Karl Meltzer 32nd 100 Mile Victory Interview

Karl Meltzer embodies excellence at the 100 mile distance. Few have ever excelled at the distance for so long. Over the past decade and a half, he’s racked up 32 100-mile victories. Following his victory at the 2012 Antelope Island Buffalo Run, Meltzer’s notched at least one 100-mile win every year for the past 13 years.

In the following interview, Karl talks about running flat versus mountain 100 milers, his 100-mile nutrition strategy, his one essential piece of advice to first-time 100 milers, his post-100 recovery, what he likes about his Hokas, and where we’ll see him racing next.

Karl Meltzer’s 32nd 100-Miler Victory Interview Transcript

Karl Meltzer 100 MileiRunFar: I’m here with Karl Meltzer, winner of the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Mile race. Congratulations on your 32nd 100-mile win.

Karl Meltzer: 32, yes.

iRF: Unprecedented.

Meltzer: Yes, No one’s got 32 yet.

iRF: Not even close, right?

Meltzer: No, not even close. I think Ann Trason is the closest.

iRF: Not only 32 100-mile wins, but 13 consecutive years with 100 mile victories. That’s some longevity.

Meltzer: 13 years winning a 100 miler at least once. That’s kind of my thing. I’ve got to keep winning them.

iRF: You did it today in 15:28?

Meltzer: 15:28. I shaved a snappy 3 minutes off the record. Not much, but it’s kind of what mattered when I came around that last corner, just trying to get under 15:31.

iRF: With 32 100-mile victories and a couple extra races on top of that, you’ve run anything from really fast runs at Rocky Raccoon to Hardrock and UTMB. Can you share a little bit about the differences between running a “flat and fast” 100 miler and running a really mountainous one. Do you prepare differently? Do you approach it differently mentally?

Meltzer: Preparation wise, I usually run the flatter races early season because my training in the winter is easier training. During the summertime I’m running up and down Little Cottonwood Canyon and things like that, around Snowbird up at higher altitude. So I focus my flatter races early season and the mountainous ones in the summer. It’s been working pretty well. It’s entirely different to run races like this or Rocky Raccoon or anything flat probably… it almost seems like it’s harder than running mountain races because there’s no variation. You just have to run every step and it’s hard to run every step. You walk a little here, there are a couple hills, but it’s hard to run the flat terrain.

iRF: I don’t think everyone realizes it, but in a race like a Hardrock or Wasatch or UTMB, you’re walking, you’re mixing in some fast hiking. Even you when you’re winning it.

Meltzer: Probably walking 35-40% of it in Hardrock and some of those races. If you’re coming to a race like this and contending for the win, you’re running every step, little hills and everything. That just takes its toll and hammers you. This kind of race it’s so easy to go out too fast because it’s so flat and you want to run every step like I did today.

iRF: You planned to go through the first half in 7 hours and the second half in 8 hours?

Meltzer: Yeah, the first 50 miles I went through in 6:33. That was a little quick. But you know, I felt good. It wasn’t a problem. I was just cruising. But at the same time I paid for it later. I think had I gone out at 7 hours, I’d have run about 15 hours instead of 15:28. But that’s ok. To me, it’s really about the win. Racking up those wins, who knows, maybe I’ll die with that record. It’s getting up there, 32 is a lot.

iRF: Do you approach your nutrition differently in a shorter faster 100 than a mountain 100? What is your nutrition plan?

Meltzer: Fueling plan is pretty much gel, across the board, and water.

iRF: Do you do gel on a schedule or just by feel at this time?

Meltzer: On a schedule. About every 25 minutes I take a gel serving. As long as I stay ahead of that I’m fine. If I don’t stay ahead of it or I fall behind, then I have issues. But I look at my watch every time I take one and think, “Ok, 25 min from now is whatever time.” I stick with that and it works. It works for me. It doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I don’t eat any real food from the table. I think I had a half an orange this time because I had a big lead and I was standing there and picked at it. Gels work.

iRF: I know in a slower 100 you do Red Bull, do you do Red Bull in something like this?

Meltzer: Yes, it’s not just gel. It’s a combination of Red Bull, soup bullion, salt caps, but basically it’s mostly liquid stuff. I consider gel liquid.

iRF: You’ve won 32 100s and you’ve been coaching for a couple years, what is your key piece of advice for someone running their first 100?

Meltzer: Patience. We’ve all heard it before and even I fall victim to going out too fast like I did here today. Patience is really your friend especially the first time you run a 100. You’ll find that rookies who can hang with the front or who are pretty fast, they’ll hang with the front of the group for 25 miles and then they’ll just fade off. If they’ll start a little slower and keep the fueling going, they’ll have a much better finish in the end. That’s the thing. The best 100 comes in your last 30 miles, not in the first 30. So if you can prepare yourself to run well in the last 30, that’s the difference.

iRF: You’ve won 32 100s, you’ve set Hardrock course records, you’ve set Wasatch course records, what’s fueling you? What drives you?

Meltzer: It’s an addiction. I’ve run a 100 miler 54 times. For me, the 100 mile distance is the “ultimate” distance. I’ve run 50k’s and 50 miles, too, but those are mostly training runs. What fuels me? I like to do it. I like to win. I like to yak about it at the end. I like success. It feels good. Winning never gets old. I don’t care who you beat. Like Antelope Island here, the competition wasn’t strong today, but it wasn’t for me really about that. It was about having a good run. I could have walked the last 6 miles and could have still won the race. But I kept up whatever I had, I was moving pretty slow, but at the same time I still pushed it to run a solid time. I like to at least see what I have instead of backing off the throttle. So even if there’s not competition, I still give it my best effort. I’m pretty proud of that. If there’s not competition it’s easier to just back off the throttle and just win if there’s no one there.

iRF: So you gave it all you had today?

Meltzer: I gave it all I had. Like I said, I went out a little too quick, but you know…

iRF: Where are you giving it your all next?

Meltzer: Ice Age 50 mile is coming. That’s a flatter 50 mile in Wisconsin, I believe. Then Pocatello 50 mile and then Hardrock. But again, Ice Age is a flatter race so I’ll train on speedier terrain around home until that race and from that, hopefully I’ll recover quickly and head to the mountains.

iRF: Speak to that. What does your recovery entail? What are you doing the next couple days, the next couple weeks? Do you take days off?

Meltzer: I’ll take my dog for a walk the next couple days to move my legs. Yes, the way I feel now, I’ll probably take Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off. I’ll take walks, and I’ll keep moving around the house because I don’t like to sit still. I’ll start running when my body feels it’s ready. It might be a 3 miler.

iRF: So you’re not going to push it. When you start running you’re not right back to the training?

Meltzer: No, I mostly just feel how my body feels. I may recover in a week. I may recover in 2 weeks. It all just depends on how I feel. It’s all about feel for me; instead of saying, “Well this is your perfect training plan.” Everyone’s different, and as long as you understand how your body works, it’s easier to recover faster [if you listen to your body].

Overdoing it is a big mistake I’ve seen a lot of people do. If they have a great race and let’s say they feel great on Tuesday, they’ll start banging out, banging out, banging out miles and all the sudden two weeks later they have this low period where they’re tired again. They’re not really recovered from three weeks ago. So you want to recover in a week and a half then get back to training if you can. There’s a fine line of doing too much right afterwards. That’s what I try to avoid.

iRF: You definitely like racing against good competition. You’ve run a bunch of Hardrocks – 8? 9?

Meltzer: I’ve start 9 and I’ve finished 6.

iRF: You’ll start your 10th Hardrock this July and I think you’ll agree that it will be the stiffest field you’ve ever raced? Are you looking forward to that in particular? How are you approaching it?

Meltzer: Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing how I stack up. As I get a little older, I mean, I’m 44 now. If the field starts as it is, you’ve got Hal [Koerner], Geoff [Roes], Tony [Krupicka], and Dakota [Jones]. Those four alone are a crazy field. But you know, if I can stay within an hour or two of those guys, I’d be pretty psyched I think. At the same time, I’m fast enough to beat them all, too, if it all clicks.

iRF: Is this the same direction you had the course record?

Meltzer: No, Kyle Scaggs has the record in the direction we’re running this year. My record, 24:38, is a great time going the other way. My best time in this direction is 26:39, which was in 2001, 10 years ago.

iRF: So are you going to shoot for getting in under that?

Meltzer: My goal is to break that time and if I do that, I’m satisfied. And if I come in 10th, then hey, I come in 10th. But it would be cool to say that 10 years later I ran my faster time there. I am getting a little older and that’s not an excuse by any means. In a race like that, it’s a slow race. We’re racing at 4 miles per hour. We can all go 4 miles per hour. So it will be interesting. The young kids might all blow up, they may not. I don’t see Geoff blowing up. Geoff’s pretty smart. And even all the other guys: Hal, Tony, Jones, John Basham, a bunch of the other guys. I think it will be a really competitive race. It might come down to the last climb. Who knows?

iRF: I don’t think we’ve really spoken about it before, but now that you have a couple years experience in Hokas, what draws you to run in Hoka One Ones and what are you running in these days? Are you running in the same model all the time?

Meltzer: I’ve mostly run in the Hoka Bondis. I’ve always liked a soft shoe. I used to go way back in the day to the Montrail Vitesse if anybody remembers that shoe.

iRF: I think some people still want that shoe.

Meltzer: Some people still have them! Those were a great shoe for me at that time. And then there was this period where there really wasn’t a big, soft shoe out there. They became sort of like boots, in my opinion anyway. And then Hoka came about and they’re soft and they’re comfortable and I put those things on and I was sold. I’m really psyched that those came around. I’m psyched that Nico [Mermoud] contacted me. It was pretty random. But the Bondi is my favorite so far. I’m sure we’ll develop other shoes in the future.

iRF: Is it comfort during the race or recovery?

Meltzer: I think it’s a combination of both. As for comfort during the race, I have no blisters today. My feet don’t feel like they’re hammered. And I’ll recover faster because I have a softer shoe, I just didn’t pound my body. Although I feel crippled at the moment and I can barely move, my body will recover faster because they’re softer. I see too many people in little shoes, and that’s ok, but I think the recovery time takes longer because of it. Just my opinion, you know.

iRF: I wish you a speedy recovery and congratulations on your 32nd win. We’ll see you in Silverton in July.

Meltzer: See you in Silverton in July.

There are 24 comments

  1. David

    I love the way Brian conduct his interviews – no notes – just questions off the top of his head that we 'enthusiast' would ask if given the opportunity.

    Oh and Brian – it's "Onay Onay". ;-)

    1. Russell

      Unfortunately it's become accepted as 'One One' in North America. Even the brand ambassadors here call it that. We change spellings here over the years just for convenience. So this isn't a big leap.

      And by the way, it's 'Bryon' :o)

      Excellent job Bryon. As David said, love your interviews. And because you conduct them right at the event (before and/or after), you get real emotions and answers rather than planned ones.

  2. Russell

    Bryon, will you be doing a hands-on (feet-in) review of the Hokas any time soon? All the reviews I've found online are by people who may be either biased in favour of it, because they've taken the leap of faith and spent all that money, or those who are against it purely based on the fact that it seemingly (and perhaps wrongly) goes against everything written in Born to Run.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Yes, I anticipate a Hoka review in the next month or so. I've been wearing a pair a bunch this winter and look forward to a bit of testing on dry trails as the snow melts up in Park City.

  3. Speedgoatkarl

    Brennan, Western States is not the focus of me going to Ice Age. I am only going cuz' it's a different race. I like to mix it up every year and run a few different ones. If for some reason I were to run top 2 (by default) I might run WS, but not really sure.

    Not sure what you mean by holding cards? Help me out here. :-)

    1. Brennen Wysong (@Bre

      You know, like in poker — not wanting to show your hand, being that you got all aces (yeah, your that good). I just figured it might be there in the back of your mind and you just weren't gonna reveal it yet. And as Bryon mentioned in the interview, you love the competition, and I figured it might be hard to resist it at the track meet.

      Anyhoo, great race this weekend — and much success in the future, WS or wherever you might roam.

  4. boisean

    I'm with Karl on the 'soft' shoes, and Hoka 'fits the bill.' I wore the hell out of my Bondi's last year and only just ditched them because the new 2012 'evo's' came in last week. I'm really lovin' those too. I decided to try the 'evo's' due to the fact that they had more 'meat' underneath with a new tread for trails, even though I'd have to say, I was never hurting for 'grip' with the Bondi's.

  5. Van Horn

    Antelope 2012 was my first 100 miler, so I am paying attention to the advice for first timers. It was alearning experience for sure. I got asthma on the latter 50 miles and slowed down quite a bit. I am wondering what can be done to prevent asthma (probably exercise induced) for my next 100 miler. Good interview Bryon and congrats Karl. Saw you run through Frary aid Friday evening on the first lap.

  6. Dana Royer

    On the topic of Hoka's, I ran a 100 this weekend too (NJ Ultra Festival). This was my first 100 with Hoka's. Usually what slows me down in the last 40 miles is the pounding on my legs and feet. I experienced very little of this during my race and–as a result–was able keep truckin' to a 5 hour PR and 3rd place finish. And, as Karl says, post-race recovery is peerless. Two days after my race, I could bound down stairs if I needed to. No post-race grunt-shuffle for me. Hoka's are da bomb.

  7. Jon Allen

    Another great interview, Bryon. Very informative. And congrats to Karl on another win- impressive streak. I remember talking to you right after you won Massanutten last year with your 30/12 streak. Hope you keep both records climbing.

  8. Russell

    Thanks Mike. Yes I would really like to/ need to try them on. Unfortunately Canada always placed on the naughty list when it comes to the latest goodies. I found 3 pairs of Hokas in all of Ontario. All the wrong size.

    Ah well…

  9. Patrick

    Had the opportunity to run a short bit with Karl in NY during his Appalachian Trail journey when he was wearing the Fireblade kicks. I don't blame him for liking softies after 2,100 miles of AT.

  10. Reid L.

    Karl,

    I've two questions about your 2000+ mile Pony Express Route run last year. I could not easily find the answers on your website, so I ask here.

    (1) What shoes were you using?

    (2) How many miles did you get off a pair of those shoes?

    Thanks,

    Reid

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      Reid. I ran in the Hoka Mafate, each shoe went about 330 mile before I switched to a new pair. One blue pair I had earlier on the run went 450 because getting a pair delivered in mid Nevada doesn't happen to quick. Fair to say I started a little thin on shoes. Thing is, each pair that went about 330 miles, I still wore for about 200 more after the Pony Express. When runnning on the road every day for that long, it's easy to feel everything. The shoe was by no means wasted, my body could just feel when the sole compressed ever so slightly. So, 6 pair over 2064 mile. Plus 9 holes of golf. :-)

  11. DCraig

    Thanks for the interviews Bryon.

    Karl, how does a speedgoat talk a band of bison into bumping Dan and your few other pursuers off the trail?! Great show, sorry there couldn't have been a few more of us to cheer as you swept open the tent door at 3:28 AM and said simply, "I'm finished." So cool.

    And we were still staring down another 30 miles.

  12. Jim Skaggs

    I have a tendency to get a little exercise induced asthma during a 100, especially high altitude ones. What I've found that seems to work is to always carry my albuterol inhaler during a race. I faithfully take a hit every 4 hours. Seems to help quite a bit. Although after Leadville last year I was wheezing pretty good. I was still able to run the last few miles though. Hope that helps a little.

    Jim

    RD Antelope Island Buffalo Run

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