Date of Birth: 5/18/1991
Born: Maribor, Slovenia
Live: Boulder, Colorado
Mid Distance (6-12 miles)
Long Distance (12+ miles)
As a relative new-comer to Obstacle Course Racing, Rea Kolb had a break-out year in her first full season in 2017, winning World's Toughest Mudder, taking first in Spartan's World Elite Point Series, and second in the Obstacle Course Racing World Championship 15k. Growing up in Slovenia, she competed on the National Gymnastics Team and cross-trained in the Pole Vault. Rea earned Bachelor's degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley and a Masters degree in Science and Engineering from Stanford.
What was your first obstacle race and why did you do it?
My very first race was a Spartan race in 2013. It was a beast in Monterey, and we did it as a team with a few friends from a workout group, inspired by a cheap entry found on Groupon. It was me and three other guys, and they chose to run individually rather than as a group because they said they didn’t want to wait for me… I finished first, about 30 minutes ahead of our fastest male member. It was really fun, but I didn’t really know about the elite field and didn’t take the sport very seriously; it took me another few years to return to OCR and give the elite category a try.
What drives you to compete?
Growing up as a gymnast, I was very competitive so comparing myself to others in sport is just something that’s a part of me. What I love about OCR is that if you work hard, it shows on the course, which wasn’t always true in gymnastics. So in addition to being competitive by nature, I also like racing as a reward for all the hard work I put into training when no one is watching.
If you could run a World Championship obstacle race anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would love to run one in the Alps in Europe. Growing up in Slovenia I spent winters there skiing and snowboarding, but I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the Alps in the summer months. The scenery and the elevation of those mountain ranges are stunning. I think an obstacle race there would be both beautiful and hard, the perfect combination for a great venue.
What interesting fact do most fans of OCR not know about you?
I am pretty small in build, but mainly because of all the running I do, I'm able to put-down more food than my husband, and most other guys I know! And if you want a favor from me, the best way to get it is to bribe me with fruit. Any kind. Any amount.
Who is one of the OCR athletes you admire most and why?
Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins. I love their outlook on sports and adventure, and their training style of “do-everything-outdoors” really inspires me. Their love of racing shows on the course, and they’re both really nice people. It was Lindsay’s racing smile in 2016 that helped me become a better and happier racer.
If you could design one workout that covers the most important skill areas in OCR, what would it look like?
I think that would be my “Heavy Carry Steal the Playground” workout, with an addition of some trail running. The workout consists of carrying heavy things up and down a 120 yard long hill with roughly 50 yards of elevation gain (gets really steep towards the end!), then running to the nearby playground that has monkey rings, bars, and a horizontal bar connected in a triangle, so you can do all three without stepping on the ground. There are three heavy carries I use: bucket, sandbag, and dumbbells as a farmers carry obstacle, and then one hill sprint. With the playground structure round in between each of those carries, the workout builds run endurance, heavy carry strength, and grip strength/endurance. Combined with a trail run before or after, this is one of my favorite OCR specific workouts.
If you hadn't found OCR, in what sport(s) would you be competing?
Most likely I would still be competing in ultra trail running. It was my sport of choice before I discovered that it’s a lot more fun to combine trail running with monkey bars and mud crawls. I love being out on the trails and I was training for a 100 mile race right before I fell head over heels with OCR.
What advice do you have for people who want to get better in OCR?
With such a variety of skills that OCR requires, it's likely that someone is good at a specific part of OCR, and that they love one part more than others. And that’s okay - focus on what you love and get really good at it! Then work on the other parts, and the weaknesses and the less appealing parts on the side, and get just good enough at that stuff to make it through. For me, I’m in love with trail running and so that is what I focus on; then I work on upper body strength just enough to make it through the course. There is no one right way to train, and if you have a way that you love there’s nothing wrong with sticking to that.