Sage Canaday is having a great 2013 highlighted by wins at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and Speedgoat 50k as well as a third-place finish at the Transvulcania Ultramaraton. This weekend he’ll once again battle some of the best trail ultramarathoners in the world at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k. In the following interview, Sage talks about his love of competition, his dislike of winter sports, his propensity for getting lost, and his competitive take on adventure runs and FKTs.
Sage Canaday Pre-2013 UROC 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday before the 2013 Ultra Race of Champions. How are you doing, Sage?
Sage Canaday: I’m doing great. How about yourself?
iRF: I’m doing great. It’s a beautiful fall day here, but up higher there’s a little snow.
Canaday: Yes, I think I got in about five inches that I was putting tracks through coming up the Two Elk Trail from I-70 outside of Vail up towards the ski slopes.
iRF: That was just this afternoon.
Canaday: Yeah, about 2.5 hours ago.
iRF: It’s Tuesday afternoon, four days before the race. Have you encountered other snow on the course? You’ve run this course a lot of late.
Canaday: No, not… two weeks before, I was out on the course and three weeks before that—it was still pretty mild here. This is the first time I’ve seen the white stuff up in the high country.
iRF: There’s a forecast for possibility of more on Friday.
Canaday: Unfortunately, yes.
iRF: And pretty darn cold, too.
Canaday: Yes, I think it will be in the 30’s maybe if there’s a wind chill.
iRF: Or the 20’s. Have you raced a longer race in conditions like that? It was rainy at TNF 50 but not as cold, right?
Canaday: No, this will be a first—doing an ultra in the cold. Chuckanut 50k was pretty cold. It was probably 40 and rainy with a little bit of snow.
iRF: Two years ago.
Canaday: Yeah, Chuckanut 2012.
iRF: What do you think it’s going to be like, that challenge, because you’ve had some pretty idyllic conditions for your some of your races this year.
Canaday: I don’t like the snow. I’m not a winter-sport guy. I don’t ski. I’d rather be hot, honestly. Some of the switchbacks you’re coming up on the Two Elk Trail right after it kind of splits going from Silk Road towards the far end of the ski slope, there are some really tight switchbacks there. I was postholing through five or six inches of snow. I was thinking, if you’re in the lead here, you’re going to be at a huge disadvantage because you’ll do all the work breaking the snow. I hope someone’s there on the switchbacks, too, because I’d be worried. They’re ridiculously tight switchbacks; it’s like a mountain bike trail. Some guys from Europe might think it’s okay to cut the switchbacks. It’s Skyrunning, but you’re in America, so you’ve got to stay on the trail. I hope someone’s out there.
iRF: Maybe it ought to be on the race website rules page. Let’s clarify those things beforehand.
Canaday: Yeah, absolutely. Exactly.
iRF: With that snow and having to posthole through it, will probably reduce the incentive for someone to go for the primes?
Canaday: Yeah, is there a prime after that?
iRF: There’s one midway and one a couple miles in.
Canday: Oh, okay. Yeah, well we’ll see if it snows at Breck.
iRF: Yeah, it could very well. You’ve had a great season so far. Lake Sonoma, you ran well. You were third at Transvulcania. You won Speedgoat 50k and Cayuga Trails 50. You still had a good run at Mt. Washington even though that’s not what you were focusing on.
Canaday: Yeah, that was tough.
iRF: You were third; that’s a pretty good run. How have you been feeling since Speedgoat? Are you still feeling on top of your game?
Canaday: I had a humbling experience over in Europe at Sierre-Zinal. That was a total disaster, but it just burns the fire hotter, and I’m more determined to train harder. This has been a focus for the whole year, obviously. I put in the most training, most volume I’ve done pretty much all year in the last two months. It’s the most amount of vertical. I finally got up over 20,000 feet of vertical per week which is a first for me. I never did more climbing than that. I don’t know if it will kick in yet. Sometimes it takes a couple months for things to really kick in, but fingers are crossed. I’m feeling pretty good about my fitness.
iRF: In terms of spending all this time on the course, there are probably a couple different reasons why you’d want to do that—course familiarity, training on that type of terrain, and then there’s not getting lost. How are you doing on the latter category?
Canaday: Let me first say, the only times I’ve ever gotten lost were in races with other people—Max King at Chuckanut, Max King at UROC last year, and TNF 50 with Adam Campbell. So I was never alone and running off course. I was always with other people. I’m just throwing that out there first. However, I just did a run on the course, I was trying to come down and do the descent into Minturn. I got totally turned around on the ski slopes up there in Vail. There is a lot of snow up there, and it’s really muddy. I totally biffed it. I don’t have an iPhone or Google maps out. I just had this little paper map I drew from what I saw online. I see these squiggly lines, and I’m like, I’m on the wrong ridge. I think I’m supposed to be on Ptarmigan Ridge, and I was way off that. I ended up doing a long run today. I really need to taper, but…
iRF: So you’ve had bad luck racing with people in terms of getting lost. There’s going to be snow. Are you going to try to run with the pack or go out in front?
Canaday: Well, with this level of the field, you’ve got to respect the whole lead pack. You play it by ear. We’ll see what the conditions are exactly like. We’ll see if it actually does snow Friday night. Definitely I’ll go out conservatively, as 100k is really hard for me. I honestly don’t like running that far. I can’t imagine what 100 miles is like. Yeah, 100k is rough. You’ve got to pace yourself. I think this is a fair course. The altitude is probably not fair for some people coming from sea level, but in terms of terrain and variety, it’s got all those things. It’s got all the climbs. I think it’s going to be close to 15,000 feet of climbing, honestly. Those climbs are tough. You’ve got to respect the course, too.
iRF: A lot of the pre-race talk is you versus Kilian [Jornet]. He beat you at Transvulcania but not by that much. You ran faster than his time at Speedgoat this summer. What do you think about that showdown with Kilian?
Canaday: I think there are a lot of guys you’ve got to throw in there. Rob [Krar] has obviously had a very strong year. Let’s see who else is up there. Oh, Dakota [Jones]. So those guys for sure. Tons of other guys—I could name 10 guys. I’m interested to see how Kilian does with the more runnable sections. I know people say, “It’s runnable,” and “It’s flat.” It’s still only 19% road, and you’re still up at 10,000 feet grinding uphill. Most of it is trail. It’s a fair course, I’d say. It doesn’t favor one runner over the other. It favors altitude runners. That would be the only thing that would be a little unfair. If I could afford it, I’d buy an altitude tent.
iRF: What have you done to prepare for the altitude?
Canaday: Training up high. I did a lot of 14ers with Sandi [Nypaver], just as adventure runs. Maroon Bells a couple times. Just trying to run out on the course. It’s the first time I’ve had a home-course advantage, really. So every other time I’ve done an ultra this year, I’m seeing the course for the first time at the races. So I’m trying to leave no stone unturned.
iRF: Do you feel pretty comfortable with this course then?
Canaday: I haven’t covered the whole course. Since I got lost today… I’m directionally challenged. I’ll admit it. I’ll throw that out there. Hopefully… I know [Russell] Gill and Francesca [Conte] [race directors] run a tight ship. I really liked my experience at UROC last year. I know they’ve got some local trail runners helping them out. Mike Ambrose and my girlfriend, Sandi Nypaver, will be marking part of the course. I’ll tell them to mark it really well. All the volunteers out here in Colorado are usually really supportive. It’s kind of like a home crowd, so I’ll try to do well.
iRF: Best of luck staying on course and have a great run out there, Sage.
Canaday: Thank you. I’ll need it.
iRF: One quick bonus question for you, Sage. Obviously you have a long history of racing—high school, college, post-collegiately, and the road-racing scene. Recently you set an FKT on the Four Pass Loop above Aspen. Are you being drawn to the more adventure runs of late?
Canaday: I like the challenge. So whether it’s high-level competition or just going after the time, I’m motivated by the times a lot. When I first moved to Boulder, I was like, I’ll look up what’s the fastest time at Green [Mountain]. Then I learned what FKT stood for about a year ago, and then I was kind of fascinated. Then I had to get all the routes at Green. Even now, I’d like to try to go to the Grand Canyon in October and take a stab at that—the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. I think that would be fun. I like the challenge. It’s good to be out there and just push yourself. You have to go out and enjoy the run first. I get a lot of video and take pictures.
iRF: During the run?
Canaday: No, I ran easy. No, when I did the FKT I have a video of that, too, but it’s like Blair Witch Project—shaky and out of breath. I can barely talk. I enjoy the challenge. It’s fun. Since I have a break between races—we’ll see how UROC goes—but I think it’s a good test of your fitness and a good long, hard run to do anyway.
iRF: So UROC, Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, and then head back to TNF 50?
Canaday: Yeah, The North Face. In November, I have Team Red White & Blue camp in Texas, so I’ll have a good training break in there.
iRF: Yeah, well enjoy all your runs.
Canaday: Thank you.