(Quick note: the first (9:09 of my Strava activity was meandering from where I was dropped off to where the FKT route begins. I left it a part of the activity because it gave me a crown hehe, but removed that time from my total. I took a split, you can check.)
What an amazing trail!! Thanks so much to Chris Polito for submitting it, and Savannah Tuttle for pointing me in this direction when I was considering which FKT to go for while out in Arizona for 3 days. And of course to Annalisa Paltauf for dropping me off at one end and picking me up at the other!
There are always a number of factors to consider when running an FKT, never more so than when on vacation in an unfamiliar area with an elbow full of sutures. I would LOVE to take a second crack at this route, I think I could shave at least 20mins off if I did it next weekend, but alas I am back in CT.
I struggled with route finding, which kind of surprised me. The Strava heatmap made it look like just one long trail, how can you get lost? But this isn't New England with a blaze on a tree every 10 meters... the sand and rocks are a little trickier to read. And the cairns are occasionally helpful but just as frequently mean nothing and lead off trail. (Don't build cairns, folks!) I got off trail pretty early on, when I tucked in for a serious climb and just looked down. I ended up following a path that definitely has been traveled a bunch, but isn't an official trail. There were Hoka footprints that I followed, and I didn't realize I was off trail until the only way to continue forward was to boulder a little. I love climbing, so that wasn't a problem, but I really wish I had noticed sooner. I got back on trail as quickly as possible, but that wasn't easy on such steep terrain. I had to stop and consult the map a lot, and still managed to make minor navigational errors throughout the route.
One of the factors I consider when completing an FKT is enjoyment of my surroundings. I love nature and trails, so sometimes I struggle not to stop for pictures. In New England I can tell myself I'll be there again, but I've never been to Arizona before (aside from a brief college visit) and I didn't want to rush around staring at the ground for the entire effort. So I stopped and took pics occasionally, and just took in the sights. It was AMAZING. I don't regret that, but it will of course go faster if you don't stop for pictures lol
Another factor for me when vacationing: safety. Unfamiliar terrain and the possibility of an injury ruining the rest of the vacation, not just for me but for whoever I'm traveling with, leads to slight overpacking and under-risking. I carried things I didn't need (more than enough food and water, a Garmin In Reach, jacket+pants+hat+gloves) because I'd rather be safe than sorry. And after a minor fall scraped up the right side of my body, I decided to be a lot more careful than I would normally be on the technical descents, because my left elbow had sutures in it and I'm just very fortunate I didn't disrupt those or hit a cactus in my first fall. I finished with some additional scrapes and bruises, but fortunately nothing too bad! I was well hydrated and very happy about everything I had just experienced. :)
I hope this doesn't read as a list of excuses, it's just the way I think through my approach to a vacation FKT. I'm happy with how it went! I know I could do it faster and I know a lot of women in AZ can, too... but I also had an awesome time and experienced new terrain and views, and I don't regret lingering a bit for enjoyment and safety.