Anton Krupicka and the 2006 Leadville Trail 100

AJW's Taproom“After slogging over Sugarloaf, I hit the singletrack trail at mile 83 and something just clicked.” Such is Anton Krupicka’s recollection of the decisive moment in his first 100-mile race at the 2006 Leadville Trail 100 Mile.

It’s difficult to believe now, 12 years later, but in the summer of 2006, Krupicka was unknown in the ultrarunning community. Having completed a grand total of one ultramarathon going into Leadville that year, Krupicka ran the race with the unabashed joy of a teenage boy.

In the spring of 2005, as a senior at Colorado College, Krupicka routinely trained hard in the Colorado Front Range. That summer, he took his training up to the roads and trails around Leadville. Inspired by Matt Carpenter’s record-breaking 2005 run where he ran the high-altitude course in 15 hours and 42 minutes, Krupicka set his sights on 2006.

Anton outbound on Sugarloaf during Leadville 2006. Photo courtesy of Anton Krupicka.

“I certainly wasn’t thinking about breaking the record that year. But I did want to run sub-17 [hours] and win.” Krupicka recalls. “I knew Matt’s splits but only thought about them a few times.”

In the weeks leading up to the 2006 race, Krupicka was up in the high mountains of Colorado. Krupicka recalls a particularly good training run three weeks out when he ran from the start line to Winfield (the race’s first 50 miles) in 7:26. “That was 10 minutes faster than Matt’s record split, so it gave me confidence.”

The night before the race, a big storm hit Leadville and Krupicka and his crew spent the night sleeping in a public bathroom. It was a fitful night but Krupicka recalls arriving at the starting line calm and relaxed.

Anton Krupicka before the 2006 Leadville 100 Mile with pacers/crew Julian Boggs (left) and Alex Nichols. Photo courtesy of Anton Krupicka.

The start of the race was mellow that year and Krupicka settled into a lead group with Dan Vega and Karl Meltzer. On the climb over Sugarloaf Pass, Krupicka found himself slowly moving into the lead and by the time he reached Twin Lakes at mile 39, he had a gap. He steadily increased that lead over Hope Pass and by the time he picked up his pacer at Winfield, good friend and college teammate, Alex Nichols, his lead was comfortable.

Anton outbound in Twin Lakes. Photo courtesy of Anton Krupicka.

“I was surprised when I dropped Alex on the way back down to Twin Lakes but I was just feeling good so I went with it.”

Krupicka proceeded to extend his lead over Sugarloaf Pass but then suddenly succumbed to a “newbie bonk.” Reduced to a walking shuffle, he descended the road and began to think of dropping. Then, he hit the singletrack just before at May Queen (mile 83) and came back to life.

“I hit the trail and suddenly started to feel good again.”

At that point, pending a major meltdown, he had the win in the bag but he was still chasing sub-17 hours.

“I dug deep around the lake and just tried to keep moving.”

Alex Nichols pacing Anton Krupicka around Turquoise Lake in the 2006 Leadville 100 Mile. Photo courtesy of Alex Nichols.

Krupicka ultimately strode across the finish line in first place with a time of 17:01. He was spent but extraordinarily satisfied.

“Finishing my first 100-mile race launched me to a new place; it shifted my mindset. Running that race made me immediately think anything was achievable. That with each subsequent effort, I could get a little bit better.”

That August day in 2006 launched Krupicka into the ultrarunning spotlight and in many ways led to a paradigm shift in the sport. Reflecting back on it now, Krupicka cites some of the key lessons from that first 100 miler that probably ring true for all of us.

“In order for me to keep growing, I realized that I had to do the hard things. Ultrarunning, because it’s so difficult and ego destructive, ultimately brings us all down to earth. And that’s one of the things that makes it so great.”

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s beer of the week comes from Cerberus Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One of the finest Double IPAs I’ve had, Motivational Speaker, began as an anniversary beer for them and became so popular and in demand that they added it to their everyday line. Intensely hopped, not boozy, and refreshingly crisp, this is a must-try beer if you find yourself in Colorado Springs.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Did you watch in person or otherwise follow the 2006 Leadville Trail 100 Mile?
  • When did you first learn about Anton Krupicka tearing things up around the mountains of Colorado?
  • What does 100-mile running teach you that other race distances don’t or can’t?

There are 29 comments

  1. Quigley

    Thanks for another great historical piece. Fantastic line: “Krupicka ran the race with the unabashed joy of a teenage boy.” I had not realized that three weeks prior to the race he ran the first half 10 minutes faster than Carpenter when he sent the record. After 2006, I remember wondering every year whether Anton would be finally able to beat the course record, but the record still persists. I need to make it back to Leadville to run with the unabashed joy of an old man having fun in the mountains (definitely not to chase the record)!

  2. John Vanderpot

    I happened to be in the Grand Canyon the day he took a shot at the then record, he went by me just outside of Phantom Ranch, then was coming down from the North Rim as I was going up, unabashed joy indeed — it was something to see!

    JV

      1. Brian

        Thanks for clarifying. I was wondering the same thing – how he got bib #1, when he was “unknown” in the ultrarunning community. AJW should change the reference to the photo.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I’ve removed the errant photo. I’d received it with a bunch of photos from the 2006 race and with the photo in question merely labeled “finish,” I incorrectly assumed it was from 2006 (without ever looking at the bib).

    1. Brian

      Matt Carpenter’s story about how he methodically trained for specific races (Leadville, Pike’s Peak) are pretty incredible and, in my opinion, much more interesting. I don’t think he gets enough credit.

      1. Peter Broomhall

        Ya man. Carpenter methodically trained like other. Including fueling on gels through out the day during training from what I have read. Could be wrong though. None the less his record might never be broken. Would take a speedster like walmsley to our together a complete race to do it

    2. TK

      Jamie–Here ya go: http://skyrunner.com/story/2005lt100.htm

      MC was my hero as far back as my freshman year of high school. I would get in trouble in school, waiting for skyrunner.com to load on dial-up.

      Having said that, his Pikes Peak records are waaaaaay more stout than his Leadville record. There are several athletes on the scene right now that could break his Leadville record with just a couple weeks of altitude acclimation. Definitely not the case with his PPA/PPM.

  3. 18342772

    Here’s a link to his report from this race, if anyone wants to check it out:
    http://www.inclineclub.com/r_2006.htm#Leadville100

    It’s interesting to see, these years later, his comments on training and gear, considering how the sport has evolved. No one looks askance at split shorts and low-drop/light shoes anymore, even at the 100-mile distance; and in the age of Strava it’s easier than ever to follow Walmsley et al as they hit massive numbers.

    I suppose the tisking about overtaining and injuries that we still hear–and heard then–is inevitable and probably has some “heart in the right place” merit; but in a sport about chasing endless horizons, I think we always need people to dare and delight in the extremes.

  4. Markus

    This was my first trail race. I had just moved to Colorado. I saw the “Naked man” crushing down from Hope Aid station towards Twin Lakes. It was fun to see. To this day, I think Anton Krupicka was the most talented trail ultrarunner I have seen in my lifetime. Unfortunately he ruined it, with too much training, too many Green Mountain runs and not the right focus in training for the big races. For example, he had a spot for Hardrock but he got injured and couldn’t start. This injury pattern was repeated over and over again. Very sad.

    1. sam

      I think this a very narrow minded train of thought. Krupicka has dealt with actual physical injuries not the much feared over training syndrome, as far as has ever been said. I think there is a difference between the story of Skaggs vs the story of Krupicka. Skaggs body reportedly just basically shut down and said no more (like Roes) without any really physical injury. Krupicka is still killing it in endurance sport realm and has intelligently shifted towards sports which don’t quite beat up the body like running will do. He may still yet race again and I think it is great he is still doing what he loves: exploring the mountains.

      1. Markus

        I would think that most of Anton’s injuries where because of overtraining. And if you look at his blog, he is not doing much anymore. Just some cycling. I would not call that “intelligently shifted”. He shifted because he was forced too, not because he wanted too.

        1. E

          Let’s see. So far this year he’s done (at times, weekly) skimo racing, including a huge race in Italy, many other ski mountaineering adventures, did a 28 hour (almost) link up of the Gore Range, long scrambling link ups in the Flatirons, a significant amount of trad climbing, and yes, a lot of riding his bike. He’s still out training >100 hours per month. A little bit more than “just some cycling” I’d say.

          1. Pete

            Yep, even if Anton is hardly running anymore, he’s earned the freedom to to evolve and explore climbing, gravel biking, and skimo. I think it’s funny the way his sponsors desperately cling on to Anton 1.0 and still show him as a trail runner in the magazine ads. Gotta take advantage of his enormous following while they can, I guess.

  5. Buzz

    Classic times, classic photos. I never knew that was Alex until recently, but Anton’s superb form is evident even in the stills. I saw that Turquoise Lake shot, wondered “Who the heck is this guy winning a 100 wearing Slingshots?”, and immediately tracked him down and offered a sponsorship (I worked for La Sportiva at the time). We’ve been good friends ever since.

  6. Trevor

    Krupicka’s influence in the sport is sorely missed– at the start line whenever i look out at a sea of ballcaps, goatees, wraparound sunglasses, bottle vests, trekking poles and platform shoes, seeing that semi-nude, impeccably-tanned unemployed longhair dude with just a water bottle is like a breath of fresh air….

    j/k but not really though

    1. Mike

      Same. We need him more than ever in this era of “running billboards.”

      I still re-read old posts on his blog to make up for his lack of newer running themed posts. He didn’t get me into running, but he sure as hell made me get into running even more. I’m sure I’m not the only person who tried eating nutella on tortillas at some point…

  7. Trevor

    where and whenever i show up at the start line and i see that semi-nude, impeccably tanned dude with just a water bottle, anton’s spirit lives on…

  8. speedgoat

    wouldn’t surprise me if Anton shows up somewhere and blows people’s minds with some stellar performance. I was there in 2006 at Leadville too, he went by me at Turqoise Lake. “who the hell was that guy”…..it was awesome. A few years later as he was pressing to break Carpenter’s record, his great quote, “how the hell do you do this”. Love Anton, great article AJW!

    1. TK

      Karl, I still remember you giving me the pep-talk at Fish Hatchery inbound in 2009.

      “Dude, the sun’s getting lower, once it cools off, you’ll feel better, you got this.”

      I didn’t have the humility nor toughness required that day, but I really appreciated the advice and encouragement. I still don’t know how you do what you do!

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