Clare Gallagher returns to the Western States 100 as the defending women’s champ. In the following interview, Clare talks about what her training looked like this spring, how she keeps herself from getting carried away with training while living in Boulder, and what she hopes to get out of this weekend.
Clare Gallagher Pre-2021 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here, with Clare Gallagher before the 2021 Western States 100. How are you Clare?
Clare Gallagher: I’m great, Bryon. Great to see you.
iRunFar: Likewise. It’s been a long time.
Gallagher: I know. And you’ve had a crazy couple weeks so thank you for being here.
iRunFar: Thank you.
Gallagher: Most of you don’t know this but Bryon’s had a hell of a two weeks, so give him and Meghan a lot of patience.
iRunFar: We’re here, we’re doing it, we’re going to get it done. As are you, right?
Gallagher: Yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: What is on your mind, Clare?
Gallagher: I’m grateful to be here, I mean we were just saying how green it is, which is unique right now in the American West and yeah, it’s go time, we’ve been waiting for two years, I mean amid massive devastation.
iRunFar: And you’ve not done a whole lot of racing, you kind of did a little tune-up up at Scout Mountain Ultra, 21 miler.
Gallagher: 21 miler, yeah. The longest run I did this spring was a 50k so yeah.
iRunFar: Was that just as a training run, or?
Gallagher: I did a 50k race in Fruita (Desert Rats 50k), I’ve been staying pretty local in Colorado, but, yeah, I don’t run high mileage to begin with so I feel as ready as I’m going to be.
iRunFar: Yeah, let’s go there, you live in Boulder, which just has a tremendous number of competitive, super type-A athletes that do incredible things with high mileage and high intensity. That’s not you necessarily. How do you maintain that in that environment?
Gallagher: Well, I just, I know my limits. I think it takes quite a bit of inward reflection and honestly, like confidence to know when I get injured, which is like 70 to 80 miles a week tops. My coach, David Roche, is a savant. He knows what training to give me that works for my body. So yes, even though I have these amazing people to train with and there’s a lot of higher mileage people around me, yeah, I just do my thing and yeah.
iRunFar: How do you not get caught up – because you also have a lot of enthusiasm and you are outgoing, how do you not get caught up in – not FOMO, just saying yes to this person in the morning and that person in the afternoon and again in the evening?
Gallagher: Yeah, you know it’s a great question because I do – I’m a very social runner but even though I have only been at the sport for a few years, I have reached this point I think of enough experience, like going on five years the summer of doing these long things. I just know my limits. I love to run so much that I want to be able to run every day if I can. And so by risking injury, if I were to like go for a 90 or 100 mile week, is just not worth it to me.
iRunFar: Trying to eke out rate to the asymptote is not – the benefit is not enough to outweigh the possible risk of just not being able to enjoy running and being out with people.
Gallagher: Exactly. And I’ll take a 4 mile run any day, I’ll take a 2 mile run, you know? If I can get out there, enjoy the trails. I was talking to Meghan in Idaho, Meghan Hicks, and she was just like, I love the sport so much because you can have someone who runs 70 mile weeks who does well at ultras and someone who runs 140 mile weeks who does well. And it’s just like, yeah. I’m one end of that spectrum. Well, hopefully, we’ll see, we’ll see how this year turns out.
iRunFar: And that’s worked out for you in the past, like 2019 – what were you doing right before Western States?
Gallagher: Not running.
iRunFar: Not running. Backpacking through Alaska.
Gallagher: Yeah, through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska. This year I had a much more traditional taper. I have been running in the month of June and yeah, it’s felt great and like a total privilege. If anything I just want to get out there and start going because I’ve tapered pretty hard.
iRunFar: Are you still mixing in swimming with your training?
Gallagher: Yeah. For swimmers, they are going to think this is so funny. And I swam through high school so I understand swimming enough but I swim 1000 yards, which takes me like 20 minutes and that’s my swim so it’s basically like 20 minutes of Zen meditation. I do some breath holds because I love holding my breath. I love slowing down my heart rate as much is possible and yeah, I wouldn’t call it the most effective aerobic training. It’s not aerobic training.
iRunFar: It’s more, it’s part of you rather than another training tool?
iRunFar: Mental training, yeah.
Gallagher: Absolutely, and it’s something I love to do so it’s one of those things where I’m just doing as much as I want to do. Before it becomes miserable.
iRunFar: Right on. I would think that, having known you a while, that you’re standing here in Olympic Valley, two years after winning Western States, I don’t anticipate you having a ton of pressure on yourself. Is that true?
Gallagher: Yeah, I think that’s very accurate. Yeah, you know me well enough that I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself, I think if anything I put the most pressure on myself. The people, my crew, my friends, my family, my coach, my sponsors, Patagonia, La Sportiva, they don’t put pressure on me. I’m here because I want to be, it’s going to be fun and if we’re not smiling then I’m going to slow down until we’re having fun. It’s a mindset that works for me, yeah.
iRunFar: Maybe in the last 10 or 20 miles, right?
Gallagher: Yeah. Okay, I won’t be smiling the whole day. I honestly probably won’t smile that much, but it’s the mindset right? And I think that it so matters, right? This board is so, so mental. Everyone who toes the start line on Saturday is going to be obscenely fit, seemly well-prepared. So, so ready. But this is not just a game about legs.
IRunFar: So enjoyment is a mental tool and strategy for, I mean both enjoying yourself on a first level, but on the second level, performance?
Gallagher: I think so.
iRunFar: Is that, like make some of the miles go by, you’re not stressing against yourself? What do you think the mechanics are?
Gallagher: I think there are some elements of putting this into perspective. It’s a privilege to be here, we get to go run a hundred miles on gorgeous, amazing trail with hundreds of people, all here for this same purpose. Like, it’s incredible. And I don’t mean to be cliché or overly whatever, like stars and rainbows, but I think it’s okay to take a step back and be like, this is awesome. We should be so grateful for this opportunity.
iRunFar: What you most hope to get out of this weekend?
Gallagher: I hope to – one, I hope my crew has a good time. I had an amazing crew and 2019 and we have some of the same people, it’s all my Boulder friends so we will be channeling them from 2019. I got my brother now, hear this year and some other friends, it’s just like I want them to have a good day, I want to finish the race, that’s my number one competitive goal. First and foremost. Like yes, I would like to get top 10, that’s my next competitive goal, but that’s about it.
iRunFar: Have you thought at all about what you’re capable of this weekend?
Gallagher: I know I’m capable of placing higher, like on a good day, if I have a good day. But I don’t really go there too much, at least in this leading up to process. Like all start to think about those type of sub goals after Michigan Bluff. Because Michigan Bluff sucks. It is so hard, you’ve done 55 miles of the race, I had – I was sucking when there in 2019. I think Brittany was only like two minutes behind me there, or something, within five minutes. And then Kaci was right behind her, so anyways, that’s just a moment where I can be like, what do I have left or 45 miles? What is my mindset going into Foresthill? How much race do I need to eat? Or whatever.
iRunFar: But up until that, all you can do is know that you are fit and ready and rested right? And you can tick all those boxes right now?
Gallagher: Yeah, totally. I’m a pretty good sleeper, I just read this really, really good fiction book called Sleep Donation, Karen Russell, and it’s about this world of insomniacs and people have to donate their sleep – I’m sorry for the tangent, but of course after I finish this book I’m like, oh my God am I getting hung up on my sleep?
iRunFar: So you’re saying – are you kind of sliding in there, I’m asking for sleep donation? Clare, do you need a sleep donation? Everybody, five minutes of sleep for Clare.
Gallagher: You get the concept of the book. That’s the exact concept. I highly recommend it. It was pre-pandemic too and it’s super apocalyptic, it’s great. Well not exactly.
iRunFar: No sleep until Auburn, right? Clare, good luck and have fun out there.
Gallagher: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: Thank you.