American Anton Krupicka is perhaps best known for the 40 or so hours he spends running, scrambling, and climbing in the mountains of Colorado each week. It might, thus, be easy to forget that he’ll be a fierce and able competitor at the 2013 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc’s starting line this year. In this interview, Anton talks about his two weeks of on-course preparations and the men he thinks will be “in it” during the final miles that count. Oh and he also shares his race strategy, too!
[Editor’s Note: Here’s our full 2013 TNF UTMB men’s race preview.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Anton Krupicka Pre-2013 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Anton Krupicka before the 2013 UTMB. How are you, Tony?
Anton Krupicka: I’m well.
iRF: You came over a couple weeks early for this?
Krupicka: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been paying attention to this race since 2007 when Karl [Meltzer], Hal [Koerner], and Scott [Jurek] came over. It’s the Americans that kind of have a rough time over here, so I just wanted to make sure I did everything I could to maximize my chances of doing well. Yeah, I’ve been here two weeks now.
iRF: So you think people not showing up early enough is part of the lack of success for the American men?
Krupicka: Geesh, I don’t know. Honestly, I think the biggest thing is that it’s late in the year. I can feel myself even sort of like… I haven’t raced once this summer, but I think people come in tired a lot of the time. It’s the last day in August. Usually people have done a 100-mile race already. I think that’s probably the biggest factor. Then there’s just a lot going on—the language, having everything dialed in. Yeah, I just wanted to make sure I was comfortable here.
iRF: I assume for at least two of those weeks you’ve had some fun up in the mountains? What have you done out there?
Krupicka: Yeah. Pretty much the day we got here, Joe [Grant] and I went up Brévant. Then the next day we started a three-day tour around the hill. It was good. We went from here to Courmayeur the first day, and then Courmayeur to Champex[-Lac], and then Champex to the finish. So it was a 45-mile day and then two marathon days.
iRF: How did those feel?
Krupicka: Really good. I was sort of surprised at the non-technical nature of the course. It’s sort of like Western States with another 10,000 feet of climbing.
iRF: Or a buffed-out Hardrock at lower elevation.
Krupicka: Yeah, exactly, so not even Hardrock at all. It has the 32,000 feet or whatever of vert but it’s super smooth, pretty wide trails most of the time—a lot of running and a lot of long, gradual downhills. I was glad I started to do more running in the second half of the summer to be ready for this because there will be hiking for sure but you’ll need to have running legs, too.
iRF: Speaking of which, we just ran out part of the beginning of the course and people are going to run out to Les Houches at five miles in in 28 minutes or something.
Krupicka: Well, that’s about my five-mile PR, but it’s a 100-mile race. At Leadville, the first five miles are downhill, so we probably run low sevens there. Here that’s probably what I’ll be doing because I’m not running low sixes like the leaders will probably be doing because at the end of the day it’s like okay, there’s five minutes there. By the top of [Col de] Voza, you’ve caught up because it’s a 2,500 feet of climb there. I’m just going to try to be smart. If I could have an ideal day it would be to basically run sort of the style or race I had at Speedgoat 50k but for the 100-mile distance—be moving up all day, and then in the last third or quarter of the race from Champex in, be ready to go hard and catch people.
iRF: You’ve got a lot of really smart, patient, experienced runners in there. You’ve got Miguel Heras and Julian Chorier and Sebastian Chaigneau who really know how to race a full 100 miles and people like Jonas Buud who just ran Comrades and was in the 30s or 50s half way through, or well into the race, and moved up to second by the end. Can you be that patient?
Krupicka: Oh, of course. Definitely. It’s mental discipline. I think that’s the huge thing over here. Everyone get so excited about the race and just goes wild maybe the first 30, 40, 50k. You’ve got to remember it’s 160k, or 168k I guess. It’s over 100 miles. You know like 2010 Western States that year, having Geoff [Roes] beat me at the end there, I just have a different mentality about how you need to race 100 miles now. You need to really be ready to charge that last quarter—the last 20 miles—that’s where the racing begins. Until then it’s just kind of managing yourself and making sure you get there as fresh as possible. Yeah, I’m planning to be conservative and hopefully be there at the end.
iRF: So if people are following along in the States all day long, you know it’s six, eight, nine hours earlier, and you’re back in 40th at Saint-Gervais[-les-Bains] or Les Contamines[-Montjoie]…
Krupicka: Oh yeah, Saint-Gervais—it’s a road race until Saint-Gervais. Totally, that early in the race I’ll be back there.
iRF: That’s to be expected.
Krupicka: Yeah, but once we hit [Col du] Bonhomme and Col de la Seigne in the middle of the night and we’re hiking up these passes, I expect to be in the mix for sure.
iRF: So by Courmayeur…
Krupicka: Yeah, get to Courmayeur feeling good and then…
iRF: There’s a nice climb out of there.
Krupicka: Yeah, [Rifugio] Bertone is nice and Grand col [du] Ferret is long and gradual. It’s cool. It’s a cool course. I’m excited about it.
iRF: One big variable, and you’ve done some racing like Transvulcania…
Krupicka: I haven’t done Transvulcania.
iRF: Sorry, but the aid-station food. You know what to expect at aid stations in America. Have you looked into what they’re going to have out there and what you think you can actually eat on the course? That’s a huge part of the 100 miles.
Krupicka: It is. It is, but we’re carrying a pack and I’ll have… there are crew spots where I’ll see Joe and he’ll be handing me gels. My stomach has never been a huge issue in ultras. It’s always been gels and chomps and sometimes Coke if things are going bad, and they have Coke at aid stations here… gummy bears. It’s fine. At Cavalls del Vent I had some Coke and gummy bears when I ran out of gels and everything worked out.
iRF: There’s something that’s going to fit for you.
Krupicka: Yeah, I’m not going to be eating prosciutto and cheese.
iRF: No dark chocolate on the course.
Krupicka: Probably not. It’s just not necessary I don’t think.
iRF: Having been around the course, I assume you’re still sticking with no poles?
Krupicka: Yeah, especially… I can’t imagine using poles on this course. It’s a running course. There’s going to be a lot of hiking going on, but it’s not Hardrock at all. Hardrock… I wouldn’t use poles, but I can see where people would use poles. Here there’s a lot of running. It would be such a pain to keep stowing them and taking them out.
iRF: You have to carry them the entire time whereas at Leadville you have to go over Hope Pass once, but then…
Krupicka: Yeah, and then drop them. No, for me, I use poles a lot in the winter because it’s more of a footing issue I feel like. Here, you’re on perfectly buff trail the whole time. So poles would not be efficient for me.
iRF: Obviously there is a ton of depth here with dozens of runners. Who are those top four or five that you expect to be charging after or charging with those last 20 miles?
Krupicka: That’s what I was going to say, the guys that I expect to be there when push comes to shove after Champex basically? Jonas (Buud) for sure. I think people don’t really think about him, but he got second here last year. He crushed at Comrades and World 100k. I think he’ll be tough. Then it just depends. Seb, Miguel (if he’s feeling healthy), Julien of course. I think Timmy [Olson] is going to run really well and Mike Foote of course. These are the guys I expect to be there at the end.
iRF: Someone like Timothy, he’s raced a bunch of high-level races and done really well—Tarawera, Transvulcania, Western States—can he still have something, emotionally and physically…?
Krupicka: I can’t say exactly, you’ll have to ask him, but I think he’s probably in a good head space right now. He’s been here pretty much as long as Joe and I have been. When we got to Courmayeur going around the mountain, he and his wife, Krista, were in Courmayeur and Joe ran with them the second day to Champex and then they did Champex to the finish also. So he’s seen most of the course, too. Yeah, I think Tim’s ready to run for sure. Who knows? How the legs feel at 125k is different than how they feel at 50k, so we’ll see.
iRF: At least the last couple of days you’ve been staying with Núria Picas?
Krupicka: The last two weeks, yeah.
iRF: Okay. It’s her first 100 miler. What advice have you given her?
Krupicka: It’s funny. Nuria is a professional athlete. She’s really dialed. She has a nutritionist and a coach and all these things. She’s seen the whole course. She’s gone around the hill. The main thing I’ve been telling her is just being conservative and not getting caught up in the hype. She’s super strong. I think she should be the odds-on favorite especially since Lizzy [Hawker] has pulled out now. But I think she’s just going to have to be really patient and calm through the night. But yeah, she’s so tough. I think she’ll do well.
iRF: Well, best of luck to you out there, and good seeing you here.
Krupicka: Thanks, Bryon. Yeah, cool.