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:
I 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.

Defining the Course:
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.

In Search of Mayberry:
This year’s 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 Together:

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.

There are 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 (~16 Miles):
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 way.
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 Middle Part - Toxaway River to the Horsepasture River (~9 Miles):
I 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):
The August “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.

The Climb Out - Whitewater River to the Upper Falls Parking Lot (~5 Miles):
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.

Post-Race Thoughts:
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 Scotland.

 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.”

Next year’s 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.

The Twenty-Minute Window: 

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 missed.



PS … I am still concerned about Matt’s poor dog. Next year I think I’ll bring along some Altoids.