Without a doubt, this was my favorite 50K. After a less than stellar training run the week prior, I scoured ultrarunning.com for an upcoming trail race so that I could get in a solid weekend of running. When I spotted Leona Divide on the calendar for April 28th, I mentioned it to my fiance and told him how awesome the t-shirt was; he has been eyeing Ink N Burn gear for weeks and I thought that might be the bait he would take for completing a trail ultra. Obviously, it worked and I happily signed up at the last hour for us to do the race I had wanted to do for years but never had the chance to attempt.
I briefly glanced at the elevation profile and noted that it was easier than other trail 50Ks, which reassured Alan that it was a good idea to do it as his first ultra. Considering his longest race had been a half marathon, I wanted him to feel confident in being able to complete the race; he has been training hard and completed several runs of 24+ miles on flat surfaces so the climbs were the only questionable part of the race.
We decided to drive up the day prior and got dinner at Sharky's, one of our favorite places because they serve primarily organic food at reasonable prices. We enjoyed eating with one of our friends before retiring to the Holiday Inn in Palmdale; the parking lot was full of cars with "100" stickers and I gawked at one with a Badwater sticker and briefly went to lalala dream land over the thought of completing Badwater. The entire week leading up to the week I battled insomnia and that night was no exception. When the alarm went off, all I could think about was running and being able to sleep. When we arrived at Lake Hughes, we realized how chilly and windy the start would be. We checked in and admired the schwag; Keira puts on a phenomenal race and the goodie bag was just the beginning.
I decided to use the run as a test of gear. I went with my CW-X Pro 3/4 tights and settled on wearing Skins compression stirups (ones I've worn for years) in hopes of preventing the swelling caused by the tights the previous week. It took me several attempts of putting on the stirups to finally get them comfy and in a way that covered my socks since we forgot our gaiters. Right before the start, we ran into my running buddy Lori and I was happy to start the race with her; I ran my first trail run/race with her and Billy in 2008 and I loved having the chance to catch up since our crazy lives have prevented running together/hanging out in a couple of years.
We started off comfortably because I did not want Alan to go out too fast; however, later I realized a comfortable, conversational pace for Lori and me may have been a little fast for Alan as it meant running more uphill than Alan is trained to do. We cruised along enjoying the sights and rocking the rolling hills. Very early I could tell that Keira, the RD, did an excellent job with course markings and had fabulous volunteers helping out at aid stations (and check in/finish line).
The first several miles were on fireroad and I loved when we hit the single track of the PCT; I had forgotten how narrow the single track was and many times I caught myself nearly sliding off the edge. I thought ahead to when we would see the return runners (out/back section) and wondered there would be enough room to let them by...Alan slowed up a little on the section leading into mile 16 so we parted ways with Lori. That was probably a good thing since I noted that we were on pace for a 6:30 finishing time, a little faster than Alan desired.
The climb from mile 18 to about 22 was long but not steep; however, it was enough to cause us to slow down. Alan started struggling during and after the climb but knew he would finish. There was another climb around mile 25 and Alan started to cramp; I told him to take a couple of salt pills (it was getting warm) and thankfully they resolved the cramping. We slowed even more, which was hard for me because my legs felt fresh and I wanted to run since running made my knee feel better. Yet, I reminded myself that the point was to finish with Alan and for him to feel good at the end. Miles 28 to the end were a gentle downhill combined with flat sections and I worked on pushing Alan to get to the finish; I tried to remember how I felt during the last few miles of my first ultra and realized how awesome of a job he was doing.
There is nothing quite like hearing "I love you" at mile 29! We held hands and crossed the finish line beaming with pride; finishing time was 7:35 (awesome time for Alan's first, especially since he never runs trails!). Alan was so happy to be an ultrarunner and I was so proud of him; he went from being a half marathoner to an ultramarathoner in only a few months and was able to walk easily after the race (big plus). We loved the medals and post-race food spread; Alan is already talking about wanting to do all of Keira's races.
The following day I tested out my legs by going for a 13 mile easy trail run. Alan did the smart thing and rested his legs but reported that he felt good enough to run. There is nothing quite as cool as sharing your passion with your (soon-to-be) spouse and seeing him walk around for days beaming with pride over completing an ultra!