I’m ultra runner Karl Meltzer. Last week I broke the Appalachian Trail thru-hike record after running 2,190 miles in 45 Days, 22 Hours and 38 minutes. AMA.
I am Karl Meltzer, ultra runner and endurance mountain running athlete, with the most career wins in 100-mile races. On September 18, 2016 I set a new Appalachian Trail Speed thru-hike record running 2,190 miles in 45 Days, 22 Hours and 38 Minutes.
Edit: Thanks everyone for joining and asking questions. Speedgoatkarl signing off @ 1:30 EST.
My Proof Imgur My Twitter @SpeedgoatKarl My Facebook
I think the hardest part of the trail for me was in Pennsylvania when I became injured with my right shin. The terrain is so technical it became tough to keep my record pace. Thank God those things passed and everything got easier after that. As I got closer to the end, the trail sort of got easier as I smelled the barn.
You're a fairly private person. This is probably your most high profile attempt of the AT in terms of media exposure and sponsorship commitments. How has that affected your experience of doing the AT and the aftermath?
I've done this three times. The experience having the real backing from Red Bull is super important. It helps me focus on what I need to do as opposed to me doing all the logistics and all the math. As far as afterwards, there is a lot of media to do because I did break the record. But at the same time, that's just kind of what my job is and it will end eventually. But right now it's just important to me to stay focused and enjoy the moments. It's been a great experience. We really kept it pretty low profile on the trail, actually, as opposed to what we saw online. For me, I wasn't affected by media at all when I was on the trail, which was very important to the success.
Congrats Karl! We we hiking south off of Mt Rogers when you came up on us, thank you for the photo by the way.. You said sleep deprivation was hurting you at that time, how were you able to see overcome that?
By getting to bed early, and getting to sleep. Each night, if I got 7.5 hours of sleep every night I was back on track. Really, it just took one night to get back on it.
What shoes do you wear, and how long does a pair last you? I need to know who the hell can make a pair of shoes that can even come close to handling this kind of use.
I wore Hoka Speedgoats. Each pair on this adventure lasted about 150 miles. Which didn't completely destroy the shoe, but it was nice to have new, fresh shoes every couple of days.
What did you have to eat on a typical day? Curious as to what kind fuel you require for something like this.
A combination of fat, carbohydrates and sugar in a variety of different foods. Not beer and candy. Haha
Could you be more specific?
I did eat a lot of sugary treats like cinnamon buns, to danish to perrogies to bacon to an assortment of random sugary candies. Not so much on the candy thing. I also drank Ultragen which is a recovery drink at every stop which is a really good source of recovery nutrients so it wasn't all sugar. That Ultragen drink is money in the bank. Anything my crew would feed me generally, like quesadillas, a cheeseburger or grilled cheese. I ate a lot of mandarin oranges. Your body craves fat. It craves junk out there. Even for someone who's vegan, the cravings for junk is there. I stay away from the junk as much as possible but sometimes it's actually good because it's putting more calories in your body. Ice cream was a hit. I think i ate a pint of ice cream in three minutes at one point. It might sound crazy to do that but at the same time my body is a furnace. They burn so fast i have to replace them as fast as possible.
Outstanding job on the AT. Since you've been off the trail for a few days now are you still experiencing any effects?
Overall, my body is still very tired. My body is still experiencing deep fatigue. Every day I wake up and it's sort of normal, but by 10 a.m. I am ready for a nap again. Over time, this will get better and I will be back to normal in another month or two.
Karl - what kind of technology did you use out on the trail? And how did it help you with your hike?
We used the SPOT tracker and then we had a Garmin Phoenix watch. Being able to see my miles go by on cue right there was very important. What I was doing by looking at that watch, I played little a game in my head trying to beat the three mile per hour guy. Which means 20 minutes per mile. Each time I achieved 20 minutes per mile, I felt like i was in the lead or doing well. Over the course of 2000 miles, it was a silly game I played but it also gave me an idea of how long it would take to get to each distance every day. I would say I had 10 minutes on him, 20 minutes on him. Every time it popped up 17 minutes a mile or 14. It was super helpful for me to know how far I had to the next stop. I could also ration my water or food if I needed to. Some of the sections were longer. 13 or 14 mile sections were very close to the amount of water consumption I needed with my two 18 oz. bottles.
The only other technology was music to keep my mind off other things.
get any trail tail?
I don't even know what that is...
Favorite Grateful Dead show to hike to?
Congrats on the record! For me, one interesting aspect of ultra distances is the extreme mental stamina required on these long runs. Through that mental rollercoaster what kept you going and what guidance do you have for new ultra runners fighting through these mental battles?
EDIT: grammatical corrections
I think what I do with mental battles is I sort of laugh. There's always highs and lows, whether it's a 100-mile race or the AT. The most important thing you can do is accept it and sort of laugh at it inside and just say, you know, it doesn't always get worse which is completely true. You just have to laugh at those times and remember that you'll talk about it later as one of the experiences you had. The stories you'll tell are usually the low points The high points you don't remember them as much; it's the low points that seem to be remembered more. You have to take it with a grain of salt and you know, just deal with it, keep moving forward. I had a lot of those out there.
Hi Karl! Congrats on the AT record! Now that you have that, do you have your sights on any other records in the near future? How would you recommend making the jump from running marathons (training for number 4 and 5) to ultras? Thanks!
Thanks for the congrats! I don't have my sights right now on any other records. It's too early for that right now. I am kind of relaxing and decompresssing. When you make the jump from marathons to ultras, the real difference is with ultramarathons you have to learn to fuel yourself during the run. For marathons, you have the water at aid stations. For ultramarathons, you want to learn to fuel yourself in trainings. Practice makes perfect. Don't expect to go at your marathon pace. Your pace is going to be slower for the whole time that you are running the ultra.
Karl, I'm terribly out of shape and I hate running. Even when I was in great shape and played sports I hated running for the sake of running and was terrible at it for anything longer than 200 meters. I'm now in my 30's and I want to be a runner. I want to be able to get up and go for a run, maybe do a tough mudder. What advice do you have for someone in my position?
Be consistent every day, and after about 3 or 4 weeks the addiction starts to set in. Because you always feel better after a run. The addiction of feeling better after exercise will kick in and inspire you to go the next day.
did you encounter any wild animals such as bears?
I saw 6 bears. Probably a lot more bears saw me because I was listening to music.
What pace did you typically run at? How many hours per day did you run?
3.4 mph was my pace and about 15 hours a day
First off congrats on the AT record! What an incredible accomplishment and I'm glad you finally got it!
I was wondering if you could say a little about what got you into ultra running? What made you want to start going distances beyond a marathon?
Also, as someone hoping to run his first ultra in a month do you have any advice for us first timers looking to build a love for long distance trail running?
What got me into ultrarunning is the fact that to go longer distances is you don't have to run as fast. It's a little more strategic and you have to learn about your body and what it's telling you. I enjoy being out in the mountains more than anything. And to go a little slower made me realize that I can go further. That's what got me to the 100 mile distances. I started running ultras because I enjoyed it. I just felt like a marathon was fast and tough. For anyone running these ultra distances you have to enjoy being out there for a long time. Once you finish a few of them you learn what your body can do and what you can't do.
What is that made you keep coming back to the AT to try for the record? Any training advice for someone wanting to start doing trips covering 40+ miles a day?
Iv'e been trying to get the record since 2008 with a couple of attempts. You know, I've always said "with failure comes greater success." And with this type of huge journey, I needed to go back one more time to give it a shot to more or less put a stamp on my career. My career is not over, of course, I am not done yet. But at the same time, when you do something like this a few times and you fail or you are not as successful as what you're capable of doing, you really want to keep trying. With all the support I had with my fantastic crew, I had to go at it one more time. I was thankful we were successful.
In terms of training for something like this, you really sort of keep your big miles, weekly mile pretty high, but its also important to go out and do a couple of 40 mile days in a row. Just to see what really happens with your body. You can get blisters and overuse injuries from just those 3 days. So it's important to do that, see how that feels, and feel it out for yourself. 40 miles a day is possible for anyone, really. You can walk 40 miles day if you really want to. Take 15 hours; it's not even 3 mph. So it's possible. You have to practice a couple of times and then also let yourself recover afterwards. It's really important. If you don't take time to recover you are setting yourself up for overuse injuries.
Do you have a favorite stretch of AT? Mine's the southern part of VA.
Mine is near there. It's near Roan mountain and Max Patch Falls. In North Carolina.
what kind of regeneration where you able to accomplish for your legs during the record attempt? like what kind of methods did you apply to get the freshest legs possible each day?
I iced my legs each night after finishing to keep inflammation down and kept them elevated as much as possible when I slept at night to keep my legs as fresh as possible each day.
Karl -Will you have my baby? I am a male, so there will be some difficulties making it, but will you?
Did you do the thru-hiker half-gallon challenge at Pine Grove Furnace/the AT's half-way point in PA? Or, considering your pace, was that a hard pass?
I do know of that and I did have ice cream there, but I did not do the challenge. I kind of bypassed going for the whole half gallon thinking it would slow me down a little.
What did you eat after youcompleted this amazing feat? Why was it a hamburger? and is a hamburger a sandwich?
Beer and pizza.
I would call a hamburger a sandwich. It's between bread, right?
What's your favorite race distance?
Congratulations on an incredible achievement.
Did you see much wildlife along the way? If so, did you feel your record attempt prevented you from being able to appreciate it?
We all run trails for whatever reason. I did see a lot of wildlife: six bears, rattlesnakes, copperheads. But for me, I appreciate the trail being the green tunnel. I am not really going that fast, so I can appreciate the same as others. It's just my own way of doing it. I can appreciate going slower, too. I do plan to do it later with my wife. We think, anyway. When she turns 50, which is about 7 years from now.
Don't you get bored?
Running is never boring to me. It goes back to the addiction to the good feeling you get afterwards. I understand it can be boring for some. For me, going out in nature, like out on trails, being out there is what really drives me. it's not really the running part of it. I don't really feel like I am running when I am out there. I do it to get away from the world. I don't carry my phone when I run. I try to enjoy being away from normal life. It just feels good to be out there.
What part of the AT was the most memorable?
The McAfee Knob area where I only went 24 miles and slept on the trail. You remember the bad points a lot more than you remember the good points. So, I am never going to forget laying in the dirt at McAfee Knob.
First off congrats on such an achievement. Next, how do you feel about how far you've come looking back towards your first ultra to now?
Having done this 20 years, I think I achieved pretty much everyrthing I wanted to achieve. Looking back, it's been an incredible journey. What's next? I am certainly going to keep running. I sort of set a stamp on my career with this thing. Doesn't mean I am retiring, of course not. I've been pretty satisfied I was able to make running a career as opposed to being a hobby. I've alway felt like life is falling into my lap. Being able to be a professional runner for 20 years has been priceless, really. What can I say? I am kind of living the dream.
Hi Karl, As has been talked about elsewhere, you and Scott Jurek are close. Was the decision to go from north to south out of deference for his FKT last year?
The answer is no. I have been planning on doing this a project with Red Bull since February 2015 long before I event knew Scott was doing it. The reason I went Southbound initially in 2008 was because that's the way the record was set. I wanted to try to break the record in the same direction. Fast forward to 2016, because I know the trail very well southbound is why I did it that way. When I do hike it with my wife it will be northbound. When you know something one direction, you are very familiar with it. If I would have gone northbound, I would recognize things, for sure, but it's just not as familiar. It had nothing to do with the way Scott went. It was all baout what I knew best. I really do think there should be a north and southbound record on paper, because they are very different in just the way they start. In Maine and New Hampshire you start with the worst terrain. Down south you start with the easier terrain. It work differently each time. Scott definitely finished in tough tough conditions. I finished on what I call "California single track." Pretty smooth. It's different, but had nothing to do with the way that Scott did it. Just the way I wanted to do it.
Congrats! That's a hell of a record to be proud of!
My question to you is, what's changed since your last 2 attempts that allowed you complete your achievement?
And are you a Redbull or a Monster guy?
We did a lot more recon which was super helpful for the crew. I also had slightly different crew for this attempt. My dad and Belz, and Scott Jurek and my wife Cheryl all kept a smile on my face most of the time. And they were happy working together, which also rubbed off on me. So every time I would see my crew, it was always a good experience, not a negative experience. So that was something that was really different than the first two attempts. The crew were more rookies, they didn't know me as well. it's important to have a crew that knows you and know what makes you tick, so to speak. My crew this year was just fantastic all the time. Even though they, especially Belz, was there for the whole time they handles it really well in terms of the low and high points. A lot of it was about the crew.
I enjoy drinking Red Bull. It's my favorite energy drink. Bottom line. It always has been.
What was the hardest part of the trail for you? Congrats on this as this is insane. I'm currently training for a marathon now and what you do is awesome.
View HistoryShare Link