The best part about races and even going for a run in general is that each experience is unique and you learn how to roll with the punches to keep it fun. From the off I knew this race was going to be a bit of a slugfest. There was no Hal, making our ribs hurt with some early morning anecdotes, no cold river crossings to wipe the early morning crust from our eyes. The race was on and after a hard run 2 weeks ago at Lake Sonoma 50 I was back on the trail again to battle it out with another hungry platoon of talent, this time in sunny Southern California at the Leona Divide 50 mile run.
With the first miles quickly moving by, I knew my legs were not going to be extremely helpful and this one was going to take me deep. I wanted to stay with the leaders, but once we were hitting sub 6-minute miles, I was hoping the pace would eventually die down a wee bit. Dylan, Jorge and Jason had other plans and were going hard from the beginning. They all had amazing/gutsy runs and hopefully feel very satisfied with what they put down Saturday.
Photo by: Jayme Burtis
Many things were going through my mind the days leading to the race. Was I crazy for racing so soon? Do I want to broadcast my past to the world? I decided to do both! I wrote an article for Irunfar, giving readers a glimpse of the last 10 years of my life and how I have transformed. The article, My Path to Contentment: From Addict to Awakened Ultrarunner, was a little unnerving to put out and see how people would react. I was blown away by the response to my piece and am humbled by many heart-felt words I received. I can’t express enough, how grateful I am for all of your responses. Thank you for sharing your own stories with me. It’s scary to put your story out in the world, but to see how that can inspire people and help them through struggles of their own is very rewarding. Thank you for reaching out to me and showering me with kind words. Spending hours last Saturday to digest all that happened was the perfect way to absorb it and just relax as I ran wild and free at Leona Divide.
Cruising way under course record pace we rolled up to the 3rd Aid station (mile 16.4). This was the first time I would see my amazing crew consisting of my wife Krista who has a little help from our baby kicking away every time I came rolling through. Seeing Krista and soon our son fills my spirit up, as my bottle and pockets are topped off with water and goo. The front pack had 30 seconds on me, but a climb was coming and I knew I could grunt my way up to the top and hopefully not fall behind much more. The PCT single track was in excellent condition and the views of the surrounding fluorescent greenery were ideal for this epic run.
Photo by: Stephanie Deveau
I caught a few people on the climb to the top, but as the climb flattened out and we started rolling on a modest incline to the halfway point, Jason, Dylan and Jorge kept creeping away from me. I was trying hard to keep up with them, but after a while I could not see them any more and my tired legs were not giving me much to work with. I knew I could snap out of this low, so I reminded myself to be patient and not let them get too “out of reach”.
It’s always fun to see friends out on the course and at mile 24 Jimmy and Kate with an ensemble of jazzercising 80’s clad coyotes gave me the perfect pep I needed to remember how much fun ultra running is. They were getting their groove on as I was rolling into one of my own.
Photo by: Jayme Burtis
I hit the 25-mile mark on my watch around 3:08, which felt comfortable enough, and with enough juice to finish I was hoping I could punch out a fairly even split. Those crushing miles down to the turn around at mile 29 hurt, but it was encouraging to see the leader (Jason Wolfe) only had about 8 or so minute lead and the other 2 were only 6 and 5 minutes ahead respectively. I kissed my wife who had a fresh bottle for me, thanked the great Aid Station crew and was on my way.
Feeling a little animal like inside, I knew I was ready for a good battle to the finish! I haven’t had the best of luck catching people in races once they get too far ahead. Two weeks ago at Sonoma, Dakota gaped me and instead of hunting him down I sort of relaxed and settled for 2nd. This day I felt like seeing what I could do. If I could push myself a little further and grow so I am able to bring some fire to Western States in June.
Photo by: Jayme Burtis
I growled, grunted and grinned as I retraced my steps back through the PCT. It wasn’t my best climb, but I was happy with my effort and as we hit the next 10 or so miles of a casual down slope I let it rip. Jesse Haynes saw me approaching mile 38 and said I had smoke coming out my nostrils; I believe him! The trail turned into a meditative trance, my eyes were locked into this flying rolling rhythm. I was focused, only on my next step, attentively listening to my body, miles ticking and my heart thumping. These miles zoomed by. Next thing I knew I was locking eyes with my wife again at mile 42.6. She told me Debow was in the lead by 7 minutes and the other two were only 3 minutes ahead. She yelled to go hard, I thought, why not?!
Photo by: Stephanie Deveau
I pushed up those miles hard, between roars of effort and telling myself to believe in the impossible, I finally caught a glimpse of Jason a few switchbacks up. Still a minute or more ahead, but I realized the day was not done yet and I might as well give that hill some hell.
I’ve never had to work so hard at the end of a race. I knew this is something I need to improve on and I thought today would be a good day to really dig deep. I knew 1st was out of question with Dylan’s amazing performance, but I was going to battle it out for a podium spot. I ran the last few miles the day before and knew I could run hard up the couple tiny climbs and bomb down as hard as possible. I caught Jorge on the first climb up and told him to keep running strong. I could feel that this gave him a little juice and I was hoping he would not blast past me to the finish. Shortly after we caught Jason and all 3 of us linked together and started the decent.
Almost home! Photo by: Jayme Burtis
I was tired, but I still felt this primal instinct inside to let it all out. I think I let out a few growls and grunts and then I busted loose. I’ve never let my body dance so free, I figured it would be one hell of a kick or I would be road kill in moments. I sprinted down those last miles, not saving anything. I glanced at my watch, which was saying I was running a 5:20ish mile, I felt good. Arriving at the last turn to the finish, I knew 2nd was mine with a time of 6:07:34! I negative split the course and felt really strong and happy with how the day played out.
I’m really stoked for Pearl iZUMi teammates Ashley Nordell and Dylan, along with Heather Fuhr and Jorge’s golden ticket’s to the Big Dance at Western States. The field gets stronger and stronger and I look forward to being apart of one epic 100 mile run come June 23rd.
Team photo with jerseys, I’m sporting the Pearl Izumi “Fur”. Breathable, porous, and layers well. Quote from Rod Bein
I’m not too beat up after the race and am back running again. Good thing because this crazy guy is racing again next weekend at the Ice Age 50 miler in Wisconsin on May 12th. Good thing my recovery is top notch with the help of First Endurance Ultragen recovery drink, Vespa Amino-Acid supplement and plenty of massage.
A HUGE THANK YOU to RD Keira Henninger and her amazing volunteers who made the day so much fun! Leona Divide is a beautiful course and race that I hope to run again soon!
Links for Race
- Race Results
- Watch splits
- Pearl iZUMi kicks used
- Vespa Power products (I take before race and every 1.5hrs, helps metabolize fat and is amazing for recovery too)
- First Endurance Ultragen recovery drink
- First Endurance – NEW Kona Moca Liquid Shot (around 100 cal ph)
- Saltstick (2 an hour)
- Spent the next few days doing lots of self massage and some sauna sessions to massage and stretch.
- Also have been eating tons of veggies and making green smoothies to keep the body healing and full of potent nutrition