Sage Canaday knew he’d have to face some technical terrain in running The Rut 50k this weekend… but it was harder than expected. Still, Sage battled to take second place in the race as well as the Ultra Skymarathon Series. In the following interview, Sage talks about what he thought of the highly technical terrain, how he might be able to improve on such terrain, and what he’s got lined up next.
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Sage Canaday Post-2014 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday after his second-place finish at the 2014 The Rut 50k. How do you feel about it, Sage?
Sage Canaday: It was solid. The course surprised me a bit. It was a lot more technical than I thought. People had warned me, but they were right.
iRunFar: It was really technical.
Canaday: It was, yeah.
iRunFar: Have you run trails that technical before even in training?
Canaday: No, it reminded me more of when we did Class III scrambling in the mountains of Colorado. You actually had to use your hands and grab at the rocks and pull yourself up or pull yourself up with a rope, too. They had the safety rope up there.
iRunFar: Did they? On the main ridge going up to Lone Peak?
Canaday: There were lots of ropes.
iRunFar: That’s some true Skyrunning right there.
Canaday: It is. I was thinking, This must be what it’s like in Europe. I’ve done Transvulcania but, yeah, this was rugged mountains.
iRunFar: You sort of went out like would be expected, but you put some time on the field really quick. Was that… I mean, a couple minutes.
Canaday: I went out pretty aggressive. That was my plan. That’s the strategy I’d always used. The thing is, it was a good mix of runnable trails with the climbs, but going against a guy like Kilian [Jornet], maybe I’m 30 seconds/mile faster than him on the smooth singletrack where it’s kind of flat, and then we hit the first scree field at mile 14 and I’m doing 20 minute/mile powerhike up this loose rock and he’s probably doing a 15 minute/mile. So that lead went like that in one mile, and he basically caught me right there. Then you’ve got the rocky descent and it’s the same story. It just got exponentially bad for me.
iRunFar: But, you drop off about two thirds of the way through the race and stay about the same back—like 10 minutes back?
Canaday: Yeah, he had at least four minutes on me at the top of Lone Peak, and then it’s probably close to two miles on scree descent really steep and gnarly. So he put a lot more time on me there. So then, yeah, it was about 10 minutes. The last eight or so miles are pretty smooth, runnable track; it was beautiful.
Anna Frost (off camera): We love you, Sage!
Tom Owens (off camera): We love you Sage!
iRunFar: Thank you, Tom!
Canaday: You, too!
iRunFar: That was the peanut gallery up there—Tom Owens and Anna Frost action. So how did you feel? You went out aggressive. Then you had this super-technical section that was more technical than you expected. How did you feel that last third of the race? Were you able to get back into running rhythm and mode?
Canaday: Yeah, I mean, I was looking over my shoulder because I thought I was going to get reeled in. I was hurting pretty bad. I took it out so hard. I was pretty much redlining it the whole way after that. There was a lot of pain and suffering. I knew I couldn’t catch Kilian; he’s in a totally different class. I was more worried about some of the other guys, especially the Europeans who I knew were really strong descenders. I was like, Well, they might have caught up to me a lot more. I never knew what the time gaps were because you don’t know who’s behind you. So I was just looking over my shoulder and trying not to blow up because I was right on edge. I mean, it hurt.
iRunFar: But you made it. Before the race, you were talking about how Kilian is sort of a benchmark when you race. How do you feel that you were in comparison to your other efforts against him in the past?
Canaday: On this type of course, he’s in a totally different league than I am.
iRunFar: Do you think relatively you’re improving? Was it a pretty good effort for you?
Canaday: Yeah, considering the depth of the field, I was definitely happy to hold onto second. It was definitely a really tough race for me. You’re powerhiking so much. It’s so steep. That first scree field, I’ll have to check the Strava data, it was probably 40% grade and it’s just so loose rock. You’re really just grinding it out. For me, I’m not as efficient powerhiking. I don’t have the neuromuscular coordination. I don’t have the musculature. Whereas Kilian just… I just saw him just zip up Lone Peak. He was just pulling away just powerhiking. On the descents it the same thing—it’s exponential. It’s not even close with me.
iRunFar: You’ve got some work left to do on tough terrain?
Canaday: Yeah, I mean, based on my strengths, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a great technical runner. It’s not going to happen. It’s not my suit of cards. I believe it’s a learned skill. You can definitely work on some things, and you can develop your musculature over training and years and definitely improve. But he’s a pure mountain runner and that’s what he does. He’s the best at it. So it was really impressive to see him pull away and win convincingly.
iRunFar: Last year were you second in the Skyrunning overall ranking?
Canaday: I did finish up second, yeah.
iRunFar: I think… I haven’t done the math, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case again.
Canaday: I think, yeah, Kilian is first and I’m second again. I think the points might be closer though because I didn’t do as bad as I did at UROC last year. And he got second at Transvulcania.
iRunFar: You got a third, a first, and a second at a high-point race.
Canaday: Yeah, this was 20% more points because it was the final.
iRunFar: What do you have left on your schedule for the rest of the year?
Canaday: I’m going to France in October. There’s a race called Les Templiers. We’ve got a good U.S. contingent. They want a lot of top U.S. 50-mile trail runners to go against a lot of the top Europeans. It’s at the end of October.
iRunFar: It’s like 72k and 11,000 feet of climbing?
Canaday: Yeah, 11,000. Pretty runnable trails, I think. It’s in southern France. We’ve got Zach Miller, Chris Vargo, Matt Flaherty that I know are on the men’s team. Then Cassie Scallon and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet on the women’s team..
iRunFar: I think Aliza [Lapierre] is on it.
Canaday: Oh, and Aliza. Yeah, I don’t know the full team. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that. Anytime you can travel internationally it’s a big privilege and luxury. It’s exciting and I think it will be a fair race—probably more my style of racing.
iRunFar: Are you excited to switch your training back a little more away from the technical and steep climbs and more running?
Canaday: Yeah, I was seriously worried about hurting myself today. I kind of went down a couple times pretty hard. I’m scared. I thought I could break an ankle. I didn’t. Yeah, I’m looking forward to getting back into marathon mode. I think I’ll try to do Houston now. Originally I was going to do Chicago, but…
iRunFar: When is Houston?
Canaday: That’s in January. So I’ll do Les Templiers and then The North Face 50 which is another pretty fast, runnable race—probably more of my forte.
iRunFar: Even more so than Les Templiers probably.
Canaday: Probably, yeah. I’ve never run the full course there, but it looks good. I like those fire roads in Marin. Yeah, Les Templiers and The North Face 50.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on your second place here. Good luck at Les Templiers.