Race: Lake Sammamish Half Marathon – http://lakesammamishhalf.com/
Runner: Mark P
Location: Redmond Town Center to Lake Sammamish State Park
Results – 1:16:06, 8th place overall
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- It has a flat and fast course that is ideal for PR attempts.
- It has a strong field that is also ideal for PR attempts.
- Everything went smoothly (even the weather!) so I could just concentrate on racing.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
- The trail closure detour is the right shoulder of East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Cones won’t do much to stop fast traffic.
- A southbound one-way race on a clear day means the sun is in your eyes most of the way.
- The cramped ride back on a school bus was really rough on my legs.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
- This race isn’t very weird. The one-way course stands out though of course isn’t unique. The (included in the race fee) bus trip back is pretty neat with everyone talking about the race and running.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
- I really nailed my pacing and effort levels in this race. It was easier to do with the flat course. I was able to use other runners for a few miles, gradually fall behind a group that was going faster than I wanted to for a few more, and then survive the rest of the way. I had enough left to run mile 13 at 10-15 seconds faster than average pace but not enough to kick hard.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- Try to line up in the right spot because the course narrows quickly and being too far forward or back is problematic. Manage your effort if you’re in a crowd.
- Don’t get caught up with too fast of a group early.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
- I got passed in the last half mile. I’m quite happy with my overall pacing and last mile, but (of course) I still don’t like getting passed there. Perhaps if I had picked up the pace a bit more for that last mile I would have made it harder for him. I don’t think I have a good feel for how much I have left at 1/2/3 miles left in a longer race like this.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
- This course is flat. There’s no holding back for a hill. That said, there’s a small climb to the East Lake Sammamish Parkway detour, and the road is slightly rolling. It isn’t much, but if a detour is in effect it’s useful to be ready for it.
- There is very little space between the start and a narrow trail (4-5 people across). I was fortunate to be in front of any congestion, but for a race this size it’s going to bog down for a mile or two.
- The first two miles or so consist of trails to and through Marymoor Park, heading towards the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST). These wind a bit, so follow the tangents if you can.
- There’s a wood bridge somewhere around miles 3 or 4. It was only a few steps to cross, but it was really slippery. There was a volunteer and sign warning about it.
- As of now, the course goes from paved to gravel at about 5.5 miles. The gravel is in good shape but can have some puddles and mushy parts.
- Miles 9-10.5 detour onto East Lake Sammamish Parkway. It a very gradual rolling section. This part is on paved roadway, as is the trail after it. The trail then becomes a sidewalk with some driveway crossings.
- At about mile 11.5, the course turns right and then there is a ~1 mile straightaway and you can see the whole thing. This is great for seeing runners ahead of you but a little tough mentally because it just keeps going. Then it heads into the park and makes a few turns. The finish comes up a little quickly though it’s not just after a blind corner or anything like that.
- There aren’t that many turns, but the signs tended to be just after you started worrying about which way you would have to go but definitely before you actually had to turn.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
- It’s an urban trail course with lake views. Well, a suburban trail course with lake views. It’s a road race on a trail. The views of the lake are nice. The houses are big. The “don’t even think about parking here” sign at one of the houses makes me want to park there. Ok, it’s a nice course, but the trail is open to run normally so if you’re racing here then you’re probably focused on other things.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
- No, this is a flat, non-technical course. You don’t get to use the different uphill and downhill muscle groups?
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
- This one is well organized. I didn’t check out the same-day packet pickup, but bag drop-off and pickup was easy. There were volunteers at the numerous trail crossings on the course. There was a line for soup/chili, but the potato chips were easy to grab.
Competition – is there a strong field?
- There is typically a strong field. Last year the winner was under 1:10. There seems to always be a group in the 1:12-1:13 range. There can be gaps somewhere between there and the low 1:20s.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
- Registration is easy, and I’m pretty sure slots were available on race day. There are different discounts for signing up early. The price hike for race day is the steepest.
- The normal restrooms at Redmond Town Center had huge lines. They had a set of port-a-potties to the left of the starting area (if facing as the race starts) with fairly short lines.
- I remember passing several and hearing them call out for water and Nuun. I think some might have had gels or something like that, but I’m not sure.
Weather and typical race conditions –
- We had 30s and sun. It’s not typically going to be much colder than that. It could easily be in the 40s. The real question is rain and then whether it’s a northwest mist or actual rain.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
- Be prepared for either sun in your eyes or rain.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
- This course is tough to watch. It’s one-way, so you have to work for any viewings. There’s not much parking along East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Some trail access is public, and some is private, and many of the residents are unfriendly about the trail. Popping down from the Parkway to the trail from time-to-time on a bike might be best, but (1) you have to ride faster than the runners, and (2) the Parkway is not a great place to ride. Watching the start and driving to the finish would work, and then you can give your runner a ride.
- Top 3 by gender and top 3 in each 10 year age range by gender. I’m not aware of money or anything, but I also wasn’t in the top 3.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
- If 5 out of 5 means a solid race, then this gets 5. Don’t come looking for hills, but it’s well run and fast.
- If 5 out of 5 means awesome destination race, then this gets 4. It’s not special in the way that many destination races are, but that’s not its purpose.