By Kirsten Telander
Ah, the affirmation of Spring in the Walla Walla Valley. The town collectively feels the promise of a new season: the wheat and alfalfa provide for miles of green, winemakers visualize bud-break and chefs anticipate the local farms’ bounty. People continue to flock to our beloved, hip little hamlet for the wine, food and culture. But there is a lesser-known reason to visit. Whether you’re ready to take on your first triathlon or are an experienced, competitive athlete looking for another venue to challenge your endurance, Walla Walla has several athletic competitions throughout the year. Here are some event highlights:
Seasoned tri-athlete, cyclist, runner and Whitman College assistant cross-country coach, Michael Gordon, recently formed Blue Mountain Endurance. The endurance club hosts organized workouts (see their website for offerings) and puts on the Beatdown on Bennington trail run (end of January) and the Walla Walla Dirty Duathlon held the beginning of March (2016 date TBD). The duathlon, held at Bennington Lake, consists of a 2.7 mile trail run, a 15.4 mile mountain bike ride and another 2.7 mile trail run. Both individuals and teams may participate.
Sunday, May 24 is the Onion Man Triathlon, an Olympic distance race consisting of a 1.5km swim in Bennington Lake, a 40km bike ride up scenic Mill Creek (the cows will serenade you as you ride by) and a 10km run. This low-key race, held at the base of the Blue Mountains, attracts everyone from first-timers to elite competitors and teams with playful names (We Forgot to Train, for example) made up of family members and friends. The camaraderie is what you’d expect from “America’s Friendliest Small Town” (designated by Rand McNally and USA today).
Who needs the Tour de France? If you want to watch a bunch of really fit people wearing lycra ride bicycles really fast, we have our own gig: the Tour of Walla Walla. Now in its 19th year, this four-stage bike race takes place over three days, April 17-19, and includes a spectator-friendly criterium downtown; grab a spot on the sidewalk, or at a restaurant or wine tasting room patio and watch the wheels fly by.
Looking to the fall, look for the first ever Seattle Cycling Tours’ Walla Walla Bike Tour, October 7-11, 2015. They have rides planned that will take you past working farms, cattle ranches, wheat fields and river banks while visiting the quirky, quaint towns that make the valley so memorable.
Gordon, of Blue Mountain Endurance, will take over as director of the 2015 Walla Walla Marathon which takes place in October (2015 date TBD). The race draws a mix of participants either walking or running the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or marathon – some of the courses take you right down Main Street where locals and visitors alike will raise their glass to you. It is Walla Walla, after all.
You may hear of Walla Walla for our hospitality industry – wine, food, beer – but the diverse community has so much more to offer visitors of all inclinations. Sports enthusiasts and their most dedicated fans will find something to entice them all year round. Participating in one of the many athletic competitions is a great way to get a true understanding of all Walla Walla has to offer.