Fastest Known Time - Catoctin National Recreation Trail - December 23, 2018
During the past couple of years, there were so many low moments in my life and each time running came to my rescue like "911". These days FKTs are becoming a thing. From super Elite runners like Kilian Jornet & Jim Walmsley to seasoned runners everyone is trying FKTs. Trails like Appalachian Trail, John Muir Trail & Grand Canyon attracting more FKTs than ever before. On December 23, 2018, I set a new Fastest Known Time a.k.a. F.K.T. for Catoctin National Recreation Trail 26.6 miles (42.4Km) with elevation gain of more than 5000 ft plus along the eastern-most ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Frederick County, Maryland 55 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. with a timing of 05Hr:30Min:50Sec . I bettered previous record by 11 Minutes and 8 seconds which was in name of Darrel Dorsey.
Trails were supper muddy and there were many creek crossing with high fast running water which made crossing difficult. It rained last week. This year DC area has received most rain in last 125 + years of history. Whole year its raining.
Some pictures from morning before FKT attempt:
The trail is not a loop course. So it complicated the logistics especially about dropping/pick up. I do not know anyone who can help me with this. Until late night, before my attempt, I was not sure and decided that I will park my car at south trailhead and drop my bike at north end. I decided that I will get back to my car after I finish run on bike which was about 14 miles and it might take 1hr:45 minutes on hilly country roads. I don't know how but before I go to bed, I decided to check whether I can use Uber? To my utter surprise, Uber was available in those backcountry mountain area with a wait time of about 12-15 minutes. Dang. It solved my all the logistical problem. I parked my car at North trailhead near Mt Zion United Methodist Church which can be seen in below image.
I ordered Uber ride and the old white man "Richard"came in a truck to pick me up in 11 minutes. We drove to Gambrill State Park. During the ride, Richard told me that he never been to Gambrill State Park although he lives in nearby area. He also remembered that his daughter was married nearby. After reaching Gambrill State Park, I did some stretching and warm up. After checking-in with my wife Nirma over Facebook messenger video call, I started my FKT attempt at 11:01 AM. The night before my attempt, I was explaining my FKT plans to Nirma. She asked me that how long it was and how much time it will take for me to complete? I was like hmmmm, its 26.6 miles (42.4km) and recently one guy has done it in 5hr:41min:57 seconds. I told her that my body was feeling okay although I did a hard workout in the morning (on Saturday) which I could have avoided. I planned this FKT on Saturday within few hours without any preparation. I told her that my aim is to finish it in 05 Hr:30 Minutes. Portions of this trail were originally designed and constructed by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. The trail surface is soil and rock with an average grade of 6 degrees. It is rated as 'HARD' by www.alltrails.com. You can read more about Catoctin National Recreation Trail and its history here at park's official website:
First mile of Catoctin Trail has downhill and uphill both with lots of rocks and stones which I finished in 10:31 min. I studied the per mile splits of the guy who set earlier record. I was about 4 minutes faster. In about first four miles elevation gain was more than 1150ft+, if I remember correctly. I finished 15+ miles stretch upto Cunningham Falls State Park in 02hr40 minutes and I was hoping to be done it under 5 hours. Came mile 16 and next two miles were grueling uphill climbing which took a toll on me. I almost died in those miles with about 1000ft vert. See my dead face in below image:
I started gathering my strength back after deadly climb. I ran/jog upto mile 20.5. Mile 21 saw a decent climb and many creek crossing with wet slippery trail. Next two miles were also uphill with about 400 ft vert. From here, horse trail started which were not in good shape for running as it is used by horses only. By this time, I gave up my dream of setting FKT and just decided to jog/walk. Mile 25th saw 100+ft climb. I just walking/jog for a minute and walk again. Trying to catch my breath. I forgotten about setting FKT and just wanted to reach to my car in whatever time it takes. It was little downhill and I saw some open space and it gave me some idea that where I was. I got some new energy as I was just about .10 miles from finish. I ran harder with whatever I left in my tank. I reached to north trail head in 05hr:30min:50 seconds. Just 50 seconds shy of what I told my wife. I was feeling dizzy and I put my hands on my car and cried for next few seconds. NO MEDAL, NO AWARD, sun was almost set, no one was waiting for you at the finish. It was just me and my dream. I set a new FKT by 11+ minutes. I lay down and after catching my sense/breath, I took some photos which I was supposed to submit to FKT Team. I was king of the Catoctin Trail and Catoctin Mountain until someone comes and breaks it. Thanks GOD for giving me the strength during those very low moments. It was a great adventure which I will cherish for a long period of time.
A review on hikingproject: This trail is grueling, if nothing else. It winds its way through the wilderness, across mountains and streams. Be aware that this crosses many creeks, which if there has been rain, are overflowing. The center section south of White Rocks lack good blazes, especially at intersections. Do not attempt this trail if you are a beginner. It is a very difficult trail physically. Oct 1, 2018
Some other reviews: fun, but if you not into difficult trails this ones not for you. Awsome ride but has a fairly hard rock garden and lots of everying obsticals. Not a place for beginners unless you love bleeding.
Don't try this unless you're prepared to break bike parts/yourself. Bring lots of food and water.
Punishing. I don't know whether to love these trails or hate them. I have never ridden such rocky, jagged, hilly, unforgiving trails in my life. I found myself swearing more than smiling, and had to pull out the wrench to keep my pivot bolts from falling out. That and I now need a new set of chainrings.
If you want a sick greuling ride and like being beaten, then this is five out of five. If not, better to hike it than bike it. You would be hiking more than half of it anyway. For someone used to more racelike fast singletrack, this is not so fun.
I agree with all the above reviews.