Brakken Kraker is one of the top obstacle racers out of the Midwest. If you see him at an event it will likely be on the podium no matter what the distance is. He is also a family man and a teacher that spends much of his spare time outside of racing improving the lives of everyone around him.
Who do you see as your inspiration? Why?
I am inspired by the great athletes of every sport. People who have risen to the top of their professional amaze me, and I try to take bits and pieces from their training and mental approach to competition.
Are you currently sponsored? If so who and how has the experience been?
I am sponsored by Reebok Spartan Race, and the experience has been incredible. They have given me the support and ability to train and race all over the country. They were the first company to show any interest in supporting my athletic pursuits, and I couldn’t be more grateful for what they have done for me.
What are you goals for the upcoming year?
My goal for the upcoming year is twofold. First, I want to race and visit all the locales I’ve been eyeing for the last few years. This sport gives me the opportunity to travel and I am going to milk it for all it’s worth! Second, I want to get to the top of this sport. There are some incredible athletes in this sport, and the chance to compete head to head with them is something I look forward to everyday.
Do you have a favorite race promotion? And why?
I prefer Spartan Race, and not simply because they sponsor me. They bring a level of professionalism and competition to their events that is unmatched in this sport.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I would say the 2012 Vermont Championship races were the highlight thus far. Taking 3rd in the Beast was incredible, but then hanging on for 3rd in the Ultra Beast was the most painful and most rewarding experience in this sport to date.
Tell me about your most embarrassing moment in racing?
I have a tie for most embarrassing moments.
#1: My first year in college I led off our Distance Medley Relay at the National Championship meet. I was so anxious and nervous, I lined up in the wrong lane and they called me out over the loud speaker. I then proceeded to run the worst race of the season and handed off in second to last place.
#2: I was DQ’d on the Tyrolean Traverse in the 2011 Texas Beast. My hands and forearms were completely blown out and I could not grip the rope. The finish line was something like 100m from this obstacle, so there were all these people watching. I fell off three times in a row. Everyone was cheering and trying to encourage me. As a competitor, pity applause is probably the worst thing to have to listen to…
What is the most difficult obstacle in any race you have run?
The first time I encountered the Tyrolean Traverse was the only time I have been physically unable to complete an obstacle. It was such a discouraging experience. Other than that, the sandbag and bucket carries in Vermont this year were probably the most physically challenging obstacles yet. I do, however, always dread the uphill barbed wire crawls.
After struggling with the tyrolean traverse what have you done to improve at this obstacle?
That first struggle on the Tyrolean was more a result of the previous 8 miles of racing than the Traverse itself. Junyong Pak and I had gone back and forth all day and he had absolutely hammered me into the ground by the time I reached to Tyrolean. I realized that I had to improve my overall running fitness in order to come into difficult obstacles in a fresher state. Once my running improved, I wasn’t so exhausted entering that obstacle, and it was no longer an issue.
Do you have any tips for the barbed wire crawl haters out there?
I would recommend lots of core work and lots of forearm and shoulder work. Those seem to be the areas that burn the most during the crawl. Most animal movements are great for this, but simply military crawling and bear crawling is probably the most specific way to get results quickly.
What has been your most challenging race?
The Texas Beast in 2011 and the Vermont Beast are probably tied for the most challenging races I have ever run. Texas was my second obstacle race, and I was completely unprepared for it physically. That race broke me. Vermont is a climbing race, which I get very little practice on in Wisconsin. That leads to a very painful experience each year.
What held you out of the 2013 Vermont spartan Race? Will you be returning to the championships in 2014?
I actually ran the 2013 Vermont race… I experienced leg cramps for the first time in my life. It started at 52 minutes, and by 1:30 I was on the ground writhing. I considered dropping out there and again right after the Tarzan swing (doing one legged Burpees as I couldn’t move both legs at the same time…). I decided I had to make it to the 10 mile mark, roughly the Tyrolean Traverse. I did, and called it a day there at 3:30. It was my first DNF ever, and was incredibly humiliating and humbling. I ultimately stopped to avoid seriously injuring something. I will absolutely be back in 2014. I have adjusted to training and will be ready to do that course justice this year.
Tell me about some of your other interests outside of racing?
My wife and I have a 16 month old son, so he is where I spend most of my time these days. Outside of Braden, I love eating, watching movies, reading, and competing in anything.
Favorite Pre-race food?
I usually have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast on race day, but I eat that for breakfast on non-race days, too.
Do you have a regular job (9-5) or run professionally?
I am a High School Special Education Teacher and coach.
What advice do you have for up and coming competitive racers out there?
I would say get out there and race and enjoy the experience. I have found that I come out of every race knowing exactly what I need to improve. These races are so physical and tiring that your body lets you know in a very obvious way what your weaknesses are. Then, simply formulate a training plan that addresses your weaknesses and move from there. I believe in working on your weaknesses and maintaining your strengths. Hopefully, whatever you are weak at becomes a strength eventually, and then you pick a new weakness to address while making sure the old one doesn’t revert to a weakness.
How many hours a week do you train? What is your favorite workout?
I aim to train somewhere around 15 hours/week, 7 hours of running, and 8 hours of cross training/strength training. This does not always materialize, but that’s the goal.
How often do you run and what is your average cruising pace? Do you do cardio besides running?
I run 6-7 times per week an average. Some weeks I will add doubles, but often times I bike instead for that day’s double. I run my hard days hard and my easy days easy. Those easy days vary anywhere from 6:00/mi to 9:00/mi, but is usually around 6:40 – 7:00 pace. I run by feel on those days and don’t worry about pace. I don’t do a whole lot of cardio outside of that. I try to swim a few times per week in summer, and I play a decent amount of basketball.
Do you participate in crossfit?
I don’t do any official crossfit, but I have often done my strength work in a style that mirrors what is now labeled as “crossfit”.
What is your favorite non running work out?
I love playing basketball and I also really like working out at our local gymnastics gym.
How many burpees do you on average?
I typically don’t do any burpees on a daily basis, but I accepted Joe’s challenge to do them everyday. I started doing 100 daily, which was miserable, but they got a little more bearable within a few days. I feel the difference, so I will most likely keep them in my daily routine.
If you are lucky enough to see Brakken Kraker finishing up a race one day be sure to cheer him on. And most importantly, get out there and run a spartan race!
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