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Jeff Garmire’s New FKT on the John Muir Trail Came Down to a Desperate Final Sprint



Editor’s Observe: On August 29, Jeff Garmire set a new unsupported fastest known time for the John Muir Trail, beating Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy’s three-week-old document by a mere 12 minutes and 38 seconds. We requested him to inform his story in his personal phrases.

I had a allow to try the John Muir Trail document twice this summer season however canceled. The concept of going for the FKT scared me: I scouted it for a document try in 2019 however spent the following three years too nervous to go for it. Then, in early August, Joe McConaughy lowered the JMT unsupported document time by three hours. It turned out to be the ultimate push I wanted.

The drive to Yosemite was releasing, void of the standard pre-FKT nervousness. I used to be proud to go after a objective that scared me. It wasn’t my first time: From the Colorado Trail to the Arizona Trail, I had managed to topple FKTs by making a plan and sticking to it. However the the John Muir Path was totally different: It was shorter, quicker, and one of the crucial aggressive data on the planet. There was actual doubt, and I spent days mentally discovering the proper headspace.

At 7:33 a.m., I charged away from the terminus. The clock wouldn’t cease till I arrived on the Whitney Portal Trailhead, 223 miles away, or stop. Consistency was the core of my technique. I deliberate to cowl the identical distance each 24 hours and devour the identical energy. My goal was 72 hours, sufficient to beat the standing FKT by simply greater than an hour and a half. It labored out to a three-mile-per-hour common, together with breaks and sleep.

Ten hours later, I stood at mile 36 on Donohue Go. All the things was feeling nice. However then I finished to pee, and it burned. The colour was fallacious. Was it brown or crimson? I’m colorblind and couldn’t inform. This had by no means occurred after 40 miles, and I feared rhabdomyolysis. I used to be distraught, so I took off my backpack and sat, making an attempt to calm myself down. Once I felt extra rational, I began transferring once more.

Darkness crept in, the temperature plummeted, and I pulled out my headlamp. The break to settle down had salvaged my temper. Whereas the problem didn’t disappear, I knew I used to be in management sufficient to resolve it, or a minimum of monitor it in case it received worse. I doubled my water consumption and ran by way of the primary night time, embracing the chilly temperatures and the clear, starry night time.

The primary 24-hour phase ended on the base of Silver Go. Consistency prevailed, and 77 miles in, I nonetheless had a shot at breaking the document. Whereas my bladder points continued, they didn’t worsen.

Later, on Muir Go, my power disappeared. Evening two arrived, and I laid down on the facet of the path at 11,500 toes elevation. A five-minute timer set, I closed my eyes and handed out.

That morsel of relaxation wasn’t sufficient to rejuvenate me. I used to be nonetheless exhausted, and I knew I wanted a method, a technique to focus my thoughts. I centered on the quantity 5: 5 excessive passes remained earlier than a climb up Mt. Whitney. Pushing my physique ahead, I crested a ridge subsequent to a stone hut, and 5 passes turned 4.

In distinction to nighttime one, night time two was shaping as much as be a battle. I struggled to remain environment friendly. Once I tried to run downhill, one other wave of exhaustion hit. The solar slowly rose and introduced me contemporary power close to Palisade Lakes, however I knew it wouldn’t final. I had one other night time to go, in spite of everything.

John Muir Trail FKT
Glen Go (Photograph: Jeff Garmire)

On Mather Pass, 4 remaining passes turned three. With out pause, I ran down the switchbacks towards Pinchot Go. I used to be within the remaining stretch, with lower than 24 hours left, however the lack of sleep was crushing. I craved a nap, lastly giving in and grabbing one other temporary one by the path. However 1 / 4 mile later, I spotted my arms have been empty. In a frenzy, I ran again up the hill to my nap spot to seize my trekking poles, ten treasured minutes wasted.

I used to be shortly down to 2 excessive passes, and smiling broadly on the descent off Pinchot. My legs carried me by way of among the most stunning terrain within the nation. The solar mirrored completely off Rae Lakes, and I charged up Glen Go. Only one extra excessive go. However as night time fell, actuality set in. I used to be going to need to energy by way of yet another night time. Did I’ve it in me? One 13,120-foot go and a 14,000-foot mountain stood between me and the FKT.

At the hours of darkness, I climbed the ultimate switchbacks of Forester Go. Now, all I needed to do was climb and descend the very best level within the Decrease 48, Mt. Whitney.

I attempted to run however rolled each ankles in minutes. My head screamed, and my imaginative and prescient danced. I couldn’t focus. The graceful path appeared to bounce with each step.

The subsequent factor I knew, I used to be on the bottom, blearily opening my eyes. I had fallen asleep whereas operating. Sitting up, I attempted to summon the adrenaline I’d have to push by way of the final stretch, however my physique wouldn’t reply. So I made a scary determination: I’d take a 12-minute nap. Would it not price me? Perhaps, however I couldn’t hold going.

John Muir Trail FKT
Jeff Garmire triumphant (Photograph: Jeff Garmire)

After I awakened, I jogged to Guitar Lake and commenced the hike up Whitney in earnest. The switchbacks shortly had my coronary heart pumping. I pushed deeper into the ache cave: The rhythm of my panting was a metronome for my toes. I hiked in a trance to the highest because the first light of morning appeared. It was magical, however I didn’t have time to dwell on it: The FKT didn’t finish till the Trailhead. Out of nowhere, I fell arduous, then once more. My cellphone display cracked, however nothing mattered. I jogged on.

Over Path Crest and right down to the Portal, my legs picked up steam. The clock was operating down—I had two hours left, then one—however the path stretched on. With 45 minutes left, my nervousness skyrocketed: After three days, it will be a photograph end. My jog turned a dash. My bladder screamed, and I attempted to alleviate the discomfort, solely to finish up lined. I ran a six-minute mile, however the path stretched on. The place did this finish? Yet one more nook, and I noticed it: the trailhead signal. I ran to it, stopped my watch, and sat down. It was over.

My time: 3 days, 47 minutes, and 56 seconds. I had crushed the document by lower than 13 minutes.

The flood of feelings by no means got here; I had nothing left. For 3 years, I had nursed a objective; for 3 days, I had lived in it. Now, part of me was each fulfilled and gone.

This text first appeared in Backpacker.

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