Saying that Geoff Roes likes to run is an understatement. When I first met Roes, a fellow cook in the Rainbow Foods kitchen, he said he was going for a run - up Mount Juneau, then up Mount Roberts and then up Mount Jumbo.
Roes did all this in the hours before hopping on a plane that would take him to compete in one of the most noteworthy of ultra marathons: The Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. The course, just outside of Salt Lake City, undulates through mountainous terrain, gaining and also losing, more than 26,000 feet in elevation. Geoff Roes won that 2008 race, with a time of 20 hours and one minute.
As an avid non-runner, I have always held a generous degree of awe towards marathon runners. Even 26.2 miles is an awful long way to run, but while training, Roes sometimes completes up to three 20-plus mile runs in a week! This goes beyond awe for me. I am flabbergasted by how much this guy runs, so I decided I needed to know more; like why, how did his running habit get to this level, and most importantly, what does one EAT in order to go so far?
Roes, originally from upstate New York, started running in high school, but didn't become an ultrarunner until he moved to Homer in 2006. In the winter of that year, he signed up for his first 50K on a whim.
"It was horrible," he says, "but kind of in a good way because it made me want to do it again. Now it's just become such a habit," he adds.
Since that 50K, Roes estimates he has run 20 races, ten of which have been ultra marathons, or any race farther than 26.2 miles. At 32 years of age, Roes is racking up the wins, and started this year with another first place victory at Hawaii's H.U.R.T. 100.
During his year-round training regimen, he consumes between five and six thousand calories a day, with that figure increasing by another thousand in the week preceding a big race. Roes says it can be a lot of work to avoid a caloric deficit, which makes sense when your daily run ranges from three to seven hours long.
"It's a pretty manic diet," he said. "Sometimes I end up reverting to unhealthier fats, just because it's the easiest way to get large amounts of calories in, but my body also really craves vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, which just don't provide the level of calories that I always need. It'll be 11 o'clock at night and I'll end up making a frozen pizza before bed."
Lucky for Roes, he is a skilled cook, as Rainbow Foods' deli patrons are well-aware. He says the food he prepares there is reflective of the way he likes to eat: simple food, made with high quality ingredients, and heavy on fresh produce. During training his focus is on a high-fat, nutrient-rich diet that is also high in carbohydrates. Lasagna is a favorite pre-race meal, and Roes rattled off this dish as one of his night-before dinners:
Geoff Roes's Lasagna Roll Ups
(Serves two mere mortals, or one ultrarunner)
Boil 4 or 5 lasagna noodles until al dente. Rub them with olive oil and minced garlic and lay them out flat.
Spread the noodles first with a mixture of cottage cheese, an egg, a pinch of nutmeg, fresh basil and black pepper.
Sauté sliced mushrooms and chopped greens (he recommends spinach and kale), squeezing to remove excess moisture.
Spread the vegetables evenly atop the cottage cheese layer.
Finally, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Roll the noodles up, and place the bundles in a baking dish, seam side down. If desired, top the roll-ups with thick tomato slices or tomato sauce, although Roes mentioned that runners may wish to omit the tomato before a race in order to avoid stomach upset due to acid.
Finally, give the roll-ups another hearty sprinkling of mozzarella and parmesan, and bake until cheese is melted and rolls are heated through (about 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes).
Roes is headed back to Utah for the 2009 Wasatch 100, held on Sept. 11, and will face what he considers stiff competition. If you'd like to wish him luck, find out the results, or read more about his running, you can visit his blog at www.akrunning.blogspot.com.
Ginny Mahar is a trained chef and food writer who works at Rainbow Foods. She writes about all things "food" in Juneau, from cooking with local ingredients to restaurant news and food events. View more of her food writing at ginnymahar.blogspot.com.