I started from the Shawnee backpack trailhead parking lot just before 7:30AM (Strava says 7:28). Weather was cool at the start but only 1.5 minutes in I twisted my ankle badly on a large rock. For a few minutes I wondered if I was about to have the most comically short failure imaginable but the ankle never became a serious problem. It hurt whenever I stepped on uneven ground and is fairly swollen now but it never was bad enough to even cause me to take the couple Advil pills I packed in my handheld.
The trail conditions were pretty good. Obviously it was wet during the mile of like 10 stream crossings after camp 6, but for the most part the trail was dry and not overgrown. The biggest issue with the trail was the downed trees. As a result of the covid-19 situation, the rangers are working limited hours so there were a lot of downed trees. I didn't have too much issue navigating, I wasted a minute or two on the logging road around mile 10 where the trail has been moved - I think the GPX file I had on my watch was from the old trail so I kept thinking I was off track.
I completed the north loop in 2hr 9 minutes which was right about where I wanted to be. I felt that I had run pretty conservative but my legs were extremely tired anyways. The 6 major climbs and steep descents within the first 8 miles makes this loop really tough. When someone tries to break this record I recommend that they do a lot of training on steep ups and downs - the Mt Airy powerlines and Shawnee are pretty much the only places in Ohio to do this.
During the south loop the temperature rose way higher than expected into the mid 70s - I actually got fairly sunburned, something I never would have even considered worrying about! While this is not deathly hot, it definitely slowed me down having not ran in anything like that yet this year. While my pace slowed, I never completely blew up. I credit this to the vert training I did over the past few weeks once I decided to do this run (after every other race got cancelled). I was able to run the entire route with the exception of parts of the two climbs before and after the Mackletree Rd crossing at mile 30 where the grade gets over 20% and running isn't a super reasonable choice. I was able to stay fairly strong on the downhills even in the later miles (at least stronger than I ever have in the past during a run with this much elevation). Aside from the ankle issue, I also lost one of the soles in my shoes during one of the stream crossings and had to run almost the entire south loop without a sole in my right shoe. When I exited the trail - some of the kids I coach at Peebles ran the last 1/4 mile on the road with me to the finish which was really cool.
For nutrition and water I carried a handheld 20 oz Nathan water bottle and took honey stinger gels every 30 minutes after the first one at 45 minutes. I filled up my bottle at camp 1 (~mile 6) and then exchanged for a new bottle with new gels that I had stashed at camp oyo (~mile 15). I refilled this bottle at camp 5 (~mile 24) and then refilled it with water and gels that I stashed at Mackletree Rd (~mile 30). I had planned to refill at camp 4 (~mile 19) but I didn't see the spigot and wasn't low enough on water to warrant spending any time looking. Once it got hotter I did start to wish I had more water towards the end, and there definitely were other good roads to stash that I could have used. I had a 2 person crew of my girlfriend and roommate who saw me at several locations to make sure I was okay and that I got my water and gels. I had extra supplies with them because I figured if things went wrong it would be more important to me to run a faster time and just accept it being a "supported" record. They also provided moral support that I am incredibly thankful for.
Overall I think it was a good day and a really fun challenge. I think that with cooler weather and less downed trees my original goal of under 5.5 hours is totally possible. I hope someone gives this a go - please reach out and I would love to help with your planning! Mike Owen (if he isn't the one breaking the record :)) is also a great resource who helped me a ton and also showed me Shawnee in the first place. I am so thankful for his role in making Shawnee into the trail running Mecca that it deserves to be and is starting to become!!
Alex this is incredible! Congrats on the stout FKT. I would love to see more runners give this loop a try. Certainly the most challenging route I’ve run in here in Ohio.