Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail

"[Bilbo] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door," he used to say, "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'" [p.74, The Fellowship of the Ring]

It has been some time now that I've thought about what it might be like to run the entire Chicago Lakefront Trail (LFT). I believe it has something to do with learning about Fastest Known Time or FKT runs in places like Zion National Park or Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. A point-to-point-to-point of the LFT (18 miles one way) posed a reasonable next step beyond my experience running the Lakefront 50/50 50k. I do recall discussing with Matt Flaherty or Rich Heffron or both at some point the existence of a Known Time for this run on the LFT. They weren't aware of a posted time. I also checked what appears to be the hub of FKTs, the FKT message board at and came up empty handed as well, presenting a rather interesting opportunity to set a Fastest Known Time for the course.

With injuries and other issues that have plagued my running in recent years, there hasn't really been a good opportunity for me to attempt this run and so I sort of forgot about it. However after attending a screening of a film about Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe's FKT of the John Muir Trail, the desire to complete the LFT run was reignited.

"'It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,' said Frodo, 'and I could not have bourne that.'
'Not as certain as being left behind,' said Sam.
'But I am going to Mordor.'
'I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I'm coming with you.'" [p.406]

The Fellowship of the the Lakefront Trail at the 71st Street 0 mile marker
photo credit: Kyle Larson

I may have actually mentioned this desire at the screening to Kyle Larson, I don't recall exactly, but Kyle and I decided to make an attempt at this run following the Chicago Marathon. We were joined by Robby Haas, Kyle's coworker, and together we formed the Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail. I'm pretty indebted to these gentlemen as it would have been a pretty awful time running 36 miles of pancake flat, windy trail solo.

I had plotted a course beforehand, taking into account some of the construction on the path however these plans changed quickly after massive waves eroded parts of the Trail on Friday, October 31st and continued to pose a safety hazard near Oak Street Beach. We did our best to adhere as closely as possible to the posted mile markers, but deviated slightly at Oak Street in order to stay safe:

The blue line indicates the marked trail while the red indicates the actual path taken.

Other than attempting to adhere to the marked path as much as possible, our other rule was that we couldn't use each other's first names for the duration of the run. With transgressors buying the named person a drink for every offense. I devised this rule in order to provide a little entertainment particularly in the early miles where we'd be feeling good, with the wind, and still able to chat. As a result, each member of the Fellowship was awarded several nicknames:

Kyle became Swishy (because of the sound of his pack), Coach K, and Smeagol (see below)

Robby was 'Zoo (because of his hometown of Kalamazoo, MI) and Sam (see below)

I ended up with the nickname Frodo (my balaclava which I wore mostly around my neck formed a hobbit-like hood and as the primary timekeeper, my Suunto Ambit 2s became the Ring)

We collectively became the Fellowship of the Lakefront Trail, running to Mordor (the southern most point at 71st Street) and back.

Starting our run just as the sun was rising, with the still-strong winds from the northeast, we ran comfortably for 18 miles. The temperature was in the low 40s, keeping us quite cool. I took my gels according to my usual marathon cadence of about every 7 miles.

Once we turned, we faced 18 miles more or less into constant wind. As you might imagine, things got a bit tougher here. It was more difficult to stay warm and we were already 18 miles into our adventure. Other than finishing, the highlight of the second half was spectating the Lakefront 50/50. My friend, Eric Baum outsmarted the wind and the competition to win at the 50k distance!

"But do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam." [Frodo, p.947, The Return of the King]

While we ultimately finished apart, it was a great comfort to have the Fellowship along with me. For the 36.55 mile course, I kept my watch running from the first step to our last (including a bathroom break at St Joe's on Diversey and multiple water bottle refills), taking splits as each of us finished our runs at the Hollywood 0 mile marker.

Kyle Larson - 4:46:11
Robby Haas - 4:30:40
Dan Kittaka - 4:26:28

One last nerdy note: It is interesting to see that for a very small population size, there is an inverse relationship between the total times of our 1600m Fleet Feet Racing Time Trial on Wednesday and our LFT run on Saturday:

*where 1 is the average of performance of the population

What are your "just 'cause" running goals?

Also help us build knowledge of the LFT. If you're aware of point-to-point-to-point times, please post on the boards!

No comments:

Post a Comment