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® Benjamín Juárez

Three or four days a week I will run 30-60 min barefoot on grass as my easy second run of the day. I never run barefoot on trails, only on grass fields. I’ve been running for New Balance since 2008.

ANTON KRUPICKA “Creo que 200-250 km semanales es una distancia suficiente de entreno”

Sportvicious: What kind of shoes do you like to use?

Anton Krupicka: My main shoe for both training and racing is the New Balance MT110. It’s a low-to-the-ground racing flat for the trails that still has a rock plate for protection. This allows me to be stable and nimble on technical trails.

Sportvicious: What brand are you currently used?

Anton Krupicka: New Balance. I work closely with the design and product team there to create shoes that match my needs.

Sportvicious: How many pairs of running shoes do you go through in a year?

Anton Krupicka: I wear out approximately 25-30 pairs of shoes a year.

Sportvicious: How often do you run without shoes?

Anton Krupicka: Three or four days a week I will run 30-60min barefoot on grass as my easy second run of the day. I never run barefoot on trails, only on grass fields.

Sportvicious: Do inexperienced people running barefoot have more risk of injury?

Anton Krupicka: When running barefoot I think it is important to only run on natural surfaces such as grass or sand. One purpose of running barefoot is to reacquaint oneself with one’s body and to practice running with a more natural, efficient form. Running barefoot is going to stress your feet and lower legs in a new way and it will take time for your body to strengthen and adapt these muscles and tendons. So, it is very important to begin with only a small amount of barefoot running and to increase the amount gradually.

Sportvicious: Does one get used to encountering stones, nails, etc..?

Anton Krupicka: I don’t run barefoot where there are stones and nails, so I don’t really know. Running barefoot on rocks and nails doesn’t sound very fun to me.

Sportvicious: What are the benefits of barefoot running?

Anton Krupicka: Running barefoot helps teach you to run with a more efficient, natural form. It helps you to run with shorter, quicker strides; land under your center of gravity and not overstride; and use your muscles and tendons to absorb the impact of running instead of your skeletal system. By changing your form and strengthening your feet and legs through barefoot running you make it more possible to wear lightweight shoes when you run shod, which in the end, I think makes the overall experience of running more enjoyable, especially when running on technical, uneven trails.

Sportvicious: Give us your opinion on the Vibram Five Fingers.

Anton Krupicka: I think that Five Fingers are easy to use inappropriately because they offer just enough protection to run on unnatural surfaces with poor form. If you use them with bad running form they’re going to be much more likely to cause injury than if you were in a more typical running shoe with poor form. When people buy Five Fingers, I think there needs to be information provided about changing your running form to a more mid-foot/forefoot strike and working into using them gradually. Having said that, I think they’re great if they are motivating more people to be active.

Sportvicious: Why do you usually run shirtless?

Anton Krupicka: I run shirtless if the weather is hot. I prefer running shirtless because I feel more free and unencumbered.

Sportvicious: How did you start working with New Balance?

Anton Krupicka: I’ve been running for New Balance since 2008. I started working with them when they approached me with a new shoe they were working on (the update to the 790) and I told the product manager how I thought it should be different. They were looking to hire a couple of Outdoor Ambassadors and I was excited to run in the 790 and have the opportunity to see my input in a new shoe. It has been a very satisfying and rewarding relationship ever since and I’ve been very happy with their support and the evolution of their trail racing shoe design.

Sportvicious: You’ve had two consecutive withdrawals in the Leadville 100. Why did you drop out each time?

Anton Krupicka: In 2009, I dropped out because I had giardia and became very dehydrated. In retrospect, I should have finished the race, but I was so far off the pace that I’d been hoping to run that I was mentally defeated. I definitely regret dropping out that year. In 2010, I dropped out because I became hypoglycemic—my blood sugar was dangerously low—and my body completely shut down. I stopped eating because my stomach was upset and it very quickly became a situation where I wasn’t able to care for myself anymore. I was essentially disqualified when the medical team administered an IV to increase my blood sugar. It is hard for me to be disappointed about the 2010 experience because after a certain point it was basically out of my control.

Sportvicious: Or just if you see you’re not going to improve your time, you leave it?

Anton Krupicka: At Leadville in 2009 that was partly true. In 2010 that was not true at all. In 2010, I was determined to finish no matter what, but I just couldn’t.

Sportvicious: Leadville 100 or Rocky Raccoon 100?

Anton Krupicka: The Leadville 100 is a much more inspiring race for me. It is in the high mountains of Colorado and has a deep history in the sport. Rocky Raccoon is too flat. The only reason I have run there is to try to race 100mi as fast as possible.

Sportvicious: When will we see Anton Krupicka at UTMB?

Anton Krupicka: Hopefully soon, maybe 2013. It is one race I would like to do more than any other.

Sportvicious: Have you ever raced on asphalt?

Anton Krupicka: Yes, I ran several road marathons and 5Ks and 10Ks when I was younger and would still like to as speedwork training. I simply am not as good at racing on the roads as I am racing in the mountains. Plus, I prefer the natural environment.

Sportvicious: You made the record time of the Western States Endurance Run (162 kilometers) in 15:13:52. How did you prepare for that achievement?

Anton Krupicka: I had six months of uninterrupted training leading up to Western States in 2010 where I averaged 23-28 hours of running per week with 30,000-35,000 feet of vertical gain. This consistent training was what gave me the mental and physical ability to run as fast as I did that day. I did break the record, but Geoff Roes also broke the old record, beating me by 6 minutes! I was excited to race the best in the world that day (Geoff and Kilian), and even though Geoff beat me, it was still a very satisfying race for me.

Sportvicious: How do you train during the harsh winter days in Colorado?

Anton Krupicka: I love running in the mountains in Colorado’s winters. I just accept that the running is going to be slower with lots of deep snow, but as long as I wear enough clothing layers the weather is never enough to deter me from running outside in the mountains. I think mountains are even more beautiful in the winter, so I am just as inspired in the winter as I am in the summer months.

Sportvicious: Achieving a marathon at only 12 years old is not only a result of training but also a matter of genetics, right?

Anton Krupicka: I think it was more a matter of having an open mind. I didn’t place any arbitrary limits on myself. Of course, I was physically prepared through training, but mostly I had a passion for the activity even at such a young age and I was confident I could do it. Genetically, I don’t think I am very gifted, I simply love the sport more than most people.

Sportvicious: Have you trained 300km or more per week?

Anton Krupicka: I have often run 300km or more in a week, but in the last few years I have become more focused on running a lot of vertical gain instead of running a certain number of kilometers. By running uphill a lot in the mountains on steep trails I can be sure that I am getting the most out of my hours on the trail instead of running too much on flat trails which isn’t as enjoyable or beneficial. I think 200-250km per week is a more appropriate quantity to strive for.

Sportvicious: You seem to be injured often. What has been your worst injury?

Anton Krupicka: 2011 has been my worst year for injury. I have had tendonitis in my shin the entire year and then in the summer I broke my leg while running and had to take three months completely off.

Sportvicious: Are you fully recovered from your last injury?

Anton Krupicka: Almost. My shin is generally on its way to getting better.

Sportvicious: How often do you train with someone?

Anton Krupicka: I run with some of my friends here in Boulder maybe two or three times a week. Most of my training is by myself.

Sportvicious: Do you stretch before and after running?

Anton Krupicka: No.

Sportvicious: What is your best sporting memory?

Anton Krupicka: I really enjoyed the 2010 Western States 100; I had a good race and it was a pleasure to compete so closely with the best long distance mountain runners in the world. My first win at the Leadville 100 in 2006 is also a good memory because everything was so new and exciting to me.

Sportvicious: Do you think there should be mandatory equipment in American mountain racing like the Europeans have?

Anton Krupicka: Absolutely not. I think that there should be a culture of personal responsibility when racing in the mountains and that individual are capable of making decisions for themselves when it comes to equipment. Having said that, one of the major draws of races for me is having a network of support to fall back on when I am pushing myself as hard as I can. Without this network, I wouldn’t have the ability to push myself as hard as I do in races. In training, it is important to stay within one’s limits on long training runs so that you can always get yourself out of a bad situation. Races are a privilege of support so that you can push harder. Maybe it is unreasonable to expect this kind of support from race organization, and most of the time I don’t; when I am going super-minimal, I always have a personal crew to take care of me.

Sportvicious: Is it true that American long distance races are flat and fairly level?

Anton Krupicka: Of course not. There are all kinds of races in North America. The Hardrock 100, for instance, is about as steep and mountainous as is possible. It is true that the Western States 100 is relatively flat, and that, in general, I think European races have more vertical gain, but again, there are all kinds of races in North America. It just so happens that the two most popular races—the Western States 100 and the Leadville 100—are relatively flat when compared to true mountain courses.

Sportvicious: In American racing there are various medical tests. Are they too demanding?

Anton Krupicka: No, not at all. Typically, during a 100 mile race you might have to get weighed two or three times. That’s less than a minute over the duration of the entire race. I think it is good to have race organization paying attention to runners’ conditions, but I don’t really think it is necessary either.

Sportvicious: Have you ever had to drop out of a race for not passing a medical examination?

Anton Krupicka: No.

Sportvicious: What foods are offered at the aid stations?

Anton Krupicka: I hardly ever eat from the food tables at aid stations—99% of the time I just eat GUs—but usually there are M&Ms, fruit, cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salty chips, soup, potatoes, pasta, energy gels, salt tablets, and so forth.

Sportvicious: What else are the differences between American and European races?

Anton Krupicka: Well, I have never raced in Europe, unfortunately, so I don’t have much to say on this.

Sportvicious: Why don’t Americans succeed in Europe?

Anton Krupicka: Similar to the previous question, I have never raced in Europe, so what I have to say probably isn’t very insightful. First, I would like to say that our women seem to usually do quite well in Europe. Second, I think the sport is much more professional in Europe. There is a rich culture of mountain sports and mountain running that has attracted a high number of talented mountain athletes. When you look at the athletes that have come to the United States and succeeded at our 100 mile races (Kilian Jornet, Julien Chorier, Ryan Sandes) the common theme is that each athlete had the support of Salomon to take time before the race to come over and become acclimated to the culture and the race course. There hasn’t been an American male that has really done that for UTMB yet. I think doing so is incredibly important. Kilian didn’t do this before Western States in 2011, but he did have his 2010 experience and also, Kilian is a talent unlike any other mountain runner in the world, so the normal rules might not necessarily apply to him.

Sportvicious: At what mileage do you start to suffer in long distance races?

Anton Krupicka: Of course, it depends on the race, but in a 100mi race I typically begin to suffer after 70 miles or so. I think this is pretty normal for any athlete.

Sportvicious: How do you suppress the pain?

Anton Krupicka: I don’t suppress it, I just try to accept it and not dwell on it. One must accept that there is going to be a lot of suffering in these long races and there is no use focusing on that aspect of it. Everyone is hurting, your pain is not special. I try to just stay present in the moment—don’t focus on the finish—and just break the race down into small, manageable chunks.

Sportvicious: When you suffer an injury, what do you usually do to overcome it?

Anton Krupicka: Although I don’t like to rest, usually a little bit of time off will make the biggest difference. Beyond that I have a great support network here in Boulder who I go to for physical therapy, massage body work, and acupuncture. Usually some combination of these things will get me back on the trails more quickly than just resting.

Sportvicious: Have you ever had hallucinations?

Anton Krupicka: No.

Sportvicious: You are extremely thin. You think it’s one of the prerequisites to run fast?

Anton Krupicka: You definitely can’t be carrying any extra weight as a mountain runner. The power-to-weight ratio is just too important on long climbs. However, I think a certain amount of musculature—especially in the legs—is important for withstanding all of the pounding on downhills and at the end of long races. Compared to the best distance runners in the world—elite road marthoners—I am actually not that thin at 6ft and 150 lbs.

Sportvicious: What are you currently studying?

Anton Krupicka: I am just finishing a Masters degree in Geography with an emphasis on mountain hydrology. My thesis work is trying to understand a specific mountain watershed where there is acid mine drainage contamination from an old silver mine.

Sportvicious: Who is the best female European trail runner and why?

Anton Krupicka: I think Mireia Miró is currently the best. She is the best short course and skymarathon mountain runner right now and I am interested to see her occasionally step up to ultra distances in the near future. In ultra mountain running, I think Lizzy Hawker is currently the best European. She doesn’t have as much success at the shorter mountain races, but she is as good as some of the top men in the ultra distance stuff.

Sportvicious: Who is the best male European trail runner and why?

Anton Krupicka: Kilian Jornet, of course, for his versatility. At 3 hour races and below, I think Marco de Gasperi is always the one to beat, but at 3 hour races and above, Kilian is extremely talented. He is the perfect combination of talent, passion, work ethic and durability.

Sportvicious: Who is your best rival (why)?

Anton Krupicka: I don’t really feel like I have any rivals. I am friends with most of my top competitors and prefer it to be that way. In competition I want to win but only because I know that if I focus on winning I am sure to get the best effort out of myself. I prefer to race against the best because those sorts of challenges are necessary to grow as a person and to get a true measure of my ability.

[Sportvicious Magazine #37