May 1, 2011

2011 Leona Divide 50 Mile Race Report

I don't normally post from my Iphone but since I'm at my kid's swim meet today with no Sunday paper, I'll indulge.

The 2011 Leona Divide 50 mile race was held yesterday with a record attendance of runners, good weather and great race support.  In her second year as race director, Keira Henninger has moved this once salty ultra classic into a made-for-all trail run replete with a 30k, 50k and (original) 50 mile distances.  Over 400 registered for the events, far overshadowing the 150ish that historically ran the 50 mile.

One of the best things about Leona Divide is the trail, which is  uniquely varied in terrain, elevation and temperature.  A blend of truck trail and single track (nearly all on the Pacific Crest Trail) moves like a snake through a constant mix of climbs, descents and rolling flats.  Temperatures started in the high 30s/low 40s and rose to the mid 70s.

My only gripe about the "new" Leona coarse is the added PCT section from miles 25 to 28 and 32 to 35.  Here runners must share a very narrow foot-wide trail along the side of a very steep slope while running in both directions (sometimes quite fast).  Don't get me wrong here.  I'm a big fan of single track trail, but not on a narrow two way section of a race the has ballooned in size and will probably continue to grow.  Slower runners are asked to stand aside for the faster runners which, given the very narrow and steep terrain, means stopping and leaning against a  grade some 20, 30 100? times for some of the back of the packers!  The old coarse had a similar problem but seemed manageable with fewer runners.

I went into Leona hoping to break 8 hours and if not then at least break my previous time of 8:15.  Just before the 6 am start we runners were entertained by the Jimmy Dean show to loosen us up.  Once underway I was feeling excitement and found my rhythm in the first 20 miles. But this was the first time for me running the new coarse.  Not a problem until I tried to gauge how far I had run.  When I hit Jimmy D's aid station around mile 25, the old turn around point, and found out I had another 5 miles to run to the new turn around, my excitement quickly turned to frustration.  Miles 25 to 35 was the new section and for me the most difficult. After the narrow single track, the course descends a long truck trail.

At one point after running alone for a good 10 mins and not seeing any trail markers I thought I was lost.  It was only seconds after I shouted several loud expletives that a runner rounded the corner.  Frustration turned, at least momentarily, to embarrassed relief. But as I continued down the long descent and then turned to make the long climb, I lost my sense of rhythm and doubt started to creep in. I reminded myself that these miles, 25 to 35, were usually the hardest for me in a 50. Too far from the start to feel good, and not far enough to feel the pull and adrenaline of the finish.  Knowledge is patience I reminded myself.

Once I made the climb I knew most of the remaining miles were rolling flats and a long descent. I got my rhythm and confidence back through most of this section and managed to pass several other runners.  I could feel the finish line by now which helped me stay on pace.  I rounded the last turn knowing my first goal was out of reach and not sure about my second goal. When I saw the clock I felt satisfied with a 5 minute PR for the course.  8 hours 10 minutes.

From excitement, frustration, relief, doubt, confidence all the way to satisfaction, Leona brought them all to me.  Just like a slice of life.  Another reason I like running ultras.

Keep it real runners!

12 comments:

Hone said...

Good to see you out there yesterday. Funny how my lowest point was right when you came around the corner. I was scared you had heard me and thought I was crazy. HA!

Rest up we have a tough race coming up in June.

Rachel said...

nice job and congrats on the course PR! bummer on the course changes, i hate out-and-backs on single track.

it's all about pace said...

way to press on! Nice PR too

Will said...

Correction to the results. I just checked the website (below) and learned that my finish was 2nd age group and 15th overall.

http://elementalrunning.com/live/

Ric Munoz said...

They corrected the results again, Will. You were 14th overall.

The initial version erroneously listed Kent Ryhorchuk as having finished 3rd in the 50 mile. The corrected version zapped Ryhorchuk out of the 50-mile finishers and moved his 6:37:03 into the 50-K finishers' list.

Will said...

Thanks Rick. I don't know what is going on with the results but I'll check back again in a week to see if they've changed again. Hone, what is said on the trail stays on the trail!

Chris Price said...

Solid run Will! Nice race report too, and I'm glad to hear you appreciate how good Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is. Don't get me wrong, I like PBR too, but it doesn't even compare.

Excited for SD100? I am!

Happy Training

Will said...

I"m looking forward to SD Chris, just like Bishop High 100k (two weeks) and Angeles Crest (July). I'm in survival mode right now.

Edegra said...

Very nice location keep it up...............

Anonymous said...

Would you recommend the Leona Divide 50 to someone who has NEVER ran an ultra? I want something challenging and with great views...what do you think? Thanks!

Will said...

yes, run leona. you will enjoy! beware of the 2 way single track though.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.