The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Washington, and most people who see it carry loaded backpacks, sleep in tents and stop periodically to snap photos or soak their feet in streams.
Not Allison Macsas or Mallory Brooks.
The two Austin runners hope to set a new women’s time record as they cover the 93-mile trail, without outside support.
Time records are kept in three divisions – supported, in which crew members can help a runner by providing food or shoes or anything they need; self-supported, in which a runner can cache food or mail packages to him or herself; and unsupported, in which a runner can only carry his or her own supplies or eat and drink what they find in the wild.
Candice Burt holds the current women’s unsupported “fastest known time” of 31 hours, 11 minutes and 56 seconds. That’s just over a 20-minute pace, on a rugged, single-track trail with 22,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. (She also encountered two mountain lions along the way, and has some cool tattoos on her legs.)
Macsas and Brooks would like to break the 30-hour barrier, and they’ve got a good shot of doing it. They’re aiming for a 15- to 16-minute-per-mile moving pace; stops to put on or take off layers, filter water, change socks and do other maintenance will drop that speed to between 17 and 19 minutes per mile.
“We definitely want to push that bar as low as we can, so we set a harder bar for the next people to leap over,” says Brooks, 33. “We don’t want to barely shave it off – it’s better to really push it to a new level.”
Macsas, co-owner of Rogue Expeditions, and Brooks, co-owner of Spectrum Trail Racing, knocked out 56 miles of the Wonderland Trail last year, so they know what they’re in for. That run featured 17,000 feet of climbing. They’ll face a new challenge this time out, though: Permanent snowfields, which they’ll likely hit at night.
“The trail, if you were to take it away from the mountain, looks like a pie crust – one circle that goes up, down, up, down with very little flat,” says Brooks.
Macsas, 32, who has raced the marathon at the Olympic Trials, and won the 2017 Austin Marathon and 2011 Statesman Capitol 10K, is relatively new at ultra running, although she has finished 50 and 100-milers in Leadville, Colorado, and completed the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim twice.
“Trail running so much slower than what I’d do on road,” Macsas says. “It almost feels like hiking to me.”
The women will fly to Washington on Aug. 13, and plan to start the next day, as long as the weather is good. Since no one can aid them along the way, they’ll stuff peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and peanut M&Ms into their packs and bring water filters to draw water from streams along the way.
“What’s more important than speed here is, I don’t want to say craziness, but are you bold enough to try it. I’m like a metronome, I’m slow but I keep going. And I’m OK with pain,” Brooks says.
The women say they’re in it together.
“We’re both in agreement. We both want to do this, but it’s not life or death. If someone gets hurt, we’re definitely sticking together,” Macsas says.
Brooks agrees, saying that she won’t be broken hearted if they don’t get the record on their first attempt. “It’s more than that – it’s to go see what we can do,” she says.”If we did it and didn’t make the record, we’d probably just go back and try again.”