Karl Meltzer has won the Hardrock 100… a bunch of times and he owns the counterclockwise direction course record in 24:38. The race will again be run counterclockwise this year. In the following interview, Karl talks about his recent run at the Western States 100, how he’s bounced back, how he thinks Hardrock will shape up this including his realistic personal goal, and the Hoka One One Rapa Nui he’ll be racing in.
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Karl Meltzer Pre-2013 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Karl Meltzer before the 2013 Hardrock 100. How are you doing, Karl?
Karl Meltzer: Surviving. Ready to run 100 miles again.
iRF: Yeah, I wouldn’t say you surprised people, you ran a strong, smart race at Western States and finished 10th. How do you feel about that?
Meltzer: I stuck to my guns at Western because I knew I really had no chance of being at the front. I definitely picked myself 10th (male) and I came in 10th behind Pam Smith beating me which made me 11th. It was really a smart run for me. I had a tough time the last 20 miles which really slowed me down. I held on and Scott Wolfe was five minutes behind me; I didn’t have much time to spare. I’m really psyched that I got 10th there and I’m able to go back next year. I had a good run. Experience really played a huge part for me there.
iRF: Totally. I don’t know what place you were, but you were back with me at mile 20.
Meltzer: I was wondering why you were there.
iRF: Well, that as well.
Meltzer: I wanted to be 20th at Robinson; I think I was 19th. I played that really well. Then I just expected carnage to happen. It happened a little earlier than I thought. When I passed Dave Mackey going to Devil’s Thumb, that surprised me. Cameron (Clayton) was leaning against a tree. All the sudden we’re in 14th and 13th and wow, maybe I can run in the top 10. Then Hal (Koerner) was standing there. Then Jorge (Maravilla) was standing there. Then here all the sudden I’m in eighth or ninth and, alright, I have a chance. I really barely hung on. I was struggling that last 20 miles.
iRF: What was the biggest challenge that last 20? You’ve run a lot of these.
Meltzer: My quads were just fried. I went down to the river—I didn’t go hard down to the river, but I think after the aid station before Rucky Chucky Near… is it Peachstone?
iRF: Cal 3.
Meltzer: Cal 3—I don’t know, I ran it blind. When I got there, the woman at the aid station said, “Hey! It’s kind of hot coming around the corner here. The sun’s in your face.” At that point, I hadn’t really felt hot. I really was wet the whole time. The heat didn’t bother me at that much, but it really did kind of affect me going up that road and kind of slowed me down a little bit.
iRF: Exposed and some sandy terrain.
Meltzer: The exposure—all of the sudden it was 110 degrees. When I crossed the river, I was really disappointed that I had to get in a boat. That was mentally disappointing. I started walking up to Green Gate and I just didn’t really feel energy there. Then two guys came behind me. It was funny because when I left Green Gate, there was a tiny, little downhill after Green Gate and my quads were just toasted. I was just struggling going downhill. That was where I could have run 17:30 had I had a good finish. Instead, my quads were fried and I run 18:50. It just goes to show that it’s the end of the race that really matters.
iRF: Obviously people think of you as a mountain 100-miler guy; that’s probably what you enjoy the most. Why do you think your quads weren’t there?
Meltzer: Well, I didn’t have much training. After Sonoma, I averaged about 25 miles a week. I didn’t really have much… I really wanted to go into Western States well trained and ready for that. I would have done long downhill runs off Snowbird and things like that, but I didn’t have a chance to do that. I did for two weeks before it. Maybe that’s a factor, maybe it’s not. I can look back at my underlying base for all my years and careers—yeah, you’ve got great base. It stays with you for a long time that knowledge and knowing how to do it, but I mean your body still deteriorates or doesn’t recover as fast if you don’t run as many miles. I just didn’t have a great lead-up to the race. You can blame it on that if you want. I don’t blame it on anything. It’s just… it is what it is. I got 10th, man, I can’t complain about that.
iRF: Less than two weeks later you’re here—Hardrock. This past weekend, you went up to Snowbird to do a workout of 5,000 feet vertical with the tram down. How are the quads doing a day after?
Meltzer: It’s just common sense on the tram down. We hiked up to the top, no problem, down the back and came back up. I was tired coming back up. Total vert that day was 5,500. It was a good indicator of how I felt. Let’s take the tram down and do the right thing. I could have run down. I just hiked around this last week. I didn’t run. If you would have asked me this last week or maybe 10 days ago if I’d be running this, I’d be, “No way. Quads are just too fried.” I recovered pretty quickly. I couldn’t stop eating for a week. All I would do is just constantly eat. That helps your recovery. Now I’m not going to give up Hardrock. It’s kind of my baby. I’m here. My next race isn’t going to be until Run Rabbit Run. So I’ll bang this out, bang out Speedgoat 50k, and then just train. Hopefully I’ll be healthy for that.
iRF: Are you running Speedgoat?
Meltzer: No, race directing. No, I’m just RD’ing.
iRF: What’s your plan for tomorrow? You hold the course record for the counterclockwise direction. You’ve won this thing a couple times. What’s on your plate realistically?
Meltzer: Realistically on the plate, I think it’s a Joe (Grant)/Seb (Chaigneau) show. I think we all know that. Joe and Seb should probably run away and who knows if they’ll blow. Probably not. I think beyond those two, there are maybe eight of us in this peloton that will probably shuffling back and forth. For me, it’s easy for me to say, I’m just going to go run it. That’s what I’m going to do. I don’t feel that I’m fit enough to run 24:30. We all know that right now. I’ll run and do my thing and hopefully after I get over Handies, the course to me gets easier after that. Handies is not pleasant. It’s not pleasant. I think once I get over that and, if I feel okay coming into Grouse without my quads being destroyed, then I’ll probably have a decent race. I’ll know that I’m okay.
It’s not about… I’m not competing with anyone here. I’m running against myself. My ultimate goal would be… it would be great if I beat Nick Clark’s 27:50. I have no chance at breaking his double. That was the initial plan, but that’s out the door. I’m just going to do my thing. I hope to eat some food off the tables instead of just eating gel like I usually do and just to go have fun. I know it’s a cliché thing to say that, but when you know you’re not 100-percent fit to race this thing, you’re just like, “Alright, I’ve done this a million times and I get to have fun in this run.”
iRF: If you didn’t love… you’ve won this thing enough times, and you’ve won other races. If you weren’t having fun, why would you be here?
Meltzer: This is a painful place. It’s painful.
iRF: There is going to be a lot of unpleasantness out there at some point.
Meltzer: Yeah, and it’s probably going to come earlier than I want. We do it because we love it. That’s why I’m still running races; it’s because I like to do it. I’m not retired yet. I’m a little sore, but I’m not retired.
iRF: I haven’t seen any Speedgoat odds on your website. You’ve been a little busy.
Meltzer: Yeah, it’s only because I’ve been so busy.
iRF: Obviously Joe and Seb…
Meltzer: I think Joe and Seb are 1 and 2.
iRF: Does one have an edge over the other do you think?
Meltzer: It will be interesting to see how Seb does at altitude. We know he can climb in the Alps. We know he can kill it at UTMB. Will the altitude affect him? I think Joe knows what the altitude is going to feel like a little better than Seb. Seb’s been here for a couple of weeks? He knows kind of what it feels like, but he doesn’t know what it feels like at 70 miles.
iRF: That cumulative effect.
Meltzer: That cumulative effect—exactly. So it will be interesting to see how that plays for him. Beyond those two, you’ve got Chris Price, Jared Campbell—looks like Nick Pedatella bailed out which is kind of funny because he said he’d be here.
iRF: He’s doing the Slam.
Meltzer: He was on this list… but anyway, regardless of that… Scott Jaime, another person who really has the ability to run fast here. He really hasn’t nailed a fast one here, but he can. Chris Price, I mentioned him. Myself, I guess.
iRF: Are the Coury brothers ready to nail it?
Meltzer: The Coury brothers are another couple of guys who I think are good for 27 or 28 hours on a good day. I don’t think they’re ready for 24 hours. Again, it’s a good Hardrock field, but not thick like Western. That’s fairly typical of every year.
iRF: There are 140 people and you can’t run your way in unless you won the previous year.
Meltzer: Right and then you’ve got Diana Finkel and you’ve got Darcy (Africa). It’s a Diana/Darcy show, too. You’ve got Sarah McCloskey who I think will run pretty close behind them. I think Sarah is kind of a darkhorse. Sarah’s the darkhorse to win for the women. Sarah’s had a good year and she’s fit. We’ll see. For me, top 10 will be great. If I do that, then I’ll be satisfied.
iRF: You wouldn’t mind top five?
Meltzer: Wouldn’t mind third, but honestly, finishing is important as that would be eight for me. That would make me think maybe I need to do it 10 times.
iRF: Then head up to Kroger’s for a couple years.
Meltzer: Then pull that 10-time finisher volunteer aid station at Kroger’s. That would be cool. No matter what happens to me, if I’m not injured, if I don’t injure myself up there, I’ll finish the race. That’s really what I want to do.
iRF: Well have fun out there. Run fast and enjoy it.
Meltzer: It’s not that far. One hundred miles is not far.
iRF: One bonus question for Karl. We couldn’t talk about your shoes back at Run Rabbit Run, but I think you got the Hoka Rapa Nui’s on?
Meltzer: Yes, I’m wearing the Rapa Nui’s one more time. Available in France. They’re not available here in the US yet. They’ll be here in a couple of months.
iRF: Like in October probably?
Meltzer: Yeah, October most likely. After OR show, they’ll pump them out in the US. They’re a little bit lower profile, a little different traction, and one piece.
iRF: People probably can’t see that, but they’re a little lower to the ground and a little more flexible, right?
Meltzer: Yeah, and they’re 9 ounces, so they’re pretty light. I love them. I fit the prototypes, so that’s why I’ve been able to run in them.
iRF: So you’re size 9?
Meltzer: I’m a 9.5. Sorry bud. After today, I am running in a different shoe, but these shoes have been… they were 3-0 until I ran Western.
iRF: Fair enough.
Meltzer: 3-1, sorry. They’re going to be 3-2 after this, but that’s alright. I really, really like them.
iRF: I noticed early on at Run Rabbit Run you had a little piece of foam just beneath the quick-laces (speed-laces) and the tongue. Not anymore? Was that just one incident or…?
Meltzer: It was kind of one incident where I had… both of my feet have neuromas right now. If I walk around barefoot on a hard floor, it doesn’t feel very good. I put these on and I feel fine. That little piece of foam was just a little cushion between the laces and the top of my foot. That’s all. It was nothing special. It’s actually a pretty good idea if you’re having that kind of issue.
iRF: Are you going to have it in your drop bag or maybe with your crew in case… especially in a course with a lot of downhill? That can happen if you just tie one shoe too tight. It hurts.
Meltzer: And it can make your foot numb because it rubs on the nerves that run over the top of your foot. And the tendons there—it can rub like this and make the tendons hurt. So a little bit of pad makes a big difference.
iRF: There you go, folks, a Speedgoat tip.
Meltzer: An extra tip for you.
iRF: Thanks, Karl. Cheers.