Trail Gangsta of the Week • 2/8/19

Meet Anthony Kunkel!

1) What makes you a “Trail Gangsta?”

Being bold enough to come back over and over again, despite a mixed bag of results. For me, it always comes back to figuring out what I’m capable of and insisting that the perfect day will happen. I’d be lying if I acted like the drops I’ve accrued in pursuit of that don’t suck, but they’re MY DROPS! What else do we have such clear control over in this world?! That recognition and ownership makes me a Trail Gangsta.

2) Tell us, how and when did you get into trail running?

I still pretty much suck on real trails. So maybe I’ll get back to you after I get into trail running …

3) Do you consider running to be your therapy? If so, what aspect is most therapeutic?

Absolutely. The repetitive nature of the mechanical act of running, especially on roads where every step is identical, makes for a very monotonous substrate in which novel realizations or feelings stand out, like a black background that makes colors pop. The brain has a certain amount of ‘noise,’ and it seems that lulling the body into the ‘noise’ of running can give us respite from our normal business and distractions.

4) Briefly describe one of your most memorable races.

This has to be the Tussey Mountainback Ultra in 2016. I peaked perfectly and was confident I’d get the CR and a win. The weather was perfect for it and the first uphill was effortless so I knew I was in for something special. Unfortunately the race is earlier in the year so headlamps aren’t even considered and the course was marked in dark blue signs with black arrows. I never had a chance; I missed the first turn, and was following the correct loop except backwards! That provided me the confidence to go 2.75+ miles out of my way before seeing anyone before being told I needed to turn around. When I got back on course, the markings said 5 miles to go, while my watch said over 10 miles. That put a damper on things! Yet I was out there running through the woods in immaculate fall colors on endless gravel roads with big climbs and I was sincerely one with it all. It was just the sound of feet against the gravel, with no important difference between the effort of my body and the views I was feeling so a part of. With JFK looming three weeks later, I pulled the plug about 50k in, which proved to be a smart move. No external reward, just the enjoyment of an effortless day and being one with a beautiful place.

5) You employ what some would consider unorthodox training methods. What’s your favorite method and how has it improved your running?

First, would be my heat training. The heat training gives me supreme confidence in the heat, but also helps keep my hormones happy when training heavy. In a close second is training at a “grandma pace” (as in slower than people will believe 90% of the time).

6) Do you have any strategies to combat negative thoughts that creep in during training runs or races?

This is the million-dollar question isn’t it? I’ve been attempting to purely and whole-heartedly embrace the “negative” aspects of running, as I believe that will ultimately result in the fastest times possible. But that has given me some serious ‘growing pains,’ as I try to be at peace with any outcome. To me it’s a process, and I choose to keep gentleness at the forefront, even if that means the occasional drop.

7) What is one of your most-played songs on your running playlist?

I don’t listen to music when running, but lately I’ve been using song like “On the Nature of Daylight” (one most people will recognize I think, since it’s been in movies) to recall the special times of effortless focus and control of my attention that I’ve experienced. If I ever make a race playlist, it’s gonna be crunchy!

8) What adventure(s) do you have planned next?

We just finished up another successful “Snowdown” Festival in Durango. That will be followed by the Phoenix-Mesa Marathon, Black Canyon 100k in February, and the Boston Marathon in April.

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