The Collegiate Loop, located on the Colorado Trail, is a 165 mile route that has a cumulative elevation gain of 39,000 feet with altitudes ranging from 8,000-12,600 feet, consisting of multiple steep ascents and descents. Team Injinji Athlete Courtney Dauwalter broke the current supported FKT record for this route with a new time of 1 day, 16 hours, 14 minutes and 20 seconds. The previous Women's supported FKT was set in September 2021 by Annie Hughes with a total time of 2 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 16 seconds, and the previous Men's supported FKT was set in September 2021 by Nick Pedatella with a total time of 1 day, 22 hours, 48 minutes and 0 seconds. Courtney's time surpassed both of these previous records.
What is an FKT?
An FKT is defined as the Fastest Known Time on a certain route that is at least five miles long or has 500 feet of climbing. Routes are usually already established, or must be submitted prior to attempting one on any type of terrain - road, trail or off-trail. There are multiple categories and styles, such as gender, teams, and type of support. The unsupported option has no support of any kind, where the runner or hiker must carry all supplies with them from start to finish, except water which can be found from natural sources, such as rivers, creeks, or public taps. Spectators, photographers or pacers are also not allowed. Self-supported allows the attempter to have as much support as they can find along the way, but not from an actual person. Examples of this could be dropping supplies along the route in advance, purchasing food or beverages at gas stations, staying at a hotel or campground, or anything else that others can also be available to. The last style is the Supported preference, which means the runner/hiker can have any type of support, as long as the person is self-powered. Water can be handed out from another person, an entire team can join, spectators and media crew are all allowed. This style allows for the fastest times from all three categories, due to the amount of gear that one has to carry.
The Collegiate Loop
This stretch of miles in Colorado is considered “difficult” and is the first major expansion of the Colorado Trail, combining both the Collegiate East and Collegiate West routes. There are plenty of spots to resupply, access to summits that hit 14,000 feet, making this loop popular for hikers and runners for multi-day trips. Due to the weather, there is a short window as to when to take on this loop, with August being the most recommended month. The trail is well-marked with beautiful views from above the treeline, a few service roads, and some rocky sections that call for some minimal navigation.
The Collegiate Loop is Courtney’s first completed FKT, with one other attempt on the Colorado Trail in 2020. The draw for her on this particular trail was the adventure of seeing what was possible on a longer trail so close to where she resides. She was also interested in the challenge of most of the course being above 11,000 feet with the majority of the sections having difficult access unless you are on foot. “The Collegiate Loop has been on my list for years because it is so beautiful, so tough, and just long enough to make it a big journey. I was craving a multi day effort and this was it!”
Courtney had several takeaways after her first attempt at an FKT on the Colorado Trail. She learned that you don’t need to pin a race bib on in order to get a big adventure, and that ultra running is really a team sport. Courtney was lucky to have so many great friends accompany her on this journey to support her in any way needed.
Training for this event was standard for Courtney, as she had just raced the Hardrock 100 in July. She had the miles down, so instead concentrated on recovery and her mental game. “I wanted to be as relaxed and excited about the loop as possible. Running for multiple days is mentally very taxing and it is important to show up with as fresh of a brain as possible.” After getting the green light from her body after racing Hardrock, she began to gather her gear and watch the weather for a good window for the attempt.
Since this loop was so close to Courtney’s home, she didn’t have as many logistics to take care of compared to other FKTs or adventures. With the assistance of her husband, the two were able to use their knowledge of the trails to map out the best crew access points. Her main crew that stuck with her the entire time was: Kevin (husband), Paul & Meredith Terranova, and Nick Pedatella (men’s FKT holder for the loop). Additional friends cheered her along the way at aid stations, to run with Courtney for a mile or two, or were waiting at the finish line.
The actual 165 miles were full of lots of highs and a few solid lows, similar to any endurance run. Courtney spent the first 50 miles running solo, enjoying the silence of nature before pacers joined her. The first night was a roller coaster with a turned stomach that introduced vomiting to the mix of problems to be solved. After spending hours trying different foods, the magic of Goldfish crackers stuck, and on the entire second day, Courtney ate Goldfish by the handfuls. The heat of the daytime was cooled with slushies from the gas station that her crew brought to her. The weather was beautiful and the views were incredible of the Colorado mountains. Courtney finished this adventure with a smile on her face and a new record set in 1 day, 16 hours, 14 minutes and 20 seconds.
Courtney’s goal moving forward is to gain more experience at multi-day efforts in wild and remote areas for future FKTs. She loves embarking on big adventures, but the next one will have to wait until at least 2023. Her advice to others wanting to attempt a Fastest Known Time is to simply “Go for it! Why not!?”
Known for her long inseams and positive attitude, there's no doubt Courtney will continue to be a leader in the ultra running community. Look out for more Team Injinji updates on Courtney by following the Injinji Instagram.
Want to learn more about FKTs and the process and guidelines for submitting a route? Visit the Fastest Known Time website and like Courtney says, go for it!