This was my 5th Laurel Valley race finish and I think my 14th time actually running the entire course. I'm surprised that I've made it through that course so many times and am still alive. I say that jokingly, but not really. There is so much that can go wrong and you are literally in the middle of no where for so much of the race.
You can read about the course details on some of my other race reports and I'm just going to hit the highlights in this one.
The course runs fairly evenly through NC & SC during the race. The NC part of the race is the cruelest part of the course.
My theme for this race was to "finish with dignity." So many times I've found myself crawling (literally) up the last 1,000 foot climb gasping for breath and my next step. This was often from over doing it during the first half of the race and trying to post a better finishing time.
I began the run with Annie & Bo who are both also training for 100 milers in the fall. Since the three of us just wanted a steady pace and "time on our feet" type of training run, we ended up sticking together for the entire race.
This year Claude (Race Director) started all of the runners together at 5 AM which meant running in the dark for well over an hour. This was fine, but I think it did end up adding a little more time to everyone's finishing time. I actually enjoyed it because I like night running & it meant getting finished earlier in the day.
The first 13 miles zipped along fairly quick in about 4 hours (well, they were quick to me) and then the race started to get interesting. I always joke that the real LV course doesn't begin until you reach Rock Creek around mile 12. I think that saying held true again.
I began the climb up the infamous "Canebrake" section away from Lake Jocassee feeling stronger than I ever had during this run. The three of us just slowly chipped away at the climb and I was surprised to feel so fresh at the top.
We gradually made our way through the next 6-7 miles and eventually hit Horsepastuer River which meant about 10-11 miles to go. This is when the course unleashed her fury. Extremely heavy storms moved into the area and the temps dropped from 87 to 75 nearly immediately. This was a mixed blessing because it was cooler, but footing became very tricky as the trail turned into a creek/lake/river.
The three of us all seemed to zone out through this stretch for the next 5 miles until after we climbed away from Thompson River with about 6 miles to finish. I think we were all feeling in good spirits, but it was storming so hard we literally had to scream to talk to each other. Just not worth the energy at the time!
We nearly lost Annie into one of the flash flooded creeks. As she shuffled across a small wooden bridge she slipped and nearly went head first into the current below. It was definitely strong enough to sweep her away and in a split second I could just see Bo and I jumping in behind her. Thankfully she was able to balance herself so that didn't have to happen.
"Life is not worth living if you can't feel alive" - Some movie I think.
I had never seen the water that high through the course. There were a few areas where I was really concerned about us being able to safely cross, but I knew that we were climbing higher with each mile. I don't think I've ever been so happy to climb in LV!
We finally made are way up the Whitewater River and crossed the beautiful bridge which leads to the finish. It was fun to relive the adventure between our little group as we made our way up the final climb.
I think most runners either love Laurel Valley or hate it and all three of us finishing with big smiles plastered on our faces.
Full run details can be found below if you're interested: