Fast Food: Hunting with Nikki Kimball

HOKA ONE ONE Athlete Nikki Kimball realizes that hunting can be controversial. However, the 2006 Western States 100 winner is confident in her decision to eat only meat that she has hunted. As a former competitor in biathlon, Nikki knows what she’s doing. In many ways, hunting has proven to be a more ethical and sustainable way of eating meat for Nikki. Here’s what she has to say about this intriguing lifestyle choice.


HOKA: What made you decide to start mostly eating meat that you have hunted yourself?

Kimball: That answer to that question is complicated, and in fact I actually have multiple reasons for my decision to start hunting. For nearly a decade and a half, beginning at age 13, I did not eat red meat. I adopted this dietary choice on the advice of a medical doctor who, at the time, advocated a very low fat diet for athletes. Though my often near complete vegetarian dietary choice was not made secondary to ethical considerations, the diet did expose me to thinking deeply and broadly about food choices. After returning to eating red meat in 2001, I enjoyed much better mental health, and much better athletic potential. But after a few years of eating meat, I felt I needed to better understand the cost of that decision. I felt hunting would expose me to the cost of taking a life in order to feed myself. Further, with my history of racing biathlon, a sport combining cross country skiing and rifle marksmanship, I am comfortable and well trained with rifle shooting. So hunting was something that I was already decently equipped to do, and it was the easiest way for me to truly understand the entire process of eating meat: the stalking, the killing, the field dressing, the butchering, and finally the cooking. 

Having been a hunter for several years, I’ve learned a lot. First, I am okay with my choice to eat meat. As we humans have eradicated most predator species, hunting is necessary and well studied method of population control for game species. Like other meat eating animals, I am part of a larger system which has balanced life and death throughout history. At least in areas in which human populations are under control, eating meat is sustainable, and hunting is quite helpful in balancing populations of prey species. Further, my respect for eating all foods, plant or animal, has increased. I find I waste very little food as I understand more deeply now that, whether I am eating animals or plants, what I eat used to be alive. Therefore wasting food seems more wrong to me than it did prior to my hunting.

nikki-vikaHOKA: How has this decision impacted your lifestyle and health?

Kimball: Eating meat and a high fat diet has greatly improved my mental health, as well as my athletic performance. Interestingly, I had tried for many years to make US National teams in skiing and running events. Within 12 months of adding meat to my diet I made US teams in mountain running, 100k road running, and snowshoe running. The decision specifically to hunt has also added to my life. I like to take a few weeks off from running every year in order to give my body and my mind a rest. So every fall I trade my HOKA shoes in for hunting boots (in warmer weather, I actually use my HOKA Tor Ultra hiking boots). I usually amass just as many steps on days I hunt as I do on days of running training. In the woods while hunting I notice the minutiae of the forest in ways I completely miss when running: perfect spider webs coated with dew, rime glistening on a branch, as well as the sounds of squirrels and the musky smell of elk. I think for many hunters, the act of hunting makes us appreciate the wilderness in a way we otherwise wouldn’t. In hunters, society finds people who deeply respect and want to preserve nature.  

HOKA: Did eating sustainably effect your decision to do this?

Kimball: Yes. Here in Montana we do need to hunt to control game populations. Our Fish, Wildlife and Parks service does a great job of managing wildlife by allowing specific numbers of hunting tags for each species. In most areas not overpopulated by humans, eating meat is quite sustainable. 

HOKA: How about fishing?

Kimball: I used to fish a lot and I still like trout and other fish. I think I will return to fishing once I’m not spending quite as much time running. For now though, hunting is just a very efficient way to eat. One elk can keep me fed for most of a year, whereas one needs many fishing trips to keep oneself fed all year.

HOKA: Have you faced any negative judgements for this decision? What do you say to those people?

Kimball: I have. I’ve been unfriended and viciously attacked on Facebook on occasion. And one of my hunting partners has had multiple death threats. And this occurs to those of us who never post gory pictures the animals we kill. One guy who unfriended me stating that hunting was lamentable; during the same week he posted a picture of his lunch plate which included about 30 shrimp. Another asked my friend why she couldn’t just get her meat at the supermarket like everyone else rather than killing those innocent animals. 

Many of the people who judge hunters negatively eat meat themselves. Arguing with these folks is easy: I’m eating sustainable meat; I practice shooting enough to nearly always make a clean, fast kill with one shot (much less stressful than dying of starvation, disease or predation by a mountain lion); the meat I am eating has not been mistreated, or pumped full of chemicals; etc. When vegetarians argue that hunting is bad, I point to the need for game animal population control. Granted we could not feed the entire planet off hunted animals. But that simply uncovers the problem of human overpopulation. I am very strongly in favor of zero population growth for humans, and I felt the same way nearly 3 billion people ago. Eating meat is not the prime issue with sustainability. And arguing that it is shifts focus off the primary problem of human over population. 

HOKA: Which animals do you most frequently hunt? 

Kimball: I hunt pronghorn, an animal which looks a lot like a springbok antelope, white tail deer, mule deer and elk. Each species presents its own challenge, and hunting teaches one a lot about the habits and preferred habitat of each.

HOKA: What tips do you have for someone who is interested in trying this for themselves?

Kimball: First take a hunter’s safety course. Then be sure to practice shooting a lot. Wounding an animal can happen to any hunter, but hours at the range make clean shooting much more likely. And spend a lot of time off season in the woods. Look for scat, beds and other sign of game. This will make your hunting much more successful.

HOKA: Do you have a favorite recipe for a meal that you have hunted?

Kimball: My favorite cut on any game animal is tenderloin. I usually marinate the meat in spices, vinegar and maple syrup, then sear it on a very hot grill leaving the meat cool and rare (well, raw) in the middle. This cut is simply too good to get creative with: the meat is fantastic, all the cook can do is mess that up. With less precious cuts, I make a lot of game and vegetable chili.


Beer Picks: HOKA Athlete’s Favorites

For many runners, there is nothing more satisfying after a grueling training session than a beer. Even elite athletes are not phased by this concept, and have adopted enjoying beer as an essential part of their recovery routine. After all, it’s mostly water…right? Here’s your guide to drinking like an elite, highlighting HOKA Athlete’s top picks for their favorite post-run brews.

Karl Meltzer

I’m a pale ale fan more or less. I don’t really like IPAs. Way too hoppy for me. I will say, I’ll drink any beer, except wheat beers. I don’t like the wheat flavor, it tastes skunked. On the Appalachian Trail, I mostly had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Although in Pennsylvania, I went with Yuengling Lager. It’s a local beer and I had to have a Yuengling while there. I only drank one beer per day on the Appalachian Trail. Many days I did not even finish it, I was more focuses on going to bed after dinner.karl-beer

1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Maybe a little Cliche, but Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is probably my favorite beer. It has a mild hoppy flavor, but it’s not overwhelming and bitter. It has the right amount of carbonation, which makes it a perfect post run beer when super cold.

2. Spotted Cow Pale Ale

We don’t have this in Utah, but I was sent a six-pack from a client in Wisconsin one year. It blew my mind. It’s similar to Sierra Nevada, but was a bit lighter and a bit more carbonation. For some reason, I”m not even sure what it was, but the flavor was amazing. 

3. Natty Light

Why? Because in Utah, you can drink 12 of em’, while doing yard work and not get drunk. That’s the truth. Fair to say it’s not great beer, but sometimes super light beer is better than too many Sierra Nevadas.

Trying to conquer the trails like the winningest hundred miler of all time? Check out the HOKA Speedgoat, which Karl wore to set the Appalachian Trail record.

Josh Amberger


1. Pfriem “Blonde IPA”

After spending the Summer in Bend OR this year, it was pretty easy to say by the end of the trip that this was my favorite beer of the trip. I ended up buying a 5 gallon keg of it to pour at my homestay’s place! It’s a reasonably sessionable IPA at 6.2% ABV, which means I can still train like a maniac and not worry about acting like one after just one pint. It’s a local brew, North-West of Bend in Hood River. I passed through the Pfriem brew-pub on the way back from IRONMAN 70.3 Coeur d’Alene in Idaho and tried some truly amazing beers. The Blonde IPA was my favorite of the lot. 

2. Pirate Life IPA

I’m going to have to go with an Australian brewer on this one. It’s a bit heavier at 6.8% ABV, which is getting towards my threshold for day-today consumption (happy to go heavier during the off-season!), but has a super tasty mix of US Centennial and Simcoe hops, with the very citrusy New Zealand Riwaka hops. It’s sold in cans, so great for camping and provides easy portage in an esky (Aussie word for cooler) to races and picnics.  Pirate Life is a new company with only two years on the books, but have a great image and already have a big reach in Australian craft beer. When my career in elite triathlon is all said and done, brewing is definitely something I want to try my hand at, and the quality of Pirate Life beer clearly shows what can be done in a short amount of time when enough passion is put into it. 

3. Nomad “Long Trip Saison”

Another Aussie beer, I’m going to settle with a Saison, which is a new found flavor interest for me. This saison Is intensely fruity in flavor, with some really nice spice and coffee tones to it, and is still sessisonable at 6% ABV (it’s all about balance!). It has local-roasted coffee beans added to the mash, and Australian Wattle seeds and Tasmanian peppers added to the boil, which makes it different to most of the Saison’s I’ve tried elsewhere. It’s quite unique and very zesty, I feel very ‘Stralian’ when drinking this brew. My girlfriend even likes it, which gives me a great excuse to buy it! 


Want to conquer the run leg of a triathlon like Josh? Check out his speedy racing shoe of choice, the HOKA Tracer.

Sage Canaday


1. Avery Brewing “Pump[KY]n”

Perfect for Fall but the ultimate heavy hitting sipping beer! This 15% alcohol pumpkin ale is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and is aged in Bourbon barrels for 6 months. I like the blend of flavors that have aged in this brew. It’s so strong it warms you up on a cold Fall/Winter day.

2. Avery Brewing “Maharaja” 

IPA fans this is it! A strong double IPA with a blend of hoppy goodness, but smooth bitterness (102 IBUs) and a tad of sweetness even. Best IPA ever (also quite strong at 10.2% alcohol). I love IPAs and this one really hits the spot and pairs well with lots of different foods.

3. Any Stout (but especially Avery Brewing ones like the “Czar”)

I like stouts in the colder seasons…you know the ones that feel like they give you a full dose of iron and hit you in the stomach like a full loaf of bread. They are filling and they warm me up! The dark, heavy, motor-oil colored stouts. Mix it up with Chocolate/mint ones, coffee ones etc. The stout is a beer that I really appreciate. 


Do you feel a need for speed on the trails? Try one of Sage’s new favorites, the Speed Instinct.

HOKA Team Planking Challenge

About one month ago, the HOKA Marketing team decided to take on the challenge of planking together for 90 seconds twice a day. Anticipated benefits included improved core strength and a nice break from screen time. While some were initially hesitant to join in, team planking has become a team bonding activity we look forward to every day.

We interviewed some of the team to see how planking in the office has impacted their lives. 


Why did you decide to start planking twice a day during work?

“It’s a quick, fun, low impact way to get up from my desk during the day and engage and strengthen my core! And our HOKA coworkers are a competitive bunch, so when it was spun as a ‘challenge’ we hooked more people.”- Suzie

“It’s something I think everyone can benefit from beyond the obvious physical gains. It helps promote the healthy lifestyle our brand represents as well as build team camaraderie and a little fun competition.”- Jared

“Peer pressure.”- Ian

How do you feel after planking?

“I honestly feel great and slightly accomlished! 90 seconds of planking is more of an achievement than it sounds! I also feel energized and more alert after, ready to jump back into focusing on my work.”- Suzie

“Sore, in the best way possible.”- Jared

How do you feel that planking improves team unity?

“I think that planking twice each day brings our team together so much. We are all working on the same thing at the same time for 90 seconds..not falling to the ground.”- Justin

“With the distance that our team has with people working offsite and traveling, it’s fun to hear and see (via snapchat) that people are doing the plank even though they’re not physically in the same room. Also it’s fun to hear that people who work in different areas are also joining in, like HOKA sales op and product team. I get a notification when someone forwards the Outlook reminder, and it always makes me smile that more people want to join in.”- Suzie

“Mutual pain brings mutual respect.”- Ian

How long do you plan on continuing planking?

“Indefinitely, #plankforlife.”- Jared

Turia Pitt’s Success at Kona

I really feel so bloody proud of myself! Kona was so brutal, and I’m totally ecstatic to have finished. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve taken on – the wild heat, the humidity, the powerful crosswinds that almost push your bike off course.

It was far from the perfect race – the heat got to me, I couldn’t keep any food or drink down, I battled a headwind for 90 km… so much of the day did not go as planned and I had to dig deep and then keep on digging, even when I was certain there was nothing left to give.


Over the fourteen and a half hours of my race, I battled these conflicting thoughts. It was like every lesson about overcoming pain and challenging myself came out to be tested. I had moments of sheer euphoria and intense pain. I compared myself to others on the race and I wanted to give up more times than I’d probably like to admit.

But then I’d find a way to come back to myself and focus on the path ahead of me. It was in those moments that the race became achievable.

It’s interesting because the theme of this World Championship was Kupa’a – a Hawaiian word that means being steadfast and focused, being true to your journey and your surroundings. I heard Mark Allen, six-time World Champion, speak about Kupa’a last week. He spoke about turning your focus away from the other competitors so that you can remain steady and focused on your own race. He spoke about being loyal to what surrounds you – accepting the heat and the wind and embracing that as part of the experience.

So, for every challenge, for every moment I wanted to give in and give up, I came back to kupa’a.

It’s not like there was this one big decision to just be focused the whole time. It was this back and forth struggle between negative distraction and positive progress all day.

I think that’s why I’m so proud of myself. Not because it was a perfect race or a personal best, because it was neither. I’m proud because I kept fighting to have kupa’a. I fought all the way to that finish line and that feels damn good.

Quit Your Job and Travel

HOKA Athlete Jen Benna is known for dominating in the ultra world. She’s had podium finishes at almost every ultra she has run in the last 4 years, most recently including a 3rd place finish at Leadville Trail 100.

This year, Jen made a big change in her work, family life, and training. She took the leap to quit her full time job to focus on the more important things in life. The first step was packing her life into a camper and moving to Alaska for the first stop on her journey. Jen says the hardest part was making the decision to do it, and seems to have no regrets since. We sat down with Jen to learn more about this huge lifestyle change and the incredible positive impact it has had on her and her family.

ultra-lifeHOKA: What made you finally make the decision to quit your job and start traveling with your family?

Benna: I don’t think changing my lifestyle happened overnight. But certainly there were a few wakeup calls that pushed me to rethink what I was doing with my time, my life, my family and why. There’s always been a wanderlust in my blood. A desire to not stand still, to be in nature, in new places and to share them with my children and my husband. But as time went on, I was feeling so confined within a corporate job and only getting a few weeks of the year to travel. I kept thinking is this it? Is this all we get? I mean, I was so grateful to have a great job and to provide for my family, but I was getting a feeling that I needed to take a break. Then, my little brother passed away very tragically and we had been dealing with ongoing health issues after my daughter’s surgery and ICU for over a year. The stars really aligned and the universe was telling me- it’s time, it’s time to go. You can work your whole life, but you may never get another chance to go do something big like this anytime soon. My whole life had changed and I knew it was time. So we went.

HOKA: What was the biggest thing that held you back from doing something like this earlier? How did you get past it?

Benna: I think particularly in the US, in our culture, work is king. You go to school so you can get a job, to make money, to provide for yourself, for your family. I always bought into that. It was what defined me coming out of college. Work hard, find a great job, do something good and take the time you get for vacation and make the most of it. I have always had a strong work ethic and I never thought I could ever leave a job to do something that on the surface seemed so wild, so irresponsible, so different from our cultural norms. And to do it with a family? I never thought it was possible, even though I dreamed about it for years. 

I finally stopped caring what everyone thought. I knew my husband and I were resourceful, had saved enough to be frugal and that jobs could come in the future. But time would never come back to me. I could never get back my children’s youth and the time with them was worth sacrificing, living simply and stepping out of the comforts we got so used to.


HOKA: What lifestyle changes were a part of this decision?

Benna: The most important thing we had to do was to decide it was possible. To change our mindset. Then the lifestyle changes could happen. To budget, to save, starting with basics such as not eating out very much or shopping only for necessities. The other major part was just getting used to not being on the phone, email or working so much. It was really hard at first. I wanted to check my phone, to call my co-workers, clients, etc. because I have worked almost continuously since I was 14 years old. Then I realized I can breathe, I can not feel guilty about being with my kids or not working. It took a complete mental overhaul. 

HOKA: What was your favorite part about Alaska?

Benna: Alaska was our choice because of how far out there, how wild it really is. We spent almost 4 months there minus my time training and racing in Leadville for the LT100. So it’s really hard to pick my favorite place, but a few moments really standout. Taking a 6 hour bus ride into the backcountry with just what we could carry on our backs to camp at Wonder Lake was a standout. As we camped out in subfreezing temps, I read my children Dr. Seuss in our tent, snuggled up, surrounded by blueberry bushes and the Alaska range. We loaded the kids into our running stroller and ran long distances amongst majestic moose, caribou, and grizzlies. Because of weather we had waited all summer to see Mt Denali and on the last day, the 20,320 foot peak came into view. I have never been so in awe in my life. Denali changed us. It seeps into your mind, it creates a desire to be near it, to stand on it, to respect the mountain. It capped off the most wonderful experience for our family.

I also ran the Historic 33 mile Chilkoot trail, which in the late 1890’s was the back breaking mountain crossing to the Klondike gold fields in Dawson City. Brave gold seekers traversed the “Golden Stair Case” on foot, by sled and hand made boats.  Many people perished on that trail and it brought a whole new perspective to running. I ran the trail in about 8:00 flat and without intention, later found that I had set a fastest known time on the trail for females. It was the most pure line through the mountains I have ever run. Combined with so much history and with only brutal wilderness surrounding, it was perhaps the highlight of my time running in Alaska.


HOKA: Where will you be traveling next? How did you choose your locations?

Benna: After many short trips to Spain, we fell in love with the country, the people, the mountains and the culture. I think that’s where we will spend our late winter and spring.  

We have to be realistic about how many places we can travel with our two young kids. We have to figure in adequate time in each place to let the kids acclimate, to not feel rushed and to be rested. We don’t want to hurry. So less is more for us. If we get to know a few places really well and we feel like locals, then the goal is achieved. 

HOKA: How long do you plan on maintaining this lifestyle?

Benna: If I could find a way to support our family with this lifestyle I think we could do it for a long time. It’s nice to have a home base and to know it’s there when we need it, but I could see us traveling for many months of each year. Of course, the challenge is figuring out financially how to do that. So we know it might not last for a really long time and we are prepared for that. But in either case, we have gained a new perspective that puts family, health, marriage, travel and purpose over seeking endless financial riches. With these new priorities, our lifestyle will never be the same no matter how we end up supporting ourselves.

HOKA: What is the biggest challenge of this lifestyle? What is the biggest benefit?

Benna: The biggest challenge is being in new places and having to figure out your bearings. The logistics of traveling with kids so young (2 and 6) can be challenging. What might look to be a 4 hour drive can quickly turn into 8 with stops, temper tantrums, and food needs. Patience and letting go of control over that is the only way this life works. Being a great mom is always the priority- not the travel itinerary. 

The biggest benefit is the absolute freedom we have. We homeschool our older child and we do her school work from mountain vistas or from our camper or from picnic tables. There is no set place- no conformity. She is learning as much as in traditional schooling but we are adding in so much about what we are seeing and experiencing that its a robust education for her. We are so simple and inspired in what we see and do each day that at night we are absolutely spent. I have never felt my heart so full.


HOKA: How has your training been influenced by this lifestyle?

Benna: Alaska in particular has reinvigorated my running in a way I can’t fully express. The mountains there are unlike anything we have in the lower 48. I once spent 5 hours to cover 15 miles with Geoff Roes and his Juneau running friends, only to have to glissade down several thousand foot snow fields in a whiteout, hoping we weren’t too close to the cliff face somewhere below us. I started to learn how to really run technical terrain and there weren’t a lot of runs that were without major views, clean and cold mountain air, lots of rain and the chance a grizzly could be really close by.

But in general, I was able to really put in the work this summer for Leadville more than I could before. I had hiccups, sure, but I could finally justify being out there more. I also was able to take more time for prehab, PT work and the little things that add up to putting forward your best foot come race day.


HOKA: What is your next big race? What are your expectations for it?

Benna: I’m leaning towards jumping into the mix at the North Face Endurance Championship 50 in San Francisco this December with the intention that it will make me work hard for my real first A goal race next year- Transgrancanaria 125k in late February. I really don’t expect anything for TNF50 other than it will be really fast, always a deep field in one of my favorite places to run, the Marin Headlands. I think this summer and even Leadville taught me that I only race well when I am really in love with the course and the race. I loved Leadville with such a passion that finishing on the podium was just icing on the cake. So no more racing just to race. If I toe the line, I expect to compete with passion.

HOKA: How do you think this lifestyle will influence the people your children grow up to be?

Benna: Our young children are one of the major reasons we took a leap of faith to change our life. They are growing up so fast and I want to give them a basis of simplicity in such an overwhelmingly technology driven world. Not having any internet nor TV was a blessing this summer. Instead the kids enjoyed making friends, hiking and riding bikes at remote campgrounds. I understand that technology has it’s place in modern society but the foundation of who they are should be more simple than that. I want to give them mountains, camping, hiking, respecting our land as something that grounds them growing up. 


HOKA: What does your daily life look like now?

Benna: My life is a lot more unstructured and less rushed than ever before. We prioritize my daughter’s learning, my running, good eating and resting more than we ever have before. I actually am reading books for fun now- which is something I never ever had time for. Sleep is really important and I think I am making up for the past 5 years of not really sleeping much. With two kids however, we are so busy I wonder how I was able to work full time, run so much and be a mom.  I am a happier person not being so stressed out.

HOKA: What advice do you have for someone considering to make a big change like this one?

Benna: To really think about life as if you have already lived it. Will not changing your life cause you regret? Will you always wonder- what if I listened to my heart and went for it? In the end, if the answer is yes, than you should make the changes that will allow you to follow your dreams and everything else will fall into place.