Monday, April 21, 2008

Leona Divide 50M!

TIME: 8:51:45
PACE: 10:38 per mile

PLACE: 28th out of 148, 1st Masters, 5th girl
ASCENT: 9000 feet (my alt. came up with less)
BLISTERS: One small one on my toe

With highs in the Los Angeles area in the 90’s the prior weekend I wondered what that would mean for Leona Divide 50M. We were so lucky a cooling trend started leaving us to run in temperatures ranging from 45-65, perfect for us Oregonians. Not so happy were the Californians as they lined up dressed in coats, hats and gloves while we were comfortable in shorts and tank tops. I have to admit the first few miles were chilly with the fog and wind that blew pretty relentlessly on the hillside.

We started the race in the dark but since the first 13.4 miles were on a dirt road there was no need for any flashlights. The crowd consisted of about 175 runners and the only Oregonians we could identity were ourselves. Stacey (aka Forest Gump – self named), Steve, Susan and I were all looking forward to a tough day in the sun. My plan was to race Leona hard and spend it all. I created a pace chart with a finish time of 9:40 so I could plan my fuel adequately but I knew I should be able to run this course in under 9:30. My “A” goal was 9:15 which I felt would be big stretch but if I could buck it up and get tough I could do it. I had a consult with Scott who has run this race 7 times and once held the course record so he knows this race well. He gave me a great de-brief on the course and told me how to run it well, I felt ready, pumped and like had been on the course before.

The first 8.4 miles travel uphill on the dirt road which is not that steep and I was able to run about 90% of it in 3A. Since it was early I chose to take some power walk breaks and not spend to much on this first section. After we climb the first initial hill the road rolls along for a couple of miles then drops fast into the aid station. My plan was to run the down hills as hard and fast as I could from the beginning….no holding back. I arrived at the aid station about 1 minute under plan, quickly got more water and headed off for the next 5 mile stretch. We remained on this lovely dirt road that had zero rocks, was soft and sometimes had a thick layer of sand on the top. We continued to climb and the road got a bit steeper so I walked about 20% of the time. It wasn’t a grueling climb but more of a constant uphill. The wind was crazy at times and the sky was covered by a thin layer of clouds some low enough that it looked like fog. It got cold at times but not enough for me to want any more clothes. I was anxious to get on the other side of the ridge and out of the wind. Once we crested this climb it was a steady fast downhill for about 2.5 miles into the 13.4 mile mark and the end of the road section. I grabbed more water and a piece of banana just as Steve came into the aid station followed closely by Stacey! Stacey is using LD50M as a training run for Miwok 100K and is right on my tail along with Steve! Come on….I am racing, they are just running for fun.

We leave the road and hit the PCT trail. We will be on the PCT for the rest of the run until we climb back onto this road for the final 3.0 miles into the finish. This section of the PCT is awesome, not a rock in sight and the surface literally looks like it has been swept. It’s perfect, runnable and soft! This next section is a rolling wonderland all the way to the 20.3 mark. I ran every single step of this section and was feeling really strong pondering the rest of race, how hard should I push now, when do I turn in on, where are all the woman? As my mind wondered and we twisted and turned along the hillside I had several déjà vu’s of other southern CA races. The trail and scenery reminded me of the Miwok course, then the AC100M course and at times the SD100M course. It was a weird mind game at every corner knowing I was running LD50M but it seemed like I was somewhere else…..very strange but cool at the same time. The trail did get narrow in spots and if you were reckless and not paying attention one foot could be sliding down the hillside as mine did a couple of times. Fiddling with my fuel and not paying attention to my feet was not a good idea. My fueling plan was pretty simple, gels on the half hour, GU2O at the start and in my drop bags, Organic Food Bars cut in half every 2.0 hours, bananas and water from the aid stations. As I was coming into mile 20.3 aid station I knew we had a big climb coming and I was supposed to power walk it but as I got into it I felt comfortable running most of it. I forced myself to take walk breaks but with Forest Gump (Stacey) on my butt I wasn’t about to let up. If she is just doing a training run I better finish before her or I would have to stay in CA! I would not be able to live that down so I forged on fiercely. Once we crested the climb we again got to blast downhill on beautiful single track into the aid station. More water please? I was drinking a ton and taking an E-Cap every hour coupled with my 4X sodium gels, that’s a lot of salt for me. I felt super strong and really wanted to get to mile 28.0 so I ran very hard arriving at 28.0 now over 15 minutes ahead of my 9:40 pace chart. I felt no signs of fatigue and was stoked for the biggest climb of the day where I could push into threshold. As this point in the race Scott said I could start working hard.

I had a drop bag here with another bottle of GU2O, more gels and a red bull. I poured the Red Bull into one of the bottles, loaded more fuel in my pack, lubed up with bodyglide and off I went. No sign of Steve or Forest Gump but I knew they were close. At this point in the race I have passed only one girl and have seen no others. I am leap frogging a couple of men but really I am in a pocket all by myself, until now. I get my head in the moment and conjure up thoughts of toughness and brawn so I could ignite the fire for this climb. Again the trail was beautiful and at this point whatever we run to the mile 35 we run back so I knew I would be coming down this section later. I ran/walked but mostly ran this whole climb. In hindsight I could have pushed harder here and should have. I kept running into folks, passing them but these runners don’t make it easy which helps me keep my fire burning. I pop another gel, salt tab and chase them with my Red Bull. I played a bit of “trail poker” called a few bluffs, folded when necessary but had a blast busting up this section in less than one hour! This is where I see the front runners heading home and man these folks are moving! I count at least 4 woman and have no idea how many more are in front of me. Just as I was coming into the aid station there is a girl just ahead walking. I was running so a, “passing on the left” was just about to come out of my mouth when she breaks out into a run as we come into the aid station. I wasn’t in to much of rush as I got water and walked out while putting my lid back on. Just as I was approaching the checkout here she comes like we are on the track, blasting by me in a full sprint. The checkout folks said, “Wow, looks like we have a chase”. I giggle because I had no intention of breaking out in an unnecessary sprint. I run off right behind her and I can see she is working really hard. I decide to let her set the pace and tuck in close behind as we run this next section. For the next 12 miles we will be rolling along on the ridge and it’s not easy running as the rollers are big but short and reminded me of a dirt bike course. This is my worst type of terrain, I am not super efficient on this kind of trail but with my new found running partner my mind didn’t even notice the trail. This girl ran as hard as she could pulling me along as I refused to pass. I was enjoying this chase and her pace. I don’t however think she was enjoying me but I figured she could surrender at any time but she didn’t. Because she fought so hard I knew she wasn’t going to give up without a fight so when I decided it was time to make a move I better “PWC”….pass with conviction and for good. After about 35 minutes of this I decided she is too slow and pass, taking the downhill’s hard to propel me up the next roller into to the turn around and aid station at mile 35.5. She was close but I couldn’t see her anymore. Just as I was leaving the aid station she came roaring in, yelled her number out and left without even re-fueling. Hmphf………I best get moving. I forced her to work hard for 3+ miles and now this is payback. Fortunately Scott gave me instructions to “Let it rip” from here home, no holding back, push as hard as could. I got my mind out of the chase game and into finishing the last 15 miles which I knew I could run hard. I had plenty of body and was super motivated to not be passed. I was on my mission running home as Forest Gump is heading to the turn. On her training run only 6 minutes behind me was serious motivation to stay focused…..thanks Forest. I was so happy to be coming to the end of this ridge section and on to the lovely long downhill. I arrived at the aid station and guys at the entrance said, “I see you passed and it looks like for good”. I reply, “She’s not giving up easy”. I spend less than 20 seconds getting more water.

Four miles of perfect downhill running on awesome single track! I see Susan and she informs me I am 5th girl but I know there are at least 3 super close and none of the them are going to slow down. I also know that Stacey can run downhill so fast it’s scary so my position is not in the bag. Flying downhill in what feels like effortless speed with my feet barely touching down made me feel so incredibly alive. I relished every second of it. I figured I was doing about a 7:20 pace coming down passing a couple of men but mostly by myself listening to my music. I arrive at mile 42.6 where I have a drop bag. I ditch my pack and take only one bottle and three gels for the last 7.4 miles. I knew we had to climb back up the ridge and I remembered the trail. It was going to be a climb but not steep. The 3.5 miles up reminded me of the climb out of the horse corral at Miwok. It was so similar it was freaky. I was fairly strong here but walked about 30% of the time. My legs were feeling the run now but I shuffled up pretty good. The sun was heating the place up but we were near the end so I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t drink much at all on the climb but popped my last E-Cap, chased it with a espresso 100mg caffeine gel, yum! Cresting the hill and into the last aid station they say, “You are going to break 9”. “What, are you sure”, I ask? “Yep” he replies. I am crazed! I had my watch set to show me the lap time which I hit every time I come into an aid station. I didn’t have it toggled over to show total time……this was a good day! We had one mile of uphill then 2.5 fast down to the finish. The uphill was a run for me so not to much of an incline. The downhill was gloriously fast. I glanced behind me a couple of times to see if I had anyone barreling down on me but it was all clear. I sailed in the finish at 8:51 and first 40-49 year old. I haven’t seen any results yet but I think I finished pretty strong in the field. Glenda presented me with this great award, a t-shirt and a hug. I also get a free entry for the 2009 race! I ran down to the car to get my camera in hopes I could catch a picture of Forest but she was to quick coming in just under 9 hours. Steve and Susan both ran really strong races and all of us had a great day.

LD50M is a wonderful race. It has some hard long climbs and really fast relentless downhills. The single track is some of the best I have ever run on and the road section is nice and soft. Of course the volunteers were fun and helpful. I will be back! We were all pretty tired coming home on Sunday morning but everyone seems to have bounced back nicely overnight logging miles yesterday and today. This is a recovery week for me and then it's into Peak training for Bighorn.


  1. Holly cow, Milady! Did you just outran your plan by almost an hour? All this training...well, isn't it fun to rip results?? Congrats!

  2. Wow wow wow!!! It's so funny -- I don't know you at all but was really excited to hear how it went and have been checking. And I'm just so happy for you! You are speeeedy and a worker bee racer. Absolutely amazing.

  3. Awesome! What a great race! And a great report! You were way under your goal - including your A goal. Your strong training, focus, and talent are really showing. You are so motivating! Big congrats!

  4. Congrats on a great run. I have been following your blog and it was great to see you out there on course on Saturday. I had to laugh to myself because I felt like I was stalking you, since I saw you on Friday while I was out running and you and two girls were crossing the street...Anyways congrats on hitting your A goal and good training!

  5. Awesome race report! I was on the edge of my seat :] You could teach Kenny Rogers a few things about holding and folding for sure ;]

  6. Great race! Way to run smart..and fun! Congratulations on placing first masters and a free one next year; can't beat that :)

  7. I think you beat my pace at Boston :-) Great job!

  8. Big Horn should be very interesting for all of us Oregonians. I am looking forward to watching you rip the trail up.


  9. Rooster! Sweet running there; sub-9 at Leona is fast. You are quite the stud. Congrats on 1st Place Old Lady - an award you should definitely be very proud of.