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“There is something beautiful about setting a goal so high— that you have to keep chasing it.”

~ Jessie Zapo @jessiezapo



It has been almost three months since I hobbled my depleted, cold, bruised, and blistered body off of the Long Trail, 250 miles into what was supposed to be a 273-mile journey. I started a note on my phone recapping the experience while it was fresh and I was still rolling around in the post-ultra pain. That feeling of your soul returning to your body after dragging it through some kind of happy hellscape. I wanted to share the experience, but the experience was still haunting me. These multi-day distances have the ability to cut deep. Mentally and physically. Somehow after The Speed Project Solo, the success and incredible community I was surrounded by made that grand finale “easy”… I was able to wake up the morning after running 290ish miles and clean out the car, organize my gear. After this Long Trail FKT Project, I was trashed in a new way.

In the moment I thought I was fine. But as I watched draft emails to brand partners pile up, seemingly paralyzed from sending the update that they may-or-may-not have been waiting for, I realized I had sunk into a bit of a hole. I felt like a loser. There was nothing I could do but let myself ride it out, take care of myself, work on navigating #vanlife post-LT-adventure. Where would we go next? How would we continue to put gas in the van? These were questions I knew needed to be answered all along, but I didn’t foresee feeling so stuck in the aftermath. I didn’t know how much those 250-miles would suck out of me. The best I could do was take it day-by-day. And while this sounds sad, it wasn’t all sad! I was living! I resumed training and spent an incredible amount of time with family and friends. It took a while, but I FINALLY found a race to get excited for (Rim to River 100-miler, which is in a couple of days from the time of me writing this, hence why my goal is to get this recap out before I race again!).


So, while I hate how long it has taken me to craft this report (and several other related content projects [Summer Rewind Series is coming to YouTube soon!])— I realized that this pressure I’m feeling is fully self-inflicted. It also is a realization that I could work on personal time management… I have learned so much more than quirky ultra-running-specific tidbits (although there were a lot of those too). I can’t wait to share this story. It’s the story of a self-created adventure. A dream, a lofty challenge, and GETTING AFTER IT. 🚀


A full film sponsored by adidas TERREX produced by Drew Darby and Tyler McCain is in the works. For now, enjoy this ramble of memories and collection of photographs from Tyler McCain.

DAY 1 - Let’s get this party started (on a Sunday morning) 🎬👩🏼‍🎤🤘🏽⚡️

On July 30, 2023 we woke up in our vans at the Journey’s End Road parking area 1.3 miles from the Northern Terminus. Will and Vanessa - the Pace Captains - both tucked away in Will’s mom’s “farm van.” Two strangers brought together by my wild plan to run the Long Trail as fast as I possibly could. The other van was a rental that housed the film crew - Drew & Tyler aka The Boizz. 


The morning unfolded nicely— Mel Snow, a rad CrossFit mom, my dear fitness friend from my VT days was my first pacer. She carpool’d to the start thanks to Meghan Ksiakek, my boss when I worked at Turtle Fur. Meghan rocked a wig with flowing unicorn colored hair. It was perfect. 🦄


We hiked in as a team, chatting, things were chill, sipping on Liquid Death and Red Bull because I wanted to be equal parts hydrated and caffeinated. The clock struck 10:00 AM and it was time to finally begin this beast.


I was confident. My training was on point all summer, physically my body had adapted in a way that made me feel like I belonged on the trail. The hours of visualization were in the bank, and mentally I was ready for whatever the next few days would throw at me.


“You’re going to transform into having mountain lion legs,” I told myself through the grueling seven rainy weeks of training on the trail. I felt the transformation happening, as my legs became harder to the touch thanks to Martin Torres of EPOC Coaching’s plan and my dedication to following it.


THE FIRST 2.6 MILES [Northern Terminus to North Jay Pass]:

Mel and I started off smooth. I wanted to chat but I also wanted to find a form of zen, take in what I was doing. Gosh, what am I doing!?? Quickly, the start went from mellow to messy in a way that could have been majorly prevented… A critical error: everyone hiked in. In my master Google Sheet, I wrote in that our van would be at the next road crossing 2.6 miles down the trail. I planned on grabbing a pack of Skratch fuel and fresh bottles for the following 9.4 mile stretch. In hindsight, I should have given the nutrition to Melissa to carry at the start, and cut out the need for the van to rush over there. But I didn’t. I visualized that parking lot from my scouting during training and didn’t take into account that if everyone hiked in, nobody would get to that food drop before me. First lesson: don’t assume anyone else knows the plan. This is YOUR thing. There were times later on that I should have remembered this…


THE NEXT 9.4 MILES [North Jay Pass to Jay Pass]:

I got to the North Jay parking lot and the van wasn’t there. I thought about this being a possibility at some point in the first 20 minutes of running. “They’ll get there.” I convinced myself. Nope. So stupid. I wasn’t going to sit there and wait for the van. I asked Mel to hang back while I called Jason. He finally answered. Nope, they were just leaving Journey’s End Road. I screamed back to Mel. I still don’t know if she heard me or if Jason had talked to her and told her to go catch me. She had enough food and water to share. Ugh, no Skratch or SaltStick though… I could get over that, but the whole confusion made me extremely flustered. How could I fuck this up in the first 2.6 miles?


It’s not fucked up I told myself. You not only got there a few minutes early, but you’re still on schedule and still very much on pace. 


Chill out.

Easier said than done.


Mel caught up. Phew. I worked hard to push pass the annoyance. Once I finished the food and water in my pack I was reminded of my fail and the frustration reemerged. I should have taken the extras from Mel at this point, but instead I locked into a cadence and rolled away from her. I looked back as she tackled a massive mud puddle. I didn’t see her again until her pacing duty later that night. I shouldn’t have dropped my pacer. I didn’t need to move that fast, but I wanted to. I wanted this section to be over so I could start fresh and reset my mind.


I bombed down to the trailhead. Nobody expected me that soon. Whatever, you know what to do Shelby. Get in calories (especially to make up for the ones you neglected in that stretch), put on dry shoes and socks, grab your LEKI poles, and get moving.


FINALLY RUNNING WITH MY PACE CAPTAINS! [6.8 miles with Will & 10 miles with Vanessa]:

I was excited to run with Will. I met Will while working at Bolton Valley. I was a ski instructor, recent college grad navigating life, and living the winter ski bum dream. I was about to run my first marathon when I met Will. Will moved to Montana and we were re-connected through the running community let’s call it seven years later. Small [awesome] world. 


We had A LOT of catching up to do. These miles clicked by smooth. It was the fresh start I was craving on Jay Peak.


The next section was through sunset with Vanessa. I was definitely starting to feel the fatigue of running all day, but still felt strong and unscathed. I was enjoying chatting with everyone, but it was starting to feel like too much chatting. I could walk and talk for years, but I needed to “turn it on”… I needed to focus. The terrain on the Long Trail demands focus especially when trying to traverse it swiftly. It sucked because I REALLY wanted to talk to Vanessa. I still have so many questions for her!


Vanessa and I met on Mount Baldy in California, she’s now a Salt Lake City girl. She is known for orchestrating carrying a trampoline to the top of high mountains (in pieces), setting it up, and well, then having the time of her life jumping on it while day hikers look in awe at the fact that there is a gosh darn trampoline on the top of the mountain. Our mutual friend Rhea brought us together, and I couldn’t BELIEVE that Vanessa was down to make the trek to play on the LT with me.


“Turn it on,” became my mantra. I needed to stay in it. We arrived to Eden Crossing, mile 28.8 on time. I had my first scheduled rest here, which always feels like the most restless during these multi-day things.


WELCOME BACK MEL! [14.4 miles to Codding Hollow Road]:

Mel Snow was back for more! I felt awful for dropping her earlier in the day. I worried she wasn’t going to want to run with me again, but Mel is tough as nails and has raised two [now] women, so I feel like she knows how to deal with psycho chick drama like a pro. I also had Scott joining the party! I met Scott through the Richmond Trail Running Club, a local group who jumped in to help me get some local all-star pacers for the quest. I hadn’t actually “met” Scott at this point. We conversed through email and I could tell he was going to be solid. Apparently Scott was taking a dirt nap waiting for me when Jason arrived at the trailhead. This dude was going to be PERFECT.


This stretch went incredibly smooth. I followed Scott’s lead, Mel stayed behind me and we were a happy little sandwich charging through the night.


I want to note: I smelled some stinky toots during this section… was Scott farting? Do I know him well enough to ask? I let it go. Little did I know that this theme would resurface later…


Arlee and Mel Senesac hopped in next. Arlee was another new friend from the Richmond Trail Running Club and Mel Senesac is the owner of the gym that I met the other Mel at. Mel Senesac is a strong and inspiring mother. She doubted her abilities to pace me because of her “lack of trail running experience” (or some BS like that…) but I had no doubt that she would be an awesome pacer. Not to mention, this part of the trail was basically her backyard and I hadn’t seen her in years! These two crushed it. I felt like I was running with old friends. Everything was going as planned.

DAY 2 - Elbows are overrated anyways 💥💪🏼


A LONG AND ROCKY 15.7 MILES [VT-15 to Barnes Camp with Vanessa]:

I hit the first 24 hour mark while in this section. The morning started off pretty peaceful, but my throat was beginning to feel like garbage, my voice sounded hoarse. I had to conserve it. GOSH. I really just wanted to talk to Vanessa. Thankfully, she was really good at telling stories and I was super happy to listen. I had seen a teeny bit of this section in the beginning and end, but underestimated how tough the full 15.7 would be. This was where the wildly technical and rocky terrain started to mentally crush me. I watched Vanessa fall in front of me. It looked painful as she smacked her back on a boulder. She fell again shortly after, landing in a split on a rock. OOOPH. I wanted to cry for her, I wanted to stop and hug her and just sit for a minute, but she bounced back up. She was okay. We both needed to stay brave. Stay brave and keep moving I told myself. This terrain is hard for everyone.


MANSFIELD MAYHEM x BOLTON BREAKDOWN… [During the next 22.9 miles are where I start to crumble]:

We finally reached Barnes Camp in what felt like a full day. 65.5 miles in. I had been majorly looking forward to this point. My friend Cailin had the most incredible Shell + Bee costume on. 🐚🐝 The Turtle Fur team was there to cheer me on. But I was pooped. I hated that I was behind my reach goal by almost two hours. The buffer was massive though to still get the female FKT (probably around 15 hours of flexibility). I needed to make the most of this scheduled rest. Which meant being anti-social again. Climbing into the van, getting cozy, and smashing one of my brother-in-law’s famous chocolate chip cookies before trying to snooze for an hour and a half.


This section is messy. It covers the most technical terrain on the entire trail. Possibly the most vert packed into a 22.9 mile stretch, and many moments scrambling on your hands and knees. I had people hiking in at various points to relieve pacers and bring in more food and water. I was stoked though. Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in Vermont at 4,395’ is where Stowe Mountain Resort is. I was teaching skiing at Stowe when I met Jason. Additionally, prior to meeting Jason, he was a Caretaker on the Long Trail through the Green Mountain Club at Taft Lodge. It’s a special place. I had summited Mansfield five times this summer, twice in one day. I was ready for that climb. I had Arlee back to pace me, plus Sam, a friend from working at Stowe. We slapped some fresh glitter tattoos on. It was time to boogie! 🪩 


Going Southbound on the trail, you climb what is known as The Chin, past The Nose… and then you hit The Forehead. I wasn’t ready for the forehead. If I were a pimple on the forehead, I was popped hard… 


A full rain storm thankfully puckered its way back into the clouds, but we were getting spit on. A fine mist that was just enough to make the rocks slick like algae covered barnacles. I’m not someone that would say is super comfortable playing on big exposed rocks, so this slime factor was making it treacherous. Nerves, fatigue, the insane amount of focus needed to stay on your feet chipped away at my ability to keep calm and carry on. I also wasn’t eating enough. I wasn’t hungry. Classic. It took me six hours to eat a breakfast sandwich that Arlee and Sam continued carry around and offer to me. It was honestly comical; but me refusing to eat it was not helpful in the scheme of things.


75% of my training runs were in heavy rain and I managed to take zero falls. Apparently, it was time to fall… 


My feet slipped out from under me fast and I slammed down with full force on an evil rock. Landing mostly on my left elbow it was bleeding and swelling. I screamed like a mountain lion. It hurt so much. It hurt to move my arm. What the heck. WHYYYY???! Whatever. I got up, whimpered a bit, and kept moving. But then, probably right when I was getting over the pain, I somehow managed to fall on it again. And this is when I really lost it. I mean LOST. IT. I wrapped it up in my Turtle Fur tube which helped hold it in place and gave me the peace of mind that if I fell on it a third time it would have some cushion. Okay. Focus on your elbow. You don’t need your elbow to run. If you think about that pain, you won’t notice your knees swelling or wet feet beginning to blister. This approach worked for a little, but all sanity had escaped me.


All I wanted to do was scream. So I did. Maybe I am a mountain lion? Have you heard a female mountain lion scream? It’s a blood curdling mating call and territorial warning. That was me.


Maybe it is okay to feel these extreme lows. Feel them. You’re still strong, brave, and capable even though you’re screaming and crying in the middle of the Vermont wilderness. Feel it. Keep moving. It will pass. 


The crashes, slips, slides, the extremely patient movement required to stay standing, continued to flare me up. Like how I picture spot fires popping up on an already scorched earth. Each one went out a little easier each time as I worked through the discomfort.


Mark Aiken and Scott met me towards the last 5-7 miles of this section. I worked with Mark at Stowe Mountain Resort when I was teaching skiing, I’ve babysat his kids. His enthusiasm and supportive dad vibes were what I needed. I sucked back the tears. They brought protein smoothie shakes and cookies. Their presence and the yummy calories they provided really helped me get closer to baseline emotionally. Knights in shining running vests.


There was some miscommunication as to where Jason was going to meet me. In my whining and misery I might have confused things. This is also a GREAT place to note that there is barely any service along this route. It was nearly impossible to communicate with my crew while I was on the trail. Note to self for next time!


My friends Carl and Kaitlyn live super close to where I marked the transition parking lot. (Carl and Kaitlyn are the best, their daughters are adorable, they are old friends that I consider family and I could go on and on and on about my love for the both of them.) Jason was at their house. I didn’t want to go the extra quarter of a mile down their road though. I didn’t want to get in a vehicle and be driven there either (even though I’d be brought back to the same spot on course after the break, it felt too risky for skeptics to pick apart). There was a moment of angst while I charged past their road to the LT parking lot. Only to be met by Carl with a semi-freshly grilled burger. This lukewarm burger was exactly what I needed. 

I ended the day at 88.4 miles. I’m six hours behind my A goal. (Probably a good place to note that the A goal was 4 days, 10 hours, which would have beaten the male FKT set by Ben Feinson of 4 days 11 hours 44 minutes BEFORE, John Kelly came out weeks before me and lowered it to 4 days 4 hours 24 minutes 50 seconds). Not going to lie, I really wanted to beat John Kelly’s time. 😜 I wasted a lot of time in that section though. I should have eaten more. Maybe some of the emotional lows would have been less of an energy suck if I was actually fueling my body with proper calories. I don’t know. I oddly didn’t dwell on it. I had a gut feeling that this was going to be my lowest of lows, and that it couldn’t get any worse. I would reflect on this section throughout the remainder of the attempt— “it’s not as bad as that Bolton section, so you’re fine!” I would tell myself days later. I had cried and screamed in front of new and old friends in a way I had never done before. It was embarrassing but also felt very raw and human. I let myself go to a place I’d never been to before with company. Company who walked by my side and kept me moving. Company who understood and made space for me. It was powerful.


But my elbow was definitely fucked.



DAY 3 - Mashed potato (& fart) power 🥔💨


CAMEL’S HUMP [de bump]:

The longest sustained climb on the LT. 6ish miles to the top of Camel’s Hump. The total section to the next crew spot at App Gap is 19.2.


I was sick of taking a bajillion small bites of food. So much chewing. My throat had escalated to being legitimately sore. Talking sucked. Mashed potatoes became my main sustenance. Loaded with butter and heavy cream. Which made me fart. A LOT. It wasn’t causing debilitating cramps or anything and the farting was kind of funny. So I rolled with it. Tucking a spoon in my front vest pocket, while my pacers carried a gallon size freezer bag filled with mashed potatoes, it was pretty remarkable.


It is worth pausing on this sore throat conundrum. In my two other multi-day experiences (the inaugural Cocodona 250 and running from LA to Las Vegas during TSP Solo) I experienced this. Cocodona it was BAD. Bloody boogers, totally wrecked sinuses from breathing in so much desert. During TSP I covered my face and mouth with a Turtle Fur tube the majority of the race. I looked crazy, but it really worked. I started using my TF tube over my mouth at this point on the Long Trail. It also felt like a signal to my pacers that I wasn’t going to talk to them. To drive home this “no talking” thing further, I requested that my pacers all pick a funny noise to make. When they wanted my attention, roughly every 25 minutes to tell me to eat, they needed to make the sound. I intermittently had music on and was really just trying to ignore my throat at this point. The whacky noises were an entertaining way to interrupt my focus sessions. It took a while for my pacers to take me seriously with this request and I intentionally ignored them until I heard a loud cocka-doodle-doo or ca-KAW. 😝


I had a great squad for this section. Will, Scott, and Nicholas— another brand new friend from the Richmond Trail Running Club. I felt really safe with these guys. They all seemed happy together, and something about being led through the wee hours of the morning with three strong dudes made me want to match their strength. I felt confident in my movement throughout this entire section. 


We reached a cloudy summit and The Boizz 🎥 (Drew and Tyler) were there. The little show off voice went off in my head, “Let me show you what these legs can do!” I felt like a pro in this moment. And while I CAN’T WAIT to see the actual footage of how my body was moving, in my head, now over 100 miles in, I really felt like I was navigating the gnarly slippery and rocky terrain like a baller.


I think I will award Camel’s Hump my highest high. It’s crazy that in less than 12 hours, you can go from absolutely destroyed to skipping around the trail like nothing happened. Nothing physically had changed, if anything my feet hurt more, but my head was fed and firing.


The funniest thing happened during this section, which I know is not going to sound half as funny written out… I describe the moment in my latest Captain’s Log YouTube episode. You’ll have to watch it there!!!


The ice cream sandwich was also invented during this section. It is a high-level yoga pose where I would fold over, compress my belly, wrapping my arms behind my calves, and try to push out farts. I’m so lucky my stomach wasn’t cramping, but it was REALLLLY full of mashed potatoes by the end of this stretch, and it wasn’t comfortable. I feel like this is when I started to go full feral animal. I didn’t care what I was doing in front of my crew and pacers. Peeing, farting, forcing gels down my throat with tears in my eyes in a way that had to be uncomfortable for anyone to watch. I made the decision that I was going to do whatever I needed to do to get this thing done. The people I surrounded myself with weren’t judging me. They’re not judging you. This is a very cool thing about the ultra running community. 

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE GAPS… [This is when shit gets blurry]:

You have App Gap - 11.6 miles to Lincoln Gap - 17.3 miles to Middlebury Gap - 9.9 miles to Brandon Gap - and then 19.9 miles to Killington. Killington was what I was envisioning, but hot damn there were four gaps to get through first! Killington was a huge benchmark in my mind. We had camped and scouted both directions from the VT-4 Long Trail parking area. It felt like after Killington you were truly on the southern part of the trail, and the southern section is notoriously less rocky and technical (although… not by THAT much). Whatever. In my head I wanted to be in Killington. Fuck the gaps. So I blacked them out a little. But I’ll share with you what I remember!


I am just under 9 hours off of my 4 days and 10 hours plan when I arrive at App Gap. Time kept slipping, but I wasn’t calculating it. (I should have been. Someone should have been. Maybe someone was, but we weren’t talking about it, and I wish we were.)


Somewhere in here there is McDonalds. It’s glorious. The Hamburger Spa is invented. While on Mansfield I expressed needing to do some “body work.” I wanted someone to Theragun my legs a bit, rub a little bit of my favorite THC healing cream into my inflamed knees. I probably said something like, “can we setup a little spa?” Visualizing a yoga mat in the dirt, maybe some body wipes, and a Theragun. This evolved to random requests having the word “spa” tacked onto them. I swear I am not a princess, but I am here for Hamburger Spas. 👑🍔


I guess the part that I don’t remember is going from App Gap to Lincoln Gap and Lincoln Gap to Middlebury Gap. I’m pretty sure I was with Vanessa from App Gap to Lincoln Gap. I was moving well. I remember a few confusing turns. Any time I got to a ski trail crossing on the LT I felt both extremely excited, pumped knowing that I had probably skied there, but also wildly frustrated because the white blazes marking the trail were never where I was looking for them. They felt like big critical intersections, and even with the route on my watch, I was delirious and paranoid about making a wrong turn and ending up at the base of the mountain.


DAY 4 - A storm is brewing ⛈️


139 MILES IN. MIDDLEBURY GAP TO BRANDON GAP [9.9 miles waking up with Will]:

I depart Middlebury Gap at 5am with Will. I had changed my outfit and it felt like a new day, which was celebratory always, but I’m not really into it this particular morning. We’re moving though. The moms were going to be at the final gap— Brandon Gap. By that I mean, my mom and Jason’s mom, who oh… by the way have never met despite us being married for five years. I am not sure why we thought this was a good idea. They needed to meet eventually, and this seemed like a great opportunity! They wanted to support my wild goal. I wanted them to see what it took to do something like this… however, this felt stressful. I didn’t want my mom to see me wrecked. Blehk, what had they been up to all day? Jason entertained them while I was “running”. How was that going? The plan was in motion, but I honestly didn’t realize how weird it was making me feel. Will and I stopped to watch the sunrise while I forced myself to eat. The sunrise has a way of taking the edge off.


THE NEXT 19.9 MILES [Brandon Gap to Killington with Vanessa]:

We make it to Brandon Gap! There is my mother rockin' a purple shirt with a sparkly “GO SHELBY!” hand painted on it. My mom is wonderfully creative and came armed with a plethora of homemade baked goods. I didn’t really know what to do. I hugged both my mother and mother-in-law, grateful that they made the drive up from CT and PA, but I was due to sleep at this point. The concerned look in my mother’s eyes felt familiar and new all at once. I couldn’t think about it. 


I think one of the more challenging things I learned from this entire experience (even the training leading up to it) is how selfish you have to be during these efforts. Worrying about making sure other people are happy, talking to your friends and family on the trail as you would if you were meeting them for a coffee, that is not the nature of a race or multi-day FKT. This may sound obvious, but it felt confusing and disjointed while I was out there. I wanted to be Shelby the competitive ultra runner, but also just SHELBY the fun-loving human. I now know that the two need to have some separation, and it is okay to separate them. When this effort goes down again in 2024, it’s competitor mode only. I believe that is [part of] what needs to be done in order to not let the clock run with lack of intention.


I grabbed a piece of my mom's famous Happy Cake and hibernated away in the van for my hour and a half of shuteye and comfort. My original plan had me taking two hour breaks every 10-14 hours, based on road crossings. The goal in those two hours was to eat, try to sleep for roughly 90 minutes, eat some more, change, get ready to roll out.


Finally, I am on my way to Killington. I’m with Vanessa. We’re listening to Matthew McConaughy’s audio book “Greenlights.” “GREEN LIGHT!” we’d exclaim and run with a little boost in our step. My feet were killing me. I couldn’t really pinpoint a single blister at this phase and I had obsessively been taking care of my feet. The trail was still so wet from the summer, so wet that we had to borrow my sister-in-laws boot dryer after the first day because I had zero dry shoes to cycle into. I shouldn’t have done this, but I wanted my feet to feel better, so I stopped in the middle of the trail to analyze them. The blister on my heel looked poppable… but with what? I wasted probably forty minutes messing around with the tab of a Red Bull can and eventually my now MIA Tiger’s Eye stud earring trying to make it feel better (my sacrifice to the Trail Gods). This is one of those moments when you need to SUCK IT UP. Don’t fiddle around on the trail. You can waste so much time doing this. Get to the aid station where it will be more efficient and you’ll actually have what you need to get it done right. Another big ol’ whatever moment. 🙄 You live and learn, and now Tyler and Drew get to go through 40 minutes of GoPro footage watching me try to perform surgery on my feet with dirty hands and unsterilized metals.


I tend to run on emotion. Good song comes on, we’re running to the beat. Angry about something? Charging. The faster you run the rage goes from a mental suffering to physical. It’s a win-win, maybe?


So we’ve established that there is no service in Vermont. Period. I finally get a phone call from my coach. We had tried connecting a few times, but it seemed like it was always right when I was waking up, which on a REGULAR day, is not a productive time to talk to me. Actually, I wouldn’t even bother trying. This is definitely an easy adjustment in the future. Anywho, Martin tells me that I need to run faster or I’m F’d. I needed to average a 20 minute mile pace while running and adhere to the new breaks that he built into the plan. I’m livid. Why hadn’t anyone talked to me about time and pace sooner? While AGAIN, I understand that this is my thing, I am the captain of my ship, in my delulu mind, I was following my pacers and if I needed to go faster I wish it was sternly discussed. “Hey Shelby, you need to stay on my tail okay?” “Aye, aye Captain.” Another easy adjustment in the future. Either plan on doing regular math yourself, or lock in a logistics member of the crew who is keeping on top of the math/mileage/splits. Be CLEAR that you need this information communicated. This isn’t a race, it is an FKT. It’s not about simply finishing it, it is about finishing it the FASTEST, and that takes a clearly communicated and executed pace strategy.


Of course the call drops. I probably gave out another wild mountain lion scream and then proceeded to BOMB the remaining, I’ll guess 6ish miles of this 12.2 mile section. I mean bomb. Vanessa tries to run up to my side and nicely, so nicely, she’s so sweet, tell me to eat, and without saying, “fuck off” I kept running and didn’t look back. I knew I was dropping her. I need to work on not doing this.


But, I could run. 


When I got to the aid station nobody expected me. No film crew. Everyone is in their vehicles. I cross the street screaming. “WHERE IS EVERYONE, WE NEED TO GO, NOW.” I wasn’t nice. But we needed to go. (Come to find out, Drew and Tyler had gone on a quest to find me gels for me. They were in it with me. 💓)


My outburst bought me over an hour of time back. That is how quickly time can shift in these things. Run a little faster for a while and you’re banking minute after minute. However, as Martin alluded to, my buffer was shot by the time I got to Killington. The FKT was still in reach, but my dream goal of getting it by over 16 hours is way out the window. Everything needed to go perfect from here on out. And by “perfect” it needed to be smooth. I needed to run. I was ready to do the work and finish what I came for.


PICKING UP THE PIECES [Killington to VT-103]:

Spitfire was there aka Erica Notini. Spitfire had attempted an unsupported FKT on the LT a few days before me and sadly had to end her journey early. We had chatted on IG before the attempt but had never met in person. I recognized her red hair immediately. It sucked that her first impression of me was me full verbally abusing my crew. She was so calm and peaceful and went to work bandaging the blister I had mutilated on the trail.


Mark Aiken was back to pace and Will was joining us. They were ready to guide me through the night. Thank goodness they were ready. I wanted to move. I was ready to MOVE.


Moving was hard but we were going steady and strong. I felt like I was making progress. For whatever reason, the crew wasn’t where I expected them to be after 12.2 miles. We got to a dark road crossing. I don’t think I got mad. I somehow rolled with it. I have a feeling Mark Aiken’s calm, positive energy, and my intense desire to move helped me not fixate on the disappointing feeling of getting to a trailhead and not seeing your crew vehicle. The vans ended up being setup a few miles further down the trail than originally planned. I had already established that I was going to run with Mark and Will through the next 5.5 mile section. While Jason was annoyed that I trotted right by his freshly loaded cooler, thanks to my sister-in-law Jess, and I was sad that I again couldn’t stop and chat with my pals there cheering me on, I did what I needed to do for myself and ran right past them. I’d see them soon enough. I think they understood.


Another key lesson: combining shorter sections during the planning process is smart. Alleviate stress on your crew by eliminating the extra stop. Prevent yourself [the runner] from wasting time by having frivolous stops just because there is a convenient road crossing. 



Ben (previous LT FKT record holder) ended up rollin’ with me for two sections, totaling 20.6 miles for Part I of his two part pacing duties. He had fun purple pants on and was really feeling like an LT FKT spirit guide. I was stoked to have him out there, and really thrilled to be at the point I was in this insane-o route. I even found myself able to chat while running periodically. 


I had several normal poops during this section. Which was a relief to my mashed-potato-lodged stomach. But also, I’ve never pooped that much in a day, so I was left a little puzzled by it. My gut felt like a poop oven and it was cooking for the whole family. 💩


A full FOUR days of running is complete. 201 miles in. Per previous FKT-holders’ Strava’s they recorded around ~265 miles on the trail. I planned everything to 273 miles (which is what most LT literature states it as). This was another way to give myself a possible buffer. To get this FKT by the hair on my chiny chin chin, I needed to run 64ish miles in 26 hours. That comes down to a 24:23 minute per mile pace. My goal was to keep aiming for 20 minute mile pace and hopefully have time to close my eyes for a few minutes when the sleep deprivation started to destroy me from within. It wouldn’t be easy, but I felt like I now had a visible target and could go on the hunt that I came out for. “You didn’t come all of this way to get the second fastest time.” I was so annoyed that I had let it get this close. 



DAY 5 - Entering the vortex 👻


12.1 MILES WITH VANESSA [Mt. Tabor Road aka USFS-10]:

And there came the sleep monster, pulling every string she could to dismember me. My knees and feet throbbed, my vision blurry, the pain escalates when you’re sleep deprived. It was the first time I had come to this conclusion. Dirt naps were in order. I forgot how much I love dirt naps. I should have been implementing these sooner (particularly in that Bolton section while it felt like my brain had turned to soup over my throbbing elbow). 


Vanessa set a timer for two minutes and I was able to take mini resets along the way. I think this was the first time I really complained about how much my feet hurt. I knew there was nothing left in my tool bag to comfort them. No magic Darn Tough Socks. Maybe I’d try some road shoes? 


This section felt like it was taking forever. One uplifting thing was I was starting to see tons of thru-hikers. “Why would you go northbound!??” I tried to hold back on blurting this out every time we passed a hiker. The terrain was getting better as I got closer to the Massachusetts border. I couldn’t imagine reversing roles and being back on The Forehead at this point. I wanted to project the memories of the 213 miles behind me and show them, “look— this is what you have to go through. Just an FYI. You got it though!” There was something uniting about seeing other individuals tackling the entire trail in one shot.



Jason and I had our five year wedding anniversary the day before I started this adventure. He was my only training partner since we left Los Angeles in March. With him in charge of getting the van to each aid station drop pin there was no way for him to pace me. He was spinning trying to keep the crew and pacers and all of my stuff organized, all while trying not to worry about me. But of course he was worried about me. He’s a protector. It’s what he does. 


I had requested running with him several times and finally something was able to be figured out where my dear friend Carl was trusted driving our van (our home) ahead. I was ecstatic to have Jason with me. Just the two of us for 5.5 miles. 


I did change into perfectly white road shoes before embarking on this section. Why not? I’m a big advocate of changing sensations when the pain gets unbearable. The road shoes weren’t going to work in the longterm, but despite the lack of grip, they made my feet feel different for those five miles. They were never white again.


With Jason I was able to reflect on what I was doing. The insane amount of hours spent training together on the trail. Waking up to rain pounding on the van, day after day, and being cool going out to run in it for five hours. Leaving pretty solid jobs in LA to chase a dream of living in a dope Winnebago van and setting sights on an insane endurance challenge. I listened to songs that we marked as “our” road trip songs. I got emotional, but not in the destructive way I had been other times throughout the past 4.5 days. I was proud of what I was doing and I was getting sooo close to the end. It was productive and we made good time.


BROMLEY! 17.5 miles. [Alyssa Clark and I ran this section for a training run, but it was not how I remembered it…]:

Nicole Julow, another awesome CrossFit mom from my time in the 802 (who earned her first hundo buckle recently at the 2023 Javelina [woot wooo!!!]) had just gotten back into town from a P!NK concert. I was excited to run with her. She’s a tough, no-bullshit type of gal, and while I know she was nervous about her first ever pacing stint, I knew she’d keep me moving. Will joined us too. It felt like a party and I was hyped. The term “hype spike” is born.


HYPE SPIKE: When you get really freakin’ pumped and you run really fast. In my mind I was in a CycleBar spin class, and every song was my favorite song.


I played my “Long Trail Jammin’ 💚⛰️” Spotify playlist for everyone to hear. Drew and Tyler followed with camera equipment in hand while I ran like a maniac. My body was all sorts of whack, signaled to me by an overheating feeling. An engine in need of an oil change, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, the whole shebang. Will used a Turtle Fur tube to squeegee out water onto my head. Soaking myself might have been a stupid thing to do during 17.5 miles that started around 5pm, but it felt right in the moment. Each drip of cold mountain stream water was revitalizing my soul. It woke me up, it made me laugh, it kept me going.

The hype spike eventually fizzled and the darkness surrounded me. The struggle bus of trying to move while sleep deprived was real now. I snuck in a dirt nap, dirt naps were all I had left. 


As I mentioned, I had ran this section as a training run probably a month prior with Alyssa (and Jason)— YouTube video of that coming eventually. 🤪 We had a blast. We ran fast! I don’t remember the technical downhill that I was now crying while walking down. Why couldn’t I navigate this? Where were my legs? My eyes couldn’t process depth in the dark. Steps downhill felt like cliff drops. I wanted Jason. I wanted out of these woods. I wanted this section to end.


I begged and cried for Jason to hike in and accompany me down. He was busy getting the crew stop together, but he still hiked in for the last mile to meet me. Will assured me that he was coming but I was convinced that Will lied to me. Jason must not love me. Why is he not here? Why is this taking so long. I whimper walked in agony, periodically howling his name hoping for a return response. 


I think Nicole and Will were totally over my pathetic behavior, but they were soldiers in the battle with me and stuck it out.


When Jason found me I was broken. Every rock was a place to sit. Please let me sit. I’m shirtless and it is almost midnight. I’ve lost it, but I’m still fighting.


From this point I have a 22.6 mile section, an 11.2 mile section, and a 3.1 mile section. 36.9 miles and and I would be finished. Somewhere around 236.4 miles in. I needed to average ideally slightly sub-20 minute mile pace and stick to minimal dirt naps in order to get the FKT. I genuinely felt like I still had that in me. “FLIP THE SWITCH” Vanessa said at the Kelly Stand Road trailhead parking lot. “Where is the switch?” I asked back cracking a smile. “I know you’ll find it,” Vanessa replied. FLIP THE SWITCH. FIND THE SWITCH. FLIP THE SWITCH. FIND THE SWITCH. I repeated to myself over and over again.


KELLY STAND ROAD TO [almostWOODFORD HOLLOW, it’s just me and poor Ben Feinson who was a serious trooper through this experience… 

Fun fact: What I didn’t know at the time was that I was entering what is known as the Bennington Triangle. This southern section of the Long Trail has a history of paranormal activity. Stories of a Bennington College student wearing a bright red jacket that went missing in the woods, never to be seen again. Numerous stories like this. Hauntings. Aliens. An Algonquin legend of a man-eating stone. I might have been doomed from the beginning…


I took a quick break and headed back out with Ben. Jason wanted me to sleep, but I knew I didn’t have time. I put on warm clothes, likely chugged a Red Bull, put a rain jacket on despite there being NO RAIN IN THE FORECAST. I REPEAT. NO RAIN IN THE FORECAST. Multiple crew members had checked. So I took the rain jacket off. Traded it in for a TERREX puffy jacket and Turtle Fur beanie. The logic: if I am taking dirt naps, I want to be cozy.


Ben flawlessly got me through a nice chunk of trail what felt like not too long ago, I was confident we’d get through this long stretch smoothly. I hadn’t scouted this section, and gravely underestimated what 22.6 miles up and over Glastenbury Mountain would entail. But that wasn’t what ended things…


Navigating moving across the boulders scattered throughout the trail was feeling impossible again. I asked Ben to give me a demo. Hoping that by watching his legs, my legs would remember how to work. “Trust your instincts,” he said. I liked that. I’ll use that. You’re a mountain lion. Move like one. Trust your instincts. It helped. 


At some point not too deep into the section, Ben turns to me and says something along the lines of, “I hate to be the one telling you this, but you’re not going to get the FKT.” THEN WHY ARE YOU EVEN TELLING ME THIS?! (I’m sorry Ben, I have sooo much appreciation for you and am so grateful for what you did for me out there, but this SENT ME.) My blood was boiling. I think my response was something along the lines of, “Ben. You don’t know me.” I took the lead and started moving at what felt like a faster more focused pace. I found the switch. Time to flip it.


I heard thunder in the distance. Nah, the forecast was clear. It can’t be. I was exhausted. I knew if there was going to be a dirt nap during this section, it needed to be while it was still dry. “Give me two minutes.” I said as I laid down on some rocks and leaves. It’s crazy how comfortable the ground is when you’re nearly dead. As I hopped up from the two minutes the rain started to fall. What the fuck. It was honestly the most rejuvenating dirt nap of my dirt napping experience, and I was so proud of myself for doing it before entering what was about to be possibly actual hell.


I prepared for this.


During one of my training runs this summer, we were met with pink lightning, flash flooding, the works. Vermont got destroyed by record breaking rainfall summer of 2023. It was hard to witness locals losing their homes and businesses from the insane weather. During that training run, we turned around. Ended it early. The van was parked on a road that could have easily ended up closed off at the bridge we crossed to get there, that wasn’t worth risking. I asked Jason and Coach Martin after that training run, “What do I do if I encounter a storm like this during the FKT attempt?” The consensus: keep going. “What if I am putting my pacer at risk?” The consensus: let them make that decision for themselves. Shelter if you have to. It sounds harsh, but remember what I said about being selfish?


I turned my music up all of the way. I didn’t want to hear what Ben had to say (again, sorry Ben). I didn’t want to hear the thunder. Even though we were only maybe four miles in(?), turning back wasn’t an option. I took the lead. It was PELTING rain. Lightning cracked, strobe lights in my peripherals. The trail became a river. I’ve trained for this. I kept reminding myself of that as I let my lizard brain power me forward.


Eventually my phone died. No more music to mask the horror. The storm rumbled through the night. Flooding neighboring towns. I stayed in it. The sun will come out. The sun will shine, it will warm me up. There will be sun soon.


The sun never came. The sky faded from black to dark gray. Hmm… I guess it is trying? I thought to myself optimistically. It never really felt like a new day, but instead some kind of doom and gloom purgatory of frozen time.


Not to mention, I was craving another dirt nap. But I was soaked. I mean, you could probably ring out my armpit hair at this point. There is a shelter less than two miles ahead. I wanted to get there for my nap. I tried. The world was closing in around me. I was starting to black out while inching forward. OPEN YOUR EYES SHELBY! I would, and then the darkness would cave in again. It was like I had a vignette photo adjustment toggle that was short circuiting behind my corneas. I’d open them, it’d close in. I’d move forward until I tripped. It wasn’t going to work like this. I needed to make the decision to risk getting cold taking a soggy dirt nap, or falling on my face. I took the risk. 


When Ben woke me up two minutes later I was cold. I don’t think I was shivering, but I was cold enough that I was audibly whispering to my body, “Please warm up, please get warmer.” It forced me to move with more intention. “COME ON BODY!” I begged with every step, “WARM UP!”. I prayed that someone in the shelter up ahead would have a dry fleece jacket, or ANYTHING that could get me out of at least one layer of wet clothes. Something that might help my body regulate temperature and allow me to keep going safely along my business.


By the time I made it to Goddard Shelter through the storm (I am pretty sure it was just after 7am), I had roughly 5 hours to cover 24.3 miles and still nab the FKT by a minute or two. A 12:21 minute per mile pace would be needed. While some may say this pace is impossible on this terrain, this deep into a race effort, I would have LOVED to be in a better place to prove them wrong. Having ran my final 24 miles of The Speed Project Solo with an 8:32 average pace, I know, as adidas would say… “Impossible is nothing.” The “less than a marathon” mindset is extremely powerful.


My clock hadn’t run out yet, and I was determined not to stop until it did…



DAY 6 - Always take warm drinks from strangers 🍵 (maybe…)

Note: I never wanted to be on the trail into the 6th day. 5 days 2 hours 37 minutes is the current standing FKT by the incredible Alyssa Godesky. I wanted under 5 days badly. I am very capable of finishing this trail under 5 days. This is a lesson in how the small things add up.


Time crept into the hours of the 6th day while I was wearing a stranger’s clothes, under a stranger’s sleeping gear, with a stranger’s warm water bottle pressed against my skin, in a shelter ten miles away from my crew. Taco Cat and Blackstrap (epic trail names, right?) were thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in (large) sections. There were what felt like a ton of people at Goddard Shelter (maybe eight at the max moment, hands down the most people I had seen at a shelter all summer). Everyone got screwed by the rain. Everyone expressed how it wasn’t on the radar. The clouds opened up several more times while I was sitting in that shelter. Absolutely dumping. Dumping at a rate that you’d feel uncomfortable driving in it on the highway— you know that feeling? 


Black Strap was a Wilderness First Responder. She wasn’t going to let me keep going. Ben knew better too. I wasn’t warming up. The weather wasn’t changing. It was a real bust. It was a legitimate safety issue. My spirits were popped but something inside me was really accepting of it all. Everything that got me to this point was a part of the experience I was hoping to create for myself. If I was standing at the Southern Terminus celebrating or sitting in that shelter taking warm drinks from strangers, the journey that got me there was what I envisioned throughout all of the planning and training. Weird. “What is a finish line?” I asked myself. And while my “finish line” wasn’t what I wanted it to be, while I had failed at this grand mission that I had blurted out to the world that I was GOING to do, I was proud of the experience that I created. Pissed that I failed at getting the FKT. Pissed that I had to call it less than a marathon from the finish… and absolutely not looking forward to the 6.5 mile hike out. (Yup, 6.5, because my friends are outlaws and found a way to cut 3.5 miles off of my trek to civilization… thank you Carl. 😉)


Back to the warm drinks.


Taco Cat had a fanny pack that he proudly wore on the front. I think this is where his barista magic was coming from. These two were so accommodating. Their presence sort of took over the shelter, like it was their bed and breakfast and I was a guest passing through. Taco Cat made me a series of warm drinks, that I was happy to consume (despite how uncomfortable getting up to pee was). They were as follows:


  1. A coffee creation of sorts with a semi-clumpy white coconut creamer floating around in the top.

  2. A matcha latte. Not the Starbucks kind.

  3. A spicy chai tea concoction with bits of herbs floating around it.

  4. A warm turmeric drink.


Jason arrived while the warm turmeric drink was being crafted. He arrived in pure Jason-fashion, freaked out, hyped up, exclaiming how water bottles had flown out of his pack while he was nabbing Strava cups rushing up to rescue me with dry clothes. At this point, I honestly felt fine. Better than when he had last seen me at least.


The turmeric drink is brought over. “Do you like turmeric? It’s great for inflammation,” explains Taco Cat. “Yeah, yeah, I can handle turmeric. Thank you!” I take the drink and bring it to my mouth. My nose catching a whiff of the unique smell, sending signals to my stomach, my body is short circuiting, I feel my face getting flush. Am I going to puke? Omg, I am going to puke. I am in the middle of a shelter, wrapped in [someone else’s] blankets, I just traveled 250 miles on foot, I wasn’t able to move anywhere fast. I hold the puke back for a second. I feel the panic in my eyes. I lost it. All of those carefully concocted hot drinks, right there, in one big upchuck onto the floor of Goddard Shelter. An exorcism. A demon leaving my body. But that wasn’t the worst of it… my entire body went into an uncontrollable panic. I was hyperventilating. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” Inside, I knew that me being able to say that I couldn’t breathe, meant that I probably could. But I couldn’t figure out how to. Going unconscious in that shelter probably would have meant death. A LifeStar rescue. Jason was ready to give me CPR. God, I didn’t want that. Black Strap came over and put her hands on my shoulders. I’m sitting up, staring into her eyes. “Breathe, breathe Shelby. You can do it.” My eyes are so locked into hers, I don’t know what I was trying to find in there, I’m not sure I’ve ever looked that deeply into someone. I found it in me to breathe. I’m so embarrassed. “Wow. That was weird.” (I can only imagine what I said.) I’m not sure what caused this insane reaction. An adrenaline dump? It was horrifying.


It was time to put on my own clothes and GTFO of Goddard Shelter.

It wasn't perfect.

It was chaotic.

It was fun.

It was raw.

It was personal.

It was me.




I want to return to Jessie Zapo’s quote:


“There is something beautiful about setting a goal so high— that you have to keep chasing it.”


I will be back to the Long Trail in 2024.


I love the chase. I live for the challenge. Planning for, running, and digesting the aftermath of this project has been a wild ride. It was everything I hoped to get out of the experience and then some.


One of the initiatives I created for myself around the LT were my Captain’s Log Series on YouTube. It was an attempt to hold me accountable in creating regularly scheduled YouTube content, but also a format to explore WHY I run. I created a prompt for myself, “record memories of your father that come to you while you’re training.” My father passed away suddenly when I was 19. I didn’t get into running until several years after that, and attributed “my why” to this abrupt realization that life is short. 


First up, this was a challenging, very vulnerable homework assignment I created for myself! I made it through five Captain’s Logs under this prompt and while I kept trying to record memories during training runs, it got harder to share.


In my reflection of this whole grand endeavor… while losing a parent at a young age was an extremely formative experience, I discovered that it is not WHY I run. It certainly sparked the need to live fully while you can, it helped me practice how to keep going through pain and discomfort, but in the end, me running is not about death. It is about living. Living fully and discovering what you’re capable of when you use your mind and body together. A physical and mental creative outlet. I created this Long Trail FKT project out of sheer passion. Passion for the wilderness that helped spark the thirst in adventure in me. Passion for bringing rad people together. Passion for challenging myself. And honestly, a passion for marketing! The process of orchestrating this attempt, rearranging my little family’s lives for it, partnering with so many incredible brands, at the end of the day, it was exactly the experience I hoped to create. I failed at reaching the finish line; and while that will eat away at me until I get to try this feat again, I can accept and learn from this failure.


If I can inspire someone else to challenge themselves in this way, to run wildly after something they are passionate about, without fear of failure, my purpose is served.


On to the next one. 😜

Please shoot me a DM on IG if you read this and anything resonated with you! Share your favorite quotes and tag me @shelbzzf

HUGE THANK YOU to all of my pacers and crew. You are all rock stars. 👩🏼‍🎤🤘🏽🎸⚡️

A massive thank you to the many epic brand partnerships that were born from this project, I hope we get to continue working together! 💖

adidas TERREX

Turtle Fur



Squirrel's Nut Butter

Darn Tough Socks



Liquid Death

Kiva Confections - the best weed gummies in all the land!

HVMN (Ketone-IQ)

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