While rain squalls passed through northern Oregon, The Dalles was spared throughout the first jewel in the Gorge Triple Crown Half Marathon series. The Water's Edge Fitness Festival Half Marathon runners and walkers enjoyed a mostly-sunny day with moderate breezes along the Columbia River on May 3, 2014.
It was the sophomore year for the half marathon, which shares the trail with a duathlon run and bike event, a 10K and a kid's fun run. Participation grew to 80 for the half marathon. It's a small, uncrowded event that has room to grow. I found it very well-organized and supported.
The half marathon started at 9:45 am. That gave time to do a quick tour of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center at the starting point. A discount family registration was available for $10 for racers. My driver enjoyed lazing away my race time exploring the exhibits and nature talks.
The route is entirely paved, mostly on asphalt Riverfront Trail through grasslands and with views of the Columbia River. It is separate from roads for most of the way. It's an out-and-back route and mostly flat except for the significant hill down in the first mile and, of course, the grueling climb back up at the finish. There is very little shade on the entire route.
Water stops were welcome every 1.5 to 2 miles. They were well-supplied with cold water, sports drink, energy drink and even gummy bears at the half-way mark. The water stops stayed fully supported for us at the tail end. Portajohns were available at 3.5, 5, 6.5, 8 and 9.5 miles.
I was worried about overheating, especially with the lack of shade and being unused to warm weather racing in early May. But the breeze kept things cool enough. I was happy that I wore shorts and a short-sleeved tech shirt. Even when we got a sprinkle, it was more like a mist that didn't even dampen your skin. Racers from the Portland area should be prepared for a desert-like dry climate in The Dalles. I made sure to keep drinking whenever I was thirsty. I wear a Camelbak hydration pack so I can do so in between the water stops.
The route passes by the Google server farm and through the port industrial area as it heads east. At the turnaround you have a view of The Dalles dam. You have river views along much of the route, but the views are best when you turn around and head back west.
As one of the last two finishers, I was pleased that the organizers had scheduled the kid's run near that time. That ensured that there was still activity at the finish line. I was warmly greeted with a medal and welcomed to enjoy the deli sandwiches, cookies, cold drink and chips at the finish tent. They also had massage available. It was an excellent way to end the half marathon.
Racers receive a short-sleeved tech shirt at packet pick-up and a finisher's medal. It was a great start towards the Gorge Triple Crown. Next in the series is the inaugural Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon on August 10, 2014, and then the excellent Columbia Gorge Marathon's half marathon on October 26, 2014.
Web Site: Water's Edge Fitness Festival