Prepping for a Triathlon? How about training in one of Washington’s state parks?


                         Many Washington State Parks host races throughout the year, including this run at Deception Pass.

                                                                                                                                                                             July 7, 2017

Summer is here, and it’s high season for triathlon races. Nearly 30 events will happen in Washington between July 1 and the end of September.

Are you training for your very first triathlon? Or are you a veteran triathlete searching for new locales—and perhaps new inspiration—for your training routine?

Ever considered your Washington state parks?

With rivers, lakes, foot and bike trails and adjacent backroads, many state parks provide some or all the necessary components for triathlon training—swimming, running and bicycling. Some parks are ideal for multi-disciplinary “brick workouts.”

Considered among the ultimate tests of human fitness and endurance, triathlons vary in length from an Olympic Triathlon of about 32 miles to the world-famous—and über grueling—141-mile Ironman.

The following is a shortlist of our suggestions for parks that offer beautiful surroundings to complement rigorous training regimens. Bonus: If you bring non-racing family and/or friends, they’ll find plenty to do in one of the parks while you’re getting a workout!

Triathlon Pearrygin

                                       Pearrygin Lake is 6,000 feet long and makes for an excellent morning swim session.

Lake EastonState Park

Located in Central Washington south of I-90 and renowned for its big lake, this forested park sits on one of Washington’s finest long-distance trails.

Swimming: Lake Easton is nearly 1 mile long, so a round-trip lap pushes past the Half Ironman or Olympic Triathlon swimming distance of 1.2 and .93 miles, respectively. Due to Lake Easton’s shallow waters, motorized boating is limited to 10-horsepower engines.

Running and cycling: Lake Easton abuts the Iron Horse State Park Trail, a mixed use trail of compacted gravel. The Iron Horse extends around 100 miles, from North Bend to Vantage. The trail hits Lake Easton at Exit 70 off I-90.

Pearrygin Lake State Park                   

A pearl of a lake, gentle trails and bike-friendly backroads lure many athletes to the Methow Valley in north central Washington.                                                                                                                
Swimming: Pearrygin Lake is 6,000 feet long, so a round-trip lap approaches the full Ironman’s 2.4 mile swim. Swimming is open before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m., as the lake accommodates motorized boats between those hours.

Running and Cycling:  The 6-mile Rex Derr Trail welcomes runners, but cycling is king in the Methow Valley. Cyclists ride into Twisp (14 miles from the park) or Mazama (28 miles from the park). The Rainy Pass trailhead is 40 miles from Pearrygin Lake off Highway 20, with a gorgeous, grueling, 13-mile, 3,000 foot uphill section among the North Cascade spires.

Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park

Nearly 10 miles of backroads and trails and the 2-mile swim at Deep Lake make this park an ideal place to train among the geological marvels of the Ice Age Floods. Be wary of high winds that can crop up unexpectedly.

Swimming: Deep Lake is closed to motorized boating, is calm and still, and is 8,000 feet long.

Running and cycling: This park offers 10 miles of asphalt and gravel roads to Deep Lake, Dry Falls Lake, Umatilla Rock, Bretz Campground, the golf course and park entrance. While most runners find this mileage adequate, cyclists may choose to brave Highway 17 and 155 for the 55-mile round trip between Sun Lakes and Steamboat Rock State Park, where they can also swim in Banks Lake.

Moran State Park 

Moran State Park on Orcas Island delivers 38 miles of foot trails, pristine swimming on two lakes and an island-wide network of bike routes that total 50 miles.

Swimming: Cascade Lake, in the southwest corner of the park, offers 4,100 feet, end to end, and Mountain Lake farther east has a 1-mile swim route.

Running and cycling: Most of Moran’s trails are appropriate for trail running, though several gain 1,500 feet of elevation in a few miles. Orcas Island’s bike routes crisscross the island, through orchards, valleys, along the shore and to hilltops, among them the 2,409-foot Mount Constitution inside the park.

Wenatchee Confluence and Lincoln Rock State Parks

Located on a reservoir and the confluence of two rivers near Wenatchee, these parks attract runners and cyclists from all over.

Swimming: Wenatchee Confluence and Lincoln Rock are boating and water sports destinations, which limit swim options, but the Columbia River shoreline provides long-distance swimming on both sides of the neighboring Rocky Reach Dam.

Running and cycling: The parks are linked by the paved, mixed-use Rocky Reach and Apple-Capital Loop trails, for a total of 21 miles. A spur adds 2.2 miles, and downtown Wenatchee is a quick jog or pedal from Wenatchee Confluence. 

Honorable Mention: Spokane Centennial State Park Trail 

Running and cycling: The Centennial is Washington’s only long-distance trail that was not built on a historic railroad. The paved trail heads 40 miles east from Nine Mile Recreation Area, through Riverside State Park and Spokane, to the Idaho border. There the trail meets the Northern Idaho Centennial Trail to Coeur d’ Alene.

Swimming: While the Little Spokane and Spokane Rivers are far too swift and dangerous for swimming, nearby Nine Mile Recreation Area on the banks of Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake) has a designated swimming area. Though small, the swimming area is still large enough to do laps at the deep end of the cordoned-off area. 

The Basics
Triathlon Christina

                                Competitors prepare for the biking leg of a triathlon race. Photo courtesy of Christina Jalali.

Common Sense:

Triathlete Christina Jalali has been running for 15 years. She has completed several Olympic distance and Half Ironman races. She has these tips for greenhorns on a quest for triathlon glory:

Swimming: Bring a friend, a flag or something buoyant and easy to tow, such as a Lifeguard Rescue Tube. While caution should be exercised when solo swimming, Christina did most of her open water training alone. Her husband, State Parks Ranger Jeremy Jalali (himself a triathlete), bought her a tube. The Styrofoam device bobs behind her on a tow rope, but doesn’t slow her down.

Though Washington’s inland lakes warm up in the summer, they freeze in winter and stay chilly until July. Wetsuits are necessary. It’s also important to realize boats won’t be looking for you; you have to look out for them.

Biking: Experts encourage the use of bells and horns on mixed trails and remind cyclists to watch for distracted pedestrians and dogs. Christina suggests using bike mirrors when riding and, of course, helmets are mandatory.

Running: Christina suggests running laps in the bigger parks and says runners should wear bright colors, run against traffic and turn off the tunes.

Equipment: Running shoes, a wetsuit and a distance-worthy bike are the bare essentials.

Nutrition and hydration: Aspiring triathletes may need extra calories andelectrolytes while training. Christina suggests eating quality foods and hydrating well in the days before a race or brick workout.

Logistics: Check with park staff before heading out. Weather can damage trails and swim areas may close if water becomes contaminated.

Self and family care: Christina trains in the mornings, on lunch hours and whenever time allows. Though she encourages working parents to make time for themselves, she admits it gets easier as the kids get older.

“My son drives to high school, sees me running on the road and waves. The kids at his school know me. I’m that mom,” she laughs.

Finally, state parks are great places to stay after a hard day’s training. Enjoy a campfire cookout, snuggle into your tent, trailer or RV. You can also make a weekend of it by staying in a cozy yurt or cabin!

Once the triathlon bug bites, you may be hooked! Asked if she has Ironman goals, Christina laughs again. “Maybe when my son graduates.”

Triathlon Christina 2

                     Christina Jalali finishes strong on the running leg of a triathlon race. Photo courtesy of Christina Jalali.


In addition to the official Ironman and Olympic sites, many websites exist for beginners, the curious and competitors in training.

Have you trained for, or completed a race in a Washington state park or parks?
Share your story with us!