Laurel Valley Race Report 2008

I love this race. I love this race. I love this race.

laurel valley whitewater falls

One of the interesting allures of Claude Sinclair’s, self-supported Laurel Valley Whitewater Run is the fact that no one truly knows how far it is. The route is very difficult both in terrain, and the amount of climb, which leads many runners to clock times roughly one-to-two hours longer than their typical 50K, but is it really 40 miles?

I have my own ideas, and I think the race is closer to 35 miles, than to 40, but here are some elements that certainly make it seem like 40 miles:

A Week of Excitement Leading up to the Race

I have been training my ass off.

Part of it’s been left on the trails, and a lot of it’s been left in my CrossFit gym, but I t’aint got much ass left.

I was excited about running this race again this year for many reasons, but primarily, I knew that my performance in this race would be a solid indicator of where I am with my training leading into my first 100-miler at Superior.

I was very excited, but also a little nervous. I promised the RD, Claude, that I would clock a respectable finish time so that I would be granted a 6:00 a.m. start with the veteran Laurel Valley runners. I like Claude and did not want to disappoint.

3, 2, 1 Go!

I’m a little bummed that I’ve never had the opportunity to start LV to the sound of Claude firing an old Civil War musket, but “3,2,1 Go!” works ok too, I guess… {grins}

Now, typically in my race reports, I offer a blow-by-blow account of the race, my individual experiences, and the people I met, but this year, in this race, it was mostly uneventful. I ran seven of the eight hours completely alone …making that an individual and unique experience of it’s own.

To sum it up – I just ran. – and stayed focused on three specific goals:

I ran with those things in mind, and just soaked up the Jurassic environment around me.

I finished the race in 8:42, over three hours better than last year’s 12:14, and most importantly, although I was fatigued, I was not completely wrecked, and I now feel a little more confident leading into my first 100.

I’m sorry to make this all about ME, but I have been really focused on both Laurel Valley and my upcoming 100. Below are some of the elements that I believe are making a huge difference in my training – and I believe it’s a combination of all these things, and none more important than the other.

Run Those Uphills If You Can

I know we hear a lot about walking the uphills, but I believe it’s all in how you train combined with the total distance of the race. I have been training extensively on the Appalachian Trail and increasing my uphill running over time to a level where I can almost run the entire AT approach trail {almost - Black’s still kicks my ass}

I aspire to be a gnarly mountain runner. The people around me that I look up to like Byron Backer, Sally Brooking, Janice Anderson, Marty Coleman, etc… all seem to run uphill and they are gnarly mountain runners.

Employing this training strategy REALLY made the difference in this race for me.

There is so much climbing in this race that if you walk all the uphill sections, you’ll be walking more than you’ll be running.

Trim the Fat

Last year I was 215-ish pounds at Laurel Valley.

This year, I came in at a designed 195 lbs.

This helped a bunch with feeling nimble and comfortable throughout the race. Plus, since one must carry so much water and nutrition based on the self-supported element of the race, there’s a lot of added weight in the form of water bladder packs and hand-held bottles.

My continued goal is to get down five more pounds, to 190, by the Superior 100 next month.

…185 by Mountain Masochist in November.

Strength Training Rocks the House

CrossFit baby!

I drank the juice and am a believer forever. It’s stunning how much strength, power, fat loss, and all-around fitness gain that I can contribute to CrossFit training.

CrossFit’s really nothing new – it’s just hard – which somehow got lost over time during the fitness revolution. It’s like self-induced, Army boot camp fitness training.

Get some! You’ll never look back.

Running on Beefy Trail

I like technical, gnarly, single track. I like to be deep in the woods, buried in the mountains, running point to point; therefore, I have been training on similar terrain.

All my races will be this way – aside from ATY – and training on the AT is making all the difference in the world. I wish Chris Wedge was still on the ultra email list. This was his advice to me when I first started running in June 2006, and it was a solid piece of advice.

It’s hard to continue running uphill with heavy fatigue, but it makes all the difference in the world to finishing times.

I Don’t Recommend Laurel Valley for Runners


I think it would be a big eye-opener for runners from far and wide. The foothills carry a magic that you just have to experience to understand.

All 5,000 widely-spaced wooded steps built into many of the uphills…

The ridiculous climb at the finish…

The long, false-summit climbs throughout the entire race that never-end and challenge your mental and physical fortitude…

The Jurassic ecosystem with lots of forest green, big creeks, loose rocks, stunning views, swinging bridges, lotsa bees, tough climbs, boulder scrambles …and a really cool, big-ass waterfall view at the finish…

And lastly and most importantly, the impossibility of a DNF – you either finish, or spend the night on the trail.

As expected, I was happy to eat my ginger snaps at the finish line, sitting with all the finishers, and basking in the glow that is Laurel Valley, …and still, my all-time favorite race.

Thanks Claude.

Be Sociable, Share!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider to leave a comment or subscribe to the feed and get future articles delivered to your feed reader.


[...] fact, the other side of the trail is where the infamous Laurel Valley is held, yet another beautful [...]

[...] says, “I feel as though I almost fully recovered from my mountain trail 40-mile race, so played around with much of the HQ WOD today. I don’t have a GHD, and can’t do [...]

Good summary on what helped improve the running. Way to handle what sounds like a very tough run. Excellent report as usual.

Nice work with spanking that course! I got no doubt you have the fortitude to finish Sawtooth.

Great seeing you this weekend and congrats on your strong race. I love that course too and wish we could have that weather every year. Good luck at Superior.

Mike — yessur, ATY.

I am stoked to have gotten the invite email today!

72-hours of runners, sheesh. I can’t even begin to contemplate all that yet. I gotta get through my hundred first.

Good luck in your training. I don’t even know how to train for 72-hours…. {???}

Christian –

Congratulations on your race at Laurel Valley! Reading your report makes me want to try to sweep next year…

Congrats on getting into the 72-hour at ATY! Since I missed meeting you at the SweetH2O 50K, I’m hoping that I can find you while we spend three days circling a 500-meter track ;-) !

I’ve been at ATY three of the past four years – it’s a wonderful event put on by incredibly nice people, and attracts some of the best runners on the planet. What a fun event to just be a part of!

See you there – if not before!

Mike Melton

run the uphills? what, you’re an animal. another great report.

(kinda thought walking the ups was one of the beni’s of the ultra world};)

Thanks for the comments …and YEP, for those of you inquiring about ATY, it looks like I;m in for 72-hour.

Better get that airfare while the gettin’s as good as it’s gonna get for awhile.

Nice report. You’re sounding very well prepared.

Running uphill? Reminds me of the advice a friend gave me a few months ago when I was talking about my next PR goal. He said “well, stop walking, and your time will improve.”
Sounds advice. Only problem I had with it is that it meant I had to be running the whole time. :)

Good luck next month!

Nice report Christian. I’ve been working on hammering some more hills, with lots of altitude. It seems to be getting good results for me, too. Maybe I’ll see you at ATY?

Great job Christian!

Mike O

Thanks Christian! Great job. And thanks for the run-the-uphills advice — I need to do better at that in my training.


Nice race and nice report. I enjoy reading about your progress in the past year or so – particularly how Crossfit has helped you. We don’t have any Crossfit gyms here in Vermont, but I started lifting and doing HIIT work about 18 months ago, and I’ve found that it’s helped my ulrarunning quite a bit.

You’ve certainly picked a tough challenge for your first 100 this year.

Great report Christian, glad you had a good time. LV is a beautiful run and one of my favorites, although I have only run one or twice.


Leave a comment