100 miles and running

Posted: Sunday, July 04, 2010

Another race, another record for Juneau ultrarunner Geoff Roes.

Roes, 34, kept his 100-mile race undefeated streak intact with a come-from-behind win in last Saturday's Western States Endurance Run in California in a time of 15 hours, 7 minutes and 4.5 seconds.

Roes has now won all seven 100-milers he's competed in.

"I don't know if I've just had luck at the 100-milers I've done, or it's kind of my specific distance," he said. "I run a lot of 50-mile races and 50-kilometer races, and I've had good success at those, but I'm certainly not undefeated."

Not only did Roes, the Ultrarunning Magazine Runner of the Year for 2009, win his seventh 100-mile title, but he did so in record fashion, shattering the previous course record by nearly 29 minutes.

"Western States is the like the Super Bowl of 100-mile races, you might say, and I went into it knowing that it would take a spectacular race to win it," he said. "I felt really good for the first 40-45 miles. I was running comfortably and right in the lead or near the lead. But right around Mile 45 I hit a big climb coming up out of a canyon and I just had nothing right then. I felt really tired and weak."

Roes said usually when a runner starts to feel that way, it's due to a lack of hydration or not enough calories to burn. He knew he was physically prepared for the race because he had a great few months of training leading up to it, so he was at a loss for why he felt so fatigued.

"So, the two guys I had been running with to that point dropped me pretty quick," he said.

There are aid stations positioned about every five miles along the course, and Roes said he fell three minutes behind, and then seven, 12, and eventually up to 17 minutes.

"It ultimately took me almost 30 miles to turn it around," he said. "When I started struggling, I knew it wouldn't do me much good to worry about what the other runners were doing and concentrate on my own thing. There was never a point where I felt like I wouldn't be able to finish, but I felt like I was not able to find the kind of energy needed to keep the pace that I was hoping to.

"This is the only time I've ever fallen behind like that when it wasn't my choice, where I couldn't keep up with the others."

Around Mile 70, Roes said he started feeling better so he began kicking up dust in the 90-degree heat.

"By Mile 75 I was picking up the pace and I knew then that I had turned things around; it was a just a question of whether I had time to catch these other two guys," he said. "I caught one of them at Mile 80, and the other at about Mile 88."

But the race was far from over. Roes had to hold off the eventual second-place finisher, Anton Krupicka, who also broke the old course record with a time of 15:12:52.1.

"He stayed pretty close with me," Roes said. "I looked back over my shoulder about four miles later and he was only about 30 seconds behind me. That gave me one last jolt of adrenaline, and I was just determined not to let this 100-mile race come down to the last mile."

So Roes took off during a 3-mile downhill and never saw Krupicka again, finishing six minutes ahead with a new course record.

Roes said breaking records is nice, but that's not what motivates him. Instead, it's the spirit of competition that draws him.

"I go into races, number one, wanting to have fun," he said. "I take a lot of pleasure in competition and it's really fun to me to have a competitive race like that. I knew this was going to be the most competitive field of runners I've ever raced against and it would be fun.

"Course records, I feel, just have to happen," he continued. "It's hard to go into a race just focusing on runners that have run it four, five, six years ago. I want to focus on the guys I'm running against on that day and let things happen."

Next up for Roes is the Crow Pass Crossing, a 25-miler on July 24 near Anchorage, one of his favorite races. In August, Roes is going to Europe for another 100-miler, the North Face Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc.

"It starts in France and circumnavigates Mont Blanc, up into Switzerland and Italy, and then back into France," he said. "I'm pretty excited about that."

Records beware.

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