Leona Divide 50 miler – 2011

Maggie Beach Leona Divide 50 miler

Maggie Beach, 3rd place finish, Leona Divide 50 miler

Kista and I headed out to Leona Divide to cheer on our friends who were running. Chris Quesada, who is one of my running partners, had finished his 30K and twisted his ankle, which is a bummer. He still managed to finish 11th. Drew had pulled out of the 30K with a hamstring injury. Maggie Beach, who sorta burst on the ultra scene last year, was still out on the 50 mile course. Maggie is an exceptional runner, and a good friend. She’s part of a group of us who run together on Sundays. You’ll likely be reading more about her exploits here as they are much more impressive than mine.

We said hello to our friends. Kista introduced me to Steve Harvey, who race directs all the “goat” races, including Nannygoat, which we will both be doing May 28th. One of the things I so love about the ultra scene is the comaraderie. That there would be other race directors and runners here, some having come a bit of a distance, to cheer on friends and just hang out, is a big part of what makes these things special for me.

I was introduced to Fred Pollard. Fred is 71 years old. He started running when he was 62. He’s run 86 ultras since then, including the Badwater, Western States, AC100 trilogy. He’s run Leona Divide 6 times, but this year he sat it out. He said he had burn-out and was taking a short break.

The first male 50 miler came in. He’s the new breed of ultra runner. That means he’s young, sponsored, and color coordinated. People cheered him. In second place, a bit later, was Jorge Pacheco. Jorge is the most unsponsored runner ever. The dude is a machinist from East LA. He has run Badwater 3 times, won it once. He’s won Angeles Crest 100 4 of the 6 times he’s run it. He is my hero. The young kid in the matching outfit was cheered for his first place win, but Jorge was mobbed. You cannot not love this guy. He is a humble everyday guy who far from believing his own press doesn’t even seem aware that the press exists. But he ranks up there with Scott Jurek, Geoff Roes and Anton Krupicka in terms of accomplishment.

And then we waited for the women. First in was Aliza LaPierre with a time of around 7 and a half hours. Aliza LaPierre seems to mostly run in the NE. Look her up on ultrasignup.com, her race record, while short, is outstanding.

Next in was Paulette Zillmer, a teammate of James Bonnet, the matching outfit kid. She rocked it. Her blog on being a vegan runner is worth a read.

Evan Hone, who came in 5th, reported to us that Maggie was the 3rd place woman at about the 40 mile mark.

Kista makes beautiful custom race medal racks, (’cause it’s a crime to just toss that stuff in a drawer or hang it on a nail in the garage). She’d donated one as a race price. Race director Keira Henninger told us that she’d decided to give the medal to the 3rd place woman finisher, which was awesome since the 3rd place woman was almost certainly going to be the person we’d come to cheer.

Maggie finished the race in 3rd place, just a few weeks after her 1st place finish at labor of Love 100 miler. Her time was right about 8 hours, which is a lot faster than my birthday run of 52 miles was, and on much tougher terrain.

Apparently there was a flasher at last year’s Leona Divide. Maggie had no idea what was in her winner’s bag and got confused when we kept asking to see her rack. She later told me she figured it was some weird Leona tradition and hoped if she smiled and nodded enough everyone would move on to the next woman.

Race Director Keira Henninger is a fiercely competitive ultra runner who last year won AC100. Her win! win! win! A-type personality means she’s determined to make Leona Divide the best 50 miler (with a 50K for the less adventurous, and a 30K for pussies, as she basically put it to a friend who downsized to the 30K) out there. This is a plus. The race was very well organized, the trail much better marked than, say, Wild Wild West was the following week for me, themed aid stations (and you thought those only happened on road marathons), and finisher medals that were not quite as “rustic” as the made-by-the-race-directors-6-year-old medals that seem common at ultra races. (Although those rustic medals do have a certain charm.) She was a very energetic presence and the runners I spoke to had nothing but praise for the race, the course (aside from a stretch of cliffside singletrack that proved difficult on an out-and-back course with runners passing in both directions), and Keira’s organization.

Everybody hung out for a while and then Kista and I headed back into town and did a 9-or-so miler on the Griffith Park bridle trails.

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