Hillary Allen will run The Rut 50k for the second time this weekend, and she’s no doubt looking to improve upon her fifth-place finish from last year. In the following interview, Hillary talks about her history converting from tennis to trail running, her quick rise to racing success in the last two years, and what she thinks will suit her best about The Rut 50k course.
Be sure to check out our in-depth preview to see who else is racing.
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Hillary Allen Pre-2015 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at Big Sky Resort with Hillary Allen.
Hillary Allen: Hello.
iRunFar: Oh, hello. It’s two days before The Rut 50k.
iRunFar: You’re here to race.
Allen: Oh, yeah.
iRunFar: I’m pretty stoked to interview you right now. I hung out with you a little bit this summer, but this is your first iRunFar interview.
Allen: Yeah, I’m excited about it, too.
iRunFar: This is not your first time here at The Rut. This is your second time. You finished fifth amongst a really competitive international field last year, but you came back!
Allen: Yes, I did.
iRunFar: So you’re ready for the difficulty of it, and you’re ready to finish higher. What are you here for?
Allen: I’m here primarily just to run in Montana. It’s amazing. I love the technicality of the course. Just to basically… it’s nice to run a course you’re familiar with, so I’m excited about that. Hopefully I can do better as far as timing. I feel like last year I was still really new to the Sky[running] series and also racing pretty conservatively. Hopefully I can have a little bit more confidence to go out harder and see what I can do. It would be nice to finish under seven hours because that was my time last year. We’ll see. It’s still a pretty stacked international field, but hopefully I can jump up a few more places.
iRunFar: You’re pretty new still to trail running and ultrarunning.
Allen: Yeah, definitely.
iRunFar: You ran your first ultra in 2013—Moab Red Hot 55k?
Allen: Yeah, oh yeah, it was more like, “Let’s see if I can do this.” I definitely walked a lot of it.
iRunFar: You ran it in over six hours in 2013, but then you ran it again in 2014 and ran an hour-and-20-or-30 minutes faster and got third place amongst a competitive field for being early season. So what happened during that time that turned you into a decent runner?
Allen: I have no idea. In fact, that’s a really good question. I did that just because I did my first road marathon a month or two months before the Moab Red Hot, so that was me diving into the deep end of distance running because I have a tennis background. I ran it. I loved it. I kind of got busy with school, and I just didn’t have time to race. I did an ultra and, “Cool, I can do that distance.” Then I just started running on trails more, more and more every day. I kind of moved to the foothills from Denver. Then I decided I wanted to do a 50-mile race. I wanted to do races so I could actually travel to see all these cool places. That’s how it actually happened. So 2014 is when I started doing more races. I don’t know. I just started running, I guess.
iRunFar: You’re getting better. It seems like every race you do, you’re improving. A couple months ago you finished, set a new course record, winning Speedgoat. It was an Anna Frost course record. Let’s just say you’re on the improvement upswing.
Allen: Yeah, I was really excited.
iRunFar: Do you attribute that to just more experience, running more ultra races and knowing what your body is going to go through? Do you attribute that to different training? Do you attribute that to drugs?
Allen: Drugs?! [laughs] If happiness is a drug, then yeah, probably. I think Speedgoat… Speedgoat was so much fun. It was great knowing the course and going back there and being like, Okay, yeah, I remember this climb sucked. It still sucked, but at least mentally I was prepared for it. That’s nice. I think it’s a different… it’s a combination, too, of I’ve just been running more consistently. I’ve been doing a little bit… Mike Aish has been helping me out. He’s been coaching me. I’ve been doing some workouts because I still don’t know what the heck I’m doing. This whole running and workouts with things to make you hurt… I feel like people…
iRunFar: Choosing to hurt with your training?
Allen: Exactly. The more competitive background, I’m still really new to that, so the races… I’m still figuring it out. I still don’t know how hard to push myself and when. Speedgoat was just kind of like… I don’t know, not a miracle, but…
iRunFar: “Thank you.”
Allen: I know, well, it just didn’t start off feeling that great. Then I was able to push the downhills and all that kind of stuff. I ran, I feel like, a smart race, and used the skills and kept a mentally positive attitude. I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. We’ll see. I hope I can still continue to improve. Obviously that’s always really fun to see. Like I said, I still have a lot to learn, too, because I’m so new.
iRunFar: Let me ask you, coming back to this course, now knowing this course and knowing what you’re getting yourself into, what are the parts you’re looking forward to, and what are the parts you’re like, “Well, I wish I could wish that away?”
Allen: There are a few pretty technical downhills where I know it will be difficult no matter what especially if the weather kind of turns and it’s not as dry as it was last year. It might be difficult to kind of navigate some of those areas. So I’ve been mostly kind of preparing myself for those because I definitely fell last year. I slipped. There was an ice patch I didn’t see, and I just poooooh—so that kind of stuff. I’m really looking forward to pushing myself along different parts of the course where I remember myself hiking last year. Maybe I’ll run a little bit more in these sections.
iRunFar: Add a little more running in.
Allen: Yeah, like Lone Peak, that climb was so much fun, so maybe trying to push myself a little bit more.
iRunFar: There are a couple gnarly descents, like really they can be troublesome. How do you feel about the really rocky technical downhills here?
Allen: It was a lot of fun last year. There are probably some ankle… I fell a lot. I ran Speedgoat and had stitches in my knee. I’m kind of a klutz. I’m hoping I’ll actually get the adrenaline boost.
iRunFar: To stay upright?
Allen: So I’m hoping the adrenaline boost will help, but I’m sure I’ll have some close calls. It’s just trying to have fun with it, like on the rock hopping trying to pick my lines and pretend I’m skiing down the slope on the loose gravelly rocky sections. I’ve had a lot of good practice with that this summer, so I’m more confident than I was last year, I think.
iRunFar: My last question for you—you’ve already been competing for awhile this year. You’ve already had some races, and you’ve had a couple outstanding performances. How do you keep riding that high? There are only so many things you can peak for and you can turn out your best at. How do you try to keep riding that? Are you on the downslope of your season right now or where are you at?
Allen: Mentally, I think I’m just kind of like… it’s been a wild ride. My main focus running this year was going to Mont Blanc and running the 80k because I’ve never been to Europe. It is such an iconic place, such an iconic race. I did well. I was just excited. Speedgoat was kind of a last minute thing. I’m just trying to keep… I know realistically I can’t peak for everything. I can’t have a strong performance every time. I’m just trying to have fun with the event that I’m running and the place. It’s amazing to be here. I’m just trying to be positive about it. If I have a good day, then great, and if not, I’m still running in them mountains and it’s a good day no matter what.
iRunFar: Best of luck to one of the newest members of Team Wild Ginger.
Allen: Whoohoo! Yes, I will represent throughout the weekend.
iRunFar: Good luck to you out there.
Allen: Thank you.