Climbing every mountain?

Spain’s Jornet hopes to make Western States his latest conquest
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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He’s steadily gained fame in Europe for his various achievements, not only in endurance running, but cross-country skiing, mountaineering, climbing and mountain biking. He’s won Europe’s Skyrunning World Series — a series of high-altitude endurance runs — each of the last three years. And at age 22, he lists two Ultra Trail Mont Blanc titles on his resumé. Killian Jornet Burgada is the face of Salomon Trail Running and his various achievements around the world are being documented as part of the “Killian’s Quest” series on the company’s website. His latest challenge is Saturday’s Western States Endurance Run. While the website offers plenty of insight into the background and mental makeup of the Spanish runner, one large question looms heading into the Western States 100. Can he make history here? Tim Twietmeyer has witnessed Jornet’s talent up close. Last summer, Twietmeyer gave the youngster a few pointers and he promptly went out and shattered Twietmeyer’s longstanding record on the Tahoe Rim Trail, making the 165-mile trek in 38 hours, 32 minutes. Twietmeyer had set the previous record of 45 hours, 58 minutes in 1995. Twietmeyer is also impressed with Jornet’s two wins at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, a prestigious race in the Alps that draws thousands of participants from all over Europe and beyond. “One’s a fluke and two’s a trend,” Twietmeyer said of Jornet’s victories in Europe. “He won UTMB when he was 21, so that kind of speaks for itself.” Jornet is a true enigma heading into Saturday’s Western States Endurance Run. In a field that includes guys like two-time champion Hal Koerner, 2009 Ultrarunner of the Year Geoff Roes and two-time Leadville 100 champion Anton Krupicka, Jornet may be the most intriguing. Jim King and Scott Jurek both won Western States when they were in their mid-20s. But the trail has humbled many young phenoms with its 15,540 feet of climbing and 22,970 feet of descent. “It’s kind of a wildcard to have a fast guy that’s so young,” Twietmeyer said. “A lot of guys with fast running genes are doing marathons or 10Ks at his age. We haven’t seen somebody come in and dominate at that age.” Jornet grew up in the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain and has made the mountains his playground since he was young. His most recent feat — as chronicled in the web series, “Killian’s Quest,” — was an eight-day journey across the Pyrenees Mountains, covering 850 kilometers (528 miles) in eight days. He finished on June 8. The Spaniard weighs less than 125 pounds and has a reported VO2 max of 92. Lance Armstrong’s VO2 max, which is the highest rate at which oxygen can be taken in and used during exercise, has been recorded at 85. Jornet flew into San Francisco last week and arrived in Squaw Valley earlier this week to get acclimated and check out portions of the trail via mountain bike. After two foreign runners finished in the top three last year (Japan’s Tsuyoshi Kaburaki was second and England’s Jez Bragg took third) this could be the year a runner from overseas makes history. “Those guys proved you can come from overseas and run well last year,” Twietmeyer said. “It’s going to be an epic battle, very interesting to watch.”