Sonoma County 4 Peaks FKT

Gear:

Fuel:


“You know why I love FKTs?”

“Why’s that?” asked Jason.

“Because it gets us out on trails that we otherwise may never have seen. I love that.”

“You should put that in your blog.” Jason said as he steered the car towards the trailhead.

And that’s the truth right there. That is why we do the things that we do. When people ask me what I did over the weekend I tend to answer with excitement and go on to describe my explorations of a new area (whether they want to hear it or not).

This day was no exception. The chosen route meanders through four parks and hits the four tallest peaks in the area. I knew it was going to be beautiful. At 34.8 miles long and boasting over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, I also knew it was going to be tough.

And tough it was.

I rode the Struggle-bus. All. Day. Long.

Like my previous FKT, I started about 45 minutes before Jason.

The first half of the run through Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Hood Mountain Regional Park was fairly uneventful even though the climbs were much steeper than I anticipated. I watched my average pace slowly increase as I was hitting 20-25 minutes per mile trudging up these seemingly never-ending climbs. The downhills were equally as steep, making downhill running in some areas nearly impossible for me.

It’s a good thing there was no previous women’s record, because I was nearly demolished after the first two peaks. But all I had to do was finish in order to claim this FKT.

Jason caught up to me at the summit of Hood Mountain.

“How ya feeling?” I asked as we high-fived each other.

With a laugh he replied, “Shitty!”

“Yeah me too… I ran some areas that I shouldn’t have.”

“Yeah me too.” Off he went down the mountain.

I lingered for a few minutes at the top, just trying to recover a little before hammering down.  

At mile 15, I exited Hood Mountain Regional Park and stopped at the water fountain in the parking area. I sat on a log (is this becoming a trend?) and refueled. Pushing the pain aside, I steeled my mind and looked at the bigger picture. I was bolstered by the knowledge that the two biggest climbs were done and that the next two would be easier because they were not going to be as tall or as steep.

I was wrong.

Passing through some neighborhoods, I found my way into Annadel State Park. The trail started to incline but was manageable. Reminding myself that this one wasn’t going to be tough, I pushed on.

And then… the trail disappeared.

“What the…?”

I looked behind me. There’s trail.

In front of me? It fades away to nothing. Just brush, downed trees, the remnants of spiky Russian Thistles and gobs of the little burrs that my dad likes to call “sonsabitches” because they stick to everything.

I check my GPS. It shows a trail heading straight up the hill.

I guess I’m bush-whacking for a while.

I start forging my path. There’s an old rock wall and barbed-wire fence to my left with numerous rusty metal “PARK BOUNDARY” and “NO TRESPASSING” signs. I see evidence that Jason passed through here; crushed leaves, laid-over grass, a freshly broken twig. Confidence-boosting evidence that I’m still on the right track. Keeping the fence within eyesight, I clamber over trees and through nettles while collecting numerous sonsabitches in my socks and on my shorts. I remind myself that I have had much worse cross-country experiences and that this isn’t so bad. Regardless, the thought of giving up on this whole thing crosses my mind.

I chuckle to myself as I dismiss the thought. Who’s gonna save me?

Keep going.

It gets steeper and steeper.

Jason’s tracks disappear. I hesitate.

Keep going.

I push on.

Eventually, I find myself at the top where the fence crosses over the summit of this peak. On the other side of the fence is a trail. Ignoring the signs and glancing around (as if anyone’s gonna be present to witness) I slip between the strands of rusted barbed-wire. I grumble as I descend on this trail. I bet I could have saved a lot of time by crossing over the fence sooner.

I leave Bennett Mountain behind me and enter the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

I message Jason: Text me when your done?

J: Where are u?

Me: On Summerfield, almost to Hoen.

J: You’re right behind me

Me: Oh shit

I caught up and passed Jason a little ways down the road.

“I blew up.” He says.

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugs. “Go crush this thing.”

I smile. One more peak.

Keep. Going.

The sun has set and the light is fading fast. I put on my headlamp right before I start the ascent to the summit of Taylor Mountain.

A sign at the trailhead states “Why Cows?”

It’s muddy here. The trail consists of sloppy muck and cow poop.

It’s not the first time I’ve been alone on the trails in the dark. And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve had to slip-n-slide through cow shit. I’ve got this.

Coyotes start yipping and screaming some distance off to my left. I stop and stare into the dark towards their raucous yowling. There’s a lot of them. Maybe a half mile away? I know their voices carry well in the cool night air. I’ve had plenty of encounters with coyotes and I’m not scared. Nevertheless, I pick up the pace a little. The coyotes quiet down and I keep my eyes and ears open as I move along. All is silent.

A sudden commotion in the trees ahead of me stops me in my tracks and a group of turkeys let out a clamorous gobble. Breathing quietly and listening intently, I try to decipher what is going on. Nothing more. Again, silence ensues.

“Assholes” I say aloud to the turkeys as I slog along, quietly chiding myself for being so jumpy.

I receive a text from Jason saying he’s waiting at the end.

I’m so tired. My legs hurt. I’m out of water. I’m out of food. I’m cold. All I want is to be done.

When I get to these points of exhaustion, I often get some random song stuck in my head on repeat. This time it was SOS by ABBA… but only part of the chorus.

So when you’re near me, darlin’ can’t you hear me, SOS

Without realizing it I start to hum it out loud. Since I didn’t know the words, my version was more like this:

La da da daa da hmm laa da da daa hmm SOS

Over. And over.

La da da daa da hmm laa da da daa hmm SOS

It gives me a rhythm to move my feet to.

So. Tired.

Reaching the top, I turn around. Surrounded by twinkling stars and city lights, there’s a strangely warm breeze blowing and a peaceful silence. I feel content. Calm. Zen.

Breaking the tranquility, I start to slip-slide my way down. It’s so muddy! I giggle like a child as I splash through the muck.

La da da daa da hmm laa da da daa hmm SOS

Focusing hard on not falling, a large shape suddenly looms in front of me. I visibly startle and and slide to a stop letting out an uncontrollable “SHIT!” as mud (or cow poop?) splashes up my shins. A large creature with two green-blue eyes glowing in the light of my headlamp is staring at me from the middle of the trail.

A cow. Of course it’s a cow. A fucking cow. I look around. I’m completely surrounded by bluegreen glowing eyes. All staring at me.

“Pardon me ladies…” I say as I skirt around one and then another. I was so focused on the trail that I hadn’t noticed stumbling right into the middle of the herd. It’s not the first time I’ve done this, it’s happened with a herd of deer before.

I can’t help but laugh as I leave the cattle behind me. What a day this has been. I hit the switchbacks on the final descent.

Not much further and I can hear Jason at the finish cheering for me. A couple of turns and suddenly I’m in his warm embrace.

“Oh, thank god that’s over.” I whisper.

Clearly this FKT wasn’t about time for me. This was the first female record on this route and it didn’t really matter how long it took. For me, this route was about the head-game. It was a war of attrition with myself. It was about pushing through and not giving up. Tenacity. Determination. Perseverance.

Skills and abilities that I will be able to transpose into other areas of my life.

34.8 miles, 7,000 feet of gain, 9 hours, 29 minutes, and 44 seconds after starting, I claimed my second Fastest Known Time.


Check out my Strava

See me on the FKT website