This is the first long run I've ever done against a clock and I am quite stoked it went as well as it did! My girlfriend and I drove up from Athens, GA around 8 and were on the trail by 11. We started at the Standing Indian Backcountry Information site right next to the campground. She was there mainly just to finish the loop in a day, not necessarily set an FKT, and she started about a minute or two before me and I passed her right as Kimsey Creek Trail began to climb.
The climb up felt pretty great, weather conditions were near perfect but trail conditions could have been better. Ice had formed overnight on the rocks by the creek which made for a few broken strides but nothing awful. It was more the slick mud caused by the freeze and thaw cycle that would slow me down throughout the day. I did get off course on the climb, I got excited to see a road and took off in the wrong direction... whoops! It only ended up adding about a quarter mileish.
I put down my first calories and sips of water once I got on the AT and topped out on Standing Indian just over an hour in. It felt magical to start the downhill sections and I made it to mile 10 before stopping to top off water and eat a stroop waffle. I only topped off my bottles one more time at Mooney Gap. I used a fair bit of energy on the initial climb so I was pretty gassed on most of the uphills after about mile 14 but none as bad as Albert Mountain. I virtually crawled my way to the summit where I ran into another runner going South and thinking he was also going for the FKT was enough to scare me into sub 10-minute mile pace.
Diving off the AT along Long Branch Trail was very steep at first but adrenaline kept my feet moving well over the less than ideal footing. I immediately collapsed once I finished but I definitely saw a few places where I could have improved on time; don't get off course, eat better, drink more, wait for the trails to dry out a bit more.
My girlfriend ended up taking a tumble around mile 12 and hit her head a bit so I ran back in to hike out with her as the night came on. She still finished the yog because she is a beast! All is good now though, we both just have sore knees for different reasons now!