It’s starting to look as if all Sage Canaday needs to set an ultra course record… is to stay on course. Canaday passed Max King and Cameron Clayton in the second half of the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile to take the win, eventually breaking Dakota Jones’s 6:17 course record with a time of 6:14:55. In the following interview, find out how his race played out, why he won’t be racing Western States, and how he’s enjoying his training in Boulder, Colorado.
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Post-2013 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday after his course record-setting win at the 2013 Lake Sonoma 50 mile. How are you doing today, Sage?
Sage Canaday: Awesome.
iRF: You’re having a good year so far. This is our third time taking here in the last month.
Canaday: Yeah, I see a lot of you. It’s good though.
iRF: Today was a great run. You had a nice win at Tarawera, but the competition here was even steeper. I assume you went into it thinking you had a chance at winning this?
Canaday: Yes, I mean the competition was so deep that you never know what’s going to happen. I was a little worried I might be a little tired from Tarawera. I was lucky to pull out the win today and sneak in with a course record, too, as an added bonus.
iRF: Early on when I saw you at mile 12, you were in third, but there was a little bit of a gap. It wasn’t a huge gap, but you were maybe a minute back. Were you planning to not keep contact because you seemed to have done that more in the past to sort of hold with the leader?
Canaday: Basically, I was trying to run my own race. They went out so fast that I didn’t feel really good. My legs were kind of stiff. I felt like the pace was unsustainable. Actually, I wrote Dakota Jones’s course record splits on my arm from last year. When we got to that point, I knew we were 5 minutes ahead of pace. I told Chris Vargo—I was running with him—I told him, “We’re running really fast! I’m not going to be able to hold this!” Cameron Clayton and Max King were probably 2 minutes up at that point. I just didn’t feel good, so I was sitting back. It was kind of nice actually knowing how… instead of being in the lead where you don’t know how far people are behind you; but when you’re in third or fourth position, you can ask where are the leaders? That was an advantage. I just didn’t feel like I could sustain that pace. I didn’t.
iRF: By mid-race, you were 5 minutes off the leaders, but you were running fast.
Canaday: Yes, I was 3-flat at half way; Dakota came through in 3:07 last year. Max and Cameron were 2:55. I was amazed. Man, if they hold that it’s going to be nuts. But we all slowed down the second half. They held on well. They still finished strong for how aggressive they were. It was a battle of speed in the first half.
iRF: Yeah, it wasn’t just subconsciously that you were thinking it was fast. You came into that turn-around aid station saying, “I’m running 3-flat! They’re running so fast!”
Canaday: Yes. I didn’t want to walk later. That’s the main thing.
iRF: So the next 5 miles you come from the turn-around at 25.5 and come back toward what used to be “Liberty Glen” (I forget the name for it—Medona or something like that), and I see you coming into that just a little bit closer (15-30 seconds). Did you start your move there?
Canaday: Yes. There was a big uphill. You’re doing these huge ups and downs in the middle there. So you’re coming out going uphill around mile 28-30 and people were telling me—the other runners coming in—“Hey, he’s 3 minutes ahead of you.” Man, if they’re right on that, I’m gaining. I kind of got a second wind because I knew I was making up ground. I tried to move up hills efficiently as possible. That gave me a lot of confidence that if I kept sticking to the pace and trying to be consistent I could close the gap. It worked out well.
iRF: When did you catch Cameron?
Canaday: I think it was around mile 33. I caught Cameron first and then a couple miles later, I caught Max.
iRF: Did they try to hang with you? Did you stick together for a little while?
Canaday: No, I think Cameron was a little dehydrated at that point. Then he got something to drink and felt better after that. When I passed Max after that, he said he was struggling. It was on an uphill, too, and I know Max doesn’t like uphills as well as I do generally.
iRF: So you’re in the lead with 15 miles to go or in the teens, what’s going through your mind with those guys behind you?
Canaday: I tried to put as much space on them as I could as soon as I passed them. I was looking over my shoulder on all the big turns and in the open meadows. I started thinking of the course record because I had these splits on my arm. I was still 5 minutes under course record pace at 38 miles. So I was thinking that if I don’t fall apart. I started struggling a bit. I was pretty nauseous and dry heaving. By the time I got to this last aid station at 45 miles, I was right on Dakota’s split. I was at 5:35 there and that’s what he split there. I knew the last 4 miles I was going to have to pick it up a little at least faster than he ran to sneak under the record. So that was on my mind mainly and also not breaking a bone or falling or getting lost.
iRF: That’s impressive. I see lots of times there [look at Sage’s arm], splits, miles… what’s at mile 45.5?
Canaday: “Check in.” You had to check in and run down to the river a quarter mile and back up. You didn’t do that the first time because you skipped it… It was kind of a difference in the course. You also do a fork where you also split off because you don’t come back exactly the same way on the road where you started. I needed to make sure I didn’t make a wrong turn. It was marked well. There was no question there. It was a great course.
iRF: Nice. Nice. So coming into the finish line and you’re going for the course record and you’re messing around with a shirt. What was going on there?
Canaday: Yes, well, it was really hot, so I didn’t want to run with this shirt on. I get chafeage problems. So I started with it… I always do like to plug my sponsors because obviously I wouldn’t be here without their support. I’m proud to announce a new sponsor, actually. I’ve got Avery Brewing out of Boulder, Colorado. I should have my mom sew that on. That’s a new sponsor. Then Flora Health, of course… But my mom also pinned this on because April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, so she pinned that on during the race and wanted me to finish with it. It was actually your idea to throw this shirt back on, and it was a great idea. I was just kind of struggling with it because it got stuck.
iRF: You can tell Hal and Tim about that one.
Canaday: It got stuck to my shoulders and I was sweaty. The wind was coming at me. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose a minute in the final 100 meters putting it on or falling over. That would be embarrassing. It was a good sponsor plug.
iRF: One of the things aside from the course record and the win today, you have the opportunity for a spot in Western States. I know before you’ve kind of said, “Not this year,” but does it cross your mind at all again?
Canaday: No, I already have my schedule planned. I’m going to do the Cayuga Trails 50 in June, which I’m excited about, and then Mt. Washington the week after. It’s tempting because Western is there. I know some people ask me when I’m going to do the 100. I really want to try to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon and the window opens up this August. I’m thinking maybe winter marathon to try to get the qualifying time. I want to do that before I move up to the 100. I’m kind of worried about my speed, and I know the 100 miles is a totally different beast which requires really specific training and long runs which is a lot different from marathon training I assume.
iRF: You’ve got a couple other Montrail Ultra Cup runs, right?
Canaday: What are they? I’m not going to do Ice Age, so I don’t know about that. I’d like to focus on my speed still and get more experience with the shorter races before I move up. I really want to respect the distance and not put myself in the medical tent or blow up really bad. That would definitely probably happen this year. The 100k is really far for me, so I’m going to be patient.
iRF: Any desire to maybe go for the 100k team one of these years?
Canaday: Oh yeah, for sure, it would be an honor to represent my country again and the 100k would be nice. Just travelling internationally is a privilege.
iRF: You mentioned Mt. Washington—obviously this year you’ve been spending more time—even before Mt. Washington last year the only ultra you’d run was Chuckanut 50k—but you’ve been doing a bunch of ultras this season. Are you going to switch over to train more specifically for Mt. Washington or hope that your strength from ultras carries over?
Canaday: I’m going to hope on my strength. I’m a little worried about back-to-back racing on the weekends, but the thing with Mt. Washington is that it’s more of a strength race. I think my pace there last year was 7:40 per mile, which is really similar to what I ran today. It’s really not a higher velocity. It’s a real strength race. I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to pull that one off. We’ll see.
iRF: How’s training in Boulder change things for you?
Canaday: It’s awesome. I really like getting out in the mountains. I’ll do more of that in the summer when the snow melts. I think being at altitude is finally started kicking in for me. I get my blood tested every three months, and I actually had really good hemoglobin and red blood cell count and I think it’s definitely the altitude. I’m excited about that.
iRF: Great. Well, congratulations on another great race. I look forward to seeing you around a little bit more this season.
Canaday: Thanks. Yes, for sure!
iRF: Take care.