My past experience with the 4 state challenge included pacing/crewing Adrian Spencer and Dan Frank on their Supported FKT attempts. Participating in those efforts inspired me to give the route a shot. I decided on unsupported as I wouldn't be fast enough for the supported FKT and the unsupported effort would be good training for a self supported 200K race that I will be doing in Ireland in September, carrying the extra supplies, etc.
On the day of my attempt, Adrian Spencer picked me up in Harpers Ferry at 5:20 (I left my car there) and dropped me off at the start, I got my obligatory start photo and was off around 6:30 am. I tracked using my Strava app on my phone (so that I could sent beacon tracking to safety contacts for verification and safety - Adrian Spencer, Dan Frank, and Holly Wittsack) and also on my Garmin watch (which was more inline with my actual start and stop as I had to put my phone in my bag and take it out, though Strava was only 20-30 seconds off). With me I would carry my nutrition including gels, apple slices, banana, pbj, electrolyte tablets, salt pills, some trail mix, and some bars. I also carried two 500 ml softflasks in my front vest, a hydration bladder in the back, and a 1L Katadyn BeFree bottle for filtering water from streams. I knew from reading the race reports of other successful 4 state FKTs that taking water from spigots at the couple Gaps we pass through was acceptable within the spirit of this particular FKT route, but I was hoping that I would be able to only use creeks and natural water beds. That proved not to be the case as there were no creeks or streams that I could find from mile 14 - 41 (aside from Potomac river after mile 37ish) so in the interest of safety I took water from spigot at mile 21(near Washington Monument State Park) and around mile 30-31 (Gapland). I did fill up at creeks at mile 6, 14 and 41ish heading up the Loudon climb (I was desperate at mile 41 and the creek/stream was quite pitiful with a centimeter of water flow but the angle was just enough that I could fill up and it saved me! Otherwise my day may have ended right there as I was low on calories and dehydrated and feeling weak and light headed).
Overall, I was in pretty good spirits throughout, though the towpath portion felt endless and I really struggled on the final climb and walk back to my car at Harpers Ferry. My body has been rejecting my normal gels and bars routine ever since the brutally hot Catoctin 50k where my stomach turned and today was similar. Apple slices seemed to work really well and wish I brought more of those but I ended up very low on calories late and could only eat a little combined with drinking water to soften pbj or bars - it took me 10 minutes at Gapland to eat half of a pbj. This lack of calories surely slowed my pace considerably on the final climb and I found myself laying under the WV/VA sign for 10 minutes after I finished to collect myself!
I would like to give a shout out to Troy Allen and Witt "El Matador" Wisbram who set a solid time and it proved to be tough (I was only 12-13 minutes under it and worried I wouldn't make it for the last several miles) and it kept me motivated for the final leg having a time to shoot for when I was hurting. Today was a bit hot after 1 pm at 87 degrees but it wasn't terrible with a nice breeze and shade. I understand that the day they attempted the FKT it was up in the 90s and humid!
I am excited to see where the FKT for unsupported goes from here as both 4 state supported and unsupported have been getting more attention in the past couple years. I don't expect my time to last and hopefully my info on water sources will help and motivate others. I think there are enough water sources (creeks/spigots) spaced close enough apart that on a cooler day there could be some very fast times.