Cat Bradley was relatively unknown when she upset a deep field, including three past champions—who were all having great seasons—and several high-placing finishers from the year before, when she won the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in 2017.
What makes her win even more impressive, well aside from the weather and course conditions (i.e. knee-deep snow and mud at points; highs of 95-degrees, overnight lows of 75-degrees) is that she only had a 2.5 percent chance of getting into the race in the first place due to the race’s lottery system.
On top of all that, Cat has only really been banging away, seriously, on the trails for a handful of years.
Before moving to Boulder, Colorado to pursue the trails in 2015, Cat was a burnt-out 800 and 1,500-meter track athlete who thought she’s never run again; turned outdoor enthusiast who hiked the estimated 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Traill; turned outdoor guide; turned kindergarten teacher; turned trail and ultramarathoner; turned champion of the 2017 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run against the odds, in crappy weather, in a very talented field women, her first time out.
Cat Bradley poses for a portrait in Chautauqua Park, at sunset, on March 20, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado.
Cat is a professional trail and ultra-runner training in Boulder, Colorado. She moved from Winter Park, Colorado, to Boulder in 2015, in part, to be closer to a running community. She is also the 2017 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run Champion.
Cat running Baseline Trail at Chautauqua Park, at sunset, in Boulder on March 20, 2018.
“I got really burnt out on the track and I thought I was done with running for good,” said Bradley. She quit running and transitioned into the outdoor world, hiking the Appalachian Trail and becoming a guide, before finding her love for trail running which led to her win at the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. “It was really rough conditions, but it was—winning that was definitely one of the most special moments of my life,” Bradley said.
Behind the scenes with Cat, Cat’s boyfriend Ryan Lassen (right), photographer and videographer Andrew Kitto (left), and Cat and Ryan’s dog Shirley, at Mount Sanitas Trail in Boulder on March 20, 2018.
Cat said when she got into trail running she was not pursing a professional career in any way. “I just wanted to be outside and see what I could do, and really challenge myself. I need that kind of challenge in my life,” she said.
Cat, Ryan and Shirley pose for a portrait on Sanitas Valley Trail in Boulder on March 20, 2018.
Cat said the biggest challenge, mentally, about getting through a 100-mile race on the trails comes before the race starts. “If you’re in it, if your heart is in it at the start line, it’s not that hard to get through, mentally. You know you’re going to get to the finish line,“ she said. But that’s the hard part, getting to the line and being convinced—even before the race starts—that you’re going to get through it. “Because if you’re not convinced at the start line, then there’s a way bigger chance that you’re not gonna. The bigger part, mentally, comes before the race,” she said.
Cat Bradley running Goat Trail via Mount Sanitas Valley Trail in Boulder, Colorado on March 20, 2018.
Part of reason Bradley moved from Winter Park, Colorado to Boulder, Colorado in 2015 was to be be closer to a running community. She said Winter Park is, “just a small mountain town and people ask what you’re running from when they see you running down the street.”
Cat on Sunshine Canyon Trail, during a cold sunrise, in Boulder on March 20, 2018.
Cat’s two favorite things about Boulder are the trail access and the community. “There’s just so much depth in the community. I can almost always find someone to run with, at any time in the day—which is crazy,” Cat said. “The trail access is unmatched. From our apartment in South Boulder is a two-mile jog to one of the biggest trail hubs—Chautauqua Park—in the country.”
Behind the scenes with Cat and Shirley during a video interview with ROLL Recovery at a private residence in Boulder, Colorado on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
“She’s my little adventure dog,” Cat said of the dog who goes everywhere with her. Shirley’s name was inspired by Cat’s beloved pup, Maybe, who passed away in 2015. She named Maybe because of the dog’s questionable health and aggressive behavior when she first got her—“Maybe-she-will, maybe-she-won’t.” Cat named Shirley because, “Shirley-she-will, because surely she’ll be good.”
Cat silhouetted on Red Rocks Trail during a cold sunrise on March 20, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado.
Cat was managing her occupation as a kindergarten teacher with her vocation as an ultra runner—on the trails by 4:45 a.m., in the classroom by 6:45 a.m.—until she got laid off from teaching in the months leading up to her win at Western States. “But Western States just happened at a really good time,” she said, as the win led to her signing a professional contract with Salomon.
Cat with the Carbon Black R8 on Goat Trail, via Mount Sanitas Valley Trail in Boulder on March 20, 2018.
While Cat doesn’t touch an R8 after something like, say, a 100-mile race, recovery is what she focuses on immediately after training runs, before things tighten up, so she doesn’t limp around the rest of the day.
“I’ll walk through the door, Ryan will usually hand me some post-run coffee and we’ll talk about breakfast while I’m rolling out on the floor with the R8—breaking up all those tight calves, so my ankles can move freely,” Cat said.
Members of the Salomon Run Club meet on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, for a run, trail shoe demos and beer among friends at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado at sunset.
As a brand ambassador with Salomon since 2015, Cat had gotten really involved in the Boulder trail community and the Salomon brand. So, when she won Western States and it was time for her to sign a professional contract, Salomon was the obvious choice. “I had developed amazing relationships within the brand and I knew the shoes really well, and I believe in the product,” Cat said.