Katie Asmuth took fifth at last year’s Western States 100, but said she suffered hard the last 30 miles to do so. In the following interview, Katie talks about how she’s changing her race-day strategy so that she can hopefully feel strong and be able to compete in the race’s final third, how her approach to training has evolved in the last year, and what makes her happy about this sport and this event.
Katie Asmuth Pre-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Katie Asmuth. It’s a couple of days before the 2022 Western States 100. Supposed to be a hot race this weekend, but we’re standing in a thunderstorm.
Katie Asmuth: Yes, we are. It is raining, but we have some tree cover, so we’re doing okay right now. But I did not bring a rain jacket. [laughs]
iRunFar: It’s funny, when we were packing we were like, “Rain jackets, yay or nay?” And we said nay but now we’re regretting it.
Asmuth: Oh yeah, it’s like cold. It’s okay. The body’ll heat up and I’m going to save this for later because it is not going to be like this on race day.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s funny. They like put out a heat advisory for the weekend today, but we’re all up here shivering in jackets in Olympic Valley.
Asmuth: Yes, it’s cold, but it’s okay. I’ll take it. I’ll take it however Western States wants to give it to me. Let’s go.
iRunFar: [laughs] I mean, realistically, it’s Mother Nature. We don’t have a choice, do we?
Asmuth: That’s right. It’s going to be hot probably. [laughs] It’s going to be very hot. Now it’s probably going to be like steaming. You’re going to be able to like, see like.
iRunFar: Humidity and heat.
iRunFar: So, you finished fifth here last year. That was a pretty amazing result. What brings you back?
Asmuth: I mean, I want to have my best day I can out here. So, I think there was a little bit of unfinished business with that fifth place in the sense that I didn’t feel strong the last 20, really 30 miles. I was just surviving and this year I’m going to be thriving. That’s the plan. [laughs]
iRunFar: We’re going to thrive!
Asmuth: Thrive those last 30 miles. So really, I’m trying, I’m coming back to try and do my best race, whatever that may be at the end. But I think I can do a lot better than what I did last year.
iRunFar: You live not too far away in Mammoth. So, have you been up here training? I think maybe you came for Western States training camp?
Asmuth: I just came for the Western States training camp. Yep. So, it was my fourth time at the training camp.
iRunFar: Oh, wow.
Asmuth: Yeah, big fan. I love ultrarunning. [laughs] And I love this course. So, you know. Yeah. I’m happy to be back.
iRunFar: Is it … What do you think it is that’s going to make a better day and put you in position to be able to thrive in the final 30 miles? Like what did you learn last year? What have you learned by training on the course that you’re going to try to put into effect on race day?
Asmuth: Well, a lot of things happened after Western States last year and like most of us, I don’t know, I’m speaking for myself, I guess — the entire year is for this race. So I am, I was thinking about this race all year. In the best way, not like an obsessive way, just wanting to be able to perform the best I can here and get myself prepared the way I can be, the best way I can.
And so, last year, I started doing a lot of things differently. I started actually doing strength work because I’d never been in the gym before. [laughs] Which is kind of shocking, probably for some people, but I had never done that before. So now I’m actually doing strength work, actually doing mobility, actually doing the little things and really trying to focus on recovery. I amped up my miles a lot more this last like training block and feeling really fit and so there’s that. And then also just on race day, I will change some things.
I think at Foresthill I really got excited to see everybody in my family and my coach and it was like the energy just got me fired up. And I think it brought my heart rate a little too high for that day and the heat was just boiling and I just couldn’t bring it back down. So, I couldn’t really race the last, like I said, 30 miles probably because I was just on the brink of blowing up because I knew if I ran harder, then my heart rate would just not be able to come down. So, I didn’t want to bonk and so I just stayed steady, and I was able to get it done for a fifth-place finish and I’m proud of that. And I’m proud of not blowing up. I’m proud of being able …
iRunFar: Staying on the right side of the fence.
Asmuth: Exactly, exactly. And I think that’s hard to do in the sport, and Western States is hot. And so, I’m proud of that and I feel like I can improve on that. And the hope is to be able to be maybe a little bit more measured at Foresthill. And I mean I’ll still be so excited.
iRunFar: No one talk to me, no one cheer for me. I’m putting the visors on. [laughs]
Asmuth: [laughs] I’m a very emotional person, and I love this race, and I love the people and the community. I get such like, so much joy.
iRunFar: There needs to be like …
iRunFar: There needs to be like in cities where there’s like the main highway that goes straight through the city and then there’s like the, you know, the suburbs.
Asmuth: [laughs] I’m just going to skirt around.
iRunFar: [laughs] It could just be like that track around Foresthill for the excitable people.
Asmuth: [laughs] Exactly. That’s me. I get excited.
iRunFar: The ‘burbs of Foresthill.
Asmuth: Yeah, yeah. I need to just kind of go through it nice and chill. I mean, I probably won’t be able to too much but I’m just trying to be more mindful there and then just really actually staying cool. I did as best as I could last year, but we have some more tricks up our sleeve this year to stay cool. So, you know, we all think we have tricks up our sleeve for this race and really just …
iRunFar: We could have sleeves.
Asmuth: I mean we try and do everything we can out there. So basically, I’m just going to try and stay cool and hydrate more, was a big one. Because last year I like stayed wet all day and would spray water on myself but I wasn’t actually drinking the water as much. I mean I was, but not as much as I needed to be. So.
iRunFar: Too bad you’re not like a reptile who can absorb liquid that way.
Asmuth: Right. That would have been nice. So, I stayed cool on the outside, but my insides were burning. So. Anyways, things will change.
iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about your training. You said you switched some stuff up and another thing that I thought was interesting is that it looks like you did a bunch of like shorter distance races this year.
Asmuth: I did.
iRunFar: Did you do that with intention? Like, let’s get fast and in shorter stuff or was that because of life or …?
Asmuth: Yeah. Well, I ran a 30k in January and that was just for fun with friends, a local race, Sean O’Brien 30k in Malibu. And it was just fun and fast and felt fantastic to run fast. And then I ran Black Canyon 60k and that was a part of the plan and then the plan was to run Canyons 100k. And then I had a little nerve niggle then and so I had to back off and didn’t go for it. And I think it was actually the right decision because I don’t want to go in too deep before the race.
And I think with any race I go hard and I give it my all and I probably would have exhausted myself at that race trying to catch Jazmine [Lowther]. I think it was probably the right decision overall. And I ran a 50k in May and it felt fantastic. So yeah, they were shorter stuff, I was trying to do that 100k, but I think all in all, it was probably the right decision. So.
iRunFar: And talk a little bit about the other stuff that you’ve added to your training in the last year. You said mobility, strength, more miles.
Asmuth: Yeah, all those things. Check, check, check. I’ve been doing a lot more of that and just generally trying to, trying to do it right. You know, like, I guess I spent, I mean I started running not that long ago. I’m new to this, I’m a mom.
iRunFar: Adult-onset runner.
Asmuth: Yeah, exactly. So, I think I’m just sort of learning how to do this, like right a little bit, you know. Instead of like, only just going out for fun runs and trying to do it a little bit more purposeful. But I still have fun while I’m doing it. It’s just, I know the reason for runs now. I kind of understand the physiology behind it better. I’m like more versed in, like what I should be doing to be my best self. And so yeah, I’m doing all those things.
iRunFar: Got it. Last question for you. If you could like just shut your eyes and think about like, what does a perfect day look like for you on Saturday, what is that?
Asmuth: I would feel fresh and light and flowy all day and full of energy. And well-hydrated and fueled.
iRunFar: Not too excited at Foresthill.
Asmuth: Or maybe just excited the whole time and it was fine. That’d be a great day. [laughs] So I think probably like best-case scenario, as I know, we’re all going to get eaten up out there. But I think best-case scenario is to like, be able to race at the end. Like that’s what I want to be able to do. I think, you know, I have to have some inspiration from Clare Gallagher and a little bit of that, like, fire.
And I hope that I take that with me at the end of the race. At the beginning of the race, I want to take it super chill, but I want to be able to be strong at the end. So basically, I don’t know, save myself all day and then at the end, race.
iRunFar: Go for it, then.
Asmuth: That’s the plan. Yeah.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck to you, as you make the downhill-ish, hot-ish.
Asmuth: I don’t know what we’re going to have. Whatever. We’ll take it.
iRunFar: It’s like literally pouring rain out in the cold.
Asmuth: I have like three layers on.
iRunFar: There’s a hot downhill race that’s supposed to happen from here in two days.
Asmuth: Right, exactly. It’s fun no matter what. Like it’s so fun to be all together and see so many awesome people out here. Yeah, so the community part is like, why we’re all here. To run together and just really challenge ourselves to our limits. It’s fun. Yeah.
iRunFar: Amen, sister.
Asmuth: That’s right.