This race took place 5 days after my husband and I ran the Boston Marathon. For us, it wasn't a "race" it was about getting to spend some time with some amazing trail runners. We are a part of a Los Angeles based run club, RunMDR. However, there is a set group of us that have been bitten by the trail running bug. Other club members joke and ask "if we start running with you guys does it mean we have to sign up for a 50K as well?" This was our 2nd 50K we had signed up for and knew it was going to be another great run together.
I think we all had butterflies in our stomach the morning of the race. As road runners 26 miles seems like a daunting task, however today would include 5 miles on top of that.
I was pretty ecstatic that the race course ran on the Pacific Coast Trail. Having hiked some on the Appalachian Trail I was eager to set foot on the PCT.
My friends and I studied the course and made a mental note of all the aid stations (basically our buffets)
Aid Station #1 AKA Home Base Mile 2.8 (this would be the same one you revisit 2 more times)
Aid Station #2 Mile 8.6 (Turn Around)
Aid Station #3 AKA Home Base Mile 14.6
Aid Station #4 Mile 21.6 (Turn Around)
Aid Station #5 AKA Home Base Mile 29
The race began with a pretty steep climb up a very curvy road. We did our best to ascend it without using too much energy, we had a pretty long day a head of us. The course seemed like it would be a T shape, with the T at a 90 degree angle. We ran in on a trail that dead ended at an aid station 2.8 Miles from the start/finish. They had all sorts of goodies for us, Water, Gatorade, Coke, pb and J, and a dunking station for our hats and bandanas. After a pretty long stay we ventured off down the trail and into the only wooded section of the trail. It was amazing to watch the sunrise out of the valley and hear the birds quickly wake up.
As we made our way down to the 2nd aid station, the track became very narrow and made passing somewhat sketchy. The single track involved lots of traffic as we kept meeting up with 50 milers either going the same direction, but slower, or 50k'ers who were extremely fast and were already on their way back.
The 2nd aid station had one port-a-potty and made for a lengthy stop as we realized the next aid station we would encounter hosted no facilities. We wouldn't have another bathroom opportunity until Mile 21. The line was taking so long for the bathroom, I ended up running down the road a little ways, using my wilderness skills, I found a decent area to use as a bathroom. We stopped, ate, refueled, and took off.
The single track had some steep cliff sides but were sometimes protected by wooden stakes. During a steep turn my foot caught the side of one and onto the ground I belly flopped. Of course that stopped everyone around me pretty quickly. I instantly moved everything, broken? broken? broken? NOPE! Good! Let's move! I was covered in dust for the remainder of the race.
As we made it back to " Home Base" aka Aid station 3 we finally began feeling the heat. For the first time ever in a race, I refilled my Camel Back bladder to ensure I had enough water to make it through the next out and back. We stopped, refueled on chips, oranges, pb and J, and of course coke. We also dunked our hats and buffs to cool our bodies down. Temperatures were supposed to reach somewhere around 85-90 degrees that day.
Up to this point in the race I had felt decent, I guess as decent as one could feel having just finished the Boston Marathon 5 days prior. However I was starting to feel some aches and pains in my right knee. My team was setting a pretty quick pace (about a 10:45 average) and I did my best to keep my thoughts to myself on how I was feeling. I was the group cheerleader and I always made sure to sing happy songs and make my thoughts positive to keep our morale up.
This section seemed to last the longest, it was also the most nerve wracking. We saw/heard more falls on this section of single track and the cliff sides were more steep than the prior section. We began intercepting a lot of the 30K runners on their way back to the aid station. Unfortunately the first group of 30k'ers didn't seem like they wanted to share the path and we had to run up the sides of the cliff to avoid being trampled.
Funny enough, we hooked up behind a group of 4 or 5 other 50k'ers who were setting a pretty decent pace. We decided to follow and seemed to attract quite a bit of attention:
"Wow, look at the train" "you guys are truckin along!"
I began wanting to sing " this is the trail that never ends" ...we knew we had an aid station coming at mile 21 but it seemed like Forever! Every time we turned a corner we thought we would see the top of an aid station tent. We were also were keeping an eye out for Victor and Josh, the faster part of our group. We eventually found them as they were about a mile out of the aid station heading back. They said the climb out of aid station #4 is pretty killer and the heat was getting to them. They gave us a refreshing hope that we were close. As we climbed the last pass we could see the road below us and our friends waving frantically, we made it!
We had an amazing crew that met us at the San Fracisquito road aid station (#4) with rags that were frozen. It was a great. We spent about 20 minutes at this aid station. Knowing we had a pretty hot and exposed last 10 miles to retrace, ( and our last port a potty stop) we took our time and made sure we were ready to head back.
The last 10 miles were probably the most challenging of this race. There was a lot of run, walk, run, walk, and asking ourselves why we keep signing up for these of course the motto arose #Ineednewfriends lol, thanks Liz.
We had an idea of where we were and were thinking we had about a mile left to the last aid station, Home Base. However we rounded a corner and BOOM there was the amazing red tent. We cheered and clapped as we ran down the tiny hill to the the aid station. I think everyone heard us coming and the volunteers cheered with us. 2.8 Miles! That's all we had left!!!
One last pit stop and we were on our way to the finish.
As we made the turn off the trail and onto the road I began laughing and asked myself, why do I run road races again? That last mile seemed extremely painful. I tried running on the dirt shoulder as much as I could. We could hear the finish line as we rounded the last turn and decided to do our standard finish. With no one around us, we grabbed hands and ran through the finish line together. We started together, we raced together, and we were going to finish together!
This was a really nice race. Other than the few rude 30k'ers we had great interactions with people on the course. We also received lots of encouragement from different racers, "girl power! Go girls!". The volunteers were great too, I always make sure to thank them for being out here, not getting paid, on their day off to help.
If I could suggest anything that they could do to improve the race, it would be to add more bathroom facilities at the road aid stations. I know the "home base" aid station is up on the trail and that would be a HUGE feat to get one up there, but having more than one at aid station 2 and 4 would be great.
We all sat around the hotub at the hotel and let our feet and legs get some nice R and R. Of course the question was asked "What's our next race?" and the planning began.
Leona Divide Race Website
Thanks Juana, Amanda, and Liz for being amazing inspirations for me. I love running and racing with you guys!
Thanks Josh and Victor for being there for us at the finish. I have no idea how you guys can run those hills so fast. It's always so awesome to see you, in passing, on the course :)
and a HUGE thanks to our race crew, Jade and Jayne who spent their whole weekend with us and were the best and most amazing race crew we could have asked for!
Thanks for reading!
I'm passionate about running, fitness, nutrition and all things that make me and everyone else a better version of ourselves.