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I was hesitant to set a date. I didn’t feel ready. I hadn’t been disciplined in following a workout schedule, I was afraid to fail attempting a goal I truly cared about.

This isn’t anything new. Ever since I started trail racing in 2017 I’ve been hesitant to commit to races. Since running in college and getting thoroughly burnt out on racing, I don’t like the idea of putting too much pressure on running, something I do purely for joy of it.

But there’s something to be learned from an all-out effort. It’s rewarding to take on a challenge and see what my body can do.

There’s something in that hesitation and fear of failure, too. I’ve learned to see fear as reliable weathervane for what’s worth doing. So, despite my nerves I set aside my hesitation and picked a date.

Friday July 17 dawned misty and cool in the Climber’s Bivouac parking lot. I woke before my alarm, excited to get started.

Cresting Toutle Canyon Climb - Photo Steven Mortinson
The route - The Loowit Trail circumnavigates Mt. St. Helen's

FKT Tips

I’ve never tried setting a fastest known time before and didn’t know where to start. Luckily my friends Rachel Drake and Tyler Green know a few things about FKT’s and helped me out with a few tips.


To state the obvious, this is an extremely light kit. On a typical run in the mountains I’d carry basic survival equipment, more food, and a windproof jacket, at the very least.

Cap: Territory Portland

Shirt, Shorts, Boxers: Salomon S/Lab

Vest: Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set

Shoes: Salomon S/Lab Sense SG

I felt comfortable accepting the risks that going so light entails, but I didn’t take the decision lightly.

Factors I considered: A clear forecast for the weekend, warm temperatures, long days, relatively high number of hikers on the Loowit Trail, and friends at the trailhead who knew my itinerary and expected time of return.

Food and Water

Food: Targeted 200 calories an hour and used:

  • 7 gels

  • 2 Gnarly Hydration Mixes

  • 1 Snickers

  • 1 mini Bobo bar. (Not Recommended, Too dry)

Staying ahead of nutrition and hydration is key. I something every half hour even when I wasn’t hungry.

Water: I scooped from the streams I crossed. I made the decision not to filter, valuing speed over the risk of Giardia.

This trail is technical. With steep climbs, tight turns, and a number of boulderfields that can be difficult to run quickly and navigate correctly.

Navigation Tools:

  • Watch: Suunto 9 Baro

  • iPhone with Gaia GPS (for backup)

  • Locator Beacon: Garmin InReach Mini (Emergency)

Previous experience with the Loowit trail proved useful. In addition, I used the ‘Navigate Route’ function on my watch (Suunto 9 Baro) quick route checks.