Interview with Craig Braun, Organizer of the Anvil Series

The first race of the IUTA World Cup Series in Clermont, Florida, USA is coming up. Everything as usual? No - unlike previous years, a new organizer, Craig Braun, is waiting in the wings. He took over Steve Kirby's "Anvil" label and continues to organize the events together with Teri Smith. We talked to him about changes, future prospects and when he himself will be participating in an ultra triathlon.

Craig Braun, Organizer of the Anvil Series in Florida, Oregon and VirginiaCraig and son having big plans

Text by Mark Hohe-Dorst | Image by Craig Braun

Craig, you are "new" to the ultratriathlon scene. What fascinates you about organizing such events?
Thanks Mark! I am new to the anvil / IUTA scene but I am not new to ultra triathlon or ultra distance events. I’ve been producing endurance races in the USA for the last 11 years now entering my 12th season as full time race director. This is one of the reasons Steve reached out to me right away - he knows I’ve been in this game for a long time. I’ve directed 5k’s with 3,500 runners and multi-day ultra triathlons with 75 participants. There’s no feeling to me that compares to watching people succeed and accomplish a goal knowing I played a very small role in that dream for them. Taking over the ANVIL races from Steve has allowed me to gain many new friends and continue to serve the endurance sports community. There is one reason why I race direct and do this job - I love the people who race, crew, volunteer and work together to make these races happen. I do not so much care about who wins, who is fast or who gets last. I care deeply about each individual who toes my start line and I hope they leave the event, regardless of the outcome feeling uplifted and inspired to keep chasing down their big dreams. To answer your question, what fascinates me? My answer is simple - the people.

You are speaking about multi-day ultra triathlons. Which one did you organized in the past?
We took over a race called the 24 hours of triathlon from a gentleman named Ian Adamson. That was my first introduction to long distance triathlons. My dad ran the event for a while and then I took it over from him. We added a 36 hour race that goes over two nights by starting at 10pm. We also added a 12 hour option to the event. We’ve been doing that race for a long time now. It sells out with 200 participants in about 24 hours the day after the event finishes. I’m super proud of that event. We’ve really built a loving community around it and have seen many folks enter into longer distances races after first completing the 24 or 36 hour race. We had 15 people race it the first year we did it. We focused on the participants, taking care of each person, keeping everything organized and it’s just grown and grown each year.

You have mentioned Steve Kirby. How did the first contact with Steve come about?
I’ve known Steve for some time before we connected about his retirement and him asking If I would take the ANVIL races over. My dad has raced a Double and Triple ANVIL and I had volunteered a few times at the Virginia race so I had met Steve that way. I was honored when Steve called. I mentioned multiple times that I was the first person that came to mind when he decided it was time to retire. It’s a huge honor for me to be in charge of the future of ANVIL / Ultra triathlon here in the USA. Steve and I share the same values both in our personal lives and as race directors. The transition has been / was very smooth and easy - I think that has a lot to do with it. It may be a different face at the races, but the things that make ANVIL special will remain the same.

Your father, Cole Braun, finished the Virginia Double and Triple Anvil in 2014 or 2016. When will you participate in an ultra triathlon?
I grew up running, and competed in School and college. I transitioned to ironman / triathlon after school and did that for a few years. My passion is running, specifically trail and long distance. I do have a bike and I do swim, bike and run each week for training. I’ve raced a lot and I’ve had some success as an athlete. If I’m being 100% honest I do not fin much joy in racing myself. I do love training, I also love watching other people cross the finish line. Perhaps I’ll miss racing later on in life and get back to it, but for now I’ll keep hammering away at my training and enjoying that process. No serious racing in my near future.

What do you expect from yourself and how do you see the future of the "Anvil" series?
We have big plans. I cannot share all of them right now but I can share that we will be hosting a 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 7x and 10x (day and continuous) in the USA in September 2024. Along with that, we’re pushing the limits of ultra tri in the USA and will be opening up more opportunities in the coming months for folks to travel to the USA and race some uniquely formatted events. We’re also investing heavily in promoting / growing the sport in the USA. Triathlon is a very popular sport here, but Ultra triathlon is mostly unknown and I’m determined to change that.

Great to hear, but why 7x? What makes that distance so special? Can you already tell our community whether one of the existing locations or a new place will be the venue?
I think the 7x distance is a good stepping stone from 5x to 10x. We’re also adding a 1.5 distance next year as sort of a more tangible entry into ultra triathlon. Maybe folks look at a double and think no way - a single is hard enough, but a 1.5 might be more easily digested by someone interested in trying out Ultra Tri but not quite ready to dive into the double right away. A lot of are so used to these distances that they just roll off our tongue but we often forget how daunting of a task it is for many to train for a race a double. Especially if they’re ew to the sport. I’m hoping the 1.5 will help bridge that gap. The deca is happening at a new race venue. We’re very close to being able to release all the race info and move into the next phase of planning. I’m hoping by June this year we can have everything up online at our website

What changes can or must your participants be prepared for?
Craig: Steve had done a wonderful job with the ANVIL races and has made things easy on us. Not much needed to be changed. We’ve decided to update our timing equipment to allow for a more user friendly operating system. This also allows friends / family / crew to easily pull up live results from the races. We’ve moved our registration to be all online, updated some race equipment… nothing crazy. Steve and I do have different styles of race directing and do have different personalities so I suspect some folks might pick up on that, but like I said before. The values and reason for putting these on remain the same and will continue to be the same from when Steve ran then, to now when I run them.

Do you have stage fright so close to the Florida race?
No. Again, this is nothing new to me. I also have Teri Smith by my side as another race director. She has been in this industry for a long time. We work really well together and I’m super excited to be going into this weekend with her by my side. We’re both feeling very good going into the race weekend. I do have a bit of excited / nervous energy about wanting to provide the best possible experience for each athlete. We’re ready to rock and excited to see everyone / get the season going. We just hosted a 20 hour run last weekend and that went well. 120+ athletes running in below freezing temps for 20 hours - that was a fun one. I believe if that nervous feeling ever goes away then I should find something else to do because obviously my passion for the sport has gone. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Thank you, Craig, for the interview and all the best for the Florida Anvil event.