Monday, August 26, 2013

FKT - Recap: Aborted Attempt (Weather)

In my last posting, I announced my intentions on going for the FKT on the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of NH. As the time approached, I felt really good about my chances to have perfect weather to make an attempt. And then mother nature intervened….

With only a small window span on my vacation to do this, I needed weather to work out. My intention was to tackle the attempt on Tuesday, 8/13. My excellent partner was willing to drop me off at the northern end and drive to the southern point during my escapade. She plan was to do some hiking while I was running. However, the forecast for the 13th became rain. This meant at least a delay but required careful attention to the weather forecast from Mount Washington Observatory considering Mt Washington alone has some of the world’s harshest weather. Checking the forecast required a trip 20 miles away into Bridgton for internet access. A check on Tuesday showed high winds and cold temps for Wednesday. By high winds, I mean hurricane force gusts on the summits. With the route being on the summits exposed to the wind, clearly this meant a postponement to Thursday. This was my last day in a small window I could make the FKT attempt. Friday had to be focused on getting ready for my return home back to Philadelphia. Wednesday’s check also showed some rough weather in store. While in the past couple of days this meant an instant postponement, this was not the case here. My partner and I came up with a plan to have some benefit for both of us. We would call the AMC number for the weather forecast en route to the White Mountains. If the weather was favorable, we would head up 16 to the northern tip, otherwise, we would stay on 302 to the southern end. The former would mean the attempt would be a go. The latter meant it was being aborted on this trip but I would be doing some running.

Unfortunately, the wind speed is what did the attempt in. Regular speeds of 60 mph were in the forecast. For safety sake, we decided not to make the attempt. However, I made the most of the time in the White Mountains. While the rest of the group hiked, I ran ahead. We agreed on an out and back route up Crawford Path to the Mitzah Hut. Before leaving we got information on how long it would take to hike and I used that information as a gauge how far I could go. With my handheld, map and pack, I was off like a kid in a candy store. In the time, I had to regroup at the AMC hut, I made it to Mt Eisenhower. Once I got above tree-line, it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I felt like I could go on forever. On the way up, the wind was not much of a factor but as I turned back, it was noticeably strong reinforcing I made the right call. My turnaround timing was perfect as my group was just getting to the hut as I returned to the point. After a small stop, we all headed back down. I ran down and back to the car dropping off some gear before running back to the group where I would hike the rest down with them. At the end of the day, I ran nearly 12 miles in the White Mountains, really giving me the confidence about being able to go back and take on the FKT.

While, I did not have the planned experience, the fallback was nearly just as rewarding. Next year, I hope things work out and I will be able to take another crack…but it did mean I felt a bit empty so I filled that with another 50K in my schedule. But that is a post for another day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Goal: FKT: Presidential Traverse

Sometimes, we have dreams that we internally keep to ourselves and manage to accomplish those dreams. On the flip side, we can keep them to ourselves and much more easily not accomplish them without anyone else the wiser. My point in this as a runner is that our goals can be our dreams. Earlier this year I mentioned on this blog that I intended on setting a FKT (fastest known time) on the Batona Trail in NJ. Based on how the year has played out, it does not seem likely to occur in 2013. However, in the past few months, I have been kicking around the idea of a FKT attempt during my upcoming vacation in Maine. However, the FKT attempt will not be taking place in Maine but New Hampshire in the White Mountains. It is my hope to be able to go for the FKT on the Presidential Traverse. If I fail to make the attempt it will be due to weather conditions. Weather is a huge factor as I will be in the mountains running the summits. One of those summits is Mount Washington which is known for having some of the strongest weather conditions in the world. The Presidential Traverse is a series of peaks that top out over 4000ft over an 18 mile stretch. There is 8500ft of elevation gain over the length with most of it on my planned North-South trek coming very early on. The trail will not be easy. Scenic, yes, but not easy.  To verify my attempt, I will be wearing a GPS watch. Likely the Garmin 310XT as my current GPS does not have the battery-life I need. I also plan on running with a hydration pack. I’ve been running with the pack to and from work without any discomfort or annoying bounce. This is goal is being taken very seriously and the trail is not being underestimated. Heck, I’ve even purchased the AMC’s Presidential Range map so I do not get lost and make sure I hit everything I need. Having this has made my partner feel better about my undertaking. Since this is a point to point, we are planning the attempt date around when she wants to do a day hike from the other end of the route. 

Currently, the record is held by Ben Nephew at 4h 50m 18s. Nephew is a very accomplished trail runner and knowing that means the record is not going to be easy to break. Just recently, he competed in the World Trail Championships. My only comparison to him is our results at Traprock. He has times on the course a few minutes faster than mine.  However, that does not mean I cannot run the Traverse quicker. If I believe I can do it, I can. In less than two weeks, we may have an answer. Let’s just hope the weather gives me the green light.

In other news, since my last post, I’ve run a pair of races. One trail and one road. The trail race was a 15K where I placed second. I was not happy at all with my performance. I don’t lose on the trails. Especially to a tri/duathlete. Yet, I found a silver lining. Just so happens I lost to someone who had taken 5th at the 2011 World Duathlon.  I did bounce back nicely from that result to hit the roads down in Wilimington, DE on a familiar course for a 5K. Considering, I had not run a 5K since late April and a road race since Broad Street the first Sunday of May.  I ran a fairly solid 16:18. Probably could have ground a few more seconds off but without speedwork, I’ll take it. 

With Maine not too far off, it might be a whole after the FKT attempt before a follow-up. Access to much of anything is limited up there as the only internet is at a café in a town 30 minutes away from where I stay. If anything, I might be able to get a quick Facebook post before something more substantial.

We’ll see….but for now, you know my current dream. And because you do, I’m more likely to go for it regardless if I succeed or not.