Karl Meltzer on Being the AT’s Fastest Man, Fueling for an FKT, and Going Through 19 Pairs of Trail Runners

If you don’t know who Karl Meltzer (@speedgoatkarl) is at this point, may I be the first to welcome you to the real world.  How was your time under the rock?

After winning more 100-mile ultra-running races than anyone in history, Meltzer turned his sights towards conquering the “big daddy” of trails, using his own words.  His first Appalachian Trail FKT attempt in 2008 fell short of the record, although he finished the trail in a blistering (literally) 54 days, 21 hours, and 12 minutes.  In 2014, he started the trail in less than stellar shape and called the attempt quits when he fell more than 50-miles behind Jennifer Pharr Davis‘ pace.

This year, Meltzer was able to complete a full SOBO hike of the trail in 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes, besting the previous record held by Scott Jurek by 9.5 hours.

We caught up with the Appalachian Trail’s fastest man to learn more about what goes into a record breaking hike,

Relevant Links from this Conversation

Karl Meltzer’s personal site, Facebook Page, and Twitter.

New York Times article on his diet and beer consumption.

Hoka One One Speedgoat

Ultragen recovery drink

Karl Meltzer’s Reddit AMA

Conversation highlights

1:20 – What inspired him to take on a third attempt?

3:08 – Difference in what his successful FKT looked like compared to the previous two.

4:33 – “On the AT you’ve gotta have some luck…Things have to click for you.”

5:15 – Additional differences in why Meltzer’s 2016 attempt was successful.

6:24 – The role Red Bull played in his FKT.

7:55 – Biggest misconceptions of attempting an AT FKT.

8:56 – “The crew works harder than I do.”

9:18 – “It’s 46 days of misery.”

9:52 – Role of the mental component of an FKT attempt.

10:05 – “It is very mental.” Heart rate averaging 100. 3.3 – 3.4 mph. Importance of fuel for sustaining positive mentality.

10:50 – “I try to laugh at myself to get through the low points.”

11:06 – “Slow down a little bit.”

11:15 – “Dave Horton said it very clearly to me ‘it doesn’t always get worse’.”

12:04 – “The mental aspect is 70%.”

12:23 – Did he ever contemplate quitting?

13:30 – “Even when I had a 24 mile day in Virginia…I still wasn’t out of it.”

13:49 – “At a week out, I was confident, if my body held up, I could get the record.”

14:10 – Role of crew’s emotional support and positivity

14:17 – “I don’t need a crowd on the side cheering for me on the side.”

14:27 – “I was an ass once in a while, that’s part of it.”

14:50 –  “They still came back with a smile every time…That rubs off on me too.”

15:02 – “24/7 they were positive…and makes the experience all that much better.”

16:01 – Why the Appalachian Trail?

16:16 – “It’s the big daddy as far as I’m concerned.”

17:25 – Hardest section of the trail?

19:20 -Favorite sections: Southern Virginia into North Carolina, the Smokies, Roan Mountain, Grayson Highlands. “You get above treeline to see the beauty of the mountains out there.”

20:56 – Number of showers taken during his trek.

21:45 – Cleaned knees down every day. “We took care of my feet precisely every day.”

22:37 – Meltzer’s involvement with the Hoka Speedgoat and preferred specs.

24:00 – He went through 19 pairs of trail runners!

25:58 – Food and beer consumption.

26:03 – “I had one beer every night..Just a sip of a good, cold, frosty beer at the end of the day was great.”

26:50 – “I lost three pounds on my adventure, Scott lost 19…I need meat, I need protein.”

29:00 – I wanted food that filled my body, that made me feel like I ate something.

29:20 – “I ate a pint of ice cream in 3 minutes at one point.”

29:54 – “It worked for me, may not work for everyone else, but I have the record, it doesn’t matter.”

30:13 – Go to beer. Pale Ale.  “I can drink Natty Light…as long as it’s cold.”

30:28 – “I work to live, I don’t live to work.”

32:14 – Water drinking habits.

33:03 – Serving of Ultragen. Good for an hour after leaving the van. “I had a Red Bull at just about every stop.”

35:23 – Take salt stick tabs.

35:54 – Nightly routine. “Stretching is irrelevant.”

36:39 – Previous record holders battled shin issues.

37:06 – “We didn’t ice anything

37:58 – “My feet were amazing.” Zero blisters.  “You need space in the front .”

39:22 – Thoughts on crewing Jurek during his record breaking attempt. “I wanted to help him because I know the trail, he didn’t know I do.”

40:15 – “I wanted  to break the record.”

41:23 – “I slept at least 7 hours a night, he probably slept 5.”

43:40 – “He could certainly be faster, I could be faster.”

44:55 – “Scott has a book, I don’t have a book…yet.”

46:28 – Karl on the Jurek’s Baxter State Park fiasco.

48:55 – Advice for future FKT attempters

51:06 – Why he was doing this?

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Comments 1

  • Steve : Oct 4th

    Jurek should apologize to Baxter. That might smooth things over a little. But it’s people like him that may well ruin the AT Terminus for others who follow. I want to thru-hike to Katahdin in a few years and if Baxter closes it it will be because of people like him and his antics.


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