Brittany Peterson returns to the 2021 Western States 100 after taking second just seven minutes behind winner Clare Gallagher in 2019. In the following interview, Brittany talks about how she’s approaching this year with a fresh mindset, how important it is to balance the right amount of specificity in training for a race like Western States, and how she’s visualizing multiple scenarios for the women’s podium race.
For more on who’s running the race, check out our women’s and men’s previews, and, then, follow along with our live race coverage on Saturday!
Brittany Peterson Pre-2021 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, I’m with Brittany Peterson. It’s the Thursday before the 2021 Western States 100. Hi.
Brittany Peterson: Hey.
iRunFar: Back again to do this.
Peterson: Here we are.
iRunFar: You’re sitting in an interesting position; you come back to this race as the second-place finisher from last time. This close to the win.
iRunFar: And like in the span of 100 miles, seven minutes is really this close. What’s in your mind?
Peterson: I mean, I think the main thing is it’s easy to get caught up in like, okay comparing to two years ago where I think really I’m just trying to refocus on this as a totally new year, a totally different experience probably, I mean new competition, different conditions. So I think bringing the highlights from two years ago, learning from two years ago, what do I think I could improve on and then just doing the same thing as far as staying in my own race and just taking care of myself.
iRunFar: I think that’s a really great point about not trying to replicate or pretend that this is 2019. Everything is different.
Peterson: Yeah, I would love to have it be the same, but I think that’s when you start running into a trap of, I’m going to execute exactly the same way and then you’re not in the moment. I think it’s, bring the things I learned and applied, but it’s likely going to be very, very different.
iRunFar: I want to ask about the idea of specificity in Western States, because when I think of you and who you are coached by, I think that you probably train more specifically for this race than most people. How important has that element of your training been?
Peterson: I mean, obviously with Paul Lind as my coach, Western States is near and dear to his heart. You know, Cody [Lind] – obviously I’m dating Cody, he has family out here so we just have the opportunity to come out here a lot. And then I teach so I’m off of school in the beginning of May. Where it kind of works really nicely to just get out of school and then really get into specific training for Western States, and then being able to travel and be here. So I guess Black Canyon [100k] works similarly, and I was on Christmas break so we wanted to get out of the cold Idaho weather and go down to Arizona. Cody was training for Bandera [100k], I was eyeing Black Canyon so it just made sense. But I think so it’s worked out really well to be able to be really specific and I do think it helps tremendously but I think, I’ve debated, I don’t need to come and run the course all the time because I know it so well already. But at the same time it never loses its novelty – Paul is like, you should go run different trails, you don’t need to wear yourself out on these trails. But I get such gaps in between that I never feel like they’re mundane or things like that. So I think it’s just fun to know the trail really well and I guess feel the love that the Lind family has for it.
iRunFar: So that has rubbed off on you a bit? I guess it’s hard not to?
Peterson: Right, when I first started getting coached by Paul and I hardly knew anything about Western States, admittedly, he would send me pictures like, where am I? And it would be like No Hands Bridge, I’ve never seen this before. So it’s just kind of cool to think back on how it’s evolved and now Paul still likes to play trivia, now the trivia questions are a lot harder, because we are past the basic stuff.
iRunFar: We’re like Jeopardy for 800 now.
iRunFar: That’s amazing. Do you see the race for the win or the race for the women’s podium coming down to the last five, six miles this year?
Peterson: Oh man… There’s a lot of talent obviously, there’s a lot of question marks with some people with their first hundred milers, some people with brutal legs speed… I think the heat is just going to be the question mark of, will the heat disrupt some people? Will the heat make things more spread out so it’s not such a battle? I don’t know, actually I was just talking with Paul, kind of visualizing the race. My visualization was, yeah it will come down to people being pretty close and a battle of grit at the end and that’s always my nightmare. It makes you dig really deep and it makes it super exciting and memorable. I have no idea, but I guess I’m mentally preparing for that.
iRunFar: Yeah, I mean I think it’s probably wise too.
Peterson: Yes. I mean to have a plan and to expect really getting into the pain cave towards the end and having to give it all of your heart really.
iRunFar: And having a headlamp behind you or in front of you, monitoring that.
Peterson: Yep, already have that planned.
iRunFar: Just visualize that. In my mind it was, for me the women’s race here in 2019 was one of the most exciting 100-mile races I’ve seen across genders. Like to have a 100-mile race come down to the last few minutes is – we don’t have that a lot in the sport, I guess my question is, do you think of it in the same way that may be those of us external to the story think of it? Do you think of it more of like, yeah great story but I didn’t come out on top? Or do you kind of feel like, I was part of history, part of entering a new era of women’s ultrarunning?
Peterson: Yeah, definitely that, like feeling like I was a part of history and I know Clare [Gallagher] and I have both talked of, I couldn’t have done what I did without Clare and I think she feels like she couldn’t have done what she did without me pushing her. So I mean definitely so memorable where I think there’s just a little ping of, oh man I didn’t come out on top but I still look at it as, holy smokes that was my first Western States and across Highway 49 together and lead Western States for a small portion of the race is still incredibly special.
iRunFar: And to not be leading at like mile 13, mile 94.
Peterson: For sure.
iRunFar: Yeah, I mean you have come back to do something different, do something a little more – is that a fair assumption?
Peterson: Yeah, I mean when you get second you are looking up from there but I still think, how many people have placed on the podium and then had a totally different year? Not that I’m hoping that happens, I’m not going in with added confidence or added security by any means, I think it’s still just take each card that’s dealt on the day. All the stuff that you can think about before the race of how is this going to go and whatever, you just have to get out there and just be in the moment and make the decisions to the best of your ability at the time and then, just see how it all comes together.
iRunFar: I really like what you said there about, previous position, it does give you something to think about, but it doesn’t afford you any extra security on game day then.
Peterson: I mean it can hinder you if you go in with, I’ve got this in the bag – that’s not realistic. And that’s not respecting your competitors. I was just talking to Cody this morning and he’s like, because we saw the iRunFar results of the prediction contest and it’s like the people down at the bottom of the list, those are the people that often – that’s where I was two years ago. Those are the people that can come out and surprise you if you’re not really paying attention to your own race.
iRunFar: Well, I hope for you there are a few surprises but also a few things of normalcy since this is a course you are getting used to through time and you know all the trivia for now.
Peterson: And I think too, not discounting the experience I have of like, I know how to race it and I know how to run in heat and fueling, we hope will go well and we see how the stomach handles the heat, but that’s what we’ve been preparing for, so I think those are all the things that you’ve just got to consider and take moment by moment.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, best of luck to you. On this journey from here all the way to Auburn.
Peterson: Yes, should be a fun one.
iRunFar: See you out there.
Peterson: Thank you.