The Leona Divide 50 mile trail race was a focus race leading up to the Western States 100 in late June. I wanted to do well as a litmus test of where my fitness was with two months to go. I caught a lift with Josh and Casey which turned an otherwise miserable drive pleasant as we bitched about The Man.
Taking place in the Angeles National Forest with almost 40 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, the LD 50 is a scenic and enjoyable course. With 8900 feet of elevation gain/loss, it wasn’t easy; however, the terrain made for easy footing making the entire course runnable. Not having to watch out for rocks or roots made a much larger difference than I expected as well. It was somewhat cold at the start and windy, but I found a way to keep warm, boom boom.
The first 11 miles or so were mostly uphill on fire roads. I felt pretty good and was shocked to reach the first aid station, mile 8.5, in about 1:07. This was ahead of schedule a bit, but I knew there was plenty of racing left. After hitting the single track of the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail, the grade leveled out and I enjoyed chatting a bit with some fellow runners. The aid stations averaged four to five miles apart and I felt I was able to keep a pretty accurate mental note of my pace throughout. I kept reaching them ahead of schedule and was building quite a buffer for my hopeful sub nine hour finish.
I almost gasped when I reached the aid station at the approximate half way point 3 hours 43 minutes into the race. “What the hell is going on here?” and “Did I stop my watch on accident?” kept running through my head but I tried to just focus on keeping the pace and staying up on calorie and fluid intake.
I pushed a bit harder after reaching the top of a tough climb around mile 34. It was a bit tough on this narrow downhill section being an out and back course as we had to dodge runners coming from the other direction. Trail courtesy here is mutual but usually it is easier for people going uphill to lean to the side a bit. One lady was pretty lost in here music and I couldn’t slow down and I almost knocked her down the ravine. From then on I started calling out “heads up” and avoided any catastrophes.
I slowed down quite a bit going uphill out of the mile 42 aid station. The spring in my legs was fading to a noodle, but eventually I got to the apex and only had about 2 steep downhill miles to the finish. I saw the runner that had been right behind me since about mile 38 gaining some ground just before the finish. I didn’t really care that much if he passed me. All the same though I sprinted it in and crossed the line in 7 hours 28 minutes. I was pretty wrecked, but elated to have beat my previous best 50 mile time by 2 hours 15 minutes. I placed in the top 10 our of 232 finishers too. Amazing how much better the beers and pizza tasted after having such a good race.
It was also great to see a bunch of California running friends there at Leona as well as the Las Vegas SMUT runners that made it down.