Crow Pass champ has recovered just enough

Doyle Woody

Only in the last week has Geoff Roes begun to feel like a runner again.

Until then, the defending men's champion of the marathon-length Crow Pass Crossing had spent the previous couple of weeks recovering from his attempt last month to complete the Great Divide Mountain Bike Race. He made it through about 1,400 miles of the 2,490-mile epic from the Canada-U.S. border to the U.S.-Mexico border, and stood in second place before he scratched.

Roes, 32, who last summer clocked the third-fastest time in Crow Pass history -- 3 hours, 7 minutes, 48 seconds -- began running again in early July. That was a grind -- his body was still fatigued from the Great Divide effort, and his legs were more accustomed to bicycling than running.

But Roes, of Douglas, finally enjoyed a good training run last Saturday and said he's felt better running this week.

"The transition is happening, so I'm back to where my legs know how it feels to run,'' Roes said at Friday's Crow Pass pre-race meeting.

Even so, he's uncertain what he will be able to produce today, when he defends his title in the 25th edition of Crow Pass, a demanding trail race that takes runners from near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center.

"At this point, it's totally up to what my body tells me,'' Roes said.

Roes in early May finished third in the Miwok 100-K Trail Race in California, covering the 62 miles, which included about 10,000 feet of elevation gain, in 8:34;02.

The competition he faces today appears stout. Also in the field is course record-holder Eric Strabel, who clocked 3:05:18 to win in 2006.

The field also features Matias Saari of Fairbanks, who finished third last year (3:16:08) and whose fourth-place finishing time in 2006 (3:11:39) stands as the 11th fastest time in race history. Saari is coming off a third-place finish at Mount Marathon, the Fourth of July race up and down the 3,022-foot peak in Seward. He also won the grueling Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks last year.

Rachel Steer, who won the women's race last year, isn't back to defend her title.

But the women's field includes Gail Taylor, who owned barely any racing experience and a thin training base when she entered last year, and promptly finished a startling second in 4:00:17. She finished just 89 seconds behind Steer.

Also entered is Greta Lewanski, who earned third place last year in 4:04:51.

Race director Michael Friess has added a new prize to the race this year to reward the first man and woman to reach Eagle River, roughly halfway through the race. Each will earn a $100 gift certificate.

The men's and women's winners each earn a $150 gift certificate. The top rookie finishers each get a $100 gift certificate, and a course record will merit a $200 gift certificate. If no course record is set, that $200 certificate will go to the Most Inspirational Runner, who will be determined in a vote of finishers.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at or call him at 257-4335.

Interactive Map: Crow Pass Crossing