Ryan Sandes won the 2011 Leadville 100 in the fourth fastest time in race history. This year, he’s back for another go at the storied race. In the following interview, Ryan talks about missing Western States due to injury, how he’s prepared differently for this year’s Leadville than he did in 2011, and what shoes he’ll be racing in this year.
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Ryan Sandes Pre-2013 Leadville 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ryan Sandes before the 2013 Leadville 100. Ryan, you were here in 2011. You had the win and you ran one of the fastest times ever here. That’s a pretty good accomplishment. What brings you back?
Ryan Sandes: Obviously I was supposed to go and run Western States earlier this year, but unfortunately I had a bit of an injury. So after that I thought the second-best option was to come back to Leadville. I had such an awesome time here in 2011. I just really enjoyed the whole vibe and atmosphere of the race. I’m super excited to be back here.
iRF: Nice. So do you think you can carry over your fitness from Western States training?
Sandes: Yeah, for sure. Obviously, I had a bit of a break with the injury which I’m hoping has done me good. I think this time of the year probably a lot of runners are feeling a little bit tired and they’ve done quite a few races where I haven’t actually had too many races. So I’m feeling pretty fresh and really motivated and determined and hoping to have a good one on Saturday. I suppose it’s all about putting it together on race day. You can be in the best shape of your life, but it’s all about putting it together on the day.
iRF: You did run Transgrancanaria. Was that your only race on the year?
Sandes: Basically, yes.
iRF: You won that.
iRF: How did that go for you? Did you feel pretty good?
Sandes: Yeah, I was feeling pretty good. My training throughout the year has gone according to plan. I felt really good. I actually lined up in Australia for The North Face 100 and had to pull out with stomach issues, so that was pretty frustrating because I felt I was in really good shape. Then obviously I had that setback with Western States. I feel like my training has gone really well this year; I’ve actually got to put it together in a race.
iRF: So what did happen with your injury? It’s an ankle injury, correct?
Sandes: Yes, ankle injury actually on one of my final runs before flying over to the U.S. It was just stupid. It was a bit wet on a rock and I went slightly over on a rock, and I over corrected and actually did both ligaments. I had a partial tear in them. It’s actually the first time I’ve fully rested my ankle for a good three or four weeks. It actually feels really strong now. I suppose everything happens for reason. I hope to come back stronger.
iRF: You’re refreshed. It’s interesting– you haven’t really raced much this year. Scott Jurek hasn’t raced at all. Mike Aish has run in some races, but from what I understand he’s not really competed in them as they were sort of tune-up runs. So it’s going to be a lot of fresh bodies on the line this year.
Sandes: It’s going to be a really interesting race. I got to run with Scott Jurek a few weeks ago and he looks really psyched. He’s definitely not here to come in second, so I’m sure he’s going to be up there.
iRF: His fitness is pretty good?
Sandes: Yeah, he’s looking like he’s pretty sharp. He’s definitely been putting in the miles. I have no doubt he’ll be up there.
iRF: Obviously this course has a very hallowed record with Matt Carpenter running sub-16 here.
Sandes: Yeah, that’s pretty phenomenal.
iRF: You were 16:45-ish when you last ran it. Is a time like that in the back of your mind, or are you really focused on the man versus man here on the day?
Sandes: Yeah, I think going into the race I’ll focus on running the course rather than actually running against “man on man.” But obviously I think that’s an incredible time and it would be really special to beat that, but I think it’s really very far at the back of my mind. You’ve got to have a pretty special day out here to be able to match that time. I won’t write it off, but for me it’s just about trying to get to that finish line as quick as possible and as quick as I can. I haven’t got too many time goals in my mind. It’s just kind of take it as it comes on the day.
iRF: You were explaining that you had the lead going into the last 25 miles here two years ago and you started to not feel so good. You were able to correct and ease off right?
Sandes: Yes, I was able to ease off. I was pretty lucky that I had a bit of a lead. I don’t know how much harder I could have pushed. It was my first 100 miler, so my quads were pretty shot. I think actually some of the training I did up here before the race, I might have done too many high-intensity sessions. I think I actually battled to recover. I remember about 30 miles into the race, my legs were really quite sore, so I was a little bit worried. I had to dig pretty deep that day. I definitely kind of trashed my legs a bit. I did have to slow down quite a bit towards the end of the race. I’m lucky I had a lead. I definitely think this year, in order to bag the win, whoever’s up front will definitely have to be running a bit quicker than I did in 2011.
iRF: What have you changed with your training? You said it was your first 100 and your quads were shot. What have you done differently for this year’s race?
Sandes: I obviously got here a few weeks ahead of time to acclimatize to the altitude—coming from sea level has been quite difficult. I haven’t done too many high-intensity sessions. It’s been more about trying to adapt and acclimatize and make sure I don’t take too much out of my legs and my body. I think I’ll save that for Saturday and try to put in a big performance. Probably the main thing is that I’ve backed off a bit on the high intensity, but at this height or altitude you can’t do too many high-quality sessions.
iRF: Yeah, it takes awhile to recover up here.
Sandes: Yeah, for sure. Also coming up from sea level I think a couple of my first runs I had to take a bit of a power nap on the side of the trail and just lie on my back and sort of recover.
iRF: A bit humbling?
Sandes: Yeah, it was. I think the run I did with Scott, we ran up Powerlines, and yeah, I was pretty slow. Hopefully I can go a bit quicker on race day than I went up there with him.
iRF: One interesting thing about this course is that there’s some paved road, there’s a bunch of dirt road, there’s some singletrack, and some steep downhill. You’ve run this course before. What shoes are you going to throw on for Saturday?
Sandes: I’ll be running in the Salomon S-Labs. With my feet, I’ve got really wide feet, so I use custom shoes. I’ll be using those. I’ll be using like a fairly non-aggressive grip, just the standard ones. I’ll use those. They work pretty well.
iRF: Are you in the Sense?
Sandes: No, regular S-Lab, the S-Lab 6. I’ll probably trade shoes at Twin Lakes on the return just after crossing the river. I did that last time I was here and that seemed to work pretty well. I’ll probably do it this year.
iRF: It’s nice to have a fresh pair of shoes for the last 40 miles.
Sandes: Yes, definitely, for sure. Your feet seem to feel a lot better and even your legs as it just seems to sort of transfer up.
iRF: There’s a lot of mental for these.
Sandes: Yes, half the race is mental.
iRF: Well, best of luck out there and have fun on Saturday.
Sandes: Thanks very much. Thanks for all the support.
iRF: One quick bonus question for you, Ryan. This past weekend your girl, Vanessa, she just finished the Leadville 100 Bike, right? How did that go?
Sandes: Yes. She did really well. It was quite nervewracking having roles reversed and having to crew and rush to the aid stations and make sure I don’t mess anything up, because obviously she’s going to be crewing for me the week after. Then also just waiting at aid stations, you never really know how their race is going. She really enjoyed it. The mountain bike looks like an epic race. I think it’s one of the races I’d love to do one day maybe when I get a bit more time and I get a bit older and spend a bit more time on the bike.
iRF: You could do the Solo Bike or do the Leadman and spend your summer up in Leadville.
Sandes: Yeah, the thought has crossed my mind—maybe one day when I’m big.