THERE’S NO FUCKING SNOW IN SANTA BARBARA, ONLY SURFING, THE ENDLESS SUMMER, AND THE HOPE RANCH SURF CLUB.
Unless you’re a clear 60 miles as the seagull flies (do seagulls fly that far or just crows?) from the Pacific, or nearly three hours and 115 circuitous-as-shit miles as the automobile drives out of the beachy paradise town, deep within the wilderness that is the little known, yet not to be underestimated Los Padres National Forest...
Stretching from LA to beyond the beautiful Big Sur coastline, the LP, as it’s affectionately known amongst the town's nature enthusiasts, is often overshadowed by it’s more popular siblings, the Sierra Nevada, Angeles, and Sequoia National Forests, to name a few.
“Your Father’s National Forest,” what the huh?
Pre-run Los Padres Traverse Fastest Known Time
Although the third largest Cali NF by acreage, the LP is also very much secondary to the nation’s smallest, yet undeniably serene National Park, the super chillin’ Channel Islands (yes, LA peeps, Catalina is a CI). Also made more famous by some of the best polyurethane planks money can buy—just ask Kelly Slater, the most immortal and incredible surfer of all-time has been riding Channel Island surfboards around the world for three-plus decades.
So, if it’s so relatively unknown, who the heck cares about an ffkay, what?
A Fastest Known time, or FKT for short, is essentially a speed record on a popular and/or well-defined route, and while the Los Padres Traverse isn’t quite popular (yet), it is fairly well defined and a total of three crazy people have gone for it! There’s also only one way to make something you like popular: start doing it.
Being not so highly competitive in the grander scheme of ultrarunning things and with virtual-ly no real race reg’s in sight, we’ll call this one a favorite of our infamous vegan friends: low-hanging fruit. So on January 16th I set out at 7:00 a.m. solo, with a photographer at the ready (because pics or it didn't happen) to munch on that juicy fruit. It just so happened to also be in my ‘backyard’ so logistically quite easy to execute and requiring no out of county travel, though you do get really close to SLO.
What’s another way to make something a whole ‘nother level of fun? How about you add in a dozen miles of sporadic knee-high snow fields while climbing to 6,000 feet and facing 50mph gusts of winds in the face. Snow, I must mention, left over from our one storm of the season thus far...three weeks ago, with recent mid-winter weather temps pushing Endless Summer type sunshiny days.
Jeff Stern running the Lost Padres Traverse FKT
But no, not even does that bull-fuckin-shit weather stop my third consecutive successful FKT attempt, now batting a perfect 1,000% (as a former childhood baseball star, that means a lot to me). A full 32 minutes and handful of seconds ahead of the previous best time set by my arch nemesis way back in the pre-covid19 era of 2019, the Hoka sponsored athlete and former Santa Barbarian now liveathometarian Kris Robert Brown.
He’s training for some dumb long, flat, boring road event that’s even farther than 42 miles (talk about not fun) in the desert later this month, so there’s no chance he takes it back anytime soon, but obviously a well-deserved pat on the back if he does.
It’s the only thing I’ve beaten him in my entire life (thus far!) and I take great pride in claiming his title as one of his favorite pastimes is shoving it to me real good, too.
Running in goodr polarized sunglasses
Despite it being a one-way, point-to-point run, it’s prudent when traversing the LP to look all the ways as you weave yourself between the San Rafael and Dick Smith Wildernesses, across the San Rafael Mountains tumbling back to the coastal Santa Ynez Transverse Range and the raging winter swell hugging the palm paved path to paradise. This is some of the most beautiful coastal land in the entire world; it makes one feel miniscule and insignificant, yet empowered all at once.
Mother Nature truly does rule, a way of being for the extensive wildlife that calls these places home (we’re merely just passerbys), she acts as an unsympathetic ogress to us homosapiens indifferent to our qualms. But I forgive Her, always and very quickly, and you should too because you’ve got to know any disdain with Her fury will reap fresh bad luck and karma in the most mysterious of ways. It’s imperative to quite literally and figuratively roll with it (the snow, the winds), while meandering across the middle ridges of the mountains like Madulce Peak, be it slow, but always with a relentless passion to prudently pursue what pains you most: progress. It’s within these deep discomforts that the greatest self-discoveries are to be had in Her presence. Despite our mere mortal conquerings of the moment, she’ll continue to wear the crown around these parts, keepin’ it crystal clear that her royalty rules all, with both supremacy and swagger.
Jeff Stern after running the Los Padres Traverse FKT in goodr running sunglasses
So, what did I get out of this? My name and a sweet Strava GPS hyperlinked on a website that only other ultrarunner nerds care about. Why will I keep chasing these records? To experience the challenges our Mother created for us while testing my physical and mental limits and ‘cause at the end of the day, FKT or not, that's what makes it F-U-N.
goodr VRG polarized running sunglasses
Jeffrey is a professional MUT runner for Salomon, a dog lover, coach, outdoor industry consultant, and UltraRunning Magazine contributor. He fell head over heels for endurance sports after his second mountain bike race ever, the 2011 Leadville 100. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram and Strava and visit his website for more information www.uponward.com.
WHO TOOK ALL OF THESE RAD PHOTOS?
Les is a self-taught adventure photographer and artist based in Southern California, whose work is layered by surf, outdoor, lifestyle, and travel subjects. Check out his rad imagery on Instagram and more at www.lesmophoto.com.
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