Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Charlottesville’s Rivanna Trail and the importance of an established FKT

Circling Charlottesville is the Rivanna Trail (RT), a mostly rustic, sequence of single track trail linkages meandering around the City through public space and land easements.  In addition to carving through actual woods, hillsides and City parks, the RT cuts across and under roads, through streams and sometimes skirting backyards along the borders of residential neighborhoods while in the process totaling 19.55 miles.  There are various spurs off the trail- adding optional bonus miles- but one thing remains constant: the loop itself.
The RT in green.
One can download a much cleaner, more detailed PDF map of the RT here.
When I am on the RT or view a map of the trail I do not simply see dirt beneath my feet or a green plotted line compassing a digitized City landscape.  I see a golden halo.  A crown jewel.  I see a City resource that is far from reaching its potential yet, in its current form, a treasure worth celebrating.  What better way to come to know a community or experience surrounding nature than on foot?  In Charlottesville, one can do both on passage of the RT.
To my knowledge there is no established Fastest Known Time (FKT) speed record for the RT.  I find this odd considering the fact that Charlottesville has something of a reputation for being a runner's town.  The time is nigh for this to change.  The following is my argument for why an established FKT is a good thing for the RT and for the Charlottesville running community at large.
On the RT Foundation website one can read that in part its basic mission is to “provide trail enjoyment opportunities for citizens of all abilities.”  Though the RT Foundation’s website does not specifically spell it out one can infer that the members of the RT Foundation, its volunteers, etc., work very hard as individuals and in collaboration to create awareness for the trail.  Awareness encourages use, which promotes volunteerism, which provides sustainability, and on and on.  I am of the opinion that simply by using the gifts we trail runners’ have- running and sometimes running fast- we can create awareness for a cause.  True indeed, running the RT for an FKT is an exercise in self-enjoyment but to do so in an inspiring or popular manner might create energy, a buzz even, within the running community and one that might draw positive awareness to the RT itself.
I have decided that since I cannot find record of a RT FKT I will set about the business of constructing one.   I don’t know when I will do it but hopefully it will be on a dry weekend some time before winter's end.  Once I do it I will make a public statement on this blog and my reward will be me actually making a donation to the RT Foundation.  Also, once the FKT is set I will challenge other area runners- mostly, just peeps I know- to best it (which probably won’t be that hard!).  My reward to the first person who beats it will be a pizza and pitcher of beer dinner at a local joint of their choosing, plus another donation to the RT Foundation in their name.  Then, if another person comes along and beats their record perhaps that individual might be so generous as to pay the reward forward.  The basic premise is simple and at this point this is all just in my head but who knows... Perhaps it might grow wheels and have something of positive spiraling affect on friendly, local competition, as well as help to create awareness and meager donations for the RT.
So what the hell, this weekend you can find me out on the RT scouting turns and what not in the hopes of one day establishing an FKT for all runners to then challenge.

Lastly, a few housecleaning items:

1. UTMB.  What else can I say other than I am thrilled to be in.  My registration is set, accommodations are booked and I'm ready to soak up some French summertime mountain culture and experience international ultra mountain running competition to its fullest this August in Chamonix.

2. Literally, this is a housecleaning action item.  Take my shoes.  Please.  I have a brand new pair of Scott eRides, size 12 that are badass but unfortunately not for me.  I ran once in them for 10 miles on trails and realized that the heal lifts up a bit too much for my liking.  On a positive note, the shoes are light, offer good traction and I still have the box they came in.  : )  Be the first to email me your name and address and I will snail mail them to you, free of charge.  In fairness, the shoes were free for me (I won them recently during a raffle at Andy's Unbreakable movie thingy) and I would feel most comfortable if a deserving trail runner (one living under a family budget or one with not so much extra cash lying around) takes them on.  Picture below.

Scott eRides, size 12.


  1. A great idea Neal, I wonder how fast you can do it... ideally without getting lost. I think it took me 3 times doing the whole enchilada until I got it straight. Neither of those times were attempts of a speed record however. Keep us in the loop & good luck!

    Check out the video, it's a little outdated but fun to watch:

  2. Christian,
    Neat video. I dig the creativity and groovy soundtrack. The stop at Bodo's seemed apt. Will keep you and the boys apprised.

  3. Neal, Great idea! Keep in mind that there are a few variations of the RT loop. So, when you state your intention, be clear as to whether you will run the RT along 5th street after Hardee's, for example, or run the Willoughby Spur. Perhaps the easiest and most consistent course is the one marked only by GREEN RT signs, not the brown RT spurs or other variations. Also, the RT is technically closed between CHS and Greenbriar Drive, but there is a spur alternative. Good luck and let me know when you decide to do it!

  4. I like the idea, Neal!

    To further Sophie's point above, there is certainly some variation in the 'official' RT and what is commonly run as the RT. The crossing at Woolen Mills is another spot, as well as Azalea Park, where the RT goes around the baseball field/dog park into some really overgrown sections. Most folks will opt to run down through the community garden road instead of the overgrown section.

    The easiest solution is probably to just post up the GPS map from your Garmin post-run so people can see the 'official' FKT route.

    I'm going to predict 2:38 for your FKT benchmark.

  5. Sophie/Drew,

    I am thinking of just following the loop guide from the website since it is already spelled out: http://www.rivannatrails.org/Default.aspx?pageId=952644.

    This is something I need to run in advance once or twice. I'll try to figure how to sync my watch with my computer to post the route. 2:38? I suppose that is as good as a prediction as any. But now that you put it out there of course I'll have to run at least a 2:37 or better. I can feel the pain just thinking about it.