XTERRA Richmond in 100 photos

A true gem on the XTERRA circuit, XTERRA Richmond is an adrenaline-packed urban off-road race. With the help of sponsor Luck Stone, the XTERRA village takes over Brown’s Island park in downtown Richmond for a weekend in early June, with Trail Runs on Saturday and the XTERRA East Championship and sprint distance triathlons on Sunday.

Note: XTERRA Richmond will also be the site of the 2014 USAT Off-Road National Championships on June 15, 2014.

I’ve raced here the past two years, winning my age-group both times and finishing 9th, then 2nd overall in the amateur race. This weekend, I went to Richmond to pre-ride (and pre-run and pre-swim) the course to prepare for the 2013 race next weekend. After a hard crash in the 2011 XTERRA USA Championship on a part of the bike course that I had not pre-ridden, I swore off of sight reading courses at race pace. Fortunately for me, I live close enough to Richmond that I can make a day trip to practice this course. I hope this photo pre-ride will serve as a resource for others who may not be as close or have the time to get out there until race day. For those who are not familiar with the joys of off-road triathlon, I offer this window into the beautiful and challenging adventure of XTERRA.

The River City

The River City


The Swim

The mass start swim begins in the water at a boat launch about a quarter-mile from transition, underneath a railroad bridge. When the river is low, the main concerns are the  rocks in the riverbed. When the river is high, you still have to watch out for shallow rocks, but also have to be mindful of the relatively strong current that can easily push you off course. The swim course takes you across the James River, zigzagging around a few buoys, followed by a short run on Belle Isle, and then back into the water for a swim back to the boat launch on Tredegar Street. At 1000 meters, it’s the shortest swim of the championship series, although it’s certainly challenging with its underwater obstacles and current.

Another wrinkle with the swim, especially if the water is low, is that there may be sandbars in the river where it is easier to stand up and run than it is to swim/slog through the shallow water. As such, I would highly recommend watching the pro swim to see what they do. I was a victim of this tactical error in 2012, and it cost me about a minute on my swim time.

Swim start at the boat launch under the railroad

Swim start at the boat launch under the railroad

Swim across the James River to Belle Isle

Swim across the James River to Belle Isle

After running along the beach on Belle Isle, swim back parallel to the bridge

After running along the beach on Belle Isle, swim back parallel to the bridge

Keep swimming along the bank back to the boat launch

Keep swimming along the bank back to the boat launch

If you need a break, doggy paddle

If you need a break, doggy paddle

The quarter-mile run back to transition is rough on the feet. Stash a pair of sandals or shoes near the swim exit.

The quarter-mile run back to transition is rough on the feet. Stash a pair of sandals or shoes near the swim exit.


The Bike

The Championship bike course consists of two 10-mile loops connecting the North Bank, Buttermilk, and Forest Hills singletrack along the banks of the James River. (The sprint race shares the same course, but is one shorter loop.) The trails are tight, twisty, and narrow hard-pack with plenty of technical features and punchy climbs. The course rewards strong and skillful riders who can maintain speed through corners and power over undulating terrain. Make sure to hydrate thoroughly on both laps, as Richmond in June can be oppressively hot, especially with the 9:45AM start time.

XTERRA village and the transition area take over the park on Brown's Island

During race weekend, XTERRA village and the transition area take over the park on Brown’s Island

After leaving T1, make a left onto Tredegar Street

After leaving T1, make a left onto Tredegar Street

Plenty of smooth road on Tredegar to secure your shoes, then make a right at the into board onto the North Bank Trail

Plenty of smooth road on Tredegar to secure your shoes, then make a right at the info board onto the North Bank Trail

Make a left after the pedestrian bridge

Make a left after the pedestrian bridge

Onto a fire road, then make a U-Turn at the handrail up the hill

Onto a fire road, then make a U-Turn at the handrail up the hill

At the top of the newly paved walkway, take the ramp onto the Lee bridge

At the top of the newly paved walkway, take the ramp onto the Lee bridge

The Lee Bridge shoulder is exceptionally wide, and is a great place to hydrate!

The Lee Bridge shoulder is exceptionally wide, and is a great place to hydrate!

Take the first exit off the Lee Bridge onto Riverside Drive

Take the first exit off the Lee Bridge onto Riverside Drive

The Buttermilk trail system begins just after the red brick building in the previous shot

The Buttermilk trail system begins just after the red brick building in the photo above

Be ready for fast, twisty, singletrack right off the bat

Be ready for fast, twisty, singletrack right off the bat

Stay left on the short rocky incline before the culvert, and ride through the left most tunnel

Stay left on the short rocky incline before the culvert, and ride through the tunnel on the left

You might want to tip your glasses down while in the tunnel

You might want to tip your glasses down while in the tunnel

There is a quick hike-a-bike section out of the tunnel

There is a quick hike-a-bike section out of the tunnel

Stay to the left on the fire road, the trail resumes slightly further uphill on the right

Stay to the left on the fire road, the trail resumes slightly further uphill on the right

After a fast, switchback section around big logs...

After a fast, switchback section around big logs…

be ready for a tricky u-turn

be ready for a tricky u-turn

When you reach this gorgeous flat section at the top of a hill...

When you reach this gorgeous flat section at the top of a hill…

watch out for a blink 1'' drop-off, keep your weight back!

watch out for a blind 1-foot drop-off, keep your weight back!

Pre-load, then unweight your bike as the ride over a short set of stairs

Pre-load, then unweight your bike as you ride over a short set of stairs

Soak in the scenery, but be careful riding the Forest Hills bridge

Soak in the scenery, but be careful riding the Forest Hills bridge

Take a left after the bridge back on the fire road

Take a left after the bridge back onto the fire road

Ride down, and back under the culvert

Ride down, and back under the culvert

Take an immediate left after the tunnel, back onto the singletrack

Take an immediate left after the tunnel, back onto the singletrack

A short but difficult rock garden immediately awaits!

A tricky rock garden immediately awaits!

The first of three creek crossings soon follows

The first of three creek crossings soon follows

The second creek crossing is very slippery in the morning

The second creek crossing is very slippery in the morning. Locals congregate here to watch the action!

Next is a tricky uphill on a large, smooth rock surface

Next is a tricky uphill on a large, smooth rock surface

Stay smooth and fluid on the third creek crossing

Stay smooth and fluid on the third creek crossing

Keep right on the Buttermilk trail

Keep right on the Buttermilk trail

Take a left as the trail ends onto the pedestrian walkway

Take a left onto the pedestrian walkway as the trail ends

Watch out for pedestrians on the walkway, and take the opportunity to hydrate!

Watch out for pedestrians on the walkway, and take the opportunity to hydrate!

Soak in the beauty to stay positive

And take in the view

Take a left at the flag pole

Take a left at the flag pole

The Buttermilk trail resumes shortly after, on the left

The Buttermilk trail resumes shortly after, on the left

Get ready for a nasty uphill (to the left), power up the wooden ramp

Get ready for a nasty uphill (to the left), power up the wooden ramp

After the uphill, you ride through a neighborhood.  Last year, this was a bottle exchange spot.  Drink up!

After the uphill, you ride along Kansas Ave through a neighborhood. Last year, this was a bottle exchange spot. Drink up!

Turn right on Texas Ave, the left through the parking lot, back onto the North Bank Trail

Turn right on Texas Ave, left through the parking lot, back onto the North Bank Trail

One of many challenging switchbacks along the course

One of many challenging switchbacks along the course

The North Bank Trail will spit you back onto the entry fire road to start the 2nd lap

The North Bank Trail will spit you back onto the entry fire road to start the 2nd lap


The Run

Overall, the course is very flat and fast (albeit hot and exposed).  The Mayan Ruins, staircases, dry river run, and the Belle Isle singletrack keep you honest.

Leaving T2, the run course follows the canal path past the concert stage

Leaving T2, the run course follows the canal path past the concert stage

Pay attention to the art and ignore the pain in your legs and lungs

Enjoy the art and ignore the pain in your legs and lungs

Keep right of the flood wall, run straight across the railroad tracks to 14th St

Keep right of the concrete wall and run straight across the railroad tracks to 14th St

Turn right when you reach 14th St, crossing over the first of two bridges

Turn right when you reach 14th St, crossing over the first of two bridges

Check out the views of the James River and Richmond industry on the second bridge

Check out the views of the James River and Richmond industry from the second bridge

Hang a right, just before the railroad cross sign onto the floodwalk

Hang a right, just before the railroad crossing sign onto the floodwalk

Power up the steps

Power up the steps

Careful down the steps

Careful down the steps

The course turns left under the 9th St bridge

The course turns left under the 9th St bridge

Take a right under the 9th St bridge, by the wooden garbage bin, onto the Mayan Ruins

Take a right under the 9th St bridge, by the wooden garbage bin, onto the Mayan Ruins

Don't burn all your matches scaling the Mayan Ruins, there's still nearly 4 miles to go

Don’t burn all your matches scaling the Mayan Ruins, there’s still nearly 4 miles to go

Try to calm the fire in your quads on the flat bridge after the ruins

Try to calm the fire in your quads on the flat bridge after the ruins

Hang a right after the bridge onto Railroad Ave

Hang a right after the bridge onto Railroad Ave

Take the singletrack on the right before the yield sign to Riverside Drive

Take the singletrack on the right before the yield sign to Riverside drive

Catch the singletrack again, just under the Lee Bridge

Catch the singletrack again, just under the Lee Bridge

You then continue on Riverside Drive, as you did on in the beginning of the bike loops

The course continues on Riverside Drive, same as the beginning of the bike loops

At the bike course trail head, take a right on the pedestrian bridge

At the bike course trail head, take a right on the pedestrian bridge instead

Watch out for pedestrians (and motion sickness) on the spiral staircase

Watch out for pedestrians (and motion sickness) on the spiral staircase

Take a left after the staircase onto a long (~1 mile), flat, and fast section of fireroad

Take a left after the staircase onto a long (~1 mile), flat, and fast section of fire road

Pass the RVA park maintenance facility on your right...

Pass the RVA park maintenance facility on your right

Then take a right on the gravel off-shoot of the main fireroad

Then take a right on the gravel off-shoot of the main fire road

Be careful on the slippery water crossing

Be careful on the slippery water crossing

The next section is technical singletrack, filled with rocks and roots - quick feet is a must!

The next section is technical singletrack, filled with rocks and roots – quick feet are a must!

The singletrack spits you back onto the flat fire road (in the opposite direction), make a left...

The singletrack spits you back onto the flat fire road (in the opposite direction), make a left…

onto this wooden bridge, and turn right onto more technical singletrack

onto this wooden bridge, and turn right onto more technical singletrack

The singletrack ends here, and the dry river run begins

The singletrack ends here, and the dry river run begins

Navigate across the first, small portion

Navigate across the first, small portion

Through some tricky terrain...

Through some tricky terrain…

And onto the big dry run section!  In the XTERRA spirit, sprint across to the iron ladder any way you can

And onto the big dry run section! In the XTERRA spirit, sprint across to the iron ladder any way you can

The iron ladder brings a sigh of relief

Climb up the iron ladder, you’ve made it

Another view of the dry river run

A view of the dry river run from the iron ladder

Insert text

After the ladder, take a right onto a flat fire road, then after about a quarter mile, take a left onto a wide uphill trail

The next section is about 0.75 miles of technical, twisty running in maze that is the the Belle's Isle trail system.  FOLLOW THE COURSE MARKINGS!

The next section is about 0.75 miles of technical, twisty running in the maze that is the the Belle Isle trail system. FOLLOW THE COURSE MARKINGS!

The singletrack will spit you back onto the flat fire road. Follow it to the pedestrian bridge, where you cross back over the James River for the last time

The singletrack will spit you back onto the flat fire road. Follow it to the pedestrian bridge, where you cross back over the James River for the last time

From here, its a sprint along Tredegar St back to the finish line in XTERRA village

From here, its a sprint along Tredegar St back to the finish line in XTERRA village. Refreshments and festivities await.

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7 Responses to XTERRA Richmond in 100 photos

  1. Doug Cubbage says:

    Great turn-by turn directions, and nice finding the blog of the Xterra racer who keeps thrashing the field in the east coast races! Hopefully the rain this week will keep the river at a nice level, but not get the trails too wet for the race Sunday.

    People can also check out Terrain360.com which has the Richmond James River park system on 360 view for scouting other areas on the course.

  2. Dan Girouard says:

    Thanks for posting. I made mistake of not pre-riding last year in my 1st time and took nasty spill on creek crossing where the locals were hanging out and gave them a great laugh. Looking forward to Sunday.

    • amodestou says:

      We’ll have to be even more careful due to Tropical Storm Andrea. I’d wager the locals will still come out in full force.

  3. Pingback: Race Report: XTERRA East Championship 2013 | Alex Modestou Racing

  4. Pingback: Race Report: XTERRA Charlottesville 2013 | Alex Modestou Racing

  5. Pingback: What You Need To Know For Your First XTERRA Triathlon | Alex Modestou Racing

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