Kilian Jornet won the 2017 Hardrock 100, his fourth-straight win of the iconic ultramarathon. In the following interview, Kilian talks about sharing the race with Iker Karrera early as well as Mike Foote and Joe Grant later on, his fall above Maggie Gulch at about mile 14 that dislocated his shoulder, managing the injury for some 85 miles, what it is about this race that draws him back, and his thoughts going into the rest of his running season, including August’s UTMB.
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in the Silverton School gym in Silverton, Colorado. I’m with the 2017 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run men’s champion, Kilian Jornet. Congratulations on your fourth win at Hardrock.
Kilian Jornet: Thank you very much. It was a fun day.
iRunFar: Was it a fun day?
Jornet: Or… yeah, in a way. It’s always fun to be out in these mountains and with friends and chatting with them and running. It’s what we love. There are always moments when we are sore or we have pain, but it’s part of the game though.
iRunFar: Every time the iRunFar team saw you on the course, you had this very simple and genuine grin on your face. Is it easy to smile even when it hurts a bit?
Jornet: I was having fun. I was having a lot of fun today. The weather was perfect. Only during one hour it was lightning and hailing, but the rest was super-good weather. It was not cold, so it was perfect for running. I had pain when I fell, but afterward, I found a way to stop the pain, so then it was good.
iRunFar: Walk us through how the race went. I think you and Iker [Karrera] spent loads of time together in the first part of the race.
Jornet: Yes, actually it was Caroline [Chaverot] that started in front. Caroline and Nathalie Mauclair started sprinting the race. Actually it was Iker who was going after them. I was in a group behind with [Anna] Frosty and Joe [Grant] and Mike [Foote] and many others. It was a big group. Actually, in the downhill, the first downhill of the race, we were going with Joe, and then we catch Caroline, and then I catch Iker. From after Cunningham, I was with Iker up to just before Ouray. He had a hard time. He had some digestion problems, so it was a bit hard for him. We were together. It was fun. We could chat. After Ouray, I was with Joe and Mike and we spent all the day together.
iRunFar: I think you guys kind of trotted up the Camp Bird Road together?
Jornet: Yeah, yeah, we were like running together all the road. It’s nice to run with someone there because if not, it’s tough mentally.
iRunFar: Late afternoon, kind of hot, there’s vehicles on the road—very long uphill.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s a long uphill. I don’t know how many miles it is but 11 miles? Yeah, it’s a long road, and it’s… it’s… it’s not the most fun part of the race for sure.
iRunFar: It’s the way to connect the cool Bear Creek Trail to the cool trail going to Kroger’s Canteen.
Jornet: Yes, sure, it’s in between two of the most beautiful places in the race.
iRunFar: Let’s back up a little bit and talk about some things earlier in the race. I think some fans watching the race were curious about you taking off your shoes at some of the first river crossings.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s so early in the morning. I’m not a morning person. You start the race, and you know you will cross like 100 rivers, but the first one is always hard.
iRunFar: It’s the worst, and it’s kind of a big one, isn’t it?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s a big one. I arrived there, and I was like, Ahhhhh, nooooo, my feet are dryyyy, and no, they don’t want to go through. So, I just took them off.
iRunFar: You not only took your socks and shoes off to go across the river, but you also took the time to grab a shirt from your pack and dry your feet.
Jornet: Of course, because if not then…
iRunFar: It was like going to get a pedicure or something. You were treating your feet like kings.
Jornet: There, yeah, but if you look at my feet, they’re not really like a pedicure. They have no toenails.
iRunFar: I think that’s a mountain runner’s pedicure.
Jornet: Actually, I came to the race with almost all the toenails gone from the expeditions.
iRunFar: Let’s talk for a minute about where you took your fall. It was on a downhill early in the race?
Jornet: Yeah, it was stupid of me. It was just going down to Maggie’s just in the top just before Buffalo Boy Ridge. From Buffalo Boy Ridge there was a snowfield. I took the snowfield, and I was looking around. At the end of the snowfield, it was this kind of softer snow, so my feet both got into the snow, and I rolled over in the rocks. It was stupid of me to be looking around and not in front.
iRunFar: You probably thought you’d float on top of the snow and not fall through.
Jornet: Yeah, so that was the plan. It didn’t go like that.
iRunFar: So you rolled over a couple times and rolled onto this shoulder?
Jornet: Yeah, I think so, but it’s strange. I had blood in the knees but also in the butt, so I probably did some summersaults. That was okay, but it was mostly the shoulder. I’ve had problems before. I’ve dislocated this shoulder already four times.
iRunFar: Four times? Doing what sports?
Jornet: Climbing and skiing. So, I need to operate on it at a time, but I’ve been pushing it. So when I fall, I don’t know if it was straight with the rock or because I was wearing poles and the pole just pushed my shoulder out.
iRunFar: So, you said it when we were all speaking with you at the finish line that you put it back in using the other arm?
Jornet: Yeah, I was used to that from the other times I have dislocated this shoulder.
Jornet: Yeah, it’s painful when it goes out, but when it goes in then it’s not painful but it’s a bit disturbing. It’s not a big, but… it’s sore more.
iRunFar: I think you told somebody on the iRunFar crew that it was painful on the downhills because of the jarring?
Jornet: Yeah, from there at Maggie’s, I continued, and it was okay. It was painful, so going down with the vibrations it was a bit painful. Actually, it got more and more until…
[Pause for beer-garden announcement.]
iRunFar: So it wasn’t bothersome straightaway?
Jornet: No, it was bothering, but it was going a bit more and more probably because at the beginning it was hot and then it goes out. Then it was at Animas Forks that I put tape to keep it close to my body. From there, it was okay. It was just a bit disturbing in some movements, but it was actually…
iRunFar: Did you ever think maybe you shouldn’t go on?
Jornet: Yeah, I didn’t think I could make it to the finish because it was painful. When I fell, it was painful. Then it was okay. After, it’s not easy… I was just saying, Okay, just keep going until you feel too much pain. Then I feel today I was in good shape. My legs were perfect. Physically I was really well. It was only like, Okay, I can’t use both arms, but it’s an arm. It’s not a leg like you need for running, so it was not a big deal.
iRunFar: A couple compensating questions. Because it was painful on the downhills, were you going easier downhill and trying to push the uphills to make up for it, or were you just doing your thing and it hurts anyway?
Jornet: No, we were going mostly with Mike, or in the beginning with Iker and then with Mike and Joe. We were going together a bit. On the downhills, the only thing I didn’t want was to fall again because then it’s bad. I was taking care of that. No, I was going. Then it’s mostly just using one arm (uphill), but no, I didn’t change the strategy on that.
iRunFar: It’s 85 miles guarding your arm and a lot of it taped up like this. Did you have any compensatory pain?
Jornet: Yes, my back now is sore, the back and the core, because you don’t want the body to move a lot, so you need to stay straight. Yeah, I was working. Hey, it was good core training, too.
iRunFar: Hardrock, the ultimate core workout, right?
Jornet: Yeah, sure.
iRunFar: You’re now four times a finisher of Hardrock, four times a champion. I’m sure you know that when you have five finishes, you earn the PhD of ultrarunning. Is that something that you think about—returning to this race again and again and again?
Jornet: It’s a cool race. It’s like Zegama for short distance. It’s because the ambiance is like a family. It’s such a… it’s coming here. You can come here to race or to crew or to volunteer. You live the same experience. That’s something unique. It’s so cool. Yeah, I want to come back because it’s that. Then you can perform or not or whatever. I don’t think it’s the point of the race. It’s cool if you can do a good result or to win, but more than that for me, it’s to come here, to come to these mountains and to share this race not only with the runners but also with all the people around.
iRunFar: When a person repeats something like this over and over and over again, it starts to become part of who you are and sort of a part of your identity. Do you find a sense of familiarity and comfort from being here?
Jornet: Yeah, sure, because in a way it’s how I think ultra-trail is. For me, ultra-trail is to be out exploring nice mountains where performance is not the first thing. It’s something where it’s being part of the race, not only the runners but volunteering or crewing or pacing. It’s about these experiences. I love the hours of the race. It’s not the podium. It’s from the first to the last one, everybody is going out. It’s cool because it’s more about the journey than about the race. That’s how when I think about ultra-trail, it’s what I think.
iRunFar: More than running—it’s about people, place, space?
Jornet: Yes, it’s about running, too, because all the people that is here love running. But running is the excuse to meet all together.
iRunFar: It’s maybe your way to find your people?
Jornet: Yeah, to find your people and to have fun out there.
iRunFar: I was surprised when you announced you were going to run UTMB this year. I thought that that was a race that you’d had your experiences with and were moving on. UTMB!?
Jornet: Yeah, for me it was the same, but then actually I was planning to go to the Himalayas to Everest in August, but then we did not get the permission for August, so I changed to spring. Then in August I had no races, and so it’s a competitive year. I don’t think there are many ultra-trails that have a big field. It’s always two or three elite athletes, but it’s never 10 or 15 that can win the race. That’s why to go there and to race and to have a big field. As we have in Zegama and Sierre-Zinal and these short races, you go, and it’s a good level. In ultra-trail, if you want to go and find this level of competition, it’s really rare. That’s why.
iRunFar: You’re going to run with guys who have succeeded at all kinds of different races. Jim Walmsley has done flatter and faster stuff. Zach Miller has done more mountainous stuff and shorter distances. Francois D’Haene is proven at mountainous 100 milers. It’s a meeting of all kinds of different styles of really top-level men.
Jornet: Yeah, it will be interesting because I think looking outside, there will be people who will start super strong—Jim and Zach who always do because it’s their way to race—then people like Xavier Thevenard, Francois, and Luis Alberto Hernando who are really good racers and many more. It will be really interesting to see how the strategies go and what every runner chooses and what works.
iRunFar: I think for fans of the sport, it’s going to be a heavily awaited day to see exactly, like you said, how it plays out because there are so many styles of people coming together.
Jornet: I think that’s the cool thing because it will be super interesting. It’s good to see completely different styles of running in the same place together.
iRunFar: I have to also ask you about the Bob Graham Round because I did it a couple months ago, so it’s of personal interest to me. The Bob Graham Round?!
Jornet: Yeah, you did it! Yeah! Yeah, why you did it? Because it’s one of the most famous. Also, fell running is part of the history of mountain running. If you look at the first races ever on the mountains, they were in England in fell races hundreds of years ago. There’s where the history of the sport starts in a way. Between all, in this history, Bob Graham had a place. Yeah, it’s cool, I think.
iRunFar: I understand you’ve been there and at least seen some of the round?
Jornet: I have been there last year. We did Advanced Week in the Lake District and we got around and climbed some summits there, but not really as I wasn’t looking at it. Yeah, I want to go there some days before and check a bit the routes and try it.
iRunFar: I think a lot of people in England are wondering if you’ll try to do it and make a fast time or fastest known time or what your goal is there?
Jornet: Oh, the goal is to go as fast as I can. Of course, I would love to take the record, but it depends as always on conditions and how fit. It’s a very hard record. Super strong runners have tried, and they haven’t been able. Yeah, I’d love to try to prepare well for doing at least my best.
iRunFar: Would that be after UTMB?
Jornet: I haven’t put a date now but maybe next weeks, but I don’t think.
iRunFar: Do you mean right in the near future?
Jornet: Yeah, but I don’t think because I have been out of home a lot of time. I want to spend some time there. Probably I go to Glencoe [Skyline], so maybe after or before to have the travel there.
iRunFar: The Bob Graham Round obviously has all of these years of history, but then there’s also the Bob Graham Round Club that’s been around for a couple decades. Do you think you’ll go for an official club finish where you get all your summits witnessed and you get the certificate?
Jornet: Yeah, I was talking with them, and I think it’s cool. I need to figure out the logistics because my first mind was that I go there and run alone and didn’t think about having pacers and things, but yeah, I have some friends that are in the area. Maybe they can come to some summits.
iRunFar: Come witness your summits so you can become an official club member.
iRunFar: Great to see you here in Silverton yet again.
Jornet: It’s always cool to be here.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your win. I’m sorry you’re taking home a bit of an injury.
Jornet: No, that’s a good reminder that they need to operated. It’s better to have this in a running race than to have in the mountains, eh?
iRunFar: Way out there or days out there. Congrats again.
Jornet: Thank you.
iRunFar: Thanks, Kilian.
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.