A couple days after his run, Adam Kimble shared his raw thoughts with me in this interview. There was one question I was dying to ask, but refrained from doing so directly…
“Are you going to try again?”
Running the entire 171-mile Tahoe Rim Trail is a huge endeavor – supported, unsupported, sleeping, or not – and attempting to run at FKT-pace is even more challenging. When Adam’s time came up short of the record (held by Kilian Jornet, arguably the best mountain runner in the world,) I certainly wasn’t about to ask “when are you going to put your body and mind through that again?”
Luckily, Adam shared the answer without me having to be so blunt! Here’s what he had to say:
QI know that you wanted to quit at some point… tell us about your worst low. And, specifically, what thoughts helped you push through.
AMy lowest point came just before the 100k mark when I came into Spooner summit. I likely hit the low as a result of some dehydration and nutrition issues, as well as the fact that I was running at the highest point of the Tahoe Rim Trail around that same time. Whatever the case, my legs were thrashed and the prospect of completing the mission was looking grim. So, I did what I always try to do when I feel overwhelmed by a goal: break it down into digestible pieces. Rather than thinking that I had more than 100 miles to go, I focused on the section from Spooner to Kingsbury Grade where I would see my crew again! During that time, my body began to improve and my mentality was totally different by the time I reached Kingsbury Grade.
QYou ran the first 40 miles solo. How did that feel different – mentally – than running with pacers later.
AI really wanted to begin the journey solo, so as to establish my mindset and to get into the rhythm of the adventure. The first 40 miles were my chance to dial in my focus and really embrace the journey ahead, distraction-free. Plus, waiting to run with pacers until 40 miles in was a nice mental boost and something to look forward to!
QYou are so lucky to have such experienced and amazing crew! But there were hiccups on the first day: leaving your headphones at Watson and then missing you at the hike-in location. How do you handle those issues without getting frustrated – especially when they happened so early in the adventure?
AIt’s always challenging when dealing with setbacks, especially in an already difficult endeavor. When you go off course during a 100-mile race, it’s extra frustrating because you already have so far to run. My general strategy is to acknowledge the mistake, allow myself to be frustrated for a moment, and then move on! By recognizing that it bothered me, it helps to deal with it and then move forward.
QHow did you break the daunting – 171-mile – distance down in your head?
ALike I mentioned previously, I’ve learned over time that the only way to accomplish a massive and daunting goal is to break it into more manageable pieces. For me, the segments between seeing my crew were those pieces. Twenty miles here, ten miles there, and every time I got to see my crew I would be refreshed. Sometimes just a small section of miles would feel endless, and other times a whole 20-mile segment would just fly by. But ultimately, it’s about staying present and working on hitting micro goals in order to reach the macro goal (172 miles!) at the finish line!
QYou were experiencing knee “niggles” in the weeks before the run. Did your knee bother you while you were running? What other physical issues did you experience?
AI was definitely worried about that going in, because I wanted to feel as close to 100% as possible. When you run such long distances, your body is going to break down regardless, so it’s always helpful to be feeling as strong as possible when you start. Other than a little discomfort here and there, I didn’t feel the knee too much. My body was wearing down over the course of the run, but thankfully I mostly just experienced leg fatigue and tightness in my body. That, and a lot of mental fatigue from the lack of sleep!
QBefore starting, how likely did you think it was that you could beat Kilian’s extremely fast FKT?
AObviously, any record set by Kilian is a stout record. However, I felt that it was in my wheelhouse to get it done and set a new FKT. In fact, I still feel that way after completing the loop, and I look forward to the challenge of going after it a second time!
QWhen did you realize that you were no longer in contention for the FKT? How did that affect your mood and running?
AAfter my lowest point at Spooner, I knew I was seriously cutting into my time cushion. I set my splits to have a two-hour buffer, and I spent almost an hour at Spooner trying to get my mind and body right. That meant I couldn’t fall off the pace much more in order to stay ahead of the record. Based on how I felt at that time, I knew it was going to be a really tall order to make the record happen. My mood was actually okay, though I felt like there was a good chance I wasn’t going to finish the expedition. Thankfully, my body bounced back and I was a completely different person a few hours later!
QAny particular high points?
AThere were a few high points: the stretch between Spooner and Kinsbury Grade when my body came back from the dead; the morning after the first overnight when I ran into Big Meadow (which was when I knew I would finish for sure!); and the stretch through Desolation when I was moving quite good for the amount of miles I had on my legs. All three of those were big moments for me on the journey!
QWhat did the experience teach you that you might do differently next time?
AThe two biggest takeaways I have for my second FKT attempt are this: spend more time running up above 9,000’ of elevation, and fuel and hydrate way more than I think I need to! Even though I live in Tahoe and run regularly above 7,000’ of elevation, the extra elevation gain had an impact on my fatigue. I just need to run more on the highest sections of the course, as the vast majority of the TRT is above 8,000’. As for the fueling and hydration, I missed my crew a couple of times and got dehydrated and behind on fuel. However, next time, I will fuel and hydrate even more than I feel necessary, just to mitigate any risks of missing crew or getting behind on calories!