Just Kilian - Page 6
Western States Legacy
It is the evening before Kilian's second attempt at winning the Western States 100. I am standing in his Squaw Valley hotel room with the noisemakers—two videographers, two photographers and Vollet—poring over a map of the course. The talk is of steady cams, lenses and the geographical jargon specific to Western States: Robinson Flat, Dusty Corners, Devil's Thumb, I-80 to Highway 49. What time they need to be where to get the best coverage.
Kilian is in the kitchen throwing together an energy-food concoction of dehydrated maltodextrin mixed with honey and water: his own energy-gel recipe. He is business-like in his actions. They are the meticulous actions of a man that has done this before. His presence in his own room would go almost entirely unnoticed if it weren't for his propensity to leap, gazelle-like, over various obstacles scattered about: Vollet's chair, the fold-out couch.
When asked what his race strategy will be he says, "I will start strong, then I will accelerate and I will sprint on the finish," and laughs.
The first year I ran with Kilian, I did so because I was curious. I wanted to see what an ultramarathon looked like.
What ensued was one of the great battles in ultrarunning history as Kilian and two-time Leadville Trail 100 champion, Tony Krupicka, of Boulder, Colorado, fought a battle in the dead heat of the day that ultimately cost them both the victory. Just past the Rucky Chucky river crossing at mile 78 Krupicka left a beaten and fading Kilian in second place. Soon thereafter eventual winner, Geoff Roes, passed them both and left Kilian in third.
Admittedly, I agreed to pace Kilian through the same section for a second year also out of curiosity; curious to see a rematch with one of the few trails to ever defeat the Spaniard (Krupicka would have to sit the race out due to an injury). Kilian, I've learned, does not need a pacer. When pacing for Kilian my responsibility is merely to witness. I'd sooner miss a rematch of Foreman and Ali.
On my way out of the hotel room, a paper with checkpoint splits catches my eye. Kilian has written down his predicted time for all points on the course minus the finish line. "I'm convinced it's important to stay humble to progress," says Kilian. "If you think you have accomplished something in this world, you are a fool."
Ten hours after the race start and five years after meeting Kilian for the first time, I find myself waiting for him near Forrest Hill at mile 60 on his second running of the Western States 100.