After taking a year off from running, Rob Krar, a native of Canada who calls Flagstaff, Ariz., home, ran the Moab Red Hot 33K, in 2011 and won it. He tried his first ultra less than a year ago, scoring a second-place finish at the Bootlegger 50K last November. That success carried over to 2013, which has been a meaty year for the vegetarian with a huge new rim-to-rim-to-rim record in the Grand Canyon (42 miles, 6 hours, 21 minutes, 47 seconds), a win and new course record at the Leona Divide 50-miler and a second-place finish at Western States, his first time ever running 100 miles. Krar, who is married and works full time as a pharmacist, continued his trail-blazing ways this past weekend. The North Face’s newest sponsored athlete won the 100K (62-mile) Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) in Vail, Colo. in 9:29:00.
Let’s start with UROC, how was your race?
It was definitely the hardest effort of my life, just hard the whole time. The snow really evened the playing field. When Dakota Jones (who finished second) passed me in Minturn (at about mile 51), I thought that was it, but I was able to pass him on the way up from Minturn to the top of Vail mountain and the run down was just golden for me. It was the same grade and speed I’ve been running in Flag for the past two months. I didn’t really have a plan for the day. There were certain spots I felt I needed to take advantage of my strengths, but it really hurt me at the same time.
RELATED: UROC 100K Photo Gallery
In 2010 you had double foot surgery and never thought you would run competitively again. How did you make it to this point?
I ran cross country in college (at Butler University). Between competing and being in pharmacy school I was done. I eventually got back into running in Flagstaff, but was running on the roads and focused on speed work. I was overtraining, not listening to my body and ended up with Haglund’s Deformity. I had both feet operated in the spring of 2010 and focused on recovering and trying other sports. I got into fly fishing, climbing and skinning and skiing. In 2011, some friends were signed up for the Moab 33K, and I thought it sounded like fun. I gave a test run, felt good and decided to race. Because of my heels, I developed more of a forefoot stride, which is natural for me, and running on trails felt good to my body.
But going from a 33K [about 20.5 miles] to running 50 miles, 100K and 100 miles, and excelling at all of it, is beyond what mere mortals can grasp. What’s your thought process as you try new distances, and how do you train?
Listening to my body is everything. I hurt for two to three days after a race and focus on treating my body well with rest, good food and lots of stretching. By day three or four, I start to feel better. I’ll give a test run to see how I’m doing and then figure out what’s next.
When I got an entry slot for Western States after winning the Leona Divide 50-miler, I had no idea how I would run 100 miles. But I also thought “why not?” When I’m on a starting line or having doubts about whether I can do a distance, I remind myself of my preparation, I won’t do a race unless I feel prepared.
Training is dictated by my work schedule, which is unique because I have seven days on and seven days off, from Wednesday to Wednesday. I basically have 26 one-week vacations a year, but there is no flexibility. It builds in automatic shorter and longer training weeks and forces me to choose races based upon my schedule. For training, I just run. I’ll pick up the pace on hills, add in some fartleks and am working to improve my skills on technical downhills–those are my biggest challenge. In the winter, I take a few months to do nothing by skin up and ski down mountains, no running. Taking a break is really positive for me both mentally and physically.
In addition to racing, you set the fastest rim-to-rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon this summer. What inspired you?
I’ve run the Grand Canyon with friends the past two Memorial Days. It’s become somewhat of a tradition. In 2012, we set the North Rim to South Rim FKT (with time of a 2:51:28). Setting the record this year (6:21:47) is one of my proudest running achievements. The North Rim was completely desolate and at a couple points I definitely thought it was crazy, but the Canyon has this great energy to it. I got into a rhythm and listened to the sound of my breath and the sound of the water.
After your impressive season, have you decided on a favorite distance?
In retrospect, I know I should have been a longer distance runner in college (Krar ran middle-distance events, primarily 800 and 1500 meters). It gave me the speed and training discipline, but I like distance. I think I’m still exploring my favorite distance. I can still run pretty quick in a 50K or 50-miler.