Sage Canaday, 2013 Cayuga Trails 50 Champion, Interview

Sage Canaday attended and ran for Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Over the weekend, he returned to Ithaca for the Cayuga Trails 50 mile, which he won, continuing his very strong ultrarunning in 2013. In the following interview, Sage talks about his 2013 season so far, whether he has too many races on his plate, how his run went at Cayuga Trails, and what fun runs he has planned for the summer.

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Sage Canaday, 2013 Cayuga Trails 50 Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: This is Meghan with iRunFar and I’m with 2013 champion of the Cayuga Trails 50, Sage Canaday. Congratulations, sir.

Sage Canaday: Thank you.

iRF: How’s it going?

Canaday: Great. I can kind of walk around. I’m still hobbling a little bit. I didn’t get injured. I didn’t get lost. It’s good, yeah.

iRF: No stitches needed and you finished the race.

Canaday: Yes.

iRF: You finished the race with a little bit of prize money. You’re taking home $2,500 today.

Canaday: Yes, I think it’s my biggest payday since the Chicago Marathon, so I’m really happy with that.

iRF: What are you going to do with $2,500?

Canaday: A lot of it is going to go towards rent, probably. Maybe I’ll get some new camera equipment like that microphone you’ve got there.

iRF: I’d better watch that microphone to make sure it’s still there when we’re done.

Canaday: Yeah.

iRF: Congratulations to you. You’ve had quite a year. Your year, 2013, started off with a win at Bandera 100k in January. Did you race in February?

Canaday:  No, in February I was doing some snowshoeing with my girlfriend, Sandi Nypaver.

iRF: You’re going to have to help me out here. After that, you…?

Canaday: I went to New Zealand for the Tarawera 100k in March.

iRF: You won Tarawera. Then Lake Sonoma where you set a course record in April. Did you race in May?

Canaday: May was Transvulcania.

iRF: Oh sure. Transvulcania where you came in third in an ultra skyrunning race. Here we are in June and a win at the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50. This pattern that we’re in here is either the fast track to getting the most interviews with iRunFar or the fast track to burnout.

Canaday: I agree. I’ve got a lot on my plate. I started thinking about that today when I didn’t feel so good. You know, you’ve raced an awful lot. It’s probably a bad idea. You’re probably not even in the taper and recovery cycle. Yes, racing a lot does take a lot out of your body, so I’m definitely pushing the envelope there. It’s probably not ideal. I’m just waiting until I crash and burn later this year. I love racing. I love travelling. It’s hard to say no sometimes. As long as I keep the distance shorter than 100k or 50 miles, I think I do okay. I have a bigger break after next weekend until Speedgoat 50k.

iRF: Speaking of next weekend, you have something coming up. You’re going to do the Mt. Washington Road Race next weekend.

Canaday: Yes, Mt. Washington.

iRF: You have about six days to recover.

Canaday:  Yeah, it’s going to be hard. My quads are going to be pretty shot. I don’t think I’m going to be able to climb at 100 percent.

iRF: You don’t think you’ll be able to climb at the same pace you did last year?

Canaday: No. I got lucky with the weather last year, too. It will be a challenge. But it’s a 7.6-mile race, so hopefully I won’t be nailed too much.

iRF: Last year you ran 58:27, is that right? That’s the fastest time for an American on Mt. Washington which is pretty amazing because that’s a long, storied race for lots of fast guys who show up. What’s your predicted finish time for this year, given what happened today?

Canaday: It depends on the weather. It’s really windy up there. I’d like to crack an hour, ideally, and hopefully I can still compete for the win maybe. It depends on how the other guys do, too, I guess.

iRF: Yes. Let’s talk about what happened at the race today. You basically were off the front with the exception of the first 10 miles?

Canaday: Yes, after about 10 miles, on the steep climb.

iRF: What was that climb called? The Lick Creek climb? Something funny.

Canaday: I don’t even remember. It had a premium on it, though. It was steep. It was over a quarter-mile long and it was a steep grade. It was hard not to powerhike there.

iRF: Did you hike or did you run?

Canaday: A couple of steps I was powerhiking. A couple times on the stairs I was powerhiking. I tried to keep a running cadence most of the race.

iRF: Let’s talk about how the race played out in terms of how you felt. I heard you talking at the finish line about how you crashed into a creek and that you were kind of bonking at the time and you actually thought you might drop. Where was that in the race and how did you resurrect yourself?

Canaday: It was about 33 miles in. There were a lot of stream crossings and it was one of the lower ones, I think, maybe two feet deep. Of course, I tripped on a rock and I kind of tumbled in the water. I think I maybe had a two or three-minute lead on Matt Flaherty. My hamstrings were really tight the whole race, so I thought it was going to be really bad. When I fell, my hamstrings really cramped up actually. It was pretty painful. My knee was bleeding a little bit. I’m not sure if you got a picture of that. My elbow is a little bruised. It’s not that bad.

After that, I started walking up this hill for a couple minutes. I got really negative. It was a low point. I got dizzy. I was starting to bonk. I took a gel. I was 90 percent sure I was going to drop out. I was thinking about Mt. Washington and thinking, This is not going to be good. The next aid station is three miles away, so I might as well jog to it. I started jogging and got a second wind. I was able to pick up the pace. I started feeling better. I thought, I’m still competing and might be able to pull off a win if I’m lucky. At least I can finish. I don’t like DNFs.

iRF: You think it was the physical that manifested the mental check or did you come around mentally and that helped you physically?

Canaday: I think the physical manifested the mental. I was just in pain from the fall and the cramps kind of shook me up a little mentally. I was able to re-group from that. I still had to stop and stretch from the cramps a couple of times. I ran out of S! Caps. I was kind of kicking myself for mismanaging that. I ran out of gels between aid stations once. I decided to try to overcome that and keep moving as well as possible.

iRF: Let’s talk about Matt. He was sort of breathing down your shirt all day.

Canaday: Yes, Matt and Jordan [McDougal]. They were really close. After I took the lead at 10 miles, I thought I had maybe two or three minutes before the next big climb after Buttermilk Falls. I thought I was pretty comfortable in the lead, but then at the turnaround at 25 miles, I looked across the field and saw Matt right there and a minute behind there I saw Jordan and they were running really strong races. I definitely didn’t feel very good, and I couldn’t have gone any faster. I was like, This is going to be a positive split on the second lap for me. I just didn’t want them to catch me. I tried to accelerate into the next lap, but I was really hurting. They were running really strong races. There was pressure the whole time. I was looking over my shoulder. They ran really great races and finished close together. I think Matt was about five minutes behind me at the finish. I couldn’t let up the whole way. I had to keep pressing.

iRF: He closed his deficit to less than a minute at the turnaround. You slowly built up another five-minute lead that you had at the end. He said, when he came through Buttermilk the second time at mile 37, “Gosh, I can’t catch him on the climbs.” When I thought about it, I thought there was still some decent climbing and some decent descending and Matt might be in the game. Perhaps your advantage on the climbing…

Canaday: Yes, I definitely try to take advantage on the climbs. It’s impressive he did as well as he did because he trains in Chicago and there are no big climbs there. It’s not like being in Colorado. He ran a great race. He tells me he’s been racing a lot, 51 minutes for 10 miles a couple weeks ago. He’s in phenomenal shape. It’s good to see him returning after his long injury hiatus he had last year. He’s a great competitor. Same thing for Jordan, too, for making it a close race.

iRF: Yes, last question for you. We’re coming on summer in the high country in Colorado. I know you’ve just moved up to high altitude. I know you’ve got a bunch of racing still on your summer schedule, but are you going to do anything fun now that you live up high in the beautiful mountains?

Canaday:  Oh, sure. I went up Mt. Audubon a few weeks ago at 13,200. We were postholing through three feet of snow. My girlfriend, Sandi Nypaver, and I are planning on going to the Maroon Bells to do the Four Pass Loop. I’d like to get up as many 14’ers as I can, non-technical ones. I don’t go above Class III. We might do Longs Peak later in the summer. That will be more of a hike. I’m kind of scared of heights. So we’ll be doing that and hopefully travelling around the state as much as possible trying to take advantage of no snow in the high country.

iRF: Speaking of your girlfriend, Sandi, she had a good day as well. She was the runner-up female.

Canaday: Yes, she did great! It was really exciting to cheer her on out there.

iRF: Talk about a fast couple at the finish line!

Canaday:Yes, it was great. I was trying to get updates from you. Oh, she’s in second. That’s motivating because I know we think about each other during the race. It’s good to see her on the out-and-backs, too.

iRF: Predictably, every time I saw you, you asked about her, and every time I saw her, she asked about you.

Canaday: Oh, good.

iRF: I think it might be love.

Canaday: Oh yeah, definitely.

iRF: Congratulations to you on your win today, and congratulations on your $2,500 cash purse. We’ll see at the awards in a little bit how many of the premiums you won today. Best of luck with recovery in the next six days between now and the Mt. Washington Road Race.

Canaday: Thanks, I’ll need it.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 8 comments

  1. CJ

    Never say never with Sage but if he wins Mt. Washington this weekend, it has to arguably be ranked as one of the greatest running performances this year…or any year

  2. Buzz

    Excellent interview. The Big Hill is a terrific race; too bad more trail/ultra people don't do it. Sage is entering Matt Carpenter territory with the kind of range he's demonstrating.

    1. Ben Nephew

      I think keeping that range as much as possible is key to staying competitive over a long period of time. I was telling either Sage or Matt about the trend that Carpenter has commented on where faster guys move up to ultras and do well for a short period of time due to their speed, but then get progressively slower as they get farther away from the shorter distance fitness that made them so successful initially. It's a tough balance though, especially with high mileage and a focus on longer ultras. I will say I'm amazed at some of the shorter distance times guys like Matt Flaherty and David Riddle can throw down with very little speed work.

  3. Matt F

    Very nice interview, and congrats again to Sage! He's one tough dude.

    That was me you were talking to, Ben. Interesting question for sure!

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