The Tale Of Two Races: Rob Krar And Tom Green At The 2014 Leadville 100

AJWs TaproomAs 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.

Rob Krar's 2014 Leadville 100 splits

Rob’s water bottle cap with his pre-race goal splits written on it. All photos courtesy of Rob Krar.

Bottoms up!

Wanderlust Brewing CompanyAJW’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.”

Rob Krar Wanderlust Brewery

Rob and a Wanderlust growler.

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?

There are 14 comments

  1. BjoernFab

    Great interview! It shows once again that it doesn't matter if you come in first or last. You have to battle the same demons to finish a 100 miler.
    Best of luck to Tom to finish the Slam and to Rob for RRR!

  2. sheffieldnick

    Nice interviews. I'd love to see more coverage of mid-pack and back-of-pack runners on the site. Their efforts are just as worthy and interesting as the tiny number of elite runners at the front.

    And what about an article about getting timed-out in races? You never see anything written about that.

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      As with, say, a news magazine's mix of content, our "news" content tends to focus on the front of the pack at high level events. On the other hand, the rest of our content, such as instructional pieces and editorial content, are for and relate to the vast bulk of the trail runners and ultrarunners out there. We do have a column, WeRunFar – , that tells the stories of those not at the front of the pack. Often enough (I think), those stories also come out in our other editorial or race coverage. We'll continue to include a mix of these stories into the mix, but I don't think we'll increase that mix all that much. The great news is that if we want to hear these stories, all we have to do is go out and chat with our friends on a run or talk to total strangers in our next race. :-)

      1. RandySavaged

        Bryon just an idea, but perhaps we can finally get that long awaited coverage of aid station workers? Maybe some interviews before the race on their strategy at the aids? To cut the crust off the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or not? Coke or Pepsi? Bananas – cut or whole? Sit or stand? Yanni or Pantera? Also if you have time, can you get some interviews with the wild animals on the trail and a river? What does the river think of us crossing through the river? Maybe a fish. I know you have a lot of time on your hands. Thanks in advance.

        1. Bryon of iRunFar

          I've booked an 8:42 a.m. (Be punctual!) interview with aid station captain Fräulein Gewürztraminer up at Gornergrat this morning and, tentatively, will talk on camera with Herr Matterhorn this afternoon. He's all like, "Well, why don't they run more on me. I'm in the name, right?"

          1. RandySavaged

            Thank you we are all excited to see what Captain Fraulen has to say. Hopefully he can provide answers to these burning questions. I can't believe you got Matterhorn to interview. Interviews of the year! Its Christmas in August!

  3. TrailTan

    Speaking of cutoffs and Twin Lakes, unlike the strictly enforced 30 hour finish time, the cutoff at TL inbound was graciously extended by 20 minutes from 9:45 PM to 10:05 PM. Rationale from the race official was that the weather was great and that there was still a steady stream of runners coming in, in good shape. Kudos to LT100 for letting 'em keep going.

  4. Davegmcmillan

    Great article on two legends of the sport. I saw Tom coming down the back side of Hope Pass and cheered him on. He took the time to do the same, with a big smile on his face and looking in complete comfort and control. What a class act he is. Well done to all.

  5. cory feign

    the call for comments mentions chasing cutoffs… last year i had plenty of buffer and this year, with no crew and no pacers, there were many many hours of uncertainty… here are my notes about that (written in the middle of the night on the drive back to illinois from leadvillle…)

    At 2:15 pm or so, 10+ hours into the race, I set out from the mile 40 aid station. Because of the pain issue, real or imagined, I had lost a bunch of time, so I knew I would be chasing the cutoffs this year. This meant that every few hours I had a short-term time limit to beat (each aid station has a cutoff time and if you get in after the time you cannot proceed), and that for the next 20 hours or so I would have no way of knowing if I would be able to finish before the overall cutoff or not. Starting at mile 40 I didn't know if I could make it to 50 in time. 50 to 60, same deal. (Last year at mile 58 I knew for sure I would finish). 60-70 went a bit better and I made up some time. 70-77 was ok, run-walked most of the way. When I was about to leave the mile 77 aid station the side strap on my hydration vest broke. With a crew and pacer this would have been no problem, as I could have just left the aid station right away and known that my pacer would catch up in a few minutes with repaired vest. Going solo, this meant losing precious minutes while trying to figure out how to repair my vest while being freezing and tired in the middle of the night. After repairing the vest and taking some time to eat and change layers, any of the time I had made up was now gone. There's a big climb between miles 78 and 86.5, so there I was, 24 hours of intense exertion later and completely uncertain as to whether or not I could make it to the finish in time. I made it to 86.5 around 5:50am, and rolled out about 10 minutes later. 13.5 miles to go in 4 hours. Anyone can run a half marathon in 4 hours, right?
    I can, but not when it's half marathon #8 in a row, with many hundred feet of elevation gain and some really rocky trails.
    I set out trying to power hike and run-walk as much as I could, but my legs were more interested in a casual stroll.
    With no pacer and no watch, I had no way of knowing exactly how far I was and if I had enough time. Got to the boat ramp, which I thought was mile 92, but then everyone is a bit crazy by this time so there is no way to confirm. Some other runners are hurrying by, others I pass while speed walking. No one seems concerned. I keep redoing the math, probably not with the right numbers though. A few more miles and many more minutes tick by. Now I think we're 5 miles away and a spectator says 3. There's just under an hour left on the clock. 12 minute miles I cannot do 5 of (if it is 5 miles), and I just keep thinking that for the last 20 hours I have been exerting myself just about as much as I can and without any certainty that it will be worth anything, as I might not cross the finish line before the 30 hour time limit. Must keep moving as fast as I can!
    A guy on his way out to pace his runner in tells me that it's 1.9 miles, and for some reason I trust this estimate and shortly after recognize familiar landmarks. Finally at mile 98.5, with less than 45 minutes left on the clock, I know for certain that I'll be crossing the finish line again. What a relief!

  6. nelsonprater

    So exciting to live a 100-miler through others. Thanks for sharing. Like with a good book or magazine, I always try to choose the best time of the day to "hunker down" with the new AJW post on Fridays.

    1. ajoneswilkins

      Nelson, thanks for the kind words. And, as Bryon and I have said from the beginning, the goal of AJWs Taproom is to give you all something to talk/think about on your next group run or your next visit to the pub with your friends. The topics are not always entirely intriguing or even all that thought-provoking but they are interesting and that, alone, could get you down the trail.

      Bottoms up!

  7. J_Earnshaw

    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?

    Yes. Didn't run in to Tom unfortunately, I sighted the bearded one however when he was at Hope Aid 2. Someone in the tent told him that the Mike Aish was only two minutes ahead, to which Rob added no reply. He just kind of ate his watermelon while soaking in the view of twin lakes….I ate some mash potatoes/broth while this was going down. Then my little cup of food went down the wrong pipe when someone said not to make direct eye contact with Robs beard. Rob then took off towards twin lakes. All in all I'd say Rob looked pretty happy.

    Have you been in a position where you’re chasing cutoffs all day like Tom was? If so, what was it like for you?

    Yes. This was my first time at Leadville as well as my first time taking the heel-toe express for 100 miles. I really wanted to finish under 25 so I wrote the clock times that I needed to meet at each aid station under the bill of my hat with a paint pen and off I went at 4 am. A wise man told me not go out too fast on the first 50 so that's what I did. I hovered just above the clock times on my hat at each aid station until I got to hope1 and by the time I got to Winfield I looked at my watch and I was over 45 minutes over pace at 50 miles. Why was I so slow in getting from twin1 to Winfield? Not really sure. There was a lot of water between twin1 and the climb up hope but not enough to slow me down by 45 minutes. I pressed on. It was a long slow climb back up to hope2 but I looked at my watch only 25 minutes back. I ran all the way back down to the water crossing(s) and by the time I got to twin2 I was only 15 minutes off pace. I left twin,made the slow climb, then started the downhill to OB2. The stomach issues started at tree line. I took a pepto chewable which brought relief but it didn't last too long. I started running 100 paces then walking for 30….did that all the way to the meadow just before OB2 then the situation got a little sketch. I thought the course markings in the meadow were kind of sub par for night….that combined with illusive holes in the meadow brought cause for walking until just before OB2. I check my watch …..right on pace…I had made up the 45 minutes I lost getting from twin1 to Winfield. My quads were done when I left OB2 though and my stomach was getting worse. I wasn't really eating or drinking anything anymore and it was getting cold. I passed a pair of runners sitting on the side of the road just before the start up powerline, I could tell they were in a bad way. A cell phone came out and a call was made. I passed the pair with a sense of solemn reverence then I started dry heaving bad. I threw up, then I was on my merry little way up powerline. After thoroughly enjoying the gorilla man/ space camp on top of powerline I made the descent to MQ2. My pace was reduced to a power walk broken up by 60 paces of running. When I got to MQ2 it was 1:30am and I had 3 hours and 30 minutes to get to the courthouse. My quads were pretty toasted at this point so I ran every other roller all the way around turquoise lake then shuffled from matchless boat ramp to the boulevard. I walked most of the way to the finish. Crossed the finish line at 24:40 with my wife and son….weighed in….took some pictures.

    I'm not really sure when it happened but at some point during the race I kind of felt like I didn't choose leadville but leadville had sort of chosen me to some extent….like it was honor to be there. When you see the amount of work the volunteers put in, when you see the people jobbing out hard on hope pass, when you see folks drinking straight out of the streams you kind of feel apart of something big… it's an honor to be out there sharing such a nice trail with some pretty extraordinary people. Essentially the internal governor telling me to slow down or stop kind of got drowned out by the above. Great race.

  8. SeanMeissner

    So I wandered on over to Wanderlust this evening, and despite being a pretty die hard dark beer fan, I took Rob's suggestion and tried the Enkel Saaz while toasting the last days of summer (although really, there's still about a month to go!). It was really good; definitely one of the easiest-to-drink lighter beers I've ever tried. It went down quite nicely. However, I did finish off the night with my favorite Pan Am Stout on Nitro. Now that's some oh-so-good drinking!

Post Your Thoughts