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JMT speed record attempt
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Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: JMT Attempt - Mark on 08/05/2009 10:01:03 MDT Print View

Great effort, sorry it did not work out.

Edited by asandh on 07/13/2010 01:11:10 MDT.

Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
Re: JMT speed record attempt on 08/05/2009 10:03:23 MDT Print View

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.


Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
WX on 08/05/2009 10:09:58 MDT Print View

The National Weather Service web site is the best place to get weather info.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: JMT speed record attempt on 08/05/2009 11:49:55 MDT Print View

Oh Peter,
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.

Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
JMT speed record attempt on 08/05/2009 12:24:09 MDT Print View

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.


Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
Re: JMT speed record attempt on 08/05/2009 20:23:00 MDT Print View

The jmt is arbitrary, but the route is not. John Muir hisself has nothing to do with it. Car-to-car is what makes sense. Hanging out on the summit before the start doesn't make sense.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: JMT speed record attempt on 08/05/2009 21:32:30 MDT Print View

Since the official JMT runs from the summit to the portal, why is there even a debate over what the official record would be? Adding on extra beyond the official trail is arbitrary.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: JMT speed record Summit v.s. Portal on 08/06/2009 00:00:14 MDT Print View

1. Arbitrary :
I agree with Peter, the JMT is just an arbitrary course established by government bureacrats after John Muirs Death. The JMT is not even its own trail for much of the way, forced to share footsteps with the PCT. Everyone who does the JMT starts from or finishes at the Portal, they don't get a helicopter ride to the summit. John Muir himself would probably laugh at the idea of a summit start, asking "how do I get there to begin?".

2. Respect for the wilderness :
The Whitney Zone is a very sensitive over used environment. Out of respect to the land we race on, we should spend as little time there as possible.
Out of respect for the wilderness in general we should attempt to race on her terms not ours. Alpinists do things "car to car". This means the adventure starts when they leave the civilization of the paved road, and ends when they return to the paved road. Respect for the spirit of backcountry adventure implies a "car to car" race course.

Edited by asandh on 08/08/2009 10:16:16 MDT.

Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
Failed JMT record attempt TR on 08/06/2009 00:55:16 MDT Print View

Here’s my trip report for the short unsupported JMT record attempt.

Problems began before I even started hiking. Although I spent considerable time planning the hike I spent no time planning acclimation. I camped in the Horseshoe Meadow area for the 3.5 days prior to the hike. I did not bring a tent and slept in my bivy sack. This really sucked and was uncomfortable. I also had no hope of altering my sleep schedule for the early morning start (I still don’t know how this could realistically be done in the wilderness). I awoke at midnight Wednesday morning with maybe an hour worth of sleep and started driving to the Portal. I was quite upset that I was starting the hike sleep deprived and estimated it would cost me 4 hours—and perhaps a lot more. Lessons learned.

I got to the trailhead about 1:10 AM and there was already a party forming. I enthusiastically headed toward the scale for the traditional pack weighing. I had done all my recon hikes with ~17k calories worth of heavy hammer gel and another ~2k worth of Perpetuem and estimated my pack weighed 28 lbs (pack contents discussed later). At the last minute I decided to swap 14k of those calories for denser snickers bars to save weight and added another 2k in nice fatty salty sausage. Now I was ready to see the fruits of my nutrition reconfiguration—27 lbs! I was quite depressed. I was expecting to see 25…ok strike 2…

I started hiking at 1:15 AM Wed. and sought to match Sue Johnston’s time of 4:09 to the summit but no faster (as this wasn’t part of the JMT right everyone? ;)). My stomach soon cramped—I gorged myself just before starting with chocolate chip cookies and hammer gel. I lost a lot of weight during the recon hikes and I doubt I had more than 5 lbs of body fat left to burn. I assumed I would be metabolizing muscle before the end and I figured consuming 1k calories now meant 1k calories worth of muscle saved. So I slowed a bit and the cramps went away. As I ascended Whitney the cooler temps encouraged me to go faster. If I’m not sweating it’s hard for me to hold myself back and inevitably I kept accelerating the higher I went and reached the summit in 3:50. Way faster than I wanted. I then spent 10 min unsuccessfully trying to call my wife from the summit (what the hell?!?), signed the register (first entry on 7/29) after nearly missing it, and left the summit at 5:17 AM.

I ran down towards guitar lake as the sun rose and made excellent time over this stretch. I refilled my 3L camel bag for the first time below guitar lake and planned to do so every 4-6 hours depending on temperature. Once I finished the quick descent down to the Crabtree Meadow junction I knew the real work was just beginning and I resolved to never relax over the remaining 200 miles. I was determined to push it all the way. Soon I became ravenously hungry. I was consuming a snickers every hour starting at guitar lake but they did nothing to quench the hunger (perhaps they weren’t being digested? Hmm…). The temptation to devour a handful of snickers was overwhelming but I resisted. I was bringing ~21k calories and felt I needed every calorie to make it to Yosemite. I felt I needed to stick to the rationing plan at all costs so as to not run out of food short of the finish and crash. In other words this was managed starvation. Anyway I eventually made it to Forester Pass in 5:47 (7 min ahead of schedule).
The section between Forester and Glen was fairly uneventful. I had a nice cold light rain during the initial steep rise out of the valley (I don’t remember that portion being so steep on the recon hike!) and nice cooling cloud cover for most of the remaining portion up to the pass. I began getting sleepy but felt I could still easily make it past Mather before sleeping the first time. I made it to Glen Pass in 3:37 (3 min ahead of schedule). The descent down to Woods Creek was uneventful. I did not run as much of the rocky sections as I could have and arrived at the bridge in 2:27 (27 min behind schedule—though I don’t think my 2:00 est. is practical).

At this point I did ~52 miles in 15:53 essentially exactly as I projected and felt pretty good, with no indications of the coming meltdown a few miles up the trail. Just below the plateau leading to Pinchot Pass I began getting tired. Within 10 minutes I could barely move. One step sent my pulse racing. I had no idea what was happening. When I stopped I felt sick, so I had to keep going. I consumed gel and snickers but they had no effect. I eventually stopped and decided to try and sleep and hope the problem would magically disappear in 4 hours. I awoke in 3 hours and ate more snickers and sausage. No improvement. I sat on a rock for 30 min and again with no improvement went to sleep with no alarm set. I awoke at dawn and still had no energy. I painfully slowly inched myself towards Pinchot Pass to exit via Taboose Pass and then hitch hike back to the car. Near the Taboose Pass trail junction I began feeling better. I was still in contention to break Popov’s record but I was hoping to do much better and had no desire to continue. Besides, at this point I still had no idea what was wrong.

By the time I got to Taboose Pass I was cured. My attention shifted to getting back to my car. I asked people as they were coming up how far ahead was the last group going down. I knew this was not a popular trail and was worried there would be no one to give me a ride back to my car—or at least to the 395. A guy I met near the pass said there was a group about an hour ahead. So…I started running down. 30 min pass and I meet another group and they say the same thing—another hour ahead. I run faster. About 30 min later the same story. “Crap, I might not catch them” I think to myself. Now I’m flying down the trail kamikaze style. I’m running towards the desert as fast as I can and it’s getting hot. I occasionally stop to make sure I don’t overheat. By the time I get to the trailhead I feel like I’m in a blast furnace. I get to the trailhead (1:46—may be a record! Ha!) and there are cars but no people. Bummer. I get water from the creek and can’t wait for Aqua Mira to do its magic and drink ~2L immediately. I refilled my camel bag and walked the 5 miles to the 395. I need to practice hitchhiking I guess cause no one would pick me up! After ~1.5 hours of dehydrating next to the highway I was getting desperate and started flashing a $20 as enticement for someone to give me a ride (it never worked!). After another 30 min my savior arrived and I was on my way to Lone Pine…

A note about pace. When I learned of the record I was surprised the average speed was less than 3mph (this is when I was totally clueless about such things). At the time I felt humans should be capable of averaging 3 mph indefinitely. What I didn’t realize then is that achieving this pace roughly requires averaging 3.5 mph when conscious, and 4 mph when actually moving. Given that 3 mph is effectively an upper bound when ascending passes this puts a lower limit on the speed of doing the flats/downhill. Although I’m still convinced someone will eventually do the JMT unsupported in less than 3 days (3mph) I have 'begun' to realize how truly difficult this is to do in practice. Using my recon hikes and Sue’s and others’ times, I spent considerable effort on trying to estimate my times during the actual record attempt. This analysis suggested a time not much over 3 days was possible. Now, I’m not crazy. I know it’s impossible to predict with any confidence fatigue and so forth in the latter half of the trail. I completely agree with Aaron’s comments. The record is set in the second 100 miles. The first 100 is just a qualifier. With a large pile of hope, I set my pace to achieve the time I thought I theoretically could if I somehow defied the odds and managed a perfect run. Well, I didn’t, but that’s why I was going so fast before the meltdown. My real goal was to crush Sue’s time. Now, if Michael doesn’t knock the record below a certain level I will still feel compelled to try and break the new supported record again, even though it will greatly increase the probability of total failure and of not even completing the hike, but that’s how it goes…

Notable pack contents:
4lbs hammer gel 4.6k cal
6lbs 50 snickers bars 14k cal
1lb sausage 2.2k cal
6.6lbs 3L camel bag (given my setup and that I was treating the water I felt carrying more water saved time)

total pack weighed 27lbs so I guess base weight was about 9lbs

Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
JMT summit vs. portal on 08/06/2009 01:05:37 MDT Print View

Everything I ever want to say concerning this issue is at the beginning of the thread, but I just want to reiterate some things. I'm totally cool with there being something called "supported JMT record" being defined by convention to start at the portal. FKT JMT is purely a function of where someone believes the JMT starts/ends. Clearly there's a difference of opinion on this, but everyone who cares about this knows the circumstances. No one on either side will be convinced so don't even try. FKT JMT will inevitably mean different things to different people.

Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
Nutrition and pack weight on 08/06/2009 01:48:16 MDT Print View

Tom and Mark, I'm going to reevaluate Perpetuem. I'm using a GoLite Jam pack and tried using Perpetuem with bottles in the side compartments. I found that my arms would hit the bottles when I ran and occasionally they would fly out. This made me very unhappy...I may try the paste idea and may mix my own concoction with Maltodextrin and emergen-C (recommended by someone) + snickers on the side

Mark—12 lbs!!! My food almost weighed that much! Was your base weight only ~2 lbs? Clearly I am not ‘backpacking light’. I don’t mind carrying more calories and water but I’m really concerned about the other 9 lbs. I have a couple items that could be lighter but those may trim at most 2lbs. I’m carrying a bivy sack, sleeping bag, pad etc.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
JMT speed record attempt on 08/06/2009 02:12:28 MDT Print View

Dunno what's in your pack but 27 pounds when you are trying to break a speed record in three days sounds absolutely nuts (no offense!). That's using up a huge amount of energy right there. I'd be aiming for base weight (without food/water) of 5 pounds *max*... and probably more like 2-3 pounds.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Failed JMT record attempt TR on 08/06/2009 02:43:50 MDT Print View

Did you ever read Al Shaver's account of his failed JMT attempt in 2006? Interesting read.

Edited by asandh on 07/13/2010 01:13:13 MDT.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 08/06/2009 10:03:32 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/17/2015 22:59:30 MDT.

Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
JMT pack weight on 08/06/2009 16:55:49 MDT Print View

Hi Brett

It is very impressive that you went so far and so fast with a 28 lb pack. You should give us some idea of your athletic background before your triple-crown feat.

If you want some beta on my planning here it is. Last year my base wt was 8 lbs with 10 lbs of food. I was 5 nights on the trail and came out with about 3 lbs of extra food. I use the term "food" but I mean sport drink powder. I was very happy with the outcome of my hike as I simply wanted to finish the JMT as a fastpack and did not try to set any record. I finished a whole day behind Michael's record. I did think that if I was to focus on a record attempt I might have some success.

Part of this effort was to reduce the weight of my pack. This is the intent of this web site and a great place to get ideas. The end result was a very light pack that had everything I needed or wanted except for a camera. Most of the gear I used was not unreasonably expensive and I will use all of it on trips other than a JMT run.

As far as "food" and total calories, you should get the Hammer booklet from their web site and read it carefully even if you don't use their products. The one thing to learn from it is that it doesn't matter how many calories you consume, what matters is how many calories you can digest, use, and finally remove from your system. Also, you can't replace all the calories that you use while you are working hard. We have entered into the realm of extreme endurance athletes, and I think it's a great place to go.

Here's my gear list to give you my ideas.

On me
Go-lite stride shorts (4oz)
Nike dri-fit shirt (2oz)
Nike cap (1oz)
Brooks Cascadia w/sole insert (23oz)
Dirty Girl gaiter (1oz)
4 Injinji mini crew socks treated with Blister Shield
Smith glasses
Carbonfiber XC sking poles w/ rubber tips(I would go back to the metal tips next time) (4oz)

In Pack
Go-lite Ion pack w/belt-pockets sewed on (10oz)
MSR E-Wing (6oz)
0.75 mm x 3' x 7' plastic painters tarp (1oz)
Bug head net (1oz)
Go-lite Ultra 20 sleeping bag (19oz)
Evazote pad (5oz)
New Balance running pants (4oz)
MB wind jacket (3oz)
Under Armour Shirt (4oz)
Fleece hat (1oz)
Camelbak 1L bottle w/ handsfree & shaker ball (4oz)
Steripen (3.5oz) plus extra batteries
Aquamira tablets
Toothbrush w/ cut handle to fit in pack better
3 Deet wipes
6 Quickstik
6 baby wipes and ziplock bag for carry out
mini lighter
very mini Swiss Army knife
Benzoin in tiny dropper
Credit Card, Drivers Lic, Cash & cell phone

In belt pockets
Blackdiamond headlamp (3oz)
Sunscreen stick

My "food" this year was again Perpetuem and Recoverite plus one caffinated gel for the morning and one power bar for a mid-day break. Also 4 fish oil caps per day. I had about 4 days of "food" leaving the summit of MT Whitney (and don't even think of dragging me into that subject!!! HYOH and I will respect it). This was the minimum needed to reach Yosemite.

The one thing that I did't have that I should have had was a filter bottle so that I could drink as much water as I wanted in addition to the sport drink. I think I needed both even though I mixed the Perpetuem to drink straight. It was very hot going over both Forester and Glen Pass and that probably lead to my cramps. Other than my cramps I felt great and had all the energy I needed.

I wish you greay success on you next atempt

Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: JMT pack weight on 08/06/2009 20:22:21 MDT Print View

Have you used the Hammer Endurolytes? Might help with the cramps.

Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
JMT pack weight on 08/07/2009 03:44:44 MDT Print View


Regarding fitness and preparation, I think I started getting in shape around late Jan/early Feb. I initially did not give the JMT record attempt much thought because I felt I did not have sufficient time to properly get in shape to have a chance. I knew I would have to push the training as fast as I could. There was no gradual ramp. I assumed I would develop an injury at some point and that would end it.

To make the most of my limited time during the week, I focused on increasing my maximum cardio output by running up a fire road with about 1400 feet of gain. I eventually worked up to doing this 4 days a week and ultimately ascended at a rate just below 4000 ft/hr—at the time of the Triple Crown I was probably in the 3300 ft/hr range. The weekends were reserved for the long hikes. I did Cactus to Clouds a couple times and random 2x mile hikes in the San Gabriel/Santa Monica Mountains with ~10k feet gain being typical. At the time of the Triple Crown I had done nothing more than about half of the gain and distance of that hike. Although I felt I could complete the hike (once the powerade problem was solved), I thought doing it under 24 hours would be close. After the hike was over I felt surprisingly good and at that point began to seriously consider the record attempt.

Soon after the Triple Crown I stopped the cardio work and just focused on piling on mileage. I started running about 1:15 4 days during the week (and am still doing this). The next weekend I tried day hiking the Santa Monica Backbone Trail but developed shin splints in the first 5 miles. At the time I thought the pain was due to an unrelated injury so I ignored it. I kept going and eventually did 26 miles that day, but by the end I was shouting from the pain with each step. I thought this was the end. The injury finally occurred. I took a week off, iced the shins, took ibuprofen, and hoped. I felt I had no choice but to resume training at full intensity because of the limited time. Miraculously, the shin splints mostly abated?!? They return occasionally but never become debilitating. I do worry though they will return with a vengeance at some point during an extended JMT record attempt though.

A few weeks later I started the 4 JMT recon hikes. The longest day hike I did before the JMT recon hikes was the 53 mile Silver Moccasin Trail. I was planning on doing longer day hikes at the end but I felt they wouldn’t be beneficial and may actually be counterproductive (especially with the specter of the shin splints returning).

Regarding gear,
Mark, I really appreciate you providing your gear list with weights. It has highlighted some defects with my gear. Unfortunately I don’t know how much everything weighs so some estimates need to be made. Ignoring the small stuff I think the important points are:

Pack—my go lite jam pack is (1 lb 10 oz), yuck, but I want to keep it
Sleeping bag—Western Mountaineering highlite (17oz)
Pad—3/8” thick evazote from gossamer—sounds like yours (5oz)
I had the 1/8” version but it fell off my pack during the Tuolumne/Donohue/Happy Isles recon hike and it’s been out of stock ever since. Same for the BPL DIAD pad…
Bivy sack--this is my worst item. It’s a giant sack from REI that I’ve had for years. I think it weighs as much as my bag. I have a (6oz) space blanket from AMK which I can swap it with.

The clothes I wear during the day are pretty light except for the hat but I don’t know how much they weigh.
Rain shell—golite virga jacket (8oz)
Long sleeve polyester shirt—this feels quite heavy
Fleece jacket—this also feels heavy

3L camel bag (8-16oz?)
life-link rainier trekking poles (1 lb 3 oz) OMG….

So it looks like I could trim my base by 2-3 lbs. I think there may be another 1 lb or so left unaccounted with food packaging. The hammer gel bottles surely weigh something…I could save a lot of weight by taking less calories buy I’m really concerned about exhausting all my body fat before the end. I don’t want to run out of food and want to take no less than 20k calories. I’m 6’ and (now) only 155 lbs.

Regarding cramps, I have also been taking Endurolytes. S!caps have also been recommended to me by an ultrarunner.

Thanks for the info,

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
JMT speed record attempt on 08/07/2009 04:06:54 MDT Print View

I can't stress strongly enough how much difference carrying extra weight will slow you down in an endurance race. You burn *a lot* of extra calories lugging weight around, and the difference is even more dramatic when you have significant elevation changes. IMHO before attempting the record again you should seriously cut down your base weight to under 5 pounds. A fleece jacket?!! =-)

Once you get to the last day of the trail you're not going to be carrying much food at all, just a bit of water. So then you are effectively down to pretty close to your base weight. Imagine then that you are racing to beat another guy who is only carrying 3 pounds while you are carrying 12. Who's gonna win? (Hint: not you!).

Shoes are a big thing too. Not sure what you are wearing but I'd be looking at getting something really light like some Inov8's.

Cheers, A

Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
Pack Weight on 08/07/2009 10:14:20 MDT Print View

Brett, you need a scale. The weights published in catalogs are not always correct and they are for only one size. As you go through your gear looking for light stuff it is hard to "feel" the weight difference between items, but that difference will add up. A good scale will help.

As for warm clothing while moving fast on the JMT in summer, I have never been cold. Rain, snow or wind can happen so a tight shell is needed, but they can be very light. Where I got cold was sleeping, so I got the 20 degree bag. I also switched from a bivy bag to a tarp so that I would be better protected in bad weather and have less condensation in my bag.

Shoes are a tough choice. I found if I go down to 10oz then I loose support and volume. I need the volume to fit a Sole insert, which keeps my feet in good shape and protects them from the hard rocks. My Cascadia's worked great and weighed 12oz, which is over an ounce less than the Salomons I used last year.

I do use E-Caps. They did help, but not enough. I think leg cramps occurred because of a lack of hot weather training. Central Oregon this year was very cool and wet. So my running did not prepare me for the Southern Sierras. My accamation backpack trip was also short and not as intense as last year. I did increase my daily run distance, but the heat and uphill training was not good enough.

I'm heading up to Yosemite today. I hope Michael does well.


Brett Maune
(bmaune) - F

Locale: SoCal
Pack Weight on 08/07/2009 11:12:46 MDT Print View

Wow, I had no idea how clueless I was regarding gear optimization. Once I got my WM high lite bag I thought I was doing pretty good but apparently not! I did buy a cheap bathroom scale to measure gear weight but it's totally useless for such purposes...

For shoes I'm using GoLite storm dragons with injiji socks. They were the first trail running shoes I ever bought and they were very comfortable--no hot spots even on the longest recon hikes (though my right pinky toe gets sore). I just wanted shoes which didn't give me blisters and I lucked out on the first try. I didn't think I had time to experiment with others so just keep using them. They fall apart pretty quickly though.

From the LOL comment I'm guessing my fleece jacket is not considered UL...any recommendations on a particular jacket with some insulation?

Mark, I'll probably get a long sleeve Under Armour Shirt and duplicate some other clothing items as well.

How about a particular trekking pole? I thought my poles were on the light side but apparently are 1 lb heavier than they need to be...

Thanks so much for the advice guys. This has been eye opening.