California’s Backbone Trail has seen a lot of visitors in the past few months. Since November, eight runners have set fastest known times (FKTs) on the 108K route, which runs through multiple state parks near Los Angeles. The most recent of these FKTs belongs to Richie Duchon, an ultrarunner from L.A. who set the self-supported route record on February 14, completing the Backbone Trail in 14 hours, two minutes to beat the previous best by close to half an hour.
A busy trail
The Backbone Trail’s supported and self-supported records for both male and female runners have all been broken in the previous three months. Jeffrey Stern started the trend, running the supported FKT (meaning he had a crew that ran with him or met him along the route to give him food, water and any other help) in November. His record of 11 hours, 10 minutes didn’t last long, as Avery Collins smashed the FKT in 10 hours, 19 minutes a month later.
A few days after Collins’s run, a woman named Mac McIntosh ran the female self-supported FKT (which means she stashed food, water and other supplies along the route to pick up on the way) in 15 hours, 45 minutes. McIntosh’s record remains the self-supported FKT for the route. While no other woman have tackled the route self-supported, three have run supported on the Backbone Trail in recent months.
Celia Stockwell closed out 2020 with an FKT of 13 hours, 28 minutes, but only two days later on January 1, a runner named Shelby Farrell beat her time, running 13 hours, 25 minutes. The most recent female record was set by Brianna Sacks, who covered the 108K route in 12 hours, 56 minutes in mid-January.
Finally, the men’s self-supported record previously belonged to Dima Sokolovskyy, who ran 14 hours, 26 minutes in late December. That was the official FKT until recently, when Duchon bettered the record by 24 minutes.
This run was Duchon’s second attempt on the Backbone Trail. As he wrote in his post-run report on fastestknowntime.com, he tried to run the 108K route with friends in November, but “had to bow out” due to stomach issues. That run wasn’t an FKT attempt, but he decided to go for the route record this time around.
“To finish yesterday and nab the self-supported FKT was very sweet redemption,” he wrote. He started his run early on February 14, setting off at 3:30 a.m. He noted that the winds were “very intense for the first three or so hours in the dark,” and he estimated that some gusts reached 30 to 40 miles per hour. While he had to run into the wind head-on at times, that fortunately wasn’t the case the entire way.
Duchon had three caches along the route where he had stowed water and food. At about the halfway point, his “stomach went far south” and he had to switch from heavier foods like gels and waffles to lighter gummy worms and Redbull. On a long downhill later on along the route, his quads joined his stomach in causing issues, but he was close enough to the finish at this point that he knew he could make it.
“I was hurting so good by the time I got to Ray Miller Trail [near the finish], but you can start to hear the sound of the Pacific on the way down, and that is the final kick to bring me home,” he wrote. “‘I finished with the sun setting over the Pacific. Just stunning. So proud of this big effort on a beautiful and historic stretch of mountain trail perched over the ocean.” He crossed the line well ahead of the previous self-supported route record, which is the second official FKT of his career.