Never in my life would I have thought that I would be chasing FKT’s.
For those who don’t know: FKT is the abbreviation for Fastest Known Time. You can set an FKT by being the fastest to ever run or hike a chosen route. Essentially, it’s a speed record. There are several different classifications for FKT’s: unsupported, supported, self-supported, team, etc.
(You can read more about FKTing HERE.)
Setting an FKT has always been in the back of my mind, but I thought you had to be an elite athlete to even consider it. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that you didn’t have to be a pro athlete with a coach and a personal trainer to make it happen. Still, I wasn’t convinced that *I* could do it. After some number-crunching, split-estimations and pep-talks from Jason, I decided it was at least worth trying. The night before the actual attempt, we both chose to go for the Bay to Ridge Trail unsupported FKT and quickly planned out the day. To ensure that we never actually ran together and that our efforts would be separate and unsupported FKTs, we decided that I would start and he would wait about an hour before beginning his run. He would pass me twice – once on the way up and once on the way down (he’s a much faster runner than me) and finish before me. This not only minimized the amount of wait time for him, but also made it so we were able to park at the start of the trail and leave before the gates were locked.
Like most of my races, I went into this effort without much training, with very little prep and almost zero knowledge of the trail system. I’ve been nursing some IT band issues, so I wasn’t super keen on attempting a nearly 37 mile run knowing full-well that I would be suffering for most of it. I took my Nathan hydration vest, some race nutrition (mostly huma chia energy gels) and two extra bottles of water that I planned to stash along the trail and pick up on the way back when the water in my pack was empty.
The weather called for rain off and on throughout the day in the area. I love running in inclement weather and the thought of muddy trails really appealed to me. I chose to wear my waterproof Altra Lonepeak 4’s because of the rainy weather forecast. We arrived at the Baylands Sailing Station later in the morning than intended. I was nervous. I was worried about how much pain I was going to be facing throughout the day, as well as the possibility that I wouldn’t send this thing. I opened the route in Strava on my phone so I could make sure to take the correct turns through town and on the trails. After some deep breathing, arguing with my borrowed GPS watch and a false start, I waved goodbye to Jason and set off at 9:27am.
I’m not a fan of road running, but the section of running through the town was nice. The neighborhoods are lovely and feel safe. For a little country-bumpkin such as myself, that was a big relief. Nevertheless, I was happy and relieved to find the solitude of the trails. I stashed my first water bottle behind a redwood tree on the greenway that you follow along Stanford Avenue, about 5.5 miles in.
I made it to the Foothills Park Interpretive Center right at 2 hours into my run, snapped a quick photo, then went on my way. It was at this time that I started to worry about my phone battery lasting long enough to get to the turnaround point. I really wanted to take that selfie at the top! I tried to use it less to conserve battery, but since I was using it for navigation I was looking at it every few minutes to make sure I was on the correct route.
Shortly after the Interpretive Center, I got on to the yummy single track that winds up into the hills. As I gained elevation and hit the switchbacks, it started raining. Initially the rain was a relief because I was hot and it was quite humid out there. The wind really picked up as I emerged from the forests and onto the more exposed ridges. I enjoyed how the trail wound in and out of the forested areas and this is where Jason flew past me. There were trees and tree branches laying across the muddy trail in many places. I stashed my second water bottle next to a large tree around mile 14.
The rain and the wind was not letting up and I was getting pretty cold at this point. I put my second layer on and kept going.
Luckily, my phone is waterproof so I could use it in the rain, however, it does not perform well when it’s cold out and by mile 16 it had 2% battery remaining.
There’s no way I was going to make it to the turn around point before it died, but even more worrisome was not being able to navigate onto the correct trails without it… It was dead before I hit mile 17. Of course I encountered an intersection shortly after it died.
Which way? Left or right? Up the hill or down?
I started up the hill to the right. I stopped. What if I’m going the wrong way? I sat on a log and pulled out a snack (hashbrowns make excellent trail snacks by the way), and tried not to make the wrong choice. I was so cold. My hands were numb and I knew that I needed to make a decision soon. I thought about the elevation profile of the route and remembered that the last bit was a short climb, so I decided to continue. Up the hill I went. I saw Jason one more time as he was running down. My legs were tired and I was freezing. This short section felt like it took forever! Finally, I reached the top and there it was: the sign! I stopped and chatted with a couple of Park Rangers for a few minutes about the newts on the trails, then with one final glance at the sign and a moment of sadness at not being able to take a photo, I turned around and headed back down the hill. No rest for the weary.
As I passed all of the landmarks that I had mentally registered on the way up, I smiled to myself. Even through the cold and discomfort I was happy to be out on these trails, splashing through the mud and water, climbing over downed trees.
At this point I could follow the GPS track that my watch had mapped out on the way up, but because of the tiny screen and lack of detail, I did end up taking a couple of wrong turns on the way down. Luckily I didn’t go far either time to add any significant amount of mileage. The rest of the way was uneventful. As I lost elevation, the weather cleared and warmed up. The sun came out and that made me smile again. Besides a little bit of cramping in my legs, I felt pretty good. Even the knee held up well. Snagging my stashed water bottles on the way, I ran/walked/jogged back through town. As soon as I got back on the sandy trails of the Baylands, I did my best to push as hard as I could to the finish where Jason was waiting. 8 hours, 3 minutes and 35 seconds after starting that morning, I ended my run at the Baylands Sailing Station with a my first FKT.
Foothills Park Interpretive Center= 1:59:29
Turnaround at Skyline= 04:07:08 (02:07:39)
Foothills Park Interpretive Center= 5:13:40 (01:06:32)
Finish= 08:03:35 (02:49:55)
Check out my run on Strava