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My first FKT

The view of LA from behind the Hollywood Sign

For those that don’t know, FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, and there is a website where you can find and track them all over the world! While they’ve been around for forever, sometimes called “course record” or “speed record”, FKTs have become more popular over the last decade. With most of 2020’s races being cancelled, runners are heading out to challenge FKTs in an effort to have something to train for. This past weekend, I joined the club.

I set out to break the Griffith Park FKT this past Saturday. The course is roughly 14.2 miles long and the time to beat was 2:36:28 set by Matthew Accornero on August 9th, 2020.

At 5am I was supposed to meet up with Katelin and Jonathan. Katelin was there to set the first female FKT for the same route, and Jonathan was just looking to get some miles in. I say I was supposed to meet up with them because Jonathan wound up seeing a random headlamp heading out onto a trail and thought it was me. When I called him 20 minutes after he said he was going to the bathroom he told me what happened and I just laughed. Katelin forgot her headlamp and my backup lamp’s batteries were dead. We were off to a solid start.

Katelin and I finally got started closer to 5:30. I quickly shifted my headspace into a race mindset and began going over the course in my head as my legs went to work on the hills. The course starts out with a gentle sustained climb for about 2 miles before a fun, fast descent just under a mile long. Naturally, because I had a goal in mind, I started to get a side stitch within the first couple of miles. Thanks LA heatwave. I tried my best to just focus on my music and the sunrise. I got through the first couple of miles and the joy of the downhill erased the cramp from my conscious.

From the bottom there are 3 separate climbs up to the Hollywood sign. The first ascent is a ridiculous, almost 20% grade incline, up an overgrown hiking trail. Fortunately, this section is only about 1/3 of a mile but it crushed my calves. The next two climbs are roughly 1/2 mile each and runnable. I reached the Hollywood sign in an hour and had 8.5 miles to go. While I ate a Split Nutrition packet, I did some quick mental math and knew that the FKT was in reach.

The next few miles went by quickly, but then my side stitch started coming back. I chewed on a salt tab, drank some water, and told myself I was fine. I banked enough time on the downhills that even if I slowed my pace by a minute per mile, I would still be able to beat the FKT. The next steepish incline I came to, I walked and did some deep Wim Hof style breathing before hitting the most crowded part of the course. I’m not sure if the breathing was more for my cramps or to build patience while I dodged people on the single track downhill, but either way it worked.

I reached the final 5k with 40 minutes to spare and my brain asked me if I wanted to coast the rest of the way. It tried to tell me that I could take it easy, not have to deal with cramps or tired legs, and still set a new record. I thought about what David Goggins or Eric Thomas would say before I smirked and told my brain “nice try bud.”

I crossed the imaginary finish line in 2:18:24, breaking the previous FKT by 18 minutes and 4 seconds. I’m stoked to have earned my first FKT, but I know I can run it faster. After my 100k attempt next weekend, I plan on going back to break my own record. Hopefully the heatwave and California wildfires will be gone by then.

Happy running and do good,

jbb

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