After reading the descriptions & requirements of the run I figured that I may be ready for it with at least 3 more years of ultra running under my belt. Claude warns anyone interested that this is a self-supported 35-40 mile run through some of the foothill's most rugged mountains & valleys. There is no bail out along the trail. Once you are in there are two ways out. Finish at the end or turn around and go back to the start. After running only three ultras I noticed that Laurel Valley always seemed to come up in conversations regarding tough local races.
To make a long story short my new ultra friend Mike Riggins said that he was running it & if I was running a 100 miler in 2010 I should run it with him. I quickly got excited & motivated. I begged Claude for a entrance for about six weeks and after running a decent 50k at the Landsford Canal he decided to let me run it about two weeks ago. I was super pumped, excited, and wanted to vomit all at the same time!
All first timers in this race are "sweeps" for the day. Sweeps are not allowed to pass other runners & responsible for helping others who run into trouble along the way. Basically a safety net to make sure everyone gets off the trail safely. There were about 10 of us and we started at 5 AM which was one hour before the official 6 AM start.
I could not resist shaking the suspension bridge at Toxaway when we went over it. I felt like Donkey Kong trying to shake Mario off the course! Lynn was just getting on the bridge in the middle of my fiasco and she let me know that she was getting motion sick from my nonsense :]
Another shot of the river looking left off of the bridge:
There was a brutal climb out of Cane Brake Access to the top of a mountain ridge. Lots of stairs going up, up, and up. It may sound insane, but I would rather have the stairs straight up the mountain than switchbacks going up for two extra miles. At this point Wayne & I realize that we are way ahead of the 5 AM sweep crew. We talk to a few of the veteran runners and get mixed reactions as to what we should do. Several say just keep running - Claude won't mind. Others say we should stop and let the sweep captain & other runners catch up. We were both feeling so strong here it was hard to stop, but we decided it was for the better. I will throw out a thought here about Glide. It is good stuff, but I don't recommend putting the Glide with Heat Fx on your crotch area for chaffing! That is all that I am saying!
So Wayne & I both agree that we should stop and wait for other runners to catch up. We were laughing and carrying on like a bunch of crazy hyenas at this point. "Laurel Valley isn't so bad...." then "Laurel Valley - I don't see what is so hard about it..." We were feeling so strong. I was even wanting to beat on my chest a little for being ahead of other runners. (I bet you can see where this is going!) We sit around here for about 30 minutes getting ate up by bugs and finally agree to press on to the next river/bridge.
The descent to Horsepatuer River
I think we covered about two miles from Bear Gap to the river. We decided to run nearly all of this section. At this point it was about 80 degrees and we were under heavy mountain shade. The wind was gently blowing and the river could be heard in the valley below. I was about six hours into the run of my life and never have felt so strong. I knew the cold river water would be adding to my joy soon enough.
As soon as we get down to the bridge we see Eric in the river looking bad. We also meet up with Mark Elson here who is a sweep as well. He had been hanging out with Eric for a while and warns us that he is in bad shape with cramps and the general "funk". I didn't waste anytime getting in the river. Off with the pack and right into the drink I go beside Eric. He looked horrible. I could see his quad muscles constricting back in forth under the water and he was screaming in pain. He said that he had ate, drank and taken salt tabs. What more could us sweeps do?
You can see Eric still cooling it "Laurel Valley style" in the river. At this point I thought he was done. Mark kept filtering water for all of us and we spent some more time frolicking in the river. The water felt so good. I wanted to spend about two more hours just floating around, but we all knew we had to get moving soon. To my amazement I watched Eric man up, get out of the river and head out on the trail. I was totally amazed. We stayed at the river for about thirty more minutes and then decided to get back to it.
We caught up with Eric about 5 miles up the trail near the Thompson River. He looked great! He was not running, but maintaining a very strong power hike up & down the hills. As a matter of fact the three of us had to run several time just to keep up with his walk! What a comeback!
This is your final 1/4 mile run to the finish. I loved seeing this place!
Party Shot Of The Finish!
New buddies Wayne & Mark
It was awesome to finish up with Wayne, Mark & Eric! All four of us running as hard as we could down to the finish. I am still blown away at Eric's strong comeback!
This was my longest distance at about 36 miles & longest time on feet at 11:54 to date. A big thanks to Claude Sinclair for putting this one on. I really enjoyed it & hope to be back running at 6 AM next year. I'm proud of my new running buds - looking foward to a lot of great runs down the road...