This weekend, Sage Canaday will take his second crack at the 100-mile distance at the Western States 100. In the following interview, Sage takes about how he’s trained for States since Transvulcania, how he’ll fuel on Saturday, and what his goals are for this weekend, among other things.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Sage Canaday Pre-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday before the 2016 Western States 100. How are you, Sage?
Sage Canaday: To be honest, my butt is a little sore. Sandi [Nypaver] and I just went paddleboarding out on Lake Tahoe for an hour. I only fell in twice. Sandi didn’t fall in at all. It works you in places where you didn’t even know you had muscles.
iRunFar: Is that a good thing to be doing the Wednesday before…?
Canaday: I’m glad we did it today and not tomorrow. It was fun. It’s beautiful. It’s my first time out here, so you have to enjoy the scenery. No, I’m healthy and just really happy to be here and excited.
iRunFar: Yeah, about two months ago or a month-and-a-half ago you were out at Transvulcania and finished third again which shows you’re in good shape, you’re fit, and you’ve started building your endurance from your marathon pursuits. How have you progressed with your training since Transvulcania? What have you focused on?
Canaday: I had to recover from Transvulcania first. That was brutal. It was a big challenge there. I actually focused on less vertical. Transvulcania, the vertical profile is always an emphasis, but then periodizing the training heading into States since I knew I had it on the calendar and it’s a big focus, I tried to recover and then just extend the long runs. I did a couple long runs actually over 30 miles which is rare for me, and then to just do a couple pretty focused downhill workouts—probably not enough, but I tried. I’ve learned that’s a big weakness at Transvulcania; it’s always been a weakness of mine. Yeah, just more runnable stuff, nothing intense, but I actually got some 120-mile weeks in which is big for me, too.
iRunFar: On the downhills, what were you focusing on, because obviously Transvulcania is known for… it’s steep and 8,000 feet? These are slightly more runnable. What kind of stuff were you doing on the descents?
Canaday: Definitely more runnable stuff—roads or the more tame trails in Boulder. Most of Boulder’s trails are pretty technical like coming off Green Mountain or something. I just get rolling on some of the dirt trails and more runnable stuff, not super-steep grade, and just kind of pound the legs up.
iRunFar: Now, on the long runs, you said you did a couple over 30 miles, were they hard efforts or were you just rolling through? What did they look like?
Canaday: Those were relatively easy efforts. Usually I do my long runs pretty hard. The first one I did was when I came out for camp, the Memorial Day weekend camp out here. We did Robinson Flat to Foresthill. I was just filming with my camera and enjoying it and getting a look at the course. Then I did one in Boulder a couple weeks later that was pretty chill, pretty relaxed, nothing too intense, just to get the miles in and spend time on my feet. If you look at the splits, the one I did in Boulder was way faster than the pace you could sustain here for 100 miles for sure.
iRunFar: How have you felt with in-race nutrition in some of your longer efforts in the past? How was your nutrition going at UTMB before you fell?
Canaday: It was going great. My stomach was rock solid. I was feeling good energy. I’ve always felt really solid… well, I shouldn’t say always. At The North Face 50 I was puking my guts out, but I think that was because I had too much Coke too early. No, it’s a lot of VFuel gels and staying hydrated and eating things like bananas and solid potato chips usually work pretty well with me, and then some soda as well.
iRunFar: So you will mix some solid food in there.
Canaday: Yeah, I really like… At Transvulcania I learned I could grab bananas at aid stations and they worked really well for me.
iRunFar: Zach Miller diet?
Canaday: Well, a lot of people’s diets—fruitarian diet. It’s a good fuel, fruit.
iRunFar: So obviously there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be either hot or very hot on Saturday. How have you fared in the heat in the past?
Canaday: I’ve never been in races this hot, 90 to 100 degrees, but I consider myself more of a hot-weather runner. I hate the cold. I hate being bundled up. I got hypothermia at UROC a couple years ago. I hate anything below 50. I’m just cold. I think I could suffer pretty well in the heat. Black Canyon was probably around 80. We came straight from Boulder in February where it was freezing and 20 degrees. We come to the Black Canyon outside of Phoenix and it’s 80 degrees, and I felt pretty decent there without any heat training. I kind of like the heat usually.
iRunFar: So you’re not too worried about it?
Canaday: I’m worried about it. I’m scared s***tless. The heat is one thing. The weather is one thing. The distance scares me. The downhills scare me. Yeah, it’s going to be a big challenge.
iRunFar: The last time you did… the one and only time you’ve suited up for a 100 was last year at UTMB, and you fell and had to pull out from of the race. What sort of feeling does that leave you? Are you aiming to finish this one or does it leave you wanting vengeance on the 1000mile distance? What mental state do you approach this distance with?
Canaday: I wouldn’t say vengeance on the 100-mile distance. I want to complete it. I want to show that I can go the distance. It left me more puzzled about what would have happened at UTMB if I didn’t fall and bust open my knee. I would have predicted I would have slowed down a lot the second half because that lead pack at UTMB is vicious. They take those hills out so intensely. There would have been carnage the second half, but I was feeling pretty decent. I’d like to think I would have been able to finish and finish well. It’s a lot of what ifs. It’s uncharged territory for me beyond 62 miles. Yeah, the first goal is just to finish and complete the distance. The second goal is to try to place as well as possible and to be competitive. The third goal is kind of a time goal, but usually with the place comes a pretty fast time unless it’s really, really hot or a really strategic race. But I want to be competitive. That’s the main thing that drives me. That’s why I do this race. It’s the competition and the history and the cool people. It’s not necessarily because it’s the 100-mile distance but because it’s a really historic race in the U.S. that a lot of top guys do that I really want to do it. The distance is an added bonus.
iRunFar: Yeah, do you have the sense that when you ran UTMB—you came into Courmayeur, you were cut up, you probably shouldn’t have gone—was there a little bit of you just wanted to finish a 100 miler that you ended up going on at that point?
Canaday: Exactly. At that point, I’d been walking for the last 10 miles on the descent into Courmayeur. I was going slower on the descents than I was on the uphills because my knee was swollen. That was the problem, the joint pain. I’d been suffering out there. Twenty guys had gone by me, but I still wanted to finish. That was a goal. I didn’t care if it took me 40 hours. I was going to keep doing it, but after I got to the top of the next climb—I was moving up well as I could powerhike uphill—on the downhill, I was literally moving at a quarter-of-a-mile-per-hour. I was worried about permanently damaging my knee. That’s when I pulled the plug, and they brought out the helicopter. They don’t bring out the helicopter for just any reason. It’s not something to take lightly. Yeah, it was an experience.
iRunFar: You mentioned you maybe have a time goal. Is it one you could share or is it in your head?
Canaday: It depends on the weather, really, and what other people will do. If you look at the all-time list, I’d like to rank really well, but just placing well in this race is going to lend itself to a pretty good time. It could be 15-hour something. It could be sub-15. But I might not finish, so I don’t know. I would say, just being a really competitive person, I would be a little disappointed if I wasn’t first place. I’m not saying I’m going to get first place. I’m not saying I’m going to finish. Even if I got second place, I think something inside me would be a little disappointed. I’m just that competitive. I want to be in it to try to win. That’s just my competitive nature. If I’m cutting through the bull and being honest, that’s how I feel.
iRunFar: You’re not going to run for fifth or sixth because it’s going to be your first 100 finish?
Canaday: No. Well, if I implode in the middle of the race and am trying to finish—I’m trying to finish as efficiently as possible regardless. Yeah, there are so many guys who could blow by you at the end and finish way ahead of you; you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are a lot of variables.
iRunFar: What’s interesting this year, I think, is that there are a bunch of sort of newer people who are kind of favorites—you, David Laney, who only has a couple 100s under his belt, Jim Walmsley—do you think that gives each of you a better chance that anything could happen more or less?
Canaday: It’s interesting. Looking at your preview and your top runners and the speculation I’ve seen on the internet, all these guys, all these people, we’ve all raced each other before multiple times, most of them. There’s no one new really. What’s new is the distance for a lot of people. That will be interesting—the distance and the nature of the course with the elevation profile being a net downhill race. I wish the race ran backwards. Boston Marathon is a net downhill, and I’ve run well at Boston before, so this is like a huge exaggerated Boston Marathon kind of… not really, but it’s a net downhill… 300 to 400 feet versus 20,000 feet.
iRunFar: This won’t air until after the polls close, but the iRunFar prediction contest has you as the favorite for this weekend.
Canaday: Oh? Wow. I’m flattered.
iRunFar: Do you think that puts any more… do you feel strange that you’ve never run 100 miles and you’re the favorite? Do you feel extra pressure?
Canaday: It’s really cool, I think. Thanks, guys! I don’t know if I’d bet money on that. I like the pressure. I think having… I’m really active on social media. That’s part of my personality. I love social-media marketing and being online, so maybe with name recognition, people might be more likely to vote for me because I’m posting on Twitter all the time and YouTube and Instagram. Yeah, it’s an honor to be considered to be a favorite or even to be on the podium, but there are other guys like Jim who have never run a 100 who, I think, has a strong consideration, and he should, as well as tons of other guys.
iRunFar: This is your first 100 where you can have pacers. What does your pacer and crew lineup look like here?
Canaday: Yeah, crew line-up—Sandi is out here. She just did Broken Arrow last week and won the 26k race by quite a bit out in these hills right behind us. My parents are coming down from Oregon. They’re going to be dialed on a crew. Ginger Runner is going to be filming a project. My actual pacer—I wasn’t going to have a pacer at first—my buddy from college, Joel Frost-Tift, he lives in California now and he’s been getting into ultras. He’s done one ultra before, American River, and he won it two years ago. He’s a 2:22 marathoner. He ran with me at Cornell. He’s like, “Can I be your pacer?” I’m like, “Can you carry a GoPro and film it?” He said, “Yeah.” So he’s going to pace me from Foresthill to the finish. That’s the plan.
iRunFar: Cool. You’ve never run with a pacer before, have you?
Canaday: I did actually at Tarawera, New Zealand. Kerry Suter volunteered to pace me the last stretch. It actually really helped, the moral support. He mainly kept me from getting lost and telling me if we were coming around a blind curve not to crash into people. He pointed out potholes and stuff like that. It helped. I think the moral support is pretty big. Yeah, it will be fun, I think. I mainly want him to film with a GoPro, too. He’s looking into getting into ultras and the 100’s, so he really wants the experience. He’d love to run Western States one day.
iRunFar: Is that kind of fun to share with one of your teammates?
Canaday: Yeah, because we go way back, training together for track in college. He’s a cool guy.
iRunFar: There’s a special bond with those guys.
Canaday: Yeah, yeah. It will be really neat.
iRunFar: What are you looking forward to most this weekend?
Canaday: The beer at the finish line.
iRunFar: Why wait for the finish line?
Canaday: Hopefully executing the race that I’ve dreamed about and placing well and running what I think is a well-paced race and not having any big mishaps happening, no helicopter evacuations hopefully, and making it to the finish line, but also just trying to get the most out of myself and hopefully putting forth a good effort. I enjoy… the dark spots and the pain, this kind of sounds cliché, but that’s where you kind of find flow. I find that I really remember those moments in races where you’re dialed in, mind and body are connected, and you find flow. You feel the pain intensely, too, but you’re so absorbed in the race that it’s kind of like a dream coming together. If you do well, you remember that forever. It’s always a really fun experience to do something like that. But a lot of times it doesn’t happen. You don’t know.
iRunFar: Best of luck finding that this weekend. Enjoy it out there.
Canaday: Thanks, I’ll need it.