Thursday, January 19, 2012

Geoff Roes Interview: Above Average Athletes

Geoff Roes (image from Clif Bar)
Geoff Roes is a humble and quiet guy who just happens to eat 100 mile ultramarathons alive. I connected with Geoff after having interviewed Anton Krupicka for our "Above Average Athletes" column, and was very grateful to get his thoughts on running, gear, his popular and incredible Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camps, and his unconventional plans for 350 miles on Alaska.

In 2010, Geoff won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance run in record time, beating Anton, Killian Jornet, Nick Clark, Hal Koerner, and other top ultramarathoners in what can only be described as one of the most tense and epic races of that distance on American soil. In 2011, Geoff won the Ultra Race of Champions 100k, Crow Pass 25 miler, Santa Barbara 100 miler, the Zane Grey 50, and the Chuckanut 50k. Thanks again to Geoff for getting to know us and taking the time for Above Average Athletes!

Average GuyIn your recent blog post you talked a lot about how your recovery these days has been very different from what you have been used to.  So, you are letting your running take a back seat over most of the winter so you can challenge yourself in different ways and shake it up. What have you planned and when do you think you’ll ramp up running mileage again?

Geoff Roes: For most of the winter so far I've just been taking it really mellow. When there's good snow I get out on my nordic skis; I've gotten out on several nice hikes with my girlfriend; I was just in Costa Rica for two weeks and did some nice mellow runs in the rainforest down there. Basically I've just been taking it as it comes, but my weekly active time has been very low, somewhere in the 5-12 hour range depending on the week. I will probably wait until sometime in early April before I really start to focus on everyday running again.

Average GuyOf course, the one big exception to your winter of reduced running is the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350 mile footrace. Are you still planning on lining up there? If so, how are your preparations going?

Geoff Roes: Yeah, I'm still planning on the ITI. It's gonig to be a completely unorthodox approach, but basically I'm going to try to do this race more on mental determination/preparation than physical preparation. I will try to increase my active time between now and the race, but I doubt I'll do much more running than what I have been doing for the past few weeks. I'll just try to mix in one or two longer snowshoe or ski outings each week. To some degree I think this might be a good approach to this race. I feel like I can get through the physical challenges of the race using the fitness that I've built up over the past few years. I think if I tried to train "normally" for this race I would be too worn out once the race comes around. Instead I'm going to take the approach of being physically very fresh and hopefully very well prepared logistically, mentally, and emotionally.

Average GuySpeaking of the Iditarod Trail Invitational, I want to know more about your Alaska origins.  You are from New York State, but found yourself in Juneau, scrambling to find places to run.  What brought you to Alaska in the first place and what about it keeps you coming back?

Geoff Roes: After leaving New York, I lived in Utah for 5 years before moving to Alaska. I have pretty much always been drawn to wild, remote, scenic places. After 5 years in Utah I was ready for more wildness so I headed to Alaska almost entirely drawn by the lure of remote Alaska. That was 6 years ago. In that time I have fallen in love with the community of Juneau and with the mountains surrounding all of Southeast Alaska. In my mind Juneau is the greatest mountain running location I have ever been. At this point I couldn't imagine anything keeping me from spending a lot of time there for the rest of my life. 

Average GuyYou are not the only one with a passion for running the mountains of Alaska, if the success of your Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camps is any indication. How did you come up with the idea for a series of camps and what improvements or changes are you planning for 2012 after a successful inaugural year in 2011?

Geoff Roes: The idea for the camps was something that built up in my mind gradually over time. A huge part of wanting to do these camps was that I specifically wanted to do them in Juneau and show people how amazing the running terrain and the running culture is in Juneau. It's a very unique place to run, and over time I built up a desire to show people what it is to run in Juneau. Toward the end of 2010 I began running "full time", and that was the perfect time to put in action this camp idea that had been percolating in my mind for a couple years. The 2011 camps ended up going amazingly well. I had so much more fun doing it than I ever imagined. The campers all seemed to benefit a lot from the experience (6 of them are already signed up to come back in 2012). There will be a few minor changes for 2012, but for the most part they will be quite similar to the camps in 2011. 

Average GuyAre you planning on conducting the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camps in 2013? I’ve set a personal goal of attending myself (I’m just not ready to do so in 2012) and would love to come out to Alaska and fulfill a long-standing dream.

Geoff Roes: I haven't decided on my Summer 2013 plans just yet, but I am very much leaning toward doing camps again in 2013. I will probably make that decision sometime toward the end of this Summer.

Average GuyWhen in Alaska, you’ve worked as a cook at Rainbow Foods. Are you still working there when you are in town? It seems like a great gig and would allow for a flexible enough schedule to allow you to log so much time on the trails.

Geoff Roes: I haven't worked at Rainbow Foods since August of 2010. I imagine I will work there again at some point in the future as it is a great place to work that fits my interests perfectly. It's a really fun place to cook and it always allowed me great flexibility to get out on long runs when I needed to. 

Average Guy I read a few articles written by co-workers of yours at Rainbow Foods or by local Juneau reporters who were surprised when finding out about your notoriety in the running community.  I was impressed by that, that you are so unassuming that just a few years ago your co-workers were unaware that you were one of the top ultramarathoners in the country.  Since then, you’ve been the subject of films and many magazine articles.  How comfortable are you with the relative “fame” that has come with your success?

Geoff Roes: Sometimes it's a little uncomfortable. I don't really feel totally comfortable talking to people about my running unless I know them really well (and then I probably talk about it way too much), so there are a lot of people in Juneau who I have known for a few years who only know that I like to run a lot. I recently saw a screening of Unbreakable in Juneau and I knew just about every single person in the theater, but I don't think even half of them knew anything about my racing before watching that film. It was interesting to talk to people after that because I could see that they were viewing me in some ways as an entirely different person than they were just a few hours before. In totality though it's been really easy to feel comfortable with my running "fame" in Juneau. There is a really solid running community there who I have learned so much from. They have supported me so much over the past 5 years, and there are so many runners in Juneau who I  have done so many long runs with that I feel like they understand me beyond anything they will ever read in a magazine or watch in a movie. Because of these people it has never felt as awkward as it otherwise might. 

Average GuyGiven the breakout success of “Unbreakable,” a lot of new people are being quickly educated about the sport and are being inspired to set their own new goals.  What advice do you have to an aspiring first-time 100-mile runner?

Geoff Roes: Just remember to keep it fun. If you're not enjoying it, change things up until you are. 

Average Guy:  One last question about your running gear.  For the past few seasons you have relied on the Montrail Mountain Masochist as your go-to racing and training shoe. Will we see you exclusively in the MMM this year as well, or are you experimenting with some of the new stuff Montrail has coming down the pipeline, like the Rogue Racer, Bajada, or something even newer?

Montrail Mountain Masochist (Image from Running Warehouse)
Geoff Roes: I will probably be sticking mostly with the Mountain Masochist for this year. They are the best shoe I have ever worn, and it's going to take something really special to get me out of them. This said I think the Montrail lineup for 2012 is really exciting and really well rounded. I've done about a dozen runs in the new Bajada, and I think they will be my go to shoe for any runs/races less than 2 or 3 hours. As my body adapts more to them I could even see them becoming my go to shoe for ultras. I've also done just a few runs in the new Badwater shoes. I haven't really run in them enough yet to say too much about them, but they do feel really great on the roads, and will probably be my go to shoe for any of the occasional road runs that I get out on. 

Thanks, Geoff!

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Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Great post and I'm happy to discover your blog! If any of your readers are interested, here's a post I ran on my blog about Geoff's camp. I'm psyched to attend his camp this July.

Zak said...

Great post! I would love to go to Geoff's camp. If he has one in 2012 I am there. Thanks for the readership and for the link!

Cory Reese said...

Great interview! I really admire how humble and down-to-earth Geoff seems.

And then he goes out and smokes everyone on the course. Incredible.

Zak said...

Thanks, Cory. You hit it on the head!

.:Ash:. said...

I can't believe that I've only just found your site, Average Guy! This is such a fantastic post. And, you really posed some excellent questions here. Awesome work!

Zak said...

Thanks very, very much, Ash! I appreciate that! We are looking forward to loads of new stuff coming down the pipeline, so stay tuned!