An Interview With Karl Meltzer, the Wasatch Speedgoat and 2006 Ultrarunner of the Year

[Karl is a friend of mine. I could have just asked him these questions on the phone and kept them to myself. But I figured the rest of the ultra world might be interested in what is going through his mind these days. So I asked him if I could post an interview. He was kind enough to oblige.]

For those uninitiated Karl Meltzer is the man. Last year, this man won six 100 mile ultramarathons, including two of the toughest; the Hardrock 100 and the HURT 100. Along the way he set four course records. So far in 2007 he’s won the Moab Red Hot 50k, the Massanutten 100, and the Big Horn 100 (course record). In July he also won the 2007 Everest Award for best outdoor athlete.

OK let’s get right to it. The whole (ultra) world is talking about Scott Jurek’s comments about Dean Karnazes on EndurancePlanet.com. What is your take on that situation?

KM:
As far as I am concerned it is their deal, The whole controversy between Scott and Dean is really between them. I do agree with Scott that the media should recognize the real champions. When Dean Karnazes wrote his book and was on David Letterman promoting it, it is hard to say if he knew he would be labeled as “Americas greatest runner”, but it happened and now we have controversy. And Dean is NOT the best Ultrarunner out there. I am sure he knows that.

First off let me just say that the front runners at this years Hardrock 100 made it soo exciting to watch. You are all amazing! How did the race go for you? Will you be back next year?

KM:
The race went as expected, Scott, Mark Hartell, Ricky Denesik and myself. I completely expected this. The race was super fast at the halfway point, mostly because of the excitement and the perfect weather. I was just cruising the whole way and not really pushing the downhills much, my quads really weren’t all there, they were about 90% ready, and in this race they needed to be 100%. Most of the ground I lost before Telluride was all the downhill. My strength is climbing and there I held my own. While climbing out of Telluride, for some reason I got very sleepy, and lost a lot of ground, when I made it to Chapman (mi. 85), I sat and got hypothermic and had to get warm before continuing. The two hour nappy-pooh was what I really needed. I had no intention of dropping, it is never in the gameplan.
I will not return to Hardrock next year, I have other plans. I will return in the future.

Just 6 weeks after Hardrock you and Jurek meet again in France for the Mont Blanc (160k/99.4 miles, with 9,000m/29,527ft vert gain). Which is just two weeks away now. How are you approaching this race? How are you feeling, recovered and healthy?

KM:
I feel recovered and ready to rip one off. As long as I don’t consume too much wine I should be fine. I plan on running my own race as usual, I do my best with this method. I will not focus on any other runners plans, only mine. I have a few secrets up my sleeve.

The press release on Mont Blanc made it sound like the field was stacked with all of Europe’s ultradistance elites. Who else do you see as competition?

KM:
I would have to say, the competition is real stiff. The last 4 winners are all present, as well as Mr. Koerner. I can’t really say much about the other runners mentioned because I do not know their history. Any way you look at it, it’ll be fast start and just hanging till the end will be tough.

How in the world do you run so many 100 mile ultras? It simply doesn’t seem possible to be recovered enough to run so many. Let alone be winning and setting course records. How do you recover after a 100 to get ready for the next one?

KM:
I recover well be not running much for a week after my races, my body gets to heal quickly this way, I play It by ear mostly and run how I feel. As far as my speed, it is the speed I run, remember we only go 5-6 miles per hour and that really is not that fast.

Let’s talk training a bit. What does your typical training week look like?

KM:
My weekly mileage is around 50-60 mountain miles, but really it is all how I feel. After I put on the Wasatchspeedgoat 50K I was fried and took a mandatory 5 days off, now I feel back to normal. Again, it goes back to running how I feel.

How many miles a week do you average? And how many miles is your big week before a taper?

KM: I average about 50-60 mountain miles a week, I usually take a couple of extra days off the week before the race.

Where do you find the motivation to train?
KM:

Just love to run, I don’t’ really train, I consider it time to just go out and play in the mountains. I sometimes think of the people out there that work all day, knowing I will always avoid that whenever possible is a great motivator.

What’s next after Mont Blanc for you Karl?

KM:
The Bear 100 is on September 28, the record is soft and ready to be broken. If I can find a willing runner to compete with at the Trans-Rockies Multi-day race I might do that instead and chase the $4000 in prize money. We’ll see.

You and the other Wasatch speedgoat (Scott Mason) recently put on your first trail race, the Wasatch Speedgoat 50k. What was the motivation? How did it go?

KM:
Scott and I have always talked about putting on a race, and it finally became a reality when I left working at Snowbird. This time I got to watch people suffer on my home turf….I was not disappointed. I want this race to be the best in the US, with the venue we have at Snowbird it is a great possibility, and putting a race on where headphones are very much accepted is nice as well. The USATF banned headphones, who needs an organization that just wants to tell us how to run.


What other products to you use [sponsor plugs please]?

KM:
I have many sponsors, RedBull is my greatest supporter with a large chunk of my travel money covered. Montrail has been supporting me since 1999 and have been great sponsors. First Endurance products are the best out there and help me recover very quickly. Its amazing how I have done so well since using these products starting 3 years ago. Powerbar supplies all my gels and are very efficient and generous, much better than any other gel sponsor. Petzl for the best lights, Ryders eyewear for my sunglasses. Nathan Sports are also the best packs and Bryce at Nathan made me a custom fanny pack to suit my needs, this is the kind of support we appreciate so much. Nathan also has an incentive program for me as well as a small travel stipend. NUUN also supplies me with an electrolyte drink that is out of this world and always refreshing when I drink it. All of my sponsors are first class and without them I would not be living the dream life of an ultrarunner.

Best of luck to you at Mont Blanc. We’ll all be following along online! And thanks for the interview!
Hart