Next up on Adam Peterman’s ascendant path in trail ultrarunning is the 2022 Canyons by UTMB 100k. In our first interview with Adam, get to know his background with running, how growing up running in Montana might have helped inspire him to become a trail runner, what happened in his first-ever trail race, and how he plans to use multiple tools from his toolbox to run longer and farther than he ever has in this race.
Adam Peterman Pre-2022 Canyons by UTMB 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Adam Peterman. It’s the Wednesday before the Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB 100k. Hey Adam, how are you?
Adam Peterman: Good, yeah, thanks for having me out here.
iRunFar: Yeah, I’m just meeting you for the first time, but I’m actually finding we have some things in common.
iRunFar: We both have coached in Montana and you have lived there all your life.
Peterman: Yeah, all my life except for college so, about 21 years, yeah.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, I want to start with a little bit of your background and how you came to be a trail ultrarunner. You were a high school runner, we were just talking that you went to, and ran for, Hellgate High School in Montana.
Peterman: Yep. Hellgate High School, Missoula, Montana. Graduated in 2013.
iRunFar: And was running a thing for you then? Were you decent at it? Hellgate High School in Montana was like one of the premier high schools for running.
Peterman: Yeah, I think in Montana it was kind of between Hellgate and Bozeman and it still is. That’s kind of a rivalry that’s been going on for a long time. But yeah, running was a really big deal to me in high school. I had great competition, I think. You know there were a couple guys in Montana who were just really good during that time and, yeah, it was like an exciting time to be a runner in Montana. Like we had a couple guys be under nine minutes in the 3,200 and, yeah, stuff that just hadn’t happened before in the state.
iRunFar: That’s awesome. And then that led you to compete collegiately. You were a Buffalo at CU Boulder, right?
Peterman: Yeah, I ran for five years at University of Colorado. Ran cross country and then the steeplechase and track.
iRunFar: Was it steeple that helped to lead you to trail running or was it something else that led you in this direction after college?
Peterman: You know, I think, when I was in high school I think I wanted to do trail, like post-collegiately, more than I did when I was in college.
Peterman: When I was in college I was all in on the steeple and that’s what I thought I would do after college. But when I was in high school, we were just talking about this; Mike Foote was my assistant coach. And he was a professional runner and is a professional runner for The North Face, and was the top American at UTMB for, I think, three years in a row. And two of those were when I was in high school. So, I just remember being in high school and thinking that Mike had, like, the coolest life. But it is funny, when I was in college, I wasn’t influenced very much by trail runners at University of Colorado.
iRunFar: So, would you say it was Mike who sort of led you into the dark side or the hilly side or how shall we put it?
Peterman: I think at an early age it did and then when I moved back — I moved right back to Missoula after college and trail running is just what everyone was doing. You know there’s not like a really strong, elite road running scene there. And when I grew up I was always hiking peaks and mountain biking and fishing and doing that stuff. So, when I moved back to Missoula, running kind of went on the back burner, and I just started doing all that stuff again. And once I started being able to run further and got over some injuries I had in college, like, trail running was awesome. Then I could actually explore and still be running.
iRunFar: Did you find yourself going into trail racing kind of immediately or were you at first just, sort of, just running wild, enjoying post-collegiate running? Like taking off that pressure?
Peterman: Yeah, I think at first, like right after college, I didn’t run for a really long time. I think I didn’t run for like four months. I mean, I was biking and doing stuff like that. But yeah, I just got really burnt out in college and had lingering injuries that wouldn’t go away. So yeah, I think it was probably not until about a year after I graduated where I actually thought about racing again. And then the first trail race that I did, like, well in competitively was the Moab Trail Marathon in 2019. But I actually did do the Rut [Mountain Run] that year as well, but I did really bad. It wasn’t a good — it was a fun race but it wasn’t a good, like — first trail race.
iRunFar: Was that because it was just so different and so gnarly and just out there, or what happened?
Peterman: I don’t like making excuses, but I think I was sick. I just woke up like the day before the race and it felt like I had a fever and I was like, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” This isn’t going to go well. And then it went so poorly.
iRunFar: Because you’re going to 11,000 feet and you’re on these gnarly scree fields and it’s not easy running.
Peterman: Yeah, I don’t know. I talked to, I now work for the company that puts on the RUT, it’s called the Runners Edge Event. I talk to my bosses about it all the time and they’re like, “You weren’t sick,” but I, seriously, something was not right that weekend.
iRunFar: And then 2021, 2022. You’ve had so much success, so quickly, in the trails, and now here at ultras. To what do you attribute that ascendance?
Peterman: I felt like I was ready to make that leap in 2020 but it just like, wasn’t the time, right?
iRunFar: That COVID thing.
Peterman: Yeah. I don’t know it’s just gone well and I think I’ve gotten a lot of confidence just from doing well in a few races where, or getting course records and races that had like, names that I’d gotten them from. And the first, I think the biggest thing for me was the first FKT I ever got, [which] was Jim Walmsley’s Sentinel FKT. I was really proud of that because I was like, “all right, well, this guy is legit.” And I know when he ran that time on Sentinel, he wasn’t a slouch then. I think it was 2016 or 2017. And so, I think I was lucky that Sentinel is our backyard mountain in Missoula and that I was able to get it. I don’t know, I think that just gave me a lot of confidence for these races. And yeah, I don’t know if that answered your questions.
iRunFar: Yeah, it sure does. The Canyons 100k is longer. Yeah, longer in time and longer in distance, I think by quite a bit for you?
Peterman: Quite a bit, yeah.
iRunFar: So, are you here, why are you here?
Peterman: Oh man, I just want to test myself against the distance and the field. And like, this race, my girlfriend ran Western States last year and so that was my first time down here and these trails are so pretty and it just seemed like a good race to try out. And then also, you know, top three qualify for Western States. For me, I don’t actually have any UTMB points and so, to get top three here would also qualify me for UTMB or CCC or OCC. So, a lot hinges on this race actually going well so I know what my summer schedule will be.
iRunFar: Wait, finishing and going well, at this race.
Peterman: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: It is kind of fun to be here. We’re at the Placer High School track. We’re in — Auburn has called itself — the endurance capital of the world. This is really one of the hubs of American ultrarunning.
Peterman: Yeah, no, it’s pretty sweet to be here. I just remember coming here last year to watch the finish of Western States. I remember I went for a little run down on Robie Point. It was pretty sweet, especially in the evening. It’s just kind of magical. And we had a great run today, just checking out the course. It’s really nice in April! It’s not as much of an inferno as it was last June.
iRunFar: I’m pretty sure I’ve said that to a lot of people today. Like wow, it’s really actually pleasant to be here in April!
Peterman: Yeah, it’s all green and there’s flowers everywhere. Yeah, it’s awesome.
iRunFar: So, talk about this weekend. How are you trying to apply the skills and the confidence that you’ve gotten yourself at shorter distances to something that’s quite a bit longer and farther?
Peterman: Yeah, I got a lot of confidence from JFK in November. Well, that was a 50-mile, but it also only took five hours. Five hours and 20 minutes. And this, if it goes really well on Saturday, will be nine hours and some change. So, I definitely have a lot of respect for the distance. And I think in the last year, almost all the races I’ve done, I’ve gone out pretty aggressively. So hopefully, Saturday I kind of want to rein that in. I just really want to feel good through 25 or 30 miles. Because if you look at the course profile …
iRunFar: Everything happens after that, right?
Peterman: It gets real after 30 miles. So yeah, I’m just trying to be patient and just respect the course and I try to make a really good nutrition plan so I always like, have enough food and electrolytes and stuff like that. We’ll see though, it’s kind of new territory for me.
iRunFar: Kind of new territory but kind of not. Like I coached cross-country and track in Montana and you know, people always said that cross-country runners were strength runners in Montana. Like, the courses were kind of no joke. I mean from being out on the course and doing a bunch of miles today, it’s a strength runner’s course.
Peterman: Yeah, well, we’ll see.
iRunFar: There are some parallels, I really think.
Peterman: I tried to run, this isn’t like the most I’ve ever run in a block, but it’s definitely the most I’ve ever trained if you combine cycling and all those things. So, I feel strong right now. I don’t feel very fast. Like I don’t think I’d run a very fast mile if we went down to the track right now.
iRunFar: Okay, that’s what we’re doing after this.
Peterman: Yeah, we’ll see, I do feel good, I feel strong.
iRunFar: Last question for you. You have been setting yourself among some competition at the different trail ultras you’ve been in the last couple of years, but this is definitely the deepest trail ultra competition I think you’re going to see. How do you see this all going? If you could have a bird’s-eye view for a minute in terms of your spot among all that, out on the course?
Peterman: Yeah, this is a really good field, I think. I raced Chuckanut [50k] back in March and that was also a really legit field, a lot of guys who’d been like top five or top 10 at States last year were at Chuckanut. I want to give a ton of respect to the competition but I also want to really believe in myself too. I look at the field and I totally think all these guys are really solid, and I think I can beat a lot of them too. I just want to have that confidence but, like, never have any arrogance. Yeah, so that’s how I go into it. I just try to believe in myself pretty much.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, best of luck to you on Saturday. It’s going to be really fun to watch you run uphill into the mountains
Peterman: Yeah, uphill, yeah. Thanks so much though, it’s going to be fun, I’m looking forward to it.
iRunFar: We’ll see you out there.
Peterman: Sweet, thank you.