Sage Canaday Pre-2013 UROC 100k Interview

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.

[Editor’s Note: Enjoy our full UROC men’s preview with links to interviews of other favorites before following our live coverage of the 2013 UROC 100k this weekend.]

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.

There are 32 comments

  1. nbskis

    postholing in 5-6 inches of snow? ha. see what tony and kilian have to say about that. i like kilian's odds even more if the weather's shit, gonna be a good race regadless.

    1. ALEJANDRINA COLLADO

      Sage is going to Nail It!!! He's trained hard and when its game time, He's a machine, he will podium for sure.Sage is a Great athlete, person and a nice guy over all. He's living the dream, the freedom to run the trails and doing something he very much enjoys. The Rain/snow showers predicted for Friday will be a Big game changer for many racers,so prepare adequately(Dont' go bare breasted, LOL!!). Best of luck to all those running the course, we pray for your safety and that everyone whose entered gets across the finish line in one piece.

  2. Greg H.

    Go Sage! I don't think a lot of people realize that when he says he doesn't like snow and steep descents, he's just being humble. He's a beast! Sage for the win!!

  3. plagio

    "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"

    That is obviously refered to Killian Jornet at the 2012 Speedgoat 50k. I don't think Killian would even consider cutting switchbacks after all that happened so this remark of Sage is harsh. imho.

    Hope that Killian will finish in front of him like he did at Transvulcania!

  4. Jay

    I don’t think that it is harsh, and more importantly I don’t think that it was intended to be insulting toward anyone. The fact is, there is history of a top (the top) European runner cutting switch backs in the US. A race in which he won. Without question I don’t think it was any kind of attempt at cheating, but when you run one way for most of the year in Europe, then have to fallow a different set of rules here, you can simply forget and make that mistake. Unfortunately, depending on the terrain, even cutting a few switch backs can really give you a huge advantage. I don’t think that wanting a race where everyone fallows the same rules is too much to wish for, and it is worth reminding European racers of the US rules (for the above mentioned reasons).

      1. Jay

        Not sure why everyone is so overly sensitive about mentioning something that happened… . And let’s get serious, I doubt that anyone is obsessed about it.

    1. SageCanaday

      I apologize for coming across that way. This was really not meant as a "sly dig" but was something that I was legitimately concerned about so I brought it up (much like I'm concerned about getting lost the course since I'm directionally challenged…so I brought that up as well).

      I really don't mean to hint at anything or accuse anyone of being dishonest. I've just seen that in SkyRunning in Europe the trails just go all over the place and it's perfectly fine to cut-switch backs…it's a different style of racing and it's the way to go over there.

      So with the mention I just wanted to reinforce (any and all international competitors’) that it's different with our trails in the US. The switchbacks that I saw were very extreme…much more so than anything at Speedgoat or many other SkyRaces (a lot of times in Europe the trails are so steep there really aren't that many switchbacks to cut and you pick your line based on how technical you want things to be!). But I think anyone could gain a good minute or two on these at the UROC course…

      Other than that I really appreciate those that have posted on here that were a bit more positive and supportive. I'll admit that I am very competitive as a runner and as a person and sometimes my wording could be a little off so in that case I apologize for rubbing people the wrong way and/or grinding any gears.

      Cheers,

      Sage

      1. JH

        Sage, this is the Internet. This is the comment section of an Internet site. It doesn't matter which Internet site it is. Don't pay attention to most of it. At least that's my advice. I'm looking forward to seeing this race unfold. Good luck everyone.

      2. Johnny

        As JH said, this is the Internet. And you'll notice that a lot of people here are starting to adopt the LetsRun mindset in bashing people for any and everything.

    2. Jay

      I don’t think it was a dig at all, but if it was, is that a bad thing? I always think that competition can be just as much fun, or even more fun, when there is some real competitive fire. It doesn’t always have to be running around holding hands in a field of daisies.

  5. Alex

    The Sage hate is just so tiresome.

    He's transparently competitive and gives honest answers. I guess this is somehow offensive to people.

    But then again, anyone else in the field could have given the exact same interview, and no one would complain.

    Maybe he just needs a beard?

    Or maybe, people need to get over themselves, and quit hating a guy because he has the audacity to run trails with a road background, and win.

    1. Jesse

      I agree the blind hate is a little tiresome.

      However in this situation, he states he hopes someone is out there to make sure no one cuts the switchbacks. It is considered pretty poor form in any circles to accuse you competition of cheating before an event. Beard or no beard. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he did not mean anything by it, and not in that way at all. But coming from a road background, and trying to break your way into a different type of sport with different values, it might behoove him to watch his semantics.

      I still hope he has a great race, the guys got serious talent.

      1. Chris

        That's way too dramatic. When rulebooks are different on points that can mean minutes then he's right, someone should be there to enforce the relevant rules. There's precedent. Don't be a child.

    2. Molly's dad

      I certainly dont hate him, just cant seem to take to him. He does seem to have a real chip on his shoulder with regards to Kilian and his endless product shoutouts just make me cringe

      1. CDG

        That's odd – with the exception of this one uncharacteristic comment, I haven't found him to be disrespectful toward Kilian. And while the product placement can be tiresome, that's literally his job. Running full-time sounds glamorous to you and me, but we get steady paychecks.

        I can't say I'm pulling for either Sage or Kilian at the expense of the other, but with all the other front-runners, this race will probably be one of the most exciting all year.

        1. Molly's dad

          Did you read his rant on Kilian's Matterhorn FKT, just thought that it lacked a bit of tact i guess and seemed a bit 'chippy shouldery'. But then i guess that Kilians comment (re running at 80%) could be perceived as arrogant, i didnt perceive it that way but we are all entitled to our opinions.

          I understand the premise of being sponsored but again i find that his way on endorsing (ie mentioning them at almost every opportunity) a bit full on.

          Having said all that, i honestly wish him the best of luck, he is obviously supremely talented and a very confident young man. I have an enormous amount of respect for him as an athlete just not necessarily as a person (based on limited experience of him).

  6. Speedgoatkarl

    From what I read, Sage's biggest issue is descending on slick terrain. And if it's slick go watch the vid of Killian running down the Matterhorn….Killian's strength is everything of course, but his descending is the best there ever was…..

    it's gonna be good either way. Get it Sage, run to your strengths.

  7. Carey

    I'm surprised Sage's comments would cause anyone to blink an eye. He's respectful, professional, straightforward, and nice.

    Of course that's just my opinion; I'd be surprised if any of the top UROC competitors found it obnoxious. More just the internet website crowd. Of course, they're entitled to their opinions too.

    I'll be cheering for you on race day — hope you crush it Sage!

  8. Phil Taylor

    There is no "Sage hate". 'Hate' is a ridiculous word to use. People develop affinities with sporting superstars (of which Sage is clearly one) based on what they do (in races), how they act/ what they say outside of them, and even where they come from. I (and clearly others) find his apparent brashness a bit off-putting.

    But we've all learned to love John McEnroe and as someone else has commented…the personal feud element of sport (of which this appears to be only a mild example) can add to the excitement. Am looking forward very much to seeing how it plays out at UROC.

  9. Bohica

    I'm starting to hate what this sport is becoming. People hate Anton because he can't finish races. People hate Sage because he mentions his sponsors. People hate Jurek for criticizing Karnazes' book and writing one himself. Sounds like Washington DC – no matter they act that way. At its core, this sport is about the freedom to go do something that's difficult for no good reason. There is so much judgement in the world today, it's too bad we have it in something most of do for fun.

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