JMT speed record attempt
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Jul 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm #1237973
During the past 4 weekends I have hiked 90% of the JMT. Based on those outings and other time trials I have officially decided to try and break the unsupported record. I will head to the Sierras this weekend to start acclimating and plan to start hiking midweek-ish. I hope to finish no later than Sunday night. I'm aware that many record attempts may be starting the following week (presumably to take advantage of the August full moon). If I am fortunate enough to break the record I'll try to post it as soon as possible for those quickly following my attempt. I expect to be in a pretty sad state at Happy Isles (if I make it) so it may be as late as Tuesday before I return home and am able to post my time.
Given no one here knows who I am (first post!) here's a link to a trip report to give you all an idea of the preparation that has gone into this record attempt.
Thanks to all the previous record holders and attempts! I have studied each one closely and learned so much from all of them. The probability of a successful hike would certainly be ~0 if if it weren't for the past attempts and accounts guiding me in this effort.
Wish me luck!
BrettJul 23, 2009 at 9:54 am #1515899
Best of luck to you !
Could you do us all a favor and clock yourself both from Whitney Portal and from Whitney Summit.Jul 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm #1516106
I'm aware of the current bifurcation in the supported/unsupported record starting points. It's an unfortunate situation with no likely resolution in the near future. People seem pretty passionate on both sides. Below are my 2 cents (or maybe a nickel!) on the matter. This isn't meant as a direct response to your comments but rather are my thoughts on the 'JMT starting point debate' in general. In short my opinion is that until there is a resolution, each record seeker should decide for himself/herself where to start based on their own motivations and potential future consequences.
Well, I wasn’t planning on getting involved in The Great Debate but given the setup and the fact I am about to consume a week’s vacation and put myself through unimaginable hell for a few days for a JMT record, I’ve decided to give my two cents on THE issue.
Somehow around the beginning of the year I stumbled upon a trip report for one of the JMT record attempts. At the time, I was completely clueless regarding the bureaucracy surrounding such things. I didn’t know the difference between supported, unsupported, etc. I inevitably came across The Great Debate—essentially being that the unsupported record seekers claim the southern JMT terminus is Mount Whitney whereas the supported seekers believe it to be Whitney Portal (or at least choose to start the clock there). When I decided to start training for an attempt I was unbiased. I had no vested interest in the debate. I didn’t feel the need to invoke the spirit of John Muir one way or the other. If I were going to commit the enormous time and effort in a record attempt I wanted to know the truth. After investigating the issue it became pretty clear to me that the southern terminus is indeed Mount Whitney and the supported record crowd likely chose to start the clock at Whitney Portal out of logistical convenience (and perhaps due to historical precedent as well). The trail is what it is. FKT JMT is unambiguous and does not change to suit the needs of record seekers.
I was not planning on divulging this, but on my upcoming unsupported attempt I intend to start at Whitney Portal. I feel the benefits of the challenge to beat the supported record being unsupported (I’m not saying I think I can do this!) surpasses the marginal increase in probability of not beating the unsupported record by starting at the Portal. I choose to do this knowing it will hurt my time on the JMT portion itself. I am doing this because my primary objective is to beat all existing records. I have been training for about 6 months and have never done an ultra (though my recon hikes were effectively ultras I suppose). Therefore, I know whatever time I get, I will have the capability to beat it by a fair margin with more training and experience in the future. If in the future my objective is to obtain my fastest conceivable time–even supported–I may not start at the Portal.
I am not interested in convincing anyone where to start their record attempt—all the information regarding the subject is available for people to decide for themselves–but there is one point I would like to make which is geared towards future record seekers. At some point in the future the supported record will fall to the point that the difference between starting at the Portal and the summit becomes significant. When this occurs it is inevitable that someone will do a supported attempt starting at the summit and break the Whitney-Happy Isles time. This will invariably put a cloud over the existing “supported record holder” and to the true FKT. Future supported record seekers should be aware of this eventuality.
Each JMT record seeker has their own reasons why they willingly put themselves through such pain. Some think records are only records if they are recognized by the relevant community. Others could not care less if anyone recognizes their record. Personal satisfaction is sufficient. I fall in the latter camp. Personally, if I’m ever in a situation to contend the FKT JMT and I think that starting at the Portal could jeopardize my chances of beating the existing record—or if I am trying to achieve my absolute best time, I will sit on the summit of Whitney for 2 weeks acclimating and go from there.
There are currently two worlds. One thinks FKT JMT is measured from the Portal and the other believes from the summit of Whitney. The competitors must choose which world to inhabit and be content with the consequences of their choice. Nothing else matters.Jul 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm #1516115
Holey Moley that's a lot to digest.Jul 24, 2009 at 9:33 am #1516191
I didn't mean to overwhelm you with my response. I just wanted to state my thoughts on the matter to the community once and for all and be done with it. It's funny, when I first encountered the debate I thought it was a bit silly. Inevitably though you are forced to take it quite seriously if you are willing to put yourself through the effort of breaking one of these records. You have to care.
Personally, I view the unsupported record as starting from the summit, the supported record by convention starting from the Portal, and the FKT JMT effectively a subset of the supported record.
Thanks for mentioning Catra's efforts. I wasn't aware of it. There may be a chance we will cross paths.
Oh, and if by any chance a record gets broken in the next week. Please post it here so I know what it is while acclimating and hiking!
BrettJul 31, 2009 at 9:08 pm #1518053
Well here is my nickel from someone who made an attempt at the Unsupported Record.
The John muir Trail is from Yosemite to Whitney.
since we agree with that, here are some current stipulations.
Since the ultra running crowd deemed it necessary to start at the portal, a change hasn't been made due to the fact you made about the time that could be gained when you didn't have to gain 6,000' before you started.
When and if everything settles and Michael Popov "If" he has both records would like to propose that the clock gets started for both at the summit of Whitney.
However, since it is not fair that he had to make that extra effort to get to the top, he would like the chance to break his own record the next year from the time at the top and starting from the top and have that be the "Official Record".
If it it proposed and agreed upon, then I'm sure others could go for the record next year before him starting the time from the top.
If they were to beat his time from the top and he was not able to beat there’s, then that person would have the record.
Yes, it is a lot to digest.
I hate when people think that any 125 mile a week runner can do this and break the record easily.
It is a whole new game when you get into day 3 without much sleep. You can be a top 1% runner and it doesn't make any difference until you do it.
You also have to like this crazy stuff we do.
I am not fast and Trail running 50k's to 100 milers is not my cup of tea.
However, I can go head to head with the best multiday runners in the world on a course I like and do very well because the battle is what it is all about for me.
Primal Quest for 10 days and 17 hours of sleep, heck yeah.
3rd place at Across the Years 72 hours race with 233 miles, (beating Michael Popov) now we're talking.
The closest thing to the above are these multi-day records.
Since I am not well built and hate the weight, it hasn't been good to me.
I am 0 and 2 with my record attempts, (JMT Unsupported in 2007 and TRT Unsupported this year).
Then again, Michal can just blow me away with a 15 pound pack on.
I will keep trying because it is just what I like to do.
I like the fact that you just want to see what you've got and get the best time "YOU" can.
That is really what it is all about.
even though there is a record out there, it may never belong to me, but it is just what I like to do.
I will be out there crewing and pacing Michael Popov.
He is starting Monday night, or (really the 4th Tuesday at 12:00am).
This means he will be done on Friday.
I will be seeing him at the end of day 2 on Wednesday night.
I hope you are able to update the time by then.
I am sure he would really like to know what happens with you.
Best of luck out there.
He was really moving during his Unsupported Record Attempt.
I passed him into the first night just before Glen Pass and once he passed me back, I never even caught a glimpse of him again.
What ever you do, be happy that you made the effort to do it. The trail will still be there. It still lingers over me, and I can still hear the call.Aug 3, 2009 at 8:13 pm #1518534
Just a quick note for now. I want to get this out ASAP. I, uh…failed. I bonked hard core on the first day and couldn't recover. I will post the details of the fiasco soon. I would very much appreciate any advice from the community to help me fix my diet. I really would like to give this another shot this year.
Aaron, tell Michael I wish him the best, but that doesn't mean he can go ahead and crush the record (yet) :)Aug 3, 2009 at 10:09 pm #1518557
This post describes my presumed mega-bonk during the recent JMT record attempt. I’ll try to get the (short) trip report up tomorrow. Again, I would greatly appreciate any advice from the community to fix my racing diet. Unfortunately the only way to completely test a diet is to do the actual hike, but if I’m going to try this record attempt again I want to be as sure as possible at least the diet will work.
I originally was going to do a Perpetuem diet as advocated by Mark Davis. I eventually dismissed this after a few test hikes. I thought the powder mixing took too long and I didn’t like using water bottles on the sides of my pack (I never tried to mix the powder in a camel bag). So I switched to hammer gel. The gel worked great. I never had a problem with it and used it for all of my long JMT recon hikes, but it was really heavy! I realized too late that it was only ~2.5 cal/g instead of ~4 I expected. I guess Hammer adds a lot of water to the Maltodextrin. With ~20k cal of the gel my pack weighed nearly 30 lbs. After conducting all of my recon hikes with this heavy pack I decided to switch to an untested diet consisting of 20% gel and 80% snickers (injesting ~260 cal/hr) for the actual record attempt to reduce weight. I thought I would be safe with this fat/carb mix but apparently I wasn’t. After ~16 hours/55 miles of hiking on the first day I think I had a major bonk near Pinchot Pass.
In retrospect I’m guessing the fat components of the ~10 snicker bars I had up until that time were slowly accumulating in my stomach partially digested, inhibiting digestion of the carbs. When I bonked (I didn’t realize it was a bonk at the time) I injested gel and another snickers but it had no effect. I was dead in the water. I could barely move uphill. The sun was setting so I decided to take a 3 hour nap. When I awoke I had more gel and snickers but still had zero energy. I waited another 30 min with no improvement and knew it was over at that point. I awoke the next morning again with no improvement. I inched my way up towards Pinchot Pass and finally started regaining energy around noon. The ‘bonk’ lasted ~16 hours after which I was completely fine! Was this really a bonk? Can the snickers cause the bonk to last this long? I’ve only ever bonked while cycling prior to this and recovery from that was pretty quick. I’m not sure it was a bonk but don’t know what else it could have been…
Ok, now for the proposed solution. So I’m thinking of using simply Maltodextrin (4 cal/g)—the sugar used in Hammer gel and Perpetuem as my primary energy source. I’m not sure how much I should consume though. Others on these forums claim that only about 250 cal/hr can be digested during intense exercise. On the first day of the JMT I may burn nearly 20k calories but would only consume 6k in Maltodextrin. Can I really make up the difference by metabolizing fat? That seems like an insane caloric shortfall. I’m concerned I would be setting myself up for another bonk even if I consume only carbs.
So I guess in summary:
Is it likely the ~10 snickers bars caused an extended bonk lasting 16 hours?
Can I live primarily on Maltodextrin—consuming 250 cal/hr while burning ~20k cal per day? Can I consume more than 250 cal/hr?
Has anyone tried corn syrup as an energy source?
I’m also trying to devise a way to easily injest the Maltodextrin powder without the inconvenience of mixing it with water. I’m thinking of trying to solidify/mold chunks by dissolving it in water and then drying it or maybe even pressing it into ‘cookies’. I’m not sure if these will work. Any suggestions?
I would greatly appreciate any help in this matter. I need to get this solved before the next attempt!
BrettAug 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm #1518561Ashley BrownMember
Is it likely the ~10 snickers bars caused an extended bonk lasting 16 hours?
LOL. In Australia, the words "bonk" and "bonking" are in common usage. However I'm guessing they mean something different in the US, because over here 'bonking' means having sex!
So, as I read it, you spent 16 hours on the trail having sex and are blaming it on snickers bars. Too funny! =-)Aug 3, 2009 at 10:35 pm #1518564twig .BPL Member
Sounds great!Aug 3, 2009 at 10:57 pm #1518566
nice try, there's always next time.Aug 3, 2009 at 11:07 pm #1518568
I couldn't help you with the food matter.
After a day of running I have a horrible time eating on the go.
I also use Perpetuim, jels and snikers for calories.
I go for about 40% with the perpetium, just so I don't have to stop and eat all the time.
I used it for 10 days of Primal Quest in Moab and it worked just fine.
I agree with the calorie density though, not good at all.
The only thing I can remotely suggest what happened is if your body depleted its self of either potassium or sodium.
I have had a problem with the potassium during my 72-hour race. I knew it would be a problem so I was eating plenty of bananas and oranges.
Turned out it was way too much fruit and I took about 15+ trips to the john over the next 12 or so hours.
This made a really lousy second day for me.
When I visited medical, he recognized right off the bat that I was very low on potassium and said I needed to lay off the fruit and take potassium pills.
My legs and even the rest of my body had some serious shacking action going on when I was at rest.
I recovered after about 2 hours and made a great come-back after that.
As far as sodium goes, with the speed you were pushing, it would seem like the likely cause.
I wouldn't blame it on the calories or any particular food other than not selection something with more sodium.
If you depleted you body while you were pushing that fast, and with the heat, I could easily see the bonking happen for the time period it did with you.
Especially if you did not immediately notice it and try to recover it would only keep getting worse.
Even when you stop, you body is so wound up, that you will just continue to go down hill for many hours.
Sometimes, if if you don't loose that much weight after a very hard, long race, it may just be because you hydrated well and it is just water weight.
2 days later, with your body still on over-drive, you may have lost another several pounds.
If you read the prior JMT attempt stories, someone mentions that over the next few days they were so hot they couldn't sleep without sweating puddles.
In the end, a lack of sodium will make you fell exhausted and depleted of energy. The heat you were in can magnitude that immensely.
So my suggestion is just more sodium and potassium, as well as some amino acids thrown in.Aug 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm #1518743
Thanks for everyone's input.
What's really frustrating about my 'bonk' or whatever it was is that I had no problems on my recon hikes. My 4 recon hikes generally consisted of a ~50 mile day followed by 30 +- 10 mile day. I had no nutritional problems and I was consuming entirely hammer gel. My recon hikes were conducted at a ~3.5 day JMT pace. For the actual attempt I planned (and did) go about ~10% faster. I was acclimated though so the effective increase in effort was less. The longest recon hike weekend was 92 miles and I had no serious problems (the balls of my feet were beginning to hurt though).
Based on my recon hikes it seems my problem was most likely the change in diet (snickers!) and probably not something like an electrolyte imbalance. Although I was going faster I felt I wasn't overly stressing myself. I don't think temps were a problem either. It was still cool going up Forester pass and I had a nice cold light rain going up Glen.
Ugh, I feel like I will be flying blind on the next attempt. I guess this is where experience really counts. Everyone needs to find the diet/supplements which work for them.
So what do people think about 80% Maltodextrin and 20% snickers (for some fat and protein)? how about 300 cal/hr? or more?
BrettAug 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm #1518745Brad FisherSpectator
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
I would highly recommend going to the Hammer web site and downloading the fueling handbook.pdf. It's free and probably the best book that I have ever read concerning nutrition.
I'm using the products as I prepare for a marathon later this fall and I tested it recently on a two day 40 mile hike. Worked great for me. I use HEED, perpetum, gels and electrolyte capsules.
Even if you don't use the products the handbook will give you an understanding of what and how your body reacts to endurance sports.Aug 4, 2009 at 7:36 pm #1518776AnonymousInactive
"I originally was going to do a Perpetuem diet as advocated by Mark Davis. I eventually dismissed this after a few test hikes. I thought the powder mixing took too long and I didn’t like using water bottles on the sides of my pack (I never tried to mix the powder in a camel bag)."
If you can get over you dislike of a bottle on the side of your pack, you might try a technique that Hammer recommends: Mix the powder with just enough water to form a paste and them slurp out a mouthful and dilute to proper strength by drinking from your bladder. If you do it this way, and use perhaps a quart gatorade bottle, you can reduce the number of times you have to stop and mix to maybe 3-4/long day. You can get a lot of Perpetuem in a quart bottle by adding just enough water to make a thick slurry. The good thing about Perpeturem is that it also contains protein and fat. Another powder to maybe take a look at is Ultragen. It contains glucose, whey protein, some BCA's, and a full complement of vitamins and electrolytes. Ultragen is meant to be a recovery drink, but the glucose gets where it needs to go very quickly and makes an excellent "bonk" antodote. It could easily be used on the move in an ultra event such as the JMT record. It might be worth experimenting with a combination of these two on some long back to back days during training. They both supply a lot of carbs and Ultragen, in particular, has a good healthy dose of protein in the form of whey protein.
You should also have some body fat to supply energy. It doesn't require any digesting and would bypass any stomach problems that might result from trying to digest fat rich foods on the move. Best of luck next time!
My 2 cents.Aug 4, 2009 at 10:46 pm #1518809
Good going on your JMT attempt. It has to be one of the hardest race courses in the world. All those rocks!! I am glad to read that you will try again.
Well, I too started an unsupported JMT attempt on Aug 2 at 0600 from the summit of Mt Whitney and ended my attempt at the Woods Creek Bridge. After I developed bad cramps in my legs going up Glen Pass I determined that the best thing to do was to take a left turn and hike down to Roads End. I knew that my leg cramps would not be relieved soon and that my attempt was toast. My average speed at that point was 3.2 mph. Art's comment on speed may be applicable. I am not an ultra runner and it may have been better for me to have finessed my way to Yosemite. Last year I listened to my body more and stopped when I felt it was right. This year I trained with longer runs and then gave myself a set plan on the trail. I wanted to be at Lake Marjorie by 2400.
I used the Hammer stuff again (No they still don't pay me and after this bailout I'm not even holding out for a free shaker bottle). I do use the perpetuem because it is much lighter than the gel, which has water in it. My pack weight at the start was 12 lbs and I had about 16k cals. It was a great pack to run with. I used a 1L bottle and a shaker ball stored in my pack with a hands free tube to drink from. It worked well, but I wish I also had my filter bottle to drink water freely from every stream. I do treat my water because I don't want to get sick. That could be seriously dangerous in the weakened condition that a JMT attempt creates.
On the bright side, I did meet Michael Popov at Trail Camp. He should be running for Yosemite right now with the help of his support team. He is very friendly and I wish him the best luck on his attempt. Also, the night on the summit of Whitney was fantastic.
PS: Thanks for providing this thread to post onAug 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm #1518817Jack H.Member
@foundLocale: Sacramento, CA
Hopefully all these attempts are done by thursday night. They're calling for quite a storm out there.Aug 4, 2009 at 11:05 pm #1518818
So is there a next time for you as well?
I know that if Michael and/ or Kilian don't take much time off the Supported record, I'll give it a go.
All those rocks with the weight do not go hand in hand with running. It becomes more of the fastest hiking pace you can go.
Take that weight off and I'll be sooooooo much happier.
Thank you for the update.
I'll be heading up there Wednesday night to help Michael out.
I also found out that his other pacer will not be able to run with him, so it will be the 2 of us from Reds Meadow to Yosimte.
Oh yeah, 57 miles in 18 hours. I can't wait.
I plan on helping Michael out as much as possible throught the night, taking as much weight and basicaly draining myself over the time so that by the time first light comes, I may be spent and have to have him go ahead, but in the end, as long as it gets him there faster it will all be worth it.Aug 5, 2009 at 8:35 am #1518869
I will be in Yosemite staying with a friend in Wawona on Friday. I gave Michael my cell phone number at Trail Camp. If your support crew has it call me when you have an idea of a finish time or if you need some shuttle help or even some supplies brough up. I would be glad to do what ever I can to help. Good luck and I hope the WX is not a problem.Aug 5, 2009 at 8:39 am #1518870jonathan lorenzMember
@punktureLocale: Northern California
wheres the best place to get weather forecasts for the jmt?Aug 5, 2009 at 9:01 am #1518877
Great effort, sorry it did not work out.Aug 5, 2009 at 9:03 am #1518879Peter BakwinBPL Member
Brett, It isn't correct to call what you experienced a bonk (even in american English). A bonk results from depletion of you glycogen stores, and will be immediately corrected by ingestion of sugar. So, electrolyte or other imbalances are the likely cause.
Good discussions. I'm in the "record starts at the Portal" camp. It's car-to-car.
PBAug 5, 2009 at 9:09 am #1518880
The National Weather Service web site is the best place to get weather info.Aug 5, 2009 at 10:49 am #1518907
I didn't know you were on dark side.
So what is it about car to car?
Since it all started pretty much with you, you are the perfect person to ask.
Since it is supported any way, you can always have help getting acclimatized before you head out.
I completely understand the car to car thing, but it is not the JMT.
It is the JMT plus the trip from the Portal.
Again, not the JMT.
So if you were going for the JMT record, then shouldn't it be the JMT you are doing and not any additional mileage?
I would just like to know your opinion on this.
By the way, Michael Popov is on his 2nd day.
He left 45 minutes behind his 75:45 schedule.
He only got about 1 1/2 hours of sleep before his 12:00am start, so it's as good as expected.
I am heading off now to help him tonight.Aug 5, 2009 at 11:24 am #1518915
Mark–sorry to hear about the cramps, but if they were going to strike I guess it's better sooner than later (at least that's how I felt about my meltdown).
A lot of good posts. I'll write more tonight and finally try to get my abbreviated TR done. I've been busy ordering stuff (shoes, 50 lb bag of Maltodextrin, etc.) for the second attempt.
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