Running the Last Frontier with Trevor Dunbar

Cross country runners in Alaska often get overlooked.  Being so far away from the lower-48, and ending the Alaskan season the first weekend in October, generally means that the focus the state could get is swept away as top invitationals start taking place elsewhere. 

However, Kodiak senior Trevor Dunbar has seemingly stopped that trend, or at least slowed it down.  Since his freshman year, Dunbar's been the top runner in Alaska.  He's set course record after course record, and this spring ran times on the track few Alaskans have ever approached. 

This fall Dunbar looks to take another step forward in his progress towards becoming one of the best runners in the country.  With his goals set high and his training right on schedule, Dunbar sits down with MileSplit national editor Scott Bush to talk about his expectations for this season, what it's like to live and train in Alaska and much more.

An Interview with Alaska's Trevor Dunbar (MS): The cross country season is really going now in Alaska, how's the season been for you thus far?

Trevor Dunbar (TD): So far my season is off to a fabulous start. I've had a few goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the season. The first was to break the course 5k record on our home course. And the second was to capture the 3-peat with my team and win the state championships. So far I accomplished the first part by running 15:20 on our hilly course and beating Miguel Gomez' (two time footlocker finalist from Alaska) 15 year old record of 15:24.

As for the latter part of my goals we  have just two short weeks left until our state meet on Oct. 4th where we are expecting a heated battle against Anchorage's Service High. I am very confident on how the team is rounding into form, and as for me, I'm fitter than I've ever been before.

MS: Last year you proved that you were by far the best distance runner in your state. What are your main goals for this season?

TD: My main goal for the season is to make it to fFoot Locker Mationals. I toyed with the idea of doing the NXN meet instead, but ultimately my consensus was that more of the super-elite guys were opting for the Foot Locker.

Personally, I was happy to choose to make that decision because I'm a fan of the sport and I would never want to see all of the storied history disappear, although I believe sooner or later Nike will host a truly dominating National meet.  Other than that, I have the  Alaska season goals that I set, and I also signed up for the Mt. SAC Invite, where I hope to win the Sweepstakes race.

MS: Your team is looking pretty good too, right?

TD: I come from a team with a rising Cross country tradition. We have won 6 regional titles in a row now and this year will make it our seventh. We have also won state the last two years and if all goes right will have another this year. Everyone on the varsity team is very excited to begin the post-season racing (if you can call it that), It has been a pleasure practicing with this great group of guys and seeing them bye into the program with smiles the whole time.

For instance, we had a ten mile run over a mountain, or as we like to call it a hill, and almost all of the guys didn't choose the seven mile option and went for the 10 (And if that isn't enough I've slowly broke our team into wearing short shorts which is also a plus for a serious runner).  It is really encouraging and motivating to know I have a group like that backing me up.

MS: The Alaskan season ends in early October, a month before most other states. What do you do between then and the national post-season competitions in order to stay sharp?

TD: This year I'm treating the season to a large extent less serious. I'm doing a lot more longer runs and longer intervals with no real fluctuation from my standard 60 miles per week. I've really only had one true maximum effort and hope to only really test myself again at state.

For outside the Alaska season, I'm going to keep training with anyone who cares to join me. Our team bought tickets to go to Portland on Oct. 11 and run in the adidas Classic, and I also have Mt. Sac which I am really excited for. Other than that my training is pretty much clockwork: 60 miles a week,  2-3 workouts a week, most of my easy runs at a moderate pace with fellow senior and co-captain Sam Salus.

MS: How did you first get in to running? Your dad was a very good runner if I am not mistaken.

TD: My dad and mom were both talented runners back in the day. My dad ran a 3:41 1500 and my mom a 2:53 marathon. So genetically speaking I like to say I'm perfectly engineered for the 10k. But to answer the question I've always loved running.

My dad used to take me to some of the local 5k when we lived in Anchorage, I was around 5, and I remember beating a lot of age group joggers and having a lot of fun. I guess thats when I first started running but, I didn't seriously start to train for running until I started in the high school program my freshman year.

MS: What's it like training in Alaska? What do you do to train during the winters when it gets so darn cold and stays dark for a majority of the day?

TD: In the summer it is absolutely beautiful, and for being in Alaska, Kodiak doesn't have outrageously chilly of temperatures because of the coastal climate. Still there are some very cold runs where I always question my desire to put my body through that suffering. If I recall, our winter ranged from the 11-40 degrees last year and was usually right around 32. If it gets too nasty out I allow myself to run on the runner's long time enemy, the treadmill.

MS: What's a normal week of training look like in the life of Trevor?

TD: Right now a Tuesday longer interval session (k's or mile repeats etc). Thursday a little shorter speed session. Saturday is race day. And the other days just 7-12 miles of running I'm guessing about 6:40 min/mile. Normally I get in 60 miles a week and I have been progressing to that slowly over time.

MS: What's one misperception that someone might make about Alaska that simply isn't true?

TD: I guess the weather. A bunch of people I've talk to think it is always snowy and 0 degrees. Sure it's cold but its not as extreme as people seem to make it. At least where I live in Alaska.

MS: You've been on the brink of qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals the past couple years. What are you doing differently this year to make that final leap?

TD: Paying attention to my body and making sure the best I can to stay healthy. If I can do that than I think I am set. I'm too far into the process to lose motivation. For me the season is just beginning, where as in years past I think I was resting a little too much before races and not setting the focus for December.

MS: The college recruiting season is started and in full swing for many athletes. What's that process been like so far? Are you going to move down to the lower-48 for college?

TD: I'm definately moving to the lower-48 for college, and it has been my goal for awhile now to run for a Division I program. So far it has been a dream come true to talk with well known coaches, and I'm loving every minute of it.

MS: What are your long term goals in your running?

TD: Well I like to set my goals in small increments and take it one step at a time. However, in the back of my mind I see myself running at least a couple NCAA nationals and ultimately the Olympic Trials.

Quick Six

MS: Favorite athlete?
TD: Scott Bauhs

MS: Favorite breakfast food?
TD: Cereal (Honey Bunches of Oats)

MS: Type of car you drive?
TD: Nissan Altima 98'

MS: Favorite summer activity?
TD: Hanging out with my friends and doing stupid stuff.

MS: Favorite movie?
TD: Forrest Gump

MS: Name of racing spikes?
TD: Adidas, I got them when they were just sample spikes.  I'm not really sure what the official name for them is. I just call them the Fam XC, because the design says Fam all over it and they got the sweet rose tatoo on them. They are totally boss.


Photos courtesy of Trevor Dunbar and Scott Bush