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The 100-Mile Man: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Roes

  • By Competitor Running
  • Published Jul. 19, 2010
  • Updated May. 4, 2011 at 10:21 PM UTC
Alaskan Geoff Roes has never lost a 100-mile race. Photo courtesy of Juneau Empire.

Alaskan Geoff Roes has never lost a 100-mile race. Photo courtesy of Juneau Empire.

America’s ultimate ultramarathoner hopes to keep his undefeated streak alive.

Written by: Duncan Larkin

In the last four years, Geoff Roes has run seven 100-mile races. He’s won every single one of them.

His most recent victory—perhaps the sweetest of his unbeaten streak—was just last month at the Western States 100. In that race, Roes nearly dropped out at mile 46–but true to his patient, persevering nature, he methodically reeled in his opponents, taking the lead for good with 12 miles to go. His winning time, 15:07:00, smashed Scott Jurek’s course record by over 29 minutes.

Originally from upstate New York, in 2005 Roes moved to Juneau, Alaska, where he now works as a cook at Rainbow Foods. He is currently training for Europe’s most difficult foot race: the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc at the end of August, a 103-mile ultramarathon in the Alps with over 30,000 feet of total elevation gain.

Competitor.com recently caught up with Roes to see what keeps him going for hours on end.

Competitor.com: You are unbeaten in 100-mile races. What is the secret of your success?

Geoff Roes: I don’t really know. I mean, for a while as I did 100-mile races, I thought that the 100 is really my distance and that I’m just really suited for it for some reason or another. And then in the past year I’ve had some good 50-mile races. I just had a solid run at the Way Too Cool 50K this spring, and so I realized maybe I’m suited for any of these distances more than I thought. But I’ve certainly had the most success in the 100. Probably more than anything, I guess I’m just pretty stubborn and patient.

One of your other strengths is your mental discipline in races to let people go and then reel them back in like you did at Western States. Where does that discipline, that intestinal fortitude, come from? Can you work on that aspect in training or is it just your personality?

I think it’s more likely my personality. I like to think of myself as a pretty patient person in all facets of my life. I’m not one to force myself through any kind of serious suffering in my training. I kind of make my training fun. If I’m not enjoying any aspect of my training, I change it up. I keep it pretty fun. If anything, I’m the opposite as far as training is concerned. I don’t really do a whole lot in my training to prepare for the difficult times and some of the kind of patience and stubbornness that it takes in racing. Through races, I can kind of accept that it is part of the race experience. I’ve done seven 100-mile races now and I’ve had tough patches in every one of them. Each time it is a little bit easier to deal with that. It’s become a consistent thing. It happens in every 100-mile race for me.

So how do you get through these rough patches?

I really focus on just taking care of my body and mind. As soon as I start to struggle in a race, I immediately stop focusing on what everyone else is doing. I just keep eating well and keep hydrating. I try to keep my mind focused on the fact that my race isn’t going to improve at all if I can’t take care of my own body.

Some ultra runners are really hard on themselves in training, putting themselves through certain deprivations, like reducing fluids and fuel during their training runs. Do you subscribe to this deprivation training approach?

I don’t really at all. Just by virtue of where I live I do a lot of running in some pretty crappy weather for sure. But it is more by necessity than by design. I’m more into kind of enjoying my running as a whole. I go out and run what I feel like running each day. I definitely take ample food and water with me on my training runs. I train the same way I race, so race day definitely isn’t any sort of treat. But it’s a different approach. The other approach certainly works for some people.

What is your hydration and fueling like on race day?

Obviously, the hydration depends a lot on the temperature. With hydration, I like to focus a lot on taking in liquids in really steady and small quantities. I take water one ounce at a time. I’ll take anything from 20 to 50 ounces of water an hour depending on temperature. Also, depending on temperature, I have a pretty specific plan for taking in electrolytes. I’ll use Endurolytes or S Caps and try to have a certain amount that I try to take consistently through the race depending on the temperature—somewhere between one and three electrolyte pills an hour. For calories, I keep it simple and use almost entirely gels for all my calories during racing. I try to take in, if I can, 300 calories an hour. Sometimes my stomach doesn’t want that much, but when I’m processing 300 an hour, I know I’m doing well. I know that my energy is going to hold up pretty well. Sometimes I got to cut back to 150 to 200, but Western States went really well for me—hydration and nutrition-wise. I was able to keep up with everything. I kept my body fueled.

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