If you don't know who Anton (Tony) Krupicka is... well i'm not quite sure where you've been living for the past few years. After jumping on everybody's radar after winning Leadville 100 in 2006 & 2007 and an assortment of other races he has become a true figure in the world of ultra & trail running. With his mountain man appearance, low key demeanor, and true love of exploration & the mountains he has become a permanent fixture in the sport that we all love. Besides that, Tony is a really down to earth and nice guy!
I've met Tony twice. The first time was at the NYC Premier of his film High Country (if you haven't seen you should. It demonstrates how much he loves adventuring and exploring in the mountains). Even though he was mobbed with people he still took the time to talk to everybody that came up and talked to him. I remember I had a discussion with him about being injured and how bummed I was (I had a stress fracture in my knee at the moment). Tony spent a decent amount of time reminding me of the big picture. In hindsight I actually remember nothing tangible of the conversation we had, just that I walked away 7 or 8 minutes later feeling really positive that my knee would heal and there were great adventures to be had out there.
The second time I met Tony was a few weeks later in Boulder at the Chautauqua Park ranger station. I was waiting to meet Scott Jurek for a run (Thats a story for another day) and I was waiting for the restroom when Tony came out of the restroom. We shook hands and took this photo. Theres no real merit to this story, except that I took a selfie with Tony K outside an outhouse restroom....
Anyways, I was psyched when Tony agreed to answer some questions for Trail WhippAss. So without further adew here is the interview:
- You do a lot of outdoor activities besides just running. What outdoor activities do you think helps you most with your running?
I think skiing, probably. Skinning uphill is very translatable to racing in the mountains---big cardio output, basically high-intensity power-hiking. The downhill goes very quickly with zero pounding, too, so you're able to put in a ton of vertical without beating up your body at all. It's been a huge addition to my training this winter; I'm excited to see how it translates to racing fitness in the coming months. And, in addition to the exercise, it satisfies my mountain needs for the day, too.
- Do you have any mantras you repeat in your mind during tough moments? How do you dig yourself out of low points out on the trail?
No mantras. My strategy for low points is to make sure I'm caught up on eating and drinking and to back off the pace for a while, reminding myself that if I don't fight it and make things worse, energy levels typically bounce back in these long races and I'll feel good and be able to go hard again soon enough.
- If you could hop in a time machine and talk to 10 year old Tony for 30 seconds, what would you tell him knowing what you know now?
Hmmm. This is a weird question. At age 10 I hadn't yet run into any real existential angst in my life, so any soothing comments of assurance would've seemed irrelevant and out of place to the 10 year old me. A couple of years later, I suppose my advice would've been something like, "Don't worry, there's a whole world of people out there with the same interests as you, don't judge your self-worth by the opinions of your peers." I don't know, this question doesn't really resonate with me.
- If you could hop in a time machine and and talk to Tony 50 years from now for 30 seconds, what would you ask him? Also 50 years from now where do you see yourself?
Well, first, I'll be delighted to still be alive and of this earth in 50 years. Reaching 80+ years is quite an achievement. I don't know what I would ask myself. Arriving at the answers and having them given to you doesn't seem to be that useful to me. The process of striving to answer those questions seems to be to be where all the value and richness of life comes from. Fifty years from now, I'd like to still have my mental and physical health, as much as possible, hopefully living close to the land. Who knows.
- You have accomplished a lot in ultra running so far, but the possibilities are really endless. What are some of your bucket list races or goals?
I'd like to win some of the big ones: Hardrock, UTMB. Beyond that, I have a bunch of adventuring/mountaineering goals/objectives that aren't as easy to explain. The main goal is to keep challenging myself, keep being inspired, stay excited and curious.
- What is your proudest moment so far in life running related? What is your proudest moment non-running related so far in your life?
God I hate questions like this. Self-congratulation doesn't come easily. Being able to make a living from my passion probably tops both lists.
- What were you like as a kid? What are some life experiences that helped shape you into the ultra runner and person you are today? And when did you grow your hair out for the first time?
I'm not sure. Self-awareness as a kid---even in retrospect---is kind of tough. I generally had a ton of energy and was interested in a bunch of different things, always building something, a bit uncontainable in the class-room. Life experiences relevant to ultrarunning were probably all the summer camping trips my family took in the Mountain West when I was a kid. These were my initial exposure to mountains, and I was captivated by the dramatic landscapes from the very beginning. I had pretty shaggy hair all through elementary school. Cut it short briefly in middle school, grew it out for good again I guess maybe my junior year of high school.
- What music are you listening to right now?
As I type this, the song "Playhouses" from TV On The Radio is in my earbuds.
- What is your funniest or craziest animal encounter on the trail?
Nothing notable, really. I remember a single 1hr evening run here on Boulder's Green Mt from a couple years back where I saw five different black bears. It was October, so they were quite active, out feeding getting fat for the winter.
- Whats the most embarrassing wipe out you have ever had on the trail? And honestly we never see video or pictures of elites wiping out on the trails. But it must happen to you guys all the time like it does for us. How often do you actually tumble while running?
Pretty embarrassing to break your leg on a smooth singletrack about 10 yards from the pavement. That was June 2011. I fall while running, but definitely not all the time.. Seriously, probably just a couple of times per month, and always on smooth sections of trail. Pretty rarely during races, which is probably why you don't see much video of it.
- You were a philosophy major I believe. Do you have a favorite Philosopher? If so who and why?
As a Philosophy major, Existentialism was always---and is---my greatest interest. No favorites, but I've always appreciated Kierkegaard and Sartre. I'm generally more drawn to novelists, writers who can evoke the beauty and pain of life through their prose. David Foster Wallace, Franzen, DeLillo.
- Do you ever think about going back and finishing your Graduate degree?
- Who do you look up to (Not just in running… but in life)?
Anyone living a life of examination and intent. Because I can more easily relate, I suppose, it's a bonus if that person also engages in outdoor sport(s) in a thoughtful, authentic manner. But this isn't necessary. I think I most admire evocative writers, because writing is so grueling, and the underlying sense of universality is so satisfying.
- What would you want to tell to the people who look up to you as a role model in the sport of ultra running?
It doesn't really matter what you do. Just do it with intensity and from a place of truth. Don't fake it. If you're faking it, figure out what it is you can do that you don't have to fake.
- If you could run anywhere in the world with anybody who would you run with and where?
I nearly always prefer running alone.
- You have struggled a bit with injury and things not going to plan recently in some big moments. How do you cope? Both in the moment when you realize your race is about to be derailed, and also in the weeks and months after?
The coping is usually occurring in the weeks and months before the big event. Because if there's some big disappointment, it's typically been precipitated by some injury that has compromised my preparation leading up to it.
- When I’m running on the trail sometimes I lose myself and zone out and I dream about finishing that race. I literally will get tears in my eye and I imagine running the last mile surrounded by my family and friends. Do you ever zone out on the trail like that? If so, what do you dream about?
Yes. And usually it's about whatever upcoming big race I'm preparing for. I guess my dreams are very specific. I always win.
- You always have all eyes on you. Any race you enter, or project you take on you have all the media’s eyes, your fans eyes on you as well as all your sponsors eyes. You can’t just fly under the radar. Do you ever wish you were just a middle of the pack runner without all eyes on you?
Of course. Sometimes I fantasize about running and racing with zero responsibilities to anyone. But I'm so grateful for the lifestyle that all that attention has allowed me to live. I've had so many wild experiences and been so many places and met so many people that never would've happened otherwise. Being under scrutiny is a very small price to pay for that, I feel.
- There has been some press recently on ultra running + Marijuana. Do you have any thoughts on it or do you think thats silly? Do you actually think Marijuana in an ultra gives any competitive edge whatsoever?
Well, anything I have to say on this subject has to be considered with a grain of salt, because I've never ingested THC despite its legality in Colorado. But, yes, I think that for some it definitely offers a competitive edge (but really, how would I know?). What makes ultras difficult? Inability to eat/upset stomach and pain management. It's pretty well known that marijuana can help a lot with both, not to mention its dissociative capacities (another plus in long races). Other people have told me that they'd be completely apathetic and non-functional if they tried to race while high. I'm going to put it in the category of performance-enhancing for ultra running. And since it's still illegal for most people (save CO, WA, and now Alaska, I believe?), then yes, I think in-race use is cheating.
- One of our members who is taking on his first 200 mile race this year wants to know “Seriously this sounds funny, but i’m serious. Do you run commando? How do you prevent chafing when you run longer distances?”
If by "commando" you mean no underwear beyond the liner that comes in all running shorts, then yes, of course. Pre-emptive BodyGlide usually keeps me relatively chafe-free.
- Last what do you think this is?
A devil wildebeest that's been holding its breath for too long? Or is very cold?
Anton (Tony) Krupicka is the guy that we all want to be more like. He's down to earth, he's chill, he's in it for the adventure. Sure he wants to win, but he puts off that vibe that just makes everything ok as long as your out exploring in the mountains. Tony, thanks for answering our questions.