We are people that enjoy life and we enjoy the challenge of difficult races and runs.
Who are Angie Gatica and Russell Sagon?
We are a couple that lives in the state of Georgia, in the southestern United States. We met 2 years ago and have been inseparable ever since. We run and hike together all the time. We are people that enjoy life and we try to encourage others to do the same and to strive to do their best at what they do.
What makes you want to be a skyrunner?
We enjoy the challenge of difficult races and runs.
What does being a skyrunner mean to you?
Being in the mountains. Gutting it out when our bodies scream “quit”! It means doing difficult things and overcoming, even if overcoming just means surviving!
What inspires and motivates you to go skyrunning and be a part of the skyrunning community?
Just being in the mountains is a lot of inspiration, the views, the forests, the animals we see. Also the community of people that we know. People that help each other out and push each other to great things.
How do you feel before, during and after going on a run in the mountains?
Getting up in the morning is probably the biggest challenge on race days, though I’m usually up at sunrise. But sunrise is a late start on race day. During the run, well that depends on how long it is and what the goal is. A shorter run (1/2 marathon or less) is usually pretty good at slow speeds and very tiring at tempo or race speed. Longer runs tend to cycle through ups and downs over the day. Afterwards, like I said, it kind of depends on the run itself. Sometimes very tired or exhausted, sometimes feeling like you could keep going.
Away from the trails, tell us about your job? Have you always done this job, or have you changed careers?
I am a self-employed electrician and Angie works for a cleaning products manufacturer. We have both worked in different jobs throughout our lives. I have had my own company for about 30 years now.
Are you involved in any projects or businesses to do with running?
What does a typical training week look like for you?
Our normal training schedule is 3 weeks of hard work followed by an easier week. Hard weeks are normally 35-70 miles depending on upcoming races. There is usually a tempo run and/or a interval run, one or two long runs and the rest easy runs. Yoga, strength training, drills, core work and physical therapy exercises are sprinkled throughout the week. One day a week is a rest day from running, with yoga and core work on that day. Bicycling and rock climbing are mixed in there a little bit.
Do you usually go trail/skyrunning alone or with others?
Normally alone, except on weekends when we run together, though sometimes we will separate and go at our own paces and meet back up at the end. We do a few group runs from time to time, usually as company to friends training for a difficult race.
Do you prefer to run in skyraces, or create and run your own running adventures?
Both. We are gearing up to start doing some fastpacking on some of the longer trails in our area.
Have you always been fit and led an active lifestyle, or has this only started more recently?
When I was younger, I was very active in rock and ice climbing. Then I got away from that for a few years. I started backpacking again a few years ago and at the same time ran a trail 5k. This ended up being the catalyst that lead to what I’m doing now. Angie has been exercising for many years now. She started out at the gym and with zumba.
If the latter, what prompted the change to become more active and start skyrunning?
I started running some local trail races and began to discover ultras. During the course of learning about ultras, I came across the sport of skyrunning from reading about people like Killian Jornet and Emilie Fosberg. Something about it appealed to me. We have run Crest for the Crest in North Carolina. Angie has done the 10k and I have done the 50k twice and the 10k once. The 50k has 12,000 feet(3048 meters) of gain. There are few races near us that truly qualify as skyraces, but we have traveled to the western US a couple of times now to run races that were part of the US Skyrunning Series. I have run The Rut 50k in Montana and both of us have run the Sangre de Christo 50k in Colorado.
Have you experienced any hard periods in your life that you’d like to share? How have these experiences affected your life?
We are both divorced and I think that that was one of the hardest things to deal with in your life. I was sure that I would never marry again, that is until I met Angie. We are engaged now and will be getting married in August. Our honeymoon will be a 50 mile (80k) race in Utah with 12,000 feet (3657 meters) of gain and an average elevation of 10,000 feet (3048 meters)!
Did running help you get through these periods? If so, how?
For me, no, I wasn’t running at that time. For Angie, yes, that is when she started running.
When things get tough on the trails, what do you think of to keep you going?
Usually it is an internal conversation,” just to the next aid station”, “just to that tree or rock”. “Everyone feels just as bad”. “Slow your breathing down”. Yeah, stuff like that.
Do you prefer to listen to music while you run, or listen to nature?
Most of the time it is listening to nature. Sometimes I will listen to a running or Spanish podcast (I’m learning Spanish) on an easy run at somewhere I’ve run a million times. Angie listens to music more than I do.
If you prefer nature, do you have motivational phrases you tell yourself to keep you going?
Just what I said earlier. On easy runs, I just kind of let my mind wander, maybe pray some.
If you listen to music, what do you listen to for motivation?
Angie listens to dance music sometimes.
What are your favourite sky/trail races?
I haven’t done a lot of official sky races, but The Rut in Montana is still my favorite so far. Beautiful views, difficult terrain, high altitude. One of the coolest finishes that we’ve had was when we ran the Chattanooga 100/50 mile race. I ran the 100 mile and Angie ran the 50 mile. I started on Friday at lunchtime and Angie started on Saturday morning. Somehow we found each other about 3 miles from the end and crossed the finish line hand in hand!
What are your race plans for 2021/2022?
Me: Mt. Cheaha 50k, competed
Pacing a friend on the Georgia Death Race(28 Miles for me), completed
Grayson Highlands 50k
Ute 50 mile
Sky to Summit 50k
Cloudland Canyon 50 mile
The Dirty Spokes Race Series 10-15k races, 6 of the 8 races
The Mountain Goat Race Series 10-21k races, all 3 races
Angie is also doing the Georgia Jewel 50 mile race.
Which races are on your Bucket List?
We plan to do the Broken Arrow 50k in California and the Whiteface Sky Race 15 mile in New York. I would love to go to England and run the Scafell Pike Marathon Race.
Have you had any bad or scary moments in skyrunning? How did you deal with them?
A couple of really bad thunderstorms has been the worst so far. Just kept running, trying to get to a lower elevation.
What has been your best moment in skyrunning and why?
The second time that I finished Quest for the Crest 50k was memorable because I was really tired at the end and I really wanted to rest, but some other runners were gaining on me. Usually I get passed by a few people near the end of a race and this time, I decided I was not going to let that happen this time and I started running like I was in a 10k! I don’t know where the strength came from, but I crossed the finish line and did not get passed! Also, for me, finishing the Georgia Death Race a couple of years ago was a huge accomplishment. 74 miles and 35,000 feet of elevation change(119k , 10,668 meters).
What are your big dreams for the future, in skyrunning and in life?
We want to run the Georgia Appalachian Trail (80+ miles) over a weekend. We also want to travel around the country more and just run and hike whatever we find that looks like it might be a grand adventure! We are looking forward to our wedding and spending many happy years together in the outdoors, together and with friends, and just enjoy God’s creation!
What is your best piece of advice for other skyrunners?
When things get hard, don’t quit. Tough it out. You can do so much more than you think you can! Run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. If you can’t crawl, lie on your side and roll!
Russell,thank you for sharing your and Angie’s story with us ! Good luck with races and keep running!