Running the Lost Coast in a single push.
Muse of all Muses, when a bucket list adventure route becomes an 11-month obsession.Making a challenging FKT the “A” goal
Last year in August on a moderate amount of training, but to me, at the time, what seemed like enough to get the job done. I set out to set a new Unsupported FKT on the complete Lost Coast Route heading southbound from Mattole to Usal beach. On paper, I thought that the route would be doable under the 13 hours 47 min set by Rickey Gates and Leor Pantilat back in 2014. In the write-up on the Fastest Known Times site, they even mentioned that they took it at a pedestrian pace and that Rickey carried a full-sized DLSR camera and took hundreds of photos. I figured that a middle-of-the-pack guy like myself could treat this as a race and squeeze in a faster time. Well, as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving, and this ruthless route exposed all of my weaknesses. I finished in 17hours and 36 minutes, with the last 10 miles turning into an absolute suffer-fest. You can read all about it HERE
Within 24 hours, I knew I would be back.I guess I am a glutton for punishment
Eleven months went by, and in that time, I dedicated myself to getting into the kind of shape that I felt would be required to best the bar set my two of my running heroes.
I took every lesson I learned from my previous experience and poured myself into my training. Checking the tide charts to find the perfect day in July to optimize the tide levels for the beach section July 25th, six days after my 41 birthday, would be the day.
Two days before my run, I posted on Instagram and Facebook about my intention to go after the unsupported FKT again. I had tagged Rickey and Leor in my posts, and they both responded in the comments that they had received aid at Shelter Cove, Rickey on IG, and Leor on FB. In Leor’s response, he stated that he had reached out to the FKT website to have their route establishing effort updated to a supported FKT. I cannot say enough about how these guys are legit class acts! As they both gave me encouragement and were willing to set the record straight. This news left the unsupported FKT wide open to be established and lifted a little of the pre-effort nerves. I still had the intention of going under the initial time, but a little of the weight was lifted off the endeavor, and all I needed to do was focus on executing a solid time on the route and hope that the cards fell into place to run under my goal.
THE BEACH PERFECTLY GUAGING THE TIDE
At 515 AM, I set off, running in the dark for maybe 45 min before the dawn presented me with a classic foggy Northern California morning. Moving well on the soft sandy trail, I passed the Punta Gorda Lighthouse and fell into a groove. On the 25 mile coastal stretch, I managed to hit the two hardpack trail sections and get off the beach onto Spanish Flat and Big Flat with no issues. Transitioning to the beach, I made good time as the sand was rather firm and relatively easy to run on due to the low tide.
Besides the rock hopping sections scattered across this route, I passed through the three impassable areas during high tide with ease.
THE ROAD AND THE WILDERNESS
Making it to Shelter Cove in 5 hours, a full 37min faster than last year, I started the 3k road climb up to the Sinkyone Wilderness and the Hidden Valley Trail Head. I was happy to get on solid ground with my legs feeling really good; stoked to be climbing strong up Shelter Cove, rd. Finishing the climb to the summit of Mt Chamise, I told myself to take it easy on the 3k ft descent over the next 5 miles to Needle Rock.
Once at Needle Rock, I hit a little bit of a low patch on the flowy fire rd section to Bear Harbor but managed to get into a good groove. After Bear Harbor, the real fun begins with the final 6k ft of climbing packed into the last 15 miles on trails that are more like overgrown game tracks than maintained trails. Steep on both ends; the last four climbs are where having well-oiled climbing gear is essential as the crazy steep overgrown descents limit your speed on the downhills. This is where everything fell apart last year, and I was happy to be moving and climbing very well on the day. I cruized into Wheeler Camp mile 46 and ventured slightly off course for about 10 min before getting back on track. It reminded me that I needed to stay sharp, and I permitted myself to give myself a firm talking to before letting it go and focusing on the moment and back to the task at hand: Getting after the next two climbs to Jackass Creek and Anderson Gultch.
After completing crushing the climb out of Wheeler Camp, I cruised down into Jackass Creek.The legs were on another level
Filling the 1500ml soft bottle that I was using to filter water and refill all of my bottles, I looked to my left up the creek. Ten feet from me, the head of a female elk popped up from behind a redwood and gave me a curious look. I told her I loved her, thanked her for her grace, and continued up the trail filling my bottles as I walked up the switchbacks heading to Anderson Gultch. I thought to myself that was a good sign.
The addition of the 1500ml Flux Hydrapak soft bottle to my Katadyn BeFree filter was a game-changer and made me very efficient with filter stops. It allowed me to fill once and keep moving instead of filling a smaller bottle multiple times, wasting valuable minutes at the creek crossings. With five filter stops on the route, the lost time adds up.
Leaving Anderson Gultch the last 5 miles of this route is brutal, with a 1000 ft climb in 1.5miles on steep primitive tracks used by Elk more than humans. The last 2miles a press through quick up and down manzanita choked trail that you have to push your body through in many places until the final .5 mile descent on the first truly runnable terrain since Needle Rock.
Hitting the last decent, I opened up my stride and started flying down to the finish. I heard a “hoot” from my crew, and as I “hooted” back, I could hear the cheers erupt from the forest below.
Hitting Usal RD, I stopped my watch 14:36:28 elapsed time. I leaned over on my poles and smiled to myself, having cut over 3 hours off last year’s time.
I missed my time goal by 47mins, but I am so happy with my effort and feel that there is a respectable time set for others to aspire to for the Unsupported FKT on this Rugged Ruthless Route.
I spent the remainder of the night around the fire at camp with good friends, eating good food, soaking in the effort in that state of exhaustion and elation that reminds one that you get the opportunity to create magic every once in a while.
Official Report on FKT website HERE
Check out my Strava file for all the gorry details;)
If you are looking to up your training game and find a perfect balance of Mind, Body, Community. Check out what Dylan Bowman has going on over at PLLYARS.COM.
Joining the Pyllars Crew has been the best decision I have made to hone my running and get me ready for huge efforts like the Lost Coast.