Three athletes from Tucker County recently participated and won the New River Gorge Challenge triathlon, which consisted of 28.5 miles of extreme mountain biking, whitewater rafting and running along the New River.
Lucas Warner, 2008 graduate of Tucker County High School; Ian Beckner, 2005 graduate of TCHS; and Canaan Heights resident Curtis Heishman competed as a relay team under the name of Red Run Riders in the Aug. 4 triathlon.
A longtime mountain biking racer, Beckner started off the first leg of the race with a 15-mile ride from the town of Fayetteville upriver to a put-in location along the New River. He finished second place on the ride, with a time of 1 hour, 14 minutes and 13 seconds, just two minutes behind first-place rider Tate Huffman.
"I tried to keep the pedals moving," Beckner said. "We were able to keep our good standing the entire time."
Beckner met Heishman along the banks of the New River to exchange the ankle bracelet timing chip used as a relay baton.
After making the exchange, Heishman jumped in his kayak and took off down the New River for a 7-mile stretch. He worked hard to maintain the team's second-place standing behind Huffman, a solo competitor, who was in the lead for first two sections of the race.
Heishman exited the river with a time of 59 minutes, 51 seconds to make the final baton exchange to Warner, a veteran cross country runner who currently is a senior on Berea College's cross country team.
Warner was able to immediately take the lead from Huffman as he changed into his running clothes. Warner came across the finish line for the Red Run Riders with an overall team time of 2 hours, 59 minutes and 34 seconds. Warner completed the 6.5-mile climb through mountainous terrain in 46 minutes and 12 seconds.
"At the finish, there were food and drinks and three happy teammates. We've talked about coming back next year to defend out title," Warner said.
Beckner said, "Going into the race, I knew we had a pretty good chance of winning. ... If the stars align we'll return next year to defend our title."
For their win, the trio was able to choose a prize from a table filled with goods.
Regarding the team's finish under three hours, Warner said, "I realized that I might make it in under three hours, so that pushed me too for the last mile or so. ... The initial climb out of the gorge was hard, but I hadn't worn myself out. The ups and downs on the trail near the finish were pretty hard, though."
Warner said the second section of the run along the Miners Trail was especially challenging because the trail goes straight up the mountainside, with steps carved into the ground.
Beckner agreed to join the team knowing that Warner had been training the entire summer by running 50 to 70 miles a week, and Heishman had a lot of experience boating in the New River.
Warner organized the dream team after learning about the race on iplayoutside.com. He'd heard about the race in previous years, but never competed because of a lack of whitewater kayaking experience.
Warner said the team met Aug. 3 in Fayetteville to scope out the exchange areas and camp nearby the night before the race.
To find out more information about the New River Gorge Challenge or to view the race results, anyone interested can visit newrivergorgechallenge.com.