As the summer of 2014 comes to a close, I have been awed by the running exploits of Rob Krar and Tom Green. Last weekend, at the Leadville 100, for the second time this summer, Rob won a prestigious 100-mile race and Tom chased the cutoffs to finish within less than five minutes of the deadline. Both races were truly the stuff of legend.
I took the opportunity to reach out to both Tom and Rob to get a sense of what went through their minds before, during, and after the race. I thought doing so might present interesting and profoundly contrasting views of life at the front and the back of the pack.
iRunFar: Going into this year’s race at Leadville, what were your goals? What were you concerned about? How prepared did you think you were?
Rob Krar: Since I began focusing on ultras in 2013, it has been my norm to choose competitive races and dedicate a very focused training block leading into each race. I was inspired by Ian Sharman and Nick Clark and their Grand Slam chase last year and wanted to challenge myself in a new way this year. I went into Leadville with high goals but also recognized I was treading in unfamiliar territory with such a short time frame between Western States and Leadville. Any of the three important components between the two races—recovery, training, and rest—could have gone wrong. It was an experiment whose results I likely wouldn’t know until well into the race. I arrived at the starting line with the same confidence in my fitness that I felt at Western States.
Tom Green: Going into this year’s Leadville, my singular goal was to finish under the 30-hour cutoff. Prior to starting the Grand Slam, based on prior experience, I knew that Leadville would be my most difficult run to finish (just as you prophetically predicted). However, as the summer has progressed, I felt that I have been getting stronger with each race, to the point that I felt cautiously optimistic that if I ran my best race and made no mistakes, I could finish.
iRunFar: During the first third of the race, from the start to Winfield, how did you feel? Was it just feeling like any other day on the trail or was there something a little different about this time?
Krar: The early miles were uneventful, just easy comfortable miles around the lake, carefully choosing my line and footing in the dark to May Queen. I started feeling a little rough in the miles heading into Outward Bound and quickly headed downhill in the miles between Outward Bound and Twin Lakes. My adductors were cramping, my pelvic area was super tender—nothing I’d ever experienced before and the change in stride it caused had me walking significant sections I undoubtedly should have been running. It was a difficult stretch as the self doubt and second guessing suddenly exploded in my mind and I strongly considered retiring from the race at Twin Lakes. Somehow the cramps and pain lifted in the two miles before Twin Lakes and suddenly I had my stride back and was feeling relatively good. It was fortunate timing, indeed.
Green: During the first half of the race, just as I did at Western States, I opted to run comfortably, even at the risk of putting myself in cutoff jeopardy. I had no significant issues, and felt quite good, hitting the 50-mile turnaround in my pre-race goal time of 13.5 hours.
iRunFar (to Krar): On the trek out and back over Hope Pass, did you have any dark moments? On that section, which can be brutally difficult physically and mentally, did you feel on top of things for the most part or were you right on the edge? Did you have any thoughts on the Matt Carpenter course record on the way to Twin Lakes from Hopeless Aid Station? According to my observations you were slowly gaining time on his record splits.
Krar: I was in a complete daze on both climbs over Hope but at the same time locked in a steady and strong hike. I think it would be fair say I was in a dark moment the entire time. I reevaluated early in the race that chasing Matt’s ghost was out of the question and the thought never came up the rest of the race.
iRunFar (to Green): On the trek out and back over Hope Pass, did you have any dark moments? On that section, which can be brutally difficult physically and mentally, did you feel on top of things for the most part or were you right on the edge? Were you already racing the cutoffs on the way to Twin Lakes from Hopeless Aid Station?
Green: On the return over Hope Pass, I was forced to expend more effort than I had hoped to, arriving back in Twin Lakes just five minutes before the cutoff. By this time my legs were beginning to show some weakening from the effort.
iRunFar: On the seemingly endless road stretch on the way to Fish Hatchery, how did you hold it together? How about the Powerline climb?
Krar: After the climb out of Twin Lakes, the long 10-mile gentle descent to Outward Bound played to my strengths and I ran my fastest miles of the day along this stretch, all the while hoping I was working on building a buffer in case I crashed and burned later in the race. Powerline is a brute, but to be honest in my mind the most difficult section remaining was the seemingly endless trip around Turquoise Lake. The Powerline climb didn’t have me too worried. I was also looking forward to a long stretch of hiking.
Green: By the time I reached the long road sections, where I had hoped to regain some time which I had lost on the mountain crossing, my legs were starting to give out and I was down to a slow shuffle/walk. For the first time in the race, going up the Powerline climb, I really began to struggle. My first ‘now or never’ moment came on the descent to May Queen, mile 83, when I realized that I needed to run hard or miss the cutoff. After another hard effort, I managed to beat the cutoff by two minutes.
iRunFar: Finally, when did you know you had the victory (Rob)/finish (Tom) in the bag?
Krar: I never take anything for granted and know anything can happen late in an ultra. I was glad I worked to build the buffer past Fish Hatchery. People are capable of amazing efforts at the end of a hundred as exemplified by Mike Aish’s mind-blowing split from May Queen to the finish. It wasn’t until the final few miles on the dirt road that I allowed myself to believe that I’d somehow found a way to make it first across the finish line. I took a few minutes to walk with my pacer and good friend Mike Smith. We reflected on both our journeys and enjoyed the moment which would be our last run together for awhile before we hit pavement and the Boulevard to the finish.
Green: Although I was running ‘on the bubble’ the last 13 miles, I began to doubt that I was going to beat the 30-hour cutoff up until I crested the final hill and saw the finish with about eight minutes left on the clock.
This has been an experience that I will never forget, nothing short of a dream come true, and I am confident of finishing up with a solid Wasatch 100. Sorry, no nail-biting drama this time!
iRunFar (bonus question to Rob): This must have been a total inside/out effort. Was it your toughest finish to date? If so, why?
Krar: It was by far my most difficult and challenging effort to date, inside and out. Physically I hurt for over 80 miles and the emotional and psychological stress that accompanied feeling that bad for that long felt traumatizing.
AJW’s Rob Krar’s Beer of the Week
The Enkel Saaz is Wanderlust Brewing Company’s version of a Trappist ‘single’ or ‘table beer.’ Most people are probably familiar with a Dubbel (or ‘double’) and a Tripel (or ‘triple’). I learned from brewmaster Nathan Freidman that these beers were commonly made for sale and then a lower-strength version of them (hence the single, or ‘Enkel’) was brewed for the monks to consume on a daily basis. Whereas doubles and triples are 6 to 10% ABV, singles were usually 5% or less making a great easy-drinking beer for summer.
Wanderlust’s version of a single features a traditional Czech ‘noble’ hop called ‘Saaz’ and utilizes a traditional trappist yeast. This beer is very light in color and in mouthfeel, with very little sweetness to it. If you find yourself in Flagstaff, Arizona, wander on in and toast the last days of summer. Beer aficionados read on as brewmaster Nathan describes it best, “The trappist yeast gives a sweet stonefruit (peach, apricot) flavor and aroma, where the Saaz hops give a very pungent spicy, peppery, herbal aroma and the 35 IBUs of bitterness gives a very crisp finish to this light beer.”
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Were you in attendance at the Leadville 100 last weekend, and did you see Rob and Tom racing? If so, what are your observations from their respective races?
- Have you been in a position where you’re chasing cutoffs all day like Tom was? If so, what was it like for you?