The Casual Champion - Page 5
In the end, Meltzer faded. He took a DNF at mile 85 and Marco Olmo, a 59-year-old Italian, won the continent's marquee race ahead of Jan Lukas from Germany, and Mermoud. "I think I dropped mostly because of mental frustration. Watching the other guys cut corners and not play by the rules psyched me out," says Meltzer. "My quads were also so freakin' sore at 75 miles that running downhill was out of the question."
Meltzer, along with other U.S. runners, had realized that European races allow athletes to seek out the shortest route, even if it means cutting switchbacks.
The blogosphere lit up with accusations of "ugly Americans". Wrote one person online: "The arrogance of the American guys did not go down well here. Their behavior on the start line was not worthy of top athletes, and they need to take a more humble approach to this race."
Meltzer tipped his cap to the winners of the race. "Europeans dominate the Tour Du Mont Blanc," he wrote. But the hard feelings had already percolated—and Meltzer was tagged with some unflattering labels.
The race's hype may have sapped the normally reserved Meltzer. Nikki Kimball, who won the UTMB women's race, points out, "Karl's not an extrovert—he usually runs alone out there in the front."
"I haven't run as well when the pressure's on," says Meltzer. "The hype gets to me —and that bums me out."
Hype, Envy and Sour Grapes
A razor-thin margin exists between confidence and arrogance, and between bluntness and outspokenness. Some feel Meltzer crosses the line on occasion.
Also in 2007, Endurance Planet, a popular website for triathletes and runners, ran an interview of Meltzer in which his live-for-today, bring-it-on philosophy was especially pronounced. "My wife, she'll will come home and yak about work and, you know, have a little vent session," he said in the interview, "and I'm like `forget about it ... you're home now. '"
Afterward, a visitor to the site wrote: "This guy sounds like a huge jerk ... Meltzer wins races, but he's certainly not a winner in my book."
Roch Horton, 50, of Salt Lake City and seasoned 100-miler, knows Meltzer well.
"There's a lot of people that are maybe envious," he says. "It's a typical position when you're his caliber to have people disagree with your style, approach and communications."
Torrence feels strongly that Meltzer "gets a bad rap from some folks because of his in-your-face comments and opinions."
Meltzer's straightforward way of communicating, seemingly without a filter, is likely what rubs some the wrong way. Throw in a dose of well-deserved self-confidence and it's easy to see why. Regarding races, Meltzer says, "I know that I'm always fast enough to win [any race]," he says. "Part of my success comes from not being too stressed about it." For some, those are harmless words. For others, that's fodder for online bulletin-board squabbling.
Does the chatter and nit picking bother Meltzer? "I adopted a `screw-it' attitude," he says. "I'm just going to run. It's just another run, just another day. What are we running for anyway? We're running for prestige, bragging rights and a belt buckle. I got plenty of buckles."