I started thinking about this route after crewing and pacing some friends in May 2021 who hiked this section as part of a fundraiser.
I met Brett Bagley at Ellijay Waffle House for dinner Sunday night. We drove to Springer Mountain parking lot and dropped off my truck. We stayed at a hotel in Hiawassee. We woke up at 4:45am, got McDonalds biscuits, then drove to Blue Ridge Gap and both hiked to the state line. I started the run at 7:38am on Monday 11/29/21 and finished at Springer 4:49am Tuesday 11/30/21.
I used Daniel Cates strava route to make my pace chart adjusted for Hunter Leninger's and Lauren Jones times.
I packed 31 foods (gels, chews, beans), but only used ~25. I brought 4 half liter soft flasks of water, 2 with filter tops. I picked up water on the trail maybe 6 times, just refilling/topping off the 2 filter top flasks. All water came from the trail except for a fill-up from the spigot at Neels Gap. I decided to empty 1 of the 4 flasks at Neels Gap because I was familiar with the water sources the rest of the way. I only got into the 3rd flask a few times.
I went hard from the start with an eye on Lauren's overall FKT. I felt good and was holding close to Lauren's pace through Unicoi, but then started to move slower than I wanted to on climbs, falling behind pace. I kept pushing though and at mile 44 I thought I was in striking distance of Lauren's time -- I'd only need to finish with an 8 hour 50k. I pushed very hard up Blood Mt and the rest of the section to Woody Gap which is pretty smooth and runnable. At 16 miles to go I would need to hold 15 min miles for the overall, but even with giving it everything, that started to slip away in the section between Woody Gap and Three forks, which is has a lot of rocky parts, not so runnable, with actually short but what felt like long climbs. Going out wreckless and fast from the beginning, and with tons of leaves on the trail, I kicked a bunch of rocks through out the day which obliterated my right big toe. Towards the end every time I'd try to run I'd kick another rock and I hiked most of the last 10 miles. Finished at Springer, then hiked back to the truck where I slept.
Thanks to Brett for getting me set up. Thanks to Hunter, Lauren, Daniel, James, Bohne and End of Days Run Club for the inspiration and the beta.