From mountains to roads. An interview with Sage Canaday.
Sage Canaday is coming off a successful 2017 season with his highlights listed below. He summarizes his highs and lows for 2017, discusses the new Spring product, Canaberry, which was created with his input, and also talks about his current goal of attaining an Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier.
- Hong Kong 100k- 3rd place
- Chuckanut 50k- 3rd place
- Lake Sonoma 50 Miler- 1st place
- Washington Road Race- 2nd place
- Speedgoat 50k- 3rd place
- XTERRA Half Marathon Trail Run World Championship- 2nd place
You designated 2017 as your “mountain year” with events ranging from the Mount Washington Road Race (7.6 miles, 4,650 feet of climb), Mont Blanc Marathon, Speedgoat 50k, and UTMB. Summarize your triumphs and frustrations from this past season.
Well, it was a great experience overall as I got to mix up lots of different distances on different mountain ranges across the world. I ran my 2nd fastest time ever at the Mount Washington Auto Road Race in the past four years (60-minutes on the ascent there). After that, I made the mistake of thinking I could race the Mont Blanc Marathon a week later even though my legs were tired and I hadn't done enough "long mountain runs" in training. So the longer mountain races didn't go so well for me later in the summer, and I learned that I have to be more patient with my training and specifically target races in the Alps/Europe.
What did you learn from your race at UTMB this year?
I need to be more patient and thoughtful with my preparations for a big event like UTMB. Sometimes I get distracted by wanting to race a lot all summer in the mountains and I do events that aren't as specific to 100-milers in the mountains. If you look at my training on Strava, my mileage/volume was a bit low heading into UTMB. That was a mistake.
You have yet to nail a 100-miler comparative to your other ultra successes. Does that motivate you to keep trying at the 100-mile distance?
I definitely want to nail a 100-miler. I think I can be patient with it though as many ultra runners at that distance can peak at an older age. I have big plans to return to races like UTMB and Western States one day to improve my time and compete for the win. I also would like to try some "fast and flat" 100-milers. That transition could be easier from road marathons. Right now though, I still like to mix it up in the "shorter mountain races" and even at the marathon distance.
What needs to go differently in training or on race day to hit your A-goal at 100 miles?
I think I just need a consistent build up for several months with less racing. Maybe a tune-up 100km 4 to 5 months out before something like UTMB.
The mountains at UTMB are a lot different, and I also would probably experiment with more ski slope training.
Why “any surface, any distance?” Why not just specialize in one running domain?
Because I can! I love the variety and the challenge. To me, the sport is just "distance running" in general, so I like road marathons, cross-country 10k, shorter mountain races, trail ultras, etc.
One of my dreams in running has always been to qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the Marathon. That dream came true in 2007 and 2012. Now I want to do it again for 2020! I also think the mix in training and racing may help with my longevity in the future. There are only so many years you can do multiple 100-mile races a year. I want to be competitive in the sport for another 5-10 years at least!
You’re currently targeting the Houston Marathon for an Olympic Trials Qualifier. How has the training process been shifting from mountain ultra training to road marathon training?
I originally had signed up for CIM, but found that it was too close to UTMB. After recovering from UTMB, I've struggled a bit to get my "flat road speed" back. The transition is going to take several months instead of just several weeks. There is a lot more intensity now and speed work on the track, which I actually kind of missed. Ironically, I've actually been training with higher mileage and more consistency for this road marathon than I did for UTMB. I think the road marathon training and speed will help when I transition back to trail ultras.
What are some positive carryovers from mountain ultra trail training into road marathon training? What elements would you recommend to all marathon runners?
The element of "building an aerobic base" is a carryover. You can get very fit and efficient from long runs on trails and running hills. It makes the road marathon race feel like a short race! You also learn how to dial in your nutrition by taking calories in during long efforts and staying hydrated. There still needs to be a balance with training. Speed/intensity is still at a premium.
What is your training philosophy?
You have to have fun and enjoy the process. For me, the fun part is being competitive and trying to always improve. I like science-based training, and I like reading the history of great runners over the decades and how they train. My philosophy is constantly evolving from working with others, race experiences, and lay study.
Why do you think there was a need for Canaberry, a new Spring product?
Canaberry really fits the needs of marathon runners and mountain runners who are competing at higher relative intensities in distance races. It tastes great, goes down very smoothly, and is formulated to provide optimal nutrition while minimizing issues like stomach distress.
In training and racing the marathon, how will you fuel?
I plan on drinking Electroride and taking Canaberry.
What needs to be changed in your diet and race day nutrition to successfully complete a 100-miler?
I'm probably going to change my training mostly for 100-milers. Race day nutrition will depend on the weather and the 100-mile race course. Generally, I would have some Canaberry in the mix and for sure quite a bit of Electroride.
Who is one ultrarunner or one ultrarunning performance this year that especially inspired you?
Tim Freriks's wins at Transvulcania and TNF50 were very, very good. He ran off the front early in both races and held on for the win, which was really admirable.
What races do you have planned for 2018?
The only race I have for sure planned is the Houston Marathon in January. If I hit a sub 2:19:00 time there, I'll probably go straight back to mountain and trail races.
If I miss that time, I might do the Boston Marathon or something. I definitely would like to be racing in the mountains again though. Not sure if there will be any 100-milers or if I'll just keep it to 50k and 50-milers.
Are there any FKTs you would like to target in the future?
I'd like to get my Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop FKT back here in Colorado. Long term, I'd like to go after the JMT record one of these years.
Other than that, maybe try to lower my record on the ascent of Mt. Elbert (highest mountain in Colorado).
What is a race you have done in the past that you are excited to get back to?
Oh wow, this could be a really long list! I'll just name a few:
Pikes Peak Ascent, Jungfrau Marathon, Sierre-Zinal, Olympic Trials Marathon, Mont Blanc Marathon
There are quite a few talented ultrarunner musicians out there including yourself. Who would make up your ultrarunning band?
Matt Flaherty is pretty much a one-man band himself. He can play a variety of instruments and sings really well.
By Ryne Anderson
You rock, Sage! When do you think we can get our hands on your Canaberrys?
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