For the second year in a row, Sage Canaday has won the Speedgoat 50k. Once again, he also earned the $1,000 King of the Mountain prime and course-record bonus.* In the following interview, Sage talks about how his race went down, what he’ll be running next, and why he prefers slightly technical downhills to roads.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2014 Speedgoat 50k results article.
* RD Karl Meltzer added some vert (and length) on the final descent this year and, accordingly, awarded a course-record bonus for a sub-5:15 time to earn the award even though Sage ran a 5:08 last year.
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Sage Canaday, 2014 Speedgoat 50k Champion, Interview
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Sage Canaday after his second-straight victory at the Speedgoat 50k here in 2014. Congratulations, Sage.
Sage Canaday: Thank you. It’s good to be back.
iRunFar: It played out a little differently this year. You went out and took a lead again on the first climb and built it from there. Where did you feel really good? You were probably going for the prime, right?
Canaday: Well actually, it was interesting, is this year I had my splits, of course, on my arm from last year. I had the first three miles…
iRunFar: It stayed for the whole year?
Canaday: First three miles splits’—yeah, I didn’t take a shower—I had the first three miles’ splits and I noticed after three miles that we were a minute faster than we were last year at the same point. I thought last year we went out pretty hard. It was Pat Smythe who was really pushing the pace. He was one of two half marathoners. I think he’s run 28-something for 10k, so I was like, Okay. He’s got the VO2Max to do it, but I don’t know if his legs will hold up. So I was content to follow him. I was like, You should run your own race. Don’t worry about the prime. Don’t run for the $1,000 even though it’s really tempting. But I was like, I’m just going to stick back here because I don’t want to totally blow up in the first climb because it’s a high-altitude race. I noticed it. But there was a little downhill off-road section and I passed him on that about four miles in. Then he wasn’t climbing as hard the last couple miles and I opened up a little gap. So I just kind of cruised up to Hidden Peak. I think I was about a minute faster than last year. I felt pretty good, so I just took it from there.
iRunFar: How were you on that descent into Mineral Basin the first time?
Canaday: Pacific Mine? Oh, Mineral Basin, yeah, I was thinking of the aid station there. I like that descent actually. People think I really suck on the downhills, which I’m not as strong on the downhills, but a semi-technical downhill is better than a smooth runnable downhill for me. I don’t like… I’m horrible on my downhill roads, like last year when we were running down the road. I would rather have it be semi-technical, not super technical, not super steep like Transvulcania, but decently rocky.
iRunFar: A real trail.
Canaday: Yeah, I think I split 5:40 miles along there with the big boulders along the road.
iRunFar: Oh, I’m totally blanking on that section… Mary Ellen’s Gulch or I don’t know, that two miles of road where it’s a road…
Canaday: Two miles of rocky road.
iRunFar: But there are boulders the entire way.
Canaday: Exactly, yeah.
iRunFar: So you’re getting more comfortable on that? Continuing to improve on that?
Canaday: I was probably just… I was ahead of my split by four minutes there at the halfway point at Pacific Mine. That was a huge confidence boost because I felt about the same and given the weather was a little bit warmer this year especially on that side of the mountain, I was like, Okay, don’t blow up. On that section you have a little out-and-back for about a mile, so I could see where second and third was. Last year I had three minutes on Max King and Tony Krupicka. This year Paul Hamilton and Alex Nichols were together and I had eight minutes on them. I was like, Okay, you’ve got a cushion.
iRunFar: Did you change your strategy? Did you sort of then ease up? Run strong and not push the pace?
Canaday: I didn’t want to blow up. My motto then was, ‘Just don’t die.’ It’s a gnarly climb out of there, and that’s where I opened up the most time last year. I was like, Okay, try to take this a little easier. I ended up not taking it any easier. I think I climbed about the same as I did last year there. On the powerhike up Mount Baldy, that’s rough for me always.
iRunFar: It’s almost two because you have to climb to the saddle and then there’s the second climb to the peak.
Canaday: Yeah, I hate powerhiking, and I had to do a lot of it there.
iRunFar: I did watch you from the top of Hidden Peak and whenever it flattened out on the climb to the saddle before Baldy, you were running. It seemed like you transitioned pretty well back and forth from that powerhike back into running.
Canaday: I’m just eager to start running again. That’s the mechanics that I’m used to.
iRunFar: Again, after you hit Baldy, you go down again and you come back up. Last year, there was a final 5k descent to the finish. Not so this year. How was it different in that last five miles to the finish?
Canaday: Well, Karl [Meltzer] threw in a little twist to the course, and I knew this going in. He’s like, “Oh, it’s just 400 feet more of climbing, but it’s off trail and it’s gnarly.” And it was. There were some really steep descents and at least 400 feet of climbing. I’ll have to check my Strava data. I was powerhiking that. Then I was looking at my Garmin GPS running watch and I was like, Yeah, this course is going to be about a mile longer than last year. Last year I had about 32.5 miles. This year I had 33.5. More miles, more fun, right?
iRunFar: I guess so. It must feel good too, I guess this would probably tie your biggest winnings in ultrarunning? You got the prim;e you got the win; you got the course-record bonus?
Canaday: Exactly. It does.
iRunFar: It’s kind of a little complicated. It was a new course, I guess, so it was a new course record. But Karl… last year you ran 5:08 and this year he gave a cushion of 5:15. He knew it was going to be tougher. You still snuck in under that.
Canaday: Yeah, I feel really good about that because coming down I was starting to think a little about the extra $500 for the bonus. I knew as long as I was under 5:15 I had it. I was 5:12. At first I wanted to crack my time from last year even though it was harder and it was definitely warmer than last year. It was definitely a better performance than last year.
iRunFar: I would totally agree.
Canaday: I’m really, really happy about that. Everything came together well. It was one of those rare days.
iRunFar: What’s up next?
Canaday: I’ll do the Pikes Peak Ascent as part of Team USA. It’s the World Long Distance Championship. So there are all these international teams coming in—they’ve got, like, 15 different countries—running in conjunction with the Pikes Peak Ascent. We’ve got Joe Gray, Eric Blake, myself, and Andy Wacker all on the team. It should be a really good showing. I’m just going to go up. It’s all about high altitude this summer.
iRunFar: You climb well.
Canaday: I like climbing, yeah.
iRunFar: After that? There’s a big weekend in the middle of September.
Canaday: Yeah, I guess they changed the course on The Rut. I am signed up for The Rut. I’m still deciding on that. It might depend on how Kilian [Jornet] does in his next Skyrunning Series race. It might depend on… I might go scope out The Rut, actually, with my parents. We might drive up there on the way back to Oregon just because I’ve heard it’s more technical I’ve heard. I guess that kind of scares me.
iRunFar: Will you consider maybe jumping in Run Rabbit Run as an alternative to that?
Canaday: I might, but the paycheck today really did help.
iRunFar: You might not have to for the money?
Canaday: Yeah, I do like these mountain racing events. So the Rut, if it’s similar to this, it might be good. Then I was always thinking about Chicago Marathon, but you can’t do them all. You’ve got to pick and choose your battles. It’s hard to hold back sometimes.
iRunFar: You do know Pikes Peak Ascent is on the calendar.
Canaday: Yeah, for sure it is.
iRunFar: How do you plan to train for that between now and then?
Canaday: Go up a lot of 14ers in Colorado. Yeah, I’ll go run on the course down in Colorado Springs or Manitou Springs, I guess, and try to just get up high. I think it’s a pretty pure altitude race. I’ll work on the uphill stuff still. Last year, or two years ago when I did it, I almost got chicked by Kim Dobson. I was walking the last mile and falling over on rocks. It was a really tough experience, but you learn a lot from that.
iRunFar: Do you have any goals in mind? There are some pretty legendary performances on that course.
Canaday: Yeah, I guess to run a lot faster than two years ago. I was 2:21, I think, which I was really disappointed with at the time because I was coming off a 58-minute Mount Washington. I’d like to better that. I think I’m adjusted to altitude finally after being in Boulder two years, hopefully, knock on wood.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your win here today. Best of luck out there at Pikes Peak.
Canaday: Thank you. I appreciate it.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you—your sewing is looking a little better on your sponsor patches. Did your mom take care of that?
Canaday: This is not sewing. This is an Avery iron-on logo. It looks more like a poster-type material. I ironed it on myself with an iron—same with the Flora logo.
iRunFar: Multi-talented, eh?
Canaday: Yeah, no sewing. No tape involved. No printing out logos out of paper and pasting them all over.
iRunFar: No safety pins.
Canaday: No safety pins anymore. Yeah, those were too heavy. Can’t have that.
iRunFar: High class, Sage. Enjoy the beer.
Canaday: I will. Avery.
iRunFar: Good stuff, Avery. Avery IPA.
Canaday: That’s my favorite.