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Garett Graubins Wednesday, 28 December 2011 07:49 TWEET COMMENTS 1

The Casual Champion - Page 6

Mission Control

Meltzer's basement—a huge refinishing project he tackled on his own—is the depository for some of the sport's most treasured awards. Hardrock trophies, Wasatch Front skulls, Squaw Peak 50 statues, a string of belt buckles—more than 20 of them.

On a ping-pong table, Meltzer has set up a war room for his next huge undertaking—an assault on the speed record of the 2175-mile Appalachian Trail. "It's sort of mission control down here. And there's going to be an RV," he says, noting the involvement of his sponsor, backcountry.com. "They're printing 300,000 stickers to pass out."

In AT Mission Control, there are trail maps, note pads, pens and scribblings everywhere. If Meltzer falls short in his record attempt, it will not be for lack of preparation or microscopic attention to logistical detail. "When Andrew Thompson [the current record holder] ran it, he did it in 47 days 13 hours 31 minutes," he recites, seemingly with the numbers branded into his brain. "That's 45.7 miles per day."

"It's all pretty intense," he says. "I didn't expect it to be anything like this, but I can't complain."

Anybody close to Meltzer knows he completes what he starts—to the point of an undisputed perfectionist, despite his chilled-out demeanor. Says Meltzer's dad, "He has that disciplined drive, that focus, but he does have that laid-back appearance."

(You can follow Meltzer's AT progress at www.whereskarl.com.)

Parting Shot

Intensity is trying to run at 13,100 feet above sea level. This is home to Virginius Pass in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, a keyhole of rock no larger than a bed mattress. It is a forbidding aid station on the Hardrock 100 course and, in 2005, Roch Horton and friend Tim Seminoff hosted the aid station and decided to give it a spirited fiesta theme. Runners thought they were hallucinating when they arrived to mariachi music, glowing chili pepper lights, two men in serapes and a bottle of tequila.

Horton had called Meltzer, the bartender, to ask what kind of tequila he should buy. Horton imitates Meltzer, deepening his voice and turning serious, "Roch, you gotta get Hornito's." So Horton hauled a premium $48 bottle of tequila up the pass, partly for Meltzer.

"Hal (Koerner) was the first person through—and he would not touch the tequila," recalls Horton. "Karl came through with his race face on. He gave me this glassy-eyed look and said, `No'. Off he went down the steep side toward Telluride."

Then about a minute later, Meltzer reappeared out of the darkness. "Gimme some of that tequila," he said.

Horton laughs, "I thought, `That guy has huge pride ... He's not going to let this pass without taking a ceremonial sip. I think it wound up helping him win the race."

Meltzer caught Koerner on the descent to Telluride and eventually won the race by 90 minutes.


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