Kilian Jornet has won each of the many ultramarathons he’s run since Dakota Jones bested him last year at Transvulcania directly after Kilian’s ski season. This weekend he’ll challenge himself by tackling a “flat” race at the Skyrunner Ultra Series finale, the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k. In the following interview, Kilian talks about his season, why he’s at UROC, and how he thinks he’ll fare on the flats this weekend.
Kilian Jornet Pre-2013 UROC 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet before the 2013 UROC. How are you, Kilian?
Kilian Jornet: Fine, and you?
iRF: I’m doing very well. It’s a snowy day here in Colorado. Does it have you thinking about the ski season?
Jornet: Yeah, maybe tomorrow we can take the skis out.
iRF: From the passes down? You’ve had a very long running season. You started with Transvulcania. You’ve had many races and adventures since then. How are you feeling, energy-wise?
Jornet: Feel good. It’s a long time ago where I don’t race, where it was Red Bull in in Annecy and then Elbrus, but they are more vertical, just uphill races. But there are still three races left, so I think I can keep going for all these last three races.
iRF: How do you think your race season has gone so far?
Jornet: Good. I’m very happy about it because I was doing some good results in short and long distance, so I’m happy for that. I’m happy that I did a really good vertical kilometer this year. Then more than races, I was really focusing on Matterhorn and Mont. Blanc. It was going well, so I’m happy for that.
iRF: You’ve had a great mix of short-distance races, long distance races, and adventure. On the long-distance front and racing ultramarathons, you’ve been pretty unbeatable. Was the last time you were beat, at Transvulcania?
Jornet: Yeah, I think it depends on the day if you have good luck or if your strategy is good. Of course this year was going well with all the long distances with Transvulcania then Trans d’Havet was tough with Luis [Alberto Hernando] but it was a good race. Here it’s going to be hard because it’s more runnable. The run will be for all the runners, I think.
iRF: Do you think that’s a positive element? That’s not what you’re passionate about, but is it fun to bring together people with different skills and race against them?
Jornet: Yes, of course. The thing that makes sense in this sport is that the kind of race isn’t always the same. It’s nice to do really different races. You can have Trofeo Kima which is really technical or some via ferratas and you can have UROC which is like a flat race but in the nature. This is the good thing to have these two kinds of races and they’ll have the person that is more aligned to one or the other but we race together in both sides. This is the nice thing where one day is for one and one day is for the other.
iRF: No matter what train you’re on, this is going to be a challenge. This is just one that you don’t race as often—the flat.
Jornet: Yeah. I really don’t remember the last time I raced or ran flat in training now. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think it’s a long race so it’s going to be of course a lot about the strategy, too.
iRF: So there’s three different parts—the trail and dirt road sections early, a stretch of pavement, and more back onto the trails. Do you have to have strategy to suit your strength?
Jornet: I think the road part in the middle breaks a lot. I can’t start fast because when I get to the road, I can’t keep the speed. So for me, I’ll try to start slow and try to do in the last miles as it’s a bit more mountain. Of course, it’s going to be difficult because for people like Sage Canaday or Cameron Clayton, they’re going to start really strong. It’s going to be difficult to decide if it’s better to keep with them or to stay back. So we’ll see in the race. Dakota and Rickey [Gates] are really good on the technical. They can really play well, too.
iRF: Obviously you’re a really strong ascender and descender in the mountains. Are you really that… you have to be pretty fast on the flat even if it’s not what you enjoy?
Jornet: I’ve never done them, but races like Sierre-Zinal, they are pretty flat in the last 20k and I can keep well. I’m really bad there, but I can keep with the runners. I think it’s the problem if you don’t train in flat, then you don’t know the pace of the flat so it’s difficult to keep motivated. It’s mental. If you run in a trail like this (narrow), you can go fast, but more (wider) allows you to get more bored. It’s like… your feet start to feel more heavy and it’s difficult. If you run with someone then you just try to keep with him, so it’s easier.
iRF: So you’ve run some mountain races in Europe and you’ve done the Matterhorn and Elbrus, or you’ve been on Elbrus. Why are you here at UROC in Colorado?
Jornet: It’s the final of the Skyrunning so there’s good motivation. It’s a nice area here and in Leadville. They’re beautiful mountains and I think a good opportunity for Skyrunning to finish here. Then there’s going to be good competition. They are all the best Americans. I think we’re going to miss Luis Alberto and Tofol [Castanyer] and Miguel Heras that they had been doing an awesome race last week at Cavalls del Vent—all three. But I think the competition is going to be very, very good.
iRF: There have been some great performances you’ve had this summer without competition. The Matterhorn—how special was it for you to break Bruno [Brunod]’s record?
Jornet: Matterhorn was special because to us, I think it was the main goal for my running life. It was the thing that I’m most proud about because I was looking for it since I was 13. I had a picture of the Matterhorn in my room when I was a child. If I am doing ultrarunning now it’s because I saw Bruno when I was growing up and I was inspired. So, I’m really happy to spend time with him there and to know the mountain. Then it was good conditions on the day of the record and I was feeling good. So it was really good.
iRF: Then you went to Elbrus and the weather did not cooperate?
Jornet: Yeah, we were last week in Elbrus. It’s going to be good for the acclimatization here for altitude. Yeah, we had really bad conditions in the weather for our weekend there. It was snowing out. It was difficult to make the tracks. Then the two attempts that we did it, it was really windy. I stopped at 300 meters from the summit and it was… I don’t know… 100 kilometers an hour wind and really, really cold. I was thinking it was possible to do the uphill, but then in the downhill maybe I would lose my fingers. So it was better to just stop and to go there next year.
iRF: Yeah, that’s something you might face in the other “Summits of My Life” attempts, rights?
Jornet: Yeah. It’s mountains. In a race, you race, but in the mountains, it’s the mountain that she decides if it’s possible or not.
iRF: With something like the Matterhorn off your list, you’ve set the record. You had your list of races you wanted to run and you’ve crossed many of them out. Do you have any iconic dreams that you…?
Jornet: There are some races I want to do like Hardrock—I’m going to try in the lottery another time. Other summits I want to go to—Aconcagua and McKinley I will go to next year. Then just have fun in the races. It’s not because I want to win the race that I want to go there, it’s because I know the organization and they are nice persons and I have fun with other runners. It’s nice to just be there and try to push and have fun during the week and during the race.
iRF: Have much fun and enjoy it this weekend.
Jornet: Thank you very much.