Life doesn’t always give us opportunities to execute better than we’d hoped/planned/expected. Friday, August 24 around 11am I had an amazing realization that spurred me on with a smile and excitement as Darcy Africa and I were finishing up the last 2 miles of the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. It was a moment of disbelief (as we all know how hard it is to do math after having been up all night) and I couldn’t believe that we were not only going to break our personal goal of finishing in a day or under 24 hours, we were making our way back to our starting point closer to 22 hours.
Finish reading on Krissy’s Blog
Ultrarunner Charles Corfield shows us how science can help us get ahead of the mid-pack in ultrarunning.
Keen and inventive, wise, witty and always willing to go the distance, Charles hails to the U.S. from Welwyn Garden City in the United Kingdom, and now residing in Boulder, Colorado.
After receiving degrees in mathematics and astrophysics at St. Johns College at Cambridge University in England, Charles moved to the United States, to pursue his doctorate degree in astrophysics and fluid dynamics from Columbia University.
As the founder of many companies including Frame Technology Corp., Charles has profoundly influenced the world of technological innovation. If any of you have worked with Adobe or desktop publishing you have benefited from his incredible mind and ability to create.
However, His ability to analyze and solve problems is not limited to computer technology. His work in human endurance, function and possibility are equally profound.
Early on he began to conduct studies involving human performance. While involved in four expeditions climbing Mount Everest, climbs in Ama Dablam, the Andes, and Antarctica, he conducted studies of the effects of high altitude on human physiology.
These studies have expanded into a science of integrating and optimizing human function and, with himself as his own test subject, he has amazed the ultra community by his examples of what is possible—at any age!
As an ultrarunner, In his very first 100-mile run at the Leadville. Finishing amongst the top runners, he is often seen coming in first at many 50 and 100-mile races. His ability to realize optimal performance while enjoying quick recovery has become a tale of legend. In the Leadville 100, on one of the most difficult courses in the country, Charles placed third with a time of 19 hours and 42 minutes. Since then, Charles’ performances have continued to improve and astound. With all his success, even he continues to wonder and believe, that even more is possible.
Well into his fifties, he is not just a runner, but a front-runner. The best runners in the world would likely not be surprised to see him pass cheerfully by, seeing the back of his shirt as he passed, which might read: “You Have Just Been Geezed!”
Charles is always eager to share what he has learned with others.
His personal study and experience of the problems encountered under the most extreme athletic conditions, and his innovative solutions to such problems, he freely shares with all who ask.
Listen to the presentation and read along the more detailed facts.
This talk is about using simple science to improve your position in the pack, You are a keen middle-of-the-pack runner, You are open to new ideas, You are not afraid of failure. Failure = Learning not Humiliation
Using Science To Get Ahead…
The theme of this blog is how to use simple science to move yourself forward in the pack. Most of us are born in the middle of the talent bell curve, and that is where we stay, unless we do something about it. The insights I share will help you identify several ways you can pick up 5-10% in performance. Cumulatively these gains will have a marked impact on your relative standing. They won’t turn you into a mutant, but you can certainly go from “average” to “pretty good”. The intended audience for these tips are middle-of-the-pack, but keen runners, who participate in ultras, or are contemplating trying one. I assume that you are open to new ideas, which includes the willingness to experiment, and that you are not deterred by “failure” – rather, you treat “failures” as learning experiences and not as blows to the ego. Winston Churchill remarked that the secret of success is the willingness to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm… A sentiment that is applicable to endurance running.
- Hydation & Electolytes
- Anti-oxidants and Muscle Fatige
- Nervous system
When I first thought about running ultras I wondered “How many calories does it take to run one?” That kicked off an exploration of the physiology of exercise metabolism. The net of it is that if you know a few numbers and principles you can work out everything you need with simple math. The calories you burn can be estimated from two numbers:
i) Total horizontal distance covered
ii) Total amount of climb
You can convert this course profile to an equivalent horizontal distance, i.e., a distance where you would burn the same number of calories. The key principle you need to know is that climbing 1 foot vertically costs you the same as running 10 ft horizontally. Since there are approximately 5,000ft in a mile, simply divide the total climb (in feet) by 5,000 and add to the course’s horizontal distance. For example, a 50 mile ultra with 10,000ft of gain is equivalent to 50 + (10,000 / 5,000) = 70 miles on the flat. To convert this into calories you need to know another principle — how many calories you burn running a mile (on the flat): 100 Calories. Plug this into our calculation and you find that the 50 mile course will cost you 7,000 Calories (70 miles x 100 Calories per mile). Note that all the numbers in this article are approximate — it is far better to remember an approximate number, than to forget an exact one…
This is all you need to know to figure out how much a race is going to cost you. However, we are not quite done. What you really want to know is how much you will need to consume (eat or drink) during the course. That brings us to the question “What does the body burn when it is exercising?” The answer is that we are all “hybrids”, we have two fuel sources: carbs and fat. As it turns out, we all carry more than enough fat for any conceivable course. For example, a pound of body fat has 3,500 Calories, which is enough to move you 35 miles horizontally. Even the skinniest of runners has many pounds of body fat. However, carbs are a whole different story. Our bodies store at most 1-2,000 Calories of carbs in the form of glycogen, which is found primarily in the liver and (leg) muscles. Your body allows you to burn most but far from all of these stored carbs. As you see from the foregoing math the your glycogen stores, if entirely consumed, could move you 10-20 miles. However, your brain will not let you to burn all of your glycogen. This is why runners “bonk” on marathons, they burn through most of their glycogen, and then their brains hit the brakes to preserve the remainder (brains are very protective of their glucose supplies).
At this point you can see that if you are going to run a course that burns 7,000 Calories, you don’t have nearly enough carbs on board to complete it and you will need to restock on the way around. If you take our earlier number that you burn roughly 50:50 carbs and fat, then half of the 7,000 Calories comes from fat (for free), and the other half from carbs, some of which you have on board at the start of the race and the rest you will have to get from whatever you eat or drink, some 2,500-3,000 Calories.
Where are you going to get the carbs from?
The body burns glucose, and it is natural to think about eating or drinking glucose. This is where we encounter the first problem: The strongest glucose solution your stomach can easily handle is 7% — one liter of water (which is 1,000g) containing 70g of glucose is a 7% solution. One gram of glucose (or any carbohydrate) supplies 4 Calories. Therefore, one liter of 7% glucose supplies 70g x 4Cal/g = 280 Calories, enough to move you 2.8 miles. You would have to drink 10 liters (i.e. 10 qts) to cover the total energy expenditure of a marathon. That’s a lot of fluid. This is why glucose solutions are not really practical. What to do? Maltodextrin is a short polymer of glucose, and is a very common ingredient in prepared foods (read the labels and you will see how many have maltodextrin). Your stomach can tolerate a 20% solution of maltodextrin, which would supply 800 Calories in one liter, enough to move you 8 miles. Much better. By the way, guess what’s in all those $1+ energy gels? Yup, it’s maltodextrin – read the ingredients…
Maltodextrin is dirt cheap. An 8lb tub costs just over $23, including shipping, on Amazon. That 8lb tub would make 130 sachets of PowerGel, which would cost you $130, including shipping, on Amazon. [For the economists amongst you, this is a good illustration of the supply chain costs of bringing you a commodity food item, ready to consume, in a foil package].
It is easy to make your own energy gels from “raw” maltodextrin: Add water, flavoring, and stir. I recommend sugar-free flavorings (vanilla, almond, coconut, soup, etc.) for palatability. A simple recipe for 4,000 Calories is 1 kg maltodextrin powder, 3 cups water, flavoring, mix until it turns into a syrup, then pour into containers. It keeps forever in the freezer.
Hydration and Electrolytes:
This may be the hardest thing to get right in ultra-distance running. Our bodies are not equipped with dials and gauges to figure out whether you have too little water, too much water, too few electrolytes, and so on. Long before you feel anything is wrong, your pace has slowed by at least 5-10%. It is worth understanding how sweating and drinking affect your overall balance of water and electrolytes. Let’s start with how much water your body contains: roughly 40 liters. This is split 2/3:1/3 between what is in your cells (intracellular water) and what is in your blood (extracellular water). While water can migrate freely between your blood and your cells, electrolytes cannot. The most important electrolyte to focus on is sodium. Although there are other important electrolytes (potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride), if you “follow the bread crumbs” trail for sodium you will know what you need to manage your body (under most conditions you will ever encounter). Sodium is essentially confined to your extracellular fluid, and does not move in and out of your cells. In other words, your electrolyte balance means how much sodium you have in the approximately 15 liters of extracellular fluid. Your body works within a narrow range of sodium concentrations. The standard value is 140mM per liter (140 milli moles per liter). It doesn’t matter if you cannot remember, or do not know, what a “mole” is. What’s important is that your blood has 140 units of sodium. Your sweat contains 30-50 “units” of sodium and your sports drink typically has 20-30 units of sodium. The point to notice is that sweat and sports drinks are much more dilute than your extracellular fluid. Let’s think about what happens as you sweat and drink. Sweating takes water out of your total of 40 liters of body water and sodium out of your 15 liters of extracellular fluid. If you don’t drink, the concentration of sodium in your blood actually increases because you are, relatively speaking, taking out more water than sodium. On the other hand when you drink water or sports drink you are decreasing the concentration of sodium in your blood. You can see that there is a potential problem looming after many hours of sweating and drinking – a gradual and inexorable dilution of sodium in your blood stream. So what? It turns out that when the concentration of sodium falls beneath 130mMol (130 “units”) your performance will be affected. When it falls beneath 125 units you will be weaving, and developing a nice case of “runner’s lean” – you may have seen marathoners finishing with a pronounced tilt to one side that they cannot correct – they are low on sodium. This condition of low sodium is called “hyponatremia”. It is the silent assassin of race performance. Without any obvious symptoms a runner is slower than s/he ought to be. For those interested in the math: 1 mole of sodium is 23g, so 140mMol/liter is about 3g of sodium per liter. A loss of 10mMol/liter is a loss 0.2g per liter, or viewed another way, if you take the 15 liters of extracellular fluid it represents a total loss of 15L x 0.2g/L = 3g. For easy reference, this is what 5g of salt contains. In other words you are “hyponatremic” when you lose 5g of salt. How much sweat is this? Sweat has about 30-50mMol of sodium per liter, which is roughly 0.5 – 1g per liter. Assuming you drink plain water to replace the lost sweat, then after you have sweated 3-5 liters you will have lost enough sodium to be hyponatremic. Runners typically sweat 1-2 liters per hour. You can see that it is easy to become hyponatremic after a few hours of running. Your sports drink provides some safety margin because it does contain a little sodium. However, there is a complicating factor concerning your kidneys and sense of thirst. Most runners secrete more ADH, “anti-diuretic hormone”, during a race, which lowers urine production and promotes thirstiness. The result is that you can drink more than you need to replace water loss, but your kidneys do not excrete the excess. This will leave your blood more dilute than it should be. Thus, another way you can get hyponatremia, is to lose some sodium through sweat, and dilute the remainder with excess drink, which you do not pee out. Bottom line, hyponatremia tends to be a bigger issue than dehydration in long races such as marathons and ultra-marathons. The sports literature used to focus solely on dehydration, but after a number of deaths due to hyponatremia the spotlight has moved from dehydration to hyponatremia. The best way to find out if you are over or under hydrated is to weigh yourself – but this is obviously not practical, since we cannot run with a weighing scales in hand (how about a new mobile phone App?) — the next best thing is to keep an eye on your hands – if they start getting puffy/swollen it may be due to excess fluid.
You can make your own electrolytes very easily. Take a bottle of one of the electrolyte brands and read the label for how much of each electrolyte a capsule (or tablet) contains. In the case of SaltStick you can buy 100 capsules for $20 on Amazon. 10 capsules contains the equivalent of about 5.5g salt, 1.2g salt substitute (KCl), and the calcium and magnesium can be sourced from a crushed Rolaid (the variety that contains both Ca and Mg), total cost < 10 cents. You can add your electrolyte mix to your home brew energy gels as well.
At this point you have all the numbers you need to take a stab at how much electrolyte you will need to run a course. You don’t need to be very precise. Just make sure that you are carrying enough to cover all contingencies.
Anti-oxidants and Muscle Fatigue:
This is not something you will see in the popular magazines, but is in the scientific literature. Muscles tire as a result of oxidative stress. However, muscles do have anti-oxidants to mitigate the damage. The two primary ones are Co-enzyme Q10 (known as CoQ10) and glutathione. You can buy CoQ10 at any vitamin store, Costco, or Amazon. Regarding glutathione, all you need to know is that the body makes it from the amino acid cysteine, which is readily available in powdered form or capsules, from vitamin stores or Amazon. Two studies have been published in recent years which demonstrate the effectiveness of giving both of these substances to athletes while they are exercising – a significant drop in the marker for oxidative stress and an increase in time to fatigue. Based on these studies you could try taking 100mg of cysteine and CoQ10 every five miles. I don’t know what the optimal dosage is, so it is up to you to conduct your own experiments to see, firstly, if they work and, secondly, if there is an optimum dose rate. How would you know if they are working? They won’t make you any faster at the outset of a race, however, you should feel stronger/fresher on climbs later in an ultra, finish stronger, and your legs should be less sore in the days after the race.
Two Studies on anti-oxidants:Medved, M. J. Brown, et al., J Appl Physiol 97:1477-1485, 2004 Randomized, Double-blinded, Placebo Controlled Trial = Gold Standard Cyclists exercising at 92% VO2max Cysteine è 25% increase in time to fatigue • Javier Dıaz-Castro, Rafael Guisado, et al., Eur J Nutr 51:791–799, 2012 Randomized, Placebo Controlled Trial Run 50km w/ 10,000’ of continual climb “ CoQ10 supplementation before strenuous exercise decreases the oxidative stress and modulates the inflammatory signaling, reducing the subsequent muscle damage”
Experiment you can try •Take 1 NAC capsule every 5 miles •Take 1 CoQ10 (100mg) capsule every 5 miles What might you notice in an ultra? •No difference early (everyone is still faster…) •Stronger climbing hills later (reel the hares in…) •Stronger finish •Less soreness in the days after the race
It is a persistent myth that cramps are due to an electrolyte imbalance. In practice, if your electrolytes were sufficiently out of whack to induce cramping, then every muscle in your body would go rigid. But that is not what we observe: cramps only occur in working muscles, e.g. your calves or hamstrings. They do not occur in non-working muscles (e.g., your arms and hands). What causes cramps is a matter of informed speculation. It is believed to be some kind of neurological fatigue (see next section). The problem in exercise physiology is that there is no known protocol to produce (exercise related) cramps in the laboratory, and if you cannot reliably induce them, you cannot test your hypotheses. Strange, but true. This being said, it is likely that the best way to ward off cramps is by volume and consistency of training – i.e., you increase the “endurance” of the nervous system.
Tiptoeing into the unknown…
My final section brings us to the boundaries of knowledge. From the earlier sections you may be under the misapprehension that we know all there is to know about sports physiology. Pooey! We know very little about how the nervous system responds to endurance exercise. This is a little surprising. The brain, for example, consumes 20% of your energy at rest. That’s more than your quads. Now consider what your brain and nervous system do during a 100 mile race. They fire 100,000 times in a row to generate the 100,000 paces you take in the race. The do those 100,000 firing sequences very reliably – if they didn’t, you would get pretty scraped up. We all know that our legs get tired, but do nerves get tired? (See section on “Cramps”). How much of which chemicals do neurons consume in those 100,000 firings? What things do they run out of? What adaptations do they make in response to training? What’s the optimal training strategy? No one knows. That’s why you have never seen a book titled “How to train your brain for ultras”. About all we know is that your brain needs glucose. Without it you are toast – people who run marathons without any supplemental fuel sometimes “hit the wall” and “bonk”, this occurs when glycogen reserves are sufficiently depleted that blood glucose begins to fall, and the brain intervenes to protect its glucose supply. Other than carbs to ensure an adequate glucose supply for your brain, what else should you include in your diet to help your brain? Are there things you can consume during a race which would help? No one knows. It is reasonable to predict that at some point the exercise physiologists will start to fill in this hole in our knowledge. To stay current with whatever they uncover, you need to learn how to use an academic search engine such as scholar.google.com or PubMed, which provide tools for locating published papers based on key words. This is how I came across a 2012 paper on CoQ10 and its role in mitigating oxidative stress in athletes who ran a 50km course with 10,000’ of climb. If you start to experiment with key word searches you will soon get the hang of what to look for. If you find a paper of interest which has conducted a study on athletes, look for the gold standard protocol: (a) Randomized; (b) Placebo controlled; (c) Double-blinded (neither the tester nor the subjects know which is the placebo and which is the test compound).
That concludes our quick tour of several nuggets of physiology that you can use to improve your performance. There is a good chance that after a few experiments you could improve your times by 10%, or more. Experimentation entails the willingness to fail and to have unexpected misadventures. Some of your experimental “failures” will be quite amusing (in hindsight, though may be not at the time), and make good stories over beer. The reward for these failures is that you discover things which turn you into a faster/better runner. In my case, I have gone from a middle-of-the-pack runner to “pretty good”, although not in the same league as the mutants – mind you, I still aspire to be one when I grow up…* Disclaimers: Charles not a doctor or a coach. Charles does not have a financial interest in this talk. All the math in these slides is very approximate! Please seek medical advice from a trained professional before trying any experiments talked about in this presentation.
Q&A with UltrAspire Athletes Ian Sharman & Nick Clark as they toe the line at Wastach to finish off the GrandSlam of UltraRunning
The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ award is recognition for those who complete four of the oldest 100 mile trail runs in the U.S. The “Slam” consists of officially finishing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run all in the same year. The Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ Award was established in 1986, when Tom Green was the first finisher.
With the Grand Slam coming to a close with the Wasatch 100 we wanted to ask the leaders Ian Sharman and Nick Clark a few questions. Krissy Moehl, athlete ambassador asks the tough questions…ok not really tough questions but ones we thought you would want the answers to:
The final race of the Grand Slam is the Wasatch 100 race which commences on Friday September 6th. Follow the race on Twitter: #wasatch100
With a truly heavy heart we say goodbye to a truly beautiful spirit Braydon Nielsen. Braydon was a friend to everyone he met. Just look at the photo above. Those are his friends cheering for him, the same way he would cheer for all of us. Braydon taught everyone in his life to booyah!! Braydon’s definition of Booyah was Never quit and do it with a smile cause this is fun!
Tuesday September 3rd Braydon was taken to soon from this world. A group of local athletes were out on a group ride along the local highway that is not usually heavy with traffic and has a wide shoulder to ride on. At 7:45 he was struck by a car. Life flight was called to the scene. The frantic posts, phone calls and texts were flying through the night as we reached out to each other trying to get the news. That moment hit each of us life a punch to the gut, there are no words to describe those moments. Soon an amazing beautiful thing happened his group of friends came down to the hospital and gathered with the ones who were there with him for his family and each other, those who couldn’t, gathered for each other online on the phone or in person. Soon we all changed our profile pictures to photos of Braydon, we all said our goodbyes with photos and memories, we texted and called each other.
Braydon was a member of the Southern Utah Triathlon Club he was the first person to be the one encouraging you that you can do it just keep going. Personally I think he always came in last so he could have us all cheering for him at the end. That was always a moment. Everyone cheering, yelling for him as he crossed the line.
Braydon never gave up! The photo above was his moment! A few weeks before this photo was taken he was unable to finish Ironman St. George 70.3 due to bike issues he wasn’t able to make the cut off on the run course. Instead of complaining he signed up for Boise 70.3 just 4 weeks later. He crossed that line with his friends and training partners waiting for him at the finish.
Braydon was a father of 4 beautiful kids and a husband to an amazing wife who was his cheerleader in life. He was an ICU charge nurse and a life flight nurse at Dixie Regional Medical Center, the same hospital he was flown to. He had the same spirit he carried in the racing world as he did at work. Booyah! I am not sure you could find a friend of Braydon he had not said this too to cheer on for any hard moment they were about to face.
Thank you for sharing your life with us, we love you and miss you friend. May we never forget to truly live life with a BOOYAH!
True legends are born of tall tales and feats barely within the conceivable realm of possibility, verging on the miraculous, yet tied to some actual event and/or location, believed with awe by many, and doubted by countless skeptics and unbelievers for the seemingly impossibility of duplication.
The stuff of legend is the stuff of dreams. Legendary status is for those who metaphorically slay dragons, walk on the moon, or make first ascents of the highest mountains in the world. For those who go where none have expected to go before, followed by the wonderment of whether any will ever go again.
“Legendary” is a word often used to describe ultra-athletes who are, well, hmmm, actually, rather typical ultra-athletes. Yes, this sounds like an oxymoron because, obviously, no ultra-athlete is a typical human being. What ultra-athletes are accomplishing is truly inspirational and awe inspiring—and all of them do it with extraordinary will, tenacity, courage and endurance. Ultra runners have long surpassed the “Battle of Marathon” with its legendary first distance run; and their collective accomplishments are, indeed, legendary. Yet, most individual accomplishments pale in comparison to rare and real “legendary” performance.
Most of these so-called “legends” win one, two, or perhaps even three well-known races, (some of which are more “legendary” than its winners). This is cause for celebration, but then some interviewer or journalist unwittingly refers to these noble individuals as “legendary” which is misleading both to the general public, and to ultra athletes, in creating wrongful illusions as to where the bar is actually set, and who has actually pushed ultra boundaries to its current outermost limits. This is like confusing vassals with the king. The vassal may have an interest in the land, but the king owns it.
Ultra running is a tough sport engaged in by tough people of varying ages and abilities—and simply measured by achieving the task, they’d all be qualified as legends.
What is it then that bestows true legendary status? Is it record-breaking speed? Some succeed once, twice or more in breaking a record, but there are many individuals who do this—only to see those records broken by someone else the following year.
Most of these course achievements are quite different than, for example, achieving a time that smashes an existing record, or one that stands for so long others begin to question its validity, and even to make comments such as: “it didn’t happen”; Or, “there is no way that guy did that! Or, even, “he must have taken shortcuts.”
Remember, legends inspire—but they also create—skeptics.
What is the weight and measurement of a true legend in this sport? Does such a one exist? Worthy of being spoken of for years to come, the Trojan horses, the Arthur’s, the Guinevere’s and the Joan of Arc’s—stories worth repeating over and over again, that eclipse the world of possibility and dazzle the imagination?
If just one were chosen, then that one would have to be Karl Meltzer, for he alone has set a standard that could be termed “legendary”. Others have had laudable and exceptional years, a few great races, a few amazing accomplishments. Then, they have faced injuries, aging bodies, unwillingness to finish races they are not winning—or not feeling good running, and competition of talented young newcomers. In the face of these things, Karl continues to perform as if imbued with super human qualities like those of Olympian legends Perseus or Achilles, both said to be descended from an immortal parent.
Karl has raced in over 100 ultra races and has won more 100 milers by far than any other person. These include being a five-time winner of the ‘Hardrock 100’, and six-time champion of the ‘Wasatch Front 100’—just the tip of a Titan sized iceberg.
His heroics belie the fact that, though larger than life, he claims to be just a regular guy fond of saying: “I am just like everyone else, just an athlete who enjoys running far.” Far from a runner who just loves running, he is the all-time winner of both the Wasatch 100 (6 times) and the Hardrock 100, (five times), as well as the ‘San Diego 100’ with three wins, as five time winner of the ‘Squaw Peak 50’, twice at the ‘Bighorn 100’, the ‘Maannutten 100’ twice, winner of the ‘Coyote Two Moon 100’ two times, and the Moab Red Hot 50k twice. He has won the ‘Bear 100’ three times, although, this is not the all time record wins of this race. He has also conquered the Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 Mile Run.
By March 7, 2010, he had won 53 ultra races out of 105 starts. When he won the ‘Grindstone 100’ in Swoope, Virginia, in 2012, he simultaneously broke his own 2009 record for that course by an hour and a half, and as of March 25th of this year, upon his win at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile, Karl had won thirty-five one hundred mile ultras, easily an all time record! Compare this to those termed “legendary” for winning a few notable 100’s over several years’ time. He is far from finished with 100’s and on his website he’s posted: “100 miles is not that far”.
What he has accomplished in any single calendar year, and then again in other years, is a physical and logistical improbability—and far from the dream of the most seasoned ultra athletes, to whom such would be an unrelenting nightmare. He achieved six 100-mile wins in 2006, the most 100-mile wins during a calendar year ever, and four of those were record performances! The final four of which were completed in a period of only eight weeks. In 2007 and 2009 he had five wins each year, and he had four wins in 2005, which was enough to top the previous record for number of wins in a single calendar year held by ultra “legend” Eric Clifton, with four 100 mile wins in 1991, and Joe Hildebrand who also won four 100’s in 1999. There is absolutely no comparison or precedent for Karl Meltzer’s win of more than four 100’s in four separate calendar years!
He has received awards from the USATF, Ultrarunning Magazine, RRCA Runner of the Year 2006, Everest Award 2006 and 2nd place Ultrarunning Magazine Ultrarunner of the Year for 2007 and 2009.
Other astounding—almost unbelievable accomplishments include: Running from Maine to Georgia, a distance of 2176 miles and 500,000′ vertical climbing in just 54 days, 21 hours, 12 minutes, amounting to an average of more than 40 miles each day—all while he was dealing with an injury, followed by a speed record for running the 2064-mile Pony Express Trail from Sacramento, California to Joseph, Missouri in 40 days, averaging 53 miles a day and ticking off an incredible 105 miles in 19 hours on the final day of the epic journey.
Based on 97 races, he has a ranking from “Ultra Signup” of 95.8%. Ultra Signup computes runner rank by calculating past results of a runner’s races. For each race, the gender specific best time (winner) is divided by the time of each participant’s time. The result is a value between 0-100% with winners receiving 100%. The average of the participant’s past races is their ranking. Compare this to baseball and Karl would be short of batting “a thousand” (1.000) by a mere 4.2% and not just for hits, but home runs, and not just one season but over a number of years.
Karl Meltzer began his ultra career at approximately age 28 with his debut at the famed ‘Wasatch 100’, where, he says, he: “found a talent that I never really knew I had”. From there he just kept getting better after that into his forties and still going strong. He also founded and is race director for, “Speedgoat 50k”, named for him. Years down the road, history may well preserve stories of a fabled athlete that, like Greek mythology or Egyptian divinity, was only part human—and the rest, well, legend.
Karl is sponsored by Red Bull, 1st Endurance, Hoka, and is an “Elite Immortal” product testing, development, and sponsored athlete for UltrAspire creators of Inspired Products for Ultra Athletes.
 At the time Karl ran the Appalachian trail, the existing 2176-mile Appalachian Trail record (47 days 13 hours 31 minutes, was held by Andrew Thompson as set in 2005; that record has since been broken, in 2011, by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 46 days 11 hours 20 minutes. Move over Athena Nike, for what may well be a new “female” legend in the making.