This race was offered only as a full marathon. It took place in North Bend, which is around an hour East of Seattle. There are so many small mountain towns in this area, and they are all breathtaking! So, much to see. There are water falls and nature trails everywhere. It was fun to show up there with my non-runner wife and just sight see and hike around a bit. I cannot put into words how gorgeous the surrounding areas are. If you're a fan of the Pacific Northwest, I'm sure you already know.
There was no "expo" to talk about. We got our bibs, shirts and information from a Nike outlet store. It was a quick in-and-out experience. But, if you're looking for an expo, this really is not your race. That said, one of the great things about the packet pick-up was the headgear. They told us that we would be running through a tunnel and needed to wear a head lamp or we wouldn't be able to see. Not only did we get this heads-up, but they also had a bunch of head lamps others have worn in years past, but didn't pick up. I grabbed one of those since I was from out of state and really didn't want to buy one. In addition, they were offering free shirts from prior years. You could grab as many as you wanted, if need be. It was great customer service!
The starting situation was pretty good. This was a run -down-a-mountain type of race. So, like other similar races, they wanted to bus you to the start line. But, unlike many similar races, they provided several different options on where you could get dropped off. The top of the mountain was chilly; yes even in August! There were no fire pits or other ways to stay warm. It had a 7am starting time, so that did help. But, they made sure all the potential situations were worked out.
The race was simply amazing. It was all trail, but not twist-your-ankle difficult. No different shoes were required, but it was something I did not expect. I'm guessing that it was a decommissioned railroad route. I saw no train tracks, however there were several spectacular bridges we ran across that only really make sense if there was a train there at one point.
The race gets its name from a 2 mile run (towards the beginning) in which you run through a tunnel. This was a unique experience. I won't call this good or bad; it was both. The good: It was an amazingly tall and well-built tunnel. This is an experience that is really hard to express. I wish I took pictures. But, I was running for time, and did not want to be taking photos along the way. But, it was a monument to engineering from decades ago. The bad: it was hard to get around people with so many folks in an enclosed space. Since it was near the beginning, we were still bunched together. The ceiling leaked a bit, so the ground was wet. This caused us to have to dodge some puddles and have our shoes a bit muddy. Also, this is where we needed those headlights. I suppose as long as you were running next to others, you could kind of see where you were going. But, it was best to have your own. Since this was all in the beginning, they had a spot to drop your light off soon as you got out of the tunnel, and then didn't have to worry about it. Since, I was using a prior runner's light, I just left it there so that it can be used again next year by someone else!
But, the other 23+ miles were the main story of this race. It's billed as a downhill race with a gradual 2.2 decline. It did not feel much like a downward slope, but it was fast and is a good option for those looking for a BQ course. But, it was in the mountains, and as we ran along the range, I was able to see other mountains and clouds that weren't quite as high as the peaks. It looked like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie. It was truly a majestic view from the moment I got out of the tunnel until I crossed the finish line. So, many beautiful scenes. A lot of the bridges we crossed allowed us to look into a valley or watch a river run. I have done a lot of races, including several in the mountains. But, I can honestly say this was the most beautiful course I ever ran on. And if you are an engineer, you really need to check out what your peers did a century ago with their technology; just amazing!
The finish line area was small. They encouraged you to take a shuttle bus from the finish line back to one of those start shuttles. But, while there, they had all kinds of perks. Water, bananas, chocolate milk, cookies, fruit snacks, oranges, chili, fritos were just a start of the numerous items they let you grab at the end to consume. They also had an ice bath for people to soak their feet in to help relieve the pain. There were spots for selfies. And a few massage tables to get in line for. They really treated you great at the end!
The medal was okay. It's a medal; nothing that will go in my top 10 lists. But, it was appreciated. The shirt was just a normal cotton shirt. I may not wear this one often when I have so many others. So, those that run for the bling; this may not be the best. But, it's the course that will be remembered as simply amazing. The tunnel will be recalled as a unique experience. And the elevation reduction was able to help take me to a new PR! Top of the line customer service and a well-ran staff. Not sure what other Washington races are like. But, I highly recommend this one to anyone considering going there!