Tunnel Light Marathon Race report

Race Report

Sunday, I ran the Tunnel Light Marathon. And when I say ‘ran’ I mean it. This race was all about qualifying for Boston. Actually, this entire year or past two, three, four, five, years has been all about Boston. Chipping away at my PR until the PR becomes a BQ.

  • 2011- Royal Victoria Marathon PR =3:37
  • 2012 – Light at the End of the Tunnel PR =3:30
  • 2013 – California International Marathon (CIM) (12/8) 3:24:29- 1st BQ!!!!
  • 2014- no new PR or BQ
  • 2015- TBD

I’ve run this marathon twice before and it is my favorite marathon. Starting in the Central Cascade Mountains, the route is a gentle downhill, mostly shaded and small field. Although they increased the field size, I think it is capped at 500 runners, so still very small. Also, the lack of concrete and asphalt is definitely appreciated by my knees. This is one long shady dirt and gravel trail.

A few days before the race, twice, I noticed that my Garmin, in the charger held zero % charge. Never seen this odd behavior before. If I rebooted the PC, with the charger attached, I could get the watch to charge. Yes, I was very concerned the watch wouldn’t hold a charge throughout the race. Instead of calling Tech Support on Friday afternoon, I decided to try a workaround solution. I’d wear the Garmin on my left wrist and my old, basic Timex Ironman on my right. The Garmin (if working) would display time, distance and average pace. The Timex would only have the stopwatch running.

Worse case, the Garmin dies, and I’d only have the TimeX. Since I wouldn’t know my target pace, decided to print out a marathon race pace wrist band.


Felt silly using this but figured if the Garmin dies, this is only way to avoid running ‘blind.’ I could periodically ask runners nearby for their current ‘pace’ but knew it was likely I’d be running stretches solo.

I printed out the wristband, lamented it with clear tape, to make somewhat waterproof and presto, my workaround.

Another potential issue with the Garmin is that I’d be running about 2miles through a train tunnel. (hence the name of the race) and the watch would lose GPS signal. The previous two times I’ve run this marathon, after coming out of the tunnel with no GPS running, the watch GPS corrected itself so it displayed the correct distance from the start and pace.

Today, I was gunning for about 3:22, which would be a new PR and BQ fast enough to guarantee me entry into Boston, I was extra nervous the last few days before the race. Naturally, didn’t sleep well Saturday night. Probably got three hours before the alarm chimed at 3:15am. (yeah, that is crazy early). Popped out of bed, dressed and slowly ate my standard race day breakfast; PB&J, plain yogurt with some granola, small glass of OJ, one banana and about 12 oz of water. Yes, I am a creature of habit so I’ve eaten exactly the same breakfast on race day for nearly every previous marathon.

Another reason for the extra early rise was to allow adequate time to get to the start line before the 8am gun. Left the house about 4:30am to drive an hour a middle school, outside of North Bend, WA. At the school, jumped on a bus for the slow drive up Snoqualmie pass to the start at Hyak.

Although I was significantly nervous, my stomach was butterfly less until I climbed on that bus. Within about 5 minutes, it was twisted into about 14 knots. That was worrisome. If the stomach is knotted, really tough to down all the fuel I’d require during the race.

Arrived at the start with 90minutes before the gun. The early start began at 7am and about 50 people slowly jogged toward the Tunnel. One hour until I started. With plenty of time, odd that I spent 95% of it just sitting on the ground. Thought I should stay off my feet as much as possible. But, I was so focused on sitting that I barely stretch at all. Didn’t really realize that until several miles in the race. Really hoped the hamstrings and calf muscles stayed happy.

Times have really changed. The 2012 start.


They called for runners to line up about 10 minutes of 8. Slowly pushed upfront, right behind the 3:15 pace group. Normally, marathons are mostly full of pretty healthy looking folks but the front of this pack, I was standing in a forest full of gazelles. All 6 footers+, long, muscled legs, below serious game faces painted on. This race has a reputation for very fast times, and people travel significant distances, looking for the same thing I would soon be chasing…a BQ. Chatted with a guy on the bus from outside Boston who was doing actually that.

The gun fired, I started both watches and we were off. The tunnel was less than a mile away and as soon as the entered it, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and COLD water dripped from the ceiling. The two mile tunnel is only as wide as a train and about 15 feet high so stick 500 people inside and you get claustrophobic fast. Most people carry flash lights or headlamps but you must run gingerly since the floor is not completely lit. I tried not to pass others since the edges of the path were uneven and full of puddles.

Exiting the tunnel, notice the Garmin was way off. No surprise, the GPS clearly hadn’t worked inside the tunnel. The time feature still worked and using my wrist pace chart could determine quickly I wasn’t far off pace. But, 2 miles later, the Garmin had still not self-corrected for the distance inside that tunnel. Not only that, it currently wasn’t tracking pace correctly. For miles 3-6 it read I never ran faster than 8:15 pace. No way that was right. I confirmed a 7:45 pace from another runner’s watch. The rest of the race, the GPS never corrected. SO lucky had the wrist pace chart to determine each mile pace vs goal pace (7:42).

By mile 6, I was about a minute ahead of schedule and stomach felt fine. Thank GOD because I needed to drink 20+ ounces of Gatorade per hour and start eating my GU every 30minutes. Those two ingredients will turn a sour stomach into serious trouble.

I tried to run an even, relaxed 7:42 minute pace. Running lightly, trying to keep head clear, just keep picking up the feet. Perhaps by mile 8, still bit fast at 60min, I first felt some doubt linked to tired legs. How could my legs be tired already…I really hoped that feeling would pass.

Mile 13, halfway, legs still heavy but critically, the heaviness had not increased. Similarly, I wasn’t worried about getting tired or sore because you will get tired and sore. Just can’t get so tired or sore than you begin to slow down.

Mile 15, the hips and hamstrings were barking. Entering the mental part of the race. Can’t let the mind tell me I can’t, when I know my body still can. Still on target pace, even a minute or two ahead.

I clearly recall mile 18 and 19. Just focused on ‘getting to 20.’ Over and over told myself, hold pace and ‘just get to 20.’ After 20, there is a sharp downhill turn at mile 21 and then the final push (aks being in The Shit) starts. If I hit the wall, it will be during these last, painful, never ending 6 miles of the race.

Made the turn at mile 21, Rattlesnake Lake just outside NorthBend, WA. I loathe this part of the course, not because of the potential of the wall but because there are several REALLY long straightaways. Seeing runners 200 yards ahead, to me, is so much harder than only seeing 50 yards ahead of you.

Mile 22 than 23, still no appearance of the wall. My body was tightening up (calf, thigh, hips, hammies) and now slowing down but only a bit. No more ahead of schedule, now I was about a minute behind.

Miles 24 and 25 lasted 30minutes, at least it seems. I hurt all over; people were passing me and just wanted to see the finish line. The battle is still all in my head now. To fall apart, slow down and lose the BQ so close to the end would be heart breaking. I never saw the 26th mile marker.

Went under highway I-90, slight turn right and the finish line is visible, 50 yards ahead. Tried, god I tried to push it but not sure if I sped up or not. Now, finally, could read the red timer numbers in the banner of the finish. It read 3:2……3:22:50, 51, 52… First, so brief, reaction of relief, I’d earned the BQ but quickly turned to ‘every second counts move it’, so tried to squeeze in under 3:23… and crossed the finish line.


7:44 average pace.

I didn’t get under 3:23 but I did get:

  • New PR
  • Second BQ, 86 seconds faster than the first BQ
  • Finished my 20th Marathon

No guaranteed entry into Boston with that time. But, I really ‘should’ get in. If this time doesn’t get me INTO the Boston Marathon, I give up.

I give up, at least until I turn 50 and the qualifying time drops from 3:25 to 3:30.


About Scott

Training to qualify for the Boston Marathon and simplify our life, as a stay at home dad.
This entry was posted in marathon training, Memories, Race, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tunnel Light Marathon Race report

  1. Tim K says:

    Nice job! You had me on pins and needles with the other pre-race post (that you posted post-race). Way to build suspense!

    Congrats on the BQ!

  2. Congrats!! Good thing you had a back up plan with the pace band & TimeX!
    Sounds like you had a really strong race too, that’s fantastic that your stomach ended up fine and you didn’t have any fueling issues.
    Fingers crossed you get into Boston this time 🙂

  3. 0-2 getting into Boston with a BQ. Missed it by 30 seconds this time. Oh well, not much I can do about it. Going to run a trail Half this December, so something different.

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