Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Triple Crown FKT - March 16th, 2015

When a guy like Nickademus Hollon make a plan for a run you know for a fact that it's going to be a long and intense day (and "only" one day, if you're lucky...). I was beyond excited when we started talking about the Triple Crown FKT attempt, although the timing with training wasn't perfect, I just couldn't pass on the opportunity to share the trails with such an hardcore athlete.

Mt. San Gorgonio (11,505ft)

The "TRIPLE CROWN" is a challenge that brings runners and hikers to climb the 3 highest peaks in Southern California: Mt. San Gorgonio (11.505ft), Mt. San Jacinto (10.834ft) and Mt. Baldy (10.064ft), consequently and all in one day. Although these mountains offer several trail options to reach the summit the FKT (Fastest Known Time) we wanted to go for consisted in running from the very bottom to the top and back of each mountain through their hardest routes.
Mt. San Jacinto (10.834ft)

Mt. Baldy (10.064ft)

The date was set only a few days prior and on Sunday, March 15th we met in Palm Springs, CA where my friend from Grand2Grand, James Garner and his lovely wife Juanita, offered us to stay at their home for the night.
Their hospitality extended far beyond and after all the packing pre-run was done we enjoyed a delicious typical Mexican dinner and shared lots of stories and laughter together.

The Plan: Start with Jacinto, then drive to Gorgonio leaving Baldy as last.

- Cactus to Clouds ---> 14 miles to the top and 14 miles back down, with 11.000ft of +/- Elevation

- Vivian Creek ---> 7 miles to the top and 7 miles back down, with 6.000ft of +/- Elevation

- Bear Canyon ---> 6 miles to the top and 6 miles back down, with 6.000ft of +/- Elevation

4:45am: Wake up call.
After a quick last minute gear check I slip in my ALTRA Lone Peak 2.0 and by 5:30am we got to Cactus to Clouds Trail Head. The air was still, the temperature was already warm and there was not a soul in sight as we moved the first steps upward. We set off on a comfortable but steady pace as we tackled the first section (and most technical) of this ascent. 8.5 miles to the Tram Cable House and over 8.500ft of Elevation gain...
A beautiful sunrise lit up the sky and the desert floor helped us switch the focus on the daunting task ahead, even for just a few brief moments.
We reached the Tram House in 2:46minutes (with a 2:50 target) and that immediately translated into a big confidence boost... the day was going to be a fun one. On the last 5.5 miles we encountered lots of snow and icy patches that inevitably slowed the pace down, nevertheless we summited in just 4:08minutes, leaving about 12 minutes to spare off the previous record.

Our main goal was to "save the legs" and try to be conservative so we set out on a good cruising effort without bombing the downhill, especially in the last 8 miles section with an impressive quad busting incline. The temperature was very comfortable up to the final stretch descending into Palm Springs. To make things more fun, the last 3 miles I ran out of water and with a high of 96F I knew it meant trouble, but didn't say anything to Nick cause I knew he was running low of liquids too. I started feeling sick and dizzy, and then more sick. Once we got to the car I could barely stand and felt almost unconscious to the point that I seriously doubted I was going to make the other 2 remaining peaks. 

An icy gallon of water sometimes can do miracles and indeed it did, in just a few short minutes we were driving off Highway 10 Gorgonio bound. While I was on the wheel, Nick was able to get us some rice, fruit, mixed nuts, etc. to eat and take advantage of that driving break to stomach some solid food, although my nutrition during the run was spot on with my HAMMER Gels and PERPETUEM.

Gorgonio Trail Head - I was dreading leg pain and stomach issues while reaching the Parking lot at the bottom of the mountain but I felt as magically recharged, for some reason, and we set out going up the river at an impressive cadence. I kept on telling Nick that perhaps this was my favorite trail in SoCal, cause some sections of it reminded me of the Alps and the deep wood smell is something I look forward to when running up there.

Time went by fast simply cause we were having a blast... only the last couple of miles were a touch frustrating cause of the snow situation. No doubt it was very slow going to the top so there was no time to spare. We snapped a shot and then charged right back down. Looking at Brett Maune's splits I knew this was the time to push the pace and create some gap. So we did setting into a fast clip flying down the mountain.

When we got back to the car I was very positive and hopeful for Baldy.
Our lead at that point had gone up to 45 minutes and Bear Canyon was the only thing in between us and the FKT record.

We got to Baldy Village at around 7pm. The sun had already set behind the ridge but the sky was still very bright. I envisioned that moment all day long and there we finally were. It felt good, although in some pain I was happy, truly happy. During the time off in the fall and winter I had missed that feeling of simplicity and rawness that comes with these type of adventures. The climb up Bear Canyon brought me right back to reality and as the dark was creeping up on us and the steep ascent we both started feeling the weight of the miles. We reached the summit in just over 2:25 with darkness all around and a frozen wind blowing hard against us. The best part was when I realized that I was shivering with my thermal sweater on while Nick was "chilling" in his tank top!

A quick picture and off we were, once again and for the final stretch of our journey.
6.5 miles and about 6.oooft of descending remaining. After running the other 2 mountains earlier in the day made this downhill a grinder. We both took turns and pushed each other when at our lowest. It was tough, no doubt, but I was again thankful for the incredible experience.
We tapped the trail head sign at 11:15pm and we were officially (or at least on our watch) done!

Here's our FKT timeline:

- Start: 5:31am

Grubb's Notch: 2:46:45
Top of Jacinto: 4:08:10
Palm Springs: 6:49:48
Vivian Creek TH: 8:01:05
San Gorgonio Summit: 10:45:36
Vivian Creek TH: 12:11:24
Bear Flats TH: 13:44:39
Mount Baldy Summit: 16:10:05
Bear Flats TH: 17:44:17

- Finish at 11:15:25pm after 17:44:17
(15:16 total running time ---> 55 miles and 23.oooft of +/- Elevation)

Thanks to my sponsors for the great support and for sharing the passion:

On to the next adventure, see you out there!