Note: I am submitting this as an FKT attempt, but want to document the following two issues:
1. I ran 100% of the route, but accidentally ran more too. I turned the wrong way at one point and had to double back (more below). I of course kept the GPS tracker running, and the time and distance for this detour are included in the total.
2. According to my GPS trace, my total logged distance was 9.82 miles (including the detour mentioned above). This is inconsistent with the route setter’s listed distance (10.4 miles), which in turn is inconsistent with the official trail map (Available at http://188.8.131.52/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/DTE_Overview_Map_08.2018.pdf; 4.75 miles for Big Kame + 5.2 miles for Green Lake = 9.95 miles). Nevertheless, my trace (which includes a part done three times instead of once due to doubling back) looks identical to the route setter’s trace (although I couldn’t figure out how to access mile markers on the trace for comparison). I’m not sure what caused this discrepancy.
My one-line summary is that this is a beautiful, excellent trail running route, but that the many bikers add a minor challenge. Both loops are constantly turning, and Big Kame also has a lot of small ups and downs. Accordingly, my overall pace was at least two minutes per mile slower than what I would expect for the same distance on flat pavement.
It was a ridiculously warm November day in Michigan, with temperatures already in the 60s by the time I started running, and apparently topping out at 81 degrees a few miles away in Ann Arbor (which would be a record high for November). I decided to bring water along in a CamelBak, and was happy that I did so. I had hoped to dodge the crowds by going early on a Monday morning, but I got started a little bit later than I wanted to, and was joined by a fair number of bikers who undoubtedly also wanted to take advantage of the warm weather. The trails are clearly intended primarily for bikers, and I generally had to jump out of their way and wait when they passed, which cost a bit of time. Besides the bikers, I encountered one hunter, and no other hikers or runners.
Bikers alternate going clockwise or counterclockwise around the two loops depending on the day of the week, with runners and hikers required to go in the opposite direction from bikers. Monday meant running counterclockwise, which worked well since it meant that I got to do the more technical Big Kame loop before the bulk of the easier Green Lake loop. It was my first time in the area. Luckily, the trailheads and trails are generally well-marked, and match available maps online. I set off for the short initial segment on the Green Lake Loop to get to Big Kame. Turning off onto Big Kame, things were definitely more technical. Nothing was too challenging, but the trail turns and changes elevation constantly, and there were a lot of leaves and small obstacles. At several points the trail “forks” for 30 feet or so, giving bikers an option for a more or less technical route. I took the more technical forks as much as possible.
There were a few unmarked offshoots from Big Kame, but the main trail was generally easy to track. However, when Big Kame ended and ran back into the Green Lake Loop, I wound up turning the wrong way. It’s fairly well-marked, but there was a group of bikers standing in front of one of the Green Lake signs. Not wanting to waste time and also aware of social distancing, I headed towards the only “Green Lake Loop” sign I saw. As soon as I turned I got the feeling that I was going the wrong way, but nevertheless continued until I had fully doubled back on the initial segment of Green Lake to get to Big Kame. So, I doubled back again, and eventually continued in the right direction. Overall, the detour cost me at least 5 minutes along with corresponding energy. This was pennywise, pound foolish time management when making the turn back onto the Green Lake loop. (It also would have helped to case the trails out before attempting the FKT.)
Green Lake was much less hilly and had fewer obstacles than Big Kame, but it still twisted constantly. I was mostly hitting a 9-10 minute/mile pace for Big Kame, but brought it down to under 9 for the first couple of miles of Green Lake. This improved pace was due much more to the easier trail than increased effort. I had been feeling fairly good, but around Mile 7 started to feel a bit tired. Nevertheless, I didn’t have trouble more or less maintaining the same pace for the last three miles, and was actually a bit disappointed when I was done.