Race: Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Runner: Shannon Payne

Race Date: 6/13/2021

Location: Snoqualmie Pass, WA

Results: 4/26 F 50-54, 222/542 overall

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/5465021309

Photo: Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

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

1. The slightly downhill course is the perfect grade for feeling fast!
2. The drop bag coordination was relatively efficient and allowed you to use a headlamp through the tunnel, drop it on the other side, and get it back at the finish.
3. I also loved how many runners came from outside greater Seattle!

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

1. Packet pick-up in North Bend was not convenient for this Seattle gal. I tried to get a local hotel, but day-before wouldn’t cut it. With all the out-of-town runners, I’d guess the Issaquah area lodging was booked up a while back.
2. Also, while I appreciated how frequent and well-prepared the aid stations were, plastic cups that get littered in beautiful wilderness are SO 2000s. I’m sure the volunteers were diligent about cleaning up the waste, but it seems just that – wasteful. I would gladly give up the neon t-shirt and the finisher’s medal for every registrant to get a collapsible cup to use at aid stations.

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

The Tunnel is the big one for this race. It starts less than a mile into the race and lasts for almost 2-1/2 miles. Others have mentioned not to pay attention to your gps device in the tunnel as it might go a little haywire – just find your pace and hold. I also noticed that the darkness of the tunnel affected some people’s proprioception more than others. Give everyone just a little space and you might avoid a pile up. You don’t have to carry a headlamp in the tunnel, but if you don’t, you absolutely must run next to someone with a headlamp which might cramp your individual pacing.

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

I was happy with my internal pace calibration. I started with a pace maker and found that I was best to follow my own perceived effort as I caught and let the group go multiple times on a fairly steady trajectory.

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

Be sure to get to the start line with plenty of time – I waited ~30 minutes in line for the bathroom and consequently got about a 3 minute warm-up that consisted of running to the start line. I did spring for the finish line parking and was super grateful to be able to walk straight to my car when it was over. In hindsight, I would also have gotten a hotel nearby (even though I live in Seattle) if I had thought about it earlier. Driving back & forth to North Bend two days in a row was a waste of gas and time.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Miles 18 to 22 always hurt, just keep going!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

This is a downhill, former RR grade course. It is fast. The aid stations were plentiful and depending on your fluid needs you might not need to carry a handheld. I used one and was glad to have it for that little extra, but depends on personal preference. Also, I kind of laughed at all the folks with gaiters on at the start for a hard-packed course, but my laugh faded after I got to live with several pebbles in my shoes over the last 10k. If I ever run this again, I’ll definitely use them.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

For a roadie marathon, it is spectacularly beautiful.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

As far as marathons go, no, but the distance is always a grind.

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

It was well-run, but it wasn’t easy to find or understand all of the logistics. The volunteers at packet pick-up were generous in answering all my questions, but it would have been nice if things were better detailed online or in the information emails.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

It seemed like there was this year. Over half the 650 registrants traveled from outside greater Seattle, some from as far away as NH and HI. The overall winning time was 2:29, which strikes me as speedy even on a downhill course.

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.

The race does sell out, but there are three opportunities (spring, summer, and fall) to run the course with the same organization. Hotels near the start line are fully booked by the week of the race (at least they were this year).

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

Standard fare, water and Nuun for fluids. I think there were supposed to be gels at some of the aids, but I didn’t check since I carried my own food.

Weather and typical race conditions

It depends on which date you sign up for. The mountains are always iffy in June and we got a steady stream of rain, but the temps were a perfect marathon 51 degrees. I would imagine the heat is more of an issue at the August event.

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

Headlamp and, as mentioned, gaiters, but otherwise treat this like a road marathon.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really. The best opportunity to cheer you on would be to wait at the Rattlesnake Ledge trailhead and then hop in the car to the finish. Parking is at a premium.

How’s the Swag?

Finisher’s medal and a technical t-shirt. It was nice to see the finish line “buffet” back in a COVID-friendly version.

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

I’d give it 4 stars out of 5. Some of the logistics were wonky, but the course was beautiful and you can’t argue with fast. Plus it was fun to run with folks from around the country in my own backyard.

Photo: Shannon R. Payne