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Gin Gins To Ice Bandanas: Q&A With Ultra-Running Phenom Rob Krar

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Rob Krar competes in the Leadville 100; all photos by Matt Trappe

In the last two years, Rob Krar has taken the ultra-running world by storm. This season, the North Face athlete stood atop the podium in two of North America’s most prestigious races — the Leadville Trail 100 and the Western States Endurance Run, clocking extraordinary times in both. Krar’s Leadville finish of 16 hours, 9 minutes, 32 seconds was the second-fastest on record.

In the fall of 2013, he ran a blistering race to win the Ultra Race of Champions 100k (which also climbed 13,245 feet) in front of a stacked field that included such luminaries as Kilian Jornet and Dakota Jones. He took down another tough field at The North Face Endurance Challenge, running 50 trail miles in 6:21:10.

We got in touch with Krar to learn how he runs fast over huge mountains and mind-boggling distances.

GearJunkie: I was looking at your Strava feed, which shows you running an average of about 50 miles per week. What does your typical training week look like?

Krar: I just uploaded additional Strava info that offers a more complete picture of my training volume. During a typical focused training cycle I average between 80-100 miles a week, with one longer run and one workout, commonly either a hill workout or a threshold workout. However, I’m very fluid in my training and there never really is a typical week as I’m always adjusting things on the fly.

You’ve won two prestigious races — Western States and the Leadville 100 — this year. How did you recover from Western States in time for Leadville?

Very well. I took a full week of rest then another week transitioning back into about a 2-3 week training cycle for Leadville, then into a week of easy runs and rest heading into the race. It was a delicate balance between recovery, training and rest.

Do you take many days off?

I always try and take one day off a week. Leading up to Western States I did hit some 10-day stretches between days off but those were rare.

Strava also shows your top 1 mile effort is 4:34. Do you run single miles or work out on a track, or did this notably fast mile fall in the middle of a longer workout?

Not sure where that one came from but likely a final fast descent run I often hit before races. It’s a 5-mile road descent that I usually try and hit at sub 4:50 pace about a week before the race. It’s a confidence booster just at the right time and a final test of my preparation.

What one piece of advice can you give to those hoping to compete in multiple ultras during the course of a season?

Simple: Respect the recovery after one, and rest before the next.

Krar reacts after winning the Leadville 100

How do you avoid injury?

Same as above, rest and recovery allow for solid, consistent and healthy training and racing.

Of your recent notable wins — the UROC 100 last fall, Western States and the Leadville 100 — which was the toughest, and why?

Leadville was the toughest as a I was feeling pretty rough very early in the race and I’d never experienced that so early before. It was a mental and physical battle for over 80 miles of that race.

How did you get through it? What made you keep going?

Early on it was just a matter is sucking it up be moving forward. But when it became increasingly uncomfortable and I was hiking sections of trail I most certainly should have been running I was convinced I would be retiring from the race at Twin Lakes aid station. Remarkably, less than two miles from that aid station my cramping issues disappeared, I found my normal running stride and rolled into Twin Lakes bruised but not defeated and couldn’t justify lying down and taking the nap I’d been thinking of 10 miles earlier.

What kind of shoes did you wear in Leadville?

Lightweight minimal.

Do you train and race in the same shoes?

I train in a number of shoes depending on the trail and conditions and usually race in lightweight minimal shoes.

You’re sponsored by The North Face. What is your favorite piece of gear from the brand?

Any Better Than Naked top or bottom. They weigh nothing and dry quicker than anything I’ve ever worn in the past.

What are the five pieces of gear you don’t race without?

I’m very minimal and don’t think I even carry five pieces of gear! I train and race with a SUUNTO Ambit2 watch, waist pack, handheld bottle, and at Western States I used ice in bandanas around my neck and ice in my hat to keep me cool. Oh, and I always race with Gin Gins to keep my stomach settled.

Do you have any single piece of gear that is unique to you?

Not that I can think of — again I’m very minimal in the gear I carry.

What’s your favorite pre-race meal? Post race?

Steel-cut oats with nuts, raisins and brown sugar pre-race. A Wanderlust beer post-race.

Have you competed in the Beer Mile?

Once at university — it wasn’t pleasant….

What’s next on your calendar?

Run Rabbit Run.

What advice do you have for people who want to be prolific runners?

Be patient and train smart.

Thanks Rob. I look forward to watching you fade into the distance at remarkable speed sometime soon!

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