Nikki Kimball made her long-awaited Hardrock 100 debut, taking second in the process. In the following interview, Nikki talks about how she’s adjusting her pacing as she ages, how she came through a tough patch early in the race, what the sport’s about for her, and how a little lightning had her surging on the race’s final climb.
For more on how the race played out and for links to other interviews, check out our 2018 Hardrock 100 results article.
Nikki Kimball Post-2018 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nikki Kimball after her second place at the 2018 Hardrock 100. Congratulations, Nikki.
Nikki Kimball: Shared a few miles with you out there.
iRunFar: We did share some time out there.
Kimball: Some bad jokes.
iRunFar: Some bad jokes… some good jokes…well, no…
iRunFar: We had a good time out there.
iRunFar: You finished second, but you had some rough patches early. You just have this wealth of experiences and great performances, but it’s not always easy.
Kimball: It isn’t. I think I just didn’t have time to altitude train except for a great ski weekends in the Beartooths. I stayed in Ouray for a week before. I think I was just getting super dizzy with the altitude. I do well generally at altitude, but not this kind of altitude.
iRunFar: This is pretty high.
Kimball: Yeah, and I think it’s so hard for me to know pacing because my body is constantly changing. When my track workouts are a minute-and-a-half slower going from six minutes to seven-and-a-half, if you’re doing 20-minute pace, what’s it going to?
iRunFar: And it’s a difference of endurance versus total speed.
Kimball: Right, exactly. This isn’t my 35-year-old body. This is my 47-year-old body.
iRunFar: And it’s also not a track run. It’s so variable even within this race.
Kimball: It is. It is, but I think I was consistent for a decade, and, then, each year I have to figure out, Okay, what can this body really do?But I had a great little meltdown, and just kind of laid down and…
iRunFar: Coming out of Telluride… tell me what that was like. How bad was it? What was going on?
Kimball: I was dizzy. Every time… I couldn’t walk in a straight line at mile 20-something. I just felt the altitude, I guess, really. I knew I was just over… if you push it a little too hard at altitude, it takes forever to come back out of it. That’s a mistake I knew I shouldn’t make, but I just wasn’t treating my body well enough. I wasn’t just, Okay, this is where you are right now.
iRunFar: At that moment, did you even consider dropping?
Kimball: No, that’s why I took my little siesta. It was a little meditation. You have 48 hours to do this. It is disrespectful to the race to not finish if you can. If you’re hurt you should drop without a doubt.
iRunFar: And you weren’t hurt.
Kimball: I wasn’t hurt. I was just… I really needed to kind of think. It helped a lot. I’m really glad I did it. The last 60 miles I felt awesome.
iRunFar: You took a 10-minute pause?
Kimball: Yeah, but my bad section, I was barely moving for a couple hours, just crawling way slower than I was at 95 miles. So, what do you do?
iRunFar: This is something people can put in their tool bag. If things are going really wrong, take a break.
Kimball: Just lie down. It was great. I found this piece of forest that was really green, and I just laid down. I put my pack as my pillow. It was just good to stop and think about… why you’re here; you know it’s beautiful. Then, once I started feeling well, then I was like… well, I went from thinking it was a race to talking to myself, like, “No, you’re just going to finish this,” to then I started feeling great, and then I’m like, “AHHHHHH,” because I wanted to race. But honestly, I’ve been out of a walking boot for four months. I skied all winter. I can’t complain about how my body is right now.
iRunFar: But having seen you race before, like at Western States, I’ve seen you were you’re joking around and going easy early on in a positive way before you go into “Nikki Mode.” So it wasn’t in a positive light, but could have going easier…
Kimball: Well, actually, I felt pretty chill until the first crew station, and then between there and Telluride, I think it was just one gear too high. It just threw me in a way that it wouldn’t have at a different altitude, but I know that. It’s just… whatever. The damage control I did obviously worked because I kept getting stronger and stronger all race, and I just kind of ran out of real estate. Come on, just give us 20 more miles.
iRunFar: So that switch did flick at some point.
Kimball: It did. I was just having a blast. I’m able to run hard and that’s awesome. Everyone you’re running with is so fun. It’s awesome.
iRunFar: I was just a little reassured when I saw you coming out of Maggie that it wasn’t you rapping. It was your pacer.
Kimball: Oh, yeah. I KNOW. What were we at 13,000 feet, and she’s rapping?? About gingers running?
iRunFar: She was freestyling.
Kimball: It was amazing.
iRunFar: You had a pretty good crew out there?
Kimball: They were awesome. It was all people I’ve coached or been friends with for years and years and years. Jennifer Hemmonshowing up—we went to high school together. How awesome is this sport? That’s really what it’s about is the people and the community, and that’s what Hardrock is about. And this community sharing these insane mountains… how can we not love it?
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s pretty hard not to. It must have felt good having something those last miles. You were moving well.
Kimball: Yeah, it was kind of funny. Some of the photographers on the course were like, “Why are you still smiling?” “Because it’s fricking awesome!”
iRunFar: You didn’t get hit with much weather?
Kimball: Only one—we had that one storm that you probably just missed on that last climb. A storm came out and we were right at the top when it started.
iRunFar: On Little Giant? Oh yeah, we… got that.
Kimball: The lightning was far enough away that… but putting a surge on at Little Giant? That’s not a… as good as I was feeling, I really wasn’t looking forward to going 400-meter pace to get off that mountain, but there was nothing else we could do. We had to get out.
iRunFar: You didn’t have to turn around.
Kimball: We didn’t have to turn around. That would have been so bad. It was just… whew!
iRunFar: What was your favorite part of the race?
Kimball: The last 90 miles? No, really, once I started feeling good around Ouray, it was all great. But it was all beautiful. How could you pick and choose? Everyone is, “Oh, Handies because it’s tall,” but everything is amazing. It’s hard to find an ugly inch of this course.
iRunFar: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess your name will be in the lottery for next year?
Kimball: Oh, definitely it will. I would so love to get in again. I’ve been running since the 90’s. This is one those things you want to do. I’d love to do this every year.
iRunFar: You finally got to do it though.
Kimball: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn’t always apply, but… it’s something you dream of from when you start.
iRunFar: Special to finally kiss that rock.
Kimball: Yeah, it is and to just share it. Running with Darla [Askew]for miles and miles and miles…
iRunFar: Did you?
Kimball: Yeah, and Jeff Romeearly on. He was a student PT of mine.
iRunFar: Was he? I had no idea!
iRunFar: He had a pretty good race, too. You were both second.
Kimball: Yeah, that was so cool. Yeah, we were both second.
iRunFar: Anything else on your calendar coming up?
Kimball: I think I’m doing the Gobi 400, but I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure I can afford to take time off work. That’s the… we’ll see.
iRunFar: I’d highly encourage it. It’s a lot of fun.
Kimball: Yeahhhhh, I do have to pay my mortgage.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great run here at Hardrock. I hope you’ll be back here again soon.
Kimball: Thanks so much.