Taylor King and myself (Taylor Ross) were fortunate to have a successful go at the overall FKT and establishing the self supported FKT of Wabash last Friday, April 10th, 2020. It was an incredible challenge that started off easy but got really tough, fortunately things worked out. We are very grateful for the community on here, especially those who have run the route and shared great info. (Especially you Marcy!) There was a lot of beauty out there, an easy surface with minimal gain and loss helped minimize the suffering! I hope there is a possibility in establishing more FKTs around Iowa! Check out the trip report below for more info :)
On Friday, April 10th, my pal Taylor King and myself (Taylor Ross) made a successful run at the overall FKT and established the self supported FKT of the 63 mile Wabash Trace Nature Trail. The route is a mainly crushed limestone path with tree coverage, spanning a beautiful stretch of Iowa farmland and small towns that run from the Iowa-Nebraska border to the Iowa-Missouri border. We started at 7:40a that morning, after aiming for a 7:30a start. This wasn’t bad considering we were running self-supported and needed to double check gear to make sure we each had our initial 1500 calories, 40+ ounces of water, spare clothing and any medical supplies we may need. There would be several trailheads in towns on the way but we only had two supply drops to pick up food and three for water. In addition, we had one car parked at the start and one at the finish. I discovered the route about 10 days prior and immediately shared it with Taylor K., thinking it would be a great challenge. With the current safety measures needed due to Covid-19, including not making contact with others on the trip and needing to check with local officials to make sure the trail would be open, we decided to spice it up by running self-supported, using no outside aid.
Before we began we paid the trail dues, a small monetary sacrifice, which preceded a long day of offering our bodies to the trail. We got a picture at the start and began moving. I knew Taylor K. wanted to run as often as we could, so did I. We started off a little quicker than planned but got in a few minutes of walking here and there. The trail was marked with mileage leftover from its rail days, one of the many things I learned from the previous FKT holder, Marcy’s, detailed report (thank you Marcy!!) this made tracking our progress easy and accurate, on top of GPS. The temperature was cool, about 25 degrees Fahrenheit when we started, but made it into the mid 50s and overall we were fortunate in regards to weather. We both commented early on that the trail felt mainly uphill, it seemed we were always running up or flat. Looking at the elevation profile from our run proves otherwise, I’m going to agree with other finishers that there is an elevation illusion on the Wabash! (I’ll take it over flat though!) We made it quickly to our first water resupply in Silver City, it felt a little early to fill up, but in retrospect, a self or unsupported go at this route is going to require a hydration strategy. There was a really cool little jail there that I believe is from 1911. From there we were still moving quickly, hitting the 22 mile mark right around Malvern, making a stop there to resupply food and water, ahead of pace. Even at the halfway point we were ahead of our goal, though the gap was dwindling.
Not sure if the early pace was too quick for me due to lack of recovery from a 100k race last month, if I wasn’t prepared fully mentally/psychically or if there was a fueling issue happening, but right around the half way point I was suffering. It was probably a combination of factors. I was thinking about how we had 30+ miles to the finish, to the safety and comfort of the car, and my anxious thoughts multiplied from there, developing into psychical issues. We also had a long way to get to our final resupply; it was in Shenandoah, somewhere around mile 45. We never had issues with calories but I ran out of water before that last stop and the trail didn’t offer many options. Fortunately, Taylor K. was feeling stronger than me and was willing to share some of his, and then Imogene, a city just before Shenandoah had a water spigot to fill up. The final half of the run I was so worried about moving slow and jeopardizing our goal time, it became tough to appreciate the beauty of the trail, my mind was on slow legs and an increasing gust of wind.
Fortunately when we got to Shenandoah I was able to eat some real food and drink a little caffeine, which perked me up. Though my body and mind were struggling, I knew we needed to utilize that boost. I had been worrying about being able to hit goal times or even finish, at this point I realized that because of our strong start, it was all still possible. Until mile 54 I was keeping a decent pace, hoping the boost in energy would last, but from there I was reduced back to a speed hike. Taylor K. was feeling pretty good and it was harder for him to walk than jog, so we communicated that he would go ahead and meet me near end. I was hurting and ready to be done but the beauty of everything around me had returned. I enjoyed the final miles, step by step, watching the sunset, and caught Taylor K. who waited for me to run in the final stretch. We were able to complete the first established, self-supported FKT and new overall FKT of the Wabash Trail. I stopped my watch a minute or so later at a total time of 12:40:52.
Shout out to those who have established this trail as an FKT route, which led us to a pretty cool adventure. Taylor K. and I would also like to recognize the 73 (I believe that’s the number) amazing bridges we got to run across, I’m pretty sure he got pictures of each of them! Though I typed this out, Taylor K. helped me recount the experience and we both definitely put a lot of work into making this happen, total team effort.
Life is a bit confusing right now for many, including myself. I wanted to use this project to stay active and test my mind and body during this time. Art is my main path of growth, but sitting inside my studio can be dangerous for my brain. This run was evidence of the struggle with perception created by the mind and has helped me to overcome it. There was never anything to worry about that wasn’t created in my thoughts. I spent a beautiful day working hard to look within, to Taylor King who was by my side, the Iowan country and nature surrounding us. I feel so fortunate.
Way to go! You saved me from finally writing up and submitting a report for my “slowest unknown time” I did in July of 2018. I think I may have been the first to do it self-supported, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone else had. I never submitted it because I was very unhappy with my time (22:16) and life got in the way and I kept putting off writing about it. Also, I kept thinking I was going to do it again with a time I would be prouder of, but haven’t gotten that done either.
If you are into art, you definitely need to go back to Malvern and check out Zack Jones’s Art Church. When they start up again, the Thursday (?) night outdoor concerts feature some pretty good talent too.