Runner: Julie Urbanski
Location: Starts at Snoqualmie Pass, finishes near North Bend, WA
Results – 3:39:00
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- The course is fast with being a net downhill and it’s easy to get a PR or BQ, or at least your odds are better with this course. Minimal turns as well, as it’s nearly a straight shot from point A to point B!
- A smaller race with less people, yet still enough that I could always see people ahead and behind. I like the point in the race when the dust settles from the buzz of the early miles and I can just get to work on focusing on staying steady without tons of people around me.
- Super beautiful course, shaded at least on one side, and a really cool place to run a marathon with looking down at I-90 and crossing over huge gorges on bridges.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
- The headlamp situation. They gave us bags with our numbers on them to drop off our headlamps after the tunnel and get them at the finish line. At the finish line my headlamp was nowhere to be seen, so I lost a $50 headlamp. It was the cheapest headlamp I had to use, and another runner on the team had the same happen to her last August. There’s another tunnel race that gives headlamps to participants to use and then give back at the end of the tunnel and I wish other races did the same.
- Few porta-potties – Not sure how the race can remedy this with a trail that’s fairly hard to access, but the first porta-pottie wasn’t until the halfway point, and by that time I’d already ducked into the woods once to go to the bathroom. It would have been nice to have had at least 2 spots with bathrooms up until the half, and then 2 more in the second half. I had to pull over into the woods again at mile 19 and when I popped back on the trail, another runner said she was dying to use the bathroom too. To be fair, there were random pit toilets and porta potties near the rock climbers in the second half, so it might not be necessary, but that first half could use something.
- Pacing groups in the tunnel. I like pacers in races but people tend to clump in groups around them, and at the start of a race and in a narrow tunnel, the groups were a little annoying in terms of taking up the whole tunnel, making it hard to pass them and being a little rude when passing. I don’t think there’s a whole lot to change about this, but next time I’ll watch where I’m starting and will try to not be near a pacer.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
- Running through a 2 mile long tunnel to start the race.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
- Pacing. I started out a little erratic, especially with the tunnel throwing me off a bit and the big groups around the pacers sweeping past me. After about 6 miles and a bathroom break I clicked into a really comfortable pace, took water each time, gels every ~5 miles, and after another poo break at mile 19, I felt awesome and ready to pick it up. The last 10k was so fun to pick it up and pass people, and I finished with a 7:08 mile and a 3 minute negative split from the first half. Those races are rare where I still have my legs the last 8 miles and I enjoyed every step of it.
- Though the course was a fairly straight shot, I tried running the tangents to make sure I was running no more than 26.2. In my 2 previous road marathons, I’ve run at least .5 miles more because I swing wide on the turns or don’t pay attention to this. This time I paid attention and also tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, as nearly half the course was in the shade for most of the race.
- Enjoying the hell out of it. Going into the race I had tweaked my hammy, so I wasn’t sure I could even do the distance, so my goal was to make it to finish line and enjoy the hell out of my “me” time while Matt watched Paavo and while I got to jam out to my music and take it all in. Mission accomplished!
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- There were enough water stops, but I was thirsty and ready to drink each time I hit one. If you’re a big drinker, consider carrying your own water, or tank up at each aid station, because they felt far apart, especially in the first half (I think there were only 3 in the first 10 miles, and then more often after that). No gels given out, just water and gatorade.
- Watch for random puddles in the tunnel, there were plenty of them and some kind of deep, so make sure you have enough room in front of you to sight them (ie, don’t run right on someone’s ass because you won’t see the puddle!)
- There are a few turns around mile 21 that come up a little suddenly, and are quite tight, with a couple of quick little downhills. Be ready to pay attention on where to go and to have a change in rhythm from just the straight shot on a long downhill.
- After those tight turns the course flattens out for a mile, which at that point can feel like an uphill if your legs are tired, and then it resumes the downhill once again.
- Be a little cautious in the beginning and don’t go crazy in the first 10 miles of downhill so you can have your legs for the second half and have much more fun passing people in the last 10k.
- You will have the sun at your back, so a hat is plenty for shade, sunglasses if you really want them, and I found shade on lots of the course to stay cool and avoid the heat.
- I carried my own toilet paper for emergency stops in the woods along the way, and I doubt some of those random non-race porta potties had tp.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
- I wore road shoes but next time I’d wear my trail shoes, as it was crushed gravel, but still had a few spots with some good sized rocks, and crossing over the “median” of the wide path meant running on rocks.
- Next time I’d either have a super cheap, tiny flashlight that I don’t care about losing, or no headlamp at all. I’m still bitter about my lost headlamp.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
- Your watch might not work in the tunnel so don’t freak out if splits are off
- The turns around mile 21 are tight and your body probably won’t want to make any lateral movement at that point considering the straight course you’ve run thus far.
- The flat mile after all the turns feels like a bit of a shock but then it’s back to downhill and all is good with the world.
- People told me my quads would hurt from the gradual downhill but I didn’t experience that, but thought it was good to mention still!
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
- Yup, especially for a “road” marathon
Difficulty – is it a tough course
- Nope, likely your best shot for a PR and/or BQ if you run it right. If anything it’s difficult because you have to hold yourself back from crushing the first half because it’s so fast on the downhill. A little more difficult because not tons of aid, the trail being a little harder to access.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
- Pretty well organized. I’m not happy with the post-race stuff, as I’m trying to contact them about my headlamp, but haven’t heard much, and another team member is trying to contact them about results being wrong, and he too has heard nothing.
Competition – is there a strong field?
- Nothing like a big road race, so if you’re fast, like under 3 hours, you’re likely to be running alone or chasing a guy 400 meters ahead of you.
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.
- Nothing special, but the races sell out fairly quickly
- 11 total for the race, with more of them being in the second half. Enough, but not so many that I skipped one. I was quite thirsty each time I hit one.
Weather and typical race conditions –
- Warm, clear, pretty. It started out in the 50s and got in the 70s, but stayed quite cool from the start and in the shade.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
- I wore a belt to carry gels, toilet paper, and my music, I saw a lot of people with camelbacks, which seemed a little excessive if you’re trying to run fast. There was enough aid, just be ready to drink up when you pass through it.
- Use a cheap headlamp or a flashlight that you’re cool losing and then be pleasantly surprised if you get it back
- I’d wear light trail shoes
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
- Not really. Matt, Dionne and Paavo were at the halfway point and the finish, and they could have seen me at 21, but they didn’t want to miss another runner’s finish.
- Not sure, I’m sure top people got something. Typical medal for finishers and I did like that they gave out a running tank top/singlet as the race shirt.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
- 3.5 out of 5, losing a star and half because of the crappy headlamp procedures, the lack of much aid or bathrooms in the first 10 miles, and the poor post-race communication. If you want to run a fast time, this is definitely the course, so the course is 5 stars, just not the race management of it.