Leona Divide was my first ultra back in 2015 when I ran the 50k with Sean. This race holds a special place in our hearts because of that. Sean ran his first ultra, the 50mile in 2013 & then I did the 50k 2 years later. You can read my past recaps here & here.
When Sean O’Brien was cancelled due to the fires last year, Sean was given the opportunity to run a special one time 100k race at Leona. He decided to take it and so I asked Keira if I could run the 50k at Leona vs the Verduga 50k in February. This was a good call since I wasn’t feeling well in February.
If you’ve read any of my other recent recaps you would know that I have run/walked a lot of races lately. I was planning to do the 50k up until the day before the race.
As we were driving up to Palmdale, where we would stay the night before, the thought of being out there doing the 50k started to feel like a really long day especially since I would need to drive us home to run Carlsbad that night.
So I started thinking that from a training perspective I should probably drop down to the 30k and see if I could run the majority of it. The idea started percolating in my head and it actually excited me.
So the next morning, I decided to officially drop down. I saw Sean off at 6am, went back to the car to drop off my extra clothes, chatted with my friend Missy for a few minutes and then we were off at 6:30a.
The first mile or so is a decent uphill on the road. It was still pretty chilly when we started, my legs felt really heavy along and my breathing needed to acclimate.
I ran/walked the road section, then walked the steep section on the trail. I didn’t go too fast on the downhill, we had a way to go at that point. It’s amazing how different the trails look when they are all green, it’s been 3 years since the last time I ran Leona & the first section seemed different.
But then we turned on to the PCT & it all came back. This section is really pretty and since we were doing the 30k relatively early in the day, there was still a lot of shade. I kept my long sleeve on for the majority of the race until the last few miles when it got really warm.
I ran/walked the first section, my legs were still feeling heavy, it probably took about 4-5 miles for them to loosen up. I met a lady named Summer from Pine Valley & another lady named Michelle, who was an absolute beast on the uphill, she was from nearby & had run this section not too long before. We ran together for a bit until Michelle left us in the dust.
We finally made it to the final downhill into the San Fransquito aid station which is the turn around. I had on my dirtbag runners hat, which I really liked & my sunglasses and apparently my head was steaming lol. I wish I had gotten a photo! I refilled my water, had a few oranges & then headed up the hill. I saw Summer up ahead and tried to catch up. I eventually caught her just as Rob Krar came flying down the hill. It was really funny because everyone who passed us for a bit was like did you see Rob Krar?
As we made our way up the hill, Michelle caught up with us towards the top, Rob also caught up with us right as we made it to the top. Haha.
At this point, I started running and I ended up passing Summer and doing my own thing. Michelle was so strong on the uphills, some of which I ran, some that I walked that I could see her in the distance but didn’t catch her until right before the final aid station.
This year, there was an actual waterfall on the course, you can’t really see it in my photo but there was running water. I’ve never seen anything like it on this course because it’s almost always super dry.
She ended up leaving first but I passed her again, I was feeling pretty good and we only had a few miles left. At this point I was pretty much by myself. I saw Uly from Paksit Photos as I was climbing up the hill & then another one of his photographers just as I was heading down the last section of trail.
It was actually really funny because I was smiling for the photos and then a bug hit my lip & I think I ended up swallowing it. I was still smiling but after I passed her I spit and she was like did you swallow a bug, yep, I did, lol.
I hit the road & started the descent to the finish line. This road section felt so much longer than it did when we climbed up. I passed one lady and was just concentrating on not getting hit by cars, there was one SUV that the lady did not car we were on the road, she literally did not move one inch from her path to accommodate me, not cool.
I made a turn and then I started to hear footsteps behind me. I just concentrated on continuing to move, I remember saying to myself, don’t look back, don’t look back, just keep moving forward. And I did. Finally after what felt like forever, Jesse Haynes & another guy passed me and flew down the hill.
It wasn’t too much longer & then I was making the turn into the finish line. I finished around 4:10 with 19.65miles on my Garmin. I was pretty happy, that was probably one of the best avg pace trail runs I’ve had in a long while. While not super fast, it was a solid run that I felt really good on and that was a success.
I finished, got some snacks, they had veggie subway sandwiches & chips. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with Missy and some of our other friends watching the rest of the runners come in.
Once Sean came in, having a solid race and finishing before dark. I collected his drop bags and we high tailed it out of there because we were going to run Carlsbad 5000 the next day.
Leona is one of our favs & we will definitely be back. As always Keira Henninger & her crew does an amazing job.
**Running photos are from Paksit Photos. All other photos are my own.**