In 2012, Karl Meltzer will be toeing the line at the Hardrock 100 for the 10th time. During that span, he’s won the race 5 times and dropped out three times. (He was second in 2007.) Find out what keeps bringing Karl back to Hardrock, how he approaches 100 milers as difficult as this one, and why he’ll be using poles in this year’s race. He also chats about the tremendous field at the Speedgoat 50k he’s directing at the end of July.
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Karl Meltzer Pre-2012 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Karl Meltzer on a relaxing afternoon prior to the start of 2012 Hardrock 100.
Karl Meltzer: Just another day at the office, Bryon.
iRF: Hardly. Hardly.
Meltzer: You know, I’m looking forward to this race. It’s competitive up front. Yeah, I’m one of them, but I don’t think I’ll be all the way up front with those guys. I’m old and smart. Hardrock is a big equalizer when it comes to speed, so I think I’ll do fine. I’ll just do my own thing.
iRF: What is your plan? Doing your own thing—what does that mean at Hardrock? You have a full day to deal with, a night, and possibly a little bit the next day. How do you spread that effort out?
Meltzer: Doing my own thing at Hardrock means not chasing the leaders or even considering chasing the leaders all day because the race doesn’t even begin until you’re basically at Sherman—mile 79 or 70 or something like that. I don’t even know how far it is.
iRF: A ways.
Meltzer: I don’t look at splits; I don’t look at times. This race for me is all about effort. So if I’m running in the front to the river, it’s not a race to the river, but if I’m running in the front to the river, then everybody’s going really, really slow. I don’t force myself to go hard early because I know in this race there are so many variables. It doesn’t matter how fast you are once you blow here. I’ve blown three times. Hal has blown. He finished but blew; he’ll tell you that. It’s a great equalizer. I think there are 10 guys in this race that will be close. I think Dakota is the man to beat hands down. He’s done the Kyle Skaggs research. He’s been living here. He should kill it, if he’s smart. It seems like he’s playing that game. Hopefully he’s not feeling any pressure; there’s pressure on him. We’re all watching him. I just do my thing. It’s my 10th time starting. I used to be more fired up. I used to come here to acclimatize. I just showed up here last night, less than 24 hours ago. I’ve run my fastest time without acclimatizing, so I don’t consider it to be that big of a deal.
iRF: So how do you approach… you ran Rocky Raccoon 14-low earlier this year. This is going to take 24-28 hours, roughly half the time. How big of a difference is that pacing? Are you actually pushing the tempo a lot in a “fast 100,” as opposed to this?
Meltzer: It’s back to effort again. Honestly, it really is about effort. I’ve said if you’re sucking wind you’re going too fast, granted at 11,000 feet you’re probably sucking wind anyway, but if you’re ever breathing hard here, you’re going too fast for your ability. So I stick with my ability. Yes, Rocky Raccoon and 14 hours is fast, but it’s an 8:30 mile. For me and the other front guys, an 8:30 mile is really not that fast, so we’re not breathing hard there. You just hope you can sustain that effort through to the end. When Hal won it this year, he held that effort a lot better than I did. He’s better at that stuff than I am, too, I think.
This race… any 100, I think is effort. I know Western is a speed race, and that was awesome, but if Tim Olson would have been running way out of his shoes at mile 30, he might not have run 14:46. He wasn’t running out of his shoes because he’s that fit, and it feels ok to him. Everyone here that runs their race, whether it’s 24 hours or 48, people just have to stay within their means and they’ll finish.
iRF: Or they’ll get punished harshly.
Meltzer: Or they’ll get punished. This is a race about finishing. It’s not always about time. It is for the guys in the front, I ain’t gonna lie to you.
iRF: That and there were the lottery changes that were just announced for next year. One of those is even if you’re one of those guys who have finished 5 times, with two DNF’s then you’re out of that pool. So what do you think about that?
Meltzer: I think it’s good. I think it’s eventually going to weed out the old boys like myself. This year is when it starts, so just remember I can DNF twice—not that I’m going to. But I’m just saying that I think it’s good. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. They have to revise that all the time because there are always going to be more entrants, there will always be that old group of 35 of us that will get an automatic. Someday, they’ll make that go to 10 finishes in order to be automatic. That’s just a sign of the times.
iRF: You’ve got to rebalance.
Meltzer: Yeah, you’ve got to rebalance, and you’ve got the right guys to rebalance it.
iRF: You’ve got nuclear physicists.
Meltzer: Yeah, I’m not going to make that algorhithm or whatever they call it. They have their stuff together and I think it’s good.
iRF: So obviously you’re going to go out there with no pacer, but poles.
Meltzer: Yes, poles are… well, here’s the thing. Hardrock is one of the few races in the United States that poles are helpful. It’s wide open. It’s either cross-country or the trails are wide open so you can use them efficiently. The climbs are long, so over time they help. I’m still carrying them myself. It’s one thing like in European races where they make you carry all this stuff, some stuff – it’s not that bad. Then you can be self-sufficient. I’ve always run better self-sufficient. I focus more on my own race. Poles, I’ve been using them for about a month straight. You can probably see that I’m getting pretty big there. (Shows biceps.) It’s helped me a lot because I’m really used to folding them back up and switching them out, drinking my water and stuff with the poles strapped to my hands. If I came here with poles in my bag and I hadn’t used them in a month, probably not a wise decision because you’re fumbling around and it gets in your way.
iRF: The first time you got to use poles was out in the middle of the Hardrock course, right?
Meltzer: That’s right.
iRF: It felt like cheating?
Meltzer: It felt like cheating. I picked them up at Grouse, I believe it was Grouse. And I started going and I was just really liking the push I was getting out of them. They were heavier poles, too, but it helped a lot. Last year I started with them, and I was psyched to start with them, but then after awhile I kind of wasn’t fired up about having then, so I got rid of them. I think this year I have a bit of a neuroma issue on my foot, I think the poles will help that a tiny bit just taking a little shock off that. That’s another reason… if I have a real issue… I shouldn’t have an issue, but if I do, downhill those things will keep me moving. So that’s kind of another reason.
iRF: So this will be your tenth start here. What keeps bringing you back to Hardrock? You’ve run here…
Meltzer: Look around. Seriously. This course is better than any other course. There is no course like it. UTMB is not like this; it’s beautiful but it’s not this. It’s been my baby. I started in 1999 my first time. It gets harder to not come here. If I could come back here every other year maybe until I’m the next Hans-Dieter, that would be cool. We’ll see. Great course—that’s all.
iRF: You’ve got a big race tomorrow, but at the end of the month there’s also a big race—Speedgoat 50k.
Meltzer: Yeah, we’ve got Speedgoat 50k coming July 28. So when I finish this, I’ll be hobbling around that course trying to mark it.
iRF: You’ve stepped up the game quite a bit this year.
Meltzer: We’ve got a pretty good field. It’s a Skyrunner Series race this year so we’ve got a few Europeans—a couple of those fast Europeans in Kilian [Jornet], [Thomas] Lorblanchet, Philipp Reiter – along with Max King, Ricky Gates, Jason Louder, Gary Robbins, help me out, Anton Krupicka, Anna Frost, Nikki Kimball, Dylan Bowman, Joe Grant, the list continues. There are multiple local guys that are fast. Ben Lewis is really fast. It’s going to be a great race. We’ve got prize money; we’ve got $1,200 prize money. So it’s going to look like more of a race rather than a “Speedgoat event,” but at the same time, PBR at the finish line, pizza, and First Endurance Ultragen—it’s the perfect combination. Cross the line, drink an Ultragen, beer, pizza—you’re good.
iRF: I don’t have to drink the First Endurance at the finish because I’ll be covering the race for you, but we’ll enjoy some pizza and beer. We’ll hear from you again this Sunday and then at Speedgoat.