FKT: Cal Swartzentruber - Sheltowee Trace (KY) - 2022-10-25

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7d 11h 18m 30s
GPS track(s)

I started the attempt on Tuesday, 10/18/22, at 5:15am from the northern terminus. My starting pack weight was about 30lbs. I carried enough food for 7.5 days, but only ended up eating about 6.5 days worth. I used the new FarOut map for navigation. Sometimes the FarOut map would slightly differ from the trail as marked in real life, so in these cases I followed the trail as it was marked on the ground. FarOut lists the length of the trail as 334.5 miles, but the actual length is 343 miles.

Day 1: 50 miles. I felt really solid starting out. I had just finished hiking the PCT, so my body was in good shape and ready to go. My feet started to ache a lot after the road walk through morehead, but other than that I didn’t encounter any major issues that day. I camped 50 miles in (as counted by FarOut).

Day 2: 40.8 miles. There is a road walk that starts about 92 miles into the trail and lasts for about 7 miles, so I was originally hoping to get through that road walk on day 2. However, my energy levels plummeted as my body adjusted to the attempt, and I was having a hard time keeping the pace I wanted. Additionally, the road walks this day really did a number on my feet, which felt sore and ached whenever walking on asphalt. I decided to camp before the road walk at the end of this day and tackle the road walking in the morning when my feet would be fresher.

Day 3: 44.2 miles. This was the big road walking day, and it was really hard on my feet. If I were to do this again, I would definitely use less minimalist shoes. I was able to keep a good pace going, but I ended up taking a number of breaks to let my feet rest. During one of these breaks I accidentally fell asleep for about 30 minutes. At the very end of the longest road walk, there was a pack of 4 dogs that charged me aggressively and trapped me in a thicket of thorns. It took about a half hour to get past them. I had wanted to go further this day, but the road walking was brutal, and I was having a hard time mentally. I ended up camping just past the turkey foot campground at FarOut mile 135.

Day 4: 45 miles. I really wanted to pick up the pace this day because I thought there was a chance I could still achieve a sub 7 day fkt if I pushed. My feet were hurting from the long road walks the day before, but my pack was getting lighter, so I was able to move at a slightly faster pace. There were a few road walks this day, and the lack of solid sleep was starting to be really taxing. I ended up camping at FarOut mile 180 to average 45/day for the first four days.

Day 5: 34.2 miles. This was a really hard day mentally. The lack of solid sleep and the toll on my body was catching up to me, and I had a really tough time pushing through. Additionally, I lost the trail for a bit under the leaf litter, and it took a while to find it again because FarOut isn’t always super helpful on this trail. I was feeling pretty discouraged and was upset about my pace so far. My plan was to go much farther than this, however I started to get really frustrated with things when it got dark. Under the freshly fallen leaves, it is really difficult to see boulders, holes, and mud puddles, especially when it’s dark. This led to many stubbed toes, and at 214.2 I just said “screw this” and set up camp.

Day 6: 33 miles. I ended up accidentally sleeping past my alarm and woke up after the sun had risen. Starting the day like this was hard, and I was feeling really low mentally. I was really frustrated with my pace, and I really just wanted the whole thing to be over. I wasn’t moving very quickly (or at all) for a lot of the day, but in the late afternoon I got a second wind. I was also doing mile math and realized I wouldn’t get the fkt unless I seriously picked things up. Not wanting this whole thing to be a bust, I decided to suck it up and push through. The road walking was pretty much all done, so my feet were feeling better by the end of the day. Camped at FarOut mile 247.2.

Day 7 (and 8): 87.3 miles. I got going a little after 5 this morning. I was trying to stay focused and keep my head in the game. I surprised myself with the pace I was able to keep while it was dark. With my pack being lighter now, I figured I could keep a decent pace through the end if I didn’t hold back. Doing mile math, I realized I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night if I wanted the fkt. I decided to treat it as a fun challenge to finish the whole rest of the trail in one run. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but being so close to the end really changed my perspective and got me out of the tough mental space I was in. It got dark just a little before I got to the TN/KY state line. During the night I took four 10-15 minute naps. I didn’t want to take out my quilt or any camping gear because I knew it would cost a ton of time to set up like that, so I just leaned against a rock or tree for these naps. Luckily the trail wasn’t very rocky and was easy to follow in the dark. I wasn’t trying to move quickly during the night, but rather to move consistently to set myself up well for when the sun rose. When the sun came up I got a boost of energy. I was extremely tired, and my feet had started to really hurt again, but I was so close to the end that I was able to push through, knowing once I got to burnt mill bridge this whole thing would be done. I did a fair bit of running in the last 30 miles, as much as I could, although I wasn’t able to run very fast. At this point the incentive of finishing mattered more to me than setting a good time. I was able to finish that day 10/25/22 at 4:34pm.