Ryan Sandes - "I had been dreaming about winning Leadville 100 for the past 6 months"

Posted in Dishing the Dirt by Matt Ward on Tue 23 Aug '11

© www.salomonrunning.com

Ryan training on Hope Pass

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.

© www.iRunFar.com

Ryan Sandes wins Leadville 2011

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.

© Martin Gaffuri

Ryan Sandes (left) with pacer Adam Chase

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!

Reactions so far
  1. Jason Kehoe Aug 24, 09:18 AM

    I notice that a lot of the Ultra Runners are advocates of wearing earphones, Ryan above, Killian etc.

    I wear mine for training but wouldn’t think of wearing them for a race, plus they are banned for most races anyway.

    Why do Ultra organisers take a different stance on this? I would have thought the dangers of wearing earphones would apply even more so during such energy sapping events in remote locations.

  2. Matt MST Aug 24, 09:28 AM

    Agree Jason. I am not sure why. Some of the reasoning behind orgs banning them is that on the shorter stuff runners cant be aware of runners around them, and passing runners with headphones can be a problem.

    In ultras the distances between runners is massive sometimes, so not as much of a hazard?

  3. Don Sep 1, 05:13 AM

    But why use them when you’ve got a pacer?, and to be honest with you I don’t like this whole pacer business. I don’t think they had them at UTMB. Having pacers per se isn’t my problem if everybody, or at least all the leaders, for example, are offered them.

  4. Ross Sep 1, 12:48 PM

    Using pacers in the US is normal. It’s a exactly like having support on the BG. It’s how runners get into 100 milers and get to experience an Ultra without actually running it themselves. It’s a massive part of Ultra running in the US and is responsible for building friendship and support.
    Running a 100 miler without a pacer is rare in the US, although you get more respect if you run one without any! Pacers are not allowed at UTMB (maybe thats why some elite americans struggle with this race; this and the lack of drop bags). In the reverse, Killian runs/uses pacers when he races in the states.

  5. Don Sep 6, 04:47 AM

    But Ross you’ve missed my point. I’ve no problem with pacers per se, but I would like a level playing field. If somebody wants to be a pacer they should be enter as such and then be allocated a “pacee” at random. I’m not sure I would be happy to have worked hard to catch up and then overtake somebody, and then for them to do the reverse later because they’ve picked up a pacer and that’s made all the difference. For example my 15 year old daughter is going to do a rock climbing triathlon this w/e (rock climbing instead of swimming) and I’ll accompany her on the bike section as it’s on public roads not cordoned off, but I“ll cycle behind her not in front so as to be fair to the other competitors. I’ll just be going because just completing it will be a massive achievement for her due to the elevation gain in the cycling and running.

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