Hilly, humbling, and hard. The Hagg Lake Half Marathon, part of the 2021 Hagg Lake Triathlon & Trail Festival was all of these things. With Summer here and things beginning to open up more and more, I’ve had a lot of races on my plate, and I realize now that I really didn’t appropriately prepare for the challenge that the Hagg Lake Half brought me. There are a few things I think you should know about this race if you decide you want to tackle it.
- The “half” is 14 miles, not 13.1. Many trail races are not an “exact” distance, but many are close to what they are meant to be. However, it would be hard to make the trek around Hagg Lake without adding to the milage. It would be easy to say that if you can do 13 miles, you should be able to do 14 without much issue, because what’s one more measly mile? But..
- This is a trail race. There are hills. If you’ve ever done the Hagg Lake Mud Run, you know how hard that race is in February, but in July, the mud is hard packed dirt with wavy ripples and roots everywhere, and it’s hard on your feet and your ankles. And did I mention hills? Hills.
- Plan to bring your own hydration. As a running coach, I should have remembered that it’s always a good idea to bring your own hydration one the trails. Race directors cannot easily get out to spots on the trails that you might really be needing some water or electrolytes, and it’s HOT in July. Runners for the half are treated to aid after miles 1 and 2, but there’s not another aid station available until mile 7.
- Parts of this race are not in the shade. Adding to the challenge of the heat in the summer, there are some stretches of the race that are in the direct sunlight. Many of these sections are where you get off the trail and onto real roads, which can be a reprieve for a spell since you don’t have the hills and trip hazard here, but there is no tree coverage. I highly suggest sunscreen and a hat for this one.
- This race is gorgeous. The race is difficult, but it’s really beautiful. You have blue views of the lake all over the course and plenty of greenery too. Scenic views mean you’ll never get bored.
Don’t be scared. This is a great race. Why Racing Events always brings their “A” game with all their events. I found the course to be well marked, and I thought the jaunts out onto the main roads really helped with the traffic flow amongst all the runners. There’s a bit of a bottleneck at the very start of the race, but runners get onto the road within the first mile and everyone can spread out almost immediately. I heard at least one 5k runners missed the turnaround, but as someone with no sense of direction at all, I never felt lost on my journey, so that’s saying something. An aid station around mile 5, when you hit the road again, would have been welcome, but I think most of us that remembered to pack hydration (i.e. not me), were probably fine.
The check in was easy and the communication emails were excellent. The numbers were small for the half, though there were several other events happening over the Triathlon weekend. It never felt overly crowed or overwhelming like some sports festivals and the logistics felt very seamless.
I found the swag to be great. I loved the logo with the skull on the Hagg Lake hat, and the buffs and medals were awesome too. Me and one friend got extra medals for placing in our age division, and my other friend got 1st woman overall and earned an additional swag bag full of goodies. The benefits of a small race were in full effect!!
All participants got a meal and a beer after they finished, and sitting down to enjoy these things with the view of the lake was absolute heaven. When I finished running, they were out of veggie burgers, but one of the volunteers went and grabbed some more and 8 minutes later I was enjoying my Impossible burger, which hit the spot and was so considerate. There were other treats available too and I loved the frosted animal cookies in my swag bag. It was the perfect post run treat!!
This event would be a fun one to do with family, and many people camped out. Hagg Lake is really a beautiful place, and we are lucky here in the Portland area to have it so close to home. Would I recommend this race? Absolutely.