When I started writing my North Face 50M plan (which I promise I will post about someday), I pretty much stalked every Bay Area trail race there is to see what races would work with my plan. Luckily my favorite Inside Trails has a lot of races to choose from, both in distance and locations. When I saw this race on their calendar I knew I wanted to do it. I love getting to run on trails I don’t run on that often, and I just love getting the chance to run in the Auburn area since both Way Too Cool 50k and American River 50 hold such fond memories for me.
Like I have said before, using trail races as training runs is so convenient. Between having the course marked, having aid stations with lots of fuel, and having the race day atmosphere to motivate, it really helps break up any monotony that comes along with training. A few weeks ago I sent Jessica all the races I had on my calendar as tentative, and she wanted to run this one as well. We both signed up and started making plans!
Jess picked me up very early on Sunday morning and we made the 1.5 hour drive to Auburn. This race started and finished at the finish line of AR50. I hadn’t been there since that day and it looked a lot different this time without all the people. I was really excited to run, but also nervous because it was going to be a warm day and my legs were tired from running 18 miles on trails the previous day. I knew it was going to be fun no matter what and just told myself to start slow and fuel properly, the rest would come together.
The race started in Auburn, took the Western States trail across No Hands Bridge, up K2 Summit, into Cool for a big loop and then back to where we started. There wasn’t a whole lot of out and back which was nice but you got to go to the same aid stations twice the way the loops worked. I really enjoyed the course set up.
We started off running down a very dusty trail that had a lot of downhill. I took it easy getting warmed up and reminded myself we would have to run back up the hills in a few hours. Jess ran ahead for a bit and I eventually caught up to her again. We found our rhythm started chatting and enjoyed the new views around us. Before I knew it, we were crossing No Hands Bridge just over 4 miles later.
This was the first aid station and we stopped quickly to grab some fuel before heading up the big climb called K2 Summit.
All I knew of this climb was from the race website:
“One of the toughest climbs in the area, and training grounds for top runners, the dreaded K2 climb.”
I knew it was over a mile long and gained over 1,000 feet in that mile. I figured that it would be similar to some spots in Diablo, and I have done that a few times now, so I should be ok. We hit the steep hill and just power hiked our way up. It was steep!
There were a couple false summits along the way, so we ran those and would power hike the parts that were too steep. It actually went by pretty quick and before we knew it, we were finally at the top!
We got another mile or two of running in, before heading into Cool at the next aid station.
It was getting pretty warm at this point, so we took our time, refueling and filling our sports bras with ice. I ate a couple boiled potatoes with salt, had a cup of coke and we headed on our way.
We ran on the road for a little bit, then wound our way through some beautiful, but very exposed single track. Any little bit of shade we were very thankful for.
We hit the Cool aid station again, fueled and iced up and continued our way back to Auburn. We went down a different way than we came up and I was very thankful for the long shady sections. The miles were ticking by pretty fast and we were back at the No Hands Bridge aid station for the last time.
We had just over 4 miles to go, but they were mostly uphill and all in the sun. I knew it was going to be tough, but we just kept moving forward.
The last few miles were pretty rough. We were both dirty, salty, sweaty messes, but we just kept on going. Even though we weren’t feeling our best, we still passed a number of people. We weren’t exactly sure how long the race was going to be (somewhere between 21 and 22), so we counted down to 21 and knew it had to be close after that. That last half mile seemed to go on forever. Finally we knew the finish was around the corner and we pushed it a little harder.
We crossed the finish together (again!) as 3rd and 4th place females (yay for small races!).
21.5 miles/4:13:57/11:47 avg pace/2533’ gain
As soon as we stopped I realized how warm it was and needed shade immediately. We grabbed some water and watermelon and cooled down for a minute. Eventually we found some shady grass where we just sat in for a while resting and cooling off.
As always, Inside Trails put on another great event. The course was great and marked well, and the volunteers were so amazing out there. They really make sure you are taken care of and I am so thankful for that.
It was a challenging, tough course and once again my body and legs were along for the ride. It took a little bit to warm up just like always, but after that my energy levels and legs felt great… the heat just took it’s toll towards the end. I also love that Jess has taken up trail running and I have a new friend to share these races with. I always feel so lucky to have so many great friends to run with, especially on the trails, and it’s been so fun getting to know her better over a couple long runs. I know we have a lot more trail adventures in store for us!