Geoff Roes’s Alaska Mountain Ultraruning Camps

An interview with Geoff Roes about his upcoming Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camps

By on February 18, 2011 | Comments

Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning CampIn case you haven’t heard, Geoff Roes, the 2010 Western States Champ (among many other accomplishments), is putting on a pair ultrarunning camps outside of Juneau, Alaska this summer. The first of these 5-day, 6-night camps is already sold out; however, there are still spots available in the second session scheduled for July 28-August 3, 2011. The camps are small (10 runners max), ultra focused, and designed for veteran ultrarunners, although runners of all speeds are welcome. The five runs will include up to 25,000′ of climbing and up to 75 miles of running. There will be options for shorter routes as well as off days. This is your chance to run and learn from one of the world’s best mountain ultrarunners. In addition to the runs, there will be educational sessions.

While neither I nor iRunFar are involved in the camps, I was intrigued by the idea of Alaskan ultrarunning camps as well as Geoff leading such camps. I wanted to find out more (and thought you might, too), so I was pleased that Geoff was willing to answer a couple questions about the camps.

iRunFar (iRF): You’ve lived in some great trail running locations, including Juneau, Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, and Colorado’s Front Range. What’s so special about running around Juneau in the summer that made you want to hold your camps there?

Geoff Roes (GR): I think what separates Juneau from most other places I’ve run is just how many great trails there are that lead almost instantly into very wild places. Most trail running locales, including the other ones you mention, you are several miles at best from true wild areas. In Juneau, you can start a run from the middle of downtown and within 5 minutes be in the type of remote wilderness that in most places you can only access with several miles of driving and another several minutes of running.

iRF: What’s the terrain and footing going to look like on a typical run during the camps?

GR: Gosh, I would say a little bit of everything. Some smooth gravel trails, but also lots of roots and rocks, probably some mud if it’s been raining recently. We will do some flatter runs, but if the weather allows us to get up in the mountains, most of our runs will start with big climbs (3,000′ or more) to get us up onto the alpine ridges. Once you’re up there, it’s a lot of rolling ridge lines with the most amazing views in every direction, and then a big drop at the end to get back down to town.

iRF: While the wildlife, bears included, shouldn’t be a safety issue during the runs are there any interesting animals that folks might get to see?

GR: Bald Eagles, Porcupine, Mountain Goats, Bears, Deer, Wolves – These are the most common larger animals that we might see while out on runs in Juneau, in order from most (numerous bald eagles on every run) to least (I’ve seen one wolf in 5 years of running in Juneau). Bears are the animal everyone wants to know about. I would say our chances of seeing a bear while out running for 5 days are well below 50%, but it’s certainly a possibility. As far as bear safety is concerned, this is a concern we will prepare for before we go out running, but it is a very minor concern. Likely, if we do see any bears they will be far away across a valley or we will have scared them away from the trail without ever knowing they were there. In my 5 years of running in Juneau, I have never felt threatened or unsafe because of bears, nor have I heard of any of the dozens of locals that I run with in Juneau feeling threatened by a bear.

iRF: What sort of skills and ultrarunning knowledge do you hope to share while out on the runs?

GR: Mostly I just want people to tap into the idea of becoming stronger runners by deeply enjoying their running. The number one aim of this camp will be to have fun while we are out traveling by foot through one of the most beautiful places in the world. When we truly come to enjoy our running we become stronger runners without even realizing it. Beyond this, I intend to share all kinds of technical and theoretical insight and experience with everyone in the camp. Most of this stuff I will keep on a more informal, conversational basis so as to not distract from the main focus of becoming stronger runners through nurturing a simple enjoyment of our running.

iRF: Is there any run that you’re looking forward to the most during the camps?

GR: The exact runs we do will be based in large part on the weather. I will have several runs in mind that we will choose from based on the weather and everyone’s strengths and preference at the time. This said, the Juneau ridge loop is a must do for any first time trail runners in Juneau. It’s about 15 miles with 5,000 feet of vertical that starts a few blocks from downtown. This is one we will almost certainly hit up at least once during the week.

iRF: Alaska is the sort of place that many from outside the state aren’t likely to visit very often. With that in mind, aside from the runs, what are your can’t miss sights, experiences, and adventures in and around Juneau?

GR: Juneau has a lot to offer (beyond trail running). The Mendenhall Glacier is about 5 miles from the airport and is a must visit destination for anyone coming to Juneau. The fortunate thing for those attending the camp is that we are quite likely to do a run or two which will give us amazing views of this glacier (and others). There is really great sea-kayaking in the area, as well as some great half day or full day boat tours to some incredible places in the Juneau area. Fishing is another large part of many people’s visit to Juneau. Numerous guided fishing options exist in the summer time in Juneau. With several days extra time there are some really interesting other locations to visit in the area including but certainly not limited to Sitka, Haines, Skagway, and Glacier Bay National Park.

iRF: Geoff, thanks for filling us in on what sound like a pair of excellent ultrarunning camps. Best of luck!

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.