Last year, I ran the Leona Divide 50k with Sean as my first 50k. I had a few mishaps and DNFs at my next 2 50ks before finally finishing & PRing at Old West with Jenn & Vanessa.
At some point during the last few months, Sean & I decided that we couldn’t let the streak end and we needed to go back to Leona. But this time, Sean was going to run the 50 mile and I would run the 50k by myself.
After drinking $30 worth of juice & water the day before Old West and not having any issues, I figured I would try it again. I drank 3 Evolution Fresh juices, a bottle of GT’s Chia Kumbucha, a bottle of Blue Print Cashew Milk (my favorite) and a bunch of water, oh and a Sprinkles cupcake.
We drove up to Palmdale on Friday evening, eating on the way up so that we didn’t have to rush when we got to up to Palmdale. We wanted to get our gear out and then get some sleep. The race is about 30 minutes from Palmdale and starts at 6:00am.
We got a decent night’s sleep and then we were up at 4am getting ready and out the door by 4:40ish. I ate a container of Apple Walnut Oatmeal on the way there and drank a bit of water.
Once we got to the race, we headed over to get our bibs. The line for the 50 mile was super long, but there was no one waiting for the 50k so I was in and out super quick. We got a cute little bag with the Leona logo on it and a Patagonia tank, some people got black & some got red. I’m not sure what the difference was, but I got a red one and Sean got a black one.
We headed back to the car to put our stuff in the car and stay warm for a little while longer, unfortunately we waited a bit to long and when we got over to the Port-a-Potties there was a huge line. It was almost time for the race to start but we didn’t want to get out of line at that point. We ran into our friend Adrian and of course got a photo.
And then it was time to start. At 6am it was just getting light so there was no need for a headlamp. Sean & I started together but soon split up pretty soon after the start.
It was a little chilly as we started and there was a bit of wind. I felt good on the run up to the trail and did a nice run/walk up the hill. Once I got on the trail I followed this girl and guy for quite a while. We got to the first aid station 2.6 miles up and then turned right onto the PCT. I was still feeling good, it was a different experience than last year when I ran with Sean, because I was in a big pack of people.
We hiked & ran up the trail until we got to the top and then we were able to run down. It was unfortunate I was stuck in the pack because the peeps I was running behind were not really good at running downhill so instead of the 8/9 min pace I was hoping for, we were more in the 10:30/12 min pace, much slower than I would have liked.
It was a beautiful 2 or so mile downhill, there were a bunch of photographers and it was just a beautiful day!
We finally made it down to the 2nd aid station at Bouquet Canyon, where I filled my bottle with water and ate a ton of watermelon. I made the rookie mistake of not putting my tailwind/ultima combo in my bottle so by the time I reached mile 15 I was feeling sick from lack of calories.
Heading back up the hill, I walked a lot of it and surprisingly after having been in such a huge pack on the way down, I didn’t see anyone behind me on the way up for at least a mile or 2. At that point, 2 girls, one of which was Adrian’s girlfriend, totally powered up that hill like it was a bump in the road. I seriously felt like I was standing still compared to them lol.
I finally made it up to the top and was able to start running down. It was around this point that I was starting to feel a little weak, probably from not adding my tailwind into my bottle. It was such a nice run down, and so peaceful.
I made it up to the aid station again and filled up on more watermelon & some cutie oranges. This time I did add the tailwind/ultima combo to my bottle and then in a very short time I headed out for the next aid station.
When I got about a mile into this section, at the Leona Divide sign, I ran into Heather, @sloluckyruns. I gave her a hug and I was like how much longer to the aid station lol. I wasn’t in the best of places at this point.
I was mostly walking & trying to run a little. My tummy was not super happy, I ended up walking a lot of this section and cheering everyone on.
Finally this girl ran up on me, she was like I know you from Instagram and we introduced ourselves and then Amy, who was running her first 50k, passed me, but I was able to keep her in sight until we got down the hill.
I finally got to the downhill to San Fransquito Aid Station and man, did it feel like that was the longest downhill ever! I noticed that my heel was feeling like I had a blister forming by the time I got down to the aid station so when I got there I filled up my bottle, added tailwind & ultima, ate like 1/2 a watermelon and then sat down to clean out my shoes. I thought maybe that was the issue with my heel. I quickly got up and then headed up the hill.
Amy was with me as we headed up the hill and then next thing I knew she wasn’t there any more, oops. I found out later she stopped to dump out a little of the water in her camelbak because it was too heavy. I felt amazing as I powered up the hill, I was running on the downhills & a bit of the flats, and powering up the hills.
When I was hiking up the winner of the 50 miler passed me on the downhill and I remember saying, probably out loud that it meant he would finish before I did, and in fact that is what happened, I believe 4 50milers finished before I did.
Not long after that I saw Sean running towards me. I was able to get a few photos of him and congratulated him for running so strong and then we were off in different directions. This was probably around mile 25 for me.
I finally made it to the last aid station, Spunky Edison for the last time. At this point, I had been checking my Garmin to see how much time I had to beat my previous time at Leona and my new PR at Old West and by this point, I knew I had about 40 minutes to hit my PR time. I really quickly had my bottle filled with water & ice, ate a bunch of watermelon and then took off. It was 2.6 miles to the finish with a big final hill to climb.
By this point it was hot and I just needed to finish, I was so thirsty and hot during this section, but I had a goal and I needed to hit it.
Up and down I went, I hit the road and the girl told me that it was a little over a mile to the finish, I just kept moving and let me tell you that was the longest mile ever! But I finally was by the parked cars and then there was the turn and I was done! I had a 6 min PR off of Old West!
I run because I love it, it makes me happy and it’s brought so many amazing people into my life and most of the time I’m excited to have finished a race, but it’s not really life changing. This race, though, was a big deal on my ultra journey. I was so proud of myself for not only PRing but I finally was able to run and finish a 50k by myself.
As soon as I finished, I got my medal and Heather congratulated me. She waited for probably hours for me to finish to cheer me in. It was super sweet and so nice of her to do.
The medals were super cool, our friend Eric at Elevation Culture made them out of wood.
I waited for Sean to come in and chatted with this nice lady from Bishop, where some of Sean’s family has a Japanese restaurant. She and her daughter hiked the PCT a few years back and she was telling me about how they were doing the second section of the CDT this summer. It was really interesting.
We cheered everyone in and I got a few photos with Amy & Tam. They had subway sandwiches, chips, vegetarian chili & minestrone and some fruit for us after the race. I was starving after I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes.
And then Sean came in and had a course PR of 9:22:41! He was so excited and talking a mile a minute lol.
I love this race and I think we’ll probably be running it for years to come. If you are looking for a fun, well put on, challenging 30k, 50k or 50 mile race definitely check out Leona Divide!
Running Photos from Paksit Photos & Howie Stern Photography