The USA’s Megan Kimmel is taking her first shot at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon. In this interview, Megan talks about her 2018 season where she juggled lots of shorter races along with a long one at the TDS, her race last weekend at high altitude in China, and her thoughts about running an early season longer ultramarathon.
Megan Kimmel Pre-2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Megan Kimmel. It’s a couple days before the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. You’ve just arrived here from China. How’s it going?
Megan Kimmel: Whew I’m tired, fresh off the boat or the plane as it is. It’s a refreshing change of scenery and feel for sure.
iRunFar: Yeah, what was the altitude of the hotel you were sleeping in?
Kimmel: It was 4,000-something meters. 4,300 meters I want to say, something like that.
iRunFar: And we’re at about four meters right here.
iRunFar: How’s that feeling?
Kimmel: There’s a lot more oxygen.
iRunFar: How’s that feel?
Kimmel: Yeah it feels good for sure, nice breeze, sunshine, it all feels really nice right now.
iRunFar: Awesome. The last time we had you on camera was after the 2017 North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships where you podium-ed there and during that interview you were pretty gung-ho on long races, saying, “In 2018, I’m gonna’ do some long races. I’m really stoked about the TDS.” Now here we are in 2019. You did a bunch of short races in 2018 and one long race, the TDS. Here we are at kind of another long race?
Kimmel: I was kind of thinking the same thing, but I couldn’t have told you that I was preaching those words back in 2017. 2018 definitely turned into another short year for me, short-distance racing that is. It was a pretty big year in the way that I really wasn’t ready to go into ultras as much as I thought I was going to be. This is a race I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time and I’m to the point where I’m not sure the timing is ever going to be right with how it’s early in the season for such a long distance for me. But I had to pass up the opportunity last year because I had a horrible cough from a travel and there was no way I was going to miss it this year.
iRunFar: I didn’t know that. Did you come here last year and then you couldn’t race?
Kimmel: No, I was signed up and ready to go, booked flights and everything, but the cough lasted two months and there was no way I could race, so I had to bail on it.
iRunFar: So last year’s goal got moved to this year here we are?
iRunFar: You’re literally fresh off the boat slash airplane, you raced the Yading Skyrun, about 30k, last weekend in China?
Kimmel: Yep, 32k.
iRunFar: And you were a lady boss up there, I think you won the race by 45 minutes or something?
Kimmel: I’m not sure the gap between first and second but high altitude is kind of my bread and butter. It was a fun experience and I think Ragna [Debats] had just come off of doing the Marathon [des Sables] [joking about French pronunciation]…
iRunFar: Well done [about the pronunciation].
Kimmel: You’d have to ask her how her day was going, but it was a fun day.
iRunFar: You’ve been out to Yading a couple times now. I think you must like that part of the world?
Kimmel: I certainly love really high peaks in which there’s three somewhat really high, beautiful peaks out there. I love small mountain towns and I love traveling to far-out places, so those are the reasons Yading has been a good place for me to go. This year it was more of a travel-logistics thing than anything else. I was in Japan before that; China was a good layover before coming here for Transvulcania.
iRunFar: Are you continuing your world tour after this?
Kimmel: Yep, I have two weeks in Chamonix where I’m just gonna’ be training before going to the Zegama Marathon. Then I’ll be going home after that.
iRunFar: Right on. Altogether this is how many weeks on the road?
Kimmel: I think it’ll end up being six or seven.
iRunFar: And you’re probably gonna’ arrive home smack dab in mud season in Colorado, like a really late mud season.
Kimmel: Yeah this year for sure with all the snow that we’ve had. I’m not thinking that far yet, there’s always options in my–in our–neck of the woods.
iRunFar: One step at a time.
iRunFar: Okay so we’re here on La Palma, you just landed and your bag isn’t here, but you’ve got some running clothes.
iRunFar: You’ve already had a run.
Kimmel: I’ve had a short one, yeah.
iRunFar: What are your thoughts going into–I mean, you’ve done races that are six hours, seven hours, this is kind of creeping up on the longer end of what you have done. But you’ve nailed a couple of 50 milers at this point, so what are your thoughts? It is early May, though.
Kimmel: Now that the last two races are done and this race is this weekend, I’m beginning to think more about this race and I’m kind of beginning to remember what 50 miles feels like–this is pretty darn close to a 50 miler. I’m wrapping my head around that right now. I have the confidence that I’ll be all right. I’m not sure if I’m gonna’ be able to give it my best performance ever, but I’ll certainly try.
iRunFar: This course runs pretty interestingly in that most of the climbing is packed into–it’s 14,000 feet of climbing but it’s packed into [the first] 60k or something like that. Then a huge amount of the elevation loss is packed into the final 30k. Have you given any thoughts to the way that the course kind of accordions the climbing and the descending like that? How that gonna’ feel on your body?
Kimmel: Yeah, certainly I have thought a lot about the descent in particular and how that’s a pretty long downhill, but the other more positive way to look at it is it’s pretty easy to run downhill energetically or energy-wise. To me, you could almost shorten it to 50k of uphill and then the finish. I’m just going to go in that direction on this one and I’m also really curious to see what the course is like in the next couple days, to see if it’s actually a really slow grind or if there’s more undulating terrain, which is kind of what I’m hoping for, some turnover and stuff like that.
iRunFar: I think you’re gonna’ find a lot of undulating terrain there. There are some bigger climbs that kind of go on forever but it’s amazing how runnable the course is.
Kimmel: Yeah that sounds like fun to me.
iRunFar: And you are no stranger to sustained downhill. You ran the Pikes Peak Marathon this past summer, set a new course record there, broke Lynn Bjorklund’s amazing record. That has 13 miles of sustained downhill, is that right?
Kimmel: Yeah that is right, half up, half down.
iRunFar: I mean the whole–the entire way is downhill?
iRunFar: What was that like? Obviously it went pretty well for you?
Kimmel: Yeah. Pikes Peak is a very runnable downhill. It’s not that steep, so you can really just fly and it doesn’t put a tremendous amount of pressure on your body and on your joints. So if this downhill is like that, I think it’s going to be pretty good.
iRunFar: I think it’s a lot steeper but the amount of time that you’re doing it for isn’t that different from how long it takes somebody like you to go down Pikes Peak. The whole mechanics of it is different but the amount of time that you’re committed to going downhill is, to me, kind of similar.
Kimmel: Okay, so yeah I mean downhill is easier than uphill.
iRunFar: We’ll ask you how you’re feeling about the downhill at the bottom of it on Saturday.
iRunFar: All right, best of luck to you at Transvulcania on Saturday and perhaps more importantly best of luck in your bag arriving from China.
Kimmel: Thanks so much for both.