Ryan Sandes - "I had been dreaming about winning Leadville 100 for the past 6 months"
It is pretty fair to say that when it comes to South African sportsmen and women there is an innate mental toughness that prevails through their competitive culture. Ryan Sandes is one such person.
‘Hedgie’ as he is known by his friends, is a hugely talented endurance athlete. His relative youth belies his endurance and stamina over long distances, and with his 4 Desert success over the last few years Ryan has shown that he also possesses that mental focus that can make or break an ultra runner.
Last Saturday was his career zenith as far as he is concerned. His win at the Leadville 100 will cement his name in ultra trail history. Speaking after the event Ryan has this to say:
“Wow… where to start? Yesterday was one of the toughest but best days of my life.
I had been dreaming about winning Leadville 100 for the past 6 months and to cross the finish line in first place was definitely one of the highlights if not the highlight of my athletic career.
My six weeks training in Leadville went really well; with out a doubt I trained harder than I have ever before. Tempo runs and speed sessions at 3500m hurt but I have learnt nothing comes easy in life. The week leading up to the race was tense, I believed I could win this race and played out a number of different race scenarios in my mind. The support and good luck messages I got were awesome and without a doubt these carried me across the line.
Race day came and I started off quite slow – my plan was to run according to my watch and body. On the first major climb of the day I was in 5th position and my quads were already hurting. This was not a good sign and I knew today I was going to have to dig deeper and push my body and mind further than I had ever before.
At mile forty we climbed over Hope Pass and I seemed to be feeling stronger than most of the guys moving from 5th to 1st place by the time we got of the mountain. It was a risky move but my gut feel said do it! Running into the turnaround point I told myself today was my day and if I wanted this race bad enough it was mine.
The next 50 miles hurt like hell and I can’t thank my pacers and support crew enough for getting me across that finish line. My quads were on fire and mentally I was exhausted but running down 6th street to the finish line was an insane feeling of euphoria and really emotional. I was handed the South African flag and immediately there were tears in my eyes. I had done it – my dream of winning the Leadville 100 had come true!