FKT: Morgan Windram-Geddes - MA Appalachian Trail (MA) - 2020-09-20

Gender category
Female
Route variation
Standard route
Multi-sport
No
Style
Supported
Start date
Finish date
Total time
1d 5h 54m 10s
GPS track(s)
Report

Supported Massachusetts Section of the Appalachain Trail, Standard Route going North to South. 

I never thought I'd do an FKT...I just knew I wanted to run the MA section of the AT, finishing closer to home in the South - but then people kept asking me are you going for the FKT? I didn't actually know that it existed...so I researched and found the FKT stood at around 34 hours and was set a few weeks ago...and I knew that my finishing times for the same distance when I raced was at 18 hrs and when I just ‘ran’ was at 25 hours…so I thought I'd give it a go and make it public... So I set out on Friday 18th September to run the Massachusetts section of the Appalachian Trail with a goal of 24 hours...What I underestimated was the terrain technicality.... 

I had a lot of help; firstly I had Lee O'Connor, my partner, who not only planned and organized the entire spreadsheet of predicted times and logistics of the support ‘crew’ but also drove the entire distance and ran 20 miles of it with me!  Then I had Nick Curelop who I met about a year ago; we’ve run a little bit together off and on.  Nick’s an awesome guy all around runner who excels at both shorter distances and ultras.  AND best of all Nick knew the first section of the trail well so he agreed to do the first 28 miles with me…

All day Friday was spent organizing, cleaning the house for my mom who was supposed to sleepover with my twins and just generally getting ‘ready’.  4.50pm rolled around and Nick, Lee and I set off for Risky Ranch Road VT.  I researched the start point which was on the Long Trail crossing Risky Ranch Road, but when we reached the road it became quickly apparent that it was not going to be car-friendly.  Nick and I hopped out and said goodbye to Lee so he could negotiate his way out of that rocky road and Nick and I headed on down the road in search of the trail.  We met a couple of thru-hikers at the intersection, double checked that it was indeed the AT and turned left/headed south.  Hitting the Long Trail at 7pm.  Nick started his watch.  I waited until the Mass border to start mine.  2.5 miles in at 7.30pm on Friday Sept 19th, we came upon the Sign welcoming  us to Massachusetts.  I snapped a few photos and started my watch…

We had an epic journey overnight, up and over Mt. Williams to Greylock where the cold and wind kept me moving fairly quickly.  Thank god for my decathalon down jacket..and Nick broke trail so I didn’t have to think too much about navigation.  We saw two porcupines! We had a few questionable spots over those 28 miles but all in all we stayed on course!  Lee met us as much as possible and through the night hard boiled eggs, wraps, maple syrup gels and chocolate gu (from Berkshire Running Center!) kept me going. 

When we finally met Lee at gulf road in Dalton I was looking forward to the ‘runnable’ section that everyone kept raving about… Not sure where that was and I never found it :)…Nick left me there for some much needed sleep before working the next day and Lee took over, making the next 20 miles an enjoyable but challenging stretch with my partner in crime and life.  We got very mixed up just east of Pittsfield, making it down to a river and mixing up on ourselves, only to turn back thinking it was the right way and go back at least 1/2 mile before we both realized we were repeating our steps.  Back down again heading south on track and we finally found the place where we went wrong.  My headlamp a petzl NAO which is super wonderful! at this point went into low power mode so a little darker than usual.  Thanks massively to my brother’s maps for helping through that section.  On our way again.  We had no support for those 20 miles but Nick kindly dropped water at the Pittsfield Road crossing and we rehydrated there just as it was dawning.  We crossed the road and had some nice runnable sections…this was a section that I hiked with my brother last year so I remembered it well.  It seemed to go on for ages though until we finally began the descent down to route 20.  I was so hungry my stomach felt like it was eating itself.

At route 20 we met up with Ryan Williams whom I’ve never met before but heard lots about.  Ryan was set to do the next 18 miles with me.  Lee took off for the BIG Y and McDonalds picking up food for me.  Ryan and I began the next section which I had reece’d just two weeks ago so felt confident again about knowing the trail… it was fairly runnable.. Ryan and I chatted along the way about lots of epic runs he’s done in the NH Whites, and other fun things, biking and skiing.  and then he told me the news…of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death.  I shed a few tears when I heard that and then the conversation went to American politics and how sad we were about the current state of the world.  We met Lee a few miles later and he had two egg McMuffins from McDonalds and wraps and salads fresh from the BIG Y.  I was so happy to see some real digestible solid foods… 

Ryan and I ran a few more miles together...until we met up with Scott who ran with me for a few more miles! I was getting pretty delirious by the time we were getting near blue hill road and thought it would be a good idea to sleep.  I've never ever slept before in a race or an ultra run but I just had the feeling it would be good.  Kate Johnson, another new friend, concurred.  I had them set an alarm for 20 minutes and into the car i went with my super warm decathalon down jacket and shoes off -feet breathing! Those few minutes of sleep did me wonders and I was ready to set off like a rocket, or so I felt initially :).  Scott did another 6 miles with me to Brush Hill/Home Road, saw the beautiful ice gulch and people foraging for mushrooms! and then I could feel dusk coming on...It was getting colder.  Josh, my new running friend from the club I recently started at Simon's Rock in GB, was ready to hit the road with me.  I had to borrow Kate's headlamp because mine was with Lee getting charged in his car.  We set off with good chat about runners and the world and epic adventures.  I was so tired.. I asked Lee to make me porridge which he had ready and waiting at the next checkpoint.  We had to turn our headlamps on about 7pm it was just too dark to see in the woods.  Lee met us just before the Shay's rebellion with the dregs of coffee from his cup and my headlamp! But we agreed he should go and charge it awhile longer and I'd just hang on to Kate's for awhile longer.  When we finally made it to Jug End Kate was ready to join us, take her headlamp and break trail up the steep steep rocky cliff of Jug end and Mt. Everett!  A few miles back Scott and I saw down at a lookout and Scott pointed across the valley over to Mt. Race and Mt. Everett and he said 'that's where you're going to finish Morgan; that's where you're headed". It looked hundreds of miles away and I couldn't believe I was actually there now! I knew I had at least another 11 miles to the border but I also knew the last bit was very very runnable because Josh and I recc'ed it a few weeks ago at night! So up we went and on we went. We met Lee one last time and had another 15 minute nap which was super helpful as my eyes were closing unconciously. It was a painful descent off Everett but the ascent to Race was almost unnotable after all I'd done.  Then we hit the top and I knew it was the home stretch so I hit the gas and started moving fast-a little too fast because I tripped and Josh had to grab me on top of the exposed cliff edge on Mt. Race...that could have been fatal.  At that point Kate instituted a 'walk only' policy until we were safely far from the exposed section and then we began our run again.  We ran for what felt like a long long time and then finally finally we reached Sage's Ravine and the sign for the CT/MA border.  I stopped my watch, snapped some photos and then Kate and I began debating about the 'actual border'.  She said it was further on and that I should keep my watch going.  She also kept her watch going.  So I started my watch again and finally stopped it at the next sign for the paradise Lane Trail heading east towards route 41. at 1.26am EST Sunday morning September 20th.  29 hrs and 54 minutes...many more hours that I had imagined it would take me, but the best laid plans and all that...Our exit route was west towards East Road/Mt. Washington Road and it seemed over in a few minutes.  I saw Lee and the car, got my shoes off as quick as possible and snuggled into the sleeping bag in the backseat for the half hour journey home.  

I was so lucky to have a team of 6 awesome people, Nick Curelop, Ryan Williams, Lee O'Connor, Kate Johnson, Scott Reeve, and Josh Miller to run with me, resupply me with food and water and just all around keep me positive in those final hours.