Seldom do people have to go through such challenging physical circumstance as that which racing 100mile athletes experience. This is the conclusion I have come to by experiencing one of the toughest endurance races of all time from the sidelines. The fact that these athletes choose to take on the arduous task themselves makes these feats all that much more remarkable. And then, to take it to another level, you get the likes of Ryan Sandes.
Ryan moved out of the comfort zone of multi stage, self supported dessert racing (comfort zone – yea right) and decided to take on the more renowned and hotly contested world of the 100mile races. He chose the Leadville100 due to the extra tough nature of the race. The little mining town is a massive 10200ft above sea level. That is so high in the sky you could reach out and high five the man on the moon. Coming from the shores of Cape Town this was a supposed insurmountable obstacle, Ryan made sure he gave himself the best chance of acclimatising and spent 6 weeks up in that thin air before the race.
The Americans have not had an outsider challenge their beloved Leadville100 since the Tarahumara Indians came and did their thing as documented in the super popular book ‘Born To Run’. Running for Team Salomon, Ryan had the attentions of the hosts, but none were giving him a decent chance. The reception was cordial and respectful, but: “…it’s his first 100miler man and he lives at sea level. He’ll blow up before the ½ way mark …” was the general consensus. Sandes remained diplomatic and soaked up every detail of each one of those competitors and supporters of the race that doubted him and by the time race day dawned … well that is not entirely accurate … by the time race day nearly dawned for the 4am start, Sandes was super amped to take on anything that stood in his way. “How you feeling Sandman” I asked him minutes before the start. “Super Amped.” he replied.
Ryan’s start was cautious as a brash New Yorker; Michael Arnstein took off at a fast pace. Three runners chased him and Ryan stood off, making sure he was just in touch, but not pushing too hard. The course is an out and back format with a massive climb just before the turnaround point and then the same climb straight away as the turn was made. That notorious climb is Hope Pass and was where all the action went down.
Still in 5th at 60km and just before Hope Pass, Sandes told us his quads were already achy. His gut told him to make a move – and that is just what the scraper did. On the way up the climb he reeled in the 2nd 3rd and 4th places, which included past champion Timmy Parr. Heading down the pass he took care of 1st placed Arnstein much to the little mans surprise. From then on it was the Sandman show. Even as the discomfort turned to pure pain, the phenomenally strong willed athlete dis-attached himself from the hurt and went through all sorts of anguish to will himself home. Read the full feature in the Nov issue of Runner’s World. Till then, enjoy the only footage out there so far, which takes you through some brief moments of Ryan’s amazing feat.
Look out for the dude in the trucker hat and long locks. Tony Krupicka broke his leg so could not run, yet had huge support for Ryan – see his blog and check out his amazing blog RIDING THE WIND. The video also includes top runner’s from the Salomon Team that paced Ryan from the half way mark of 80km. Try watch with earphones and take in the pain and emotion of Ryan’s expression. It was a truly momentous effort all the way in Leadville Colorado – the highest town in the USA and a long way from his beloved South Africa. Good work on even getting the flag the right way up when taking line honours Sandman. Amazing stuff. (A full movie by the Pro’s from African Attachment will be out late 2012. Don’t miss ‘Wandering Fever’)
JOIN THE LIVE Q&A WITH RYAN SANDES ON 8 SEPTEMBER AT 3PM – CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION TO CHAT WITH RYAN SANDES