Took another stab at Neal Gorman's FKT of this circuit.
Back in June I missed his mark by several minutes and it has been on my mind ever since.
I glanced at the splits I need to hit, did some strides in the small gravel lot, took a deep breath and just went after it.
A light drizzle had made things a little wet but I was just hoping to put in a solid effort and see what my watch said when all was said and done.
The first climb from RT 56 to the Mau-Har/AT intersection I felt pretty rough. Tight hamstrings, self-doubt, feeling distracted by the foliage, etc.
When I hit he first checkpoint 7 seconds faster than Neal's time I just buckled down and got to work climbing up to the Three Ridges summit.
I felt stronger than I did back in June. My legs hurt but in a sustainable type of hurt.
The climb never gets shorter. It's always deceiving and heartbreaking when you think you're close and realize there's another set of switchbacks to navigate.
The rocks were slick as I tried to be concise and quickfooted on my way to the summit.
Reaching the summit of Three Ridges in 65 minutes....that felt good...like I got a big part of the puzzle under my belt...and with about 1.5 minutes up on Gorman's split from his 2012 attempt.
The rest of the way back down to Rt. 56 was trying to not wipe out on the wet leaves that were covering the rocks. But with each checkpoint I was gaining time on Neal's and it was the motivation I needed to stay present and focused. To keep trying.
I wiped out on one of the switchbacks and almost thought my shot was over, as my left knee felt like it was tracking weird for a minute or two.
It was more mind of matter of not caring about that and just trying to gain the momentum back.
I got to Rt 56 in 2hr7min....so about an 8 minute gap on Neal's time.
But still needing to climb the Priest I knew anything could happen and I could blow up at any moment.
My plan going up the Priest was that 'every second mattered' and that anything that was close to runnable I had to run. No choice.
That and continue to stay present and keep moving.
When I got to the shelter/turn around in 3hrs9min30sec I felt pretty darn proud. I still had a 8 minute lead on Neal's time and I just needed to navigate the gnarly decent safely, quickly and efficiently.
I got back to the Rt 56 gravel lot at 3hr44min49sec.
A couple hikers from Maryland were packing up their gear and I chatted with them a bit. They snapped my picture at the kiosk.
I then wandered off into the woods to stretch and just enjoy the moment of being in the woods and enjoying the fall foliage.