Austin runners hope to set record on Wonderland Trail in Washington

Aug 13, 2017
Allison Macsas, left, and Mallory Brooks hope to set a new time record on the Wonderland Trail. Weather permitting, they plan to start their run Monday. Contributed by Mallory Brooks

The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Washington, and most people who see it carry loaded backpacks, sleep in tents and stop periodically to snap photos or soak their feet in streams.

Not Allison Macsas or Mallory Brooks.

The two Austin runners hope to set a new women’s time record as they cover the 93-mile trail without outside support. Weather permitting, they plan to begin their attempt Monday.

Time records are kept in three divisions — supported, in which crew members can help a runner by providing food or shoes or anything they need; self-supported, in which a runner can cache food or mail packages to him or herself; and unsupported, in which a runner can only carry his or her own supplies or eat and drink what they find in the wild.

Candice Burt holds the current women’s unsupported record of 31 hours, 11 minutes and 56 seconds. That’s just over a 20-minute pace, on a rugged, single-track trail with 22,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Macsas and Brooks would like to break the 30-hour barrier, and they’ve got a good shot of doing it. They’re aiming for a 15- to 16-minute-per-mile moving pace; stops to put on or take off layers, filter water, change socks and do other maintenance will drop that speed to between 17 and 19 minutes per mile.

“We definitely want to push that bar as low as we can, so we set a harder bar for the next people to leap over,” says Brooks, 33. “We don’t want to barely shave it off — it’s better to really push it to a new level.”

Macsas, co-owner of Rogue Expeditions, and Brooks, co-owner of Spectrum Trail Racing, knocked out 56 miles of the Wonderland Trail last year, so they know what they’re in for. That run featured 17,000 feet of climbing. They’ll face a new challenge this time out, though: permanent snowfields, which they’ll likely hit at night.

“The trail, if you were to take it away from the mountain, looks like a pie crust — one circle that goes up, down, up, down with very little flat,” says Brooks.

Macsas, 32, who has raced the marathon at the Olympic trials and won the 2017 Austin Marathon and 2011 Statesman Capitol 10K, is relatively new at ultrarunning, although she has finished 50- and 100-milers in Leadville, Colo., and completed the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim twice.

“Trail running is so much slower than what I’d do on-road,” Macsas says. “It almost feels like hiking to me.”

Since no one can aid them along the way, they’ll stuff peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and peanut M&Ms into their packs and bring water filters to draw water from streams along the way.

“What’s more important than speed here is, I don’t want to say craziness, but are you bold enough to try it. I’m like a metronome — I’m slow, but I keep going. And I’m OK with pain,” Brooks says.

The women say they’re in it together.

“We’re both in agreement. We both want to do this, but it’s not life or death. If someone gets hurt, we’re definitely sticking together,” Macsas says.

Brooks agrees, saying that she won’t be brokenhearted if they don’t get the record on their first attempt. “It’s more than that — it’s to go see what we can do,” she says. “If we did it and didn’t make the record, we’d probably just go back and try again.”

Summer hiking tips

Hiking in Central Texas in the summer can feel like walking across a hot griddle with a blowtorch aimed at your face.

That’s why Texas park rangers, who encounter lots of park visitors suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration, want to share some tips to keep hikers safe during the hot summer months.

No. 1? Drink plenty of water. Hydration makes it easier to tolerate heat. Carry extra water and drink periodically, even if you don’t feel thirsty. And if you’re bringing your dog, make sure it has water, too. A good rule of thumb is to turn around and head back once you’ve consumed half of your water supply, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials say.

RELATED: Tired of the usual trails? Check out these less-known hiking gems

Second, make sure you know how long the trail is before heading out. Hikers sometimes underestimate how long it will take them to hike a trail, especially when they’re tackling rugged terrain. Trail maps are available at the visitors center of all Texas state parks and online at the department’s website.

Third, plan hikes for early in the morning or in the evening, when it’s cooler and the sun isn’t as strong. Take frequent breaks and know your limit. Rest under shade when you can.

RELATED: Beautiful hiking trails, no crowds at Doeskin Ranch

Fourth, wear appropriate clothing – light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothing works best. A hat keeps your face shaded, and a bandanna can be dipped in water and worn around the neck to keep you cool.

Finally, park rangers say, check the weather before you start your hike so you’re prepared for conditions on the trail.

If you start to experience a heat-related emergency, call the park headquarters or 911.

Have your say

Want a say in Austin’s bicycle policies?

The city of Austin’s Bicycle Advisory Council is accepting applications for new members. The council advises city officials and other jurisdictions on bike-related issues, from bikeway implementation to education and enforcement.

Nine full members and 10 alternate nonvoting members serve on the council. Six full-time and six alternate positions are currently up for replacement. Any adult who lives or works in Austin is eligible. Members serve a two-year term.

Applications are available online at Applications will be accepted until Aug. 20. Elections will take place Oct. 17 at the regular Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, when applicants will be invited to speak to voting members.

For more information email or call 512-974-2358.