My name is Sage Canaday and I'm a professional mountain-ultra-trail runner and coach based in Salida, Colorado. One of my mottos is #AnySurfaceAnyDistance as I came from a 5k/10k track background and was a pro road marathon runner for a number of years out of college. I still do flat road marathons and "shorter" mountain races from 10km to half marathon, but most of my racing is now ultra marathons on trails and in the mountains.
I've had the good fortune to be able to compete in a lot of international events over the years up to 100-miles in distance.
Last year was rough for you… in June you discovered that what you thought was a nasty case of pneumonia was actually a Pulmonary Embolism. What was that experience/health scare like: the diagnosis, the recovery, and the overall outlook?It was really a shock and a very unpleasant surprise! I went from being in decent running shape to not being able to run really at all. Suddenly walking up a flight of stairs would leave me out of breath and dizzy. I really think it was my running background that helped push along my treatment though as I knew something was terribly wrong after a month of not being able to run. The doctors said I was lucky my heart was so strong because it was under a lot of pressure and my lungs were taking a beating and not getting enough blood flow for a really long time. I ended up having to go to the ER and spend the night in a hospital because of intense chest pain from the clots. It was scary and there was about a 10% chance that I'd die. I got a lot of tests done and had several months of blood thinners. Fortunately, I responded really well to the treatment and the clots dissolved fairly quickly. I also didn't seem to have any other underlying health conditions. This kind of medical scare really makes you reevaluate your priorities and perspective on life. I cherish times spent with loved ones and my running much more now!
I feel much more normal now, but it took over 6 months. My heart-rate and breathing is more in my typical ranges and I've been able to increase the quantity and quality of my run training. It hasn't all been smooth sailing though as I do have patches of scar tissue on my lungs and sometimes it still causes a bit of pain and breathing issues I think. There is always the fear that the clots might come back, but so far I've been really lucky to recover relatively quickly considering how long I had them in my lungs. The other "tough break" that my girlfriend Sandi and I had to endure a few months later was that we lost our home in Boulder in a sudden apartment complex fire. It was totally random in the middle of the night and it totally burned down a lot of apartments in our complex. We basically lost all our material items in the fire and ended up having to move out of Boulder because of it. On top of all the medical bills and health insurance battles, I've had to face more insurance battles because of this condo fire.
photo: Stephen Gnoza
At the beginning of this year you went after the “Sea to Sky” FKT up and down Haleakala on Maui (37-miles, 10,000-ft of gain). That’s no joke of a trail especially after having a major lung condition just 6 months prior. What made you choose to go after that FKT and how did it end up going? How did your nutrition plan go for it?
The "Sea to Sky" FKT just seemed like a really beautiful and logical line to go after. I had been to Maui several times over the years and was fascinated with the network of trails off the top of Haleakala. Running from sea level on the beach to the top of the volcano (and back down again) just seemed like a really cool idea and a great way to explore some unique landscapes and parts of the island that I had never been on. I wanted something really technical and with a lot of climbing. Coming from winter in Colorado it was quite a shock to the system to be in a hot and humid tropical environment as well. Originally, I was thinking of doing a race like Transgrancaneria in the Canary Islands this spring so I thought it would be good preparation for a warmer race [note: I'm doing the Canyons 100km in CA in April instead now]. It ended up going really well as I got the FKT by over 2 hours and it was a huge confidence booster for me. It was my first hard ultramarathon effort since my pulmonary embolism and I finally felt like my old self! Because I had to go for hours without any crew support, I loaded up a waist pack with about 6 Canaberry gels and 6 Awesome Sauce just for the way up. I also was drinking the Spring Passionfruit Yam drink mix in a 20oz fluid bottle with some extra fluid in the bladder of my CamelBak . At the summit half way point my girlfriend Sandi refilled my bottles and gave me another 8 Spring energy gels for the way down. This nutrition and hydration plan worked really well, although I underestimated how much fluid I'd need on the way down since it started getting really hot and humid that afternoon near the finish as I dropped back into the lower altitudes and vegetation.
We kind of made a nice vacation out of the trip though and made sure to capture some of the beauty of Hawaii by shooting some media as well.
photo: Stephen Gnoza
You shot a short film about the experience. When and where can people look for that to come out?
Since I do a lot of youtube videos and VLOGs there is already some media about the trip and FKT up on my channel "Vo2max Productions". My friend and filmmaker Stephen Gnoza shot a short Instagram highlight video on my personal Instagram (@sagecanaday) as well showing a few clips from the effort. However, we've been working on a much bigger project that this trip and FKT effort was only a small part of...it's still kind of under wraps right now, but stay tuned for some official announcements on my social media (and Youtube) by the end of this May hopefully!
As we push forward into 2022, what are some things you’re looking forward to (Races, FKTs, trips, run camps….etc.)?
I've had an entry into UTMB for the past two years that I'm really looking forward to finally getting to use! UTMB will be a main focus of my year as I want to prove to myself that I can finish a 100 mile+ race strong! In the few attempts that I've done at 100-milers they have not gone very well, so it's all about trying to progress and get some redemption at that race distance on a big stage! Other than that I hope to explore more of my backyard here in Colorado and I'll do some 100km and 26-mile to 50-mile races as well.
Who is a fellow athlete/human who has stood out to you recently and inspired you?
My girlfriend Sandi Nypaver. She lost her older sister to cancer a few years ago and has had to overcome a lot with personal running injuries as well. Then this past summer when I was sick she was there to support me.
On top of that she does most of the work for our coaching business Higher Running and has progressed as an elite runner and coach a lot over the years!
Let’s end with some rapid-fire questions:
Current go-to shoe: The HOKA Torrent 2 Trail Shoe
Favorite distance to run: 50km in the mountains
Favorite place to run/explore: Chamonix, France
Race you haven’t done that you really want to race: Diagonale de Fous
Favorite non-running thing to do: Skimo...I'm a horrible downhill skier though.
Favorite Spring flavor(s): well I'm a bit biased here, but Canaberry! I really like the Awesome Sauce as well!
Thanks Sage for taking the time to chat!
(cover photo by Stephen Gnoza)