FKT: Mikaela Osler - Long Trail (VT) - 2021-06-17

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
6d 11h 33m 0s
GPS track(s)

Wow! What a trail! Here's a report :)

6/11: Started at 5:52 am. My dad hiked in with me to the terminus (and carried my bag on the approach trail). He is a stickler about rules so he took a video of me hiking out and shouted "I'm not supporting you! I'm not supporting you!" as I hiked away. I was hungry almost immediately, and I was hungry basically the whole rest of the time I was on trail. Pretty early on in the day I smashed my shin on a rock and it hurt so bad I couldn't bear weight on it for a few minutes. This may have been related to the ankle injury that happened later in the trip. It was a good day. I moved quick and even ran some despite how heavy my pack was. I felt my pack chafing and blisters starting on the bottoms of my feet, but what're you gonna do? I didn't see many people but I saw RJ's name in a lot of the trail registers. Camped a few miles before whiteface around 11:30 pm in somebody's sugarbush. It all felt very Vermont.

6/12: I didn't sleep great but I managed to convince myself to get out and hike by pretending I'd take a nap later in the day. The approach to whiteface was chill--even had a road walk!--but it went through a field that was all dewy and soaked my socks. This would become a problem as the trip progressed. I also should note that this morning there was a reroute around prospect rock to protect peregrine falcons. I did the reroute rather than the official trail and I don't really think there was much of a choice--it's a $15,000 fine for taking the normal trail, plus you might disrupt the falcons. I got to the top of whiteface faster than I hoped, but then I took a long footcare break and felt like I never really got my pacing mojo back. At sterling pond I stopped for water and talked to a really nice GMC caretaker. I asked her what to do because I didn't have a physical GMC member card and she sent my photo to the GMC caretakers at the paid sites to let them know I was doing an FKT. Smugglers Notch was totally overrun with people out for the weekend and the climb up to mount mansfield was brutal and hot. I took a long time and probably embarrassed myself in front of all the day hikers who were often moving quicker than me. But getting to the top was really amazing--I could see my hometown! Then down (Nebraska Notch?) and back up up Bolton Mountain in the evening. Bolton Mountain is literally at the edge of the neighborhood where I grew up so I was really excited to be on it. I was low on water and had to fill up from a puddle at the puffer shelter. Some people camping there were very kind and directed me to the best of the nasty puddles. They were confused when I said I had to keep hiking. Night fell and I was really bonking and frustrated with myself for how I was moving. I didn't hike as late as I intended, but I made it past the turnoff for the old long trail, which was a big victory because I could have turned off there and hiked home and quit but I didn't. In the night I saw a guy training to do the trail in a week later in the summer and I was also awoken by a moose huffing. Cool!

6/13: I woke up later than expected and I knew the descent from Bolton was runnable but I couldn't get myself to run. Morale was low, as were calories. The Notch Road road walk was maybe an 8 minute drive from home and it was hard not to quit. My feet got soaked hiking through the chicken fields on the far side of the winooski and I was worried I'd have poison Ivy. I took lots of breaks to change socks. The bamforth ridge was really long. Orginally there had been thunder showers forecast for this day so I was pushing to try to get over the ridge before the afternoon, but it turns out the showers had broken up. Anyways, all day the day before I'd been telling myself I could quit when I got over Camel's Hump and here I was, almost over camel's hump. I cried a lot.  A GMC Long Trail patroller passed me and said, "Good Luck on your FKT" and I blew out a sad sigh. It seemed impossible I would get the FKT. I was so, so hungry and I could barely move at 2 mph. The top of Camel's Hump was beautiful and crowded. On the far side a runner passed me and was jogging down. I knew I should be running but I didn't feel I had the energy for it. I broke down into really loud, ugly, embarassing crying. Next thing I knew she was back checking if I was OK. "Oh," I said. "Yeah. Just working some things out." I am still working out whatever I was working out then but I guess it has to do with pushing yourself without knowing the reasons why...When I finally reached App Gap I was stoked because I'd already hiked everything south of there, so now I'd officially completed the LT in sections. Seemed like a good place to quit...but I kept going. I told myself I had to keep going until the rain or until I ran out of food. I also told myself I had to get to Maine Junction because it would be easier after. And I was pretty certain if I got to Maine Junction I wouldn't quit, so it was a fun way to trick myself. The sun set while I was on the Abe/Ellen/Lincoln ridge and I had a blast going over the peaks in the night. I think I rode that high (plus the high of a couple caffeine pills) into the night because I hiked all the way to 1 am. I was trying to get as much hiking done as I could because I knew the next day it would rain.

6/14 I woke up around 3:30 am and it had just started to rain and thunder. I knew I was a little below the ridge and I was in the trees and it was pretty consistently ten seconds between lightning and thunder, so I just kept hiking. It was actually pretty beautiful. In the morning the storm broke and I had a view of the ridges ringed by little wisps of clouds. I sang at the top of my lungs and tried to practice gratitude. By now my tongue was bumpy and my mouth was raw and my back chafe was getting better but I was starting to get blood blisters on my feet--but what a view! The day had showers sometimes, sometimes a few hours of dry. If I would have been smart I might have changed my socks a few times during the day but I wasn't. My left ankle also started hurting. I don't know if this was because of the lymphatic fluid draining from the inflammation around the shin or because I rolled it without noticing or what. In the evening I had high hopes that I could get to Maine Junction or close to it. I even ran! In hindsight funning may hav been.a bad idea because I struggled to manage calories and hydration during and after. At dusk it started really raining. Around 1130 I started to lose my will to push on entirely. I was barely going 2 mph and my feet were really hurting. I thought it was just normal foot pain but when I finally got to the shelter and took off my socks i was something much, much nastier: trenchfoot. My feet were sad pruny white things and very tender. But what was I supposed to do? I got everything laid out to dry in the shelter and went to sleep.

6/15 in the morning I woke up and my feet were throbbing and buzzing with nerve pain. I thought there was no way I could continue. I was about 10 miles N of maine junction/route 4, where I'd told myself I could quit. I texted my dad on my inreach that I was thinking of quitting at Rt 4 and he should be ready to come pick me up. But then I put on my shoes and started walking and it was OK. I could walk. So I told myself to just keep going and I could quit in Shrewsbury. The climb up and over Killington wasn't as bad as I feared and on the other side I took a long break to eat and dry my feet. There was a family at the shelter where I breaked--three generations of runners--and we had a conversation about strava that I only about 2/3 understood. I moved slow in the afternoon and sang a lot of ABBA but I kept moving. At this point I was trying to conserve battery so my photos are a lot less frequent and also my memories get a little less precise because the sleep deprivation started to be pretty bad. I kept taking breaks to slice open blisters that blood came out of. I added my sleep socks to the sock rotation to have something a little cleaner. I wanted to run but I couldn't get myself to. I made it past Shrewsbury but by dusk I was feeling pretty tired and another rainstorm was coming and I took a nap that was supposed to be an hour but turned out to be about 2. Then I hiked and ran all night and I actually made good time! I got another 10 miles in, at least. Around first light I reached the big branch shelter and took another nap. 70 miles to go, I kept telling myself. I wanted it to be over so, so badly.

6/16 I snoozed a bunch in the Big Branch shelter and to compensate I tried to get ready and go as fast as possible, which meant I didn't really inventory my food. This turned out to be a huge mistake. All day I was rationing one snack every two hours and it was miserable and I couldn't move well. In the afternoon I reached the turnoff for spruce peak shelter, which I thought was around 50 miles to go (I was going off of memory at this point because I didn't have battery to check Guthook often) and I inventoried and found that I had a little more food than expected. Some nice people told me there was a thai restaurant in williamstown and I decided that was the deal: get to the end of this stupid trail and you can have thai food. I made it up Stratton mountain at sunset--I was profoundly grateful for that view--and then bonked spectacularly. I cried the whole way down but couldn't eat. Finally I reached the bottom. It was 3 more miles to the next shelter and i decided that was too far. I laid down in the middle of the trail for an hourlong nap... and woke up three hours later. I'd used the timer function on my watch instead of the alarm function and I'd turned it off. It's lucky I was so cold--otherwise I might not have woken up at all. 

6/17 I still moved slow and it wasn't until the morning that I started to do math and understand what was going on. I would need to move exactly 3mph all day long to have a shot at the record. I had just eaten the last of my smashed up milanos as a sort of cold soaked pudding and I was so anxious I threw them all up. Then I started running all the downhills and flats and trying to focus as much as I could. The adrenaline made me way less worried about eating and not eating made my mouth hurt less. Blisters were forming on my feet and my ankle was hurting a lot but what're you going to do. I took caffeine pills and drank crystal lite and ran. The climb up Harmon Hill almost destroyed me and I thought that was that for the record. But then I got to the top. There were 13 miles to go and I had 4 hours to do it. The last 10 miles I even ran the uphills. I was still tracking only like 16 minute miles on my watch but I was really running. I didn't eat or hardly drink. I was worried in a vague way about how thirsty I was but I didn't have time to stop for water. And then I got to the end! 

One verification note: it looks like my Garmin had enough battery for all but the final point, and I think my watch might not have saved the GPX for the final day, but I included the timestamped video from google photos of me finishing. 

Admin Note:  To clarify, Mikaela's Garmin InReach ran out of batteries at the very end of her trip.  The last "ping" was at 16:27 about 3.1 miles from the end of the LT.  A video taken at the southern terminous shows her arriving at 17:25, so verifies the total time.  See the time stamped photos and video in the Google photo albums.


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Congratulations!! And thanks for the wonderful writeup.