Nearly 2,000 athletes from 30 states and eight countries will descend on Richmond for the race and accompanying activities held on and around Brown’s Island. And the two Xterra events are sold-out. The off-road triathlon comprises a 1-kilometer swim across the James River followed by a 27k mountain bike trek through the city and a 10k riverside trail run.
Jon Lugbill, executive director for Richmond Sports Backers, when reached by phone last week, wasn’t worried about the possibility that the race could change. The nonprofit organization helps sponsor and coordinate locally the hugely popular games. It’s Lugbill’s job to check out the course before competition. Like White, Lugbill remains optimistic that the water will recede enough by Sunday for swimming.
It’s been said that in Richmond the swim appears fairly straightforward. Competitors start at the boat ramp at Brown’s Island and swim about 500 yards to Belle Isle. Then they get out of the water, run a few hundred feet across Belle Isle and swim back. But the James River isn’t a very predictable body of water. A swift current can make swimming straight difficult. Or else the level can be so low athletes must walk a good deal of the swim. It’s never been the same twice, organizers say. Likewise, the James has become a kind of paradigm for the Xterra philosophy that Mother Nature is your toughest competitor. This could be especially true this year.
All in all, the incredible flow of the river has been naturally welcome, White assures. “It’s better than a wash. We’re frolicking in the wonderful, very strange period of high water,” he says. “The river has been washed clean. The fish are happy and the boaters are happy. How much more do you want?” — Brandon Walters
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