Race: Tunnel Vision Marathon (Part of Tunnel Marathon series)
Runner: Dan S
Location: The race starts at Hyak (Snoqualmie Pass) and ends in North Bend, Washington.
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- The course is pretty much tailor made for a personal record: gradual down, all the way.
- The course is pretty in many places; from sections in the woods to more open trestles over creeks, it’s a nice (aesthetically) path.
- Though small (only a couple hundred finishers or so), the race seemed to be well run.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
The only notable “drawback” of the event that stood out is that the aid stations are really shallow. This reality was entirely to be expected with a small race like this, but it did mean that I was doing loops at several-most aid stations (it was a warm day) to get a couple of cups of fluids (one to dump on me, the other to drink).
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
The better part of the first two miles of the race are in a tunnel (the tunnel is the race’s namesake). The race follows a path that used to be used by trains (hence the gradual down) and the outset of the race (racers enter the tunnel at about 0.25 miles) is underground in an old rail tunnel. Headlamp required.
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
This is by far the best marathon I’ve ever run. I shattered my personal record by a margin I hadn’t even imagined possible and in so doing, achieved a long-standing personal marathon time goal.
Things were going so well that I literally did not trust my training computer for much of the first half of the race (the GPS was thrown off in the tunnel so I knew the data from that portion of the race was inaccurate). It was not until the guy standing by the side of the course at the half marathon mark (no clock – just a guy with a watch – it’s a small race) told me what pace I was on that I started to believe what my training computer was telling me.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
The race started kind of late (8:00am) and was held in late August. So heat could be an issue. We were lucky in 2016 that it was warm but not too hot. That said, right up to the morning of the race it was looking like we’d be dealing with performance-dampening temperatures.
Most of the race is on gravel. I found gaiters helpful for keeping rocks out of my shoes.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
I learned (from Matt) about the technique of placing crushed ice in the back of my running vest to help keep my core temperature down. I did not end up needing to implement this technique (or using the vest at all) but if I do end up trying a high temperature, long distance run in the future, the crushed-ice-in-the-vest idea may be useful.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
This course was the easiest marathon course I have ever run. As noted above, bring a headlamp for the tunnel (there’s a drop station right at the end of the tunnel where headlamps can be left for transport to the finish line) and be ready for a long run on gravel (not big gravel, but also not a smooth, paved surface).
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
Yes. This is one of the prettiest courses that I’ve run. The aesthetics are somewhat “spoiled” by the soft roar of the freeway (the course largely parallels the highway for the first 15-18 miles or more) in the background. When the course ducks away from the freeway into the woods or runs over a creek, though, very nice.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
No. As noted several times above, this course is the easiest marathon course I’ve ever run. It is downhill essentially for all 26 miles. The downs are gradual enough that my quads were not blown out by the run, but steep enough that I definitely knew I was going down, down, down.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
The race was, particularly for its small size, well organized. While this year (2016) was the first year of the Super Tunnel event, the race follows the exact same course as the Tunnel Light and Light at the End of the Tunnel races and is organized by the same people. The other races have been going on (and filling up) for years – the people organizing the race know what they are doing and did well.
Competition – is there a strong field?
Ummm… I finished 6th overall. Which lets you know that Meb most definitely was not out there. This was a small race and there were no elites, no big names (to my knowledge), or even local legends out there for this run.
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.
No. I registered very early because the sister races (Light at the End of the Tunnel and Tunnel Light) fill up. I don’t believe that this race filled. I got in with no issues – just went online and signed registered.
There were aid stations every 2-3 miles. All were stocked with water and-or energy drink. I believe that some were stocked with gels. There were only a couple of people at several of the aid stations, so (as noted above), getting two drinks meant sacrificing time to run a loop.
Weather and typical race conditions
As noted above, heat could be an issue in late August in this part of the country. The course is in the mountains, though, so heat is not guaranteed. August is generally known to be one of the more consistently nice weather months here in the Northwest. So chances are comparatively low that inclement weather will mess up the race.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
No. When I saw that temperatures weren’t going to be too high, I went with bare-bones attire.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
Not really. There is access to the course by road (it looked like) at about 13 miles and then again at about 20 miles along the course. The start is road accessible, as is the finish. Otherwise, the course is not readily accessible for spectators.
None to my knowledge. Finishers receive a shirt and a medal.
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it.
For the first time ever, I will award a race ten out of ten stars. Please recall, though, my comments about setting a personal record and achieving a big goal on this particular run. My assessment of the race is filtered through rose-colored glasses.
Nevertheless, if you are interested in a fast full marathon in the Northwest that is small, goes through the woods, is well organized and is fast (did I say that already?), the Super Tunnel Marathon is definitely one to consider.