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Kelly Agnew sets the unsupported FKT on Moab's White Rim Trail!

Exclusive Hammer Nutrition interview

On the evening of October 17, Hammer Nutrition ultrarunner Kelly Agnew set out to run Utah's 100 -mile White Rim Trail unsupported, aiming for the Fastest Known Time (FKT). Carrying his own water, nutrition, and supplies, Kelly emerged from the desert 21 hours, 52 minutes, and 12 seconds later, breaking the previous unsupported record by over 5 hours. Hammer talked to Kelly about his record- setting run . . .

How do you feel about your result and effort during the run?

In all honesty, I feel pretty great about the result because I expected my time to be about an hour slower. But to achieve this, I really heaped a lot of abuse on myself. I'm still not sure that I managed my pace the best way.

What kind of gear did you need, and what special preparations did you make to ensure a successful unsupported run?

The biggest issue was how to pack my water. The previous record holder used a modified jogging stroller to pack his water and gear down the trail. Pushing a stroller that far in those conditions just wasn't an option for me. I reached out to my friends at Osprey Packs several months ago and we exchanged ideas. They ended up providing me with the Osprey Rev 12, which comes equipped with a 2.5-liter bladder. More importantly, it has plenty of storage space.

I added two more 1.5-liter bladders into the main body of the pack. All three bladders were on quick disconnect systems, so I could swap bladders easily. I also used four Hammer Nutrition Purist bottles and stuffed two of them in available side pockets on the pack and two more in the pack itself. That accounted for 285 ounces of water. The pack also held my Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tabs, Hammer Gel, headlamps, batteries, gloves, extra layers for night running and a few pieces of emergency gear. The pack weighed out at 22.6 pounds but felt surprisingly comfortable.

Running 100 miles through the desert expends a lot of calories and fluids. How did your fueling strategy differ from a typical supported run or a 100-miler with aid stations?

This type of run demands a minimalist mentality. I elected to carry only Hammer Gel pouches, a few Hammer Bars, and Endurolytes Fizz because they're easy to pack and simple to use. In a typical 100-mile race or supported run, I would have far more fueling options.

What was your timeline for hydration and fueling for those 100 miles?

The hydration required discipline! I had been tracking my fluid intake during long runs and races for several months to estimate my demand for this FKT attempt. 285 ounces would be cutting it close. Beginning at mile 3, I began to slowly sip water every 2 miles or so to keep my intake steady while managing my water supply. To keep my electrolyte levels up, I sipped intermittently from a bottle mixed with a high concentration of Endurolytes Fizz.

Starting at mile 5, I began taking Hammer Gel every 3 miles or so. At my pace, that felt about right. I also ate a Hammer Bar about every 5 hours. I let my stomach dictate the timing of that.

Did you have any low points? How did you get through them?

Not from a nutritional perspective, but exhaustion plagued me through the night. At one point, I laid down to stretch my back and instantly fell asleep! My own snoring woke me up and I panicked, worrying that I had been there for hours. In reality, I nodded off only for about 10 minutes. I managed to power through until the sun came up, and then felt much better for the rest of the run.

Anything you'd do differently if you were to run it again?

I would have traded anything for a sip of cold water out there. I chose not to freeze any of my bottles or bladders because it would have reduced their carrying volume. In hindsight, the trade off would have been worth it.

What do you do after a run like this to recover?

Immediately following a long run like White Rim, I drink a bottle prepared with 2 scoops of Recoverite. Within a couple of hours, I take a double dose of Premium Insurance Caps to restore depleted vitamins and minerals. I also begin taking Tissue Rejuvenator and I continue to take it for the next several days. The day after the run I begin active recovery: If running isn't comfortable, I walk 3-5 miles a day until I can run again. Water is also key. I keep a bottle with me at all times. Within three or four days, I'm feeling pretty close to normal.

What advice would you offer someone looking to do an unsupported long-distance run?

Master the physical demand first. If you are confident that you can cover the distance and terrain without issue, the run itself becomes a matter of strategy. It's critical to know the route very well, accounting for elevation change and other factors that create difficulty. If reliable water is available, you need to know where to find it - and be prepared in case you don't. Even if you know the route, a map is mandatory. Plan, strategize, and work through all potential pitfalls so that you can deal with them when they occur. And sit down and watch the movie 127 Hours before you leave. There's a lesson in there!

Do you have other running attempts on the horizon?

Next year I'm going to turn my focus to the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail, which runs from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah. Much like the supported FKT on the White Rim, the current record for Kokopelli is pretty stout. It's going to be a definite challenge with a real possibility for failure. And that's what appeals to me.

Read more . . .

. . . about Kelly's FKT for the White Rim Trail, supported, in Endurance News, June/July 2014, p. 16; or read his recap on his blog. Follow Kelly at www.slippingslowlyintopain.com.
Read about the rules of FKTs and the difference between supported and unsupported here.