Note 1: There's a NEW Half Dome Running record by Rickey Gates
Note 2: If you're running Half Dome yourself be sure to scroll down to the comments and read all the advice there from other runners. If you have run Half Dome or if you get help from these comments, when you're done come back and add your experiences for others. Also, the Half Dome record is for the round trip, from gauging station to summit and back, not just the uphill leg.
After a near miss in 2006 and bigger miss in 2007, 19 year-old Ryan Ghelfi of Redding, CA, succeeded this year in breaking the Half Dome Trail running record. On Monday, June 16, he left Happy Isles at 6:00am, touched the summit and in a mere 2:30:50 found himself back at Happy Isles, beating the old record, set by Hari Mix, by approximately seven and a half minutes (Mix ran the trail in 2:38:21). Ryan had previously done the run in 2:40, but then was disappointed last year by his 2:48 time and came back this year determined to run harder and smarter.
Since there seems to be some confusion occasionally, that's 2:30:50 for the ROUND TRIP, not just running up. Look at the splits below.
Like most runners, Ryan walked the steep stairs before the top of Vernal Falls, the last bit before Nevada Falls, the sub dome and the cables. He said the hardest part of the run is keeping it together for the last thirty minutes on the uphill part. He says that "It all happens in that section… Mentally that is the hardest part so prepare for that like that is the whole race. It's going to feel slow. And I find that it is very easy to want to give up in that section". Last year, he was on record pace at the "2 miles to go" sign, but lost a lot of time between there and the summit. This year he kept it together to reach the summit in 1:32:54, running the downhill leg in 57:56.
As with previous record holders that I know of, Ryan's run was unsupported, meaning that he carried with him whatever he was going to eat and drink on the trail. He took one liter of water, a couple of Gu packs and some electrolyte tabs. He recommends taking in about 300-400 calories if you can, but he was actually only able to down 200 calories himself. By the way, he carried his water in a Nathan running pack, saying it doesn't bounce around like others. I recently got one as well and have to say that it is the most comfortable way to carry water when running. For me, hip belts bouncing up and down give me serious stomach distress after a couple of hours (though they're great for non-impact sports like skate skiing), typical Camelbaks are too bouncy and carrying water bottles in my hands just wears me out and is not practical on rough trails. So though they're a bit hard to find, definitely look into a Nathan (I'll add some links to this when I get a chance but check out ZombieRunners.com and RunnersWarehouse.com, where I got mine).
Ryan said he thinks if someone really strong heads up there, he could get the time below 2:10 and he added
I wish everybody luck who goes for this record. It has been worth it every time for me, and I hope that I get to try and break a new record again some day soon.
He may well get his wish. Previous record holder Hari Mix said: "I guess this leaves me no choice but to take the record back."
I asked Ryan for some advice for those who might try to beat his record and said he thought a few major factors contributed to his success this year:
- "For me the big difference was going to college and running on the team [Ryan is on the Southern Oregon University track team]. In high school I was not as consistent with training and I was not being pushed by faster guys."
- "Also I did a lot of Mt Biking in the month previous to the Half Dome run. I feel that it gave me some added leg strength which makes a huge difference on this run." Though I'm a slug compared to Ryan, I have to say that I find that when I do a lot of hard skiing and get my legs strong, the steps on the Mist Trail seem way, way easier. This run requires a lot more leg power than the typical run.
- Magic shoes. "I think shoe weight makes a huge difference when you have a mile of vertical. I went from using 15 ounce shoes to using 9 ounce shoes [Innovate trail racers]. Obviously you have to give up some cushion but it is worth it."
- Being fitter and mentally tougher on the last part of that climb.
He also points out that he's not as fast as Hari Mix in more traditional collegiate races (Ryan's best time in the 10K is 32:02 compared to 28:59 for Mix). Ryan does better at longer distances and probably at rough, steep trails (personally, the steeper and rougher the trail, the more likely I am to be able to keep up with a superior runner). It's not a soft record though. Previous record holders include Hari Mix, a talented collegiate runner at Stanford and Buzz Burrell, one of the elder statesmen of trail running and sponsored runner on the La Sportive Golite running team. Still, Ryan hopes to get his personal time on Half Dome down below 2:20 in the next couple of years and, as I mentioned above, said that he sees the overall record dropping below 2:10 if some really fast runner puts his mind to it. We'll see about that!
In any case, congratulations Ryan!
Some details on Ryan's run:
- Start and end: the new sign across from the old bridge (at the gauging station in other words). This is the "official" starting point for timed runs on Half Dome.
- FootBridge- 7:17
- Gate at Vernal- 17:16
- Bathrooms above Nevada- 34:04
- 2 Mile sign- 1:00:28
- Base of Sub dome- 1:18:20
- Top- 1:32:54
- Down time- 57:56
- Finish- 2:30:50