Sage Canaday took third at the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon, making this his third time finishing third at the race. In this interview, Sage explains whether or not he’s pleased with his podium finish, how his race played out, and what he learned from this experience.
Check out our results article for the full race story.
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Sage Canaday Post-2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Sage Canaday the day after the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Three for three for three. How are you doing, dude?
Sage Canaday: Yeah. I’m good. I didn’t hurt myself, so that’s always a plus.
iRunFar: You mean you didn’t crash on that big, long downhill?
Canaday: Yeah, no stitches, and not too much blood. There was one fall. In the first half mile of the course I fell.
iRunFar: Oh, you did?
Canaday: Going up the hill. It was minor.
iRunFar: Did you trip on a rock?
Canaday: Yeah, I just tripped up. It didn’t matter. I didn’t get trampled.
iRunFar: I was going to say, it’s a threat for getting stampeded at that point in the race.
Canaday: Yeah, you’ve got thousands of runners behind you going up that narrow path from the beach. It’s spectacular when you see all the headlamps going up the hill.
iRunFar: I want to ask you about how you’re feeling today. You went into this race with expectations for yourself. I think you ran faster than you have in the past. Is that true?
Canaday: Well, the course was a little bit different, so it’s hard to compare.
iRunFar: Yeah. But you finished third again. How are you feeling?
Canaday: It could have been better. It could have been worse. It’s an honor to be on the podium again here. The other goal was a time goal just comparing myself to previous efforts on the course. It was hard to compare because they made us do a little dip in the middle of the climb off the 131 trail.
iRunFar: You dipped down to an aid station?
Canaday: We dipped down to an aid station and then had to climb up this… I think it was some trail that was made into the side of the hill which was really steep. It added vertical to the course—I’d say, looking at Strava data, maybe 600-700 feet more vertical and another kilometer in distance. But it was more mild weather; it wasn’t as hot. Yeah, I ran 7:14-7:15. In the past, I was 7:09-7:10. It’s hard to compare. I was climbing better though. I looked at the Strava segments on the climb, and I beat some of my personal bests on the climb. I was climbing better, so that’s a positive. I was actually in the lead at the top of the volcano which is a first. Usually, Luis [Alberto Hernando] and Kilian [Jornet] pass me before I even get to the top. But this time, I made it to the top, and then as soon as we hit the downhill, Nicolas [Martin] and Luis passed me.
iRunFar: But I made it to the aid station at the top first!
Canaday: And my descent was slower than in previous years, unfortunately.
iRunFar: I’m going to ask you the hard question that everyone wants to know right now. First time you come out, you climb hard, you lead, you get passed for the downhill. Second time, basically the same thing. Third time, basically the same thing. So is this just going to be your strategy for good, or did you just get caught up in climbing because you just feel so much better climbing? Have you thought about taking it a little bit more conservatively early?
Canaday: Yeah, I thought about that.
iRunFar: I thought about it, but didn’t do it.
Canaday: Yeah, some people say it’s the definition of stupidity to keep repeating something that fails for you over and over and over, but no, I see myself, I guess, as a climber and that being my strength. I feel like I would have no shot at being first or second, for that matter, if I wasn’t… If I was behind at the top, I definitely wouldn’t be first or second. I need to either be tied for the lead at the top or in the lead with a cushion to even have a shot. I did that this year, but I didn’t have the downhill legs for it. It’s hard to say. I’m time trialing trying to run faster. I think that’s my best strategy. I also know that when I take the lead—or last year Zach Miller took the lead early on in the climb—it spreads the field out open. I kind of like that idea, just making it so everyone’s going to be really hurting at the top. Then, you do have a big cushion back to fourth place usually. I was looking over my shoulder running scared the whole time.
iRunFar: In all fairness to you though, we saw you a couple times interspersed within the climbing, and you looked wicked comfortable. It doesn’t look like you’re putting yourself in the hurt box to get to the top of things first.
Canaday: I was just going by feel. I was feeling better going into El Pilar, and I split exactly the same time that I split into El Pilar. But, then, it was cooler temperatures, so you should be the same with an easier effort. After El Pilar was where I really ran better than I had in previous years on the climb. Yeah, was just going by feel and it felt like the right effort, so I just went with it. But with the course change, that kind of threw me for a loop because that was steep power hiking, and I don’t like power hiking.
iRunFar: You like the runnable climbing.
iRunFar: We were just talking at breakfast a few minutes ago, and I learned that you don’t actually mind the technical downhills. You’ve kind of gained a reputation for, perhaps, being challenged the most when the downhills are technical, but you said you suffered more yesterday not on the technical descent, but on the more runnable steep stuff.
Canaday: Yeah, any smooth downhill. I hate downhills on road like I always have. Yeah, road running downhill is bad for me. Smooth trails… that probably bodes poorly for Western States, but it’s a strength you can work on. I have to work on the leg turnover and getting the musculature ready for being able to fly on smooth downhills. But I was really struggling on the road part where you’re running downhill and the smoother parts of the descent in the pine forest where you can open up. That’s when I was like, I’m going really slow. Then, I got lower and it was more rocky and technical and I was like, I can hold my own on this. A lot of the Boulder trails I train on are fairly rocky and technical, so I think I ran that well. Then, I got excited on the last 700-foot drop into Tazacorte on the switchbacks. I actually ran my personal best Strava segment on the switchbacks.
iRunFar: I love that you’ve already looked closely at this.
Canaday: Oh, yeah. I was excited to get down those. I got down the switchbacks fast. That part was faster, but I need to work on my leg muscles, because the quads are burned out. That was a limiting factor.
iRunFar: Overall assessment on the day, given the conditions here, given the fact that you haven’t been focusing on this type or running, are you happy with how things played out?
Canaday: Yeah, I’m pretty happy. There’s a little bit of disappointment, too, because I didn’t improve my place at all. I was closer to Luis than I had been in past years in terms of time, but it’s hard to compare. He ran an amazing, strong, dominating performance. Nicolas, who got second, I think that was a great performance and a great race by him, too. Yeah, to be on the podium is always good here. It’s consistent at least.
iRunFar: You took your time coming down the long finish chute.
Canaday: Yeah, I probably could have been a couple minutes faster, but I wanted to high-five everyone.
iRunFar: You spent a little bit of that extra time there.
Canaday: It’s fun. You’ve got to do it.
iRunFar: It looked like you were having a really good time.
Canaday: Yeah, I looked over my shoulder, and I didn’t see anyone down that whole half-mile stretch.
iRunFar: No Zach Miller chasing you.
Canaday: I thought about that, Zach and Dakota [Jones] last year, and I was like, No one is going to kick past me. Enjoy it. It’s an amazing experience the last half mile. There are so many fans. The whole town is out and all the locals and running fans… and then you get the bottle of champagne, too.
iRunFar: Always good to have a bottle of champagne after a 75k run.
iRunFar: You’re a student of the sport.
Canaday: I try to be.
iRunFar: You’ve got a little bit of trail ultrarunning back under your belt after your bid for road marathoning. You’re turning your sights to Western States now. What’s going to happen with your training?
Canaday: Recovery first from this, and then I’ve got to work on the downhill—runnable downhill and, then, I’ve got extend the long runs a bit to try to make the distance of 100 miles, because I’ve never made it that far. It scares me. I’ll admit—I’m scared. It will be a big challenge. A little heat training will probably be good for Western.
iRunFar: So does that mean you’re going to seek out courses around home in Boulder that have long, runnable downhills and practice on that? What are you actually going to do?
Canaday: Yeah, especially after the feedback I got from this race about how much my quads didn’t like runnable downhill. That’s my main weakness. Nutrition was dialed; no stomach issues. Energy was pretty consistent. I don’t get maxed out cardiovascular-wise either, well sometimes a little on the climbs, but that’s not a limiting factor. It’s the quad strength. Yeah, I have to work on that, just improving on turnover and efficiency. I’ll go to some of the gradual paths in Boulder—running down the canyon or running down Magnolia Road or something like that just pounding the quads and trying to get the legs moving faster. I’ll still work on vertical, but, then, extend the long runs and wear extra layers to be sweating in the heat. It was kind of cold in Boulder. It’s been snowing a lot. Training in the snow is not good for these races.
iRunFar: Training for the canyons of Western States… Then, beyond Western States, you’re going to run CCC this summer. What else is on your plate? Is it just trying to transition to more mountain running?
Canaday: Yeah, more mountain running. I’ll probably be back for The North Face 50 Mile in December in San Francisco, for sure. I’m not sure what else I can fit in there. That might be it. I might add something in the fall.
iRunFar: So you’re skipping Speedgoat?
Canaday: I think I have to. It’s a week after Western States.
iRunFar: I know, but you’re Sage Canaday.
Canaday: No, you know, in the past I’ve over raced. I did seven or eight ultras in a year in 2014 and 2013, so dialing it back and trying to focus more on being consistent and getting my mountain legs back. I think just Western to CCC will be hard enough for me.
iRunFar: Well, you’ve got sore quads today, but you’re going to Barcelona for a couple days of vacation. Have fun working off that quad pain and have fun working off that third place.
Canaday: I will, yeah.
iRunFar: Congratulations, Sage.
Canaday: Thank you so much, again.