Thursday, April 24, 2008

Race Report: Leona Divide 50 miler

It had been 62 days since Tanya and I had run a race, so we were excited to get back on the trail. Running Leona Divide 2 years ago, I understood the challenge to be faced today. The course is very challenging with 9000 ft of elevation gain and loss. I remember trail conditions being good, but with climbs and the descents that are butt kickers.

I started the race with 3 goals.

1) Finish

2) Finish under 12 hours

3) No injuries or make my knee any worse

At 6am the clang of the saw blade started the field of runners off; a tradition at Leona Divide. The first 3 miles are climbing, this allowed Tanya and I see and talk to friends we hadn't seen in a while. Being a slow starter the early climb allowed me to walk a bit and warm my legs for the faster pace I would hopefully be able to maintain later in the run. The temperature was cool so I wore Moben sleeves, which work great. We walked and ran the early miles with our friend Kirk Fortini. After a restroom break I was separated from them and would not run with Tanya again until the turn around point.

As I reached the few flat sections of this 3 mile climb I was able to jog a bit. My legs felt really good. I kept saying to myself "today is going to be a good day". I caught Jen Griste and we chatted for a while. I had met Jen at the RR100. I then pushed ahead and ran into the EverReady Bunny's Jill Childers and Carmela Layson We chatted and ran together for a few miles. My body was settling as we pushed forward at a comfortable pace. Another goals was to cover five miles per hour; that is, for as long as I could. We spilt at the second aid station(13.4 miles) . Because I wore a Wasp pack (Ultimate direction) I was able to cruise through the early aid stations.

After this aid station the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) begins, the trail narrowed to single track and I was in my element. Running single track is probably what I enjoy most about trail running, man it makes me feel free and strong. I fell into a nice pace behind a group of 4 other runners, being tempted to pass I didn't. Instead I fell into their rhythm and conserved, plus the pace was moving at a 9:30 per mile clip. I was really feeling strong and that pace was good, plus I didn't want to use everything up.

By the next aid station that group had broken up. As I entered the 4th aid station(mile 24.5) I heard the voice of an angel call my name. I turned and it was Tanya, she had caught me. Then she handed me my Philadelphia Eagles hat, it had fallen off the back of my pack. She is always picking up after me (LOL). I gave her a kiss and a hug, but I was in the zone so I took off again. This was a long down hill section, with my knee feeling exceptionally well I pushed the pace a little. This was and an out and back section so I would have to climb back up this section.

Cruised into the 5th aid station (mile 28.o) drank 2 cups of coke, quickly filled my hydration bladder, and grabbed a bag of shot bloks. While leaving the aid station Deb Clem and Little Jet gave me a high five. Little Jet made me smile and I was off again, there was a long hard climb ahead of me. After crossing the road and starting up the trail, Jorge Pacheco came cruising towards me. We exchanged words and I refocused. While climbing the hill I saw a few runners ahead of me and my chase instinct kicked in.

The sun was out at this time but temperatures remained cool. A few times during this climb I felt my heart rate and breathing increase to much; I was pushing beyond my zone so I slowed a bit. I can say with confidence that I am becoming a much stronger hill climber.

Finally the top and aid station #6 (mile 32) which meant only 3.6 miles to the turn around. Then it would be time to bring it on home baby! While at the station Tanya came cruising in, she looked great, but she said she still wasn't feeling great. Again we hugged and I walked out knowing she would be alright.

By this time more and more runners were coming back from the out and back section. Seeing them gave me encouragement. But I have to say this was the toughest section of the day for me. The trail was narrow and with the other runners sharing the single track I had to step aside many times to allow them to pass as they came towards me. I walked a lot due to many turns and short climbs in this section.

Finally, it felt so good to make it to the turn around point, Tanya came in just a few minutes behind me. I filled my hydration bladder, joked with Dennis and took a picture with Tanya. We started out together, but she still wasn't herself so I pushed on knowing she would come around and most likely dust me on the last long climb. Running away from that station I felt a fresh breath of air. Glancing at my watch, I had fallen off my goal of 5 miles per hour; but I was sure I was going to break 12 hours possibly even 11 hours. I don't wear an iPod so I started singing to myself and aloud "Get up Stand up". Bob Marley is my favorite musical artist. I only stopped at the next aid station for 2 cups of coke and then headed downhill (4 miles) to Aid station #9.

When I made it to the bottom of the hill and to the aid station I did not see any runners in front or behind me. I topped my hydration bladder, I did not want to stop at the next aid station which would be the last. Grabbed more shot bloks and got out of there. As I crossed the stream, I heard volunteers cheering for another runner, someone was on my trail. I didn't want anyone to catch me on the climb. I was feeling good so I turned up the pace, but this is a long steep climb and I didn't want to burn out. About a mile into the climb, I looked over shoulder and saw a runner behind me about a 1/2 mile, turn it up again. Then ahead of me a runner appeared, Mark Chamley. We had been playing leap frog with each other all day. But seeing him he ignited my chase instinct again. I started running in intervals and knocking down the miles. Finally I made it to the top, and the last aid station, I didn't stop long.

One more climb of about a mile then 3 miles downhill to the finish. They had honey at the station so I gulped down some and was off, sub 11 hours was possible. I said "Peace" to the volunteers and was out. As I reached the last summit I took a picture of Lake Hugh's the promise land :). The legs were fatigued but still strong so I slowly picked up the pace and ran the final 3 miles. With less than 100 yards to go I caught Mark Chamley and Robert Baird I gave them each a pound(hand-shake). They didn't mind me passing them just before the finish line. I finished in 10:46:27 an new 50 mile PR.

I was able to meet all of my goals with a PR as a Bonus! I fell in the first chair I could find, then Mark and Robert finished. Mark gave me a little crap for passing him right at the finish but it was all good. I told him I had been trying to catch him since seeing him ahead of me on the long climb. I rested and watched others cross the finish. Tanya and Jimmy Fullerton they had teamed up to finish strong (10:56:43). They told me one more mile and they would have caught me! Tanya's garmin recorded 7:30's for her last 3 miles. Smokin'. We hung out and chatted, it was a great day spent with great people. Hey Jill, will I be at the SD100? I'm still thinking about it (LOL).



Reese said...

Great run, great finish. I enjoyed reading the report.

DawnB said...

thanks for sharing awesome job to you and tanyo. congratulations on a new 50 miler PR. outstanding.

Brian Mc said...

Well played on the run - a great time, and a great report.

I must try to get to the US sometime for a spot of running - the scenery and the running scene sound very good indeed.

There are about 5 americans running in this years West Highland Way Race ( in the UK (Scotland), more than any other year I believe.