Sunday, May 29, 2016

Knoya Ridge Run recap

On Thursday, I completed my first trail race that involved a significant hill climb. I figure that is a pretty important part of my trainging for my 50 miler, since there is something like 12,000 feet or so of elevation gain and loss.

The Alaska Mountain Runners put on this race, Kal's Knoya Ridge Run. There are 3 choices of length, a 2.5k "Happy" trail with 1200 feet of elevation gain(mostly for the kids), the original 5.6k with 2900 feet of elevation gain, and the "full monty" 8.5k with 4300 feet of elevation gain. It climbs up a hill that I think is actually on military land, and they require you to get the military recreational access pass to participate. The sign up is only on race day, and they say they limit the long race to 100 people, but more than 100 people were signed up for it that day, including me.  The part of this it clearly says in the race information, but I didn't fully process? The listed distances are ONLY THE UPHILL PORTION. The finish line is at the top, and then you go back down on your own. So really, you go twice as far as the distance given.

This race had some interesting quirks. It is named after someone that apparently died climbing it, and they said they spread some of his ashes at the start line every year, so that he gets gradually carried up to the top on people's shoes. Also, there is a bit of a walk from the pre-race gathering area to the start line, on a single track trail through the woods. Some people felt the need to run this also, but I walked until I got to the start line, and the race actually started. I wanted to save my energy for the climb.

They tell you at the start to not come back down alone. The bottom half of the trail goes through the woods, and there is apparently a lot of bear activity in the area this year. I didn't see anything though. I came back down alone, because I didn't know anyone there, and my introverted self wasn't up to finding someone to run with on the way back down.

The bottom half of the course, the part through the woods, was rolling hills, climbing gradually upwards. As we got close to the treeline, though, the trail got steeper. There was one section about midway to the 5.6k finish that was particularly bad. It was very steep, with a lot of loose gravel just waiting to make you lose your footing. I heard someone call it "scree". I'm not a veteran enough trail runner to know if this is an official name. It was ok on the way up, but really scary on the way down. I was convinced I was going to slide all the way down and die.

Most of the course was single track, and so I often found myself in a line of people climbing slowly uphill. People were plenty polite if you wanted to pass them, though. Once you got up on top of the first little dome, and above the tree line, there was just little short cover plants, and lots of rocks. It was mostly uphill, but there were a couple places where the trail dipped back down for brief moments, giving your legs a rest, but then you had to make up that elevation loss in the next few minutes anyway.

When I started, I planned to do the entire thing. By the time I had gotten to the 5.6k finish, though, it had already been about an hour and 14 minutes or so, I was getting close to the cutoff time, and didn't know how far I had to go to reach the cutoff spot, and I was practically out of water, and didn't bring any fuel at all. That would be because I forgot to double the distance to include the trip down, lol.  I only had a 1.5L Camelbak with me, and it was sunny and HOT on the exposed sides of the domes. I decided to stop at the 5.6k finish. I'm pretty confident that if I had been better prepared, I could have gone the entire distance.

The views at the top were AMAZING.

(the 8.5k race continued up the hill to the left)

(looking over Anchorage and Cook Inlet)

They have not listed times yet on the website, and I have only seen a few photos online, none of which I happen to be in. I didn't stop to take any pictures on the way up, but I did take some at the top. (Really, I needed the break to catch my breath and assess before heading down).

The race info said the middle race was 5.6k (3.48 miles), but map my run put it at 4.11 miles. I decided to run all the way back to my car, not just to the start line, and my total distance was 8.5 miles round trip. By the time I got back to the car, I was STARVING and my Camelbak was dry. I was glad I didn't need as much water on the way down as I did on the way up.

My quads got quite the workout on this climb. But I remembered that climbing basically sucks to a certain extent, and then just keeps sucking about the same. As a matter of fact, really the first part of the climb hurt way more than the second half. By that time, my legs had warmed up, and it was just a matter of taking small steps, trying to remember to keep my glutes engaged to save my quads, and just continuing to put one foot in front of the other, and repeat. I can climb uphill without wearing myself out. I just can't do it fast.

One sort of funny thing happened. I was on my way down, and running easily but carefully, and people kept passing me, flying by. I started feeling bad because I wasn't running fast, sort of mentally berating myself for being such a slow runner. At one point, though, I passed some people that had started down before me, and they said something about my socks (I was wearing brightly striped compression socks), and said that earlier they had been trying to keep up with "that lady with the rainbow socks", lol. It was really nice to hear at that moment, when I was feeling bad about my pace, that someone else was trying to keep up with me.

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