I recently caught up with Sage and thought it would be cool to ask him some questions about his running, and what 2017 holds in store for him. Here is the interview:
Can you give us a guided tour through your running background that has led you to here?
I started running full time as a main sport when I was 13 years old. My soccer coach at the time told me I should be a “decoy” and run up and down the field without touching the ball…it was then that I realized that I should probably just do distance running in cross country and track. I quit soccer that year. All throughout school I was a cross country and track runner from that point on…up through running NCAA DI at Cornell University. I had moderate success on the track at 5km and 10km, but my best college performance was running a 2:21 marathon and qualifying for the Olympic Trials in 2007. After college I ran as a “pro” road runner doing Half Marathons and Marathons for 3 years. Finally, in 2012 I started mountain running and found that I liked running uphill! I also started doing ultra marathons that year and have been fortunate to travel to many places all around the world to compete in these types of races.
I really like the views you get after running uphill on a mountain for a long time! The scenery is almost always much better, you can escape from car traffic and the softer surfaces seem to be more forgiving on the joints.
2016 as a whole was kind of a rough season for me. My low point was having a really tough last 40 miles at the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run after getting 10-minutes under course record pace in the first half. I had focused on that 100 mile race all summer and it was a big disappointment to struggle so much and slow down so much. I barely finished. My high point of 2016 was winning the USATF Trail Marathon National Championships at the Moab Trail Marathon (I was 2nd overall but the top American finisher). I was really happy with the time I ran on that course.
You and your partner Sandi Nypaver, and her sister, Ray, have a successful coaching business, Sage Running. You specialize in athlete empowerment. Why is this important to you, and how do you achieve this through your coaching?
The sport of running has given me so much over the years. For some of the free content we have on SageRunning is a small effort to “give back” to the community. We all try to share information that we’ve learned in the sport with newer runners and beginners so that hopefully they can improve, conquer their goals, and/or just enjoy the sport more.
You were one of the guest elite athletes at the 2015 US Trail Running Conference. What did you like best about the event, and why do you think is this a good event for trail runners to attend?
The 2015 US Trail Running Conference was a great opportunity to interact with runners, race directors, and brands. There was a wide variety of informative and inspirational content to be shared and overall it was just a great experience. You can meet some really cool people in the community and share your passion for the sport!
You shared with me on a long drive a couple of years back that your best ever race came after a period of dedicated and regular visualizations prior to the race. Can you share some of that story, and what difference you experienced during your race as a result?
The race was my high school conference meet in cross country my senior year. I ran 15:17 for 5km, set a course record and won by 30 seconds. The best part was that it was one of the least painful races of my life. I really found a state of “flow” and was totally mentally and physically in synch. Leading into that big race I had religiously practiced visualization techniques, positive affirmations and other mental training exercises. Pain is always something we tend to fear with distance running, but with the mental training I was able to not let that distract and limit me as much from running to my true potential.
You are one of three top US elite athletes to endorse our activacuity app that is built around positive guided visualization sessions. How important has it been to you as an athlete to focus positively, and why are you excited about activacuity and the potential the app has for all athletes?
activacuity is a great tool for embracing visualization techniques that can positively impact one’s athletic performance. Through guided sessions, athletes can tune in on constructive thought processes that i believe can promote a sense of flow and overall well being. When the mind and the body are in synch, it is easier to reach one’s athletic potential in running. The visualization sessions in activacuity can help one achieve that flow and make big improvements.
You are a strong supporter of clean athletes and testing – what do you think needs to be done to change our culture so that fewer athletes cheat through doping?
Well I think the first step is awareness and education. A lot of runners have no idea that something like synthetic EPO in ultra running can be a total game-changer. They just see it in line as just another kind of drug, rather than an endurance athlete -boosting/specific drug. There is a lot of ambiguity and lack of a single governing body in mountain-ultra-trail running (at least on the international scene) so it’s hard to line up all the info on banned substances, what the penalty might be, and how to implement consistent testing. The other issue is the funding required for surprise testing of top athletes. The money simply isn’t there right now and there’s a lot of debate on where it can come from. There’s a lot of work to do on this issue!
Your movie MUT Runner was a great hit and helped raise funds for the American Trail Running Association. Any more movies in the future mix from you?
Not any full length feature film projects. I generally make lower quality youtube videos every week. My next kind of video project is putting together some crowd-sourced footage of the Western States 100, with clips of runners that trained and raced in the event. It’s going to be super low key though…raw footage and just something I’ll post for all to see on my Youtube channel.
What are your goals for 2017, both professionally and personally?
Well I’d like to always be improving as a runner. I’d like to think that I can be in the mix to win the UTMB100 this summer. That is a top goal. I’d like to continue to grow the SageRunning coaching business with Sandi and hopefully help empower more runners.
Use the code activacssupport2017 when you subscribe for an annual membership through our website, and $10 of your subscription goes to the American Cancer Society. We will also provide a free subscription for activacuity® to a cancer survivor for each paid annual subscription received. The Society will establish a list of cancer survivors that will benefit from the partnership, using the Patient Navigator Program.
Our goal is to raise $5000 for the Society over the partnership period.