While in Colorado last August to run TransRockies I, unwittingly, found myself as a cast member in what was affectionately (I think) dubbed the Year of the Beard. Some guy by the name of Rob Krar was playing a similar role.
Well, sort of.
He was also busy tearing the ass out of the course with his partner, Mike Smith, ultimately winning the 6-day event by, um, a healthy margin. A really healthy margin.
I, meanwhile, was picking myself up out of the dirt and thanking the heavens for having a teammate, Sean McCoy (love you, man), who didn't seem to take it too hard that we weren't going to be threatening anyone for the win. He also good-naturedly overlooked the constant distraction that was my beard.
That beard didn't do me a bit of good with regards to the race itself, but it also may well have been the icebreaker that introduced me to Rob (and many others, for that matter). I only ever actually saw him one time on course and even then only because there was an open, doglegged section of dirt road that let all of us middle-and-back-of-the-packers see he and Mike vanishing off into the distance. Luckily, in Vail after the end of an exhausting Stage 5, I did get a chance to spend some time chatting with him and his now wife, Christina.
Beard or no beard, he was just good people. She and he both.
A year later, Rob has made a major splash on the ultra-racing scene and is poised to be in the mix late in the day at his very first 100-mile race, a race that just happens to be the one and only Western States Endurance Run, arguably the most iconic hundred of them all.
It was my pleasure to recently hear in great detail Rob's journey from being an accomplished middle-distance track and field athlete in college to being a burned out and injured road runner and, eventually, reinventing himself as successful trail racer at increasingly longer distances. Getting to retell that story on iRunFar in the days leading up to Saturday's big race was a joy and an honor that I will cherish.
Another joy, always, is helping the iRF team cover some of the most prestigious ultra races from around the globe, and Western States, of course, is at the top of that list. With iRF founder Bryon Powell lacing up his kicks to take another crack at the course himself this weekend, those of us who help moderate the online race coverage will be paying that much closer attention to how the day plays out.
I'll do my best to be unbiased, but I must admit that I'll be pulling hard for Rob and Bryon to have the performances I feel they're both capable of having with the work they've put in and the talent they possess.
If you're enough of an ultra-junkie to keep revisiting your monitor screen for the latest updated over the many hours it takes for a 100 mile race to play out, you already know how great it is to have a resource like iRunFar to deliver (nearly) real-time peek ins. For those of you who haven't checked in before, I encourage you to do so on Saturday.
Here's a link to iRunFar's live coverage of the 2013 Western States 100 which kicks off at 5:00 AM, PDT on Saturday morning:
Between now and then, you still have time to watch and listen to interviews with many of the race favorites, find out who race fans are predicting will vie for the win, and read a number of pre-race articles and historical features on the race.
See for yourself:
There will be an amazing collection of talent assembled at the Squaw Valley starting line and it will include grizzled veterans with 100-mile long resumes of trail success and some relative newbies with speedy credentials yet to be tested at 100 miles (count Rob among the latter). Weather reports all seem to agree on sky-high temperatures that will surely impact the race, especially as the afternoon drags on and runners drop deeper and deeper into the canyons carved out by the American River. And, as always, there's the history that is Western States animating every inch of the trail while awaiting the completion of another storied chapter.
I, for one, can't wait to "see" it all unfold.