In this race report, runner Renee Gale breaks down what you need to know about the Suncadia Half Marathon before showing up to the start line.

Race: Suncadia Half Marathon

Runner: Renee Gale

Race Date: 8/07/2021

Location: Suncadia Resort near Cle Elum, Washington

Results: 89 of 139 overall, 47 of 86 gender

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/5754768737

renee on the suncadia half marathon trail
Photo: Somer Kreisman

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

  1. Weather was perfect in the 60’s and partly cloudy (the weekend before, it was close to 100).
  2. Elevation was very modest with gain/loss of 800 ft.
  3. The portion of the trail that ran parallel to the river was beautiful.

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

There were only 2 port-a-potties; found out later that there were more hiding somewhere but I didn’t see them. Pre-race, I was very confused about the course – I always like to look at elevation and figure out how I’m going to run the race using the elevation profile. Since this was a new route/new race for Evergreen, there wasn’t too much information available.

One other thing I wasn’t happy about was the final distance; both the course map on the race website and my watch when I finished the race showed less than 13.1 miles.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about the Suncadia Half Marathon?

It’s not weird, but the race was located inside a big resort with lots of homes. Although a lot of the race was on trails where you couldn’t see civilization, I would prefer being farther removed from that kind of surrounding.

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

I studied the map and the changes in elevation more than most of my races. I was very aware of upcoming terrain, which helped me keep a steadier pace overall by knowing when to run and when to hike to conserve energy.

In past trail races, I mostly wasn’t aware of what mile I was at or what the distances were of each ascent, so I would get a lot of surprises. This race, I managed to keep track of elapsed distance and course changes. I set a goal to run steadily enough to not have to stop and catch my breath. In past races, I would put in too much of an effort and then have to stop to breathe rather than keep moving. Success! I didn’t stop once to catch my breath. My only stop was at an aid station to grab an orange.

I put alerts on my phone to remind me to drink and to take a gel, which was another lesson learned from my last half-marathon.

A few times, I managed to pass someone I had been following for a while and that gave me a confidence boost.

Last thing I’m happy about is I set sub-goals for my finish-time. Going into other races, I had a vague expectation of where I might finish in time and at the end of the race would be disappointed. This race I established 3 goal options. I really, really wanted to finish in 2:30:00. My C goal was to finish at or just under the same time as my last half, which was 2:44:25. My B goal was to finish in between those two times. I finished the race in 2:25:33, beating my A goal!

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the Suncadia Half Marathon race

This course starts and ends on paved paths, about 1/4 mile each. A big percentage of the race has single track, some with packed dirt and smoothed rocks, some with a more sandy consistency. Then there are a few places where you run on gravel roads, some with ruts. There was this one small rivulet of water that had a log/plank placed over it. When I stepped on it, it gave a little like it was going to break in half. The half marathon did almost a double loop of the 5k course – this was one thing I was confused about prior to the race. The description sounded like we only did the loop once, but the interactive course map showed looping around almost twice.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

I wouldn’t call it beautiful except for one portion that runs along the Cle Elum River. It’s pleasant enough though to enjoy the journey, a combination of being in shade and being exposed to sunlight.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

No, this isn’t tough but it was perfect for me as I build my endurance and mountain legs.

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

To get to the race start, one drives through the resort for a couple of miles. There were signs showing which way to go until we got to the actual race site. At that point, it was difficult to tell where to park. There wasn’t a final sign pointing to the big grassy area where we were supposed to park. What’s confusing is before you get to that area, there is a big parking lot next to a swimming pool and it looks like it’s the end of the road. I got there at about 7:15 am and the race was supposed to start at 8:30 am. When I arrived, the race was just starting to be set up; they seemed a little behind but did manage to start only a couple minutes late. I would say the organizers were somewhere between well-oiled and winging it.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I would say no. There were a lot of families attracted to the race as there was also a kid’s run included so it was more low-key.

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.

There was an offer when I registered for the race to get a discount to stay at the Suncadia Lodge inside the resort. But I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay at the time so I held off getting accommodations. Later when I decided it would be nice to treat myself to staying at the Lodge, I couldn’t get the discount so I went ahead and got a motel room in Cle Elum which is only about 15-20 minutes away.

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

Pretty standard fare. I liked that they had oranges cut up – I usually see bananas, not oranges.

Weather and typical race conditions

The typical high for the area in August is 81. About 10 days prior to race day, I saw a forecast for 86 and started getting worried that it would be warmer than I was used to. On race day, I was happy to arrive at the start line with the temperature at 62, partly cloudy. I think the high that day was in the 70’s. Heat wasn’t an issue for me at all but it definitely could be.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

I would say this is a friendly course. One could bring their bicycle and entertain themselves while their friend runs. There are lots of paved paths in the resort that were not part of the race. There was also one intersection of the course that was close to the start line and at about the 3-mile mark of the race where one could stand and spectate.

How’s the Swag?

At the end of the race, I received a wooden coaster with the course etched into it, so not the greatest.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give the Suncadia Half Marathon race and do you recommend that others run it?

I would recommend this course for beginner trail runners as it’s not technical and the elevation changes are mild. From that perspective, I would give this race 4/5. I’m definitely not advanced but I have a feeling this course would not appeal to those runners.

suncadia half marathon views

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