For Clare Gallagher, deciding to quit medical school to pursue her love of ultra-distance running has led her down a path more fulfilling than she could have imagined. She ignited a spark and won the women’s division of the Leadville Trail 100 Run in 2016, where she caught the attention of many, including HOTSHOT. Here, our newest HOTSHOT athlete talks about running at the elite-level, travel, race-day planning and the importance of Sour Patch Kids.
How did you decide to make ULTRA running your career?
After winning the Leadville 100 trail run, I realized that I had long-term potential at the elite level. I gave up my plan to apply to medical school in the month leading up to Leadville as ultrarunning was the obvious choice over pursuing another career. Here’s a little video on that transition.
Your biggest value in life is “celebration.” How do you find balance in being diligent with training, but also taking time off?
Being diligent isn’t difficult because I love running so much. It’s my favorite part of the day and my most important part of the day. If I’m not respecting that, I need to check myself! That being said, I take time off as part of my training. I have a prescribed off day every week and take weeks off after long races. I cannot afford to be run down with fatigue if I want to last long in this sport. And also, I just try to make sure I’m not taking myself too seriously as an ultrarunner!
How do you stay mentally focused on an ULTRA race?
For the beginning hours of any long race (over 50k), I try to zone out instead of zoning inward. Zoning out allows for hours to fly by because I’m thinking of other things like my brothers, working hard, climate change, food, funny past stories. Then when the halfway mark hits, or 3/4th of the way through a long race, I have to zone inwards. I embrace the pain and becoming fully present in the task at hand. Everything is a moment-to-moment effort. This combination of mind games and focus helps me get through long, arduous races.
At what point of a race do you find yourself needing to dig deep?
Usually halfway or 3/4th of the way through if I’m having a really good race. For example, in Leadville, I had a low point halfway through, but crawled out of it and didn’t hit rock bottom until mile 76 or so. Then it was all moment-to-moment efforts of putting one leg in front of the other and eating every 20 minutes, drinking HOTSHOT every 45 minutes when I was cramping. But after I had two HOTSHOTs late in the race, I stopped cramping for good!
How long do you see yourself training in this sport?
For as long as my body allows! I’m constantly inspired by the 60-and-older people crushing like it’s nobody’s business. Ultrarunning is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle to me.
How does ULTRA running physically impact you? How does HOTSHOT help?
The wear on my body after a long race, basically anything over a 50k, is significant. I drink HOTSHOT before a hard run or race, during a race at the soonest sign of a cramp, and afterwards. Since it’s not packed with sugar, it’s one of a few things I can drink after a race without wanting to throw up. When I drink HOTSHOT, I feel a neuromuscular honing unlike any other drink or anti-cramp product. I’m eager for the summer season to begin because I know that I have a huge advantage with HOTSHOT. So many people fear cramps, and I don’t worry about them anymore!
How do you cross-train and recover from ULTRA running?
I participate in skimo races in the winter. Skimo is short for ski mountaineering, which is very popular in Europe and just gaining traction in North America. I ski on very light, skinny skis, using skins on the bottom of the skis on the way uphill (a taxing effort) and then ripping the skins off and clicking into my skis in normal downhill mode. The sport is so badass and full of ultramarathon shredders and former professional downhill skiers. I can’t compete at the same level I do in ultrarunning because the downhill skiing on skinny skis is so intense!
I recover with pure laziness. I have PTSD from swimming so much when I was injured in college, so I usually err on the side of doing nothing when I have to cross-train or recover from running or skiing.
You are big into the environment and exploring the world. What has been your favorite ultra race destination so far?
Northern Thailand, where I ran my first ultra. Check out my race report published in UltraRunning Magazine!
What made you decide to sign on as a HOTSHOT athlete?
After falling in love with the beta-testing product, #ITSTHENERVE, knew I was forever hooked on the product. After winning Leadville with HOTSHOT and repping for product at other races and events, having the opportunity to become a HOTSHOT athlete was a no-brainer decision! Best non-cramping team in the world!
How do you integrate HOTSHOT into your training and racing?
I drink it before every major training run, i.e. 20-milers on tough trails, bring in on those runs and drink it afterwards. Same for every race. My crew always has it ready at aid stations.
What’s on the race calendar for this year?
My 2017 race schedule currently includes (bold are AAA-races):
- Quad Rock 50 (Ft Collins), May 13
- WS Training Camp (Squaw Valley, CA), Memorial Day Weekend
- Dirty 30 (50 in Black Canyon State Park, CO), June 3
- WESTERN STATES 100, June 24
- CCC (100k version of UTMB; Chamonix), Sept 1
- WURL FKT attempt (Wasatch mts, UT), late Sept
- The North Face 50 mile Champs (Nov/Dec; RD hasn’t settled on a date this year yet)
The week before you took home the Leadville 100 championship last year, you were perched atop Powerline helping mountain bikers overcome their muscle cramps at the Leadville 100 MTB race. Tell us about that experience and how that impacted your mindset for the Leadville 100.
Giving almost 1,000 mountain bikers HOTSHOT on top of one of the hardest climbs of the entire Leadville 100 course was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It definitely got me mentally prepared for the run, which was a week later. Seeing the effort on everyone’s faces, the anguish and desperation made me prepare mentally way more than I would’ve had I not been up there. Also, seeing how helpful HOTSHOT was to everyone made me ENSURE that I didn’t forget it for my race! My favorite memories are of guys yelling before I could see them, “Is that the HOTSHOT girl? I need some!!” And then I’d come running to their bikes with an open bottle and take their trash. It was hilarious because that happened about 700 times over the course of 10 hours.
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