As I began writing this report on Friday, July 10, my friend Sean Ranney had just taken off at about 5AM that morning for his own attempt at what was still my Unsupported FKT on the Tahoe Rim Trail at that time. I am finally back at the computer to finish my report 4 days later and am no longer the record holder. 15 days to the minute, after I beat JB Benna’s time by over 4 hours, Sean bettered my time of 54 hrs 17 min by two and a half hours, finishing at 8:52 AM on Sunday, July 12, 2015 in a total elapsed time of just 51 hrs 45 min. As I peeled myself from bed prematurely at 5AM that morning and began the process of accepting the inevitable, I felt a little deflated and on edge, however the only respectable thing to do was brew up some coffee and head down to Spooner Summit to greet Sean at the finish and congratulate him on his amazing run. We then went to breakfast and shared with each other a little of our own experiences. Good times! I look forward to hearing more about it from Sean when he is more rested and less loopy!!
As Sean and I spoke a few days before his departure, I was left with this feeling of knowing that he was going to have success.
I thought about comparing our runs a little bit, but decided it is best to let Sean tell his story and readers can compare them yourselves.
Link to my gps tracking where you can click on way points to get an idea of the rate of travel through the different sections and compare our runs.
Link to Sean’s gps tracking where you can click on way points to get an idea of the rate of travel through the different sections and compare our runs.
I am bullet-pointing for this report in order to present a lot of info based upon what people have been asking me about my run and the preparation for it. If you have any questions about something I have not explained below, please put them in the comments and I will answer them soon.
More pictures below.
- Guidelines set forth on the Fastest Known Times site:
- Unsupported means you have no external support of any kind. Typically, this means that you must carry all your supplies right from the start, except any water that can be obtained along the way from natural sources. This approach has also been termed “alpine style”. The longest trip I’m aware of using this style is Coup’s 20-day thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. For most people, carrying enough food for more than a few days to one week will be prohibitive. Unsupported also means unaccompanied!
- While some might consider the water pump at the Marlette Campground natural, JB Benna cruelly set the standard during his record-setting run in 2013, by not using it, as it was not a stream or lake/pond, making the East Shore a 40+ mile section with no natural water sources to fill up from. Though it is a little trivial, I carried all of my trash with me to the finish (as did Sean), since I figured if a water pump from a spring was off limits, so should a trash can.
- The Tahoe Rim Trail is considered to now be 172-175 miles in length, (depending on who you are talking to) with all of the new sections of trail added since it’s original completion, despite the TRT Association still stating on their website that it is only 165 miles.
- My starting pack weight (without water) was 13#. Finishing weight was 6#, meaning I ate 7# of food. I finished with 2.5# of food, despite forcing myself to eat more in an attempt to shed the weight. I took 15,000 calories, based 250-300 calories and hour that could potentially last me for 50-60 hours. My food was a mix of bars (took too many), gels (should have taken more) and a large salami and cheese sandwich (a smaller one would have been perfect). I wish I had taken some powdered calories to consume with water.
- I also consumed eight 200mg caffeine pills while out there and four 200mg ibuprofen. I consumed the caffeine pills two at a time and the ibuprofen just one at a time and at least eight hours in between each one. I had not taken an ibuprofen (or any NSAID’s) for at least six months prior to my run and taking them while taxing my body this much makes me a little nervous, but as long as I feel good and am plenty hydrated, I feel safe enough about it and have never had any issues the couple of times I have done this in the past.
- Equipment used – Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest, Black Diamond Distance Carbon Poles, Brooks PureGrit 3 Trail Running Shoes(straight out of the box), Suunto Ambit2 GPS Watch, 70 oz water bladder with hose, 2-20oz water bottles, 2L bladder with screw cap, merino wool top layer, fleece bottom layer, beanie, space blanket, small first aid kit, Iphone 6 with a lightweight portable battery charger that gave my phone and gps watch one full charge each. Thanks to Tahoe Mountain Sports for having me part of there Ambassador Team and setting me up with the great gear. All of my gear worked pretty much flawlessly!
- Water – I filled all of my water from streams and lakes only and used the Sawyer Water Filtration System to purify.
- Training – My longest day of training was a 15 hour day of hiking/running very steep trails around Mt. Tam about 3 weeks prior as a systems check on the body, equipment and nutrition. Other than that I did one 5 hour/24 mile run the week before that, several 15ish mile runs and a lot of quality 10 or less mile runs in my preparations during the prior 6 months. I think 60 miles was my biggest week of actual running since I completed 137.7 miles last September in the Tahoe 200. I walk a lot for work at a swift pace, both in my snack and beverage vending machine business and as an on-call banquet server. I discovered the Health App on my Iphone this winter and found that I was typically walking about 5 miles per shift. One day I worked vending all day and a banquet that night, making it a game to walk as many miles as possible, and managed to put in 15. Some of my running/power hiking is done with a 20# weight vest. I cross train by skiing (backcountry and resort), mt. biking, and occasionally doing push-ups, sit-ups, air squats, lunges and other such core and stabilizer type of stuff. I prefer lower actual running miles in general and like finishing with some gas in the tank as often as possible so that I can get back out and have some type of outdoor fun the next day and every day. And then every so often I go huge and take time to recover from it.
- I have set out 3 previous times in an attempt to complete the TRT unsupported, but never made it very far due to not being quite physically and mentally prepared the first time, then too much snow still on the trail the next try, and all day rain (from the start) on my third try.
- I unfortunately scheduled this year’s attempt on what turned out to be two of the HOTTEST days of the year at 90+ degrees! Despite the TRT being in my backyard, it is still hard to find a time window in the busyness of life to squeeze this kind of time-consuming run in. So like every other attempt, I set my start date and committed to it, hoping for the best.
- I took off from the Brockway trail head at 2:35 AM and traveled counter-clockwise. Starting at Spooner Summit makes the most sense so that you can break up the 40 mile dry section and water carry. When I saw what the temps were going to be for my attempt, I considered changing my start point and direction. However, so close to taking off and after so much planning and strategy based upon starting at Brockway, I could not wrap my mind around needing to pass through the trail head that is less than 5 minutes from my home, wife and dog as I was would be about 130 miles into my journey and possibly in a world of hurt and feeling fragile.
- This was, without a doubt, the most successful long run of my life! I never felt like I wanted to or needed to quit, finished with exactly ZERO blisters and feeling like I could have kept on going if I had to complete 200 miles or something crazy like that. The heat was a little rough, made me super sleepy the second day and certainly slowed my pace during the day and my overall time considerably. Traveling from Kingsbury to Spooner during the hottest part of the day while carrying 160 oz (10 pounds!) of water for a 40 mile dry stretch had me melting into the trail, but I still never considered needing to pull the plug. I finished the last 5 miles into Rose with no water and feeling pretty parched, yet still peeing fairly clear(though not very often) and just happy for lots of fresh cold water. The heat also made it hard to eat and I realized at Echo Lake (when I finally took a real break at about 70 miles and 18 hours in) that it had my stomach a little upset, but no serious issues. This was the longest time I have ever been so focused on the task at hand without letting anything thoughts compromise that mindset. Other than my wife and my dog, I let no other real thoughts enter my mind other than exactly what I needed to do to keep on moving forward as fast as possible, until about 160 miles in. At that point I was hiking up towards Relay Peak. It was still dark, with the sunrise only about an hour way, and I had never been on this new section of trail, yet I knew exactly where I was as I moved across the north facing chutes on Mt. Houghton that I skied this past winter with my brother and Jon Arlien. At this point, as long as I didn’t trip, fall off the trail and kill myself tumbling down this really steep and rocky terrain, I knew I had the FKT in the bag.So I let my thoughts drift to that fun day of skiing with good friends and snapped out of my time warp. I had just traveled for about 48 hours around Lake Tahoe with very minimal sleep and a dull razor-like focus on getting it done. During the final miles, I let my guard down a little, soaked in the views, took some extra time whenever I stopped and let the reality, of what I was about to finally complete, set in a little.
- I arrived back to Brockway and the finish, to about 10 of my close friends, family and our dog cheering me in!!! I am choking up now as I write. Since I had been running the Spotwalla tracking app on my phone to allow people to view my progress, with Brockway being so close for Tahoe/Truckee people and the fact that it was not the middle of the night, I figured there was a good chance I might be greeted by at least one person at the finish, but didn’t really know or care too much as I was just happy to be finishing. However, I could have never imagined this kind of reception and how much it REALLY meant to me! I feel blessed and privileged and appreciate the support of those that experienced the finish with me that morning, as well as the rest of the awesome people in my life that support me in more ways than they will ever know. Just so long as you don’t try to physically support me in ANY way while I am doing my thing around the Tahoe Rim Trail, then we are all good!
- Along the route, I saw a bear coming down the trail at me that turned around once he saw me, a deer in my headlight bedded down for the night in between the switchback of the trail, a marmot, many squirrels, chipmunks & insects, beautiful fields of wildflowers and a crazy amount of PCT thru-hikers on the shared section of trail.
- I stiffened up pretty good once I got home and was still hobbling a little bit the day after(Sunday), but I was feeling better by Monday and went straight back to three long and hot days of filling snack and soda machines down in Reno before four days of dancing and partying at the High Sierra Music Festival.
- This is also, without a doubt, the best recovery from a really long run or race that I have ever had! I have run and biked a little this past week and all systems seem to be giving me the green light. I am still playing it cautious though as I know the Endocrine System always likes a lot more time to recover than we all like to give it after these crazy big days.
- A bit of research and results on the studies of longer and slower running efforts of running in the 200 mile range and the lesser damaged it causes you body than harder efforts of only 100 miles or less. Based upon my own experience of running/hiking 140 miles last September in the Tahoe 200 and my 175 mile effort of less than 3 weeks ago. Here is an article explaining why if you want less muscle fatigue, then run 200 miles.
- Honestly, I was thinking about my next attempt and everything I can do to improve my time the day after I finished. I think something might be wrong with me! While I am stoked for Sean’s FKT, I’d be lying to you if I said I was truly rooting for him while he was out there and certainly did not want my record snatched so quickly, and yet now he has given me fuel for the fire that is my obsession with traveling as fast as possible around the TRT. Thanks a lot buddy!
Jenelle Potvin says
Amazing accomplishment, Mike! What a great write-up too – I like the format you chose. Thanks for being an inspiration- you rock!!
Dan Jenkins says
Agree with Jenelle, great write-up, Mike! Your TRT Unsupported FKT has inspired many & the fact that you consider this….”the most successful long run of my (your) life!” speaks loudly. Your tenacious drive, relentless approach, past-experience & attention to detail all added up to “record-breaker” and you will always “own” that. Incredible feat! Keep it going, Mike!
“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”
― James A. Michener
Mike and Sean – You are two of my favorite runners; I love that you are both so supportive of one another and speak to what this sport truly is all about. Two tremendous accomplishments right here in our beautiful back yard.