Kilian Jornet won the 2014 Hardrock 100 in course record time. (finish-line and post-race interviews) This year, he’s back to run the Hardrock course in the opposite direction. In the following interview, Kilian talks about why he’s back at Hardrock, how his preparation has gone, and whether he’s concerned about his lack of acclimation. He also talks about how an injury to his teammate Iker Karrera will affect the race, how Anna Frost might do in her first major 100, and how he spent his time in Nepal after he canceled his plans to summit Everest.
To learn more about the other competitors, read our 2015 Hardrock 100 preview.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Kilian Jornet Pre-2015 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet before the 2015 Hardrock 100. Welcome back, Kilian. On your calendar this year, you have a lot of new events and not a lot of events you’ve done before. What brings you back to Hardrock?
Kilian Jornet: Yeah, this year is a little bit different. It’s much less races and more mountaineering things. Last year I enjoyed it so much up here. The course is fantastic. I have the opportunity to do it on the other side. After three years trying in the lottery, when I get in and I have a chance to come back from last year’s win, I will take my place.
iRunFar: I guess you enjoyed the course last year.
Jornet: Absolutely. It’s beautiful. It’s a lot of wild areas. It’s just fantastic, the ambiance, too—all the people in the aid stations and the villages. Everything makes it a really special race.
iRunFar: One thing that makes it different than last year is last year you were up in Aconcagua for a few weeks leading up to the race. This year you haven’t really been living at high elevation for any period of time. How do you think you will deal with the high altitude? [Editor’s Note: We apologize. He was actually on Denali before running Hardrock in 2014.]
Jornet: Yes, it is special. That’s the other thing here is you’re always running in high altitude. I haven’t been in this altitude, but last week I was in Alaska, so sea level. Before that, the month before, I was doing a lot of mountaineering in the Alps and spending lots of nights in tents or bivouac in the mountains around 3,500 to 4,000 meters and doing a lot of climbing at 4,000 meters. I was feeling good there in the Alps not running but climbing. Yeah, it’s always special in the altitude; it’s every time different. I’m not worried about that I think.
iRunFar: Even though you’ve been living out of Chamonix, you’ve been staying up in the mountains many nights.
Jornet: Exactly. Mountaineering means I spend not many nights at home actually.
iRunFar: Have you been doing… I know you haven’t really raced much until this past weekend. Have you been doing much in terms of running? Any running?
Jornet: Some running, but mostly the bad-weather days—the days I could not go up to some climbing. Yeah, I was feeling not super good but not bad either. For last week I have been running a bit more. I was doing some vertical kilometers to train and to run a bit more. Last week in Alaska, we had a race, so not much slow running. Last year it was the same because I was in Denali and I was skiing. Here at Hardrock, it’s a lot of hiking and some running. Yeah, it will be interesting to see how the legs are after.
iRunFar: Clearly the thing you should least have at this point is speed, and you had plenty of speed at Mount Marathon this past weekend.
Jornet: In the downhill, yes, but in the uphill, it is so steep. You are at like 18 minutes/mile, so it’s not really fast.
iRunFar: The hills here will feel nice and calm and flat.
Jornet: Yeah, it will be like, Wow, this is a flat race!
iRunFar: This is a great field again this year at Hardrock for such a small race. One of your teammates, Iker Karrera, someone who could give you a challenge, he’s injured coming into the race.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s really a pity that Iker has been injured the past month. He’s a really strong runner. I have run with him at UTMB and Diagonale des Fous and many races. He’s really talented. He’s really good in mountains and a race like this. If he wasn’t injured, he could be really, really, really fast. We will see. He knows how to suffer. Yeah, it will be interesting. This year it’s a lot of long uphills, so maybe it’s better for him. Yeah, he probably will not be at his best.
iRunFar: Last year through the first half of the race, you were waiting for runners for company and not necessarily running your hardest. This year do you plan to stay with people again, or will you just go hard from the start?
Jornet: I don’t know if I can stay with people or not. Every year, every race is a different thing. Last year I was feeling really good. I don’t know how I will feel this year. I will see. I think in a long race like this, it’s important to see for the first half how you feel and don’t try to take many risks. I will see if I can keep with the people if I feel good. Yeah, the race is the second half that is the most important. It’s there when you start to feel tired or when you need to push.
iRunFar: For people who don’t know, Hardrock reverses direction every year, so this year you’re running essentially a new course for you. Is that exciting?
Jornet: Yes, it’s exciting because normally when you repeat the race it’s always the same. There are not many races where they have this thing to run a different race (direction) every time. Yes, it’s exciting. It will be the same race but completely different.
iRunFar: You’ll see the same things going the other direction, but also things that were night time last year will be daytime this year.
Jornet: Yes, you will see in the day. That’s exciting to see the day will be completely different. Many things you don’t see because you’re looking to one direction and missing completely the other.
iRunFar: Who else do you think might challenge you at this race? Have you had a chance to look at the field at all?
Jornet: Not much. I know Mike Foote is here. He’s really talented, and he’s a really solid runner. I think in his long runs he’s always there. He’s one that maybe doesn’t start really strong, but then he’s really, really fast. Then there are many racers that have been doing this race for many years like Jared Campbell. I think it’s a long race. It’s technical. The weather is uncertain. I think everyone can have his chance.
iRunFar: Do you have any advice for a person running this for the first time?
Jornet: Yeah, you know the race pretty well because you’ve been here for years. I think it’s that—to take easy to the half way because it’s a long race, it’s a lot of hours, and it’s at altitude. The altitude means the pace is a bit slow, and if you try and push hard in the beginning, you’ll pay that after. Try to take it easy the first half.
iRunFar: One of your teammates, Anna Frost, is running… she’s run one 100 miler before, but this is a bigger stage for 100 miles. How do you think she’ll do here?
Jornet: She will do well. She was injured for the last winter, but after that she was feeling good. She has been spending a lot of time here in Colorado and on the course. She’s prepared. She knows well the course. She’s really excited. It will be a big battle also on the girl’s side. I’m excited for watching that, too.
iRunFar: Yeah, it will be a good race with Darcy [Piceu] and whoever else is out there. Do you think Anna will be able to—as you said, patience is very important early in the race—do you think someone who is used to running shorter races like Anna can hold that back?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s hard when you start to do 100 milers because you want to go fast and you feel that you are going slow. You say, “Maybe if I go fast I will recover before.” Yeah, mostly here because the altitude, it’s important to keep the suppression. I think she has been training a lot here, so probably she understands that. I think she will be able to do that.
iRunFar: During your Hardrock last year, did you have any places where you were really suffering, any dark patches?
Jornet: There were places with suffering—mostly the last part where it was incredibly stormy and really cold. Yeah, I spent a lot of time in the aid stations and tried to drink and tried to eat something warm. Yeah, you didn’t want to leave. You were there in the tent and looking outside at the crazy storm and say, “Okay, now we need to keep running.” That was hard.
iRunFar: How do you do that? You make it look so easy so often. You set course records. You win races. When it’s tough, how do you keep pushing?
Jornet: Yes, last year was perfect for me here because I was feeling really good, but that’s not the case all the time. Some races you suffer. You just need to keep doing and just focus on the small goals. Okay, we keep to the next aid station, and just try to keep with it. It’s hard but unless it’s not a big injury coming, it’s good to keep going.
iRunFar: One race you suffered at recently was Zegama. You were up with the leaders most of the day and then what happened?
Jornet: Yeah, this year Zegama was really fun. I didn’t run at all before; I think I had two runs before the race. I was feeling good until the 30k and then I had some problems from Nepal; I had some gastro problems. Then the last kilometers I couldn’t run fast. I was completely no energy. It was fun anyway. I take the race easy. I have been running the race for years, and it was nice to share the race with the people and take the time this time. I enjoyed it. It’s hard when you’re feeling good and in a moment you feel bad. I think you need to know where and why are the problems coming and see if you can find a solution to keep pushing in the race or just finish the race and enjoy it. Some years ago in Diagonale des Fous, I had an injury in the knee and I was feeling bad from the beginning, and I just take the race easy to the finish.
iRunFar: For someone like you who has won so many races and done so well, you have no need externally to keep finishing in a race. Why is that important to you?
Jornet: It’s fun. I don’t race because I need to. I race because I love it. It’s fun. This year, I haven’t raced before Mount Marathon. It was so cool to go there and discover the race and come here to Hardrock because it’s a fun race. You want to come here. You want to race. You want to stay with the people. It’s just because it’s cool.
iRunFar: Before Zegama this spring, you were in Nepal getting ready to go for your Everest attempt. Then there was an earthquake. Describe that experience.
Jornet: We traveled to Nepal the day after the earthquake, so we arrived there the day after. Obviously we cancelled the expedition. It was logical. We had many friends there. I’ve been in Nepal three times. The people who came with me, Jordi Tosas, has been there for 28 years and knows a lot of people. We just tried to go to some places and tried to help the first weeks just doing some rescue and identification.
iRunFar: You were doing rescues in the mountains?
Jornet: Yes, the first week was rescue and that. Then the weeks after, we just go to remote villages and try to get food there and get plastics for shelters.
iRunFar: Do you anticipate trying to make another attempt in a the next couple of years?
Jornet: Yes, we will see how the situation. I love Nepal—the place and the Himalayas. I want to go back maybe this year by myself to climb some things. Maybe, yeah, we will see in the next years for Everest.
iRunFar: Good luck this weekend.
Jornet: Thanks. And you, too! Enjoy it!
iRunFar: Thanks! I’m excited!