I joined Scott, Scott, Lester, Joe and Chris as we left the parking lot and climbed the stairs onto the Foothills Trail. This is the starting location of the difficult Laurel Valley ultra that is held in August. 33+ miles with no aid. I have never been on any of this section, so I was very excited to come out and see some of it. Joe pretty much took off from the start, and I hung out with Chris & Lester mostly. Scott H was a bit ahead and Scott was a bit behind. We four would all be together again as I stopped to turn around.
The trail was wonderful and I quickly remembered how much I enjoyed this. The week leading up to this - I wasn't even sure if I was coming out here, so I ran my normal schedule. Long-ish run Sunday, speedwork Tues, tempo run Thurs and some hills on Friday. I do not do the 3 straight days of running thing often, but legs felt pretty good. I got a quick introduction to some of the Steps that people always refer to on this section.
They were a bit slick going down (we had torrential storms early this morning but not a drop during our run) and slow going up - both ways.
Great scenery - waterfalls, bridges, trees, etc - and great running. After an hour - made it to Virginia Hawkins Falls (~4.8mi in). Timing was good so continued on to Laurel Fork Falls and made it there in 1:33 or so. Went just a bit further, said my goodbyes, and went down a side trail to the Lake Jocassee boat ramp access. Interesting...here's some photos of some of these things:
|Virginia Hawkins Falls|
|Laurel Fork Falls|
|Lake Jocassee & Falls|
|One of many bridges|
|Laurel Fork Creek|
I turned around after 1:41 of running - just over 8 miles I'm estimating - and felt Good! On the way back - legs started complaining on some of the steps, but felt decent on the flats and excellent on the downhills. Came upon 3 or 4 sets of hikers while returning, took a few more of these photos, and enjoyed being outside. Took short detours twice on the way back, but quickly got back on trail. Sun finally came out not long before I finished, but it never did get terribly warm. With my handheld and 100oz camelback - I was overcautious carrying that much and only ended up drinking 45 ozs of water or so. 3 Gu's and half a PB&J bagel was plenty to keep me energized too.
Ended up finishing in 3:43 for almost 17 miles worth and still feeling good. Such a relief...now I can start planning for future runs/future races. Nothing just yet - but soon I'll decide.