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Western States preview: Kristen Klink: The race is the reward

By: Tessa Marguerite, Reporter/Page Designer
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Becoming an endurance athlete was never something Kristen Klink thought she could or would ever do. But this weekend, she will be competing among the 369 long distance runners in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.
Klink is a 43-year-old Auburn resident. She started running in May of 2010 when she and her mother ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k. 
“I had never run before in my life,” said Klink. 
But, to honor her mother’s friend who had past away from breast cancer, they found a couch to 5k program and entered the race. When Klink laced up a pair of neglected running shoes, she took her first steps on a journey that would carry her farther than she ever imagined.
“I kind of caught the bug,” Klink said. That “bug” traveled fast. The summer of 2010 Klink ran her first 10k and then a half marathon in November. In 2011 she completed her first marathon, and two years later finished her first ultramarathon, the Way Too Cool 50k.
As an Auburn native, Klink and her family have watched the Western States finishers pour into the Placer High track every year. When Klink’s name was announced as one of the raffle winners for this year’s run she was in disbelief. 
“I never even began to imagine that it might be me someday,” she said. 
Many local runners wait seven or more years before they are selected. This was Klink’s second attempt, and she said she feels fortunate to have won.
To be eligible to enter the raffle, runners must have previously finished in a qualifying run. Klink’s qualifying race was San Diego’s Cuyamaca 100k last October.
With the assistance of a running coach and training plan, Klink has been preparing for this weekend’s endurance run with focus and dedication. She runs an average of 50 miles during the week spread out between four or five days. Her cross-training includes yoga and strength training a couple times each week at Auburn CrossFit on Borland Avenue. Her training has led her along every mile of the Western States trail at various runs. 
“That doesn’t mean that I know it (the trail) well, but have been on it over the last six months,” Klink said.
Klink doesn’t have any specific rituals for good luck on race day. She just maintains her concentration and relies on the knowledge that she is adequately prepared and ready to tackle the trail. Klink’s mental state in the days leading up to the race has been packed with a variety of emotions. 
“It depends on the minute,” laughed Klink. “Excited, nervous, confident, terrified … every emotion.”
Klink doesn’t have a specific goal finish time, only to complete it in the allotted 30 hours.
She is grateful to her family and friends for supporting her through the challenging journey. “I’ve trained my hardest, done my best,” said Klink. “I put in a lot of work the race is my reward.”
Klink’s husband, Tony, is “pacing” her from Green Gate — 20 miles to the finish. This means he will be waiting for her to sprint down the trail and then run with her to the finish line at Placer High School. He said the first time they started running together his wife said she couldn’t run because it hurt her knees. 
“I’m super proud of her for following through,” he said. “From a person who can’t and doesn’t want to run to running 100 miles … it’s pretty damn amazing.”