Yes, you read that right. This is an interview with Ryan Sandes. Ryan needs no introduction, so let’s just straight to it.
Ryan, it’s an honour to have you on the blog. How are you doing?
Great. Thanks for thinking of me. I’m doing good thanks. Looking forward to 2019. I guess I’ve had one or two races already this year. Yeah, 2018 was a massive year for me. Definitely, the highlight for me was that myself and Ryno Griesel set a fastest known time on the Great Himalayan Trail. I think it was more about the personal journey and the crossing. Being able to cross the Himalayas on foot, from one side of Nepal to the other was definitely the highlight for me and a really amazing accomplishment and something I’d been wanting to do for a long time and for me the ultimate adventure. So to be able to tick that off the bucket list was a really big one.
Photo by Bianca Asher / Red Bull Content Pool
Can you tell us a bit about your book?
Yeah, so my book called Trailblazer covers my life story and how I got into running fairly unexpectedly and just kind of what I’d learnt over the last ten or eleven years. I guess a lot of people said: “well is at the end of your career after writing a book” but I just felt like I had so many epic experiences and different unique opportunities that I wanted to kind of put it down to paper.
What inspired you to write a book, and what has the process taught you?
I guess the book was a really awesome process and pretty cool and unique in terms of putting stuff down to paper definitely helped me realize what was important and a lot of times maybe I thought big wins would be important. But then when you write a book you realize the memories that actually stand out aren’t those big wins is often when things don’t go [right] or just kind of the smaller more unique and personal memories like thinking back, for me one of the most memorable races was was running a canine search and rescue doggy race with our dog Tandy and just that feeling of running 4Ks with her and crossing the finish line and just that feeling of stokedness was something really special and that kind of lives with me. So I guess the book just taught me, I think it’s not just those big achievements. It’s the process and the whole build up that’s made me realize what is actually important and just cherishing those moments and being in the present.
Photo by Bianca Asher / Red Bull Content Pool
What’s your favourite piece of running gear, and why is it so great?
You can’t do too much on the trails without shoes. So I’ve got customize shoes that fit my foot and they really help me especially for the ultra longer distances, being able to run in something that’s really specific and specialized for use. So I’m really grateful to work with with Salomon running and their team of developers and create new gear. Also the Salomon Skin bag is it something that I’ve spent a lot of time designing and something that’s really unique in being able to just have a backpack that doesn’t bounce around a lot and just fits really snugly to your body and goes with your movement is pretty cool.
What was your most recent race, and what was a highlight for you?
I ran the Tarawera 100K race in February in New Zealand. That was quite a tough race. We had a really rough middle patch. Just being able to travel and go back to Rotorua. It’s just such an amazing place, and the local trail community. I also stopped off in Australia on the way there just to see how the trail community had grown in Australia and New Zealand over the past year or two is pretty epic to see. And then I ran a race just last weekend at a 50 miler in South Africa. It takes place in a national park where they’ve got the big five, so to run amongst wildlife was really cool. The race actually got really really hot towards the end so I was quite happy to finish. It was 77K long and the last few kilometres were pretty brutal.
Photo by Nina Sandejas / Red Bull Content Pool.
What do you have planned for 2019 and what are you most excited about, and what worries you?
For me the big focus race, the first of the year, is the Western States 100 miler. I’m really excited about that. I love the race, the community and the vibe, so I’m excited to go back there. In the second half the year, we’ll see how bounce back from from Western States, but looking to do Ultra Trail Cape Town or possibly a race in Europe in August. I’ve also got a project I’m planning on the Skeleton Coast. I’m really excited about that, to run the length the Skeleton Coast, that’s 700K’s. So, that’s pretty cool. So, just trying to work out all the permissions and the permits and then there’s a factor there, they’ve got desert lions, so I guess that’s something that that worries me. Yeah. I’ll try not to get eaten by any desert lions.
What’s been your greatest running achievement so far?
There are a number, like winning Western States in 2017 was a massive highlight in my career. Last year running the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal comes to mind. Winning an ultra race on all seven continents and then also the likes of winning the Leadville and the Four Desert Series are things that come to mind. But for me just being able to run ultras and run professionally and make it my life, and it’s something I’m able to do on a daily basis for the past 12 years is definitely something that stands out and I’m really, really proud of and being able to chase my dreams I feel really lucky and grateful.
Photo by Wayne Reiche / Red Bull Content Pool
What has been your greatest running challenge so far?
In 2016 and 2015 I had glandular fever, mononucleosis which was was quite a challenge just bouncing back from that. So, doing too much is quite common with ultra running so to be able to stay in tune with your body is really important. It’s something I’ve learned, and I guess it’s sometimes tough. You see guys doing massive amounts of training and you feel like you want to do that and you need to do that. But I realize I’ve been doing this for a while and I know what works and doesn’t work for me and just really being able to believe and back yourself is something I’ve had to learn and I think is really important. One of my big strengths is, I’d like to think, my mental ability and just being able to really focus on the positives and just focus on doing your own thing and running your own race, and just planning for an event or a race and focusing on what you need to do to be able to get through a race.
What’s your number one strength exercise, and why is it so great?
I do a lot of mobility exercises. So, I do a lot of baby get ups, a lot of rocking over my big toe and some side bridges, hip aeroplanes. I find stuff to keep the mobility in my hips, is really important, because my hips seem to be tight. Also in my ankles, just keeping them loose and flexible is really important especially for trail running where you are a little bit all over the place.
What’s your favourite post-run food, and what do you eat during long runs?
I’m not super strict with my diet but I enjoy eating something that’s high in fat after a race, something that’s definitely not too sweet, so maybe sweet potato fries and a cheeseburger is something I would go to. I try to eat as many like whole foods as possible, so something along those lines. When I’m running generally I mix it up quite a bit. If it’s a long training run then just some kind of energy bars or some gels or electrolytes, Red Bull and water. So I keep it quite easy when I’m running. Maybe if it goes on really long and it’s multiday stuff then I’ll try and eat more solid food like sweet potato mashed up or some sandwiches or an avocado or something like that.
Photo by Mpumelelo Macu / Red Bull Content Pool
What piece of advice would you give to new trail runners?
I think it’s just so important just to enjoy the process and just enjoy being out there and not to fixate too much on wanting to run a specific time or do this and that, and just to really enjoy being out in nature and just having that connection and interaction. Having said that, I think it’s important if you are wanting to run races or move up in distance set yourself some little mini goals along the way. That enables you to have micro goals and be able to build up slowly so you know, maybe you’ve got a big race coming up that’s in a year’s time or six months time, but if you don’t have those little goals along the way you never know how you’re progressing.
What’s next on your race calendar?
It’s the Western States hundred miler. I’m also running Wings for Life World Run. I’m an ambassador for Wings for Life World Run, so it’s great to be a part of it and run for all those who can’t. But I’ll just be using it as training.
Thanks Ryan. All the best for the rest of the year. We look forward to watching what you get up to.