FKT of the Year!

What was the coolest Fastest Known Time of 2016??

We compiled a list of nominees, recruited 21 experienced people to figure it all out, they voted, and the results are in!  Results with more info are also up at Ultrarunning.com, and all award photos are courtesy Ultrarunning Magazine.

Appropriately, there was no run-away winner – instead, the voting was close, as the voters valued different traits and qualities. Their comments were as perceptive and interesting as the FKT’s were amazing and laudable, so let’s see what runners did and also what the voters thought – – –

FEMALE FKTOY

#5 Joelle Vaught – Trans Zion, May 20

JoelleThis sweet set of trails totals 48 miles crossing beautiful Zion National Park, border to border. Joelle’s time of 8:26:09 bettered that of Krissy Moehl as well as Bethany Lewis before her.

Voters’ comments:

“Great time on a classic route, but only 6 minutes faster than previous FKT.”

“She put down a solid time besting Krissy’s stout time, and made my final vote because this route is more competitive than many others.”

“Joelle and Gina (Mt. Whitney FKT) did marvelously speedy routes on treasured paths, but those are too short to reward as the top picks.”

#4 Sue Johnston – 4,000ers Calendar Grid, January 1–December 26

SueThis is a mind-bending effort by possibly the foremost female adventure-runner of her generation (Hardrock 100 wins, JMT record, and more), but many people may have never even have heard of Sue. The “Grid” is to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot summits during every month. Seventeen people have a Lifetime Grid. Sue was the first to attempt a Calendar Year Grid. She reported hiking 3,159 miles and climbing 993,970 feet of vertical over 205 days (totaling 1,001,830′ for the year).

Voter’s comments:

“Never been done before…and for good reason…it’s sick!”

“Amazing but too contrived. An FKT for gridding? I’m not ready for that.”

“This is the kind of project that redefines what people think is possible, which is exactly what FKTs are all about. My head just about exploded when I heard about this. There can’t be that many people who have run/hiked 1 million vertical feet in a year, much less on tough mountains in (frequently) horrible weather.”

#3 Meghan Hicks – Nolan’s 14, September 9-11

MeghanFred Vance’s concept of “How many 14ers is it possible to climb in one shot?” has gone from obscurity to relative fame, as multiple attempts are now made every year. The Sawatch Range in Colorado has 14 summits over 14,000’ high somewhat lined up in a row, with few trails, continuous rough terrain, navigation challenges, and of course, serious vert. The cut-off time to ascend and descend all 14 is 60 hours. Meghan was the 17th finisher and first woman to tag all 14 peaks over the roughly 100-mile route in that time (Anna Frost and Missy Govney earlier had reached the 14th summit within that time but paused on top).  Meghan’s effort was Supported and she completed it in 59 hours, 36 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“I would rate this higher, but she was with another person, which helped with logistics.”

“She was actually the first woman to do this route and set the actual women’s FKT, but she got practically no recognition.”

“Like Joe Grant [see below], Meghan deserves incredible kudos but the 14er craze is hard for a Californian to understand.”

“Commendable obsession and planning. A very important benchmark for Nolan’s.”

#2 Amber Monforte – John Muir Trail, Unsupported, July 22-26

AmberThe JMT is one of the world’s best long trails, as it crosses many Wilderness Areas and a couple of National Parks but no roads for its entire 223 miles, starting from the highest mountain in the Lower 48 and finishing in the iconic Yosemite Valley. Amber’s 4 day, 1 hour, 13 minute performance would have been the overall record 17 years ago. This is one of the most contested long trail routes, and the first solid Unsupported attempt time by a Woman.

Voters’ comments:

“It’s cool to see more women finally targeting these things. Amber’s JMT seems particularly noteworthy. Almost going sub-4 days unsupported is stout!”

“Close to the supported time and nearly under 4 days.”

“JMT seems like an ultimate FKT test and it’s about time a gal knocked it out unsupported – hoping for more attempts on this one in the future.”

“The JMT holds a mythical place in my heart.”

“An excellent time on one of the premier routes, done in a very pure style.”

#1 Heather Anderson – Arizona Trail, Self-Supported, October 7-27

Anish“Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported (backpacker style) records for the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the AZT. She stands alone (and ahead of all men too) in her specialty, with her AZT being two days faster than the Men’s Self-Supported FKT, and was on track to be the quickest AZT ever until Michael Versteeg set a faster (Supported) time a few days previous.  Anderson covered the 800 mile route in 19 days, 17 hours and 9 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“If she didn’t hold the other FKT’s I might have ranked the AZT lower, but she has serious FKT cred.”

“It’s the longest distance on the ballot (Female) and it is an overall FKT – plus it is only right that she win the inaugural award.”

“I based my #1 picks on the FKTs that were long AND with minimal or no support. Although there are FKTs on the list that are incredibly impressive, I prioritized remote/mountain based FKTs where commitment, risk, and skills are all required to succeed, not simply physical and mental strength.”

Honorable Mention:  Gina Lucrezi, Mt Whitney, CA, highest mountain in the lower 48 states, August 10. Lucrezi ascended and descended the peak, covering 22 miles and 6,000 feet of vert, in 5 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds for an Unsupported FKT.

FEMALE SUMMARY

Thru-hiking, with a long a tradition in the ultra-community, was honored here, earning the #1 and #2 spots (separated by a small margin in the voting). Historically, vastly more FKT efforts have been attempted by Males than Females. This is possibly due to external factors rather than intrinsic gender-based characteristics. The outstanding Women’s FKTs listed above are examples that their ability is certainly equal to Men’s, and their participation is likely to increase.

 

MALE FKTOY

#5 Nick Elson – Grand Traverse, August 13

NickIn a surprise result, as this route is better known to climbers than to runners, voters recognized Nick’s bold achievement, which is a clear sign that “hybrid” activities are an accepted and important part of FKT’s – people increasingly find the boundaries between sports unnecessary and not representative of how they see ultra-recreation. The Grand Traverse consists of the 10 Teton summits clearly visible from Jenny Lake. Legendary alpinists have contested this FKT for decades, including Alex Lowe; for the previous 15 years Rolando Garibotti held the FKT at 6:49. The North Ridge of the Grand Teton, the hardest section with a 5.8 grade, is done free-solo. There is 12,000 feet of vert in about 17 miles. Elson took almost 20 minutes of the record, completing it in 6:30:49.

Voters’ comments:

“I love that the previous records were held by luminaries such as Rolo and Alex – real alpinists.”

“Nick has the overall win for me since this route is so iconic and combines not only running but risky climbing”.

“Broke a time of two absolutely legendary alpinists.”

“Remarkable fusion of climbing/scrambling/aerobic skills.”

“There’s a reason this FKT hadn’t been challenged. You can die.”

#4 Leor Pantilat – Sierra High Route, August 6-10

LeorThe man who knows the Sierra’s better than anyone now has the FKT on both the John Muir Trail and the much harder and higher SHR, which roughly parallels it. This is its first “serious” effort, taking a huge three days off the previous time. This terrific route sees a tiny fraction of attention compared to the JMT, probably because it requires much more navigation and ability in order to move efficiently on the extensive 3rd class terrain. Pantilat covered the 195 mile route Unsupported in 4 days, 16 hours, 21 minutes.

Voters comments:

“There’s not enough data on this route: not established enough to know how great it is.”

“Leor is second for his Sierra High Route since this route requires a ton of planning and navigation, plus it’s unsupported.”

“Leor’s record is the closest to an ideal in FKT: difficult, rare, and fast, and would have been my top choice in other years.”

“The AZT and SHR records may be strong, but only time will tell.”

#3 Karl Melzer – Appalachian Trail, August 3-September 18

KarlThe original long trail, both in terms of when it was established (1932) and its long FKT history (first thru-hiked with great publicity in 1948). No route has this history, which includes David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, and Scott Jurek. This was the Speedgoat’s third try and he took about 9 hours off Jurek’s time from the previous year. Demonstrating classic FKT ethos, Karl supported Scott on his attempt, then Scott returned the favor. Meltzer covered the 2,189 miles from North to South in 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes.

Voters comments:

“What struck me most of all is Karl took three attempts, showing tenacity and grit, and not giving up.  Also the bar had been raised higher by Jurek the previous year”.

“The amount of pure effort Karl put into this over several years demands recognition and appreciation.”

“Pete and Karl are a tossup because they are so similar with time spent moving daily, but the AT is much tougher logistically – Karl had to carry more gear between longer sections without crew support, while running on a road requires almost nothing except maybe a water bottle.”

“Happy for Karl since he had been gunning for the AT FKT for years. But it seems like last year’s news, especially considering the incremental improvement in time.”

“Karl’s AT FKT would win most years, but I dinged him (and Walmsley) because those routes are a bit rote by now.”

#2 Jim Walmsley – Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, October 4

JimThe best ultrarunner in the US knocked this one out of the Park 😉 and was recognized for it. Records have been kept on this uber-route for decades, recently including Anton Krupicka, Dave Mackey, and Dakota Jones, with Jim taking 25 minutes off Rob Krar’s 2013 time. In the process he blazed South-North Rim in 2:46 which is a one-way FKT itself, even though it was done in the much harder direction.  Walmsely covered the 42.2 miles in 5:55:20.

Voters Comments:

“He took a ridiculous amount of time off an FKT from two of the best trail runners in the nation. Mind blowing.”

“R2R2R (and R2R) – Walmsley crushed this one, pure and simple.”

“Both Walmsley’s and Kostelnick’s runs are actual runs and real bar raisers. Like, seriously crazy shit, both of them. But, neither are very creative which lowers my interest level a great deal.”

“His time on a super competitive course is blazing fast, but it didn’t require as much planning as the others.”

#1 Pete Kostelnick – Trans America, September 12-October 24

PetePete’s prodigious effort was the clear winner in the inaugural FKTOY voting. The Trans-Am has a longer history than many realize, going way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s. Pete broke a 36-year-old FKT by a whopping 4 days, including taking a ‘zero’ day, averaging over 72 miles per day for 6 weeks. Kostelnick covered the 3,067 miles in 42 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“72 miles/day for 6 weeks!! Very tough record to even attempt due to the time required.”

“The planning of something like a Transcon earns him big points.”

“Unreal performance, taking 4 days off the record, averaging 72 miles per day and even with a day off. However, there have been few attempts by legitimate runners.”

“Near 40-year-old record broken, smashed … oh, and 3,000+ miles!”

“Audacity of it plus a 36 year record.”

“More than 250 people have run the TransAm and this guy has the record by 4 days. Incredible.  Anyone who has done multiday knows that doing 72mpd for even several days is huge.”

“The sheer length and difficulty overcomes my natural inclination to reward Karl’s feat, which is almost equally admirable.”

“Pete cut major time off the old record and the MPD is staggering. Plus, he brought honor back to this record after a cheater was exposed earlier in the year.”

Honorable Mention: Joe Grant, all 57 Colorado 14ers, Self-Supported and Self Propelled.  Starting and finishing at his house, he rode his bike to each trailhead, then climbed them all, with no outside support. Grant completed the roughly 400 miles of hiking/running and 1,100 miles of biking in 31 days, 8 hours and 33 minutes.

MALE SUMMARY

The results make sense, yet could not have been guessed in advance. Voters really balanced their opinions, going for an endurance feat on a route that dozens of people have fallen to their death on; an excellent though seldom traveled route through our most populous state; a record on the most historic thru-hike in the world; the fastest run by the fastest guy in the country; and finally one person who embodied the classic ultrarunning values: thorough planning and preparation, methodical execution, and superhuman perseverance.

The results may also show interesting shifts in FKT values: Karl Meltzer is an extremely well-liked person, the AT is very well known, and his clearly is a fantastic achievement – but maybe there has been some “AT overload” and people are looking for what’s next. Life is about what’s next, and FKT’s embody that.

OVERALL SUMMARY

AnishThe voters were of different genders, ages, and parts of the country, and this group process clearly yielded the best result (no voter voted all 10 results all correctly). Our community of participants created this inaugural FKTOY, not publicists or profiteers.  With FKT’s being discussed all over the world by major media, it was important to establish something credible coming out of our community itself.

Next year the FKTOY will be back, with a bigger list and process, all designed to showcase the cool things people are doing and inspire ourselves.

YOUR Comments are requested below!

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One thought on “FKT of the Year!

  1. I think it’s really cool to see FKTs spreading out from the traditional “long trail done quickly” to including more climbing/scrambling-y routes like the Grand Traverse and the Sierra High Route. Not that a long trail run like the AT can’t be a hugely impressive achievement but seeing people move quickly over more and more challenging and technical terrain is exciting!

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