FKT: Across Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – Rachel Mason

Runner: Rachel Mason

Name of “Event”: FKT: Across Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Date(s) of event: 06/16/2023

Time to complete: 09h49m

Location: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Strava Activity Link:

Gear – What did you bring?

Took my 30L Ultimate Direction Fastpacker (nice pack, horrible color, worse name), just because I wanted to carry poles and a lot of water. I carried a windshirt, very basic first aid kit, headlamp – and poles and a lot of water. I decided to wear full-length leggings and a sun hoodie; I decided that not getting all scratched up in long grass was more important than maybe being a bit cooler. I wore La Sportiva Bushidos (or Akash? can’t remember what they are), which are pretty substantial shoes that feel safe on bare rock.

Fuel – What did you consume and/or not consume?

OK so I haven’t exactly got this down to a fine art. I like those nut butter Clif bars but they’re $11.99 for 5 here so I bought fig bars instead (raspberry flavor, actually). I complemented them with a big bag of chips and a side of these big crunchy cookies from a local bakery. This was topped off with a bag of crystallized ginger aka magic beans and paired with some delectable Nuun tabs. Mmmm.

Logistics – What kind of planning was involved for both prep and implementation?

This whole thing came about because I was looking at maps of the national park while plotting some backcountry explorations, and I realized you could in theory string together a load of trails into an uninterrupted crossing of the park, and it would be about 50k. I had broken my foot last year during one of said backcountry explorations, and I decided that this route would be my first big trail run after coming back. To make it a bit more fun I submitted it as an FKT route a couple weeks before my target date, and it got accepted!

For training, Coach Des had me first build up road mileage, then transition to trails for a few weeks. This felt like a good approach. I made sure to put in some time on the actual trails along the route, to get used to the terrain (an awful lot of lava rock) and get a feel for being out in a very remote, hot, and windswept environment.

On the day, my partner dropped me off shortly before sunrise at the Footprints trailhead, and picked me up at the Pu’u Loa trailhead in the afternoon. Along the way I filtered water at two backcountry cabins/shelters; I must have drunk a good 6 liters in total.

Where to find the info on this:

What went “right” or at least how you expected it to go?

I mean, I finished it? And in the last few miles I did this thing that was slightly faster and more tiring than walking; let’s be generous and call it running. There were some really nice points along the route as well. Setting off below the vast bulk of Mauna Loa starting to turn pink in the sunrise; a small but delightful forest about 18 miles in (basically the only shade that whole day); looking down on the beach at Halape and planning to come back with a hammock and some mai tais; the amazing variety of lava colors and textures in the last 8 miles – that kind of thing.

What went “wrong” or completely unexpected that you had to deal with?

OMG MY FEET. The trail was very overgrown around the 10-mile mark and my feet got soaked and started to rub. I did stop a few miles later to dry them in the sun and brush off the sand (actually volcanic ash), but that wasn’t enough. Soon I had blisters on both heels and the balls of my feet were rubbing as well. Also, the trails are so rocky that every step was some fresh discomfort from stepping on yet another hard, pointy lump. One of the blisters popped a mile or so before the end and that wasn’t pleasant at all.

One other thing is that when I stopped to use the outhouse at the Pepeiao cabin there was a little nest in there with three dead baby birds in it. That was sad and depressing and for some reason made me feel lonely. I put on a running podcast after that, which helped. (Actually it was the one where Coach Des talks about Cocodona, which was great except that bit about feet was a bit much).

Lessons learned for either the next trip or another’s first trip?

Mainly, deal with your feet and take some fresh socks.

Everything else!

So there was this long stretch in the middle where I just walked the whole thing, because it was uphill and the ‘trail’ was just a load of rocks hidden under grass. And at that point I didn’t feel like an ultrarunner at all, just a person doing a very long hike. And I was like “this is going to take 10 hours, that’s 3 mph, how is that a respectable pace, what is the point of this?”. But having had time to digest the whole thing, I’m now just happy to be a middle-aged woman who can push through 31 miles of pretty gnarly trails and still be in one piece at the end. Well, apart from the feet. The feet have opinions about this whole thing…

Some Gorgeous Pictures!

Blue Hills Skyline Trail Double Out and Back FKT Trip Report

Blue Hills Skyline Trail Double Out and Back FKT Trip Report – Keith Nadeau

Race: Blue Hills Skyline Trail double out and back FKT

Runner: Keith Nadeau

Race Date: 5/08/2021

Location: Blue Hills Reservation, MA

Results: 5:25:43

Strava Activity Link:

Blue Hills Skyline Trail Double Out and Back FKT Trip Report

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

The scenery, terrain, and location are my 3 favorites. Beautiful views all along the way and you can see the Boston skyline from a few spots. The terrain is super challenging for most of the trail and is amazing that something so close to Boston can be so tough. The location is perfect for me as I can go do this in the morning and be home before noon! It is perfect training for running in New Hampshire’s mountains while not having to do the long drive.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

The idea of running the same trail 4 times is not the best, but I think it is good training for loop style races. I prefer course that are point to point or looped so that you get new scenery the whole time.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

The weirdest part is that technically it is a point to point trail, but in the middle there is a separate North and South section. For this FKT you have to do both trails each out and back, but also reverse the order for the second out and back.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I managed my effort all day better than ever before. It’s so hard to push this hard while still being smart and I think for the most part I nailed it this time around. I was flying on the flats and downhill, but right from the start made sure not to kill myself on the ups. This made it so that even nearing the end I was still moving well on the ups and only a little slower than the start.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Practice this course! Since my last FKT run over a year ago I spent a lot of time on these trails learning the ins and outs. It’s incredible how far course knowledge can take you on a race effort.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

This run broke through mental and physical barriers for me. I learned mostly to not limit perceived ability to what is comfortable or that you know you can achieve. Last year I maxed out at 6 hours and 30 minutes, and going into this I thought maybe I could go under 5 hours and 40 minutes but the thought of that was hard to conceive. It is during these efforts that we can become the runner we dream of and that all starts in the mind and believing it’s possible. I stayed in the moment and got into a different headspace than ever before.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The course is gnarly! Over 8k climbing in the 30 miles and almost all of the trail is filled with large and medium sized rocks/roots. Very important to be confident running fast over technical terrain and holding that focus from start to finish. It becomes mentally exhausting towards the end and thats where you need to be most careful.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course moves across the Blue Hills just south of Boston. Many great views and scenery to take in along the way. You can easily feel very remote until you pop out to see the skyline and realize where you actually are. It’s amazing that this place exists and is reserved for us to play in.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

For 30 miles this feels hard. The climbing and terrain make this very tough!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Partly why I love these FKT efforts is the flexibility. You can choose the perfect day and start whenever you want. This day was perfect being around 50 degrees and overcast so it wasn’t too hot. It was on a Saturday however so I ran into multiple large groups that I made sure to stay respectful of. It’s easy to forget you are on a trail being used by others and it’s important to give people space and not just run straight through.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

This has seen much more attention recently and this is the 7th lowered time on the FKT site. I’m hoping the locals will go back out to try and better this time soon!

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Go whenever you want! It’s always open!

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Since it is a double out and back, it is perfect for a single re-supply mid way.

Weather and typical race conditions

This day was close to perfect. Not many bugs yet, surprisingly dry, and cool temps. One of the rare days of the year where this trail is fastest.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

I went very minimal for this in hopes that I would feel free and light. I used 2 x .5 liter handheld bottles, one with water and the other with cherry nuun tabs. I wore a Nathan waist belt and had in it my phone, Gu’s, honey stinger waffles, and honey stinger gummies. Other than that I wore some aftershocks headphones with good tunes on the whole time from my phone. This was much better I thought than wearing a full kit for such a hard effort.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

I ran by a few people I knew on this run, and let them know I’d love to stop and chat but didn’t have the time. You can easily do sections of this trail from many different parking spots which is very cool.

How’s the Swag?

No swag 🙁

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I rate this a solid 6/10 with trying to have a non biased perspective. This course and FKT mean a lot to me personally so in that sense I give it a 10/10, but for someone without that background I think it’s still a great FKT route and/or training run for other races and adventures.

Blue Hills Skyline Trail Double Out and Back FKT Trip Report

grand loop fkt

The Grand Loop FKT Trip Report – Keith Laverty

grand loop fkt reportRunner: Keith Laverty

Adventure: The Grand Loop FKT attempt with Max King (my coach!)

Date: 09/02/2020

Time to complete: 10 hr 40 min 49 sec

Location: Deer Park – Olympic National Park

Strava Activity Link:

Gear – What did you bring?

  • HOKA Torrent 2 – I broke in these newer model of trail shoe in the few weeks prior, especially on long runs. Good grip and it had enough support.
  • Salomon S Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set pack with whistle – Stretchy, lightweight and enough to carry everything I needed.
  • Suunto 9 with GPX file of route pre-loaded
  • rabbit FKT 3″ short
  • T8 boxer brief
  • rabbit team kit short sleeve shirt
  • rabbit long sleeve
  • rabbit lightweight cap
  • Buff
  • Stance Run360 socks
  • Backup lightweight windbreaker jacket
  • Emergency blanket, first aid kit, Spot X, Salomon water filter cap

Fuel – What did you consume and/or not consume?

I took in mostly a wide assortment of Spring Energy gels, couple packets of energy chews, one Picky Bar (ended up being too sticky to swallow) and one Bearded Brothers bar (also ended up being too sticky to swallow). Several handfuls of wild huckleberries and blueberries along Gray Wolf River Trail.

I did **NOT** consume nearly enough electrolytes (see section below on how things went horribly!).

Logistics – What kind of planning was involved for both prep and implementation?

Since we went for the Unsupported FKT category and easy decision since the Grand Loop is mostly remote anyway, especially once you pass the Obstruction Point parking lot around Mile 10. It’s fairly straightforward logistics in that, you just need to be self-sufficient and carry everything you need for an all-day mountain run.

The drive up to Deer Park is a long, windy road to the top and the loop starts/ends above 6,000′. Conveniently, there is a campground at Deer Park too (less than 20 sites) but it’s first come, first served, so try to avoid summer weekends but you can easily turn the loop into an overnight trip. Don’t forget to have a national park pass.

Where to find the info on this

I first heard about this route a couple of years ago when I went to search for all of the FKT routes in my backyard – there are currently 10 on the Olympic Peninsula!

What went “right” or at least how you expected it to go?

With both of our watches having the route pre-loaded plus closely studying the route online, there was no need or worry about navigation or route-finding. There were a few tricky spots where the trail would be eroding or non-obvious but it was easy to pick up the trail again.

I had enough calories and filtered water; plenty of refreshing creeks to cool off and refill my flasks, especially as I was trying to keep my temperature down toward the later half of the loop.

Despite all of my struggles and cutting it close by the skin of my teeth (by only 8 minutes!), we came away with the overall FKT which was the main goal, so I was very grateful for that. I don’t see this FKT lasting for too long after this!

What went “wrong” or completely unexpected that you had to deal with?

A lot more went wrong than expected on this journey, and specifically, for me only!

As early as around Mile 18 heading toward the 2nd major pass (Cameron Pass), I already felt some twinges and nearly debilitating muscle leg cramps in my right quad and my left hamstring. This was a “try not to panic” moment. I still had a packet of Tailwind to use up, along with some Bolt chews that had some electrolyte in it (but not much), I quickly realized that I was going to have delicately ration the rest for the remaining 25 miles… Ouch. I tried a couple of stretches that Max recommended to me and tried to consciously think about activating my glutes more. Any time I lifted my legs higher or tried to run any incline, my muscles cramped up again.

We seemed to had built up a large buffer by Cameron Pass but then that margin slowly and painfully dwindled away all the way until the finish.

Thankfully I was able to maintain consistent movement (but including a bee sting for good measure!) on the long 10-mile descent to the bottom of the Three Forks final climb, which is 4 miles and 3100′ of gain. I began to power-hike this section pretty well for several minutes but once again, I faded hard and went spiraling down into some dark mental demons and doubts. Barely keeping my head in the game, taking several full stops to try and stretch and mustering the smallest of “hello’s” to the few hikers I saw. My mantra’s I kept repeating to myself were “One step in front of the other” and “I want to see my family” – knowing that both Elisa and Luke were waiting for me.

Overcoming this challenge was something I know I’ll be able to carry through in future races and FKT attempts.

Lessons learned for either the next trip or another’s first trip?

  • Bring extra packets of Tailwind and/or some backup electrolyte capsules/chews such as GU Roctane capsules or SaltStick chews.
  • Be prepared for a lot of climbing but also a lot of steep, big descents.
  • Be prepared to be blown away by the remote landscapes and likely marmot whistles!

Everything else!

I’ll definitely remember this FKT and adventure run for years to come and being able to share that with my coach. And those multiple post-run charley horses. I have a feeling that I will be back to give this loop another go.

The very next morning, Elisa went out on the loop solo, and on a hotter day than mine, and set the women’s FKT in 11:15 and 3rd fastest time overall! Right after my run, Max mentioned to Elisa that she should try and beat our time – and I think that really got Elisa pumped for her run.

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Keith, check out his coaching page.

grand loop fkt

grand loop fkt

grand loop fkt

grand loop fkt
Photo: Max King

grand loop fkt
Photo: Max King

grand loop fkt

discovery park seattle

Disco Inferno – Running an Ultra in Discovery Park

Mike G is a runner with Team RunRun and after crushing his race at the Houston Marathon in early 2020, he decided he wanted to take on a different challenge: Cover as many miles as possible in Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, all unsupported, all within the park hours. The goal was 100 miles but the experience took on much more meaning than any time or mileage goal. This is a summary of his experience, the challenges he faced, and the emotions he went through.

We love this awesome sport and Mike’s challenge to himself, in light of the fact that “official” challenges of races are continually cancelled or moved, and it’s an inspiring example of why we can find gratitude in the fact that in the end, we still have running.

Check out his Strava route here, aka His Love Letter to Discovery Park.

Disco (in Latin): to learn; Inferno (in Latin): of the lower regions. Later became associated to something hellish and suffering.

If the running community were a gang, “Learn by suffering” would maybe be one of our collective tattoos. We have all suffered during a run and had to overcome it and when we have, it has made us better. This is why I took on running 100 miles unsupported at Discovery Park in Seattle or as the locals call it, Disco. I needed a hard reset and running a bunch of miles to my breaking point seemed like a good way to do that.

Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest park with 534 acres (2.16 km2) of land that consists of forests, beaches, prairies and bluffs. It contains 12 miles (19km) of trails which can be combined in many ways with my favorite being a roughly 4-mile loop that passes through all those different areas with about 500ft (152m) of elevation gain. My plan was to run this loop as much possible and then stick to the higher and flatter ground loops until I hit 100 miles. I chose to do it unsupported which has different meanings in the running world but I follow the FKT (fastest known time) rules of carrying everything you need from start to finish except water and not being accompanied unless you start and finish together.

Everything was awesome the first 6 loops. I was curious if repeating them would affect me but they didn’t. I never thought about them as loops, they just ‘were’, and every step was a new step. This might seem like a mindfulness feat but it was more from tiredness. The parks hours are 4am-11:30pm and I ended up using every minute of it. After 6 loops, the running on mixed surfaces of trails and pavement and the rolling hills with steep staircases had caught up to me. I stuck mostly to the higher ground trails from then on but my legs and feet were not happy.

After mile 37 I started taking breaks whether it was to watch seals in the water or the sunlight dance on the water with the majestic Olympic mountains in the background. It was magical. The focus during races is often running as fast as possible that such experiences are never fully realized. I knew I wasn’t going to make 100 miles anymore and I didn’t care. I had hit the reset button and felt hundreds of emotions overflow within. I was ready to give up several times during the low points but the love and support from you guys kept me going. The suffering eventually ebbed away to be replaced by an enormous love and gratitude. This coupled with the support felt from TRR carried me to the parks closure where I finished with 91 miles (146km) and 9,028ft (2752m) of elevation gain with nothing left in the tank.

I woke up the next day feeling freer and lighter than I had in a long time. Overcoming something we don’t think we can do is also learning something new about ourselves. We don’t need races to do this, just the will and maybe some disco inferno.

discovery park seattle
Credit: Torrin Maynard

discovery park seattle
Credit: Joe Mabel