On Friday, November 27th I laced up my shoes and went after the Trinity Trail Out and Back FKT. The decision to go after this record was made on Wednesday, November 25th in the evening after seeing that I had a good week of recovery and feeling emboldened by the FKT attempts of Greg and Jen. I was inspired by their efforts to push themselves when there was no reason to and with nearly 9 months of no racing, that itch had to be scratched.
Earlier this year, when Lake Sonoma was cancelled and then Bryce Canyon followed in the cancellation line, I noticed that there were a lot of people going after FKTs. I saw Billy Yang follow Amanda Basham on her 22-Mile Kalalau Trail/Na Pali Coast FKT attempt and that was the first time I wondered about an FKT attempt. The pandemic allowed for those thoughts to marinate as we entered into a steady state of base building. With no races in sight, I wanted to get that race day feeling. The Trinity Trail Out and Back FKT attempt would provide that.
On Wednesday, I wrote down the items that I would need for an 8 hour run. On Thursday, after the Turkey Day Run with Team Dirt and Vert at Erwin Park, I went home and started to assemble all of the items I had written down. It truly felt like the day before a race as I was going up and down stairs, into the garage, counting gels and calculating liquid amounts. Figuring out where the ‘aid stations’ would be and what I would need to get me from Point A to B and back again. I had nervous excitement, but that race day vibe was certainly there.
When the alarm went off, I most certainly felt that race day vibe. I had a couple of cups of coffee and an Rbar before gathering up all my bags and loading them into the car. The pre-race bathroom stops and feeling in my gut that I had to use the restroom were certainly there. Stopping for gas and feeling the excitement grew. Once at the start, I got nervous because I didn’t want to screw anything up with having the run being certified by FastestKnownTime.com.
A couple of email exchanges with Greg and Jen settled me down and got me focused for what lay ahead.
My goal time for this attempt was 8 hours. I had gone into Garmin Connect to create a pace strategy with that finish time and a positive split knowing that I’d have heavy legs toward the end. Greg had provided me with some insight into where the water stops are and how to remember where the trail started back after the loops were completed. Jen helped immediately by telling me that the trail went left once you stepped over the crossing gate and not straight as it would seem.
It was time to go. Pressed start on my watch and started running. This trail is not technical in any way. It is a horse trail and there is a lot of dead grass covering the trail with little to no rocks and or roots. In the first few miles I kept checking my watch because I was so nervous about going off the trail, but despite that my paces were well ahead of the 10:00/mi goal I had set for myself. Knowing this helped when I reached mile 3 and got turned around a handful of times. I don’t know that I’ve been more nervous about being lost than I was right then and there. The trail goes straight but the stepped on grass sweeps left and I just blindly followed that left turn until my watch was beeping that I was off course. Back tracked, didn’t see anything, went back, then back again and finally found the trail. OK, let’s get going.
I stayed around the 9:00/mi mark until I reached Brockdale and then the nerves kicked in again. I couldn’t find the water and was wandering around for what felt like 30 minutes. I had also noticed that my watch said 9.86 miles and Greg told me that the water was at mile 9.5. Did I miss it? I turned around and saw the spigot and filled up my bottles. I flipped through my watch faces and stopped on the one that showed me my remaining time to hit 8 hours, how far I’d gone and my ETA back at the finish. It was at this point that it said 2:03pm. A full 57 minutes ahead of my goal and 42 minutes faster than the ETA I saw when I got lost at mile 3. This is when I start asking myself: are you going to hard? Do you need to conserve energy? My response to myself: All Gas, No Brakes. Your legs will stop working when they stop working. Make this FKT attempt hard for the next person to go after.
One thing about the 5 mile stretch from Collin to Brockdale is that it was tacky enough to have mud stick to your shoes and then have the hay stick to the mud and create bird’s nests on your feet. Your 8 oz shoe would now weigh 3 lbs. The moment you kicked it off, you’d be right back in the mud. I reverted back to Rocky Raccoon in 2019 and how muddy that was and that I took the mindset of running right through it and figuring it out later. In my mind, I knew that the return would be hard because my legs would have 30 plus miles on them by then.
The remainder of the run was fairly boring and I was just looking forward to the Mile 16.5 ‘aid’ station where I would fill up and make a run to the loop and be on the way back. When I reached the water spigot I noticed that I was still ticking of sub-10:00/mi paces and that would set me up for a return back that if the wheels came off the bus would still put me in the vicinity of setting the FKT. Once I left the water stop, I ran the 3 miles to the start of the loop and felt good. The loop had some cold water crossings that woke me up and gave me some life as I could feel the tiredness of the early wake up call start to set in.
After clearing the first two loops, I grabbed my nutrition that I had set out as markers to remember where to go back into the trail. This was an idea that Greg had given me a few days before. It worked perfectly and it was time to head back. I had seen text messages from Karen/Michelle/Erik about the pace I was setting and where I was on the course. There was also a text from Jen that I was kicking ass.
The back portion was not a big deal until I had 13.1 miles to go. How did I know it was exactly 13.1 miles to go? That is exactly when I saw Sam the Bull Mastiff with his owners and I had yelled that I was running up from behind them. Sam had drool coming down his face and he was off leash. This gave me some worries but Sam turned out to be a lovable dog. He ran next to me and when his owner called him he left, and then a few moments later he came back and ran a bit with me before leaving again.
After leaving Sam, there was nothing exciting going on and then it happened. I stepped wrong and twisted my ankle. I audibly yelled: FUCK. FUCK man, not now. I hobbled for a bit and within 0.5 miles the pain was no longer there. Soon enough I was back at Brockdale filling my water. I looked at my phone and saw a text from Greg that said: Killing It and one from Jen that said: Fucking beast! Home stretch. 9.5 to go. It was those words that played over and over in my head as the next 5 miles were the worst of the entire run. I normally have a mantra of Stubborn Mule playing in my head. It was something that Goat used to call me and it means so much. This time I started telling myself:
Embrace the suffering and every step from here to the finish is going to be comfortable and you can do this.
The mud that I scooted through on the way out now felt heavier and wetter and downright awful. I spent a lot of time kicking the mud off so that I could try to run but it just repeated itself over and over and over. When I got out of the 5 mile stretch and into Collin Park, I took the time to knock the dirt and mud off my shoes because I wanted to give these last 5 miles everything I had. the home stretch wasn’t hard other than having tired legs and being dehydrated. It was in this stretch that I had started laughing at myself because when I was so ahead of the 8 hour pace I thought I may break Greg’s record by 2 hours. Once the legs got tired then I had looked at breaking it by 1.5 hours. At this point, any time faster than Greg’s would be welcomed. I just wanted this to be finished.
When I went through the last pasture and back onto the trail, I knew I was home and would be setting the FKT and be ahead of 8 hours. I ran the last stretch without stopping and after I stepped over the cattle guard and walked a few steps I hit the stop button on my watch and it flashed 7h40m32s. I was elated, exhausted and emotional. Almost immediately my phone rang and it was Karen. I told her that we did it and she told me how proud she was of my effort and just like after every other race that holds meaning: I cried. The emotion just poured out of me. I didn’t expect that to happen but it told me that I gave everything I had and didn’t hold anything back.
A bunch of text message exchanges with Jen and Greg and tears streaming down my face told me everything I needed to know about the support community I have as well as the effort I put out there. I know that this FKT will not stand forever but I hope that I set a time that will make the next person think about whether or not they want to go for it and if they decided to that they are going to have to give it 100% for the entire 43.7 miles and not take a single step off the gas.