Sage Canaday, 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion, Interview

American Sage Canaday won the 2014 Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. In the following interview, Sage talks about some early mix-ups during the race, where and how he made his decisive move, and where he’s headed next for both some R&R and some racing.

To read more about how the Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon unfolded, read our results article.

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Sage Canaday, 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday, two-time Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion. Sage, how did it go out there yesterday?

Sage Canaday: It was a great day. The weather was adverse, but I can’t complain. It was an awesome day. I felt pretty good the whole race. I was lucky to pull off my second win here. I was very fortunate.

iRunFar: Early on, two Kiwis, Sam Clark and Marty Lukes, went off the front. Were you worried about that move?

Canaday: No, not too much. I was keeping my eye on Mike Aish, Mike Wardian, Scott Hawker, and all the other guys… Vajin Armstrong. We had a big pack going on there. I didn’t even know there was a guy out front because he snuck away in the dark. You start with the relays and the shorter races and actually my headlamp didn’t work. I changed the batteries and I get to the starting line and it was working and the race starts and I’m like, Oh, I can’t see my GPS. I can’t see these stairs. I realized my headlamp wasn’t on and it wouldn’t turn on. In the darkness, Sam snuck away. Then 5k in they’re like, ‘Oh, you know we’re not even leading the race.’ I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a guy a minute ahead.’ But you know, a minute is nothing at that point in the race.

iRunFar: There was a big group at least through 30k. Marty fell back and Sam was still ahead, but you were still with Aish and Wardian and Yun Yan-Qiao and Vajin and Scott. How long did you guys run together?

Canaday: It was until that aid station where the finish line was, so yeah, 30k… It was almost up to 20 miles I guess. No, it wasn’t 30k… oh yeah, that’s right (30k)… So the road on the uphill where I made my move last year, I strategized and I was like, I’m going to make my move again on that uphill stretch.

iRunFar: Millar Road.

Canaday: Millar Road—yeah because it was later in the race this time. It was actually half way through the race and the race was a lot shorter.

iRunFar: As opposed to a quarter.

Canaday: Yeah, so I could be a lot more aggressive, I figured. That was where I was going to make my break on the long uphill push.

iRunFar: Did you totally break away from everybody at that point? Did anybody go with you?

Canaday: I just didn’t look back. I was with—Mike Aish and I were in the lead at that point. The other guys were right behind us. I was like, I’m going to press up this hill and maybe take a swig of Coke at the aid station and just don’t look back. I looked back eventually after I got on the trail and I didn’t really see anyone within 100 meters of me, but I didn’t know if it was a 30-second lead or a minute or what kind of gap was forming.

iRunFar: But you did see at the turnaround. What did you think?

Canaday: Yeah. I was excited. I was hoping in the back of my mind that it would be several minutes at the turnaround. Yeah, that’s the advantage of having out-and-back courses because you can finally get that information. I was thinking, people that I was passing, second place is probably asking, ‘How far up is the…?’ And that’s a good stretch where there are no aid stations for 10 miles. The feedback at the turnaround was critical. Then I could kind of compose myself and say, Okay, just don’t blow up, because I moved hard and it was risky.

iRunFar: So did you catch that you had about eight minutes?

Canaday: Yeah, seven or eight minutes.

iRunFar: That’s a pretty good gap with, what was it, 20k to go there?

Canaday: Yeah, 12 miles or so.

iRunFar: So you felt pretty confident I’m guessing?

Canaday: I did, yeah, but that was also the stretch that I blew up in last year… running up the hill back towards Millar Road.

iRunFar: And walking down…

Canaday: Yeah, when you’re walking downhill that’s usually a bad sign, too, especially runnable, smooth, singletrack downhill. So this year I made sure I could still go pretty fast on that. I was running pretty strong and consistent in the last 10 miles unlike last year.

iRunFar: Any rough spots?

Canaday: I got stung by a bee coming down about 25 miles into the race.

iRunFar: Was that on the out-and-back?

Canaday: No, right before the out-and-back, coming down that hill into the aid station. That hurt. It happens. I’m not allergic at least.

iRunFar: If that’s the worst thing that happened during the day, it’s not a bad day.

Canaday: No. It was pretty… I was happy.

iRunFar: The weather seemed pretty nice for the first couple of hours. Were you still out there—because it turned nasty—were you still out there?

Canaday: Not racing, no. Right after I finished and I was around the finish area with you. Then it was like a torrential downpour and it was windy. I instantly started getting almost hypothermic cold. Hanging around the finish area was pretty miserable. All the other runners out there still racing had to deal with some slicker conditions for sure.

iRunFar: Speaking of slicker conditions, you knew that was a possibility all day. What shoe choice did you make and why?

Canaday: I wore the Hoka One One Huaka. It was a toss-up between that or the Cliftons because the bottoms both kind of a similar road-type shoe, but it has enough traction, I figured. I had tested them out enough on the Boulder trails that I made the call before the race or before I packed even. So I just brought those two shoes and said, You know what—I’m going with the lightweight Hokas, and I think the traction will be fine. I didn’t fall and hurt myself, so it worked out.

iRunFar: Where to next, race-wise?

Canaday: I’m going to go down to the South Island for a week and make an appearance at the Northburn. It will just be a fun run. Then Lake Sonoma will be the next tough effort.

iRunFar: Lake Sonoma and then…

Canaday: Transvulcania.

iRunFar: Congratulations on your win here. We’ll see you in California and Spain.

Canaday: Thank you so much. Yeah, looking forward to it.

BONUS QUESTION

iRunFar: Quick bonus question here. You’re going to the South Island with Sandi [Nypaver]. What are you most excited about?

Canaday: It’s hard to say. There’s so much to see down there. We don’t have enough time to see everything because you never have enough time in New Zealand. I’ve heard a lot about Wanaka as a town and then all the amazing tracks. Maybe we’ll get down to Kepler or Routeburn and checking out Queenstown. Just the mountains excite me—different scenery and a different type of atmosphere. I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been down there.

iRunFar: Beauty. A lot of it. Enjoy.

Canaday: That will be great. I will.

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