Tyler and I just got back from our Duncan Ridge Trail FKT adventure. It was a great success and, most importantly, a great trip! We had excellent weather both days, which allowed us to really get after the relentless footpath that is the Duncan Ridge Trail. I ran on 6-25-13 and set a FKT of 6:38 with Tyler and his loyal best friend, Ulysses, supporting me at 3 locations. We switched roles the following day, and Tyler had a great run (I'll let him report on his run). In both cases we camped out at the Slaughter Creek camp sites on the AT the night before, started just after sunrise, and finished at Long Creek Falls on the AT (near Three Forks). I'll post all of the stats from my run below, followed my a more detailed report.
Start time: 6:45 am
Terminus-to-terminus time: 6:37:31
2 full aid stations (water, Gatorade, and gels), 1 water aid, and 1 water drop
Weather: high 60s to low 80s, overcast fading to sunny, light sprinkles for <30 mins
Splits: miles, time from start, vertical gain, location
3.0, 0:25, 330', Wolfpen Gap (water drop)
11.4, 2:09, 2100', Mulky Gap (full aid)
18.6, 3:38, 2000', BMT intersection
23.5, 4:29, 730', Hwy 60 (full aid)
27.0, 5:07, 700', Toccoa River Bridge
29.8, 5:44, 970', Bryson Gap
(water aid in unnamed gap right before "The Bald")
33.3, 6:29, 750-800', "The Bald"
34.5, 6:38.5, 0', AT @ Long Creek Falls (DRT terminus)
Carried: old beat up Asics road running shoes, light wool running socks, shorts, Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest, 2 X 20 oz bottles, ~6 gels departing each aid, and 1 super sweet running hat
Fuel: 14 gels, 4 X 20 oz Gatorade, 3.5 X 20 oz water
As I mentioned earlier, we hiked the 3 miles from Lake Winfield Scott the night before and camped out at the camp sites near the DRT trailhead at Slaughter Creek. We woke up the next morning before sunrise, packed up camp, and ate a spot of breakfast. I had a granola bar, banana, and a pack of gummy blocks. We slowly sauntered the <400m up the AT to its intersection with the DRT, and at 6:45 am I set off on the longest run of my life.
I was still a bit groggy from a poor nights sleep, but managed to make good time on the gentle (by DRT standards) terrain. I jumped down the long, steep side of Slaughter Mountain, entered Wolfpen Gap at mile 3, finished the first bottle of Gatorade, refilled from our water stash, and took off again. Over the next 8 miles I ascended conservatively, often opting to power hike rather than run in an effort to conserve energy for what I knew was next. In retrospect, I probably could have done a bit more running during this section.
Tyler and his dog, Ulysses, were waiting for me at Mulky Gap. We refilled water, restocked gels, and I gulped one down while walking out of the gap. The next 7 miles (Mulky to BMT intersection) are by far the most difficult section of the DRT in that direction. It packs in 2000' of vertical gain directly over each peak (no switchbacks), and the overgrown trails make it difficult to set a rhythm as you fight for each step (or to keep from falling face first down the trail). Due to the difficulty of this section and density of blackberry bushes, you are more likely to come across a bear than another person. Given the difficulty of this section, I was not disappointed with my effort.
I finally reached the intersection with the BMT (thank goodness), and it was mostly smooth sailing down to the next aid station at Hwy 60. I restocked again, then powered up the next climb. I knew there was a good stream just on the other side of the Toccoa River, so I dumped some of my water to lighten up, with the intention of filling up later. I absolutely flew down the easy slope to the river. This was probably the emotional high point of the run-- it felt so great to finally stretch my legs out after so many steep, choppy, technical descents. When I got to the swinging bridge I saw that I was only 2 minutes behind 6:30 pace. Instead of filling my water up, I kept on moving, not wanting to waste any time.
I will say that the climb up to Bryson Gap got the better of me, but I did see a the rear side of a black bear as it ran up the ridge away from me. I'm always impressed at how they can move all 400 pounds of their bodies up steep slopes at such pace. As I was moving the whole run, I did not get to see anu of my favorite animals (salamanders), but I did find a few during our hiking and camping the night before.
After making it to Bryson gap, I was almost completely out of fluids and was regretting my decision to forgoe filling up after the Toccoa River. I slogged through the next 3 miles or so, and finally met my aid crew at the unnamed gap just before the bald-- oh man, was I happy to see them! Exhausted and thirsty, I pushed up the last climb of the run while gulping water. When I made it to the bald I took off and ran the last 1.2 miles in 8 minutes 44 seconds. I celebrated the end of my run with an icy dip in Long Creek Falls and walked on stiff legs the .9 miles down the AT to the car. What a run!
I was really happy with my effort and the outcome. After dealing with some car problems, we drove back to Lake Winfield Scott to repeat the whole process for Tyler's FKT attempt. It was certainly an adventure to remember!