change in the future, including possible addition of a pro purse, but the accelerated timeline of the 2016 event made neither of these a possibility for RunRideRace. That said, with relatively few opportunities for cross triathlon racing on the east coast, athletes can expect a competitive field including at least a couple of local pros. The vent will have a beer garden as well, always a selling point for any race, particularly for the more laid-back off-road crowd. Relays are more than welcome, in fact they are strongly encouraged. RunRideRace, as organizers of mountain bike races and trail runs, are hoping to leverage that combined with networks of local swim groups as well.
For more information, including signup, see the race information page here. https://runsignup.com/Race/VA/Richmond/JamesRiverOffRoadTriathlonandTrailRun
About Ian King:
Ian is a second-year elite triathlete based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Ian’s dabbled in virtually every format of triathlon in his decade in the sport, ultimately settling for now on both off-road and ITU racing, though he’s more than happy to admit that his true love is for the trails. For more updates on Ian, you can find him on Instagram and Twitter both @idking90