Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Presidential Traverse FKT Report

So, I am not the smartest person sometimes - I think up some pretty crazy (what others might call stupid) things to do.  I am fortunate, however, that I have friends who are as crazy/stupid as I am.  They often think my ideas are brilliant.  I guess that's how adventures happen! 
This past weekend's adventure was in the form of a Presidential Traverse.  It's one of those traditional routes that feels like a right of passage for New England trail runners.  To add to it, we learned that there was no female fastest known time (FKT).  That meant that if we could do an honest effort out there, we could set the female FKT.  This all seems like a completely logical thought process, right?  Luckily, my teammate Kelsey Allen agreed.
The brilliant idea came into play when we decided to use the weekend when we were already in the Whites (to do the Mt. Washington Road Race) for our FKT attempt.  We both ran amazing races at Mt. Washington on Saturday, and would be a bit tired going into the Presidential Traverse on Sunday.  Like I said, that's how adventures happen!
So, we got a ride to our starting point - the Appalachia Parking lot.  Since neither of us has a GPS watch, I was going to use my camera (with a time/date stamp) to verify our timeline - it was as official as we could get.  We got a quick starting shot, then I started my watch and we were off.
(The start of our day, at Appalachia - time stamp 08:04)
We started up Valley Way, and ran the early sections.  We figured that runnable sections would be hard to come by - so we took advantage while we could.  Quickly, the trail turned up and we were hiking.  I could feel the fatigue in my legs (from yesterday's race) already.  But, after about an hour, we popped out above tree line and scrambled up the rocks to reach the top of Madison - run time 1:39.

(Kelsey at the top of Madison - time stamp 09:43)

With one peak down, we dropped down to the Madison Hut to refill our hydration packs.  Then, it was another scramble up Adams.  We lucked out, as the weather was nice and the breeze was just enough to keep us comfortable.  With the clear skies, we could see over to Mt. Washington - looking down on the dirt road section from mile 5-6.  Even across the valley, that looked like a steep climb - I again marveled at how I ran up the entire way just the day before.

We reached the top of Adams as my watch read 2:30 (segment time - 51 minutes). 

(Adams summit, with Madison in the background - time stamp 10:34)

Then, it was a scramble down Adams, and back up Jefferson.  One of my favorite things to do when I am hiking is to look back at how far I've come - the mountains offer a rare opportunity to appreciate that.  This route was no exception - we could see the peaks ahead and the peaks behind...I focused on the peaks behind.  By the top of Jefferson, you could see back to Madison and Adams, and I felt like we were making progress.

In this section, we ran into a group of runners headed the opposite direction - apparently doing a Presi Traverse themselves (but going south to north).  I was excited to see other trail runners out there!

As we reached neared the top of Jefferson, I could hear the familiar sound of the Cog Railway whistle.  At the top, we met someone who was an Inov8 fan (he noted my apparel and told me he loved Inov8s!), and showed me his Roclites - the traction was worn down, the soles were completely smooth!  I had never seen those before.  He was excited as he examined my Race Ultras as I told him all about them.  We reached the top of Jefferson as my watch read 3:21 (segment time - 51 minutes).

(Jefferson summit, with Clay and Washington in the background - time stamp 11:25)

After the scramble down Jefferson (where, I'll note, I was starting to get comfortable scurrying across the 'wobbly rocks')...then it was up Clay to Washington.  I had several moments of 'what was I thinking' as I climbed up Washington for the 2nd day in a row.  Why did I think this was a good idea?!? 

The summit of Washington is pretty deceptive - from about a mile away, it looks so close.  As you get closer, it looks farther away.  It played a few tricks on my brain...but we plugged away, knowing that things got easier after this summit.  Some clouds started to roll in as we hiked Washington - I knew we would have to keep an eye out, just in case weather got bad.  We reached the top as my watch read 4:38 (segment time - 1:17). 

(Washington summit, second time in two days - time stamp 12:42)

We took the time to enjoy the summit quickly - the requisite photo in front of the summit sign, plus a photo of short Kelsey next to the tall hiker statue. 

(Kelsey with the tall hiker at the Washington Summit)

From Washington, we were able to RUN consistently for the first trail segment in a while.  It was great to stretch out the stride - especially watching the clouds get a bit darker.  We refilled our packs again at Lakes of the Clouds before heading up Monroe.  We reached the summit as my watch read 5:23 (segment time - 45 minutes).

(Monroe Summit - time stamp 13:27)
From Monroe, it was an enjoyable trail run over to Eisenhower.  Both Kelsey and I were starting to tire a bit...clearly our Mt. Washington PRs the day before was having a bit of an effect.  At least we were on the 'easy section' now, and it was hard to not run when you have such fun trails.  We were stopped along the way by someone admiring my Inov8 Race Ultra Vest - so we chatted about that for a bit about that.  We reached the top of Eisenhower as my watch read 6:02 (segment time - 39 minutes).

(Eisenhower summit, with Pierce in the background - time stamp 14:06)
I did a little happy dance at Eisenhower, since we only had one peak left on the day (one more till no more!).  We could see it in the horizon, and it looked like gentle grades to get there.  Again, the love of trail running was stronger than the fatigue in my legs, and we ran most of the way.  I dropped my back at the trail junction (for the way down), not wanting to carry the weight for the out-and-back to the summit.  In hindsight, that was foolish, as the peak wasn't that far into the trail - I likely spent more time taking off and on my pack than I saved by taking it off.  We reached the top of Pierce as my watch read 6:29 (segment time 27 minutes).

(Kelsey at Pierce summit - time stamp 14:33)
From there, it was great to run downhill - although the rocky terrain was a challenge for my tired legs.  We both managed to stay upright, which (for me) is a minor miracle.  In the last mile of our trek, the woods got progressively darker - the clouds must have gotten pretty threatening up high.  I was glad when we reached the junction to send us over to the Mt. Clinton Road parking, then crossed the road, then saw the trailhead sign.  I stopped my watch at 7:12:30 (segment time 44 minutes).

(Finish at Mt. Davis Road - time stamp 15:17)

All in all, it was a fun (although fairly unremarkable) adventure!  It was nice to set an FKT in the process, but there is certainly room for huge improvement if any ladies give it a more focused attempt (without tired legs, maybe without the stops that we took along the way).  We lucked out that the weather was good, and that we didn't have any true adventure to report along the way (although it makes for a pretty boring read - sorry!).  As always for me, I think adventures are best shared with friends, so I was grateful to have Kelsey along as my partner in crime.


  1. Congrats, Amy & Kelsey....that is a beautiful trail and a fast time!
    Deb and I did a double Prezi back in 2002 (I think) and my legs felt worse than any of my Hardrock finishes!
    We're moving back soon, so you'll be seeing us on the trails :-)

  2. I can't imagine a double Presi...oh boy!

    Glad you and Deb are 'coming home' - can't wait to see you both out there on the New England trails again!

  3. Just read Kristina's new blog post. Looks like she didn't aloe that FKT to last long. Lol. Hope you're well amy. Would love to join you on an adventure like this. Keep me in mind!!

  4. Darcy -

    I'll certainly keep you in mind for future adventures!

    I'm glad Kristina took down our FKT - we knew the time was soft. Really, we were claiming the FKT only because I'm frustrated that the men's FKTs are so hotly contested, yet some routes don't have a female FKT. I wanted to set the bar, in hopes that it would motivate others to beat it!