Sarah crutches across the cafe and gives me a one armed hug. She sits and elevates her large cast-like boot on a chair. A yellow La Sportiva sticker adorns the side. On a recent trail run in the Catskills, Sarah slipped on a patch of ice and fractured her fibula. Over a cup of coffee she speaks honestly about the hope she has for a full recovery while acknowledging the frustration and sadness that comes with an injury that keeps a runner from running.
Sarah grew up in Paul Smiths, New York, and currently lives in Saranac Lake, working as a registered nurse at Adirondack Health. A La Sportiva athlete, she sports the merchandise proudly and is incredibly humble about her accomplishments. Sarah holds FKTs (fastest known times) nationally and locally, including the Joshua Tree and Great Range traverses and has plenty of ultra races under her belt (Follow her at http://www.sarahruns.com).
Though her resume doesn’t show it, Sarah didn’t have a natural love for running when she was younger. In high school, she tried cross country and laughed about how she would run until she was out of sight of the coach and then walk. It was after high school when Sarah took a job with AmeriCorps that she realized the need to decompress from long days and running seemed like the perfect companion to discover a new environment in solitude. When she returned to the Adirondacks, she embraced her natural talent and took running to the rocky trails around her. In 2015, she placed third overall for the US Skyrunning Skyrace Series.
Interview with Sarah Keyes
Bethany: What does your weekly training look like?
Sarah: When healthy I train six days a week. Typically I do three easy days a week, maybe 75-90 min. One day a week a do an interval work out of some kind; a warm up followed by hill reps or speed intervals and a cool down. Depending on my schedule I try to get in two long runs a week, back to back. Working three jobs (RN, The Fallen Arch and athlete/coach) I never have the same work schedule week to week and plan out my life a month in advance.
Bethany: What are your athletic ambitions for the next few years?
Sarah: I honestly don’t look that far ahead and never really have. I think the furthest ahead I’ve had to plan for an event was UTMB. To qualify for UTMB you have to accumulate points by completing other events, which can take 18 months to do and if something goes wrong and you don’t finish a race you may have to come up with a plan B. That being said, I usually have some bigger projects always in the back of my mind. For this year, before I fractured my fibula, I had planned on doing well at the Georgia Death Race, earning a ticket back to Western States 100 in June and then training through the summer for UTMB at the end of August. I had planned on doing the Northeast Ultra 8 with the goal of establishing or setting the WFKT for each route in training for UTMB. Unfortunately I won’t be doing GDR or Western States this year but should be running again by the end of May. The goal is still to do the NEU8 and be ready for UTMB. In the event that I’m not able to do the full UTMB I may look into switching to one of the shorter races, if allowed by the organization. One of my longstanding goals has been the supported FKT for the Adirondack 46 High peaks currently held by my good friend Jan Wellford. It’s a route that needs careful planning and preparation but also has to fall at a good time in my life. I’ve had the Zion Traverse FKT on my list for the last couple years after attempting it and missing the record by 67 seconds in 2017. That will probably have to wait until next year.
Bethany: What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Sarah: My shoes, right now loving the La Sportiva Lycan, but excited to try the new Kaptiva. Through the winter I wear the Urogano GTX, it’s Gore-Tex and keeps my feet warm in subzero temps and aggressively treaded for slush and snow.
Bethany: What has been your most memorable racing experience?
Sarah: Walking in the last 20 miles of Western States in 2017. My feet were extremely macerated and we had to cut my shoes open to put them back on but I finished it.
Bethany: What’s the best advice you ever received?
Sarah: “We are all stardust with delusions of grandeur.” None of this stuff really matters at the end of the day, except for the memories.
Bethany: Any worst advice?
Sarah: Honestly, my coach David Roche hasn’t steered me wrong. He and his wife are incredible athletes but also incredible humans. Check out their book, “The Happy Runner” to see just how great they are.
Bethany: What are some of your favorite Adirondack trails?
Sarah: The steepest! I love the Dix trail from Round Pond, the trail up Algonquin from Lake Colden, the trail up the back side of Mt. Marcy from Four Corners. Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant is also a stellar route. Outside the High Peaks I love running my local mountain bike trails at Mt. Pisgah and Dewey Mtn. The Lussi Trails around Lake Placid are also fantastic for running.
Bethany: What about favorite trails outside the ADK?
Sarah: There have been quite a few over the years but some that stick out are; the PCT starting from outside Mazma, WA. South Sister outside Bend, OR. The Pioneer Cabin Loop outside Sunvalley, ID. Bell Canyon/Little Wildhorse Canyon Loop near Hanksville, UT. Zion Traverse, Zion National Park, UT.
Bethany: If you could go back in time and give some advice to younger self, what would you say?
Sarah: There is no right path, they all lead somewhere worthwhile.