Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laurel Valley Training Run - SMASHED IT!

Running has been great lately.  Why?  I'm losing weight (25 lbs. as of today), eating right, resting, running, and then repeating.  I don't think there is a magical formula - just that.

Someone thought we should do a LV run on 5/14 and it come together nicely.  The runners were D-Ray, Weezy, Mark (Biz-Mark-E), Dan, Doug, Psyche, Charles the rappin pirate, and Nick.

Most of us met at Whitewater Falls (the finish) and drove to the Laurel Valley Parking area (the start).

All photos courtesy of Weezy.  Thanks for lugging your camera for 34 miles!

I always enjoy seeing the Laurel Valley Rd. sign.  You know you are about to have your world rocked, but for some reason you just forget how much!  This is the official race course of Claude Sinclair's Laurel Valley Whitewater Race and several of us were looking to fine tune ourselves in preparation for the real race in August.

So here the four of us go up the final gravel drive to the start of the run.

It was fun to hang out with everyone for a few minutes before the run.  We met up with Psyche and Charles here too.
The run was unfolding like this:  Dan, Doug, and Nick were running together.  David, Mark, Weezy, and I were running together.  Then Charles and Psyche got a little bit of a late start and followed in after us.

The first mile was crammed full of jokes as we climbed up the first set of stairs and hills.  This course doesn't waste much time before it starts working hard on your quads.  However, after the initial 1.5 mile of climbing you are given the opportunity for about 7 miles of great running on moderate flats & ups.  I thought I heard Charles and Psyche several times through here and I kept hoping they would catch up.  I was looking forward to spending some trail time with them.
 Feeling great at Virginia Hawkins Falls!

We churned through this section pretty hard and I was silently scared to death.  I've never ran this trail this hard and I knew that the 2nd half was absolutely brutal.  Oh well, just keep following Mark and Weezy.  We will see what happens.  I was hanging with David and catching up with him.  It's been way too long since I've enjoyed a good D-Ray run!

I began to feel a little bit taxed through some of the flat parts of this section.  We were running at least a 10 minute/mile pace through this area and we all agreed to push the pace while we could.  So we did.  I felt like we were setting ourselves up for a huge disaster, but I didn't really care - it felt great to run.  This is normally the beginning of a story that ends with me crawling like a slug for the final 10 miles of a run. 

We agreed to our first water stop at Rock Creek - about 9 miles in.  The fun & games still continue....

The four of us were still on our "A" game as we headed towards Lake Jocassee.  I was still feeling that we may have pushed the pace too hard and I knew that we would soon find out as the course was about to get much tougher.  Mark and Wayne were blazing through the flats and downhills - it was tough to keep up.

Nutrition during my running has been on my mind lately.  I thought that I could choke down about 400 calories/hour by taking in gels and perpetuem solid chews.  I found that I was able to get down about 200-250 calories/hour instead.  I took 1 Scap/hour as well.  This plan worked great for me - I especially like E-Gels.

The Toxaway Bridge crossing came in no time.  This bridge is about 13-14 miles into the run and is known as "the point of no turning back."  If you make it in this far and feel good you keep going.  If you are hurt, then you turn around and climb back out.
We were all feeling strong here so the run continued as planned.  I knew that "The Valley" was about to begin her beat down upon us.  As you run around the perimeter of lake Jocoassee you enter the Canebrake area which is where the real challenges begin.
This sign Marks the beginning of many tough climbs.
As a matter of fact, the climb after this sign is the most difficult on the course in my opinion.  There must be at least six false summits on it.  It is about six feet wide and just goes on, and on, and on...

I normally dread it, but today I felt like getting after it as hard as I could.  I focused on keeping my back straight and churned up it at an even pace.  Slow, but even.   We all gasped for air as we took it on and eventually stopped for water at this stream near the top...

This is a special place for me on the course.  A place where I passed out on a hot July day and lost my glasses.  Then woke up to find the contents of my pack thrown all over the ground.  A place where I swore off running altogether during a Foothills Trail Run at 2:00 AM.  And a place where I fell in love with running while sweeping Laurel Valley for the first time. 

This day it was a place where I found some untapped energy and felt like running!  I'm not sure what happened here, but I felt like running the rest of the course as hard as I could go.  I did have a gel and some extra food, but other than that nothing out of the ordinary.  From here on, I knew that the rest of the run would be great.

The rest of the run was excellent for me!  We were all on pace to set personal records for the course.  Weezy began to have some stomach issues around the 20 mile mark, but he just kept pushing.  He is a tough cat!
The river looking beautiful...

I kept up with my Gels and Solid Chews every hour, making sure to follow up with a S-Cap as well.  At this point I did get a little behind on water so I started chugging it in order to catch up.  This normally makes me sick, but not today.
Climbing out of Horsepastuer River

We continued pushing on.  Once again, there are a few climbs past here that are just brutal.  Mark was looking fresh and I just stayed close to him.  I was able to run parts of the trail that I never have before.  It felt incredible to open up my stride on some of the flats and downhills!

Thompson River was the next stop along the run...
Weezy was having some tough stomach issues, but he just kept pushing hard.  David was definitely feeling the hills, but his positive attitude made up for any pain that he was in.

From here to the finish at Whitewater Falls is about a 10K (6 Miles).  Of course, there are a couple more climbs just to keep you honest.  I started to fade a little through this section and I was tired of eating.  It was a chore to choke down some more food and water, but I made myself do it.

A cool wind began to blow through the whitewater valley and it poured down rain with the sun shining up above the trees.  It was a surreal sight that just topped off a great run.  We eventually stood face to face with the final 1000+ foot climb.

Mark was still moving great so I insisted that he push on ahead.  I just zoned out and took it one step at a time.  This was a bitter/sweet time for me because I new that my best ultra run EVER was coming to an end, but I was ready to rest!

The final set of trail stairs finally came and I was delighted to climb them and finish!

My best Laurel Valley time had been 10:54 in August 2010.  Today I ran it strong in 9:45!

Wow, it always feels great to finish on the observation deck! Here are several pictures of the finish.

All four of us posted our best Laurel Valley time.  My hat (visor) goes off to David for running LV this hard on his first time - very impressive!


  1. Congratulations on the weight loss, and the PR!

  2. Nice run, Jason! You're getting better and the benefits of that weight loss are apparent. I'm glad that the e-Gels are working for you during these runs!

  3. Way to dominate! Always feels great to validate your own greatness:) Congrats!

  4. Jason, you definitely killed it. Can't imagine what you'll do after dropping more tonnage.

    My Garmin came up with 30.5 miles when it quit at 8:50 into the run. Over 12,000 feet of climbing. It also says I stopped for 2+ hours.

    Thanks for dragging me along. I had a blast!

  5. You had an awesome, awesome run!!! Yaaaaay!!
    The wood rats are impressed. They said to tell you they would sell your glasses back to you at Oconnee Pawn in September- for the mere price of 7 shiny bottle caps :)) I would take that deal. Just sayin'...

  6. New follower here--awesome run! Keep up the good work, and I'm looking forward to future posts!

  7. You crushed it Jason! No way could I have kept up with that pace. Congrats on the weight loss. You'll have to tell me how you did it at Long Cane. If my ankle is still trashed, I'm going to volunteer.

  8. Congratulation Jason!
    It's always delightful to finish run/race in elated mood, feeling strong, no matter of timing. But with PR it certainly better! I'm working on my weight too ;-) About 5 kg left. Then I'll race full force! :-))

  9. Awesome results Jason! Summer vacation is almost here - I definitely need to get up to the Foothills Trail.

    BTW - Ran Croft today from Dairy Ridge road to the first kiosk and back. The trails were in pretty good shape considering how much rain we have gotten lately.