OK, I don't want to be overwhelmingly negative, but I just can't in good conscience recommend this race. I have only run this event one time, maybe my year was an outlier, but overall I got the impression that this race was poorly managed. The course is extremely straight and flat, so if you're looking for a PR, this might be the race for you. However, the course was short by almost a quarter of a mile, so that PR might not be quite as special as it seems at first.
The packet pick-up was at a Road Runner Sports in Redmond, WA the Friday evening before the race. I managed to get stuck in PREMIUM rush hour traffic on my way over after work. When I arrived at the store there wasn't sufficient parking in the lot, and the employees seemed overwhelmed by the crowd of runners waiting in line. This experience accurately foreshadowed my race morning. We were given instructions to arrive at the starting line early. I gave myself a full hour of cushion for what is normally a 20 minute drive. However, traffic was backed up all the way from the start line, along residential roads, to the exit off-ramp and ONTO the freeway itself. It was a stressful and anxious start to my day. I changed clothes in my car while I sat in traffic, parked as the national anthem started, and jogged into my starting corral right as the announcer reached 4 on his countdown. Then it was time to run.
The actual course is FLAT and straight and straight and flat and FLAT. I thought that the lack of elevation gain would be a nice rest from running Seattle hills, but I would have appreciated some variety. I was hoping that the course would be beautiful, as it parallels the shores of Lake Sammamish, but the paved trail is bordered on both sides by tall tress for the majority of the run, so the scenery was pretty monotonous. The trail is narrow at some points, which got congested. There were a few stretches where the trees opened up and we could see the water, but most of the race felt like I was trapped in an infinite flat green corridor. The end of the race is totally bizarre: right at mile 12 the course stares to wind back and forth like a maze in a movie ticket line. I know that I was just complaining about a lack of variety in the straight, flat course, but the series of zig-zags was just strange. Presumably the purpose of this section is to boost the distance to a full 13.1 miles, but according to my Garmin (and several other racers who I chatted with) the race ended at the 12.9 mile mark. I definitely finished this race FAST (long, flat, straight, and boring will certainly speed you up), but I can't call it a PR if the course was short.
This race is put on by Evergreen Trail Runs (though the event itself is all on pavement). The post-race fuel was a smorgasbord of trail-run style calorie-bomb goodies: pretzels, m&ms, PB&Js, bananas, coke, and swedish fish. Trail runners crack me up. It was nice to hang out on the shore of Lake Sammamish at the finish area. There were shuttle busses available to return us runners to our cars at the starting line. I had to wait about 20 minutes to board a bus. The bus was smelly, but everybody was SUPER friendly, and it was fun to compare notes and swap stories with the rest of the racers. When we got back to the start I managed to TOTALLY lose my car in the parking lot. I was so frazzled at the beginning that I had NO IDEA where I parked. After a delightful 30 minute scavenger hunt from hell I finally found my Subaru and drove back to Seattle.
Overall I would not recommend this race. The entry fee is comparable to other big races in the area, but the short course and traffic woes indicate to me a lack of organization on the part of the organizers. The course itself is SO FLAT and SO STRAIGHT, which sounds nice, but you might find yourself crying out for some stimulation. If you want a PR, this would be the race to get it...if they measure the course correctly next year. I will say that the finisher shirt is a REALLY cool purple color, and the volunteers were friendly. However, I would save my registration dollars for a different spring event in the Seattle area.
I wrote a re-cap of the experience at my blog: http://marathonsam.com/2014/03/08/lake-sammamish-half-marathon/