After a fourth-place finish at the last edition of this race in 2019, the U.K.’s Beth Pascall returns to the 2021 Western States 100 seeking a podium finish. In this interview, Beth talks about her couple of months of traveling in the U.S. since winning the Canyons 100k in April, what she learned at this race last time that she’ll apply to this year’s race, and her training block ahead of Saturday’s race.
Beth Pascall Pre-2021 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, I’m with Beth Pascall, it’s a couple days before the 2021 Western States 100. You’re back again to Western States Beth, hi.
Beth Pascall: I am, yeah. It’s so exciting to be here although I feel like I’ve been knocking around for a while now. But yeah, it’s great to be here, its super exciting. I feel fresh after a couple of years absence from this place so yeah, it’s exciting.
iRunFar: Yes, so there’s a lot of to talk about there, but first I want to talk about two years ago, the last time this race took place, you were just off the podium–fourth place. First bridesmaid I guess we could say. You know, a person who does quite well at this race but still comes back, you must be seeking something more?
Pascall: Yeah of course, it would be great to be on the podium. I mean, last time I was super happy just to finish that high up so yeah, it wasn’t like I was upset to not be on the podium last time but now coming back, knowing the course and having perhaps, being better prepared this time, yeah I would like to be up there. Yeah.
iRunFar: You’ve been in the U.S., I think since the Canyons 100k in April, have I got that right?
Pascall: Yeah, so about 10 weeks now.
iRunFar: You’re using all of your visa.
Pascall: Pretty much, yeah.
iRunFar: And so, from following you on social media, Strava and Instagram and stuff, it looks like you’ve been splitting your time between California and Arizona?
Pascall: Yeah, so after Canyons I went up to Flagstaff, Arizona and I was there for about six weeks I think and then came back to California three weeks ago and my husband came out as well. So for the last three weeks we have been milling around. Yeah, kind of around the area, we went to Yosemite last week, which was really cool. It has felt a bit like a holiday, we have been camping again like we did in 2019. Just having a nice time.
iRunFar: But you have been training your brains out, or at least that’s what it looks like according to Strava.
Pascall: Not the whole time actually. It feels like it’s been quite short period of time between Canyons and now, it’s nine weeks I think. And it took me quite a long time to recover after Canyons. I think it was the race and then going to altitude straight afterward, and I’m not great with altitude, which is one of the reasons I went to Flagstaff, but yeah it took a long time to recover. But yeah I did have time to get a few good weeks of training in up there before coming back here and tapering so, yeah not crazy training but enough I hope.
iRunFar: It was fun for me because, I don’t know, when I think of a Brit, I don’t necessarily think of people who hang out in heat and sun with regularity, but it was fun to watch you train in Sedona and the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and the sun and the warm.
Pascall: Yeah, well that was the idea of coming here really. You can’t get heat and altitude many other places. And as I mentioned before we started recording, I had some time off work so it made sense to be somewhere else and have a change of scenery whilst I have the opportunity because I might not get it again.
iRunFar: I want to ask you about Canyons 100k for a second, the way the course ended up this year was really interesting in that you ran what you’re doing on Saturday, in this race, kind of backward for a while.
Pascall: I’m so glad we’re running it this way around on Saturday.
iRunFar: I was going to ask, which is the better way?
Pascall: Running up Cal Street for example is a killer, it’s a real killer. It was good to kind of refresh my memory of the course and it makes you realize how much, it’s obviously not going to be easy on Saturday is it? But I’m relieved to be running it this way around.
iRunFar: And Canyons 100k, was that your first sort of competitive race back after the pandemic?
iRunFar: Okay. Was it strange to get used to racing again or did you just kind of slip into being like, this is what it feels like?
Pascall: Yeah, it wasn’t strange racing as such. I think it strange because I have traveled a fair bit in the last few months, getting used to the COVID-19 culture in different places takes some getting used to. Because when I came out, I was in the Canary Islands at a Salomon camp actually before I came out here, and it’s like I haven’t hugged anybody, it’s been illegal to hug anybody, for like well over a year. I don’t know what the social etiquette is. Can I come within two meters of you? When do I have to? Like, all these things.
iRunFar: And it changes from place to place or?
Pascall: It changes from place to place, exactly. I’m seeing all these people and it’s amazing, I haven’t even seen my family, it’s been like 10 months now. That’s really interesting. But racing felt fairly natural I guess.
iRunFar: No debacles with like, forgetting your water bottles or leaving stuff at aid stations? Just that learning curve of racing?
Pascall: I went the wrong way but I think I have a habit of doing it anyways. I don’t think that’s being a bit race rusty.
iRunFar: I feel like a lot of people I’m talking to are like, they’re doing a training race before their goal race because they’re like, I forget how to aid station, I forgot how to drop bag, I forgot these sort of like normalized things pre-pandemic.
Pascall: Yeah, and I guess as ultrarunners we don’t race that often anyways, who knows what will happen on Saturday but yeah, I think it will come together okay. Fingers crossed I won’t forget water bottles or anything.
iRunFar: A lot of things are the same since 2019 but a lot of things are different, like there is no snow in the high country this year, maybe it’s going to be about 10 degrees hotter. It seems like maybe the competitive depth of the women’s race has increased by five or six gals, something like that. What’s your mindset this time, this year?
Pascall: So in 2019 I just wanted to make top 10. I think a lot of Europeans come here and don’t necessarily do that well first time around so I was kind of scared, I didn’t know how I would cope with the heat. In the end it wasn’t a particularly hot year but I ran quite a conservative race and this time around, knowing the course a bit better and things, I probably will race a bit more aggressively. Not too much more aggressively because it’s going to be hotter and a lot more can go wrong later on in the course. But yeah, I think I’ve got more confidence that I can get on the podium whereas last time that didn’t really cross my mind.
iRunFar: The woman’s course record is something that has been looming in everybody’s mind, it’s a nine-year-old course record. Have you been thinking about that number?
Pascall: I actually can’t remember exactly what it is, so no.
iRunFar: Okay, strike that question.
Pascall: 15, 16, 14 something is it?
iRunFar: Ellie Greenwood, we need you right now. So I guess the course record, you’re just going to go out and run and see how it pans out?
Pascall: Absolutely, and given that it’s going to be a hot year, if anyone’s running for the course record specifically, I think that’s a bad idea.
iRunFar: If it happens, it happens.
Pascall: Exactly, yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: All right, well best of luck to you on Saturday. And, iRunFar’s first race covering live since the pandemic started, so we’re pretty excited about chasing you 100 miles from Olympic Valley down to Auburn.
Pascall: Yeah, I’m excited too. It will be good to see you out there.
iRunFar: Good luck to you.
Pascall: Thank you.