FKT: Ryan Flint - Bruce Trail, Caledon Hills Section (ON, Canada) - 2022-05-15

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Total time
9h 15m 56s

Bruce Trail – Caledon Hills Supported FKT - 2022.05.14-15

When it comes to these FKT attempts (at least the “supported” ones), your crew is easily the most vital piece of the entire puzzle, and in many ways the most challenging roll to fulfill. Crewing is a massive responsibility to take on, with just so much weighing on your shoulders, and so many opportunities for disastrous game-changing errors. Asking that of someone is something I certainly don’t take lightly. Still, getting to come together as a team and maybe even actually pulling off a challenging feat is really a spectacular bonding experience, so it only makes sense to want to share that with your life-partner. That being said, the mutual ability to emotionally affect - and be affected by - each other that my wife and I share, for better or for worse, also means that if problems arise, things can quickly go down a troublesome path quickly. This past weekend, Karin and I were “fortunate” enough to live through both extreme ends of that spectrum.

The thing is, everyone deals with their own personal struggles, and depending on where you’re at with yours, whether you intend to or not, those struggles can have far reaching effects on the rest of your life and impact everyone around you. And often, even with couples who care deeply and desperately about one another, they can lead to some pretty detrimental fights. It happens. It’s nowhere near ideal, but it happens.

Well, with a lot of mounting stress - both related and entirely unrelated to the approaching FKT attempt - things finally hit a boiling point for both Kare and I Friday afternoon. Emotions were wildly misdirected at one another, nasty things were said, and it built to the point of calling this whole FKT thing off. It seemed definitive, but we hadn’t told David yet - who was planning on acting as my first aid station, and would continue to keep Karin company wherever he was available after that. Mid-fight, he showed up to pick up my replacement pack and go over things for the day in general, so we put on a happy face, perhaps for his sake. I think we both knew that despite what had been said, we still hoped to move forward, so we chose not to involve him in our emotional confusion. Through the process of pretending, it really seemed like we both got to a point of genuinely letting go of what had happened and were ready to move on, but not long after, things deteriorated again. Late in the evening, I finally had to give in and let David know what was going on. Things were officially off.

Then, after an emotionally taxing night with maybe two hours of broken sleep on the couch, I was approached by Kare, who seemingly had obtained some greater level of clarity, and was urging me to go do the run anyways. We hadn’t exactly resolved things, but we were finally taking the initial steps. So I messaged David with an adjusted start time to see if he could still help out, had my breakfast, and got things rolling. We drove out to the Northern terminus just below Mono Cliffs, and I took off running.


My legs felt rested and strong after a good taper week, and despite the lack of sleep the night before, I wasn’t feeling tired at all. Even the weather was giving us ideal conditions (despite predictions of thunderstorms). Unfortunately, even as I ran through the stunning Hockley Valley trails, my mind was so distraught by everything that came before that I couldn’t find an ounce of joy in any of it. I replayed it all in my head, over and over and over, with no escape from the turmoil. People often talk about running as therapy, but I’ve never found that to be the case. It’s often a great mood boost when you’re just not feeling your best, but for me, when there’s real trouble, the isolation only serves to amplify the distracting negative thoughts, and I’m ultimately tortured by my inability to focus on something that would otherwise bring me extreme joy.


Even when I came up to David at the first aid station - supremely grateful to see him there - I couldn’t shake the draining emotions of it all. Still, I felt physically fine and continued forward, hoping to eventually get in a better headspace. That better headspace never came though, and after seeing both Kare and David at the next stop, I decided that two and a half hours of this torture over 26km was quite enough. I was done. I stopped my watch, turned off the GPS tracker, and we had a full-on therapy session with doctor David counseling us through it all. We finally got to a place of resolution. We finally got to a place of love. And somehow, we even got to a place of deciding to restart this FKT journey the following morning! It would be a bit daunting to go all the way back to the start and do that same stretch again, plus I was going to have to be more conservative with what limited Tailwind nutrition I had left, figure out if my Squirrel’s Saddle Butter Cycling Salve (with peppermint) would work since I was nearly out of the regular (vegan) SNB, and really emphasize rest, recovery, and pray for a good night’s sleep… but one way or another, we were determined to pull this off.


With a mid-afternoon nap and an honest-to-goodness good night’s sleep behind me, we were back at the Northern Terminus the following morning - this time taking pictures with a smile! David wasn’t going to be involved today (he did more than enough after all!), but Kare was eager and up to the challenge of solo crewing. I took off, and things were genuinely blissful as I flowed through the trails. The twists and turns, and ups and downs were so much fun, the sun was glistening through the trees, the birds were happily chirping, and there were beautiful fields of trilliums, all of which I was completely oblivious to the day before.

Knowing that yesterday’s 26km run was possibly the longest run I’ve done so far this year, and I wasn’t out to push myself to my limits for my first big effort of the season, I was keeping things calm and conservative, walking all uphills, and never really pushing the pace. And that seemed to be working perfectly. I could feel yesterday’s effort in my legs, but it wasn’t slowing me down, and I came through the first two aid stations without an issue.

Somewhere around the 3-hour mark, I started to feel the effects of lack of sleep from the night prior to last. My body wasn’t really tired per se, but my head was starting to get a little cloudy. It’s a strange circumstance to be in, where I knew I had it in me to full-out sprint for the next 5k if the occasion called for it, but also, if presented with a secluded, soft, cozy bed, I was drowsy enough to fall right asleep without a moment’s hesitation. Gradually, between this sleepiness and the strain that was becoming more apparent in my hamstrings, maintaining my current 6min/km pace became more of an effort. So, rather than maintain my pace, I slowed, maintaining my effort, which subsequently meant maintaining my joy.


That was honestly the big story of the day. The conditions got worse with the unseasonably hot sun beating down on me - especially given the long stretches of road and exposed trails in the southern half of this section - but I just kept the same effort level and slowed accordingly, taking extra time to recover when needed, and as a result, never really suffering or remotely doubting that I could finish the route. I did feel extremely faint for a moment when a car drove by while in the middle of what was clearly a heavy hot-boxing session. I was also on the verge of heat stroke/dehydration at a couple points, and that peppermint Squirrel’s Nut Butter was really starting to burn my bits, but it was all fairly manageable.


At my final two aid stations, I took the opportunity to just lay down, with Karin covering me in ice packs until I felt like it was no longer irresponsible to keep going after only a single episode of minimal vomiting. The last aid station in particular took especially long because immediately before it was an incredibly technical, near-vertical 100m climb up Caledon Mountain, which absolutely knocked the life out of me! I had honestly been looking forward to this climb all day, but it came sooner than I was anticipating (thinking it would be after this aid station, not before), so I was not yet mentally prepared for it. I was also slightly worried there was still another, even bigger climb still to come - fortunately there was not. As hard as it was though, Caledon Mountain was such a phenomenal feature of the trail, and easily a highlight of the entire Caledon Hills section.

Around this point, my left shin was also getting really painful. Thoughts of fractures floated through my head, but I decided to just wrap it up for extra support, continue on, and we’ll deal with any damage after the fact. Not wanting to be entirely reckless though, I forced myself to walk for the first 2km of this stretch until I was confident my leg could handle it. The sensation wasn’t wonderful, but it wasn’t entirely debilitating either, so eventually I started jogging, gradually increasing my pace to a run again. Even with the initial walking, that final 9km completely flew by, partially because it was actually only 8km (which in hindsight explains my confusion with the location of the Caledon Mountain climb). Before long, I came through the Badlands trails, and surprisingly I was moving as though I had just been resting all day up until that point. It wasn’t the typical adrenaline dump right at the end of a race though. I was just awake and feeling good. I saw the sign indicating Creditview Rd was not far, let out a loud “Yes!” and then heard Kare emphatically cheering me on with these final steps to the finish.

It felt so good to finally complete this adventure in such a conserved, peaceful manner, but there was no time to soak it in just yet. Since I took roughly 2 hours longer than planned, and no longer had the added cushion of an extra day to rest afterwards, we seriously needed to get a move on and hightail it back to Nana’s, pack up all of our stuff from the weekend with a pair of screaming children, and head right home! The peaceful period out on the trails was well and truly done.


As much as I don’t ever want Karin to have to crew me alone again, she was honestly just so amazing, and it made it really special to share the day with only her - something that never could have happened without the ongoing and direct support from NanaJo, particularly with taking on those aforementioned screaming kids! It also would have never happened without the compassionate support from David, helping to mitigate our emotions, and bringing us back to a place of love. I’m so beyond grateful to all three of these beautiful people, as well as everyone who was thinking of me and wishing us well from afar.


Reflecting back now, I didn’t necessarily get what I wanted out of this attempt. I was way over my projected time and certainly didn’t showcase what I know I’m capable of, which doesn’t exactly give me the confidence boost I was hoping for, moving towards an upcoming reattempt at the much bigger challenge of the Niagara section coming up in a few weeks. Still, given everything we went through, and the fact that we came around to utterly enjoying the day, I’m really happy with how this overall experience played out. Plus, in retrospect, recovery has been spectacular, feeling close to 100% the following day, so I’m encouraged to actually push myself all the harder on the next one!