Franconia Speed Hike

While we're gearing up for treadmill's dominance of The Bad Boy Road Race, some thoughts on the Franconia Ridge Speed Hike. Last Sunday I timed a trial hike with two intermediate milestones to use as comparison and pacing for the upcoming event in a few weeks (no date set yet). As I posted earlier (two posts ago), my times were as follows:

  • Start: Parking area at Falling Water/Bridal Path trailhead.
  • Little Haystack (Falling Water/Franconia Ridge jct signpost): 1:15 (3.2mi)
  • Lafayette Summit (Greenleaf jct signpost): 1:50 (4.8mi)
  • End: Parking area: 3:11 (8.8mi)
I'm quite sure that tMail and others could easily hit sub-3 times, but at my fitness level this will take a little doing. Here's where I think I could save some time and also offer some tips for anyone reading this:
  • Falling Water: I can't imagine doing it much faster. The flat part before the first major water crossing can be done faster, maybe saving a minute, but the ascent of about 3,200' is pretty tiring. Even if I could shave another 5 minutes off I think it would take too much of a toll. If you try it for time, run your heart out early as fast as you can. If you need a warmup, do it in the parking lot before starting your clock. Once you do that stone-to-stone hop crossing where it starts heading up along the stream you're going to slow way down. After the last water crossing, the trail joins an old logging road and the grade moderates for a few hundred yards. Push hard there as well.
  • Franconia Ridge: I'm sure this is the place to run fast. The ascents up Lincoln and Lafayette have a few spots that are a little tiring, but aside from that and a few rocky awkward spots, can be done as hard as possible. Don't worry about tiring because the climbs aren't going to happen any slower because you ran too fast on the 'flats'. Aside from the limits that ascending presents, the biggest barrier will be footing. I think saving 5 minutes here is possible.
  • Bridal Path/Greenleaf: This is tough. Certainly there are sections that are steep and nearly unnavigable without using hands, but the first drop to treeline and the last mile to the cars can be done quickly. That said, I should point out that I ran the last mile at a pretty fine clip - probably a 10min pace or better. I doubt I could shave off much. I do believe that in dry conditions I could do much better. I was running in ankle-deep water in many sections, and mud and slippery rock elsewhere until I was pretty low down. If you can recall the trail, you'll remember that after dropping below the open sections of the lower ridge, after the last steep spots, the grade moderates however the trail is VERY awkward, with large rocks set in a well-drained surface. The rocks are hard to step on, so you end up running on the dirt, but hopping over and around the rocks with every step. There's a lot of that and it just doesn't go fast. This is the spot where Maddog jammed his left calf with his crampon when were were out w/ Spungie and the UM/UF.
Now I have to admit that I wasn't exactly wiped out when I got back to the car with the 3:11 time. But man, going faster on the ascent just scares me. For me, sub-3 is going to be a challenge - but it would be fun to see how fast it could be done. tMail expressed an interest and in anticipation of the Jay Challenge I think I'll be trying this more than once - or at least this and the Hale/Zeacliff loop I keep talking about. Keep this terrific loop in mind if you're looking for some variety and want to harden your quads.


  1. MZ,

    3:11 is very impressive stuff if you ask me. I think that you can go faster simply by the fact you have done it and know how to improve your time. As reading this I was thinking I wonder what times would be by doing this loop in the opposite direction. It would be interesting to break a land speed record in the direction you went. I wonder if the better training for Jay Peak would be the option of the opposite direction because at Jay we gain the most elevation in the beginning then the race descends down. I think with the mud and conditions of the trail (wet) you lost 8-10 minutes.

    More on this to come later today going to catch the train.

  2. Good point, but an even better route for training would be to do a 16 or 20 mile loop rather than the wussy 8.8 of this hike.

  3. ... and for the record, when power monsters like you and the others try it for time you'll be amazed at how fast it goes. sub-3 is not only reasonable but you'll quickly realize how slow my 3:11 time was. it's such a quick hike that the only reason to bring food other than a little fuel is in case you break your leg and have to wait for rescue.

  4. the other thing is you get a clear day i bet you can bring just 2 liters of water no change and just hamma....you basically are doing a sprint need a little gel and basically just dehydrate yourself...not worth staying hydration....you are right the better training is a 16 to 20 mile loop that I think is a must do prior to Jay Peak....

    as an example on the sprint distance triathlons i take on sip of water on the run from a dixie cup no time for food or water....and you don't have to have the waterbottle on the bike saves some weight....

    heading out for lunch with some guys from work....SUSHI!!!