Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Laurel Valley Training Run For Western States 100
We met up early at the gravel Whitewater Falls parking lot and drove over to begin our run at 7:00 AM. The run began with a very comfortable cool mountain breeze which we enjoyed for the first 8 miles of mostly downhill single track.
I've learned that you may as well run the first 8-9 miles as fast as you like because the next 25 normally slap you around pretty good.
We hit the bench at Lake Jocassee in 3:04 which is about 15 minutes faster than I ever have before. As we began the relentless climbs the valley begin to heat up. It's amazing through this stretch of trail. Not just the beauty, but the obvious temperature swings. As you crest one mountain you feel a 10 degree cool down, then head back down into a valley and the heat quickly begins to smother you again.
Your mental ups & downs also begin to vary as much as the terrain.
This trail follows a painful pattern for the entire length. You climb a very steep mountain, run atop a flat ridge for a short time, then head straight back down to water. Water is always a welcome sight because you can get some fresh liquid and cool down, but then you find yourself starting the pattern all over again of climbing.
I was instantly shocked at how easy the 6 sets of stairs seemed to me at Heartbreak ridge. I normally struggles up these at about 12 miles into the run, but going into this run 25 lbs. lighter made a huge difference. I power hiked right up them and was surprised to see the top so easy & quickly.
We ran around the lake and I knew that another killer 2 mile climb was coming out of Canebrake. Once again, I was surprised at how much better I was making my way up the steep hills. I felt almost like I was cheating in some way.
It was great to see the Laurel Valley race RD - Claude Sinclair through this stretch. He was out on a weekend backpacking trip and we were able to help him purify some water and get some salt pills into his system.
We hit the halfway mark in pretty good spirits and started running into a few folks on the trail. We were both surprised to actually see lots of people out near Horsepastuer River and around that area.
Nick and I took some time to take a dip in the river under the bridge and the water was perfect. Just cold enough to take your breath away at first, but then it felt cool enough to stay in for the rest of the afternoon. I reluctantly started getting out after I saw Nick getting ready to head back on the trail.
The next 10-11 miles from here to the finish are BRUTAL. I would guess that you have about 8 miles of uphill and maybe 2-3 of downhill. Many of the climbs/descents are so steep that you could actually do them on all fours.
We ran up on a man hiking with two dogs through Bear Creek. One of the dogs begin to charge us and show his teeth. Of course the man said that he was friendly, but I still jumped out of the trail and gave him room. I think Nick was in the zone because he just kept trudging ahead.
After running about 35 miles during the week leading up to this run my legs were starting to feel some fatigue, but nothing like I normally experience. We both kept attacking the trail, pushing ahead as best as we could. Power climbing the steep ups and running everything else.
We made our way past Thompson River and it was great to finally hear Whitewater River roaring which meant we only had about 3 more miles to do. With about 1200 foot of elevation to climb of course.
We held on and climbed out and finished in 10:35. I still can't believe how fast we covered this course. We shared a Steripen to treat all of our water for the entire run. We stopped eight times to do this and it took us 10-15 minutes each time. We also stopped to talk with Claude and some other hikers for about 30 minutes. Add in our 15 minute swim break and I would say that we stalled on the trail for at least two hours. The fastest I've ever ran this course was at last years race in 9:13. Plus, neither of us were "racing", but just out covering the distance.
This has me very encouraged about WS100 which is only about four weeks away! I should be able to shed at least another 15 lbs. between now and then which should go a long way in helping me finish.
This was a terrific run and I'm very proud of Nick & I both for toughing it out and finishing strong. This was his 3rd ultra finish. His other two were Laurel Valley and a 30 mile night run with me down the Chattooga River. I even had the pleasure of seeing him toss up a belly full of creek water on the drive back to get my car at the start. That type of tenacity will be what I need to cross that finish line on June 24th in Auburn California.