Ryan Sandes Post Western States 100 Interview

While there may have been a few surprised faces regarding Ryan’s superb second-placed finish, it would have been no surprise to us Aussies to have seen the ‘Sandman’ romp to a well-deserved second place and with it a time under the old course record to boot too.

Ryan has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, firstly showing his promise at last year’s North Face 100. By his own admissions, he was disappointed with that, but a victory at the Leadville 100 and then a scorching win at North Face this year, it’s fair to say that we had quite high hopes for our adopted friend. We managed to catch-up with Ryan who gave us his thoughts post race, and also details of another project he has on the go at the end of this month.

How was your prep leading into the race?

Photo from Emma Garrard

I spent two weeks pre-race, training on the route and felt really good. I was lucky to meet three guys, Bill ( who was also running Western States) who introduced me to Tony and Chaz and they helped me run a good part of the Western States course. This was a massive help and meeting them was one of the highlights of my trip. They went out of their way to help Vanessa and I and we really felt part of their families. It made me realise that trail running is far more than just running, it’s about making new friendships and sharing life’s experiences – thanks guys!!

I was also really happy with my two previous race results in Hong Kong and Australia and therefore had a lot of confidence going into the race.

Did you have a strategy in mind?

My strategy was to take it easy over the first 40 miles as all the Western States veterans had told me the race only starts at Forest Hill (62 miles). I didn’t focus on any time goals as I wanted to run according to how my body was feeling.

Was the cold weather a surprise? How did you deal with that?

Yes!! I was hoping for it to be hot..:-) I was really cold during the first 30 miles and could not feel my hands and face at one stage. Mentally I stayed positive as everyone had to run in the same conditions and I could not control the weather.

How did the race unfold for you throughout the day?

The weather conditions were a lot cooler than expected and the first 35 miles were faaaking cold!!! We ran through rain, hail and ice-cold winds and I kept thinking to myself – I thought this race was supposed to get really hot. That said the atmosphere and race vibe was really special and I felt so privileged to be out there. I focused on enjoying the experience, ran my own race taking it one aid station at a time and by the time I got to the 40 mile mark I had joined the lead group.

Ryan at Western States – photo from Emma Garrard

When I caught them the lead was exchanged a few times before Timmy broke away at the top of Michigan Bluff. I caught him a few miles past Forest Hill and we took turns in taking the lead before he made a break just before Rucky Chucky River crossing.. after that I basically ate his dust all the way to the finish. He was on fire!! I felt strong throughout the race so was really happy with my performance.

What did you enjoy most about the run?
Western States is so iconic when it comes to ultra trail running, the atmosphere and aid station support was epic. I really enjoyed the course but the highlight of my trip was by far the great people I met.

Conversely, what was the bit you enjoyed least?
The cold conditions! I froze from mile 10 to 20… And the way my legs felt the day after the race was also a low light, but I only have myself to blame for that!

What nutrition strategy did you have in place?
I used Perpetuem by Hammer Nutrition, a few gels and bars, M&M’s and a few Red Bull e-shots towards the end when I got tired.

Did you think you could run near the 15 hour mark?
I never really thought of that… A 100 miles is such a long way so I did not want to get too far ahead of myself. I thought the winning time would be 15:20ish.

Are you going back next year for a shot at sub 15?
Haha!! I hope to be back… sub 15 would be special but a finish would be my first goal. Drinks on Marcus if it happens?? 🙂

What’s next on the cards for you?

I’ll be attempting the Fish River Canyon Trail record that was set in 2003 and has not been beaten since. l’ll be going to Namibia towards the end of July and doing the trail attempt on the 1st of August. A few years ago I had the privilege of running part of the Fish River Canyon on one of the stages of the Racing the Planet Namibia race. The canyon is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, but at the same time is one of the harshest environments I have run in.

I really battled in the canyon due to the extreme heat and terrain and running in there was one of the toughest days of my athletic career. Since then it has been on my list to come back and defeat. Last year we were all ready to tackle the record attempt, when heavy rainfalls and flooding in the canyon forced us to abandon everything. This year it will happen, I will not let the canyon get the better of me for another year.

We wish Ryan well for his attempt and hope to see him back on our shores again soon.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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