Cary Edwards – Heart Runner

“I never regret a run. Every run is a positive. It is a fresh start to my day”

“Go big or go home, moderation does not work for me.”

Cary Edwards and I chat over the phone. To be honest we chat on the phone most days. She is my running sister, my confidant, my therapist and she will laugh at my jokes. Cary Edwards is a ball of energy, with a smile that is infectious, a ballsy laugh that can warm the coldest of souls and she will always make a friend at every race she runs. With her dark hair swinging, fierce determination plastered across her face and her decisive, practiced stride, she truly is a running force and man that girl can bust out speed when she wants to.

At 46 years old (she does not look it) Cary has achieved a lot, run a lot, and cycled a fair amount. Cary has run track (she was a sprinter), X country, marathons, she has played competitive tennis, long jumped for the high school team, completed Iron Mans, can ski, water ski and in 8th grade competed in the Junior Olympics; yes people, the Olympics. She ran in the 4×100 relay. Phew, that woman has done A LOT.

As a person, Cary is open, raw, bright, and intelligent. Everything she does is with an honesty and gusto that is refreshing in an age where people like to hide in groups and behind social media. Basically, if Cary Edwards likes you, then you have a loyal friend for life.

Born in Austin, TX, a single child residing in a small, countryside town, Cary’s sole companion was her pet goat (yes I did say goat) called Pinto Bean. Who she swears would bleat her name, “CAAARRRYYYYYYY” (now read that in the voice of a goat, I amused myself, it sounds pretty good, give it a try). Pinto Bean liked to run. Cary goes on to explain that to catch the bus to school it was 2 miles to the Highway and then 2 miles back. So, to save time Cary would run, Pinto Bean would run with her. She would like to run fast, Pinto Bean liked to run fast. They would run as fast as they could, and Cary’s running days began, at the ripe old age of 12.

As an aside, the “running to the road” and the “goat running” remind me of two books, one I have read and the other to read.

Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed, by Matthew Futterman

Bill Larsen, the main protagonist of the book, learnt to run by running on his farm and to catch the school bus at the road. – Just like Cary Edwards.

Also, Pinto Bean, the goat that loved to run, reminds me of a book by Christopher McDougall (of Born to Run fame) called Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero. Yes, I know it is a donkey, but a donkey that runs with people, just like sweet Pinto, the perfect companion to a probably sometimes lonely child, living in the middle of nowhere.

Both books are available on Amazon.

But I digress. On with young Cary. Now she is running, and she hits the X – Country team in middle school, track and field and is the 3rd leg of the 4 x 100 team that gets to the Junior Olympics in California. Sprints are her love and forte and as she gets to high school, those quick legs are eating up the 100m/200m/400m and 4 x 400m relay distances. That explosive power is also making its way to propel Cary in the long jump.

“I was always very loud on the track, I have always landed on my heels and even in my spikes you could hear me coming, I sounded like an elephant.” Cary chuckles. “I loved the rush of sprinting, I still do. I have always been competitive and if someone is in front of me, I will chase them down.”

Life moves on and Cary is still running. In college, where she is studying biology and nursing (Cary is a nurse practitioner by trade), she takes a job as a lifeguard at a country club and she starts to swim recreationally. Which also keeps her safe when she fell in love with water skiing. Not something you would imagine Cary doing, which reveals her sense of adventure and mental strength to push boundaries.

After running her first marathon in Austin, in 1996 at the age of 23, with a drive to achieve, the natural progression seems to be the Triathlon. But what about the bike? AHA but this gritty, I will have a go human, is also mountain biking, thanks to an old boyfriend. Although, she had a habit of flying off her bike.

It is around 1998, Cary is in her mid-20s, she enters her first Tri, Olympic distance, to help a friend in Denver, CO. In her own words “WORST RACE EVER!?!?” On her old mountain bike, with no bike training, no wetsuit; the water was freezing, no bike shorts or water bottle cage, I mean what could go wrong? She finishes the race, thirsty, sore, and freezing and that was it for the triathlon until she met her current coach, Aubrey Aldy from All Day Endurance. Where she went on to do a ½ Ironman in 2018, driven by a back injury and the need to do cross training.

I could sit here and run through everything Cary has run, jumped, swam, and biked. I mean she has run around eight marathons, run 5Ks, 10Ks, ½ marathons, a fifty miler, she has run Boston, which is no mean feat.  But WHY does she do this and after 34 years, why does she keep striving to achieve. What is running to her?

The thing that has always struck me about Cary is her heart and her capacity to care for others, I mean she is a Nurse Practitioner after all. Her ability to run in any situation and still manage to make time for others. For example, in her fastest marathon (which was a Boston Qualifier) she stopped to give a lady who was struggling some of her base salt; can you imagine what her time would have been?  One year in the Naples half marathon, she assisted in helping a man who was having a heart attack; he survived. Whenever she runs, she comes back with a friend, but as much as she gives herself to others, what does running give back to her?

“I run for myself, it helps with my anxiety, it creates time for ME. It gives me a forum to feel balanced, physically, and mentally. It is my natural Prozac. It puts my problems into digestible bites and at the end of every run, it is like being given a fresh start to my day. I love the process, I love training, the accountability it gives, the sociability of the run”. The “process” of the run, over the years has guided Cary to figure out who she is. Morphing from the little girl running to the highway, with a goat by her side, to the woman who continues to drive and strive forward and be the best she can. Like us all, Cary feels unsettled if she has no race to train for. It helps us to dial in our training and to justify having a coach. Cary runs with Aubrey Aldy and he is an especially important element in her life. He is a person she can check in with and be accountable to. He keeps her injury free. “Aubrey helps to keep me running as I grow older and my family likes it because happy momma, happy family”.

Cary’s 5-year plan in running and life.

When a person has already accomplished so much, what is next? As we get older, we do slow down, we can get injured and we have lived many dreams. But it is OK to have new ones, to reach for new goals and to power onward and upward. So, what is next for Cary? She reveals that she would still love to try and PR in the marathon, ½ marathon and maybe a 10K. Additionally, run more interesting races like the Leadville Marathon, to experience something challenging and new. “Life” she says, “is best lived one race at a time”. Maybe she will go back and do another triathlon, as she did love that process, take up trail running, maybe biking. Who knows?

In life she is studying and working on opening her own functional medicine practice, maybe move to a cooler climate, like Montana, Idaho, or Colorado.

What I do know about Cary is, whatever she does next, it will be pursued with her heart open, ready to receive what nature throws at her. She will strive to do better, be better, love harder, work harder, run strong, run with abandonment, run as fast as she can. Just like the little girl and her pet goat Pinto Bean, with the wind in her hair and letting the freedom her legs provide wash over her and drive her demons into the dust. Keep running, keep loving and keep caring, as Cary, after all, is her name.  

Cary Stats

  • Favorite race – Leadville Marathon – Why? Because it was beautiful, scenic, new, and different. No pressure to perform as all ran at altitude.
  • Fueling – Honey Stingers, Tailwind. “However I am still searching for the perfect nutrition”.
  • Favorite Sneaker – A combination of the New Balance 1080 Fresh foam, mixed with the Altra Torin 4.0 plush.
  • Runner Quirks – I get up 3 hours before a race to have my coffee and pre – race meal and I always pray.
  • Runner Superstitions – I visualize an ugly thing on my shoulder (this is my negative thought) and I flick it away. I also like to Sharpie 413 on my arm to remind myself I am not fragile. 4:13, Philippians “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
  • Inspiration – “My Kids, if they can get up to swim in cold water super early every day, I can get my ass out of bed to run. Also, my friend Bob, who has been through so much and still gets out to run and that helps me to want to keep going”.
  • Things people do not know about me – Cary can speak Spanish. She was taught some Spanish by her Grandmother who helped raise her. Which she leant from her Mexican husband, Cary’s grandfather, whom sadly she never met.  I am her friend and I never knew that.

Kyle Krafft – Ultra Trailblazer the Endurance Entrepreneur

“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 – 4.13.20

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.

California Bound

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