Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Laurel Valley Outkasts Run

On Saturday, I had the absolute pleasure of running the Laurel Valley Trail Ultra course with (from L to R): Jason, Dave, Sherrie Marie, Byron, Lester, (me), Terri, and Charles.

Beloved RD Terri Hayes was on a mission this day: She had had quite a bad race on this course, and was determined to wipe out its memory and replace it with a more positive one. We were equally determined to help her accomplish this.

Let me just preface this post with some info about the course:

"Laurel Valley Whitewater Ultra is not for the faint of heart. Claude Sinclair, self proclaimed leader of the Runner from Hell running club, conducts the Laurel Valley Ultra every August. It is a very tough and grueling course that traverses over 5000 steps and several major climbs on the Foothills trail in North and South Carolina.

However, the runner is rewarded with many beautiful views of water falls and scenic trails throughout the event. By all means the fact that you have to provide your own aid does make the event rather challenging. It is almost required that you either use iodine tablets or filter your water in some way while out there on the course. There is also supreme comaraderie throughout the event. . The trails are always gorgeous and surprising. There is lots of foliage, rocks, roots and rivers crossed by beautiful suspension bridges.

Of course, that is the beauty of Laurel Valley, you have to finish. There’s not a way out, no short cuts or turns to get you off the course. Once you leave Rocky Bottom, S.C. you have to continue on until you reach the parking lot above White Water Falls. People do get into trouble out here. It is rumored that some participants slept on the course last year. There’s always the threat of snakes, bees, falling and a really good case of giardia. "

Veterans and Newbies alike, we set off on our Adventure just before 7:00 a.m. We would return approximately 12 hours later...

I should have realized what I was in for when we immediately began to climb single file up a steep set of wooden steps embedded into the hill. Ah, my first taste of the infamous "wooden steps" that climbed up and down, over and over again, all throughout the course.

There must have been thousands of them. They were mostly wooden blocks pounded into the steepest sections of trail to provide footing for the hikers and probably to prevent erosion, too. Did I mention the number of steps on this trail?

Thousands upon thousands of steps.

As far as the steps went, the last 1/3 of the course was probably the toughest as far as climbing and descending, tackling wooden steps, and scooting over or under fallen trees. When you come to a sign for White Water Falls parking area 1.7 miles- it's a lie. The stretch between this sign and the finish marks the point where you only have one enormous climb left to the finish. It's the most difficult part of the entire course- both mentally and physically. (Thanks, Fell Runner , for the image!).

This Trail is simply amazing.

The sheer beauty, difficulty, and mystery of it (I don't think anyone really knows how long the course is- just somewhere between 30 and 40 miles) makes it my favorite Trail. It will be very hard to beat.

Highlights of the day are so numerous it's impossible to capture them here. But here's a short list anyway, in no particular order:

  • The sheer amount of beauty we experienced.

  • How time seemed to be suspended. We could have been out there 3 hours or 3 days. There simply was no sense of time.

  • The amazing, clean, wonderful taste of the water.

  • The differing trails- Wide trails, skinny trails and “barely-a-trail” trails. Climbs so steep you have to pull yourself up, and punishing (and I mean punishing) descents.

  • The mysterious distance- no one knows for sure how far it is. I like that.

  • Running the last part hard. It was definitely the most difficult terrain I've ever maneuvered. I felt really proud of myself for attacking it at the end.

  • Seeing Whitewater Falls at the end- what a reward!

  • Eating 3 of the best tasting bananas I've ever had with Sherrie Marie in her car.

  • Feeling so privileged to have Terri to myself for long stretches of trail. Hearing her stories, benefitting from her wisdom. Getting to know her.

  • The total geekfest I unleashed on Byron! Even I didn't realize what a Track Geek I am!

  • The awesome comeraderie I felt with everyone, and how it was so easy to spend time with each person at some point during the day.
A special thanks has to go out to Terri for organizing this day.

Also, thanks to Sherrie Marie for getting me back to my car at the end. I remember not being able to recall the way back to Table Rock from earlier in the morning.

In fact, I'm still laughing as I remember Sherrie Marie saying, "Tell me what you're thinking right now." ...And then me, realizing : I'm so tired I'm not thinking anything at all right now. How cool.


  1. That sounds awesome! Glad you had a great day out there.

  2. Awesome recap! I am glad to hear you had a good time...I am looking forward to Chattooga....

  3. Superb - congratulations! Great write up, you are well and truly over in the dark side now! Very much wishing that I had done the run now. Ho hum - but hopefully there will be one next year.

  4. Nice writeup Psyche! I'm proud of you and Sherri for pushing it toward the end - that last climb was sure challenging...Terri just willed her way up -so tough, we were very happy for her! Just remember that the Cherokee called this valley the "land of many steps" - ha! Looks like I'll be up for Chattooga also since we don't have a baseball game that day...take care

  5. Call me impressed. I ran up a small mountain once and realized how out of shape I was - and I was running marathons at the time.

  6. You are awesome woman!! I am so impressed. That's a lot of stairs. What a beautiful place to be spending the day.

  7. Wished I could have shared the experience...just no time right now!

  8. I enjoyed reading about the experience. Congratulations on finishing a very tough run.

  9. Great Job. My legs just looking at all those climbs!

  10. That sounds so fun - I absolutely love trail running, you're so free from pace and all that from the road. Tough hills, you're so strong!!!

  11. I am really enjoying hearing about your trail running adventures:) You are doing so well and it looks like you had some great people to run with. Also, the trail looks so beautiful...totally worth the challenge:) Maybe if I read enough on your trail running journey I will be insprired enough to do one of my own!

    I hope that you have a great day!

  12. Sounds like you all had a terrific day! I want to run that some day soon. By the way,were there any steps on the trail???

  13. You are nuts! Crazy, I say! Crazy-Awesome! Way to keep at it, girlfriend. I'm still not man enough to hang out with you ultra/trail guys and gals yet, so I'll have to live vicariously through you. Way to go!

  14. Oh man, that sounds so GREAT! Congratulations! What a bad ass you are ;)

  15. "When you come to a sign for White Water Falls parking area 1.7 miles- it's a lie."

    So true...and this comment literally made me laugh out loud. Take care Psyche.
    Sherri Marie

  16. WOW, that look'd like SOOOOO much fun. I'm very jealous that you have those kinds of trails near your place. And 30 miles worth!? Amazing.

    12 hours well spent for sure