Ryan Sandes’s second place at the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji solidifies him as the ultrarunner who has had the biggest 2014 so far. In the following interview, Ryan talks about when he felt the best during UTMF and whether or not he could still feel his other recent efforts, a win at the 2014 Transgrancanaria (post-race interview) and an FKT on the Drakensberg Grand Traverse, in his legs. Ryan also talks about how he’s going to prepare for his next big effort, the Western States 100in June.
[Editor’s Note: Have a look at our results article for the race’s full story.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Ryan Sandes Post-2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ryan Sandes after his second-place finish at the 2014 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji. How’s it going, Ryan?
Ryan Sandes: A little bit sore this morning but, yeah, really happy with how things turned out at the end yesterday. All in all it was a good, fun adventure out.
iRunFar: You had a fun adventure yesterday as well as the last two months, winning Transgrancanaria, setting the Drakensberg Grand Traverse FKT, and then this.
Sandes: Yeah, it’s been a little bit busy. I think I was worried coming into the race that I was going to be a little bit overcooked and, to be honest, I think I did feel it in my legs a little bit. I wasn’t quite as fresh as I’d liked to have been. Yeah, I think with ultrarunning, a lot of it’s mental and also it’s a long way. I think if you go into the race with a good strategy and play your cards right, then you can always get a favorable result.
iRunFar: Do you think that maybe having slightly tired legs had you holding back energy and effort-wise early on?
Sandes: I think I was just really focused on just trying to run my own race and not get too focused on the guys around me and then see where I was placed at about 50 miles and take it from there.
iRunFar: At 50 miles where were you?
Sandes: At 50 miles, I think I was third or second. I realized that François D’Haene was having a cracker of a run and there was no stopping him. I realized it was going to be a battle for second at that stage. I think it was about checkpoint A8, I kind of took it from there. There was a really steep climb and I was actually feeling really good. It was quite steep, like a lot of power and hiking steps. I made up quite a bit of time coming into A9. I think it was about A10 and after that I think I knew I could kind of cruise a little bit toward the end and try to save my legs a little bit for the races that I have coming up.
iRunFar: So that Aid 8 to Aid 9 was the hardest part of the race. Was it more difficult than you were expecting?
Sandes: It definitely went on for a lot longer than I was expecting. I realized I was actually feeling good going up the climb, so I was trying to tell myself that the longer I was on it, the more ground I’m making up on the guys behind me. So I didn’t mind it too much. But when I came into A9, I could definitely feel that I climbed over a little mountain and my legs were pretty tired. It was actually quite a beautiful part of the course. When we started descending, that was when the sun was rising over Mount Fuji which was probably the highlight of the race for me.
iRunFar: It reinvigorated you.
Sandes: Yeah, it added a bit of energy to my legs.
iRunFar: Do you like running at night—Transgrancanaria started at midnight, Drakensberg Traverse, this [UTMF] was so much during the night?
Sandes: Six months ago if you asked me if I liked running at night, I’d have definitely said, “No, I don’t think I’ve really done any night races or races where you run at night up until then.” It’s been a bit of a transition phase, but I think also with the more “true mountain races,” I think up until the beginning of this year, I don’t think I was much of a climber. So I was pretty chuffed with Transgrancanaria and also with UTMF as there’s some pretty steep climbs. I think in previous years I’ve always preferred races that were a bit flatter like Western States. So it’s quite interesting and I’m quite excited about the future that I can cross over a little bit to the more mountainous races.
iRunFar: If your skill set is broadening, have you done anything specifically to work on that?
Sandes: Yeah, I’ve done a bit of strength work. I think that helps. I think also that being out in the Drakensberg, I think we did a lot of training out there and did some really long continuous climbs which I think definitely makes you a lot stronger whereas the training in Cape Town, you’re only getting a 500 to 600 meters of continuous climb. So if you’ve got a 1,500 meters of continuous climb, it definitely makes you a lot stronger.
iRunFar: Yeah, so now you have nine weeks until Western States. You have had a really difficult stretch here. What are you going to do?
Sandes: Yeah, I think the next few weeks are definitely going to be about recovery and then try and listen to my body. There’s no point in pushing on too quickly. At times, it’s tough. You think Western States is just around the corner and you want to get right back to training. But I’d rather go into the race undercooked than overcooked. I definitely want to try and rest up as much as possible and then really focus on Western States. I’m really excited to be heading back there.
iRunFar: Give it a go for the win?
Sandes: Yeah, for sure. I think, for me, that’s kind of my dream race. It’s such an iconic race. Yeah, after 2012, I’d like to get one position better. But as I said, it’s 100 miles and anything can happen, so I won’t get too far ahead of myself—just go out and have a good day.
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, congrats on the great run around Mount Fuji, and see you in Squaw Valley.
Sandes: Thank you, yeah.