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Monsoon Rains Cause Changes to Riverrock Schedule

The mud run will go on as scheduled. Credit: Sports Backers

In light of the drenching, equatorial, Amazonian, monsoon rains Richmond has been and is currently experiencing, I emailed the Sports Backers’ PR maven Pete Woody about the status of Riverrock. Here’s what he, and event director Megan Schultz, had to say:

“Participant safety is extremely important, as is protecting the integrity of the trails in the James River Park System. We’ve worked closely with event staff and trail managers to come up with new courses for each event and believe they will offer great experiences for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy,” said Megan Schultz, event director for Dominion Energy Riverrock.

The festival is on rain or shine, and the complete schedule can be found at www.riverrockrva.com.

-The Mountain Bike Time Trial, originally scheduled for Friday, May 18, at 6:30pmhas been canceled. Registered participants have been notified by email, and full refunds will be offered.

-The James River Scramble 10k Trail Run and Urban Assault Mountain Bike Ride, scheduled for Saturday, May 19 at 9:00a.m. and 1:30p.m., respectively, will take place as scheduled with rerouted courses. The James River Scramble map can be found here, and the Urban Assault map can be found here

-The course for the Sierra Nevada Down River Paddle, taking place on Saturday, May 19, at 11:30am, has been moved and will now go from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek, rather than Reedy Creek to the 14th Street Takeout. 

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New Events Highlight 2018 Riverrock

(Home page image courtesy of Riverrockrva.com)

Every year the Sports Backers have the challenge of keeping Riverrock, the annual outdoor recreation and music festival, feeling fresh for the 100,000 or so Central Virginians who will descend on the Brown’s Island area in mid-May. This year is no different. The three-day event will feature several new events and challenges over the course of the May 18-20 festival weekend.

Bouldering at Riverrock. Credit: Sports Backers

New events taking place on Friday, May 18, include the Mountain Bike Time Trial and Belle Isle Blitz. In the Mountain Bike Time Trial, participants will set out to get the fastest finishing time on a rugged course on the James River Park System trails. The time trial starts at 6:30 p.m., and riders will go off in one-minute intervals. At 7:15 p.m. on Friday, the Belle Isle Blitz is a chip-timed race over a roughly 5k course that will offer a fun and unique challenge to hard-core trail runners. Starting on the south side of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge and finishing in the Belle Isle parking lot, the Blitz also features a dog wave for participants who want to take on the trails with their four-legged friends by their side.

On Saturday, May 19, the inaugural Sierra Nevada Down River Paddle takes place at 11:30 a.m. Using their kayak, canoe, or SUP, participants will take off in one-minute intervals, starting at Reedy Creek. They will battle some of the river’s most challenging rapids as they race to the finish at the 14th street takeout, with the fastest male and female times winning.

On May 20, the Sunday Funday Ride allows bike riders of all ages to take part in a casual cruise while exploring the best of RVA. Setting off at 1:30pm, the Sunday Funday Ride features a 10-mile and 25-mile course option, and, for those still in need of a little friendly competition, the ride will feature several timed segments through Strava, where riders can compete for bragging rights. Both courses will start in the Belle Isle parking lot and will include one on-course aid station.

These new additions to Dominion Energy Riverrock will also help form two new weekend-long challenges: the River Rumble and Trail Trio. The River Rumble, a combination of running, paddling, and biking, is comprised of the James River Scramble 10k trail run, the Sierra Nevada Down River Paddle, and the Urban Assault Mountain Bike Race. A male and female will be crowned River Rumble champion based on the fastest combined time in all three events, and the Rumble will challenge participants’ endurance on Richmond’s signature trails and rapids. River Rumble participants will also receive a discount on their overall entry and a unique River Rumble participant shirt, while the champions will earn additional, and well-deserved, bragging rights.

The Trail Trio, incorporating the Belle Isle Blitz, James River Scramble, and Bust the Banks trail half marathon, will be a true test of trail running skill over a three-day span. The Trail Trio offers challenges at a variety of distances and takes participants to the North Bank Trail, Buttermilk Trail, Belle Isle, Potterfield Bridge, and Brown’s Island in pursuit of the special Trail Trio finisher medal and legendary status, among other finisher items.

Registration for all Dominion Energy Riverrock events and challenges is currently open. Click here for more information and to register.

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Views from the Treehouse: Going the Distance with RVA’s Best Under-the-Radar Athlete

Matt Perry and I had a blast talking to Bethany Patterson earlier this week for the latest installment of our Views from the Treehouse podcast. Patterson had never run so much as a 5K until she took a fitness class at Liberty where the professor suggested she’d be a good candidate for running an ultramarathon. Amazingly, she finished a 50K at the end of that semester — the first race of her life. Four years later she landed on the cover of Ultra Running magazine for her exploits on the trails. Now the 39-year-old mother of three has a slew of ultra wins under her belt and a 7th-place finish at the 2016 Western States 100, one of the premiere ultras in the world. But you know what’s crazy? She might just be getting started.

Patterson in her natural habitat. Credit: Bethany Patterson

Don’t miss this interview with a crazy fast/strong/tough/accomplished Richmond athlete you need to know about.

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Sports Backers Announce New Overnight, Run-Bike Relay Race

Sports Backers, in partnership with Ragnar Relay, announced a new event today — the ‘Run Bike Relay presented by Ragnar‘ to be held on June 22-23, 2018.

The overnight relay event will go from Richmond to Jamestown and back, utilizing trails in the James River Park System, the Virginia Capital Trail, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, and the Greensprings Greenway Trail in James City County, among others, as participants aim to complete this new relay event on foot and by bike.

Registration is now open for the event at www.sportsbackers.org, and the course map can be found at the following link: http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/fullscreen/1969794191/. During the relay, teams of four, two, or even solo racers will bike and run a 120-mile route from Virginia’s capital city to Jamestown and then trek back to Richmond. There are a total of 12 segments made up of six running and six biking legs<https://www.sportsbackers.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/run-bike-relay-format.jpg>. The running segments range in length from four to six miles and consist mostly of dirt trails, while the biking segments range from 13 to 20 miles and will occur on paved trails. Each participant will complete at least three sections of the course, with the specific order determined by each team.

Ragnar offers the largest overnight relay series in the United States, and the Run Bike Relay marks the second time that Sports Backers and Ragnar are partnering for an event, after the Ragnar Trail RVA event, now in its third year at Pocahontas State Park. Sports Backers and Ragnar share a goal of visiting inspiring and scenic destinations, and the James River Park trail system and Virginia Capital Trail, among other course highlights, will provide a challenging backdrop for Run Bike Relay participants.

The Virginia Capital Trail will feature prominently in the new race.

“The Run Bike Relay provides a unique opportunity for participants to experience great active living amenities in an exciting relay format,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “We continue to evolve and keep innovation at the forefront of our events, and this is a great opportunity to work with a fellow industry leader in Ragnar to bring new events to the region.”

The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation is the official event charity of the Run Bike Relay presented by Ragnar. Their mission is to enhance, promote, and advocate for the continued development of the Virginia Capital Trail, a 52-mile dedicated multi-use trail connecting Richmond and Williamsburg along the historic and scenic Route 5 corridor. Registration for regular (four-person), ultra (two person), and solo (one person) teams is now available at www.sportsbackers.org, with a June 15 entry deadline.

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Monument Ave. 10k Price Increase Set for March 1

Registration for the April 14, 2018, Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k presented by Kroger and Virginia529 Kids Run is currently open at www.sportsbackers.org. The cost to register for the 10k is $40 through February 28, and youth pricing for kids age 14 and under is $30. The entry fee for both will increase by $5 on March 1. The cost to register for the Virginia529 Kids Run is $20 through February 28, with a $5 price increase on March 1.

Sports Backers Now Accepting Submissions for 10k National Anthem Singing Contest
Sports Backers and the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k are now accepting submissions from local community members interested in performing the National Anthem before the race on April 14. Those interested should submit a video sample of an anthem performance to https://www.tfaforms.com/4659331. The deadline to submit is March 9.

Deadline for Packet Mailing Registrations is March 1

Registered participants unable to attend the TowneBank Health and Fitness Expo on April 12 or April 13 can pay to have their bib number, official event shirt, and participant bag mailed to them ($20 per entry). In order to be eligible, participants must be registered for the 10k or Kids Run before March 1. Participants will receive race packets in the mail about two weeks before the April 14 event.

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Podcast #3: Exploring the Future of the Va. Capital Trail

Today we released our third “Views from the Treehouse” podcast, recorded in RO’s secret treehouse headquarters. Our first two featured Ralph White (one podcast cannot contain the greatness that is the former James River Park manager). In this one, Matt Perry and I sat down with Catherine “Cat” Anthony. The VCU grad hasn’t been out of college for a decade, but just last fall she was installed as the the new executive director of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation. She’s charged with shaping the future of one of the Central Virginia’s most popular outdoor recreation resources — the 52-mile ribbon of asphalt that runs from Richmond to Jamestown and drew over 1 million visits last year. What’s her vision for the trail? What will it’s economic impact be? How safe is it? How will we fund its continued maintenance? All these questions — and our usual James Lipton-esque rapid fire session at the end — are a click away!

Check it out!

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Bike Walk RVA Needs Support for Bike/Ped Infrastructure, Safety Initiatives

Credit: Sports Backers

Last week, the Sports Backers were looking for input on the new RVA Bike Share program and where new stations should go as part of Phase 2. Now Bike Walk RVA, the SBs’ advocacy arm, is sounding the alarm on bike lanes, pedestrian safety and James River Park infrastructure, issues that should matter to a whole host of outdoors-minded Richmonders. From Bike Walk RVA director Max Hepp-Buchanan:

Like you, we were excited for 20+ miles of new bike lanes in 2017 in the city of Richmond. Unfortunately, there was less than one mile of new bike lanes built for the entire year. Like you, we are tired of waiting. And with 12 combined bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in Richmond last year alone, we can’t wait for safe streets. We need to start 2018 off strong, and we need your help.
 
Please join us for the first #WeCantWait campaign meet-up where we will work together on a strategy to hit the ground running (and rolling) in the New Year. That means actually building bike lanes that are already funded and designed, finishing and acting on a strong Vision Zero plan, and dedicating funding to future transformational projects like the Missing Link Trail.
 
RSVP HERE FOR THE #WECANTWAIT CAMPAIGN MEET-UP
 
When: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 / 6:30 to 8:30 PM
Where: Capital Alehouse Richmond, 623 E. Main Street

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An NYC Transplant Gets Feet Wet on RVA Roads, Trails

As a British expat and long-term New Yorker who has just relocated to Richmond, I’m excited about exploring a brand new city and its surroundings. The enthusiastic talk from the locals is that RVA has much to offer the runner, cyclist, hiker and kayaker. I’m particularly keen to start checking out running
routes, both long and short, to and from downtown.

The T Pot Bridge has no equivalent in New York City.

My first long run last weekend was a nineteen mile loop around the south and then north banks of the James River. There are two excellent foot bridges that cross the water from downtown where I live: the flat, slightly-bouncy-when-you’re-running Tyler Potterfield Bridge from Browns Island, and a more humped, pedestrian-only one directly under the Lee Bridge to Belle Isle. On this occasion I took the latter, snaking across the island, exiting via the south side and climbing the stairs to join the excellent and mildly-rugged Buttermilk Trail heading west. I then joined Riverside Drive at Westover Hills where Riverside and New Kent roads come together. Riverside is a quiet, but winding road with a fair few blind corners to navigate. Then I came to the had the worst road section of the day — luckily short — on Forest Hill Avenue, crossing above the Powhite Highway. There’s no sidewalk, not much of a shoulder, and not really anywhere for the runner to avoid the four lanes of speeding traffic here, so care is needed. I kept to the left/west, which seemed the slightly less egregious side of the road to be on. Patience was needed waiting for a gap in traffic to cross to the eastern side. As far as I can tell, there is no obvious alternate route to avoid Forest Hill Ave., if one wants to keep following the river west.

Ahhh, running in Windsor Farms…

Turning north as soon as possible I wound through a quiet residential area of Willow Oaks and, after a wrong turn or two, made it to the parking lot and trail head in Pony Pasture, a small waterside park with short loop trails, kayak put-ins, and fishing points. First through the woods, and then back on to Riverside Drive right by the riverbank, this section made for flat, pleasing and speedy running. One
has to keep a close look out for a right turn onto the Huguenot Woods Trail further west to maximize off-road run time. This path leads a short distance under the Huguenot Bridge and to a parking lot where Riverside restarts once again. I looped south and then north to cross over the wide concrete expanse of the Huguenot Bridge to recross the river. There’s a wide sidewalk on both sides of this bridge, I’m happy to report.

Remaining on the left-hand side of River Road (north of Huguenot Bridge), there’s a narrow, unmarked, gravelly trail called the Gambles Mill Corridor (according to Terrain360.com). I sought that out to run north alongside a country club golf course, and then swung right and east along the top of the course on the start of the return journey back towards downtown. There are then a number of options to pass through the residential neighborhoods to the east of the University of Richmond.

My run.

I spent some time along Grove Avenue before snaking southeast on a few fairly uncomfortable, uneven, bricked sidewalks through Windsor Farms. I would imagine that there is probably a more foot-friendly route through there somewhere. Wanting to keep as close to the river as possible, I then crossed I-195 again via Douglasdale Road to meet Maymont Park. One could then either head for the North Bank Trail or up through Byrd Park, but I somewhat randomly chose a street route due east and north of Hollywood Cemetery, and then up to the main VCU campus, turning right towards downtown.

Overall: a varied and interesting long training run for my inaugural jogged jaunt. A few places are a challenge due to the proximity of heavy, fast-moving traffic and no pedestrian spaces, but the trail sections make up for it. Street running on the northeast side of the river was generally no problem and not a million miles from similar sections I’m well used to in NYC, such as the eastern extremities of
Queens. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be a way to avoid that short section on Forest Hill Ave., if one’s heading west to the south of the river. Hence, if you’re nervous of running that close to fast-moving cars, then you might want to avoid that section. I’m not yet sure if I’m missing anything, but one frustrating aspect of this loop is the lack of a means to run anywhere near the north bank of the river
until just east of Maymont; this seems to be the case further upstream too.

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Riverrock Updates: Event Just One Week Away

Dominion Riverrock and Flo Sports yesterday announced a partnership to stream the Dominion Riverrock bouldering competition live online at www.FloClimbing.com during the May 19-21 festival. This marks the first time that any Riverrock competition has been made available for livestream and will bring the excitement of the bouldering competition, featuring some of the top climbers in the country, directly to spectators across the U.S. and around the globe.

A slackline over the Kanawha Canal at Dominion Riverrock. Credit: Venture Richmond

“Dominion Riverrock offers a visually unique and exciting climbing competition taking  place at one of the premier outdoor sports and music festivals in the country, and we are thrilled about our new partnership,”  said Jordan Shipman, General Manager of Flo Climbing. “The event will be streamed live for the first time on FloClimbing.com, and we are looking forward to bringing this competition to an even larger audience of climbing fans!”

Men’s and women’s Bouldering qualifying and finals will be held Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, and the Speed Competition follows on Sunday, May 21. All events take place on a custom-built 20-foot cage constructed specifically for Dominion Riverrock that offers a unique test of speed, agility, and physical and mental strength. Top competitors for this year’s event include Kai Lightner, Nathaniel Coleman, Kyra Condie, and Brooke Raboutou, among others.

In other Riverrock news: 

To help kick off the 2017 Riverrock, Red Bull Media House will screen a premier of the film ‘Blood Road’ at the Byrd Theater at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 18. The film chronicles mountain bike champion Rebecca Rusch’s journey as she rides the 1,200 miles of Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the spot where her father crashed and died during the Vietnam War. Rusch, a Red Bull athlete known as ‘The Queen of pain with a heart of gold’ for her epic performances and adventures around the world, will be in attendance for the premier and will participate in a Q&A session with the audience following the screening. The session will be moderated by Jeff Lenosky, a world class freeride and mountain bike rider who coordinates the Freestyle Bikes competition during Dominion Riverrock and also competes in the Urban Assault mountain bike race during the festival. The screening is free and open to the public, and Rusch will be available for media interviews following the Q&A session.

Prior to the screening, Lenosky and Rusch will lead a pre-ride of the Urban Assault course at noon on May 18. This will be a great opportunity for riders to preview the course, which takes place on the trails in the James River Park System, and learn a few expert tips and tricks from accomplished athletes like Rusch and Lenosky. The course preview ride is free and will start and finish in the Belle Isle parking lot.

Participants Finalized for ‘RVA Plein Air Paint Off’

The field of local artists for the first-ever RVA Plein Air Paint Off at Dominion Riverrock is set and includes some of the area’s best known artists, muralists, and designers. The 10 artists scheduled to take part are Ed Trask, Hamilton Glass, Nico Cathcart, Matt Lively, Amy Swift, Greig Leach, Linda Hollett-Bazouzi, Vincente Gonzalez, Mickael Broth, and Andras Bality.

During the paint off, set for Saturday, May 20 at noon, the artists will have four hours to create a work of art that will be judged and showcased before being made available for sale on Sunday, May 21. The sale is open to the public and will take place from noon-4 p.m. in the brick courtyard at Historic Tredegar.

While the challenge is taking place, the artists will be scattered all over the festival grounds, creating plenty of viewing opportunities to see the competitors at work as their paintings come to life. A canvas size of 30″x40″ for all competitors will create an additional challenge for the artists during the time window, as most plein air painters work on a much smaller scale. With diverse styles and processes, the paint-off promises to be thrilling, inspirational, and educational all at the same time and will present a unique challenge to participating artists. Dominion Riverrock is partnering with Glave Kocen Gallery for the paint-off event.

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Enthusiastic Crowd Packs the House for Richmond Trail Forum

Crowd of more than 100 people at the Byrd Park Round House for the Richmond Trail Forum, Feb. 1, 2017

Crowd of more than 100 people at the Byrd Park Round House for the Richmond Trail Forum, Feb. 1, 2017

The first Richmond Trail Forum took place Wednesday night at the Byrd Park Round House before an enthusiastic overflow crowd of more than 100 people. Many identified themselves as cyclists, runners, hikers, volunteers, and dog walkers.

The well-received six-member panel included Nathan Burrell, superintendent of the James River Park; Mike Burton, city trails manager; Andrew Alli, city trail technician; Michael George, Richmond Road Runners; Dennis Bussey, James River Hikers; and Greg Rollins, rvaMORE. The forum was moderated by Brantley Tyndall, community outreach coordinator for Sports Backers’ Bike Walk RVA.

“We are an outdoor recreation mecca in Richmond,” Burrell said. “We have a multi-use system that we are all happy to share.” [Read more about the history of the development of Richmond’s trails in our preview of the Richmond Trail Forum.]

See a video from TijoMedia’s Brandon Montijo that rolls through some historic moments in the timeline of Richmond’s trail network.

The trail network includes the James River Park loop, Ancarrow’s Landing (AKA Poop Loop), Forest Hill Park, Dogwood Dell, Powhite Park, Larus Park, and more trail is on the way. The system is maintained by James River Park and city trail crew — a total of about seven staffers — and thousands of volunteer hours.

“We live and die by the volunteers,” Burton said, thanking the many volunteers who were in the building.

Richmond Trail Forum, Feb. 1, 2017

Richmond Trail Forum, Feb. 1, 2017

Burrell said the JRPS welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors in 2016, according to the network of counters at almost every parcel of the park system. Park staff is able to tell the difference between cyclists and pedestrians, which helps them determine who to best manage the trails. Bikes are in the minority, with more than 2/3 of the visits coming from pedestrians in most areas of the park.

“We know when people are out riding wet trails. We know,” said Alli, jokingly to big laughs from the crowd. He said the counters show that the numbers of riders and pedestrians are generally lower during and after periods of rain. Users on wet trails can cause damage and require more maintenance, which was a big part of the evening’s discussion, which included several topics.

The panel emphasized that pedestrians have the right of way on the trails, though many runners and walkers tend to give way to bikes.

“Cyclists should yield to other users,” he said. “Downhill does not have the right of way either. I know you want to bomb down the hill, but we need to give way to hikers.”

Bussey said, “it is helpful to [hikers] when bikers give us a head’s up about how many riders are passing through.” Alli mentioned that bells have become more popular, but a good “rider up” will do fine too to warn anyone on a trail when approaching a blind spot.

The most common conflict on the trails comes the potential for bike-on-bike collisions, Burton said. The trail crew has worked harder to minimize blind corners and trims back vegetation where needed to keep trail corridor sight lines clear.

Earbuds are not encouraged — for runners but especially cyclists. “You are oblivious to your surroundings with earbuds,” Alli said. For what it is worth, according to VDOT, an earbud in one ear is allowed.

A question about unleashed dogs in the park brought a strong response from Burrell, who said “your dog is supposed to be on a leash. Not just in the James River Park, but anywhere around the city.”

Dogs are supposed to be leashed in the city, according to city ordinance. He said keeping your dog on a leash is important for wildlife in the park too. “Typically everyone’s dog that is off a leash — that dog is not next to you, but wandering around the park. Your dog interacting with animals creates negative tension” and can cause more problems than dog owners realize.

At the beginning of the year, the city began an experiment at the Poop Loop by running the trails in one only direction on alternating days of the week. The park offers “a diversity of speeds,” Rollins said, and “we figured we’d experiment out there and see what happens.” If it continues to go well, he said that Dogwood Dell and Forest Hill Park trails could become directional trails as well, although the James River Park loop would likely be too difficult to manage because there are so many entry points.

Trail sustainability was a big topic and the panel answered many questions about their guidance on trail maintenance. Factors in management include measuring resource management, economic impacts, and social impacts. Burrell said that decisions are always a balancing act. “We’re not an amusement park. Trail features are not removed because people can’t ride them,” he said.

“For us, it comes down to staffing,” Burton said. Do they have the resources, the time to accomplish maintenance and what would be the benefits for alterations to the trails.

“Typically, when we are accused of removing technical trail features, it is due to erosion,” Burton said. “We can’t ignore that it is eroding…We all ride, we like this stuff too.”

Alli said that typically, many sections are “social trails,” indicating that they have developed over time before the park officially began maintaining trail. Often they follow the straightest line — especially on sloped sections of trail — and staff has tried to redesign them to make them more sustainable. They use features like rocks and bumps to slow riders in any areas of the trail network.

The panel answered a question about the brown trail markers throughout the city’s network. The markers help pinpoint an emergency response and have helped to cut response times from 30 minutes to closer to 5 minutes per call. The signs are documented and maintained in part by help from volunteers from the James River Hikers.

Burton answered a question about the highly popular new T. Tyler Potterfield Bridge, which saw more than 35,000 visitors in its first month, between the opening date of Dec. 2 and Dec. 31. He said the next logical step is to finish the loop on the south bank of the river and connect with Belle Isle by way of making drastic improvements to the Missing Link Trail, which is planned for in the city’s Richmond Riverfront Plan.

“It is very much a needed connection to Belle Isle,” he said. “We cannot ignore the glaring need in the trail system,”

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