Some Like It Hot

Mike Benge July 2nd, 2013

Rob Krar takes the heat in Grand Canyon and Western States 100

Last weekend’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (WS 100) was packed with hot veteran talent, from last year’s course-record-setter Timothy Olson to …

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Krar cools his heels at Western States. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Last weekend’s Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (WS 100) was packed with hot veteran talent, from last year’s course-record-setter Timothy Olson to 1997 WS 100 victor (course record at the time) and 2012 24-Hour World Championships winner Mike Morton to the legendary Karl Meltzer, winner of a record 35 100-mile trail races. In sweltering 100-plus-degree heat, Olson would again come out on top, but relative-unknown Rob Krar, 36, of Flagstaff, Arizona, turned heads with a superb second-place performance, four-and-a-half minutes back from Olson and 33 minutes ahead of Morton.

Amazingly, Krar was a 100-mile virgin, and WS100 would make just his fifth ultra, his first occurring last November, with Nevada’s Bootlegger 50K. A pharmacist by profession, Krar concocted a disciplined race strategy and beat the heat. “I had to be the smartest runner I’d ever been in a race,” says Krar, “running a very slow and controlled pace, staying on top of hydration and nutrition and simply waiting to see as the hours and miles went by if my body was going to make it.”

In May, Krar placed himself on the ultrarunning radar with a stunning Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim FKT of 6:21:47, besting Dakota Jones’ record by 32 minutes. In an irunfar.com account, Krar speaks of digging deep on the home stretch in blasting heat: “I took a few moments to remind myself of the dark place I was about to enter, a shade of gray where the pain and exhilaration of the moment combine into a state of being I both fear and yearn for.”

 

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Krar and champion Timothy Olson at the Western States finish line. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Krar moved to Flagstaff in December 2005. At the 2009 TransRockies Run, Krar met Christina Bauer, whom he married in 2012, “in a meadow above Flagstaff.” Krar calls Christina, a high-school counsellor, a “kick-ass runner herself;” indeed, she finished sixth in this summer’s San Juan Solstice 50-miler, a burly race in southern Colorado, and is training for Utah’s Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run.

Krar attended pharmacy school at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he ran cross country and track. For the past 11 years, he has worked as an overnight pharmacist at Walgreens, working a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule.

In April 2010, Krar underwent surgery for Haglunds Deformity, which are large bumps on the heels of the feet, a painful condition due to the Achilles tendon wrapping over and around the lumps. “The surgery and long recovery reminded me how much I value the time I spend on my feet and the roll it plays in my mental health,” says Krar.

Q&A with Rob Krar

Q: So, how did you feel at WS100?

It was twice the distance I’d ever run before, and I had doubts about my body handling it. Honestly, I’m stunned how well both my body and mind responded. In some ways, it was the most comfortable ultra I’ve run.

Q: How were the jumps from 50K to 50 miles to 100 miles in under a year?

Better than expected. This time last year I still thought ultras were silly long and never entertained the idea. Each bump in distance was intimidating but I ran my own race each time and soaked in the experience. I was hooked quickly!

Q: Who do you respect most in trail running and why?

I’ve learned the sacrifices involved in training and racing and the toll it can take to those close to you. So I admire everyone who toes the line, each with his own stories and struggles. Meghan Arbogast [of Corvallis, Oregon] in particular has inspired me with her story and perseverance and the times she’s throwing down in her 50s [see Trail Runner, “The Heart of the Matter,” April 2013, Issue 87].

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