Kilian Jornet, 2014 The Rut 50k Champion, Interview

Once again, Kilian Jornet demonstrated his trail running dominance at the 2014 The Rut 50k, winning the race and the Ultra Skyrunner Series title, as well. In the following interview, Kilian talks about what his race looked like, what exactly is the spirit of Skyrunning, why his mix of his run and ski seasons is quite different this year, and what he enjoys most about running with the Salomon team.

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Kilian Jornet, 2014 The Rut 50k Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet after his win at the 2014 The Rut 50k. Congratulations, Kilian.

Kilian Jornet: Thank you.

iRunFar: Did you have fun out there today?

Jornet: Yeah, it was a really enjoyable race, I think. It was a good mix, as I said before, between the first part (really runnable) and the second part (really technical). Yeah, it’s fun to have these completely different kind of runs. I enjoy with people like Sage [Canaday] and Manuel Merillas and Tom Owens and many people. So it was really fun.

iRunFar: You’ve run some mixed races in the U.S., but this one was more fun?

Jornet: I really like to change. I like to do a race like that and then races like Sierre Zinal or Western States that are flat or the Vertical Ks. It’s fun to change and not do the same thing every time.

iRunFar: You had a great run out there. Must have felt good?

Jornet: Yes, I was feeling really good. Yesterday, I feel good in the Vertical K. Today, I started really slow as I had some problems with the headlamp, too. I start pretty slow. It was really fun. In the technical part, I just tried to push and to enjoy. The weather was good, so it was more flowing.

iRunFar: I think on the web yesterday you made some comments and people were talking about as Skyrunning or this sort of race just trying to be as hard as can be, but that’s not the way you see it, I don’t think.

Jornet: Yeah, I don’t think. It’s like the longer races, too. We want to do longer and longer and longer, but I think it’s important to make the difference in between a race that’s hard because it’s long or it’s hard because it’s technically more difficult. So, probably it’s not that it’s extreme because this race is technical because it has some rocks, but it’s not exposed at all, like you can fall everywhere and not get seriously injured. Yeah, you need to dominate the technical, but as you see during the race, you can run fast all the way. It’s a 50k and we’re running five hours and you can really run fast. So it’s not “extreme,” it’s just not a flat race.

iRunFar: But it’s in the mountains.

Jornet: Yeah, it’s in the mountains. To understand that Skyrunning is not… like I think this is athletics and this is mountaineering and Skyrunning is in the middle. But it’s in the mountains so it can be closer to the mountaineering than the athletics. We run, but we run in the mountains.

iRunFar: But it’s not always Kima where it’s just rock and scrambling.

Jornet: Yes, it’s nice because you can have a race like Kima where it’s extreme or a race like here where it’s some parts technical and some parts really runnable or a race like Dolomites where you have some technical and really elevation but you never put the hands. So to have everything in the same…

iRunFar: So again, it’s not about the most extreme of the mountain, it’s about embracing all the different aspects of the mountain.

Jornet: Yeah, and I think nice to make logical races. For me, it’s like you are here and it’s a nice landscape. Lone Peak is there, so you want to climb there because it’s the summit that you see. So the logical race is to go up there and then down. You go to Kima and it’s a glacier race, so it’s a glacier area. The nice thing to do there is this crossing. Every area has this kind of race because it has a different morphology and different mountains.

iRunFar: You won the Ultra Skyrunner Series. Do you even know how many Skyrunner Series you’ve won at this point?

Jornet: The Ultra is the second year. I won last year and this year. Last year was also a battle with Sage in the last race to battle for the victory. This year I’m really happy for Sage. We had a nice battle today. He was really strong. He was pushing in the beginning, and really, I think he felt a bit tired in the last part. He was really solid until the last kilometers. Also for Manuel Merillas—he’s really young and just 23 years old. He will be really present in the future.

iRunFar: Yeah, he ran a lot of Skyrunning races this year but was sort of never up with the likes of you at the end of a race. He was seventh at Transvulcania and that sort of a finish. So you think he has room for improvement?

Jornet: Yes, sure, because he’s young. He’s been running and doing mountaineering and ski mountaineering for many years, but this is the first year he started to do the World Cup. In both long and short distance he has been improving from the beginning of the season to now. The second place at Kima and the third place today is…

iRunFar: Really strong?

Jornet: Yeah.

iRunFar: Every year you do a ton of racing. Are you taking a break now or do you go onto more racing?

Jornet: Actually, it will be it before the last race, so next one will be at Limone, so the final for short distance and the vertical kilometer. For now, I will go home and I have three weeks without racing. It’s a pretty long break, so I hope I can do some mountaineering and then just to start to prepare for the Vertical K in Limone.

iRunFar: Is that going to be your focus in Limone?

Jornet: Yeah, it depends a bit on weather. If it’s bad weather you can focus on training and racing. If it’s good weather it’s easy to just go to the mountains to do some climbing.

iRunFar: Just have some fun. And later this year you have Aconcagua?

Jornet: Yes, later. First we will take a break and do some travels around. Then actually in November I will start the ski season, so start the training on the slopes for the ski. Then December we will go to Aconcagua so will come back running again. It will be fun and really interesting with the altitude.

iRunFar: So you’ll keep mixing it up even more maybe than in the past switching between running and skiing.

Jornet: Yeah, normally I stop at the end of the ski season in May and then to November, but this year I put McKinley in the running season and I will put Aconcagua in the ski season. So it will be like the month I take off from running for McKinley I will put in December.

iRunFar: It’s kind of like these big mountains are starting to dictate your season or your seasons a little bit?

Jornet: Yeah, I think you need to find different motivations every time. This is my 12th season in Skyrunning and even more, like 14, in ski mountaineering. It’s many years doing not the same races but yeah, mostly the same races. It’s nice to find motivations on other sides. Yeah, I like mountains and I like to do this stuff.

iRunFar: It’s fun to see. You’re taking that transition and you’ve done it maybe a little earlier. Just seeing Dakota [Jones] making posts that he’s climbing near Annecy—it’s thrilling.

Jornet: He’s having fun there. I’m happy for him. He’s so talented. He was, I think, so focused on 100 miles. It’s always hard, 100 miles, because you never know what will happen. It’s good, and now he’s there and he can have some climbs with Liv Sansoz who is a super good climber and other climbers from there. Just to take a break and refresh the mind…

iRunFar: Maybe you’ll hit the mountains with him a little bit when you get back?

Jornet: Yeah, we will see. If it’s good weather and he stays around Chamonix, we were talking about doing something. So we will see how the weather is.

iRunFar: Whether it’s running or alpinism or skiing, keep enjoying the mountains, Kilian.

Jornet: Thank you, Bryon.

Bonus Question

iRunFar: Bonus question for you. It’s been a long season already for everybody. You’re here with a bunch of your Salomon teammates. What’s the most fun part of being on the Salomon team?

Jornet: I think it’s a really good ambiance. Everybody cares about racing, but they care more about having fun. When we go training together it’s just to go out in the mountains. It’s a good ambiance. We like to eat together, to party together, and to just have fun. I think it’s a really friendly ambiance. Everybody thinks about racing, but nobody takes really seriously.

iRunFar: Have fun tonight!

Jornet: Yeah, we will.

There are 4 comments

  1. @mleighp

    Thanks for an interesting interview! Occurs to me that the variety of Kilian's passions give us at least one answer to the question about avoiding over-racing and career burnout that AJW posed in an earlier blog post. There may be no single formula for staying fresh and focused year after year, but Kilian seems to have to have found something that works for him.

  2. Max

    Many runners I know focus on skiing in the winter (I also live in the rockies). The short period of lousy weather offer just enough of a downtime to recharge, and then it's all psyche for a whole new season of adventure.
    I personally love breaking trail in first snow before there's enough of a base to ski after a summer of rocks and dirt. Then as the snow shuts down all trails except for than one tiny packed out hill, I focus on improving my (lousy) skiing.
    In the spring its about accessing the high country for the first time in months and appreciating the newfound agility of ice-free surfaces and glissade-able snow patches.

    I don't know if rotating sports will help focusing on a single race for over a decade, I have never focused my training in such a committed manner as AJW on a single race. But personally I feel that the excitement of something new twice a year is just enough to truly dedicate myself to a task while keeping the passion alive.
    Finally, I think many of the top mountain athletes don't "train" for races, Kilian for example never runs on flat terrain even though its his greatest weakness in the few flat races he does.

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