Hillary Allen took second at the 2015 The Rut 50k and ran a half hour faster than her fifth-place finish here last year. In this interview, Hillary talks about how she made it through some early race physical and mental issues, what part of the course she felt the best on, and where she made her move into her second-place position.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
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Hillary Allen Post-2015 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar here, and I’m here at Big Sky Resort with Hillary Allen who finished second today in the 2015 The Rut 50k. Hollah!
Hillary Allen: Yay!
iRunFar: I thought you were going to run 20 to 30 minutes faster than you did last year. You ran 30 minutes faster than last year.
Allen: Yes! Actually, it was a little bit more. It was 30:15.
iRunFar: Who’s counting?
Allen: Well, now that you are, I am, too.
iRunFar: So did it feel like you were running a ton faster?
Allen: No, I don’t know though. I felt like crap at the beginning. My legs felt super heavy. It was really cold, so that was probably it.
iRunFar: It’s a 6 a.m. start. It’s dark. It’s below…
Allen: It was like 25 degrees. It was probably lower than that especially since we started climbing, so it was probably below 20s I would say. It was cold. Of course, I don’t want to be impeded with pants, and I always get so hot, so I was wearing shorts. Yeah, that probably didn’t help. I don’t know. I didn’t feel that good. I don’t like to admit this, but I probably at least three times it crossed my mind before I hit the 10-mile mark, Oh my gosh, I feel like dropping.
iRunFar: “I don’t want to do this.”
Allen: I don’t want to do this, and I wasn’t having fun. Okay, I was trying to look at the beautiful sunrise and all this kind of stuff, but it did not start off well.
iRunFar: We saw you at mile five, and you were tucked in with a big pack of girls. We saw a big group of girls just sauntering along. Then mile 11, you were pretty much together within a short amount of time but strung out a teensy bit. When did you start feeling better?
Allen: I don’t think it was until… I don’t usually start off super fast. I don’t know if that’s just me or if it’s a mental thing and I just need time to warm up, but those girls were definitely going out faster. I was like, I’m not going to expend more energy to run five to ten seconds faster… it wasn’t worth it. So I just kind of let them go. I was pretty close to them. I think it wasn’t until mile 18… once I started the Headwaters climb, I got into it more. I was powerhiking and I was passing people. That’s usually more my strength. I knew I could probably… I saw Anna Mae [Flynn] and some people and they were pretty close at that point. Then Mike Foote gave me a pep talk at mile 18. “I feel like crap. My legs hurt.” “Don’t worry, Hil, just walk this next climb…” I wasn’t going to run it. I ran some of the flats on the ridge.
iRunFar: Was this on the Swiftcurrent…?
Allen: Swiftcurrent—that’s it.
iRunFar: Aid station. He was there. He pep talked you.
Allen: Yeah, he was like, “Hey, they’ll wake back up. Don’t worry.” I think sometimes I need just a little bit of tough love, like a kick in the ass to… oh I don’t know if I can say that here.
iRunFar: You sure can.
Allen: Yeah, a kick in the ass from him kind of got me a little bit jazzed and out of my own head. I was definitely just letting outside things bother me. That’s usually not me. Okay, you need to be having fun. Then as soon as I got out of my own head and started enjoying the scenery—I’m in Montana. It’s a good day regardless of how I finish—things started turning around.
iRunFar: I don’t think your experience is uncommon. A lot of people start getting… if they’re not feeling great, they actually start getting into a mental space where it’s a cyclical thing. What outside thoughts were you letting get in, and how were you able to get them out of there?
Allen: Just at the start, just not feeling great, just kind of being like, Why is this happening? I’m tired. Besides all the racing, I’ve been adventuring a lot. That’s obviously why. My stomach wasn’t the best. That was just… I think that was the fault of maybe the cold or something like this. So it was that and I was just letting… I really wanted to try to podium and just do better. I knew the course, and that’s always better for running a smarter race. I was just kind of upset. I was just letting the fact that I was a little further back…
iRunFar: Not in podium position.
Allen: Yeah, and then I was just like, Hillary, you know, it doesn’t matter… yeah, kind of like that… You’re being silly because it’s so early in the race. Don’t let that bother you. As soon as I kind of acknowledged that that was a silly thought, I mean, it’s an ultra—a lot can happen. I know myself. I like to finish stronger. I typically have or try to have a second half of the race that’s a bit stronger. That’s my bread and butter—the climbing and the technical descending—so I knew I was going to have fun with that, but yeah, as soon as I dismissed that silly thought then it was way better.
iRunFar: The Swiftcurrent aid station, locals call it “Swiftie,” I think leaving Swiftie, you were fourth place going up the long climb to Lone Peak?
Allen: Yes, Anna Mae and I were really close. Oh, huh, so before that, a little side note…
iRunFar: You got off course along with a couple people?
Allen: I got off course. Yes. It was me, Anna Mae, and Ashley Erba, and two other guys. Yeah, I don’t know, I think we were descending down this road and there was this really sharp righthand, off-trail section. We were kind of heading down. We saw a couple paramedics and a truck, and we were kind of heading down that way. Then as soon as we realized and turned around—actually, Anna Mae kept going and I was like, “Dude, no, I think we’ve got to go back.”
iRunFar: I don’t think this is it.
Allen: I was like, “I don’t think we backtrack.” So as soon as we… I don’t know, maybe it was three to five minutes? We blew down the hill and then had to come back up. It wasn’t longer than five minutes. Yeah, so that happened. I think that also helped me a little bit. That always ticks me off when that happens. It’s a little frustrating.
iRunFar: That put a little fire in your belly?
Allen: Yeah, a little bit. So I tried to get after it on the descending. Then there was that uphill section to get to Swiftcurrent. At that point is where Martina [Valmassoi] passed me or all of us. I was in third and Anna Mae was right there. Then we were together on that climb up the ridge to Lone Peak. We closed in on Martina. Then I quickly passed Anna Mae on the first descent. Then I didn’t really see Martina, but I was probably only a minute back from her.
iRunFar: Martina said you came charging by her on the last climb, and she just couldn’t do anything.
iRunFar: At that point did you know she was in front of you, or were you just like, Oh, screw it, this is the last climbing, I’m going for it.
Allen: I think I figured… in fact, I was carrying the words I heard from my friend, “Try hard!” Go out there and leave it all out there, and if it’s the last climb then really push it because I’m not used to doing that. I actually didn’t realize I’d passed her.
Allen: Yeah, maybe I was in the zone. I don’t know. I think I passed her on the descent… I don’t know what happened.
iRunFar: She said she saw you on the last climb. That’s kind of funny.
Allen: I didn’t see her, so I have no idea. Maybe she was in the forest. She was having stomach issues. That’s what she said to me.
iRunFar: Sorry, Martina.
Allen: I had that all day, too. My stomach was like brrrrp. Then Greg Vollet was like, “Good job, Hillary. You’re in second!” I was like, “Wait, what? Where did Martina go?” Screw it. Keep going. I was trying to charge as fast as I could up the last pretty steep section and then on the descent. Then I learned I was only, at think at that point maybe… I don’t know how far I was behind Emelie [Forsberg] at that point.
iRunFar: I think you were like eight-and-a-half minutes at the top and four something at the bottom of the final descent.
Allen: Yeah. So that was cool.
iRunFar: Were you trying to push to see how hard you could go, or were you just running comfortably?
Allen: I think it definitely wasn’t pushing as hard as I could go. I wasn’t feeling super springy. I was pushing as hard as my body would let me at that point. I just wanted it to be over. There’s a little punchy climb over here before you get the final descent. I was like, Okay, you’re going to run it. Nope. I just didn’t really have that much left in the tank. I wasn’t eating very well all day which is, again, frustrating. I did the best I could though. It was fun to just kind of have a little bit of motivation. I was trying to run as fast as I could, but I could have gone harder. I’m not as sore as I could be.
iRunFar: Of the men’s and women’s podium, there’s one American on the men’s side, and one on the women’s side.
Allen: Whoohoo! Really? I didn’t even see who won for the men’s.
iRunFar: You and Matt Shryock.
Allen: Oh, yeah. He’s the Montana guy, right?
iRunFar: Yeah, living in Alaska now but Montanan by birth. So both of you improved upon your performances from last year—he moved up from 11th to third and a half hour, and you moved up from fifth to second and also improved by 30:15. Do you feel satisfied with what you did at The Rut, or do you feel like you’ll come back and do something a little bit better?
Allen: Yeah, and not get off course. There’s always that. I think there’s always room for improvement whether that’s time or just mentally, right? I think that’s a huge part of these ultras. I could always fuel better and potentially that could lead to a better time, but who knows? Maybe me feeling crappy in the beginning was good, so maybe I could get out of that…
iRunFar: There seems to be a theme for you between …
Allen: Yeah, these past couple races I guess it has.
iRunFar: You have a really good race after a bad start.
Allen: That wasn’t the case for Mont Blanc. I don’t know what went on with that one.
iRunFar: Let the study continue.
Allen: I know. I’m gathering data. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your second place finish at the 2015 The Rut 50k.
Allen: Thank you. Thank you.