Ultimate Direction sponsors Barkley Marathons

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  April 1, 2018

Ultimate Direction announces sponsorship of the Barkley Marathons
Boulder, CO:  Ultimate Direction, a market-leading manufacturer of gear for runners, hikers, and skiers, is proud to announce a new partnership with the Barkley Marathons.
BarkleyThis legendary race, held sometime in the spring at Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, has grown in stature, with entries coming in from all over the United States as well as 8 countries, and has become the subject of a new film seemingly every year.
“The Barkley Marathons need to keep up with the times”, announced Gary Cantrell, Race Director, when asked if pressure from a huge corporate entity such as Ultimate Direction would mandate any changes.  “However, what you know and have come to love will not change”.
He then announced the Entry Fee would be increased from $1.60, to $5,000.00 per person.
“We believe this slight increase will ensure a better experience for all participants” noted Gary, speaking from his new home in the south of France.  “Plus, now that Amelia Boone is in it, I can charge anything; people will show up no matter what.”
In keeping with the well known idiosyncrasy’s of the event, the Entry Fee is actually $1,000 per lap. Entrants who expect to finish one lap will only pay $1,000, but can only start the number of laps paid for in advance.  Since only 5 people finished two laps this year and just 1 person three laps, reporters speculated that no one would be dumb enough to pay the $5,000, so the Entry Fee’s might not support the RD’s new lifestyle.
“No problem at all”, said Gary, demonstrating once again his legendary insights into human nature, or at least ultra-runner nature.  “Won’t make a difference.  Everyone is convinced they can do it.  Rationality has not, is not, and never will be part of the Barkley Marathons.”
Experienced participants were quick to agree with this assessment.
“Certainly.  $5,000 is no problem,” stated Gary Robbins, super good guy and outstanding ultra-runner.  “I’ve already sold my house in order to train for this, so all I have to do now is sell my car and the clothes off my back.  I’ll be there.”
Jamil Coury, Race Director, multiple HR100 Finisher, and aspiring filmmaker, fully agreed.  “This year, on my fourth try, I managed to hike more miles at Barkley than I did getting from the airport gate to the rental car parking lot.  That’s progress.  I totally got this.”
Buzz Burrell, figure-head for Ultimate Direction and various other public endeavors he performs no actual work for, was expressed excitement. “Barkley is a natural fit for UD.  It has already been demonstrated by the last three finishers that the only way to finish is to wear our PB Adventure Vest.  That, and maybe a torn-up plastic garbage bag and weird orange stocking cap.”
John
Co-Sponsors of the event include Men’s Journal, and Eli Lilly and Company, developer of Prozac.
“Once we heard that numerous well-known people associated with the race have categorically stated, “No woman will ever be able to finish Barkley”, we were in”, said Myke M. Sogonist, chief publicist, Mens Journal.
Past Finishers were generally supportive as well.
David Horton, holder of more long-trail and heart-bypass records than anyone still alive, and for impromptu invocations that totally mesmerize anyone standing within a 20’ radius, felt the sprit of Barkley would not change.  “It’s still the hardest race there is. There’s nothing like it. It’s far, far longer than 100 miles. And by the way, that wasn’t me who said, ‘No woman is tough enough to finish Barkley’”.
Blake Wood, one of the best all-around runners and home-brewers ever, and designer of the HR100 lottery system as well as hydrogen bombs, said, “This is a fair system.  Even I can’t understand it, but Gary somehow tricks people into finding meaning by emphasizing lack of meaning, so it works.”
Jared Campbell, formerly an extremely well respected and liked runner, now secretly resented for finishing Barkley so many times he’s caused the course to be made so hard nobody else can finish it, was out running his daily 10k (measured vertically, not horizontally) on Grandeur Peak, and was not available for comment.
Jared

Fastest Known Time of the Year Awards!

What were the most inspiring, difficult, fast, or just plain ‘out-there’ FKT’s last year?  A panel of 27 runners reviewed the 22 Nominees (selected from the hundreds of FKT’s reported last year), voted for their top 5, and the Results are below.  A hot discussion this year was the widening gap between Unsupported and Supported efforts – some people did their whole route solo, while others utilized ‘race-level’ support for the first time – they had pacers the whole way, while carrying only minimal food or water themselves.  And as always, there were blazing fast runs on very popular routes, along with some insane efforts in the backcountry lasting over a month.  How does one decide which to vote for?  Which style of FKT won?  Read on!

WOMEN

Coastal Trail#4 (tie) 
California Coastal Trail OKT, (Self-Supported) California
Natalie Larson;  44d,18h,40m;  8/20-10/4
What:
The CCT combines wilderness, beach, and urban running/hiking for 1,200 miles along the coast of CA.  An OKT (Only Known Time), Larson’s Self-Supported trip was an adventure in every sense, and was documented by satellite tracking and an evocative, complete report.
The voters said:
“It’s not the time she set as the audacity of the project: A young woman running alone though urban, suburban and wilderness. Her trip report reminds me of why I started doing FKT’s.”
“Love the pioneering spirit and solo pursuit – the best kind of FKTs.”

#4 (tie)  
Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim (N-S), Arizona
Alicia Vargo;  3h,19m,23s;  11/8
What:
While the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) has been a major target for decades, the R2R has seen relatively little interest.  The previous women’s best (set S-N) was done as part of the R2R2R.  Vargo gave the R2R a serious shot on its own, which may inspire more women to go after this logical route.
The voters said:
“The Grand Canyon attracts strong performances. Alicia’s time is solid.”

Vargo

#3
AshleyNOzark Highlands Trail, (Supported), Arkansas
Ashley Nordell;  2d,10h,46m; 10/27-29
What:
Nordell has the fastest time Overall (Women & Men).  The previous best was also by a woman, Jenny Foster, 2d14h25m (2009).
The voters said:
“Faster than any men!”
“Solid effort and overall FKT!  What’s not to love?”

#2
Grand Canyon R2R2R, (Supported) Arizona
Cat Bradley;  7h,52m,20s;  11/15
What:
The R2R2R is one of the most classic routes in the world.  Bradley made it a major goal, and turned in an excellent result, besting besting Bethany Lewis’ 2011 FKT by more than 23 minutes.
The voters said:
“Badass time on a highly contested, ultra-classic route.”
“R2R2R is becoming as supported as a race, especially the way Cat did it.  But still it is a fast time and it’s impressive.”
“Elite run by an elite ultrarunner with elite crew and pacers – like a ‘Pro-FKT’ – but awesome”
“I loved her comment that WS100 (which she won) didn’t matter, only the Canyon mattered. I think comments about support and pacing are irrelevant for this route.”

Cat B

#1
John Muir Trail, (Supported), California
Darcy Piceu;  3d,7h,57m ; 9/15-17
What:
Piceu smashed the 10-year-old FKT of Sue Johnston by a whopping 12 hours.  There was some controversy because of a small and unintentional route finding error:  Piceu (and pacer Betsy Nye) took the Mist Trail part of the way down into Yosemite Valley, very near the end.
The voters said:
“I Would’ve ranked her higher, but IMO knowing the official Trail and successfully staying on route are part of what differentiates FKTs from marked courses!”
“She just blew away the competition. Yes a route-finding error, but since she didn’t gain any time, I excuse this digression.”
“She broke a long-standing record, and even threatened the men’s record. It was a huge leap in what’s possible for women.”

Darcy3

MEN

Bryan Williams#5 (tie)  
Colorado Trail, (Supported) Colorado   
Bryan Williams; 8d,0h,30m; 8/26-9/3
What:
Williams took the Collegiate West option, which is a little longer (83 vs. 78 miles), with more vertical gain and a generally higher altitude, than the Collegiate East route taken by other FKT trips.  Nevertheless, he beat Scott Jamie’s 2013 time by over 7 hours.
The voters said:
“Bryan had his sights set on the CT for sometime. Like Cat, he did is recon, his homework, then sheer drive got it done.”
“I recall Scott Jaime talking about that pain and suffering that will be required to beat his time.”

#5 (tie)  
Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson; 4h29m55s; 7/6
What:
This popular and logical route traverses the Presidential Range in NH.  Since 2009 the FKT has been traded back and forth several times between Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts and Jan Wellford, often beating each other’s times by just a few minutes.  Ben Thompson took nearly 5 minutes off of Nephew’s 2013 time.
The voters said:
“This is classic FKT stuff: a strong local community of talented guys and gals constantly challenging each other to take it up a notch!”

#5 (tie) 
Colorado’s Highest 100 Peaks, (Self-supported/Self-powered), Colorado
Justin Simoni; 60d,14h,59m,42s (OKT); 7/18-9/16
What:
Following on 2014’s self-supported / self-powered tour (and FKT at the time) of Colorado’s 58 14ers, Simoni upped the ante to include the highest 100 peaks in the state; he biked to then climbed every official summit over about 13,800’.  The high 13ers are more obscure and some are technically more challenging than the 14ers. Simoni biked 1,720 and hiked 624 miles, and gained enough vert to get into outer space – 247,810′ by foot and 136,374′ by bike.
The voters said:
“Innovative, badass, logistically over-the-top challenging… just WOW.”

Simoni copy

#5 (tie)
Matthias copyLA Freeway, Colorado
Matthias Messner; 16h,59m; 8/6
What:
The LA Freeway links Longs Peak with South Arapaho Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The route follows the crest and summits all the peaks, traversing roughly 34 miles, mostly above 12,000’ elevation, and requires numerous sections of 4th and 5th Class climbing.  While this was envisioned by Carl Pfiffner in the 1950s, it wasn’t completed in a seamless push until 2002, when Buzz Burrell did it in 2 days with a bivouac.  Messner was only the second person to complete the LAF, and he set an entirely new standard by doing the route in only 16h59m.
The voters said:
“My intimate knowledge of this route makes me one of the few that will understand how amazing this time is. I could see this time standing for a decade and we shouldn’t wait that long to acknowledge it.”
“An amazing time on an almost mystical route!  Absolutely world class.”
“This is an extremely niche route that I hope will gain greater prominence (it’s SO GOOD!), but will always be limited by its technical nature and locals-knowledge needed to really kill it. Which is fine. That’s what FKT’s are all about, really.”

#4
Holy Nolan’s OKT, (Supported), Colorado
Andrew Hamilton;  71h,32m;  6/29-7/2
What:
Hamilton is the undisputed King of the Colorado 14ers, holding the FKT for CO 14ers (all 58 peaks).  This was his 3rd Nolan’s finish, and he holds the FKT for doing the Nolan’s route Unsupported.  Here he added Holy Cross, to link up all fifteen 14ers in the Sawatch Range in one push that added about 25 miles of on & off-trail travel to Nolan’s.  Besides being the first to finish “Holy Nolan’s”, he set the Nolan’s FKT in the process (which was later superseded by Iker Karrera.)
The voters said:
“Cleans up the entire range in one go. Mind-blowing endurance.”
“I always wondered why the Nolan’s folks left the Holy Cross straggler… this guy finally did it!”

HolyNolans

#3
Iker-Karrera-Grand-Raid-2Nolan’s 14 (Supported), Colorado   
Iker Karrera;  47h,40m;  8/1-3
What:
A Colorado classic that has attracted international attention, this is a very sturdy route: 14 summits over 14,000’, about 100 miles, 44,000’ of vert, and half off-trail.  Iker bested Andrew Hamilton’s time from June (see above) by 6h2m, which included significant time spent being lost.
The voters said:
“It’s all about route finding and game-time decisions when shit hits the fan (which it will when there is no trail).”
“This is number one for me because it’s a super demanding, physically and mentally, requiring a sense of adventure and braving the elements, and it’s very prestigious.”
“Iker didn’t bring the massive Euro support machine, but rather slotted himself into the local culture and ethic. He’s humble, and he’s really good.”

#2
John Muir Trail (Supported), California  
Francois D’Haene;  2d,19h,26m;  10/14-17
What:
The 2017 UTMB winner smashed the previous supported FKT by over 12 hours, running the route northbound, and was the first person to complete the route under 3 days. His approach was unusual in that by choosing to run in mid-October he gave up daylight in exchange for cooler temperatures and easier access to hiking permits for the area. He also had pacers the entire way, probably a first.
The voters said:
“I didn’t vote for Francois D’Haene’s JMT, because it seemed “too supported”, maybe beyond the spirit of FKTs for a true wilderness route.”
“Huge advancement here; will pacers the entire way be the new norm on the JMT?”
“Francois crushed it with a brilliant combination of athletic ability, unmatched support, and a unique approach of doing the route in October.”

arrivée-2-jmt

#1
Appalachian Trail, (Self-Supported), East Coast
Joe McConaughy;  45d,12h,15m;  7/17-8/31
What:
The AT has a long history of very strong efforts, with the men including David Horton ’91, Pete Palmer ’99, Andrew Thompson ’05, Scott Jurek ’15, and Karl Meltzer ’16, all Supported. “Stringbean” bettered them all while going Self-Supported, being 10 hours faster than “Speedgoat” from the previous year.
The voters said:
“World-class ultra-runners with support, and he beat them self-supported.”
“No one to feed him, no one to massage him, no one to pop his blisters, no one to do his laundry, no one to shop for his food – #1 no brainer.”
“Joe McConaughy pulled off an FKT on the AT without any of the normal hoopla that seems to accompany modern ‘ultra-runner’ attempts.”
“Everyone who finishes this thing in an FKT-style effort is necessarily a hollow shell by the end. To keep taking care of oneself with no help throughout that entire process should not be underestimated. The clear winner.”

JoeM

SUMMARY

Democracy works!  None of the 23 Voters came close to picking all 10 winners (a famous now-former FKT holder came closest :-).  Utilizing a diverse group of voters is a brilliant way to decide – all personal favorites and biases are erased through democracy, and the result reflects the whole community.  The Tie for #4 Female is a great example:  Natalie spent 44 days solo hiking/running the entire coast of California in a true personal adventure, while Alicia (with two friends minutes behind her) smoked the Rim-Rim in the Grand Canyon in a little over 3 hours – and these two received the exact same number of voting points (30)!

For the first time, two non-American citizens nabbed the #3 and #2 spots for Men (the Ultra Runner of the Year Award is only for NA residents, while the FKTOY is open to anyone; the route itself has to be in NA).  Our experienced European correspondent had an interesting perspective:

“Here in Europe, most of the FKT attempts on iconic routes such as the GR20 in Corsica or the Pyrenean Traverse are big operations. Kilian, François, Julien … they all pushed limits using multiple pacers, aid station crews, change of equipment. Which makes me wonder, will a European will come after the AT FKT in the years to come?  Sub 40 days supported by brands like Salomon w/ pro film crew?  Is it a good or bad evolution?”

So which is better:  Supported or Unsupported?  Long and hard, or short and fast?

The community has spoken:  Those distinctions do not matter!  What’s cool is cool; we are inspired by verve, vision, and commitment no matter the distance, and badass is badass, no matter how you do it.

Your Comments are welcome below!  And 2018 is here – what do YOU have planned?

Fastest Known Time Of the Year Award

It’s back! An Award for the most notable FKT of the Year.  There’s no big prize – actually no prize whatsoever – but that’s not why we do FKT’s is it?  We want to do and read about what’s cool, what’s exciting and new, what has meaning for us.  So Peter Bakwin with help from Buzz Burrell compiles a list of the big standouts for 2017, then a panel votes for their favs.  There is one Award for Women and one for Men.
nolans sunrise
What do YOU think?  Here’s the complete list … what amazes you most?  Are you inspired to give any of these a shot?
(Listings in chronological order)

WOMEN:

Bruce Trail, (Supported), Ontario
Chantal Warriner, 12d15h14m, 7/1-13
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/392/bruce-trail-tobermory-niagara-ontario
The 900km Bruce Trail has become a popular target for multi-day FKT efforts in eastern Canada. The previous FKT was 13d6h28m by Virginia Gingras (2015).

4 Passes Loop, Colorado
Anna Mae Flynn, 5h38m29s, 7/18
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/22/maroon-bells-passes-loop
One of the most classic and competitive short mountain routes in Colorado.  This FKT has previously been held by Gina Lucrezi, Sandi Nypaver and most recently by Megan Lizotte (6h2m35s, 2015).

Wonderland Trail (Unsupported), Washington
Mallory Brooks & Allison Macsas, 29h12m25s, 8/14-15
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/40/wonderland-trail-wa
Brooks & Macsas were unsupported, but they were met along the way by friends for purposes of documentation.  The supported FKT is 22h4m47s by Jen Shelton.

Mt Whitney ascent, California
Tina Lewis, 2h57m9s, 8/16
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/47/mt-whitney-ca
Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states, and so an automatic classic.  The men’s FKT has been contested for years, but only recently have serious attempts been reported by women.  Lewis’ ascent via the somewhat technical Mountaineer’s Route beat Charity Dubberley’s time for the same route, set just 1 week earlier, by 13 minutes.  Dubberley has the faster car-to-car time (5h10m51s, vs. 5h36m3s).

John Muir Trail, (Supported), California
Darcy Piceu, 3d7h57m, 9/15-17
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/21/john-muir-trail-ca
Piceu’s time smashed the 10-year-old FKT of Sue Johnston by a whopping 12 hours, and at one point was on track for the Mens FKT. There was some controversy because of a small and unintentional route finding error:  Piceu (and pacer Betsy Nye) took the Mist Trail part of the way down into Yosemite Valley, very near the end of the run. 

Calif Coastal Trail OKT, (Self-Supported) California
Natalie Larson, 44d18h40m, 8/20-10/4
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/1494/california-coastal-trail
The CCT combines wilderness, beach and “urban” running/hiking for 1,200 miles along the coast of CA.  More of an OKT (Only Known Time), Larson’s self supported trip was an adventure in every sense, and was documented by satellite tracking and an evocative, complete report (worth reading).

Ozark Highlands Trail, (Supported), Arkansas
Ashley Nordell, 2d10h46m, 10/27-29
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/28/ozark-highlands-trail-ar
Nordell has the fastest time Overall (Women & Men).  The previous best was also by a woman, Jenny Foster, 2d14h25m (2009).

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim (N-S), Arizona
Alicia Vargo, 3h19m23s, 11/8
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/13/grand-canyon-az
While the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) has been a major target for decades, the R2R has seen relatively little interest.  The previous women’s best (set S-N) was done as part of the R2R2R.  Vargo gave the R2R a serious shot on its own, which may inspire more women to go after this logical route.

Cat Bradley, 7h52m20s, 11/15
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/13/grand-canyon-az
The R2R2R is clearly one of the most classic routes in NA.  Bradley made it a major goal, and turned in an excellent result, besting Bethany Lewis’ previous (2011) FKT by more than 23 min.
Darcy3
MEN:

Zion Traverse, Utah
Hayden Hawks, 6h50m49s, 4/14
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/14/trans-zion-ut
An excellent 48-mile route across Zion National Park that has attracted some serious competition, with the FKT being held by Jared Campbell & Karl Meltzer, Matt Hart, Luke Nelson, Travis Macy, and Mike Foote & Justin Yates.  Hawks took over 30min off the FKT of Foote & Yates, and raised fund for the National Parks.

Holy Nolan’s OKT, (Supported), Colorado
Andrew Hamilton, 71h32m, 6/29-7/2
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/355/nolans-14
Hamilton is the undisputed King of the Colorado 14ers, holding the FKT for CO 14ers (all 58 peaks).  This was his 3rd Nolan’s finish, and he holds the FKT for doing the Nolan’s route Unsupported.  Here he added Holy Cross, to link up all fifteen 14ers in the Sawatch Range in one push that added about 25 miles of on & off-trail travel to Nolan’s.  Besides being the first to finish “Holy Nolan’s”, he set the Nolan’s FKT in the process (which was later superseded by Iker Karrera.)

Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson, 4h29m55s, 7/6
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/33/presidential-traverse-nh
This popular and logical route traverses the Presidential Range in NH.  Since 2009 the FKT has been traded back and forth several times between Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts and Jan Wellford, often beating each other’s times by just a few minutes.  Ben Thompson took nearly 5 minutes off of Nephew’s 2013 time. It’s a good bet we’ll see Nephew try to get it back.

Colorado’s Highest 100 Peaks, (Self-supported/Self-powered), Colorado
Justin Simoni, 60d14h59m42s (OKT), 7/18-9/16
http://highesthundred.com/http://longranger.justinsimoni.com/2017/10/01/tour-of-the-highest-hundred-completed/
Following on 2014’s self-supported / self-powered tour (and FKT at the time) of Colorado’s 58 14ers, Simoni upped the ante to include the highest 100 peaks in the state; every official summit over about 13,800’.  The high 13ers are more obscure and some are technically more challenging than the 14ers. Simoni biked 1,720 and hiked 624 miles, and gained enough vert to get into outer space – 247,810′ by foot and 136,374′ by bike. 

Nolan’s 14 (Supported), Colorado
Iker Karrera, 47h40m, 8/1-3
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/355/nolans-14
A Colorado classic that has attracted international attention, this is a very sturdy route: 14 summits over 14,000’, about 100 miles, 44,000’ of vert, about half off-trail.  Iker bested Andrew Hamilton’s time from June (see above) by 6h2m, including much time spent being lost.

LA Freeway, Colorado
Matthias Messner, 16h59m, 8/6
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/169/pfiffner-traverse-la-freeway
The LA Freeway links Longs Peak with South Arapaho Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The route follows the crest and summits all the peaks, traversing roughly 34 miles, mostly above 12,000’ elevation, and requires numerous sections of 4th and 5th Class climbing.  While this was envisioned by Carl Pfiffner in the 1950s, it wasn’t completed in a seamless push until 2002, when Buzz Burrell did it in 2 days with a bivouac.  Messner was only the second person to complete the LAF, and he set an entirely new standard by doing the route in only 16h59m.

Pawnee-Buchanan Loop, Colorado
Andrew Skurka, 4h46m32s, 8/16
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/31/pawnee-buchanan-loop
Along with the Maroon Bells Four Passes loop, this is one of the most classic and scenic 1-day runs in the mountains of Colorado. Skurka took 4 minutes off Anton Krupicka’s 2010 time.

Appalachian Trail, (Self-Supported), East Coast
Joe McConaughy, 45d12h15m, 7/17-8/31
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/6/appalachian-trail
The AT has a long history of very strong efforts, with the men including David Horton 91, Pete Palmer 99, Andrew Thompson 05, Scott Jurek 15, and Karl Meltzer 16, all Supported. Stringbean bettered them all while going Self-supported, being 10 hours faster than “Speedgoat” from the previous year.

Colorado Trail, (Supported) Colorado
Bryan Williams, 8d0h30m, 8/26-9/3
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/10/colorado-trail
Williams elected to take the Collegiate West option, which is apparently a little longer (83 vs. 78 miles?), with more vert and a generally higher altitude, than the Collegiate East route that has been taken by other FKT trips.  Nevertheless, he beat Scott Jamie’s 2013 time by over 7 hours.

Bruce Trail (Supported), Ontario, Canada
Adam Burnett, 9d21h14m, 9/1-11
Approx 900km. Previous best was 10d13h57m by Jim Willet, 2014.
The 44-year-old from Toronto lowered the solo fastest-known time by more than 13 hours.

Pemigewasset Loop, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson, 6h6m53s, 9/12
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/32/pemigewasset-loop-nh
The Pemi Loop is another major White Mtns classic, and the FKT has been hotly contested for many years. Thompson took just over 3 minutes off Ben Nephew’s 2015 FKT time.  These times are tight.

Grand Canyon R2R (N-S) Arizona
Tim Freriks, 2h39m38s, 10/1
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/13/grand-canyon-az
Freriks was supported by Jim Walmsley, who had the previous fastest R2R of 2h46m8s (2016) set during his R2R2R FKT run.  These are fast times – Rob Krar had run 2h51m28s in 2012 as a dedicated R2R effort.

John Muir Trail (Supported), California
Francois D’Haene, 2d19h26m, 10/14-17
http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/21/john-muir-trail-ca
The 2017 UTMB winner smashed the previous supported FKT by over 12 hours, running the route northbound, and was the first person to complete the route under 3 days. His approach was unusual in that by choosing to run in mid-October he gave up daylight in exchange for cooler temperatures and easier access to hiking permits for the area. He also had pacers the entire way, probably a first.
Simoni
An amazing list.  The Top 5 will be announced starting on January 21, and published in Ultrarunning Magazine, due to ship on January 25.  Please Post your Comments below – we’d love to hear what you think!

What is Skimo??

“Skimo” – the word is now part of the ultrarunning lexicon. Killian has always done it, many ultra runners have taken it up, Mike Foote and Rob Krar are on their National Teams, it’s the coolest new thing … so what the heck is skimo anyway?

Here is the best answer possible:  some of the top people in the sport will tell you all about it, in their own words – – –

Mathéo 1

Mathis Dumas photo of Matheo Jacquemond

WHAT IS SKIMO?

Anton Krupicka:  “Skimo” is simply shorthand for “ski mountaineering”, but the shorthand is typically reserved for the competitive races.  “Ski mountaineering” is climbing and skiing technical mountains, which is something that has been around for many generations and is not new. However, uphill skinning at resorts is something that is becoming more popular as a form of winter exercise and I don’t think requires any labels. Call it whatever you want; if you enjoy it, do it.

Mike Foote:  What most folks love and crave is a big day of backcountry touring. The skills and fitness you gain from skimo racing develop your ability to be efficient and strong on big days in the mountains. Skimo racing is just the essence of ski mountaineering distilled down into a controlled course.

Jason Borro:   Racing is great training for the real thing, which is ski mountaineering.  It demands efficiency that can mean the difference between success or failure in the wild.

GT Start

Start of 2017 Grand Traverse

WHY DO IT?

Max Taam:  Skimo has always been the perfect sport in my mind. It combines endurance, technical skills, and downhill ski racing in an incredible mountain setting.

Mike Foote:  Ski Mountaineering is simply the most fun and natural way to move through complex terrain in the mountains during the winter. It utilizes a wide variety of skill sets, pushes you incredibly hard aerobically, and has a level of adrenaline that is hard to find in trail running.

Mathéo 4Nikki Kimball:  Because it is crazy fun!  And because skiing gives my body and brain a break from the repetitive stress of running, while simultaneously allowing me to work on strength, power, cardiovascular fitness, and even the mental skills need in ultrarunning.

Stano Faban:  It’s just like trail running except you are much more free! Ski mountaineering/touring is an amazing way to cover lots of terrain, push yourself, and meet great people in general.  I don’t remember when was last time I called any of my skimo sessions a workout.

Eric Bunce: There are so many different aspects to the sport, so much technicality, so on race day its not who has the most horsepower but who is the best all around athlete.  Plus its a way to get out and explore the mountains.

Grant Guise: I moved from New Zealand to Tahoe to ski patrol, and started hearing these stories about Skimo, this weird sport that was big in Europe and involved a lot of lycra …

Anton Krupicka:  I participate in Skimo for three reasons: 1) Skiing is the winter version of mountain running; 2) Cross training – I can do big volume without overuse injuries; 3) I love mountain endurance competitions, no matter the sport.

Clare Gallagher:  There’s no way I could run year round; training and racing become exhausting. By doing skimo in the winter, I give my legs a break from running, strengthen my butt, back, and arms, and get so cold I wish it were summer again. Oh, and it’s pretty fun. And the people are hilarious hardcore hooligans that give trail runners a run for their money in terms of the weirdness-factor.  The lycra…

Clare 3

HOW IS SKIMO DIFFERENT THAN A TOUGH RUN?

Mike Foote:  Skimo is more demanding and intense.  Not only are the races much higher intensity and shorter in duration, the very nature of skimo lends itself to hard aerobic efforts – you might spend an hour climbing a slope and just five minutes skiing back down.  If you love climbing, skimo is the sport for you.

Grant Guise: For me, the ideal run and the ideal ski adventure are very similar: in the backcountry, exploring, moving fast, and ideally with a summit.

Anton:  The base aesthetic is the same – moving in a mountain landscape.  Beyond that, they’re obviously very different. For skimo, expensive, technical equipment is required. Basic technique is required. To be competitive, a lot of specific technical skill is required (i.e., transitions, technical skinning, and skiing steep, variable terrain on skittery, lightweight gear).

Nikki: During transitions, the athlete quickly and completely changes the function of her equipment. Whether going from uphill skinning to downhill skiing, boot-packing to skiing, or descending to climbing, the athlete must be absolutely focused on the several required tasks in transition.  I find any sport which makes ultrarunning seem easy to be of great value!

Dropping into Dragons Tail - courtesy photo Matt Hart

Dropping into Dragons Tail – courtesy photo Matt Hart

HOW HAS THE SPORT CHANGED?

Eric:  the sport has really progressed in the US both in numbers and in level of performance. You no longer can buy your speed; you have to train in all aspects of the sport.

Stano:  The gear was already light 10 years ago, and now it’s more accessible and durable so more people can pick up the sport. One new trend is lots of trail runners are getting into skimo; I think they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel :)

Nikki:  The sport has grown in the decade I’ve been doing it, mirroring ultrarunning. The overall effect is positive (more people enjoying healthy activity, better equipment, easily accessed learning opportunities), but I feel some growing pains. The gear has improved so that one is at a disadvantage when not racing on relatively current and expensive gear. The growth of skimo catalyzed amazing improvements in gear function, but expect your bank account to be a bit lighter.  Of course, simply enjoying ski mountaineering, or not being concerned with race results, can release an athlete of her perceived need for the most expensive gear.

Skimo Company, Salt Lake City

Skimo Company, Salt Lake City

WHAT ABOUT THE RACE SCENE?

Max:  We have a lot of great races in the US now that provide challenging, authentic Skimo courses. My favorites include the Aspen Snowmass Power of Four, Taos, and the Powderkeg.  Racing in Europe is still a must for any American racer at some point during their career. It’s a big eye opener regarding the level of racing and truly amazing courses. My favorites are the Tour du Rutor and the Pierra Menta.

Mike:  Last year I made the US Ski Mountaineering Team and had the opportunity to race in Europe at the World Championships. The level of competition over in Euope is incredible and eye opening. Nations have developmental teams and take the sport quite seriously.  There is such history and celebration of the sport over there, which is great to learn from.

Max Taam and partner finishing 2017 Grand Traverse before the sun comes up on Aspen Mt.

Max Taam and partner finishing 2017 Grand Traverse before the sun comes up on Aspen Mt.

Stano:  I have been racing for over 15 years and have followed the sport for about 20, and attended three World Championships. But the most important thing to me is that it’s still one of the most pure sports out there. Sure there are rules and you need to be fit, but when you are racing up and down mountains on snow there is definitely some magic to it.

Grant:  I was super keen to start a series of races here in New Zealand, and for a few years we had a small series of 4 races and then a couple of races a year, but it has died down now. I think skiing here is looked at as something that is social and not competitive.

Eric:  I have been racing since 2005 when i jumped in a race in New Zealand while I was working down there. Then came back stateside and started racing the (Wasatch) Powderkeg and the Colorado races. Two  years ago went to France and raced Pierra Menta – totally hooked!

Nikki:  My first race was Bridger Bowl’s Skin to Win. I raced on hand-me-down skis, a pair I later handed off to a friend who nicknamed them “The Skis of Death” for their complete inability to turn. Prior to the race I watched available videos about the sport on YouTube: all two or three of them. I was still undefeated in trail ultra running and feeling a bit cocky: how tough could this be? It’s just a combination of two sports I’m pretty good at: running and skiing, right?

The gun went off at Bridger’s Le Mans start and I ran fast to my skis. Then I fumbled with my bindings while watching the entire pack start up the mountain. But I recovered from this and started passing skiers up the hill. Then I spent what felt like hours trying to get back into my bindings while out of breath and terribly embarrassed that everyone I had passed seemed to fly by me effortlessly. The race continued in this manner, with the exception of me catching fewer and fewer other athletes after each transition. I finished, exhausted, in last place by over half an hour.  And strangely stoked to return.

Clare:  I love skimo races because most of them are partner races. This is due to the remote nature of the sport and the need for a buddy in case of an avalanche or if other bad things were to happen. I began my skimo “career” partnering with my dad for a handful of COSMIC races. The 2016 Grand Traverse was our last race together. It’s a miracle we finished, let alone were still able to call each other family. The hurt and dynamics of these races are so complicated and make for the rawest, most tear-strewn, hypothermic, and concussed of experiences.

Clare 4

THANK YOU TO THE AUTHORS!!

Jason Borro– Salt Lake City, UT.  Owner of the Skimo Company, the first retailer of skimo specific gear in North America.

Eric Bunce– Salt Lake City, UT.  RD of the Wasatch Powderkeg, and a skier and skimo racer.

Stano Faban– Vancouver, BC. Publisher of Skintrack.com, a leading blog of all things backcountry skiing.

Clare Gallagher – Boulder, CO.  Ultrarunner, ski mountaineer, winner of the 2016 Leadville Trail 100 and 2017 CCC race in France.

Mike Foote – Bozeman, MT.  Ultrarunner, twice 2nd at Hardrock 100, 3rd at UTMB, and too many other big races to count.

Grant Guise – Waneka, New Zealand.  Ultrarunner, ski mountaineer, 8th and 11th at Hardrock 100.

Nikki Kimball – Bozeman, MT.  Longtime ultrarunner, skier, 3-time winner of WS100, 1st place UTMB, 1st place Marathon Des Sables, National Snowshoe Champion.

Anton Krupicka – Boulder, CO.  Ultrarunner, ski mountaineer, climber, twice winner of Leadville Trail 100, 2nd place Western States 100 , Miwok 100km winner.

Max Taam – Aspen, CO.  Dedicated ski mountaineer, winner and CR of 2017 Grand Traverse, Crested Butte, CO.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!  Ever tried Skimo?  Are you going to?

FKT Grants – What Happened?

How hard is it to set a new Fastest Known Time? Really hard as it turns out.

In April we awarded four Grants to people undertaking interesting and ambitious projects. How did it go?  Some great attempts, some not so great … and none succeeded! But do any of these constitute a real “failure”?  Is learning, growing, and exploring a failure or a success?  Read on and then tell us what you think.

D Ridge

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LA Freeway

By Matthias Messner

There is not much information about the LA Freeway. The most I ever found was in  Anton Krupicka’s Ultimate Direction blog post, Schemin’ and Dreamin’. According to Krupicka’s post, Buzz Burrell, who named the route, was the only one to ever complete it. In two days. Nobody had ever completed in one day. I thought, no wonder, after reading the specs for the first time two years ago:

The LA Freeway is a true traverse of the Continental Divide linking the highest point in Rocky Mountain National Park (Longs Peak, 14,255′) and the highest point in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (Arapaho Peak, 13,502′) and tagging 18 named peaks along the way…half a dozen instances of low-5th Class climbing and lots and lots of 3rd and 4th Class scrambling…endless talus-hopping and tundra-trotting…from Longs’ East Trailhead to Arapaho’s 4th of July Trailhead is approximately a 50K with at least 18,000′ of vertical.

First I thought, it is not possible. But it stuck with me, and the more I thought about it, the more I was drawn to this route. Since I was a little kid, growing up in the Dolomites, in northern Italy, I have spent my free time in the mountains. I have always loved moving in technical terrain. It has always seemed natural to me. And, of course, I have a competitive personality. So, why not?

Screen-Shot-2013-01-10-at-1.15.31-PM1

Map courtesy Anton Krupicka

August 5, 2017 was the day. I got up at 2:30 AM and drove to the Longs Peak trailhead. Coffee, water and everything else was already in the car. I wanted to reach the summit of Longs at sunrise, in order to maximize my daylight time.

I started at exactly 4 AM, at the car (a little ways down the road, parking lot was already full!), and passed the trailhead about 3 minutes later, wearing shorts, a long sleeve shirt, a light running jacket, a thin woolen hat, a baseball hat, gloves, a vest with two flasks of water (16 ounces each), six energy bars (about 200 calories each), and three gels. I planned to meet Sara, Cori, Caitlin, and Miriam on the saddle between Chiefs Head and Alice, and David, Nikita, and Will somewhere between Shoshoni and Toll to refill food and water.

Going up Longs, I took all the shortcuts I know of. I easily passed 50 people and two ptarmigans on the way. At the time, I was annoyed by how energized everyone seemed to be. A few said something to me but I was not in the mood to interact. The only mishap of the entire day happened before getting to Jim’s Grove trail. I had found my way through a super dense bush section so many times with daylight. But this time, I somehow got lost and didn’t feel like backtracking, so I forced myself though. It was not very elegant; I scratched up my legs and lost my sunglasses.

Once I hit the Cables (North Face), there was enough daylight to turn off my headlamp. The sky out east was completely fogged in, so the sunrise was not that spectacular. I reached the summit of Longs at 5:56 AM, touched the plaque and started my descent down the Homestretch.

Homestretch (South side of Longs) at dawn

Homestretch (South side of Longs) at dawn

I have done the traverse from Longs to Chiefs Head a couple times in both directions, so that entire section went smoothly, as expected. I stepped off the Keyhole route at the bottom end of the Homestretch, contoured over to the low point between Pagoda and Longs (there is a 3rd class passage down the ramp, other options are more technical), and climbed up Pagoda (6:28 AM). I started descending Pagoda by its south ridge. From there I stepped into the bowl, did the few required 4th class moves, walked down a scree field, and finally hit the grassy ledge which took me to the saddle between Pagoda and Chiefs Head. I climbed Chiefs Head (7:11 AM) and descended to the saddle where I was supposed to meet the girls. I saw them but they were still about 15 minutes (Sara says 10) down the ridge (I was half an hour ahead of schedule), so I decided to continue.

Longs

Looking back at Pagoda and Longs

I felt good, had enough food, and knew there was a puddle of water on the other side of Alice I had drank from twice before. I climbed up Alice, which I summited at 7:57 AM, and refilled my flasks at the puddle a little ways down the back side.

Before the clouds rolled in - many miles of rough terrain ahead

Before the clouds rolled in – many miles of rough terrain ahead

While I paused for a minute, fog started coming in over the ridge from the west. The visibility was quite bad; at times I could not even see 50 feet ahead. Luckily, I had the Gaia GPS app on my phone, which proved to be well worth the $20 I paid for it. It helped me navigate through the fog.

Isolation

Isolation Peak

This was especially important because this entire section, from Tanima to Paiute, was new to me. I cancelled plans to scout it a week earlier because of bad weather. But, on the map that section didn’t look too technical, so I thought knowing that it would go had to be enough. I had heard though, that Isolation notch could be tricky. In the notch, I found my way up a 5th class, west-facing, approximately 30 foot, steep scramble, then contoured back north on a narrow ledge to finally get out of the notch and reach the ridge again. The visibility all the way to Isolation had been bad, but once I got off Isolation (9:40 AM) it started clearing up. The sun came out and all of a sudden it made sense again to be out there.

The next peaks were Ouzel (10:17 AM) and Ogalalla (10:46 AM). From there I could see two gorgeous peaks and their ridges: Copeland and Elk Tooth. They are not part of the LA Freeway but they definitely sparked my interest for some later adventures.

On the map, the terrain between Ouzel and Ogalalla looked very runnable. I was excited to finally be able to cover a few miles a little bit faster. But nope, the grass up there provides very unstable footing. It’s almost as if you’re stepping on a sea of tennis balls — your ankles want to roll in all directions. That and a lot of pointy and sharp rocks forced me back into hiking mode most of the time. Actually, on the entire LA Freeway course, there is very little runnable terrain. Most of the time you will be moving on sharp rocks. Wearing shoes that protect your feet well is a very good idea.

The next ridge, before Peak 12277 (11:55 AM), was memorable. It felt like an ancient allee, flanked by big rock spires instead of trees, with Buchanan Creek on the west side and Envy Lake on the east.

Matthias

Tired on Sawtooth

Next, I tagged Red Deer (12:13 PM), went down Buchanan Pass, and started to get really thirsty. I only had 32 ounces of water since refilling in the puddle at Alice (about 5 hours prior) and a few more sips from random rain puddles here and there. I started really looking forward to meeting up with the boys on Toll. But that was at least another two hours away. I ate a gel with caffeine, which helped a bit. The next two peaks were Sawtooth (12:35 PM) and Algonquin (1:07 PM). Both look boring coming from the north. But Sawtooth looks really awesome from Algonquin — I understood why it got its name.

The ascent up Paiute, coming from the north, is also a gem. I got a bit lost on the ridge before dropping into the notch. I was too high and ended up standing on the edge of a sheer vertical face. I saw two vertical hand cracks about a foot apart leading to a lower ledge, about 30 feet down, which had an exit. I decided to not try that. Instead I scrambled down on the west side of the ridge until I was able to enter the notch via a narrow ledge going back east along the vertical face. Then I hiked up the scree towards the base of the summit faces of Paiute. There, I opted for the 5th class chimney between the spire on the east and the summit of Paiute (2:17 PM).

Next, I got on the ridge towards Toll and finally heard and then saw David, Nikita, and Will yelling from the summit. That gave me quite a boost, both physically and mentally. I have done Toll once before via the lower boulder field on the west side. I remembered that as not that exciting so I opted for the upper ledge on the west side of Toll and found another really fun 5th class chimney to the summit of Toll (2:44 PM) where I met up with the boys.

Until now, the weather had been good enough to stay safe on ridges and peaks. But when I came off Paiute, thunderstorms had started forming in the Winter Park and Granby area. Luckily they were not moving towards us. Still, on the summit of Toll, for a moment, I heard the buzzing and felt the terrifying signs of an electrical storm and was worried I would have to bail. For a moment I was worried I was going to have to bail. But looking south, towards the remainder of the LA Freeway, it was still clear.

Quickly, we got off the summit. I drank a Redbull and felt better fast. I stashed another two packs of energy blocks. By this time, I had a hard time eating anything that required a lot of chewing. I refilled my flasks with water and took also a tiny bottle of Coke with me. I figured the less the guys have to carry back down to Brainard, the better for them.

With the new energy, I decided to keep going. Overall, my body felt relatively good. My knees were a bit sore behind the knee caps from all the steep ups and downs.

And thankfully, Will agreed to accompany me for the remainder of the course. We headed up Pawnee (3:12 PM), over to Shoshoni (3:43 PM), and started the Kasparov Traverse. It started sleeting on us while Longs, long behind us, was in the sun. We did not climb the Chessmen but still tried to stay on the ridge as much as possible by meandering on its east and west side. We tagged Apache (3:44 PM), where we saw at least a dozen tiny birds glissading on a snowfield (seriously, I was not hallucinating). We headed down to the saddle before Navajo. The sleeting stopped and the sun came out again.

Navajo is one of my favorites. The scramble up starts with a fun 5th class dihedral which requires some stemming and ends with a fun 15’ hand crack to the summit (5:09 PM).

Navaho

Will on Navaho

But the descent off of Navajo is one of the more awful ones. It is steep, long, and has soccer ball-sized rocks, which require very cautious footing. We stayed on the ridge for the most part, but in order to skip the Arikaree notch we contoured the glacier as high as we could (this is the Boulder watershed and we did not want to enter it) to ascent Arikaree via its northwest face.

After ascending and descending over 18,000’ at this point, my uphill legs started feeling really tired; on every steep ascent I had to stop every couple minutes to catch my breath.

After tagging the summit of Arikaree (5:58 PM) we continued south. As we passed the debris of the 1940 airplane crash, yet another storm rolled in and we started feeling the raindrops. We continued along the ridge until the last tricky section: the rock formation right above the glacier to the north side of North Arapaho peak. It features some southeast-facing vertical rock walls and, in my opinion, is the trickiest in terms of route finding.

The passage I found starts on a grassy ledge on a vertical wall about 30’ above the top of the glacier. We kept going as long as we could, then we climbed up a steep grass-filled dihedral. Once at the top, we moved a bit more south to climb another steep but shorter dihedral. Then we traversed a 10’ long exposed rock section which has good foot and hand holds. And finally we climbed another steep, grass-filled, 30’ long dihedral to get back on the ridge again. From there, all ways lead to the summit of North Arapahoe which we reached at 7:30 PM, at which time, the rain turned into a full-on, whiteout snowstorm. The strong winds and lack of glasses made the normally trivial traverse from N to S Arapahoe a painful experience. I was exhausted and freezing. This was the only time in the entire day I did not have the proper clothing.

Luckily, David — he waited for us on S Arapahoe for an hour and 15 minutes — had a jacket for me. We slogged down the ridge of S Arapahoe and as soon as we were off it, the weather got nice again. We saw a gorgeous sunset and I finally realized that I made it. From there we ran down to the Arapahoe Pass trail where we met up with Sara and Cori. They had also been waiting for an hour and a half on S Arapahoe in the snow storm for Will and me.

We got to the parking lot at 9:02 PM (I had guessed I would finish sometime between 7 and 9 PM). The last mile or so I sped up — relatively — because I realized I had a chance to finish in under 17 hours. In fact, the total time was 16 hours and 59 minutes.

Arapaho Pass

Sunset on Arapaho Pass

Some people have asked me if I could have done it quicker. Yes, I think so. In ideal conditions — nutrition and hydration wise, no stopping for pictures and pressing the OK button on my Spot GPS device, no chatting with friends, perfect weather, etc. — but same fitness, I think I could have shaved up to an hour and a half off my time. Gauntlet thrown!

My splits:

Longs TH 4:03 AM
Longs 5:56 AM
Pagoda 6:28 AM
Chiefs Head 7:11 AM
Alice 7:57 AM
Tanima 8:37 AM
Cleaver 8:51 AM
Isolation 9:40 AM
Ouzel 10:17 AM
Ogalalla 10:46 AM
12227 11:55 AM
Red Deer 12:13 PM
Sawtooth 12:35 PM
Algonquin 1:07 PM
Paiute 2:17 PM
Toll 2:44 PM
Pawnee 3:12 PM
Shoshoni 3:43 PM
Apache 4:44 PM
Navajo 5:09 PM
Arikaree 5:58 PM
N Arapaho 7:30 PM
S Arapaho 7:58 PM
4th of July TH 9:02 PM

Strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1121208979

Specs:
36.5 mi; 21,022′

Editors Note #2:

I created the LA Freeway July 8-9, 2002. Here’s what I wrote then:

This evening I finally completed a long-standing project:  hiking from 
Longs Peak to Arapaho Peak, staying on the Continental Divide, and 
climbing everything in between.  Longs – Arapaho is an amazing route:  
really long, continuously high, no trails of any kind or people of any 
kind except at the beginning and end, quite exposed, constant summits to surmount, and miles and miles of tricky 4th class rock with some solid 
5th class pitches thrown in to keep out the riff raff.

That’s all I ever wrote.  The route is so pure and so obvious: from anywhere in east Boulder County, look up at the skyline – that’s the route!  What more is there to say?

I’ve been all over the world and believe this is one of the finest routes of it’s kind anywhere.   And it’s even in plain sight of one of the climbing and running capitals of the world. 15 years later, Matthias finally repeated it, in absolutely excellent style.

The gauntlet is indeed down!  – Buzz

Comments welcome!  What do you think?  Want to have a go?

FKT Grants Awarded!

Fastest Known Times have become really popular – as we found out when Ultimate Direction, along with partners La Sportiva and GU Energy Labs, announced the intention to award four Grants to people attempting FKT projects – and we received 315 Applications!  After screening those 79 projects were still left – and each one was totally worthy and really interesting.  I planned to crush that down to 20 projects our Award Panel could vote on – but I just couldn’t do it – they were too good!

I could only get it down to 39 Applications, then turned it over to our Panel to decide.  Here’s what they said:  “I want to do this one!!!”.  “An iconic trail that’s incredibly challenging”. “This is one of my pipe-dream projects.”  “OH MY GOSH!”.

So enough spray, these four athletes will be awarded $1,000 plus all the partners gear they want (from East to West):

Hut to Hut – Samuel Jurek – New Hampshire – June 30-July 1

Samuel wrote:

“The White Mountains Hut Traverse is an extremely rocky and rugged route connecting the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.”

“FKTs bring you to territory rarely frequented.  They are unlike experiences on a race course, yet access that same competitive spirit.  There are no spectators, yellow ribbons lighting the way, aid stations, or a crowd to cheer you down the homestretch.  You have to continue on under your own volition.  Digging into the soul, these attempts are raw, authentic experiences that force an examination of vulnerabilities and access of true grit.”

Award Panel comments:

“Lots of history!” “East coast trails are different than California – very burly.”  “It’s going to be hard.”

Hut-Hut

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The Grand Traverse

maxtaamWritten by MAX TAAM

Living in Aspen it’s hard to not know about the Grand Traverse. I race the biggest skimo races in the world in Europe but when I am at home everyone is always asking about the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. It’s a one of kind race and on many Colorado (and beyond) residents bucket lists.

The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a backcountry ski race that starts at midnight and crosses the 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen.  There has always been a friendly rivalry between the two mountain towns and a team from Aspen hasn’t won the race since its very first running 20 years ago.

GT Start

Photo Jacob Wearsch

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Rim to Rim LCR in the Grand Canyon

On April 10, Peter Bakwin and I ran from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. “R2R” of course is now quite normal; a bucket-list route for many. But this took us 11.5 hours. Why so long? Because we started on the North Rim of the Little Colorado River, descended the fabled Hopi Salt Trail, ran and thrashed down the LCR for 10 miles to the Confluence with the Colorado River, traversed along the Beamer Trail for another 9.5 miles, then cranked up to the South Rim on the old Tanner Trail. It’s an interesting route; a worthy addition to our “R2R2R.alt” of a few years ago.

HST PB

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IOC Announces Ultrarunning to become Olympic Sport

April 1, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lausanne, Switzerland –

In a press conference April 1, International Olympic Committee President Baron Le Chiffre announced that a 100 mile trail race would be the next Olympic Sport, starting in 2024.

“Ultrarunning clearly meets all the necessary Criteria”, stated Le Chiffre.  “There’s no reward while there is a great deal of suffering, it’s completely pointless, and yet thousands of people are absolutely passionate adherents”.

The news brought rejoicing throughout the close-knit ultra community.  

“People ride horses, shoot arrows, and throw spears for Olympic medals; we’re just as primitive as they are,” enthused Dot Matrix, longtime ultrarunner and computer programmer.  “Climbing even made it in and they’re even crazier than we are; why not ultrarunning?”

“I quit my job and dropped out of college so I could  ‘pursue my ultrarunning career’” exclaimed Manny Yong Malles.  “Also, my beautiful and smart girlfriend got sick of living out of the back of the pickup truck and left me; this is just the opportunity I’ve been counting on”.

Top ultra runners welcomed the news.  Timmy Olsen said he would lead a meditation retreat, Scott Jurek volunteered to be featured in a book on the subject, Anton Krupicka would offer attire and style pointers, and Peter Bakwin would list everyone’s previous times.  No one said they would actually run, because everyone knew Jim Walmsley would trounce everyone no matter what.  If he was able to follow the course.

Kilian Journet could not be contacted for comment on this news, as he had quit Facebook, Twitter, and all social media, and was now living off the grid somewhere in Norway, running 100 miles per day in the mountains eating nothing but home-grown vegetables and fresh picked wildflowers.

It is widely believed that Berzerkistan will be chosen as the site of the 2024 Games.  

“It possesses all the key criteria we are always looking for”, stated Ly In Focker, Chairman of the Selection Committee. “In July Berzerkistan is stinking hot, close to 90% humidity, infested with mosquitos, and they have zero infrastructure or ability to pull this off.  However, they have amassed a massive war chest of $100 Million dollars to purchase every member of this Committee a villa on the French Riviera, so unless Russia’s economy improves enough for them to get back in the game, we think Berzerkistan is an ideal Olympic Venue”.

When asked for comment, Berzerkistan’s President-For-Life, Khal Drogo, would only say, “We welcome the Olympic community to our humble country.  We promise to uphold the Olympic Ideals, by ignoring our own people, pouring our vast oil riches into huge concrete stadiums, abandoning them immediately on completion of the Games, and bankrupting our own economy, all for a brief moment of personal glory for myself.”

With the Announcement, the full backstory of this amazing news finally emerged.  

The main point of contention, as expected, was whether pacers should be allowed or not.

Representatives from the US Olympic Committee insisted pacers be allowed.  “We invented this stupid sport, we’ve always had pacers, so they must be allowed in the Olympics” they reasoned.  The Euros – and indeed the entire rest of the world – argued vehemently that pacers should not be allowed, because either you can run the course or you can’t, plus they were eager to gang up and get revenge on the US for not supporting climate change treaties.  “You Americans, you are … how you say it? … complete wimps!” shouted René Belloq, in one heated exchange, while lighting another cigarette.

After weeks of the usual heated and senseless debate, the Aussie delegation finally resolved the issue with their convincing argument of, “Who gives a crap anyway?  No worries mate; let’s crack a few beers”.

The key for Inclusion was ensuring top-notch media coverage.

NBC, CBS, and ESPN all declined to pay the billions of dollars they usually shell out for Olympic TV coverage, saying, “Watching ultrarunning is like watching paint dry”.

That’s when media giant iRunFar.com stepped in, offering to pay the unprecedented sum of $76.39 for exclusive coverage.

Media mogul Bryon Powell reportedly saved the day, making repeated trips from his Moab mountain-top retreat to IOC meetings in his 10-year old Prius, ensuring there would be enough support for ultrarunning to be included.

“This is so important, I was willing to invest a large portion of my personal fortune to make sure this happened”, stated Powell, supposedly off the record, after a few beers at Eddie McStiff’s.  “I didn’t quit my lucrative law practice in DC and sell my private jet just to see this opportunity wasted”.

With the crucial element of cryptic Twitter feeds coming anonymously from unpronounceable places on a course no one understands from a country no one even knew existed finally in place, the rest of the key components quickly fell into place.

Rickey Gates agreed to supply the beverage at the aid stations.  Anna Frost agreed to host the after-race party.  Krissy Moehl agreed to be the designated nice person in hopes of fooling other people into thinking all ultra runners aren’t complete lunatics. Nathan Hydration will be the hydration sponsor, which is easy because all they have to do is copy what everyone has done before.  Salomon signed on to furnish the one-piece white spandex uniforms everyone must wear, including the men, although only the French will.  The North Face will pay a shit-ton of sponsorship money to furnish shoes no one will wear.

“Ultrarunning’s time has finally come”, intoned Buzz Burrell, noted for having never done anything but is so old no one can remember that far back.  “Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana”.