The Great Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon

Competing in “The Josh” was a last minute decision this year. All week, I was hoping to do it, but I waited until the last day of registration to sign up. My legs were still hammered from last weekend’s Wapack Trail Race adventure, but mentally I was sharp. I thought I could register by 5:00 P.M. yesterday, but on-line registration closed at 11:59 P.M. on Friday. I was bummed, but Race Director Patty Spector came through for me after I told her my sob story about a spouse who is 39 weeks pregnant…and so on. Patty let me in, so it was game on!

Josh Mugs

We ended up back in Lenox, Massachusetts in the Berkshires, for the second time in two weeks. We loaded up the car on Saturday evening because The Josh is a logistical nightmare and you need to use half the gear that you own. The car was jammed with four different pairs of shoes, a bike, a kayak, paddles, PFD’s, a helmet, energy food, and all of the other stuff you need. This was the 33rd Josh and it was my 3rd. I did 2006 and 2007, but skipped last year to run the Pisgah Trail Race. I was hungry to lower my best time from 2007. 33 years ago, the event was created as a relay and it is the teams that still make the race unique, but I prefer the solo division, particularly the Ironman Kayak division.

Before the bike.

The format is a 27 mile road bike leg followed by a 5 mile kayak or canoe and then a 6.2 mile run. This is a non-traditional triathlon. The mass start road leg that kicks off the race is a site to see. I’ve written in the past that the start is one of the most exhilarating of all the races I have done. Some folks find it downright scary with nearly 500 cyclists screaming down Main Street in Great Barrington with the police escort’s sirens blaring. Everyone jockeys for position before the right turn on to the Taconic Street hill where the race splits apart every year.

Arlen Zane Wenzel and Scott Livingston

The venue is spectacular. As mentioned,the race starts in Great Barrington and the road bike course takes you on a beautiful loop through Great Barrington, Alford, West Stockbridge, and Stockbridge, before finishing in Lenox at the boat launch on the Stockbridge Bowl. The climbing on the bike leg is modest with 1825 feet of gain. The kayak course is two loops of the Stockbridge Bowl (Lake Mahkeenac). The run course is a loop on the hilly roads around the lake. The finish is at Tanglewood, which on race day resembles a massive tailgate party. Today, there was live music, a rock climbing wall, food vendors, and thousands of people celebrating the last full weekend of summer.

The Machine.

The past two times I have done this race, I have missed the key move on the Taconic Street hill. I vowed to hang tough this year. The race started with the usual bang, but this year, I maintained a strong position in the top 30 riders. I was in the top 20 when we made the turn and I moved up another five spots before drifting back. This was the plan. If I could keep catching wheels and avoid a disastrous unbridgeable split, then I could potentially gain minutes on Ironman division rivals. The crazy thing about the hill is that it comes only five minutes into the race. If you miss the move, you end up in a chase group that loses ground for the next 25 miles.

Today, I made the front group, but it was only the front group for a brief period of time. Less than two  miles later, there was another surge and a small group (six riders?) rolled off the front. This was the elite group of the day and I was banking on the fact that they were all on teams. I marked the one other solo racer in my group that I knew, and made sure he wasn’t out of my sight. It turned out that there was a third too. I was joined today by teammate Arlen Zane Wenzel. AZW was only one week removed from completing the epic Shenandoah 100 mountain bike race. His legs were heavy, but he still made the same group as me, which put the Pfizer Corporate Team in a good position to win their division.

Our group stayed together until Prospect Hill Road in Lenox. It split apart again before the final descent to the kayak/canoe transition. I won’t know exactly where I finished the bike until the full results are out, but it was a definite improvement over past years. The kayak was painful, as expected. I slowed a bit on my second lap when the wind whipped up the waves a bit and there was a lot of traffic as hundreds of boats clogged the small lake. Fortunately, I was up far enough where there was some clean water on the first lap. I had to let two soloists go for a while and they gained a few minutes on me before the second transition.

Kayak Start.

Two Laps to Go.

The volunteers were really helpful when I beached my kayak and headed ashore. My only glitch was when I pulled out  my brand new triathlon specific racing shoes and they wouldn’t go on. I was sitting on the beach and I couldn’t get my feet in. It turned out that I never removed the tissue paper stuffed in them from the store. It was quite funny. Eventually, I got out of there and started chasing the two guys who I suspected were ahead of me. I was pleased with my pace and reeled them in one at a time before putting a little gap on them. I had been passed by five to 10 canoe teams on the water, but I was still in the top 20 overall. My hope was that it was all teams ahead of me. I was able to hold my pace up the final grinder before finishing in front of the huge Tanglewood crowd in 2:42:16. I met my goal and set a new Ironman Kayak course record in the process.


Cleaning up after The Josh is even more difficult than preparing for the race. You have to collect gear between two transition areas. Some people even have to get back to their cars in Great Barrington for a third stop. We helped out a fellow racer by giving him a lift back to his car at the bike start in exchange for assistance loading my kayak on the roof of the car. Debbie and Shep walked more than four miles in support of my race today, so I am grateful for their help. They were more tired than me.

For Fun

Once again, The Josh volunteers were spectacular. Everyone was gracious and helpful. When you have a 33-year-old race, you have a special event that they community rallies around. The formula works because the people behind the race care so much about it. Entire Berkshire communities come together on Josh day. I bet they are still partying at Tanglewood right now…

Just finished.

2009 Race Results

1 Response to “The Great Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon”

  1. 1 2010 Santa’s Run « Life Adventures Trackback on 5 December 2010 at 7:18 pm

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@thecubscouts #pinewoodderby never gets old. Pack 157 Bolton, Connecticut #cubscouts So that little injury caused by my @renocxnats crash on Saturday afternoon wasn’t so little after all. It’s a broken leg (fibula). Prognosis is good, but it hurts like heck. My blog post report with blow by blow details is linked in my profile. #cxnats #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #crossisboss - - -

This #lifedeathcyclocross stuff is true!!!! I crashed out of the Singlespeed Championship @renocxnats (on the dreaded off-camber) but not before having more fun. @artroti43 raced on the frosty course ❄️ at day break. 🚴🏽 We met a lot more @horsteng #crossspikes customers. I hung with little bunny hopper 🐰 Miles, the Junior 11-12 year old Silver Medalist.🥈I cheered for Nic, who represented @the_ccap in the Junior 15-16 age group. @sportstert and Iva came down from Tahoe to cheer LOUDLY for me. 🎺 I got my badly sprained ankle taped and iced. I had a beer. 🍺 I’m even looking forward to my red eye flight home ✈️ . Best of all, I’ll see @trailrunningmom and the kids on Sunday. I can’t explain the sensation, but despite the pain, I’m ready for next #Cyclocross season to begin... after some rest. #teamhorstsports #cxnats #horstengineering @parkavebikeshop #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross #crossiscoming You could say that at least for this week, I’m married to my #bicycle - - -

@renocxnats #cxnats @seven_cycles #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #crossspikes @horsteng #chapelofthebells #Cyclocross #lifedeathcyclocross Good day representing @horsteng at @renocxnats in the 45-49 age group. It’s a great course. The wind was blowing hard, but the sun finally came out. I’m happy with 37th place but should have made a move to get to 29th, which was 30 seconds ahead. That’s a long way when you are going flat out and cramping. 4,500 foot elevation was a factor. I’m disappointed that they cut one lap of my race when I wasn’t close to getting lapped by the leaders. You train this hard and come all this way; and you want to get the most racing for the $ and time invested. They only let 25 riders do the full six laps. The only positive to come out of that was that I watched fellow New Englander @adammyerson execute a perfect final sprint to win the Stars and Stripes again. Teammate @artroti43 had a good ride too. 
@seven_cycles #sevencycles #horstengineering #teamhorstsports @bicycleseastct #crossspikes #cxnats #renocxnats #Cyclocross #crossisboss @therichardsachs didn’t have the race he hoped for but it was still great to see him @renocxnats and “pit” for him. He said he officially started his second off season, but first of 2018. @artroti43 and I played soigneur/mechanic for 90 minutes, but minus the massage! atmo #renocxnats #richardsachs #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #hauteframebuilding #Cyclocross #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross I previously hadn’t published this image, but it recently received an Honorable Mention in the 2017 @appalachianmountainclub Photo Contest for the People Outdoors category. Check out my blog (link in profile) for the interesting story of his photo (shot with this iPhone 6s), a trip report from this amazing Maine adventure, and past contest history. I love this image of two of my favorite women. I’m barred from submitting images to the 2018 contest, but I’ll be back in 2019. #appalachianmountainclub #baxterstatepark #katahdin Congratulations to Master Park, the Park Family, and the entire team at Park’s U.S. #Taekwondo at the Grand Opening of the new facility in the former VFW building. Our kids love it! So much better than being next door to the pawn shop and liquor store.😊#tkd 🇺🇸🇰🇷 This morning, the @trinitycollege Main Quad was bathed in beautiful sunshine ☀️but it was frigid and the wind was blowing! ❄️ The chapel was packed with an overflow crowd to celebrate the (shortened) life of a lovely friend. She will be missed. #circleoflife 🌏

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