Sage Canaday took second at the 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon, improving his position by four places and his time by some six minutes from last year. In the following interview, Sage talks about how he moved into second place during the second half of the race’s ascent, how he purposely tried to get a gap on the uphill that he could hold on the downhill, if he ran the downhill hard knowing third-place Marc Lauenstein was chasing, and where he’s focusing his racing attention after two good races in a row at Sierre-Zinal two weeks ago and the now the Pikes Peak Marathon.
For more on how the race shaped up and for more interviews, check out our results article.
Sage Canaday Post-2019 Pikes Peak Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Sage Canaday; he’s the second-place finisher of the 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon. Well that sounds pretty nice to roll off the lips.
Sage Canaday: Yeah, I mean getting second to Kilian [Jornet] is a huge honor and I was really happy with how things went today so, it was nice.
iRunFar: Major improvement for you from last year. You had a great run here last year and even better this year.
Canaday: Yeah it was only six minutes faster.
iRunFar: Only. Come on, it’s a marathon.
Canaday: Yeah. Last year I definitely struggled a lot more on the climbs and I will say last year the conditions were probably faster. Just the temperature was not as hot.
Canaday: It’s nice to start at seven in the morning but definitely felt the heat the last three miles coming down the switchbacks there.
iRunFar: Where you sort of come out of the trees and you’re facing the sun?
Canaday: Yeah, exactly. And I don’t know what the pressure was on top either but I was happy, I was racing more for place but to have that time improvement, to crack 3:40 was the big goal too so I was happy with that. I had my splits on my arm here and I hit them almost exactly, at least to the top. I had to drop to seven, no, seven-minute miles on the descent and I was running like 7:30 on the descent. So I didn’t descend as fast as I wanted to but I didn’t fall this year and break a bone so I’m happy.
iRunFar: I was going to say, I think you had a small injury last year?
Canaday: I’m pretty sure I broke my finger last year when I fell. It could’ve been a lot worse because running down the Barr Trail, especially right above Barr Camp where there’s big rocks and its not super technical but its technical enough that you could really hurt yourself and your going on at may be six-minute pace, 6:30-mile pace. It feels like you’re running five-minute mile pace because of the rocks. I like Superman-ed out there last year. So no falls this year, I had a couple stumbles but going against Kilian, I was like, well he’s going to beat me by 10 minutes at least. I think it was 12 minutes at the end, 13 minutes. And I was worried about losing my position because I was second place at the top so I was really happy I didn’t get passed on the downhill because that happens a lot in races it seems like.
iRunFar: CYou were here last year and this year, can you talk a little bit about how the course felt different or maybe the weather felt different or similarities and differences from last year?
Canaday: First of all, it was more competitive this year I think, just the density of all the international guys. I mean guys from Central America, guys from Europe, being part of the Golden Trail Series is definitely stepped up the game and it’s like, to be top 10 you have to run 3:50 or faster now. So there’s that, it was like that last year but this year even more so. And with Kilian here of course it was going to be hard to win. And then it was definitely warmer this year temperature wise.
iRunFar: At the start.
Canaday: The whole way.
iRunFar: Also, it felt warmer up high?
Canaday: I mean, on top it’s nice because it’s not cold but you definitely–I was sweating within two miles. I was drenched in sweat and I actually carried a handheld, my Nathan flask, to stay hydrated. I drink a lot, I took in a lot of nutrition and I just tried to take care of myself more this year but I was definitely climbing better. Last year I was bonking on top and I split like 2:20. This year I was like 2:15, 2:16, so I felt good about that and to be in second place already on top was a nice feeling as well.
iRunFar: So talk a little bit about the early miles, because it wasn’t long until you had found yourself in second. Second position like by Barr Camp I think?
Canaday: Right after Barr Camp is when I got into second. There was a little lead pack the first mile out on the road here and it was a hot pace, like I said you don’t want to run a sub-six first mile because GAP on Strava it’s like a 5:10 already at this altitude and then you’ve got a lot of climbing to go. And it’s getting warm. So Kilian and there were a couple lead guys up there but we had kind of a tight bunch. By a mile and a half, Kilian had opened up a gap and I never saw him again after that until he turned around at the top. So he was gone and I kept hearing he was two minutes ahead or certain splits but you can’t see really that far ahead, there’s not very many straightaways on the Barr Trail, so unless you’re above treeline–I don’t even remember seeing him out there–but I was able to move into third and I was following…
iRunFar: It was Juan Carlos [Carera].
Canaday: It was Juan Carlos, yeah, I was kind of keying off of him and I think Rémi [Bonnet] was behind me at that time heading into Barr Camp. I split 1:06, I wanted to split 1:07 but I was like, we’re going to roll with it and then I caught Juan right after Barr Camp, like a mile after Barr Camp. So I was like, oh you’re moving into second, this is good. But the splits above treeline weren’t super fast, I felt like. I was getting discouraged but I’m like, while you’re here to compete, you’re here to run a good place and I was opening up some daylight and I wanted to open up daylight on these guys on the[uphill] because I was thinking if you’re not four minutes or five minutes ahead of some of these guys they’re going to mow you down on that downhill. So I’m worried about that so I pushed pretty hard to get to the top and then I was just running on fear all the way down.
iRunFar: I was at the top and I felt like among the men there, you looked pretty good. Some of the guys sort of show up foaming at the mouth a little bit but you looked in control.
Canaday: Yeah I mean we have, Colorado of course, home-course advantage, kind of. I didn’t have to do an international plane flight, I’m used to the time zone. I did a fair amount of altitude, we’ve been camping in Leadville a lot this summer even before Sierre-Zinal, so like last month I was running up Elbert and Massive a couple times. So I’ve been trying to get in more altitude exposure for this race and so that’s definitely an advantage, living and being in Colorado compared to these other guys that come from lower elevations. So that definitely helped.
iRunFar: Cruise a couple hours down the Front Range and kind of a hometown race?
Canaday: Exactly. It’s good to be back here.
iRunFar: Talk about the downhill, you did have some–You were a little bit in what I would think of as no-man’s land at the summit. Kilian was pretty far up in front of you but then there were some minutes to the guys behind you. Were you just sort of running scared and being like, just do it as best you can without Supermanning it?
Canaday: Yeah, that was the first goal, not to fall and hurt yourself and take yourself out of the race or get stitches again or something, I’ve done it several times. But the thing that really scared me was, it was Marc Laurenstein who was in third at that point and I don’t know exactly what the spread was, I think I had probably at least three, maybe four minutes but I was like, gosh Marc’s a really good downhill runner. Especially a technical downhill runner. So then the goal was to get into the trees, get into–get to Barr Camp and don’t get caught because then after Barr Camp you’ve got those flatter sections, it’s more like a dirt road. I knew my leg turnover, being a road guy is much better whereas the technical stuff, more technical stuff, coming off the summit, Marc was gaining on me–I just assumed he was gaining on me and I was worried he was going to catch me and I knew there were other guys who were still pretty close to him so there was a very tight margin of a couple minutes there and I think he got within a minute of me at one point.
iRunFar: I think it was just up on the course, he was within a minute.
Canaday: Yeah, yeah, and so I was looking over my shoulder. I never actually saw him. I was running on fear all the way down. I think I was still looking over my shoulder with like 400 meters to go.
iRunFar: Just making sure nobody was creeping.
Canaday: I am not, yet downhill’s not my forte and I was just trying to hold it together. I think I was probably breathing harder on the downhill than I was on the uphill actually. My back was spasming out and usually, everything just hurts, but my legs are strong and that’s what I’ve been carrying that momentum from Sierre-Zinal two weeks ago. I’ve actually felt like my legs–I got my mountain legs back finally. It took a while.
iRunFar: But you’ve got them now.
Canaday: Yeah I could climb a bit better now.
iRunFar: With a great performance today at this race as well as in the Golden Trail Series, does that mean you’re going to put your eye on the next Golden Trail Series race?
Canaday: Definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just I was trying to do the math on it, I will still probably do some math on it because it’s so relative to how your competition does. And it spread over three races but now I have an opportunity to go back to Ring of Steal in Scotland and I have some time too, it’s in like five, it’s late September. So I actually have some time to prepare for that. I know the race from last year, it’s very technical there’s class III scrambling. It’s probably not my forte but you know, I have a chance still and I didn’t think I’d have a chance in the series because originally I did the Mont-Blanc Marathon three weeks after Comrades Marathon, which is a horrible idea and I had this melt down where I was like–all sorts of things were going wrong so I didn’t get any points there. I don’t even know what place, like 35th place or something. So you don’t get any points, you get one point if you’re 28th or 30th or something. I was like, I’m out of the series, I can’t do it. I was signed up to do DoloMyths Run, which was the next one in the series but I said I need to train consistently and not race every three weeks like I had been doing. So I came back to Boulder and started training, working on my form, doing actual mountain workouts again and then things were clicking at Sierre-Zinal. So I got 11th at Sierre-Zinal and I was like, you still need to do really well at pikes to even have a chance so to get second here was definitely a step in the right direction it’s what I’m happy for and it puts me in contention still to be top 10 when they score after ring of steel to see who gets to go to Nepal so that’s a goal now for this year’s mountain running season, all late summer.
iRunFar: Got it. Well congratulations to you on your second-place finish here at Pikes Peak.
Canaday: Thank you.
iRunFar: A new Pikes Peak PR.
Canaday: I’ll take it.
iRunFar: Well done.
Canaday: Thank you.