Shelly Morris and I met at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday October 24th at the Land Between the Lakes North Welcome Center and completed the North/South trail (track log says 61 miles). The 24th was my 40th birthday, and, noticing an unclaimed supported FKT for the North/South Trail, I thought... "what a great way to bring in a new decade!" There's a great boondocking campsite directly across from the North Welcome Center ($10 backcountry permit), so we were in great shape for an early start Saturday morning. Neither Shelly nor I had ever run more than a 50K, so we both set personal best "longest distance" runs.
We started off in the dark, trail was remarkably solid despite torrential downpours the night before. The first 9 miles flew by, the sun rose, and we saw a few backpackers along this stretch (still asleep, in tents). The second 9.5 mile stretch was when we started to realize that 90% of the North/South trail looks like 90% of the North/South trail: rolling hills, beautiful fall foliage, mixed pine/hardwood forests. Beginning at the Golden Pond Visitor Center, south for about 10 miles, the trail has heavy horse use and the requisite horse sh*t, erosion, mud-sucking shoe trail f*ckery. This is a morale buster for sure, and maybe one of the reasons there have been so few FKT attempts on the N/S Trail. This section was a real downer, and we were grateful for our crew support with multiple pairs of dry socks and shoe changes for this stretch. It was impossible to have dry feet in the horse trail section.
We had incredible crew support from JayBird in his Delica Starwagon and emotional support dogs Bear and LunaFish. Jay was in instrumental part of this effort, and met us at 7 intersections along the North/South Trail. We used the crew for water, food, first aid (foot care) and it was always fun to see the support van. The trail has almost zero water, and would be extremely difficult to run without support.
Shelly and I were amazingly fresh until the 50 mile mark. At that point, it was dark, our legs were trashed, and we resorted to power hiking. The last 5 miles of the trail especially were pretty tough. There was a bit of dizziness, some dry heaving, and one "sit down on the side of the trail and re-goup" moment. Temperatures were in the upper forties, so we couldn't linger long without getting really, really cold.
The "finish" photo is blurry (and we failed to stop our Strava right away) because, by the time we hit the Southern Terminus, it started to rain (cold rain!) and we were in a pretty sad mental state. Overall, this was an incredibly fun trail to thru-run/hike, and I hope this FKT inspires other women to come out and set new FKTs on this trail.