Ryan Sandes becomes a Dad (how does it change things?)
18 November 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. We welcome a returning guest onto the podcast today, someone we’ve spoken to on a couple of occasions. I’m very excited to chat to him today because there have been some major life changes in his life over the last few months. It’s a great pleasure to welcome trail runner extraordinaire, Ryan Sandes onto the show once again. Ryan, welcome, thanks for taking the time to chat to us.
Ryan Sandes: Hey Brad, great to be on the show again, thanks for having me.
BB: Ryan, I say some major life changes, you’ve just become a dad. You and Vanessa have had a baby in the very recent past, congratulations, what’s it like to be a dad?
RS: Thanks so much, it’s absolutely awesome and loved every minutes of it. Our baby’s name is Max, he’s super chilled and we’ve been really blessed.
BB: It changes perspective on things doesn’t it Ryan?
BB: Obviously when it was just you and Vanessa you could do what you wanted, but now all of a sudden there’s another little being you’ve got to worry about.
RS: For sure, as you say, there’s the other little being to worry about, but I think it’s been really cool and something we’ve really been looking forward to. I don’t think too much has changed yet, but it’s still early days, he’s only just over four weeks old. So maybe it’ll feel a lot different in a couple of months’ time, but for now really loving the whole experience of it and it’s been super cool.
BB: I know there are people hedging bets already and looking to see the potential of SA trail running, what do his legs look like?
RS: At the moment it looks like he could be more of a rugby player, he’s pretty big, he came out at 4kg. I think his arms were bigger than the nurse’s arms. He’s quite big and really strong, already pushing himself off, he was doing that at two weeks old. So I think he’s either going to be a climber or a rugby player for now.
The impact on training
BB: I love it! Ryan, obviously it’s still early days, but has it affected the way you’ve been training? We’ll chat about a race that you’ve just come off, it’s obviously done wonders for your performance. But have you found there’s been much of a change in the way you’ve had to train, or has it been pretty much normal for you?
RS: I’ve tried to keep it the same, obviously have got a bit less sleep. So you always worry about that effect on your performance. But I think all in all, it’s child me out a lot more. I think it’s had a positive effect on my training and racing as such. It makes you realise that cool, racing is my job, but at the end of the day it’s just a race and having a baby definitely makes you realise there is more to life than just racing. It’s chilled me out a lot more.
I think for me, this last race I did in Reunion, I focused more on the process of just giving the best I could do in the situation. Instead of worrying about the end result and just being a lot more relaxed. Just trying to enjoy the whole process and everything that goes around it. I think, personally, it’s had a really positive effect on my training and racing, just me in general.
BB: Let’s talk about performance-wise, as you mentioned, you’ve just got back from Reunion, it was an epic run. That island is something else, it’s beautiful, it’s brutal, it’s got a bit of everything. Particularly with what’s transpired in your running over the last year or two, you must be pretty chuffed with that result, particularly the back end of the race, you came back really nicely.
A great race around Reunion
RS: Yes, I was really chuffed with the race, it’s definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done, racing for over 25 hours is a long time. The race is absolutely brutal, but like you said, I was really chuffed with how it turned out. I made a couple of mistakes during the race, got quite badly lost twice which wasn’t ideal. But it was all my fault.
I really ran the race I wanted to run and I was chuffed with my performance. I would have liked to have finished a bit stronger, but my legs were a bit trashed at the end. I think mentally I was a bit tired, but I was happy considering that I had glandular fever last year.
Then obviously this year I came back with two consistent results at Tarawera in Australia and then obviously the next one didn’t go according to plan and I got sick the day of the race and had to drop out. That was a major disappointment.
So I think Reunion, being such a tough race, arguably the toughest race when it comes to hundred miler racing, I was really happy with the result. It’s given me a lot of confidence to go into 2017 with. Also finished four overall in the Ultra Trail World’s this year, was also another bonus. Just gives me a lot of confidence and I realise I’m getting things on track after quite a rough 2015.
BB: That is difficult Ryan, as much as ultra running is a fitness thing and you’ve got to be strong, it’s very much a mental thing too. When you do have a couple of performances or a couple of things that don’t possibly go your way, like illness or injury; maybe you don’t have a run that really pans out the way you want it, your confidence takes a big knock. Particularly when you’re going for the win, that confidence is important, that could be what makes or breaks the run.
RS: 100% I think confidence is everything and believing in yourself and definitely both New Zealand, Tarawera and Australia were 100km races. I was still slightly worried going into the 100-mile distance, could I run a full 100 miles and finish strong after having glandular fever.
The over-training danger as an Ultra runner
So that was a huge confidence boost for me and just I think in general, there are so many ultra trail runners now on the international scene getting over-training syndrome and stuff like that. 2015 was a huge scare for me, so having a solid race and it being such a brutal race, I was definitely happy with how it turned out.
BB: It’s interesting you mention over-training and that’s at the elite level, but I just find a lot of runners and not only at the elite level, are sitting with that issue. They look at the race calendar and just because a race is there they feel they have to run it, particularly in SA because we’re so blessed with so many races. That is a big issue and a big problem and it’s something people really do need to be aware of.
RS: For sure and I don’t think it’s just SA. I think if you look at America or Europe, I think South Africa, the races are still generally a lot shorter. Where in America there’s a hundred miler probably every weekend and in Europe the same kind of thing. Guys are running five or six hundred milers a year, which is just absolutely crazy.
If you look back and Professor Noakes said about 10 years ago or whatever it may be, that you shouldn’t run more than two or three marathons a year and guys are going and running five or six hundred milers. It’s way too much and like you said, it’s tempting, there’s just so much out there to do.
There’s so many cool races and you feel like there’s just not enough time to do everything, so you do do everything. You try and cram everything in and obviously it has the negative effect. Like I said, it’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely just so important to just stay in tune with your body and really listen to how you’re feeling. Really less is more at the end of the day. I’d rather have two good races a year than four or five mediocre races.
Then end up at the end of the year picking up some kind of over-training syndrome or having adrenal fatigue syndrome or something like that. It has started to creep up a lot more in the scene with guys getting adrenal fatigue syndrome or over-training syndrome or glandular fever and stuff like that.
BB: I’m having a quiet little chuckle to myself here Ryan because you said to me before we started recording you woke up this morning with a bit of a croaky voice. Obviously as you’re talking about that, but your body does take a massive knock, it hasn’t been long since you ran that hundred miler.
I know for myself, when I run a long ultra, my body really, it almost goes into shock. I know if I’ve had a really hard one, I get a rash. It just could be your body sometimes saying to you, slow down, you need to back off a little bit.
RS: For sure, 100%. Definitely a big performance like this or a big run takes it out of you. I think I’ve got the next month, I’m going to take it just about completely off. Like you said, I do have a bit of a croaky throat, I think it might be a combo of coming home and getting a little bit less sleep with Max at night.
But again, like you said, you go and do these crazy big adventures and then you jump on a plane and travel home and often you jump straight back into office the next day. You’re burning the candle at both ends and your body doesn’t get a chance to fully recover. I think you really have to give your body that time to recover.
But as I said, generally, people aren’t that patient and you have a big race and you’re super stoked and you want to go and enter the next race. Then you jump straight into that and then you wonder why six months later you’re completely run down. You definitely have to listen to your body and when it needs a rest, it needs a rest.
BB: I always joke, obviously for me a big one a year is Comrades. So I work hard until Comrades and then I hang out on the dark side until about November. Then start picking things up again in December. I look at guys who literally race Comrades and then two months later or a month later they’re pushing hard for Marathon PB’s. I just think to myself, gee, it’s not long before someone breaks down.
What the immediate future holds
I hate asking this question because this is what we’re talking about, but what’s next Ryan? You mentioned taking a month or two off and just really resting up, but looking ahead to 2017 are there any plans that are set in stone already or is it still a work in progress?
RS: I’ve been lucky enough to get a special consideration entry into Western States, so I’m going to go back there in June and pretty excited about that one. Then I probably won’t go and do the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc next year. I just feel it’s too close to Western States, I won’t have enough time to recover. So I’m possibly looking at going back elsewhere. So it’ll be Western States and an other race as the two focus races.
Then also got one or two projects I’m working on with Red Bull, just waiting for some permission in order to do those projects. I think that’ll be what I’m looking at at the moment and then slotting a couple of other things in. I’m going to be off to Spain early next year because my books being launched in Spanish. So I think currently those two big races and then just doing some other stuff around there and I think that’s enough. I’ve realised less is more these days and like you say, it’s always tempting to do a bit more. But I think I want to maximise and extend my career and do what I love for as long as possible. So I think that’s good enough for now.
BB: You mentioned the book translated into Spanish, how does that feel? That must be quite weird.
RS: Yes, definitely going to be a bit weird, especially when you’ve got to go there and obviously I’ll be there for a couple of launches. I think I’m going to have to learn how to write in Spanish I suppose and learn a couple of Spanish words. It’s pretty cool and also trying to work on getting it translated to French. So it’s been really cool and I’m really stoked with how people have received the book.
BB: That’s fantastic, I think it makes a great Christmas gift as well, which is a perfect time to chat about it, it’s called Trail Blazer, it’s available right now. So pick it up for a runner in your family, it’s a great read Ryan, I think it’s a fantastic book. It looks like it’s doing fantastically well.
Best of luck to you for the rest of the year, rest up well, please send our best to Vanessa as well and little Max. Enjoy the time at home and we look forward to seeing what you get up to in 2017. If there’s anything we can help with, please let us know.
RS: Awesome, thanks so much, it’s been great chatting again and all best with the Comrades training. I’m sure you’re going to be jumping back into things soon.