Race: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Runner: Candice C

Race Date: 08/19/2018

Location: North Bend, WA

Results: 05:29:54 PR!  My husband says “that’s pretty bad” but hey it’s my 1st marathon after starting running 2.5 years ago!


Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1783927530/overview

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

  • Relatively small racing event with very friendly people (organizers, volunteers, participants, etc.)
  • The setting (tunnel, downhill, crossings, pseudo trail running with pretty views). I could have run an entire marathon in the tunnel it was that meditative.
  • I liked the 7am start time (earlier would have been painful given the location)

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

  • I was fortunate to plan a hotel stay in Issaquah the night before, and get a chance to pickup my bib at the North Bend Outlet Stores the day before. Otherwise the logistics of making the race are not super convenient.

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

  • I haven’t done many races and this was my first marathon.  I guess what struck me as “weird” was the very smalltown/lowkey feel of it all. At the finishing area they served a really nice spread with chili, fruit, cake, nuts, chips.

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

  • Thanks to coach Julie I felt very prepared, as best as I could be!  I took the taper and pre-race routine seriously, and I was pretty calm through most of the event. I pretty much assumed I was going to finish, not finish last, and not require medical attention at the end!
  • I had a general shape of a plan for the race, and carried it out pretty well.  I tried really hard to hold back in the beginning/1st half. I had the water/fuel thing down. Overall the pace was fairly even. So far no injuries from the race!
  • This shows my inexperience – at the starting line, I wondered if the numbers on the pacers’ signs were for minutes/mile or for total moving time. Then I thought nothing more of it. And at the very last leg of the race, the pacer with “5:30” ran up from behind me. I tried my best keep up with her!  LOL.
  • Very pretty race, super nice people
  • (Pictured below) I tucked in my shoelaces – read about that in Deena Kastor’s memoir!  It’s the little things.

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

  • Normal running shoes are ok, just keep in mind it’s packed gravel so there’s a lot of dust and pebbles
  • I ran so slowly I was easily able to anticipate the dripping water/puddles in the tunnel.  Otherwise they are very harmless.
  • Depending on your personal preferences, carrying extra water might be a good idea
  • There are spots along the route where your phone might lose connection (this impacted me when I was listening to Spotify tunes that were not downloaded)
  • At the starting area, the porta-potty lines move fast – so take advantage because the portable facilities along the route don’t seem as appealing

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

  • I felt relatively good up to miles 15-20.  Before then I followed 2 different women who eventually peeled off in pace.  Then I was completely alone and that probably was tougher than I thought. My momentary kick at miles 20-21 was due to music change (I literally just discovered Awkwafina’s hip hop after watching Crazy Rich Asians) and feeling optimistic about tackling the last 6 miles.  Not sure what happened but then I got slower and it was harder to manage the soreness in my legs/feet. Between 21-26 I was clawing in 2 mile increments; took many more walk breaks, longer ones too.
  • Maybe I should have started at an even slower pace?  
  • I think my next marathon, with more base training, will only make things easier.
  • At around 11am my hopes of getting a time closer to 5 hours were clearly dying.  I shouldn’t have even entertained those thoughts, but it was kinda tough to not really pass that many people, so I knew what was in the cards.
  • I kept my spirits up by listening to the outrageous Awkwafina lyrics and imagining running the Brooklyn half marathon after which I eat slices of NY pizza.
  • Now I know what running a marathon is like!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

They warn you about sharp turns at mile 20-21 but I thought they were poorly marked and there was a moment (maybe mile 22) where it really wasn’t clear if the route was really supposed to head toward what looked like parked cars in a lot.  I got really frustrated (the Negative Thoughts) came crashing in and stopped to wait for other visible runners to validate my direction. I even thought, crap if I call my husband it’s not like he’s going to be able to tell me where to go! I can’t just go all this way and bag it now!  No way am I running more than I need to get the job done!

Unless you are a very fast runner and go with the ambitious BQ people in a pack up front, the course can be very lonely.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Yes I was really happy with how pretty the course was!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Virtually no variety to the flat, almost imperceptible downhill course.  Long stretches of straight running. You get to zone out.

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

I thought it was well organized.  I was impressed by how quickly they posted the results online.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I ran so slowly the competition was the last thing on my mind.  But I’ll say at the starting area I was really excited/inspired by all the people who were very enthusiastic and talking about BQ and PR’ing.  There was a woman who was bragging about just turning 65 and getting into a new bracket for BQ times.

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.

See my comment above about things that didn’t do it for me.  I will note, however, that the email communications were very helpful and frequent enough.

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

I don’t have a lot of race experience, so I thought the aid stations seemed good.  Reminded me of sidewalk lemonade stands. Nice to get some GU’s and use of sunscreen as needed.  I took water from each stop (they also offered Gatorade).

Weather and typical race conditions

Tunnel is cool but not horrible – I decided against wearing an extra layer.  I was worried the temperature would reach into the 80s by the end of the race, but if it did I didn’t suffer from it.  Really nice shade along much of the way. Fortunately, the smoke from forest fires was not a major deterrent.

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

  • Definitely need a headlamp for the tunnel.  Since I wasn’t going for a fast run, I decided to store it in my water vest vs. risk dropping it into a checked bag.  They warn you a million times that your GPS/watch will be off while in the tunnel, but I thought it was ok.
  • I carried a 2L water vest and was glad I did so.  

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not a lot of opportunity for spectators.  The mental game was to egg yourself on. There were (less than a handful) friendly bikers who rode along the course to say nice things but that’s about it.  

How’s the Swag?

I really liked the medal and as a 1st time Tunnel Marathoner I got a really nice pin as well!  The T-Shirt is ok, not into the bright blue color but I really can’t complain.

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

I thought it was a pretty unique race.  If you like solitude, nature, and a presumably “downhill fast” course then go for it.  5 stars out of 5.