FKT Fever: Chaski Ladies Crushing it on the Trails

March 5, 2021

Two of our Chaski coaches and elite athletes, Devon Yanko and Ashley Brasovan aren’t letting the lack of organized races get in the way of a good time. No way – these awesome ladies are making their own fun out on the trails and taking down FKT’s like nobody’s business.

Devon is already well-established in the Ultra world, with a first place finish at Leadville in 2017 and a fifth place at Comrades in 2012, but Ashley is just starting to dip her toes in that world after a long and successful career on the track and roads.

Devon tackled the East Bay Skyline in San Francisco – a 32.5 mile jaunt – on the end of an incredible 10-day stretch averaging over 30 miles a day. She was going for the unsupported record, and ended up crushing that while tying the supported record as well.

Meanwhile, out in Colorado, Ashley went for the FKT on the stunning 4 Pass Loop, which traverses over 27 miles through the Rocky Mountains and climbs over four 12,000-foot passes.

We caught up with the ladies as they recovered, and they were excited to reflect on their epic runs.

Note - both Devon and Ashley are leaders of Camp Chaski and are taking on new athletes if you're looking for a coach!

Devon's Thoughts

Team Chaski: Unlike Ashley, this was not your first ultra, not even your first ultra of the week. This was your 10th ultra in 10 days if I understand it correctly. First question - why not go for the FKT on day one instead of day 10?

Devon: The first four days I was in Tahoe, so not near where the trail was for the FKT. I didn’t actually consider doing the FKT until almost day 10. I actually had a different plan all together that didn’t include the FKT, but at the last minute, I was feeling strong so decided to go after the unsupported record at least. I thought it was a fun way to challenge myself.

Team Chaski: This might be a stupid question, but do you think those previous nine days did any mental/physical hardening that actually made it easier than doing it relatively fresh? Was it easier knowing that there was no day 11?

It was definitely easier knowing there was no day 11. I didn’t have to save anything in the tank, so as I was getting into the final miles I was able to say “screw it” and push it in a way I might not have if there were more days left. I do think the previous nine days helped because I had gone through so many different mental and physical highs and lows and made it through, so it made me confident that even if my legs felt trashed or I was tired, neither of which happened, that I would be able to go the distance.

Team Chaski: What was your favorite moment from the day?

After I was done, being told by the overall/supported record holder that I had actually tied her record (in addition to obliterating the unsupported record). Also the sunrise over the whole bay was on point.

Team Chaski: What were the most challenging parts, physically and mentally?

I took a nasty slip down French Trail and tweaked my Achilles and knee. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to finish the trail, let alone break the FKT. I had to overcome the urge to quit or feel sorry for myself.

Team Chaski: What/how much did you eat?

Not a ton actually. A few GU products, gels, chomps, roctane and one red bull. Water.

Team Chaski: You just barely broke the supported FKT - tell us a bit about the experience being so close at the end.

I beat the unsupported record by almost an hour. I actually tied the overall/supported record. I was unfamiliar with the route previously and was following the blue dot on Strava and hand written directions. As I was closing in on the final miles, I thought I was about 3-4 mins off the overall record, but I was fine with that because I was unsupported and with the fall and the way finding errors I had resigned myself to the unsupported record only. As I neared the finish the app indicated I was closer than my watch said I should be, I sped up as much as I could to the finish, but actually thought I had missed the overall record by the time I hit stop. Thankfully, Lucy (the supported record holder) told me on Strava that I had run exactly the same time as her. How crazy is that?

Team Chaski: We've talked a lot about saying "yes" to random stuff in 2020. What's next for you? Do you have any other big projects you want to tackle?

I am trying to figure out what is next. After feeling so awesome for 10 days of running (327 total miles), I am eager to find something to take on. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Right now my biggest project is just eating all the things and resting up for the next big adventure!

Check out Devon's video highlighting her 327 mile, 10-day adventure (which culminated in this FKT!)

Ashley's Thoughts

Team Chaski: This was your first ultra! Why'd you choose this route and why'd you choose to do an FKT in the middle of COVID instead of waiting for an official race to make your debut?

This loop had been on my bucket list and radar for a while. With no racing happening until potentially August and coming off of a solid block of training, I felt like this was the right time to attempt my first ultra and see where my fitness is at. My body (and mind) were finally ready for an effort of this length. I actually tried to do the Chuckanut 50k as my first ultra in 2019. During the race, I got a stress fracture in the middle and had to be escorted back to the start via car.....super fun.

Team Chaski: What was your favorite moment from the day?

The entire loop was breathtaking. For anyone planning to visit the Colorado area, I would highly recommend a trip to the Maroon Bells. The 4 Pass Loop is 27 miles and traverses 4 passes - all over 12,000'. Each pass has its own character and the loop embraces everything that Colorado has to offer.

Team Chaski: What were the most challenging parts, physically and mentally?

The 4 Pass Loop has a little bit of everything - rocky, technical trail, snowfields, ~10 river crossings, avalanche debris, high altitude (above 10,000' for the entire loop) which made it fun but a constant physical challenge across the full 5.5 hours. Having never done anything that long, I was a little nervous about getting lost and being able to get water (via snowmelt) throughout the last few miles. Mentally I really had to be on my "A" game the entire time to get the FKT. This was just a day when the stars all aligned and that had to happen to be able to break the FKT that Anna Mae Flynn set on this loop a few years ago.

Team Chaski: What/how much did you eat?

I tend to front load eating for efforts that are longer. About 1.5 hours before the start (around 5am), I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Throughout the run, I had ~5 Honey Stinger gels over the first 3.5 hours and then munched on Honey Stinger gummies the rest of the loop. For hydration, I started with (2) 18 oz bottles - one full of Nuun and the other with just water. Once those ran out, I filled up in some of the rivers from the melting snow along the route. I probably drank about ~34oz in a filtration soft flask during the last 2-3 hours.

Team Chaski: You said this was maybe the hardest thing you've ever done; how does running a 5+ hour mountainous trail FKT compare to running a hard half marathon or marathon or even 5K cross country race?

Each race or effort is hard in its own way. A trail half is a faster, harder effort for a shorter duration whereas this FKT was more mental and required extended focus. I would honestly say that right now (with not a lot of super fast interval work) that a track 5k would kill me!

Team Chaski: You've called yourself a "sub-ultra trail runner" for a while. Will you start calling yourself an ultra runner? Will we see more of you in the ultra world?

I still would like to think of myself as a 30k-50k runner but will probably say Mountain-Ultra-Trail athlete at this point. It will be a while before I go much above the 50k distance but I did really love being out there for 5-6 hours. Will you see more of me in the ultra world? Yes, but not sure to what extent right now. I will still probably be mixing things up for a while including continuing to throw some road races, shorter efforts and potentially even longer efforts in there!

— Ashley Brasovan
— Devon Yanko

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