Clare Gallagher is an ultra runner who lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado. Clare ran track for Princeton University before converting to endurance races. She recently won the prestigious Leadville 100 mile trail race. Clare shares how she got involved in Ultras and how she trains for them!
Tell us about yourself. People close to me think I’m erratic and overly excited 110% of the time. People who really know me know that I actually reserve about 2.5% of my energy for solitude and reflection. I think, I hope, that as I mature the ratio may change. I fantasize about sleep. I’m rarely under-rested like I was in college, but boy, I think sleep is the most underrated commodity for people of the 21st century. When I don’t fantasize about sleep, I know that I’m not going hard enough in my life. Must get to a higher mountain, run another loop through the Boulder canyons, spend a night laughing with friends. Spend a night driving to crew a friend for a 100-mile race in Utah or God-knows-where bumble-bee-farm Colorado. Sign up for another race. Commit to writing a science fiction novel. Commit to something. Do something. I live for this stuff. Especially the craze of ultras. They are so freaking weird! I love the excitement, the tediousness, the ridiculousness of living off tortilla chips, Sriracha, and candy in my car, while pacing for hours and watching friends suffer so beautifully. I believe that our legs are chariots to some mortal type of mountain nirvana. In terms of career and that part of life, I’m a hungry mutt scavenging for what type of graduate school will whet my appetite.
What's your training like? I coach myself, but I ask hordes of questions to my fellow competitors, coach-friends, and other non-runner athletes. What do you do for vertical? How should I taper for a 100? What books should I read? Above all, I trust in my body, in the feel, to a spiritual level. Admittedly, my training can be manic: huge weeks of volume followed by 4-days off to stave off a bony injury scare. Loads of mountain running with little rest followed by pathetically easy days spent mostly horizontal. I wish I swam and biked more. I wish I lifted more weights and did more core work. I wish I did a lot of things. But coaching myself—and adhering to no program other than my handwritten calendar that’s mainly crossed out because my plan inevitably goes out the window as life happens—has been my secret weapon post-collegiate running. Yes, I’ve suffered injuries (metatarsal stress fractures, chronic ankle sprains) since graduating from college, but on the whole, coaching myself has been injury-sparse and pretty freaking awesome. I run because I love it. I also still run fast because I love it. Although, I only run fast with other people; misery needs company! Hilariously, a teammate from Princeton, Abby Levene, who’s now a pro triathlete, is my training partner; she gets weekly run workouts from her coach and I accompany her like a heavy-breathing ghost who knows she needs speed in her diet!
How do you race? I might appear laid back in most aspects of my life, but a race is a race is a race is a race. If I’m racing to compete—and I’m rarely not racing to compete—I’m racing to win. What’s the point if not?
And how was the Leadville race?! What an insane day! A riotous event! My ‘forever pace’ held up well thanks to my fitness built off fast races earlier in the summer and my insatiable appetite while running sealed the deal. The day was meditative, not stressful, and scarily smooth. There’s nothing to get anxious about in a 100 because it’s so freaking long. And slow! Overall, the day was stand alone spectacular, of course, but really, Leadville was a juicy, devilishly fun cherry to the months of preparation and training I’d put in all summer. I can’t wait for my next 100.
What do you eat? Yes, I did eat a jar of vanilla frosting and Sour Patch Kids, Snickers, and sticky rice balls during Leadville. I also took HOTSHOT, which is the best anti-cramping product ever to exist. Coke was my elixir of choice, along with water and broth when night fell. 100s are eating contests with some running!