Iker Karrera is a beast when it comes to long ultramarathons with lots of climbing and technical trails. In other words, this weekend’s mountainous, 125-kilometer Transgrancanaria is firmly in Iker’s wheelhouse. In the following interview, Iker talks about what he’s been up to since taking second place at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (post-race interview), a trail-running system he’s developed in Zegama, how 40 kilometers isn’t short, and why he’s running Transgrancanaria.
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Iker Karrera Pre-2015 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Iker Karrera before the 2015 The North Face Transgrancanaria. How are you?
Iker Karrera: Fine. The weather is perfect for me.
iRunFar: It’s a little nicer than the weather in Basque country this time of year?
Karrera: Yes, very much. It’s more better for us. In Basque country it’s a lot of rain and snow and very cold. So this kind for weather for our body is perfect.
iRunFar: Very nice. The last time we talked, you had just finished second at UTMB. Did you race at all after UTMB or did you stop your season?
Karrera: After UTMB I was thinking Réunion, but at Réunion the race was and I was in second position, but some injuries and pain in my knee started and I dropped out. But second position during the race was very good. I recuperated good. I think I am in good condition, but competitively I really don’t know how is my level. It’s quite unknown.
iRunFar: Your knee, it was just an injury for that short time? It’s okay?
Karrera: Yeah, it’s okay. It’s okay. I run good. I have no problems. I am training good, so for that it’s no problem.
iRunFar: After Diagonale des Fous, you didn’t just take time off for your knee? You took time off to recover from training as well? Did you take a break from running for a bit after Diagonale des Fous?
Karrera: No, just for one week, yes, because the osteopath put correctly my knee and I can’t feel it running. During the winter I tried to run, ski, and bicycle, but the weather for running was horrible.
iRunFar: The weather was pretty bad. You run less over the winter than you do during the summer?
Karrera: Yes, running for me in the summer is best not only for training but because of my job. In the winter season I have more job and it’s more difficult to train all that I want. In the summer it’s better to train more.
iRunFar: During the winter maybe how many kilometers do you run per week?
Karrera: Depends. Each week it’s different. It depends on the weather and the job. I try to run 100, 150, 200 kilometers maybe in one or two weeks, but not too much.
iRunFar: I would guess that more of that running flat? You can’t get in the mountains all the time or can you still? Is there too much snow in the mountains?
Karrera: Our area is not so high (1,300-1,400 meters), but it rains a lot. It rains a lot and I live in Tolosa at 70 meters above sea level. So 70 to 1,300 meters, I move between them.
iRunFar: You still can get a lot of elevation in your training.
iRunFar: It’s just not high, but it’s a lot of 1,000-meter climbs.
Karrera: Basque Country is like that.
iRunFar: It’s not flat.
Karrera: Not flat.
iRunFar: Not high, but not flat.
Karrera: All the time you are going up, down, up.
iRunFar: This winter you’ve also been working on an exciting project in Zegama, the town, working on developing a trail station. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Karrera: Yes, it’s a new project in Basque Country. I work in rural development. I connect my passion to run and my work in rural development. We proposed to put in Basque Country, in Zegama and Aralar—it’s all part of the other mountains in the area—a trail station. The idea comes from France. In France there are a lot trail stations. The concept will be similar to ski stations but for running. For running you mark out the trails, you can receive GPS tracks, you can control time you have to service to wash or gym.
iRunFar: So there’s maps, signs, GPS routes, application, and there’s almost a contest to see who can run the fastest time on the trails? Also, not only that, but you have shower facilities and changing facilities, so if somebody wanted to take a holiday…
Karrera: Yes, yes, it’s for runners who like to run in Basque Country, France, USA, Germany, that want to go to visit Basque Country but also would like to run in the mountains. We’ll have possibilities that they have trails marked and service, all the service. We’ll be waiting.
iRunFar: So, if someone is in the lottery for the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon and does not get in, they could go run the course any time of year?
Karrera: Yes, I live in the area. For me, Zegama, to run that route is normal.
iRunFar: You run that for training, but you don’t race. It’s short.
Karrera: No, I did in 2005, so I know it. But now I run ultra-trail. Zegama, maybe I will do, but no.
iRunFar: Your best races have been very long, very tough races—100 miles at UTMB or Tor des Géants. Is this race short for you, or do you feel like you could do very well at Transgrancanaria?
Karrera: This race is not short. It’s long. It’s very long. 40k is a lot. To run it is a lot. 100 miles is more long; it’s very, very long. This race is very long. It’s very long. It’s very hard. It has very technical parts. Sometimes we speak, “Eh, 60k is short,” but no. It’s long.
iRunFar: This kind of course you think could be good for you in terms of the length and the difficulty?
Karrera: Yeah, the length and the difficulty and the technical parts and the distance—it’s a good race. I think it’s a good distance and good race for me.
iRunFar: Why did you choose it? I’m sure you could run many races around the world. Why did you choose Transgrancanaria?
Karrera: I have an expectation for the trail. The Canary Islands, all the islands are very nice to run. Gran Canaria Ultra-Trail is, I think, one of the most important and best races.
iRunFar: Have you run in the Canary Islands before? You ran Transvulcania, yes?
Karrera: Yes, Transvulcania two times, Transgrancanaria 2011…
iRunFar: So you have run this race.
Karrera: Yeah, but I dropped out.
iRunFar: Was it an injury or just not a good day?
Karrera: Not a good day, stomach problems, just no.
iRunFar: I hope you have a good day on Saturday. Best of luck. Enjoy.
Karrera: Thank you. Thank you.