King of the James Race

King of the James 2015 from Hunter on Vimeo.

A buzz filled the air throughout the James River Park System this fall in the weeks leading up to November 15th for the second annual King of the James.  Question’s like, “Who can rival last year’s winner Adam Tremper?” or “What will the river levels be?”  A race like KOTJ depends on many variables involving the weather. The river too high or trails too muddy can make or break the event as well as play a huge role in training for it.

It was inspiring to be around the river and see numerous long boats strapped atop cars running shuttle on the lower James. Long boats are worthy of speed and without one, you cannot win King of the James.  It is inspiring to see so many friends who normally spend their time on the river throughout the year, transition off the river and onto the trails. These bi- and tri-athletes flooded Richmond’s single track, riding bikes to nail down their lines over stream crossings and other obstacles strewn throughout. I even caught site of  registrants getting their lungs warmed up for the run in Forest Hill Park and reevaluating their fitness during the off season. This year people not only wanted to do well in King of the James, but there was angst to be crowned King.

King of the James is an adventure triathlon. One that was created to celebrate the terrain we have here in Richmond. The city’s park system is comparable to those in even the best ‘mountain towns,’ despite being in Virginia’s Piedmont.  The falls in Richmond and the bluffs surrounding the river are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, and we can access them every day of the year. Furthermore, you can go on a trail run, mountain bike ride, and paddle all in one day. These assets are unique to Richmond. Thus King of the James was born.

The event more than doubled in size in its second year, going from 96 participants in 2014 to 200 in 2015.  Reedy Creek is the perfect staging grounds, with its proximity to trail access as well as being the principle put-in for the most dramatic section of whitewater on the entire James River.  Producing the event in early November surrounds racers and the entire course with spectacular fall colors – The James River Park System at its finest.  November 15th proved to be the perfect day of racing with temperatures in the mid 30’s which rose to low 50’s along with the river stable just below 6 feet on the Westham Gauge.

Although the course is not particularly long in distance, it makes up for in difficulty.  The Forest Hill Trail is demanding on the lungs with steep climbs that keep on coming.  It’s similar to a high intensity interval workout with roots and stream crossings.  Then you transition on to the mountain bike.  Your quads will burn and body will be jostled as you ride along the Buttermilk and North Bank trails with technical rock gardens, stream crossings, and even a couple steep climbs.  Now that your legs are fried and filling with lactic acid, you dismount your bike and cram them into a kayak and speed thru class III-IV rapids. The total course takes anywhere from just over an hour for some, to over two hours for others.

At the end of this year’s King of the James, a new King was crowned.  Trevor Saylor traveled up from Asheville, N.C. to claim top honors and finished the race in 1 hour and 20 minutes…shaving 4 minutes off the time of of last year’s winner Adam Tremper. For the second year in a row, Jenny Belt finished as the Queen with a time of 1 hour and 38 minutes. Perhaps the most exciting finish of the day was the final sprint for first place among the team category.  Max Posner passed Massey Worley in the flat water just below the final drop of Pipeline to edge Team Pup N’ Suds in for 1st place at 1 hour and 16 minutes.

We want to congratulate all the participants! It is not an easy race, and merely finishing is truly a statement on this world class, outdoor race course we call Home. Thanks to the James River Park System, Forest Hill Park staff and volunteers for the countless hours spent making the park so great. King of the James donated $1,000 to James River Outdoor Coalition to assist the park staff in maintenance and improvements to this wonderful green space.

Until next year!