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  1. #1
    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Default 1990's Speed Hikers compared to modern day Speed hikers

    Some people here might remember back in the 1991, Ward Leonard setting the fast supported and unsupported speed record for the Appalachian Trail. For 23 years that same unsupported record stood before Heather “Anish” Anderson broke it by more than 6 days. Ward’s record has sense been broken several more times which leads to my question. Yes I am aware of Matt Kirk who paid hikers on the trail for food. Sense the hikers he paid carry food instead of Matt Kirk himself, I call that support but that is a topic for another thread. The record on the PCT has also been broke down to two months. I never met Anish or any of the other modern day speed hikers/runners. My question is what has change that allows modern day hikers to travel faster than hikers of the past?

    Modern day hikers are not traveling any lighter than the past light and UL backpackers from the 1990 despite what some people would like to believe. Ward was carrying a light pack with a base weight of 8 pounds. He wasn't the lightest backpacker but he was still travel light weight. The two things that I can guest are the foot wear and diet. Foot wear has gotten lighter over the years. Diet can pay a huge role in providing someone the endurance piece needed for such a hike. I am curious on what others thoughts are on the subject.

    Wolf

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    I'm sure things like gear, information, and accessibility all of something to do with it to. But similar to in ultras, the times just weren't as competitive back then because there was less competition. And as more people are made aware of the "sport", it makes sense that records will be challenged and broken.

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    Red Bull. Breitling. We've become a celebrity- and spectacle-obsessed culture. That's at least one of the changes. Not, IMHO, a positive change.

    I met Ward twice on the trail in '90, and I could tell some stories... He was almost universally loathed by us "ordinary" hikers. I think the whole idea of speed hiking is contrary to what the trail was meant to be. But maybe that's just me.

    You see similar stuff happening in other sports, eg., gymnastics. Stuff that seemed beyond human limits twenty years ago is now becoming almost routine. Well, it must be real, right?
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    There are more people attempting it and with social media it gets a lot more attention. Ultra running is also increasing popular which is changing both the number and quality of the attempters. My guess....
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    MrClahn, I can't see gear being much of a factor. Starting back in 1989 to the present, I was traveling with a base weight under 5 pounds which is still less then today speed hikers.

    To address the information piece. I would have to describe the information on the AT in the 1990s as better than todays books. The trail was already well marked and documented in the 1990s. Dan Bruce aka "Wingfoot" and writer of the AT Handbook was a 7 time hiker of the Appalachian Trail. Dan knew the trail and gear WELL. I have met thousands of hikers. I would list Dan's as within the top 5 hikers most knowledgeable hikers I have ever met. I'm not trying to put anyone down or be disrespectfully, but there really has not been another trail writer that has taken his place. Todays trail writers just don't have his experience.

    I would agree with you that more people are aware of the "sport", and all records will some day be broken. I would be interested in their training program prior to hitting the trail. Ward prior to beginning his speed hike, hiked 1,000 miles southbound before beginning his Northbound speed-hike as a warm-up.

    Wolf

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    rafe, I met Ward several times over the years. Three times in 1990 alone. Even hiked with him for a few days.


    I could see Red Bull as helping in town. I just can't see someone packing out a six pack of Red Bull out of town. It would be a little to heavy.


    Wolf

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    There are more people attempting it and with social media it gets a lot more attention. Ultra running is also increasing popular which is changing both the number and quality of the attempters. My guess....
    Malto,

    I agree with you that Ultra running has increase in popular and more people are attempting. I too do run but only a few miles. I also travel with a very light backpack, and still have a hard time running with a pack on my back. The bouncing of my gear/food makes it difficult to run.

    Wolf

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    rafe, I met Ward several times over the years. Three times in 1990 alone. Even hiked with him for a few days.


    I could see Red Bull as helping in town. I just can't see someone packing out a six pack of Red Bull out of town. It would be a little to heavy.


    Wolf
    You miss my point. They promote and benefit from the spectacles.

  9. #9

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    Access is the biggest difference. The more people know about something, the more people will try to do it. It's a numbers thing.
    It is much easier to become involved, figure out what it would take, and find information on the trail, the records, etc. I doubt back in 1990 there were even 10,000 people who knew there was an FKT for long trails.
    Now, that will reach upwards of 100,000 with the AT attempt that is currently taking place. If not more.
    The more people who do something, the more likely it is that someone who is truly a gifted in that skill will participate in it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    I am curious on what others thoughts are on the subject.

    Wolf[/I]
    Wolf, are you by chance the same Wolf as the one featured in Lynne Wheldon's ultralight backpacking secrets revealed vid from back in the day? Regardless, a cool vid I remember watching at Elmer's during my first thru in 2001 at the impressionable age of 20.

    What has changed: so yeah, I was only just getting into backpacking in the late 90s, but I would say, for better and worse 1.) # of hikers and hiker services has gone way up; 2.) Technology. Footwear is an interesting thought, what little I learned of Ward (pre-internet/exhaustive documentation), seemed he preferred boots, but others were certainly using running shoes back then too...

    What i would argue hasn't changed is the spirit of camaraderie among fellow hikers (and that's a good thing). I was a pretty hardcore AT lit nerd and remember tales of trail magic from two volume 'hiking the Appalachian Trail' dating back well before 90s. Of course, with more people and documentation(technology/social media), the amount of trail magic skyrockets too.

    Which leads me to an obligatory clarification to your initial post: the food I received on two occasions on my 2013 hike was not really purchased, but voluntarily given to me by hikers wanting to help another hiker out. I seem to recall a previous post by you making mention of this, so I suspect this matters to you. I did my best to document this on daily vid (there's that technology) and later in my book. Still, I think there may be some confusion:

    If you're a numbers guy, consider for a moment that my body burned approx. 300,000 calories on my hike (5000*60 days); by liberal estimate, total calories received (by fellow hikers) from those two occasions: 2000 (or 0.67%). Only during that first occasion (in VT), was i able to get couple a hikers to accept money for their kindness. So if we narrow the count down to calories that I actually "bought" from hikers, that's about 500, or 0.17%.

    In other words, not a sufficient calorie source but that I guess, should be left up to the court of public opinion. What's perhaps more important is to be transparent, and I believe I did my best in that regard.

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    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    You miss my point. They promote and benefit from the spectacles.
    Thanks! I did miss that. Yes there is A LOT more promotion and benefit from speed hiking today compare to 20 or 30 years ago.

    Wolf

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    Methods of training have also changed, in all sports you see times coming down as a result of improved training methods concentrating on those muscle groups needed for the particular activity as well as strong core. More awareness of diet as well with not only good foods but what is necessary for the body to recover and do it all over again the next day.
    "He was a wise man who invented beer." Plato

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    As someone (or 2?) said below: the shear numbers of ultra runners these days vs. 20 years ago is probably dominating the difference; much higher numbers means more truly physically talented folks, the very best, are discovering their talents, so overall we have faster people trail running these days. That and probably footwear, where being lighter yet with more traction and a bit of support makes a big difference. Maybe a bit of nutrition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    Some people here might remember back in the 1991, Ward Leonard setting the fast supported and unsupported speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

    Wolf
    Please answer my question:
    What record?

    To answer your question:
    Humanity is a pyramid of collective achievements; each generation building on the accomplishments of those before. The gaps between major achievements in any area are shrinking as we as a species become more interconnected. At times you may see periods of no activity, at times you see a flurry of activity- typically when there is competition. Edison and Tesla, Gates and Jobs, even Jefferson and Adams at the birth of our nation.

    It could be debated that there currently exists several qualified competitors in the FKT realm, which is fueling present conditions.
    If you wanted to put a finger on it... Ward is not where it should be placed.
    I would start with Colin Fletcher and the general environmental boom in the late 60's.
    If you would care to look to the following generation in the 90's, I would look to Ray Jardine as well as the general pushback to the land after the me first "80's".
    If you wonder where they came from... The boomers and the Millennials are the largest generations by population in this country.
    So you have a large population of youth, with a full generation of some form of knowledge and acceptance of fast and light travel... and great environmental respect and awareness in general.

    Specifically; you have someone like Scott Williamson out west, and David Horton out east.
    The Horton/Williamson competition on the PCT fueling the imaginations of an entire generation of hikers and runners alike with folks like Anish and Matt Kirk leading the way from team backpacker.
    Folks following Horton like Pete and Andrew soon followed by Meltzer and Jurek from team runner.
    And finally you have someone like Jennifer Pharr Davis tying it all together and inspiring an entire generation of girls and boys to hike.

    The trail isn't really any different from anywhere else; humanity is a pyramid built on myths, legends and real life folks who put their stone on the backs of those who came before.

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    Increases in competition, knowledge and technology, a contemporary culture increasingly habitualized to immediacy, impatience, and adopting the idea if anything is worth doing it is worth doing fast - an addiction to speed and some will also say increasing personal attitudes of ones's own inflated sense of self importance - egotism - plays into the rise.

    From what I see not every culture is so addicted to speed hence we don't see the huge popularity of FKT competition on trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Increases in competition, knowledge and technology, a contemporary culture increasingly habitualized to immediacy, impatience, and adopting the idea if anything is worth doing it is worth doing fast - an addiction to speed and some will also say increasing personal attitudes of ones's own inflated sense of self importance - egotism - plays into the rise.

    From what I see not every culture is so addicted to speed hence we don't see the huge popularity of FKT competition on trails.
    "Because it's there" George Mallory.

    http://blog.theclymb.com/passions/ex...eorge-mallory/

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    Equipment, knowledge, better athletes, lower target, PED's

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    It could be debated that there currently exists several qualified competitors in the FKT realm, which is fueling present conditions.
    If you wanted to put a finger on it... Ward is not where it should be placed.
    I would start with Colin Fletcher and the general environmental boom in the late 60's.
    Colin Fletcher? Environmentalism? How are either of these two connected to speed hiking?

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    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    Colin Fletcher? Environmentalism? How are either of these two connected to speed hiking?
    Bigger pool of general outdoors folks to draw from, generally speaking, in each succeeding generation as America as a whole became more interested in outdoor recreation.

    Your generation... Sai Fletcher was one of the biggest drivers of backpacking(walking) as a sport in and of itself. The environmental movement as a whole can be credited with starting around that time. The Sierra Club, Trail Clubs, and even Scouting boomed as places one could not only meet to discuss the wilds, but actually gear up together and head out. As well as sport specific gear from folks like Chuionard or Thompkins who founded solid gear companies.

    My generation... Grew up with folks like yourself and others who had been backpacking as recreation with the benefit of your knowledge and experience to take us there. Experts like Jardine and others in the lightweight movement arose. A second round of innovators also produced gear and began to exchange MYOG techniques and ideas. Thru-hiking existed, but was very rare. For as much as I grew up camping I had only the faintest notion of the AT until my early 20's.

    The current generation... thru-hiking is somewhat common, information is readily available, cottage (specialty) vendors abound, and places like this site exist to exchange what is possible.

    My son... his favorite thing is to run, to be faster than another person. I don't know why... but he will know who these people are too, he may even grow up idolizing them as his sports hero's if his interest persists.

    Some folks just like to run... if you grow up running in the woods- well that's Scott Jurek's story as well as a few others on the list.

    Running itself has evolved and grown to spawn its own offshoot in the Ultra running community with it's own history as well and merges with fastpacking quite cleanly these days.
    They say that running booms during economic downturns... and the 80's recession was a big boost for the sport. The 2007 crash may have been another... I know my limited chances to participate were related to a layoff- and know many folks my age who are only recent participants.

    I doubt if speed hikers would constitute even a hundredth of a percent of all outdoor users- but there are now more users.

    So as we often say on WB with recent outcroppings of behavior on the trail in general.... you get enough apples together, you're bound to get some more bad apples too.
    Not too hard to step back and see who planted the trees in the first place either if you care to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    "Because it's there" George Mallory.

    http://blog.theclymb.com/passions/ex...eorge-mallory/

    Sure, when he made that quote, which you didn't quote in full or in context, he was referring to THE HIGHEST MT IN THE WORLD - MT EVEREST - WHICH NOBODY HAD YET SUMMITED. Mallory's goal had conquering the Universe in Mind, and BEING the FIRST, and the FIRST not only to summit any old Mt, which there were endless number of that hadn't yet been summited, but the TALLEST MT KNOWN. It's fair to say mallory, as is the case now, was infatuated with superlatives that brought attention to his goal. He sought recognition! It was beyond the reason of "because it's there…." Ahh, same as "I'm a thru-hiker" rather than offering "I'm a section hiker." Ahh, "I'm thru-hiking the AT" rather than "I'm thru-hiking the whatchmacallit trail."


    “BECAUSE IT’S THERE… EVER*EST IS THE HIGH*EST MOUN*TAIN IN THE WORLD, AND NO MAN HAS REACHED ITS SUM*MIT. ITS EXIS*TENCE IS A CHAL*LENGE. THE ANSWER IS INSTINC*TIVE, A PART, I SUP*POSE, OF MAN’S DESIRE TO CON*QUER THE UNIVERSE.”


    had nothing to do with

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