Minimus ads. More than that, Anton has played a critical role in the development of the New Balance Miniumus line, a daring foray into low-profile, natural running gear from a major manufacturer. His masterpiece in this regard is likely to be the New Balance MT110, an incredible trail shoe I am currently testing. This remarkable shoe was developed over two years of hard work, with a great deal of input from the man himself.
Anton's relative fame in the running community is well-earned. The two-time winner of the Leadville Trail 100 also shattered the course record for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2010, only to come in second to another record-breaker, Geoff Roes. Anton is likely to enjoy even more widespread recognition following the recent release of "Unbreakable," a fantastic documentary about that 2010 race. He also regularly documents his training and experiences on his own excellent blog, Riding the Wind.
I was lucky to have briefly met Anton in Grand Rapids a while back, when he was there making an appearance on behalf of New Balance. After connecting through Facebook, He agreed to do the Above Average Athletes Q and A, and we can't thank him enough for taking the time to share some fun details about his life as a top ultramarathoner, a graduate student, and a man that loves good food and good music. Read on for more!
Average Guy: On your blog you frequently post videos or links to bands and you have great, eclectic taste. Where do you come up with all of these? Do you see a lot of live shows?
Anton Krupicka: Thanks. I guess I just keep an open ear for anything that sounds good to me, it's pretty random where I'll hear a new band. Sometimes I listen to KEXP on-line or KCRW and I'll hear new stuff on those stations, but most of the time it's just random clips of a song in a video or something that will interest me and pretty soon I'm usually a new fan of the band. I see some live shows in the Denver/Boulder area, but I wouldn't say 'a lot'. In 2011 I think I saw maybe four or five shows--so one every other month or so. Last one was Phantogram right around Halloween.
Average Guy: I've gotten conflicting reports about your eating habits; you have stated here and there on your blog that you aren't all that meticulous with your diet, but when I saw you in your kitchen in "Unbreakable," you seemed to show hints of being a foodie. Training nutrition aside, do you get into cooking?
Anton Krupicka: I get into cooking in the sense that I enjoy eating food. Any 'hints of being a foodie' in Unbreakable were purely accidental. I don't not like cooking, I just rarely get around to really putting in the effort to make anything special. Having said that, I do try to eat a decent diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and not a ton of junk food. But I definitely get more than my fair share of sugar.
Average Guy: How about restaurants...I have a few favorites in Boulder, but I've spent less than two weeks there. What is your current favorite?
Anton Krupicka: The Dushanbe Teahouse is always at the top of my list as a brunch place or just to have a cup of tea and a scone. You can have dinner there, but I think I've only eaten dinner there once. Of course there are the local classics like The Kitchen or Pizzeria Locale or Mountain Sun or Sherpas which are all great, but one that is probably a little bit off of most people's radars but is excellent is Il Pastaio down on 30th and Arapahoe. It's a tiny little family-owned Italian place that never disappoints.
Average Guy: Speaking of "Unbreakable," how did it feel to see yourself up on the big screen? Do you feel like anything was left out of the film that should have made it in there?
Anton Krupicka: Well, it's always a little weird to see yourself larger-than-life up on a big screen, but I think JB did a fantastic job with the movie, so I never feel awkward about any of my scenes. Off the top of my head I can't really think of anything else that I thought should've made it into the final edit...I really thought JB was quite comprehensive and did a great job.
Average Guy: For me, one thing I wish the cameras would have caught was Geoff coming up on you. I'm guessing it wasn't your favorite moment, but it's clear to the viewer that you were happy for him and that you left nothing out there. Can you describe how you felt when he passed you?
Anton Krupicka: You kind of get a sense for this in the movie, but JB had no clue Geoff was making such a charge either and was obviously surprised when he came running down the trail only 4min behind me in those last 15mi. Of course, for the purposes of the movie, it would've been incredibly ideal to be there when Geoff and Dave passed Jenn and I but it was on a pretty isolated stretch of trail shortly before Browns Bar and would've just been pure luck. In the moment I certainly wasn't happy for Geoff at all. I wanted to win the race and up until the climb up to Robie Point at mile 99 really thought I could. When he actually passed me, I mostly just felt shock. My last update had been that I had a 15min lead (~10mi earlier) and because I was still moving well I just assumed (wrongly!) that I would be maintaining that. Up until that point I had been putting time into Geoff all day--extending my lead--but there was no way to know that he was going to put in such a strong surge the last 20mi. At the finish I was definitely happy for Geoff in that I knew I'd given it everything I had and had run a very strong race, but he just had that little extra on the day. It is still absolutely one of the most satisfying races of my life.
Average Guy: You provide a valuable, detailed log of your training on your blog, and it has been sort of heartbreaking to see you struggle through your injuries this past year. Now that you know you'll be at Hardrock in 2012, how are you honestly feeling about your fitness and ability to train at your best?
Anton Krupicka: I'm extremely excited about Hardrock! 2011 was a terrible year for injuries, but right now (in early January) I can definitely feel that the momentum has shifted with this shin injury and I have a ton of confidence that I'll be able to arrive at the HR starting line in July with excellent preparation and fitness. Right now I'm actually fairly fit--I've been getting in a ton of vertical--and the trick over the next month or two will just be to listen to the shin carefully so that it can gradually re-adapt to handling larger and larger running workloads. Due to all the vertical I've gotten in over the past four months, this shin injury is definitely the best I've ever done with maintaining fitness while trying to let something heal. To be honest, in these last four months I have gained a new attitude towards mountain terrain that I might've never had if I hadn't been so injured in 2011, and I think it's an attitude that translates perfectly to a race like Hardrock. Finally, unlike most runners, I don't need races to get in long training runs--I actually prefer to do long runs in a non-race setting--so even if I don't race a step between now and July, that doesn't mean I won't be super fit and ready to go.
Average Guy: How awesome was your South American trip for New Balance this past fall? Any other trips planned?
Anton Krupicka: Going to Brazil for New Balance was a tremendous opportunity that I'm very grateful for. NB continues to offer me fantastic support and I only hope that I am doing everything I can to help promote their efforts to make the best trail running shoes on the market. It was fascinating to experience Brazilian culture and see that runners all around the world speak the same language--shoes, training, aches and pains, races etc. No other non-race international trips are currently planned, that I know of, but NB is usually pretty quick about responding to emerging opportunities, so you never know.
Average Guy: It's well documented and often discussed how you repeatedly summit the same peak just outside your neighborhood, Green Mountain. Aside from the convenience of it, you seem to have a real connection with that trail. Could you see yourself making a similar connection with some other trail once you move on from Boulder?
Anton Krupicka: Absolutely. Where ever I live, I try to become very familiar with the land. I think it's very important to have a strongly developed sense of place, and the best way I know to do that is to get out in the local natural environment as much as possible. I think Green is a great mountain--it has a wide variety of terrain with a bunch of different routes to choose from--but really the main thing that makes it special is its proximity. It's right out my window and within a few minutes of jogging I'm at the trailhead. If I lived in south Boulder I'm sure I would have the same number summits on Bear Peak or South Boulder Peak.
Average Guy: You are a grad student, studying mountain hydrology at the University of Colorado. I am a community planner and spend a lot of my day working on various environmental and preservation issues, so I know it is a challenging job market in fields like ours. What are your professional or academic aspirations once you have completed grad school?
Anton Krupicka: I'm still figuring these things out. I entered grad school with no specific career intentions, so, unsurprisingly, I'm at a similar place now that I'm at the end of my academic life. Definitely no plans for a PhD. For the next few years at least I will be pursuing the mountain running gig semi-full time supplementing sponsor support with writing and part-time work income. One's body is only at the peak of its physical abilities for a limited number of years; I want to be sure to be maximizing those years as much as possible while still continuing to strive for personal growth, simplicity and satisfaction in my life outside of running.
Average Guy: As an environmental professional during a poor economic period, I'm often confronted with the attitude that conservation slows economic development. What would you say to persuade someone that environmental sustainability and economic sustainability do not have to be mutually exclusive?
Anton Krupicka: Hmmmm, I don't think I would be able to provide a compelling argument that I could believe, assuming that we're not talking about instituting a giant change in style of economic system and/or lifestyles. I'm probably a bit more radical about this than what is realistic, but I think that even with the last few years' contraction of the national economy, our current lifestyles--mine included--are still wildly environmentally unsustainable. I guess what I'm really saying is that any sort of meaningful progress on the front of environmental sustainability--i.e., systemic lifestyle changes that would amount to more than the current stuff that is essentially the equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic--is likely going to require, among other things, a huge shift in our society's lifestyle, a shrinking of the capitalist economy. A shift towards conservation rather than consumption. But, as long as our economy is based on consumption, it's a losing battle. I'll openly admit, I'm no saint; I feel as guilty in this lifestyle as most.
Average Guy: "Unbreakable" goes to great lengths to show the viewer how much respect ultra runners seem to have for one another. Everyone is all smiles at the finish. That said, I can't believe that you elite guys don't want to beat each other out there. Can you please lay down a little trash talk about how you want to crush these other guys when you toe the line in 2012? ;)
Anton Krupicka: Of course we want to beat each other out there! (Side note: the term "elite" makes me squirmingly uncomfortable.) I think I clearly state at some point in Unbreakable that the primary reason I'm running Western States is because I want to compete, beat people, and boost my ego by comparing my performance to historical performances.
Racing provides unmatchable camaraderie and fellowship that is extremely compelling, but other than that, my only reason for racing is ego. It feels good to win and run fast. Of course. And I definitely want to beat Geoff and Dakota and Joe and Hal and Karl and Jared and whoever else at Hardrock in July.
But it's not so much that I want to beat those guys as that I want to be sure that I am getting the most out of myself and I think I'm only truly capable of that if I have a cast of characters like that to inspire me to my peak performance. The bottom line, though, is that those 24hrs (or less ;-) of running in the San Juans are so insignificant compared to the training and the lifestyle and the experiences I have leading up to Hardrock that will put me in the position to get the most out of myself in July. It's that far-reaching influence on my lifestyle and social groups and day-to-day experiences that makes focusing on a race like HR so valuable. The event as a symbol for and a celebration of a certain lifestyle with certain values is much more important to me than the event as a venue for kicking other dudes' asses.
Average Guy: How close is your relationship with the development team at New Balance? How much of a say do they give you in designing shoes like the MT110?
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