Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Leona Divide 50K Race Recap

I ran the Leona Divide 50K a couple weeks ago (this isn't like the Old West Trails 50K recap where I was dragging my feet about writing the post because the race didn't go well, time has just gotten away from me and I am only now getting to it - the delay says NOTHING about my enjoyment on the course or my excitement to spread the word about the event itself). 

You'll have to keep reading to see what I have in my hand ;)

But, before I get to the race itself, I've gotta make sure everyone is on the same page. I mean, I am a wordy girl, so I've gotta tell you everything you'd ever possibly want to know in regards to this race, #AmIRightOrAmIRight?!


If you've been around my corner of the InterWebs for a while, you probably remember that I'm currently going to physical therapy to work on some hamstring/ abductor/ glute issues. The "strain" that caused my muscles to tense up and get "scared" happened in November but I didn't address it right away (do as I say, not as I do and SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION ASAP when your body tells you something is off!). I finally went to a sports medicine doctor in mid-March to make sure nothing was "too serious". At that point he took x-rays to rule out stress fractures and referred me to physical therapy, which I started at the end of March. I've been going twice a week, doing my stretches and exercises they've given me and I've really seen an improvement - WHOOO HOOO! I always try and get my PT's input on my runs/ races, so I was interested to see what she'd say about this race. At this point in my recovery I was still mostly walking my mileage, but the week of the race she cleared me for 1 mile walk, 1 mile jog intervals. To say I was excited would be an understatement.


With a green light from my PT, I was ready to tackle this next 50K. (Yes, I know I had just done the trail marathon a few weeks before and another 50K a month before that, but the 50K was what pushed me over the edge to get help and the marathon I wasn't technically cleared for running {I listened to my body and hiked the uphills and jogged the downhills}.) 

Before I go any further I should mention that Keira, the AMAZING race director for this race, comped me an entry for the event. I did a giveaway for a registration on my Instagram and, along with the winner, she also gifted ME an entry too! With that said, I hope you know I always gotta #KeepItReal and it will NOT impact my feedback of the race in any way.


Okay, now back to the race pre-race. Although the event is in Southern California, it was still about two and a half hours away from where we live. The original game plan was to drive up the morning of the race, but when I was chatting with one of my friends she offered her house up for the night before. She was 'only' about an hour and a half away from the race, so I took the opportunity to hang out with some of my favorite people and save an extra hour on race morning. Normally this is where I would post a picture from our slumber party, but I've been trying to be more intentional and engaged when I am with people, so the phone tends to stay put away, which means no photos. #SorryNotSorry

FYI: Driving in Southern California, especially in LA County, on a Friday is LESS THAN FUN...
A drive that should have taken me about an hour and a half took me close to two and a half...

Besides coloring, reading books and watching the Dodgers game, we ordered Chinese food and ate picnic style. (I got the Buddha's Delight - yummmmmy!) Because my friend knew the alarms would start early, she had her daughters hit the hay (i.e. move into her bedroom so they could watch the end of the game) around 9pm so I could start winding down for the evening. {Even though the phone stayed in my bag while we were hanging out, I was probably on it for an hour before I went to sleep, catching up on what was going on in the IG world. #ApparentlyScrollingIsMoreImportantThanSleep}

I never sleep great the night before a race (or EVER if I'm being completely honest), but I was still beyond grateful to have a home filled with love to attempt to get some shut eye in. As per usual, I was up before my alarms, which gave me plenty of time to check social {I guess I'm a bit addicted, huh?!), do my stretches and get ready before I had to hit the road.

Thankful the drive would "only" take 90 minutes

As I'm sure you could guess, traffic is MUCH BETTER at 3:30am than at 5:30pm {who woulda thunk it?!} so it was smooth sailing to the race. (As you may or may not know, I am TERRIBLE with directions, so I made sure the hubby helped me look at everything before I left Friday afternoon so I wouldn't have to stress come Saturday morning.) I got to the community club (where the starting/ finish line was located) around 5:15am, which was perfect because it gave me time to park, use the port-o-potty, check in, pick up my bib and grab my participant tee before the race was slated to start at 6am. 

It was a bit brisker than I was expecting, so I hunkered down in the car for a few minutes before heading to the start line. 

Why stand in the cold when you don't have to?!

The race was scheduled to start at 6am and the sun was set to rise at 6:13am. Thankfully there was enough light to not have to worry about fumbling around in the dark. (Side note: Dawn is actually my favorite time of the day.) The low light made for blurry pre-race pics {since I don't have a fancy iPhone}, but that's a #FirstWorldProblem if I've ever heard one ;)

Bigfoot, is that you?!

I did more stretching on a nearby picnic table (sure, I stretched when I woke up, but that was almost three hours prior, so I figured a little extra wouldn't be a bad thing) and got ready to run. As with all of Keira's races, it started exactly on time. The only bummer about this start was that because you are sort of in a neighborhood and it was early, it was a 'silent start'. Instead of the normal hoots and hollers when a race kicks off, this one was a lot of head nods and fist bumps. 

I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. The jacket and gloves
may have only stayed on for a short time, but at least I had them if I needed them.

The first mile or so is on a paved road. I'll be honest, I didn't do much research, so I didn't realize you were running on a road to meet the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). I mean, it makes sense, but, again, I just hadn't put much thought into it. 


While I was chugging uphill I heard my name. I turned and saw Missy coming up alongside me. You may not remember, but Missy hung with Brian and I while I tackled my first ultra marathon (Avalon 50-Miler) in 2019. I love seeing people I know at races. Even if we don't run together, it's still great that there are people who KNOW you out on the course.

Missy got the memo about the socks, but now about the open mouth smile ;)

If you remember, my physical therapist had "released" me to start doing 1 mile walk, 1 mile jog. Well, if you know much about ultra marathons, you know that they tend to be on the trails and they tend to be anything but flat. It would've been great to be able to run one mile and then walk one, but when you are on single track trails and get 'stuck' behind folks who are walking, it means you're gonna take a bit of a walk break yourself. I decided I would listen to my body (ALWAYS a smart idea) and try my best to hike the uphills while jogging the downhills. I knew sometimes that meant jogging or walking for more than a mile at a time, but I thought that as long as my body was happy, then I would be happy. 

The course was a T. We ran up the middle, turned to the right, ran out to the end, doubled back and went
 all the way across the "top of the T", then doubled back to go back down the middle "stick". I know some
 folks may not prefer out-and-back races, but I love being able to see other runners, cheer folks on, etc.

The course was STUNNING! I had never been to this part of Los Angeles before, but hopefully, now that I know it exists, I'll be able to come back sooner rather than later. Some of the flowers were blooming (whatever can survive in the environment along the PCT), the hills seemed alive (with the sound of music) and it was just plain gorgeous!

I might be in the minority, but I prefer a sunrise to a sunset. And this one was extra purrrrty!

I named this wee one "Crabby". I was thinking of taking my new friend with me, but wanted
the others runners and hikers to smile when they came across him too (if they even noticed).

COME ON NOW! Tell me this isn't an AMAZING way to start the day!

We might live in a desert that is almost always in a drought, but somehow the flowers still bloom!

There were only a few places where the trails were fairly technical,
most of the other terrain was very kind on our bodies and extremely runnable.

It was actually a bit chilly in the shade!

The hubby loves taking pictures of "dead trees", so I snapped these for him.

I was thinking as I was "running" this race that your perspective/ mentality is HUGE when it comes to running. #DUH Although I ended up finishing in longer time than at the 50K a few weeks earlier, I went in thinking I was going to be walking more than I did, so I was STOKED! Honestly, you couldn't wipe the silly grin off of my face for anything. 

I just like running. Running is my favorite.

As I mentioned, I'm currently working through an "injury" so I've found the best way to not have a pity party (whether I'm bumming about the pace I'm running or the distance I'm able to run) is to focus on something outside of myself. You may know, but I started a #3PieceChallenge a couple months back, where I pick up at least 3 pieces of litter on my walks/ runs. This gives me something to focus on that isn't my watch - not to mention it helps Mother Nature. Well, by the time I had gotten to the first aid station I already had two hands full of trash. I asked the AWESOME aid station volunteers if they happened to have an empty grocery bag or anything I could use to pick up more garbage along the course. One of the sweet angels actually dumped the sandwich rolls out of the plastic bag and offered it to me. IT WORKED PERFECTLY! (I didn't buy the professional photos, but you can see throughout the pictures that my sack of trash gets fuller and fuller ;))

I was technically taking a pictures of my PROBAR BOLT Chews,
but these are one of the only pictures I have of my bread bag too ;)

I took my chews every hour or so. And look how well they matched my outfit ;)

While I'm thinking of it, I need to give a HUGE THANKS to the volunteers! They often have a thankless job and races wouldn't run nearly as well or efficiently if they didn't give their time, energy and resources to help us runners out.

Not only did I appreciate ALL THE ENERGY, but I obviously also LOVED the commitment to the costumes!

I love meeting folks who follow me on social while out and about. Tracy was keeping track of the runners coming
in and out of one of the aid stations (and even had her pup helping... even if the doggy was eyeballin' me ;))

I also can't forget the people who marked the route. Like I mentioned, I am TERRIBLE with directions and there was not a single moment while I was on the course where I questioned if I was going the right away (it also helps that the race is along a very popular, well-traveled trail, but all of the flags and signs were much appreciated by a Nervous Ned like me ;))

Okay, okay, so this isn't the "signage" I was talking about, but amazing nonetheless!

Maybe one day I'll consider hiking the ENTIRE PCT, but, for now, this section was good enough ;)

How cool is it that there is a sign with previous winners of the race ON the PCT?!

Loved browsing the log book. I was thinking of signing it with my trail name, but decided against it.

Eventually it was time for me to make my way back to the start line (seeing as it was also the finish line) and call it a day - although I probably could've stayed out there a lot longer. I mean, we couldn't have ordered more perfect weather!

Left: Temps at the start | Right: Temps at the finish

Once I was closer to the finish, I "allowed" myself to pick up more bottles and heavier trash I came across. Glass can be heavy, it doesn't really smash down smaller and can break if it is bumping into other things while you're running. I made mental notes of things I saw on my way out and tried to grab everything on my way back. By the time of crossed the finish line my bread bag was overfloweth and I even had put glass beer bottles in my front pouches in my hydration vest ;)

Arrows added for emphasis ;)

Apparently I forgot to start my watch at the beginning of the race... Either I totally spaced or I thought I hit it and it had already "gone to sleep" so didn't actually start. OOPS! The deets on my watch are not accurate (I missed a couple of the first uphill miles), but seeing as I wasn't running for a fast time or "racing", it wasn't a big deal. With that said, the official stats had me at 7:17:08 for the 31ish miles. I also came in 60th overall, 15th female overall and 9th in my age group.

A friend commented on my IG post before I ran the race and said that this specific race was what got her hooked on ultra running - and I can TOTALLY see that happening! As always, Keira's races are AWESOMESAUCE and the course was STELLAR (and made me dislike LA a bit less ;)). I would ABSOLUTELY run this one again! #AlreadyPlanning2023


I mentioned it earlier, but I had been fueling with my PROBAR BOLT Chews on the course, which I totally love, but by the time I finished I was ready for something salty. I had packed peanut butter pretzel trail mix for the ride home and actually kept it in a cooler so it'd be nice and chilled (or at least not melted into a single pile of nut butter) for the ride home.

Obviously after all of the trash I picked up I needed to "wash" my hands before digging into my food ;)

Well, remember when I JUST said that the race made me dislike LA a bit less?! Let's just say the traffic did the exact opposite! We didn't have cell service at the race, so I didn't know how long Google Maps was saying it'd take me to get home, but once my maps loaded I was flabbergasted... The 2.5 hour drive was going to take me 4 hours... GRRRR!

This is my "I'm not thrilled" face... And, yes, I am sitting on plastic to prevent the seat from getting soggy with my sweat...

At least once I got home I jumped in the shower and had the hubby take me to "refuel" with my favorite chips and salsa ;)


All-in-all, this was an AWESOME event I'd absolutely consider doing again (and recommend all my friends join!). The only less-than-stellar part was the drive home and that isn't something to hold against the race (although, if Keira could request empty freeways next year or if I could find a sugar daddy to fly me to and from in a private jet I wouldn't be upset ;)). 


Would you rather have free race entries for life or free running shoes for life?

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