I would like to express my thanks to you and Martha for
hosting Episode 11 of the Laurel Valley White Water Run. It was a remarkable
event again this year providing us with more memories and stories to tell. This
year’s race was my 9th finish, and I am still charged up almost one week later.
I did some searching in a used book store and found a copy of the 70’s paperback
classic, “The One Minute Manager”, to come up with a few new ideas on how to
tell this year’s story.
The "31-35-40 Mile " Enigma:
voiced my opinion in last year’s 2004 LV Race Report that there are certain
questions that should not be answered. Namely;
I remained quiet during the
debate over this year’s planning and preparation to re-measure the course
because I thought my “Big F*cking Wheel Song” was an adequate commentary on last
year’s fiasco. I was once again pleasantly surprised. Gravity always works, and
reason prevailed over weird science. The RFH decision making process is always
quick to favor imagination over mathematical accuracy.
- "Who was that woman I saw you with last night?" ... and
- "How long is the Laurel Valley Run?"
Mark Long was very perceptive when he said; “LV is
ultrarunning's Loch Ness monster.” The race has such a distinct mystique,
character, and an equally dedicated following of characters. The important
difference between LV and your average mountain trail run is that:
That's an important
distinction. Beginning at Rocky Bottom we cross ridge after ridge into the
Laurel River, Toxaway River, Horsepasture River, Thompson River, and Whitewater
River gorges. The most difficult sections are crossed by that marvelous series
of bridges (beam and suspension) built by Duke Power. David King would describe
the bridges God’s promise to ‘make the path straight before you’. I wholly
support that thought.
- LV is not a mountain trail run.
- LV is a trail run across 5 river gorges.
In Search of Mayberry:
race has transcended the gap that separates a local lore from legend. In the
darkness before the race, I introduced myself to a fine looking new runner
sitting there all by herself, and she said; “Hi, I’m Laurel Valley.” Like
Mayberry, LV is a state of mind and now our “LV” has a face. We first spotted
her name among the Vermont 100 finishers last year. The story is unclear on how
we contacted her or how she contacted us, but Laurel came down from Maine to run
her namesake race with us. I know a lot of people who are Fat Ass and 50, but
what are the chances of finding a LV cover girl? If I were to invent a person to
name Laurel Valley, it would be her. She has an infectious personality that is
only matched by her running skills. DAMN! That little pixie ran 2nd to Annette
Bednowsky and ahead of Sally Brookings who finished 3rd. You cannot make up
stuff like that.
We All Run Different Races
Flash on that thought for a moment. Byron Backer said he
had a bad day and ran 12th. I thought I had a good day and ran 17th. Being
opportunistic, I wouldn’t mind having one of his bad days.
only three tricky parts on the course: the first part, the middle part and the
last part. Aside from that, there is very little to worry about except the
hornets and the hidden turns. I did make a few noteworthy observations that I
will pass along.
The First Part - Rock Bottom to the Toxaway River
David King and I ran with young Brenton Floyd most of
the way to the Toxaway Bridge. Mamma Betty wanted us to coach Brenton along the
On the approach to the brutally steep ridge we ascend and descend to
get into the Toxaway River Gorge, David accelerated, Brenton faded and I
continued alone. I was surprised on the descent to the Toxaway Bridge when Scott
Brockmeier, Matt Kirk and Matt’s Ultra Dog came flying by. I thought; “What is
wrong with this picture?” I should not be leading these guys @ 16 miles. The
answer to that question was evident when they went straight into the river for a
swim. The August “HEAT” was beginning to hammer the field. Runner after runner
followed them into the river for a splash. My day just got better. I am very
good @ heat management and that gave me a distinct advantage.
- The first lesson Brenton learned was the rythum/timing required to run on a
suspension bridge. On the first bridge, we gave him a 50-foot lead and then
leaped onto the bridge, causing a reverse oscillation, and sending him flying
off the other end. [Lesson Learned … Don’t trust Bill or David]
- The second lesson Brenton learned was leadership. We let him take the point
and run ahead of us. He got careless and went off-course three (3) times.
We quietly continued on, but he would usually circle back and catch up. [Lesson
Learned … Do not take the point when Bill and David are behind you.]
Middle Part - Toxaway River to the Horsepasture River (~9 Miles):
ran this massive section mostly alone. I would pick off one or two runners at a
stream crossing and keep moving. I try to totally ignore this section and do
whatever I have to do to get through it. It goes on forever, and you can never
see the Horsepasture River Bridge until the trail turns sharply left and you
begin the violent decent down the stairs to the bridge. The race begins at the
bridge. Survival is just 15 miles away.
The Last Part -
Horsepasture River to the Whitewater River (~10 Miles):
“HEAT” was really in high gear in this section. I have never seen so many
runners lounging in every stream and river since the year we ran the race in the
sissy (reverse) direction.
At Bear Camp Creek, I witnessed one of the
truly GREAT moments in LV history/lore. I picked off eight (8) runners [Buddy
Nash, Brad Smythe, Mark Long, Matt Barker, Tony Rouse, and 3 others]. They were
sitting in the stream having a leisurely splash and filling their water bottles.
I slipped through quickly and got ~50 feet up the trail. To my surprise, I saw
Jeff McGonnell lying on his back in the middle of the stream. I was concerned,
but Jeff said he was OK and cooling off. As Jeff lay there, in the stream,
emitting body fluids and used electrolytes, 8 other runners, just 50 feet down
stream, were happily filling their water bottles. [Lesson Learned … Always check
upstream before you fill your water bottle. This observation also helped to
explain why Matt’s Ultra Dog was stopping so often to lick his butt. He was
trying to get a bad taste out of his mouth.]
I was laughing all the way
to the Thompson River where I met Jay Hillian (from GA) lounging in the river.
He was grousing about the heat, and I quipped that; “If you were not here you
would probably be sitting @ home drinking beer and watching porn.” He got
motivated again and caught up with me for the “cruel” climb out of the Thompson
River gorge. On the climb out, we discovered we share the same interests. I’m
going over to Jay’s next Saturday for some beer and porn.
Out - Whitewater River to the Upper Falls Parking Lot (~5
After the mental pain experienced climbing out of the
Thompson River gorge, the final climb out to the finish is merely long and
difficult. I was thinking about the final ascent up Led Zeppelin Stairway to
Heaven when Mark Nowling caught up with me @ the river. We teamed up and ran the
section to the last river crossing before the climb out. After a quick dip, we
started our climb out. We got surprised about half-way up when Matt’s Ultra Dog
came breezing by followed by Matt running full stride. I usually get really
annoyed when someone tries to pick me off on the climb out. Then I thought that
I must really be having a good day if Matt has to pick me off on the climb out
to run 15th.
Tom Gabel came over to
the truck to help kick-off the post-race re-hydration party. The heat had
drained everyone, and the normally lively post-race social was somewhat subdued.
I had to leave @ 1730 Hrs to shuttle John Teed back to the start. It was a
tactical move on my part. I was just one beer short of blowing some really high
numbers on the ‘breath-o-lizer’, and I needed to make a beer run. When we left,
over half of the 60 runners were still on in the gorge. Normally having that
many runners still on the course would have been a problem, but the Sweep
Program you instituted last year has really mitigated that risk. I would like to
extend my appreciation to Herb Hedgecock and Rich French for leading the Sweep
Team this year. LV is a “HIGH RISK” venue, and the Sweep Team adds a much needed
safety layer to our event.
I would like to extend an open invitation, on
behalf of the RFH, to LV to join us @ LV whenever her schedule will allow. In
closing, Mark Long was right. “LV is ultrarunning's Loch Ness monster”, but our
namesake “Nessie” is sure prettier than the one in
The "Some Runners are Both" Award:
In keeping with the spirit of the RFH motto; "Some runners are
tough, Some runners are insane, and Some runners are both". I have to extend
this week's "Some Runners are Both" Award to Buddy Nash for his 10th LV finish.
Buddy is the 1st RFH member to reach this milestone and that is a remarkable
achievement considering the fact that Buddy had knee surgery in May. Using LV as
a recovery run is really over-the-top, and it further proves that; “You can’t
keep a squirrel on the ground when his nuts are in a tree.”
LV promises to produce an big addition to the class of 10th LV finishers. Brian
Kistner, Byron Backer, Will Brown and I will be on the threshold along with Andy
Wright and Richard Schick who DNS (Did Not Show) this year.
Well, that is what I saw on Saturday
through my twenty-minute window. The race you see on a point-to-point course
spans the runners who are 20-minutes ahead of you and the runners who are
20-minutes behind you. In that short span of time, I only ran with less than 20
runners. There have got to be lots of good stories and conservations that I
PS … I am still concerned about Matt’s
poor dog. Next year I think I’ll bring along some Altoids.