April 22, 2024
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As a lot of the path operating world was targeted on the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run final weekend within the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado, David Hedges quietly and stunningly put his identify within the report books with a prodigious effort in Sawatch Vary just a few hundred miles to the northwest.

The 25-year-old considerably nomadic path runner who initially hails from Chicago lowered the supported Quickest Recognized Time (FKT) on the daunting Nolan’s 14 route on the night of July 15. Nolan’s 14 includes connecting a line of 14 Colorado peaks that tower over 14,000 toes in a single push of 60 hours or much less. The route is open and largely off-trail, however the typical distance is 95 to 100 miles with about 40,000 toes of elevation acquire at a minimal.

Ranging from Clean’s Cabin west of Salida early on July 14, Hedges went up and over the fourteen 14,000-foot-plus peaks and rambled his technique to the Mount Large trailhead the next night on the Leadville Nationwide Fish Hatchery in 39 hours, 6 minutes, and 40 seconds. Hedges’s Strava report reveals that he coated 94.12 miles with 45,594 toes of elevation acquire.

It’s the quickest time ever recorded for that rigorous route, even surpassing Joey Campanelli’s still-unfathomable unsupported effort (41:00:33) in July 2020. Whereas Campanelli’s time stays intact because the unsupported FKT for Nolan’s 14, Hedges effort formally eclipsed Alex Nichols’s 2018 supported FKT of 46:41:00.

Bolstered by a small staff of pacers and crew—Henry Harris, Sean Van Horn, Jack Kuenzle, and Nikki LaRochelle—Hedges set the brand new FKT by operating and climbing the route with none main setbacks. He benefited from clear climate, warmish nights, and little or no snowpack. Hedges wore Norda 001 and 002 sneakers, and his major gas consumption included Spring Power gels, Enduro bars, stroopwafels, blueberries, bananas, dried cured olives, and an occasional Mind Juice complement drink.

David Hedges on the Nolan's 14
David Hedges setting the brand new Nolan’s 14 FKT. (Photograph: Courtesy David Hedges)

“I used to be sort of too drained to be emotional, but it surely was, like primally, very nice simply to sit down down and soak all of it in,” Hedges stated an evening after ending. “We went and had pizza at Mile Excessive Pies in Leadville, however there was actually no celebration apart from that.”

After serving to Nichols on the second half of his FKT effort in 2018, Hedges spent elements of two years linking peaks on the Nolan’s route whereas he was a pupil at Colorado School. He spent the previous few years attending graduate faculty at Cornell College, coaching and racing in Europe and varied locations across the U.S. 

Whereas it took Campanelli three tries to set his FKT, Hedges did it on his first try.

“I feel Joey’s report is far more spectacular as a result of he did it unsupported,” Hedges stated. “I imply, I can’t even think about. That’s insane. I used to be following alongside in, in 2020, and I used to be shocked when he did that. I used to be like, ‘Oh, OK,  there goes everybody’s possibilities on Nolan’s. I feel lots of people haven’t gone after it since then because of this.” 

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a triplet photo of Hedges FKT on Nolan's 14
(Photograph: Courtesy of David Hedges)

Nolan’s 14 FKT: From Chicago to the Collegiate Peaks

Hedges grew up on the north aspect of Chicago, Illinois. He wasn’t actually concerned in organized sports activities as a younger child, however he was all the time energetic—particularly with parkour and biking. Hedges says he realized to learn music earlier than he realized to learn and write; he turned a high-level violin participant as an adolescent. He yearned to get open air as a lot as attainable and ultimately did uncover operating—and operating ultra-distance races—as an adolescent, as a technique to stability the depth and monotony of lengthy hours of each day music follow. (He would additionally sometimes journey or run 13 miles to violin classes at Northwestern College in the course of the summer season.)

One summer season, whereas attending a seven-week violin program on the prestigious Meadowmount Faculty of Music in Westport, New York, he discovered himself changing into a bit stir loopy and actually busted out to go for a run.

“It’s actually rigorous and so intense,” he remembers. “Mainly, I acquired to a degree the place I felt I couldn’t actually pursue this. It’s such as you’re locked in a plywood field, simply working towards eight hours a day. And if you’re not working towards, you’re going to grasp lessons and classes and for the remainder of it. It’s in an attractive a part of upstate New York and I simply couldn’t get out within the mountains. You weren’t allowed to depart the premises, and in the event you did you’d get kicked out.” 

After about six weeks, Hedges couldn’t take it anymore and snuck out for a nine-mile run.

“I used to be struggling a lot that, with a pair days to go, I simply went out for a run,” he says. 

“Sadly, the camp director actually drove by me on her technique to work whereas I used to be operating. She’s like, ‘What the hell?’ And they also kicked me out.”

For just a few years, Hedges maintained an analogous ardour and depth for each enjoying the violin and operating. He ran his first extremely in 2014 as a 16-year-old and gained his first race a yr later—the Black Hills 50-miler in Sturgis, South Dakota. By the point he was 19, with 10 ultras already beneath his belt, he ventured west to attend Colorado School in 2016.

He quickly met Nichols, the college’s 33-year-old assistant cross-country coach who, in 2017, completed second on the Western States 100 and commenced a month-to-month streak of operating up and down Pikes Peak. By 2018, Nichols was scouting the Nolan’s route for an try at surpassing the prevailing supported FKT. The mark was then held by Spain’s Iker Karrera, who had turn into the primary sub-48-hour finisher of the course in August of 2017 with a 47-hour, 40-minute effort.

Hedges, who had began operating within the mountains as quickly as he arrived in Colorado, was a part of Nichols’s eight-person assist crew in 2018, connecting with him within the Pine Creek drainage beneath Mount Harvard and pacing him over Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, and Missouri Mountain. Regardless of some logistical challenges, Hedges stayed with him for the ultimate 4 peaks—Huron, LaPlata, Elbert and Large—as Nichols lowered the FKT by 59 minutes to 46:41. (Curiously, Nichols had handed Joe Grant, who was on his technique to setting a brand new southbound unsupported FKT of 49:38 the exact same day.)

Hedges accompanied Nichols for 29 hours—about 62 p.c of Nichol’s whole journey—however he admits he wasn’t as efficient as he might have been. 

“I really feel dangerous as a result of I used to be not very useful,” he says. “I acquired out with him somewhat bit and, you recognize, clearly it was inspiring for positive. He had a Garmin 225 with no GPS and our telephones each wound up dying. Then my watch died and I didn’t know my approach round that nicely. I assume I might have bailed in the midst of the night time, however I didn’t. So we went all the best way to the tip, and that was eye-opening and confirmed what you might do within the mountains.” 

Hedges spent the remainder of that summer season climbing and operating on the Nolan’s 14 line, finishing the remainder of the peaks throughout strong coaching days. He was again at it the next summer season, too, and thought of making his personal try, however by 2020—after Covid-19 pandemic slowed the world down and Campanelli and Sarah Hansel (57:43:34) blew individuals’s minds with their unsupported FKTs—Hedges enrolled at Cornell to work on a grasp’s diploma in regional planning. However he by no means stopped fascinated about the Colorado 14ers and the problem of Nolan’s 14.

“The very first thing is that after Alex did it, he stated it could go sub-40 sooner or later, and he stated that Anton [Krupicka] had stated it, too. He didn’t say that I might go sub 40, however he thought it was attainable,” Hedges stated. “And figuring out that I’m robust at descending and robust going off path, and, I assume, good on the lengthy stuff, I figured I is likely to be a very good candidate for it.”

RELATED: Robert Barlow’s Six-Yr Obsession with Nolan’s 14

Return to Colorado

Whereas engaged on his grasp’s thesis, Hedges spent a number of months adventuring in Europe final summer season, logging quite a few 30-hour coaching weeks with 50,000 cumulative toes of vert. He obtained an entry to Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, France, however he dropped out after 65 miles as a result of he wasn’t capable of run any farther as a result of an unknown neuromuscular harm that hindered his gait. 

He spent many of the winter dwelling in Asheville, North Carolina—at one level logging 133 miles and 43,000 toes of vert throughout a 26-hour coaching week—and in late March parlayed that health right into a win on the 50-mile Mount Mitchell Heartbreaker in a course-record 8:08:52. In early Could, he traveled to the UK for the Extremely-Path Snowdonia by UTMB, a grueling 104-mile race in Wales with practically 32,000 toes of elevation acquire, a number of scrambling sections and appreciable quantities of off-trail journey. Regardless of struggling cramps and blown quads, he completed third in 26:36:30 and earned an entry to this yr’s UTMB.

After a brief stint of restoration—and simply after receiving his grasp’s diploma from Cornell—Hedges got here again to Colorado in late spring with time to check and follow on the Nolan’s line. After arriving the primary week of June, he spent six weeks scouting the road, linking up summits on multi-hour day journeys (with assist from Harris), familiarizing himself with the optimum off-trail routes between the peaks. Then he took a couple of week and a half of tapering time away from the route—tenting close to Independence Go and operating varied high-alpine trails above 10,000 toes—earlier than beginning Nolan’s at 4:30 A.M. Friday morning—about 90 minutes earlier than the Hardrock 100 started.

Hedges tackled the primary three peaks alone—Mount Shavano (14,230 toes), Mountain Antero (14,271 toes) and Mount Princeton (14,200 toes)—then met up with Harris, a buddy and path runner from Salida, Colorado, who accompanied him over Mount Yale (14,200 toes), Mount Columbia (14,075 toes) and Mount Harvard (14,424 toes). In mid-June, Harris, 25, a former school basketball participant, gained the Triple Crown competitors (the mixture of the 23K, 46K and Vertical Okay races) on the Damaged Arrow Sky Race in Olympic Valley, California. 

They ran down Harvard on Friday night to the Pine Creek drainage, the place Hedges picked up his nighttime equipment from Van Horn, a path runner and ski mountaineer from Carbondale, Colorado. In 2020, Van Horn accomplished Nolan’s in supported trend in 45:57, which on the time was the second-fastest time on the route. Van Horn helped take Hedges over the subsequent two peaks, Mount Oxford (14,160 toes) and Mount Belford (14,203 toes), earlier than driving again over Independence Go to volunteer at Saturday morning’s Aspen Valley Marathon. 

“I used to be struck by the truth that he was 20 hours into the trouble, it was 1 A.M., and he didn’t look like there’s wherever else he would moderately be,” stated Van Horn, 36, who met Hedges a number of years in the past on the Energy of 4 ski mountaineering race in Aspen. “He was definitely pushing himself and going exhausting, however he simply appeared elated, cool, calm, and picked up. He truthfully made me really feel like a little bit of a wimp, as a result of I don’t assume I’ve ever been that cool or calm 20 hours into an effort. He was simply shifting very well and you might inform that he was completely having fun with himself.” 

From there, Hedges went solo up and over Mount Missouri (14,074 toes) and Huron Peak (14,012 toes) within the early morning hours, then, after dawn, tackled La Plata Peak (14,343 toes) alone. Simply earlier than 11 A.M. on Saturday, he met up with Kuenzle, who helped take him up the grueling south ridge of Mount Elbert (14,438 toes) and Mount Large  (14,427 toes). Kuenzle, 27, has set 23 FKTs on foot and on skis since 2019, most just lately on Denali in Alaska and the Bob Graham Spherical in England final summer season

“I don’t assume he stopped all the time. He simply saved shifting,” Kuenzle stated. “It’s fairly implausible to see him get it completed the best way he did. For him to get a fairly good go at it, you recognize, on his first attempt to with a reasonably minimal crew. I feel it’s superior, however I feel he would’ve even taken off much more time if he had been accompanied all the approach. We saved speaking the entire time about how briskly Joey’s unsupported effort was. It’s simply loopy to exit and carry all your individual assist the entire time, and I felt we have been shifting fairly nicely from the summit of Mount Elbert to the end, and it’s fairly loopy that Joey was a minute sooner for that stretch.”

RELATED: Jack Kuenzle’s Pace File on Denali Was No Cakewalk

LaRochelle, 39, a path runner and ski mountaineer from Breckenridge, joined them on the best way up Large and, after reaching the ultimate summit, the three descended one of many technical north ridgelines collectively. Descending by means of backcountry terrain, they ultimately picked up the Highline Path and traversed to the Colorado Path and eventually the Nature Path that led them to the Mount Large trailhead on the official northern terminus of Nolan’s 14 on the south aspect of the Leadville Nationwide Fish Hatchery parking zone. 

Hedges stated apart from an early near-bonk as a result of dehydration coming down a technical valley on the north aspect of Mount Princeton and chilly, moist toes for lengthy intervals of time, the largest problem was the cumulative fatigue. 

As for what’s subsequent, Hedges is heading to Aspen this week to listen to world-class violinist Augustin Hadelich play on the Aspen Music Competition, then possible heading to Chicago to go to household. He’s undecided if he’ll return to Chamonix to run UTMB, however he stated he’ll most likely begin searching for a full-time job this summer season.

“He’s an superior child,” Van Horn stated. “From all the things I can inform he simply actually loves being out within the mountains and being on that technical terrain and simply pushing himself in lovely locations. He sort of takes a very simplistic method to operating, however he’s very clever, articulate and considerate. And I feel that makes for this actually fascinating sort of mixture of simplicity and complexity on the identical time.”

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