Kilian Jornet finished third at the 2012 Transvulcania ultramarathon just a few days after finishing his ski mountaineering season. In the following interview he talks about how he thought he’d have to drop out, his fainting at the end, what his thoughts are on the competition at the upcoming Zegama Marathon, what Skyrunning means to him, and his plans for running and racing in the US this summer, as well as how he’s come to balance his media obligations with his life and his running. He also hints at an upcoming project involving just him and many mountains.
Kilian Jornet Post-2012 Transvulcania Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here with Kilian Jornet of Salomon Running after the Transvulcania Ultramarathon and before the Zegama Marathon. You’ve had a very long ski-mountaineering season; we’ll start with that. How did your season go this year?
Kilian Jornet: I think it was my regular season. For the results, last season was my best season ever. For me this season was really regular. During the winter, I had less (weak) moments so I feel really good at the end of the season.
iRF: Your (ski-mo) season didn’t end very long ago. How many runs did you have between the end of your ski season and Transvulcania?
Jornet: I had 4 runs in Greece with the Salomon team at the end of March. And then, two days (of running) before Transvulcania. I had the Patrouille des Glaciers ski race that was 10 days before Transvulcania. And then I had the crossing of Aravis, which was a longer crossing with the skis, on the Tuesday before Transvulcania.
iRF: Was that 8-10 hours?
Jornet: It was 10.5 hours. I think there were 16 climbs and 16 descents.
iRF: How many meters up?
Jornet: It was 6500 meters. Good training for long but the temperature was a little bit colder.
iRF: On last Saturday, it was quite warm at Transvulcania. How do you think your race went?
Jornet: I hadn’t been very confident before the race because it’s the end of ski season and I haven’t been running so much. I started and felt really good during the race; I ran with Dakota all the time and felt really good. In parts I felt like I needed more running training, but in the uphills and the downhills it was great. In the last 15 kilometers, I had a problem with the heat and I fell. Then the last 10 kilometers I was thinking I’d never finish the race.
iRF: You thought you wouldn’t finish the race?
Jornet: Yes, when I came to the beach my vision was cloudy and I thought it was impossible to finish. So I’m really happy for the results and I’m really happy for Dakota and his winning. I’m happy to finish the race.
iRF: Yeah, you were really competitive most of the race. You were running with Dakota down the hill and Andy Symonds went flying by. The way Dakota described it, you were in an aid station and Andy went by and you just left and attacked.
Jornet: Yeah, because during the downhill I felt relaxed. Dakota was in front… and when Andy caught us and passed I said, “Ok, I need to go with Andy.” So I go with Andy and after a bit I pass Andy. After that there’s a little bit of a flat section and Andy passed me. After that I started to see that some things were not working well.
iRF: Do you think that you drank enough during the race?
Jornet: Yes, I drink a lot and I pee normally and the medial control took blood and the sodium and potassium were normal so I don’t think it was dehydration as much as it was my body was warmer, warmer, warmer. The transition from the cold to the hot for me was not so long.
iRF: Speaking of medical control, after you made it to the line, it was great that you made it to the line, you fainted, and you passed out. What happened? Did you feel it coming?
Jornet: I don’t know! I have a lot of scenes during the last half that I don’t remember. So when I come to the finish line, then I fall. Then they feed me with oxygen and saline for recovery.
iRF: Are you feeling better?
Jornet: Yes. The day after was good. The legs feel good. So was good recovery for Zegama.
iRF: So you are going to run Zegama?
Jornet: Yeah, of course.
iRF: So how many times have you won Zegama, 4 times?
Jornet: Yes, 4 times at Zegama.
iRF: You won last year?
Jornet: Yes, last year.
iRF: Can you tell me a little about the course?
Jornet: Yes. Zegama is a little bit like Transvulcania. There are thousands of spectators and it’s an amazing thing because you run for them and they push you. It’s an incredible race. It’s not the most difficult race or the most technical like Trofeo Kima or the Dolomites. But it’s a quite technical race. It’s just that there are thousands of people on the mountain.
iRF: So it’s really exciting?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s really exciting and the level this year is really high with Luis Hernando, with Max King, with the Basque runner, so it will be a good race.
iRF: It will be a competitive race. So you’ve run Zegama 4 times but you’ve been running in Skyrunning events forever. We just saw a picture of you running in 2005 or 2006?
iRF: What does Skyrunning mean to you? In the United States it hasn’t been as well known. Tell us about Skyrunning.
Jornet: Skyrunning is the philosophy to go fast in the mountains. My philosophy is, if I’m in my home and I see a nice mountain, I want to go to the top. You just go with shoes, running shorts, and you go to the top and back down for dinner. So the philosophy is to go running in the mountains and go from the bottom to the top to the bottom. So they are technical races and they are like the mountain.
iRF: It sounds exactly like who you are.
Jornet: Yeah, when I discovered the sport, this was my sport because I’m a mountain lover and I can just go running.
iRF: Well you’re going to come over and love some mountains in the United States this summer. Can you tell us about your plans?
Jornet: Yes, this year in racing, I’ll race Western States another time, then Speedgoat 50k and Pikes Peak Marathon. But between Speedgoat and Pikes Peak, I plan to continue training in the United States in the mountains in Colorado, the Grand Canyon, and the Tetons. I’d like to discover it a little, this part of the USA.
iRF: Do you have any, not races, but any mountains you’re looking to set a record on, just for yourself?
Jornet: I’d like to run the Rim to Rim to Rim. I think I ran that 2 years ago and did it in around 7 hours, so I’d like to run that. And maybe the Grand Teton, it’s a nice mountain so I’d like to climb that.
iRF: You’re really fortunate in that Salomon is great at supporting you. You’ve gotten to do a couple Kilian’s Quests. What dreams do you have left? What mountains do you want to go explore? What is calling to you? Do you have projects outside running?
Jornet: Yeah, first of all, me and a lot of runners, we are more mountaineers than runners so competition is a small part of this life. I like to go to the mountains. Now on the 29th of May, I will present a big project we will be working towards for the next 4-5 years. We are preparing a big project in the mountains all over the world. I think we have a great team. It’s a very small team. It’s just one camera man, Sebastien Montaz, he’s really good. He can perform in any conditions. Then it will be just me without any assistance or logistics. It’s more free. I see that if you go to one mountain and you break an ankle you put 10 persons with a bottle and you put ropes. It’s not real life. It’s just a toy, so we need to go there with health.
iRF: So it’s going to be just you and the mountain and somebody to take a picture.
iRF: It seems like you’re simplifying things. You’re going to the core of who you are. Last year you dropped out of a race late in the season in part because you were just overwhelmed by the media and interviews and email. Have you made peace with that? Have you found a balance between your own life and the obligations to the sponsors and the media?
Jornet: Yeah, it’s very important to find this balance. We need to know that we’re athletes and we’re in the top of these races so a lot of people follow us and a lot of people take a picture with us. But this is just a moment. We need to understand the real life is who we are with our friends or in the mountains so we need to form this balance. Last year these things had a lot of weight. So this summer we prepared better and for training too, for going to the mountain to prepare for races, and so I’m confident with it.
iRF: So you’ve found more time for you, for training, for yourself, for your spirit. [Jornet: Yes.] Well it’s always great seeing you and I look forward to seeing you in the States after Zegama.
Jornet: Yes! Thanks, Bryon.