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Rob Krar – The Interview

Rob Krar – The Interview
Alex Aristei

Photo Credit Alex Aristei

Rob Krar exploded onto the Ultra Running scene in 2013 when he finished 2nd to Timothy Olson. Over the last three years Rob has established himself as a top competitor, someone able to run his fellow competitors into the ground with his grit a determination. Rob Krar is one of the most humble and gentle running souls out there, and it was an absolute pleasure to speak to Rob and talk about Western States 100 and his journey dealing with depression. An absolute Legend. Thank you for taking the time to speak to Ultrarunner ZA.

URZA – When did you start running, and how did you get yourself involved with Ultra running, please tell us a little about your journey Rob?

RK – I ran all throughout middle school and high school, and I also competed in triathlons pretty seriously way back in 1990 to 1995, I competed in 2 world championships in triathlon in ‘94/95. My high school career kind of led me to run under a scholarship in Indiana from 1996 t0 2001, and I was actually a middle distance runner, I ran the half mile and the 1500m believe it or not!

I kind of hung up my shoes in 2001, my studying and division 1 athletics was pretty intensive, so I was pretty blown out, I left running for about 4 years and then ended up in Flagstaff Arizona in 2005. It is hard not to get back into the running scene in Flagstaff, so I hit the road for a couple of years and ended up not listening to my body and not listening to my mind and then over trained and essentially blowing myself out and leaving the sport again.

In 2009 I ran the Trans-Rockies which is a 6 day stage race, and I ran through an injury that resulted in surgery in 2010, and I tried to come back too quickly from that surgery, and essentially quit running completely without any expectation to ever a run gentleman’s pace with friends again let alone race again.

So all these pieces of the puzzle had to come together, because all that time away, from actually quitting running and not trying to push my body allowed my body time to heal again. I then got into a winter of ski mountaineering in 2011/12 I came back starting to race shorter trail races with absolutely no interest in Ultra’s.

I kind of fell into Ultra Marathon running in 2012 entering a 50k that a number of friends were doing, and I really enjoyed it. And then all of a sudden 2013 took off, I ran a 55k, ran my first 50 miler that qualified me for Western States. At first I was hesitant to run Western States, and I thought it might me a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you know, 7 week later I ran twice as far as I ever ran before, and it was a really quick snowball effect, and its been a wild ride ever since.

URZA – Congrats on your amazing run at the Western States 100 this year. It was really exciting to follow and I was rooting for you all the way. How does 2015 compare to your win in 2014 and your 2nd place in 2013?

RK – Man, all three my experiences at Western States were amazing, 2014 was really a culmination of a year long goal I have set myself moments after crossing the finishing line finishing 2nd to Timothy Olsen in 2013. I did not tell a soul about it, Christina knew, I didn’t need to say it to her, and that was my goal for a year. It was the first time I have set such a long term and lofty goal for myself probably since high school. Winning in 2014 was really amazing and a good year for me. In 2015 I put a certain amount of pressure on myself to perform well, not so much a returning a champion, but to proof my longevity to myself and to know that I still have it. It was a tough start to the year as I had to drop out of Lake Sonoma and I had to regroup and I came back strong at the Canyons 100k. I was really strong, fit and healthy with a lot of confidence at the starting line of the 2015 WS100, and I definitely ran my strongest race in terms of confidence and challenging at the front early on and not being afraid to push the pace. Setting foot on that track for the third time was just as magical as the first time two times, and I am really thankful it worked out the way it did.

URZA – You talk about finishing 2nd to Timothy Olsen in 2013, and I have read that you are good friends with TO. Please tell me about your relationship with Timothy.

RK – Yeah, Tim is a teammate of mine with the North Face and our stories kinda intertwine. In 2013 I never saw Tim after the first mile of the race and he was just always in front. He went on to beat my by 4 minutes that first year at Western States, and it is a pleasure sharing trails with him whenever I have the opportunity.

URZA – Joel Wolpert made this beautiful video of you running in the Grand Canyon, where you discussed your struggles with depression and how you have managed to deal with it. Is this something you still struggling with and how does it affect your running?

RK – One of the difficult things about depression for me is that it is so unpredictable, sometimes when I feel I am doing my best, all of a sudden I am in the hole and struggling to keep my head above water, however, it is not a struggle on a daily basis and I think I am doing the best I have in quite a while. I am taking a 6-month leave of absence from my job as a pharmacist; I was working graveyard shifts for the past 12 years. I always knew that shift wasn’t the best for my mental health, but the way it worked was that I worked 7 nights on and then had the next 7 days off. So in terms of time off it was really hard to beat, so that’s why I did that particular shift for so long.

I has really become apparent to me, and I knew it, but I am in a really good spot right now, I think I am recognizing just how detrimental working that shift was for me. I am in a really good spot of my life now, my running is really going well, I have big plans for the future with lots of projects, keeping occupied. I have had a couple of struggles this year but they have not been as intense and long as in the past, so I feel like I am on a good path right now.

URZA – Glad to hear mate, it does sound like you have a good support structure with your partner Christina?

RK – Yeah, it is part of that story how my running began, I met Christina in 2009 at the Trans-Rockies, and I have said it so many times, I would not be doing this if I didn’t meet her and it is funny how life works sometimes, you don’t understand. There is that saying everything happens for a reason, I don’t quite believe in that, but I do believe through those struggles and adversity you become a stronger person and those pieces of the puzzle eventually come together.

URZA – Do you use Yoga and Mediation as part of your training and preparation?

RK – Not at all, I’ve tried to get into yoga a couple of times and it’s just not for me, and I really find my peace on the trails when I am training. I do the vast majority of my training alone, and that for me is my peace and meditation. It is my time to problem solve and think a whole lot, or not to think at all, and I really value that. I think I am able to use that peace I find on the trail more in my life than what I have been able to do in the past as well.

URZA – Are you still working full time and how do you find a balance between work and training?

RK – As of about 3 months ago I took a 6 months leave of absence from work, so I am getting into a new routine right now. Last year, you take 2014 as an example, I was working full time and working graveyard shifts with 7 nights in a row and 7 days off. I had an amazing year in 2014 but at the same time I went through a lot of struggle trying to find my happiness through the year despite the success. The job was really tough to fit in everything around it and enjoy the experience at the same time. A good example is of my Cougar trophy that I received for winning the Western States 100, you don’t take it away from the race as they engrave it and send it to you in a box a week later. So in 2014 I received that box and it sat on my doorstep for a couple of days, because that high had worn of and I had already fallen into a dark place, and I had no desire to open that box. That really hit me as a sign that I had to make a change to my life to be able to enjoy my success. I decided to take this leave of absence this year and I am still riding the high of my success of the 2015 and when I received that box I couldn’t wait to open it, and then to put on an Ultra camp a week after Western States and come out the other side with so much energy. It is great and I am in such an awesome spot of my life right now.

URZA – A lot of South Africans were disappointed that Ryan Sandes did not make it to the starting line, we would love to see you go head to head with Ryan over 100 miles.

RK – Obviously Ryan is one of the best Ultra Marathoners in the world and it was just really unfortunate luck that he had this year with the stomach flu going into the race. Ryan puts a lot of time and effort into that race, he was on the trails I think both the past two years a month before you know dialing it, so just really bummed that he was not on the staring line. I raced him last year in 2014, and I would love to race him again, and if not at Western States but somewhere else. I love competition, and that is what was so exciting this year, I had François and Thomas, and we were all battling it out together the first half of the race, so I cant wait to stand on the starting line with Ryan again in the future.

URZA – Have you managed to get outside the States much to race abroad?

RK – Not a whole lot, again my job limited me to races in the States and it is tough to fly across the ocean to Europe when you have to be back at work 5 or 6 days later so in 2012 I raced the trail world championships in Itlay, and this past spring I was in Transvulcania in the Canary Islands for the half marathon. I just wanted to get a feel for the island and do some course reconnaissance, as that might be a race I consider in the next year or two. I will be racing UTMB next month and the UTMF at the end of September, a pretty aggressive racing schedule for the rest of the year, but any opportunity I have to travel and race I would like to make use of it.

URZA – You hold both FTK’s for the Grand Canyon crossing; please tell us about that a little bit.

RK – Yes I have, I have the record for the single crossing in 2012 and the double crossing in 2013 and was a full unsupported run, I carried everything in and everything out. There were some water resources on the route, but in terms of nutrition and pacing. I had a friend drop down to the river with me but it was an unsupported effort. It was an amazing day, the canyons are my backyard, it’s only and hour and twenty minutes away and I do run the canyon quite a bit.

URZA – What do you carry when you are running; do you ever listen to music or carry other gadgets?

RK – I have never been a headphones guys and don’t take music with me on the trail. I do love music, however, being on the trails I like to listen to my breathing and be inside my own mind space and not have anything interrupt it. I am super simple when I run, my MOA normally just a handheld on longer runs, and I am starting to wear my pack on every run now to get ready for UTMB where you are required to carry a pack. During a race I would tuck the handheld into the back of my shorts when it is half or empty. My nutrition is pretty simple stuff again, I always have a GU with me and on the longer runs I’ll do GU Roctane that goes into your liquids. I am pretty careful about that and want to make sure I am not running dry out there fluid wise or short on calories I need if I start struggling.

URZA – Are you Vegetarian?

RK – I have been careful not to put any label on me, I don’t eat meat but I do consume dairy and eggs. That is more an ethical decision for me, and our hope is to one day have our own farm/land were we can raise our own animals. I just made the commitment with myself that until I can raise and butcher my own animals I would not eat any meat. I just try and have a very healthy diet that doesn’t follow any extremes and I sure don’t deny myself the pleasures of treats and desserts .

URZA – Tell me about your beard, is it part of your armory, secret weapon you use to your advantage on the trail?

RK – The beard man! Yeah, so I met Christina in 2009 in Colorado, and she is an incredible outdoorswoman, much earlier than I am, she’s hiked the Appalachian Trail that Scott Jurek just set the record on and she has through hiked the Pacific West trail. A true outdoorswoman. When I met Christina she mentioned something about beards and how much she liked a man with a beard, so I stared to grow a beard that day! The beard came from chasing a girl that is now my wife, so that is a pretty fun story.

URZA – Appalachian Trail, amazing effort by Jurek.

RK – Yes is was. People have been asking me if it is something I am interested in, and while I have learned never to say never, it is just on such a different scale of what I think I am capable of. The thought of averaging 47 miles a day for 46 days is just for me to wrap my head around. Kudos to Scott for what he has achieved.

URZA – Would you consider running the Marathon Des Sables?

RK – I would love to try some more multi stage races, the MDS is definitely on the top of my list to run. Its difference because you have to carry all your nutrition for the entire race, I am not a big fan of running with such a large pack, but it is something I think I could dial in and give it a go. I love stage races and would love to do more.

URZA – Which shoes are you running in at the moment?

RK – I started my career in a Nike Lunar racer, which has always worked well for me. Right now the North Face doesn’t produce a shoe similar to that, but I am excited to be working with the North Face on a project for a new shoe that will cover those bases. My key words for a running shoes is minimal and really cushy, that’s the project we are currently working on right now.

URZA – When are we going to see you in South Africa?

RK – I have heard of many great races in South Africa and it is a place I would love to visit for a race. Ultra Sports Live TV is starting some projects in South Africa and I would possibly get down there in February/March to work with them, so yeah, I look forward visiting.

URZA – The video, Depressions – a few moments from 30 miles in the canyon by Joel Wolpert, has always intrigued me on how it was filmed with you running at full tilt, how was that shot?

RK – Yeah, that video was really a catalyst in speaking up and being more vocal about my depression and it really came as a bit of a coincidence. Joel was traveling the country and flagstaff just happened to be on his route, and he reached out to me and we had no plans when he arrived, but the Grand Canyon was on my schedule for for training. What is neat about the video is that is a training run for me, a 33 mile run, there was no stopping and going, I said to Joel that it was an important run for me and I would go out and do my thing, and whatever you would be able to capture, kudos to him. Joel is a very strong runner and technically very talented. When I ran the route Joel would jump in and latch on, he was carrying a pretty big digital DLSR within a device called a Movi, a gyroscopic controlled contraption, and it is pretty big at 2×2 feet, and he was keeping up with me and at times passing me carrying this rather large contraption, and he didn’t think twice about it. He ran the last three miles up with me shooting some amazing footage. My favorite part of the video is that I was a proper training run, no bullshit of stop here, do that Rob. Just me an Joel hitting the trail hard.

URZA – Last question Rob, what would you tell the average runner out there to tell them to stay healthy, balance training and family life, and love what they do?

RK – I talk about balance all the time, and I haven’t found it, and I am always searching for it. You need to find the compromise between achieving your goals and working hard, but enjoying it at the same time. Always remember that family comes first and training comes second, and being very cognizant of the toll that Ultra Running takes on your body and mind, and not being afraid to take extra days off and not pushing to hard and listening to your body. For me the key to my success is training consistently, and in order to train consistently you need to take some extra days off here and there and not stressing about it.

 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Track personal records of 1:51:05 in the 800M and 3:44:55 in the 1500M
  • Half-marathon personal record of 1:05:56
  • 3-time TransRockies champion
  • 2012 La Sportiva Mountain Cup series champion
  • Fastest Known Time for both the single and double crossing of the Grand Canyon
  • 2012 and 2013 Moab Red Hot 55K champion and course record holder
  • 2013 Leona Divide win and course record time
  • 2013 Western States 100 Second Place finish
  • 2014 Western States 100 Winner
  • 2015 Western Stated 100 Winner

 

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Adam Du Plooy

I am a passionate South African trail runner living in Dubai. I completed the 250km Marathon Des Sables in 2010 and look forward to running various multi stage races over the next few years.
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About The Author

I am a passionate South African trail runner living in Dubai. I completed the 250km Marathon Des Sables in 2010 and look forward to running various multi stage races over the next few years.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for a great interview. However: It’s an SA site and you’re a Saffer, and you asked this legend if he would do MDS. A golden opportunity to introduce the guy to SA via Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon and you choose MDS. *Shakes head*

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Thank you for the feedback. I asked about MDS as this is a race I have done myself. I asked him about running in SA and he will be in SA in Feb/Mar next year. We talked about Cape Town Ultra and it is a race that he is interested for sure. I am working on putting some of the audio together to share, we had a really bad Skype connection, but I would like to share some of his thoughts. If you listened to my Charlie Engle interview you would hear that we talked about Augrabies and his desire to run in South Africa. Are you involved with Augrabies as I would be happy to pass info on to Ultra runners, a race I would like to do for sure?

      Regards
      Adam

      Reply

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