The Three Musketeers Do The Leona Divide 50-Miler

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Well, last weekend our own 3 Musketeers--Art, Donn and Mieko did a very grueling 50-miler--The Leona Divide. In Donn's own words, this is how the event went down:

About a couple hundred runners lined up at Lake Hughes on Saturday, April 17th for the start of the 2010 Leona Divide 50 Mile Endurance Run. Leona Divide is a popular race with the SoCal ultra-running crowd. It is a challenging race with nice views, tough climbs and great single-track trails. Many runners use this race as a prep for the summer 100 milers or to simply challenge themselves at the 50 mile distance. Fellow TRC runners Mieko and Art were also in the race. In addition to the 50 mile race, there was a 50K option for 55 and older runners. (Actually, once the race started, anyone could take the 50K option if they were having a bad running day.)

A good portion of the course is on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The balance is on dirt roads. The weather turned out to be pretty good for running, with temperatures in the low 70’s.

I had run the race the last couple of years, and I was familiar with most of the course. This year the new race director added a new section of the PCT to the course, and we were all anxious to run on it. When the race started at 6:00 am, I ran very conservatively because I knew it was going to be a long day. I jogged along, chatting with some of my friends in the race. The views from the dirt roads were quite nice, because everything was green. After about 10 miles or so, we switched from dirt road to the PCT. The PCT in this area is great for running—nice smooth trails with a few rocks here and there.

I caught up to Mieko around mile 23. She looked strong. After stopping at a lively aid station at mile 23.7, we ran through the new single-track section. It's a beautiful trail on a slight incline winding through the forest. After a few miles on trail, we came to a 2.5 mile downhill on a fire road to the turnaround. Mieko is fast on the downhills, and she left me in the dust. About a mile from the turnaround, I saw Art coming in the opposite direction. He was about 30 minutes ahead of me, and looked really good.

I caught up with Mieko again at the turnaround (mile 29.5) and after re-fueling, started the long climb back up. I moved slightly ahead of her on the climb. This section was not fun, but I knew that at the top we would be rewarded with a gentle downhill on single-track. Once I got back on the single-track, I ran pretty decently for the next 10 miles.

I pulled into the mile 42.6 aid station feeling pretty good and I had over two hours to complete the last 7.5 miles. However, I knew that a long 3.5 mile climb was ahead. The climb is not too steep, but since it comes late in the race, it feels really tough. On this climb I started having stomach issues. I couldn't eat anything without nausea. The only thing that I could do was suck on ginger candy. It gave me just enough energy to keep going. I got to the last aid station (mile 46.1) with one hour remaining before the 13 hour finish cutoff. I knew from previous experience that this was enough time for me to cover the 1 mile uphill and 3 miles downhill to the finish. I didn't see Mieko, but I figured she was close behind.

I walked and jogged the dirt road, joining a couple of friends, Linda and Randy along the way. We arrived at the finish at 12:48.

I saw Art at the finish area. He had finished the race in 12:05, an excellent time on a tough course. He looked like he could run another 50 miles. Mieko arrived about 50 minutes after I did, in the dark. She had experienced really bad stomach problems and could not keep any food down. She also did not have a flashlight. But she toughed it out, and made it to the finish line. A great job!

Leona Divide is a good tough race with lots of great trails. It's well worth a try!