Canyon Record

Rob Krar and Jason Wolfe run up a trail near the top of Snowbowl Road. (Josh Biggs/Arizona Daily Sun)

Josh Biggs

The three friends sat at the top of the Grand Canyon's South Kaibab Trail at about 8:30 a.m. last Friday. Covered in sweat and dirt, they gazed across to the North Rim and admired their feat.

Jared Scott, Jason Wolfe and Rob Krar had each just broken the rim-to-rim speed record, coming in under the previous time of 3 hours, 6 minutes, 10 seconds.

"We had three good friends out there wishing each other the best, but all wanting to be the first standing at the South Rim," Krar said.

Krar, a Flagstaff pharmacist, set a new record by running from North Rim to South Rim in a blazing 2 hours, 51 minutes, 28 seconds.

Wolfe arrived at the top just 7 minutes later and Scott, who broke the 30-year record last Memorial Day while running with Wolfe, bested the record he had set by 3 minutes.

The Park Service considers the 21-mile journey a "strenuous" three-day hike and strongly warns against such undertakings.

8 MINUTES A MILE

They averaged a blistering canyon speed of just over 8 minutes a mile -- each descending the 7 miles from the North Rim to Cottonwood Campground in about 45 minutes.

The hairpin turns through the switchbacks also meant that they often had to come to a complete stop and then accelerate again.

"It felt like we were just sprinting down into the Canyon," said Wolfe, who works for W.L. Gore in Flagstaff. "There's no way I could have run that fast by myself."

Running along the North Rim the night before, Krar said he didn't think he'd do the rim-to-rim run because he was shaky and stiff from running races the previous two weekends. But he felt good the next morning.

"No one seemed to slow down coming up the uphill," Wolfe said. "I thought that maybe one of us would break 3 hours. Every time I think about Rob's time, it's just ridiculous."

But Krar's journey to the top of the South Kaibab Trail Friday really unfolded over the course of several years.

JOURNEY BACK

In 2008, he and fellow Flagstaff runner Mike Smith went for an easy run in Buffalo Park.

"Less than two miles into our run we both had to walk," Krar wrote in a blog post in 2009. "We were both down on our luck, unmotivated, out of shape and searching. It was pretty disappointing making the slow walk back that day."

Both had been skilled runners in the past, but they were out of shape from injuries and lack of motivation.

One year after that walk back, the duo dominated the seven-day, 100-mile Transrockies race. He ran with giant bone spurs in his heels that got so severe by the end of the race that he was dragging one foot across the finish line.

Krar says that race left his body "broken" and he needed surgery to recover from the damage he did.

In spring of 2011, he still wasn't running at all and didn't expect to run competitively again.

He spent this last winter rehabbing on the Peaks by skinning to the top of Snowbowl on his skis.

In February, he entered the Moab Red Hot 33K and, to Krar's shock, he won.

His Canyon running partner, Scott, finished a close second.

NOW COMPETING

Krar and Scott are now both competing in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, a 10-race series that combines some of the best-known backcountry trails in the nation.

So the previous weekend, Krar had just raced in and won a cross-country half marathon through the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico. The weekend before, they had both run a 30k race in Montana.

Krar is in the top spot in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup, and Scott, who lives at the South Rim, is in third place after missing a race.

Krar's soon-to-be wife, Christina Bauer, is also running in the series and is in first place in the women's category.

"I'm 35 and I am the fittest I've ever been," Krar said. He added that his abilities have only increased as he's found a balance between running and everything else in life.

Wolfe trains for longer, 50-mile cross-country races, putting in from 90 to 115 miles of trail running each week.

Wolfe says he plans to go for the double-crossing rim-to-rim-to-rim record in October. To break the mark, he'll have to go from the North Rim to the South Rim and back in less than 6 hours, 53 minutes.

He's already done it in 7 hours, 12 minutes.

The trio plans to make the Memorial Day rim-to-rim run an annual tradition.

Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or ebetz@azdailysun.com.

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