Over the past three years, Kilian Jornet has racked up a full-podium set of medals from the Transvulcania Ultramarathon after placing second this year. In the following interview, Kilian talks about how his race played out, how he shares the beauty of the experience with those around him in races, how he reacts to adversity while racing, and what he does in the days following a race.
For a full recap and links to additional post-race interviews, check out our 2014 Transvulcania results article.
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Kilian Jornet Post-2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar with Kilian Jornet after his second-place finish at the 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Congratulations, Kilian.
Kilian Jornet: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: How was running?
Jornet: It was good. It was a beautiful day and nice ambiance as always in La Palma. Great fight with Luis Alberto [Hernando] is always good.
iRunFar: Did you feel alright—you’d only run for one week, did your legs do okay?
Jornet: Yeah, the legs were good. It was more the heat and the warm that I wasn’t ready for.
iRunFar: The first half or two thirds of the race seemed very similar to last year year. Sage Canaday went out in the lead. You were with Luis Alberto and some other runners. Was it the same?
Jornet: It was pretty similar I think. It was other runners—Cameron [Clayton] and François [D’Haene]were not here—it was other runners like Tom Owens and Tòfol Castanyer that were with us. Yes, Sage started strong as last year, and I think he realized in the last downhill he lost much time so he needed to start stronger. We were with Tom and Tòfol and Luis behind and, yeah, we caught Sage in the last part. We were with Luis and in the uphill to the volcano and we started to run the uphill a little bit faster and we caught Sage on the uphill.
iRunFar: I heard rumors that it was within 400 meters of where you caught him last year. Is that true?
Jornet: Yeah, it was funny because when we caught him he said, “Oh, it’s exactly the same place as last year.” So I don’t know, maybe there’s something there he doesn’t like because it’s always around the same place.
iRunFar: You and Luis Alberto were alone in the lead going into Roque de los Muchachos, the highest point of the course. People were saying you guys looked very relaxed. You were smiling and laughing maybe.
Jornet: Yes, he wasn’t pushing much, I think. We were running, but we knew it was a long race, so we were just taking it easy and just moving and moving fast. Yeah, we were both relaxed, I think, until all the way up. We started the downhill not this hard. We were running fast but not pushing.
iRunFar: I know when you’ve run UTMB when you were with Iker [Karrera] and Sébastien [Chaigneau], you guys were talking and having fun. Can you do the same thing when you’re racing 50 miles or less?
Jornet: Yes, it depends on the race. Here obviously we don’t talk all the time, but yeah, it’s not just about racing. It’s nice in the beginning when we were running with Tòfol and Tom and we saw the sunrise and it’s so beautiful. You need to say, “Wow, it’s so cool,” and talk about. Then when we were running with Luis, we were talking sometimes, too, because we both love the same and it’s, yeah, it’s important to enjoy and to talk. It’s seven hours. If you don’t talk, what do you do?
iRunFar: It’s just like people in the middle of the race, they talk about the beauty and experience.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s exactly the same but maybe you are a bit more, you train more so you can go a bit faster, but I think it’s exactly the same.
iRunFar: So you and Luis Alberto started the huge descent, more than 2,000 meters together. When did he start pulling ahead?
Jornet: Yeah, we started together and we weren’t running fast actually there either, but maybe after 200 meters I started to feel dizzy in my head, so I needed to stop and take really easy for awhile. Then he was in the front. After the aid station at Time, I started to feel a bit colder, so I can push and catch him again. We were running for a while together until I started to feel dizzy again. Then he was really going fast to the finish. He was running really fast also on the uphill to the finish. Yeah, he was really, really strong in the last part.
iRunFar: When exactly did you catch him because I saw you at the road crossing below El Time and you were 50 seconds behind. Did you catch him after that?
Jornet: I caught him before that actually 100 meters up to there we were together. I needed to stop because I was, it was a bit like the year I was dizzy and fell down. It was like, oooooh yeah.
iRunFar: So you relaxed. You knew you were not in a good position.
Jornet: I knew when it’s this warm and I’m not used to the warm, I have a low blood tension and I need to really stop and try to be colder because if not I will just fall down.
iRunFar: So you respect your body in the conditions. You don’t just try to push through it.
Jornet: I think it depends on the moments. There are moments that you need to push and moments that it’s gone. It’s important to know what, of course, if you’re in a dangerous situation, you try to push as you can. But if you are in a race and you know what can happen if you feel an injury, I don’t know, in the knee or the foot, sometimes you can say, “Okay, just two kilometers to go,” and you can push. Sometimes it’s important to just rest.
iRunFar: How was the course change? Most of the course was the same, but from Puerto de Tazacorte they switched from road to dry riverbed?
Jornet: Yeah, the last part they changed. It’s some parts nice in the river; then it’s a lot of sand so you glide a lot and it’s a bit hard to run. I don’t know. I like both. This year I can’t say because I’m really not well there, but yeah probably it’s a bit longer in minutes—maybe one or two minutes so it makes a bit harder for that.
iRunFar: At that point in the race you probably want to be done.
Jornet: Yeah, normally after the long downhill and you saw the finish line there you say, “Yeah, you want to be there,” and it doesn’t matter.
iRunFar: Were you surprised that Luis Alberto was able to beat you by a few minutes like that?
Jornet: I knew Luis was really strong as he begins this season and he really prepared for this race. I’m so happy for him because for the last two years we were fighting a lot, and yeah, he really found his victory. He’s a super, super good runner, and he’s an amazing person, too. I’m really happy for him.
iRunFar: Last year he was second to you quite often. Now you were in his position.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s nice with racing. It was nothing before so now you need to race for.
iRunFar: Does it make it more exciting when there are competitors in the field that you know can beat you?
Jornet: Yeah, of course, the interest of a race is that it’s competition and competition means that there are many persons that can win a race. Here it was nice before the start because it was Luis, it was Dakota [Jones], it was Sage, it was Tòfol, it was Tom—many people that can win the victory makes the race interesting.
iRunFar: Most people look at you and they think that you’re superhuman, that you’re beyond the rest of us. You actually take a few days easy, correct, after the race?
Jornet: Yeah, I will try to run a bit today and tomorrow easy.
iRunFar: But just a few kilometers?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s important to rest a bit and then just to prepare for Zegama.
iRunFar: How quick will you get back to real training—more than an hour?
Jornet: I hope tomorrow I can… yeah, and then Tuesday really start to train well.
iRunFar: Will you put long hours in? You have Zegama in two weeks, but you also have long expeditions like McKinley and Hardrock.
Jornet: Yeah, next week Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll have all the friends that are going to McKinley; so we’ll need to train long, long days in the mountains and do more climbing, so maybe days like seven or eight hours. Then to start running more like four to five hours the next days for Zegama.
iRunFar: So you’ll probably put in 30 hours of training in the week before Zegama.
Jornet: Yes, I love to train long and it works, so if it works…
iRunFar: It does. So you are superhuman.
Jornet: Yeah, I think if you are used the body to that for everything.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your great run.
Jornet: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: See you in Zegama.
Jornet: Yeah, sure.
iRunFar: One bonus question for you, Kilian. I’m headed to Barcelona in Catalunya this week. What would you recommend I do or anyone who visits?
Jornet: Yeah, there are many things to do. It’s a nice town, Barcelona. I don’t like towns, but there are some things to do. I think all the architecture is really beautiful. The ambiance in some places, too, like La Rambla. If you can go to the matches and Barça, it’s a huge history. Then it’s nice around Barcelona there are many mountains. You can go to Montserrat. It’s just 20 minutes from the city. It’s beautiful and unique landscape and very good place to run.
iRunFar: Real running?
Jornet: Yeah, really, really running and technical in some parts and you can climb also.
iRunFar: I guess that brings me to another question, a second bonus question. You obviously love running and skimo. Do you follow sports other than endurance sports?
Jornet: Yeah, I follow a lot of endurance sports like cross country, biathlon, and cycling, but also other sports. I love to see a bit everywhere like a bit of soccer, a bit of basketball, a bit of moto.
iRunFar: Are you a Barça fan?
Jornet: Yeah, yeah, I’m not a fanatic but I follow.
iRunFar: You’re wearing your red and your blue. [pointing at Kilian’s sweatshirt]
Jornet: Yeah, it’s the Salomon this year.