VAIL — After 9 hours and 29 minutes of racing over 13,245 feet of elevation gain, through snow, mud and pavement, Rob Krar of Canada pulled away from Dakota Jones, of the USA, to win the Ultra Race of Champions Saturday in Vail Village.
The race, which started in Breckenridge at 7 a.m. and finished at approximately 4:30 p.m. in Vail, saw competitors race 100 kilometers — or 62 miles — through four mountain passes, reaching a maximum elevation 12,408 feet.
The race served as the Ultrarunning World Championship and hosted more than 62 elite athletes from a number of different countries.
“That was the hardest effort of my life,” Krar said after the race. “Probably the hardest course I’ve run.”
The storm over Vail two days ago left racers with the unexpected challenge of snow when they reached Vail Pass. Krar, a Butler University graduate who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., said at times he was running through snow drifts more than a foot deep on the pass. Well over half way into the race, the constant slipping was something he wasn’t ready for.
“When you haven’t really seen snow for nine months, you can only be so prepared,” Krar said. “It felt like we were slipping forever. There was a mile or two that were so steep that you kept sliding off the side of the trail.”
Krar faltered in the snow and, from Vail Pass into Minturn, Jones managed to take a 90-second lead. Krar, despite having won the race, said that this was the third time throughout the course that he felt he had lost the chance to win.
“I felt really tired really early in the race and that got me worried,” Krar said. “I had to reassure myself that everyone was tired. I think at those times I was getting really low on calories, so I had to be very conscious of refueling.”
Going up the final climb towards Eagle’s Nest, Krar said he did everything he could to pull even with Jones. At Eagle’s Nest, the summit of the last climb, Krar made the final pass on Jones and didn’t see him until the final half mile, where he knew he had the race won.
“I dug deep through those low periods, and somehow I pulled through,” Krar said.
Coming into the last 50 feet of the race, Krar stopped and walked slowly through finish line, pausing for a moment to look up, put his hands to his mouth and then waved to the crowd.
“I don’t know how to feel, to be honest,” Krar said. “I’m so excited. It’s like a fairytale I’m living. I don’t even understand it all.”