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Race Report: 2018 Cascade Express Marathon

September 29th was the USATF certified Cascade Express Marathon on the famed Iron Horse Trail and train tunnel in the Snoqualmie region just outside of Seattle as part of the Cascade Super Series. There are a handful of races that also use this trail throughout the year such at Tunnel Light, Light at the end of the tunnel, super tunnel and Jack and Jill to name a few. The race is a wide packed gravel trail that used to be a train route. It starts with a mostly flat 5 mile out and back along Keechelus Lake before heading into the 2.5 mile pitch black train tunnel that runs through the mountain. Upon exiting the tunnel, it’s a nice 2% grade downhill to the finish at Cedar Falls Trail head near Rattlesnake Lake for a total of 1500′ of loss and ~23′ of gain.

A few course notes:

    • It’s a super beautiful course with long stretches of isolation and some beautiful sweeping PNW views.
    • It’s “smooth packed gravel” but depending on your shoes, you could be feeling every rock.
    • the 2.5 mile pitch black train tunnel is something to experience, and after a mile I was ready to get out lol.
    • After the tunnel it is a gradual downhill to the finish, though I most of the time didn’t feel like I was going downhill, it did feel like a nice tailwind for most of it aside from the blustery half way point.

My essential gear:

Nutrition plan:

  • Spring Energy Cannaberry Gels every 30 mins, starting 15 mins before race
  • Water from every aid station until mile 13
  • Gu Roctane drink from aid stations after half way point


Goal time: 3:00:00

Official Time: 2:57:23 |5th OA, 4th AG | Strava Link

For this marathon I had switched from Hal Higdon advanced that I used for Vancouver BMO Marathon back in May, to a Hansons Advanced plan. This made me a little nervous as my longest runs never went over 18 miles, but I did put in around 766 miles in 15 weeks time, and peaked a few times at 70 MPW, so it was time to trust the plan! One of the other bigger changes I made from BMO was that I stuck to a strict carb loading schedule the days leading up to the race, and eating schedule the morning of broken down by the hour, starting 4 hours before race time. Also, I made sure to stick to the nutrition plan during the race, no matter how crappy my stomach was feeling, using Spring Energy and adding the course’s Gu Roctane drink after the half way point.

I did a quick 1.5 mile out and back to warm up and got super excited. I was pumped and the legs felt surprisingly primed for the day. I wore my hoodie while warming up, but the forecast showed it warming up quick, so I knew the cold wouldn’t last.

Start-Mile 6

The beginning of the race starts you out heading south along Keechelus Lake for a 5 mile out and back. I opted to wear my sunglasses to start as I saw the sun starting to peek even though I knew after the turn around the sun would be at my back until the finish. I was glad I did because it was bright!

I started out waaay too fast and was leading, but started regulating pace about half a mile in. Slowly two guys started passing me, one including the guy who won. Because of his pace I figured he was either crazy, or former pro status, which he was (Rich Hanna!) I was super pumped heading back through the start line and got to pass Melody and Aspen for a high five. I started chatting with a guy, Andrew, who has on my heels for most of the out and back. we chatted about his previous experience in the tunnel as we approached and about our goals for sub-3 times. He was super motivating and got me even more pumped!

Mile 7-13

Heading into the tunnel, you’re handed a tiny flashlight, which honestly doesn’t do much given how deep and dark the tunnel is. I let Andrew take the lead and kept my light and focus on his reflective heels. The tunnel is much taller than I expected, and much more disorienting than I thought it would be. The race has cones with motion sensored lights strapped to them, however they only turned on when you passed them, and they were shining back behind, so they didn’t help much to see ahead of us. The ground was hard chiseled rock with the occasional ice cold puddle. Other than that, I just wanted to get the heck out of there as fast as possible. Because of the lack of GPS under the mountain in the tunnel, I lapped my Garmin at the mile markers inside, and a few times after until it got back on track. It seemed to do the trick.


Mile 14-19

After the half way point, I started trying to pick up the pace as much as I could, through heading into the Garcia aid station, the wind really started to pick up. I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to die down, but fortunately it eventually did. I got passed by the eventual 4th place winner at the half way point, he obviously  had been holding back and seemed to come out of nowhere. For these miles I just focused on maintaining pace, and keeping close to my new friend Andrew, until I passed him around 18 for 5th place. Some stretches were super isolated and forested, isolated with sweeping views of mountains and I-90, and others were next to popular climbing walls with lots of people out climbing.


Mile 20-Finish

At this point I was feeling surprisingly great, but I also was nervous about hitting the wall and dropping pace. SO i turned on my Garmin’s metronome to my race SPM and just focused all my energy onto not dropping it. In some of the more painful moments I took a play out of Kipchoge’s book. I focused on smiling, and thinking of the kids and how funny they can be, and how thankful I was to to be able to train and run. It definitely helped me shift my focus. However, at mile 24, my pace suddenly dropped into the 7s and I started to panic. I could feel the wall coming, AGH! I told myself to not drop below 7:15 pace and was just doing my best to hold on.
Coming into the last half mile, I saw local RD/photog Jerry Gamez with camera in hand who knew I was trying for sub-3, and I honestly was cruising at that point, as I knew I had it in the bag. But he started screaming at me, telling me I wasn’t going to make it haha. My brain was pretty fried at that point, and he lit a fire under my ass for sure. I blazed down the final turns at a 6:11 pace through the finish chute to finish at 2:57:22. WOOO!



So thankful for my wife Melody and my kids for their unconditional support and love, my folks for watching our kids, the amazing volunteers, and Sabrina Seher (Super series RD) for putting on an amazing race!

Running Training

The family that runs together…

Bring a runner in itself is full of up and downs through training blocks, tons of miles, shoes and food. Repetition each week cycling between speed work, easy days tempo runs and weekends filled with stroller runs, hard tempos and long runs. Running through the coldest, wettest days of winter, and the hottest most humid days of summer. Now mix in a married running couple training along with two kids in the house, and jobs, you have a recipe that requires so much focus and so much support for each other. 2018 is the year of the run for the Colemans. So far for this year we’ve collectively run over 3000 miles, over 460 hours, have climbed over 153k feet and have nabbed countless PRs. We’ve had some rough days, crappy races, amazing highs, and days where the Strava segment trophies seem to come easy.

Melody has been working toward her long term goal to Boston Qualify and has been kicking ass. After giving birth for the second time last year, she has made it a point to reclaim her body and fitness. She got acclaimed Trisha Steidl as her coach, and we’ve really figured out a rhythm to both be able to get training in. As for myself, I knew I wanted to take my running to the next level this year, after taking a year off post- Ironman CdA, gaining larger pant size and lethargy. The first of the year was going great with various races, however, after a particularly crushing day at the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, I had a choice to make. I could either throw in the towel, or throw down the gauntlet and dig in even more as training progressed further into summer. I switched to an advanced Hansons plan after reading the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and as I saw myself hitting my prescribed paces in training in the heat, I could foresee a BQ time being possible… maybe.

Melody was training hard for the Trials Legacy Marathon, and me being in post-marathon recovery mode, decided to go out for some fun runs, taking it easy for a bit. Melody’s 1st marathon of the year came at TLM and it ended up being unreasonably hot on a not so flat course. She came away with a mirrored experience to my marathon in Vancouver, about 11 mins short of goal, damn. We both continued training, and as she set her sights on Cascade Express marathon at the end of September, I was looking for a chance to redeem myself with a 2nd marathon.

So we made a crazy plan: The Cascade Express marathon, let’s both run and both try for that BQ. It’s been a banner year of training for us with plenty of races sprinkled in, and really, our bodies have adapted so well, especially Melody who on top of training is feeding our baby and constantly giving her life force away. So for all intents and purposes, this plan looked like it was going to work. But unfortunately 1.5 weeks before our race I got a text from Melody while she was at the track. “Something is wrong with my hamstring. Can’t run. Hurts to walk. I’m limping.” A freak injury, shit, shit shit. This wasn’t the plan, and completely unfair. We’ve been so focused on making things happen, we didn’t talk about what to do if the plan didn’t work.


She immediately started seeing our invaluable sports chiros to start ART and Graston, and  started a low impact active recovery regimen as directed by her coach. I went ahead as planned and raced Cascade Express with Melody out there supporting. I ended up having my best race to date and pulled away with a 2:57:22 (Race report coming soon), much better than I had even planned and BQ for the new 2020 times. So now, as we continue on into the fall, and assess our situation, we’re focused on getting Melody healed, and getting her qualified. The one thing I know is that we need to focus on the positives however few there may be. Luckily, Melody has a year to qualify, and that allows plenty of time to heal and ramp back up training. I have no doubt in my mind that she is capable of destroying her BQ time, especially after seeing how fast I was able go since we’ve been neck and neck with training this year. I’m so grateful to be doing life with Melody. When life comes at you fast, you have to adapt and attack, and one of many things I’m proud of in our marriage is how we’ve been able to roll with the punches that life brings. So guess what life, we may be experiencing a set back, but we’re rolling with it and coming for you. As for Boston, we’ll both see you in 2020. 💪