About this episode:
In this week’s episode, Adam Pulford interviews TrainRight co-host, Hillary Allen, about her new book release; Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival and Recovery Against All Odds. They discuss why Hillary was inspired to write her book and how so many of the lessons learned through her recovery can apply to so many parts of our lives.
- Finding the strength inside you that you never knew existed
- Overcoming adversity
- Positive self-talk
- The power of belief
Read More About Hillary Allen:
This Week’s Sponsor:
This episode of the TrainRight Podcast is brought to you by the CTS TrainRight Membership. The TrainRight Membership helps you get the most out of your limited training time so you can improve your performance and achieve your athletic goals.
Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.
Adam Pulford (00:00):
Uh, I mean, I knew it was, it was time to catch up again because it’s, it’s been a few months since our last podcast together, but not only that you have a book coming out, what, tell me more, tell me more about that. Like real quick.
Hillary Allen (00:16):
So, I mean, I wrote a book it’s coming out on April 6th. Um, it’s kind of been a practice of, uh, delayed gratification in patients that was supposed to be published last year. Um, but it’s, uh, it sounds a bit weird when I say this out loud, but it’s a memoir. Uh, it’s about my, my story of, um, as a professional athlete, but also my recovery from a pretty traumatic injury or series of injuries that I had. Um, and so it’s, I think of it more of just an open discussion and a demonstration of the power of resilience. And I think it’s an invitation, um, for those that read it to, you know, take the challenges that they have in their life. And it’s an invitation to learn from them instead of being broken or, um, defeated by them.
Adam Pulford (01:09):
Yeah. Yeah. Your story is one that I’ve had the pleasure of learning more of just kind of through doing this podcast and getting to know you more. But I do think it’s being amplified a bit more in the ultra running community, as well as the endurance community in general right now. Um, but for our listeners, I mean, if you want to, you want to go into your story a little bit without, I guess, giving away the whole barn on the book and just kind of tell our listeners a little bit more about your story, because I think it’s important.
Hillary Allen (01:40):
Yeah. And I mean, it’s something that has been, you know, covered. This was something that, um, so I mean, it’s, it’s not, it’s not, it’s not, you know, a surprise like, um,
Adam Pulford (01:49):
Yeah, spoiler alert. She has her own Ted talk, which we’ll link to in the show notes too.
Hillary Allen (01:55):
Yeah. So I mean, there, all of this information is out there, like what happened to me and, um, basically in 2017, um, I got my start in ultra running and this, this, um, type of, of running called sky running. And so it’s, it’s very technical terrain. Usually you go straight up the mountain straight down. Um, I got my nickname, hilly goat for this style, um, and I’d primarily race in Europe. And so I was on the, I was competing on the world sky running circuit, and I had been doing this since, you know, 2014. Um, and in 2000 I would kind of, you know, I would teach during the fall and then in the summertime I’d go and travel and race. And in 2017 I was on this world circuit and I’d actually risen the ranks to number one in the world. I was actually ranked that was like my goal for that season and that was crushing it.
Hillary Allen (02:46):
Um, and then during the race in Trump’s own Norway, I like I was running on this Ridge, um, on some terrain that I’m pretty comfortable running on. It’s about third class, um, and a rock gateway underneath my foot. And I ended up falling off of a cliff basically, uh, um, you know, a mountain side, a total of 150 feet. And yeah, so I had never broken a bone up until that point in your life, in my life. Yeah. Maybe it tailbone, I bruised it or something, but like I had, I broke 14 bones, um, and you know, it was airlifted. Um, I was, I was lucky to be alive. And so that was kind of, that was a, uh, the beginning of this incredible journey that I’ve been on since, since that moment, you know, August 5th in 2017. Um, yeah. When, you know, kind of being face-to-face with your, at the top of your athletic game, your career, and then in one second, it all changes. And I was, you know, came to grips with, okay, am I going to be a professional athlete any more? Can I even learn to walk again? Um, let alone, you know, compete. Um, and yeah, so the story, um, it starts there and then it kind of, you know, takes you through, uh, what I learned and some of the recovery process and more of an insight into my mental state and how I can tackle these big problems.
Adam Pulford (04:26):
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, that’s the premise of the book. And I guess the first question is why did you write it? Like what, what were you compelled? Why were you compelled to write this book?
Hillary Allen (04:37):
You know, selfishly, um, I wrote it because I writing has always been an outlet for me. It’s something that I’ve done. Um, I mean, I’m a scientist. So, you know, from like lab reports to just writing sticky notes, I mean, you should see my desk right now. It’s ridiculous. But so I was in neuroscience major and, you know, I was of the firm belief that if you wanted, you know, I’ve read many studies that, that you’re far more likely to eat to do something just because you write it down. And so I think that the written word and not just typing, like the written word is powerful. And, um, I think, uh, just throughout, you know, my history as an athlete and as a person writing has always been a very, a very cathartic and, um, just a space where I could be honest and process.
Hillary Allen (05:27):
And so throughout my recovery, I had started writing was a way that I could just be honest and real. I could be ugly. I could be happy. There was no judgment. I could just get all my thoughts down on paper. And I, um, I started publishing kind of blog posts of, you know, what I was going through kind of updates just to kind of update the community about what was going on, um, you know, in my recovery, in my life. And, um, I just decided to kind of undertake a bigger, uh, a bigger project, um, because I thought it was healthy for me to write down all of these things that I learned, but then also, um, the community that I interacted with throughout my recovery, you know, virtually or in person, um, I feel like there was, there’s so much com there’s so much common ground.
Hillary Allen (06:22):
I mean, you don’t have to fallen off a cliff to, you know, relate to what I’ve been through and, uh, for me to relate to, you know, what you’ve been through. So I think that not only was it, you know, selfishly, I wanted to kind of process what happened to me, but I also think it, it could help someone else, you know, whether they’re going through an injury themselves or, you know, a life change, um, you know, a move job change. I mean, heck I mean, you know, working at home and, you know, the pandemic is a huge challenge. That’s changed many lives, so
Adam Pulford (06:55):
Yeah, no, and that’s it. And I kind of want to get into that a little bit more, but I mean, so kind of for yourself, but also to, to teach others, I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re a teacher kind of by trade anyway. So it seems like writing the book and getting that into, uh, the, the hands and the ears of people to give them some resources, uh, that helped you in the, in the way that you did it is. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s a fantastic boat, two fantastic reasons why you would write a book, Hillary. Um, but I’m kind of curious, I mean, like, so, you know, you’re now an author, your professional ultra runner. You’re a great co-host by the way, a coach, I Ted talker. Uh how’d you do it, how’d you how’d you write a book while still being like, I don’t know if you’re still ranked number one, but top three sky runner world. I don’t know. How’d you do it? Tell me
Hillary Allen (07:46):
No. I mean, well, the sky running, um, you know what I did still play second, even when I did fall off the cliff and didn’t finish the season. So there’s points on my board for that. Um, uh, uh, I don’t know. I mean, I think that here here’s how I view view it and, um, priority versus sacrifice. I think if I view things, I just don’t view things as that I’m sacrificing it, I’m prioritizing all of these things in my life. And so if they’re a priority, it means I’m going to give time to them. And if they’re important enough to me, then I’m going to make time for them. And I I’m a person that likes to do many things. Um, I think I operate, you know, probably at a, at a pretty high level of, you know, um, or a threshold of what busy means. Um, but you know, it just, it just kind of flowed. Um, I, I actually granted I did, um, start writing the book when I had a little bit more free time. Um, I had broken my ankle in 2019. Um,
Adam Pulford (09:01):
Did you do the running as well or
Hillary Allen (09:03):
Yeah, running in the snow. So this was like after I recovered from the accident. Um, but, uh, yeah, so, I mean, I had a little bit more time, but actually, I mean, anyone who’s been through recovery knows that it takes a little bit of a different beast of, you know, like cross training and doing PT. So maybe it actually might not, might not have been, you know, I had had less time available, but that’s, that’s to say that that was definitely a spark, um, in, in the process. Um, but yeah, I mean, and it’s this idea of priority versus sacrifice this idea that I, I don’t think I was sacrificing time because I had just prioritized everything. And to me it didn’t feel like work. It felt like a fun process to do so even if I was, you know, up at six and, um, you know, reading and writing a little excerpt and then I’d go on my training run, um, you know, and then I’d come back and I’d be technically working until, you know, I went to bed that night. Um, it didn’t feel like that to me. Um, I was, yeah,
Adam Pulford (10:04):
Yeah, no, I, I, you know, when you, when you’re doing what you love to do, it’s, it’s hard to call it work, especially kind of in the way that you also process information through writing, through sharing your story. And it’s also, you’re learning more about yourself as well. So I, I totally hear you on that. Um, and I think, you know, as I’ve, I haven’t read the whole thing, uh, yeah, it didn’t end. Uh, Hillary was, uh, she’s gonna send me a book. She did promise me, but I was able to, uh, read the PDF a little bit and what I was recognizing throughout it’s like the book it’s more than just telling her story, you know, there there’s deep human connection, uh, woven throughout it with the struggle, the perseverance. And like she said, her community that helped her do it. And I think, you know, with that being said, I kind of want to turn it over to you, Hillary and, and kind of give you a chance to read a section of the book that you think is powerful in that degree.
Hillary Allen (11:03):
Oh boy, this is exciting. I’m holding three holdings on my actual book in my hands. So cool.
Adam Pulford (11:09):
Are you going to put on your fake glasses with me? So we both look smart or, yeah, that’s a, that’s a YouTube enhancement, uh, option if anybody
Hillary Allen (11:18):
So, you know, buckle up. Okay. So this is from one of my, um, favorite chapters of the book. Um, it’s called the chapters called the power of belief, despite the challenges of my injuries. I’m certain that my best physical and mental days are ahead. That being the best athlete I can ever be is only possible because of the challenges I face now believe. Sometimes I think the mind is strong is the strongest part of an athlete is not the legs or lungs or heart, but the mind strength comes from how an athlete handles pressure and pain and problem solves. When things go South, I wrote this mantra down two weeks after I was told, I would never run again, believe, believe your best athletic days are ahead of you. Believe in your power, believe in your strength. Don’t stop believing some days I looked at these words and shook my head. How could believing make any difference? Believing doesn’t do my training for me, or get me up a mountain on a hot summer day. My legs do that. My strength does that. My body does that. I needed to be strong, physically believing. I thought had no part in getting me there.
Adam Pulford (12:48):
Oh yeah. I, you know, it’s, it’s a powerful thing. And thank you for sharing that by the way. Cause it’s both like, not only from your book, but you know, it came from your brain, you know, that was then applied right to like just this daily grind of, you know, injury recovery back to it, back to injury, back to racing back to world domination, like we’ve talked about. Um, but I think, you know, in all seriousness, you know, that belief of whether you can do the daily tasks that are mounting up or whether you can recover from this injury or whether you can bounce back from this pandemic, um, you know, it’s at the end of the day, it’s really the stuff between your ears that we got going for us, you know, you know, and genetically, some of us are more gifted than others. Uh, you can work really hard and, and, you know, gain a lot, but still, you know, we’ve done podcasts on this too, in terms of like at the end of the day, like what really matters. Right?
Hillary Allen (13:53):
Yeah. And I think, um, I mean, I’ve been open about this if for, I mean, anyone who follows me or who I’m coached by or who I coach, um, mental health, um, and you know, I work with the sports psychologist and it’s something I recommend for many of my athletes, if they’re, you know, for any goal that they have. And it’s just to, to echo that point that you just made, um, it’s, what’s between your ears and it’s something, I mean, I have one of my favorite books endure by Alex Hutchinson. He is a whole subject on, on this. And how, you know, you start at, you start at the start line and, you know, as much as you can nerd out and be a great coach and prescribed these amazing workouts and be so dialed into, you know, threshold or view to max and maximize these numbers, you know, you could have a start line of 10 elite athletes, 20 elite athletes with VO two is with, you know, basically the same they’re within, you know, less than 1%, but one person’s going to win and that’s not necessarily the person that has the best quote unquote numbers, or who’s had the best quote unquote training period.
Hillary Allen (15:07):
It can be that athlete who, you know, had problem solved better when, you know, especially in an ultra marathon race, when things don’t go to plan. Um, I think, you know, maybe this is, I speak more to this, uh, from an endurance side, like the longer the race, right? Because, um, it can be a little bit more cut and dry when you’re talking about a 5k or a, you know,
Adam Pulford (15:30):
Well, I mean, it’s a different type of, you know, persistence and grind. And it reminds me of, and I quote Dean college on this podcast quite a bit for those who don’t know, Dean college probably never will because he stays in the background, but he’s a fantastic coach. And I remember talking to him one time and, you know, coaching elite athletes and in trying to figure out like, what’s the difference here? You know, the winner and the loser and the gold versus silver. And he’s like the one who can suffer more right now. There’s I want to clarify that just a little bit, because those who love suffering, get their suffer on and I’ll just go on suffering. Do it. It’s not so much that because you got to get a lot of other things real, right, right. Then be able to suffer at a competitive speed and then be able to do it while playing the game of whatever it is that you’re doing.
Adam Pulford (16:24):
Be it sky running or 5k running, or criterium racing, or ultra mountain bike, stage, race, whatever it is. But yet I think as you go deeper and deeper, still, it is when you are suffering and when you know everyone else’s suffering, what, what’s the speak, what’s the self-talk going on because how you digest the suffering, I think is far more important than even say how you handle it and all this kind of stuff. Because if you just like grin and bear it and go, it’s one thing. But if you can digest it and say, it’s not going to last forever, I’m going to get stronger from this. Yeah,
Hillary Allen (17:02):
Exactly. And that that’s exactly the point is, um, the whole, the whole idea you’re right. You have to be at a certain baseline, but then once you’re there, um, the positive, positive self-talk and how you talk to yourself, it’s, it’s powerful. I mean, there are even there even studies, um, it sounds ridiculous, but there are studies. I was, I was reading, um, you know, in my neuroscience PM PhD program, um, where there were like behavioral studies where they would talk like in a negative tone or negatively to rats or plants in their behavior would change their growth would be stunted.
Adam Pulford (17:50):
No, that’s, that’s, that’s, it that’s solid across the board. And I don’t try to find some of that research. And if you have some too, we’ll put it in the show notes because it, it is very applicable in a, and I’ll say this positive self-talk won’t, you know, make you into a world champion, however, negative self-talk can get you off that podium. Right. And also let’s bring it down to the reality of most of our listeners too. I just started working with an athlete who needed to lose weight, need to get in shape and need to just do work and doing three by 10 threshold that was suffering for him. And there was a lot of negative self-talk going on in terms of how he can’t do it hurts so much. He’s a loser, all this kind of stuff. It’s just like, change, talk, change a talk, you can do this. Right. Do it now. And once he did, he was able to then conquer it. And then now we’re doing training blocks. He’s losing weight. FTP is going up and he’s, you know, and it’s both physical, physical, and cognitive, but between the ears, it’s just, it’s way more important than I think many of us coaches and athletes acknowledge it on a regular basis to me, I guess.
Hillary Allen (19:02):
Yeah. And it doesn’t. So, so here’s also something that I wrote about in the book too. I mean, and maybe you’ve noticed this also is that I wasn’t always positive I’m so, so this, this is a distinction like it’s that belief I think is a deep seated belief. So it’s this belief that you have that even if you having a bad day, like we all do, especially if you’re going through some sort of injury, um, even if you have a hard day, you still have that seed of belief and you still have that piece that’s overall positive, right. That belief in yourself. Yeah. Now, even throughout my recovery, this was also important. Like when things sucked, I was able to speak to that and to say that, okay, this is hard. I don’t want to be here. This is awful. I wish this didn’t happen to me. And even though I felt all of those things, I still got up in the morning and I still did my PT. And I still had that belief that, okay, even though I feel like crap today, I’m doing what I can to, you know, build on this for tomorrow. Because I believe in, in that, in the future
Adam Pulford (20:15):
And Hillary, I’m going to pull a quote from the book because I think it resonates, you know, right now to what we’re talking about. And it’s quote, injuries, forced us to relinquish freedom. They require extreme patients in right now. I think, you know, it resonates because the pandemic has changed the world and the landscape for many people. And there’s some of our listeners and some, you know, fellow humans just going through some deep dark right now. So have you felt parallels between your journey and your, what you write about in the book to what’s going on today, perhaps?
Hillary Allen (20:56):
Yeah, honestly. And this is one of the main reasons why I wrote this book. And, you know, as I mentioned, one reason was it was, it was a cathartic process for me, but the other reason was it was, it’s an invitation to, to invite others, to view challenges and setbacks, not as the end, but more so a beginning and a new start. And I know not everything can be fixed with hard work and dedication. You know, I, I understand that and I understand definitely there’s, there’s certain things that have happened this year. And, um, you know, you know, that are currently ongoing with the pandemic and, you know, social unrest. Um, however, I still think that it’s a call, um, to, to people and, and you know, their communities to come together and not let some, some Dean tragic kind of define them, but to create something from it and learn from it and create new starts.
Hillary Allen (22:02):
And I think that’s the definition of resilience and that we’re all surrounded. And, and I think human struggle is universal, no matter what that is. And something else that’s universal in the human experience is resilience. And I think humans are probably the most resilient species out there. And, um, yeah, I, I honestly, I’m not sure if you’ve, you know, it’s not just a recovery book. I don’t think it’s not, you know, you’re, you’re an injured winner read this. It’s more of like, all right, you’re dealing with hardship, which, you know, everyone experiences, um, you know, it’s like, I think writing a book and reading a book, this is why I love reading. I’m an avid reader. Um, I feel like it’s a conversation that I get to have with the author and my, you know, my, my, you know, even my favorite books when I reread them, I learned something new each time because, you know, either I have a different perspective or I’m going through something different at that current moment.
Hillary Allen (23:08):
And I pick up on something, you know, um, different that day or that year that I read this book. Um, and so, yeah, that’s, that’s, uh, that’s what, how I would say that it relates kind of globally. I know I’m not giving specifics, but, um, it’s just because every person’s experience and every person’s quote unquote suffering is different. And so if they read a certain chapter and resonate with it with it, I think, um, you know, it can definitely apply to, um, what’s happening, what’s happening now. And, um, yeah, hopefully it can, uh, can ignite, uh, this idea that, you know, the end is, is, it’s not that it’s, it’s a new beginning and it’s a chance for a fresh start.
Adam Pulford (23:52):
Yeah, yeah, no, that’s, that’s spot on. And I, you know, I was going to say, um, to the point where I was saying before, it’s more than just, you know, Hillary story, it’s just it’s speaks to this global, um, or kind of universal, uh, struggled that I think humanity does have, you know, you can see whiffs of that. And, and, um, you know, it’s, it’s definitely no handbook. It reads really well. And, uh, I guess not so soft plug for it right now, but, um, uh, I don’t know. I really have appreciated what I’ve read so far and I, and I wanted to, um, kind of showcase that to our listeners, but I guess, you know, normally I’m an author. Once they get a book out there, they’ll go across the country, signing books and that kind of thing. Is that, is that what you’re going to do here?
Hillary Allen (24:42):
Well, we are still in a pandemic. Um, I, yeah, I mean, hopefully things actually are opening up a little bit more in Colorado. Um, and so, you know, like out, uh, you know, I can do in-person events maybe like later in the summer. Um, but as of right now, um, I have some virtual events lined up, which is great. Um, either, you know, ranging from some local bookstores to, um, some run clubs. Um, so I mean, I have a website, uh, Tillery allen.com and there’s actually, uh, for my book on the little tab, you can go there and click on, uh, if you want to like book an event near you, whether that’s virtual or in person, um, I’m a big fan of road trips. So, you know, but yeah, so it’s kind of, it’s the start, it’s the start of, um, you know, just getting the word out there and then, um, yeah, just different podcasts and just kind of, you know, getting, you know, intimate conversations. It’s actually my favorite. I wish I could, you know, you know, do in-person events everywhere, just so I could talk to everyone because that’s the coolest thing is, you know, learning from people that you talk to, um, and interacting with, you know, the community. Um, but yeah, and another way that I’m kind of celebrating the, the launch of my book is I’m doing, um, this thing called Epstein. I’m sure. You know, cyclists, you know, you, I mean, I think this is, it started with you guys.
Adam Pulford (26:10):
Yeah. I know. I know what it is, but for somebody who’s like,
Hillary Allen (26:15):
So in your running world and in the cycling world, when you Everest something, you are trying to reach 29,032 feet, which is the, the elevation, the altitude of, of Everest. And so how we do it since, you know, most of us don’t live in the Himalaya, um, we basically can repeat the same trail, um, uh, basically go up and down until we reach set elevation. And it has to be, you have to go up and down the same trail. It has to be a lap. So if like, you know, after lap 12, you’re at 29,000 feet, well, you’ve got to do a whole nother lap to reach the, to reach the, uh, Everest, even if you overshoot it. Um, and so I’m doing that. It’s actually something I’ve never done on foot. Um, it’s definitely hard on foot because of the downhill that you have to, um, incorporate into it. Um,
Adam Pulford (27:06):
I was just going to ask, I mean, like hilly goat, you’re really good at going up. How are you coming down? Oh, yeah. Pretty good. Okay, perfect. I was just,
Hillary Allen (27:15):
I like it actually, the technical trails are more engaging for me, so, um, I, I like Rocky trails to come down. Um, yeah. And so, you know, and I have these things called trekking poles that I have, like, you know, can use my little sticks to help me balance over rocks and jump them. Um, so I’m, uh, so this is cool. Some cool cemetery. So I was doing a lot of my recovery in Boulder, Colorado where I’m based. And, um, so green mountain is a pretty famous mountain here. And so I’ve chosen to Everest on green mountain, um, because it was where I did a lot of my recovery. Um, green mountain was kind of where I got started in trail running. Um, and it’s where I was like, Oh man, I can do this. Like steep running is awesome. And it’s where I was hiking before I could even start to run again. And so I’m doing it there. It’s going to take 13 laps to Everest. Um, so it’s not the steepest mountain in the Buller skyline, but I don’t care. It has emotional significance, so I’m sticking to it. And, uh, but my book has 14 chapters, so I’m actually gonna do a bonus lap. Awesome. Uh, yeah, but right now it’s like really crappy there’s, uh, there’s ice and snow. So I need to wait for a minute.
Adam Pulford (28:34):
You’ve already kicked it down the road, right. Because of the snow.
Hillary Allen (28:37):
Yeah, exactly. It was actually, yeah. So it’s going to be sometime in April, I’ve just got to keep an eye on that ice. Cause it can get pretty gnarly. Um, this is North facing.
Adam Pulford (28:47):
No, I’m just, I’m looking at my notes and we, so both in the cycling world and ultra running world, we call it ever esteem. And if you like, if you kind of like say it slowly, it is ever resting, which is ironic because it’s the exact opposite, but maybe you can, maybe that computer mantra, I don’t know, ever resting.
Hillary Allen (29:10):
I think I like to think about it. Yeah. It’s like you’re ever, I don’t know you’re ever resting. It’s like, what is your Everest? Like, what is this thing that you, I don’t know, you’re not, you’re not going to stop resting until you kind of accomplish it.
Adam Pulford (29:21):
Yeah. Yeah. Something like that. I think, I think there’s something there. I don’t know. You can write about it. So not only do you write books, you write newsletters. Um, I guess I’ve been enjoying those too. If people do want, like, just to mainstream your consciousness, I guess, with some of these writings, can they sign up for the newsletter and yeah.
Hillary Allen (29:42):
So, yeah. So if you visit my website, there’s, um, uh, just an easy way for you to kind of, you know, find information on the book. Um, and all of these events that I have going on in association with the book or, you know, every scene, uh, um, it’s just for my, my email list. So if you’re a part of that club, there’s some cool things coming out to like a run book clubs. So that’s an exclusive you just learned about, so if you want info on that, um, yeah, I can sign up for, for that stuff.
Adam Pulford (30:11):
Awesome. Well, that sounds great. Well, Hillary, um, man, I I’m, I’m glad that we got together again and, and, uh, did another podcast and didn’t anticipate that it would be with his book release. I had other, uh, you know, we both had other, uh, cool nerdy topics to talk about, but we’ll push those off for next time.
Hillary Allen (30:30):
Yeah. Thanks so much. It was a pleasure.