TAUR: Mr. Krupicka. Thank you so much for not running for a few minutes so I could talk with you. Among the ultrarunners I know, discussions about you or your race performances seem to always start with an agreement that nobody really knows how to pronounce your last name. Once that is agreed upon, we then discuss how you obliterated everyone else in “that” race. Do you prefer Anton or Tony?
AK: Well, my last name is pronounced “crew-pitch-kuh”. It’s Czech. My name is Anton—it was my great grandfather’s, and I like to preserve the family heritage—but most of my close friends call me Tony.
Height and Racing Weight?
“The only times I can remember weighing myself in the last few years is at 100 mile races. I was 154 at both pre-race check-ins for Western States and Leadville last year. I remember I was 142 at the finish line of Western, though. I’m guessing that scale was a bit off.”
Any Other Sports or Training?
Years training/competing in running?
“I’ve been running and competing since 1995. I’ve been running predominantly mountain races since 2006.”
What’s your preferred race distance?
“I don’t really have one, but I guess I’m best at 50 and 100 mile mountain races.”
Shoe Model or Type?
New Balance MT110. It’s the update to the MT101 and will be out in early 2012, I believe. Best shoe I’ve ever worn.
Favorite Local Training Area?
I really like running from my doorstep, and I really like running to a summit, so most of my running takes place on the 8000’+ peaks on the western outskirts of Boulder, CO—Green Mt, Bear Peak, and South Boulder Peak. In the summer, though, the Indian Peaks (13,000+’) are only a 30 minute drive to the west. I
also really like running on the trails of the Pikes Peak region.
Favorite training or recovery food?
I’m not quite sure what that means. In training, if I eat anything, it’s GU gels. For recovery, I generally eat whatever I can find in the kitchen. Baked goods, fruit, big salads.”
Weekly Training Mileage during season?
140-180 miles per week. “150 mountain miles is kinda the sweet spot for me.”
What’s your longest training run in miles or hours?
68 miles/10:16 back in November 2010. I did a solo circumnavigation of Pikes Peak on the ‘Ring The Peak’ trail but got off-route a couple of times (I think it would be ~64 miles if one ran the intended route the whole way).
Do you have a favorite race?
I enjoy any event with solid competition up front and several big climbs. Western States, Leadville, Miwok and White River have all been a lot of fun. Of the races I’ve done (which isn’t that many), I guess I’ve been most impressed with the White River 50’s course.
Very few ultramarathon runners will ever cover mountain miles with the speed and efficiency that you do. Do feel that you have an athletic gift or more so, that you have trained your body and mind for endurance?
Hmmm. I think it’s more that I’ve trained my body and mind. I’m a very very mediocre sub-marathon distance runner. My pure running talent is objectively not very great. However, long races in the mountains are all about comfort and proficiency on that mountainous terrain and in that unpredictable, variable environment and I am very comfortable in the mountains. This is a result of having a huge passion for the land and of spending a lot of time every day running over mountainous terrain. There are probably thousands of athletes, who—if they decided to train the way I do—would make me look silly in any long distance mountain race. However, beyond an inherent passion for the mountains, there aren’t many incentives for a gifted runner to prepare for these races. So, I guess I have that passion, but I don’t really see that as “talent” or an “athletic gift”.
What about “racing”. It’s a fact that a very small percentage of athletes toe the starting line of a 100k or 100 mile ultra with intentions of racing the other athletes. If we could see inside your mind, would we see you are concentrated on the clock, split times, the other front runners…or perhaps you are making decisions about effort purely on internal physiology? Can you provide some insight on that subject?
Sure. I race because it provides a community of like-minded individuals that I’m able to identify with. I think any non-sociopathic human is looking for that in one way or another. Racing is a satisfying and often joyful celebration of this running/mountain lifestyle that I’ve chosen. I also race to feed my ego. No doubt. I’m competitive as all get out; I like to beat other people. But, inside my mind in a race, the primary goal has become to just win races. As recently as a couple of years ago I was oftentimes too focused on time during races, but the competitive depth of the fields has risen enough—and I’ve failed enough times at chasing time goals—that I now enter any race with the primary intention being to win. This means I’m obviously paying attention to other runners, but for me to get the most out of my body I also have to be very internally-focused during a race paying attention to what my body needs and what it’s telling me it can do. However, in any long race—typically in the last quarter—continuing at a hard pace becomes a rigorous mental game. Basically, you have to will yourself to continue to endure a lot of pain, care more about the final result than the next guy, and just not give up.
What do you do in preparation for a foreign event. Specifically, do you spend a lot of time researching course maps or watching videos to become familiar with a course you have never run? What things help you mentally prepare for competition in an unfamiliar location like that?
I don’t really do much. I usually make sure to look at a course profile to get an idea of where the major climbs are and I’ll also look at the course map to have a general feel for where the race is going. Usually I’m just excited to race on new-to-me trails.
Who or what inspires you to train harder or work toward seemingly impossible goals?
The mountains themselves are without a doubt my greatest inspiration. There’s nothing more satisfying than the primal feeling of being able to move quickly and proficiently through a rugged, natural landscape. So, just the feeling that comes with being at peak fitness annually is definitely inspiring. Additionally, I’m inspired by people that I feel appreciate the land and interact with it in the right way and are clearly pursuing a type of personal growth through these interactions. This list of people would include a lot of my close friends and fellow competitors at the top of the sport, but I’m definitely inspired by all kinds of people who I see as embodying the attitude and ethic that I strive for in my own mountain running and life. This includes successful climbers like Ueli Steck, Dean Potter, Reinhold Messner, and Steve House, but it also includes faceless, largely nameless other folks in backcountry skiing, surfing, slacklining, sport-climbing, bouldering, etc. Basically, anyone who is earnestly interacting with their chosen environment with sincerity, purity, and the minimum of material trappings.
A close friend told me he climbed to the summit of a 14,000′ mountain here in Colorado…and prior to reaching the top, looked back to see a mythical mountain man running uphill at a ridiculous pace way above the tree line. That man carried no fluid, no food, and didn’t even wear a shirt. For a few minutes, he thought you were running without breathing. Please tell me you get dehydrated during a jaunt like that….
I mean, I suppose I certainly do get dehydrated, but for me a mountain run isn’t about trying to feel as comfortable as possible the whole time. If I wanted to do that, I would just stay on the couch. But it certainly isn’t necessarily about arbitrarily enduring suffering, either. If I wanted to do that, I can think of all sorts of things to do to self-inflict physical pain. Rather, I like getting out in the mountains and stripping away distractions and traveling the most aesthetic routes and doing so on the mountain’s terms as much as is reasonable. Most of the time, for me, this means a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts and GO! I don’t like carrying stuff when I run and I enjoy the satisfying feeling of finishing a run slightly depleted and feeling like I just ran up and down a mountain with very little between me and the mountain, so I certainly don’t mind finishing my daily 2-3hr mountain run slightly dehydrated and bonking.
What does Anton Krupicka eat when he’s not running? Do you use recovery nutrition after your runs? Tell us generally, how you eat from day to day…and what nutritional selections work well in your busy life?
I have almost nothing interesting to say on this topic. I try to keep things simple, eating fresh, whole foods, but I’m not terribly rigid about it and eat plenty of baked goods and probably way too much sugar. I don’t like the idea of having strict requirements and not being willing or able to adapt, but at the same time I definitely try to eat a fairly healthy spectrum of simple foods. Breakfast/lunch is typically some form of baked good and fruit, usually apples. Dinner varies wildly but will often include some kind of greens/veggie salad and/or a vegetable and cheese sandwich or pasta with veggies, etc, etc. Last night it was hot so I had a fruit smoothie with banana, strawberries, acai, almond milk, blueberries and Udo’s Oil and a tomato and cheese quesadilla. It’s 4 o’clock right now and so far today I’ve had a couple pieces of toast, about half a dozen apples, and a couple cans of diet root beer. I have no idea what I’ll have for dinner.
What goals can you share with us? Are there races, course records, or performance-based goals that you have set-aside for the near or distant future? What is to come from Anton Krupicka in the next couple years?
I am interested in racing the top athletes in the sport. I’m also interested in seeking out events that are a celebration and an embodiment of the history, community, and aesthetic of bipedal mountain travel. There are several good events here in the United States, but more and more it seems that those values are best exemplified in the mountain racing culture in Europe. Races over there are insanely steep and technical, picking the most aesthetic routes over the terrain and the local community and culture get very excited about endurance events in a way that is only seen in the United States when it comes to the nauseating antics of professional team sports played in stadium arenas. In Europe, it seems there is a popular and well-expressed appreciation for the mountains as sporting arena whether it be exemplified in the enthusiasm for events like the Tour de France, mountaineering in the Alps, or the Skyrunning Series. I don’t know if I’ll make it over there for more than just the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, but I’d like to at some point. The Le Grand Raid Diagonal de Fous on Reunion Island also interests me. At the same time, I am very inspired by the classic long distance mountain races here in the US, such as the Pikes Peak Marathon, Hardrock, Angeles Crest, Western States, and Wasatch. So, who knows.
Where might we see you race in the next few years? While mountains seem to be your strong-suit, what about Badwater or world-level 100k competition? Do you foresee any competition outside of mountain trails?
I currently have very little interest in non-mountain events, but I do admit that at some point I’d like to see what I’m capable of in a road 100k. I respect versatility in running and like the comparisons that can occur through a standardized event like a road 100k. However, the mountains are what inspire me the most, so that’s likely where future competitive efforts will continue to be focused.
Anton, you are an inspiration to me and many other athletes. You run to the physiological breaking point and display human performance at an incredible level. Do you have any words of wisdom for the athletes who will read this?
I get asked this sort of thing a lot and really the keys to success in ultra distance mountain racing are devastatingly simple: pile on the miles, be CONSISTENT with your daily running, run lots of vertical on rugged terrain. Period. The hard parts of that are:
A) truly being consistent. I think not missing days is extremely important and am surprised at how variable a lot of folks running will be. I missed 12 days total in 2010, four of which were recovery from 100 mile races and another four of which were the result of some crazy flu-like illness. I know this consistency was a huge part of my success last year.
B) not getting injured. I’ve been injured for the past 4 months, and it has reinforced the fact that running training, at it’s core, is an injury-prevention game. If you can stay uninjured and consistent, you will improve.
Tony, thank you for your time. You are a humble, gifted athlete, who runs beyond the physical…thank you for your inspiration and best of luck in your upcoming races.