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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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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?