Karl Meltzer, 2013 Buffalo Run 100 Mile Champion, Interview

This weekend, Karl Meltzer picked up 100-mile win number 35 by running a 14:33 at the 2013 Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile. Although Karl’s barely been training through the winter, the 14:33 was just 16 minutes off his 100-mile PR of 14:17 run at Rocky Raccoon in 2012. In the following interview, Karl talks about why he ran so well this weekend and what his “A races” are this season. He also gives tips on pacing and nutrition in a 100-miler.

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Karl Meltzer, 2013 Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Karl Meltzer after… how many 100 wins is this?

Karl Meltzer: It’s the 35th.

iRF: 35th—getting up there to a case and a half of beer’s worth.

Meltzer: Yeah, getting up to a 36-pack. Kind of funny—guess we always have to have some sort of an analogy, right? People started asking me if I’m going to go for 40 now. I’m just going to go for what I do. I’ve achieved my goal. I had this goal when I started with Red Bull (when I first signed with them). They said, “What’s your big goal?” I said, “To win 35 times.” There ya go. It’s kind of funny how it evolved that way, but… it is… it’s weird.

iRF: Now you’re 35 and you’ll keep running.

Meltzer: I’m not going to stop racing. This was not a real competitive race, but it was a good run for me. It was a good run for me. It was a good kind of feel for what kind of shape I’m in, and obviously, it’s pretty solid.

iRF: 14:30 on what’s not a PR kind of course, so that’s pretty solid.

Meltzer: Yes, it’s one of those courses here that’s runnable. Everything here is runnable with the exception of a couple little things that you probably walk up. But other than that, it’s one of those courses even like Rocky Raccoon that… my 14:34 could be beaten, too, if you had someone fast with wheels that knows what they’re doing. They could run 13:30 for sure. It’s just one of those courses. But the 14:30 was great. I was trying to break 15 hours. That was my ultimate goal. I definitely beat that by a large margin.

iRF: So you’ve run 15-and-change and 16-and-change here.

Meltzer: Right, mid-15 hours and 16:06.

iRF: What do you think brought you this much faster?

Meltzer: Well, I’ll say I just really had a better day. The 16:06 was just six days after the Coyote Two Moon Deluge. That was just to see if I could do two 100’s in six days.

iRF: You couldn’t because one was cancelled.

Meltzer: Right. I ran 178. The next year I kind of came in a little fresh, but I just had a really lousy last 20 miles. I was tired and I got really sore. I couldn’t bust through that soreness. I was walking some, but when I was running I thought I was running fast. But I wasn’t really running fast, I was jogging. I just felt better later. All the time was made up in the last five hours of the race.

iRF: So you were able to keep cruising?

Meltzer: Yes, I was able to keep turning them over—9:30 min/miles. I said if you can run 10:00 min/miles you’ll run 15 hours or something like that.

iRF: You’ve run some very competitive races in the past, but you’ve also run a lot of races where it’s Karl.

Meltzer: Yes, you’ve got a two-hour lead at mile 65 or something like that.

iRF: How do you push yourself on a day like that? A lot of people would be like, “I’ll just cruise it in and win.”

Meltzer: I don’t really push myself to the limit. Nick Pedatella pushed me here. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that time as well. When you’re leading, you never know how far the guy is behind you. You get a report from 14 miles ago… how well did I run here? Nick kind of pushed me a little bit. When you have a big lead like that, I don’t like to slow down. I don’t want to push it that hard, but I don’t want to slow down. I’m not going to walk and just take it easy. I want to be done because I hurt and I’m sore.

iRF: So it might not have been 100% day, but you’re trying at 90-95%?

Meltzer: Well, there’s room left out there, but it was pretty solid. I probably only had four minutes of downtime. That’s no messing around. Seth Hales crewed for me. I ran through aid stations where I got all my stuff and I didn’t even stop running. So that was really pretty clean.

iRF: Come June, you’re going to be pushed. You’re going to be following probably, right?

Meltzer: Oh, I’ll be following. I’ll totally be following.

iRF: Are you excited to run Western States 100?

Meltzer: I’m excited to run Western. I’m excited to finally get in the race after all these years. I’m just hoping to go in healthy and have a good race. I can run top-10 there. I’m a fool to think of not running top-10 there. I’m not a contender to win. I’ll go there, and I’ll run it hard. I’ll do as best as I can. I’ll deal with the heat. I’m not looking forward to that. I know last year was cold, but that’s not going to happen again. So it’s going to be fun. A new race is always fun. I always go faster the second time.

iRF: You’ve got some experience.

Meltzer: I’ve got some experience. I’ve finished 60 times; I think I can do good. I’ll be alright. If my stomach hurts a little bit, I’ll figure it out and I’ll be fine. That’s just how it works. I’ve got it down.

iRF: Then is it two or three weeks until Hardrock after that?

Meltzer: Thirteen days until Hardrock, because Hardrock is a Friday. That will be the double thing. I’ll try to do my best at that and see if I can come close to what Nick Clark put down. Then I’ll put on the Speedgoat race again and run in Steamboat. That’s pretty much my season—with UROC and a couple of others.

iRF: Before you go to States, you have Lake Sonoma. That’s even going to be a bigger burner.

Meltzer: Yes, the Lake Sonoma Track Meet which is three weeks after this. So that’s another thing where I just want to go and go to the party. I’m going to run as hard as I can, and I’ll do my thing. But what will I be—25th? I don’t know, maybe, I might come in 25th. That’s going to be fun. Then there’s Quadrock—I threw that in to see where I’m at.

iRF: You have a pretty full schedule then.

Meltzer: It’s pretty full, yeah. I’m a nut. I don’t know why I do this kind of stuff. I love to run. I don’t think of every race as my “A race.” Quad Rock’s not an A race. Lake Sonoma’s not an A race. UROC’s not an A race.

iRF: So, what are your “A” races this year?

Meltzer: Western and Hardrock—the double combination there. Definitely Run Rabbit Run… I mean, I said to Fred, “Dude, I get to wear the #1, right?” and he said, “Yeah, as long as you come back.” I get a lot of 1’s. Yes, I want to run. I want to go back there for sure. I’ve got to go back and defend—no doubt about it. I hope the field would get strong. Right now on the top end of the list it’s myself and Jeff Browning. Hopefully other faster guys will enter. A lot of faster guys in the US already have a schedule or something dialed in or planned.

iRF: I think last year even, people did… after the summer season… people run Western States, Leadville… and then they can get in.

Meltzer: That’s the beauty of it because they can get in. I put my name on the list because I’m in anyway so I might as well put it on there. There’s no decision-making for me there. I hope that race goes off really well this year. If they make a few minor adjustments, it’s going to be cool. I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I’ll have a day like last time.

iRF: One of the things I’ve seen consistently from you is strong pacing. What’s your take on pacing 100 miles—front and back half…?

Meltzer: I think I know what my limits are. Even when my time is fast, through 19 miles it was 2:30 which was the same as Scott Jaime in the 50 miler—it might have been a little too fast, but for me that effort was easy. Like I said, I came in here and my legs just felt light. Some days you’re sluggish and everything is thick and you just don’t want to run. Some days you just have this bouncy feeling. This was one of those days—I ran up that first hill and I was like, “Whatever.” It was Nick and I way out in front of everyone else. I just knew I felt good, so I just ran with it. I ran what my effort level was, and it wasn’t a hard effort. I just kept going with it and hoping I could keep it going all day long. This time it worked. I never had a belly problem as usual. I don’t have many belly problems. My fuel was good. Whenever I felt I needed fuel, bam, I threw some gel in me and I was good. I don’t know, I just hit things on the nose mostly. I didn’t feel like it really early, but like anything else, you get in the zone and you go.

iRF: Do you see people making big mistakes on the nutrition front that you’re not and that people might want to change?

Meltzer: I just think you should keep it consistent what you’re doing instead of trying variable things. A lot of harder foods, man, you really have to have that dialed for nothing to go wrong. I think you need to stick with the basics and the easy stuff like gels and whatever kind you use. I just use gels because I’m kind of a nut. I drank a lot of soda out there—Red Bull, Coke, a bunch of different stuff.

iRF: So it’s basically gel and liquid diet for you.

Meltzer: It’s sugar. It’s basically sugar for me. Most people really vary things. They plan on doing something where… it’s hard to say, “Well, I’m going to eat gels for the first half and then I’m going to move to hard food.” You don’t really know that. You can plan that, but there’s no way you can state a specific program like that. If you feel crappy at mile 15 and you want a potato, you’re not going to say, “No, I’m doing gels until mile 60.” Of course not, you eat what you want. You’ve got to experiment and figure out what works for you. I’ve found what works for me, and a lot of other guys have too. It’s a matter of experimenting a little bit, but don’t do something new in your ultra. You never do something new; always resort back to what works.

iRF: So do you have a certain amount of calories per hour you’re shooting for?

Meltzer: I probably consume about 200 calories/hour. I think that’s what my body efficiently works on. I like to say a gel every 25 minutes or something like that. I take a little soda and Red Bull on the side.

iRF: Do you drink water?

Meltzer: My bottle is usually water straight up. Water is the equalizer. If you have a bad belly or something like that, you can always go back to straight water and try to flush yourself out if it’s bad. You don’t want to pound it, just drink it. Don’t pound water, of course not. I’m pretty simple—gel water, a little Red Bull, maybe a little chicken bouillon, done. It’s a pretty good combination.

iRF: Congratulations on another win. I look forward to seeing you at some other big races coming up.

Meltzer: Yes, cool. It never gets old.

iRF: Keep enjoying it, Karl.

Meltzer: Still and always enjoying it.

Bonus Question

iRF: One bonus question out of the AJW Stock Room: Winter time beer in the Wasatch?

Meltzer: Right now, I’m working the Pandemonium Pale Ale which I just won from Scott Jaime. We had a little side bet. He gave me a 15-minute cushion on our 50-mile split—so his split and my split at 50 miles. His winning time was 6:24; mine was 6:36. I’m drinking my favorite winter beer now.

iRF: You got a six-pack out of Jaime.

Meltzer: I got a six-pack out of Jaime. You’ve got to win something out here.

iRF: You got a buckle and a six-pack.

Meltzer: That will work.

There are 23 comments

  1. Brett

    Skinny Bryon – another good interview! Can't wait to see what Karl does at Western States…my hunch is we'll learn why they've kept him out of the race for so long! ;)

  2. Shelby

    As impressive as the youngsters are, I never tire of watching the masters showing 'em how its done. I learn something every time Karl opens his mouth and leaks a bit of wisdom from his years of experience. His balanced approach and consistency is something I appreciate and strive for in my own racing.

    Congrats to you Bryon a having great run yourself! Here's hoping the spirit of Moab is still going strong.

  3. Marilyn

    Love this interview! Congratulations, Karl! I am going to have some fun at the back of the pack of the Lake Sonoma party, watching the "track meet".

  4. Skydog

    Great interview Bryon. Way to focus with dogs yapping, diesel trucks revving, etc.

    Well done, Karl congrats once again for "doing your thing."

  5. Sniffer

    We all know how crazy it must be "running" IRF. How bout Bryon gives us his race report on some of his races? Like a build up to running western states. It is great reading what the winners have to say, but hearing it from the commander-in-chief would be cool as well. Thanks for the coverage.

  6. art


    there's a nice easy course down here in San Diego if you need win number 36, 37, or 38. yeah I know you've been here, but not on the new course … maybe next year.

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      It was up briefly thru dropbox on my facebook timeline, but it got too many hits, and was shut down. The file was too big to post it normally. Pretty gay eh? It bummed me out when it wasn't available anymore for fans to watch, cuz' it was absolutely amazing.

          1. Mike Hinterberg

            Totally awesome, dude, I knew you wouldn't have meant it in a purposefully bad way, and we used to say it in high school before people (gay and straight) started pointing it out being offensive — I think it's an older expression that's dying out. Thanks for seeing that point of view and owning it, see you at Quad Rock in May!

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      Salt stick Capsules too, I ate 9 of them total in this race, about one every hour and a half. It was chilly, so not as many were needed. I only drank……8 16oz bottles of water the whole race. I barely broke a sweat. (because of the temps, I was working plenty hard). The conditions were great.

  7. Ben Nephew

    Karl, have you ever had symptoms of rhabdo in any of your races? I wasn't sure if you were being sarcastic about not going all out in your races, but if not, was that a tactic that you developed over time, possibly after some rough races with longer recoveries?

    1. Speedgoatkarl

      No rabdo, I don't drink alot of water, so it would be tough to even go near that. I really know where my balance is, that's the key. I"ve never peed blood, rarely have any puffiness in my body….Many folks also, when they feel hot, drink too much, external cooling is just as important as internal…in my opinion.

      I don't really analyze what I do, I just run em'. Remember what I said…"keep it simple" :-)

      I more or less go all out in races. I don't go out hard and try to hang on, I try and finish every race strong to the end, and if I do it right, as I almost always do, I don't leave much time on the course. I have had some 100 mile wins where I was waaaaay out in front with 20 to go. In some of those races, I definately pull back the throttle and just cruise in. No need to force it when a win is a win, and for me, every win is a record, doesn't matter what the time is.

      1. Ben Nephew

        I take it you don't hit the anti-inflammatories all that hard, or maybe have a high tolerence?

        It's a safe bet that your relatively conservative training and racing tactics have been a big factor in your longevity. Have you noticed an extended performance drop off in runners who have major physical issues at a single 100 miler? Overtraining can obviously require an extended recovery period, but I don't think we know the long term effects of single ultra episode of rhabdo, dehydration, etc. I've always wondered what exactly happened to Salazar and Beardsley in their Duel in the Sun, as both have mentioned that their running was never the same after that race. With respect to ultras, I think the common trend among top runners is to have a peak lifetime performance period that is significantly shorter than top marathoners. I'm really not comfortable saying that ultra runners train harder than Meb or Geb, so maybe it's the race specific stresses that lead to short peak periods?

  8. Speedgoatkarl

    I use a little Ibuprofen, the rule stands at 100mg per hour max. And only if I am nicely hyrdrated. But not overly hydrated. I consumed 1200mg total at Antelope. 400mg at 4.5 hours, 400mg at 9 hours, 400mg at 13 hours. I never break those limits and typically it's about every 5-6 hours, depending on soreness.

    I saw that Salazar and Beardsley duel, my dad was running Boston that year, I was about 1 mile from the finish line. It's true, that was their best race. But who knows. I certainly don't train as hard as Meb. Good god no. :-) I just like to run far.

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