Krupicka and Semick victorious in the Marin Headlands.
Written by: Bryon Powell
Anton Krupicka is no stranger to jaw-dropping ultramarathon performances. That’s why it should come as no surprise that on May 1 he ran the second-fastest time in the 15-year history of the Miwok 100-kilometer race in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco. However, Krupicka’s victory and stunning time did not come without challenges or challengers.
Krupicka embodies the trend toward minimalism in trail running. At the same time, he’s the most prominent example of extremely high mileage training for ultramarathons. Unfortunately, in the past, that combination has led this impassioned runner to frequent breaks from training and racing. However, Krupicka seems to have finally reigned in his desire to run ad infinitum. For the first two-and-a-half months of this year Krupicka “limited” himself to runs of not much longer than 2 hours to avoid a recurrence of a chronic knee issue. Beginning in mid-March, he added a 4-hour long run and has since upped his long run by about an hour a week to max out with a 50-mile long run two weeks before Miwok.
After a few years of near total immersion in running Krupicka returned to school two days after the Leadville 100-mile race last August. He seems to have struck a balance between his daily training and his coursework at the University of Colorado. Despite being in finals period and having his last paper due four days after the race, he showed no signs of his academics hampering his athletic prowess.
On the course, Michael Wardian, a multiple-time USATF ultramarathon champion and international road-ultra star, set a blistering early pace. He put more than two minutes on Krupicka by the mile-12 aid station. Another young speedster, Zach Gingerich of Illinois, was also ahead of Krupicka at that point, but by only 30 seconds.
Wardian encountered some confusion about the direction of the course in heading toward the next aid station, allowing Krupicka to briefly catch up. By mile 16 Wardian again had a slight lead on Krupicka, who now led Gingerich and Canadian Gary Robbins.
Krupicka had planned on making a move on Wardian en route to the 22-mile aid station given that it included the largest climb on the course and given the two runners’ relative strengths: Wardian’s on roads and Krupicka’s in the mountains. Wardian held strong, maintaining a 40-second lead. Two-time defending Western States 100 champ Hal Koerner moved into third place, two minutes back. Local runner Nathan Yanko advanced to fourth position four minutes behind Wardian.
Not far out of the 22-mile aid station, Krupicka again caught Wardian only to have the Virginian build another one minute lead. However, by mile 28 the Coloradan was just behind Wardian and he finally moved into the lead in the aid station. Koerner stayed a minute back in third while Rod Bien of Oregon took over fourth.
Wardian and Krupicka continued a familiar pattern on the way to the turnaround point at mile 35. Wardian caught Krupicka and opened up a minute lead only to have Krupicka nearly catch up on a long down hill. Krupicka would soon break that pattern. He opened up a ten-and-a-half-minute lead on the field in the ensuing 7 miles. Koerner also passed Wardian on the way to the mile-43 aid station. Bien followed Wardian into the aid station in fourth. Yanko was the fifth runner to pass through this aid station. He was 22 minutes behind Krupicka.
Seven miles later, the order of the top five remained unchanged ; however, the top three runners were further spread out. Back in fifth, Yanko was rapidly gaining on Wardian and was just 2 minutes back at the mile-50 aid station. Upon entering the aid station Wardian remarked that he’d “grossly underestimated” the huge climb up to the aid station.
Krupicka won with a time of 8:02:51. He went into the day shooting for Dave Mackey’s course record of 7:53:19, but was off the pace early and never made up the time. Koerner finished in 8:20:45, which was still good enough for the fourth-fastest time ever on the course. Bien continued on in third to run 8:29:27 with Yanko moving into fourth with a time of 8:32:51. Erik Skaden ran a smart race to place fifth in 8:53:58.
On the women’s side, the top two spots were settled before the race was half way over. Devon Crosby-Helms of San Francisco went out in the lead while reigning world 100k champion Kami Semick stuck close. By mile 16 Semick, of Bend, Oregon had passed Crosby-Helms and opened up a 40-second lead. Semick expanded that lead to four minutes at mile 22 and six-and-a-half minutes by mile 28. Another 14 miles down the course and Semick had a 21-minute lead. The Oregonian won in a time of 9:10:29.
Meanwhile Crosby-Helms maintained an eight- to 12-minute lead on a succession third-place women until she took off with 20 miles remaining. Her second-place time of 9:36:02 put more than 20 minutes ahead of the third-place woman. For much of the day Jenn Shelton and Darcy Africa alternated holding third position. However, Krissy Moehl made a late surge to capture third in 9:57:32. Amy Sproston took fourth place in 10:02:41 just edging out Africa, who ran 10:03:00.
Bryon Powell is a competitive trail runner, coach and editor of iRunFar.com.