On March 21, 2021, Keith Querry set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Standing Stone Trail (SST), which is an 83-mile long trail in Central Pennsylvania that spans Buchanan and Rothrock State Forests. Keith completed his continuous run in 1 day, 3 hours, 22 minutes and 13 seconds. Or 27:22:13 in FKT speak. This beat the previous FKT on the SST by 1:32:46, set by George Conrad in 2020. Conrad and Querry are the only two people to chase FKTs on the SST, and George Conrad knows this trail perhaps better than anyone else, as he is the President of the Standing Stone Trail Club and spends a tremendous amount of time on the trail. Querry, however, set his sights on a new FKT and made it happen.
83.31 miles, 27:22:13 time, 19.42 average pace, 16,047 feet elevation.
Purple Lizard contacted Keith for an interview after word circulated that he set a new FKT, and the results of that follow.
Keith Querry at the beginning of his successful FKT run of the SST: 7:45am on March 20, 2021.
How did this idea get planted in your head? Even before I started trail running I wanted to thru hike the Standing Stone Trail. Once I started running I learned about the world of FKT's. The fastest known time for the SST seemed like a fun time. For about a year it was just a thought. When George Conrad III set the FKT in September, 2020, the thought grew into a desire. Finally in December I decided to make it happen.
How did you prepare, in the very beginning? Did you set a firm target date? The first thing I did was set a target date for the attempt. I decided on the weekend of March 20th. That would allow three months to train, the weather to break, and it would be just before the start of the race year. As for a training plan my friend/coach Eric Idiotrunner Kosek handled all that for me. I just had to do it.
How did you prepare in the 30 day countdown? Coming into the final 30 days I was dealing with minor frostbite and a nagging leg injury. Training focus went from running to in home low impact exercises. This is also when nutrition became a main focus.
Backing up a little - how long have you been trail hiking, and what got you to take the next step up to trail running? As a young kid I always enjoyed being on the trails. In my mid 20s my friend Luke Fultz and I started chasing after a new lizard every chance we had. In 2017 I wrecked my motorcycle. While I was in ICU I saw a post about the Greenwood Snowfest 5 miler. My goal was to recover in time to run this race. In those 5 miles a love for trail running was born.
What do you love about trail running? Besides running through the woods like a kid without a care in the world it has to be the community. I can't say enough about how great everyone is! I once heard a race director say "If you can't make friends in the trail community then you're the problem." Truer words have not been spoken.
Is this something you usually do alone, or do you have some other people to trail run with? Most of my training is done alone, I really enjoy the solitude. At the same time I love the race day atmosphere. Being able to run with friends on the trail and being able to hang out with everyone before and after is the greatest.
What inspires you to get outside? The opportunity for a new adventure every time you walk out the door.
How does trail running fit with the rest of your life's activities? My wife and I have four kids under the age of 12 so our life is very busy. I try to squeeze as much trail running into the cracks of an already hectic schedule.
What do you think about while trail running? I can think about absolutely nothing at times and absolutely everything at times all on the same run. Running for me is very much a mental breath of fresh air!
Where did you start with basic route planning? Even though it's a 'one trail' navigational route there are highway crossings, road walk sections, and the really radical difference between a dirt road section and some of the roughest, rockiest, 'Rocksylvania' type trail sections that are, honestly, some of the most hostile technical trail sections to 'run' anywhere in the United States. I broke the trail down into 3 sections and put drop buckets along the trail near Three Springs, Mapelton, and Frew Road: mile 24, 46 and 67. Using Conrad's times I calculated how much time I had to get from bucket to bucket. I then figured out how many calories I wanted to take in for that section. I also had a set time I wanted to leave each bucket by.
Sunrise on the SST
What part of the challenge felt daunting, or what were you concerned with before you started? And what actually happened once you were out there? I was very relaxed mentally going into the attempt. Very go with the flow mind set. My only real concern was how my leg was going to hold up from the nagging injury. Very quickly my mind was at ease. My leg held up great.
Logistics: let's talk about the basics of planning. What did you carry with you? What was your support network - did you have people out there meeting you at certain access points? Food or water caches? Clothing changes? Diet - caloric intake needs, vs food craving? What would you do differently? I carried a lot of baby food squeeze pouches. I used them as my main calorie intake. I used tailwind and coconut water and a form of liquid calories. Mini candy bars and fruit skin leathers were nice treats along the trail as well. At my drop buckets I ate chocolate hazelnut spread sandwiches, salt and vinegar chips and a Red Bull. I also drank pickle juice while repacking my vest. I changed clothes in Mapleton to deal with the cold night temperature. I also carried an emergency blanket and small first aid items.
Kieth Querry all smiles chasing the FKT on the SST
Data points: some athletes are always monitoring the performance specs, their time, speed, distance, heart rate - others don't really look at that, and some don't even record it. What was your technology dependence, or tolerance? I wore my Garmin Fenix 6. I didn't pay much attention to my watch at all for the first 50 miles. I knew I was ahead of schedule and that's all that mattered. I find it more relaxing and enjoyable not stuck on numbers. In the later miles I checked my pace/time more frequently to make sure I was staying ahead of schedule. I was pleased to find my watch battery lasted the whole time with extra to spare. For my head torch I used the Petzl Swift RL. Worked perfect and lasted all night on two battery packs.
Endurance challenges always have a crux point - the point where you seriously question if you can pull this off, and you want to quit. This is part mental and part physical, those two things get hard to separate especially in the first half. Sometimes this point returns again, and again, and you have to sort of work through some demons to find your stride again. What was your first crux point and how did you resolve it? Three Sisters in Rocky Ridge Natural Area to Greenwood Furnace is when I had my biggest mental breakdown. It was late at night, I was sleep deprived, cold, my whole body hurt, and I thought I was losing too much ground too quick. The ridge top from the hawk watch platform to Standing Stone Vista was neverending! At this point I just wanted it all to end. I reminded myself I knew this time was coming and I had to stay mentally strong and just keep moving.
There is another crux point where you realize that you most likely will complete the route, this is a massive psychological pivot - sometimes it happens at dawn, sometimes it's when you are certain distance out - and sometimes it doesn't happen until you cross the proverbial finish line. Did you experience a moment when you felt that inner confidence rise and the energy it brings when you start to seriously think 'I got this" ? Once I made it to Greenwood Fire Tower a surge of energy hit me. It was all down hill from there. I managed to fall 3 or 4 times on the down hill but all I had to do was finish. I was able to enjoy going through Alan Seeger Natural Area to the Mid State Trail. None of the pain mattered anymore. Time was no longer a factor. It was just me and a few miles of tall hemlocks, rhododendron, and a beautiful flowing stream to victory.
Detweiler Run along the northern section of the Standing Stone Trail.
What have you learned about yourself through this activity? I learned my physical ability will take me so far but ultimately it is my mental toughness that will get me across the finish lines.
What would you say to someone who is just thinking about getting started exploring trails like the SST? The best advice I could give is to not wait around for a "nice day" or for someone to go with you. Get yourself a Purple Lizard Map, pick a spot and go. Keep in mind every season offers a new look to the same trail.
What's next in your crosshairs? I am ready to enjoy making memories with old and new friends during the 2021 race season. Running many familiar races of all distances in the Rocksylvania Trail Series and hitting new courses such as the Sharp Top 50k and the Laurel Highlands Ultra. I am on the waitlist for the Rim to River 100 miler in West Virginia. Hopefully I can get in and check off my first 100. During 2022 all my focus will be getting black listed: that is, finishing the Hyner 50k, Worlds End Ultra, Eastern States 100, and Black Forest Ultra all in the same year!
All photos by Keith Querry.
You can find more Fastest Known Time info on the FKT website.