Monday, October 14, 2013

How to run K2 but avoid running K2

For many trail runners, Auburn CA is an important town due to its access to great trails, its hosting of many great trail races, and being the finish line of the Western States 100. Mrs Notthat and I had never run a race out of Auburn before (although we have both run Way Too Cool, which is close), so we jumped at the chance to run Inside Trail Racing's K2 event.

Originally we were both to run the Half Marathon, which includes the infamous K2 climb. However, my summit of Mt Diablo the previous day left my legs feeling a bit like rubber, so I dropped to the 8M race (which would bring me to the base of K2, where I would suppress a giggle, turn around, and head back to the finish) while Mrs Notthat stuck with the Half.

Htirdle and Leahcim (not their real names) were soaking up a bit of sunshine (there was a LOT of that in their near future) before the start of their 50K races. I get a huge kick out of Htirdle and think of her whenever I'm at that part of the race where I start questioning whether I'm too old for this sort of thing - she emphatically answers that with a "stop whining and get moving kid!"

Also running the 50K was Lehcar (not nearly her real name). She had run a tough 50K the week before, apparently as a taper for this 50K. Lehcar is not normal. Note how she doesn't have time for a proper picture since she is already locked in with Htirdle. (Spoiler alert: They finished about 16 minutes apart. Htirdle beat her.)

The shorter distances started 30 minutes after the longer distances, so we had time to pose for a picture.

All distances started with a fun downhill bit. Sadly, this meant all distances ended with a maybe not quite so fun uphill bit, once you are good and tired.

That's Mrs Notthat in the center of the picture, way ahead of me.

We kept going down until all of the sudden we had a great view of the American River! From this point to the 8M turnaround, the trail was reasonably flat with a few rolling hills. And lots of great river views.

The trail also had this suspicious looking boulder. It's not like it was big enough to hide a band of thieves, and for that matter, trail runners are generally not going to be a profitable group to ambush, yet I still approached it with caution. And survived.

One totally unexpected trail feature was a creek crossing. Even more unexpected was…

… this nice waterfall right next to the creek crossing. I took several pictures of this waterfall and none of them showed how cool it really was.

The 8M course was an out-and-back while the Half course was a lollipop, with the stick being the 8M course. So this trail had some two-way traffic, but it was pretty light and was never an issue. (There were a lot of non-race runners out there as well - it was great to see so many people taking advantage of these trails and the great weather.)

The 8M turnaround is right after crossing No Hands Bridge. The above picture shows two bridges - fortunately it was the lower one that we would cross.

Most runners know this bridge as No Hands (apparently due to someone a long time ago daringly riding her horse across it with her hands in the air back when the bridge didn't have handrails and was generally a lot more frightening), but these signs all refer to it as Railroad Bridge or something boring like that.

Once I got across the bridge I arrived at the aid station. These two were particularly perky about being out here.

They took this picture of me in front of the trail that headed up K2. I then giggled (no chance of stifling it) and headed back across the bridge towards the finish line.

The river looked amazing from the bridge.

And as improbable as it sounds, there were a few runners behind me - Lehcar's daughter Einahpets (also not her real name) was proudly waving her hands as she crossed the bridge.

The run back was largely uneventful until I hit the uphill and started slogging up it. It was at this point that a couple of Half runners blew past me, flying up this hill faster than I ran down it. It was awesome to see.

Eventually I made it to the finish line.

Mr ITR really struggled to look enthusiastic while handing me my first place age group award. (I actually had a top 10 finish! Although if you look at the small print, the 8M race only had 13 finishers total, and I was the only one in my age group; but still - a top 10 finish!)

Irual (not her real name) was enjoying watching Mr ITR sweat out handing me that medal while she waited for her popcorn to pop.

Race timing nowadays is child's play, apparently.

I headed back out a very short bit on the trail and made myself comfy while I waited for Mrs Notthat to come in. Within seconds of me sitting down she came storming up that hill looking for the finish line.

She conquered K2 and still had energy to burn!

When we left the race we drove the few blocks to this hallowed place - the finish line of the Western States 100 (Mrs Notthat had never seen it before - that's her with her seat picked out way up in the nosebleed seats).

And that's about it. The race was a blast, with great trails and greater volunteers. I was satisfied with dropping to the 8M race after the previous day's Half at Mt Diablo, but there was a tiny (but obnoxious) part of me that wishes I had taken on K2.

There will be other races though, and K2 will be mine then. Maybe.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.


mary ann said...

Beautiful country, especially the river and waterfall.

Beth said...

So cool!
Just the name of the race alone makes me want to do it, it's sounds killer!
Mrs looks super solid coming into the finish!