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REI Presents: FKT (Fastest Known Time)

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You may have heard of an FKT—”fastest known time.” Like, the fastest known time climbing Everest. Or, the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail. But did you ever think about trying to set an FKT for yourself? It might seem daunting at first; maybe you’re not a very fast runner or hiker. Or, maybe you don’t climb very hard. But here’s the thing: If you’re the first person to do something, you’re automatically setting an FKT. Of course, that could feel intimidating, too. After all, it’s tough to find a mountain that’s never been climbed, or a place nobody’s explored before. The secret lies in having a little imagination.

My friend Elizabeth is full of creative plans for how to spend her days off outdoors—I’ve even written about her here before because she’s so great at motivating her friends to do fun stuff. So when she said she had an idea for a day out that would combine six of our favorite sports, I knew it would be a good time. The day would include skiing, mountain biking, road biking, rock climbing, trail running and paddling—or, floating, really. Our friend Kelsey’s birthday was coming up, and it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate. Plus—since it was a fairly zany idea, we were pretty sure nobody had done it before. Which meant—you guessed it!—we’d be automatically setting an FKT.climbing

We plotted our route and filled a spreadsheet with all the different gear we’d need at the transitions between each sport. We needed to make sure everything was organized, from helmets to bike locks to belay devices, at the proper locations. We packed the gear up the night before and set our alarms for an early morning.

Since we were planning to ski, mountain bike and float on a creek, we needed the perfect combination of snow in the mountains with dry trails lower down and the right amount of runoff to safely float the creek. Those conditions only align for a couple of weeks each spring in Colorado, and we were stoked to wake up to a bluebird day with perfect conditions. When our friends showed up with donuts and donut holes to fuel us along the way, I was pretty sure we’d be golden.

Not everyone in the group that day had the same strengths. Some of us were stronger skiers, while others were stronger runners or climbers. But the fun came in putting it all together and knowing that, since we were doing a brand-new mashup of sports, it didn’t really matter how fast we went or how hard we climbed. In the end, when everyone climbed out of the creek sun-soaked and tired after floating the chilly water in inner tubes, we felt the satisfaction of setting a goal and accomplishing it.

Sure, we could have entered an obstacle race or an ultra marathon put on by someone else, but we decided to think outside that box and design our own adventure. We don’t know if anyone will ever attempt to repeat our “FKT,” but to us it’s less about following in someone else’s footsteps—only faster—and more about getting creative and doing something altogether new. Just make sure to remember the donuts!

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