Meghan Hicks Post-Nolan’s 14 Women’s FKT Interview

Over the weekend, Meghan Hicks became the fourth woman to lower the women’s overall Nolan’s 14 fastest known time (FKT) over the past two months, in supported fashion in her case. In the following interview, Meghan talks about picking the right window for Nolan’s, how she was detail oriented but also flexible in her attempt, and what she’s grateful for.

Meghan Hicks Post-Nolan’s 14 Women’s Overall Fastest Known Time Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Meghan Hicks after her women’s supported FKT of Nolan’s 14. How are you, Meghan?

Meghan Hicks: Good, Bryon. How are you?

iRunFar: Good. We’re back here in Silverton, Colorado, after your great effort this past weekend.

Hicks: Yes, it snowed today. Or it is snowing today.

iRunFar: Well, then, let’s start with the weather. Nolan’s 14 is a multi-day effort for the women. You did it in 50 hours and change. Hitting the right weather window is really crucial. For much of the summer, there’s lots of snow on the ground, making the route slow or impossible. Then there’s the monsoon season in July and August. Then snow comes. There’s also the heat of the summer. And, this summer, there was smoke from wildfires. How did you choose when to go for it this time?

Hicks: I was looking to thread the needle between all of the factors that you just talked about. I think that most people who attempt Nolan’s go for either trying to hit it before heavy monsoon season and before the heavy electricity season sets in. Or, they wait for that window between when monsoon season starts to abate and some of these first big storms set in. So, for me, I was never going to be ready to traipse around some big mountains early in the season. I needed the summer to prepare my body. For me, it was taking that later window and just trying to set it.

iRunFar: Did you set a weather window or a particular range of dates?

Hicks: Originally, I thought I would set it for late August. That’s because there’s usually a week or so where the monsoons sort of abate before they come on strong again. I thought I would aim for that. In the end, it just worked out logistically to wait for the early September window at the end of monsoon season.

iRunFar: And you wound up moving your start date ahead by one day fairly late in the process.

Hicks: Yeah, I originally chose Friday, September 4 as the start of my window. I picked that because it’s when monsoons usually start calming down. It was after I thought I had enough prep and taper time and when I thought that crew people could be around to support me. Yeah, the weather window opened up Tuesday–three days before–so we went for it on Thursday morning.

iRunFar: You wound up having pretty much a perfect weather window.

Hicks: It could not have been more perfect. Honestly, with every potential climate factor, it was a few degrees warmer than normal for the first week of September, but I would trade that for any other factor that could’ve been there. It could not have been more perfect.

iRunFar: Plus, you started just after wildfire smoke cleared out, and quite literally one day after you finished, there was a huge influx of wildfire smoke.

Hicks: I really have to credit meteorologist Chris Tomer for giving me the couple-day window where it was going to be between these cold fronts bringing snow, where there was going to be enough of whatever the factors were keeping wildfire smoke away from the Sawatch. All the climactic stars really aligned.

iRunFar: So did your effort this weekend.

Hicks: Thanks!

iRunFar: Four years ago, you set the women’s supported FKT of Nolan’s 14. You were the first to go under 60 hours from trailhead to trailhead. You ran 59:36. You ran just over nine hours faster this time, in 50:32. Did you think that was possible?

Hicks: Yes! I mean, I would never say those numbers out loud. Maybe not even to you. But I know what it takes for women to walk up and down those mountains. I know what it takes for women to walk up and down a string of those mountains. I knew it was absolutely possible. It was just a matter of having enough things not go wrong for some woman who was prepared for it. I think someone needed to believe it was possible.

iRunFar: There are so many things I want to unpack there. One thing is: How large a role does confidence play in attempting something like Nolan’s?

Hicks: The variable of confidence is probably different for different women. I think, for me, it’s like a balance of confidence. I’ve caught myself being too confident about something before and relying too heavily on one very short bout of training and thinking that represents a greater sphere of fitness than it does–the recency bias. I’ve also been caught by lack of confidence before–not believing I was capable of something that I was. For me, I think it’s about finding a balance.

iRunFar: How much of that is based on familiarity? What other factors play into that?

Hicks: I don’t know that I have a good answer to that question. I’m not sure. I know I’m quite familiar with Nolan’s at this point, but in between my two successful attempts I had a failed attempt and I think I was slightly overconfident going into that experience. Yeah, I sort of thought I could tame the mountains and tame the conditions, going out in whatever I could find. I found the opposite to be the case. I don’t know. I think that’s a really hard question.

iRunFar: You talk about taming the mountains and taming the environment. It sounds like this time you didn’t try to do that at all.

Hicks: Yeah, that was the biggest takeaway from my 2017 failure on the Nolan’s route: Mother Nature is really in charge of all things. She can tumble a rock down and really change your day. She can blow a pretty gnarly wind that makes it really difficult to be up there for so long. In the high country, it’s very exposed and there’s very little cover. You’re not in charge.

iRunFar: You’re not in charge, but how much can you mitigate by being prepared?

Hicks: I think that’s a huge part of it. I think in terms of preparation and organization and doing everything we thought we could with all of the potential risk factors, and the factors that would have prevented it from being a successful day…. Yeah, just going in with a mind open to the fact that you aren’t the boss…. That really helps me, anyway.

iRunFar: Obviously, the effort takes two-plus days. There’s not going to be perfection throughout. Unexpected things are going to happen. What was the largest challenge you faced out there?

Hicks: Again, it was nutrition. In my first successful Nolan’s attempt, I lost my stomach and my ability to eat solid foods about a day-and-a-half in. This time, I started to lose that only a half-day in. I had this large amount of time that I was relying almost exclusively on liquid calories. This time, I was better prepared for that. I had lots of different liquid nutrition on hand and was able to keep getting in lots of calories. I missed some of the volume. I was probably not getting 200 calories per hour because it was hard carrying that liquid in over so much vertical and so much time out there. It was a challenge.

iRunFar: But you had a plan to mitigate it and you followed that.

Hicks: Yeah, I had six or eight different flavors of liquid calories and different things to drink. It kept the palette about as happy as it could be. There were ups and downs, but overall it was pretty good.

iRunFar: So, this has been a summer of women on the Nolan’s 14 route. Up until this summer, I think you still held the FKT at 59:36. Then, I believe three women broke that in sequence.

Hicks: Yeah, like bam, bam, bam. From early July to mid-August.

iRunFar: You were aware and excited about all of these strong women who were running Nolan’s, and the others who were thinking about it.

Hicks: Yeah, I certainly think of this as the summer of women on Nolan’s in terms of the sheer quantity of women being out there, recce-ing the line and making attempts and then having success on the line. The numbers themselves show how far the women’s record has come down in a couple months’ time.

iRunFar: And more than double the number of women have finished.

Hicks: Yeah, I feel that situation has been building and it’s time for women to come into their own on the Nolan’s course. I couldn’t be happier to see the women who have been interested in the line. Even the women who have tried, done reconnaissance, and decided this wouldn’t be the year they try. Or the women who did try and haven’t made it to a finish yet. It’s exciting times. It’s really fun to watch and be part of it.

iRunFar: Even at the beginning of the summer, before anybody attempted it, you were training with some of these other women. You were talking with them and helping them out. You were sitting there on top [holding the FKT], what was your thinking about the situation?

Hicks: It’s just time for there to be more women doing things on big mountains. For me, there’s definitely the intrinsic motivators of being out on a mountain range that I really love. It’s the puzzle pieces of doing Nolan’s–I definitely get personal enjoyment out of doing that. Making space and keeping the conversation going about women out there and encouraging women to encourage each other…. Yeah, it’s time. It’s way past time. Whatever I can do. Whatever any little seed of motivation I can plant in another woman–it doesn’t have to be about Nolan’s–to get out there. Making space in our culture and our community for women…. Bring it on.

iRunFar: You mentioned that it’s not just about Nolan’s. You’d also be excited to see women attempting other big mountains. Are there any other mountains that are on your radar?

Hicks: Yeah, definitely! A project that I worked on in the past and didn’t reach success on was the Utah 13ers and linking all of those up on a single trip. I failed at that a couple of times, so that’s something that I’d like to go back to. I was really intrigued by Sarah Keyes and Alyssa Godesky tagging peaks and challenging each other out in the Adirondacks. I like watching what women are doing on the Colorado Trail and the Wonderland Trail. The John Muir Trail has always been intriguing and something that’s on my personal-interest list. That list could also go on forever.

iRunFar: Your mention of the John Muir Trail also makes me think of the Sierra High Route. So, you have tried Nolan’s three times. How has your motivation evolved over those three attempts?

Hicks: I like things that are puzzles, things that involve putting yourself together physically, mentally, almost spiritually. Things that require you to be very dynamic and changing puzzle pieces. Nolan’s fits that pretty easily. It’s close by to where we live, and this being the summer of COVID-19, it was easy to hone in on that and not think about going to something in another state.

iRunFar: In terms of performance and goals, what drew you out there specifically?

Hicks: I mean, it’s fun to see if you can get better at something. It’s fun to see if you can learn something more and, from year to year, have to re-learn and be reminded of something, “Oh, I forgot about that.”

iRunFar: What percentage of the route had you not been on earlier this year?

Hicks: I think one mountain: Huron Peak. I didn’t see all of that before we started.

iRunFar: You were talking about getting the details right and figuring out all of the puzzle pieces. People said you presented like you were a master out there, and this was your master work.

Hicks: That’s really nice of them to say.

iRunFar: Just watching a lot of races and performances throughout the world, plenty of people go out strong and fade to the finish. It doesn’t appear that’s what you did.

Hicks: I really wanted to feel strong on the last day and on the last mountains. I thought there was a lot of time that could be made up there, so my goal was to do the first 24 hours really easy.

iRunFar: Did you succeed on that?

Hicks: Yeah, I went a little slower than I hoped I would need to during the afternoon of the first day, going into the second day. It was quite hot and I could feel the effects of that, so I knew I needed to be careful. I went on my planned pace for the first 24 hours with the exception of during the heat of the afternoon for a little bit, where I eased off even more there.

iRunFar: On the opposite side, it seems like you made some really strong progress, timewise, during the overnight and early morning hours.

Hicks: I was really happy with that. I don’t always feel strong in the nighttime. I don’t love not sleeping [laughs], but I felt pretty good during both of the nights. It was fun.

iRunFar: Aside from getting sleepy, did the lack of heat help?

Hicks: Totally. The nights weren’t cold. I think I only put my jacket on for a period of one mountain on the first night and one mountain on the second night. It was a rain jacket [not a puffy jacket]. I think for most of the mountains I wore two wool shirts and gloves and a buff and very thin tights. It’s crazy.

iRunFar: What did go wrong out there?

Hicks: My nutrition wasn’t ideal. I made a couple small navigation errors. Over the course of the two days those maybe added up to 30 minutes in total. But I don’t know, it’s really hard to ding that because there were other places where navigation went smoother than expected or I was faster than expected because of getting it just right. Honestly, those little dings, it’s really hard to call them misses because it’s just going to happen.

I did not have ideal downhill runs on the last maybe three or four mountains. I think on Huron and La Plata Peaks I could have run pretty well, but I chose not to because I thought I was losing my downhill legs and didn’t want to. The last two mountains are off-trail mountains. It just requires a lot of eccentric contraction and my legs were tired for the actual downhill running. I think I could have made up some time with slightly stronger downhill legs.

iRunFar: To call into question your “small navigational errors,” there was an apocryphal story from one of your pacers that you went around one side of a rock and they went around the other and you insisted, “Oh, I F’ed it up!” They were like, “We, got to the same point at the same time.”

Hicks: That sounds about right. I have been called “very detail-oriented” before.

iRunFar: How many pages long were your crew packets?

Hicks: Many. Embarrassingly many [laughs].

iRunFar: Now that’s planning it out. What were some pleasant surprises?

Hicks: Lots of great wildlife. All three sunrises were off the hook. Two moonrises. I have to say both were awesome, but the first night’s was really blood red. There must have been some smoke in the air. It was unreal. I mean, nature always surprises, but there were lots of lovely things to watch.

iRunFar: Anything from the human side?

Hicks: I think everything went well. Our crew was amazing. I think there were eight crew and pacers put together and all of you were incredible: Super fun, super easy to be around. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

iRunFar: What was the wildlife you saw?

Hicks: This summer, three times I have seen three ptarmigans near the summit of Mount Oxford. This run was the third time. That was fun. The day before we attempted, I saw a snowshoe hare. I think rabbits are good luck. I saw mountain goats in the dark on the summit of Mount Massive, the final mountain. Elk in the forest coming off of Mount Yale. Lots and lots of deer. Including the same deer I saw while doing reconnaissance as I did while attempting the FKT, coming out of Pine Creek toward Mount Oxford. I saw a mom and a baby and another one looking down at me from a ridgeline. It was such a particular spot that it had to have been the same ones. I lost my lip balm while recce-ing and found it during the attempt. Vince Heyd, my pacer for Mount Harvard, we saw a four-legged animal with a long tail and it moved so fast. The only thing it could be was a mountain lion or a fox. One or the other.

iRunFar: You mentioned you don’t like lack of sleep. Did you ever have to battle the sleep monster out there?

Hicks: Only going up the old mining road on the first part of Mount Elbert. You’re on this old mining track and it’s mindless, it’s warm, it’s the middle of the second night. I was sleepy.

iRunFar: You went through two-plus days and your feet held up well. What was your secret?

Hicks: I had one little blister on my right big toe. My feet were tired, they were sore. All of the extensor and flexor tendons were kind of at their max on the last downhill. It was kind of hard to plant my feet on the ground while trying to run. Yeah, I don’t have any great secrets. I know it comes down to your nutrition and hydration being good and having a good size shoes. I wore the Injinji compression knee-high socks and they have yielded success for me for years in terms of keeping toe blisters at bay and allowing you to have some movement in your shoes but not a lot.

iRunFar: You changed your shoes and socks a couple times, but not at every crew point.

Hicks: I think I changed them every day or every half of a day. I think I changed them three times.

iRunFar: So, you went out there and ran 50:32. Do you think you could go faster?

Hicks: Yes.

iRunFar: Do you think you want to go faster?

Hicks: I don’t know [laughs].

iRunFar: You’re not saying no.

Hicks: I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no. For me, this was the perfect summer. We usually travel about seven times between the beginning of the year and now, taking us to places around the world for a week to cover races. We’re on long-haul flights and we don’t sleep and we don’t run with any quality. I had those seven weeks to train normally without any breaks. I’ve been at high altitude since March this year, courtesy of the pandemic because I didn’t have to go down.

I mean, I don’t know that in my regular life set-up I could be set up any more perfectly than I was this year. It’s awesome to dream and to believe in what you may be capable of, but I had so many stars align. Big picture, little picture, on the day, in training. How can you replicate that? This may have been as good an opportunity as I could have optimized and utilized.

iRunFar: Do you see concrete opportunities for where you could have improved?

Hicks: Oh yeah. If I could get my nutrition right, if I could run the last four downhills as well as I could run the first four downhills, if I could walk around the left side of the rock instead of the right side of the rock [laughs]… I don’t know. So many things went right.

iRunFar: Does it seem like a paradigm is shifting when it comes to women’s performances at Nolan’s?

Hicks: I hope so.

iRunFar: Was it just in 2017 when Iker Karrera brought the men’s record under 50 hours?

Hicks: Yeah. We’ve always known that Nolan’s could go so much faster than it has, but it’s just not one of those things that you can be a fit athlete and knock off, like a trail. You have to have route knowledge. You have to be acclimated to altitude. Getting the weather window and conditions right so you don’t have a ton of snow underfoot and you don’t have to wait out a storm. There are so many things that you have to get right.

iRunFar: So even on the men’s side, it would be possible for someone like Kilian Jornet or François D’haene to set the record, but it wouldn’t be near their potential.

Hicks: It would be fun to watch, but Joey Campanelli is an incredible mountain athlete who prepared himself specifically for this. He knows the route like the back of his hand. The men’s record is going to go lower than that for sure, but it’s going to take a man with really special talent, and specially honed to this route to do it.

iRunFar: How about on the women’s side?

Hicks: Same thing. Totally. Some of the same women who have been out there this summer. Give them another year of recce-ing. If they want to. The women’s record is going below two days this year or next year. Done. Done. And it’s going to go further, too, I believe it.

iRunFar: Do you feel good being a part of that? Of seeing what’s possible?

Hicks: Yeah, I know that there are women that are going to take it a lot further than I could ever take it. But just getting them excited, and getting out there and experiencing it–whatever I can do to get the bug in people’s ears and get them out there, I feel good about it.

iRunFar: What would you say to ensure that the Nolan’s line is well-preserved and cared for?

Hicks: Thank you for asking that question. The use of Colorado 14ers is going up. The use of the Nolan’s line is going up. I think that’s the natural progress of things out here. In my mind, it’s not about stopping people from going out there or trying to minimize the number of people going out there. It’s about encouraging people to develop care for being there. When you care about it, you take care of it. You travel ethically and you teach others.

iRunFar: What are some of those highlights to travelling ethically?

Hicks: There are some places where you can travel pretty fast going downhill, but you knock a lot of things down with you and that’s probably not a good idea for a lot of people to be out there doing that. It doesn’t take much to create an erosion problem. Going in small groups and dispersing your travel. Packing out your toilet paper.

iRunFar: Can you be more specific about what it means to disperse your travel?

Hicks: We as trail runners are used to moving right behind each other. But Leave No Trace, the nonprofit that creates guidelines for sustainable and ethical travel, they really ask people who are traveling off-trail to disperse their traffic and not walk one behind the other. I think the Colorado 14ers Initiative nonprofit started using this information to say that for some tundra plants, it only takes five footsteps on them for them to die.

iRunFar: So, it’s particularly important here. It’s a good principle to have anywhere, but especially in the alpine and on those tundra plants.

Hicks: Alpine environments and wet, boggy areas.

iRunFar: Spread wide, don’t just follow in a line.

Hicks: That’s it!

iRunFar: Well, what else would you like to share about these past two days?

Hicks: Gratitude. It just comes down to a feeling of gratitude. It’s just so cool. Being out there basically on your own, or mostly on your own for a couple days, through wild country. Not seeing hardly anybody. Having all of the factors of nature seemingly on your side. Sometimes when you’re out and about, it seems like the elements are stacked up a little bit. To have them unstacked and open for you, I just feel so grateful for that. Plus, we had such a fun crew out there–friends crewing and pacing provided a lot of laughter. I didn’t talk on all of the mountains because I was feeling a little ill on some of the mountains. But even if I wasn’t talking, I was having a ton of fun just listening to friends and being with friends.

iRunFar: Congratulations, Meghan.

Hicks: Oh, thank you.

BONUS QUESTION

iRunFar: What was your favorite piece of candy on the trail? I don’t think you had much of your own, but I think your crew provided some.

Hicks: My pacer, Eszter Horanyi, who was with me on La Plata Peak, was carrying a bag of Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and some kind of sour gummy worm. She was with me during the heat of the second day. I was drinking my calories. I really wanted to try to get some more calories in and her bag of food was wonderful. You can just stick those things up into your gums and they dissolve. At that point you literally, you feel the energy being converted as it’s dissolving in your mouth. It tasted great, it felt great, I loved it.

iRunFar: A gummy-food mélange?

Hicks: A gummy-food mélange.

There are 41 comments

  1. Frederic

    What a feat! Meghan paced Sabrina’s FKT and then she came back to take it back , woohoo!

    Amazing Job!
    I was on Nolan’s 2 days before, I wish i had stayed a bit more to see Meghan’s feat!

    Congrats!

  2. slc

    I have never met you Meghan – but you have always come across as a class act when giving and doing interviews, and your approach to this accomplishment and comments during this interview just solidified that opinion. I’m sure you are super proud of what you’ve done, but there’s not one bit of hubris coming from you, and it’s refreshing to hear all of your thoughts from women doing amazing things to not taking too much for granted knowing you’d done it before.
    I also really appreciate the comments on Leave No Trace, I hope everyone hears those words and does what is necessary to keep the off trail areas on that route ‘less traveled’.

  3. John Trent

    I was wondering how you two were going to make this happen. Loved the interview, loved the fact that Meghan, you are getting some well-deserved attention and many kudos from throughout the world for this awesome feat. I know you don’t do these things to get attention or to receive kudos, but it sure is great that you are receiving both. You deserve it and I hope the attention you are receiving doesn’t stop. Great job to you, and great job to Bryon for the great interview!

  4. Paul Chapman

    Super effort Meghan! Wow the stars did align. You two are All Over It. You both know trail running inside out. Bryon’s questions are always spot on! Asks exactly what I would like to know, great understanding and depth.

    On my way out to get some injinji compression socks and sour candy!

  5. Jeff+Rome

    I haven’t even watched the interview yet, but yes, yes, and yes!! So excited for you! And now I suppose this shall be the last Nolan’s effort of the season. The effort to end all efforts (of 2020).

    But what about a winter Nolan’s?

  6. Sophie+Speidel

    Great interview, Team Irunfar! Yes, I echo John’s comments about Meghan getting well-deserved kudos for an exceptional feat. Watching the FKTs on Nolan’s and elsewhere has made these past five months away from racing almost bearable. Congratulations and big hugs from your fans in Virginia!

  7. Silke

    You’re so awesome, Meghan! Congrats on your amazing effort and thank you for all of the work you do for women in our sport and for leading by example!

  8. john

    I do not get it. Looking at ultrasignup I see that Sabrina has been a world class runner with podium places in Hardrock and WS and Meghan is pretty much a middle-of-the-pack runner or a local sub-elite at best So how come Meghan just beat Sabrina by an hour? It is like a 2:40 marathoner beating a 2:08 marathoner. That makes zero sense. Is Meghan suddenly an elite athlete who will win Hardrock next year or do we need to take all those FKTs with a grain of salt?

    1. Meghan Hicks

      Hi john,

      Your comment insinuates my effort on Nolan’s 14 to be falsified. Kindly read our comment policy, as we disallow baseless slander and accusations of specific people in the comments sections of this website, https://www.irunfar.com/irunfar-comment-policy.

      A very large number of data points exist to verify my effort:

      1. I carried a SPOT tracker which recorded my GPS locations every 10 minutes, with the exception of a few treed areas which blocked signal transmission. These data were available live time during my attempt and will remain public, http://trackleaders.com/nolans14i.php?name=Meghan_Hicks_2020&fbclid=IwAR0uNOkYDlvD9kmz4P6e4BQAomnrzPYYiwLj80DHiYQCGfoDX22aE-Fvnu4.

      2. I recorded a GPS track of the entire effort, using a Suunto 9 watch for most of it and the Strava app on my phone for a portion when my watch was recharging. I am keeping these data private to reflect the ethos I have for off-trail travel and the Nolan’s line and not making my specific path publicly available. However, the data exist and I have offered it to the officials at the Fastest Known Time website should they desire a secondary form of GPS data to review.

      3. I believe that myself and my team have photos from 13 of the 14 summits while I was on them, which contain exif data to verify where they were taken and the time of day they were taken.

      4. I was paced on seven of the 14 summits. Thus, my presence on and travel to and from half the mountains was directly witnessed by various members of my support team.

      5. My presence at the seven trail or road crossings where I received aid was witnessed by at least two members of my support team, and several times at least five of them.

      6. I ran on two public highways for about a half hour each time, and dozens of people drove by.

      7. I encountered other mountain travelers high up on at least six of the 14 mountains.

      If you would like to legitimately take up this issue, feel free to contact me and iRunFar directly, https://www.irunfar.com/contact, or to contact the folks over at the Fastest Known Time website who are in the business of managing data from and verifying FKT efforts.

      1. Frederic

        Meghan,

        In regards to that : “using a Suunto 9 watch for most of it and the Strava app on my phone for a portion when my watch was recharging”

        Do you know that you can recharge your Suunto 9 while it’s in use ? I am doing that for very long events where I carry a small battery that I can use to quickly recharge my S9 without even stopping the activity (especially that the S9 cord has a magnet, it even makes charging more reliable compared to the Ambit).
        I hope that can be a useful tip for you.

        Again, congrats on your FKT, Nolan’s 14 is a “beast”, respect!

        1. Meghan Hicks

          Frederic,

          My plan had been to recharge my watch on the move, and I did so for about an hour roughly 24 hours into my attempt using its charge cord and a little battery stuck in the front of my pack. However, Nolan’s terrain requires you to use your hands quite a bit and it had me reaching beyond the length of my charge cord and disconnecting it on the regular. So I simply used the watch until the battery died, gave it to my crew at an aid station to recharge it, and recorded the outing on my phone until I saw them the next time and could get my charged watch back. (I did consider putting my watch in my pack instead of having it on my wrist while recharging, but was nervous about it accidentally shutting off without my knowledge and I wanted to do my best to record a full GPS track. So I went for the phone-substitute option.) :) Thank you!

      2. Susan Boom

        I think you missed the point Meghan. Nobody is accusing you of falsifying any records. It is just that you have not replicated your FKT success in actual, competitive races so that raises eye browns when suddenly you are beating people who are actual elites.

        1. SageCanaday

          This is ridiculous. Meghan has won Marathon des Sables! She also spent a ton of time out on the Nolans 14 line and lives/trains in Colorado. It’s not like she smashed the record by 6 hours. If you want to actually look into Nolans records that have “fishy data” and unprecedented jumps in previous performances/race performances look at the Men’s record instead. Smh.

            1. SageCanaday

              I think it’s a “double standard” that people are skeptical of Meghan’s time/record when you’ve got a total outlier performance when it comes to Joey’s FKT time. Again, Meghan has won Marathon de Sables….and has done Nolans extensively over the years and previously just had the women’s FKT. She beat the supported record by only 45-minutes and improved her previous times by only several hours (after training on the course in Colorado all summer).

              Joey, on the other hand had barely finished Nolans 14 in the past (58-59 hours I believe), and according to his UltraSignup he has never even won an ultra race (and usually isn’t even top 10….i.e. 108th place at Leadville 100 etc). His performance (shattering FKT *supported* records by hours from guys with much, much stronger race results like Alex Nichols and Sean Van Horn) is way more of an “outlier.”

              From what I gather he didn’t use a SPOT tracker (the gold standard for a long FKT attempt) and basically has no witnesses since he started in the middle of the night and did it “unsupported.”

              Furthermore, the Strava data he uploaded (he used his phone apparently..) shows a “moving time” vs a “total elapsed time” that only differs by mere seconds (over 41 hours!).

              https://ultrasignup.com/m_results_participant.aspx?fname=Joseph&lname=Campanelli

            2. Frederic

              To @SageCanaday
              I definitely don’t think he used his phone, looking at the irunfar article and this picture (https://www.irunfar.com/wp-content/uploads/Joey-Campanelli-Nolans-14-5.jpg), that looks like a Suunto Ambit to me.
              If you zoom on it, you can even see his watch show 81.65 miles (which ultimately matches what shows on his Strava & Suunto app).

              Heck he provided his strava links & suunto app links while Meghan didn’t even provide any gpx file.
              Furthermore, Sarah Hansel gave him a ride back to Blanks Cabin (see irunfar article)

              Not sure what you’re trying to say about Joey’s amazing effort, so Meghan is legit but Joey is not ? Why ? Because Meghan has run more ultras and has a “bigger” ultrasignup ?

            3. SageCanaday

              @Frederic:
              I believe you are incorrect.

              Hi Strava data (iPhone) shows a total of 93 miles…and was not from the Suunto (which only showed the 82 miles and had some really crappy data anyway like 40km/hr velocity spikes).

              The interesting thing is that that Strava data was split into two, even 20 hour segments and the “moving time” vs “total elapsed time” was only seconds apart?…after 41:00 hours!
              https://www.strava.com/activities/3705233436

              But the bigger points: This performance came out of nowhere…it was a 15 hour + personal best drop in time for Joey himself I believe. It was an “unsupported record” that shattered all the “supported records”. People were questioning Meghan’s race results and relative performances (ridiculous), but not Joey’s? Again double standard. And yes, I do believe having a resume of strong UltraSign up performances from actual long distance-mountain race results (like Meghan has) increases legitimacy in these types of FKTs.

              Again, Joey had no SPOT tracker (again the gold standard for verifying FKTs). Who does Nolans 14 without a SPOT?!

            4. Frederic

              @SageCanaday
              Nope, I am indeed correct. If you look at his Suunto app activity, it says 131.4km. Convert that to miles (for the people living in the only 2 countries in the world using imperial system, US and Liberia…) and it gives… 81.6 miles just like his watch said on the picture.

              As for strava, we have no idea how Strava converts data coming from another API (here the Suunto API), if there is any smoothing or any additional algorithms.
              My understanding is that Joey synced his Ambit with the Suunto App, then exported probably a GPX to Strava and it’s possible that the Suunto App had to split the activity into 2 GPX files cause, well, its a big activity.

              But if you seem so strong that Joey’s performance came “out of nowhere” (which is your right), aren’t you then discrediting the validation work of P. Bakwin, B Burrell (& others) on FKT.com ?
              Do you really think they would post any FKT if they had strong beliefs that it’s a valid one ?

              “And yes, I do believe having a resume of strong UltraSign up performances from actual long distance-mountain race results (like Meghan has) increases legitimacy in these types of FKTs.”
              Then what about the UltraSignup of Sarah Hansel ? Do you even question her FKT then ?

              Btw, Joey has 10 FKTs so i think you are incorrect, he is not coming “out of nowhere”.

              Respectfully,

          1. Meghan Hicks

            Sage and all,

            Thanks for the kind words and the support. I appreciate you looking out for me.

            I personally don’t think there is anything about Joey Campanelli’s background, live-time effort, or data that should call into question his performance.

            While he may not be well-known in the trail running and ultrarunning world, he’s very experienced in the long-distance hiking community and well known as an athlete who excels on scrambly and technical mountain terrain. Also, he has a multi-year history with the Nolan’s 14 course including several years of recce-ing and three total attempts, I believe.

            While he didn’t carry a live-time tracking device, he did post videos to his Instagram account from the summits with regularity as he was out there. A number of the videos came online basically live time as there’s cell service on some of the summits, while perhaps 4 of the summit videos were posted with a delay as some of the summits don’t have service. In almost all the of videos, he showed himself, his watch, and some of the scene was visible in the background. The videos are saved as a highlight on his IG account if anyone would like to see them. I found all of the data observable in the videos to look correct, from the mileage and vertical gain visible on his watch to the daylight/nighttime and visible scenery.

            As for the data he made available post-event, posted to both his Suunto and Strava accounts, while I’m not an expert at this sort of data analysis by any means, it all looks correct to me in terms of routing, time elapsed at different points along the way, and pace. I do think it’s possible that he used both his Suunto watch and the Strava iPhone app to record his outing. His watch when visible in videos and photos matches the file in his Suunto account now, while his Strava files record more miles total and are marked as being recorded with the Strava iPhone app. The discrepancy in distance between the two could be that he had his Suunto set in lower accuracy, longer battery mode, while there’s no way to adjust that in the Strava iPhone app, I don’t believe. However, looking at the data on both platforms, it still all looks good to me in terms of routing, time elapsed at different points, and pace.

            Additionally, the folks over at the Fastest Known Time website reviewed and published his submitted data, which means they found it to be alright as well. Those FKT folks have the means by which to receive inquiries/concerns over the veracity of FKT efforts (they say to use this contact form to reach them, https://fastestknowntime.com/contact) which probably the best means to further this conversation of you have remaining concerns. While I really appreciate you all coming to the table here and speaking with relative constructiveness and using data to support your position, I just don’t know that the conversation can progress any further than this, where people looking at the same data “see” different things.

            Thanks again.

            1. SageCanaday

              Meghan,
              Thanks for your detailed comment. In this case I owe Mr. Campanelli an apology for being critical of his data/performance. Still can’t figure out why the “total run time” vs ” total elapsed time” on his Strava is only a few seconds different if he was stopping to take videos etc.?

              I respect your experience on the Nolans line (and obviously I haven’t done the full thing myself) to know what times may be possible for different types of athletes. I think as FKTs get more and more competitive and faster (and more publicized) that more strict regulations should be enforced (i.e. requiring a live SPOT tracking device etc and even possible drug/PED testing etc…the last point may be a stretch considering there is barely any testing in actual races though!). If we’ve seen anything in endurance sport, there are definitely some individuals that are still mechanical doping (on bikes), manipulating STRAVA data for CR segments (running and cycling), and PED/drug doping to gain unfair advantages for whatever reason. Perhaps I’m bitter because I’ve raced too many cheaters on the roads. But I do think people should question things.

              Again, I apologize for my critical comments. Congrats to Joey and
              congrats to you!

            2. John

              Hi Sage (not sure if you will see this directly given the interface but hopefully you’ll see this anyways), just wanted to provide a little more background on Joey’s Nolans FKT. In regards to the Strava file, i know that strava shows a difference between “run time” and “elapsed time” if you pause your run, so if Mr. Campanelli paused on strava one time at a summit or at the start/end of his effort then the file would show a gap, but the elapsed time is all that matters. When i used to use strava for recording runs it would always take a second for me to remember to finish the activity after pausing at the end, so lots of strava files I’ve seen on the fkt website have similar small gaps. I’d also recommend reading Joey’s writeup about his prep for Nolan’s to understand how the record came about and how prepared he was for the effort: https://joeycamps.blogspot.com/2020/07/nolans-41.html Finally, I would agree with Meghan’s assessment that the effort didn’t “come out of nowhere”, though I was similarly astounded (as was Mr. Campanelli) by the final time. Last summer he lowered Luke Nelson’s just-set record time on the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup, clearly proving his high-level ultra fitness over tough terrain (https://fastestknowntime.com/route/wasatch-ultimate-ridge-linkup-ut) . Agree with you that FKT verification is indeed becoming tricky as these routes get popular, but also agree with Meghan that Joey’s effort is 100% legit and think we should all be more hesitant to jump to conclusions.

  9. TH

    You are correct. YOU DON’T GET IT.
    Meghan is a tremendously accomplished runner, mountain athlete.
    Not equal to Sabrina in a standard 100 miler but Nolans is unique.
    Acclimated, prepared, line knowledge, determination as she stated are the factors.
    Congrats to her and all of the women setting FKTs or attempting them.

  10. Meghan Hicks

    Thanks for the kind words, all.

    john, Susan Boom, and Mark,

    Here are a couple close-to-objective observations and data points, as well as a few subjective thoughts, that I’d add to this conversation.

    First, I really admire Sabrina and look up to her as an athlete and human being. I have told her this also, but I objectively believe that she has the absolute potential to run Nolan’s 14 several hours faster than she did. I have also heard her say the same in post-attempt interviews, including to me when I interviewed her. I also know that, though Nolan’s is a very tricky route on which to run to one’s potential, much harder than at a 100-mile trail race, if and when she chooses to take on Nolan’s 14 again, she is likely to run much faster than her first attempt. I hope this is something she wants to do because it would be awesome to see!

    Now, I feel like what we saw with me on Nolan’s 14 is what we see repeated over and over in our sport: an athlete trains specifically for an event is able to rise above their normal levels. Every one of us, from the back to the front of the pack, has a couple elevated performances we can look back on and say something like, “Oh, I was really fit for that event and thus I had a really great day.” Objectively, it’s nothing new.

    If you watch this interview, you’ll hear why this was an inordinate training season for me. Removed from my life because of the COVID-19 pandemic was the 20 to 25% of time that I normally spend in an unideal training setting while covering races and events in our sport: being on numerous long-haul flights, working 60 to 80 hours a week, staying up all night on the regular, and doing low-quality running. Instead, I had more than a half year of almost uninterrupted training (at altitude in Colorado on big mountains where I live) and healthy-lifestyle opportunities. I trained about 25% more than normal for about half a year and 30% more than normal during my peak training weeks. Objectively, this is going to suss out as better fitness and better absolute potential. Spitballing, perhaps this would lift me up from the top-10%-type runner that I am in my regular life set-up to a top-5% runner?

    I hope this objective assessment helps.

  11. Doug K

    the reasons Meghan could beat Sabrina are all in the interview:
    – local knowledge is key, experience on these routes will make you significantly faster. Sabrina had one try at it, Meghan’s four plus many other days of going up and down those mountains make for a big advantage.
    Even on a simple moderate trail I can run it faster after a couple of excursions, since now I know the lines, and my ‘shift points’ as the racecar drivers say, where to drop to powerwalking and where to accelerate and where to carry momentum.
    – it’s not a race. on these days, with this weather, it was nearly perfect conditions. Sabrina had different days and weather.
    – “I know what it takes for women to walk up and down those mountains. I know what it takes for women to walk up and down a string of those mountains. ”
    and
    “Nolan’s terrain requires you to use your hands quite a bit”
    Most of Nolan’s isn’t running.. so a fast runner up against an experienced mountain scrambler, loses some advantage.

  12. Another Megan

    How does being an “actual” elite equate to being at the top, no matter what? The marathon comparison makes “zero sense”. Marathons are very different than ultras (I thought this was old news). Not to mention, Meghan is by no means a middle of the pack runner with a number of first place, podium, and top 10 wins (including, in “actual, competitive” races, Susan). Just because someone is humble, does not make them less badass. Sounds like she trained hard, did her homework, and had an awesome day. It does not surprise me at all. Congratulations, Meghan!

  13. Ben Lewis

    Congratulations Meghan! Extremely impressed with your effort, your thoughtful preparation, and your gracious humility. Glad that this strange time we are living in opened up this window of opportunity for you.

  14. Ben M.

    @Frederic I wouldn’t bother trying to argue with Sage. He spent weeks trying to discredit Matt Carpenter’s PPM CR this year. He’s just bitter.

    Anyways congrats, Meghan!

  15. Pete

    Ultrasignup numbers are metrics waved around by the old guard to protect and preserve their sponsorship income. FKTs free us of that baggage and allow the undiscovered and those who choose not to participate in organized races to shine. Look no further than Kyle Richardson from Boulder, CO, USA who has an 18th place finish in *one* race listed on ultrasignup but just crushed the Long’s Peak FKT in Rocky Mountain National Park with some tremendous downhill technical talent that you would have to call world-class elite. Ultrasignup numbers are nice but the rules of the game are changing for endurance and mountain runners. Congrats Meghan on your tremendous accomplishment!!

  16. Sean Van Horn

    Meghan, your effort was quite simply amazing, it was awe inspiring. While I certainly consider you an elite athlete, what I find more inspiring is that you have shown that success on the Nolan’s line (and perhaps in other very long efforts) is not directly correlated to natural talent. I hope that those who have questioned the validity of your achievement can find a way to cast aside their cynicism and instead be inspired by what you did, and the dedication that it took to get get there.

    Having competed in endurance sports for a few decades, it can often seem that talent is really the only thing that matters, that it beats out hard work every time. Your effort here shows that this is not always the case. It shows that hard work, grit, and experience can allow athletes to achieve things that seem completely impossible. I believe that this applies to Joey’s effort as well.

    Kudos to you on your effort, your humility, and everything that you do for the sport. You are an easy person to cheer for, so keep on doing what you’re doing.

  17. cat

    Congratulations Megan, what a wonderful accomplishment by a humble woman and athlete, never downplay anything you’ve done compared to the other women. Your accomplishment stands on its own. I am so sorry that people are questioning this, and frankly shocked. It reminds me of paid trolls that have some sort of ulterior motive, it didn’t even cross my mind for a second. Someone’s time on a mountain objective compared to a race is completely different. There is certainly a female mountain town badass somewhere that no one knows about that with the right knowledge could lower the time even further, would that be in question? Also many of you have put an inordinate amount of time on the route, time most people simply do not have, certainly there are women somewhere with the ability that without the extra time could not accomplish it. Its all apples to oranges. Your effort was fabulous, you have plenty of great results to boot already, it speaks to preparation and dedication and athleticism…enjoy your record, you deserve it and many appreciate your humble nature!

  18. Ryan

    @frederick Joey even talks about using Strava to record his run in his write up. Accusing Meghan of cheating on a course she knows probably better than anyone is absolutely baseless. It blows my mind nobody asks any questions of joeys record when there are some incredibly questionable fact.

    He ran 41:00 and only stopped moving for ten seconds. Even though he took photos at peaks, he apparently never stopped for refill water or take a bathroom break. He still has not switched his Strava to race mode. I have studied the splits extensively for my own attempt and there’s nowhere where he is making up six hours on Alex and joe who are world class runners. He took 20 hours off his first attempt… that’s unfathomable. He didn’t use a spot and his suunto data is utterly different from his Strava data (mileage is 82 vs 93). I still haven’t seen what time of day he finished, anywhere. He took 25 hours to run Leadville, one of the faster 100s out there based on times. So, somehow he did 44k vert in 41 hrs versus 16k at Leadville in 25 hours on a perfect trail. If we’re gonna call people out, let’s call out h The right people.

Post Your Thoughts