Where’s Karl?

Karl Meltzer is a friend from the ultra-marathon trail running community. Debbie and I have chatted with him at various events in recent years and exchange e-mails and blog posts from time to time. We got to know Karl a bit better at last year’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) in Chamonix, France. Shep, fellow ultra-runner Buddy Teaster, and I were crewing for Debbie. Cheryl, Karl’s wife, crewed for him. UTMB didn’t end the way Karl and Deb had expected (both were DNF’s), but we joined some of our other running friends for a beer to discuss the race. He is an accomplished ultra runner with multiple wins at the Wasatch 100, Hardrock 100, and San Diego 100. He lives in Utah, though he has roots in New Hampshire. 

Karl is attempting to break the speed record for the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail. He started 14 days ago on August 5th at the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, and is headed south to Georgia. He has projected that it will take 47 days to complete the trail. The current record is 47 days, 13 hours, and 31 minutes. He is currently ahead of his projection and averaging an astonishing 42 miles/day through the rugged New England section of the trail. As things “flatten out” as he heads south, his daily mileage will increase and his overall projection requires 46+ miles day average to reach his goal. 

You can track Karl’s progress at www.whereskarl.com

Debbie and I have been particularly interested in Karl’s attempt. We don’t often get wrapped up in these feats, preferring to do them ourselves (at least mini versions), but Karl is a friend and we love the AT. We want him to break the record, but mostly to have a wonderful experience and to provide inspiration to others. We told him before the quest that we would try to hook up with him when he passed through Connecticut, and possibly run with him a bit, but at least get out there to see him go by. He is projected to be in the Nutmeg State later this week. 

As it turns out, we got a chance to see him sooner than anticipated, which is a pretty remarkable story. This past weekend, we were headed to a rugged mountain bike race, the Hampshire 100 in Greenfield, NH. The plan was to visit some friends in Norwich, Vermont on Saturday, then head to Oak Park in Greenfield where we would camp.

After spending the day in Norwich and nearby Woodstock, we discussed our plans. It was mid-afternoon, Shep was passed out in his car seat, we were all cranky and it was time to move on. Debbie had noted earlier that there would be a chance Karl would be coming through Hanover, NH today. Hanover is directly across the Connecticut River from Norwich, is a the home of Dartmouth College, and is a legendary stopover town on the Appalachian Trail. Many AT thru-hikers choose to hang out in Hanover because of the hostels, laundromats, restaurants, and bars. Hanover in summertime is a blast. However, Karl isn’t the average AT thru-hiker and it was likely that he wouldn’t be stopping for a beer. 

I suggested that we follow the white blazes up through town and keep an eye out for the http://www.backcountry.com RV and Karl’s crew. His run is fully supported and there are at least two people manning the RV at any given time. For the first two weeks, his father has been on crew along with someone from Backcountry, the title sponsor for his assault on the AT.

We crossed the river, drove up through town and kept our eyes open. The trail headed off into the woods and Debbie remarked, “This is a wild goose chase.” Clearly, she was ready to go. Just at that moment, I yelled, “There it is.” The RV, emblazoned with Karl’s photo and the names of his sponsors was at the back of the Co-Op Food Store parking lot where the AT emerges from the woods. 

We parked next to it. The crew dog was inside but no one was around. We knocked, hoping not to wake anyone. They have been getting up between 3:00 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. every day. Crew duties include meals, laundry, and logistics. We couldn’t find anyone. I went into the store to look for Karl’s dad or another crew member doing groceries. Still no one. After 15 minutes of hanging around, Debbie wrote a note to Karl and the crew. We put it on the windshield and were just about ready to take off for NH, when she looked up and yelled, “There’s someone running.” Whoa, it was the man himself. He emerged from the woods at just the right moment. Truly, a needle in a haystack kind of find. 

A handshake, a hug, a few photos, some directions through town, and he was off again. Now, we definitely feel part of his quest, though he is doing all the running! We updated the note so the crew knew we saw him, hopped in the van, and drove down to the river. We piled out, including an awake Shep, and went out onto the bridge. We waited for him to arrive again, shot some photos, shouted encouragement and he headed into Vermont. We laughed about the events, relaxed for a few minutes, Shep did some running of his own, then we took off to our next stop in Greenfield. 

We may still try to hook up with Karl in CT later this week, but we are pumped about seeing him in Hanover. His solitary quest requires the support of his family, crew, sponsors, and friends, but he is doing the heavy lifting. 2,174 miles in 47 days takes a lot of planning, fitness, and mental fortitude. When Debbie and I did a self-supported thru-hike of the Long Trail in 2005, we averaged 23 miles a day, and that was serious pain. We were backpacking, not fast packing/running, so it is a bit different, but we still know what 15 hour days are all about.

As Karl headed across the river and into Norwich, Shep simply said, “Goodbye.”

Go Karl!

5 Responses to “Where’s Karl?”

  1. 1 Wayne 18 August 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Cool story. You may not know that my family is from Lebanon, NH and I know the area up there well. In fact Heather and I met while she was working at Dartmouth’s Baker Library after I moved east in 1985. That bridge Karl is crossing has good/bad memories for me, since it was in the final mile of the first marathon I ever ran in 1985, and I was doing the survival shuffle at that point!

    I used to belong to and shop at the Dartmouth Co-op Food Store. Quite a few changes to it between now and then. And the whole area where Hitchcock Medical Center (and all the assorted businesses that have sprung up around it) is used to be wilderness when I lived there!

  1. 1 Karl Is Done « Life Adventures Trackback on 30 September 2008 at 10:44 pm
  2. 2 Trail Running, Scott Jurek, the Appalachian Trail, Western States Endurance Run, and So Much More | Life Adventures Trackback on 27 June 2015 at 8:40 pm
  3. 3 Scott Is Done | Life Adventures Trackback on 14 July 2015 at 4:07 pm
  4. 4 Speedgoat Mountain Races (Vertical Mile-50K-Quadbanger) | Life Adventures Trackback on 28 July 2015 at 10:21 pm

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