This weekend was up there in the business stakes for members of Ultra168. Whilst a couple of us are in recovery phase post GNW100, Andrew is in the final stages of his taper for the epic Coast to Kosci race next weekend and Marcus is increasing the mileage ready for Bogong to Hotham in the first week of January.
On top of this was getting our entries into the Six Foot Track Marathon successfully along with the Hardrock100 lottery draw and checking out the field for the sold out TNF100km in the Blue Mountains in May 2012.
The TNF100 in 2012 will be its 5th year and the event has grown and grown. We can’t wait for this weekend to come around and it was very timely that 3rd place podium getter from 2011 Ryan Sandes was in Sydney town courtesy of his sponsors Red Bull, for a quick catch up with us and a chance to take him out on some of our favourite harbourside trails.
Ryan has had a stellar year with not only his TNF100 podium place alongside fellow Salomon athletes and legend Kilian Jornet and Francois D’hane but also victories in the iconic Leadville hundred miler in the US and last week taking out another Racing The Planet victory in Nepal.
The last time I caught up with Ryan earlier this year in the Pyrenees he was unsure of his plans after RTP Nepal, so I was excited to learn that he is returning to our shores in May 2012 to compete at the TNF100. I am doubly excited as not only is Ryan one of those quiet achievers who takes his job as an international trail runner seriously but he always does it with a smile and little pomp and ceremony which has surrounded some runners and races this year, but I am also excited as I think he has a real chance to further lower the TNF100 record set by Kilian this year.
Whether sitting with a coffee or speeding down the trails it was interesting to hear his approach to choosing his races, how he prepares and how he ultimately sets out to perform at the highest level.
Now for those of you new to the sport, Ryan burst onto the scene a few years ago as the first athlete to win all 4 of the famous Desert stage races, this led to the moniker “The Sand Man”. It was only in the last 18 months have we seen his true flexibility as an athlete as he briefly gave the stage racing away to have a crack at conquering some of the more famous and high profile 100 milers in the US.
This culminated in a well executed victory at the Leadville Hundred in one of the fastest times ever run. This will now mean it is going to be more difficult for Ryan to sail under the radar. And this may be hard for him having seen the attention and sometime struggles fellow Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet received this year culminating in September with Kilian’s first DNF in a long while.
By all accounts Ryan says Kilian will be more selective in not only his racing but his exposure in 2012 even though he states that his schedule is still pretty packed with unfinished business at Western States by having a crack at lowering the record and a focus on new adventures on new continents. I cant see the Salomon juggernaut slowing down soon and with the increased competition 2012 will certainly be a year to watch.
Returning to Ryan’s plans in 2012 he alluded to focussing on more 100 milers throughout the year with a sensible approach of only targetting races that are a genuine challenge such as UTMN and ones that add to his ability to express his versatility as a runner such as WS100. This will probably need to lead to a few less appearances at the Racing The Planet stage races.
In addition, Ryan would love to spend more time on his own continent and he has a number of plans up his sleeve one of which is to add a new trail ultra in his backyard of Cape Town.
Ryans approach to training is not too dissimilar to most other ultra runners, with a good deal of base building, followed by sharpening and acclimatisation and then a decent taper to ensure a healthy body and mind reaches the start line. He hinted that as this years Leadville 100 he was probably a little overtrained and will look at these large training blocks slightly differently in future.
He is also a big proponent of cross training and is often out on his KTM mountain bike giving the legs a well earned rest from the bashing of the trails. He has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Salomon who he has helped in shaping the development of new equipment and shoes. On the trails this weekend he was sporting a fine pair of S-LAB XT Wings 4’s which were slightly cut down to accommodate his high cadence and natural running style.
One final word on Ryan and his approach to the sport is that he is very much focussed on all those components of the sport he can control and eveything outside of this sphere he just deals with on an as needed basis. This is clearly a strong trait he has perfected from multiple stage races where days of discomfort and uncertaintly are all taken in his stride.
We look forward to bring regular updates on Ryan’s training and racing plans in 2012 and to keep you informed on his preparations for TNF100.