The USA’s Megan Kimmel took third at the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon through a combination of enjoying all the easy hours early on and staying tough late. In this interview, Megan describes the all-day racing dynamic between she, winner Ragna Debats, and second place Anne-Lise Rousset Séguret; if the heat got to her as much as she thought it might; the finish-line celebration; and what else she’s racing in 2019.
Don’t miss our results article which describes the full race story.
Megan Kimmel Post-2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Megan Kimmel. You’re the third-place finisher of the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. A podium at Transvulcania!
Megan Kimmel: Yeah, I’m happy for it, for sure.
iRunFar: Are you?
Kimmel: Given my preparation for the race and my travel plans for the past three, four weeks, yeah. I am totally content with a podium at Transvulcania.
iRunFar: You’re packing this in along with a lot of other adventures and traveling in a month, or a little over a month’s period of time?
Kimmel: Yep, yep.
iRunFar: So this is part of a round tour?
Kimmel: Yeah, it is. So it’s kind of the end of a big chunk of a lot of traveling and hotels and all that, so.
iRunFar: Ready to cook some food for yourself?
Kimmel: I am, yeah. The breakfast buffet here has been awesome. Beautiful fish and all that, but definitely always feels good to cook your own meals.
iRunFar: So let’s talk about yesterday’s race. You settled in among the lead couple women pretty much straight away?
Kimmel: No, I like, I mean I don’t know how far ahead I am, that’s the thing about the dark start, you know. Or I’m sorry how far ahead they were. But I didn’t feel like I wanted to put out too much energy in the sand so I kind of played it pretty conservative off the start there. And, then, I did have the objective by the top of the uphill, like the complete uphill, to have caught the lead runners. And so it pretty much just kind of played out like that, in my vision, in my mind.
iRunFar: The first time we got a glimpse of the women’s field was about 20k in on the mountain traverse going down to El Pilar. And it was the three of you, Ragna [Debats], yourself, and Anne-Lise [Rousset Segurét] like very close together, and then already a pretty big gap between you guys and the rest of the field.
Kimmel: Okay that is true. I guess I had caught them by that first downhill, or that first, the end of the first uphill.
Kimmel: So at that point I was feeling good and thought I was in good position, and I wasn’t really sure what was going on behind me.
iRunFar: Okay. Talk about how, like for me that part of the race is really interesting because you’re already up on this high area, and you’ve already had quite an effort to get there, but you can see like essentially the entire rest of the race course out in front of you.
Kimmel: Yeah, I mean I can say that I wasn’t looking too hard. I mean at that point I did have Ragna up there, so of course every time I could I was taking a glance at her, but at that point Ragna was having a good day and I didn’t think there was any catching her anyway.
Kimmel: So I just kind of like watched her fleet off into the distance and just tried to hold my own ground.
iRunFar: The terrain on that volcanic crater rim you’re on from between like what is that, 30k to 50k,
Kimmel: Mm hmm.
iRunFar: It’s a pretty rad place.
Kimmel: Yeah. Yeah. Incredible landscapes. So much different than home, as far as the landscape goes.
iRunFar: Like everything that’s not Colorado is this.
Kimmel: Yeah. But actually I felt like the trail and this whole course of Transvulcania was actually pretty similar to Colorado running.
iRunFar: Oh, really?
Kimmel: Yeah. Minus like the actual trail itself, but as far as,
iRunFar: The volcanic cindery stuff.
Kimmel: Yeah the sand, and the fact that the rocks actually stay in place here.
Kimmel: Which I thought was really nice.
iRunFar: Unlike Colorado where everything moves. That’s amazing.
Kimmel: Yeah. But yesterday was amazing, just to be on the volcanic soils and having a totally different setting for it all. There were some gorgeous flowers out, so it exceeded expectations for sure.
iRunFar: Now when we interviewed you before the race you said you were maybe thinking of dividing, the first half of the race is everything that happens up to Roque de los Muchachos, the high point, and then the second part of the race is the downhill. Is that, how did it play out in your mind actually?
Kimmel: I mean I think I kind of kept that thought, you know. I was like alright, 51k and now this is the downhill, but I don’t know how I worded it but I knew the downhill was going to be long, and it was really long.
iRunFar: Really long.
iRunFar: I mean it’s 8,000 feet.
iRunFar: There’s just no getting around the fact that it’s 8,000 feet.
Kimmel: Yep. And you know, down, it’s also 18k, so 10, 12 miles, whatever that is. So that’s just a lot of pounding on the body after 51k. That’s what I would say about that downhill.
iRunFar: The end.
Kimmel: Yeah. But it’s not the end.
iRunFar: It’s actually not the end. And there comes probably one of the most brutal finishes in trail ultrarunning. 5k where you’re in this hot enclosed sunny riverbed, and, then, you have to make a really steep climb back up to the finishing city.
Kimmel: Yeah. In fact, I thought that I, I thought that part was just fine. My body really welcomed the change from running flat again. I found the riverbed to be a better surface than I was imagining, and the uphill certainly was a challenge in itself and you wanted it to be done, but once again I actually felt a little bit of fresher energy than I did on the bottom part of the downhill.
iRunFar: Okay. I think when you are running through the city of Los Llanos to come to the finish line, you see the finish line a long time before you get there.
Kimmel: Yeah. Yeah to me like the uphill was better than that flat going into town. That’s when I was just becoming kind of, at the end of it as it happens it’s kind of miserable, and really wanting to get to that finish line.
iRunFar: Now, for me it’s kind of fun to take like 40 pictures of finishers as they cross the line, because you can kind of see the sequence of emotions. You crossing the line, I don’t know what it looked like. I can’t figure out what was going on in your head. What were you thinking?
Kimmel: Yeah, I was kind of confused. I mean I finished third, and that’s nice and everything, but it’s not like I won, so I kind of felt like I was coming into this presentation that I’d done, that I’d won the race or something, like it was that kind of boisterous, and I was just pretty over it. I mean I just wanted to go lay down. My body was in pain. So I was just confused about why my third place was being so prolonged. But, of course, it was fun and yeah, but I just wanted to lay down.
iRunFar: They gave you a bottle of champagne that was like essentially half your body weight.
Kimmel: I know, I know. I kind of wanted to drink it. I took a little like celebratory sip and it tasted really nice you know, but yeah. That as well. So that was kind but I wasn’t really sure what to do with the champagne. Normally, that’s a first place thing once again.
iRunFar: You just hadn’t played out the scenario in your brain.
Kimmel: Exactly. They could have given me a bottle, a smaller bottle and it would have been way easier to pour all over myself or something like that, but it was huge, so.
iRunFar: It’s always so funny when they give like, petite, thin runners gigantic bottles of champagne that are like huge compared to them.
Kimmel: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: At the end of like running 75k. Here try to hold this 15-pound thing.
Kimmel: Exactly. Just carry this around, so. But you can’t complain about a big bottle of champagne however it does happen.
iRunFar: You cannot complain about a bottle of champagne. Now you have raced this sort of 50-ish mile distance a couple times before. You had said in your interview before the race that the distance at this time of year, the distance alone and then the distance at this time of year is challenging. Post-race is that sort of what you also feel?
Kimmel: Yeah. I mean I’m excited for the finishes within that preparation, in exactly those ways, you know. And that’s how I felt like I ran the race. I did the best that I could. I went out conservative knowing that I just didn’t have the mileage underneath me to really like go hard the whole time, so I thought I played that well, and it just ended up that, I think Ragna has really good training coming into this race. She’s a strong runner anyways, but like she had really good training coming into this race, and looking back at my last four and six weeks, I mean I can’t, I couldn’t fool myself any longer after about halfway through that course that I just didn’t have the turnover for the race.
iRunFar: Well, you had said that you did a big training week but it was pretty close to this race ultimately.
Kimmel: Yeah, like looking back six weeks I did a big one at the very beginning of April. And, then, it was like two weeks of low mileage, traveling, getting ready for this big trip, all of that. And, then, kind of some decent stuff, one decent week in there, and then just whatever, kind of two weeks before this put in another good effort of around 100 miles, but it was at high altitude, much slower, so it was good for like the endurance side, the energy side, but once again, just, it wasn’t fast running, it wasn’t turnover, so a totally different style.
iRunFar: Not, maybe not quite the specificity that you needed.
Kimmel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was good for my spirit, but I mean I knew it wasn’t the best for my running legs. But that’s where I was and those were my choices so.
iRunFar: Doing interviews the day after a long ultramarathon in the spring is always an odd place, because you have the come down of having had a big day yesterday, you’re tired in the legs today, but yet you’re transitioning to a lot more pretty quick. You’re headed to Chamonix?
Kimmel: Yep, yep. Chamonix just for some training for two weeks in preparation for my first race of the Golden Trail Series which is Zegama.
iRunFar: So going to Chamonix, going to train on some steep and rocky uphills and downhills to get ready for Zegama.
Kimmel: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: And then what? What else is happening in your season?
Kimmel: So I’ve committed to doing the Sky Series, which this was part of.
Kimmel: And also the Golden Trail Series. So once again I am doing the sub-ultra distance for another year, which I just, now I don’t even have to question, it is my style.
Kimmel: And after this year definitely going to move past the sub-ultra.
Kimmel: And then as far as this season goes, once again I always like the idea of entertaining the The North Face at the end of the year when I feel like I’m best prepped for an ultra run, and a fast one at that.
iRunFar: You have an interesting year.
iRunFar: Keeping it interesting.
Kimmel: Always. Trying.
iRunFar: Staying afoot.
Kimmel: Yeah. It’s always interesting whether I’m trying to make it interesting or not.
iRunFar: [laughs] Both I think. Well congratulations on your podium finish.
Kimmel: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: See you out there on the road somewhere.
Kimmel: Sounds good.
iRunFar: Or see you in the San Juans maybe.
Kimmel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Chances are good this summer.
iRunFar: Okay. Well done.