The Speedgoat Stomps
Karl Meltzer dominates as Masters Trail Runner of the Year
Photo courtesy of iRunFar.com (Bryon Powell)
At the 100-mile distance, no one comes close to matching Karl Meltzer’s record—a stunning 35 wins—and, at 44, Meltzer (aka Speedgoat) is still notching victories over younger and stronger-than-ever fields. In 2012, he racked up three top-box finishes, including the hyped, inaugural Run Rabbit Run 100 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado (he also added $11K to his bank account for that win).
In fact, since joining the 40-year-old-plus Masters ranks, Meltzer has tallied 14 of his wins, from Virginia to Alabama to Colorado to California. At the notoriously punishing Hardrock 100 (34,000 feet of elevation gain, mostly on technical ground at an average elevation of 11,000 feet) in the rugged San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, Meltzer has made his mark, tallying five wins in 10 starts from 1999 to 2012. He still holds the counter-clockwise record of 24:38:02 for his 2009 performance, at age 42.
Coming from a Utah ski-bum pedigree, Meltzer trains by feel and runs a “modest” 60 to 70 miles per week, although most of his running is in the mountains between 8000 and 12,000 feet. His long runs aren’t huge, 15 to 20 miles, and he attributes his relatively injury-free career to listening well to his body and allowing adequate recovery between races.
In 2007, in the super-steep Wasatch Mountains his backyard, Meltzer founded the immediately popular Speedgoat 50K. This burly race features 11,600 feet of climbing, and attracts a high-caliber field. This year, the Catalonian sensation Kilian Jornet finished first, although controversy swirled around his Euro switchback-cutting technique (see below); the second runner across the line, Rickey Gates, was awarded the top cash prize.
Meltzer lives in Sandy, Utah, with his wife, Cheryl, also an ultrarunner, and makes his coin through his running and coaching.
What are your 2012 personal highlights?
My highlight for 2012 is definitely winning the Run Rabbit Run 100. I was not the favorite going into the race. I gave myself a "chance" to run top five, but never thought I'd walk away with a win and the money. When speaking with the RD, Fred Abramowitz, about putting on a 100-miler with a decent prize purse, then actually helping to make it happen ... winning it was pretty special.
It's fair to say that I "schooled" everyone, with the way the race panned out, but I ran my own race as I always do. I never let others dictate what I do, which I think in 100s is the smartest approach. A lot of variables come into play over such a long distance.
The second highlight was winning the Grindstone 100 [in Sedalia, Virginia] three weeks later. I was on a pretty big high, and had a lot of confidence after RRR. Neal Gorman and Jason Schlarb were both there, and I knew they would press me. I responded like a pro, exactly when I wanted to as Neal and I were within two minutes of each other at mile 60. I ran harder on the technical terrain and ran away—it felt great to be able to do that.
How has your training changed since hitting the big Four-O?
My training hasn't changed at all since I started running ultras. I run up mountains, hike a lot up steep trails. I probably climb a bit slower than I used to, but I'll never do intervals or speed training—it's not my style. I run quality effort just about all the time I train. Being older doesn't make it any different. Descending, I can still fly if I want to.
What is your advice to aspiring 100-mile trail racers?
My advice is to have a plan. Run your own race, and don't let others suck you into going too fast early. I see it every race where, after 20 to 30 miles, folks fall off the pace. I just keep plugging along, and I’ll say it one more time: "We don't have to run fast, we just have to run all day."
Speed means nothing at the 100-mile distance, even guys that run 13 hours. When running a 13-hour pace for 100 miles, elite runners still aren't working hard. It's just a matter of whether or not they can sustain that effort to the end.