Nikki Kimball is finally running the Hardrock 100, a race seemingly made for her. In the following interview, Nikki talks about the injuries that limited her running in recent years, what it’s like to finally be running a race that suits her so well, and what she’s looking forward to about the race.
For more on who’s running the race, check out our Hardrock 100 preview, and, then, follow along with our race coverage starting on Friday, July 20th!
Nikki Kimball Pre-2018 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nikki Kimball before the 2018 Hardrock 100. How are you, Nikki?
Nikki Kimball: I’m feeling great.
iRunFar: You kind of had a couple of down years.
Kimball: Yeah, I did.
iRunFar: What was going on?
Kimball: I had an injury from snowshoeing. I hit my leg with a snowshoe for five hours and, oddly, that broke my leg and messed up some tendons. Anyway, it was just bad. Then, I tore my hamstring and so I got that fixed. Now, I’m running again and I’m running pain-free and it’s awesome.
iRunFar: With the broken leg, you didn’t run?
Kimball: Well, I ran HURT 100, but, then, I was really messed up.
iRunFar: So it’s been a long journey, and not even a simple one.
Kimball: No. I’ve been running healthy since February.
iRunFar: That probably feels good in many ways.
Kimball: It’s awesome. I mean, I’m still aging a bit but loving that I can run without pain. My life is back. Whether it’s racing or just living.
iRunFar: What was it like for those two years?
Kimball: Well, I raced a little bit, but it was frustrating. The last good race I had was Bighorn 100 [in June 2016] and really the damage to my leg got much worse after that. That was before I really started getting messed up. Just miles and miles and, being the great physical therapist that I am, I totally messed up in managing it.
iRunFar: How does that work?
Kimball: Once I put my treatment into the hands of another doc, it was better. Go figure.
iRunFar: And now you’re healthy and you’ve been that way for enough time to get fit. How do you feel now?
Kimball: I feel great. All winter I was skimoing a lot because my leg felt fantastic as long as it was in a boot. I still wasn’t running much. I could skimo.
iRunFar: So you build fitness, then you fix things.
Kimball: Then, I fix things. Now, I don’t know where I am physically, necessarily. It’s been a year-and-a-half since I’ve raced healthy. So, yeah, I’m so excited because I get to run.
iRunFar: And it’s probably different for Hardrock. It’s not like your toeing the line for The North Face 50-Mile Endurance Championships where it’s on from the gun and you’ve got to roll, or not. Thinking about Western States, you usually took it pretty easy early on.
Kimball: Yeah, we did a lot of joke-telling early on in Western States.
iRunFar: That’s what I was thinking. I do remember a lot of honey badger talk, some Muppet songs.
Kimball: Rory Bosio with her outhouse songs.
iRunFar: I won’t repeat any of those.
Kimball: No, we really can’t.
iRunFar: Here you are, finally, at Hardrock. It took you a while to get in?
Kimball: It took me a while to get in. In their defense, there were several years where I didn’t put my name in the lottery because of Western.
iRunFar: And some injury years.
Kimball: I didn’t really get injured until that stupid snowshoe hitting me. I mean, I went 16 years without an injury, a serious one.
iRunFar: And that wasn’t a biomechanical injury. Or rather, it wasn’t caused by overtraining.
Kimball: Exactly. Nor was the hamstring tear – it started in a parking lot. So, yeah, I’m psyched and Hardrock is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I have no qualms with the way the lottery works. I think it’s really good that there’s something here that favours people who’ve been in the sport a long time. Those of us who were racing in the 90s remember when you didn’t have to do lotteries for everything and we weren’t getting paid and we were just out there on our own and people were calling us crazy. It was a completely different time and I love that Hardrock is sticking to that.
iRunFar: Yeah, it has that feel. It probably makes it pretty special to be getting ready to toe the starting line for the first time.
Kimball: It really does. Especially as, you know, sort of a comeback from some rough times.
iRunFar: I’ve got to imagine a lot of your personal identity over this time has been based around running.
Kimball: Absolutely. When I was volunteering at Western States last year and I was one day off crutches… this is a whole new year. This time last year I was able to run 200 yards.
iRunFar: What’s another 100 miles? [Laughs] You’ve had success at a wide variety of races, from Western States, which is relatively flat, to Marathon des Sables or the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. But to me, in the U.S., this race says “Nikki Kimball.”
Kimball: Yes. There is a small part of me… okay, a pretty big part of me that is bummed I didn’t get to race this in my 2000s body. I mean, you’d love to be able to do every race in your best body. But you can’t, especially if you love the sport and you’re not here just to win. If you’re in the sport because you love the people and you love the culture and you’re in it for 20 years.
iRunFar: You may not be as fast now, but you still get those aspects of it by coming to Hardrock. So what are you looking forward to most about finally running Hardrock?
Kimball: I think just finally running Hardrock [laughs]. I am just super-stoked about a long tour. I mean, of course I want to be competitive, there is that.
iRunFar: That spark is still there.
Kimball: It is, and so that’s nice. But this is my first time in the San Juans. It’s a beautiful area. This is sort of a celebration of being able to run without my leg, you know, not pushing off. From being this person who wanted to–and did–win UTMB and Western States to being a person who is grateful to be able to run. It’s a different stage of life and I’m finally embracing it. It was a hard transition. But I know I’m still solid on these long things.
iRunFar: Your climbing is still there.
Kimball: The climbing, yes. The descending – the knees aren’t quite as fresh as they used to be, but it’s still good. My track workouts are horrid, but that’s okay.
iRunFar: Track workouts? Can you explain what this thing is to me? [Laughs] You don’t really need that so much at Hardrock. Is there anything that is intimidating about this?
Kimball: Regarding the injury, no, not at all. It was four physical therapists and four medical doctors and a doctor of osteopathy who helped. It was very complicated and super-interesting. If it had been my patient instead of me, I would have been all over it. But it is solid. It is so strong, and my hamstring repaired super-strong. I have no biomechanical excuses. It’s intimidating still because anytime you run 100 miles with 33,000′ feet of gain, it’s going to be intimidating, but I’m also with a crowd of people who have been in the sport for a long time. It’s like coming home. Yeah, it’s going to hurt, but it’s also going to be stunningly beautiful. You know! [Gesturing to Bryon Powell, who is also entered in the run.]
iRunFar: It’s fun to see Scott Jaime walk by. He’s going to be at Kroger’s Canteen, hanging out with Darcy Piceu and so many other people, and that’s just the people at one aid station. So, this feels like coming home to the family a little bit?
Kimball: Yeah, it really does.
iRunFar: I know you have a great trail-running group up in Montana, but this is the extended family.
Kimball: This is the extended family, exactly.
iRunFar: Awesome, Nikki. It’s so good to have you back. Have fun out there.
Kimball: Thanks. I will. You, too.