Take A Race Vacation: Great Triathlon and Marathons in the Northwest

By Angie Dierdorff & Jon Snyder

DESTINATION races are becoming more and more popular and the Pacific Northest has a bunch of fun ones. Two

of the best are right here: Bloomsday and Ironman
Coeur d’Alene. But where should you go when you
want to race out of town? Use our guide to help pick a triathlon or marathon that will not only be a great race but a great vacation spot, too.

Triathlons, Multi-Sport Events (listed Chronological order)

1. Boise Ironman 70.3: Boise, Idaho (1.2 mi. swim, 56 mi. bike, 13.1 mi. run)
Date: 6/1/08 (5/30/09)
Accommodations: It’s Boise, Idaho – not Salmon. Hotels and motels are abundant, but make sure to reserve your room well in advance – this event is expected to pack ‘em in. Start withhttp://www.boisechamber.org and go from there.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Although 2008 will be the first, Boise Ironman 70.3 is organized by the pro’s at Ironman, so you know it will be well-organized. Plus, it’s Ironman “lite” and is a good stepping stone for the triathlete who isn’t quite ready for the full course. Boise is pretty fun to hang out in these days – the bike-to-run transition will be located on Capitol Boulevard and the half-marathon run course will take you through downtown and the Boise Greenbelt, with the finish line in the trendy “BoDo” District. This is a qualifier for the Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater, Florida. Online registration for 2009 opens October 1, 2008.

2. X Terra Solstice Triathlon: La Grande, Oregon (1K swim, 11K run, 25K bike, kids duathlon)
Date: 6/21/08
Accommodations: If you are up for camping after a day of trail dust, stay at Morgan Lake and enjoy the scenery and maybe the elk. Need a shower and not another plunge in the cold lake? Within a few miles of the event you will find everything from funky (cheap) old motels on Main Street, B & B’s in  residential neighborhoods, to a HoJo with a heated pool closer to the freeway. Check outhttp://www.visitlagrande.com or call 1-800-848-9969 for lodging ideas.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Because this homegrown event has a such a great rep that it was courted by the folks at X Terra to join the series. Anything with bike runs called “Suicide Hill” and a running course like “The Rock Garden” is not to be missed by the hardcore trail nut. Race director and founder, Mary Ellen LaBerge says the biking leg is known as one of the best mountain biking trails in the region.

3. Pacific Crest weekend: Sunriver, Oregon (Half Iron Triathlon, Endurance Duathlon, Marathon, Half Marathon, Olympic Distance Triathlon & Duathlon, Kid’s Splash Pedal-n-Dash, 10K & 5K Run/Walks, and Kid’s 1-mile & 1/2-mile Dash)
Date: 6/27-29/08
Accommodations: Official lodgings are provided at http://www.Sunrivervacations.com, so start there. Sharing a Sunriver condo with friends or family can be the most affordable way to stay. If you haven’t been to Sunriver before, it is worth it – activities including horseback riding, fishing, white water rafting, two golf courses, 26 tennis courts, 30+ miles of bike paths, swimming and wildlife. Or check around for other options at visitcentraloregon.com.

Why swim/bike/run this race: This area near Bend receives well-deserved accolades as a mecca for outdoor sports and has a thriving community that takes advantage of the recreation this region offers. According to race director, Carol Atherton, “this event has an edgy competitive atmosphere, but is really family friendly – its a great first or 10th tri.” There’s an event for everybody this weekend – from the 5K on up to the ? Iron with its challenging bike course through the Deschutes National Forest. Adds Atherton, “people come from all over the country for this scenic course, then stay a few days with their families to enjoy Sunriver.” This is a TRI NW ranked event. This event is expected to SELL OUT, so it is advised you register as soon as possible. There is only enough room for 1,000 total bikes in the triathlon & duathlon.

4. Ocean Shores Big Weekend: Ocean Shores, Washington (? Ironman, Olympic distance, sprint, kids’ tri, half marathon, 10K, 5K)
Date: 7/12-13/08
Accommodations: Ocean Shores is a popular seaside destination, but not so exclusive that you can’t get a moderately-priced room. From a camp site at a state park to the Quality Inn to a high-end rental, you can find a place to stay – just plan ahead a little. Check out http://www.oceanshores.com for lodgings and http://www.gonorthwest.com for camping and RV parks.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Beaches, sand, cool ocean breezes. Clamming. This race weekend has only been around for a few years, but it is in a great location for a family vacation or a romantic getaway after the race. Because Ocean Shores is a small community, race organizers tell us that the whole town gets behind the weekend’s events.

5. Whisky Dick Triathlon: Vantage, Washington ( 1 mi. swim, 26.4 mi. bike, 8.8 mi. run)
Date: 7/20/08
Accommodations: Most participants stay in Ellensburg, where the finish line is. Buses take athletes and  gear to start and transitions points. There is camping near Vantage and Ellensburg, and lots of cute inns and B &B’s. Start with http://www.visitellensburg.com, or  link to the chamber from the event site.

Why swim/bike/run this race: So you can brag to your friends that you climbed almost 2000 feet of elevation in 8 miles and summitted Whisky Dick peak on a bike.  The event motto is “Challenge the Whisky Dick. It’s tough, but not impossible!” The good news is that after making it up Whisky Dick, you get to roll into Kittitas and run a flat course to Ellensburg. Event organizer, Tami Walton says this course is known as great training for the bigger triathlons.

6. Whidbey Island Triathlon: Langley, Washington (? mi. swim, 19.5 mi. bike, 3.8 mi. run)
Date: 8/20/08
Accomodations: This is a popular tourist destination, so make reservations as early as possible for lodging – try http://www.visitwhidbey.com or visit the Langley Chamber of Commerce.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Whidbey is one of the San Juan Islands, known for the scenery and the friendly, funky little towns. Considered a popular triathlon with beginners, this course is very natural. It starts in a clear and clean Goss Lake, with biking on back roads and a view of the Saratoga Passge, and finishes with an easy run through paved trails in a forested community park. Sounds like a vacation to me.

7. Apple Capital Triathlon: Wenatchee, Washington (Olympic Distance 1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run; Sprint Distance 450 yd. Swim, 20K bike, 5K run)
Date: 8/24/08
Accommodations: With the race based in Daroga State Park 15 miles outside of Wenatchee, there is camping available on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, the Red Lion Hotel is the official hotel of the event. E-mail race director, Jason Jablonski at setcoaching@msn.com if you want some other suggestions.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Although the swim is in the Columbia River, it is in an inlet that doesn’t have much current, so the swim is notoriously fast. Jablonski says that this is a great destination event not only because of the beautiful setting in Daroga State Park, but also because he gives out the best SWAG. And lots of it! This is a TRINW ranked event.

8. Escape from the Rock: San Francisco, California (1.5 mi. swim, 1 mi. run, 13 mi. bike, 10K run)
Date: 8/24/08
Accommodations: If you don’t have friends to stay with, expect to travel a bit to the start, or splurge and make a vacation out of it by staying near the heart of it all. It’s San Francisco – hotels are easy to find on-line, and there are deals to be had if you look around.

Why swim/bike/run this race: You get to jump off Alcatraz Island into the bay!! Why else? Oh, yeah…you could decide to take part in a well-established event that has been around for almost 30 years, or maybe you have a thing for prison movies, sourdough, Ghiradelli. Whatever your reasons – this is definitely a destination event. NOT to be confused with the newer triathlon, Escape from Alcatraz – Escape from the Rock came first.

9. Escape from the Gorge: Cascade Locks, Oregon (1.5 mi. swim, 18 mi. bike, 8 mi. run)
Date: 9/7/08
Accommodations: The Bonneville Springs Resort is across the Bridge of the Gods, and there is a Best Western in Cascade Locks, but it fills up fast. Hood River is close by and has more to offer for accommodations. Special occasion? First triathlon? Stay at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Or at least hit it for the famous breakfast on your way home.

Why swim/bike/run this race: Race organizer Bo Lebastchi calls this race “epic.” It starts by jumping off the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler into river, a “hillier than hell” bike, and the rolling hill run is a gorgeous stretch of the old Pacific Crest Trail. It is designed to emulate the Escape from Alcratraz tri in San Francisco (not to be confused with Escape from the Rock). Escape from the Gorge is a qualifier for Escape from Alcatraz.

10. U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle: Bend, Oregon (ski, bike, paddle, run)
Date: 5/19/09
Accommodations: Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is the lodging sponsor for the event and can be found athttp://www.mtbachelorvillage.com. If you want to rough it and don’t mind a drive to the start, this popular outdoor recreation area is positively teeming with camping, motels, hotels and resorts.

Why ski/paddle/run this race: With six legs that include alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, biking, running, kayaking and a final sprint to the finish, Pole Pedal Paddle is one of the more unique spring multi-sport events in the region. Teams, pairs and individuals have taken advantage of the long ski season at Mt. Bachelor for 33 years now, with some in it for the fun and many in it to win it. Registration will be available for 2009 by February 1.


These races were picked because of their vacation potential—scenery, sights, entertainment, culture—not necessarily because they are the best races for a personal record (PR). According tohttp://www.MarathonGuide.com the Northwest marathon with the highest amount of Boston Marathon qualifying finishers are the Yakima River Canyon Marathon, the Tacoma City Marathon, the Capital City Marathon, and the Vancouver BC International Marathon—in that order. That doesn’t mean you can’t PR on the races below it just means that the above races attract some of the fastest runners and produce some of the fastest times in our region.

1. VM Team Medicine Seafair Marathon (+ Relay, Half  Marathon, Kid’s Mini-Marathon)
Date: June, 29, 2008
Accommodations: Take your pick of anything in Seattle. Crash with friends and family if you can. Race headquarters is at the Bellevue Hilton.

Why do this race: Course has been redesigned point-to-point and now passes Husky Stadium, goes over the 520 floating bridge, and includes 12 miles of waterfront. They’ve worked hard to improve the race including moving it to a new time of year. Making a vacation of it? Take your pick of food, entertainment, and art from one of America’s great cities.

2. Missoula Marathon (+ Relay, Half  Marathon, Kid’s Marathon)
Date: July, 13, 2008
Accommodations: This is a heavy month for tourism so book early. The Missoula Conventions and Visitors Bureau website (http://www.missoulacvb.org) is a great place to start.

Why run this race: It starts in the country and ends in town, going west, with the wind at your back. It’s all pavement with one hill so personal records are possible. The locals are friendly and enthusiastic about the race. If three great rivers with spectacular fly-fishing don’t do it for you remember that in addition to the famous Montana outdoor pursuits Missoula also has some great food, a cool art museum, and is home to the Adventure Cycling Association

3. Crater Lake Rim Runs & Marathon
Date: 8/9/08
Accommodations: Organizers claim it’s not hard to find lodging. Nearby Klamath Falls has a couple of hotels, including Best Western. At Crater Lake there are a couple of motels and the Crater Lake Lodge, but the lodge is generally booked a year in advance. Also nearby is Diamond Lake, home to the Diamond Lake Resort and Diamond Lake Campground.

Why run this race: “It’s the most beautiful place in the world,” says organizer Beverly Freirich. Racers come from around the globe to run the rim of Crater Lake. It has significant hills that make it a lot more challenging then a flat

4. Timberline Trail Marathon: Mt. Hood OR (+ Half  Marathon)
Date: September, 9, 2008
Accommodations: It’s between seasons so lodging in the Hood River area shouldn’t be too bad, but if you want the Timberline Lodge or the Mt. Hood Inn book way in advance.

Why run this race: Before you blanche at the 6,000 foot altitude starting point realize that the race has a net elevation loss of 3,000 feet.  Racers run by forests, mountains, alpine meadows, beautiful Timothy Lake, and part of the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the few trail marathons in the Pacific Northwest. The nearby Columbia River Gorge offers tons of recreation opportunities. Don’t forget to visit the Full Sail brewery in
Hood River.

5. Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon (+ Relay, Half  Marathon)
Date: October, 4, 2008
Accommodations: Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find accommodations in Leavenworth during Oktoberfest. Try Wenatchee, just 20 minutes away, and usually wide open on race weekend.

Why run this race: “Because of Oktoberfest. It’s like Mardi Gras. That’s why 90% of people come,” says race organizer Ted Finegold. If you want to make sure the race you attend has a robust after party look no further. Bands come here from all over the world and beers are served. Don’t expect a personal record though. The course is very beautiful, but a bit hilly.

6. Hippie Chick Half Marathon: Portland, OR (+ ? Marathon, Kids Run)
Date: May 2009
Accommodations: Like Seattle, Portland has tons of great places to stay. Looking for something fun? Try the swanky modern digs at the Ace Hotel in the heart of hipster downtown (http://www.acehotel.com).

Why run this race: According to organizer Paula Harkin, “Hippie Chick is a special event with a special spirit.” The race is limited to 900 women and closed in 5 days in 2008.  (Registration for 2009 begins 11/1/08). The event is geared towards family and sometimes they have three and four generation of women walking or running together celebrating mother, daughters, sisters and friends. Racers are pampered with Jamba Juice and Cinnabon at the finish. Harkin also directs the larger Helvetia Half Marathon in PDX.

7. Eugene Marathon (+ Half  Marathon, 5K, Kid’s Marathon)
Date: May 2009
Accommodations: Lots of places in Eugene and Springfield. Check the marathon website or go tohttp://www.visitlanecounty.org.

Why run this race: Because Eugene is “Track Town U.S.A” and the birth place of Nike shoes. Only two years old, this marathon already has 1700 marathon finishers and 6000 participants.  The weather is great for running in April. The area also has lots of wineries and is only an hour from the mountains and an hour from the coast if you want to extend your excursion.

8. San Juan Island Marathon (+ Half  Marathon)
Date: First weekend in June 2009
Accommodations: Everything from Five-star hotels, to B&Bs, to Hostels, to camping are available on the island. This is the summer kickoff weekend to accommodations shouldn’t be as hard to get as they would in the middle of summer.

Why run this race: Beautiful scenic course that includes water views, mountain views, and farmland. You can see to Vancouver Island. Expect terrain with some rolling hills and some good climbs. Make a vacation of it by enjoying kayaking, hiking, art, and everything the San Juans have to offer.

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