- 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Trail Race
Packet pickup at the Nike Outlet in North Bend was a major inconvenience from the city of Seattle. With traffic, it was nearly 2 hours to get there (as opposed to about 40 minutes with no traffic on race morning).
This race is advertised as a "fast gentle downhill course" - it depends on your interpretation of gentle. Yes, the course is primarily flat with a gradual downhill. Gentle however, it is not when you take into account that it is a gravel / rocky trail. There are two tracks down the course that are worn flat which created congestion along the way with people running together but car-wheel distance apart, making for awkward passing.
Runners are assigned a shuttle time and I arrived for the 4:20am shuttle. At 3:45 they opened the lot and there was a bit of confusion in directing people where to park. The shuttle departed at 4:40 and dropped the half-marathoners at the drop-off. From there it was a rocky 1.2 mile hike to the start. It was concerning that my feet were screaming before even reaching the start line - the uphill climb was NOT gentle, even in a trail shoe.
Next we sat around on rocks and logs until the 6:30 start.
What I thought would be a fast race ultimately ended up being rather slow due to course congestion and trying to be easy on the rocky trail to reduce impact. If you have any knee / quad / joint issues, you will be aware of them within the first few miles.
The scenery was breath-taking and even worth shuffling or stopping for a photo or two. Waterfalls, canyons, thick trees, shade - just gorgeous. The only thing missing was a few more porto-potties as there were a few runners having to duck into the woods. The race also said there would be places to soak our race buffs to stay cool, however this was not evident on race day.
At the finish it was exciting to hear the announcer tell spectators how much time was left for each division to BQ and to congratulate runners who made the cut.
The finish area was exposed with no place to really sit that wasn't in the dirt. Water, bananas and bars were provided. The shuttle took us 2 miles back to the parking area.
Overall, I would NOT recommend this to someone who is unaccustomed to running on gravel and / or at elevation and looking to BQ. If you're looking for a run through the woods and have no issues with your joints, it is a beautiful course - but certainly not without its share of "cons" in a race that is hyped to be fast, gentle and a haven for those searching for the elusive BQ.