Saturday, August 19, 2023

Ugly Dog Gravel Race-Racing Strategically


                      "Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose." -C.S. Lewis

On July 24th, I did the Ugly Dog Gravel race in Grass Lake Michigan.  This race is part of USA Triathlon's gravel series.  Gravel races are off-road races and are relatively new at least for me.

The swim, bike, and run format is s a bit different from a traditional triathlon. The bike and run are on trails. The bike portion is on gravel roads and the run is on hiking trails.

Earlier in the year, I did the gravel national championship in Arkansas. It was the physically toughest race I have ever done.  I had done the Ugly Dog the year before and knew it was an easier course. I would be doing the aqua bike, which was half the distance with no run.

The strategy was one of the reasons I chose this race.  I am working on qualifying for the USAT multi-sport Athlete of the Year award.

Two qualify for this award I need two races in three disciplines of each of the following race:

  • Duathlon
  • Aquathlon
  • Aqua bike
  • Off-road
This race would be my first aqua bike, I will do my second and last race of the season in September at the Dirty Mitten race in Michigan.

I have triathlon friends that race almost every weekend. Even not racing that often, I was getting burned out on traditional triathlons. Doing off-road and winter triathlons have kept things fresh for me. Winter triathlon has become my focus for my training since I will again be competing at the World Championships.  I have been riding my fat tire bike all summer.  Doing off-road races will help me get ready for my winter races.

I had lots of strategic reasons for doing this race. It is also just fun and my college friend has a family with a house on the race venue lake. He uses as the race as an excuse for a family reunion weekend. 
I love the swim at this lake. The lake is always like glass in the morning.

This water was so warm I did not need a wet suit. I just wore neoprene Capri pants.  The swim was routine and I beat my friend Cheryl who was doing the full triathlon and the other woman in my age group out of the water.

They both passed me on the bike. The out-and-back course was really well-marked. The 12-mile ride was cool and shady. It was a beautiful ride and so much fun. Since there is no run with an aqua-bike my day was done when I finished the bike ride.

I raced as an age group athlete and finished 5th since all the aqua bike athletes are scored together regardless of age.  Next year I will make sure I check that PC athlete box.

My friend Cheryl took 2nd place in her age group in the triathlon. It was a really fun day and I look forward to racing again next year.  

I need just two more races to complete my qualification. Next up is an Aquathlon in Texas and then Dirty Mitten at the end of September to complete my season.


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.

She has won national championships as a physically challenged athlete in Aqualon, Duathlon, Aqua bike, and Winter Triathlon. She was the national champion in her age group in 2023 for gravel duathlon.


 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a Para triathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  


She was the 2023 Gravel Duathlon National Champion in the 65-69 age group.


She has won state championships as an age-group athlete in cycling and triathlon. She has represented America as an age group athlete at world championships in Chicago, Denmark, Cozumel, and Norway. She earned a bronze medal at the Winter Duathlon World Championship in 2023 in Norway.


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:


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