If there was ever any doubt that Nikki Kimball is as tough as they come, it’s time to lay that doubt to rest. Coming into the 2013 edition of the Western States 100 in the worst fitness of any of her attempts at the race, she chalked up her eighth top-five finish with a second-place showing this year. In the following interview, Nikki talks about her many injury setbacks over the previous year, how the tougher conditions favor her, and “how women are damn smart racers.”
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Nikki Kimball Post-2013 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nikki Kimball after the Western States 100. Nikki, another great race at Western States.
Nikki Kimball: Thanks! It was fun.
iRF: We were just talking and you weren’t running a couple months ago with injuries. Tell us about that.
Kimball: Yes, it started… well they’re all ski injuries.
iRF: Good think you don’t hurt yourself running or with overuse injuries.
Kimball: It started in October with getting the hernia that I’d run with all year last year fixed after which I had six weeks house arrest. I started to be allowed to run again and train again, and then I hit some ice at a fairly high rate of speed on my patella and fractured that. I waited about six weeks for that to heal so that I could have surgery to fix what the fracture wasn’t. It’s been a really, really rough year.
iRF: Why aren’t you just sticking to running?
Kimball: I love skiing. It’s so fast and fun.
iRF: True, you’ve got to go with your passions.
Kimball: I love it.
iRF: I bet if we could get it to be 130F at Western States next year you’d love it.
Kimball: I would.
iRF: The tougher the day, the better you do.
Kimball: Absolutely. I needed it to be warm because I needed experience and toughness to trump fitness because I’m not really fit right now.
iRF: If you were, you’d have probably taken third overall like in 2006.
Kimball: Well, in 2006, we had the advantage of having snow for the first 20 miles or so. This course was definitely a lot faster than 2006’s course.
iRF: You ran with a group at the beginning—were you in that group with Aliza (Lapierre) and Amy (Sproston)?
Kimball: I was actually quite a ways behind them. I think at Duncan Canyon I was ninth or 10th. I was well back. It took me awhile to wake up.
iRF: You weren’t pushing it in the high country?
Kimball: I wasn’t because a) I didn’t have my typical advantage of snow running. This course is so not technical that the snow is the one thing that allows me something of an advantage, and I didn’t have that this year.
iRF: So when did you start moving up? Was it through attrition or was it through effort?
Kimball: No, I mean the women just don’t have attrition. Very few of the top women dropped. It was a really competitive women’s race, and it was so close with the exception of Pam (Smith) just smoking it, which was awesome. The rest of us were close and nobody was… yes, I was well behind them and then I caught up to them, but they all held pretty close. It took me a long time to catch the first seven or eight women. I was well behind.
iRF: Did you have any points later in the day where you felt really strong?
Kimball: I felt strong the whole day. I just knew that, if I didn’t run a smart race, I couldn’t run well. I knew I had to run the smartest race I’d ever run here because I was the least fit I’ve ever been here. So I had to use my brain.
iRF: Drop some knowledge on us. How do you run well on a day like this?
Kimball: I just started out really, really conservatively. I walked stuff and let the other women go. I thought there would be more attrition because I thought they’d beat each other up a little bit. But women are just damn smart racers.
iRF: Run like a girl.
Kimball: Run like a girl. I mean, I don’t know what it is about women—childbirth toughness—that when the conditions are rough, they just don’t drop. So many top women here, and I think any of the top-15 of us were pretty much equally matched. Two people ran bold races and one of them dropped and one of them won. That’s what you have to do if you want to win. I knew I wasn’t in that fitness, so I couldn’t try that.
iRF: So you ran a smart, consistent race and pulled off second.
Kimball: Yeah. That’s the only place I haven’t had in the top five, so that’s exciting.
iRF: That’s awesome. I started running with you two years ago and the top of that podium is something you should be really proud of. I knew you were shooting for it. Congratulations on another great effort, and I’m sure you’ll be back next year running another strong one.
Kimball: Well, you know, I’ve got two more years to run to get to 10. Then I’m done.
iRF: You’ve got your number for next year and then you’re automatic.
Kimball: Automatic. Exactly.
iRF: I’d better get in the next two years so we can run together.
Kimball: You’d better. Team Wild Ginger has to get back together again.
iRF: Any more racing this summer for you?
Kimball: I’m not sure. I need to see how the knee comes around.
iRF: How is it feeling?
Kimball: It’s doing great. I owe my surgeon a beer or dinner or something. It’s fantastic. That could have been a career-ending injury and it wasn’t. I think it’s almost the best thing that could happen to me. I’m 14 years into the sport. It’s tiring when you’re running eight to 10 ultras a year for 14 years. I needed the break. I think I was just getting stale and slow. I think maybe now I can build on this and come back.
iRF: So you’re ready to keep on racing?
Kimball: Yeah, totally.
iRF: Awesome. Congratulations again, Nikki.
Kimball: Thanks, Bryon.