Having started the year as a relative unknown, Stevie Kremer ends the year as reigning women’s Mont Blanc Marathon, Pikes Peak Marathon, USATF Trail Half Marathon and Skyrunning Sky series champion. I chatted to Stevie about her trip from growing up in Connecticut to finding herself, both physically and spiritually, in the mountains of Colorado.
iRunFar: So, Stevie, you’re back in Crested Butte now, right? Have you had a little time to reflect on your 2013 season? I mean, it’s been crazy successful with you winning the Mont Blanc Marathon, Pikes Peak, Limone Skyrace and the Skyrunning Sky series championship. How does it feel now? Has it sunk in?
Stevie Kremer: To be perfectly honest, it has not sunk in. Not to sound cocky or anything, but my Facebook friend status went from probably 400 to 4,000 since I started racing in Europe in the summer. With my birthday being yesterday and having all these people from all around the world, all different languages, wishing me a happy birthday–it’s amazing. That’s the most incredible part about all this–the experiences that I’ve had and the support I’ve had. I can’t believe that some of the things that I’ve won have actually happened! I don’t know if it’ll ever sink in.
iRunFar: [laughs] Maybe not. When you won Mont Blanc [Marathon], you said that maybe you had had one of those really, really good days. But since then, you’ve just kept having those days. As far as racing goes, does it give you more confidence now that you’ve done it, that you’ve won those real high-profile races or are you still as nervous before a race as you always have been?
Kremer: I don’t think the nerves have died down at all but the fact of saying ‘I’ve done it before and I can do it again’ works now–I can say that more now. The thing with any race is that you never know what can happen, so I’m just as nervous as the last race and just as nervous as the first race–if not more. You have expectations for yourself and you want to do well because you’ve done it before. I think nerves are good, if you weren’t nervous, there’s a problem! So, I think the nerves are more now actually. You want to fulfill those expectations for yourself and also, for me for some reason, I have this idea in my head that I don’t want to let anybody down. If I’ve learned anything in the past six or seven months, it’s everybody’s going to be supportive whether you come first or 10th. That is the most incredible feeling I’ve got from all these people, whether that’s family, friends, or a stranger in Switzerland. Everyone knows that the most important thing is to go out and have fun and I’m still trying to convince myself of that.
iRunFar: Do you think your running has improved dramatically this year? It seems you hid a little bit behind the claim that you couldn’t run downhill. You’ve proven now that you can, in fact, crush the downhills, too. How does that feel going into next year?
Kremer: I’m trying not to think of next year. I’m trying to live in the moment! [laughs] Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about next year and the potential races that I’ll partake in. You know, I definitely think my downhill running has improved because after Zegama, I realised that it was my downhill that needed the most improvement. I consciously went out and found rocky, technical downhill and I would try and run them as fast as I could. There are a couple of people, guys, I know that are great downhill runners and I would try and follow them–I would never keep up with them! I just love running for running’s sake but running downhill and running intervals are two training regiments I tried to do at least once a week so I could improve on those. I definitely think my downhill improved. I don’t know whether my uphill improved, though! I think for me–I think Emelie [Forsberg] is very similar because we’ve had this talk before–but both of us run for the love of running. She doesn’t have a coach, at least I don’t think so, and I don’t have a coach. I have a great friend who is a coach and, every now and then, he’ll give me tips. But I run because I love it and if there’s an area I need to work on, like downhills for example, I’ll seek opportunities to work on that.
iRunFar: Where did this love for running begin? Your parents moved from Germany to Connecticut, isn’t that right?
Kremer: Yeah they did, but I was less than a year old when they moved. My Dad was transferred along with a German bank so they moved to Connecticut. You know, Connecticut is a very preppy state and I grew up playing tennis and golf and soccer. I ran in high school–it’s a three-sport year–and I would do indoor track in the winter just to keep in shape. I was never super competitive. In college, like most girls, I’d run to keep in shape. You know, after our 3 a.m. pizza we’d wake up at 10 a.m. and go for a run and hopefully work it off! [laughs] In my senior year in college, I was living by myself for the summer and I wanted a goal so I signed up for my first marathon, a road marathon. I never thought I would do another one after that. But I ended up doing another one with my sister. I told myself if I ever ran a marathon under three hours, then I would stop running marathons. About five years ago, I ran the Boston Marathon and I ran just under three hours and I haven’t run a road marathon since. [laughs]
To be honest, running on the road is just not as exciting as trail running and living in Crested Butte, we have one main, paved road in our town. Running down that is horribly boring. About four years ago, I entered a trail running race in shorts and a huge t-shirt. I was dead last but it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Ever since that, I met someone at the finish line and we both decided to start running together and that’s how I started running on trails. If anyone ever asks me for tips or about what races to do I always tell them, ‘Just sign up for a race and it motivates you to get going!’ That’s my inspiration as well. It’s hard to motivate to do something when you don’t have a final goal, I think. So I just started [trail running] and Crested Butte is packed with trails and mountains. I started getting to the tops of mountains running and it was so exciting and it went by so much faster than walking. I still love it. Every day I can get out on the trails is so wonderful!
iRunFar: Was that love for outdoors something that you’ve always had, Stevie? Did your parents bring you hiking or anything when you were growing up?
Kremer: Growing up in Connecticut, there are no mountains! We’d go and ski in Vermont in high school but soon we’d had sporting events on weekends and that came to an end. My parents were always active–tennis and golf–and I could never sit still. But I think it was because I was never surrounded by people that love the mountains and then moving to Colorado where you have mountains all around you and everybody wants to be in the mountains–that really influences you. I had good friends in college that loved the mountains and they introduced me to them and then moving to Crested Butte, that’s really where I found [the love]. My first year living in Crested Butte, my parents thought I had turned into the biggest hippy! [laughs] I never had dreadlocks but I just found this new-found love for the mountains. Now every time my parents come and my brother and sister, they love it just as much as I do.
iRunFar: Cool. What was it about the mountains–skiing and running–that attracted you to it so much?
Kremer: I think the diversity of it. How every trail is different; every mountain is different. Going up and down and not just in a straight line. That it goes by so fast and you have all these different surroundings. That you don’t just see buildings but mountains. I think that’s what’s so exciting about running on trails and in mountains. Whenever I go back to Connecticut, I try and find parks to run in but it’s just not the same when you don’t have the scenery around you. Saying that, truth be told, if I were to run another marathon I’d love to run the New York Marathon because there’s not mountains around you but there’s a ton of skyscrapers and it’s such a unique city that it’s just fun to run in such different terrains and environments! So if I want to do one more road marathon, I would love to do New York.
iRunFar: Just thinking back to Connecticut and you growing up there, I remember when we spoke in France earlier this year, you said that you always wanted to be a boy when you were growing up. Can tell me a little about that?
Kremer: Oh my god! [laughs] The most vivid memory I have of wanting to be a boy is in second grade. My best friend was a boy and, I don’t know what it was, but my name was Stevie, I chopped my hair like a boy, wore boy’s bathing suits, and I just wanted to be a boy. I mean for my First Communion I was in a white dress with Reebok Pumps. I don’t know what it was but it lasted ’till probably sixth grade when my mom but the hammer down and said, ‘Okay Stevie, you’re soon going to be growing into a real girl so you might want to put some shirts on with those boys’ bathing suits!’ [laughs]
iRunFar: Your move from Connecticut to Colorado, was that for study or something else?
Kremer: Believe it or not, I was always a homebody and I didn’t want to do college but that’s what you do when you’re a senior in high school and live there in Connecticut. I applied to four or five schools. One where a great friend was at; one where my sister was at; one that my sister recommended; and then, for some reason, the University of Colorado in Boulder–I have no reason why. My family had gone to Colorado a few winters and I loved Colorado but it wasn’t a plan to move there. A friend who heard about my college choices introduced me to the school I went to–Colorado College. They have a program where you study one class at a time for three weeks and then start a whole new class. That program really intrigued me to look at it and that’s why I ended up there. It was a great experience.
iRunFar: That’s pretty cool, Stevie. I guess the choice to go to Colorado has had a huge bearing on your journey into trail running that you’ve taken in the last few years. It all started with that choice to go to Colorado?
Kremer: Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I went to one of those southern schools that I applied to. It’s crazy.
iRunFar: You said that when you ran that first trail race, Stevie, you came last. That wasn’t even that long ago. When did you start to realise that you had a big talent for running trails, especially uphill running?
Kremer: You know, I wish I could remember. I honestly don’t know what got me into competitive running even. I remember going to Aspen, which is on the other side of our mountain, and I did one of the most fun trail races I ever done and I got second. I think that was about four Septembers ago. It was the GoldenLeaf Half Marathon. I was extremely surprised. Then I started competing in races because my ‘significant other’ also got into running and is a very competitive person. Together the two of us started enjoying traveling for races and having someone to do it with definitely makes it more fun and you’re more motivated to go. I think it was through him that we both started competing and running. I actually think I started a season before him, doing small races, and then we started going together more and more. I think also that when you start doing okay, it motivates you to start doing some more and keep doing okay. I think that played a part in it, too.
iRunFar: As far as a big ‘breakthrough’ race goes, when did you think that happened?
Kremer: I think it was about two or three summers ago when I started competing quite a bit and started to do okay quite a bit. I started getting on the podium a couple of times. I think that was a breakthrough. Then I got invited to do a race in Switzerland (to run Sierre-Zinal) in August of last year and I think that was the real breakthrough.My first international race and being invited to it, that hit me hard! Oh and before that, I made the U.S. Mountain Running Team… I honestly never thought that would even be an option. I mean, my parents came with me and I probably moaned and groaned the entire car ride there just saying, ‘What am I doing!’ So to get onto that team was a huge, huge accomplishment for me. Then going to Sierre-Zinal… I can’t believe the places I’ve been to, the invitations I’ve received… I don’t want it to end!
iRunFar: How was the experience of being invited to Sierre-Zinal? It must have been amazing, was it?
Kremer: It was amazing but, at the same time, it was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had. I had just become sponsored by Salomon, just Salomon USA, and I had very few clothes from them. So I walk in the first night for dinner, I’m already two days late because I was too nervous to go on time. I was two days late, purposefully. I was in my pop collar and my pants and everyone else was head to toe in their sponsored gear. I just did not know what I was doing there. I was the only female from the U.S.; there were maybe three males from the U.S. They were all inviting and so incredibly nice but, still, I felt like I was completely out of place and should not have been there!
iRunFar: How did it first happen with Salomon for you in the U.S.? It was through Adam [Chase], I guess?
Kremer: Yeah, it was through Adam Chase. I have a friend who used to be sponsored by Salomon through adventure running. She said, ‘You know Stevie, you might want to consider trying to get a sponsor for running.’ I didn’t feel like it was appropriate so she kind of got the ball rolling. We put together some resumes and information about myself and through that, Adam welcomed me onto the team, which was a huge shocker and pleasant surprise for me.
iRunFar: Cool. And this year you’ve become an important member of the inner circle, the Salomon International Team. How did it progress from the U.S. team to where you are now?
Kremer: I moved to Italy to teach abroad at the end of last August . I wasn’t that excited to be in Trieste because of the lack of mountains so it was my goal to try and find any race I could in the mountains that were close to me. Luckily I had my grandparent’s car and there was a race in Bergazzi, kind of in the mountains but right on the water. It was a beautiful area. I tried to contact the race director because it was only a few days before the race when I found out about it. After a few emails I got an email back saying, ‘Okay, you can come.’ I definitely threw in the ‘I’m a Salomon athlete’ because it was a Salomon-sponsored event! It turns out the director was the manager of the Salomon Italy team–Salomon Agisko. Then he invited me to be part of his team and he was the one that actually introduced me to Greg [Vollet]. He was doing work with him and, I guess, told him about me and some of my races. So then some of the opportunities arose through Greg.
iRunFar: You’ve now had the chance to spend some time with the rest of the team. How does it feel to be part of it all and to be a teammate to a group with the likes of Emelie, Frosty, and Kilian?
Kremer: I can’t believe that I’m considered to be part of that group because I feel like they are on such a higher level. It’s amazing. I really don’t feel like I’m on the same level as them but I’m flattered that you say that and think that!
iRunFar: [laughs] I don’t think I’m the only one who’s saying that…
Kremer: Well, it’s great. As cheesy as this sounds, the best part is that they love running; we all love running. Everyone is just a normal, down-to-earth person. It’s a friendship you gain more than anything else, with all those athletes I met in France that week [Kilian’s Classik in Font Romeu].
iRunFar: You’re back in Crested Butte now. Have you still been running or are you just focusing on some skimo for the winter season?
Kremer: I try to run throughout the winter, at least twice a week. I have a great friend who’s a huge runner and we run twice a week before school. [Stevie is a teacher] The snow has started to fall so I’ve started some ski mountaineering a little bit as well. That’s more what I focus on in the winter and I compete in some local races, too. It’s great, it’s super fun. It’s also a great compliment to uphill running.
iRunFar: Does it feel nice to have that break from running over the winter time?
Kremer: Yeah definitely. I love running every time I get out there, whether it’s 50 degrees or minus 10 degrees. I love running; it’s such a great feeling. But, you know, it’s so nice to have something else to focus on.
iRunFar: You said earlier that you haven’t really thought about 2014 yet but, I guess, you kind of have to think of your race calendar a little, right? Are you going to focus once again on the shorter Skyrunning races or have you thought about doing any longer races?
Kremer: NO. [laughs] There is no way that I’m running any further than 42k… maybe 45, maybe 50. Fifty would be the most. Right now, my focus is on the Skyrunning series again. I’m not ready for any ultras.
iRunFar: Is it something you see yourself doing in the future, perhaps?
Kremer: I think competing in a 50-mile race would be a great experience but I just love the fact of running and being done in four or five hours and having a beer and having a great dinner! You know, running for 12 hours… I don’t know whether I have it in me! Whenever I look at Emelie’s results, or anyone’s results who just ran a 50-mile race, it’s incredible and I wonder, ‘Can I do that?’ But I just don’t have the desire to do it right now. Maybe it’ll come but right now, I don’t have it.
iRunFar: Great, Stevie. I guess next year will be another incredible year but with a different kind of pressure. I mean, people definitely know who you are now. You’ll be the reigning Skyrunning champion. Does that feel good?
Kremer: There’s pressure but I put it on myself, you know? I think if anything, people are extremely supportive. People love it and want to encourage and support you and give you positive reinforcements. I think going into Zegama it will be the race with the least pressure of next year because I didn’t do as well [at Zegama this year]. I just have to keep reminding myself that if I keep training and trying my best, that’s all I can do.
iRunFar: It sounds like a good philosophy to have.
Kremer: Yeah, I just hope that I can really believe it! [laughs]