Rocky Bottom, SC
Single Track Trail
31 – 35 – 40 Miles?
From Claude Sinclair, RD
version of the running of
From Annette Bednosky
running of the Laurel Valley Trail Run happened on August 13th 2005.
About 60 runners started at the 72degree dawn start with a musket shot at
6:30am at a small trailhead of a National Recreation Trail called the
Foothills Trail. This trail travels around the mountains, hills and gorges of
It is a point to point run with no aid provided. Runners provide their own shuttles and carry any food/ fluid and water treatment needed. We followed white blazes and most of us had no idea of pace or distance covered as there are very few signs marking this segment of the trail.
point for the run is at a picnic shelter in
What made this run special for some is that is was HOT. Over 100 degrees with 98% humidity. That is even hot for SC mountain standards! Many folks were slowed by the heat-times ranged from about 5 hours to 13 hours.
What made this run special for me, is that it is the first event I participated since Western States 100 in June and since my father’s death due to cancer in late July. I was worried that I was too stressed and not trained enough to be able to run well. I was looking forward to just getting my “first run without my dad” over with. I was relieved to find that this run acted as a sort of catharsis for me…some purging of fear, sadness and also an energizer for getting back in “training mode” for fall races. Although I sweated more during this run then I ever had before, I really enjoyed myself and found invigoration and freedom despite the oppressive heat and humidity.
From Will Harlan
The race started at 6:30am. I arrived at 6:32. (It's a
long story involving a friend's two cats, a flight to
Race director Claude Sinclair’s starting gun (actually a Civil War cannon) blasted as I was driving into
the parking area. I quickly laced up my shoes, grabbed my water bottles, and scampered toward the trail.
I passed runners one by one, beginning with trail sweep and good friend Lloyd Basten. Eventually, I caught up with the lead pack and chatted with Byron Backer, Matt Stanek, Brian Kistner for a few minutes. Byron mischievously tried to suggest there was another pack of runners ahead of us, but I knew that no one goes out faster or harder than Byron.
I picked up
the pace around mile 5, inspired by the crashing waterfalls and
jaw-dropping-beautiful scenery. A few miles later, I crossed paths with a black
bear snacking on some berry bushes along the trail. He scampered quickly up the
hillside, and I passed by him reverently and respectfully. The spine-tingling
encounter with raw wildness pumped me with a bit too much adrenaline, as I
I would soon pay for it. The morning sun crested the mountains, and the heat and humidity arrived early. Only a trickle of breeze seeped through the trees. As a completely self-supported race, I stopped at a spring-fed stream to refill my water bottles and slam some gel. I was soaked with sweat and covered in spider webs, and no-see-ums danced around my head and ears. And I still had 20 miles to go.
The Foothills Trail is one of my favorites…it’s incredibly well-maintained, with footbridges spanning whitewater creeks and dozens of wooden steps built into the hillsides of steep slopes. For the next ten miles, I trudged along the Foothills Trail, trying not to think about the distance ahead, and simply enjoying the rugged, remote mountain setting.
I had a few
bad moments when my salt tablets and iodine tablets disintegrated – awash in
the accumulated sweat. So I had to choose my water sources very carefully
(fortunately, I did not acquire the gut-wrenching giardia
several imaginary conversations with vireos and trees, I arrived at the
Lightheaded, I reached the top of the gorge and stumbled into the picnic area finish line. I was thankful to have finished a little after noon, before the furnace-like heat really cranked up. I was amazed by the runners who rolled in after me—especially the gritty back-of-the-packers—who endured a lot more than I did and slugged through one of the hottest, stickiest afternoons of the year to reach the finish line.
They were happy to see I wasn't a tea-totaling vegetarian type Yankee.
We met at the finish area at 5:15 to car pool
to the start at
down over and over again throughout the course. There must have been thousands of them. They were just wooden blocks or small logs pounded into the steepest sections of trail to provide footing for the hikers and probably to prevent erosion, too.
Less than a half mile into the race a woman
with dark hair went by at a fast clip
and I thought it must be 2005 Western
States winner, Annette Bednosky. It was and I never saw her again, she was long gone by the
time I got to the finish. I felt pretty
strong, especially on the climbs. I was
there to enjoy myself and never ran so fast that I wasn't comfortable. I socialized and
took in the sights. I ran the early
miles with a man who had done the course
several times. He gave me a description of the course that went like this..."first we
run down to the lake and we climb back
up, then we run down to the river and we
climb back up, then we run down to the next river and we run back up, then we run down to the
creek and we run back up...etc" It
was a pretty accurate description. The
single track trail had excellent footing for the most part. There were many, many fast moving
pristine rivers and streams which we
crossed on various types of foot bridges. We ran past waterfalls and through
dense tunnels of
for me. The temperatures climbed well into the nineties and the humidity was near 100%. I drank 20 ounces of water every half hour and took 2 Succeed electrolyte tabs every hour. Every time I started to feel a little overheated, I would get a brief break from the heat with a slight breeze at the top of a climb or a cool mist from a rushing stream or river. Of course, with all the water I
was drinking, I was stopping to fill a bottle every half hour and stopping to pee quite often. Will Brown, veteran of many Laurel Valleys, had given me advice the evening before which I took to heart..."carry 2 bottles and fill each one the minute you empty it." The system worked perfectly as the iodine tablets took 30 minutes to work and that's exactly how long it took me to empty a bottle. I think I was drinking more than I ever have in a race, but my stomach was handling it well. I was feeling very good despite the heat so it's something I will try to do in all my hot weather races. I leap frogged for several hours with two women, Denise and Diane. It was fun to pass them on the climbs only to have them catch me on the downs (my trail running weakness). We ran some of the flat sections together. After about 4-5 hours of running, I picked up my pace and
effort a little. The last 1/3 of the race was probably the toughest as far as climbing and descending, tackling wooden steps, and scooting over or under fallen trees. I was glad I had a little energy left. I caught several runners and tried to talk a little to each one. Finally I came to a sign that said White Water Falls parking area 1.7 miles. But I had been warned that this was a lie and
didn't get too excited. The stretch between this sign and the metal bridge, which marks the point where I only had one enormous climb left to the finish, is difficult
mentally and physically. Finally I crossed a wooden bridge that I remembered from my pre-race out and back run from the finish. Then I came to the metal bridge which required a scramble up some good sized rocks to climb onto the bridge and then a scramble/slide back down off the bridge on the other side. There were a few people who had hiked down to the river from the parking area and they gave me words of encouragement. I passed a woman sitting on a rock at the beginning of the climb and later found out that it was Sally Brookings, a fantastic ultrarunner who was having a rough day. She made it to the finish
shortly after I did. I had been looking forward to this last climb because I
knew it was a tough one and I thought it was a very fitting ending to a great run. As soon as I started to climb, I got a surge of energy. I walked and ran up the
hill and finally got to the long wooden staircase that leads from the lower observation deck to the upper deck. I was running up the stairs when I hit a road block of tourists, 4 across shoulder to shoulder. I said excuse me and after glancing at me they plastered themselves against the side rails making a wide passage for me. I was muddy and wet and sweat was flying off my hair and shirt and shorts in great big droplets. Quite a contrast to the tourists who had walked down from their cars in golf shirts, skirts, and sandals. I got to the top, paused to