On May 27, 2018, Hive athlete Jeff Mogavero achieved the fastest known time (FKT) for the Lost Coast Trail in California. He shares with Honey Stinger how he conquered this goal.
On a Monday afternoon in April, I glanced at my phone to see an unexpected text from my supervisor. It was a video of ultrarunner Dylan Bowman’s recent fastest known time (FKT) on California’s Lost Coast Trail. I watched the video in awe of the 57 mile route Dylan ran through coastal mountains, bluffs, and beaches. In the past two months, I had multiple backpacking trips on the Lost Coast cancelled due to winter storms. So without much thought I responded, “Is this a challenge? Because I am SO down.”
I was living a few hours south of the Lost Coast at the time, working a seasonal job surveying spawning salmon in the coastal rivers. My tenure in northern California would soon be up, so I knew that an FKT attempt on the Lost Coast Trail might be my only shot at seeing the whole route. I was a week out from racing the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and knew that if recovery went well, I would be in shape to put in a hard effort on the trail come late May.
A classic backpacking route, the Lost Coast Trail travels through 25 miles of beach so rugged that 8 miles of it disappear under the high tide each day. A miscalculation in tides and pace could prove fatal. Then, the route enters a relentless 32 miles of mountain trails, climbing nearly 11,000 feet. I began in the north, hoping to avoid the northern winds that blast the exposed coastline. At 4:30am, I set off into the darkness, slipping silently past sleeping seals, sea lions, and unsuspecting slumbering campers. To my left, sea-spray coated cliffs vaulted out of the sand towards the King Range. To my right, the Pacific Ocean crashed into the rocky shore, the “trail” a narrow strip of rocky, sandy earth between sea and summit.
For food, I ate almost entirely HS gels and waffles. I also had two packs of HS energy chews and two fantastic chocolate chip cookies my friend’s mother made. After nearly four hours, I reached the only place I would see my crew, Shelter Cove. I handed them a vest full of Honey Stinger gel and waffle wrappers and restocked for the remaining 50k. I was downing about three gels an hour, with a waffle thrown in every once in a while for good measure.
I also changed my shoes and socks when I met my crew. I found this to be extremely useful. I’d never changed shoes or socks mid-event, so this was new for me. But coming from 25 miles of running in wet sand and crossing numerous streams it was great to dry and clean my feet to be ready for the next 30 miles of twisty, rooty single track and constant climbs and descents (and more stream crossings).
The final 32 miles did not come easy. Both the temperature and I started to climb as I rose above the sea. I found myself running on trails so overgrown that no increase in effort would result in a faster pace. Stinging nettle, poison oak, thistle, and blackberry brambles formed thickets that grabbed and tore at my body.
I had to remind myself to be flexible and to adapt to adversity. All of a sudden I was dealing with dehydration and not wanting to eat. I knew I had to cool down, so I submerged myself in every creek the last 30 miles, which was huge in abating dehydration and bringing back my appetite.
Even with the brutality of the trail, I could not help but smile as I ran through a herd of 30 massive Roosevelt elk and cooled down in cascading creeks.
Finally, after 10 hours and 10 minutes, I descended into Usal Beach, the southern end of the Lost Coast Trail. Despite being beaten down and bloodied from the final miles of overgrown trail, a huge smile spread across my face. I had taken an hour off of the previous FKT of this iconic route. I had also spent a day traversing one of the most remote and rugged sections of coastline in the entire country.
The Lost Coast Trail is a huge undertaking, whether done over a week or a day, but no matter how quickly it is traveled, the Lost Coast Trail is a must do for any backpacker or overly ambitious trail runner.