What Karl Meltzer Eats Before an Ultra
Meltzer's secret to success? An unorthodox diet.
With more 100-mile wins than any ultrarunner in history, Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer is no stranger to suffering over long distances. Beyond his hundred-miler wins—five of which came at Colorado’s famously grueling midsummer Hardrock 100—he has also set FKTs on the Appalachian Trail and Pony Express Trail and founded a race of his own in Utah, the Speedgoat 50K.
Proper fueling is critical to distance-running success, and that preparation begins long before race day. Some ultrarunners are known for their religious adherence to a strict diet filled with high-quality calories and performance-boosting ingredients. Meltzer, on the other hand, has a daily beer habit, stuffed his pockets with bacon while running the AT, and regularly eats Three Musketeers bars and ice cream.
We spoke to Meltzer about what he eats in the days and hours leading up to a race. He agreed to share, with one caveat: The best thing you can do is keep things simple and consistent.
One Week Before
“I don’t change a thing here. Whatever I want, I eat without overthinking it. In my case, that often means a bunch of food that sounds odd when you say it all together—steak, chicken, lots of bacon, pizza, crepes, verde burritos—it doesn’t matter to me. A verde burrito is one of my favorites, though, made with herby-green sauce and jalapeños.”
One to Two Days Out
“I’m almost always traveling at this point before a race. But I’m not one of these people who brings the ingredients for a perfectly curated and balanced meal with me on the road. I eat at a restaurant and get whatever looks good to me. Will I eat at McDonald’s? No. But I’m really not picky. Honestly, after two hours in a 100-miler, everything in my stomach is totally gone anyway. So I don’t really worry about changing my food choices all that much.”
The Night Before
“Again, I’m at a restaurant the night before, totally satisfying my cravings. That usually means a burger and fries or another pizza—probably pepperoni. I don’t overeat, but I do eat earlier than normal to make sure I can get my business done the next morning. I could also go for one of those verde burritos, but I try to stay away from too much fiber.”
“I’m really consistent (read: boring) here. I’ll have a yogurt and banana. It goes down easy and isn’t overwhelming to my system. Back in the day, I used to eat huge breakfasts before big races, but that would upset my stomach. A lighter meal seems to work best for me, especially since I’m empty so soon after the start. Then I just go with gels, salt caps, and some strawberries and pineapple throughout the hundred miles. This year at Western States, I had popsicles in my cooler with dry ice!”