Ultra-Tough To Beat: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Roes

Roes trains in Juneau, Alaska, where he started the Alaska Mountain Running Camp. Photo: theboywholovestorun.blogspot.com

You talked about ascents and rugged climbs. Do you do any specific training for coming down steep hills, since Western States has a lot of vertical drop?

I do, but again, it’s not so much a conscious effort. I love being out on runs and love sort of just hammering hard down a hill. It’s really fun to push myself that way. I will do a lot of really long and steep descent. On certain days when I’m feeling pretty good, I’ll push it, putting a little focus on knowing that this is going to prepare me for a race like Western States.

You go out and run for five to six hours at a time in training. That is a complete aerobic fat-burning exercise. Do you look at your nutrition in terms of how much fat you are consuming?

I just try to eat a lot, as much as I can, all the time. [He laughs.] My whole approach to nutrition on race day and after my runs is to try to get my body to process carbohydrates so consistently and efficiently that I try to burn as little fat on runs as possible. Certainly on 100-milers you are burning off a lot of fat as your fuel. I know some runners will go out on five-hour runs and not eat much of anything during the run to get the body used to running on stored energy, but I kind of take the whole opposite approach of just training very similar to racing. When I race, I try to consume as many calories as my body will process. I sort of will do the same thing in training. I’ll go out and do a five-hour run and I’ll eat 1500 calories during the run.

I’ve read that you’ve recently opened an Alaska Mountain Running camp. Describe what that’s all about.

I just did the first ever session of it a couple weeks ago. I’ve got another one coming up in July. It’s sort of a thing that I’ve had in my mind for a few years now. I finally went out and did all the logistics to make it happen this year. I definitely want to continue it next summer. The one I just did is, by all accounts, a success. It was a really great week of running.

How many students did you have?

I had ten people. It was a pretty small group. I had a few local friends of mine help me out. Really, it was just a focus on going out running and showing everyone how I run and train, with some focused talks on key points. It was really laid back and was a chance for people to see for themselves what it’s like for people to see where I run around Juneau and how I approach my running.

You had moved to Colorado and then recently moved back to Alaska. What was the reasoning behind those moves?

I moved to Colorado, because my girlfriend is going to school there. We knew all along that we’d be moving back to Juneau at the end of the spring semester. We’ll be back down in Colorado this coming September. She’ll be back to school. She has two and a half to three years of school left in her program there, so I’ll be doing this back-and-forth thing for a few more years.

Do you think that at some point in time ultras will get enough credibility and build up so much popularity that it will become and Olympic sport?

I don’t know about the Olympics. I’m not sure that’s the direction it would head. If it did, it would probably be a road 100K event. It’s an ultra distance, but the core and grass roots element of the sport is the trail stuff. In that area it’s challenging due to permitting and getting courses set up. You have to get land use approvals and buy-in from agencies like the Forest Service. It’s definitely limited in terms of venues where it could go. I think ultras are in this extreme growth period right now. At some point, it’s going to slow down. At that point ultras will be in a more sustainable spot. In terms of what that will look like, I don’t know.

Any future plans to run longer than 100 miles?

Yeah. I got a definite plan in mind. I’m doing the Iditarod Invitational Race up in Alaska next February. It’s 350 miles. I’ve attempted it twice and dropped out both times. So I’m going to take another shot at doing a really long one.

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