Max King (Montrail) has found great success over a wide range of running disciplines this year. This weekend, he’ll be attempting his first 100k at the UROC 100k. In the following interview, find out about Max’s most recent pair of wins – the Flagline 50k and XTERRA Nationals, what he’s most nervous about in attempting to run 100k for the first time, and who he think will win this year’s UROC.
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Max King Pre-2012 UROC 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Max King. Max, how many races are you going to run this weekend?
Max King: That depends on how many races you break this up into. 100k? That’s going to seem like about 5 to me. So, I don’t know. I think I’ll probably just stick to the one—one start, one finish.
iRF: Last weekend, you had two races. The Flagline 50k [the USATF 50k Trail National Championships]—and you won that. You bounced back the next day for the XTERRA National Championships and you won that for the fifth year in a row.
iRF: You’ve got some wins going… some momentum.
King: I did it last year and I figured, well, I didn’t feel all that bad afterward; so I’m like, “Well, I’ll try it again even though it’s a week before a 100k.” I took the last week before the 50k and the half marathon pretty easy, kind of a taper, before that just kind of working into a two-week taper for this race. So this week has been super easy just trying to recover and get better for that. Ended up that I think the two races from last week might have taken a bit more out of me than I thought from last year, but my legs feel good. I just have a couple of tight things that I’ve been working out, but other than that it’s alright.
iRF: At the other races, did you just go for the win or were you going…
King: No, mostly I was just going for the win. I figured with this race coming up, I should probably just stick to going for the win.
iRF: Two wins and a couple nice paychecks out of it.
King: Yeah, it’s funny. Both courses they made them longer.
King: Because of the fire in Bend that caused a course change on Flagline. Then, they did a little bit different loop on the starting of the XTERRA race. Both of them were a little bit longer anyway, so I wasn’t going to hit the course record or anything.
iRF: So you are personally going longer this weekend. You’ve never run 100k?
King: I’ve never run 100k. It will be the longest run I will have ever done.
iRF: Your 50 milers haven’t been your strongest performances.
King: No. That’s why I’m really nervous about this one. I’m actually really afraid of this 100k distance especially after the last two 50 milers—well, it’s just been American River—and those are flat, that’s a flat race. I completely blew up on the last 15-20 miles of that race the both times I’ve done it. Obviously, with a couple years behind me, I know that I’m stronger the little bit longer that I go now. I’ve gotten through 50k’s, and they’re much more comfortable for me. I’ve gotten through a couple 40 milers and stuff like that. So I know I’m stronger going a little longer now, but whether I’m going to make it for 60 miles, I don’t know. So we’ll just have to see.
iRF: On something like American River, it’s six hours and change. Here a win is going to be eight hours…
King: Eight hours, yeah, exactly. So I don’t know how it’s going to go. I’m just going to go run and hopefully stay pretty conservative. Then hopefully I can hang on for the last… I think what’s going to be rough and really telling for me is the last 15-20 miles.
iRF: This is your best season at least since you’ve been doing the ultra stuff.
King: Yeah, definitely getting stronger at doing the ultra stuff. Speedgoat a year ago would never have gone as well as it did this year. So, my training is definitely better for this type of thing, but now I’m actually doubling that distance, so we’ll see.
iRF: It was interesting to see at the end of Speedgoat… you have tremendous raw speed in terms of someone in the ultra scene… and you’re chasing Tony Krupicka down a mountain and he holds you off.
King: He’s pretty fast. Whenever he tells you he doesn’t have leg speed, you can’t believe him. He’s pretty quick coming downhill. Sure, on a flat area, I’m sure I could probably take him, but the thing is when you’re going downhill you’ve got to have some leg speed, and he’s got leg speed. He’s pretty quick. So it took a flatter section in that race coming downhill to actually get a gap on him. Because coming down steep stuff, I couldn’t.
iRF: Is that something you sort of file away for mental notice? Here, there’s a big climb that ends with about 2 miles to go, with some rolling and some downhill after.
King: Yeah, and that’s really what worries me.
iRF: Even if it’s not somebody like Sage [Canaday], if Nick Clark’s there, you know how to kind of respect that.
King: Oh, totally. I’ve got to get away before that climb because the further I go in this race, the harder it’s going to be for me. It’s just that that last climb is going to be hard for me, so I’ve got to be careful. Don’t show this to anybody before the race tomorrow.
iRF: You do have a lot of speed, but it’s [your] longest race to date. Does that mean you’ll go aggressive and try to build a time barrier or gap, or do you hang with the pack and hope you have that strength and skill at the finish?
King: I think I’ve got to hang with the pack and take it more conservative. I think if I were to do a run off the front and try to build up a lead—I’ve done races like that and won races like that—but a race of this caliber with this field, I don’t think I can get a big enough gap off the front before I completely tank at the end. So I don’t feel like I’m comfortable enough doing that. I think I’m going to take it a little more conservatively and hope I can last a little bit longer in the end and out to 55-60 miles hopefully and be able to run it in pretty well and feel a little bit stronger. Because I know feeling stronger in the last 20 miles instead of completely blowing up and dying in the last 20 miles is going to feel a lot better.
iRF: Is there anything in particular you’re worried about this being your first 100k—is it nutrition, leg strength, the unknown?
King: Just the unknown. Knowing how the 50 miles felt and how the other ultra races have felt for me at the end. Like running flat like road surface, I’m okay, I’m alright when I completely tank, but if I have to do any kind of uphill, that’s really kind of unknown and can be really painful. So that’s why I’m worried about that as we go longer and longer, the uphill and the climbs are what I’m worried about.
iRF: Best of luck out there this weekend, Max. Thanks for chatting!
* * * * *
iRF: A bonus question and a rare serious one. If you had to name one competitor that you think is the biggest threat to the win this weekend other than yourself, who would it be?
King: I think you’ve got to go with Sage right now. Just seeing what he did in White River. He said, “Yeah, I think I could have run another 13 miles.” After my 50 mile win or races, I couldn’t have run another step. So the fact that he said that, you’ve got to give Sage the credit for being the favorite right now. There are obviously some guys like Nick Clark and Dave Mackey who are have more experience at these distances, but with Sage’s leg speed and the results he’s had this summer, I think you’ve got to give him the favorite title right now. You have the Japanese guy who’s kind of unknown, too.
iRF: Might it be that you’re both Cornell alums? You’re giving Sage a little Cornell love?
King: Yeah, we’re both Cornell alums. He was there after me; we never overlapped. I know him because actually he’s from Oregon, too. So I know him from him living in Portland. I met him a couple times when he was going to Cornell and just being Cornell alums. I think it kind of goes to show that you have to go to Cornell and run in Ithaca to be any good.
iRF: There ya have it. Great. See you out there.