After a narrowly failed attempt about 5 months ago, the stars suddenly aligned I went back for redemption this weekend. Weather was cool and cloudy, 41 to start and upper 50s by the end. For the most part, the trails weren't very crowded, and the foot feel was good.
My friend Riley drove me to Pen Mar for the start (bathrooms are still closed - argh!!). Male FKT holder, Matt Diestelmeier, saw on Strava that I was attempting the challenge again and offered to pace me. He met me at the Annapolis Rock parking and after I refilled my water, he kicked my ass for 18 miles and, importantly, kept me moving through the outrageous South Mountain Inn to Gathland section. Partway up the Gathland climb is the only time I started to bonk a little bit and it was nice to have an experienced pacer remind me to take salt and keep my cadence up. Thank you Matt!
I've never been happier than when I saw my partner Ryan waiting for me at Gathland with a water and nutrition refill, and surprise donuts. I chugged a Gatorade and instantly the bonking was over. Lesson learned.
Matt turned around when we hit the Weverton descent. By then I was well ahead of target, knew I was getting the FKT and just focused on turnover and staying in an aerobic heart rate zone as I went through the endless tow path and then through town.
Ryan met me at the Loudon Heights parking lot with another water refill and then ran (if we can call it running at this point) the last ascent and the rocky stumble to the state line with me, and I was so happy to be able to hug my better half at the end. He ran back to the car to swing back for me while I slowly stumbled down the Loudon Descent, and so ended a great day on the AT.
Would've been cool to get a sub 8 on this but I'm more than pleased. I managed to keep stops (water refills + retying my shoes etc) to 10 minutes total. I did lose some time trying to eat a stale tortilla that I should have given up on. I did zero tapering for this run and it concluded week 3 of my 3-on-1-off training schedule. With more rested legs and proper electrolyte management I think I could have done it in 7:45 today.