Ten Hours, nineteen minutes. 10,500′ climbing. 15:28 pace. Forty miles.
I signed up for Leona Divide 50. I finished Leona Divide 40 with a 50K medal. This was my fifth 50 and my hardest to date, climbs to 4000′ and temps in the high 80s to low 90s. The race director (RD) , Keira Henninger, sent an email out to runners a couple of days before the race to make everyone aware of the heat and to offer several suggestions for key places in the race to load up on drinks and ice. The RD specifically mentioned miles 17 to 26 to load up on ice and water because it was a long, exposed climb.
Miles 0-17.8 My goal with this section was to run it as fast as I could comfortably go. This would be the coolest part of the day and I took advantage of it. The start was about 2 miles uphill on the road. Then, double track trail that fed to single track for the rest of the race. The race started at 6:00a. You did not need a light at the start. I ran hard and was WAY ahead of my projected pace/time by mile 17.8. I did need to slow down. The climbs were not too steep or technical. For me, they were challenging because of the altitude.
Miles 17.8-27 I was happy to reach aid station #3, Aqua Dolce, mile 17.8. The cutoff time was 11:30a. I arrived at 10:15a. I took a few minutes to put ice in my hat, in my bra and around my neck in an arm sleeve.
This section was tough. It was 5.5 miles uphill and about 3-ish miles down. It was exposed except for the occasional oasis of shade. There was a breeze that blew every once in a while to cool my ice soaked body. The top of this climb went to around 4K. The climb to the top and the run down from the top required me to breathe deeply. I unbuckled my vest on the climbs to get a full breath of air.
Miles 27-33 Mile 28 was aid station #4, Bouquet Canyon Rd. The cutoff time here was 1:45p. I arrived at 12:30p. Great volunteers! They were fun and helpful, making light of an insane day. I restocked ice in my hat/bra/arm sleeve. I took a brief, ICE COLD sponge bath, put on sunscreen and loaded up my bottles with electrolyte and water. I do not remember much about this section. It was part of an out/back. Just remember more running up and more running down. The trails were beautiful and runnable. The downhill was sweet.
Miles 33-40 Aid station #5, Spunky Edison. This is where the race got tough for me. I was not mentally prepared to patiently suffer. When I reached this aid station it was about 1:45p. The cutoff here was 2:30p. They were out of ice and they had one container of cold water remaining. The rest of the drinks were warm. I was not prepared, mentally. I wasn’t sure how to process this, and I started thinking about dropping to the 50K. I would still have to run back about 4 miles to the finish. I decided to move to the next aid station at mile 40, before making any decisions. It was an out/back. . . 7 out & 7 back, then 4 miles to the finish. THIS section was the toughest of the day because my body was hot. I was carrying 50 oz of water & electrolyte. I drank my electrolyte and one bottle of water. It was warm. (bleh)
There was plenty of runnable trail in this section, really ALL day the trail was runnable. My energy was low. My water was hot. I knew I needed to eat, especially if I was going to run back and finish 50. I started 1st on my sandwich, eating one tiny bite at a time. I chased it with a bit of hot water. I made it through 1/2 sandwich.
I occasionally confronted my desire to stop. . .
“Do your feet hurt?”
“Do your legs hurt?”
“Are you vomiting?”
“Are you eating/drinking?”
“Are you hot?” **KIDDING!! I was hot!**
No. No. No. Yes. Yes.
It was hard to stop thinking about the 7 miles back to the aid station that did not have ice or coke or cold drinks. I tried eating again. I did not really want to chew, so I slowly sipped 1/2 GU and followed it with more hot water.
I could see the aid station now at mile 40 (I could also see the trail back.) A very sweet, energetic lady came running up the trail to tell me that the aid station was waiting for me with ice and cold drinks. I started to cry. She couldn’t see the tears behind my sunglasses but she saw my mouth turn down and my lip quiver. I made it to the AS with time to spare. I hiked ALL 7 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I arrived at 4:30p. The cutoff was originally 4:30p, but it was extended to 4:50p.
It was too late. I decided a mile back that I was done suffering for the day. I gave up the fight. As soon as I walked into the AS, Sara asked me if I was okay. I said, “no, I’m done. I want to drop.” I think she could have convinced me or anyone could have helped to convince me to go on, but I could not convince myself. I got a ride to the start from a dad, crewing his daughter. I picked up my 50K medal and headed for my car.
Leona Divide: Why run?
- Fantastic Volunteers, very organized
- Sweet, runnable trails, not technical
- Easy to get to from LAX
- Awesome muscle (race) shirt!
- -NOT easy for this TN girl at the end of April. In some ways it was more challenging than Pine to Palm (P2P)
- -Hotter for longer, completely exposed all day in the sun
- -Minor elevation, up to 4K. The top of the climbs and the top of the downhill was hard. P2P was at the end of August. I trained all summer in the heat and humidity. This helped prepare me for the elevation at P2P.
- +I did a great job drinking. I knew with the heat and altitude that I needed to drink to avoid dehydration. I think, overall, I drank more than 2+ gallons in 10 hours.
- -Eating was worse than I thought. GOSH. I ate 1 zbar, 1 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwiches, two handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, one pack of GU watermelon chews. 4 mini peanut butter cups, some watermelon, 1/2 GU, ginger ale, and 4 mini ginger cookies.