Rickey Gates Sets New Half Dome Running Record - 2:28:18


Rickey Gates

There's a new Half Dome FKT by Kyle Williams

I just found out a couple of days ago that Rickey Gates, a 29 year-old nomadic runner, shaved another couple of minutes off the Half Dome running record, completing the round trip in 2:28:18 from the water level gauge to the summit and back. Congratulations Rickey!

Rickey is a celebrity mountain runner (is there such a thing?) with serious cred as a hill climber. He won the Mount Washington Road Race in 2009 and became only the second American ever to run the course in under an hour (and a 4th place at that event this year), He was the 2007 USA Track and Field Mountain Runner of the Year, winning both U.S. Mountain Running Championship (Mt. Cranmore) and the U.S. Trail Championship (Steamboat) in back to back weeks (!!) and has had some prestigious finishes in international
competitions, including a 12th place in the 2008 Mountain Running World Championships and a more recent fourth place in the prestigious Sierre-Zinal, perhaps the most competitive mountain race in the world. Rickey is sponsored by Salomon, Ancient Harvest Grass Fed Organic Beef (his preferred source of iron; website not developed yet), and The Rudy Project. In other words, Rickey is an absolutely world class runner and there can be no doubt this Half Dome record is a serious time. Oh yeah, and he's a bit of a poet too;-)

I give this long link-infested preamble, because for years, people who don't know any better have discounted previous records with rumors of mythical rangers who ran Half Dome in two hours. I patiently explain that I'm sure that was a one-way time (or perhaps mere legend), because Hari Mix and Ryan Ghelfi are serious runners. Now we have a time laid down by a top runner with international credentials and there can be no doubt, no random ranger has beaten this time (or any of the previous couple of records for that matter). And furthermore, I think the fact that Hari and Ryan ran the times they did at the ages they did is all the more impressive to me now.

Anyway, Rickey consented to answer a few questions like Ryan did after his run, with an eye toward helping future runners go for the record or just have fun on this amazing trail. If you're planning to run this for time, especially for the record, see Ryan's tips on running Half Dome and all the comments on that page.

We now have splits from the last two records, so I thought it might be fun to set them side to side.

Split times for Ryan and Rickey
Landmark Ryan Rickey
Vernal Footbridge 7:17 7:54
Top of Vernal 17:16  
Bathrooms at top of Mist Trail 34:04  
"2 Mile" sign 1:00:28  
Base of Subdome 1:18:20  
Summit 1:32:54 1:28:47
Descent 57:56 59:31
Total 2:30:50 2:28:18

Looking over the list, these look a lot like my splits — they contain numbers and colons and roughly, though not always, the same number of digits.

Tom: Was this your first run up Half Dome?

Rickey: This was my first time up Half Dome but not my first time in the area. I ran to Nevada Falls a few days earlier to get a feel for the trail and make sure that I didn't have any problems with wrong turns during my TT. (I recently tried for the Rim to Rim record at the Grand Canyon and fell short by one minute after getting lost for about six minutes on another trail).

Did you walk any big sections?

I power hiked a very small section below Nevada Falls which I was able to run a few days earlier. I think that, in my case, it should be run. Though the transition from hiking to running is taxing on my body I had no option but to hike a little bit as my legs were somewhat tired from the accumulation of training I have been doing in the past few weeks.

Did you have a look around or just tag the geographic highpoint and head down?

I ran from the top of the cables to the top of the mountain. Even at 8:30 in the morning there were lots of people hanging out. As I was approaching the edge, one of them said "You'd better stop running." I scooted to the edge, took in the enormity of the void, touched the top and headed down. There was a bit of confusion as to why somebody would spend so little time to take in the summit. My friend Martin Cox, who was a few minutes behind me, spent 20 minutes explaining to them. I'll return to Half Dome and take it in another time. At the time I was aiming for what you climbers call a red point? no?

What did you have for food and drink?

I took a small amount of water and two Gu's with me. I think the Gu's are important and the water is optional because, really, it's only an hour-and-a-half of hard running... the descent is hard but can be done almost without energy. [comment: you pass within inches of a drinking fountain at the Vernal footbridge, but it's too close to the bottom to do much good]

Any special gear suggestions?

Light shoes (obviously…?). I use the Salomon S-Lab which are light, stable and hold their grip on the rock. I brought gloves (for the cable ascent) but lost them on the trail somewhere. I found that I didn't really need them, and if I did, I could have used a pair left at the bottom of the cables.

Ryan thought there was potential to drop the record a lot from his time. What do you think now about the potential to drop a lot more time?

Ryan ran a a very respectable time up and down Half Dome. The potential for others to drop the time is most certainly there… to 2:10? I think that's far fetched. Maybe 2:15-2:20. I'd love to be proven otherwise though.

Any other thoughts/suggestions regarding the HD run?

Ryan has the best type of training advice for this sort of thing. Fast running (ie 32minute 10k results) combined with mountain running and time on the bike (I am a huge advocate of cross-training). Go out easy. Leave early to avoid crowds. Most importantly — enjoy it!

Any chance we can get you back to take a stab at some other runs around here?

I'd love to get back through there for some other runs (really I'd like to give Half Dome another shot ;))

Where do you live

For the past several years I seem to have spent equal time in Boulder, Aspen and Europe. This summer I am traveling around quite a bit in my VW bus. I'll be headed to Europe to compete for a couple weeks in September. In October, I'll go to Antarctica for a season of kitchen work at the South Pole. I don't know what kind of running I'll be doing there.

Thanks Rickey!

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