Laurel Valley Trail Run
Sunday, August 12 2007 @ 06:25 PM PDT
Contributed by: MLong
Once again I travel down to Rocky Bottom, SC for the illustrious Laurel Valley Trail Run. Like most runners, I had been watching the weather to determine what we would have to deal with during the race. In my hometown of Hamlet, NC the temperatures had been in the triple digits most of the week. They were calling for a high of approximately 97 for the areas contiguous to the event. That did not sound nearly as dreadful as 103 or 105 degrees. Still, it was going to be one more hot and humid Laurel Valley.
Laurel Valley has rapidly become the race of races. Itís a 35?-mile self-supported trail run through a beautiful section of the AT that goes through North and South Carolinas. The race starts at the trailhead located near Rocky Bottom, SC and finishes at the White Water Falls parking lot. It is conducted by Runner from Hell ruler, Claude Sinclair. Claude makes the rules straightforward. Pay your entry fee, run the race and maybe, just maybe youíll get some coke and pretzels at the finish. Itís a race with little or no amenities. It however does promise to give spectacular views. Itís running in its purest form.
I drove down on Friday to Greenville, SC to stay at the home of one of Greenvilleís most prominent ultra runners, Byron Backer. Byron made room in his home for a number of the participants, Bedford Boyce, John Teed, Mike Mason, Brian Kistner, Jim Musselman, Steve Morris and Mo Idlibi. It was a wonderful group that made for some good prerace chatter. In his soft subtle voice Byron tells us we have to be up at 3:00 am in order to get the cars to the finish area and the runners to the start. It made for a very long day.
Race day; after a few hellos to many ultra friends, we make our way to the stairs. The race starts by climbing numerous steps onto the trail. From that point, we hit some very beautiful single track trail into the woods. Itís mostly dark but you can see enough of the trail to keep from falling. Claude warned everyone at the start that it was going to be a very hot and humid day. I packed two 22 oz. water bottles along with several packs of Lance peanut butter crackers. This race is completely self-supported and water is drawn from rivers and streams along the way. Most runners choose to treat the water with iodine tablets and some use water filters. I prefer the tablets.
I spend the first 10 miles or so running with friends Richard Sexton and Tom Gabell. The wonderful conversation, jokes and talk of life always seem to make the early miles go by without notice. Nevertheless, we keep reminding each other that we still have a long ways to go. Around the half way point or roughly 4 Ĺ hours into the event Richard and I start catching many runners. Laurel Valley is always hot and humid. This is a race about heat and water management. If you watch your water intake and try to keep your core temp down, you can finish this one with a smile on your face. My first guess is that those runners we passed went out much too quickly.
Mostly my goal this year was to do just that, stay cool and maintain good water intake. I was able to do just that. I never ran hard enough to overheat and I kept the water in my body. I also completely immersed my body in four of the large rivers to help regulate my core temp. I probably spent a total of 40 minutes in all in the rivers combined. It all added up to a good finish for me. It wasnít my fastest but I felt pretty good at the end. I did however, fade some in the last 5 miles because I felt so close to the finish I ignored taking in water and just poured it over my head. I knew there was ice cold coke waiting for me at the finish.
In my opinion, Laurel Valley is one of the finest events out there. I really like and enjoy the events that are all about the running, the joy of running through the woods under your own power and of your own accord. Itís nothing more than you and nature. Of course there are a few friends there to share the experience. Laurel Valley is not for the commercial-marathon runner of today. If you require bathrooms, mile markers and fully stocked aid stations then I would highly recommend staying away from Laurel Valley.
If you would like to experience beautiful trails, nature at its finest and pure adventure, then by all means send your entry in next year. You will not regret it.
Results and info can be found on the web here http://www.claudesinclair.com/