FM Show: Speedy Newcomers, Transvulcania, and the Wild Frontier of Ultrarunning

Welcome back to Elevation Trail and this week’s FM Show with Footfeathers and Matt.  In today’s show we discuss some new (speedy) blood in the ultra world, Transvulcania, why people run 100 milers, Matt Carpenter, and a bunch of other stuff.  Please share your comments and suggestions.  And don’t miss out on getting your own Elevation Trail Trucker Hat!

30 thoughts on “FM Show: Speedy Newcomers, Transvulcania, and the Wild Frontier of Ultrarunning

  1. A couple comments I left on GZ’s “Hang Nine” blog about comparing KJ to MC and then some general thoughts on KJ:

    “I had to read the age-group quote twice and thought it was pretty funny. It did cause me to go back and look at the PPM results that MC has compiled and while KJ did come close to MC’s 45 year old time he came even close to the time MC posted in his first PPM when he was 24 (the same age as KJ in his first PPM last year). KJ was 2 minutes slower. Interesting, but I don’t think KJ would ever touch MC’s actual record even if he ran it year after year. MC just had (has) a fire in him that I have never seen before or since.”

    “Not sure why I’ve become so interested in comparing KJ’s time to MC’s times but whatever here are a few more stats: KJ ran a 3:40:26. MC has run the PPM 15 times with an average time of 3:44:10. KJ’s time beat all but 6 of MC’s times. I think this shows KJ’s potential and also makes his time a bit more respectable as I think it seemed disappointing to some. Nevertheless, head-to-head, both in their prime, MC wins hands down (probably by something like 10 minutes). I also think that all the talk before the last PPM about whether KJ would break MC’s record was crazy and was disrespectful to MC, his record, and the years of hard work he put into setting that record. No one is going to touch it, especially their first time trying.”

    That said no one is dominating the MUT scène the way Kilian is. I share many people’s wish that he would not just go for the win but also the record in these races. For example I thought his performance in the 2011 UTMB was one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. The conditions, the late start, and the course destroyed just about every other competitor and he seemed to dance around the course. That said he clearly did not gas it and was capable of a faster race. The same was true at Cavalls del Vent ’12 (recall Anton said that Kilian was just playing with him), and at Grand Raid de la Réunion. The fact that we point to specific example of him losing highlights how rare an event it is (mostly has to do with heat see: WS ’10 and Transvulcania ’12). He is a rare creature and I’m glad that I’m around to witness.

    David T. “Freebird”

    • Excellent research and points made, David. Transvulcania will be telling. Too bad it seems Kilian doesn’t seem to have any interest in running Pikes again. Would be interesting to see what he could do with some more experience on the trail there. Thanks much for commenting.

  2. Thanks for stopping-by, DT. Can you reiterate your present tense case for Kilian dominating the MUT scene? Consider races and fields.

    • See my comment below, plus I can’t think of another runner who has won more races than he has and across such varied types of races (pure mountain runs, ultras, vertical Ks, etc.) over the last 3 to 4 years. I think it is easy to become a little ethnocentric in our thinking and forget all that is does in Europe. It seems like he races several times each month during the running season and almost always wins. Last year he lost Transvulcania (how many other runners would be able to come in third after passing out during the race and then again at the finish!) and a couple vertical Ks but won everything else (in route to winning the Skyrunner World Series and the Ultra Skyrunner series – two huge accomplishments). He owns multiple course records and several huge FKTs. It is hard to make the case that he has not been dominating. At the same time I think he could dominate more (see my comment below).

  3. FWIW – I think Transvulcania comes down to Anton and Kilian, with Kilian FTW. I think the course is unlike anything Sage has ever seen.

    Also comparing Kilian and Anton is not a good comparison (RE fame without lots of racing). Kilian races more than anyone I’m aware of and he wins and wins and wins and wins…….I can’t think of another person who won as many races he has over the last several years (ie, he won both the Skyrunner World Series and the Ultra Skyrunner series last yea,r plus several non-Skyrunner races and a handful of vertical Ks). While I wish he would go for the kill more often than he does (perhaps the reason he doesn’t is because he races so much), let’s give credit where credit is due. This guy is more than amazing (check out a VERY incomplete list of his wins on Wikipedia).

    More importantly your thoughts on why Kilian and Anton are moving to alpinism is SO far off. Thinking that they are doing it for fame and sponsorship is silly. They do it because that is what they love and that is what they want to do. Good for them! No reason they should focus on setting records and winning races. You don’t understand it and that is OK but don’t question their motivation and apply your own values to their activities.

    • Nice to see you’re still passionate about this stuff. The comparison, though I would and did extend that in our PC today, was brought-up by another blogger. Not to distance myself from what I said, but to underscore that I am not the only one making these observations. So, it’s not exactly my values on others’ activities. FWIW, I would argue Kilian is just as well known for his Kilian Quest PR as he is for his racing. He is a big time adventure runner. That’s a fact. And we could look at that material vs. his racing to see which is more definitive.

      His Skyrunning accomplishments are great. I spear-headed our Skyrunning coverage when Tim and I first opened-up shop, so you don’t have to lob any ethno-centrism my way. Personally, in a race like SF50, a venue that I think incorporates many trail/mountain racing features, I like a guy like Heras, as he has proven his worth in races like that. I’m no USA homer. Sorry. With Skyrunning in mind, I’d argue those fields are not that deep, compared to other big races. So, Kilian doesn’t like the Pikes venue (he said so himself), UROC, SF 50, WS100, etc.? Well, it’s those kinds of venues that attract the deepest fields. He got pretty beat-up in the biggest 100 showdown of our time: WS100 2010. Interesting too that he got 100 points from ISF for his Speedgoat “win” when actually he was more or less DQed.

      Granted he has a lot of wins, David. No arguing there. But I just think a lot of that is taken for granted. It’s more complicated, in other words.

      • Good points. And I apologize for the ethnocentric comment I only meant that we sometime forget his many races outside the US. Not sure if the US races always attract the best talent. For example UTMB where he has won three times (every time he has entered). Also think of the major Skyrunner races where a large number of the best US runners and non-US runner showed up. Furthermore at WS100 ’10 I was actually more impressed with his performance than anyone else’s but Geof’s. His performance under such serious physical problems was rather spectacular. I also can’t think of a major mountain type runner he has not beaten other than Sage (will see soon on that one). Only a very few can claim to have beaten him and those losses have come under unusual circumstances (ie serious dehydration, etc.).

        Agreed that his Ultra Skyrunner win in ’12 comes with a qualifier but if you delete those points he still comes in second and ’12 was not the first time he has won the Skyrunner world series. Lots to consider and it is always easier and more provocative to take someone down when they are getting lots of attention (i.e., a NYT profile) but I just can’t think of another guy as dominating as him in the last 3-4 years. Can you?

      • I am missing something: what particular approach to all this are you endorsing? I can’t figure that out.

        It seems to me that sometimes you are saying the KJ / Anton style (or probably more appropriately, your interpretation of it) is not really competitive. But on the other hand you seem to say the guys who get really competitive (like Geoff) are gonna burn themselves out. Then you give a nod to the “old school” of competitive guys like Carpenter who was focused on a few things. You then give props to Sage for going to competitive races but question if he is doing too much.

        FWIW, I don’t think you ought to question a guy or gal’s competitive motivation until you race him or her.

        Side note, folks know I am a Carpenter fan. But there were motivation questions tossed at him as well. Folks saw Pikes as not that competitive, and he was ducking competition by only doing that race.

      • Hey George,
        Like I pointed out in the last FM Show, there is no agenda or “endorsement”, at least on my part. It’s just discussion and thoughts that pop up, so we lay them out on the table to talk about. In order: Roes burned himself out over-racing. We brought up Carpenter as an example of elite road mentality of training and racing proportionately to maximize peaks and reduce wear and tear. I’m a proponent of Sage and his racing but was a bit surprised that he’s doing Transvulcania (since he’s raced quite a bit already this early in the year).

        We haven’t questioned anyone’s competitive motivation; only pointed out what certain runners have said or done in their running themselves, e.g. the Matt Carpenter article, the move of Anton from competitive racing (miwok, american river, white river, etc.) to a more “adventurous” solo pursuit of climbing/running, Andrew Skurka as the adventurer and ultra-light fast packing explorer, etc. We established that it is open and wild and you can’t label or define the sport because it’s evolving in all these directions organically on a daily basis.

        I don’t know what you’re saying exactly in the last paragraph. I find Carpenter to be a highly competitive runner who seeks out competition and basically said PPM is boring because “the race went to shit with 2:24 ascents winning the race” so it didn’t inspire him to line up. He drove clear up to the Bay Area to race Uli head to head after coming in 2nd the previous year – those are just two examples of several in his career where he thrived on competition from road marathons to trail ultras.

      • Perhaps I am drawing a connection of questioning the motivation.
        Again, I am a Carpenter fan. In the hey day of his wins at Pikes, Mount Washington, etc – there were those (am not saying they were right) who questioned his competitiveness because he would not go to certain races (and those were principled decisions on his part). But – that was just conversation too.

  4. First of all, thanks, Matt and Tim. I have enjoyed these pod casts and the conversations that have followed. Even when I have disagreed with some of your points or opinions. I hope you keep providing them. I promise not to monopolize the comments section in the future.

    I have to point out that Kilian’s, Dakota’s and Anton’s motivations were questioned. It was conjectured in the podcast that they might be moving towards alpinism because they are motivated by sponsor money or “fame” (whatever that means in the world of MUTs). I take exception with that. Anyone that has read what they have posted and listened to them talk about their motivations should know that they are not chasing fame or money. You could throw Joe Grant into that same group too.

    • … and so what if they chased that lifestyle for the endorsements? Is there something particularly bad about that here in the USA? Not in my book (sez the guy who is a corporate weenie because it allows a life style).

  5. David, thanks for engaging. Kinda like the good old days.
    To your comment earlier, you have a point regarding the overall international MUT space: Jornet consitently races and does very well. I’m partial to the 2 1/2 or so year period of Roes from 2009 – 2010+ as being about as domiant as anyone. Granted, he wan’t racing in Europe, but it’s a case for a runner I have made and will make again. From 50k to 100m, he was out of this world and actually beat Jornet along with everyone else, CRs falling.

    Jornet does have the UTMB success. He’s owned it. The problem with the 2011 race was the collective collapse by so many top Americans. That was a bummer. I think Roes was even beginning to see the overtraining symptoms at that point. Even Heras had knee issues in that race; he was having a marvelous year. But no doubt that Jornet has been very consistent. I think you make good case.

    What’s interesting for me is how Jornet seems to have been missing at some big races, as well. Sure the U.S. is not the only MUT racing territory — Kilian is world-wide. But he’s missed the opportunities to race in other big American events that do attract a lot of top trailers. He has WS100 and Pikes, along with his Speedgoat appearance. It’s safe to say (he’s made this abundantly clear) he prefers the steep and technical trail. I suppose that answers the obvious question of why no SF 50 appearance, which has been quite a showcase for the top players and has had a huge Solomon presence recently.

    But to your point about us questioning runner motivations (this is to you to GZ), I think Tim addresses this in his comment. I will add that in this case, we actually refer to what OTHERS are saying on this topic. I referenced another blogger who made the comparison between KJ and AK. He suggests that they’re pushing the proverbial envelop to follow whatever path they’re on, which is based on a level of risk, not racing. In addition, we brought-up Skurka’s comment about runners in the off-road space needing to have a story if they really want to survive solely on those endeavors (generally speaking). If you do a little synthesis and a sprinkle of inference, you come to some understanding of how that is taking place with those guys. Again, we didn’t initially make this comparsion/suggestion. But, by God, we’ll entertain those kinds of discussions. Like Tim, I don’t see where we explicitly question people’s motivation.

    If Dakota Jones takes some time off and goes on a speed hike traverse of a grand wilderness area, I don’t have to question his motivation, but I can certainly suggest he’s doing something other than racing. Tony seems to be more into climbing these days. But he’s also a runner. We’re just looking at the “evidence.” No where do you hear us say, so-and-so is dodging competition. If anything, we might say that a particular runner has been dealing with a lot of injury and therefore hasn’t found the starting-line very much, very recently.

    Today, Tim and I were more-or-less responding to what others have been saying.

    Lastly, GZ,
    — You say, “It seems to me that sometimes you are saying the KJ / Anton style (or probably more appropriately, your interpretation of it) is not really competitive.” This is especially true in Anton’s case. David makes a good point with regards to Kilian, but Anton has been much less competitive in the last couple of years. Is there really any debate on that? He’s been dealing with injury as a result of over training. Has he wanted to build a “story” along the lines of what Skurka is saying? I doubt it. But he hasn’t been racing much.
    — You go on: “But on the other hand you seem to say the guys who get really competitive (like Geoff) are gonna burn themselves out.” Thats’s exactly right. Those are not contradictory. Jon Wyatt (and probably many others) said this about Kilian and his prolific racing shedule, especially a few years ago. Anton, one could argue, might’ve seen some of that fatigue, as well as injury, as a result of his training and racing so much, years ago.
    — “Then you give a nod to the ‘old school’ of competitive guys like Carpenter who was focused on a few things.” Yes, this approach is opposite to what the Kilians and Antons of the world have done. Carpenter raced for years, successfully.
    — “You then give props to Sage for going to competitive races but question if he is doing too much.” Indeed. We love (everyone I’m sure agrees) what he’s doing. But hopefully he doesn’t burn-out. He’s been racing a lot. I don’t think these lines are crossed. Can you clarify?

    My question is why didn’t Wyatt ever race Pikes? That seems like a huge missed opportunity. Both in good form — Carpenter versus Wyatt. Wow.

    Thanks for the comments.

    • Lots of stuff in there. I will try to get to as much of it as I can.

      1.) Anton / KJ. Maybe Tony’s overtraining (not a stretch on that as he has admitted he has pushed it over the top) is really him being competitive? Maybe the DNFs he had a Leadville were a result of him being competitive? And maybe the fact that he has not competed much in two years (except that 2nd place last fall at Cavalls del Vent … still working on how that is overlooked as not competitive) is that he had a pretty violent break to his leg that would probably keep most people out of the sport for years?

      I don’t know KJ but I know Tony. I don’t know him real well, but I have run with him a few times and he has always been friendly, interested and interesting. In many ways he is like most people I meet running. Maybe it is me, but I think I’d have to know someone pretty well to tell them that they were not being competitive. I have to know them really really well to put that on a blog or a podcast. I have some running friends that I can do that with – but I do that in that circle of friends. But I would have to know them pretty well to say they were not being competitive.

      I guess we have all questioned Tony’s tactics and how smart he has been in his training or his race execution. Heck he has done that questioning. We all screw up that way in races and training when we seek limits. It helps us find them (worked for Carpenter too when he passed at the Summit the year before he set the record, and when he walked in the last 30 something miles at Leadville the year before he set the record there). It is Tony’s trip as to what he does with those lessons. I enjoy watching but I don’t question if he is competitive.

      And I certainly would not say, “oh you are not being competitive because some guy named Sherpa John said it on his blog so we need to talk about it.” Not unless we were drinking and totally talking shit to each other as friends.

      Matt, you have not raced in a long time … would I call you not competitive? Hell no. That is not my place to say. And it I don’t buy that it would be okay if you were elite. Still a person.

      And if he wants to build a story to market the engine, and I personally don’t think he is designing it that way, I see NADA wrong with that.

      2.) Burn out. Hey burn out happens every where in running. I have seen it with guys for 30 plus years at all distances. Some guys fade away over a long time. Some walk way on the top of the game. Some are on top, fall and never recover. This ain’t just a 100 mile thing. This is a HUMAN thing. The reasons vary. No interest, not as fast as they were, other life obligations, the itch just ain’t there anymore.

      KJ gets painted in both lights here … he is doing too much and he is going to burn out. He has a good balance because he is a skier. Who really knows? Maybe KJ is a guy like Karl who can crank em out year after year? Or Yannis? I can only guess as to how you guys would look to put Morton into a box.

      3.) Clarifying on Sage (and perhaps other elite runners): Really, I am not clear as to where you guys stand on guys like Sage. If a guy races a lot and then blows up he seems to get put into this box of overracing and overtraining and that is not good. But if he does not race a lot then he is not competitive. But if he races the same race over and over and does well there then he is competitive. Except maybe he is not competitive if he is not going to where the competition is.

      4.) Wyatt, Carpenter. No idea why Wyatt never did the race. Might of been that he was not interested in it. Maybe when it suited him, he was gearing up for the Olympics instead. Or maybe he was hurt when he wanted to do it. Or maybe he was in his base training down under at that time. Or maybe there were other races he thought were more important to him.

      All right – way too much said there. I will let you have the last word on this one.

  6. George and Christina, I am not writing anyone off, nor saying he or she doesn’t want to compete. Big misread. Tim and I (and others including Ellie Greenwood, Olga in Texas ((cool article, Olga)), Tony Krupicka, Jon Wyatt, Geoff Roes and Dakota, et al.) are pointing-out that some ethos of the ultra racing culture encourages/leads-to/facilitates over-doing-it. That’s it. That’s a very popular conversation because there is a pattern out there that a lot of people see. That’s it. This week we seemed to touch more on the differences in training, what might enhance one’s ability to run MUT for years and years. The Carpenter interview is a gem. There might be an approach that DOES NOT encourage longevity. Does saying so make one feel uncomfortable? Is that offensive? How dare I say such a thing? I don’t get the controversy here. Several people are talking about it. Tim and I are part of a much larger conversation.

    Christina, you ask rhetorically, regarding Kilian, I assume: “How could he possibly have any longevity at this early point in his career?” Given the nature of the sport, this is a more and more relevant question I’m afraid. Two lines later you say Frost is breaking-down. So is Timmy Olson, so has Roes, TK, etc. I don’t get the controversy here.

    Sorry if I offended anyone.

    And it’s okay to call me non-competitive on the trail, GZ. That doesn’t offend me. It’s the truth, whether it hurts or not.

  7. TL – I’m not surprised Sage is going to run Transvulcania. He’s got a sponsor willing to pay his way to go run around some exotic Spanish island. Even if you’re worn out, who wouldn’t jump at that chance, especially if you’re in your 20s, unmarried, no kids, no job and you love to travel.

  8. I am just a case study of one, in multiple regards here: one person, one 100. My thought on that finish was that the stunt was certainly not healthy. My go forward on it whenever it comes up with non ultra runners (most people) is that I don’t recommend them to people I like.
    I also don’t think Pikes Marathon is particularly healthy either (but the training might be) … I usually have to remember that every year as I come back down by Barr Camp.
    But, we ain’t doing this for health are we? (as many things human at their competitive point are not healthy).

  9. No longer enjoying this thread. Nevertheless here are some now completely off topic thoughts/questions:

    1. My picks for Transvulcania in order:
    – Kilian*, Anton, Heras, d’Haene, Lorbkachet, Campbell, Foote, Canaday**, Olsen.
    *If Kilian is at least doing some running. It is not clear to me that he is however Ian Corless claims that he is.
    ** The seriously technical trail, crazy vert at the beginning and long down at the end will be very eye opening for Canaday. Placing in the top ten will be a huge accomplishment for him. Likewise, Olsen’s first exposure to Euro sky running will likely go the same way just about every US runners’ first experience has recently gone (very humbling – See 2011 with Dakota, Nick Clark and the gang at Sierre-Zinal and UTMB)
    – Forsberg, Frosty, Picas, Serafini
    2. I wonder if ET is planning on doing any interviews? I would love to hear you interview some of the old school MUT runners like Rick Trujillo (the OG of MUT running), Wyatt, and others

    • Thanks, David, neither am I and am not feeding into it any longer.
      After thinking about it, I think Matt and I are both on board with you regarding the Kilian pick here; Matt may opt for his go-to pick of Heras (not a hazardous choice!). You make a good point about Sage but he’s not some dainty roadie. He’s a great technical runner but you’re right in your point about the climb AND tech nature of this course. I still have this vision in the back of my mind of Sage standing on the big podium block. Anton is a real wildcard in my mind. His climbing is obvious but his speed and fueling are the hooks keeping me from putting him top 3.
      With all that muddled nonsense, my picks are:

      Is Anna healthy? Tough not to go with Emilie but if Anna is feeling solid, she’s fierce.

      Oh, and on the interviews, maybe, if they’ll chat with us. I love the written interview of Rick T from a couple years ago (sorry, don’t know the source off hand). I think it’d be fun to dive down to see him and record some video and sound.

      • Anton looks very dialed in. His recent runs (ie, R2R2R) indicate that he should show up ready to go. He should have a good race, as long as he carries enough gels! Likewise, this will be his second Euro Skyrunner race, which should set him apart from Sage and Olsen. I think he and Kilian will hang together in the lead until the long downhill were Kilian will decide to gas it.

        Not sure on Anna. Her health is touch and go and Emilie just seems on fire. Likewise, the long downhill hits on one of Emilie’s strengths.

      • I’ll go on record of saying Tony Krupicka should podium. When he did his 6:59 R2R2R it was on no taper. He had done 3hr+ plus runs of 3,000+ vert several days in a row (except for the Friday before the run when they drove out)…and the week before that was 130+ miles, 24 hours and 43,000 feet of vert. And the week before that, etc. He was only 6 minutes off the R2R2R record, despite stopping for several minutes along the way to take pictures with people and so on. Given the terrain, he should have good odds.

    • We do our picks next week (guess Tim did his today ;). You live near So Cal? I want to put some beer on the Canaday finish.
      Until, then, thanks again, David. Don’t mind the back and forth. Moving forward, the more thoughtful comments will be engaged.
      The trolling will be ignored. We love the discourse. Thanks for the interview suggestions.

  10. Brett,
    Good stuff on Anton. He seems poised. Next week we get a lot more into Transvulcania. Hopefully you’ll be back then to chime-in.

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