Rob Krar wins Western States 2014: Credit Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.com
This man needs no introduction. But I’ll let him have one, anyway. Rob burst into ultrarunning with a fastest known time on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim in April 2013. He then went on to run one of the fastest times ever on one of the hottest days ever at Western States, marginally losing out to Timothy Olson. He was later crowned Ultrarunning Magazine’s Runner of the Year.
Following coming second at Western States in 2013, Rob set himself a goal. It was a goal he didn’t tell anyone, not even his partner Christina. But she knew deep down and many ultrarunners could guess. To win Western States when he returned in 2014.
In one of the deepest field ever Rob won- and by a big margin- only the second time someone has run sub 15 hours on the full course. One of the nicest and quietest guys in a sport full of nice quiet guys, I chatted to Rob to discuss his plans after that huge win and what he has coming up next.
So much has been said of your epic run at Western States this year on iRunFar and other sites that I won’t repeat questions, but how has the recovery been this last month and how has the victory now sunk in?
It’s going on 5 weeks now since WS and I had a really great recovery and short training cycle as I’m now backing off the miles and intensity leading into the Leadville 100M on August 16th. Each ultra completed I’ve been a little less sore than the past and the length of time it takes my body to get over the initial full blown body soreness has become shorter.
By Monday evening I was walking with a normal stride and feeling quite well overall. Regardless, I believe there is residual fatigue and muscle breakdown that need to be respected and I took over a week off without running a step.
My tentative plan from early in the year was to run Leadville if I recovered well from WS. The break after WS was short and after the initial euphoria of the win subsided I haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect on the day. I’m making a strong push over the summer with Leadville and Run Rabbit Run 100M in September and plan a long one month break after that and hope to soak it all in then.
You pretty much dedicated a year of your life to returning to Western States in 2014 and winning it. Can you imagine dedicating yourself in a similar way for such a length of time to just one race again?
Yet to be determined. I don’t sit down and pensively plan my races and goals. I tend to let my race schedule form more organically rather than searching for it. The WS goal came very naturally and was significant enough that I didn’t hesitate to commit to it. At the moment there no races or goals in my mind that I’d dedicate such a great length of time to.
The moment it sunk in. Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.com
After WS 2014 you had a number of races you were considering. Have you made any firm commitments as of yet?
Leadville August 16th and Run Rabbit Run September 12th. Successively running three 100M races so close together is another big goal for 2014 and a way to challenge myself in a way I haven’t done before. It’s a bit of an experiment really—how do I recover, train, and rest most effectively between the three races.
You have a great position on the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) now- do you have any international races lined up? I know a lot of people who would love to see you race in Europe?
I’ve worked as an overnight pharmacist at a retail store the past 12 years. I work seven overnight shifts in a row (9pm to 7am) then have the following seven days off and the weeks begin and end mid-week. It allows for plenty of time off throughout the year but is also very inflexible to traveling much further than North America. I hope to make some changes in 2015 which will allow me time to travel over the pond for a few races.
Having only been running ultras for just over a year and having been essentially catapulted onto the world stage, how has it been adjusting to fame within the ultrarunning community?
Fame is a relative term! Everything has been great with the biggest challenge simply being not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything I’d wish to. Sponsor, media, and social commitments are part of the game and it’s been fun learning the ropes. The ultrarunning community has been very welcoming and supportive and having dipped my toes around the track and along the roads, I can easily say I feel the most comfortable and am the happiest runner I’ve ever been amongst the diverse population of ultrarunners.
Many top ultrarunners now do not have day jobs, but not only do you work full time, you work a very difficult one week on, one week off night shift as a pharmacist. This must make training all the more difficult?
I’ve been working the shift for so long I’ve certainly developed a method to the madness but admittedly it’s become more challenging now that I’m fully committed to ultras. The longer miles spent on the trails translates to less time for rest and recovery and I’m often finding myself with little time to spare between finishing a long run in the mountains before I’m headed to work to spend the next 10 hours on my feet—certainly far from ideal rest and recovery. I’m getting it done for now but question how long the schedule is sustainable.
You live and train in Flagstaff, Arizona which is fast becoming the new Boulder, Colorado or Chamonix, France as an ultrarunning mecca. Did you choose to live here for this reason or did it all come about by chance through work etc?
Like so many other things in my life it was really chance that I ended up in Flagstaff. It was meant to be a short move from Phoenix in 2005 while I studied for my Canadian board exams with plans to move north once I’d passed. I hadn’t run in years but met some folks shortly after I moved to Flagstaff and slowly found myself running and getting fit again and focused on the roads for a few years. It wasn’t until 2012 though until I really embraced the trails, and Flagstaff has been the perfect place to explore and train for the longer trail races. More people are certainly discovering the wealth of trails Flag has to offer which is exciting. For me it is the city as a whole as well as the trails that made Flag home in 2005 and continues to keep me here.
I saw you at several moments at Western States and you were incredibly focused. But you also had your Partner, Christina, by your side at all the key moments. What did it mean having her there with you- sharing that epic run, knowing what you wanted that day?
It was huge having Christina crewing me out there even though I doubt we said more than a handful for words to each other the entire race! I really appreciate the bond that we have and it means a lot to me that I can come through an aide station and see her face – I find her energy comforting and feel so lucky to have someone who can read my mood and energy without saying a word. It was amazing sharing the day with her as she plays such an integral role in my health, happiness, and success in training and racing.
Rob & Christina at The Grand Canyon. Credit: iRunFar.com
You strike me as a very grounded and humble individual. Do you feel your calm personality helps you prepare for a race well?
I really believe actions speak louder than words and believe that is reflected in my training and racing. I think I would call myself a pretty pensive person, I spend a lot of time in my head – I think this attribute lends itself well to the long and sometimes lonely miles of training. I like to do the majority of my running alone to give myself time to think and I think this also can help in the mental preparation for a long race. I’m happy to share and discuss when folks are interested but also feel it’s important for me to find a balance and maintain the intimacy of what running has become for me. Staying relatively quiet and keeping it personal allows me to stand on a starting line very confident of what I’m capable of.
If you could change one thing about ultrarunning, what would that be?
That is a tough question. I really support the growth of the sport on the elite side. I think that it is exciting to see this newer aspect and the money and sponsorships provide more opportunity to make a life out of what we all love so much.
The exposure that this brings is a wonderful thing bringing more people out to test their limits and lead a healthy lifestyle. Overall I think I would really like to see the continual growth in the number of races out there, as with the lotteries and other pressures many of the most well known races can only be entered through luck. Providing more opportunities to create new “classics” is a great thing.
I also think we need to continue to have strong advocates for conservation and preservation in the sport who help keep an active conversation in the community about how to minimize the impact we have on the areas we all love to run in.
Now you have ticked Western States off your victory list, do you think you will return or will your focus move to other races?
WS has quickly found a special place in my heart and I will most certainly be returning in the future. Its history, the volunteers and organization of the race, the energy and competition—it really stands above the rest for me and I feel very fortunate for my experiences there.
You are quite rare in the fact that you seem to excel at a range of ultra distance events. Do you have a favourite distance?
I hesitate to say this because I still think it’s a really, really long time to be running, but I think the mental and physical challenge the 100M distance presents is my favourite and likely my strongest distance.
Many of your The North Face team-mates have set some pretty epic Fastest Known Times (FKT’s) in the last couple of years- of note Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe on the JMT and Jez Bragg on Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. You already have the Grand Canyon R2R2R record, but do you have any other routes you would love to set an FKT on?
I’m really enjoying the racing at the moment and don’t have any immediate plans for an FKT attempt. However, I love the simplicity and individual nature of FKT’s and there are some amazing routes in the Southwest near my home that I think will find a place in my schedule in the future.
To follow Rob on Twitter @robkrar
Or, better still, follow his beard @RobKrarsBeard