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September 28, 2018

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A Beginner's Guide to an FKT by Stephen Kersh

Photos by Sarah Cotton

Let's set the record straight, Flagstaff's Stephen Kersh is going for a Fastest Known Time (FKT), but not just any one. He's attempting to take the FKT up Wheeler Peak - the highest point in New Mexico at 13,064 feet. Stephen grew up in New Mexico and has hiked this peak and these trails quite a bit while living in the area. He’s wanted to try to run up to the peak for the last decade, and has wanted to give the FKT an attempt since he learned what the heck an FKT even is.

This will not be typical sincere content about some wanderlust adventure. He will show all the mistakes he makes in planning, running & filming - yes, there will be a film in collaboration with Sufferfest Beer...because every hard earned FKT attempt deserves a deliciously satisfying beer and they just so happen to have one called the FKTThe attempt will happen sometime during the first few weeks of October, but in the mean time, read his 'Beginner's Guide to an FKT' below and start fantasizing about your own attempt on your favorite peak or trail now.

I’ve spent the last two weeks isolating my glutes and wrapping jumbo-size rubber bands around my ankles. I’ve spent the last two weeks indiscriminately pinning a lacrosse ball to the nearest wall with my hip while receiving the scorn of the couple just trying to enjoy their breakfast. I’ve spent the last two weeks speaking to my IT band, whispering sweet nothings to that big ol’ piece of tissue in hopes it will begin behaving itself. I’ve spent the last two weeks gripped with fear.

As I’ve begun to dabble more with ultrarunning, it appears my body is taking this as an opportunity to reassert some dominance in our relationship. All of these little aches and pains I was able to keep at bay through a consistent diet of mostly-flat 100-ish mile weeks are now being exposed by a rather abrupt introduction of vert into the mix. I had never paid my IT bands any mind and, had you asked me about my IT bands before this latest dustup, I would have maybe asserted I wasn’t even sure I had IT band(s) because I’ve never had to think of them. Well, let me tell you what, I’ve got ‘em and my right one hurts like the dickens.

This is all to inform the reader that I will be attempting to set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Wheeler Peak in New Mexico later next month. I made this plan before my IT band got jealous of all the attention I was giving my girlfriend, but I still believe it’s a manageable goal.

As a native New Mexican, I’ve made my pilgrimage to our state’s highest point (13,167 ft) several times. The last time I submitted the peak, I remember seeing some people running it and thinking “wow that’s a dumb thing to do and I would love to do that.” And so here we are, probably almost a decade removed from that thought, prepping to do a dumb thing.

The current FKT is held by a friend of mine in Flagstaff, Mike Popejoy. He actually just reset his old FKT and bettered it by seven minutes, making it sit now at a stout 1:18:53 for the 7-or-so mile ascent. If he’s reading this, I meant to tell you I was going for the FKT but I’m sorry if I haven’t yet. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of chivalrous tradition to inform the current FKT’er about intentions on slaying their dragon, but I will let him know ASAP. I promise.

I’ll be keeping up these little updates as the attempt draws near, so please keep me and all of my ailments in mind. We need as much help as we can get.

Follow along with Stephen's attempt on Instagram, Twitter and all his training on Strava as well as more of his work on his business' website Rabbitwolf Creative. Check back here for a follow up blog about his attempt as well as the aforementioned video documenting the experience in New Mexico.


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