Who would enjoy running this FKT route? Anyone with a "healthy" elevation obsession who wants as much vert crammed into not a lot of miles and wants some heavy climbing throughout the run, not just at the beginning. A runner who likes that sweet sweet technical track filled with lots of big, thuggishly-sitting rock landmines, roots, minor scrambles would also love this route. Finally, if you're a runner easily bored who needs constantly-changing terrain, excellent viewpoints, and lots of trail challenges, this route is for you.
Trail conditions - A few days of rain left the trail somewhat wet when we arrived in the morning, but this initially presented some really nice running track as the dirt was packed and not muddy yet. The initial ascent left me salivating to unleash a solid send down the rock landmine on red upon our return. About 3 miles in, however, nature had other plans and the rain began. The trails along the summits remained runnable save for the sections with slick rocks. We even saw some fun ice crystals along the summits that had fallen from the trees overnight and a few flurries fell at one point. The last 3.5 miles were tough with the rain, now leaving all of the rocks fairly slick, and a lot of running water on the trail had us slowing down more than we would've in dry conditions. In dry conditions, this time is gonna be shattered by the next female to run it.
Run report - we arrived at the Barnum Road parking lot around 6:40am, only one other car in the lot despite it being a holiday weekend! Score! The rain threat may have scared off some people. We set off on the trail, enjoying the unseasonably cold weather and feeling optimistic that we could beat the rain. I had never been to these peaks before but my awesome Coach and teammate-for-the-day, Steven Estremera, had completed this loop a handful of times before. I was glad to have a tour guide despite the trail being so clearly marked and easy to follow from start to finish. We both love a solid climb, Steve more than me, and tried to bank time in the first quarter of our run (did I say I love a solid climb? I mean, I whine but I secretly love the badassery of it). By Thomas Cole's peak, we were about 6 minutes ahead and continued to bank time pushing up to an almost 10 minute lead at one point over the previous time. Steve warned me not to take too many pictures because those lost seconds could add up and make our attempt closer than necessarily. Was I a bit cocky when I laughed off his advice? Not so much cocky as naive...... Pride comes before a fall - within a few minutes, the rain started on us again, making the rocks slicker and our descent slower than we had hoped. The rain continued for most of the rest of the run, the 2nd climb hit me haarrrrddd, and I was still sneaking time-wasting pictures... By the time we hit Thomas Cole for the final descent, the time we had banked was getting precariously smaller and smaller. It was going to come down to the descent - usually where I excel, but the rain and slicker rocks and water on the trail left me second guessing my footing more than usual and our send was less than impressive. Sprinting the last quarter mile or so, I knew it was going to be so so close - but we eeked out a new FKT time and I'm seriously proud of the way my teammate and I rose to the occasion in some pretty challenging trail conditions. Hope others enjoy the pics I took - they almost cost us this FKT!
THANK YOU to Kelly MacDonald for her excellent run report and inspiration to attempt this route. I think we ended up with essentially the same run day conditions!
IMPORTANT NOTE: We submitted the Strava segment time which is based on ELAPSED TIME for the segment based on the FKT route. This time is 3 hr 42 min 44 seconds. We ran a bit farther than the actual FKT route but still would have set a new time of 3 hr 43 min 4 seconds using the elapsed time for the FKT route plus the excess we ran.