After a childhood of short runs with his father, Canisius cross country head Coach Nate Huckle began organized running in 7th grade. Competing in both track and field through high school and college, as well as cross country, he had never even really thought about running marathons until the end of his collegiate career.
Marathons are some of the most mainstream and popular running events in the world. For many people, including many lifelong runners, jogging 26.2 miles over the course of roughly a half dozen hours is a significant accomplishment. However, for Huckle, even 100-mile “ultra-marathons” are not enough to satisfy his desire to push himself and compete with his own limitations. Huckle said to GoGriffs.com, “I need to get out there a couple times a year and just do something challenging.”
In October, Huckle joined his hiking partner Katie Ghidiu, the director of Library Services at Monroe Community College, on a record-breaking hike of the Northville-Placid Trail. Their hike, accomplished without any outside support or aid, took the pair across 142 miles of New York State’s Adirondack Mountains; they accomplished the feat in 62 hours and 44 minutes. That time set a new FKT, or “fastest known time,” a time officially logged by a GPS tracking device that Ghidiu was carrying.
Canisius adjunct professor Rev. Daven Oskvig completed the same trail with a crew of supporters, who were able to give him things throughout his journey and relieve some of the stress of having to carry everything on your back.
Between the three of them, there are two FKT’s on the Northville Placid Trail: the unsupported hike time set by Huckle and Ghidiu and the current supported hike time set in late September by Oskvig.
Unlike Huckle and Ghidiu, Oskvig did not run at the collegiate level, and while he did run competitively in high school, he turned back towards running in his late 20s as an outlet.
“It became, how far can I go, how fast can I go, and where I can do all this… I’ve gone a lot of places, I’ve gone pretty darn far and I’ve gone pretty darn fast,” Oskvig recalled.
Each of their individual journeys in running brought them to the Adirondack Mountains, and all with the goal of setting a fastest known time on this trail, which, according to Ghidiu, is one of the oldest in the United States.
“We went into it with a schedule that we thought we could hit, which would put us ahead of the former fastest known time,” Ghidiu said.
She and Huckle were able to stick to their schedule, but certainly met their fair share of resistance along the way. “There was one point where the inserts I was wearing in my shoes just really weren’t working for me. They were creating some silver dollar sized blood blisters on my heels,” Huckle said.
Ghidiu recalled that one of the main difficulties during the experience was how cold it could get at nighttime. “On that second night, I think it was sleeting at one point in the middle of the night, and it just got really cold,” she said. Oskvig, on the other hand, was able to complete the trail with “no blisters or issues with hotspots or otherwise,” and had relatively good weather throughout, which helped him through his journey.
Despite the plethora of events that can happen to a person during a 62 hour and 44 minute period, Huckle still found it difficult to grasp something from this experience to bring back and effectively share with his student athletes at Canisius.
“I’m not really sure how to relate what I did to them. There’s all sorts of things about mental toughness that are in there, and physical toughness, and preparing yourself for a big effort, but it’s hard to relate a five mile race or a 5k to 142 miles.”
Always a coach, he was determined to find a teaching point, though. “Don’t be afraid to fail. I keep trying to push myself to find where are my limits and where is that failure, and I think someday I’ll definitely find it, but you can’t be afraid to find where that failure lies. When you get closer to reaching failure itself is where you learn the most.”
In search of that point of failure, both Huckle and Ghidiu, as well as Rev. Oskvig, were able to successfully complete the 142 miles, setting a record for fastest time. However, records are made to be broken, and Ghidiu said that there may be some “unfinished business” with the Northville-Placid Trail.
“I think I could do it a lot better now. I could go a lot faster and I think I could better prepare. But I do feel a sense of accomplishment, and if I never get the chance to go back, I’m still happy with what we accomplished,” she said.
While on the trail, Huckle originally said that he would not return, but now he can’t help but feel a similar way, and attributed it to the nature of being a competitor. “Looking back on it now, I think we could have done it a lot more efficiently. There’s a steep learning curve when you step up to things like that. There’s a strong calling from a challenge and it would be hard to turn that down.”
Even if their record does get broken, Ghidiu and Huckle will still be able to solidify the memory of their record by putting their names on other FKT’s in New York State. Huckle hinted that they have an appreciation for the Adirondack high peaks, and if training goes according to plan this winter, there may be an attempt at something “stupidly hard” in the summer of 2021.