Sitting at the kitchen table in my Maine vacation cabin last week, I’d eaten my pre-run nutrition, filled my Camelbak, and had my running shoes on in preparation of a “new” 18-miler in the Wild River Wilderness area when I got a call about a personal matter in Massachusetts. I dropped everything to head down and ended up spending a totally unplanned overnight (oops, no toothbrush). By the time I got back to Maine the next morning, it was too late to head off for my previously scheduled run so I decided to return to a nearby run I found earlier this year – The Miles Knob Loop.
While a bad night’s sleep in a strange bed, an early wake-up call, several hours of traveling, and an afternoon start in the summer heat might not sound ideal for a FKT attempt, the stress of dealing with the prior day’s situation provided a lingering stimulus (or perhaps it was just the extra cups of coffee).
This loop is as much a mental challenge as physical as you need to be prepared for steady work. Plus there are several sections of side-hill trail which demand balance over power. My prior effort took 3:30 but a missed turn, a backtrack error plus some map time cost me around 15 minutes so I figured – what the heck, let’s try to beat 3 hours and submit an FKT.
Getting the long initial climbs out of the way, I hit the junction of the Red Rock Trail in 1:05, about 10 minutes faster than before! I then hit the junction with the Great Brook Trail in 2:15, picking up another 5 minutes!! Finishing 3.4 miles in 45 minutes seemed a stretch but possible. Sucking down my last caffeinated GU gave me a huge psychological boost as I gained better mental focus for my foot plants on the tricky downhill. Full disclosure, this is the part of the run I always love - regardless of any time targets - and I bounded down this section of steep terrain.
As the single track joined a fire road and flattened out, I didn’t know the exact remaining distance (turns out it was ~1.5 miles) but knew to burn any matches I had left. Then with about a mile to go on a final section of gravel road, I kept looking for the trailhead parking lot which was tucked in on the right side of the road. Whenever I could see sunlight on the road, I knew there was an opening on the right (perhaps the parking area???) and gave a finishing kick – only to find out that again-and-again, it was nothing more than a clearing or brook crossing. Of course, I was now cursing myself for stopping to take in the views along the ridge – dang, I wanted those 90 seconds back! As my watch hit 2:58, I came to the top of a rise and saw more sunlight ahead. Now or never as I figured after 3:00, I would just jog it in. But this WAS the parking lot and when I hit the stop button, the clock read 2:59:14.
As I caught my breath, I was left wondering how the brain can calculate and then meter out the precise energy that allows us to hit arbitrary but very real goals over a distance that it has no way to accurately measure, leaving both the timeclock AND our energy levels with virtually nothing left.
I’m in my 60s so a sub 2-hour time is a virtual certainly for the young guns. But by posting this I hope to encourage more people to come over to my side of the Whites and see something different.