Anton has won, during his career, several historical and iconic races (some of them with great course records) like the Leadville 100 miler twice, the Miwok 100 K,the Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler, the Collegiate Peaks 50 Miler, the White River 50 Miler twice (2010 CR with 6:25:29), the High Mountain 50k and the Estes Park Marathon. We all remember his great battle with Geoff Roes and his final second place during the 2010 Western States Endurance Run 100 miler, in what would have been a course record time of 15:13:53! The movie “Unbreakable: The Western States 100” by Journeyfilm productions follows this great battle between Krupitcka, Roes, Koerner and Jornet.
2012 was a great racing year for Anton. He won the 2nd place at Cavalls del Vent, the 4th place at Leadville 100 miler and the 4th place at Speedgoat 50K. He also had some amazing “Fastest Known Times” performances at Wyoming’s 13,804' Gannett Peak and Longs Peak - Keyhole Route.
His schedule for 2013 is full of great races and FKT attempts. His main racing goals are the Tarawera 100K, in New Zealand (March), the Transvulcania 83K in Spain (May), the Ronda del Cims 170K in Andorra (June), the Speedgoat 50K in USA (July), the Telluride Mt Run 44 miler in USA (August), UTMB in the Alps (August) and finally the UROC 100K in USA (September).
Regarding his FKT plans, Anton –as we have already published - announced a schedule of three amazing efforts (Nolan's 14, L.A. Freeway (Longs-to-Arapaho Traverse) and Elk Range 14ers Enchainment). It seems that 2013 will be a very demanding and interesting year for this great athlete.
Let's take a look at Anton’s thoughts, philosophy, motivation, schedule and other interesting stuff, through his exclusive interview to Advendure.com, hoping to see him sometime running in the Greek mountains:
[Advendure]: It seems that 2012 was an exciting year for you Tony, both in racing (Cavalls del Vent 2nd place, Leadville 100 miler 4th place, Speedgoat 50K 4th place) but also regarding solo (or with a team) FKT efforts, like Wyoming’s 13,804' Gannett Peak , Longs Peak (Keyhole Route) or by helping your friend Kilian Jornet during his Grand Teton FKT effort. Tell us about your feelings regarding 2012.
[Anton]: When I broke my leg in 2011, my attitude towards running and the mountains shifted in an important way. I became more interested in all sorts of movement in the mountains, not just running. Specifically, this expanded to include steep hiking, scrambling, and rock climbing and combining these activities with running. I became more motivated by the landscape and the terrain than by logging a certain number of miles. As such, when my injury finally healed in 2012, I was able to start acting out these new interests and this new perspective and hone these skills so as to tackle different objectives than I’d been focused on before.
Competitively, 2012 was only a half-season for me—I didn’t race until July—and then it was only partially satisfying. I was simply tired and had a bad day at Speedgoat. At Leadville, I was not specifically trained for all of the flat running on that course. Finally, Cavalls was a very good race for me. It showed me that I am still able to compete with and beat some of the best mountain runners in the world and it restored a lot of confidence in me.
[Advendure]: You recovered successfully from a serious shin injury, and as I read at your blog, this recovering experience gave you time to rekindle your interest in technical rock climbing. Is this the reason behind your 2013 schedule that includes very difficult and highly technical FKTs like Nolan's 14, L.A. Freeway (Longs-to-Arapaho Traverse) and Elk Range 14ers Enchainment? Tell us a few things about your plans regarding these amazing efforts.
[Anton]: As I responded in the previous question, my injuries in 2011 and early 2012 were definitely an impetus for my increased interest in taking my efforts to more technical terrain. While I am still very motivated by racing and have big goals in that arena, my primary inspiration comes from the mountains themselves and exploring interesting routes through and on them. The common theme among the three routes that you describe is that they are all logical point-to-point link-ups or traverses in the high mountains. I see running now simply as a tool for covering a lot of ground as quickly as possible, allowing me to more efficiently link a bunch of peaks in a single push.
Because of my background and fitness as a runner I will hopefully be able to do these routes in a single push and mostly in one day, which is something most mountaineers would not be able to accomplish because they can’t move as quickly over the terrain. The focus on all of these routes is not so much about setting FKTs but about attaining the focus and attitude that is necessary for operating at the edge of my personal abilities. When I push myself in a complex mountain environment a lot of preparation, planning, focus, and fitness is required and an intimate relationship with the landscape is the end result. I think all of these things challenge me and force me to grow as a human. It becomes a much more meaningful activity than if I were to go in with the attitude of simply wanting to complete the route. By planning on trying to go quickly, the experience becomes more meaningful and educational for me.
[Advendure]: What is your training “philosophy”? Some elite ultra-runners use conventional training methods, like track intervals, tempo asphalt runs etc. and others simply go out and run in the mountains. My opinion is that you belong to the latter, simply enjoying to run up to Green Mountain or whatever mountain is near you. Besides, as you recently wrote, you live only in places that have immediate access to mountain trails, like Colorado Springs, Bozeman, Ashland, Leadville and Boulder. What do you like the most and why?
[Anton]: My approach is definitely to get to a summit of some type every day. In general, my focus is more on tagging peaks and enjoying the climb and descent along the way, not necessarily getting out for a particular workout. I like Boulder the most of all the places I’ve lived and run because of its variety. Right in town itself there is immediate access to 800m ascents and also giant slabs of sandstone (the Flatirons) for technical scrambling and plenty of areas for technical rock climbing, too. And then, only 30-45min away are the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness (over 4000m).
[Advendure]: After a great mountain running career, it seems that you are making a critical shift in the ideological background of your athletic beliefs, dealing seriously with FKTs, which is something that we – as Advendure - agree upon. We see that Fastest Known Times (FKT) efforts are becoming more and more popular to athletes that seek for adventure. You, Kilian, Lizzie Hawker and many others try to break records on iconic and very difficult trail routes. What do you think about this prospect? FKTs essentially overturn the current classical running sports stereotype (including mountain running), that requires route signs, systematic support for the runners, enhanced security measures, direct competition etc. What is the probability of FKTs spirit to spread worldwide, and in what percentage you consider to be involved in FKTs, as the time passes by, compared to actual racing?
[Anton]: I don’t think that FKTs, per se, are becoming more popular, rather I think a lot of the top athletes are similar in that they are inspired by a love for the mountains — independent of racing — so they are interested in pursuing more personal adventure runs or projects. But, because we are competitive athletes, we are also interested in how quickly we can run these various projects. Personally, I like FKTs because it allows me to do exactly what I want to do in exactly the style that I want to do it. As long as I report honestly and accurately what I did, others can decide whether they are inspired by it and respect the effort. However, races are important to me because of the communal spirit under which they are conducted — people of a similar interest are coming together to all celebrate and pursue this activity that we all enjoy. And there is an intensity to racing that is impossible to reach in a solo endeavor. So, going forward, I will devote equal amounts of time to both racing and pursuing more personal, often solo adventures in the mountains.
[Advendure]: Staying at the same subject – FKTs - we like to hear your opinion on how much FKTs constitute a real sport, taking into consideration the sports established concept (competition between athletes etc.) or not, since they require by their nature specifications relatively unknown to mountain running, like complete autonomy, personal timing, variable weather conditions, absence of a specific trail. Do you believe that FKTs will remain a “whim” of some “peculiar” mountain running athletes, or they are going to have a wider acceptance in the future, taking also into consideration their environmental friendly philosophy that line up with the more progressive thoughts for a “planet in danger”? Is it the future biggest “racing” challenge?
[Anton]: I think races will remain the most important and high-profile aspect of an athlete’s efforts. The main thing for me is that there are very few races with courses that engage the terrain and the mountains in as logical a way as is possible with FKTs. For me, it comes down to inspiration. And I am inspired by routes that make sense with the landscape. For instance, linking together a certain number of peaks, or running from the center of town to a summit and back down as directly and quickly as possible.
Most races in the United States are instead simply concerned with covering a certain distance — 50K or 50 miles or 100 miles — when I am much more inspired by the landscape itself, not an arbitrary distance that we trace over the landscape. So, as to whether FKTs constitute a “real sport”…I have no idea. I do know that if I am inspired by something I am bound to put as much focus and effort into it as I might a race. But kind of the whole point is that it’s NOT a sport, bound by rules and regulations. Rather, it’s simply being creative and acting out an inspiration. As long as the reporting is honest and accurate, I feel that FKTs can be as impressive or inspiring as a race performance.
[Advendure]: You have already run several races both in USA and Europe, and you have many runner friends coming from both continents. What differences do you see in terms of racing philosophy - regarding both athletes and races - between USA and Europe? Are European races more technical, requiring more climbing than running (except Hardrock 100 miler of course)? Do you see differences in the racing culture between European and American runners?
[Anton]: Well, I hate generalizations. Within each culture there is a diversity of motivations, personalities and conventions and to try and characterize each with broad brush strokes is difficult and probably dishonest. In general, races in the United States are all quite runnable on relatively smooth trails. But those qualities change for different people. I think the races here have generally evolved from a true running perspective (road races) whereas in Europe it seems the races have evolved from a trekking or even a mountaineering perspective.
In Europe, the distance doesn’t seem to matter so much as creating a course that makes sense---run from this town over the mountains to this other town, or run from town and traverse this ridgeline and run back down, or let’s link together all of these mountain huts. The roots of the sport seems to be slightly different between the USA and Europe. However, in Europe there is almost this manic intensity to the event that can be overwhelming and even a bit of a turn-off if that’s not what you’re looking for. In general, things are a bit more relaxed in the USA mountain racing scene.
[Advendure]: It seems that ultra races influence deeper the runners involved with. Why is that? Is it because the challenge is very high or because the feelings and emotions are enormous compared to small races?
[Anton]: I think it’s both. These are epic events where you have to really reach deep inside of yourself and find perseverance and access a more primal almost survival instinct. Shorter races are certainly very painful and difficult if you run them hard, but they don’t require the same long-term perseverance. That doesn’t make them any less difficult or notable, just different.
[Advendure]: You are running minimal. It’s obvious both in your shoes and your apparel during races and running efforts in general. The image of the “nonconformist” Tony has been imprinted in the public consciousness, as an athlete who is trying with his general style and attitude to overturn the “star system” of mountain running as a sport. Does this image of yours really has to do with your ideological / political positioning? Is it a –let’s say – “political” affiliation? And if so, how much do you think that the prevailing view of the sport’s superstars should be reversed? Have you come to the conclusion that mountain running, by its nature, cannot tolerate all the fancy star system that prevails elsewhere?
[Anton]: Absolutely not. Firstly, I don’t really think there is a “star system” of mountain running. Mountain running is a tiny, niche sport. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful to its participants, but the fact that we’re all doing this sport for largely internal, personal reasons just makes any “stars” of the sport that much more irrelevant. Secondly, I absolutely do not have a political agenda, as projected to the public. I have a personal style and ethic to how I approach mountains and life in general, but I would hate to think that me simply living my life has become perceived as some sort of evangelism or proselytization. I am happy to serve as inspiration for others but I sincerely hope that at no time does anyone think that I know the best way to do something. Everyone should decide their own lifestyle for themselves. Do what inspires you and what you are comfortable with. I am not trying to “overturn” anything. The thought of that is ridiculous to me.
[Advendure]: There is a continuous and massive grow of mountain running popularity worldwide, which is perfect, but we also see a significant growing - year by year - of money prices, competition at very high levels and pressure for continuous racing (the ISF 2013 ultra races schedule is a perfect example). Is there any danger for mountain running, in terms of getting away from its pure form and authenticity, and becoming much more professional, with all the consequences that other fully professional sports suffering and especially doping (e.g. cycling)?
[Anton]: I suppose. But if it ever becomes something that I’m not comfortable with, I’ll simply stop participating. The “pure form and authenticity” of mountains are always there, always available for inspiration and appreciation. No one has to do more races than they are comfortable doing and no one is forcing anyone to do anything that they are uncomfortable with. Ultimately, each participant is individually responsible for living and running in a way that they can feel proud of. If I’m not happy with the way the sport is, I can always just go for a run in the mountains by myself or with a few friends and we can do it exactly as we want to.
[Advendure]: You are probably aware about Kilian’s impressive speed record at the “Mountain of the Gods” (Olympus) in Greece back in 2011. What is your knowledge regarding mountain running in Greece, and also what do you think about the increase of interest for the sport in our country, which is significant with 72 mountain races during 2012. Are you considering of running a race in Greece in the future?
[Anton]: I don’t know very much about mountain running in Greece, but I am aware of the Mt. Olympus Marathon. I had the opportunity to run that race in 2011, but that was the summer I broke my leg, so I was unable to compete. Greek culture interests me a great deal, though, so I would love to come to Greece one of these years and hopefully compete on Mt. Olympus or in similar mountains.
Grand Teton with Anton Krupicka & Kilian Jornet, (via Owen-Spalding) on 7/31/2012, from Lupine Meadows (up in 2:05, down in 1:18).
photos ©: Anton's blog, Jeff Valliere, Dave Philips, Jean-michel Faure-Vincent, Buzz Burrel, Rob O'Dea, Glenn Tachiyama