Karl Meltzer proved many wrong, including himself and the author, in winning the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100. In the following interview, find out how he did it, whether he thinks it’s his best race to date, and how the win affects his race plans for next year.
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Karl Meltzer, 2012 Run Rabbit Run 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Karl Meltzer after his 33rd 100 mile victory. Karl, how is it going?
Karl Meltzer: It’s pretty bittersweet to help put a race together like this and actually win the money. I never thought I would. We saw in the other interview that I really didn’t expect myself to come out on top, but I ran my own race like I always do.
iRF: You surprised a lot of people including yourself and me.
Meltzer: Including you, yeah. You know, if you look at a race like this—the dynamics—it’s a fast race, there’s a lot of competition. So everybody kind of pans off everyone else and plays off everyone else. I didn’t do that. I did my own thing because I didn’t have pressure on myself to win. I think that helped me a ton. I took the lead about mile 70 and that’s about where the race usually starts. How perfect could that have been? It all clicked.
iRF: So you weren’t playing coy in your interview and in your own odds?
Meltzer: No, I just figured, “Do your own thing, Karl. Run your own race, and if you’re in it then great.” I kind of knew I was in the race when I moved into top 5 at Cow Creek after mile 30. I didn’t feel that great up to mile 30, but it started to roll. I started running up the hill. Then I caught [Timothy] Olson and I caught [Mike] Wolfe, and I was like, “Huh, now I’m in fourth.” I started to calculate the numbers—well, that’s $2,500. I started to do that, and I realized I was in the race. I was like, “Okay, I can hang with these guys.” Then I still just was telling myself, “Exercise patience. Exercise patience.” That’s what I did. It all just… gosh, if I were to write a book, that’s exactly how I would have written the book—how it would have gone.
iRF: I saw you at the high school I think it was the second time. You were in fourth at that point and well off the lead time-wise, considerably off the lead.
Meltzer: I think Dave [James] had 20 minutes on it?
iRF: Yeah, at that point I knew you were top 2. The only person that could beat you at that point was Dylan [Bowman], because Dylan still looked really strong at that point.
Meltzer: Again, I expected Dave James to go fast like that. He told me later on, “Well, I wanted to build a lead.” Well, you don’t build a lead at mile 30 of 100 or at mile 40 or whatever.
iRF: Time in the bank doesn’t work.
Meltzer: No, you don’t bank miles. That doesn’t do anything for the bank. Nothing goes in the bank when you bank miles. Yeah, exactly how I thought it would pan out. I knew Dylan would be really strong. I knew Jason Schlarb would be strong. Unfortunately, he went up Spring Creek and went the wrong way. That kind of wasn’t cool. At the same time it’s a trail race and that kind of stuff happens. I was really surprised to see Tim and Wolfe struggling early. That surprised me more than anything, more than James taking off.
iRF: When did you know you could possibly win this thing?
Meltzer: When I hit Summit Lake, mile 55ish, I was told I was in second; I still thought I was in third, because I didn’t know Jason had gone the wrong way. I had passed Dave James on the road up to Long Lake, and he was shivering cold. I was like, “He’s done.” So I just kept running and jogging, basically jogging and not really running. They told me at Summit Lake I was 2-3 minutes behind Dylan. I said, “Karl, exercise patience.” There’s 13 miles of downhill after that, so I just jogged downhill. I knew I would lose time to Dylan on that going down that hill; I didn’t care. I got to Dry Lake and Cheryl crewed me and rallied. I got out of there and jogged down Spring Creek, and coming down Spring Creek, I was looking at my watch going, “When’s Dylan coming back up the hill?” He never came. I finally got to the aid station and Dylan was standing there. This is mile 70 where the race begins. So Dylan left a little earlier than I did, 100 yards in front of me, and it was flat. Dylan jogged, and all of the sudden Dylan walked for a second. When Dylan walked for a second that told me, “Now’s the time; now’s the time to make your move.” I was still feeling great. I said, “Dylan, come on. It’s still a long way to go. Let’s go.” He said, “No, I’m good. It’s cool. I’ll rally.” I was like alright. I said, “I’m running.” I ran all the way up that hill, and my goal was to get out of his sight, out of his vision. I did obviously. I put 12 minutes on him on a 6-mile climb.
After that, I felt great. I was climbing great. All the climbs—back up Buffalo Pass, up that road—jogged the flats, run the downs, and I was walking really fast. I was concentrating on walking 4 miles per hour. I think that helped put a little more time on him. Being in the lead, you don’t know what your lead is. I was like, “He’s probably not gaining ground on me unless he’s running absolutely everything. So now’s the time to put the hammer down and just keep on jogging.” The trail, once you get to Summit Lake and climb up a little after that, it just rolls. It’s all runnable. When I said the course was easy, that’s what I considered the part of the course to be easy because it’s all runnable. If you’re walking, you’re not going to win this race there. You have to run that. That was my time to put time in the bank.
iRF: Actually, it’s very interesting to hear you say when you passed Dylan, you were encouraging him. There’s a lot of people who say that money in the sport is going to ruin relationships and people aren’t going to tell each other when they go off course or aren’t going to encourage each other. You don’t think that’s going to be the case?
Meltzer: Well, I mean, it’s a race. Sure, I just said that I’m going to get away from him and out of his sight. It’s a race. But you know, it’s not like (elbow), “I’m going to kick your butt.” It’s just that I want him to do well, too. I want to win, but at the same time, I get a vibe off of him, too, when I say something like that. When his vibe is, “Oh I’m alright; it’s cool,” but he walked. Why did he walk when it was flat when he just left an aid station? That told me, the second I went running by him, I knew that was going to discourage him that I just kept going, and he didn’t respond. He made no response. When you look at track races in the Olympics, when someone makes a surge—or an Olympic marathon is a better example—when someone makes a surge and someone doesn’t respond, you get that. You feel the vibe. That’s when it’s time to go—time to make the effort.
iRF: Why do you think this race was a couple hours slower than we thought it was going to be?
Meltzer: It was further than it was supposed to be. That’s the reason. I know we talk about, “Well, Karl said it was easy.” It’s still considered to be a super-hard course because again, a lot of it is runnable, the climbs especially. We came here two weeks ago and we measured some stuff, and it was a little further and it was mentioned on the website which is fine, whatever. But a lot of people’s GPS running watches said anywhere from 108-113 miles… so we’ll just say 110. If it was 110 miles, take two hours off, there’s your 17-hour finish. That’s kind of how I was thinking. I just think it was a little further than 100 miles.
iRF: You’ve now won 33 100’s, and you’ve run a number more than that. Is this the best race or the perfect race?
Meltzer: I think 57 or something like that. It was one of the top 3. My San Diego 15:48 was a phenomenal race for me that year. Hardrock 24:38 was a phenomenal race. But this one is definitely one of my best ever. What a better time to pull it off when I was racing… you know, I’m the old man here against a lot of younger guys. What does that really mean? Not a lot, but with 100 miles, you just have to run all day; you don’t have to run fast. That’s the way I look at it. I had the textbook in my back pocket, and I just stayed with the textbook and did my thing. I had a great race. No bad patches. How many times do you have a race and not have any bad patches. My bad patch was at mile 10 and whatever, it doesn’t matter then. I really had a great run.
iRF: Did you ever think you’d win $11,000 in one trail race?
Meltzer: Nope. It’s cool that I was able to compete in a race like that, with The North Face 50, but that’s 50 miles. There’s no way I’m winning any money there. I’m really psyched that the sport has evolved like that, but at the same time, there was beer and pizza at the finish line. That’s what I like to do at Speedgoat, too. Beer and pizza—everybody is just kind of hanging out shooting the breeze with each other.
iRF: All afternoon.
Meltzer: All afternoon, just having fun. So as long as the sport kind of stays at that level, it’s all that much better that there’s money for the leaders.
iRF: Well, congratulations on number 33.
Meltzer: Number 33.
iRF: Also your race number.
Meltzer: Yeah, the last thing to add there. It was kind of ironic that, about mile 50 I said to myself, “Huh, my bib number is 33; that’s kind of interesting.” My head was like, “That would be cool if I won the race.”
iRF: And you did it.
Meltzer: And I did it. In alphabetical order. Kind of odd.
iRF: Well, congrats, Karl.
* * * * *
iRF: And now the bonus question: beer and pizza. What was the best Pateros Creek beer you had after the race?
Meltzer: You know, I liked the English bitter that was on here?
iRF: The Remittance.
Meltzer: The Remittance. I just drank it. I didn’t look at what it was. It was super tasty for what I like. The funny thing is that it was 3.1%.
iRF: Just like being in Utah.
Meltzer: I said, “Hey, I’m back in Utah again.” At that point, it doesn’t matter; I didn’t really need the high alcohol percent as I was a zombie at that point anyway. AJW would like it, I’m sure.
iRF: He would. Cheers.
Meltzer: Bottoms up.
* * * * *
iRF: Alright, we already had a bonus question and now the brain dead question, because I’m a little tired.
Meltzer: I’m a little delirious as well.
iRF: Karl, you earned a Montrail Ultra Cup spot in Western States next year. Do you think you’re going to take that?
Meltzer: I’ll probably take it. Yeah, I’ll probably take it. I haven’t been able to get into Western the last couple of years, and it’s been a bit of a bummer. But my real goal with Western is really not to go there and try to win it because again, I don’t really think I have a chance there.
iRF: Heard that before.
Meltzer: Heard that before. But the Grand Slam—now that I’m in Western, I have to go run the Grand Slam. Neal Gorman, yeah, I’m going to chase your record. There’s no doubt about that. I’m excited. I haven’t run Vermont either. I’m not all that fired up about Leadville, but at the same time, it’s the Grand Slam. It’s the classic. It’s something I haven’t done. Yeah, I’d be an idiot not to run Western next year. So yeah, you’ll see me on the line there. I’ll probably have fresh legs, probably.
iRF: Are you going to do Grand Slam +1? Put your name in the Hardrock lottery for next year?
Meltzer: Well, I won’t put my name in the Hardrock lottery and that’s okay. I can always still kind of get in Hardrock, so that’s okay. Hardrock is one of those things that it really does beat you up. Obviously, yeah, it’s a shame… maybe I will go crew or work an aid station—Virginius with Roch.
iRF: The “Old Man Aid Station.”
Meltzer: Go work at the “Old Man Aid Station,” yeah. So that’s a possibility. I’ll probably Grand Slam next year and see if I could take Neal Gorman’s record down. That would be a real cap on my career if I could get something like that.
iRF: Awesome. Well, maybe you’ll add a 34 and 35 in there somewhere.
Meltzer: Yeah, well, I keep thinking I’m not going to win another one, and I won 2 again this year. Antelope is a little one, but at the same time, yeah, I… I’m getting older. I’m 44 now. I’ve got to start losing eventually, right? I guess.
Meltzer: Maybe not. Winning never gets old, I’ll say that. It never gets old.
iRF: Well, I’m sure I’ll see a lot of you next summer then.
Meltzer: Yeah, I’ll be around. I’ll be running.
iRF: See ya, Karl.
Meltzer: See ya.