tunnel marathon race reportRace: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Runner: Andrew K

Race Date: 06/10/2018

Location: North Bend, WA

Results: 3:03:36 PR!

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1630327398

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The Tunnel – I love how it’s so disorienting for 2 miles. When you get in the middle and look back at all the headlamps, it’s really cool.
  2. Downhill – I love that but hate it too. It’s never a downhill where a ball would roll it’s so gradual and long.
  3. Train Trestles – You run over many old train trestles that are super high over the tree tops and small creeks that are raging below you.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

  1. There are stretches that can be boring. Given it’s an old train bed for steam trains, the grade is straight for so long in some areas you really can zone out if you end up alone which can happen.
  2. The t-shirts used to be Patagonia, now they aren’t as good.
  3. It’s crowded. That’s a relative thing as it’s 500 runners but it used to be much less and you could park at the finish line.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The Tunnel! – What race has a 2 mile train tunnel?

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I learned in previous races to stay in a pack to stay on pace as I tend to slow down all alone. So with fast groups up front I was able to run majority of race ahead of goal.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • You can run this in road shoes.
  • The tunnel can be cold but don’t over dress as there is a drop for headlamps at the end, so if you want a shell great but drop it with your headlamp at the end of the tunnel.
  • The aid stations are bigger more frequent than in the past but I think running with your own bottle / hydration allows you to keep speed going.
  • Get a burger and shake after at Scotts Dairy Freeze in North Bend. Total grease burger and real shake.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Listen to your body. Heading in to the race I was having hip tweaks I ignored or figured I’d just muscle past. But about mile 21 my hip started tightening and by mile 25 I was basically running with a limp. I sat at the finish and could barely walk with a bad strain.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Once you hit rattlesnake there are sharp turns R, L, R, L etc and after the long straights it can be tricky. From Rattlesnake to the finish is really, really boring as you lose views and the downhills seems to be longer and you are spent. So save up for 21-26.2

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

First 21, yes. Off to your right are views into the valley where I90 is, to your left, peaks that go up.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No from elevation perspective. But the gravel and downhill can beat you up. The temps can be wild, like 30’s at the start and then 60’s at finish. The mid summer and fall versions are equally weather challenging.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Yes, this race has stepped up it’s game. The email communication is great, the drop bags worked out, the buses are present and available.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I think so. The winners are 2:30 range and the top 20-30 ppl are sub 3/near 3. Lots of BQ’s at this race and it’s growing to attract folks from out of state. I sat next to someone who flew from Miami just to BQ.

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.

  • It’s growing so register early. The race has 3 dates and is now being copied by other outfits on the same course so make sure it’s the Light at the End of the Tunnel to keep this little race outfit going.
  • Start time is early now, so local folks can drive to the bus pick up and start. Out of towners, you’ll have to rent a car anyway, so stay in Issaquah or Salish Lodge so you are at least near something vs staying at the pass. I guess you could do Airbnb ski condos as well.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Nothing special. Spaced out well.

Weather and typical race conditions

Cold / wet start, Tunnel can be damp. Once sun breaks and hits, temp can warm up at finish.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Headlamp, one that tilts preferred so you get the angle you want in the tunnel.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Mile 13, 18 and 21 (rattlesnake) and finish are it. I recommend Rattlesnake as it’s paved parking and you can jump in car and make it to the finish as well.

How’s the Swag?

Great medal, they finally have dressed up the bibs with color. T-shirts are average.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

4 of 5. Yes, if you want the tunnel, fast course with minimal crowds it’s for you.

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