Another year, another top finish for Megan Kimmel at the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. This time, we’re talking about third place. In the following interview, Megan talks about how she tested out her new “ultra strategy” of conservative starts before fast finishes, how she managed tight calf muscles all race, and how she’s looking toward racing some longer ultras in 2018.
For more on the race, check out our in-depth results article.
Megan Kimmel Post-2017 The North Face 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Megan Kimmel. She’s the third-place finisher of the 2017 North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Megan Kimmel, another The North Face comes to a close, another season comes to a close?
Megan Kimmel: Yeah, celebration!
iRunFar: Your calves get to celebrate, too. They held it together today.
Kimmel: Yeah, they did. I tried not to think too much about the soreness I went into the race with. Then they ended up lingering in the same state of soreness and never got worse.
iRunFar: They never went over the edge where they were intolerable?
Kimmel: Yeah, come mile 30 I was like, Okay, if they stay the same as they are, I’ll finish this thing. It worked out.
iRunFar: You said as we were walking over here to do this interview that 10 or 12 miles into the race you actually didn’t think you were going to finish?
Kimmel: Yeah, I have experienced it before when the calves will kind of work themselves out in the 10-mile range. Shortly thereafter in the 12 to 15 mile range, I just didn’t think there was really a chance. It might have ended up being good because I put a lot of thought into not letting it become something. I was kind of conscious since last night that maybe it was just in my head because I think sometimes it can be. It might have just been the key to me podiuming today because I just took it easy for the calves pretty much.
iRunFar: Walk us back to the beginning of the race. Renee Metivier took things out hot I think for the women.
Kimmel: That’s what I heard. I put all intentions to start off slow in the back.
iRunFar: What does that mean?
Kimmel: I think I was around 10th. That start was pretty steep, steeper than I thought.
iRunFar: Boy, that was really steep, wasn’t it?
Kimmel: Yeah, I was happily lingering back for that. With the dark start, you really don’t have a good feel for where you are, but I had a good feeling there were at least 10 girls in front of me. Maybe on that second lap of the start of the course, I didn’t want to be taking it too easy. You don’t want to fall too far back. That’s when I put more effort into moving up in the field and caught up with Megan Roche and Clare Gallagher at Tennessee Valley. We all ran together for a little bit, and then things spread out around the Cardiac Aid Station before Stinson Beach.
iRunFar: I think already at Muir, which was mile 18 or something like that, you were in third?
Kimmel: I think I was still in fourth. I didn’t catch Renee who was in third at the time until after Stinson right before Cardiac or right after Cardiac.
iRunFar: At what point in the race did it become clear that your body was going to keep it together?
Kimmel: You are right, Clare and I were running pretty close on that last question.
iRunFar: You were third or fourth or just right in there. When did you sort of become confident that your calves were going to make it through the race today?
Kimmel: I think around 30 and certainly around mile 40. By mile 30 they weren’t getting worse, so I was pretty confident. And by mile 40, I was positive I could finish the race.
iRunFar: Did today become not about competing with the women around you, it’s just guarding your body the whole time or were you eyes on the prize of the podium?
Kimmel: No, my objectives today were always to finish the race and after that, I actually wanted to run a slower or a smarter race. I feel like I’ve come out here in sub-ultra fashion the last five or six years or however many times I’ve come. I really wanted to come in with more of an ultra mindset. To me at this stage that meant taking it easy and thinking about the last half of the race more than the first half.
iRunFar: Last year at the end, you fell back a significant amount over a short distance. This year, you were just bam, bam, bam—each of the last aid stations—third place, third place third place.
Kimmel: Yeah, I definitely wanted to keep third place. I did not look back. I think third is a vulnerable position. I also really just wanted to feel strong the whole race. More than whoever was behind me or in front of me, I personally just wanted to feel good all day long and strong. That’s what kept me going at whatever pace I was.
iRunFar: This is the official end of the long 2017 season. What are you going to do now?
Kimmel: Well, it snowed in Colorado this weekend, so…
iRunFar: You’re going to ski?
Kimmel: Yeah, definitely ski. I’m getting back into my career outside of running, which is massage therapy. I’m starting to look towards 2018 already.
iRunFar: You said that the 2018 season is getting closer and closer, like the gap between today and when it starts up again is not as big as you thought it was going to be. What are you looking at at least for the early part of next year? You should have said, “I’m looking at drinking beer.”
Kimmel: That’s a given. I’m joking.
iRunFar: Oh, okay. Got it.
Kimmel: Transvulcania, which I have not done. I think that’s the first race of my 2018 season as it stands right now followed by Zegama not too long after that.
iRunFar: Will you just stay in Europe between the two races?
Kimmel: That’s a good question. It’s yet to be determined. Chances are actually pretty good that I will be there for the two weeks. Kind of a lot, but I really want to try to get into TDS and go for my first 120k race… 115 or 120k I think. That’s a pretty big step for me. I hope to be able to put a lot of time in training rather than doing too many races, but certainly racing is a nice aspect to training for those races. I’ve got a group of smaller distance races in preparation for that.
iRunFar: Wow, more kilometers on the legs next year.
Kimmel: I’m hoping so.
iRunFar: “Come on, legs. Keep it together!”
Kimmel: Yeah. That’s a big part of my winter off season is to try to reboot and try to figure out this calf issue.
iRunFar: Get some work done on the calves. Congratulations. Way to finish 2017.
Kimmel: Thanks, Meghan. Likewise.
iRunFar: See you at the Deuce tonight.
Kimmel: The Deuce it is.