My Hips Lied (to me): Les Templiers Race Report

November 2, 2014 | By | 26 Replies More

My Hips Lied (to me) : Les Templiers Race Report.

The flat stretches of road made me cringe. Even worse was the slightly downhill (i.e. -5% grade) road and paths that resulted in accelerations of up to around 11mph. It was ironic because as a former “roadie” marathoner most would assume that I would embrace these intermittent fast stretches and eat up ground on such “easy” terrain. In reality, all I wanted was more uphill (longer uphill!)…it was this quick stuff that was seemingly destroying my legs. Actually it was the combination of steep, short uphills followed by these more tame sections that was locking up my hips. Sheer muscle failure. This has been a painful limiting factor in every single European race I’ve done (save for Lake Sonoma, which also locked up my hips) and it’s the key difference between racing in the States and on the Euro tour. In track racing, they used to say that to race in Europe you needed “2 gear shifts”….well in MUT Running on the Euro scene I think it’s more like I need a whole new transmission! The nature of the trails and the hills/mountains require different, specific training between continents. It has been a challenge for me.

 

The trip started with a visit to Paris!

The trip started with a visit to Paris!

Typical Breakfast (not really...but kinda)

Typical Breakfast (not really…but kinda)

We split the first mile in 6:07. After the first climb of the race the field was already getting a bit spread out. Zach Miller lead the charge in the dark carrying a handheld flash light in addition to his headlamp (he ran a gutsy race leading most of the way and still held on for 5th). I was content to actually “sit back” and start a bit more conservatively (a rare thing for me to do in most ultras, but I had concerns about the technicality of the trail in the last 30km of the race). Coming through the first aid station about 13 miles in, I was in great shape, right around 10th place and  2-3min off the lead. So far so good! The next climb went very well for me as I moved into 3rd place over the next 4-5 miles and was 50 seconds off the lead. Then my hips protested. I tried to shrug the painful fatigue off… to mentally check out and stay positive about the remaining 30 miles, but the discomfort only increased from there on.

The amazing suspension bridge above Millau!

The amazing suspension bridge above Millau!

 

A taste of the hills we encountered on the course!

A taste of the hills we encountered on the course!

The last 20-miles was a blur of pain. I tired to enjoy the views, running through castles and the festive ambience of the race as much as possible, but the dread of a pack of guys flying past me at any moment was overwhelming. Around mile 35, after a particularly tricky steep downhill I heard the pitter-patter of Alex Nichols quickly coming up to pass me. As Alex pulled away I tried to latch on, but my form was broken and slow. I thought about the team competition and how I was going to be the “weak link” for our squad…this provided a lot of motivation to try to finish as strong as possible! I found myself in some pretty dark moments as I thrashed my way up the final climbs (when your muscles start to fail you must use auxilirary muscles to keep moving) always paranoid that the nosies behind me were other runners catching me.

 

Pain is temporary...Pride is forever!

Pain is temporary…Pride is forever!

I started to think about how and why the US men have traditionally struggled at UTMB and how the nature of the trails in France (and the everything else I’ve seen in Europe for that matter) is like nothing I’ve ever trained on in the US. The hills come at you differently, the transition to road sections seemed to require different musculature….different neuromuscular patterns. I was ill-equipped. Mentally I scolded myself for not training harder…training smarter. What happened to “Sage the Rage” who ran up to 150 miles a week in college while training for 8km cross country races? Perhaps I’ve grown weak with age…

 

The last couple miles were a blur. Descending down a fast stretch of road I spotted Zach walking. Apparently his fast pace had finally caught up to him and there was absolutely nothing left in the tank. I think we’ve all been there before. I reassured him that we were close to the finish (I actually had no idea how far the finish line was away from us, but I assumed it was within a mile or two based on my GPS). Soon, I was coming into the finish area and someone handed me an American Flag. It was a huge relief to finally cross the line and I was surprised that I had moved up into 4th place! I congratulated Alex on his 3rd place, podium finish as well as the two French runners that finished ahead of us quite convincingly. With Zach’s 5th place finish, we ended up winning the team title. Fellow HOKA athlete Magdalena Lewy-Boulet lead the US women’s team with her strong 3rd place finish with Aliza Lapierre and Cassie Scallon finishing 5th and 10th respectively.

finish

 

usa

In closing, Les Templiers was an amazing race experience. The views from the high point on the courses were spectacular and running through old castles and forest trails complete with knights and thousands of cheering people was quite special. Race Director Gilles Bertrand organized a well-orchestrated festival of trail running for 3 whole days in Millau and it was an honor to take part in such a grand event. From the pre-race expo to start and finish fireworks and champagne and cheese, everything was top-notch! I was humbled by the course and competition, as well as the generosity of running community in France. Also, a special thanks goes out to Christophe for helping organize the international team component and taking care of us before, during and after the race. Finally, I’d like to thank my parents for coming out to crew and support me in my crazy running endeavors (and Sandi for supporting me in spirit and online from across the Atlantic). Thank you.

Men's US Team

Men’s US Team

My time in France was too short on this trip, but I hope to return in the near future for more racing and training! So far, it’s been a long year of racing including the following:

January: Carlsbad Marathon (2nd place):

March: Tarawera Ultra Marathon in New Zealand (1st place):

April:   Lake Sonoma 50 miler (3rd place)

May:   Transvulcania 45-miler (3rd place)

June:   Mt. Washington (3rd place)

July:   Speedgoat 50km (1st place)

August: Pikes Peak Ascent (1st place)

September: The Rut 50km (2nd place)

October: Les Templiers 46 miler (4th place)

December: The North Face 50-miler (TBD!)

(I basically raced every single month save for February and now November), but I plan to continue straight into 2015 with the Houston Marathon in January and the Tarawera 100km in February.

As Rod Dixon (3:53 miler to 2:08 marathoner) would say: “All I want to do is drink beer [and make videos], [and race] and train like an animal!”

 

Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your training and future events!

Cheers,

Sage

PS I’m proud to announce that my film project “MUT Runner” is finally finished! DVD copies are available on Amazon HERE, and HD Digital Downloads are available on Vimeo HERE. To help grow and support the sport, 65% of all proceeds from the film will go to the non-profit, American Trail Running Association (ATRA).

IMG_3710
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Thanks you to all the donors who supported the Kickstarter campaign. I couldn’t have done it without your generosity!

 

And, finally…

Shameless Sponsor Plugs/Gear Used:

 Shoes: HOKA One One Huakas (I would’ve worn my Challengers if it rained though)

Compression: Compressport R2 calf sleeves during, Recovery Socks post-race

Hydration: Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest, with 20oz bottles, 4oz gel flasks and a 12oz soft flask

Fuel: about 20 Vfuel gels, Ugo bars post-race, Trail Butter before race,

Socks: Drymax max protection

Shades: Smith Optics Pivlock V2

GPS data: Strava.com

Nutrition: Flora Health “7 Sources” and “Udo’s Oil” taken daily in training

 

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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 (26)

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  1. patrick voo says:

    congrats on a great finish at Les Templiers, sage! while it’s always interesting (and somewhat encouraging) to know that elite athletes like you are still human, what really separates you from the rest of us recreational competitors is your ability to focus, re-recruit muscles and overcome those ‘dark places’. it’s hugely inspiring and educational!

    and kudos on the release of MUT Runner! looking forward to getting a copy for Christmas!

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey thanks so much Patrick! Yeah, I was lucky to be able to finish strong. There’s always a lot of pain, but some races it starts earlier than others! It’s always fun to just gain experience and learn how to pace your body (and overcome more mentally). That’s a challenge that unites all of us runners in this sport!

  2. Binay Singh says:

    Hi Sage,
    Congratulations to you and Team USA. I think you did a great job. Very impressive, as usual:).Sometime back I read that you were going to go to Chicago Marathon but I think you did not make it. Is Houston marathon a qualifier for you Olympics trial?Our wishes are with you and I believe you will make it to Olympics. Good Luck.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi thank you! Yes, I decided to focus on this race instead of Chicago. I will try to run a sub 2:18 at the Houston Marathon in January instead (although it is only 6 weeks after the North Face 50-miler in San Francisco). Thank you for all your support!

  3. Francois says:

    Another very good article ! It’s interesting to see your technical comments about the differences between the European & American races. You are maybe a bit harsh with yourself when you say “Perhaps I’ve grown weak with age…”. Don’t you consider yourself still as “new” in trail running ? And with all those crepes, you were a tad slower, that’s expectable 😉

    We hope to see you again racing in France, there are many nice races, you would have plenty of nice local food & drinks to try too 😉

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey there,
      Thank you very much for your support and well wishes. Yes, I like to joke how I am old (I have been running for 15 years) – but hopefully I still have room for improvement and I know I am learning a lot with ultra-trail running (especially when I get to race in Europe!). It was fun to come to France and I wish to come back a lot in the future…maybe next summer to prepare for the UTMB! Thank you again for your encouragement and best of luck with all your future endeavors!

  4. Fabian says:

    I was on the course (Le Cade) and see you american guys bring a real added value to the race. Zach was full of panache. Alex ran smart but he has more experience in Europe. I think you assured a well run race starting carefully and maintaining a 4th place despite the pains. The Templiers race is well known for its particular profile. Despite the ups and downs, the course is usually considered as rolling in the trail community. You would probably feel better in high mountain. Hope to see you next summer in France. Congrats for your results and your attitude.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi Fabian,
      Thanks for your kind words! It was an honor to be racing there in France and the competition was great! I hope to return next summer maybe for UTMB as well. Best of luck with everything!

  5. John O says:

    Very honest and revealing race report. What are the key differences between racing in Europe and the USA that impacts you? It is sounds like biomechanics from your report. I think the time difference also makes a big impact, if you look at the Europeans who have been successful in the states in ultra races many seem to spend several weeks or months before the event adjusting to the change in sleep cycle and other variables such as culture and food. Do you think this is less of a factor for shorter road events? From your experience as a road elite how did International pro’s deal with travel related stress before big events like Boston or New York? Do you have a coach or agent who can help with planing your race callendar? I think you have to look at Killian to find a pro-ultra mountain runner with more talent and potential. I wish you well and a strong performance at TNF50SF and Houston Marathon.

    • John O says:

      In regards to Killian I meant to say “equal or perhaps more talent”.

      • SageCanaday says:

        thanks! Kilian is very very great in the mountains…I really haven’t been that close to him ever in a SkyRunning event (always about 10min behind). I wish he would do The North Face or Lake Sonoma one day so us “flatter” trail runners could maybe stand a chance!

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey thanks for your comment! Yes, for sure the biomechanics were a struggle for me. I think the big thing with international travel is the actual plane flight(s). I think maybe the sitting for such a long time (as well as dry air and dehydration) probably isn’t ideal. Next time I’ll just have to travel earlier! Eating a lot of chocolate crepes and croissants in Paris probably didn’t help… Honestly though I think my training just needs to be better next time mainly though!
      As far as road marathoning goes I think since the course profile is more consistent (i.e. Boston and New York are a bit hilly, but nothing crazy like MUT Running whereas Chicago/Houston is pancake flat) it can be easier to adapt. A lot of the Kenyans and other top runners spend months at a time in the US training and racing for the whole season. Also, prior course knowledge and training helps…a lot of top runners will train on the Boston course a month or two beforehand to get used to the downhill start and rollers in the Newton Hills etc. I don’t have an agent, so I try to manage my calendar and training and sponsorship deals solo (i like it that way, but it’s probably not always ideal). Thanks for all the support!

  6. Chris says:

    Congrats Sage!
    I am pedestrian MUT and if you really want to amuse yourself with European fun I woul suggest the Andorra ultra trail June of 2015. I ran/walked/sat the 50 mile version last year. In 2015, i am opting for the 70 mile version. with its 6 miles of gain and 6 mile elevation loss. It should be a blast. Side note. I live in Florida but running in mountains is the shit.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey Chris,
      Awesome to hear and congrats! That sounds like quite the challenge. Major props for you to do that being from FL! Best of luck with your training and future races!

  7. Joaquin says:

    Awesome Job! My wife Jamie and were wondering what “locked hips” feel like? Thanks Sage for the encouragement.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Thank you! Stiff and tight in the whole hip area (like it’s turning into concrete) and then a searing/burning pain like a hot knife is slowly cutting into the front of the hip flexor.

  8. Angela Montoya says:

    Sage, you are very quickly becoming a legacy in MUT running!! You are, indeed, too hard on yourself. It’s a change from the norm with world class athletes. So many are quite egotistical. I admire your tenacity, but I also admire your ability to be transparent and honest about how ultra-running really feels.

    I am a back of the packer and look forward to watching your success! I hope to see you at the Houston Expo 🙂 I’m running my first marathon. Say, think about ultra-running here in Texas. We have plenty of heat, cactus, snakes and alligators to keep you engaged!!! True though, it’s a far cry from the crepes in France.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi Angela,
      Thank you very much!! No matter how many MUT Running events I do (and regardless of time/place) there is always so much to learn! I think we all just want to try to improve, reach our potential and find ways to embrace the pain/challenge so that it is actually fun!
      Best of luck with your training for Houston…come say “hi” if you see me there! I actually did enjoy the trails in TX at the Bandera 100km in 2013…the cactus and the rocks/hills/heat made it very interesting!

  9. Roby says:

    Hi Sage,

    That was a real battle for you and the US Team! You really are an inspiration for many of us and I thank you for that.

    The european races are something apart, I mean there are many factors that changes everything and even though you worked hard throughout the year, it is amazing how those european courses hurt the occidental racers.

    You’ve been working really hard on-and-off your feet and that is something to admire since many of the pro euro racers just train and a crew makes the videos, design their trainings and even, at certain point, their whole life but you, you do it everything yourself with of course Sandi’s help.

    I hope you can come to Costa Rica next year for The Coastal Challenge or TNF Endurance, but for now rest and recover.

    Pura vida!

    Rob

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey thanks so much for your continued support Rob!
      It is a privilege just to be able to race internationally (and each venue has so much to offer) so i’m pretty lucky! As I’m sure you’ve found Running is a Lifestyle…so it’s a great attitude to embrace! Thank you again for your support and hope to see you in the States/Europe and/or Costa Rica again in the future!

  10. Ryan says:

    Great writing Sage! I listened to interview with Alex after the race in which he stated how surprised he was to have passed you. This made me wonder what had happened and now I know. Do you think there was anything you could have done to better prepare yourself for running this course? Maybe more roads that transition into trail as training runs? Also do you think different nutrition ether prior to or during the race could of helped you? I’d like to think that we can all learn from each others experiences and I really appreciate your willing to share details of your race with every.

    Oh and congratulations on your 4th place finish. Still and amazing time!:)

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hey thanks so much Ryan. Yeah Alex is a very strong runner and he ran a great race! I think I could’ve done some different workouts that would have helped my leg muscles out a bit. I also think I’ve just raced waaay too much this year (i.e. a race almost every month except for February and most of the races being ultras) so ideally I didn’t have enough time to rest, train the correct way and then taper. It’s been challenging mixing up the SkyRunning events with races like Lake Sonoma, Mt. WA, and Tarawera (to name a few). Nutrition wise I felt pretty dialed in with Vfuel gels, some chips/coke and Nuun tabs. I did waste a lot of time in the aid stations though whereas all the top guys transitioned very fast!

      Best of luck with your training and future races!

  11. Didier Vannini says:

    Hi Sage,

    Congrats for your race and the humility you show in your report. I was there too and it was such an amazing day, from the “start ceremony” that sent shivers down my spine right to the finish.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your short stay in France, and I hope you’ll be back.

    A bientôt

    Didier

    PS: it was also very inspiring to read the article about you in the “Trail origin” book that was given to all participants.

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi Didier,
      Thank you very much for your kind words! Les Templiers was a very special event and it was an honor to be there! Glad you enjoyed it as well. France was very welcoming to the whole US team and it was exciting to take part in the Festival.

      Thank you for your support and best of luck with your upcoming events!

  12. Weide says:

    Congratulations on the race result! I just got you movie as download, but also ordered the dvd for my shelf collection 🙂 as i live in Germany, its great that a download option is available. Will watch on the week end after a long run.
    Have you ever thought about running in Germany? We have a pretty nice 100km race here, called the Zugspitz Ultratrail. It has got something like 5400m vert gain. It is a competitive field, though i think you could definately place 1st.
    Be great to see more Americans come over here, also to Germany. The running culture is huge and also the Ultra running culture is big. We have europes biggest Ultra, the Rennsteiglauf, 72km, 1100m vert, winning time was 4:50 this year and about 15.000 people run it.
    Zugspitz has around 2.000 starters. Big Hoka community here too 🙂
    Good luck with the Houston Marathon!
    Cheers from Germany

    • SageCanaday says:

      Hi there,
      Thank you so much for your support of “MUT Runner!” That is awesome to hear!
      I would love to come to Germany sometime…I’ve heard lots of great things with the running, the culture/people and (of course) the beer. Glad to hear that HOKA is big there too.
      Thank you for letting me know about those races…they all sound very nice! Best of luck with your training and future races and hope to see you at an event sometime.

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