As the sun set on Vail Village Saturday, only three had crossed the finish line of the first Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100K ultramarathon in Colorado. After over 62-miles up and over mountain passes, through snow and mud from Breckenridge to Vail, less than three and a half minutes separated Canadian Rob Krar and Dakota Jones of Boulder. With close to 60 miles behind them, the 36-year-old Krar passed Jones at the top of the final assent between Minturn and Vail, and it was all downhill from there on his way into Vail Village.
“That downhill was golden for me,” Krar said shortly after finishing.
Jones recounted the final stretch. “Man I was hopping he wouldn’t catch up, and there he was right at the top of the hill,” he said. “He passed me so fast, by that point I’m pretty much tapped.”
Krar was overcome with emotion when he crossed the finish line. “I can’t believe it,” he told the crowd gathered in Vail Village. “I thought I was down and out.”
Krar crossed the finish in 9 hours, 29 minutes, with 22-year-old Jones on his heals in 9:32:26.
The two elite runners managed to cross the line more than 30 minutes before their closest competitors.
Cameron Clayton, also of Boulder, finished third in 10:06:24. Renowned Spanish ultrarunner and pre-race favorite Killian Jornet finished fourth at around 5:30 p.m., running the race in 10:19:18.
After the race both Clayton and Jornet sat in a post-race runner lounge eating pizza and chatting as if they’d just been out for a jog.
While names like Kilian Jornet, Dakota Jones and Sage Canaday may not mean much to the average person, in the world of ultrarunning they are some of the elite. They are the Peyton Mannings, Derek Jeters and Lebron Jameses of their sport. And on a chilly 20 degree Saturday morning they gathered on Main Street in Breckenridge to compete in what was close to their Super Bowl.
Breckenridge was a ghost town in the morning, before the sun crested over the Continental Divide, except for the one block on Main Street outside of the Vertical Runner store where the handful had gathered to cheer on the ultrarunning world’s elite.
The race got underway just as the sun began to kiss a reported six fresh inches of snow on the ridges of the Tenmile Range.
“Going over the Tenmile Range, there was definitely a bunch of snow up there,” Jones said after the race.
Runners and race officials reported up to 18-inch snow drifts on Wheeler Pass, where runners crossed from Frisco to Copper Mountain, on the Colorado Trail.
“It was the hardest effort in my life,” Krar said at the finish. His voice was tired but he stood tall.
Already popular in Europe, ultrarunning appears to be gaining speed in the U.S. While it was the first time for UROC in Colorado, it was the race’s third U.S. running; the previous two were held in Virginia. Race organizers hope Vail will be the home of the race for years to come.
“We’re planning on a permanent stay here,” UROC race director Francesca Conte said of the Breck-to-Vail course. “I can’t think of a better place.”
160 runners participated in this year’s race. Another 200 registered for the 50K and half-marathon, also a part of the event.
Note: The top women finishers were not known at presstime.