Since we launched Ultra168 about a year ago we put up a number of other sites and blogs as links we thought our readers would find most interesting – and without a shadow of doubt since day 1 and to this day the number one link that gets clicked on routinely is Anton Krupicka’s
I have long been a fan of his exploits and his no hold barred approach to racing and training. He leaves nothing out there and is as honest about his form as anyone. I am sure you agree with me that over the last year he has been sorely missed from some iconic races and potential podiums and race records.
All of that is about to change as we see the return to competition this weekend at the Speedgoat 50 near Salt Lake City.
I caught up with Anton this week to ask all those burning question anyone would have when an athlete of his calibre has been out of the game for some time. He does not hold back and its good to see the fire is burning as bright as ever.
Q – This marks your return to competition, how does it feel to be back ?
I’m extremely excited to race. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve taken a formally competitive step, and competition is a big part of my running. I still have ego and racing is the primary way that I fulfill that. Beyond that, the past two months of training have been fantastic–consistent, highly intrinsically rewarding, and maybe some of the most impressive I’ve ever done. I definitely feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, indicated by a number of test pieces in training.
Q – How did you cope watching all the young ones like Joe and Dakota out there over the last few months ? What kept you motivated to keep pushing on through the obvious pain from the shin ?
Well, Joe ain’t that young (he’s three months older than me 🙂 I can’t lie, it’s been tough. I’ve missed out on so many exciting competitions over the past couple of years, and I like nothing more than to be mixing it up at the front of a competitive field. Having said that, I love the mountains and this sport so much that my stoke for it never really wanes. I knew that eventually I would get the shin injury figured out, so I just focused on patience and trying not to be too jealous. But, ultimately, I find all of the current top performances in the sport to be very inspiring, and even more so when it’s some of my good friends enacting them.
Q – How do you rate your chances ?
At Speedgoat? Pretty well. Like I said above, I feel really fit right now and will definitely benefit from all of the climbing in the race and the fact that it’s at legitimate altitude (it climbs to 11,000′ three times). As long as I can rest up enough this week (I’m currently feeling pretty beat down from the past two weeks of big volume and vertical), I’ll probably be disappointed with a result that doesn’t find me on the podium.
Q – Who else should we watch out for ? Kilian looks to be in good form
Kilian, obviously, is the one to beat. Rickey Gates is in far better form than he was back in May and I think will definitely be vying for the podium. Other ones that I’m sure will be making it a very tough race are Max King, Jason Schlarb, and Sage Canaday if he makes the start line. There are loads of other top runners–Nick Clark and Dylan Bowman both have altitude advantages–but I think some of the lower-altitude folks like Jorge Maravilla, Jason Bryant, Gary Robbins, Jason Loutitt and Thomas Lorblanchet will be ground down over the course of the day. Joe will still be a bit tired from Hardrock.
Q- What sort of runner does the course suit ?
I don’t actually know the course that well, but someone with solid long-distance climbing and descending skills would seem to have the best time. I predict the winning time will likely be in the low-5hr range, which makes it almost more like a fast 50miler in terms of duration. It’s not your usual 3h30min 50K. From what I hear, it’s also quite rocky in spots, so technical proficiency will hopefully play a significant role in the results.
Q – Womens prospects ?
Frosty all day, of course. She’s been dealing with some persistent shin/ankle pain, but it doesn’t seem to get any worse with running, so I would be very surprised if anyone could beat her. She’s been getting up some peaks with me lately, and I’ve never run with a stronger lady, even though she claims to not be in top form. As Rickey noted the other day, the difference between her feeling fit and not fit is only the difference between merely winning versus setting a course record. I won’t be surprised if she breaks 6hr. Nikki Kimball and Kerri Bruxvoort should round out the podium and either could take the win if Anna’s injuries flare up.
Q – Do you think the standard of trail racing has gone up a notch during your absence ?
I think the depth has definitely continued to increase but that the absolute performances out there haven’t really kicked any higher in the past 18 months. This year’s WS100 was blessed with wildly anomalous and favorable weather conditions, almost to the point that the times can’t even be considered. Obviously I’m biased, but I would place Tim Olson’s 14:46 run there as being roughly equivalent to Geoff’s 15:07 from 2010 when I ran 15:13. I think Kilian’s style of winning UTMB last year while showing virtually no effort still stands as probably the most dominating imposition of form since I’ve been away from the racing scene, but we all already knew what a talent his is/was. But again, definitely the depth of fast runners has continued to go up.
Q – What did you miss the most ?
Painlessly, effortlessly flowing down a technical descent. Outings that lasted longer than 1hr, i.e. spending a whole day moving through the mountains under my own steam. For a lot of my recovery I was still able to fulfill my uphill jones with steep, hard hiking, but hiking downhill is tedious and frustrating.
Q – What 3 things do you believe helped accelerate your rehab ?
1) Patience. 2) Positive frame of mind. 3) Sufficiently strengthening the injured area.
Q – What is next for you ? Europe ?
After Speedgoat I’ll be returning to the Leadville 100 in August. I have a tumultuous history at that race and am returning determined to finish this year and compete for the win. I’ll have an interesting array of competitors to run with all day, with Thomas Lorblanchet, Nick Clark and Kiwi Olympic Marathoner Mike Aish making his 100mi debut. Leadville isn’t a course that really suits me–not enough climbing, not technical enough–but I respect its deep history and my history with it, so it will really be fun to run it again. After that, I’m headed over to Europe in mid-September for the Cavalls del Vent Skyrace in the Pyrenees at the end of the month before tackling Le Grand Raid Reunion only three weeks later. The following week I’ll be doing some promotional stuff in South Africa for New Balance. These two ultras should really play to my strengths–loads of climbing and technical footing–but each will also have a highly competitive pointy end of the field. Should be a blast!
Q – HR100 next year ?
The lottery and injury gods willing. It’s one of only a handful of races that truly inspires me anymore.
Q – Would Frosty go well at HR100 ?
Of course. I think she will probably be a bit shocked at just how much suffering occurs in a race of that magnitude, but if there is any woman who is up for the task it’s her. She would approach it with the respect and specific, on-course preparation it deserves, and I’m confident she’d absolutely crush it, likely remaining competitive with the top men all day long.
Q – You continue to avoid the DoucheGrade and have been FKTing some major peaks – will this help you race faster ?
Ah, I have no idea. All I know is that the mountains continually inspire me and that there is no need to stick to hiking trails in order to enjoy them. A peak offers so many aesthetic, inspiring lines of ascent that it would be silly to constrain myself to an arbitrary, man-made line drawn on a map. I often like to take the most interesting, direct lines, even if that means signifcant talus/boulder hopping, scree bombing, 3rd/4th Class scrambling, and even 5th class climbing. These skills certainly aren’t specific to many North American races, save Hardrock, but I do think they instill an overall comfort and confidence in the mountains that makes even a race course like Hardrock seem tame and reasonable. I just like to accept whatever the mountain offers me and see how fast I can move over the given terrain, because with a high effort comes a level of focus and integration with the surroundings that is otherwise difficult to achieve.
Q- Where is your fitness right now on a scale of 1-10 with ten being HR100 record breaking pace.
This is gonna sound arrogant, but given that definition, and given the running I was able to do on the HR100 course last week, I’d have to say: 10. But the wild thing is that long distance mountain racing is so crazy right now and the Speedgoat field is so strong that that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll have enough fitness to win in Utah.