The longer days and the full moon made for a prime environment for fastest known time (FKT) attempts last weekend—and several records were taken down.
One of the most notable was the unsupported FKT on the Tahoe Rim Trail by Kyle Curtin, who is the current course record-holder for the Tahoe 200.
The 33-year-old was originally planning to run Western States the final weekend in June, but that was canceled in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he was in racing shape, so he made the decision to go for the 165-mile FKT on the Tahoe Rim Trail about a week before his July 3 attempt.
“I was looking at my time for Tahoe 200 around mile 171, and it was close to [Kilian Jornet’s] 2009 FKT on the trail,” Curtin told Runner’s World. “I was trying to link up with some friends to do it later this year, but seeing so many people going out and the moonlight, I thought this was the best time to do it.”
Curtin is no stranger to backpacking, fastpacking, or spending days on the trail without support—all of which helped when planning his FKT attempt. The week of, he scraped together his fueling and mileage plans; he organized the 10,000 calories he’d carry from the start, in the form of citrus- and fruity-flavored snacks during the day and coffee, chocolate, and nuts for nighttime. He also relied heavily on liquid calories from Nuun and Tailwind.
The toughest part of the FKT attempt was managing his water intake, which ended up nearly ending his journey. Though there are many natural water sources along the trail, the 35-mile section between Mount Rose and Edgewood Creek did not have one. There was an option for still water from Spooner Lake that was half a mile off the trail and tasted like “fish-tank water,” according to Curtin.
When he reached that point, he decided not to get water, but the long period with rationed water dehydrated him. Curtin estimates that he wasn’t able to refuel from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.—eight hours.
“Once I was out of water, I was in trouble,” he said. “I fell behind on calories, and that, too, put me in a hole. That’s when I had the biggest meltdown that night. I was suffering from dizziness, dehydration, and probably altitude sickness, and I was moving slow. I texted the photographer who was out with us that I was done. I laid down on the side of the trail and I think I took a 40-minute nap. I’m not totally sure, but when I woke up, I had a bunch of encouraging texts and that got me out of my temper tantrum.”
With some fresh calories in him and some rest, he powered through. At his final stop, 16 miles before the finish, he kept his mind on his mantra, “don’t be out here a second night.”
Over that final section, he thought he would cruise. Instead, he struggled over the 1,900 feet of gain and 2,700 feet of descent. Luckily, he found motivation to always keep moving in an unexpected source.
“Mosquitoes are encouraging,” he said. “If you stop, they’ll just start biting you immediately. That was really true at the end.”
It ended up taking him four hours to do the final 16 miles, and his perseverance helped him nab a 41-hour and nine-minute finish, good enough to get him the unsupported record and the second fastest time ever on the trail.
“My ankles are so swollen, but it was fun,” Curtin said. “I’m definitely thinking about doing some routes running or fastpacking on like the Hardrock course, which is one of my traditions, and some routes near where my family is in Asheville, North Carolina. For now, I’ll have some beer and pints of Ben & Jerry’s.”
Curtin isn’t the only one who took on the FKT this weekend. The women’s FKT on the Tahoe Rim Trail was actually broken twice. First, Helen Pelster took the unsupported record on July 2, finishing in three days, three hours, and 44 minutes—only 12 minutes behind her self-supported FKT on the trail in 2019.
But that was short-lived as Candice Burt broke the record days later, finishing her unsupported run in .
Another FKT worth mentioning is —14 14,000-foot peaks—which he completed in 41 hours. The time bested Joe Grant’s 2018 time of 49 hours, 38 minutes. And on the women’s side, Sarah Hansel set the overall and unsupported women’s Nolan’s 14 FKT in 57 hours and 43 minutes.
FKTs, which have been popular for years, have been especially appealing to runners in the absence of races. Big records on routes like the Ice Age Trail and the Long Trail have been shattered during the pandemic, along with many others.
Gear & News Editor Drew covers a variety of subjects for Runner’s World and Bicycling, and he specializes in writing and editing human interest pieces while also covering health, wellness, gear, and fitness for the brand.
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