We’ve been lining up event venues for NAUCC 2017 which will be held near Seattle July 16 - 22 and would like to give participants an opportunity to discuss the marathon venue. If you plan on riding in the Marathon, please join us for a Town Hall telephone conference meeting on Sunday April 30th at 5pm Pacific / 7pm Central / 8pm Eastern. More details can be found on the NAUCC website.
Here’s video of a ride we did on this trail a couple of years ago. Actually it’s an annual ride that Harper puts together every year. We’re planing on using this route for the marathon. What do you think?
Let me know if you have any questions or input. I’d be happy to pass along any thoughts you might have if you can’t attend.
The tunnel is approximately 2 miles long. Riders will need lights. The course is on hard packed gravel.
Unfortunately I will be unable to attend the Marathon, and most of July 21st due to our travel schedule.
But I have ridden it, back in 2002 during Unicon 11 and it’s a great ride. I would offer this advice to the racers, and organizers, to make things easier:
(Written toward the Hosts)
You will need to go to great lengths to communicate to riders that this is not a paved, fully smooth or “normal” Road race environment in any way. It’s essentially what we would probably call “Coker Muni” (old vernacular), meaning it’s an offroad ride that’s easy enough for 36" wheels. I remember one or two rough spots along the way, that riders will probably need to slow down for. Riders will need to not expect this to be a fast course, and will have Muni-ish elements in that the riding surface will be variable and relatively narrow compared to a road.
In a normal uni marathon these days, the top riders are cruising at over 20 mph and drafting each other. Stress to these riders that this environment should be treated more like an offroad race.
Also if I remember correctly there may be a few areas where it’s possible to ride off the side, with possible very dangerous exposure. Riders should not crowd each other, be prepared to go single file if necessary, and beware of loose gravel that may make wheels not track straight.
For the tunnel, you’ll need to set a minimum requirement of what amount of lighting is required. Take some time figuring that one out, since people will tend to surprise you with variations on what you thought they might bring. Best is probably a body- or uni-mounted light, but some people will probably have handheld lights. This should be okay as long as they are powerful enough.
That’s what I get off the top of my head, in case I can’t make your town hall meeting. The main point is to make sure riders know what they’re getting into. Provide pictures and video, like you did here, and if possible, invite people to go up and ride the trail (or parts of it) ahead of time to see what it’s like. You’ll need to stress the safety factor, and possibly make some rule modifications to keep people out of trouble.
People are going to complain and say it’s a terrible Marathon route, but I can understand why it’s a dream for organizers. No (or little) police needed, road crossings, and all those logistical complications that can make these events difficult (and expensive!). If the alternative is to not have a Marathon, maybe that’s the best way to sell it. Unicon 11 was before we started doing full marathons. There was a 10k race that started and ended at Mt. Si HS and went on a back road, turning around at a lumber mill, I think. Not sure if there’s another 20 miles of road back there.
Here’s my Unicon 11 Photo Album. It shows the Iron Horse Trail at the beginning, and a few pix from the 10k toward the end (after the parade).
The tunnel is a BAD idea. It’s way too much of a safety risk.
It would be fine (and definitely fun) for a fun ride. Sending a race through an unlit tunnel is an entirely different story.
Trying to tell people to take it easy and not race through it is ridiculous. After all, this is for the North American title. This is the Superbowl of unicycling (in keeping with the American reference- Unicon titles are Olympic).
One of the biggest issues I could see is a UPD inside the tunnel at speed. You can have lights on the rider and lights on the uni, BUT there is a solid chance in a UPD that the light on the uni will not be reliable to be seen. Batteries come loose in standard battery taillights. If the uni is difficult to be seen it can easily become a safety hazard for riders approaching the scene.
If someone is riding through the tunnel at a speed of 15mph, a 2 mile long tunnel is going to take 8 minutes to ride through. That’s a long time to be riding in total darkness with just a light especially if you’re not used to it. I’d be willing to bet that most riders don’t ride a lot at night. Also, there’s the consideration of sunglasses that many folks wear. They have to come on and off. Sure, it can be done, but it’s one more hassle for the riders.
If there is a UPD and someone does get hurt it could be a significant issue for getting them medical attention. In 2012, a rider broke their ankle in a UPD in the Marathon.
I’ve heard the excuse that they take a running race through the tunnel. Running on foot in the dark requires a lot less balance with a lot fewer consequences than riding a unicycle at speed.
Having the Marathon on a non-paved surface is not a huge issue. Last year’s was on crushed limestone with some conditions similar to what John reports this course is like- minus the places of dangerous exposure. If those places exist, that’s another issue. Last year’s danger was in the form of wind. The top 3 riders were blown off of their unis at some point during the race.
Almost every NAUCC Marathon someone crashes significantly as people are racing as hard as they can. These crashes are not always the top riders (although sometimes they are). Safety is a huge factor. The fact that this Marathon is on the last day puts people in the longest race at the end of a long week. When we’re tired, we make mistakes.
Elimination of the tunnel is a good idea. Even if somehow it’s compensated for by an out and back lollipop to add mileage. Or- make it less than a 26.2 Marathon. Make it a 24 mile race.
Taking a unicycle race through a 10000+ ft unlit tunnel at the end of a long week of riding depending on folks to provide their lights is not a good idea.
I have expressed these concerns to the organizers on more than one occasion. I do not know if I’m able to make the public meeting, so I’m posting them here.
I think the route would be a great FUN ride. NOT so much for a race.
If this is the only venue available, it would be a much better option to make it a 23.5 or so mile race. Group ride through the tunnel and start after it if necessary. If the conditions are more muni as John suggests, this will still be plenty long without the safety issues posed by trying to race through a tunnel.
I think Dave’s (Unigoat) post is a sensible reality check for organizers. Some of our marathon racers will go all out, which is not a good combination with the dark tunnel, and possibly some of the terrain further down the trail. Another downside of the tunnel is that if you touch the sides, whatever rubs against that tunnel wall will essentially be painted black. This might not be true for the full length in there, but it’s probably a combination of old soot, stuff growing on the moist stone, mixed with dust that comes up from contemporary riders going through.
It’s good to know the bridges all have railings now; as you can see in my pictures some of them did not. Also at least one of those bridges was “paved” with deep, soft gravel that was a challenge for most of the people in my group back in 2011 to ride without dismounting as the wheel would bog down or slip.
But if that stuff is happening in a well-lit space, it cuts way down on the danger factor. Also there was at least one spot on the trail, back then, that required single file through what may have been a seasonal stream crossing, that was challenging to ride through (dry but pretty bumpy and narrow).
So I think it’s in your best interest to start somewhere after the tunnel. This will still allow everyone to experience riding it, to get to the start. Then maybe they can drop off their lights there and pick them up later. They could even line up in the tunnel and move up into the light for each start group to take off.
Then, still make sure riders understand this is not a normal Road race, and expect speeds to be slower and compromises necessary to keep everyone racing. Possibly use some of the Muni racing rules as there will likely be a lot more dismounts than in a typical Road race.
Recommend and/or wet up a time and/or bus for people to pre-ride the course on an earlier day. That last one’s not just for me, but it would be AWESOME since I can’t be there on Marathon day. Back in 2011 it was a simple school bus or two. I would be happy to help organize that if possible. This would allow separation between racing the trail and riding it for fun as well.
Thanks John. I’m so glad you’re still involved and enthusiastic after all these years. I’m passing along your input.
The schedule is really packed so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do a preview tunnel ride during the week. I’ll mention it though. Perhaps some folks would like to do it on Saturday evening before NAUCC officially starts.
I’m putting together a “City Tour” that will be a fun ride through the north part of the city. I was thinking about doing a loop around Queen Anne, starting and ending at Gas Works park. I’m now considering an out and back ride from Gas Works to Ivar’s on the water front for fish and chips. Still working on the details though.
Hey, I rode my Coker in the rain today. I put in 6 miles to visit a friend in assisted care.
I get a new left knee on May 17 and I don’t know how that will affect riding three months later. I have the feeling that it won’t be ready to do 18 miles or 10,000 reps in that short time frame. There also might be a surgeon that doesn’t want me to plant that foot on the ground at 10 mph in a UPD.