Leona Valley Trail Races
The Leona Valley Trail Races were this weekend in Lake Hughes, CA. This race was been in the works for the past year! Keira Henninger, race director for Leona Divide, loved the trails out here so much that she wanted to add a fall race with shorter race distances so there would be something for everyone. Well, after a year of planning and organizing she made it happen.
I had met up with her a year ago to start planning the different courses and it was amazing how easily it all came together. We ran what would become a 30k course that day, and quickly realized that if we crossed Lake Hughes Rd. and ran up to the next LD50 aid station and back she would have her marathon course! The half marathon also worked out perfectly using the same easily accessible LD50 aid stations.
I am not in trail marathon shape. Actually, I don’t think I have run out on these trails since last November! So I decided to sign up for the half marathon! I love this course as it is has some challenging elevation changes (about 1000ft every 3 miles) and it feels like my home course. I remember first running the section from Lake Hughes Rd. with Clay 4 years ago.
My mom was excited to try a trail race and signed up for the 5k. LVTR is a great event for a first time trail runner to get hooked on trail races. We woke up early and drove out to the Lake Hughes Community Center an hour before the race. The atmosphere was friendly and excited as it usually is at Keira’s events. It was dark and cold when we arrived (36 degrees). I decided to start with gloves and a skull cap. We all casually lined up on the starting line and after a countdown from 10 we started up the mountain.
There were a few runners climbing strong, including elite ultra runner Michelle Barton, and I decided I better let them go on ahead this time. I kept forgetting to check my watch at the aid stations, but felt pretty good about my effort up to the first aid station. I make the right turn down the PCT and saw two runners just ahead of me. I was able to catch both of them within the next mile and held my position down to the next aid station which was the turn around point.
No one had started coming back at me when I arrived at the aid station, so I figured I was in first place and better get back up the hill quickly. Just as I turned around my friend Pat arrived at the aid station, and another soon after. I said, “Nice work Pat,” and started running up the hill. Now I decided since I was in first place I had better push the climb back up, but I realized quickly that I had no climbing fitness what so ever. I had to stop to hike twice for about 10 seconds each to regroup my legs.
About half way up the climb another runner pasted me looking really strong. I did not recognize him and wondered where he came from, but I let him pass and he quickly disappeared up the trial. No one else passed me to the next aid station and I decided I would really push the pace to see how close I could get to the runner ahead of me on the way down. I never saw him again, but I guess I was closing in as I finished second in 1:47:34, just 80 seconds behind him.
After I finished I introduced myself and found out why I did not see him before on the trail. He was one of the runners that took off quickly from the start and was way ahead, but when he reached the turnaround the volunteers at the aid station told him to keep going, thinking he was running the marathon. After almost a half mile, and crossing Lake Hughes Rd. he realized that wasn’t right and turned around. He was such a good climber that he quickly caught all the runners that turned around ahead of him, including me. His name was Simon Cooper and he deservedly won the half marathon in 1:46:18.
I saw all the 5k and 10k’ers while I was coming down the hill toward the finish, and got to cheer on my mom which was cool. She has not done any trail running like this before but still finished the 5k in 37:39 for 12th overall.
Pat ended up finishing 4th in the half in 1:50:25! And Fran and Cristina from work finished their first trail half marathon. Way to go guys!
Once again Keira put on a great event. Here are the results. I think this race will only grow by next year because there is a race for everyone and the challenge of trying the next distance will bring people back. The courses are challenging, scenic, and a great mix of fire road and trail.