It’s been seven years since Kilian Jornet last ran and won the Pikes Peak Marathon. In the following interview, Kilian talks about why he’s changed up his racing calendar this year, what is was like setting the Sierre-Zinal course record two weeks ago, and whether he’ll go for Matt Carpenter’s course record on Sunday.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kilian Jornet before the 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon. How are you, Kilian?
Kilian Jornet: Feeling good.
iRunFar: Feeling good. Welcome back to Colorado.
Jornet: Thank you very much. It’s a place I love to come and yeah, it’s so nice, racing mountains around here.
iRunFar: You’ve run the Pikes Peak Marathon before in 2012 and you won that race and you didn’t come back for a while. Why is that?
Jornet: Yeah, I don’t know. It has been long and probably, it’s so many races around and for sure it’s not the kind of race that it will fit myself, like I love the more technical stuff. But it’s a historical race and that’s probably why I wanted to come back a time and this year it was the perfect occasion.
iRunFar: Yeah, you really changed up your schedule this year. Over the last couple years you’ve gone from racing all the time to a little more selective. This year, three races. Why is that?
Jornet: Yeah. Well it has been, since I started competing in 2005, 2006, I have been racing a lot. It has been seasons of 50 races, skimo, and running. And this year it was, I wanted to change that, to try to change my training, to have more weeks of training, to see how this changed the body and how this changed my performances so I wanted to race less and train more to see how this works.
iRunFar: How did you change your training? Was it just more volume overall, because you already did a lot. Did you change the intensity?
Jornet: When you race a lot it’s more like, you train a bit but slow speed and then it’s race, and one day recovery, and then race, so it’s like every weekend, so the volume you put is slow, and I was only training mountains, so never counting miles or kilometers, just counting elevation. And this year, having areas of four weeks or five weeks between races it was possible to do a pretty good block and not traveling, not doing all this stuff that races take up time, so it was good to do that and then I could do intensity. Like I had not done intensity since 2010 in skiing, so it has been interesting to change that.
iRunFar: Over many of the last years you’ve also had 100-mile races or very long FKT projects where those long days are a focus.
Jornet: Yeah, sure. And I think it’s possible to do good in both distances, in very different kind of events, but then you cannot perform the 100%. It’s more like you try to focus a strength, to do a strategy during the races, but then it’s hard, like sure after 100 mile, the week after Hardrock 100 I have run Dolomites Skyrace sometimes. And you can win but I think you really need to play strategy and I wanted to change that to focus more on pushing.
iRunFar: And does becoming a father make that a good choice for this year to change up?
Jornet: Sure, because it’s mostly much less traveling so we wanted to stay home with our daughter and not be traveling all the time around so it has been good to be home all the time.
iRunFar: And have there been any challenges associated with making that transition?
Jornet: Well like not really. Our daughter, she has been really kind to us. Both Emelie [Forsberg] and I could train good and no other change. Like I would say that it’s not like I want to race this much because I have done that for long, so it’s maybe finding motivation in other projects, but still I am someone who likes competition, so doing a few races a year is always cool.
iRunFar: You are a student of the sport, or I could even call you a professor of the sport. You ran Sierre-Zinal a few weeks ago and you set the course record, breaking Jonathan Wyatt’s longstanding record.
Jornet: Yeah, that was cool. Like I trained for, I didn’t want to focus on the record because every year race the conditions change a lot and you cannot really compare, but I wanted to give my best and to try to feel, to put my whole potential there, and it was cool. I knew Jon’s times when I was running and I was pushing for that, but mostly it was a way to see that all the training and the change of training has paid off.
iRunFar: So you knew his partials, his splits along the way?
Jornet: Yeah, there were a few splits in the way and mostly the uphill, and I have always been a bit more conservative in the uphill, and this year I wanted to push there to see how it was, and it was under Jon’s time there but yeah, after it still was like, it’s not a very long race but when you push very hard it feels longer then.
iRunFar: And how much time did you take off your own personal best at that race?
Jornet: I think it’s like six minutes I take off.
iRunFar: Which is a lot in a two-and-a-half hour race.
Jornet: Yes, it’s a lot but like I said the preparation has been very different, like I’m not racing 100 miles weeks before, or normally it was like Hardrock, then just Tromsø Skyrace organizing, then Sierre-Zinal. So it was a lot of work and travel before Sierre-Zinal and this year I could just train and rest before.
iRunFar: So you broke Jonathan Wyatt’s course record. This one here, Pikes Peak Marathon, Matt Carpenter’s is even older. 3:16.
iRunFar: Are you going to go aggressively to maybe see if it’s possible to break it?
Jornet: Well, I will go aggressively but not to try to break the record. I think it’s hard to do that. It’s an amazing record. Even like only the ascent time is unbelievable. I have been talking to Ricardo Mejia a lot and it’s incredible what Matt did in 1993. And I will try to put my best and to go as fast as I can in the uphill and see how the legs are for after, but of course I know Matt’s time, but I don’t want to focus on that, just to try and give my best.
iRunFar: But you will go hard.
Jornet: Yeah, I will try. The legs are feeling good after Sierre-Zinal. I want to, I don’t have a race the week after so I can give everything and then just.
iRunFar: Yeah, because last time you did Pikes Peak Marathon, you weren’t even, you were 3:40.
Jornet: Forty, yeah something like that.
iRunFar: So you think you can take a lot of time off that.
Jornet: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: And you have a lot of confidence in your current fitness.
Jornet: Well I’m fit, but that can change. Like it can be by day. I have been racing for many years and I know that even if you are in good shape, like the race day is when you need to be good and it’s many things that can make not a good performance.
iRunFar: How do you think the high elevation here will affect?
Jornet: Well it’s high and that’s hard especially I think the last couple hundred meters you need to push hard, and it’s mostly if you start very strong you pay that in the last miles, so I think I feel good now in altitude. I have been doing a couple of runs on Mont Blanc and yesterday we were running up to the summit and feeling good, but mostly it’s that if you start too strong then you pay. Yeah you pay a lot in the last meters.
iRunFar: Who do you think might be your biggest challenge competitor-wise out there this weekend?
Jornet: Well I haven’t really researched this year, so I know the guys from the Salomon team, but I haven’t really looked who more is here. I think, I know Juan-Carlos [Carera] from Mexico is coming because he was saying that in Sierre-Zinal, and he’s a very strong uphill runner so I think him and probably Rémi [Bonnet] and Jacob [Atkin]…
iRunFar: Is Bartlomiej [Przedwojewski] here?
Jornet: I haven’t seen him. I don’t know but I think probably Rémi, Jacob, and Juan-Carlos, yeah they will be strong in the uphill for sure.
iRunFar: And it’s a race where you really have to be efficient on that uphill.
iRunFar: Because you’re climbing for over two hours.
Jornet: Yeah you’re climbing for over two hours and the altitude makes it so that you cannot do big mistakes. If you go too hard, then you really need to slow down a lot in the up, so it’s not a race where you can really play but you need to take your pace and find your threshold and then stay there for two hours, and that’s hard because if you see someone who is pushing hard and you want to follow, you don’t know if he will blow up and then you will blow up with him, so it’s really important to keep a steady pace all the way.
iRunFar: It will be fun to watch out there.
Jornet: It will be fun, yeah.
iRunFar: Best of luck, and enjoy.
Jornet: Thank you.
iRunFar: Thank you.
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