My first 50 miler (!) and other than some long training runs, I really had no idea what to expect. But as prepared as I was going to be, we hopped in the car for the drive south to Lancaster, CA which was the nearest big (ha!) city to the race start.

We arrived on the day prior to the race and as soon as we checked into the hotel, I went to the packet pickup which seemed a lot more relaxed than what you would expect at an Ironman event.

It had a different feel about it.  Everyone was friendly and there was the absence of the “aggro” crowd which my nerves appreciated very much.

I wouldn’t say I was coming out of my skin but I was definitely a little anxious.   The pressure was off because it’s a different type of event for me but the internal pressure is always present no matter what I’m doing. 

I had fairly loose goals going in and I was certain I would be just another name in the middle of a long list of names in the results which helped.

Thinking about where I would finish, I felt like I would come in between 8-9 hours but the terrain would dictate the outcome more than anything.  I really hadn’t factored in the weather until the weather decided to play a factor. :)

On race morning, I believe one of the race personnel stated – “It will be hotter than a motherf*cker” out on the trails.  I believe “mothef*cker” comes after 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

98, 99, 100, motherf*cker. 

Actually, that’s a pretty good segue to the race start since nothing all that exciting happened prior.

Standing at the start with only minutes to go, I said my goodbyes to the Mrs, watched the clock countdown to zero and started my long day.

Leona Divide can be described as a series of ups and downs on fire roads, single track and from my point of view, as mostly an asphalt runner, some rugged terrain. 

It’s 50 miles of running so the thought of giving you the blow by blow is already causing me to yawn so I’ll try to minimize what is going to be a very long post anyway.

Zero. We're off!

My expectation was that I would be able to hold a 9 minute mile for quite some time before seeing that slowly chipped away by the elevation gains. 

I was wrong. 

My average from the start was closer to a 10 minute mile which really helped in shaping my expectations. 

Oh well, I thought.  And with it being really early in the race, there was zero desire to try and make something happen that would end up being a mistake.

Arriving at the top of the first ascent, my miles started going by quicker but then we started another ascent and that was pretty much the theme for the entire day.

Even though it was still early, it started warming up and running in what is a fairly exposed section of the course, I began to feel the heat.

I soon forgot about the heat as I topped out to some pretty amazing views.

I brought a camera along which I had gone back and forth about because I didn’t want to waste too much time taking photos but I wanted to capture the scenery.

It’s rare that I’m not in full on race mode so I decided to bring it along. I’m really glad I did because the views were some of the best I’ve seen. The camera really doesn’t do it justice -- you're just going to have to trust me.

For a good portion of the event, the landscape had a similar appearance but then there were sections of the course where things took on a different feel. 

I recall one area where I was running through a large collection of redwood trees, or at least I think they were redwoods, and the ground was littered with pine needles and football sized pine cones.  I had to stop. 

In fact, I had to stop several times throughout the day to snap pics but I figured it was allowing my HR to come down so it probably helped more than hindered.

After running under through some partially covered areas for quite some time, I eventually started to make the descent to the turn around. 

Down, down, down into the bowels of the Leona Divide I went. 

I saw racers ahead of me, making their way back up and some of them were walking. I figured I would be doing the same.

Fairly close to the bottom, I came across a woman, Erin, who had stopped at the side.  I asked if she needed anything and she said she was good.  She further added that she was just stretching to loosen up her IT band. 

As soon as I passed her, she began running and stayed within a few paces of me for the remainder of the descent.

At the turn around, she got in and out of the aid station quicker than I did but on my way up, we crossed paths again and started running together.

When the hill became too much for running, we started walking and chatting until we arrived at the top.  She said I was setting a good pace for her and I just laughed because I felt like she had painted a bull’s-eye on my back. 

After climbing out of the canyon from the turnaround, we started running again. She stayed with me for a bit but then I managed to move ahead of her. It wasn't long after that she was out of earshot.

This part of the course was a narrow, twisted trail through the forest which presented a few oh sh*t moments while negotiating a trail made for one with runners coming from the opposite direction.

Eventually coming out the other end, I was back to exposed trails and fire road and I was really starting to feel the heat.

Prior to the race, I had thought about how the race would unfold and I knew there would be a dark patch.  That point came along somewhere in the 30’s and in my moment of weakness, young Erin came blowing by me. 

She was never really too far behind but as my pace began to slow, she went bounding down the hill like a rabbit and there was nothing I could do about it.

As she went off into the distance, I thought about my situation.

"You're going down hill."

"There's no need to shuffle down when you can let gravity do the work."

And with that, I started moving a little faster.

It wasn't long after that I crossed 40 miles and I began the countdown. My head seemed to be in a better place now and I wasn't as hot as I'd been previously.

As the momentum started building, I felt energized.

Finishing the descent on this part of the course, I crossed the road, ran into the aid station, refueled and I was out quickly.

With only 8 miles remaining, I remembered there was an even number of miles for an ascent and descent. No problem, I thought but as I started the climb, I could feel the heat and my pace slowed to a walk.

No point in killing yourself, I thought and as I looked up the trail, I saw everyone walking the trail, including Erin.

Despite the majority being an ascent, I adopted a strategy of running the flats, no matter the length, and I noticed Erin was doing something similar.

This ascent was probably the most difficult part of the race for me, mainly because of the temperature. It was very exposed and the ground just seemed to radiate the heat.

Bodies were littering the trail at this point and there was a few people who decided to take shelter in the shade of whatever they could find.

Almost to the top, the trail started to flatten a bit and I began running again.

I'm almost there, I thought. And then someone shouted: "RATTLESNAKE!"

I stopped but I couldn't see it. I pushed my sunglasses to the top of my head and up the trail, in the middle of the path, was a rather large, ANGRY, rattlesnake. I would estimate its length to be about six feet and boy was it pissed. Coiled and rattling, it blocked our path and we had no way around it.

I started to throw sticks and rocks but nothing seemed to want to make him get out of the way.

As the crowd formed behind us, we thought about our options.

Off to the side, I noticed a very large tree branch. I grabbed it, hurled it at the snake but no such luck. Then a brave man grabbed the branch and started poking the snake. The snake retaliated by repeatedly striking the stick but the guy managed to push the snake over the side and down the hill far enough that we could escape.

As I scooted on by, I thanked the guy and I began running with my sunglasses on top of my head, keeping an eye out for more snakes.

My panic eased.

With only miles remaining and the last major ascent out of the way, I could smell the finish. I moved ahead with purpose and despite having covered 40-something miles, I felt ok.

I ran into the last aid station and they told me it was just a half mile to the top and then it's all down hill.

I still have energy at this point and I begin running. A few turns up the trail, away from the aid station, I see Erin off in the distance.

I catch her at the top of the hill and she's walking. As I run by, I motion that she needs to follow me and she does. We talk briefly but as we start the descent, I really let go.

We quickly gain momentum and we are flying! It wasn't a competition; it was just the two of us motivating each other to keep going.

We are literally freefalling down the hill. I hear the Garmin beep but I'm afraid to look because the descent is sketchy on my very tired legs.

The Garmin beeps again and I have to look --- 7:13 pace.

We are side by side, ripping down the hill and neither one wants to let the other down so we suffer through.

We hit a steep section and we both nearly wipe out but we manage to control the descent until we're through it and then we continue our freefall.

I start to crack ever so slightly and she opens up a few feet on me. I don't care because I'm just happy she's there to push me.

We finish the descent and enter the finish chute seconds apart. After crossing the finish, she immediately turns around and high fives me.

What an awesome way to finish the day! I'm sure we both would agree that are times would have been a little slower had we not crossed paths in the final miles.

50 Miles!!

Finish time: 8:38:47
22nd OA, 3rd AG

The goal was sub9 with a dream goal of getting as close to 8 hours as possible.

I'm super happy with my time and the results are shocking to me because I didn't even think I'd break into the top ten of my age group. That was just icing on the cake!


Some additional photos for your amusement...

I take my wife to all of the best hotels...

That's me...

Prior to the race, I grabbed some random stranger like he was my best friend while the Mrs. snapped a photo.  He was a very good sport...

As I prepared for the start, I definitely had that scared little boy look...

After the race, I was definitely feeling the weight of the day...

The consequences of wearing a visor on a sunny day...

Finally looking down, I notice that I am just absolutely filthy...

And my poor feet were definitely hurting...

But with great efforts come great rewards...

I would like to thank the race director and the volunteers for putting on a good show!

And with that, I will leave you with one interesting tidbit of information.  With an average cadence of 85, we calculated that my feet hit the ground this many times...

Next stop, Ironman CdA!