Posted by Kyle Redelinghuys in Interviews on April 21, 2015
Featured image credit: Kenyu Takahashi / Red Bull Content Pool
Ryan Sandes hardly needs an introduction. After bursting onto the ultra running scene and becoming the first competitor to have won all four of the 4 Deserts races in 2010, he has gone on to set records and break boundaries. In 2013 he became the only person to have won an ultra trail race on every continent, and in 2014 he set the record for the Drakensberg Grand Traverse with Ryno Griesel. We reached out to Ryan to tell us about the Table Mountain Fastest Known Time project, his clothing line with Salomon and any advice for aspiring ultra atheletes.
A big thanks to Craig Colesky, Kenyu Takahashi, Dean Leslie, Nick Muzik, Droz Photo, Kelvin Trautman and Red Bull Content Pool for all of these amazing pictures.
You recently set the Table Mountain FKT course and its current record, as well as a challenge for people to break it. What inspired this?
I am passionate about growing the sport of trail running and getting more people to enjoy the mountains. The Table Mountain FKT is about getting people to experience the greatness and beauty of Table Mountain. I am really excited about this project and I hope to see lots of people out there enjoying themselves. Originally I thought of making the FKT route a little longer but I think the current route is perfect for people of all abilities. The whole FKT movement really intrigues me and in a few years’ time I can see myself racing less and doing more adventure / FKT projects. I feel most inspired when doing these sorts of projects like the Drakensberg Grand Traverse.
It’s just gone past a year since the epic Drakensberg Grand Traverse record breaking attempt with Ryno Griesel. How does it feel to look back on that? Any more plans for the berg?
It is one of the biggest achievements of my life and the whole experience taught me so much. I have gained an awesome friend in the form of Ryno and we have one or two future projects lined up. It’s not in the Berg; it is in Africa, but at the moment it is still a bit of a dream.
Your first attempt at Fish River Canyon failed, yet you went back and crushed it. How do you deal with and overcome setbacks?
When I look back at my career now, it is through my failures / setbacks that I have learnt the most. Failures are part of life and you just need to see the positive in them.
You recently launched a clothing range with Salomon with the aim of sending an underprivileged athlete to a race of their choice. What inspired this? What can people do to get involved?
Yes, I launched a limited edition range of clothing with Salomon and all proceeds go to sending an underprivileged runner to a trail race, of their dreams, in South Africa. Trail running has given me so many opportunities in life that I feel it is important to give back. The nomination period is closed but in a few days I will announce the 3 finalists (underprivileged runners) and then the general public can vote for who they think the winner should be.
There is quite a funny story surrounding your introduction into running, can you tell us more about that?
Ha! I entered the Knysna Marathon (the half marathon entries had already closed) as an excuse to go to Knysna and have a party. It was the best decision I have ever made as it changed my life and I discovered running and a year or two later ultra-running.
What is your average training week like? How do you train to compete at altitude while living in Cape Town? Anything ultra-specific?
I spend about 15-20 hours a week running (mostly on trails) and then another 4 hours doing strength and mobility work. Cape Town is a great place to train with such varied terrain. When racing at altitude, I normally get to the race ahead of schedule to acclimatise.
Training for ultras is heavy on your body. What staple do you include in your diet for recovery and maintenance?
I don’t count calories and rather just eat a balanced diet. I try and eat lots of whole foods and listen to what my body wants. I probably don’t follow the best diet as I love my chocolate!
You plan to run the Western States 100 later this year, that’s incredible! How is the training going coming off your illness? How are you preparing for this epic race?
I am super excited to be running Western States again this year and it is my main focus for the first half of the year. My training has been going really well and I have really focused on giving myself lots of time to recover between big runs. Ha! I am getting old now. Western States is such an iconic race and my favourite race so I want to go there this year in the best shape possible.
You’ve got some big races planned for later this year – the TransVulcania and La Diagonale des Fous (Raid of Reunion 100miler) to name just two. What are your plans for 2015?
Yeah I am really excited. My two focus races are Western States and Diagonale de Fous and then I will be using TransVulcania and possibly CCC (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix) as prep races. I have tried to spread my racing out a lot more this year.
How do you maintain a balance between work, training and family?
I am always super busy, but I love what I do so it makes all the hard work just that much more worthwhile. You only live once and I want to make the most of my time here. I do try and make time to switch off completely and just spend time with Vanessa and T-dog.
With such an intense schedule, what do you do in your spare time to relax?
I really enjoy spending time on the beach, doing some stand up paddle boarding and hanging out with friends. Vanessa, T-dog and I go for hikes or ride our mountain bikes. I don’t like sitting still for too long, but I do enjoy watch rugby on a Saturday afternoon.
You’ve got some great sponsors who have backed you and your projects for years, tell us how they have helped you.
Yeah I am super privileged to be supported by Velocity Sports Lab, Salomon, Red Bull, Oakley, Suunto and Cross Country. They have enabled me to live my dreams and without them nothing would have been possible.
What advice would you give to aspiring ultra-runners?
It’s really important to enjoy your running, relax and have fun on the trails. Don’t get too caught up with numbers, running techniques etc. If you are relaxed and having fun you will naturally run better. At least once a month try and find a new trail to run, even if it involves a weekend away. You can make a whole adventure out of it.