Saturday, August 6, 2022

Ugly Dog Gravel Aqua Bike-Tri to Get Dirty


                  "Nobody learns and grows by being average at something." - Rohan Kamath

As I get close to the end of my triathlon season I am finally getting caught up on race blogs.  On July 23, I traveled to Grass Lake, Michigan to race at the Ugly Dog Gravel Triathlon.

I always have a reason why I decide to do a race.  Gravel races are a new addition this year to the USA Triathlon (USAT) calendar.  There was a national championship in Arkansas in June and a series of eight races in Michigan, Idaho, Colorado, California, New Jersey, and Texas. 

Gravel races use gravel roads for the bike and trails for the run.  Although gravel racing is new for USAT, gravel races and triathlons have been held for years. Ugly Dog was no exception.

This event would have Olympic and Sprint distances in Duathlon, Triathlon, and Aquabike. I had chosen the Sprint Aquabike and Team CMT member Cheryl Kearny would be doing the Olympic triathlon.

My race would be a 750-meter swim and a 12-mile bike segment on gravel roads. Cheryl would have a 1500-meter swim, a 28-mile bike segment, and a 10K trail run.  Both of our races as age group athletes.

For my race, awards would only be given to the top three overall women.  This was a small race and I think there were only three of us racing in the division. This race again checks a box toward qualifying for the Multi-Sport Athlete of the year competition.  This would be my second aquabike, leaving just one aquathlon race to complete.

I wanted to do this race because I like seeing new places and new races. A trip to the beautiful state o Michigan is always a good time.  Cheryl's brother has a lake home right across the lake from the race venue. The family was nice enough to extend an invitation. So I got to spend a long weekend relaxing on a lake before and after the race.

I also hope to go to the gravel national championship next year. I did not want to show up with no race experience. I have given up on doing off-road triathlons after dislocating my elbow at my only off-road triathlon. Racing a gravel race would also give me a chance to use my very nice mountain bike. That bike has been collecting dust in my basement. This would be a chance to use that bike.  Many racers had specialized gravel bikes. I have vowed not to buy another bike since I have six. Mountain bikes are not as fast but are also widely used.

We had rain the morning of the race and the forecast did not look good. Additional thunderstorms were predicted.  Lucky for us the storms went north and south of us. It was overcast the entire race. With a temperature of 84 F, the overcast kept it feeling cooler.


I did not know the water temperature until I got to the race venue. It was a very balmy 78 F. It was still wetsuit legal. I thought a full wetsuit would be too warm so I went with my lave pants. They are pants made of neoprene that go to my knees. I had never warned them in a race before. You are not supposed to do anything new on race day. I hoped this decision would be a good one.

The water was really clear and the bath water warm when I did the pre-race warm-up.  Sometimes these lakes are really weedy, but the course seemed to be weed free.

The swim went really well for me. It seemed shorter than 750 meters. I am glad I did not wear a wet suit. The lava pants were a perfect choice. They added a bit of buoyancy to my legs without making me too warm.


I was concerned about the rain it might be muddy or that the gravel would be really loose. I was worried about falls. The course map also showed lots of hills. Since I had never done a gravel race I did not know what to expect.  The mountain bike was a great choice. What I gave up in speed I gained in stability. The bike road over any changes in terrain easily. There were rolling hills, but nothing too big. It kept things interesting. The only problem was the course could have been better marked. I took two wrong turns. I talked to several other athletes that took wrong turns as well. The woman that finished after me on the aqua bike took the same wrong turns. At one point I got to a T in the trail and there was no sign. I went right which was of course the wrong way. I ended up doing twice the distance on that leg.

 I ended up doing extra mileage.  Most of the time I was all alone out on the road. I had no idea if I was on course or if I was getting endlessly lost on the network or gravel roads in the park where the race was held.  There was even a time I saw a sign for mileage on the Olympic course. I was not sure I was even on the right course. Then I saw the turnaround for my course.

Despite the wrong turns, I finished 2nd overall in the Sprint Aquabike. The first place woman was 15 minutes ahead of me. The wrong turns had cost me at least 10 minutes. I hope the course is better marked next year.  I finished in 1 hr 25 minutes. It was so much fun.

The post-race food was catered by a local barbeque restaurant. It was the best post-race meal I have ever had. I chatted up with some of the other athletes while I waited for Cheryl to finish. I saw at least two men with major road rash from falls.  Cheryl ended up taking first place in the 60-64 age group.

The swag included a nice coaster from USAT since it was part of their new gravel series and a bottle of vodka in an etched bottle from the sponsoring Ugly Dog Distillery.

I would come back to the race. It was really well run with a beautiful course. I am even thinking of doing a September gravel race in Northern Michigan.  I also gained some much-needed confidence in riding on gravel. Now I just have to work on my trail running.


Chris Wodke

Founder & Manager Team CMT


Chris is a triathlete Nordic skier and long-distance runner. She is a three-time participant in the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finished 2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.


She has appeared three times at the Para triathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Para triathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship and at the Aqua bike National Championship in 2016. She represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015i, Cozumel in 2016, and Denmark in 2018. In 2018 finishing 5th in the 60 to 64 age group.


 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a Para triathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  She has won state championships in cycling and triathlon as a senior Olympian. In 2017 she placed 2nd in her age group at the Winter Triathlon National Championship, earning a spot on Team USA for the World Championship.


In 2020 she was named a National Ski Patrol Subaru Ambassador and a USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador.


She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.


She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” which details her experience as a CMT-affected athlete, and the book “Soup Sundays, A Journey Toward Healthy Eating”.


You may visit her author page at:


Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and find a cure for CMT. We currently have 248 athletes in 42 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Vietnam, Iran, Scotland, France, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Mexico, Wales, Ireland, and Sweden! If you wish to join us visit our website; or


CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.


Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance, and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.


Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.


Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.


Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties, and hearing loss.



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