Karl Meltzer, 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100 Champion, Interview

Karl Meltzer proved many wrong, including himself and the author, in winning the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100. In the following interview, find out how he did it, whether he thinks it’s his best race to date, and how the win affects his race plans for next year.

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Karl Meltzer, 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100 Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Karl Meltzer after his 33rd 100 mile victory. Karl, how is it going?

Karl Meltzer: It’s pretty bittersweet to help put a race together like this and actually win the money. I never thought I would. We saw in the other interview that I really didn’t expect myself to come out on top, but I ran my own race like I always do.

iRF: You surprised a lot of people including yourself and me.

Meltzer: Including you, yeah. You know, if you look at a race like this—the dynamics—it’s a fast race, there’s a lot of competition. So everybody kind of pans off everyone else and plays off everyone else. I didn’t do that. I did my own thing because I didn’t have pressure on myself to win. I think that helped me a ton. I took the lead about mile 70 and that’s about where the race usually starts. How perfect could that have been? It all clicked.

iRF: So you weren’t playing coy in your interview and in your own odds?

Meltzer: No, I just figured, “Do your own thing, Karl. Run your own race, and if you’re in it then great.” I kind of knew I was in the race when I moved into top 5 at Cow Creek after mile 30. I didn’t feel that great up to mile 30, but it started to roll. I started running up the hill. Then I caught [Timothy] Olson and I caught [Mike] Wolfe, and I was like, “Huh, now I’m in fourth.” I started to calculate the numbers—well, that’s $2,500. I started to do that, and I realized I was in the race. I was like, “Okay, I can hang with these guys.” Then I still just was telling myself, “Exercise patience. Exercise patience.” That’s what I did. It all just… gosh, if I were to write a book, that’s exactly how I would have written the book—how it would have gone.

iRF: I saw you at the high school I think it was the second time. You were in fourth at that point and well off the lead time-wise, considerably off the lead.

Meltzer: I think Dave [James] had 20 minutes on it?

iRF: Yeah, at that point I knew you were top 2. The only person that could beat you at that point was Dylan [Bowman], because Dylan still looked really strong at that point.

Meltzer: Again, I expected Dave James to go fast like that. He told me later on, “Well, I wanted to build a lead.” Well, you don’t build a lead at mile 30 of 100 or at mile 40 or whatever.

iRF: Time in the bank doesn’t work.

Meltzer: No, you don’t bank miles. That doesn’t do anything for the bank. Nothing goes in the bank when you bank miles. Yeah, exactly how I thought it would pan out. I knew Dylan would be really strong. I knew Jason Schlarb would be strong. Unfortunately, he went up Spring Creek and went the wrong way. That kind of wasn’t cool. At the same time it’s a trail race and that kind of stuff happens. I was really surprised to see Tim and Wolfe struggling early. That surprised me more than anything, more than James taking off.

iRF: When did you know you could possibly win this thing?

Meltzer: When I hit Summit Lake, mile 55ish, I was told I was in second; I still thought I was in third, because I didn’t know Jason had gone the wrong way. I had passed Dave James on the road up to Long Lake, and he was shivering cold. I was like, “He’s done.” So I just kept running and jogging, basically jogging and not really running. They told me at Summit Lake I was 2-3 minutes behind Dylan. I said, “Karl, exercise patience.” There’s 13 miles of downhill after that, so I just jogged downhill. I knew I would lose time to Dylan on that going down that hill; I didn’t care. I got to Dry Lake and Cheryl crewed me and rallied. I got out of there and jogged down Spring Creek, and coming down Spring Creek, I was looking at my watch going, “When’s Dylan coming back up the hill?” He never came. I finally got to the aid station and Dylan was standing there. This is mile 70 where the race begins. So Dylan left a little earlier than I did, 100 yards in front of me, and it was flat. Dylan jogged, and all of the sudden Dylan walked for a second. When Dylan walked for a second that told me, “Now’s the time; now’s the time to make your move.” I was still feeling great. I said, “Dylan, come on. It’s still a long way to go. Let’s go.” He said, “No, I’m good. It’s cool. I’ll rally.” I was like alright. I said, “I’m running.” I ran all the way up that hill, and my goal was to get out of his sight, out of his vision. I did obviously. I put 12 minutes on him on a 6-mile climb.

After that, I felt great. I was climbing great. All the climbs—back up Buffalo Pass, up that road—jogged the flats, run the downs, and I was walking really fast. I was concentrating on walking 4 miles per hour. I think that helped put a little more time on him. Being in the lead, you don’t know what your lead is. I was like, “He’s probably not gaining ground on me unless he’s running absolutely everything. So now’s the time to put the hammer down and just keep on jogging.” The trail, once you get to Summit Lake and climb up a little after that, it just rolls. It’s all runnable. When I said the course was easy, that’s what I considered the part of the course to be easy because it’s all runnable. If you’re walking, you’re not going to win this race there. You have to run that. That was my time to put time in the bank.

iRF: Actually, it’s very interesting to hear you say when you passed Dylan, you were encouraging him. There’s a lot of people who say that money in the sport is going to ruin relationships and people aren’t going to tell each other when they go off course or aren’t going to encourage each other. You don’t think that’s going to be the case?

Meltzer: Well, I mean, it’s a race. Sure, I just said that I’m going to get away from him and out of his sight. It’s a race. But you know, it’s not like (elbow), “I’m going to kick your butt.” It’s just that I want him to do well, too. I want to win, but at the same time, I get a vibe off of him, too, when I say something like that. When his vibe is, “Oh I’m alright; it’s cool,” but he walked. Why did he walk when it was flat when he just left an aid station? That told me, the second I went running by him, I knew that was going to discourage him that I just kept going, and he didn’t respond. He made no response. When you look at track races in the Olympics, when someone makes a surge—or an Olympic marathon is a better example—when someone makes a surge and someone doesn’t respond, you get that. You feel the vibe. That’s when it’s time to go—time to make the effort.

iRF: Why do you think this race was a couple hours slower than we thought it was going to be?

Meltzer: It was further than it was supposed to be. That’s the reason. I know we talk about, “Well, Karl said it was easy.” It’s still considered to be a super-hard course because again, a lot of it is runnable, the climbs especially. We came here two weeks ago and we measured some stuff, and it was a little further and it was mentioned on the website which is fine, whatever. But a lot of people’s GPS’s said anywhere from 108-113 miles… so we’ll just say 110. If it was 110 miles, take two hours off, there’s your 17-hour finish. That’s kind of how I was thinking. I just think it was a little further than 100 miles.

iRF: You’ve now won 33 100’s, and you’ve run a number more than that. Is this the best race or the perfect race?

Meltzer: I think 57 or something like that. It was one of the top 3. My San Diego 15:48 was a phenomenal race for me that year. Hardrock 24:38 was a phenomenal race. But this one is definitely one of my best ever. What a better time to pull it off when I was racing… you know, I’m the old man here against a lot of younger guys. What does that really mean? Not a lot, but with 100 miles, you just have to run all day; you don’t have to run fast. That’s the way I look at it. I had the textbook in my back pocket, and I just stayed with the textbook and did my thing. I had a great race. No bad patches. How many times do you have a race and not have any bad patches. My bad patch was at mile 10 and whatever, it doesn’t matter then. I really had a great run.

iRF: Did you ever think you’d win $11,000 in one trail race?

Meltzer: Nope. It’s cool that I was able to compete in a race like that, with The North Face 50, but that’s 50 miles. There’s no way I’m winning any money there. I’m really psyched that the sport has evolved like that, but at the same time, there was beer and pizza at the finish line. That’s what I like to do at Speedgoat, too. Beer and pizza—everybody is just kind of hanging out shooting the breeze with each other.

iRF: All afternoon.

Meltzer: All afternoon, just having fun. So as long as the sport kind of stays at that level, it’s all that much better that there’s money for the leaders.

iRF: Well, congratulations on number 33.

Meltzer: Number 33.

iRF: Also your race number.

Meltzer: Yeah, the last thing to add there. It was kind of ironic that, about mile 50 I said to myself, “Huh, my bib number is 33; that’s kind of interesting.” My head was like, “That would be cool if I won the race.”

iRF: And you did it.

Meltzer: And I did it. In alphabetical order. Kind of odd.

iRF: Well, congrats, Karl.

* * * * *

iRF: And now the bonus question: beer and pizza. What was the best Pateros Creek beer you had after the race?

Meltzer: You know, I liked the English bitter that was on here?

iRF: The Remittance.

Meltzer: The Remittance. I just drank it. I didn’t look at what it was. It was super tasty for what I like. The funny thing is that it was 3.1%.

iRF: Just like being in Utah.

Meltzer: I said, “Hey, I’m back in Utah again.” At that point, it doesn’t matter; I didn’t really need the high alcohol percent as I was a zombie at that point anyway. AJW would like it, I’m sure.

iRF: He would. Cheers.

Meltzer: Bottoms up.

* * * * *

iRF: Alright, we already had a bonus question and now the brain dead question, because I’m a little tired.

Meltzer: I’m a little delirious as well.

iRF: Karl, you earned a Montrail Ultra Cup spot in Western States next year. Do you think you’re going to take that?

Meltzer: I’ll probably take it. Yeah, I’ll probably take it. I haven’t been able to get into Western the last couple of years, and it’s been a bit of a bummer. But my real goal with Western is really not to go there and try to win it because again, I don’t really think I have a chance there.

iRF: Heard that before.

Meltzer: Heard that before. But the Grand Slam—now that I’m in Western, I have to go run the Grand Slam. Neal Gorman, yeah, I’m going to chase your record. There’s no doubt about that. I’m excited. I haven’t run Vermont either. I’m not all that fired up about Leadville, but at the same time, it’s the Grand Slam. It’s the classic. It’s something I haven’t done. Yeah, I’d be an idiot not to run Western next year. So yeah, you’ll see me on the line there. I’ll probably have fresh legs, probably.

iRF: Are you going to do Grand Slam +1? Put your name in the Hardrock lottery for next year?

Meltzer: Well, I won’t put my name in the Hardrock lottery and that’s okay. I can always still kind of get in Hardrock, so that’s okay. Hardrock is one of those things that it really does beat you up. Obviously, yeah, it’s a shame… maybe I will go crew or work an aid station—Virginius with Roch.

iRF: The “Old Man Aid Station.”

Meltzer: Go work at the “Old Man Aid Station,” yeah. So that’s a possibility. I’ll probably Grand Slam next year and see if I could take Neal Gorman’s record down. That would be a real cap on my career if I could get something like that.

iRF: Awesome. Well, maybe you’ll add a 34 and 35 in there somewhere.

Meltzer: Yeah, well, I keep thinking I’m not going to win another one, and I won 2 again this year. Antelope is a little one, but at the same time, yeah, I… I’m getting older. I’m 44 now. I’ve got to start losing eventually, right? I guess.

iRF: No.

Meltzer: Maybe not. Winning never gets old, I’ll say that. It never gets old.

iRF: Well, I’m sure I’ll see a lot of you next summer then.

Meltzer: Yeah, I’ll be around. I’ll be running.

iRF: See ya, Karl.

Meltzer: See ya.

There are 66 comments

  1. Sniffer

    Did Karl do any stealth running during the night?

    I also think that this should bring up the debate about pacers and making the "Hares" run through the night. In the pre race interviews there were alot of people saying they had not ran through the night, couple that with no pacer and I think it had a major role in the results.

  2. Mike Hinterberg

    Great interview and great run from Karl. Saw him heading up to Summit Lake and steadily gaining on Dylan in the dark. But that would have been several hours before actually passing him. Patience, indeed!

    Pateros Creek Brewing is a Fort Collins favourite. Another great pairing with their Remittance Ale is the Quad Rock 50 trail race in Fort Collins in May, highly recommended:

    gnarrunners.com/quad-rock-50/

  3. Dean G

    I agree with the others. In the future, anyone running a hundred (to race or just to PR) should watch this interview on the eve of their run…

    "You can't put time in the bank at mile 30 – nothing goes in" – classic.

  4. Wyatt Hornsby

    No one has more mojo than Karl. The guy is confident in his own abilities, knows how to race 100s better than anyone else and just has the mental game totally dialed in. I think his edge is almost all mental. Oh, and he also has some speed in those legs (see his 2011 Rocky Raccoon time). It's high time he write the textbook for this sport. The guy is The Master.

  5. Capn_Q

    Congrats to Karl! It was awesome watching him gain on the leader through the night. He'll represent us old men well next year, really looking forward to seeing that play out.

    And I would buy Karl's book on pre-order!

  6. Jonathan

    Great run by a cool guy. I, too, would buy a book from him. Saw him at Rocky and every time he came through he always had his gameface on. He means business on the course. 14:17 at Rocky is awesome. Looking forward to seeing him again at Rocky and to win it this time.

  7. CJ

    Really happy for the Speedgoat and the fact that he'll finally get to run WS. For an ultrarunner, I really think 44 is still relatively young. There are some incredible guys and gals in their 40s & 50s rocking 100mi races. They've had that much longer to build a strong base

  8. Brett

    The course was approximately 110 miles? Shit.

    Neal Gorman's Grand Slam record is freaking stout.

    Western States 100 – 18:14 (13th)

    Vermont 100 – 16:33 (2nd)

    Leadville 100 – 18:47 (4th)

    Wasatch 100 – 21:19 (2nd)

    Individually, Karl could have a relatively secure run at any of those…but as a group it ain't no slam dunk!

        1. Billy

          just voicing my confidence on KM for the GS record. No disrespect to NG, it is an absolutely stout record and one that would take the right person and some really good days for sure.

            1. Mike Bailey

              Gorman's Grand Slam record 74:53 is stout, as was Joe Kulak's before him. However, Neal is faster now than he was in 2010. He just ran Western States in 16:18, compared to his 18:13 slam year, as well as Leadvill last year in 17:48, compared again with his 18:47 during his slam. Neal could probably knock a couple hours off his own record, maybe in the 72 hour range, thus showing it's already beatable. Easier said than done though. If he stays healthy all summer I could see Karl running 16:00, 15:30, 17:00, and close out with a possible sub 20 at Wasatch, if not too fatigued from the other races. That would put him at 68:30, and if anything, in realistic range for a sub 70 hour slam. It's not easy holding up through those races, which Neal did, and with little to no altitude adjustment (which Karl has).

  9. Alex Pashley

    Kudos to Karl, I was pacing my brother from Dry Lake home and Karl came ripping past us on Buff Pass Road. He was so focused, it was great to see. Big Congrats to Bowman and Olson as well. They caught up to us between Summit Lake and Long Lake. They both took the time to chat and give my brother, who at the time was in a real "Low Point" some great encouragement. Bowman, as he pulled away from us said, "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be." I know there were issues with course markings and distances. I have faith that these issues will be fixed in the future. Until then, great race everyone. Truly inspirational.

    1. Jay

      Best line, "you don't have to run fast , you just have to run all day". That's the only advice that one needs to run a 100 miler well. Nice Job, Karl!!!

  10. Billy

    I agree totally that this interview should be in the toolkit of anyone considering racing 100 miles.

    It's cool to see Karl, who has inspired all of us for so long, so happy and enthusiastic about his running. Karl was an exceptional high school XC runner, he's been competing at a very high level for a very long time. For him, at the age of 44 to still have that gleam in his eye and that killer instinct on the course is really fun to watch. I don't know about you guys, but I need inspiration to reach higher, and this performance, and this interview have helped me rethink my goals for next year in a big way. Thanks Karl. Keep doing what you're doing.

    And Bryon, thanks as always for your tireless effort. Sincerely appreciated.

  11. CraigR

    Never count out the Speedgoat! When you do something fun for a living, you continue to go down that path. That's what Karl does. "He works for a living, but doesn't live to work". #31 in the books! Incredible. Beyond that.

  12. Trail Clown

    As someone who has been reading/watching iRunFar from its very beginning, I think it's really fun watching Bryon chat so casually and cheekily with the Jedi Master about this particular race. They both seem to exude a sense of relaxed accomplishment. Not just for themselves (Karl's win, iRunFar's amazing coverage), but for trail running itself, which has been striving for this (rewarding the runners) and has pulled it off in style, with the sport's ageless ambassador showing the way it should be done. Just really cool, congrats to all involved with achieving something really awesome for trail running as a whole.

  13. Robert Kunz

    "you surprised a lot of people including yourself and me."

    Karl says.."yeah, yeah including you."

    Anyone catch that he did not include surprising himself. He always has that inner confidence yet keeps it to himself when its all on the line. His modesty and confidence are amazing.

            1. Kristin Z

              i love it. it's conversational. it's two friends having a chat while trying to ask the things that are PC and that people might want to know about. GREAT JOB, BRYON!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEEP IT COMIN!

    1. yroc

      on second thought, maybe we could actually get some legit coverage next year? how about we take karl's prize purse and give it to ryan seacrest? wolf blitzer? stone phillips?

    2. Bryon Powell

      Thanks for the suggestion, SP, but I prefer not to have a script having tried one once or twice. While an unscripted interview might lead to pauses, it provides a much more conversational flow to the interview. Not being a trained journalist (and never ever wanting to become one), I much prefer this style and think it has many auxiliary benefits.

      1. yroc

        Thanks for all that you do and all the coverage you bring us! This is one of the best ultrarunning champion interviews ever! And a great race and racer too!

        2013 slam is gonna be exciting!

        1. Nick A

          There is always a script 'This is Bryon Powell from irunfar…'. I think that's enough, totally enjoy these interviews. Although work just banned youtube which is very disapponting… I have to watch them in my own time now:->

  14. Chuck

    You mean to tell me that Karl helped plan/organize this race, helping mark the course and run sections of a race he later would win while collecting a large sum of money while others in the race got lost and ran off course? Doesn't seem right. Not discounting his performance or how well he ran.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Karl did not mark any of the course. Not sure where you're getting that info. In speaking with race officials, he'd offered to help, but refused when he learned he wouldn't be accompanied be someone who knew the course well.

      Karl did run portions of the course before the race as did Timothy Olson. If you've got the time, reconning a course where you've got a chance at winning $10,000 is smart, no?

  15. Daniel Westrate

    Awesome!! I had the athlete tracker running on my laptop in my dorm and left it by my bed when I went to sleep. Timothy Olson was in the lead when I started sleeping. I woke up in the morning before I went to my first class, refreshed the page and BOOM! Karl is winning!! What a cool surprise! Being a young guy I like to root for the young guys but watching these interviews with Karl has shown me how wise and cool he is so I was very, very happy when he won. Congratulations!

  16. Mike Bailey

    In regards to the Grand Slam record, you have to be healthy, and I hate to say it, a little lucky. If Western States has 110 degrees in the canyons, or two feet of snow in Sierra Nevadas, it could run 1-2 hours slowers right off the bat. One off day, either performance wise, or weather wise, could hurt a slam record. Then there's the issue of attrition. Some years you get might get a period of 5-6 weeks between particular races, and in other only 3. Neal held up well in his record setting year and had fairly good weather at all events. He is faster now than in 2010, so I still think he is capable of running in the 72 hour range, compared to his 74:54. Karl could make a run at sub 70 hours, and Nick Clark's 2011 WS/HR double proves he can hold up with little recovery. All these guys are beasts, considering Paul Terranova, a very accomplished athlete in his own right, was the fastest slammer in 2012 with a total time of 80:53. Joe Kulak's old record was 75:07 (2003), and Jurek's best was 77:40 (2004). Nobody who has done Hardrock has run a "fast" slam, so I'm guessing, most of these guys won't be in Silverton, though it wouldn't surprise me if Nick did ;-)

    1. Bryon Powell

      They aren't in the currently available Hoka lineup. It's a shoe that's in development for possible release. I'll say more at a more appropriate point in the development process, should it continue.

  17. Speedgoatkarl

    Chuck, as Bryon mentioned, I did recon the course, asked questions. I could have run it with no markings, with the exception of the first and last 13 section. I knew it well, knew every bump in the road all from a two day trip. I don't typically do that in a first year race. But 10k on the line, and 5-deep. I'm gonna do some recon. Had I gotten lost while in the lead, I may have been a little upset. :-) I also made sure I knew all the routes thru town, a very important factor because town's folks don't really know what the flour is on the ground and wipe it off. I had it dialed.

    As far as helping with the race,I only made suggestions on logistical things,wrong way tape, a suggestion to make it a hard course. And some help only RD's know.

  18. David

    Great quote from Karl. I will try to approach my first 100 next year in this light:

    "Its a hundred miles, you just have to run all day you don’t have to run fast"

  19. clydesdale craig

    only in a sport like ultrarunning and only on a site like irunfar does the star athlete that we (fans of the sport) are discussing, pop in and voice his opinion. :)

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