Sunday, May 1, 2011

Leona Divide 50 - Sweet, Sweet So Cal Trails

So after the recent disappointment at Zane Gray, I regrouped. Said my peace with a bad day and threw in in a basket - or at least I tried. Actually, I think that this year's Zane Gray will follow me until I can properly correct it (re: Zane Gray 2012). After being coaxed by Dave James and James Bonnett, I registered, and I also looked at the prize money as a good incentive for running a fast time. That's an odd thing to say because I don't run for the money, and in fact, most of the time I spent too much money to run (what can I say, I love short running shorts and turquoise shirts!). So, I entered into new territory - fearing that this would be some no-turning-back-point, but I still had a tad bit of level-headedness to me. The "prize" at the end of any ultra is an intimate between the mind and the body - a deep sense of accomplishment, so a bonus would be the allure of money. Would I always start running for money? Silliness. Regardless, I wanted to run - if nothing else to find the pure joy that I was lacking from Zane Gray.

Leona Divide is an excellent race put on by the amazing (and beautiful) Keira Henninger! She was very kind to let me in the race. The course is chalked with stunning, green, so-cal trails. Beautiful views and smooth trails - not the abject, sullen rockiness of Zane (which is also appealing to me). The hills at Leona can be relentless, but they are also forgiveable. Just the mid-semester escape I needed.

John and I drove up the day before, stopping not-so-briefly at Native Foods, my favorite vegan restaurant in Cali (thus far). We arrived at our ghetto hotel-motel-holiday-inn at 9pm the night before the race. That 4am wake up call was going to be rough!

4am, green smootie, and we are off to the races. A close behind was Dave James, James Bonnett, and Mike Carson. Those boys were ready to race. The Lake Hughes Community center was the perfect place to have race headquarters. It's nice to have a warm refuge on a cold morning. After a couple of funny words by Jimmy Dean Freeman (I distinctly remember something said about a and some nervous laughter with teammate James Bonnet, we were off!

The race was fun! Uphills, downhills, winnding trails and general craziness. I settled in as third woman with the talented Michelle Barton and Aliza LaPierre looming in the distance. At one point, I told myself, this would make me very happy. I could be third and feel real happy about myself. I was enjoying myself. At the 50K turnaround, Michelle turned around, indicating that she was doing the 50K, and Aliza and I carried on. At some point I was right behind Aliza, and well, I learned some stuff to use in future races. Consistency is key in ultras, and everything I do keeps re-affirming this - training, race, nutrition. She was consitent...running uphills at a light jog, light strides, and I thank her for showing me this.

At the half way point, we turned around. I was still close to Aliza, but I was fading fast. The uphill out of the aid station was beating me down, and I was worried. I was now in second, and I was seeing the fading of dollar signs - which, again, was an interesting thing to put in the mix, so I held on. Shortly after I gained most of my stride back, but I was still worried. I was running fast, on pace to break 8hrs and PR my 50 mile by 1hr 22mns. With the hope of seeing John once before rounding into the last 8 miles, I was invigorated. We exchanged words and bottles briefly, and I had a job to do...get home!

I ran strong with the anticipation of that long downhill to propel me to the finish. About .5 miles to the end, I noticed my window of sub 8hrs was fading fast, and I kicked it into high gear. The finish came up so quickly, and bam! 7:59. Sub 8, second lady. I was completly satisified with myself. Just what the dr. ordered!

(Photo Courtesy of Geoffrey Cordner)

After a big hug from an extatic RD, Keira, John gather our stuff, we had a quick bite to eat, discussed James Bonnett's return to running, and then we set off with the intent to meet Dave, James, and Mike back in Palms Springs at Native foods. What an excellent end to an excellent day.

When I reflect on that day, I can be critical - I can always improve, but there's no sense. In a way, Leona Divide 50 was a perfect race for me.