2016 Transvulcania Ultra Race Report and Western States Training | Sage Running

May 16, 2016 | By | 16 Replies More

Too Consistent?

As a coach I often preach about training and racing consistency. In our Sage Running Secret ebook Sandi and I qualify that as having “consistent variation.” That is the goal is to train well and race routinely well, but with an upward trajectory for adaptation and self improvement (or at least a better running experience and overall health). Much like the variety and spice one needs in a consistently healthy diet, it is all about moderation (but patterns and habits of moderation)…however oxymoronic that may sound.

I try to eat fairly healthy most of the time...products from my sponsor Flora definitely help with that (and Sandi likes this stuff too!). I really think nutrition is the key to quick recovery, optimal training and overall longevity/health.

I try to eat fairly healthy most of the time…products from my sponsor Flora definitely help with that (and Sandi likes this stuff too!). I really think nutrition is the key to quick recovery, optimal training and overall longevity/health.

This challenge is where I find “flow” in running right now. The continual process of testing and retesting body and mind and searching for improvement is where I get my kicks. The new goals, pain and fatigue are constants.

 

Last year I ran 4 road marathons in a 10-month span and ran them all in the 2:19-2:20 range. I was consistent…but consistently too slow for my goal of running under the US Olympic Trials Marathon standard (which I need up missing by 12 seconds). I consider that both a success and a failure. It was a failure because my times didn’t improve and I didn’t meet my ultimate goal, but it was a success because I ran the best marathon performance of my life (16th place at Boston)  – and I sandwiched those road marathons around a strong Speedgoat 50km and mountain training for UTMB . Any Surface, Any Distance!

 

This past weekend I finished 3rd place for the 3rd time at the Transvulcania Ultra Marathon. I executed a race strategy of taking the lead early on the climbs and truly believed that it was best race strategy to try to win the race and run a fast time.

Climbing a bit better this go around... Photo Credit: Dominic D.

Climbing a bit better this go around… Photo Credit: Dominic D. @dodafoto

[note: “Time-trialing” an ultra-trail race isn’t always one’s best strategy for necessarily placing well, but it always is for running the best possible time if it is paced/executed well! It isn’t always my best strategy or usual strategy though]

 

I won’t write about all the blow-by-blow race details on here as that is what the video below (my “VLOG”) recap will go into….along with the pictures and captions:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qInECi33XeE

 

While I was honored to make the podium again at this amazing race, I also will admit that I am a bit disappointed to not run a super fast time and to not improve my place by a single position!

 

Part of this has to do with a change in the race course which added a bit of distance and climbing (so I guess I can throw the time comparison out the window this year!).

fiammachinphotography

Digging deep on the final, 1000′ climb during the last 5km. Photo credit: #Fiammachinphotography @Fiammachin

Another part of this has to do with the outstanding and dominating performances that race champion and course record holder Luis Alberto Hernando (who I will point out WON for the 3rd Time…now that is consistent!!) churned out as well as a top performance from French runner Nicolas Martin for 2nd place. They absolutely crushed me on the descent and climbed very well too!

 

However, being data minded I can point out the following “improvements”: According to Strava I split exactly the same 2:23 split heading into the 15-mile aid station at El Pilar. However, for the next 1 hour uphill climb segment I split 3-minutes faster than I ever have! Comparing myself to my competitors, I also was able to reach the top of the climb on the course (50km mark at over 12,000’ of climbing) in first place whereas in the past Luis and Kilian Jornet had actually passed me before this summit. So I was climbing slightly better and leading the race for longer!

on the way up (and then down) to El Pilar on the course...a really magical place where you can see the eventual summit as well as both sides of the island all in one view!

on the way up (and then down) to El Pilar on the course…a really magical place where you can see the eventual summit as well as both sides of the island all in one view!

With further Strava.com data analysis I also saw that the long 12-mile and 8,000’ drop on the big descent was by far my slowest effort by over 3-minutes and my quads were totally blown out the whole way. I honestly though I would start walking the downhill! Champion Luis Hernando put 10-minutes on me during this descent alone.

 

The only silver lining was that near the final 700’ vertical drop to the port of Tazacorte I got super motivated to finish the downhill and was actually able to recklessly run the switchbacks enough to get a Strava CR:

The final switchbacks heading down to the port of Tazacorte are on the left side of this picture (and above the buildings!). Sandi enjoys the view...we stayed in a local apartment here the week before the race to live and train. It was amazing!

The final switchbacks heading down to the port of Tazacorte are on the left side of this picture (and above the buildings!). Sandi enjoys the view…we stayed in a local apartment here the week before the race to live and train. It was amazing!

I figured out I’m more “lame” on smooth/runnable downhill roads, but can hold my own on technical downhill trails where time gains and losses are more marginal.

Pretty much the opposite of what I did on the downhills during the race!

Pretty much the opposite of what I did on the downhills during the race!

 

So what does this all mean?! It means I have a lot of work to do before Western States! I need a new training stimulus and I need to work on my downhill. The challenge of trying to complete 100 miles alone in the heat will be plenty enough of a new race stimulus and one I can look forward too.

Thanks to the people (local crowds of support and running fans) this finish line is always super exciting and special! The bottle of cava always helps too. Photo credit: iRunFar.com

Thanks to the people (local crowds of support and running fans) this finish line is always super exciting and special! The bottle of cava always helps too. Photo credit: iRunFar.com

Right now the focus is on staying healthy, recovering quickly, and building up my mileage and long runs for Western States. It will be a journey and it will be unqiue experience. I’m going to try to embrace it!

Adventuring on the Transvulcania course with my adventure partner, Sandi!

Adventuring on the Transvulcania course with my adventure partner, Sandi!

Thank you for all your support on here, on YouTube, and on our “Sage Running” Coaching Website (check out our Training Plans there)! I am really fortunate and the generosity and positive energy of the running community has really all made this possible. THANK YOU!! Also, a big thanks to Sandi (my coach/crew/adventure partner), my family, and my sponsors for all their support.  Hope your running is going well and see you on the trails!

Cheers,

Sage

 

Shameless Sponsor Plugs/ Gear Used:

HOKA One One: Speedgoats

Flora Health: Goji Berries, Barabos fruit snacks, beet crystals and manuka honey (overall nutrition)

Nathan: Zelos hydration pack with a LightSpeed Pak belt

Compressport: R2 Calf Sleeves

Drymax: The “Sage Runner” Socks

Julbo: Stony shades

Vfuel: Took a gel about once every 20-30min on average during the race.

Strava: for all training logs and race data (using a Suunto Ambit Peak III Sport)

TrailButter: For nut-butter snacks and recovery while training hard!

UgoBars: Excellent carbs, fiber and protein sources to fuel training and recovery!

Avery Brewing: yes, I brought two Maharajah (double IPAs) all the way to Spain to drink/celebrate with!

 

 

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About the Author ()

2-time Olympic Trials Qualifier, Mountain runner, Author of “Running For The Hansons,” trail runner, videos for Vo2max Productioins, LLC.

Comments (16)

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  1. sagefollower says:

    Hello there sage,

    Have you ever thought to also concentrate in strength workout training aspect instead of only the running aspect ? Perhaps it could serve you as a stimulus for your body to improve in your respective course (?) What are your thoughts on this ?

    • SageCanaday says:

      Yes, for sure. Esp. with the quad/leg strength weakness and my hip mobility issues. I think it’s great for injury prevention, future improvements and longevity in the sport as well.

  2. Patrick Voo says:

    Way to go Sage! I appreciate how you are able to dissect your performance and see the victories that are embedded in your third consecutive third-place finish – you already know that you are the envy of all of us who support you, and we are immensely proud at the gains that you continue to exhibit through all of your racing adventures!

  3. Having run the same race and run/walked those same hills I am amazed how you keep running up those ascents. Incredible. Incredible cardio vascular strength. Well done again.

  4. Adam Haesler says:

    Hi Sage,
    Thank you for the review of the race!

    Very excited to hear you got 3rd place!

    I can appreciate your frustration, in wondering how can I possibly be better if already training year round, and getting lots of wins on home turf, what is up with this one race, and how much more can you possibly do?

    My thoughts and suggestions to consider:
    1. What if more is the wrong question? What if it is just the quality, and type of training mix that needs changing? You touched on this several times in the video, so clearly you already have a good head start on this.

    2. What if You and Luis both improved your games by roughly the same amount, and Nickolas was a wild card this year, and thus Luis was able to better you before and skill level difference is still the same, thus you both ended up in the same places for finishing again. Now you say that he is consistent, and always awesome, but is he really improving, or is it possible he is in the same boat you are, in that he may be getting first place each time he races, but maybe his times are still the same each year. I checked his times for the last three years, and if you normalized them all to the course distance, you would likely find they are similar. 2014: 6:54, 2015: 6:52, 2016: 7:04.

    Thus, and honestly I have no idea how much comroderie there is at the elite level when it comes to sharing tips, but I would say that if the roles were switched here and you were coaching me, you might say to go out and talk to the people who I admire as ultrarunners that have done what you want to do, and figure what they are doing that I would be willing to incorporate into my training plan. (obviously you would not likely be asking me to adopt something just because it works for someone else, but to figure out how the tips may or may not be useful to me).

    Obviously, you will have to shelf the ego, and ask yourself one question, do you want to be better or not? If so then you likely need to learn from those whom are better than you.

    Anyway, I am not so arrogant as to think I have all the answers, not my intention with what I have said. Just wanted to bounce back on you, what I have been told by many coaches (in various disciplines) in my interaction with them.

    Have a wonderful day,
    Adam.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey Adam,
      Thanks for your comment and points….all very good food for thought! I know Luis has done more specific downhill training on that particular course (something I should probably do to improve). I did finish closer to him this year, but with the course and weather being different it was hard to compare times. For 2nd place, Nicolas…I think he had a breakout performance.

      There is always something to learn from others in this great sport (people both faster and slower than you!). I’ll keep my ears open. I think with Transvulcania is is a very unique course. On another profile (or if we ran the course backwards even) I think it could be very different results.

      Thank you so much for your support and insight!

      Cheers,
      Sage

  5. Arnaud Daix says:

    Dear Sage, thank you for the interesting article about consistency and winning. Comment/question for you: it is said that winning in sport is about playing your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses. Here it seems that your forte (uphill) does not give you enough of an advantage to compensate for your ‘weakness’ (downhill). In a race which finishes by a long, mostly fast downhill, that’s a challenge.
    For your next goal races (including Western States), will you come up with a plan which will be based on the mix of your strengths/weaknesses, your key opponents S/W, and the profile of the course? My point being, maybe working your downhill skills for a much longer race with a different profile and set of competitors is not the most effective approach? Just curious about your thoughts on this. In any case, all the best for the next few months!!!

    • SageCanaday says:

      The profile of the course matters a ton for sure…but I think WS100 is also a different unique beast because it is a runnable 100-miles and mainly because of the heat. For me, it is mainly a journey into the unknown because it is 100-miles. For competitors and other fellow runners it may be a different challenge and so I will respond during the race with tactics (but won’t know what they are exactly until in the middle of it!) Best bet is try to be prepared for all situations (hills, downhills, longer long runs and heat training). It’s hard to say though because i haven’t done it yet! A net downhill race on the surface is not ideal for me as much as a net uphill race that is for sure. However, I’ve been happy with how a race like Boston or even Black Canyons 100km (both net downhills) have turned out so it is possible to train for… I think.

  6. Luis Gomez de Barreda says:

    Hi Sage,

    as rational beings we “love” to have a clear, black on white explanations for anything that happens to us. As runners we tend to do this after a race, and especially so when you experience a minor or big disappointment. I think such analysis seeking “the truth” is difficult, there are so many factors… Moreover, in your case, you just should be insanely happy for your 3 podium finishes, just really happy. Luis Alberto is a beast and probably this type of trail suits him well, curious to see how he would perform in an US type race… surely he’d be very strong, but…
    Thanks for making me aware of the Hoka brand, for Transvulcania I was undecided until the day before between my Rapa Nuis and Challengers, finally decided for the Rapa Nuis, found it was a good choice (more protection for not much more weight).

    cheers, Luis.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey Luis,
      Great comment! Congrats on your race as well out there…for sure a great choice in shoe also! I am very grateful and happy just to be running (and for being consistently on the podium again). It’s been a very fortunate thing for me. Yeah, there is a lot of “Gray area” and unknown variables going into performance in the sport…course profile and style makes things different. Luis is a beast in climbing (esp with poles) and he is a very fast downhill runner (technical or not). It would be great to see if he raced WS100 or TNF50 in the US too someday!

  7. bruce leong says:

    Hey Sage, Really great race even though you were disappointed in the place finish. You’re one of my favorite runners, for your performance, training talks, and transparency. It’s truly amazing and everyone is so grateful. Keep it up and you’re inspiring people, not just runners. Question and request, what/when will you post your training plan for your next race?

  8. kev says:

    Dear Sage,
    First congratulations on your career in TRANSVULCANIA . It is always a pleasure to see you in our islands.

    Secondly I have tried to contact via email and I was wondering if you could look at it at some point .

    I hope not to bother

    Thank you very much for your attention

    Kev

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi Kev,
      Sorry if I did not respond to your email. What was the topic? I get very behind on messages/emails/comments so I apologize in advance! Thanks for your support,
      Sage

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