|Type of Race||Trail, Women’s Race|
|Starting Location||Bennington Lake in Walla Walla|
|Age of Race/History||Inaugural (The first year was intended for April 2020, got pushed to April 2021)|
|Race Format||6 Hours “For Time” Race over a looped course. (Big-Kid Jog-A-Thon)|
|Date of Race||Saturday, April 10, 2021|
|Race Directors||Claire Walla & Gretchen Walla with support from WallaTrails & Community (wallatrails.com)|
|Race Specific Website||https://wallatrails.com/events/walla-walla-6-hour/|
I originally signed up for this race in December 2019 and was planning on racing initially in April 2020. For Covid reasons, this race was postponed, with the official email being sent out on March 16th, 2020. Claire and Gretchen handled this very professionally and as well best they could. I am grateful that we did have the opportunity to run this race the following year. These new race directors have a small, local community-minded race that handled the situation really well. The information sent out before the race and communication for racers in 2021 was also well-executed. They sent out the information necessary but did not overload us with a lot of details.
Claire & Gretchen had a bib pickup at the race site that was available the evening before race day. This was ideal for people like me, traveling from out of town. I got to see the actual starting spot, and we went on a little family walk on the trail to see the trail conditions. Both RD’s were on site, and they greeted me and talked to me like we were a little trail family! It was very nice and helped relax my nerves a bit.
During the Race
Before Race Day, they let us choose which wave we would like to be in, with no more than 15 people on a wave-start time, with 7 waves spaced 5 minutes apart. I really appreciate her doing that for us instead of having a direct-pre-race meeting with everyone. I appreciate that she had a bull horn; it was easy to hear her and all the critical information. At the start of the wave, she introduced us to our cohort’s specific lap-counter to keep track of completed laps.
This race was very well-marked with white flags for the turns and then confidence pink tape to ensure you navigated turns correctly. The course markings were really well done and orchestrated. I never got off course or nervous that there was a little bit of chance that I possibly took the wrong turn. This was really nice! They had an aid station available to racers with food and beverage during the race, but I don’t know what was specifically available. After completing the “Big Loop” and checking in with my Wave-Cohort-Counter-Person, I would go directly to my car in the parking lot and grab whatever food I needed from the car, and then continue onward with the loops.
I really appreciate that the RD’s opted for professional photos to be included with the registration fee. Taryn Graham captured the race-official photos, and she did a great event of telling the story of the event and taking snaps from different spots on the course. I believe she walked counterclockwise to be walking towards us while we were running at her. She would stay at a spot for a while and then move upstream to the new spot to collect some more photographs of us. Taryn’s website is https://taryngrahamphoto.com/. I loved her style and perspective of the photos, and I am grateful that we had access to the photos, as long as we gave proper credit and tagged her as photo credits ( @woodsy_tg ).
My first thought about scouting the lake the first night as I thought I would be over-killin’ it with my Saucony Peregrine trail shoes. Based on my abbreviated 1/2-mile course preview the day before the race, it appeared that road shoes would work just fine while running the course. It turns out the actual course has a mix of single-track and double track, with some packed dirt and sections of river rock. That soil was completely manageable as is, very hard and packed, but in our specific race, we had a HAIL STORM during the 4th hour of the race. After the hail, the dirt became very slick and slippery. It made me very grateful that I did have trail shoes with good lugs to handle the side-to-side movement. The race directors did a great job researching the weather conditions beforehand, and they briefed us with the most accurate information. Also, I used the “Weather Underground” and “Dark Sky” apps but did not see the HAIL STORM coming! It was nice to be prepped for the weather, with the very high winds (18mphs throughout the day and about 44 degrees were forecasted), and so I appreciate the info they supplied, and they handled that expertly.
The race itself was enjoyable. Sometimes I was out there running by myself, and other times, I was running with other people. Even when I was out there by myself, there were people nearby and someone I could see in the distance to try to “chase down” and pursue. It was nice seeing other people on the course running the same race! I even made a few new trail buddies at the race. I don’t know if I will ever see my Trail Sisters in Wenatchee, WA or Elgin, OR anytime soon, but it is cool meeting them and now having virtual pen pals, and I can see their path via Instagram and Strava. That connection to other people, the camaraderie, is why I race. I love the concept of being competitive and racing someone, but then afterward chatting and having a conversation. Having the real people there, going through the same conditions I was going through, made this on-race course different than making a 6-hour loop at home.
Even in the windiest conditions, the lap counters, RD, and volunteers were very fun. It was nice having a cheering section! They were all uplifting and great.
The RD’s were swift in providing post-race Electronic Communication. And informing us that the final-race results will take some time to verify, but it was nice to have that communication. The race was on Saturday, and they had all the race photos available for us by Thursday! That was very quick and nice to see, and again, they were Free to us, so the promptness of the photo was very nice.
The RD’s acquired a local winery in-town as the wine sponsor for the event. They planned with “Bergevin Lane Vineyards” to get us discounted wine glass pours from their tasting room. Typically, about $7 to $12 a glass was arranged for $5 a glass. Also, any bottles bought from the sponsor were 10% off (I believe they gave a 20% discount for purchased cases of wine). This was a highlight for me! On the way home, we got food from Graze (another sponsor of the race). They have a lot of healthy fares, and it was a drive-through!
In synopsis, the pre-race portion, including electronic communication, pre-race meeting, bib pick up, and the expert management of delicately giving us the bad news about the 2020 race cancellation. I would recommend this race to all levels of Trail Sisters. There were women there that this was their first trail race, and there were quite a lot of veterans and experienced runners and trail-runners-in-between! Disclaimer: Individual results may vary.