Hillary Allen improved upon her fifth-place finish here last year to take third at the 2017 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. In this interview, Hillary talks about how the she felt during different parts of the race, how the close race with second-place Anne-Lise Rousset and fourth-place Ragna Debats played out, and how she thinks her podium finish this year compares to her performance last year.
Be sure to check out our results article for the full race story.
Hillary Allen Post-2017 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Mauri Pagliacci of iRunFar, and I’m here on the island of La Palma with the women’s third place…
Hillary Allen: You had to think about that for a second.
iRunFar: Yeah… at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon, Hillary Allen. How are you?
Allen: Hi, I’m doing great.
iRunFar: How are your legs?
Allen: Actually, they feel fine, I think. I say it with a question mark because maybe they shouldn’t?
iRunFar: Why not?
Allen: Oh man, because that downhill… 8,000 feet or more than that in 10 or 12 miles. Seems like an eternity when you get down to the vertical-K mark and you still have 3,300 feet to go. I was just willing my watch to lower in elevation. At that point my legs felt pretty trashed, but they felt fine. I had some cramps in my calves pretty much for the majority of the race.
iRunFar: That’s a good portion.
Allen: But it wasn’t getting any worse, so I just kept going. I seem pretty good.
iRunFar: That’s great. How was your day overall? You had a really nice run with Ragna Debats. You were close to Anne-Lise Rousset. Tell us about that.
Allen: Yeah, so, first race of the season, so going into it I felt really relaxed. I love to run. This is an incredible event. This is an incredible way to start my season. I didn’t want to go into it underconfident or overconfident. I was just going to see what happened. First race since September—it’s a long time, but my body knew what to do, I guess… just run. I started off in third place not too far behind… well, Ida [Nilsson] took off. She had an incredible race. Oh my, she broke the course record. She was just off by herself. At that point, I was just like, Okay, just run your race. There’s no way I’m catching up. But I knew I was within distance of Anne-Lise. Ragna passed me right before El Pilar, which is a really big aid station after 5,000 feet of climbing. It was all in sand. I was trying to tell myself that these uneven steps, my body was kind of feeling a little bit tired, but I just kept going. I think the key part of the race is after El Pilar to Roque. Roque is the 50k. Everyone is like, “Oh yeah, it’s flat.” It’s not flat. It’s technical. There’s a lot of punchy climbs—pretty big ones. At that point, I was probably about two minutes behind Ragna. I just kind of worked, and I passed her. At that point when I passed her, I could see that she was very… she just seemed tired. As I kept going to Roque, I felt stronger and stronger, so I was able to run and powerhike but mostly run a lot of the climbs. I still had legs when I went into Roque for the downhill.
iRunFar: You were really close to Anne-Lise. I don’t know if you were aware.
Allen: Yeah, I didn’t know how close I was. I think I was only like four minutes.
iRunFar: Four minutes.
Allen: Anne-Lise is a very good descender, too and so I was just trying to stay steady. I don’t think that gap opened up much. I think it was maybe six minutes at the end. I was pretty happy about that. I ended up putting a seven-minute gap on Ragna. I don’t know how. At the end I just felt like I was crawling down that downhill. This isn’t running. Yeah, it was hotter than last year, too.
iRunFar: Yeah, I was going to ask you that. You improved your time by 15 minutes or something and a couple more positions up on the podium. How do you feel about it?
Allen: Man, it’s like a dream. Transvulcania is one of the most competitive races in the world, I would say. This year was no different. The men’s field was stacked; the women’s field was stacked—not only in the ultra but in the marathon as well. Just to… I don’t know… it was incredible to actually… I’ve always watched Transvulcania as a race I wanted to do someday and to see people at the finish with the orange tape—That would be so cool! But… one day? I was just so happy to maintain my third position—not only to maintain it, but I think I ran a pretty fast time.
iRunFar: It was a good time.
Allen: If you look at the history of Transvulcania, it’s incredible how much the times have lowered. I think a couple years ago, a time in the 8:30-somethings was winning it. Anne-Lise was obviously six minutes ahead of me, but it’s incredible. Hats off to Ida because her time was astounding.
iRunFar: Yeah, she did a great race here.
Allen: I’m just very happy with it. My main goal was just to lower my time and then seeing where that would put me in a position. To achieve both of those things is amazing. Yeah, to stand on the podium, it was so special. I’m so excited.
iRunFar: Win-win. Now what? What are you doing?
Allen: I’m going to recover. I celebrated a little bit last night with some rum from La Palma.
iRunFar: How did that go?
Allen: Oh, man… it was great, but I’m not good at it. I’m better at celebrating by going on a swim or… I think I’ll let the rum stay here in La Palma. Yeah, just with the people in Tazacorte, they were so excited… just swimming, relaxing, and recovering. I now go to the mainland of Spain and spend some weeks there in the northern part in Girona. Hopefully based on my recovery, I can jump in another sky race in Madeira, the 55k. It’s such a beautiful island. There’s 14,000 feet of climbing in that 55k race. It’s pretty steep. Yeah, then from there just kind of hopping around like we talked about in the other interview.
iRunFar: Yeah, the plans are still going?
Allen: Yeah, the plans are still going. I’m just meeting new friends along the way, so I’ll have more stops to make.
iRunFar: That’s amazing. Congratulations on your race, and good luck on the rest of your season.
Allen: Thank you.