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Sage Canady has an awesome story. He ran college at Cornell, joined the Hansons-Brooks distance team and qualified for the Olympic Trials a couple of times. From 2009 to 2012, he ran road races under the Brooks-Hansons banner. But in 2012 he went off-road and never looked back. Where he struggled to find his place and identity as a member of the Brooks-Hansons team (read his excellent book!) he came into his own as a MUT (mountain-ultra-trail) runner. He has won several HUGE trail races, including Tarawera, White River 50, Pike’s Peak Ascent, and the very muddy The North Face Endurance Challenge this past weekend at the Marin Headlands.
What I love about Sage is that he left a pretty good gig at Hansons-Brooks to find HIS joy in running. It would’ve been easy to settle in there for the long haul, but he took a chance on himself, pursued his passion, and achieved greater things after taking a personal and professional risk than I think he might have otherwise.
Here is a five questions interview we did earlier this summer.
1) You are one of several top ultra runners who have joined the Hoka movement. How did that happen for you? Did you have a transition period going from the more traditional shoe to the Hokas?
HOKA had approached me near the end of my contract with another shoe company. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical of HOKA shoes at first, but then I learned that they were coming out with new, lightweight and low-drop shoes that still had a lot of cushioning. Everyone I met in the company was really supportive of the growth in the sport and there were a lot of hardcore “running geeks” that I found I could really click with! The transition period was very short. Maybe a week at the most. There are lots of different models of HOKAs and some I definitely like more than others.
2) You are vegetarian. And you’ve done a lot of research on fueling strategy (fat burning vs carbs, etc.). Tell me, do you still get the protein question [“where do you get your protein?”] even with all your success? And what do you say?
I was born and raised as a vegetarian and so I’ve lived that way for the last 28 years. That is normal to me. Before I started Mountain-Ultra-Trail running I didn’t watch my sugar intake as much and I didn’t eat nearly as healthy as (I think) I do now. Living with my gluten-free vegetarian girlfriend (Sandi Nypaver) helps. I still have a lot to learn with the science of fueling for long-distance running, but in general I think a healthy lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with running well and having this kind of diet. It’s exciting to see how science can be applied to the sport!
3) You coach yourself, correct? Was there an adjustment period going from the hyper-scheduled Hansons Team to being your own boss? Who do you look for when you need a kick in the pants?
I’ve coached myself since early 2012 leading into my first ultra. After being in a very structured environment in college and then at Hansons I was looking for a refreshing change of pace (pun intended). The adjustment was pretty much instant and a huge relief. There is certainly a huge benefit to having a coach to work with and having a training group to drag you along, but I thoroughly enjoy doing things solo. My girlfriend Sandi is there to bounce some ideas off of (she helps me with our coaching business at Vo2max Productions), but the main kick in the pants is from within. I look at results online or read things about other top runners and it gets the competitive juices flowing. If I fail and make a mistake like overtraining myself (ie UROC) I only have myself to blame and I like making only myself accountable for that. On the flip-side, if I do well it’s a huge confidence booster!
4) Other than your now-famous uphill tempo run, what’s a nugget of training advice you can share with those of us striving for a little improvement on road or trail?
I learned this mainly from my college coach Robert Johnson at Cornell: Take your easy days easy. I think too often us runners are too motivated to try to improve everyday and we go out and push, push, push. On any easy/recovery day between workouts I make sure to run relaxed and not care if I’m getting passed (in Boulder that can easily happen). If you don’t recover well enough you don’t absorb the hard workouts well, you risk injury, and you risk overtraining. It’s all about staying healthy so you can be consistent in the long-term.
Here Sage explains the uphill tempo run:
5) Your YouTube channel, VO2MaxProductions, is incredibly rich with information and advice. Do you find that putting so much of yourself and your training “out there” inspires you to work harder? We rarely get this much insight or access into the training of pros and it is quite refreshing.
Thanks! Glad you like the YouTube videos on Vo2max Productions. I’m inspired by how many views, subscriptions and comments the channel gets. I think it’s a good indicator of the good-will of the running community and to share in that is a rewarding endeavor. I use it as a way to (hopefully) “give back” in some small way to the sport and people that have given me so much. I believe that information on how to enjoy the sport more, improve, and stay healthy should be out there for everyone. Social media is a valuable platform that I use to connect to other runners. I think I’m addicted!