Sage Canaday: The RUT 50km Race Report

September 16, 2014 | By | 36 Replies More

Going Exponential


It’s been 3 days since The Rut 50km SkyRunning Ultra Series Championships and my quads are tender to the touch. The only moving I’ve been doing lately consists of a weak hobble between the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. This is the kind of rebellion that the body dishes out after a seriously gnarly and extreme ultra-marathon mountain race!


Lone Peak (as seen from the start/finish)...we hit the summit of this at mile 21 into the race!

Lone Peak (as seen from the start/finish)…we hit the summit of this at mile 21 into the race!


Things started out on mountain bike trails in the cold dawn.....Photo by Matt Trappe:

Things started out on mountain bike trails in the cold dawn…..Photo by Matt Trappe:

I knew I was screwed by mile 14.

It turns out the first off-trail section up loose rockfall and scree hit a 46% uphill grade. Powerhiking very inefficiently I turned around to see Kilian closing fast on me several hundred yards back. The 4-min or so lead that I put on him in the first 10 miles was evaporating exponentially. The next 6 miles up and down such off-trail slopes on technical rocks were not going to play to my advantage! I was already pretty deep in the hurt locker with my aggressive (perhaps overly aggressive?) start ( although the second mile when I pulled away still had 800+ feet of climbing so it’s not like these were flat trails!). Every leg muscle was already on edge and the blurry/dizzy feeling of hypoglycemia was starting to paralyze my neuromuscular coordination on the rocks. In terms of mileage the race was almost halfway complete, but in terms of time it was only a third of the way done. After a dreadful (and near disastrous) fall complete with a resulting butt-slide on the first steep descent (which I will also add included a slick layer of snow..I HATE snow!) I heard Kilian’s footsteps…he came down at me like a true GOAT!


This was a tame part of the rocky section...I was still in the lead! Photo Credit: Rob Goyen

This dog was being a Boss! It was a tame part of the rocky section though…I was still in the lead! Photo Credit: Lukas Geyer


Don't look up! Photo by Matt Trappe:

Don’t look up! Photo by Matt Trappe:

I was in the hurtbox here...powerhiking has never been my thing! Photo by

I was in the hurtbox here…powerhiking has never been my thing! Photo by


Enter PainCave! Soooo techy. Photo Credit: Matt Trappe

Enter PainCave! Soooo techy. Photo Credit: Matt Trappe 


I won’t go into the details of how the race played out, as you can find that out on iRunFar HERE , but lets just say I was glad to finish the race in 2nd place (a good 11 min behind Kilian) without having to get stitches or an x-ray for a broken bone. In such a high state of fatigue the impending fear of a career-ending injury seems to really weigh on the mind when descending fields of sharp rocks at -46% grade. I gave it everything I had, but there was no matching Kilian on this day in this type of true SkyRunning event. Hats off to his impressive performance as he was totally in a different league.


Lessons learned from the race? Well, the runnable mountain bike and ski access road sections didn’t seem to make up for the extremely technical-off trail sections (at least for me, being rather clumsy and not coordinated at class 2 and 3 mountain scrambling.) Why? Because (like most things in running) things tend to present themselves exponentially (think lactate curves and bonking). Kilian, being an extremely fit athlete, can still run within 20-30 seconds per mile on the “flatter” trails and gravel road sections when we were going 6-8min per mile pace. Whereas in the high country, powerhiking on rocks, I’m sucking wind on all fours with a 26-min mile (ie the 21st mile of the race up Lone Peak which also had 1800’ of vertical gain) and he is moving at an astonishing 23-min per mile pace. So, essentially my hard earned 4min  lead after 10 or so miles of fairly intense work on runnable (yet still very hilly and steep) trails evaporated after about 1.5 miles on the steep off-trail sections. And that was just going UP. On the way down I didn’t stand a chance! Kilian pulled away from me at an exponential rate. It was actually an amazing sight to see before I lost sight of him!


Suffer fest over! Photo by Matt Trappe:

Suffer fest over! Photo by Matt Trappe:

Overall it was a well organized race thanks to RDs Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote. The local trail running crowd from Montana was very impressive and it was a lot of fun to be a part of the atmosphere there at Big Sky.  Finally, a special thanks to all the volunteers that made The Rut possible!


happy to done! Photo credit:

happy to be done!
Photo credit:



Podium: Congrats to Manuel Merillas as well who placed 3rd and also got 3rd overall in the SkyRunning Ultra Series! Photo: Matt Trappe:

Podium: Congrats to Manuel Merillas as well who placed 3rd and also got 3rd overall in the SkyRunning Ultra Series! Photo: Matt Trappe:

I think now it’s back to the drawing board for me, as next year I’m really drawn to trying my hand at 100-miles… but at the same time I also love “short” distance mountain racing, so choices and sacrifices will have to be made. After completing the International SkyRunning Ultra Series I’m really looking forward to doing some more runnable Trail races that are not in the mountains (Les Templiers in October and The North Face 50-miler in Dec.) before trying to get some more “speed” back for a US Olympic Trials Qualifying attempt (sub 2:18:00 marathon) on the roads in January at Houston.


Hope your training and racing are going well. Thanks for following along and best of luck with everything!




PS  Here are some more photos of the Race from Matt Trappe Photography 

Shameless Sponsor Plugs and Gear Used before/during/after the Race:


Shoes: Hoka One One Huaka

Nutrition: 14 Vfuel gels during race

Ugo Bars after race for recovery (first thing I ate!)

Trail Butter on bagel pre-race for breakfast with coffee

Flora Health “7 Sources” daily in Training

Avery Brewing Co IPA (post-race celebration and during training)

Socks: Drymax max protection (orange)

Compression: Compressport USA calf sleeves during race, compression socks for recovery


GPS/data/training recording:

Hydration gear: Ultimate Direction handheld, AK Racing Vest, Jurek Essential Belt

Shades: Smith Optics Pivlock V2




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Category: blog

About the Author ()

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

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  1. Emir says:

    Great job out there Sage. Kilian has been on fire this year and in top form. 2nd place is an amazing accomplishment at this race. Keep it up!

  2. patrick voo says:

    fantastic accomplishment sage! having followed your running career for several years now i’m astonished at how you’ve expanded your repertoire and managed to stay at the very top of the elite categories, no matter the type of race!

    when you analyze kilian’s strengths and how they led to his victory at the RUT 50k, what would you boil it down to? more experience on the type of technical, vertical terrains? better technique? fitness? or just that that course played to his strengths more than to yours?

  3. HeatherD says:

    Great race! I’m terrified just looking at the race photos. I can’t imagine trying to run/hike some of that stuff.

  4. Ari J Levine says:

    Sounds like you’re being too hard on yourself – 2nd place with a 5:20 time is awesome! Congrats! If you get in, do you think you would run WSER100 in 2015?

  5. James "Frenchy" says:

    I so love your approach, your awareness, your drive. Congrats on going toe to toe with Kilian. How often do you take a VFuel Gel? DO you have a set time like every 45 min or is it based on effort?

  6. Carter says:

    Which is harder, the speedgoat 50k or the rut?

  7. Roby says:

    Hi Sage,

    I must say that this is one of your best reports, I can tell you this because I could feel your pain while reading it.

    It was a really aggresive start, but come on! It was the FINAL! You had to go all in, but wisely though. How bad was the fall? Very brave of you to keep going after it happened and thank God you didn’t break any bone.

    Now recover and get well soon! You are an inspiration to all of us! A TRUE CHAMPION!

    Pura vida,


  8. John says:

    Congrats on a great race! Enjoy reading your responses and reviews. It’s honest. Thanks

  9. SageCanaday says:

    hey thanks so much for the support! I agree, Kilian has been in top form all year. Best of luck with your training and future races.

  10. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks for following along. I really appreciate your continued support! I’d say part of it is musculature and high Vo2max. He is very efficient powerhiking up steep slopes and can pull away when I’m breathing too hard. Then it’s neuromuscular coordination on the technical descents…being able to read a line through the rocks and then not get his quads battered up (my quads are battered up!). He also seems to not need to eat and drink as much as I do and doesn’t carry a bottle or anything in his hands (I do weight 20 lbs more though!). Overall it would have been near impossible for me to beat him on this type of course I think.

  11. SageCanaday says:

    Thanks Heather! I thought the rocks would at least slide/move on the way down but it turns out some of them were big and didn’t move…that made things scary.

  12. SageCanaday says:

    hey thanks, yeah I might try for the lottery as the qualifying races take a lot out of the early part of the season. So many races in late spring/early summer that would be so cool do to, but Western seems like the best bet for a 1st 100.

  13. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks! In this race it was more often than normal because of the high intensity and altitude. Usually I go about every 20min (or every 3 miles), but I changed it up at times based on how I felt and how hard I was climbing. Sometimes I’d take more calories at aid stations as well (i.e. Coke) and sometimes I’d go longer than 30min without at gel (i.e. in the last 5 miles or so).

  14. SageCanaday says:

    Every race is hard if you push yourself 100%! The techy sections at the RUT were way harder than Speedgoat. I would much rather race a guy like Kilian at speedgoat where I think I might have at least a slight chance and there is not major danger in falling on the rocks. I had to powerhike maybe 1 mile total at Speedgoat, whereas at The Rut I was powerhiking maybe 2.5+ miles. The Rut is harder for me to recover from and took longer even though it had 1,000′ less climbing.

  15. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much for all the support Roby! I really had to risk it, that’s for sure. The fall really wasn’t that bad because I didn’t spill out a bunch of blood! I hit my feet pretty hard on some loose rocks and that shook me up a bit and made me limp, but it could have been much worse. Thanks again and Pura vida!

  16. SageCanaday says:

    Thanks for reading!

  17. Rachel Toor says:

    Sage, I gave you the back split on Killian (4 minutes) at the summit at Lone Peak. It was a pleasure to see you guys racing at Big Sky, but even more heartening to hear how articulate you were in the post-race interview. Nice job.

  18. Laurent says:

    Hi Sage,
    congrats for the impressive and bold race. You tried really hard even though this is not quite your game. Killian grew up running up and down mountains and everybody knows he is unbeatable in that terrain. The Matterhorn should have made things clear in anybody’s mind. He ran terrain where people hire a guide and rope up. On that ridge there are hundred of spots where a mistake would have mean death. That’s his stuff, and you are extremely courageous for trying to stick with him.
    I’ve been watching your videos for a while and I don’t think I have ever seen too much advice on how to apply the marathon training science to running uphill especially. It would be great if you did a video or two on training for uphill races (I’m thinking especially Pikes Peak and Mt Evans which are pretty comparable in time to a marathon effort).
    Good luck at Les templiers. I’m French and grew up admiring the pictures from that race. The course looks incredibly beautiful. Expect muddy conditions!! Looking forward to see how you do over there.

  19. john doe says:

    You are fantastic runner. Maybe you should spend some time to build more leg muscle when you race with killian. Maybe you will have more chance. What you think?

    Without killian nobody else could beat you even thou you are marathoner. Your performance impressive though

  20. Isaac Gallegos says:

    Sage, just an amazing job well done. The family and I were following coverage on via twitter and were getting updates. I had to admit I drank a beer for you and your accomplishments. The most important thing is that you kept it safe so you can continue to train, race, and educate us more.

    Outstanding results!

    SLC UT

  21. Mike says:

    you made me a fan with your candid and genuine take on the run. congrats! I saw you there I also ran and I dropped after starting up bone crusher. I had prepared for the altitude but the extreme vertical took it out of me , I was under prepared. hope to see you at another race, as id like to get a foto with a true superstar like you!!

  22. Paulo says:

    Well done Champ! Sounds like you gave it everything despite knowing it wasn’t your course. The photos show the effort, the pain, the battle. Did you draw the course terrain on your arms? Hey – we seeing you again at Tarawera? Can’t promise to give you a run for your money, as I’ll still be out there after you’ve finished, recovered, showered, eaten, phoned home, taken a nap…… :-). Paulo (NZ)

  23. SageCanaday says:

    Hey Thanks Rachel! I was likely a bit light-headed at the top Lone Peak. Best of luck with your training and racing as well.

  24. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much Laurent! For uphill training check out my Uphill Tempo run videos and Training for Mt. WA (in the state of New Hampshire here in the US). I’m really looking forward to coming to France for Les Templiers (and possibly next year The UTMB!)….but not to get ahead of myself I know your trails are tough (steeper) and the conditions will take a lot of training and preparation!

  25. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much! I think it will take more mountain training to build up the leg muscles in a way so that the steep terrain can be covered faster. But on the same note, I think it might take away from my road marathon “flat speed!” I still want to run the marathon and half marathon on the road so this is a hard thing to balance. Thanks for the support!

  26. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed a beer…that’s what it’s all about! Yeah, I’d like to stay in this sport as long as I can so I have to pace myself a bit!

  27. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks for the support! Bone Crusher was horrible! It was one of those points in the race where I was just like “oh, shit this is way worse than I thought”. Best of luck with your recovery and training for future races. See you on the trails!

  28. SageCanaday says:

    Hey Paulo,
    Thanks for the support! I did draw some figures on my arm so I knew when the aid stations were and when the big climbs started (although I had also taken note in my head). The steepness of the terrain wasn’t shown well on the maps though as you feel a 46% grade in your legs very fast! I will be back for Tarawera 2015. Can’t wait to come to New Zealand again!

  29. Victor Mound says:

    Cracking race Sage, great result. It sounds like the mikes sprung a surprise on you and you really smashed it by gutting it out on the day.
    I think Kilian has the sort of advantage in the mountains that West African runners have in road races, just think of the hundreds of thousands of feet of vertical he must have accumulated as a kid playing in the mountains. This is probably similar to the 18,000miles teenage West African runners have over their competition.
    Keep up the inspiring work, its pretty awesome that you upload everything to Strava, I don’t think anyone else up at your level does that as consistently.
    Hope you have a strong end to the season.

  30. Pasaprèspas says:

    Very interesting to see a “road” runner trying to compete with the mountain runners ! And quite impressive already. Very interesting comments on the exponential impact of things. And it’s nice to see you still want to run on roads. Do you think that it’s still possible to be very fast on both by maybe “splitting” your training in two periods over the year ? Six months for the road, six month for the mountains with more “leg building” (sorry for my frenglish) ? Will the leg muscles be able to adapt fast enough ? Or are you going to “mix” the two all year long ?

  31. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much for the support!Yeah, I still have a lot of work to do to try to “catch up” but I’ll keep training hard and hopefully be able to continue to improve. Glad you follow the Strava as well!

  32. SageCanaday says:

    Hi thank you very much! I think that is is very hard to balance both the fast/flat road running with the mountain events. I think it comes down to developing the muscles in your legs for the specific tasks (which are very very different). Powerhiking off-trail up mountain rocks at 40% grade (and going down!) is a world away from running 5min/mile pace on a flat road. A further variable is the distances being run…I really want to try 100-miles next year as a race as well and that will require some different training and stress for sure! I think it will take longer to adapt back and forth and therefore I’m not sure how much I can mix it up with the more extreme SkyRunning. Short distance mountain runs and trail racing as well as roads is possible though!

  33. Adam Duran says:

    Hey Sage, Great job on your incredible accomplishment! You are an international distance running superstar but yet, you find the time to correspond with us mortals. I watch and look forward to your weekly video training talks. I’ve learned a lot. Thanks you. Although, I’m 48 yrs. old I have PR’d this year in my marathon 3:22 and I’m looking forward to a PR this Sunday @ the San Jose Rock n Roll Half with a 1:30. Thanks again Sage.


  34. SageCanaday says:

    Hey Adam,
    Thanks so much for your support! That’s an amazing marathon time for your age. Hope the half marathon in San Jose went well! Best of luck with your training and future racing. Keep up the great work!


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