My great admiration for mountain running phenom Kilian Jornet is no secret. After all, I’m married to a (slightly slower) Spanish trail runner. So, when our friend and local DPMR runner Adam Kimble said he was aiming to beat Kilian’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Tahoe Rim Trail last year, I quietly thought to myself, “Yeah, sure.”
I joined Adam for his first FKT attempt last Fall to capture his journey with photography and shared his story over on my Flow & Focus website. I was also able to contribute my intimate knowledge of the route, holding two previous FKTs on the Tahoe Rim Trail myself.
It was fun, challenging, and exhausting photographing Adam last Fall. I missed a lot of shots, too. Either because I didn’t get there in time or because my technical skills with the camera weren’t sharp enough (I’m a self-taught hobbyist.)
I’m not sure why I was so hesitant to commit this year. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t think he could best Kilian. (And this is a worthless reason for not being fully invested in helping a friend.)
I wasn’t sure how I could create different imagery from last year. And I didn’t know if I wanted to spend two full exhausting days on the endeavour, and then many more hours culling and digitally developing photos.
“I can’t commit to the whole deal again,” I finally texted Adam two weeks before. “I’ll pick a few spots to catch photos.”
But I kept thinking about the shots I missed last year, and how I wanted to get deeper on the trail to show Adam high in the mountains rather than being crewed at paved trailheads.
I wanted to approach the kind of storytelling that my friend and professional photographer Scott Rokis shares with his images. I was also inspired by Luis Escobar’s real-time coverage of Kyle Curtin’s recent unsupported FKT on the trail.
My day got off to a rocky start, barely making it to Tahoe City in time for Adam’s 6am start. I went to several trail crossings on dirt roads, but arrived with so little time to spare that I didn’t even have my camera out by the time Adam cruised by!
There was finally some breathing room after Brockway Summit (about mile 20) and I got ready for my big hike up to Relay Peak. The crew and I had missed Adam in this area last year. With 20-25 pounds of gear on my back, the climb was slower than I expected, but I did get to the trail with just enough time to set up both video and still photography before he sailed by.
With a successful trail capture, I was finally in the flow and it just got more exciting from there! Adam continued to run strong the rest of the day, crucially getting through Spooner Summit, which had been his low point last Fall.
I drove home to Truckee to get to bed early for Day Two of the adventure. When I woke at 4am to check the satellite tracker, I was jolted into action once I saw how well he had moved up and over the demanding Freel Peak section.
Crossing Highway 50 (mile 120) Adam was looking worn and tired to me, but he still found a huge smile to share with me. He was about 90 minutes behind his goal pace at this time, but I wasn’t worried… I knew that his plan had a lot of padding added for the Desolation Wilderness section.
Meanwhile, Steve Buelna, Ray Liberatore, and I headed up the Bay View trail to intercept Adam and pacer Peter Fain deep in Desolation. Steve went ahead with a (not-so-cold) Coke while Ray helped me lug the camera gear up the big climb.
Once again, the climbing was brutally slow with the heavy pack. My husband shared real-time tracking info with us via satellite messages:
“At top of Dicks at 12:14pm”
“20-30 minutes from you. ETA 12:40pm”
Seriously? Was Peter packing a jet-pack for Adam?
Once again, I was barely in position by the time we saw Adam. At least I was prepared with the camera, but it was not smooth as I would have liked. Regardless, it’s hard not to make beautiful photos up there!
It was more than 30 hours into his mountain run, and Adam just kept gaining on the pace plan. No way we could make the next two trail crossings, so we took a short break to eat and drove to the finish in Tahoe City.
I was stunned to hear that he had already passed the Barker Pass trailhead a little after 4pm. With 16 miles to finish, I know the mental boost that you get when arriving at Barker. You will finish. Fuel, water, pace… all irrelevant. You have come this far and the finish is yours to lose. Moreover, Adam had 4½ hours to beat Kilian’s time.
171 miles later, Adam returned to Tahoe City just 37 hours and 12 minutes later, besting Kilian’s supported Fastest Known Time by 1 hour and 20 minutes. Read more from Adam here on rabbit’s blog.
It was so fun to be (spread) out there with our DPMR family – a reminder of what we love about the races and events that we are missing this year. It is also a reminder that we are resilient and stronger together, however that looks right now.