Written by Kelly Joy
“The second you cross the finish line of a tough race, every memory you have, becomes positive”.
Don’t hold your self too accountable for failures, because, if you never fail, maybe your goals are just not high enough?”Kyle Krafft – 4.13.2020
The moment Face Time flips up (we are in a social distance movement), Kyle greets me with his signature grin, warm and open, that he instantly puts me at ease. Chatting away, Kyle is truly as chilled as his “California dreaming” locks would suggest. Yet, beneath the natural, relaxed demeanor lies an undeniable force, steely grit and fierce intelligence, that cements his effervescence securely to the earth. Flighty he is not, adventurous and determined he certainly is.
So, who is Kyle Krafft? Well he is a 37 yr. old Ironman triathlete, ultra-runner and snowshoe racer (yes people that is a thing). He is a man who pushes boundaries, his own personal boundaries and then continues to force them further and further from his center, just to see how damn far they will go, before they rip apart. Maybe they never will?
Let’s stop for a second…
Before, I dig deep into what makes Kyle tick and discuss extensively his journey, I wanted to express that I did not really know Kyle before this interview. But after talking with him for the brief hour we had, he truly is one of the most well rounded, interesting, articulate individuals I have ever met. He thinks deeply and calculatedly to reach informed, albeit sometimes non-conforming plans to his life. Yet, he is by no means dull and is a true adventurer at heart. What I loved most about Kyle (that unlike many humans who like to push themselves physically and mentally to the brink) there is no obvious darkness simmering beneath his sunny disposition. Nothing to temper his lust for life or the aged earned wisdom in his eyes.
Where it all began…
Indiana born and raised Kyle played the usual contenders in sports, with only a single season on the high school cross country team and a toe dip into swimming. Let’s just say young Kyle was not one for conventionality, and they created an anxiety that worked against his innate yeaning to express himself freely when moving himself actively through space. Therefore, he rejected the ordinary and the high school tick sheet, instead replacing it with a passion for snowboarding and skateboarding. Both sports testing his limits and just how far he could push himself both physically and mentally – two elements that are the foundations of endurance sports, clearly a natural progression. Life moves forward and Kyle is now a fresh-faced Finance undergraduate from Indiana University, which is known for its innovation, creativity, and academic freedom. So, with that as his starting block, it is on a whim that he upped sticks and moved to California, a state that clearly sits well with his outlook on life.
Where it all began! California! The state that has everything: ocean and mountains, beaches and big cities. Kyle now added surfing to his “alternative” sporting repertoire, and this is also the place where he started to run. He was coaxed out by his colleague in their lunch hour, taking a break from his financial job and working towards his Master’s in Business from UCLA, and off they went. Out to run a nice hilly course at 105F in Calabasas, CA. The match was struck, and the fire ignited a passion that started to build. Kyle explains to me that he compares running to whiskey, some people just don’t like it, however some folks love it. But if you don’t like it yet keep trying it, then the taste for it can be acquired. AND that is what he did, he just kept running, driving himself forward to eventually complete his first ½ marathon. AND the fire roared higher.
Then he runs the LA marathon at age 26. From there and exactly like Forrest he just kept running. But now the Triathlon had seeped in, and Kyle completed his first Malibu Olympic Triathlon the same year as the marathon. “IT WAS AWFUL” Kyle exclaims, as he swam in tri shorts and forgot to use his asthma inhaler – gulp. Needless to say, it was a shock to the system. Yet, he still goes on to do 3 more Olympic Tris, and the stage was set, and IRONMAN came into the picture. “It’s all about being comfortable, with the uncomfortable,” he tells me, and Kyle’s achievements start stacking up.
- 3 x Malibu, California, Olympic Distance Triathlon.
- IRONMAN Austin, Texas 70.3 (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run)
- IRONMAN 70.3 Vineman, California.
- IRONMAN 70.3 Florida.
- IRONMAN 70.3 Miami, Florida– “Terrible race” in Kyles own words.
Kyle was still self-trained and had now moved to Naples, not a choice he had made lightly. But, with extensive family in town, now an uncle and a life changing job offer, he decided it was a life change he could not refuse. So, he took the plunge and moved across the country (and down a bit) to start his life in Florida. Plus, whether Kyle would agree or not with the fact, but without that move to Florida, he most certainly would have not have been sitting in a bar in Key West, eight beers in, feeling sentimental (maybe a touch inebriated?) when he made the decision to pick up his phone and register for IRONMAN Lake Placid 2018 at age 35 – yup a FULL TRIATHLON. Oops (alcohol can be very helpful to lower the fear factor in these situations).
Well it must be time to get a coach.
After the awfulness that was the Miami half, it was time to get serious and finally get someone to help. So, after asking a few local athletes in Naples, Kyle found All Day Endurance and Aubrey Aldy. What he loved about Aubrey was his knowledge, he was well educated, an athlete himself and did not stroke egos. It was all business, and that generates results. Lake Placid went on to be an amazing race for Kyle and maybe the turning point for him to realize what he strives for and recognizing his strengths. Kyle is humble enough to admit he will never be the fastest in the pack, but if you stick to the plan and the training, you can execute efficiently and have a great race. It may be challenging, but you can be the smart runner, the gritty fighter, hitting your goals and then pushing higher. How far can this body go?
Endurance enters the scene, stage right.
Well with an Ironman under your belt and a self-appreciation for the fact you will not be speedy, long and slow is a natural progression. Kyle explains he enjoys the struggle, he thrives on hard runs, what pain teaches you about yourself and has started to dabble in the long run arena. With a couple of 50K races under his belt; with one being a win at the Everglades Ultra 2020. Now that was a perfect execution. He strives to do more. Kyle is strategic and he understands his body, he sees the value in recovery both physically and in maintaining a healthy balance mentally. Let’s also throw in some stretching, especially as he ages. I ask him why, and he says, “I JUST LOVE IT!” I love both the tri and the ultra, it is pure love for me, beyond a hobby. I love the feeling of accomplishment, but don’t hold yourself too accountable if you fail.”
I ask him why Ultra? He explains that he feels he is built for endurance, (his body sinks in the water, not the best trait for a triathlete) and that he can improve and potentially go great distances. Kyle is a self-proclaimed introverted extrovert; he thrives off the energy of others. And in Ultra running, albeit a solitary endeavor, its roots support an energetic, collaborative collective of bad asses, gnarly, fun loving, raise you up individuals, yup and Kyle slots in nicely. Every race is a pure celebration of what the body can do and the people who toe the line.
5-year plan in Endurance and Life
And he doesn’t stop there, Kyle has big plans and it is an eclectic mix, with an aim to run a 50 miler and potentially a 100 miler in the next year, both I know he will kill, if social distancing allows. Aspirations of a 200-mile gravel bike (Dirty Kanza 200 in Kansas) race, aim high to get into Western States. “Because if I can do it, I am obligated to put my body through that’, “The passion drives me and if I have a passion and a drive, I will always be the kid that never grows up”. Between you and I, that is a personal goal of mine too, because, when you stop seeing the world through childlike eyes, you miss the wonder and awe of living.
He aspires to continue his life switching between the ocean and the mountains, to work hard, train hard and play hard with a fearlessness and intensity that will surely excel in the ultra-world arena.
Whatever Kyle decides to do or what races he enters he will do with a drive, lust for life and calculated tenacity, and I truly am excited to see where he will go next. It may be a snowshoe race up a mountain in Colorado or a gravel bike race, California Tri (skateboard, surf and snowboard all in one day). It could be the Grand Traverse Ultra (40 – mile point to point race) in Crested Butte, or it could be another IRONMAN, who knows. But, know this he will train hard and he will finish, and he will thrive. Because Kyle Krafft, endurance athlete is a true contender.
MORE Kyle Krafft stats
-Favorite sneakers – Road – Hoka Carbon X, Trail – Hoka EVO Speedgoats
-Fuel – First Endurance – EFS and Gu gels.
-Trademark – A big smile and a California vibe.
-Inspirational figures – His Father, who is ambitious, active and always striving to be more. In racing the person just in front.
-Things most people do not know about him – He has an inner green thumb and a love to grow nature. He also summons up memories of his old dog, Abidog, when a race gets hard. Because, that pain is nothing compared with the ache of losing her and the race will be dedicated to her, to power through.
-Special power – Unbreakable positive spirit.
-Furthest run – 50K.
– Longest Tri – Full IRONMAN.
-Weirdest Race – Aspen Snowshoe race