In only his second 100-mile race, South African Ryan Sandes finished second at the 2012 Western States 100. Not only that, he also broke the previous course record by running an incredible 15:03:56. Learn more about this fierce competitor in the following interview, so you’ll be familiar with him when he returns to Western States next year.
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Ryan Sandes Post-2012 Western States Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Ryan Sandes here of Salomon and South Africa. How are you doing in your first trip to Western States?
Ryan Sandes: I really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me on iRunFar.
iRF: My pleasure. Everyone going into the race was talking about how great of an advantage you’d have in a hot year. Didn’t get that.
Sandes: No, when we started the race it was pretty cold, and then when we got to the top of the mountain it was really, really cold. But going into the race, everyone’s going to run in the same conditions, and it’s up to you to get to the finish line as best you can. So I didn’t really let that bother me. I think that later in the day when it actually started to heat up a bit, I wouldn’t have minded if it actually started to rain again. All in all, it was a really fun day out.
iRF: You’ve raced and done a bunch of stage races in adverse conditions of every sort, so you don’t let it phase you?
Sandes: No. A lot of it is just your mental attitude. If you go into a race saying it’s going to be super hot or really cold and I’m going to struggle or battle, then you are going to struggle. If you see it as a challenge and stay positive, you’re obviously running in an incredibly beautiful environment; so just soak it up and enjoy it, and you’ll feel a lot better.
iRF: Yes. So walk us through your race. You were up in the lead pack… there was a pack of you trading the lead for a long time.
Sandes: Yeah, running up to the top of Squaw Peak I was in the lead back, and then I dropped off a little bit coming down into Duncan Canyon. The guys were pretty intense racing each other, so I thought I’d just step it back and stay out of the racing in the really early miles. Then, I think it was about 35 miles just after Dusty Corners, I caught up with the lead pack. From then on all the way through, there was a group of about four or five of us. Coming into Foresthill, myself and Mike [Wolfe] were running in. After Foresthill I left Mike, I was feeling really good, and I caught up to Timothy [Olson] about Cal 1 or just before there. We ran together and actually pulled ahead a bit about Cal 3, the last aid station before Rucky Chucky. Timothy came bolting past me, and I didn’t see him again. The rest of my race was trying to catch him. Every aid station I went into he’d made up another two minutes, and I thought I was going at quite a decent pace. He had an absolute cracker. I have huge respect of him and his performances.
iRF: You and Timothy both ran course record splits for Cal Street, which is incredible.
Sandes: Okay. Yeah, I thought we were moving quite fast, but not as fast as Timothy.
iRF: Did you go through a rough patch when Timothy passed you or was Timothy just…
Sandes: No, we were kind of back and forth and when I passed him I thought I was going at a good speed. I thought his legs looked a little bit tired. Obviously he wasn’t. When he went past me I thought he was just motoring down the hills, and I was hoping in the flats that I’d catch him, but it wasn’t to be.
iRF: So after Timothy passed you and you keep hearing he was getting further ahead, were you still feeling good? There were a ton of great runners behind you.
Sandes: No, I was feeling really good the whole way, to be honest. From my own perspective, for me personally, I think I had a really good race. I felt strong throughout. I didn’t go through too many highs and lows. I looked back and Leadville last year, that was my first 100 miler and this was my second 100 miler, I was a lot more tired at Leadville and went through a lot of dark patches there. Yesterday, for most of the day, I was feeling really good and really enjoyed the whole experience. I was trying to chase down Timothy at the end and I was feeling good, but my legs just wouldn’t go any faster to try to catch up to him.
iRF: Did you learn anything from your first 100 that you did differently in your second 100 that helped you?
Sandes: A couple of things. I think fueling is always important, just trying to stay on top of that. As soon as I thought my energy levels were dropping I made sure I loaded up. I front-loaded with a lot of water yesterday, thinking about the 60-mile marker when I started the race. I wanted to be properly hydrated. I think when you look after your body, you’ll be able to maintain the pace which is really important. At all the checkpoints I took a bit of extra time to make sure I ate and drank which I see a lot of the American guys just fly straight through. I’m kind of in between Europe and America there. European guys sit down and take their time; American guys don’t stop at all.
iRF: Speaking of Europe and America, do you have any other big plans for this year?
Sandes: I started my season pretty early with running the Hong Kong 100k race and then another 100k in Australia a few weeks before this.
iRF: You won both of those.
Sandes: Yes. So my prep leading into this race went really well and I was pretty confident. So I may go back to Australia in September for another 100k race. Me personally, I only want to do one 100 miler per year for now. I think it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally and when I go into a race I want to be the best prepared I can be. I’m only 30 and I hopefully have another couple of 100 milers left in me, so I want to spread them out a bit. I definitely hope to be back here again next year.
iRF: Okay, so you just answered my next question.
Sandes: Yeah, definitely. I really loved this course and I think it suits me.
iRF: So you’re hungry for…
Sandes: Yeah, I’m hungry to come back.
iRF: You’ve still got to be proud. You broke the old course record. Timothy had an even better day, but you had one heck of a race.
Sandes: Yeah, for sure. Like I said, yesterday was probably the happiest I’ve ever been with a second-place run. I was really stoked because I think it was one of the strongest races I’ve had. Timothy was on fire yesterday and big respect to him. Also in three or four weeks I’m going to do a personal quest or mission in Fish River Canyon in Namibia. It’s the second largest canyon in the world. There’s a trail from one side to the other; so I’m going to be doing that.
iRF: For pleasure or for a fastest known time (FKT)?
Sandes: Fastest known time. I’m doing it self-supported. Actually, Dean and Greg[, videographers with The African Attachment,] will be back there for me. They’re going to be doing a little clip on the whole attempt.
iRF: How long is the trail?
Sandes: It’s 76-78km. You drop down, run along the bottom of the canyon, and back up to finish at the end. It gets really hot in there about 45-50 degrees Celsius.
iRF: 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sandes: Yeah, so I’ll get some heat in after all there.
iRF: Well, congratulations on your run here yesterday and well done!
Sandes: Cool and thanks for all the awesome work you do for trail running!
iRF: It’s our pleasure.