In what was both his first trail race and first ultramarathon, Sage Canaday (a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier and 2:16 marathoner) managed to hang with Max King, go off course for a mile, come back to finish second, and get five post-race stitches. In other words, he had one heck of an ultra debut at the 2012 Chuckanut 50k. In the following interview, Sage talks about run his first trail race and ultramarathon, how his race played out, why he decided to run an ultra in the first place, and where we might see him next.
Sage Canaday Post-2012 Chuckanut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I’m with Sage Canaday, the second place finisher today at Chuckanut 50k.
Sage Canaday: Thank you! It was a great event – love being out here!
iRF: This was both your first trail race and your first ultra. Tell us a little bit about this being your first trail race. Have you done much training on trails?
Canaday: Not on the type of trails I saw out here today, especially when they’re covered with snow and it’s really muddy. I did grow up in NW Oregon so I’m used to running up and down some hills, which I like. But the trails out here were a lot more technical than I thought, which kind of surprised me.
iRF: Where are you based now?
Canaday: About one and a half hours southwest of Portland in Sheridan, Oregon.
iRF: Did you get much trail training while preparing for this?
Canaday: I did. I took two weeks off after the Olympic Trials marathon, and so I had about five weeks to prepare for this. I did most of my runs on some trails, but like I said before, they weren’t nearly as technical as the ones I saw today.
iRF: You’ve run a bunch of marathons, been in two Olympic Trials, and ran 2:16 high marathon last year? [Canaday: Yes, 2:16:52.] You’ve got the marathon base. What’s it like running for an extra one and a half hours?
Canaday: It was tough. The last six miles were excruciating. It was more the time. I’ve never run for more than three hours. I was out there for almost four hours today. I kind of fueled myself differently. Being on the trail is just a whole different ballgame. The varied terrain, varying your pace, going up hills like Chinscraper you’re power walking… it’s crazy!
iRF: You had quite the interesting race. A couple guys went out fast, Jason Louttit and Max King, and behind them there was a pack of people. You were sort of in that pack of people for a while. By mile 20, you and Max had separated yourself. Tell us how your race played out after that.
Canaday: Going into this race I didn’t have any experience so I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I knew Max because he ran for Cornell and I ran for Cornell. We’re both native Oregonians. So I knew Max was really good, really experienced, so I said, “Just stick with Max.” He’d pull away from me a little on the downhills. I’d stop at aid stations, he wouldn’t stop at aid stations. Yeah, by 20 miles, right before Chinscraper we were real close and had a bit of a gap [on the rest of the field]. After that he opened up on one of the downhills and we missed a turn. I followed him going the wrong way, too.
iRF: How long were you guys going downhill?
Canaday: It’s hard to say. It might have been close to half a mile. I don’t know for sure, but [Cleator Road] is a steep downhill. Someone told me first, “You missed a turn,” so I said, “Oh, I’ll backtrack.” By then, Max was gone down the hill, 100 yards ahead of me, and he just kept going.
iRF: So he kept going down farther than you?
Canaday: Oh yeah, he ran 36 miles today, I think.
iRF: So you’re off course for a mile, when you got back into the race did you have any idea where you were?
Canaday: Yeah, some of the spectators told me I was in 4th place about two and a half minutes behind the leaders. I thought well, I just want to finish, I’ve gotten my work cut out for me. Luckily the last six miles are pretty flat.
iRF: You were in sixth place at Aid Station 5.
Canaday: Oh yeah, well, I could see a couple guys. They were kind of out there. It was real tough the last six miles, I just had to dig, dig, dig. I actually took a pretty bad spill about three miles from the finish. I cut my knee open. I just got five stitches. So I lost a lot of blood doing that. That was kind of painful. I kind of laid there on the ground for a second because I wasn’t sure I could get back up.
iRF: So did you see Adam Campbell ahead of you?
Canaday: Yeah, I did. He was passing guys, too. There were some lead changes there. I saw him, but I don’t know how far ahead of me he finished, maybe 20-30 seconds. I definitely saw him on the straightaways. He was looking really strong. There was no way I could catch him. I was hurting pretty bad.
iRF: What made you want to do an ultra? You’ve actually written a bit about training with the Hansons. You’ve been realistic about making a life as a professional road runner. Now you’re trying ultras. Let me tell you, the money’s not any better in the ultra scene.
Canaday: Yeah, I’m not doing it for the money. I’ve always loved running on the trails. I see it’s a growing sport. You’ve got a lot of guys like Max King who have a fast marathon time who are moving into ultras.
I’ve also heard that a 50k isn’t really an ultra to some folks. It’s not that much farther than a marathon. To me it felt like an eternity though. On a course like this, you’re running for almost four hours. That’s a really long time for anyone to be running! The challenge is there. I always felt like I should be doing 30 mile long runs for marathon training, too. So I was hoping that I’d actually be better at the longer distances compared to the marathon. I’ve always liked cross country better than track. I really don’t like flat, uniform surfaces. Racing marathons on the road is fun, I still want to do that. I still want to race half marathons on the road. I like to mix up the training. I like the variety. Everyone is really supportive. I love the atmosphere here. It’s a great event. I think it’s a growing sport, and it’s something I want to be involved with.
iRF: You anticipated my next question. You do plan to run another ultra some day?
Canaday: Not for a while. I’ve got to take some time off now that I have stitches. I’m probably going to work on my speed a little bit this spring. A lot of these ultras are kind of hard to get into, I’ve heard, especially the longer and more popular ones. I’d like to come back to this race maybe next year. I could try to do a fall race. I don’t know that I want to go 100 miles, but 50 miles seems reasonable on maybe not quite such crazy terrain.
iRF: So maybe The North Face 50 miler in December?
Canaday: Maybe, yeah, I’ll have to see.
iRF: You’d definitely get to see some of the best in the sport there.
Canaday: Yeah, or maybe JFK.
iRF: Yes, that would suit you very well.
Canaday: I don’t know, that’s an awfully long way. It’s a big difference. It’s definitely a different type of event even.
iRF: Congratulations on your debut and I look forward to seeing you out at some more races.
Canaday: Yeah, thanks! I love it!