Leona Divide 31K

Yesterday was the second running of the Leona Divide 30K – which is actually 19.2 miles, or 31K…. I did not realize this till yesterday, that it is only the second time they have had the 30K race…. so I guess I am a legacy runner!

I got to the visitor center in Green Valley around 5am, in the dark to get ready. I found a number of other HDR runners there: Matthew Beirowicz, Toke Jensen, Janet Dempsey, David Weary, Krysti Ruble, Kathy Diorio, Cindy Hendrix, Kyra Sundance, Lee Arvidson and Michelle Arvidson. Matthew and Michelle were doing the 50K, the rest of us were signed up for the 30. The forecast called for temperatures rising into the 80s so I was glad I had not signed up for anything longer.

Last year I remember starting cautiously as there is a 2.6 mile hill climbing up Spunky Canyon road and continuing on Spunky Edison road until you get to the Pacific Crest Trail. This time I wanted to remain cautious on the first climb. As the race started I took off at what I felt was a cautious pace. Within a couple of curves I could tell I was running in about 10th place. Toke, the  younger HDR runner who beat me at the Valencia Trail race was no where to be seen. After a short while I heard this voice say, “Dale!” It was Toke going by.  By the time we got to the dirt I saw him going over the top of the first climb and then he was gone.

Once we turned onto the trail there were two guys who came up behind me and I let them go. Otherwise I was running pretty much on my own. If a inward curve of the hill allowed, I would see far ahead and I did catch a glimpse of Toke way out there, and the other two guys. I noted a couple more guys and a young lady in blue not far behind me. As we started the last climb before San Francisquito the two guys went by.

A long while before reaching the top of the climb I saw the lead guy go by. Much closer to the top #2 and #3 went by. Heading down to San Fran guys #4 and #5 passed. Next was a couple, guy #6 and girl #1, followed shortly by girls #2 and #3.  Next was Toke running in 10th place, maybe a half mile from the bottom.

When I got to the aide station at San Francisquito I noted that there were several runners stopped there, the ones who had passed me on the trail. I grabbed a gel as someone refilled my bottle and within 15s I was heading back on the trail, passing the others in the station. I think I saw 1:32 on my clock making the transition, but on the download it looks like my half way split was 1:31:33.

Not long after leaving the aide station, two guys caught and passed me again.

Heading up the hill I spotted the incoming HDR runners. Krysti, the Kathy, then David, then Cindy Hendrix.

As I got near the top the two guys were not far ahead. Starting down the other side I caught them, but then it leveled off and they surged ahead. Then it would get steeper and I would catch them and then it would level off and they would surge 6 or 8 steps ahead.  They offered to let me pass once, but since they kept surging ahead, I figured I would slow them down. But just as many times, I found myself backing off a tad for them…. That girl in the blue, I noted was back there gaining on us. Running through this section I spotted Janet Dempsey going by and then Lee Arvidson.

At the bottom of the grade they stepped off the trail and stopped, letting me by. The girl now was only a couple seconds behind. On the climb up to the second ridge I pulled steadily away from her. I said hi to one more HD Runner as I began the climb – John Carey! About half way up the hill I spotted some runners up ahead. As I got closer I realized that it was Toke and the couple that had been in 6th and 7th. I gained on them and caught them just as we were cresting the 2nd ridge southeast of San Francisquito. Toke let me by and I soon lost sight of him…. The girl in blue was still back there…

The next few miles, past the bench, working my way to Spunky Edison, I was starting to feel the heat. I was taking in water more quickly, finishing the bottle on the way. I rushed into the aide station and there was no one filling water bottles like at the last so I grabbed about 3 cups of water and dumped them quickly into my bottle and off I went. I probably lost 30 seconds there. Last year, on a much cooler day I ran right through that aide station.

I opened up my stride and started Listerrolling down Spunky Edison – the dirt road. I saw Heather Massari and Veronica Loya out there walking down the road. To my surprise I began to hear footsteps behind me. Right before the last climb, the girl in blue caught me. She pulled 30m ahead on the climb and then steadily farther all the way down Spunky Canyon. I had been out Listerrolled…..

I thought of backing off, but I realized that I was in the upper 2:50s on my clock. Not knowing exactly how far the finish line was I figured I might have a chance to break 3 hours. I pushed until the 3 hour mark passed, but then I could not slow down as I could hear the finish line people just ahead. According to my Garmin I came in at 3:01:09 – official race time 3:01:10.

After gaining my balance and catching my breathe I went to the timer and asked if I were the first place “Grandpa!” She laughed, and told me I was 11th place, 7th guy and first in my age group!

Toke finished 4 or 5 minutes later – officially 3:05:59.  The next HDR finisher was Krysti at around 3:34:56.  The next HDR finisher was David Weary at 3:46:03. Cindy 4:03:16 and Kathy 4:03:42 came in close to each other. Kathy was struggling the last couple and apparently Cindy had just passed her. Kyra finished in 4:13:00.

I enjoyed the food and refreshments at the finish area for quite awhile until I had to go. I did not get to see the finish of Janet 4:24:01, Lee 4:59:34, John 5:18:56, or 50kers Matthew 6:03:37 or Michelle 9:22:29…

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