It’s often said that the west coast is the “best coast”. And if you believe everything you read, you might be forgiven to believe them. With all of the rocky mountain ultra-races occurring every other weekend and pictures of single track vistas in your social feeds you’d have to believe it’s just a smorgasbord of trail butter everywhere from the rockies to the pacific. I dream of trail butter; rolling hills with plenty of forgiveness.
But even the best in the world come to the East – not for butter – for the meat – beast meat. And the last few years, they came a plenty. For if the west is the best coast, the east is the beast coast.
Just in the last few years, there’s been tons of notable FKT attempts across the east coast ranges – Scott Jurek’s Appalachian Trail FKT, Nikki Kimbal’s Long Trail FKT-run ( Finding Traction ). The American psyhcy doesn’t think much of the hills on the East coast (are they even mountains?) but they are definitely here.
The AT has over 500K feet of ascent. That’s insanity of the first order. Even the PCT, which is 500 miles longer has only 300k of gain. Something to think about. The Long Trail has about 80k over only 272 miles – that’s 25% of the gain of the PCT for only 10% of the distance. Simply relentless.
As luck would have it, I spent some time on The Long Trail in Vermont this summer. A fun way to see this is to “run the peaks” which is basically what happens when you try to do any measurable distance. From the “app gap” you can hit over 5 peaks in the next 10 miles south – from Stark, Ellen, Lincoln – it keeps on going. While I had hoped to practice some trail running, the elevation changes simply made that close to impossible. While the terrain was actually pretty decent and the markings were stellar, the elevation profile kept the pacing rather timid. Even with the littering of ski lifts as “bail out” points there was still no chance to leave this area unscathed.
Upon arriving home and re-watching Nikki’s bid, I’ll just say it: she is super-fucking-human. Imagine if you will taking a baseball bat and just swinging it at your feet for 4 days – that’s pretty much what she signed up for.
The east is gnarly. It ain’t pretty. More and more, though, with wildfires raging on the western seaboard I’m expecting a number of trails and races on the east coast to start to really become over-subscribed. Everything from the Easter States 100 Trail Run to the good old AT – take advantage of these trails while you can – and take care of them and they’ll take care of you.