Western States Stories with 2019 Runner-Up Brittany Peterson

Statesmas rolls on! Tomorrow we all would have been watching the start of the 47th edition of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious trail ultramarathons. Unfortunately race organizers had to postpone the race until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The iconic Western States race runs along the Western States trail which is recognized as one of the most historic and challenging routes in trail running. It follows a 100.2-mile point-to-point path through wilderness, high alpine ridges, deep canyons and a swift water river crossing en-route to a night-time finish on the illuminated all-weather track at Placer High School in Auburn.

To pay homage to this historic trail running race, I’ve written a four-part article series covering each quarter of the Western States course. On Tuesday I wrote about 2009 champion Antia Ortiz’s experiences during the first 25 miles of her race. Wednesday’s edition featured 2016 champion, Kaci Lickteig racing from miles 25 to 50 and yesterday Matt Daniels talked about the third quarter of Western States.

Today I’m publishing my interview with Nike Trail athlete Brittany Peterson who talks about the final 25 miles of her race which includes iconic landmarks like the the American River crossing (Google Street-view pictured below), No Hands Bridge and Robie Point.

[TAYTE POLLMANN] What did you like about this section of the course and what were the challenges?
[BRITTANY PETERSON] I liked the excitement that came with this section. Some of the most memorable parts of the course are in this section, including the American River crossing (mile 78), No Hands Bridge, Robie Point (mile 98.9) and of course the track at Placer High School (mile 100.2).

I felt slightly foggy due to fatigue and the accumulation of emotions and excitement from the day. The biggest challenges were the quiet sections near the finish. After the river crossing there is a long section in the Auburn Lake Trail system of winding single track. This is tricky for the mind, as it isn’t that far from the finish but so much of the terrain looks similar and there are many tight turns that can disorient you and make it difficult to figure out how far it is to the next aid station.

I felt like the final 5 miles was an eternity. Prior to running the race, I dreaded the climb to Robie Point — a significant climb following long downhill and runnable stretches. To make the climb even more intense, I was only 90 seconds behind race leader Clare Gallagher at No Hands Bridge and was giving it everything I had up that climb to catch her. She absolutely crushed the stretch up to Robie Point.

Brittany Peterson Western States 100 Mile

[TAYTE] What are your memories from the aid stations, spectators, your crew and did you have any complications?
[BRITTANY] I remember arriving at Quarry Road Aid Station (mile 90.7) and my pacer, Cody Lind, was completely dialed in. We had been getting varied times regarding how far I was behind Clare, but I knew I was making up ground. On the climb to highway 49, I caught her. We climbed up to point rocks together. It was a surreal moment of fatigue, friendship and euphoria.

When we arrived at Pointed Rocks Aid Station (mile 94.3). I felt like I was in a fog, not even thinking. Clare executed an incredible surge coming out of the aid station into the downhill to No Hands Bridge. I was dumbfounded! I had no idea that surge was coming, but DANG, what a good plan. I later thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

[TAYTE] Overall, how did you feel from miles 75 to 100 and is this how you thought you’d feel beforehand?
[BRITTANY] I had one moment of bonking in this stretch (right before the Quarry Road Aid Station), but otherwise I felt great. My pacer, Cody Lind, knew exactly what to say and how to encourage me. I never could have run as fast as I did without his gentle cuing. I had no idea how fast I would be able to run and the kind of intense competition I’d be in with Clare. I knew I was capable of a podium finish and a strong time, but you never know how the day will turn out on race day. My performance exceeded my expectations and hopes for how I’d feel, particularly on this exciting section of the course.

[TAYTE] Did you do anything special to prepare for this section of the course and if so, what did you do and did it help?
[BRITTANY] I have done countless training runs on this stretch and raced the Way Too Cool 50K,which also follows part of this section. I knew this would be a critical section to run well on. I still feel I could use more practice on this section for next time I race Western States.

Brittany Peterson 2019 Western States 100 Mile

[TAYTE] Where did you stand in the rankings during this section of the course and is this where you thought you’d be?
[BRITTANY] At the Rucky Chucky River Crossing (mile 78), my coach and crew had seen race leader Courtney Dauwalter arrive and knew she was experiencing issues with her hip. This put me in a position to be racing for first place. My coach pulled me aside and gave me a new race plan, “Get where you want to be when you finish this race by Highway 49 (mile 93.5).”

I ran the Auburn Lake Trail (mile 85.2) and Quarry road (mile 90.7) sections as strong as possible to be in first place by Highway 49. I ended up passing Clare roughly 200 yards before Highway 49 and we crossed the road side by side. Huge kudos to Clare for not giving an ounce or succumbing to defeat when she was passed. She stuck to me like glue and seemed to be developing a plan for the next mile or so on how to secure the win.

Even though she got the win, it was still an incredible race for me. To have those moments running together with Clare and for both of us to have had to dig to deeper depths than we thought possible makes getting second place feel like a huge win for me.

[TAYTE] What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone racing the last 25 miles of Western States?
[BRITTANY] Be ready to run! If you chew up your legs before the Rucky Chucky river crossing you can lose so much time in the last 20 miles. If your legs feel good at mile 80, you have a huge opportunity to make up time. Take a moment to enjoy the historic stretch from Robie Point (mile 98.9) to the Placer High School track and the unbelievable feelings and emotions once you step on that track. These experiences epitomize the joys and meaning of our sport. Enjoy those special moments!

Are you ready for a deep dive into the Western States trail? See our Western States Trekker page with Google Street-view shortcuts to sections of the course like No Hands Bridge over the American River (Google Street-view below).

Read iRunFar’s interview with Western States Trekker expedition leader Richard Bolt and the Trekker team’s Day 6 recap of their journey from the American River to No Hands Bridge.

Shortcuts to course information on the Western States 100 mile website:

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.

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