JMT FKT attempt #3 (now with extra suffering and 50% less sleep!)

Blog entry: August 13, 2015

July 28-30, 2015 – JMT Unsupported FKT attempt #3


I am never, ever, ever doing this again.

I know I said that the last time, and the time before that, but this time I mean it. I’m done with this trail, this all-consuming vision that I’ve spent much of the last 3 years training for, planning, and obsessing over.  I’ve now covered every step of this trail at least 4 or 5 times, in both directions, in daylight and darkness, in all kinds of weather, alone and with partners. I know it intimately – every junction, every twist and turn, every stream crossing. Even individual rocks and roots are old friends now.

The JMT is full of raw beauty, breathtaking views, austere moonscapes, and endless ups and downs. Doing the trail in 3-4 weeks is casual, 2 weeks is a challenge, 1 week was an accomplishment, and 3.5 days has proved to be somewhere between elusive and impossible, not to mention painful, expensive, time-consuming, frustrating, and overall a ridiculous obsession. So this is the last time I’m doing this. EVER. That’s what I told my brain, anyway.

The JMT has been my obsession, my nemesis, my inspiration, my teacher, my motivation to run up and down hills with a pack, do ridiculous workouts in my garage all winter, spend hours driving to the mountains to do 20, 30, 40, and 50 mile days all spring and into the summer, and countless more hours obsessing over timesheets, sleep strategies, and gear choices. The JMT is gorgeous, difficult, and easily underestimated.

The failure rate of Unsupported FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempts on the JMT is appalling – my own included. FKT’s and FKT attempts for various trails and mountains including the JMT are tracked by Peter Bakwin at his FKT site.

The current Usupported FKT (82:59) was set in 2014 by Andrew Bentz, who beat Brett Maune’s groundbreaking 2009 time of 86:13. Brett had smashed the previous records (beating both the Supported and Unsupported FKT simultaneously) by such a wide margin that people had a hard time believing it at first.

Aside from these two, and new Supported FKT’s by Leor Pantilat in 2014 and Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe in 2013, there have been a string of spectacular failures, caused by everything from sleep deprivation-induced mental breakdowns to illness, Giardia and GI distress to snowstorms and altitude sickness.

On my first try, in 2013, I made it 48 miles in 20 hours before bailing over Kearsarge pass, destoyed and demoralized. In 2014 I tried again, and bailed after about 85 miles, exiting at Bishop Pass in a rain/snow/hail storm that tested the limits of my ultralight gear and clothing. While I did my best to train and prepare for both of these attempts, I had a lot to learn, and the demands of my job and my personal life made it difficult to train, plan, and stage a serious FKT attempt with any hope of success.

This year, I was more prepared, better trained, and better acclimated. This was to be my last try, no matter the outcome. It was time to put up or shut up, and either do this thing or move on to more productive efforts.

So I joined forces with Ralph Burgess, who was planning his own FKT attempt. He had established the SOBO unsupported FKT in 2014, and apparently had nothing better to do than do it backwards this time around. So we trained and strategized together, and he kindly let me crash in his motel room in Mammoth for a few nights in between training trips. We were both knocking off big sections of the trail at FKT pace in 1-2 day chunks: Tuolumne to Happy Isles, Red’s Meadow to Tuolumne, Red’s to Happy Isles, Bishop Pass to Red’s, etc.

We did Whitney Portal to Bishop Pass together – it was fun to have a fast and motivated partner after all the solo trips. Ralph did a bunch of other trips for research and acclimation, and just to be in the backcountry, as he was basically living out of the Best Western in Mammoth. I was driving back and forth to the Bay Area for a few days to a week at a time, recovering and taking care of business at home in between my trips.

Ralph came up with a detailed spreadsheet of split times and sleep locations and then tweaked it until it seemed at least somewhat reasonable, at least in the theoretical sense. His splits added up to a time of about 81.5 hours, with 4 hours of rest each of the first two nights, and either no rest or a short nap the third night if necessary. I carried a card with these split times, but I mostly focused on the big chunks, trying to reach each pass on schedule and hoping I could continue to function on 3 hours of sleep or less each night.

After rehearsing each section of the trail at least once this year, and doing the final Red’s to Happy Isles section overnight in just over 18 hours, I felt as prepared as I was ever going to be, both physically and mentally. I had decided to start at the end of July, to take advantage of the long days and full moon.  Of course, the weather forecast had to be good as well.

Amy and I had planned a nice easy 5 day trip from Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass to Mount Whitney  – on our 2011 SOBO JMT trip we bailed at Kearsarge pass, so we wanted to go back and do the final section together. I figured it would be good for acclimation without stressing my system too much – and it was. We invited our friend Jackie along, and after 5 days of about 10-12 miles per day, we finished on July 26 at Whitney Portal. Amy had some trouble with the altitude starting around 13,500′ but she persevered and made it to the summit.


With the weather report showing afternoon thunderstorms starting on the 30th, I decided to start my FKT attempt on July 28 – I wanted to be done with most of the high elevation sections by the time the thunderstorms materialized.

I’ve been in enough storms in the Sierras that I do my best to avoid them if at all possible.  A passing afternoon thunderstorm is typically no big deal, but heading into a real storm can be downright dangerous when you are traveling light, with minimal gear to keep you warm and dry. And the forecast is sometimes dead wrong – a “slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms” can easily morph into a full on storm that socks in the entire crest, with freezing rain, lightning, hail, 50-80 mph winds, and a foot or more of snow at 12,000 feet – I’ve seen it happen more than once. I definitely did not want to be going over Mather or Muir Pass into that kind of weather.

This turned out to be a good call from a weather standpoint, however it gave me less than 48 hours to rest and recover before starting my attempt, in addition to securing a walk-in permit, packing, sleeping, etc. I spent 2 nights in hotels in Lone Pine, which was tough for my inner dirtbag to swallow, but I wanted to bank as much sleep as possible before starting and keep things simple. As it turned out I still only managed about 8 hours each night – barely adequate, but it would have to do.

At the permit office in Lone Pine there is a lottery each morning at 11am for the unclaimed Whitney permits for the following day. I somehow managed to draw the #1 ticket, so I got my permit on the first try. Also among the crowd of permit seekers was Matt Dubberly, who set a new FKT for both one way and round trip on the Mountaineers Route just a few days later.

Permit in hand, I checked into the Comfort Inn, did some last minute packing and preparation, ate a couple of big meals at the Grill, and went to bed around 8pm. I slept pretty well, and woke up before my alarm went off at 4am. Breakfast was coffee, bananas, and cold, vaguely egg-like patties, with a builder bar on the side.

On the way up to the portal I was rocking out to the Beastie Boys “Ill Communication” on the car stereo. To save weight and simplify, I had decided not to bring my phone or paper maps, so I would have no music, no maps, and no GPS for navigation. The songs in my head and my knowledge of the trail would have to do.  This is my JMT Gear List.

I’m not one of those guys that meditates daily and repeats positive affirmations in the mirror each morning, but for this trip I made a bit of an exception. From early on, I was hooting, grunting, and singing out loud to keep myself motivated and distracted through the tough climbs and inevitable low points. My mantras were “Because you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop” and “Gotta Keep it Together” because “Technically, I’m as hard as steel”.

At the portal, I turned on the Spot, hit the restroom one last time, did some quick stretches and mobility exercises, and started hiking at 5:36 am. I summitted Whitney in 3:52 (my fastest time so far), and felt great. As usual, there were hundreds of people on the trail, and I passed all of them. Some were struggling, some were going strong; many commented on how fast I was going. I just told them I had a long way to go yet, and wished them a great trip.

Leaving the crowds behind to run down the back side of Whitney toward Guitar lake felt great. My pack was light, I was feeling strong and acclimated, and it was fun to run down the well graded switchbacks after trudging up 6000 feet all morning. I had around 17 lbs of food, water, and gear, but all my food for the first day was in a small homemade waist pack, so my pack only weighed about 14.5 lbs. I knew from experience that anything over 15 lbs in my pack would quickly lead to sore shoulders/traps, so I tried to keep the pack as light as possible, and it paid off.

I continued to pass Southbound JMT hikers quite frequently – there were a lot of people on the trail. Many commented on my small pack, and a few asked if I was day-hiking, or if I had everything I needed. One guy was amazed that I would go without a tent. I tried to be friendly but kept the conversations brief unless they seemed genuinely interested rather than just perplexed.

I made good time, reaching Forester Pass (mile 32.2) in 10:17, faster than Brett Maune’s 2009 time of 10:30, which had seemed all but impossible on my last attempt. This put me in good spirits, and I was hooting and hollering as I powered up the final switchbacks to the pass. There I met Liz Watters and David Van Quest, a very cool couple who I had met a couple weeks prior at Red’s Meadow as I was getting ready to start an overnight training run to Happy Isles. They were kind enough to take some video, and their excitement and words of encouragement helped keep me motivated for the rest of the day. The were planning 2 more days to finish their 22-day JMT trip, although I tried to tell them they were really only 10 hours from the portal.

Coming down Forester Pass, I began to notice some upper hamstring tightness/pain/borderline cramping. It never got really bad, but it forced me to stop and stretch periodically, and definitely limited the amount of running I was able to do for the rest of the trip. I was able to coast/jog down much of the descent from Forester, and made it to Bubbs Creek/Vidette Meadow (mile 40.5) at about 12:35 elapsed time. I reached Glen Pass (mile 44.5) at about 14:10 – over an hour ahead of schedule – and had enough daylight to get down to the Rae Lakes just before dark.

This is where things started to go a bit downhill.

At Rae lakes there is a clearly marked junction with a trail that leads up to the 60 Lakes Basin. I reached this junction at twilight, saw the sign, and turned towards the Rae Lakes. Unfortunately, I somehow still managed to end up back on the 60 lakes basin trail instead of going between the lakes. At this point the JMT goes around a corner, and squeezes in between the upper two Rae Lakes over a jumble of logs – it can be a bit confusing in the dark if you’ve never done it before, but I had been through there at least 4 times, so I should have known better.

60lakessignPhoto Courtesy of Adam White

It was getting dark and I was in a hurry, and I just blew it. Navigating in the dark never was my strong suit; not bringing a map or GPS was the biggest mistake I made on this trip. I thought I knew the trail well enough that I wouldn’t need a map; in hindsight, this was clearly entering into stupid light territory.

As the trail alternately climbed up and headed north, taking me further from the lakes and higher than I should have been, I kept wondering if I’d screwed up.  I should have gone back to check, but kept thinking I had to be on the right trail, it would take me back down in just another few minutes. Escalation of commitment got to me – I knew it didn’t seem right but kept thinking I must be remembering it wrong, since I saw the sign and turned the right way. In the end I wasted about 45 minutes on this scenic detour. I had been about an hour ahead of the splits I was targeting, and this mistake erased most of that lead. This was pretty demoralizing, but eventually I reasoned that I was still ahead of the splits, and still had a good shot at the FKT, if I could just keep it together for the next 67 hours. No problem, right?

I left the Rae Lakes behind, passing Arrowhead Lake and Dollar Lake in the moonlight, and reached Woods Creek (mile 53.8) at about 17:45 elapsed time – still 10 minutes ahead of schedule in spite of my error. I quickly washed up and laid down to get some rest. I had planned 3 hours of sleep here, but woke up after about 90 minutes and was unable to get back to sleep. My new Klymit pad was half the weight, but I should have brought the Neoair for better sleep. Stupid Light strikes again.

I tossed and turned for another hour or so, and eventually just got up and started moving again at about 21:15 elapsed time. Crossing the swaying suspension bridge in the middle of the night is always a bit unnerving, but I managed it with no mishaps and started the long slog up towards Pinchot in the soft light of the full moon. I reached Pinchot Pass (mile 61.4) after sunrise, about 24:45 after starting, still a few minutes ahead of schedule.

From Pinchot I walked and ran down and then trudged back up to Mather Pass (mile 71.7), arriving at 28:35 elapsed time, or about 10:11 am. I must have been slowing down because I was 15 minutes behind schedule at Mather.

I don’t remember much about this section except that it was hot, I was tired and my hamstrings were acting up again. The Palisade Lakes were beautiful as always, and trail crews were swarming the Golden Staircase. By the time I reached the Bishop Pass junction in Leconte Canyon, I was over an hour behind schedule and hurting. This was definitely not fun anymore. I finally found the Rock Monster (which I somehow missed the last few trips through here) but by that time I felt like this guy:


My brain was starting to come up with all kinds of excuses for why I should quit: too hard, too hot, too long, feet hurt, knees hurt, legs hurt, butt hurts, back hurts, shoulders hurt, this is pointless, who cares, long term damage, etc etc. I tried to let these thoughts pass, and told my brain again that I would NEVER, EVER, EVER DO THIS AGAIN, but I needed to finish just this one time so I can move on. It also didn’t hurt that a lot of people were following my spot and I didn’t want to have to explain why I quit without a really, really good reason. So I told my brain to shut up and kept going.

The climb up to Muir pass in the afternoon heat was the toughest one yet, but I grunted and groaned and gritted my way up it with the Beastie Boys egging me on. The sky got ominous and cloudy; it never rained but it did cool off a bit which was a welcome relief. By the time I reached Muir Pass (mile 94.7) I had been going for 36:51 with less than 2 hours of sleep, I was about 1:22 behind schedule, and I was worked. I quickly peeked inside the Muir Hut, which was deserted, aside from a lone pair of boots inside and an old external frame pack leaning on the wall outside. I wasted no time pondering these mysteries – it was 7:45 PM and I had over 22 miles to go. (NO SLEEP TILL MTR).

Passing by Wanda Lake and down through the Evolution Basin as the sun set was sublime, and I was reminded of Heather “Anish” Anderson describing how on her FKT attempt in 2014, she was so sleep deprived that became disoriented and hiked the wrong way for an hour or more in the middle of the night. Although tired, I was still feeling reasonably coherent. I drank deeply from the lakes and pressed on into the night.

I crossed Evolution Creek barefoot and in the dark (for at least the 3rd time!) at about 40:53, losing a few more minutes and a unit of blood to the mosquitos while getting my shoes back on. At this point I was about 1:50 behind schedule but I felt like I was starting to gain ground going downhill in the cool evening conditions . The broken shale and rubble that litters the trail down to MTR was especially aggravating in my rapidly deteriorating state.

I pushed on and eventually reached the southern MTR cutoff (Mile 115) just past 43 hours. After wasting a few minutes looking for a good spot to sleep, I gave up and pressed on a bit further. A mile or two later I found a better spot and managed to get about an hour of sleep. I woke up refreshed, recharged, and optimistic.

Since my rest stop was only about 90 minutes instead of the planned 3 hours, I had suddenly made up 90 minutes, and in my exhausted mind I was nearly back on track. I convinced myself that I felt pretty good in spite of the minimal sleep. My brain was back on my side, which was a nice change.  This raised my spirits and I started to believe I might still have a shot at the FKT.

The schedule I was trying to keep up with was for a total time of 80.5 hours. So even though I was a bit behind, I was more or less on track for an 82-83 hour finish if I could keep it together – and I was still hoping to make up some time on the long downhill sections near the end.

I pushed hard up to Selden Pass (mile 123), and topped out at 49:43 elapsed time. The early morning light on Marie Lake was beautiful. I passed by the Lake Italy Junction and made my way my way up Bear Ridge, somehow back to about 90 minutes behind schedule.

I still had Silver Pass to get over – at 10,740′ this is one of the lower passes on the JMT, but it is a long, tough climb. My hamstrings were acting up again, but I managed to not lose any more time and reached Silver Pass (mile 142.7) at 56:23, still about 90 minutes behind.

Lake Virginia, Purple Lake, and Duck Pass Junction passed by rather slowly as the afternoon turned to evening and I fantasized about running down into Reds Meadow in the daylight. At Deer Creek I briefly stopped to reorganize my food and chatted with a woman that was camping there after being out for about 3 weeks. I coasted down into Red’s Meadow (mile 165) just after dark, at about 63 hours.

Coming down into Red’s, I was suddenly and irrationally concerned about caffeine toxicity and what it might do to me if I had too much. I was also starting to worry that I would need to take a nap but would not being able to sleep if I had any more caffeine. So I stopped eating the caffeinated shot blocks and had a power bar instead. Somewhere on the way down to Red’s I ran out of water, and then stopped eating, as all of my remaining shot blocks had caffeine, and I couldn’t eat the bars or perpetuum without water.

I was pretty destroyed at this point, my balance was a bit off, and my thoughts were gradually becoming less coherent but I was still mostly functional. I had had a weird taste/smell in my mouth for most of the last 2 days, which I thought was either caffeine or tartar buildup on my teeth from eating countless clif shots all day. Either way it was pretty disgusting, and I was really wishing I’d brought a toothbrush.

I reached the bridge over the San Joaquin (mile 166.2) at about 63:30, and stopped for 15 or 20 minutes to drink up, fill up, and take in some calories. I had a couple servings of Recoverite, which was also disgusting, and ate my last power bar while I considered my options and my physical and mental state. I decided to press on into the night, reasoning that I should continue as long as I was physically able, and take a short nap if and when it became absolutely necessary. So resolved, I pushed on up the hill from Red’s Meadow towards Johnston Lake.

I still felt reasonably strong, although when I stopped it took a few seconds to get going again and my balance was getting worse. My feet and knees were pretty sore, I had been managing the hamstring cramping and various other aches and pains for days now, but hydration, electrolytes, ibuprofen and some occasional stretching seemed to keep things working well enough. I was determined to finish and the physical stuff never got so bad that it would have stopped me. I remember thinking that as long as I could stay awake I could keep going fast enough, and I had only a few smaller climbs to go.

Given all this, I thought I had a good shot to beat Andrew’s time of 83 hours, if I could stay awake or maybe get an hour of sleep somewhere along the way. I actually ran down quite a bit of the trail from Deer Creek to Red’s, excited to get there in about 63 hours and feeling pretty good, considering. I had done Red’s to HI in about 18 hours at night recently, so I was thinking if I could hold it together for 18-19 more hours I would finish in 81-82 hours for the FKT.

Then the wheels started to come off.

Stopping the caffeine before Reds was probably a mistake. Not bringing a Map or Phone/GPS was definitely a mistake. The effects of lack of sleep hit pretty hard and pretty suddenly as I pushed up from Reds towards Gladys Lake. My balance was getting so I had to keep moving and be careful not to fall off the trail when it was steep. Time slowed down, every 50 feet of elevation gain seemed to take forever, even though I felt like I was still pushing fast up the hills.

I forgot to fill up with water at Trinity lake outlet crossing and then ran out; the next water source never appeared. I had no idea where my next water would be; I could not remember anything except that Shadow lake should be coming up at some point, and Garnet after that. I just needed to get to Garnet and the trail would come back into focus. But Shadow lake refused to appear and without Shadow there could be no Garnet. I kept turning on the battery-sucking high beam on my headlamp looking for a lake or stream to fill up my bottles. There was no water,  only trees, hills, meadows, and darkness.

I tried to eat a hammer bar and nearly choked, with no water to wash it down. I finally found a lake and went off the trail 40 feet or so to the shore to fill up. When I got there I decided the water quality was suspect and didn’t take any water.  I had not worried about, filtered, or treated water once on the whole trip, and I was quite thirsty, so in hindsight this makes no sense. I kept going, occasionally coughing up bits of the hammer bar.

The next time I found water, it seemed like 30 minutes to an hour later and when I got there I was horrified to realize it was the SAME LAKE, and I was convinced I was seeing MY OWN FOOTPRINTS in the mud by the shore. I had somehow just made a complete circle around the lake and was back where I started. At least at the time I was completely convinced that is what happened – in hindsight I think it was the same lake, only a few minutes later, and I had just reached another part of the shore which looked the same in the dark.

I was distraught, horrified, I could feel the FKT slipping through my fingers. This time I filled up both bottles, went back to the trail, and could not remember which way I had come from. Not that it mattered much since I thought I was going in circles anyway. I picked a direction and walked faster. I kept coming to sections of trail that looked eerily familiar, like I had just been there a few minutes ago, I couldn’t figure out if it all just looked the same or if I was going the wrong way. I still don’t really know which lake it was but it was likely either Gladys or Rosalie.

I think in my confusion I may have turned around once or twice, but I’m not really sure – it’s kind of all a blur. I kept hoping to get to Shadow Lake or some landmark that would let me know I was on the right track, but it never happened. I couldn’t remember any other lakes besides Garnet and Thousand Island, or really anything about the trail before Garnet. It was all just a big blank in my head even though I’d done it twice in the last month, and once in the dark, and probably 5 or 6 times all together.

I couldn’t get my bearings and had no idea which direction I was heading or if I was even on the right trail anymore. I was lost and losing time fast. I went back and forth a few times and couldn’t decide which way was forward. This was around midnight; I was so lost and disoriented that I finally decided I needed to stop and wait till dawn to get my bearings, which would clearly mean no FKT. This was disappointing to say the least, after coming so far and being so close to the end, but I felt it would be foolish to continue in the state I was in, and get even more lost. In hindsight I probably should have kept going – it appears I was actually on the trail between Gladys and Rosalie lakes (Mile 172 or so). But at the time I really had no idea where I was, and was not thinking clearly at all.

It had been cloudy all evening, and as soon as I stopped to rest it started sprinkling.  I put on my rain shell, and got in my mylar bivy; it was warm enough that I didn’t even pull out my sleeping bag at first. I spent a few hours there on the ridge, eventually getting into my sleeping bag, not sleeping much but dozing off for a bit here and there. It rained lightly off and on all night, sprinkles mostly. My head was under a big fallen tree trunk, and my body/sleeping bag were in the bivy so I stayed pretty warm and dry.

Occasionally the coyotes would go NUTS – I guess when the full moon came out of the clouds and it stopped raining for a bit they thought that was pretty cool. The whole night was pretty surreal. I remember waking up a few times and wondering why my knees were on fire and wishing someone would put them out. At some point it hit me that I had covered 175 miles in 3 days, and the Ibuprofen had worn off. I took some more and the raging fire receded to a dull smolder. Rain pattered softly on the mylar, the coyotes howled and laughed like hyenas, and I drifted in and out of consciousness, waiting for the dawn.

In the morning I guessed which way was back towards Reds, and walked down the trail a bit. I soon found a guy with a map who had been camped there all night. I never saw his tent in the dark although I must have walked right by it at least once. It appeared that I had been on the trail all along and my mind had been playing tricks on me. Re-oriented, it took me about 2 hours to walk out past Shadow Lake to Agnew Meadows, during which it sprinkled off and on. The temps were cool, perfect weather for running, but I could barely maintain a 3mph walk downhill, and all I could think about was a shower, clean clothes, and a nice soft bed.

At Agnew Meadows there were hordes of fit and energetic high school girls milling around in tight shorts and matching yellow cross country shirts, getting ready to go run some trails. They seemed pretty excited about it, so I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was a bad idea and would inevitably lead to all sorts of pain and suffering. As I walked up the road towards the bus stop, I noticed that their shirts all said the same thing on the back:



I caught the bus from Agnew to Mammoth Mountain, the driver was kind enough not to charge me after he heard what I had just put myself through. I then got another bus into town and headed for the Best Western. I had gotten to know the manager a bit over the last couple of months – his name is Brent Cooley, he is a climber, ultra-runner and a great guy – his wife Emily and their dog Wilson are also super cool.

I figured I’d get a room for the night and then take the bus down 395 to get my car in the morning. I must have looked pretty wrecked when I walked into the lobby around 9am, and as it turned out they were booked solid. Fortunately Brent was at the front desk and he let me use the phone to call Amy (as my phone was still in my car). Amy told me that Ralph had spent the night in the hut at Muir Pass and was headed out via Bishop Pass (Ralph had started his second FKT attempt the day after I started mine).

Brent then mentioned that he had to go to Lone Pine to pick up his JMT permit that afternoon and offered to give me a ride to Whitney Portal to get my car. He was getting ready to start a 5 day JMT trip – Sweet! We had breakfast and and coffee on the house, and he even let me take a shower – I’m sure for his own benefit as well as mine. We left around 11, stopping for lunch at the Alabama Cafe, they dropped me at my car and I wished Brent luck on his hike.

I then went looking for Ralph, thinking he would likely need a ride from the South Lake trailhead. As it turned out, he was able to get a ride into Bishop, and I caught up with him at the Looney Bean – which seemed fitting. We chatted about our trips for a few minutes, and we both solemnly swore that we would NEVER EVER EVER  DO THIS AGAIN, EVER.

His ride was waiting to take him to the Portal to get his car,  so we kept it brief. I got a large coffee and headed back home to the bay, arriving home at 1:30 am after a 7-8 hour drive with a few stops for coffee, food, and a short nap or two.  Driving home that day was probably not the best decision, but I made it home safe and sound.

I got sick a few days after getting home. It was some sort of intestinal illness, presumably a virus as it resolved in a few days without antibiotics or other treatment aside from rest. It was apparently not Giardia, although I was initially concerned about that given that I did not treat the water.

My legs were not exceptionally sore, although my feet were quite sore and swollen and my knees were sore for a few days. I did have some numbness in the forefoot and toes on both feet, but this is mostly gone now. I tried to do some light squats and an easy trail run about a week after getting home, but my hamstrings got really sore and inflamed. I’ve been resting and icing them a few times a day for the last few days and that seems to be helping. It has now been 2 weeks since I got back and I feel pretty good overall.

It was pretty warm for the first 2 days, and I may not have been taking in enough water and/or electrolytes for the conditions, or I may have just been pushing my legs to their limit – or both. The 3rd day was cooler and I was able to run a bit more down into Reds Meadow, but the hamstring tightness never really went away. I’m hoping that the combination of training adaptation from this attempt and a longer rest/recovery period prior to my next attempt will allow me to run more without cramping – assuming I am able to make one more attempt. Right now the Rough Fire is causing smoky conditions on the JMT, so we will have to see…


9 thoughts on “JMT FKT attempt #3 (now with extra suffering and 50% less sleep!)

    1. Thanks John! I’m still hoping to give it one more shot towards the end of august, but need a good weather window and no major fires in the vicinity to make it feasible…so we will see!


  1. Allison

    I met you very briefly at Deer Creek – you were 60 hours in with 3 hours sleep. (I was 17 days in and had had lots of sleep) You were in a big hurry and I was so sorry I did not offer you my snickers bar that I had been saving for 4 days. I’ve been trying to figure out how to find out if you finished or not. Even though you did not finish it was an amazing attempt and I wish you a speedy recovery and please have a snickers bar on me – amazing – I am in awe – best of luck and hopefully you will try again. AA


    1. Wow, thank you Allison!!! It was great meeting you out there, sounds like you had a great trip as well. I would not have been able to accept any help, not even a snickers bar, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness! Your positive energy and words of encouragement gave me a nice boost, so thank you for that!!! Allen


  2. old5ten

    hey allan,

    HTFU and don’t give up 😉 every time you gained more insight and more experience, went faster and farther. you CAN do this!



    1. Elmar,
      Thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for the words of wisdom/experience about nutrition and sleep deprivation that you shared prior to this attempt…I’m getting closer and every little bit of knowledge helps!


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