Enter the Sandes Man: TNF 100 preview

TrailRunMag 14.05.2012

Trail Run Mag catches up with South African and Salomon super trail star, Ryan Sandes, to get a vibe on how it feels to be the favourite in this weekend’s The North Face 100, a race with a fair few thoroughbreds on track, and the changing face of trail running as it booms across the world (hello Transvulcania…). INTERVIEW: Chris Ord IMAGES: courtesy RyanSandes.com.

1. Straight in to it – you’re roundly touted as the most likely winner this year, how does that pressure play on your mind leading into next weekend?

I think there are a number of competitors that can win the race so I am not focusing on the results too much. My main focus is to have a strong run and the rest will come. 100km is a long way, so anything can happen.  

2. Some pundits reckon you’re tuned enough to break the race record (which has been broken every year the event has taken place). Thoughts? Is that something you have in your head when you’re running well at the halfway mark or…?

I would imagine the winning time will be under 9 hours 30 mins ,so I am sure the winner will get close to the coarse record. No, I am personally not too focused on the record but I will have the record time stored in the back of my head somewhere ;-). [9hrs 19min 06 seconds]

3. You have been quoted as saying last year’s run didn’t go as smoothly for you as you would have liked yet you still managed third with a sub ten hour time – what was the Achilles last year and what’s changed about your form/approach this year?

Last year was my first mountain 100km race, so I was not sure what to expect. I made a few mistakes like not drinking enough during the first 30km, which hurt me during the middle section of the race. I am a more experienced runner this year and hoping for a more consistent performance during the race. 

4. You tend to arrive early and really get to grips with the trail your’re about to run on – how much of the TNF course have you rerun in the last week and where do you think your crux will come (and why)?

The one thing I love about trail running is that I get to travel the world and explore new places. I always try get out to my races early to experience the local culture and environment as well as running parts of the race route. I have run about 60% of the route… I think the race will come down to being strong in the final 30km.

5. Many may have expected you to be running at the Transvulcania – why did you choose to race here instead of there?

I entered the TNF100 Australia before the Sky Running Ultra series was announced but that said, I really enjoy Australia and wanted to come back for the race again. 

6. How does the Blue Mountains course suit you in particular – strengths and weaknesses on it?

I would like to think I am quite an all round runner so the course should suit me … I’m not giving much away here :-). 

7. You had 30 mins plus over fourth placed (Goerke) and other locals (Donges, Davies, etc al) last year, but they are being touted as serious threats with a much deeper field this year than last – how do you think the competition has changed over the past year?

Yes, it’s really exciting to see how trail running is growing around the world. I think everyone is improving and it is going to be a very exciting race. I think there will be a lot more people under sub-10 hours this year. 

8. Everyone’s talking about how the sport of ultra and trail running in general is changing rapidly, with ‘celebrity’ runners the likes of yourself and Jornet in ascendancy – talk to me about how you as a person and as a runner have changed over the past few years of racing?

I am still the same person as a few years back… the main difference is I drink less tequila now J .  More Red Bull and Vodka.. haha! I started running relatively late and competed in my first ultra in 2008 – the whole experience has been life changing. It’s exciting to see the sport becoming more professional and creating so many opportunities for trail runners. I have been lucky enough to run on all 7 continents and explore the world through trail running. 

9. You remain based in South Africa – is there any pressure to be based in Europe or the States these days, given the competition, or is ultra trail a truly global sport, doesn’t matter where you’re based?

I spend quite a lot of time abroad but still keep Cape Town my base. We have great running there…just no altitude. I think when I run UTMB I would need to spend a lot more time in Europe getting used to the Euro trails. Their climbs are massive and the running can be very technical. At the end of the day trail running is a global sport and it’s really easy to jump on a plane and fly to a race in the US etc.

10. You seem to be a runner that escapes major injury time – what’s your approach to physical preservation?

I try do a bit of cross training like mountain biking etc. I do a lot of core work and spend a lot of time keeping my ‘wheel alignment straight’ i.e. I see a Physio, Chiro, Lynotherapist, Massage and Biokinetisist regularly. 

11. How many ultras do you think, in peak form, your body could handle in a year?

3-4 a year .. maybe 5 at a push.  

12. Beyond winning the TNF100, what are you targets in the next year or so?

I am running Western Sates 100 in June and would love to line up at UTMB soon. 

13. You’re sixty kays in, the hurt is there…where is the Sandes’ mind at – take me through some honest moments of where you’re at mentally, what demons come to you in particular while out there on trail and what you lean on for inspiration to get you through?

Running in an individualist sport but I feel I am running for more than just me…I focus on the surroundings and try and keep my mental attitude as positive as possible. Luckily I am normally running in the most beautiful parts of the world so the hurt is not too bad.

Thanks Ryan, good luck on the weekend at The North Face 100. Remember: 9 hours 19 mins and 05 seconds is your mark…

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