Megan Kimmel is best known as shorter-distance, mountain-running specialist who will be taking her third shot at the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships on Saturday. In the following interview, Megan talks about her adventurous take on this race, her previous experiences here, and her hopes for the weekend.
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Megan Kimmel Pre-2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: This is Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Megan Kimmel ahead of the 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile. How’s it going?
Megan Kimmel: Good. How about you?
iRunFar: Pretty solid. Just enjoying this weather and a little Mill Valley flooding today.
Kimmel: Yeah, absolutely. Right out the front door here.
iRunFar: There might be a car under water over there—hopefully not yours because you are camping out in a camper van while you’re out here in California. How is that going?
Kimmel: Oh, it’s going great. It’s kind of the direction I’d like my life to go in the next little while, so I’m just giving it a test run right now. I’m really liking the freedom of being able to be wherever I want to be and go wherever I want to go.
iRunFar: So does that mean next summer maybe we’ll see you living on the road in a car?
Kimmel: For a little bit, yeah. I’ll also be holding down a job, I’m sure, but weekends, and yeah, part of it is to try and get out of flying so much and just to be able to take more time getting to races and also spending more time where I am racing.
iRunFar: That seems like a definite bonus to having a camper van is you did some cool stuff around town the past couple of days.
Kimmel: Absolutely, yeah.
iRunFar: You never know where you’ll park your wheels.
Kimmel: No, I’m not too organized for this race anyway, but around here it’s a lot easier. In a lot of other places in the United States you’d have to be a little bit more organized, but this area is a lot like Colorado where it’s pretty easy to not have to stay in Safeway parking lots.
iRunFar: Let’s not see Megan at the Safeway the night before the race.
Kimmel: Yeah, I’d rather not.
iRunFar: You are known in the American trail running community as a shorter-distance specialist. You’ve basically annihilated most short-distance trail races. I’m thinking of trail races in the 20 to 40k range. You’re the only women’s champion of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup. You’ve won it every year that it’s taken place?
Kimmel: There could have been one year, the very first year, but I don’t know for sure. I know that that was one of the first things I started doing when I got into trail running. That was my very first year, and I’ve done it ever since.
iRunFar: Yet you still seem to sort of toy with this ultra distance. This is your third visit to The North Face Endurance Championships 50 Mile distance. This is your only ultra you’ve run?
iRunFar: Go big or go home with 50 miles at the most competitive one you can find every year?
iRunFar: Is that really the mentality why you show up?
Kimmel: Yeah, partially. If I’m going to… well, I would have to say that over that is just this area… the first time I came out here I’d never done a race in California before. I was just looking to do a California race. I didn’t understand why there wasn’t more California runners or what the deal was with California. To me, it does seem like a lot of Colorado where it should have a really competitive running scene. I’d also known about The North Face race since I’d started racing. I was always drawn to it. But Marin County is gorgeous, if you ask me, especially with the contrast to Colorado, especially in December where Colorado is cold and snowy which I love, but out here is just really refreshing. That a little bit more than just getting ultras under my belt, and within that, just going with the biggest one. I do think there’s something to that. If I’m going to come out to a race, I’d rather come out and be against a lot of really good competition than just go out and get an ultra just to… it’s two birds with one stone, I guess, is what it is.
iRunFar: You’re right, though, when you come from the Rocky Mountain region to here, it does feel so refreshing—green, moist, all of the oxygen of sea level. It definitely gives off that vibe when you come from where you come from.
Kimmel: Absolutely. I definitely noticed the amount of oxygen as soon as I walked outside from the airport. The green lushness is unbelievable.
iRunFar: So let’s talk a little bit about your history with this race. You first ran the race in 2012, and that year you didn’t make it to the finish because of an injury? Is that a fair description?
Kimmel: Yeah, I guess it was some chronic issues that I was dealing with. I came out to that race pretty much having a 90% chance of not finishing the race, but I was so intrigued by this race and I had friends doing it. That was enough.
iRunFar: “I want to be there, too!”
Kimmel: Yeah, exactly. I couldn’t not come. What if I did finish the race? I got suckered in that year in my own head as far as that goes, and it did end up that I had to stop about five miles short because my calves ended up seizing up to the point that I was walking and then that brought on not full-on hypothermia but enough that at the next aid station I was just done.
iRunFar: 2012 was the year of incredible rain, just buckets pouring out of the sky the whole race.
iRunFar: It’s a good reason why if you’re not running at a steady pace why you’re going to have cold issues out there.
Kimmel: Yes, once you stop running and you’re just walking and you don’t have your jacket with you…
iRunFar: It doesn’t feel so good anymore.
Kimmel: Yeah, that 50-degree temperature, that warm 50 degrees turns to really cold 50 degrees quickly.
iRunFar: So 2013, last year, that was your second try at the race, you made it to the finish line inside the top 10. Talk about your experiences finishing an ultra and putting that one in the books.
Kimmel: Yeah, that was certainly my only goal for that race was to actually finish the ultra. That was a huge accomplishment, yet I knew I had a lot of work to do to improve on where I wanted to be as a runner doing ultra races.
iRunFar: So you’re back now after another season of shorter distances where you annihilated the La Sportiva Cup here in America again. You just ran, a month ago, the Moab Trail Marathon in a super-fast time on a gritty course.
Kimmel: Yeah, it is a gritty course.
iRunFar: So what’s your mentality going into this race this year? You said last year you were glad to finish but you think there’s more there for you. Are you going to be looking for a higher place this year? What’s your hope?
Kimmel: Yeah, in all honesty, I kind of just hope I finish again. If I finish again, I think finishing at a higher place would be fairly easy. I was definitely fairly crippled last year as well. Yeah, it’s really hard to break the race mentality of wanting to do well, so I am shooting to kind of leave the racer mentality back just a little bit. In my mind, I just want to run with a little more grace than I have in the past couple of years, have my body feel good so I can enjoy the race a little bit more, and other than that, I’m just going to see kind of what happens the first bit of the race.
iRunFar: Play it by ear?
Kimmel: Yeah. I definitely have two sides to me right now when I speak these words, but then there’s the racer back here going, “If you’re not going to go and win it, then why do it?” I’m trying to put that thing a little further back.
iRunFar: It’s like the devil on one shoulder and the little angel on the other.
Kimmel: Right, sure, yeah.
iRunFar: On that note, since Mother Nature is not exactly being super graceful at the moment, good luck to you and we’ll see you out there this weekend.
Kimmel: Thank you so much, Meghan.