A girlfriend, Melissa, I’ve known since grade school flew in to LAX from Seattle to crew for me and hang out for the weekend. We arrived late in Palmdale after delayed flights and slept for a few hours before the 4am alarm sounded.
Climbing out of the Lake Hughes Reservoir parking lot at sunrise with about 150 other adventurers the group was full of good energy, excitement and wonderment of what the day would bring. Having run this race in 2006 and 2007 I had an idea of time splits for the aid stations along way and was curious to see how this year’s route changes affected the overall times. I think Melissa and I were both surprised when I made it through the first station five minutes faster and when I saw her again at the fifth and was 18 minutes ahead, the new section of trail felt faster and I kept my eye on the previous course record.
From mile 28 to the finish the course followed the original course and runners face a hot climb to gain the ridge and roll along the top viewing the varying ridge lines that stretch as far as the eye can seen. There is no place to hide from the sun as the sandy and rocky trail winds out to a grove of pine trees where we turn around to retrace our steps to the finish. This is my favorite section of this race for its beauty as well as enjoying the opportunity to check in with and cheer on the other runners.
When strangers and friends find out that I run these longer distances I am often asked why. It is in the later miles of a trail race that I find myself digging deep and answering the question “why do I do this?” There are many reasons, for the beauty of the places I am able to see, for the amazing people that I meet, because I can, and mostly because I want to. To me, running on remote trails, preferably in the mountains brings me back to the basics, simplifies life and allows time to sort out what is important. It is meditative, it is my time, it is an opportunity to test myself while still being wonderfully simple. It forces me back to what I love most and simplifies life to what I love and need: movement, connection, food and water. Food and water are the have to’s and utmost basics. Movement and connection are my personal life forces. I need to move, to cover distance whether in accomplishing a task at work or running 50 miles, I need forward movement. (Many close friends and family will vouch that I’d don’t sit still all that well.) And connection, probably the most important driving force in my life is to feel connected with people I care about and interact with. It is odd to find that connection when running these distances when most of the training and racing miles are alone, but to first connect with yourself allows that connection with others. Additionally running puts you at the most raw of states. All barriers and walls are not able to exist, one is at a very true state and I feel most human, open and even vulnerable. I believe this is the reason that the friendships/relationships that are made on the trail (whether friends, companions or strangers supporting or running together) are often for life.
I feel very fortunate to have running as an important part of my life. To be healthy enough and to have balance with other activities and enjoy it when I am able to focus and make the concentrated efforts on hard training and racing. Leona Divide was a great test of this year’s training, there are many more miles and hours to log before the next one, and I look forward to them.
Krissy Moehl (http://web.mac.com/krissymoehl) lives in Seattle, Washington and works for The Conservation Alliance (www.conservationalliance.com). At the Leona Divide 50 mile race she ran 7:25:37 for 3rd place overall and 1st place female.