FKT: Charlie Tillett - Miles Knob Loop (ME) - 2020-08-07

Route variation
Standard loop
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
2h 59m 14s

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.