Spring Athlete of the Year - Rea Kolbl

Spring Athlete of the Year - Rea Kolbl


 Photo by Sam Wiley

Rea Kolbl grew up doing gymnastics, started running in college and continued through grad school. She tried her first obstacle course with the purchase of a coupon, had a strong race, and fell in love with the sport. In 2016 she joined the Spartan Pro Team, and landed a 7th place finish in her first World Championship event. She graduated from top colleges University of California Berkeley and Stanford, and began to pursue a PhD in Physics. She has won the World’s Toughest Mudder, competed in the Eco Challenge in Fiji, the Spartan Games, and has set FKTs in multiple sports. Most recently she won the Spartan Ultra World Championships with 10 completed laps, 75 miles, over 19k feet in elevation, and approximately 220 obstacles. This is Rea Kolbl. This is our Spring Athlete of the year.


Photo by Isaiah Downing (@isaiahdowningphoto) 

Rea has always had a craving for challenges, whether it is testing her physical abilities or mental capacities. While first getting her feet wet in the Spartan world, she continued to push herself to the longer distance events such as 50 mile trail races, World’s Toughest Mudders and Spartan Ultras. She compliments her obstacle training with other sports such as mountain biking and skimo racing. Inspiration to do these events come from watching others try new things, YouTube videos and short films, and following other athletes who push their limits. Rea continues to ask herself how far and how fast can I go?


Photo by Guillem Casanova (@guillem_casanova)

These “wins” in life don’t come without a struggle though. Like many professional athletes, Rea has had her fair share of battling eating disorders throughout her career. She has worked on this issue tremendously through Covid, and with the addition of a new nutrition plan and fueling her body properly, this year has been her strongest year yet. She made a firm decision to not let athletic careers impede her social life anymore, and how important it is to work on mental health just as much as physical health.


Photo by Roy Hobbs (@royman0)

Goals for 2021 were up in the air for Rea, as she didn’t do too much running during the winter off-season. She started the year battling it out in the Expedition Oregon, America’s Toughest Race, on a team with 2 other females and 1 male. Although her team was mostly females, her team dominated and made the podium with second place. Additional podium spots for Rea this year included 1st place in the Women Dual Category at the Emerald Mountain Epic, 1st place in her first gravel race at the Steamboat Gravel 64 miler, 2nd place at the GoPro Peppi’s Face-Off, which is part of the GoPro Mountain Games, and 1st place at the Spartan Ultra World Championships in October.


Photo by Roy Hobbs (@royman0)

In addition to multiple podiums this year, Rea has also set some incredible FKTs in multiple sports. In July she set the FKT for the Tenmile Traverse in Colorado with a time of 5:25:56, which traverses from Frisco, Colorado to Breckenridge on the Tenmile Range. Later in the year she headed to Slovenia and set the FKT for the Sea to Summit, which no woman has ever done before. This consisted of first diving 120 feet to the bottom of the ocean, swimming to shore, biking 120 miles to the bottom of the tallest mountain, and then running up a 7k feet ascent to the top of the peak with the last part made up of fixed lines and cables. She completed this 130 mile, 15k feet of elevation feat in 11 hours and 20 minutes! Lastly, Rea set the new course record and was the first female for the Dynafit Never Summer 60k with a time of 7:21:20.

Rea believes her successful year of wins is not only due to her new view on nutrition, but her training in multiple sports, rather than just running in the past. Her volume decreased to an average of 35-40 miles per week, with strength training at a minimum of 2x a week and lots of grip strength work. This training plan was used for her success at the Spartan Ultra World Champs which was the hardest 24 hour race she has ever done. It was cold, but not snowing, very heavy carries, and harder versions of the obstacles. The race started at over 9k feet, with technical descends and steep climbs. Each lap was 7 miles long, which is a long time to see her support crew, and to problem solve issues when they appeared. Due to the high altitude, nutrition was tricky, but her Spring gels saved her on each lap. In 24 hours Rea was able to complete 10 laps, 75 miles (first lap was longer) and 19,700 feet of vert with 220 obstacles. Absolutely incredible!

So what’s next?


Photo by Roy Hobbs (@royman0)

Rea still has so much more on her bucket list and goals to improve her ski mountaineering skills, run more sky races in Europe, and just to improve her overall off-trail running. Her biggest tips for newbies in the OCR world is to work hard on grip strength or add rock climbing into your training plan, do one race as soon as possible so that you know what to work on for future races, and “Don’t wait until you are ready. Just do it!”


Photo by Jeff Lautenberger (@jefflphoto)


Congratulations Rea Kolbl on being our Spring Athlete of the Year. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for 2022!




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