Clare Gallagher came to Europe and won the CCC. In the following interview, Clare talks about how the UTMB/CCC scene is the zenith of trail ultrarunning, how she feels like she’s got a ton of speed right now, where she made her move into the lead, how the finish felt bizarre, and how she enjoyed crewing Stephanie Violett in UTMB after she finished.
Read our 2017 CCC results article to learn what else happened at the race.
Clare Gallagher, 2017 CCC Champ, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Clare Gallagher. She’s the 2017 CCC champion. Yeah, girl! Congratulations!
Clare Gallagher: Thank you. Thanks a lot.
iRunFar: You won a big European race!
Gallagher: Yeah, it’s really my first big European race. I raced in Latvia, but it was a small race. Yeah, it’s wild to win a European race. American races are cool, but the scale of… [laughing]
iRunFar: Low-lying American kids here on a Sunday morning in France. No big deal. We love you. We’re coming home this week.
Gallagher: You know what I mean. The Euro scene is something different. It’s something else for sure.
iRunFar: The Euro scene is something different, and the UTMB/CCC scene is on a whole other level.
Gallagher: Yeah, it’s a true beast. I don’t know. Even though I’m new to the sport and to the scene in a lot of ways, you know this is a zenith of the sport. It doesn’t get much bigger.
iRunFar: Straight talk for a minute—going into this race, did you see yourself as a potential winner?
Gallagher: That’s kind of… yeah. I felt really fit. I was very public with saying I wanted to podium or get top-five, but I felt so fit and tapered in a weird way because I didn’t put in crazy miles after Western States. I couldn’t run for a couple weeks. But something about a lot of speed I did in the last month, I feel like I could PR in the 5k right now which is super weird.
iRunFar: So maybe find a race next weekend?
Gallagher: I kind of want to do a road marathon. Obviously, the Alps are a little different than a 5k… and it translated. Halfway through the race, I was like, “Yes, my body is holding up! Great!”
iRunFar: Did that feeling that something big might happen start coming during the race or was it during a couple of your taper runs when you started feeling really fresh? When did that feeling come?
Gallagher: That’s a great question. I actually did a race called the Aspen Power of Four 25k in Colorado in the first weekend of August a month before this. I had done it last year two weeks before Leadville and I knew I was really fit last year. I beat my time by 12 minutes this year. Whoa, I’m in really good shape. I feel strong. Just don’t get injured. Don’t do anything stupid, Clare. Stay vertical in life and everything. That was my real glimpse at…
iRunFar: …Where things were?
iRunFar: Let’s talk about how this race went. It was, I think, Maite Maiora setting the pace for 50k or something like that?
Gallagher: Yeah, exactly. I somehow was ahead on most of the first climb, and I was using my poles and I was like, Screw these poles.
Gallagher: Yeah, I actually didn’t use them until the very, very end. She was just power housing up the mountain. I was like, Whoa, she’s going to be super tough to beat. This was on the first climb. So then I just zoned out and did my thing and really enjoyed the views in Italy because we had them.
iRunFar: “I stopped for a cappuccino… had a little tourist run…” Not like that? Okay.
Gallagher: I was practicing my Italian and French.
iRunFar: “Ciao! Ciao!”
Gallagher: Then I kept asking how far and people were giving so much good beta on the course—“Two minutes!” “Five minutes!” She was never more than five minutes ahead of me. I housed this 10k downhill on the road. There’s as weird road section on Champex-Lac that I guess in previous years has been on a bike path or a gravel road, but it was road this year. I was like, This is where I’m going to get her. I didn’t really say that, but…
iRunFar: Were you making that motion, too? “Here I come!”
Gallagher: This was right at halfway for the 100k, and I passed her going up to Champex-Lac which was 50k. When I passed her on the up, I was like Okay, that’s where I knew she was stronger at me in.
iRunFar: She didn’t fall back. She was really close behind you up until somewhere in the last section. She was two minute back, two minutes back, four minutes back. Could you feel her there? Did you know she was there? Could you see her?
Gallagher: Vallorcine. Yeah, I definitely felt her. I took these gnarly, stupid mud falls after Trient. It was a slip-n-slide. I’m amazed people survived.
iRunFar: It was a mud slip-n-slide, literally a mud slip-n-slide.
Gallagher: Yeah, you would not have liked to hear the audio on that. I was like, There’s no way… she has to be catching up on me. It took minutes to regroup. I’m falling… Then I hear at Vallorcine that she’s three minutes back. I’m like, Oh, my gosh. This is so bad. She’s too close. I went to a dark place in that last climb and descent.
iRunFar: Like to a dark place mentally or a dark place like, I’m going to hammer this.
Gallagher: Like both. I dug into the dungeon, and I stayed there until I got to Chamonix. It was really cool to push that hard. I haven’t pushed like that since I can’t tell you when.
iRunFar: You come into Chamonix and it’s 1.5k through town. There’s lots of people around.You get to high-five your way in. What does that feel like?
Gallagher: It was bizarre. I was so elated and kind of emotional, but I was also so spent, I was just like a sack of flesh. This is fun! I know I’m supposed to feel more. Honestly, I was like, Am I going to cry and all this? But I absolutely had no energy. I know this is a cool moment culturally and sports-wise.
iRunFar: “I’ve used everything in my psychological capacity. It’s all numb right now.” That’s fair.
Gallagher: Yeah, and then you get to the finish line and you’re like, Awesome. It’s bizarre. It’s really cool to be that spent.
iRunFar: To go that far.
iRunFar: As Americans in one of the gelato capitals of the world, everyone wants to know what flavors of gelato you’ve eaten since the race.
Gallagher: Let’s see… actually, since the race it’s been 36 hours. I’ve eaten no gelato.
iRunFar: Because you’ve been out on the course crewing Stephanie Violett in the UTMB.
Gallagher: I’ve been asleep for five hours and I get a text at 6 a.m., “Clare, we’re here. Get in the car,” From the awesome Chamonix The North Face manager. Gonna’ go crew for the next 12 hours. Stephanie didn’t need my help. She took care of herself and really put it all out there, but it was fun. It was really cool to see UTMB and see the lead men through Champex-Lac and see Stephanie through the finish early this morning.
iRunFar: Are you going to eat gelato later today?
Gallagher: To answer your question, I’m going to eat coffee, chocolate, coffee, drink some coffee, and then pistachio.
iRunFar: “Then, if you need me, I’ll be unconscious.”
Gallagher: I will be in a food coma.
iRunFar: It’s early September and you just won CCC. Is this the end of your season now?
Gallagher: Honestly, no. I feel…knock on wood… moss…
iRunFar: Hey, we did the interview by the tree for a reason!
Gallagher: I respect the value of rest and everything, but I still feel… the fact that my legs held up in this race with no inures or anything, I really want to do The North Face 50.
iRunFar: See you in San Fran in November?
Gallagher: Yes, I’ll probably see you there… see everyone… this is getting fun!
iRunFar: We’re developing a relationship!
Gallagher: This is how these things work.
iRunFar: Okay, Clare. This is how this works: you’re the CCC champion. Enjoy your day.
Gallagher: Thanks, Meghan. I appreciate it.