I’ve met some great people through the world of endurance sports. Take my buddy Matt Brand, for example. We met half naked at an Omaha Master’s swimming practice and have been friends ever since. I’d say we’re good friends, but I recently found out that he prefers to be called ‘Matthew’ rather than ‘Matt’. That seems like a pretentious waste of a syllable, so I’ll keep calling him ‘Matt’.
Anywho, Matt moved to Denver a couple of years ago, but we’ve stayed in touch and meet up ever once in a while to run a marathon. Or rather, Matt has run the marathon, and I’ve settled for the half.
Matt found the Cascade Express Marathon in Seattle when looking for his next race. One of his friends would be getting married in the area two days prior and the race would take place on the last day you could run a qualifying time for the 2020 Boston Marathon. Oh yeah, this race also had 1500′ of elevation drop and was still a BQ course! I’m not sure how that’s legal, but was looking forward to any advantage I could get. This would be my first marathon since Ironman Brazil in 2016.
We did an escape room the day before the race and got out, a good sign for the race ahead.
2019 Cascade Express Marathon: September 8th, 2019
I started off with the 3:40 pace group, hoping the consistent training of the previous month’s would yield a PR over my previous best of 3:43. The first part of the race is a flat out and back for 6 miles, before entering a 1.5 mile long tunnel which marks the beginning of 20 miles of downhill running. I entered the tunnel and was immediately disoriented by the shift from daylight to pitch black. Flashlights were handed out, but the output was comparable to that of a candle. I stuck with the runners ahead of me, hoping the combined output of our lights would keep me upright until my eyes adjusted.
I felt great exiting the tunnel. The downhill grade combined with beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery led to a running euphoria, and I pulled away from the 3:40 group
At the half-marathon point, I caught the 3:30 pace group. I decided to settle into the back of this group until mile 20 and then I’d kick it in the last 10k for a monster PR. That plan was going great until mile 18, where I felt the wheels start to wobble and then fall off completely. I had been banking on picking up energy gels at the mile 10 aid station, but there were none to be found. A rookie mistake, I know, and I was paying for it dearly with a nice bonk. I got dropped off the back of the 3:30 group and struggled to maintain nine minute miles to the finish.
The finish line was poorly planned. It had started to rain, and the mud combined with really tight turns led to to a hair raising finishing sprint. I was happy to come across the line in 3:36:02, a new PR, but a little disappointed as a sub-3:30 seemed to be in the cards.
This was a fantastic race. It lived up to the hype of being fast and beautiful. My one complaint, though, would be the finish line cuisine. I had received three pre-race emails advertising gigantic grilled cheese sandwiches. It seemed like that was what this race was known for. Imagine my confusion, though, as I saw them utilizing regular sized bread and cheese. Don’t get me wrong, the sandwich was delicious, but I had planned on telling my children about these inordinately sized grain and dairy confections and felt swindled with what I was given.
Oh, Matt Brand ran a 2:57, achieving a BQ time. I was really excited for him. He’d run 4 marathons in the past 3 years, lowering his time from 3:37, to 3:25, to 3:14, to 3:06, in order to finally punch his ticket to Boston at this race.
If You’re Running This Race…
I’d recommend trail shoes, or at least something with some cushion. Leave the race flats at home. There’s enough un-crushed gravel that you’ll want a thicker sole.
Don’t bank on gels on the course. I found some at mile 18, but it was too late by then.
Maybe bring your own light for the tunnel, preferable a cheap one that you can ditch after exiting the tunnel.
Last tip, train with some downhill running. My quads and butt were hurting during the last miles..
My final race report of this series will be the Barkley Fall Classic 50k, coming next week.