Since selling Mobius Café in Silverton, Colorado in 2014, Megan Kimmel has refocused her attention on summer racing, something she had to set aside while managing a seasonal business. Now living in Carbondale, Kimmel is a therapeutic masseuse in addition to running for Salomon, which enables her to create a schedule that maximizes her training and flexibility.
Even with the shift, she says that no matter how much training she’s logged, she always feels as though there is something else she could do. That grit, drive and focus have served to her advantage, resulting in an enviable collection of wins and podium finishes throughout her 10 years of trail racing, including being a six-time winner of the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, winning the 2009 Pikes Peak Ascent, qualifying for the USA Mountain Running Team three times, winning the 2016 Run the Rut 28K, and finishing on top at the 2017 Marathon du Mont Blanc.
Kimmel is going into the 2018 season feeling strong and with an eye toward defending her title at the Marathon du Mont Blanc. Yet, when we caught up after her season opening DNF at the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon in Spain, the first event of the newly launched Salomon Golden Trail Series, the 38-year old was questioning her fitness. Kimmel made an impressive turnaround with a win at The Broken Arrow Skyrace 52K in Lake Tahoe, Calif., just a few weeks later.
Competitor Running: You’ve run the Marathon du Mont Blanc twice, and have an impressive first and second place finish. How do you tailor your preparation for this specific race?
Megan Kimmel: With a flat start and then plenty of mountainous terrain, the course itself will set you up for cramping, something I struggled with for the last 10K in 2017. That’s been my biggest focus going into training this year, more uphill and fast flat to uphill transitions.
Yes, the Mont Blanc race is a marathon, but it’s also mountain running. You aren’t looking at a three hour finish time, it’s more like a five hour finish time, which also makes it super important to conserve energy and figure out your nutrition and hydration.
CR: When a season encompasses not just one goal race, but several, how do you approach training?
MK: While preparing for a race, regardless of the distance, I’m thinking of the distance and terrain of the next race. When I’m running a lot of races, my schedule is: run a race, recover from the race, and train for the next race in a short period of time.
CR: What are some of your key workouts?
MK: My key workout is a long run. The actual length depends upon the distances of the races I have on my schedule. In addition to that, I’ll add shorter recovery days, interval days and a tempo run. I run six days a week.
CR: Do you cross train?
MK: I don’t really have time for cross training. I know it’s important and I’m still striving to do better. Actually I’m having my mountain bike tuned right now, it’s the first time in 10 years–I’m pretty excited. I also like climbing. It’s something I do to relax, stretch, and have fun. It gets me out enjoying nature in a different way.
CR: Do you run year-round?
MK: I stop running in the fall and switch to skiing. I have a quiver of skis: classic, skate, back country, downhill, Telemark–I like it all. That’s been good for me because it gives my legs a break from the repetition. But it takes a while to get my legs back in the spring. When you’re in ski books the whole time, you lose a lot of calf strength.
CR: Eating internationally can be tricky, especially when you’re racing. How do you handle it?
MK: I have a very open diet. For me it’s not worth the stress of having to be specific with my food. It’s just one more thing I don’t need to think about. I do travel with snacks, but more so that I don’t get hungry while traveling. You don’t want to get depleted before a race. My rule is to eat when I’m hungry.
CR: How do you recover when you have races so close together?
MK: I’m guaranteed to be sore for two or three days after a race, it’s built-in recovery. After that it totally depends upon what intensity I need and want and how I’m feeling. I tend to have a week of recovery, then, within two weeks, I’m full on training for the next race. I prefer a race a month because it gives plenty of time to recover and get in a couple of good training weeks, with time to taper and travel. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
CR: Do you still have “ah ha” moments during races?
MK: It’s amazing to me how I still learn something in every single race. Between weather, nutrition, hydration, and the course, there are a lot of factors to consider.
CR: What’s next for you?
MK: Over the next couple of years, I’m going to transition to running longer ultras. This year I’m running the Eiger Ultra Trail and TDS, each of which is 100K or longer. Ultra distance is a totally different mindset. You aren’t putting all of your effort in to peak for a three- or five-hour run. You’re out there for an entire day; it’s much more about enjoying the experience. I’m ready for the lifestyle change of it all.
CR: What is it about running that makes it so special for you?
MK: Running for me is ultimate freedom. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. All I need is a pair of running shoes.