Geoff Roes is one of the biggest names in the world of ultra-marathon running, and he’ll be running through the back country this weekend in the inaugural 100-mile event of the Santa Barbara Endurance Races.
Roes is “the man” when it comes to American ultra-marathoners. Last year, he shattered the course record in the Western States 100 in the Sierra Nevada, finishing in 15 hours, 7 minutes, 4 seconds. The old mark was 15:36.27.
Roes leads a 27-person field for the out-and-back 100-mile race that begins Friday at 6 a.m., at the Rancho Oso Western Village off Paradise Road.
The Santa Barbara Endurance Races also include distances of 100k, 50 mile, 50k, 35k, 25k and 15k. There’s also a three-person 100-mile relay. The 100k, 50 miler and 50k events start at 6 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the 35k, 25k and 15k races at 8 a.m., all at Rancho Oso. The relay start is Friday at 10 a.m.
The 100 mile course is grueling, featuring over 30,000 feet of elevation gain across the distance.
“Only two other events in America have more elevation gain than that,” race spokesperson Chris Stone said. “This course is brutal, long, and likely one of the hardest courses in America, if not the world.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for the 34-year-old Roes, a New York native, who currently lives in Nederland, Colo., but is planning a move back to Alaska, where he started his ultra-marathon running career.
“Geoff Roes is arguably the best ultra runner in the America if not the world,” Stone said. “He won the honor of Ultra Runner of the Year in 2010 and is on track to take the title again in 2011.
Besides his record run at Western States, some of Roes’ other major accomplishments include winning his first event, the Little Susitna 50k in Alaska in 2006, winning and setting the course record in the 2007 Susitna 100 miler, winning the 2010 American River 50 Mile Endurance Run and setting the course record on the 24-mile Crow’s Pass Crossing in Alaska.
This year, he won the Chuckanut 50K trail ultra, covering the difficult course in Bellingham, Wash., in 3 hours 41 minutes and 15 seconds.
Stone said the Santa Barbara race will be “pretty standard stuff” for Roes.
“Geoff Roes is projected to finish in 24 hours, and there will likely be no runners within 10 hours of his time,” Stone said.
Casey Hare, 36, of Santa Barbara, is the lone local entrant in the 100-mile solo race. Santa Barbaran Stephen VanDenburgh, 44, is doing the 100k (62 miles) run, Eric Yan, 27, and Dean Dawson, 47, are in the 50 miler, and Jake Sanders, 42, is in the 50k.
Roes told Ultrarunning Magazine that the doing ultraruns is not about physical strength.
“You can be the strongest, fittest runner in the world but there are a lot of other little things that you have to take care of during ultras, like nutrition, hydration, and also your mind,” he said. “Some people are never able to develop the patience and the stubbornness for the 100-mile distance. Anybody who has finished a 100-mile race knows it’s something pretty special.”
Stone said people are drawn to ultrarunning by the sense of adventure, accomplishment and doing something that most other people would never even consider.
“For most of these runners doing the 100 miler, this will be one of their greatest challenges,” said Stone, who added that most of them will likely finish in 32-48 hours.
Stone said the courses have staffed aid stations every 6-8 miles and each one has communication with the race headquarters.
One of the aid stations for the 100 milers is at Monte Arido at 6,010 feet.
“Runners can get medical attention, hydrate, weigh in and eat at these stations,” he said.
“Aside from injuries like turned ankles and blisters, the biggest thing the staff looks for in runners is Hyponatremia,” Stone added.
Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in the serum is lower than normal. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps, seizures, and decreased consciousness or coma.
Runners usually carry water and supplemental fuel (energy gels). They also have supply drop bags, which are distributed throughout the course.
The courses are marked and the runners also carry maps.
The entrants will be running on maintained and non-maintained dirt fire roads, and single-track trails. Surfaces will range from hard and smooth, to sandy and loose shale and sandstone pebbles.