It is 4.15am and my alarm went off I woke up instantly like a deer in head lights! It was race day time to gear up and head out to do what would be a humbling 50 mile trail run.
The Leona Divide 50 was the brainchild of Bob Kimmerly who in late 1991 with his friends John Swallow and Don Hughes mapped out a 50 mile course through the beautiful Angeles National Forest near Lake Hughes. A portion of the race traveled the Leona Divide Truck Trail and passed through Leona Divide twice, hence the name. Losing his battle with cancer in January of 1992, Bob never saw his dream, but his family and friends made sure it became a reality in April of 1992. This year there was a 50km and 30km version too.
There was over 300 trail runners at Lake Hughes Community center come race morning, with only 3 bathrooms the queues were long! I very nearly missed the start of the race, an unusual sound could be heard to signal the race start and this was a saw blade which was help up high and then hit to make a ringing noise!
The race began; I was well wrapped up as the wind made it cold! Every time a gust of wind made its presence a huge cloud of dirt would greet my nostrils! It was going to be a long day for me but all I had to do was look through my Rudy Project glasses which today were not acting as a sun shield but as eye protection from the swirling dirt and the view of los Angeles National forest was amazing enough so to make me smile and forget about the gusty wind!
The first water stop was 8 miles and to my disappointment no porta potty, I refilled my fuel belt and said thanks to the volunteers and set off on another uphill after another water stop it became a steep single track descent and as I am like a fairy elephant on single track decided the best approach was to jog cautiously! By this time I pondered on where all the runners were! As there were sections on the Pacific Crest Trail when I was seeing no one!!
At the aid station number 3 the fun begins, this is mile 16 and on the return becomes mile 42, for the next four miles it is up hill, not too bad just long and did I say single track!! The view is unbelievable the colors I am processing breathe taking! Mother Nature is in her element up here!
Then fun happens as I am greeted with fun card board signs welcoming me to a tea party and am I ready to go down the bunny hole!! I truly had not expected this and the volunteers were dressed up as if at a Mad Hatters Tea Party! This is the turnaround for the 50km runners and a bail out for the 50 mile runners, it is very tempting to turn around but I set off down the bunny hole any way!
You would think that the worst of the climbing and descending was over but oh how wrong I was just as Alice in Wonderland, it was a swirling adventure before the real Nasty grade began I passed through an 80s aid station with pink Flamingoes looking lost in pine cones!! And volunteers dressed in psychedelic costumes and big hair! They were smiling and friendly I topped off my water and perpetuem only 5 miles more to the turnaround!
I began to feel nauseous, and my hands were beginning to swell, I decided to walk the next mile of single track rollers and get my body back into harmony, I took my endurolytes and ate a Hammer Bar, I knew how important it was to get some much needed fuel into my system I looked at my Polar Monitor I was wearing and instead of miles bleeping at me chuckled as I saw 3,000 calories depleted!! I know I cannot replenish all that but need to keep in taking small and often good calories.
It took about 15 minutes to get to feeling good again and the first 50 mile runner was on his way back!! And then suddenly after popping out into an open a space I was greeted by a volunteer telling me only 2.5 miles to the turnaround! To use my friends Paul description of this it is called sweet and fluffy on the descent and Nasty grade on the ascent! There are now many fellow trail runners in my vision 99% are walking up the Nasty Grade I smile at every one offering words of encouragement and before long turn the final corner of the long descent and start laughing there is a 6ft 2 in pink bunny looking at me holding a parrot!! I have to take a photo I am having a nice day!
The climb out of nasty grade was not too bad I used it to rehydrate and life was good for the return journey, I did lose a lot of time on the downhill single track of jagged rubble so many light footed gazelles passed me but I cheered everyone who went by! Soon I was back at aid station 3 now number 9 I had exactly 8 miles left woo hoo at this point it is all about the bling bling and finishing in under 13 hours!!
The next 5 miles are uphill single track and boy oh boy it is a long uphill rocky ascent, I kept seeing runners so far up in the sky line I stopped looking up! But before long I was on the 3 mile downhill fire road, I jogged down that road with a huge smile on my face I was so near the finish line I could hear people cheering I turned the final corner and saw Kiera with a finisher’s medal, I had finished in 10 hours and 55 minutes, I had battled my fear of single track downhill and today had won that battle!!
Huge thanks to Hammer Nutrition for Perpetuem and Hammer bars! My feet and body well protected with Brooks Cascadias and running apparel, Rudy Project for great eye wear, Kool N Fit was my lower back ache and pains, Ocean Potion for skin protection, Fuel Belt for their great hydration belts, Polar USA for monitoring my heart and my good friends Ray, Paul, Diana and Maria.
After the race I submerged myself into the Days Inn cold swimming pool and raised $500 towards the AVON Crusade against Breast Cancer of Puerto Rico for 2011.
The best times are when you can share with friends and I have some pretty amazing people that I call friends! I do not see them all the time but when we do and go to races together fun is just that!
And finally races things happen, I was so proud of my friend Paul who despite a lot of discomfort covered the 50 miles and finished.....his feet looked well ahem.. What a trooper!