Megan Kimmel is The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships defending champion and a three-time finisher of the race. In this interview, Megan summarizes how her 2016 season has gone, how her personal life sometimes takes priority over racing, why she’s back again to the TNF 50, and her future plans with trail ultrarunning.
By the way, Megan’s interview is part of a pre-race women’s interview show. Check it out!
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Megan Kimmel Pre-2016 The North Face EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: This is Dylan Bowman here at San Francisco Running Company.
iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: And I’m Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here with Megan Kimmel, the 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile women’s champion. Hey, Megan.
Megan Kimmel: Hey, Meghan. Hey, Dylan. Thanks for having me.
iRF-Bowman: Yeah, thanks for coming. Welcome back. We were just talking, and this is your fifth year in a row here. You’ve run the gamut. You have a DNF, you’ve been a champion, and you’ve been in between a couple of times. You’re the defending champion this year. What keeps bringing you back to this race?
Kimmel: What keeps me coming back, and what gets me on the plane to come here every single year is it’s kind of what I’ve used as a test piece since the get-go. Those were my thoughts coming into this one. I don’t really know how I’ll race with the training I’ve had for the past couple months, but I figure I’ll find out. It will either be a big mistake, in all honesty, or I’ll fare better than I thought, or maybe I’ll just be really surprised. I have no idea this time.
iRF-Hicks: It’s been a little while since we talked to you. I know Bryon has been with you at The Rut. Let’s recap your season a little bit. You did the Skyrunning thing a lot in Europe. Talk about your summer.
Kimmel: It actually ended up being a lot of Skyrunning. I picked up a couple of races by chance and opportunity that were associated with the Skyrunning Series. I went out to China twice. One was for Skyrunning…
iRF-Hicks: Twice? Whoa.
Kimmel: Yes, the first one was totally planned. I was really excited to go out for that first Skyrunning race out there. That turned out great. Then I got invited back to go check out the Gobi Desert for a race. Those were a couple extra trips. That second one was extracurricular. That wasn’t a race at all. That was a lot of fun to go on a running trip that didn’t have some intense race with it. Other than that, I think it was mostly Skyrunning. I had a really intense June where I did four races technically kind of in three weeks. I crushed myself.
iRF-Hicks: Held it together.
Kimmel: Then I did have a nice break. I’m kind of having trouble remembering it all.
iRF-Hicks: You had quite a year. It was the year of wins and runner-up performances in shorter Skyrunning races, in summary.
Kimmel: Yes, pretty much.
iRF-Hicks: Then I saw you just a couple weekends ago on the Moab Trail Marathon course where you were runner up this year. You said, as you ran by me, “I’m so tired!”
Kimmel: Uh-huh, I was really, really tired that week. I had a lot going on with this house project that I’ve been involved with for two months, and that was the worst week where I was busy for deadlines all week long. I was laid out on my couch two days before the Moab race.
iRF-Hicks: Trying to recover?
Kimmel: Yeah, huge back pain from physical labor. It’s kind of what everyone knows not to do before your race—gardening, physical labor in general.
iRF-Bowman: While you taper.
iRF-Hicks: Drinking beer.
Kimmel: Drinking recovery beers a lot of the night… no. So, I went to that race, and I just felt horrible all day. I never got going in the morning. I ran it really slow in comparison to my two previous years. That was no surprise. It was fun to be out there. It always is.
iRF-Bowman: As we kind of touched on, you’re more well-known for shorter-distance races, Sky races, mostly up to 50k. This seems to be the longest race you do during your season. For most of your competitors this weekend, most of them have done a handful of ultra races. I was curious to know if you think that might be kind of an advantage you might have in terms of this being the longest race of your season, whereas some people may be a little bit more tired if they’ve raced a lot, or if you think it might be a disadvantage because you don’t race a lot of ultras? I’m just kind of curious to get your thoughts on that.
Kimmel: The advantage of it is I’m fresh for it. I’m not like, “Oh, another ultra.” It’s been a whole year since I have done that distance even though I’ve done some almost ultra distances within the Skyrunning realm. Yeah, this is the longest in mileage and duration for sure. Freshness, I think, is definitely an advantage. But I think in my head I’m just kind of… at this point, I feel pretty solid with finishing the 50 miles. I don’t have a lot of concerns about that. But I can’t say I’ve got it all dialed yet. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve done enough of them now, that I have the confidence, and maybe I have the freshness that it might be exactly what I need to do well at this one this time. Yeah, it’s a different realm for me compared to the rest of my year. More than anything, it is the end of my season. I’ve done a lot of racing, so I think some girls are maybe coming in here quite a bit fresher. Normally if you’re doing a lot of ultra races, you’re not racing that much. I think some people could be coming in with some really good preparation while I’m just, “Oh, man, this is my last race of the season.” For me, this is kind of the season finale more than anything else.
iRF-Bowman: In the same vein, talking about the other girls coming in, because of the fact you don’t race a lot of ultras, you probably don’t race a lot of the people you’re going to be seeing this weekend throughout the course of the year. Do you have an idea of the people who you kind of need to be concerned about, or do you not concern yourself with looking at the competition before the race?
Kimmel: Yeah, in general I don’t even concern myself the competition because you never know who is going to come. You might not even know them.
iRF-Hicks: Or it changes at the last minute.
Kimmel: It changes at the last minute, or just that it’s someone you don’t know is ready to race and hits it. Of course, I know Magda [Boulet] is here, and Ruth [Croft] had a really great race last year. I’m assuming she’s still on the roster for starting. Yeah, the rest of the gals, I don’t know who they are. You always expect them to be the winner.
iRF-Hicks: You have a descending order of performance here. You started out a little…
iRF-Bowman: Or ascending, depending on how you look at it.
iRF-Hicks: Right. You always seem to run with the same style. You take it out hard. You take it out aggressive. You’re either the pacesetter or one of the pacesetters at least until you can no longer do that anymore. Last year you took it out hot. You were setting the pace for the girls. You stuck it. Is that what we’re going to expect to see out of you on Saturday?
Kimmel: Yeah, I hope so. For me, it’s really important with… I guess racing in general in most races, it’s pretty important for me to keep an eye on the leader which is really hard in this race because it’s in the dark the first hour.
iRF-Hicks: All those dudes.
Kimmel: Oh, man. I do like to start up front. That also kind of gives me a gauge for how I’m feeling for the day because I like to be at that level. I come out here to be at the front of the race. I can’t say I always come to races for that reason, but the majority of them I do. So if I’m not really up there, then… I don’t want to say I’m not reaching my objective, but for a lot of races I’m not reaching my objective.
iRF-Bowman: I hate to harp on the fact that you’re such a strong short-distance runner, but I’ve kind of been curious to know if you ever or if you have ambition to ever focus on longer races for a season. Because when I look at somebody like you or Joe Gray who are both very successful shorter-distance trail racers, it’s kind of scary to think about what you could do if you did focus on it full-time. Are you ever thinking about doing that, or are you content racing more often, doing the short races, traveling more, and things like that?
Kimmel: Yeah, this is actually kind of what I’ve had as the end of 2016… 2016 is kind of what I figured as being the end of my short-distance racing, and 2017 is what I figured would be going into more ultras for the reason of kind of… in general with short distance, you do race so many more races. There’s a lot more travel involved. I’m looking to kind of mellow out a little bit and be around home and create more of a home life which is really hard to balance out with all the short-distance racing especially if they involve a lot of traveling to other countries. Yeah, for quite awhile now this has been my transition time. I’m having a hard time leaving short distance, and I won’t totally leave it, but I’m now looking forward to kind of taking it into the direction of the ultras. But at that, I am kind of going to baby step into the mids before hopping into 100s.
iRF-Bowman: Tor des Geants next year.
iRF-Hicks: Go big or go home.
Kimmel: Yeah, not on this one.
iRF-Bowman: Good luck this weekend. Thanks for coming over and chatting with us this morning. You’re the defending champion, and again, we wish you the best. It looks like we have a great forecast. It should be a fun day.
Kimmel: Yeah, 60 degrees [Fahrenheit], it might be the nicest TNF in history.
iRF-Hicks: In history.
Kimmel: Thank you guys both very much.
iRF-Hicks: Good luck.