FKT: Marcy Beard, John Beard - Tucson Five (AZ) - 2023-05-07

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Mixed-gender team
Start date
Finish date
Total time
2d 10h 4m 0s

While living in Tucson since last fall, John and I have done a bit of exploring in the area mountains.  Enough to know that the Tucson 5 FKT is big but doable.  We found a 3-day chunk of time that seemed to match our training progression (although for John this was quite a jump) and allowed for the snow to melt out from the higher peaks.  Hotter temperatures were a concern but we got lucky with a couple cool days (highs of 83-85) and one final day that topped out at 90.

We also got lucky with water still flowing in the creeks, although Mica barely squeezed out enough to make it an easy trip - the water situation could have been more challenging (and less tasty, or heavier) if we had waited much longer.

Keystone was first up (on Cinco de Mayo - day one of the Tucson 5 on 5/5!), with a pre-dawn start and an easy up-and-down on a lovely morning with a full moon.  We drove over to Wrightson (marveling at Henley's feat of biking in between the trailheads, wow).  Lots of spunk in our steps, motivated to climb and descend at a good clip while still not overdoing the downhill pounding.  Met a group of trail workers and John got to chat with some like-minded people.

The afternoon was a tad warm, so we bought ice and I tested out a couple ice-related strategies on Wasson (arm sleeves and a neck bandana) - very nice!  The desert flowers are really blooming, so pretty right now.  We were thrilled to finish up peak #3 with plenty of time left in the day to recover and reset for the next day.

We arrived at Catalina State Park just a hair before their 5 am opening time and got on the trail soon after.  John had scouted the ascent recently and I was looking forward to seeing everything above Romero Pools for the first time.  It's a steep one!  Well, the Romero trail up to the saddle isn't bad (rather rolling, really).  We treated water from the creek to haul up the dry section on the ridge.

Once on the AZT, the trail heads uphill for real, with lots of rocks and interesting things to look at if you can spare a moment to take your eyes off the ground in front of you.  I was feeling the climbing from the day before, while John seemed as energetic as ever.  We were excited to find the Quartzite Spring pipe gushing water near the top, yay for good beta (I had called a couple park people the week before to ask about water).

4 climbs down, 1 to go!  Oh, first we had to get back down to the truck.  That took up the rest of the day, as I'm not fast on technical trail.  At least most of the time we had cool breezes and it never felt too hot.  Especially because I started dipping my hat and arms in the creek on the way down.  One black snake sighting along the way, whee!  That'll wake you up.  It was definitely a later finish than day 1, but still no stress about getting sufficient sleep.

We debated starting Mica super-early but decided to give our bodies more rest time and stuck with the original schedule.  Saguaro National Park East is one of my favorite places to run, and John said he would just try to keep up so I should go ahead and run.  So much better than the Lemmon climb (at least for me)!  We were glad to be finishing on a day with mostly smooth trails so we could go for it and not need to save our legs for anything else.

The park ranger had heard that there was water at Douglas Springs campground recently, but by the time we arrived it was pretty sparse.  At least there was a little flow, between deep clear pools.  We filtered water for a couple servings of Spiz and hoped we would find another source higher up near Helen's Dome.  The high creek was still running - barely.  Very happy to see that.

It was great fun (on all 3 days) looking out in various directions to see what we were going to do and what we'd already done.  Beautiful!  Of course, from the actual Mica highpoint you can't see much beyond the trees, but we didn't care.  Time to retrace steps for the final descent.

We filled up all of our water bottles plus 2 Spiz baggies at the top "trickle creek", carrying more weight than we had up to that point.  It was going to be a hot afternoon, especially crossing the final 7-8 miles at lower elevation.  We were both still running great (a relative term, of course) and knocking out miles.

I could have done without all the stairs in the last mile and a half, but if that's all I have to complain about, that's a really good result!  We crushed our time estimate for Mica and were both thrilled to be channeling our "inner GTA (stage race) running" again after so many years.

Thank you John for the excellent company and thank you Billy for creating this challenging and interesting FKT!

Climb times:
Keystone = 1:59:32
Wrightson = 4:24:48
Wasson = 2:24:10
Lemmon = 11:40:50
Mica = 9:46:30

Clock time (between the first "Starting here" and last "Finishing here" messages on our InReach) = 2:10:04