This year, Hillary Allen co-hosted some of iRunFar’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships pre-race interviews. In this video, watch Hillary’s in-depth thoughts on the women’s competition and how she thinks it will sort out, and hear her thoughts on who she thinks will win the men’s race.
Hillary Allen Previews The 2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Hillary Allen. She’s our co-host for our Friday morning pre-The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships interviews. We’re here for some race preview action.
Hillary Allen: Oh, yeah. I’m super excited to be on the sideline of this race cheering. I’ve never run the race. I’ve run around the Headlands, and it’s a beautiful course, but this is one of the best races to cheer or crew for.
iRunFar: We just interviewed four people. We saw Tim Freriks, that was our lone male. We interviewed Ida Nilsson, Anne-Marie Madden, and Stephanie Violett. What are you thinking about the people we saw? What are your gut reactions?
Allen: I guess to start with the women’s field, I actually think that both races are going to go out hard, they’re going to go out fast. It doesn’t matter if it’s men or women, but I think they’re going to be packed. They’re going to stick together and work off each other to work on the pace and see who falls off. That’s really exciting. I think there are some strong interviewees, which we chose today. For the women’s field, I guess we could just kind of go into it. Ida Nilsson, every time I’ve seen her before, she just has a plan and goes for it. She just comes from such a fast track background. She has leg speed, and she knows how to use it. When she’s on, she’s on, and other people are just along for the ride. Not to say that other people can’t challenge her; they definitely can. Megan Kimmel is on the start line.
iRunFar: Megan Kimmel might be the only person in this field who has beat Ida Nilsson in 2017.
Allen: Exactly. Megan and Ruth Croft that have beaten Ida Nilsson, and Ruth is no longer there on the start list and Megan is here. She can definitely be challenged. There are women who can definitely hang. But she’s used to that pain cave, and I think these trails suit her really well. It’s hard to bet against her, but I’m a huge Megan Kimmel fan. I know Megan Kimmel has the leg speed and the mountain legs. She’s like a jack of all trades. This is her race, as well. Between those two, those are the obvious ones to watch, but there’s a ton of depth to this field. We interviewed Anne-Marie Madden.
iRunFar: Who has twice been in the top 10 here and has loads of leg speed.
Allen: Yeah, but also has another job, so we don’t see her maybe as often as other people.
iRunFar: Who else are you going to be looking forward to following?
Allen: Anne-Lise Rousset—this is one that people don’t know, but I know about here.
iRunFar: Here’s our mystery—the fast French woman in America.
Allen: She’s amazing! She’s super talented. She actually really challenged even last year. She challenged Ida at Transvulcania.
iRunFar: She’s a two-time second place finisher at Transvulcania which means she’s a two-time loser to Ida Nilsson at Transvulcania, but she pushed her both years.
Allen: Exactly. She knows what to do. She’s fast. She’s got definite speed. Her training is different—more flat, but she does really well in these mountain races. She was out all season due to a sacral stress fracture. That’s where she was kind of on the low end of not racing in Europe. I saw her at Transvulcania this year, and then she wasn’t around racing, but she’s someone to watch out for. She’s fast. She’s talented. She’s hungry. I’m going to be curious to see if she uses her poles in this one or not.
iRunFar: 10,400 feet of climbing are a lot of climbing, but it’s super runnable climbing.
Allen: Exactly. I think she’s prepared for it. That’s one that I would definitely like to look out for. I’m not going to be surprised when I see her near the front.
iRunFar: She does like to go hard, doesn’t she?
Allen: Oh, yeah, but she can stick with it through the end. She’s also a strong finisher.
iRunFar: Who else are you watching?
Allen: Who else is out there? I’m missing the names?
iRunFar: We have Clare Gallagher who was the fifth-place finisher last year.
Allen: Oh, of course. Clare, she’s coming off of CCC, so she’s taken some down time. She loves to go hard from the gun. She’s willing to leave everything out there. Again, this isn’t one of her focuses of races for the season, but if she shows up and she’s hungry and she’s ready to put the suffering in, she’s going to be up there as well.
iRunFar: She knows how to suffer better. Let’s put it that way.
Allen: Exactly. She’s always super fun to watch race, and it’s so inspiring to see her just go for it all in. Stephanie Violett, we interviewed her.
iRunFar: Fairly late entrant. I think she entered two weeks ago about.
Allen: It’s interesting to see—she said she was trekking across Nepal. That leaves you pretty fit especially at high altitude.
iRunFar: Hanging out at 15,000 and 16,000 feet for a month or so.
Allen: She had some tough individual days at Western and UTMB, but that doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the 100-mile distance which is a hard equation to figure out. Let’s not forget that she won Bandera outright. Watch out, boys.
iRunFar: Watch out, men.
Allen: She’s there. If she has a good day, she can definitely podium and challenge these women. There’s a ton of depth to this field. Another one that we don’t really know about as far as 50-mile debut—Meghan Roche, which these are her home trails.
iRunFar: A local fast woman—she knows how to run fast when it comes to steep ups and downs and kind of the buffed out running that is the San Francisco Bay area.
Allen: Yeah, buffed but gnarly. It’s gnarly in a different way. Your hip flexors are definitely going to be burning.
iRunFar: Well, her’s won’t, because she trains on this stuff all the time.
Allen: She knows, but she won’t have her dog to run with her. Maybe at the aid station, I’m sure David [Roche] will bring the dog around.
iRunFar: She’s a mystery at the 50-mile distance. She’s super tough at anything 50k or shorter and especially on NorCal terrain. Another shorter distance fast woman is, late entrant as of this week, Renee Metivier.
Allen: Yeah, Renee killed it at the Moab Trail Marathon, the US Championship race. I’m really curious to see what she’s going to do. Between Megan, Ida, Megan Kimmel, and Renee, they’re definitely used to taking it out fast. Renee and Ida used to race in college together. They’re used to running together. I think maybe they’ll start off chatting and really push each other. It will be interesting to see who stays on. As far as Meghan Roche and her experience, this is her 50-mile debut, but let’s look at what happened last year with Hayden Hawks and his 50 mile debut.
iRunFar: It went just fine.
Allen: Exactly, and Meghan is really strong. If someone is off their game, there are 10 other girls who can pick up the pieces.
iRunFar: The beauty of competition.
Allen: Anna Mae Flynn?
iRunFar: Anna Mae Flynn, how did we just mention her?
Allen: I know!
iRunFar: Shorter distance mountain runner extraordinaire, but who has run 50 miles well before—third place at Lake Sonoma last year.
Allen: Exactly. She may have a little bit of a challenge with Transvulcania a couple years ago, but she had a huge strong season here racing locally in the US. She got the new Speedgoat record. She’s one of those who likes to run fast on trails like these. She trains at altitude, too. She’s…
iRunFar: She’s going to be just fine.
Allen: Yeah, so another one to watch out for.
iRunFar: We’re women, and we dove pretty deeply into the women’s competition. So I want to switch over for a minute and maybe not talk as deeply, but I want to hear your thoughts on how the front of the men’s race is going to go. We talked to one male today, Tim Freriks. What’s your gut feeling on that guy?
Allen: He’s phenomenal. He’s got the belief and knows when he puts in the work that he’s got the talent to back it up. Now, he’s got a couple races where he feels more confident. I think that goes really well in his favor. He’s definitely someone to watch out for if he’s having a good day. You can’t put a record up in the canyon without some sort of talent.
iRunFar: He got within a minute or two minutes of Luis Alberto Hernando’s Transvulcania course record this year.
Allen: Everyone thinks that’s so untouchable to go in as a no-name, but he touched it.
iRunFar: He touched it.
Allen: He did more than touch it. He maybe rubbed around it a little bit. Hey, it’s running. Tim, we got ya. As far as the front of the pack, Zach Miller is in there.
iRunFar: Two-time defending champion—he’s a late entrant. He signed up a couple weekends ago.
Allen: That doesn’t mean anything.
iRunFar: He isn’t going to sign up if he’s not ready to rumble.
Allen: Exactly. He knows how to race. He races strong from the beginning. He’s not going to sign up for a race unless he’s ready to fully commit himself. That’s what Zach does. That’s what we love to watch. I think Hayden, he’s super strong. It’s probably going to be one of the same… a close race between them, but I think there is going to be more people in the mix. Max King likes to race really hard.
iRunFar: Max King—this is like 30-something year olds versus the 20-something year olds.
Allen: I’m tempted to say, “old man strength,” but he’s not old. He just has more experience. The “old man ultra strength” for experience.
iRunFar: You’re going to get in trouble.
Allen: I’m sorry, Max. You’re not old… and… you’re great. He knows how to race super hard from the beginning. He’s not afraid of it. He’s has some really good results this year. I think he’s going to be right up there with them. Who else? It’s super deep. There are some racers like the Coconino Cowboys who aren’t on the start line like Cody Reed, but there are a ton of other people here, too, who I think we should watch out for. Blake Hose—I’m excited to see what he can do. I was a big fan of him. He had a break-out performance at Transvulcania a couple years ago. He’s got the leg speed. He has the talent. I’m interested to see why he’s chosen this race and to see if he can put down a good performance.
iRunFar: Another not so dark horse but someone who not all eyes will be on that has extraordinary talent is Tayte Pollmann. He’s shown his prowess at shorter distance stuff, gnarly stuff, snow-running at Broken Arrow. Tayte beat Tim Freriks at Broken Arrow 50k.
Allen: It was a really good race there. Yeah, I’m excited to see what he does. I’m always a fan of seeing what gnarly mountain running does as training for this type of race.
iRunFar: Well, Hillary, thanks for your hot takes.
iRunFar: We’ll look forward to seeing you on the sidelines tomorrow.
Allen: Thanks, I’ll be there cheering loudly.
iRunFar: Very loudly. Thanks, Hillary.
Allen: See ya!