Fastest known times (FKT) have become quite popular in endurance sports. Hive athlete Ben Markwart gives an inside look at how to tackle an FKT and his journey at creating a new FKT route in the mountains outside of Tucson, AZ.
Photo by: Julie Henk
In the world of endurance sports an FKT is a fastest known time for a given route that is not during a sanctioned race event. The idea of the FKT dates back to trail running icon Buzz Burrell, who is often cited as being one of the first to set the basic guidelines and standards for attempting and setting an FKT. His guidelines were straight forward:
- Make an announcement that you are going to attempt an FKT
- Be open and invite others to come share your experience and observe your attempt,
- Record your attempt in as much details as possible.
Historically, FKTs have been related to trail running and thru hiking but as the growth in endurance sports has evolved, the concept has traveled and FKTs are now being set for rowing, swimming, cycling, and other endurance activities.
One main component of the FKT is identifying who has accomplished the completed designated route before and what their time was. For our Tucson High Five FKT attempt, we dug through the database of the Tucson Trail Runners and spoke with members of our trail running community who have been running trails for decades. It was determined that several attempts have been made using different routes and with the intent to summit 3-4 peaks but these attempts fell short for any number of reasons. Though, we recognize all the amazing runners who have come before us and who have attempted similar feats in Tucson, Arizona.
Choosing a route
Part of what makes an FKT attempt unique is the route selected. The main idea for summiting five peaks came from Kent Warlick. He experienced the Southern California Triple Crown and out of his experience the idea for the Tucson High Five was born. There are six mountain ranges that surround Tucson in Pima County: the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas, Sierritas, Tucson Mountains, and the Tortolitas. Historically, the Tucson Trail Runners have conducted runs up the highest peaks in some of these ranges: Mt. Wrightson (Santa Rita range at 9,456’), Mt. Lemmon (Catalina range at 9,159’), Mica Mountain and Rincon Peek (Rincon range at 8,668’ and 8,482), and Wasson Peak (Tucson Mountain range at 4,687’). After discussing logistics we decided upon the following route:
Our routes and order:
- Miller Creek to Douglas Spring tagging Rincon Peak and Mica Mountain: 31 miles and 7300’+
- Mt Lemmon from CSP to Ski Valley: 15 miles and 7500′
- Sweetwater to Kings Canyon tagging Wasson: 8 miles and 2100′
- Mt Wrightson via Old Baldy: 10.5 miles and 4000′
All that matters for an FKT is the elapsed time, which means move time (or, run time) alone is not significant. Because trail heads are widely dispersed Kent and I concluded that doing this route in this order would minimize our drive time to and from each trailhead. Another important element of our choosing a route is choosing one that is the most challenging and that may attract other runners and adventurers to come and experience the challenge.
Photo by: Julie Henk
As FKT attempts have become more common the standard of rigor required to document and record them has increased. For our FKT attempt we utilized two Garmin Fenix 5 GPS watches, which allowed us to have a digital record of each of our running routes. Additionally, we took time stamped photos before each summit attempt at the trailhead and once we reached the summit.
Supported and Unsupported
FKTs are designated as supported or unsupported. An unsupported FKT is when the runner or runners go about the entire adventure alone and provide all their own supplies, nutrition, and other needs. A supported FKT is when the runner or runners are given support by others. For our FKT, we were supported by Julie Henk and Carleigh High. These two ladies were our logistics team and helped provide us with much needed care and managed all of the driving for us, which included over 100 miles of car time. Additionally, this adventure was supported by many Honey Stinger waffles, chews, and gels.
All of these elements of the FKT came after months of planning, training on the routes, and identifying the correct logistics. Without those who came before us and the support and encouragement we were provided, none of this would have been possible.