Kaytlyn Gerbin professional runner

Kaytlyn Gerbin: Breaking Into Ultrarunning, 100 Mile Race Recovery, Rainier Infinity Loop & More

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About This Episode:

In this week’s episode, Hillary talks with North Face professional runner Kaytlyn Gerbin about her start into the world of ultrarunning, her approach to recovery after 100-mile ultramarathon, and some of the changes that need to happen to make trail running a more equitable sport.

Episode Highlights:

  • Deciding when to sign up for longer distance races
  • Recovering from 100-mile races
  • Making strides toward gender equality in trail running
  • The Rainier Infinity Loop in Washington state

Guest Bio – Kaytlyn Gerbin:

Kaytlyn is a trail and ultrarunner living just outside of Seattle, Washington. Since running her first 50k in 2014, she’s been a top 10 finisher at Western States 3 years in a row placing as high as 2nd, she was top 10 in the Trail World Championships in 2018, and holds course records in races from 50k to 100 mile including the Bear 100. Earlier this year, she won the 6-day Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and bested her 2nd place finish last year to win this year’s edition of the Transgrancanaria. When she’s not racing, she’s exploring the mountains off-trail by ski touring, mountaineering, and using her love of ultra-endurance to knock out long objectives in the mountains. Last summer, she and her partner became the fist all-female team to complete the Rainier Infinity Loop in Washington.
She also holds a PhD in Bioengineering, and works as a research scientist at a non-profit research institute in Seattle.

Read More About Kaytlyn Gerbin:

 

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Hillary Allen (00:00:19):

Okay. And here we have Kaytlyn Gerbin. Thanks so much for joining us on the train ride podcast. How are you doing today? I’m doing great. It’s really awesome to get to talk to you from across the world. I know. So they’ll tell us where you are in the world. Right now. I am in Issaquah, Washington, which is about 15 miles outside of East of Seattle. Okay. So I feel like we’re kind of in similar climates though, at least maybe like in the Alps and France, I think Pacific Northwest in the U S yeah. I mean, we’ve actually been really lucky to have a few weeks of really abnormally, nice weather for spring. So I’ve been like, I mean, it it’s been a blessing and a curse at the same time, because it’s always easier to stay inside and get work done and be productive inside the house when it’s rainy and gross outside.

Hillary Allen (00:01:12):

But we’ve had like really pretty nice and warm sunny weather, which is a nice treat, I guess. Oh yeah. I know. I actually had to escape down South to get a little bit more of that. Nice weather kind of reminds me of Colorado. So I’ve been, I’ve been grateful for that too, but, um, so a couple of things like we’re new teammates. So you recently joined the North face team this year. Yeah, I did it. I’m, I’m super, super excited about that. I couldn’t be more stoked to be on the team and be, uh, I guess be able to call myself a teammate with people like you. Yeah. I’m so excited. I actually we’ve. We met, I believe the first time I met you, you were running a race. I believe it was the bear 2018. Oh really? Yeah. That light event. I remember this because I was pacing my coach, Adam Saint Pierre. And I was just, you know, I was running again after like all my injuries and stuff, and I was like, just so psyched to be there. I was like crewing all night and I was going like pace him for, I don’t know how many miles, but, um, I remember seeing you cause you were obviously, well, yeah, you were ahead of him.

Hillary Allen (00:02:23):

She’s so bad. And I remember like, just like, high-fiving her, I think at the, at the end of the race, I was like, cause I’m so awkward. Like nervously was like, Oh good job. Cause like, yeah, you were awkward to give me a high five. That seems like it’s backwards. No, no. It’s like it’s high was because I had never, um, I, well, I still haven’t run my first hundred mile race, but I, uh, I remember like I was getting really wanted to kind of test myself with the longer distances and then I was just doing that. So I really obviously still do think like you’re completely bad-ass athletes. So I was like super stoked when you’re on the North team too. Cool. That’s awesome. Little tidbit there. I remember that. Um, but so, I mean, speaking of like training outside, when it’s raining, you had actually, you had to train through probably a pretty crappy winter season because earlier this year, I mean, yeah. I mean, you, you, you were one of the few athletes who’s actually been able to race this year, but you did, uh, the coastal challenge in Costa Rica. Um, and you trained through the winter for that.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:03:28):

Yes. Um, yeah. And every year that I make this decision, I tell myself this is going to be the last year that I do an early season race just because it can be so brutal sometimes. But, um, I, you know, especially given the situation, obviously I’m super happy that I made the college. I did to do some early season racing. Um, but yeah, winter winter here in the Northwest is, um, can be, can be pretty tough to train through. Um, there’s a lot of, uh, I don’t know, uh, it just really like mentally challenges you, I think to get outside because for a lot of us, you’re usually running in the dark, um, in the morning or in the evenings after work. And we don’t, I mean, we, you know, we have, we have daylight here obviously, but usually, you know, in some parts of the winter, it’s not really getting bright until eight and then it starts getting dark at four and we have a lot of gray, cloudy, overcast kind of rainy days.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:04:26):

And so a lot of times, even in the mornings and the evenings, it’s, it never really gets very bright. So there’s just can be a lot of darkness and there’s also everything is, is wet and soggy. So it can, it can be tricky sometimes to just get out day after day and train through that. Um, but you know, on the flip side we also have like such amazing, uh, cool, like just deep dark forests here. And sometimes like having that kind of moody Northwest weather where it’s just fog, that’s seeping in and out of all these old growth trees and bright green Moss, and it’s a little bit muddy and soggy and slippery and you kind of like once you get in it, you really love it and you don’t want to be anywhere else. Um, so it, it can be really, really fun at the same time.

Hillary Allen (00:05:16):

Oh man, see, this is actually the first year that I’ve experienced something like that because living in Colorado, I mean, we just have like this dry arid climate and usually it just, you know, it’s pretty, it’s snowy and cold, but in the spring time we kind of, we have like ice season or like mud season. But, um, yeah, this was my first time kind of training in this similar and similar atmosphere and like, yeah, I actually was thinking of you because I was like, Oh yeah, like I’ve got some new found respect for like trading in the Pacific Northwest. And, but I mean, I mean, we’re going to touch on this just a little bit of like, obviously like the racing and stuff, because, um, I’m just curious, like you got into the sport in two 14.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:05:59):

Yes. 2014 was my first 50 K and that was my first trail race too.

Hillary Allen (00:06:04):

Yeah. Okay. So it’s like similar timelines. I was about the same like 2014 was my first. Yeah. When my first like troll running season and yeah. It’s so crazy. How this name age took off the deep, yeah,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:06:20):

I’m turning 31.

Hillary Allen (00:06:26):

Ooh, happy birthday. Early birthday in like two weeks. Yes.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:06:35):

Ultra signup. And my year, like I, my intro every with everywhere says I’m 31 already. I don’t know.

Hillary Allen (00:06:41):

I’ve like looked at that the other day. Cause I’ve just tried to check if the race statuses were updated and I’m like, well, why don’t I want 31 yet? But I’m close. I’m 32. That would be, Oh man. Yeah, because my birthday is August 26th, so maybe they already have it updated. But so this is actually what I kind of wanted to get into because your first race is in 2014, first 50 K that’s about when my mind was, and I didn’t have the courage to try a hundred mile race. Well almost a hundred mile race until, uh, last year at TDS. Um, granted some things happen, you know, in the interim, you know, maybe I did, could have tried it earlier, but um, when was your first a hundred mile race and kind of like into the longer races?

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:07:29):

So yeah, my first a hundred was pine to Palm in Ashlyn, Oregon, and that was in 2016. Okay. So I mean like, so the funny thing is I,

Hillary Allen (00:07:44):

I think like I wouldn’t have

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:07:46):

Done that race if it wasn’t for a little bit of a spark of craziness and a little bit of stupid

Hillary Allen (00:07:53):

Yeah. The same time, which is maybe how everyone signs up for these races. But I,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:08:00):

At the time was, was in grad school and had been doing a few at that point I had done, I think I ran my first 50 mile and a hundred K but was mostly doing 50 K races. And I had just set out in my mind, like there I’m way too busy right now. There’s no way I have time to train for a hundred. So I kind of just said to myself, I’m not going to do this until after I graduate, which you know, would have been, I was in like a six year long program. So that would have been a while. Um, and so I, uh, had heard of, uh, actually I think it was through the ginger runner, Ethan Newberry, um, Kim Nuber who live in Seattle now. So they had done a video on the Squamish 50 50. So this is one of Perry Robbins races.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:08:47):

That’s had been, um, Squamish, British Columbia. And it’s essentially a, a 50 mile race one day with a 50 K the following day. And there’s a crazy amount of verb, really technical and mountain bike, um, kind of techie trails. And I, for some reason thought that, well, I can’t, I don’t have time to train for a hundred, but I have time to train for this. So I’m going to just like make that happen because to me it seemed less intimidating I guess, because it was essentially two back-to-back really long runs. And I was already kind of doing that style of training for a lot of my 50 Ks. Um, and it also kind of suited my lifestyle, which was a lot of my pretty much all of my mid-week training at that time was just running back and forth to lab from my house, which was three miles each way.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:09:33):

So I was running not very much, but you know, consistently double, you know, three miles, one way, three miles home. And sometimes I would kind of like than that, um, just to make a longer route on the way home and then on the weekends, you know, I’d, I’d go and try. That’s when I would get most of my miles just because that’s the time that I had available to do that. Um, and so I kinda thought that, okay, you know, this is, I can’t run a hundred, but maybe I could do this. That would be a really cool challenge. And then in the process of training for that race, uh, it was in the summer and my husband and I were out in the North cascades and we just had clipped off this like Epic route that, of like this 40 mile adventure route, basically that is usually a backpacking route.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:10:20):

And it was one of these things that had been on my list for a long time, but I was like, well, I don’t know what I’m going to have, you know, four days to go backpack this loop. So, you know, eventually the cool thing about ultra is you just get to the point where you can do that kind of thing and in a single day. So we did that and had plans to run the next day. And I just realized I’m like, you know what? Like there is no way that anyone training for a hundred runs more than this. Like this is like insane. Like this is a, this is more than anyone would want to run. So I like told him, I was like laying in the tent that night and thinking like, okay, if I wake up tomorrow and we can do this run that we have planned tomorrow.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:10:56):

And, and I feel okay that I’m going to try to sign up for a hundred. And so I ended up, um, signing up for pine to Palm, which was three weeks after Squamish, 50 50. And so I signed up for it, I think, like a month and a half before the race. And it was just because I’m like, I feel like I’m as trained as I will ever be. I might as well try to do it. So I just didn’t really know what I was doing and signed up and jumped into it. So I’m so glad I did, but also like, I don’t really know what I was thinking.

Hillary Allen (00:11:26):

Well, I mean, as a coach. Yeah, it’s true. It’s like, I mean, people training for a hundred mile races. They don’t run more than like, maybe like there’s a 50 mile race, like in a, like a buildup, but I mean, yeah. Heck I don’t even have a lot of my, my athletes like do 50 mile races leading up to a hundred K or a hundred mile race because sometimes again, they don’t have time just like you were saying. Um, so, and how did that first race go? Like, did you, did you like it? Yeah.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:11:54):

Uh, I, I actually really loved it. I mean, it was hard. I had a lot of, um, a lot of challenges and things that, you know, just of course things are going to come up when you’re doing that kind of a distance. And I also didn’t really know what my, what my body would do when I was out running for that long. Um, so, you know, there, there are things to work through, but overall, like I had a really great experience and, um, really loved the distance and ended up kind of feeling like, maybe this is my thing, like maybe this like long distance thing, like I really liked this and somehow I know I was tired at the end, but it didn’t feel as tired as I thought I should. Right. And, um, yeah, so I had a good, a really good experience then, and was kind of at that point thinking like, okay, when, when am I going to do my next hundred?

Hillary Allen (00:12:45):

That is, but it’s so cool. Cause like, thinking about it, like, I think some people really have a strong, like positive feeling or it takes like a long time to like for the, for them to learn. Um, but then from then it’s like, this is also one of these reasons why, like, I mean, I admire you as an athlete because you kind of like, you decided that this is the stuff that you’re good at and you’ve pursued that. So, I mean even last year, but now, um, like you finished second on the ultra trail world tour, um, and this year you actually, you also had a pretty strong start to it. What made you decide to not only take that to the next level? I feel like it’s one thing like racing hundred mile races, but then it’s another thing racing like multiple long distance races in a year.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:13:29):

Yeah. Um, that, that’s a good question and good point. I think like everyone’s, everyone is going to, you know, respond differently to that distance. And I, I think for sure it would have been too much for me to jump into another long distance race soon after that first hundred. So I know I did, I did Squamish 50 50, and then three weeks later was pine to upon, I don’t know that that is the best approach because that is pretty close. They were three weeks apart. Um, and essentially during that three week time, I, I did almost zero running. Um, I was out walking and just kind of active recovery, but I was definitely not doing any additional training during that time. Um, and so actually, you know, I’ve, I’ve kind of taken that approach now for almost every year where I’ve run a hundred, um, I guess, well, actually that my next hundred was Western States.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:14:28):

So that’s at the end of June and then the fall of that same year. So I ran Western States in June and then I believe it was cascade crest, which was an August. So two months later, then I ran cascade crest and then the same year or the following year, I did Western States and then doubled up with bear. Um, and then last year I was in States again and had planned to DTMB. They ended up not doing that. And instead of doing the infinity loop, which is a longer, um, desist adventure too, but, um, I don’t know. I think like part of it is, is that I’m really comfortable going into a race with a lot of trading and then being okay to turn the switch off and, and, and really, you know, focus on recovery and not do a lot of training in between those that next race.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:15:21):

And I think you keep a pretty good baseline level of fitness. Like you really don’t lose that that much, and you definitely don’t need to be doing really long distance things during that time. It’s just kind of more tuning. So I’ve in the past, especially with Western Western States being early summer, you know, I’ve taken then usually July to just kind of chill out and then I’ll, I’ll focus on doing different kinds of adventures in the mountains. And then my training, you know, normally for that second hundred is mostly based on just adventures that I’m, I’m planning, not any actual, real focused, um, heavy duty training, because I think I’ve put generally I’ve been able to put the work in upfront and then just kind of maintain it. And I don’t know, like, it, it almost feels like cheating the system a little bit because you’re not doing a huge buildup twice for a hundred.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:16:08):

Um, but I also feel like, you know, there’s, you have to really respect your body because after something like a hundred miles, it, you, you might need, you know, a month off of real training. And I think that’s okay. And some people I’ve seen, like, especially when I was first starting the running, I would follow other runners. Who’s like, yeah, okay. I take what 10 mile, one day off every 10 miles. So after a hundred mile, people will take 10 days off or some people will take two weeks off and I’ve found myself sometimes needing to like, I need like a month without training. Like, I’ll go for a few jobs, but maybe I’m like not going to be doing any actual speed work or anything for a month or more after. And I think that that’s that’s okay.

Hillary Allen (00:16:50):

Oh man, I’m, I’m right there with you. Like something like I, so many things that I, that I love about this, of what you just said. I mean, first of all, a lot of the things that I do, um, it’s the same as like adventures. They really like something that like made me more fuels my soul and I think, yeah, I think it’s so individual for people with recovery and I, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for people. It’s like, if you know that you like the long distance stuff, like sure you can do multiple things in a year. It’s just kind of like figuring out what works, what works best for you from a recovery standpoint. And I actually think that that’s super smart. Um, like, and maybe it, maybe it is cheating the system, but, um, I mean, D training happens like way, way slower than you think it does. So it’s like, you didn’t have to take a long time off of like doing zero activity before you even start to lose fitness. Like, when I was injured, I like, I was like reading these and like freaking out. And I think it takes like something like 21 days of like literally doing zero activity before you start to lose, lose, lose your lose fitness. And I’m just, yeah.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:17:59):

Yeah. I would believe that. And also, like, I think you’re, um, you have a really interesting perspective on this, just coming back from injury, because it’s like, after you take any length of time off, whether it’s a week or a year, I think it always is going to be like, your gears are a little bit sticky getting back, but you just gotta like step back and realize like, okay, like you just got to give your body a minute to figure out what’s going on. And maybe, maybe that takes longer than other times, but I think just like trusting the process can be, can be helpful. Yeah.

Hillary Allen (00:18:37):

And so kind of like to not really switch gears, but this is something that I’m, I’m really happy that I have someone else. Like, I feel like we’re, we’ve got pretty similar starts into the sport. Like I also started running when I was in graduate school, like squeezing in those long runs on the weekends. Like a lot of my training were like long adventure runs. Um, but like when I did that first race and like kind of started getting into the whole, like culture and scene of ultra running and racing, it was something that just like drew me to the sport and like drew me in and just kind of got me hooked. Um, like how, what did you feel when like that kept, like drawing you back? Was it a sense of community? Um, the fact of like working hard for something like, what was it that made you kind of stick around and keep racing and training and, and being an ultra runner?

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:19:26):

Yeah, I think, I think it’s a few things like on one hand it definitely was the community. I think the community is what kept me signing up for races and going back because I met a few people at the first trail race that I did that then planted the seed for a bunch of other races in the area. So I just kind of started signing up for some of these local races and it seemed like every race I went to, I saw another familiar face and I would meet 10 more people. And there’s this, this kind of like really low key community. Um, come hang out with us vibe in the trail scene that I really loved. And I I’d been running road marathons for a few years before this, and I had never really experienced that before. And so I just, I didn’t think that that kind of community aspect was really a part of running because I had never experienced it.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:20:19):

Um, and I think like, so signing up for the races, that definitely I think is a big part of it. Um, but another thing is just like, and I’m sure you can appreciate this too. If a lot of your, you know, runs and stuff are just big adventures and things is that I, I was really like excited to start using running and my fitness to do bigger things in the mountains. And so it almost was like training and signing up for races was almost, especially at the beginning, like a way to hold myself accountable for actually doing the training, which usually was like something that was actually not really training, but instead like, Oh yeah, like, let’s go do this 30 mile route. We’ve always wanted to go backpack, but instead we’ll just run it and call it a training run. Um, so it’s just like, that’s, that’s really, I think even what keeps me in it now, um, you know, despite that I’ve been doing more racing and stuff too, it’s just like, it’s so incredible what your body can do for you.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:21:16):

Um, when you, you know, when you respect it and give it the, the training and the time and the recovery and stuff that it needs. And it’s, it’s pretty cool to be able to go, to see where your own two feet can take you and races are definitely a way to do that. But I think that, you know, especially those of us who have access to mountains or, um, I mean, even if you don’t just want to go take a trip and go do something there’s so many amazing places to see and when your body can suddenly be okay with moving for 12 hours or more, um, you know, it just really opens up opportunities for different kinds of, um, adventures in the mountains.

Hillary Allen (00:21:56):

Yeah. Oh man. I can, I can relate. That’s exactly like, it was, it’s like my favorite thing just to like, have you just play time. It’s like play time, like these routes I want to do. And then it like doubles as, okay. Then I think I’m going to be in pretty good shape for this race.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:22:11):

Now

Hillary Allen (00:22:14):

Doubles is like dreaming, but, um, speaking about, so, you know, being, having, like celebrating what your body can do, that it can be strong enough to do these like huge efforts in the mountains, you know, take, take you to these amazing places and these like depths, you know, and, um, like in these lows and bring you out of the, into these extreme highs. And Reece’s, um, obviously when you got into running, you’re pretty good at it, ultra running. Um, and this is a conversation that I’ve really wanted to have with another female athlete. Is what, how was your road to be a sponsored athlete? Did you feel like it was maybe a little bit riddled? Um, I recently wrote an article not too long ago. It was women’s history month, gosh, long ago, but, um, uh, and people can look this up. It was for runner’s world, um, kind of highlighting the, the title is that Hillary Allen wants more women to get into running and outdoor sports. And it was kind of a call to action for people like bringing up the topic about women and outdoor sports and what that looks like. And I’m curious, um, you know, we’ve been in the sport of ultra running for the same amount of time. Um, how has your path to sponsorship, um, been influenced by your gender if at all?

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:23:33):

Oh, wow. Like a good topic. Um, I, I don’t, you know, I, there’s a lot of things that are coming to my mind, so maybe we can just like chat some of this stuff a little bit, but, um, my road to getting an initial sponsorship I think was ultimately, I don’t know, it it’s, it’s really hard and it was filled with a lot of, um, self doubt and lack of understanding what my value was, but also not really knowing how to advocate for myself in that way, because I didn’t personally really know any sponsored female athletes. Um, and you know, it, there’s just such a black box about what sponsorship even means and no one really is talking about it or is able to talk about it. Um, and so I definitely, like, I think this is like maybe it brings up a whole other topic you can get into a little bit later, but I think it was really hard for me, especially as I was starting to do really well locally, but also starting to travel and do some bigger races and do well there that I just, it was hard seeing maybe myself, like get these really killer performances and put up times that I thought were really good that I was really proud of, but then not really get any recognition from that from, from the sport or from brands.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:25:04):

And especially, I think that was really hard when I would see other young, young athletes like myself or relatively new athletes kind of break out into the sport and then get re get into the limelight really quickly. Um, and I think like, you know, that’s something that I definitely struggled with and I think, you know, it’s easy to be jealous and I think that was part of it, but I think it also is just like not really understanding what the rules of the sport are and maybe, maybe those rules not really being fair and even, um, in the first place is part of that problem. But, you know, it was, it was, it was definitely, definitely hard. Um, and I, so I, I did actually end up, um, where I was working with LA Sportiva for, uh, I think two years and that was great. I really enjoyed working with them. Um, they’re awesome. But you know, even getting, getting to that, I, I had to advocate for myself a lot. Um, and I think that’s something that is never easy to do, whether you’re asking for a sponsorship or for a promotion at your job, or for even just like recognition for work that you’re doing. Like, I think a lot of us probably have lots of stories about how we struggle with that. So I don’t know.

Hillary Allen (00:26:23):

No, I mean, I think it’s the same for me as well. Like advocating for yourself. It’s like a good message. Right. And maybe some people, regardless of gender are, are able to do that more than others. But I also think like a big something that I struggled with is like, I’m a very logical person, like a black and white and me, you know, this is my sometimes, but, um, like for science, you know, I’m, I’m looking for a right or wrong answer, like a yes or a no, like I’ve eliminated the variables. And like, I’m going to get a clear answer at the end of my experiment. That’s what I also like running, like you’re running the same course. Um, and, and really you’re running against the clock. Like you’re running against other people, but like literally it’s pretty cut and dry who wins, who loses, who has a good time who doesn’t.

Hillary Allen (00:27:10):

And so to me running is the absolute, like, it, it, it tells you like, if you, if you win or lose, it’s pretty clear cut. And so to, to, to do well in early races like yourself right early in your career, and even now, and not get the recognition, um, it’s, it’s a bit confusing because then, you know, if someone else have, you know, maybe, um, a different gender, like a, uh, like, uh, a young gun on the scene of like a fast, um, you know, guy running a fast race in a fast time, he’ll immediately get like sponsored and picked up. Um, and then, you know, we’re, I feel like that wasn’t the same for, you know, women that I’ve seen in the sport, like put lane down really, really, really consistent times, like time in and time out for races. And yes, to me, that’s something that I w it doesn’t make sense all the time.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:27:59):

Yeah. And I think when, when that’s kind of your introduction to it, it makes it really intimidating. And it makes, I think it took a really long time for me to realize, to recognize that I was worthy of a sponsorship. And even, even beyond that, like, it’s still, like, I’m still learning now. Like, you know, that I, I can ask for those things and I should be asking for those things and that, um, I think it’s just like, you know, the more we can talk about this as good it’s really honestly, like surprising to me to hear that, like, you also had this same kind of a struggle, because I I’ve seen you as someone who is just like dominant in the sport and you’ve, you’ve got, I feel, I feel like you’ve, you’ve really like, you’ve gotten enough attention where like, when I was first starting in the sport, I was like, Oh, who’s this Hillary Allen chick.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:28:46):

She looks awesome. Right. Um, I think like, you know, even without knowing it, like you, you’re having an influence on the rest of us with this, but it’s just interesting for me to hear that, like you who have, you know, Ben like just such a strong hold in the sport for a while, you know, that, that you, you also kind of had these kinds of struggles with, with sponsorship and figuring out what, to, what, what kind of sponsorship you’re even worthy of, or what you should be asking for. Like, can you even like be an athlete? Can you call yourself a professional athlete? What do you need to do to do that?

Hillary Allen (00:29:20):

Yeah. Oh man. It’s been, it’s been such a struggle too, because, you know, and then like, and I’m not saying obviously, like I worked from North face from the very beginning, and this was also like kind of an internal struggle to not, not with my main sponsor North face, but just like in, in the world of sports in general, I feel like it’s also hard, like with a big brand, like face to be compared to, you know, like climbers and skiers and openness and all this other stuff. So it’s like, okay, like where does running and ultra running come into it? Cause it’s, it’s a relatively new sport in, um, you know, in North America at least. Um, but yeah, I definitely struggle with this stuff and maybe it was like internal and like, you know, I had, when I started running, it was in graduate school and I literally walked away from my PhD.

Hillary Allen (00:30:05):

I graduated with a master’s because I like saw this opportunity of like, okay, I want to take a chance on this. And like, but I mean, I was living out of like, like I was like, Oh, I don’t have a place to live. I literally put my stuff in storage and like move to Europe actually afford to like live and race in Europe because like, I wasn’t getting paid because I wasn’t asking for that sponsorship. I wasn’t like, I didn’t, I thought that like being a trail runner, you’re kind of like, are this like vagabond, like dirt bag or like, you know, it took a while also to, to figure out and to like ask for, okay. Like my, my value as a, you know, as a woman winning these races or podium in, in these races, like that’s a story, like, that’s just as important as a guy winning the race. Like, I think it’s, it’s sometimes hard because, um, you know, like maybe, uh, I mean, even if I’ve won a race, I don’t, I haven’t won a race out outright. The closest I’ve ever come was third place. But like what makes us that, that was the big actually, that was my first 50 mile race.

Hillary Allen (00:31:20):

And, um, the funny, funny story was that actually my, my coach now, Adam St. Pierre, I was like my, and my recollection of the race. I was like 30 seconds behind him, but I guess I was a couple minutes behind him, but like, um, yeah, I finished, I finished third overall in that race, a couple of minutes

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:31:40):

In a 50 mile race is basically a couple of seconds. Like, I think we can just agree that you were,

Hillary Allen (00:31:47):

That’s what I think too, but, so, I mean, there’s the issue too, is like, I was thinking it’s like, Oh, okay. Like, um, you know, we’re not winning these races outright, but you know, like, I mean, look at Courtney de Walter now, like we’ve got these like women who are, who are racing and, and placing regularly in the top 10, like I finished in the top 10 in certain races. Um, but there’s always that thing it’s like, well, okay, for sponsorship attention, like you’re not, you’re, you’re finishing kind of in the middle of the men’s pack. So there’s this argument there, but I don’t, I mean, so maybe it took me a while to like, get confidence to be like, okay, well, no, like this is actually, this is actually like important. Um,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:32:28):

No, like for myself, and I’m not sure if maybe you had a similar thing for a while since you were also in grad school, but I found myself a lot, like rationalizing the level of support I was asking for given that I also had another career and I would kind of tell myself like, look like, sure, I’m not really getting all that much. Or I feel like maybe I could be getting more, but at the same time, like I don’t really have the time to write a ton of blog posts. I don’t really want to spend a ton of time on social media. Like I have another job. This is my main thing. And I’m running, you know, running for fun. But I think like I didn’t realize really until recently that like, no, like, you know, even if I don’t need, need that per se, like I still deserve it and I should be willing to ask for it.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:33:15):

I, it doesn’t matter what else I’m doing with my time. You know, I, you know, I think like recognizing that you’re worthy of asking for things is, uh, I mean, it just takes a while to do that, especially I think when you have, you know, another, another thing, like another aspect of your career that you’re also really passionate about, that seems like, Oh, well, it’s just easy. I think, to like build, diminish your own, um, value in another aspect of your life when you have something else that you’re putting on more of a pedestal at the time.

Hillary Allen (00:33:46):

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I also think it’s like, you know, like justifying these things away, regardless, like it’s, we’re, we’re in the midst of kind of this, this idea of like, okay, well, there’s this movement happening where the P w women or like groups of women are kind of demanding more equal treatment at races. Like, I mean, it wasn’t even that long ago when, even when I was racing in Europe, if it was back in 2018, that’s only two years ago where there were certain races that actually weren’t even like offering prize money for the top 10 women, or they’d only recognize the top five. Um, or, you know, even in like when, when the women’s competitive field that had just as many of as elites and competing. And, um, I think like if, if that’s already kind of an, uh, part of the culture that you’re coming into, it’s then hard to ask for, um, you know, compensation from a sponsor or, you know, to, to feel that you’re even like, you know, deserving of it.

Hillary Allen (00:34:45):

So it’s like, it’s kind of too, like, there is this huge welcoming community. I mean, it’s what brought you into the sport. It’s what brought me into the sport and has kept me here. But it’s also this idea of like, okay, well, if we want to take this, it’s kind of like a professional level. Like we’re all training our butts off, like, you know, relatively speaking, I’m turning just as much as like a guy running this a hundred mile race. Like, so, you know, why is it, why, why is it my time compensated as is that, um, yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s funny. I mean, this isn’t by any means, trying to be like a random, like exclusion, excluding men, or saying that like, you know, people are doing things wrong. It’s just, I mean, and things are changing, right. Braces are changing. They’re they’re, um, you know, their policies they’re, I think they’re opening their eyes and like, you know, they’re, they’re hearing the side of things. It’s like, okay, like this makes sense. So we’re to change it. Um, but I also think it’s like, we need to continue these conversations because it’s not, it’s not perfect yet. And it’s, it’s also just like, okay, well, there’s, there’s like there have been clear, like clear discrepancies and like clear differences. Um, yeah.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:35:53):

I mean, things take awhile to change. And even if they are like changing upfront, any of you talked to Gina Lucrezia about this recently on your, one of your other episodes with, um, kind of trail sisters and their, um, guidelines for races, which I think is awesome. It’s still takes a while. So if you think of it, like you and I first ran a trail trail race five years ago, and we’re now only really like, this is like probably one of the first conversations I’ve really had openly about some of these issues and like my own struggles of recognizing sponsorship value and stuff coming into the sport. And I think like what I’ve been noticing that I think is still happening a lot is that we’re not as good at giving recognition to podium females at local races. And I think that that’s a problem because everyone starts somewhere and everyone starts local.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:36:49):

And I think of myself when I was, um, you know, hitting the podium and winning some local races, but I always still felt kind of like whether this was external or internal and probably a lot of it was internal. I was definitely like diminishing my own accomplishments at those races because I would be like 30 minutes behind the men or however far behind the men. And, um, you know, also at a lot of these races, like your F as a, as a woman, whether you’re winning or third or fifth or whatever, you’re generally coming into the finish line, amidst other men who are running. And, you know, I think it’s awesome to go and race the men. Like we should definitely be doing that, but also like that, you know, there is a woman’s race going on too. And so I think like I definitely would feel sometimes coming across the finish line and there’ll be a ton of people there watching, because there’s other race distances and stuff coming on and I would come through and people would have no idea that I just won the race and like, you know, that’s okay.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:37:47):

I’m not doing it for, for the external recognition from everyone there, but at the same time, how can we start to really appreciate and value our own accomplishments in a way that’s worthy of like, you know, putting ourselves out there to ask for more media attention or sponsorship recognition or support from races or any of these other things, like, how can we start doing that if we can’t even really do that at a local level? And I think I’m worried because I’ve, I’ve seen some, you know, just in the Northwest, we’ve got some real crushers out here. And a lot of people like women who are just like really crushing the local racing scene. Um, and I th I just see, like, there’s a gap of like, how, how are they going to move beyond that? Because we need some, like, I think like, unless we actually do something like, people don’t really realize like, Hey, like you are dominating these races. Like you should really consider like, you know, traveling to a race or doing some of these other things or something. But I think like, even like, if we can’t really have that celebration at somebody’s finished line or, or podium, um, then that makes that a whole lot harder because you don’t even really realize that, Hey, this is a big deal. I’m doing something awesome here.

Hillary Allen (00:39:01):

Yeah. I mean, you nailed, you nailed it right on the head. And I’m just like, it’s the same thing as like, I think about my, my, um, you know, entry into the sport. And I was, I was lucky I had, I had a strong woman role model. Um, I mean, first, first of all, I was like, I was raised in a family where, you know, like I have an older sister and the current, I like completely different things, but like, you know, I was told by both my mom and my dad that like, okay, it’s, it’s not an issue if you’re a girl and you like to play in the dirt and like, you know, get dirty and not play with dolls we’d ever, ever stereotypical thing you can think of for like a girl versus a boy. Like, I was super quote-unquote tomboy. And I mean, I, I hate that word, but still, um, that’s how I was raised.

Hillary Allen (00:39:44):

So I think like someone like me coming into a sport and then like choosing to pursue a career in sport is, you know, maybe not, maybe not as far fetched. And I also had a strong female role model who was a professional athlete. And she was like leading the way telling me it was possible to have, and she also had another career, but she was also a sponsored runner. So, I mean, I think about that too for the next generation. And like also just people currently, because yeah, in Colorado, there’s so many crushers and it’s like also here in Europe, like you meet these like clearly listed like this old French woman. Who’s like, you know, hiking 10 miles a day with a thousand meters of elevation gain just to get her eggs in the morning. And like one, two it’s like ridiculous, but you know, how, how then can you make the jump from, okay, like, you’re, you’re crushing it at this level, but like, this can actually, but go into more opportunities for someone it’s like, I mean, I love traveling and, and racing and, and meeting new people and also like, you know, challenging myself in these new ways.

Hillary Allen (00:40:48):

But like, I, I want that for more people like to experience the same thing. And I think you’re right. It’s like, it’s an issue of, and in the episode with Gina, for trail sisters, like, you know, um, she, she has some sort of standards for like trail sister approved for like certain races, how, you know, the women’s field and women in general can feel more kind of like a part of things in a race. But I also think that there’s, there’s, there’s more things that, that, that are important for, for our community to kind of, to do and to embrace. And, and like, I mean, you made, you made such a great point. I mean, I’ll mention two things like TDS last year. Um, so I was racing head to head with Audrey 10, 10 game she’s, uh, we were literally in a, in 145 kilometer race.

Hillary Allen (00:41:36):

We finished 10 minutes apart and that’s, that’s nothing. And so, so, so UTM the live coverage, it was awesome. They had like a designated film crew for the women’s race and for the men’s race. But during this one’s race for the first half, maybe more, there was like three of us, there were just like battling back and forth, like within two minutes of each other. And it wasn’t until like, like, you know, the last half of the race. And then the last little bit that there was some separation, but when I entered the streets of Chamonix, it was empty. Like there, there were no, there was no one there. And that was like from, you know, basically the design of the course itself, like, because we started at four in the morning, so that four in the morning start time accommodated for when the men would be finishing. And that was like prime time and Chamonix. Um, but when the women were finishing, which was a couple hours later, like people were already to bed and so that’s one way to change it. Um, but then the other thing I wanted to mention is, I mean, your experience with Western States, like you finished second, what year was that?

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:42:45):

Uh, two years ago, 20, and then 2018 sometime ago.

Hillary Allen (00:42:57):

And then last year you had like this sprint finish, like at the end,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:43:03):

But again, like

Hillary Allen (00:43:04):

There’s these races that are happening, but literally for the title of Western States, anything you’d look up like articles that were mentioned about this were about obviously the men’s race was great. Um, you know, Jim Wamsley sit in the course record, but like, that’s all you read about it. You don’t read about the other, the other like headlines and like the battles that were actually happening out there on the women’s field. Yeah.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:43:25):

Yeah. And I think the, the race finish, um, my, my experiences in finishing a lot of racists, echo kind of what you said about like TBS of coming in and basically the crowds have cleared. Like there’s no one and even at big races, a lot of times that that’s the case because of these races of the timing. Usually I think it’s a starting, starting time where the women finishers are usually coming in after everyone’s left. And, you know, like I, for a long time, I kind of like laughed about it. And like, I dunno, it’s just such an like, people are like, what is it like winning a a hundred mile race? And like, you know, it’s really, anti-climatic like you’ve finished and there’s literally nothing there. Like, you’re, you’re super groggy crew. Who’s been up all night is there. And like, you know, that’s in the race director and like, that’s, it, there’s nothing else.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:44:18):

And I know, like, I’m sure there’s a lot like that isn’t necessarily a female experience. Um, you know, there’s lots of, you know, whatever, lots of different race finished experiences, but like I’ve had that experience so many times, I think, like, I usually think that it’s fine, but you know, I think this conversation too is helping me realize, like, it’s not, it’s not okay. It’s not okay. Because like we know that it could very easily be different and like, maybe they don’t need to change the starting time of races, but doing a better job projecting, like when they expect the first male and female finishers to come in and highlighting more, um, about both aspects of the male and female race and also highlighting, I think, cases where women are racing the men, like, I think there are a lot of really good stories there that could be highlighted and that, you know, are sometimes missed out. And it shouldn’t necessarily, especially at a really big stage race. It shouldn’t feel anti-climatic to come in on the podium.

Hillary Allen (00:45:18):

Yeah. I agree. And like, Oh man, I’ve and I’ve, I’ve had this experience like multiple times to you’re you’re right. Like from a crew standpoint of like finishing a hundred mile race, it’s like, it is kind of like, like it’s super antiquorum, right. Like there’s been multiple races where I’ve come through and like, literally there’d been like rushing to put the finishing line tape up and I’m like, come on guys. Like, you know, and even in that, like I said, it’s not, it’s not to say that it’s, um, you know, that, that, Oh, well, we’re just like sitting here complaining and, you know, blah, blah, blah, like this we’re, we are super fortunate obviously to get these opportunities to race and do these tough races. And even with like, kind of this, our experiences, um, at a race like TDS or, um, you know, even in Western States and things like this, like races are trying to correct it.

Hillary Allen (00:46:09):

Right. Um, so like, like I said, TDS, like they had a designated men’s and women’s, um, like camera film that like camera crew that was like following around the leader. So, and there were live streaming it. So like, my parents got to watch the action unfold, which is like insane. Cause like, you know, it made ultra running interesting. But, um, I think that this can be taken and applied to even like the local races, because when people first, like, how cool would it have been like in, you know, like in your first 50 K experience where like, you know, your race result was like, just to celebrate it as, you know, the guy that won it, like there are certain reasons do this super well. Um, but I think again, like to, to con to have the sport continue to grow for participation, to increase on both the men and women’s side, like that’s a really cool way to do, you know, to get more people in it and, and like become invested in ultra running because I mean, you work really hard to get to the start line and you fight for every mile sometimes to get to the finish.

Hillary Allen (00:47:11):

So, yeah,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:47:13):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Hillary Allen (00:47:16):

And I mean, yeah, we’re in this other, like, it’s so cool to like talk about this stuff with someone else. Who’s kind of like experienced the same thing. Um, but I mean, we’re also in this, like we’re kind of in the middle of this movement of like women supporting women. Um, and I love, I love to see it. It’s like with trout trail sisters and also just like, I’m super happy to be a part of the team, like North face, like where they have, you know, this idea of like basically highlighting the strong women that they have on their team in hopes of, you know, showcasing them to, you know, basically show the next generation of girls. It’s like they have a mentor to look up to and be like, okay, she can do it. She looks like me. She does stuff that I like to do. Like I can be like her. Um, so I think like that’s a start. Um, I mean, I want to mention, you know, basically one, the other race that you got to run this year, um, and they had a hashtag for that race was called the future is female. Um, and why was this, like, what kind of the did they do to that was different from other years and other races that

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:48:19):

I’m glad you brought this up because I wanted to mention this, that, um, so at transplant Canaria last month, they had a, basically at the start of the race. So there, well, let me back up, as you said, their hashtag, um, kind of theme for the year was trail is female. And there are a bunch of, uh, kind of little things that they did throughout, you know, the pre-race briefing, um, in terms of bringing more elite women into the field. So they had a really, really strong women’s field. Uh, they changed the logo of the race, which is normally kind of a silhouette of a guy with his arms up and they put, added a ponytail and made it a woman and like, know, so like that little, little gestures like that I think are really awesome. Um, but one of the biggest moves that they did, which was super powerful, which was at the beginning, um, everyone’s kind of standing in the starting corrals and there’s music and lights and we’re on the beach and there’s kind of a lot of commotion, but there’s a lot of media and press there.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:49:16):

Like basically the entire, um, start area is just like packed with media. And generally, uh, as with most races, like it’s, it’s the men who are standing up in the front, who are in all of those starting photos and even just like kind of the chitchat and the banter, um, between competitors and racers. Um, a lot of those photos and candid photos and stuff usually come from the men because that’s who you can see because everyone else is kind of packed in there. And so, um, before the race started, they made an announcement to bring all of the weight, the females to the front and for a photo. And so we all kind of like were like, okay, okay. So we all kind of like work our way to the front, the men step back because they announced for the men to step back and all the women elite women to come to the front.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:50:01):

So we took photos and, um, that, that was really cool because actually like even just standing there and getting a photo with all of us women there and looking around and seeing the rest of the women’s field was really empowering and really cool to be like, okay, we have, we have our, a little bit of our moment here. And just naturally after the photo was taken, everyone just kinda starts to step back in, disappear into the crowd because that’s what, that’s what we do. And they, they stop. It’s like, no, no, no women stay on the front. And I actually like, EV like people were like noticeably like a little bit uncomfortable about that. Like really what were the front, but yeah, but like, we’ve got Paul Capell and Dylan Bowman and Pablo via they’re behind us, they’re going to trample us. Right. And, you know, no, they’re actually, they’re not going to trample you or they’ll, you’ll be fine.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:50:48):

But it was, it was a little bit of like this kind of weird moment of like, okay, we’re actually standing at the front. Okay. I guess we’re starting on the front. And I can not tell you like, how amazing that feeling was when the race started. And it was just like the open beach with, I mean, I don’t know, like a hundred probably, I don’t know if there was hundreds, but let’s say it seemed like hundreds, hundreds of people with cameras just lining the initial, you know, kind of take off spot of the race. And I’ve never had that feeling before, starting at a big race and just seeing an open space ahead of me. Um, and that’s something that like, was, it seems like such a minor detail, but like, there was so much energy that I was feeling from having that experience. Like, I almost was like crying because I’m like, they’re like tears of happiness.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:51:37):

I’m like, but also kind of sad because like, I can’t believe that I never even knew what this feeling was like, like, I didn’t even know I was missing this. And so that kind of energy that, you know, the men who ended up on the podium are feeling as they’re starting the race, like, meanwhile, I’m in the back, you know, trying not to trip over people. Um, and then of course, like literally everyone else who’s running the race is having that same experience. So I think it’s really easy to put yourself into that category. Like, okay. Yeah, we’ll all of us are experiencing this together, but you know, there are that, you know, that group of people at the front who aren’t, aren’t experiencing that. And I think that that is, uh, that was just a really powerful, like cool moment just to have that kind of energy.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:52:19):

And I really hope that I get to have that experience again. Um, and you know, it might be easy for someone to say, we’ll just, just make it happen. Just go stand in the front. And I don’t think it’s that easy. And I don’t know if, if you’ve done that before, tried to make your way to the front of the, a friend of a race before, but I’ve definitely heard of other elite women who have tried to do that and, you know, end up kind of getting their way back. And then they ended up trying to purposely beat the people who, um, um, but I mean, have you ever had that kind of experience with like standing in the front of a big race like that?

Hillary Allen (00:52:58):

So like the smaller local races, but never like never at a, um, I mean, like actually with TDS, I think I was kind of on the front line cause they kind of did the same thing. Like everyone was kinda there, but I think I was like, not absolutely first. I was like in the second, because you know, in, in your races they always like start super fast. I was like, you know, don’t want to, but I mean, yeah. I mean, I remember like exactly experiencing what you were saying of like, you know, like taking a step back, like even like sometimes even when I look across the start, the starting shoot, like, you know, they have like the elite corral and then like when they separate the two, like there’s all these like people that are coming up to the star and like, like these, these men that are like pushing their way past me and I’m like looking at them, I’m just like, okay.

Hillary Allen (00:53:43):

But like, dude, I can, you know, like, I’m pretty sure I’m going to beat you at the end of this. Like, why are you, why are you trying to like, you know, go, go ahead and me now. Um, but no, I mean, I can, I can imagine because it’s like, sometimes it’s scary, like at a race, like Transville Kanya. I remember it’s like, you have to kind of race to this like single track trail. And it’s like complete man. And you know, you have to worry about tripping into like one year, like Emily Forsberg, she like, like fell in the beginning 500 meters and like cut her hand really bad and ended up having to like come out of the race and uh, for that reason and yeah, I mean, it would be, it would be an amazing feeling to have like at a, at a huge race like that.

Hillary Allen (00:54:25):

Um, and I was like, super, I was so happy, um, to S to see that. And I think, you know, it’s, it’s a long race, like a lot can happen, but I think like, and maybe people were criticizing the racist decision to do that. Cause like, well, you know, like obviously like, you know, the men, the men beat the women, like ultimately at the end, um, you beat a lot of them winning that race. Um, but still, I think it’s more of the symbolism and like what it represents to be like, okay, like, yeah, like this field is here too. Like they’re competing. Like they’re just as important, um, to highlight as, as the men. And I’ve also had like so many experiences of, you know, in like the finishing a race or like, you know, race photos, it’s like where I’m never alone, you know, like it was like with me and I’m like, who is this guy? Get out of the shot.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:55:18):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, that, that’s like all of my Fitbit there’s even a finished photo when I was, uh, the, uh, what was this two, two years ago? I think the trail world championships, which is in Spain, I ran and I, I think I finished 10th. I was so excited, but there was, uh, there was someone proposing on the finish line as I was coming through. It’s like, I just ran into him because he was like, uh, like you have to run up and then down, because that was like the, where they get the good photos, I guess. I don’t say they had like the finish line actually elevated. And so I like can’t come over sprinting just like wrecked and so stoked that I had this big finish and I like almost ran into people that were getting engaged and like, that was lovely.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:56:05):

But also like, I think my mom was more upset about me, not because she was watching on the live stream and be like, get out of the way, but, you know, um, yeah, the, the F the starting line thing, I think, like, I, knowing what that experience is like, I’m going to really try to hold myself accountable to like pushing my way towards the front more. And even if it makes me uncomfortable to do that, I’m going to try to do it. And I’m also going to try to bring other women with me, because I think like, I, you know, I would be unlike if I hadn’t had this experience, I would be unlikely to do that by myself. But if someone else, or like, if I was with you on the starting line, you’re like, Katelyn, get up here, let’s go to the front.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:56:48):

I’d be like, okay, I guess we’re doing it. Um, you know, I wish I would try to do that. And, and I think like you, you mentioned the, this thing of kind of like women supporting women. And I think that that is really important that I, I think like another, I don’t know, maybe dark side of that is that I don’t think, like, I think like we’re in this movement of people like women asking for more and women, women really trying to highlight and help support other women to help other women get the recognition that they deserve. But I think like, uh, another equal part of that, which is really hard to talk about sometimes is like, how do you, as a woman who is really trying to get more recognition for yourself and your own performances, how do you balance those own asks in your own self-worth with also supporting your competitors and pushing your competitors forward, especially in a space when we’re talking about like sponsorship or like race recognition or, um, money to travel to races and stuff that like, we know that there’s limited access to.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:57:53):

And there’s also like, you know, you’re competing with these women, but at the same time, you want to be able to support them. And I think like, I, you know, I, I think like it’s really important to support your competitors during races. Um, and before the races and after like, of course, like, that’s, I think a lot of us do that really well, but I also think like there’s just this like, tricky side of, of balancing your own emotions and I guess maybe jealousy too, about how, how do you handle those kinds of tricky moments, especially as you’re like trying to maybe enter the sport or enter the support sport in a more serious way, and other people are getting coverage for, for their race and you’re not, you know, like, I think that’s just really tricky. And I don’t think a lot of us are talking about that, but I know that myself, especially when I was getting started in the sport, and you kind of asked about this with like, how was it getting sponsorship?

Kaytlyn Gerbin (00:58:49):

Um, and that was something that I really struggled with. And I don’t know, like, I don’t really know what the answer is for it, because I think there’s some people that are just able, like, I have some friends like this who are just so able to open up and be wholly supportive of everyone and just promote people all the time. Um, kind of like input themselves to the sideline. And I think that that’s great, but I don’t, I don’t think everyone is capable of doing that maybe in the same wholehearted sense, because I know personally, like I also, I’m trying not to put myself on the sideline because I’ve done that for so long. And so I’m trying now to find a way to, like, how do I, you know, H how do we, as women support each other while also dealing with knowing that okay, sometimes supporting someone else means you’re not getting that, you know, that sponsorship, or you’re not getting that, um, race money or something.

Hillary Allen (00:59:38):

Yeah. And that’s, what’s really tough is because, yeah, I think we’re all almost competing for, you know, even when we’re talking about sponsorships, it’s, it’s limited spots, especially when compared to the number of sponsored male runners are out there. So for sure, I mean, I’ve experienced this many times about that, that definitely that darker side of, of sponsorship and, um, you know, of, of wanting to support other and be a good role model and support other women, but then also feeling at the same time, like, ah, but I don’t want to jeopardize my, um, my position or anything like this. Um, but it is, it’s a hard balance to strike. And I agree with you, there are some people who can do it super well. And I mean, I think of like people in the running community, like Emma Coburn, like, you know, her and Lova, like boss, ladies that she trained with.

Hillary Allen (01:00:22):

Um, but, um, you know, like they’re, they’re, they’re, you know, building each other up. And I think honestly, when I think about it, um, like I, you know, I love it on the start line, how I can like hug my competitors and like support them, but then like during a race, like you want to kick each other’s asses, like you want to do can, um, and I think it’s that delicate balance, just like, you know, how the boys do it, but it’s like, you know, don’t hold grudges. It’s like, you know, you one, one bad performance or one grade performance, like doesn’t define you. But I think it’s like we can get sucked into the circle of like only concerned about ourselves. And that in fact is not what is going to make the sport better as a whole, um, my coach actually, he says this, he says this to me, especially for like, you know, training with other strong training partners.

Hillary Allen (01:01:09):

Like, um, so I, you know, in, in Boulder, Colorado, um, you know, a lot of my training partners have been men over the years. Um, but like in Boulder, there’s all these strong women. And so my, my coaches like, yes, deal strep in steel Hill. Like you’re racing against these ladies, go train with them too. And I think it’s, it can be like this really, this really cool thing. And that’s kind of what, I’ve, what I’ve kind of settled on is a way for, to like women supporting other women, um, is like to check myself like, okay, like maybe some days I can feel a little bit like hurt or like ma like mad if like, you know, I’m feeling like I’m not getting recognized, but it’s also just like, okay, like also understand that building someone else up and celebrating their accomplishments does not take away from your own. And in fact, it’s bettering the community as a whole.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:02:01):

Absolutely, totally, totally agree that like, the more that we can, you know, support and highlight each other’s accomplishments, the more it builds, women’s running up in general and like, that’s good for all of us, for what we’re all trying to accomplish.

Hillary Allen (01:02:16):

And this is like, this is a goal of mine that I is like coming up with these like cool expeditions or just projects in general, whether they’re like training for a race or just an adventure in general, but just to have a strong woman partner with me. And I think to, to end, because, you know, I could, I could talk to you all day about this stuff I wanted to, to ask you about, um, this project that you did, it was called the infinity loop. And, um, you did it with a female partner. And, um, yeah, I think that, that was like, not only was it just a, such a bad-ass loop in general, like there are hardly any just only female groups kind of doing big adventures in the mountains. And I think this is a, this is something to kind of like the everyone I think in like kind of, you know, like re relate to, and like, if they’re looking for ways to change it, like move forward, like this is the way to do it. Like get out there and like pick another bad-ass lady to get out there with you. Yeah,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:03:19):

Totally. So this, um, the insanity loop, so just cause most people probably don’t know what it is. It’s um, a route in Washington state that goes around Mount Rainier. So a lot of runners have probably heard of the Wonderland trail, which is a pretty popular MKT route. And that’s a 93 ish mile route that circumnavigates Mount Rainier, which is the highest point in Washington. It’s a huge volcano. And, uh, the, so the route itself goes over all the way around Mount Rainier and also includes two summits up and over of, of the volcano, which is pretty technical terrain. Um, it’s all glaciated. And so you’re bringing up, um, ropes and mountaineering gear for that, um, and kind of navigating through crevasses and stuff. So it ends up totaling to be about 140, 150 miles and Oh boy, something like 40,000 feet of elevation gain. Um, so it’s, it’s a pretty gnarly route and it involves obviously like running the trail itself.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:04:28):

So it’s like a hundred miles of running plus then these two technical mountaineering summits and dissents. And so, um, first of all, like the, there I’ve been mountaineering actually for longer than I’ve been trail running. Um, and I wouldn’t say I’m super hardcore Mountaineer by any means, but I definitely really love it. And that’s kind of been something that like I really wanted to, I’ve been wanting to dive more into, um, in, in the past years, I’ve tended to focus a lot of my spring, which would normally be a lot of mountaineering time into training for races. And so, um, anyways, it’s something I really want to kind of focus more time on personally, but I’ve only ever gone up on mountaineering trips with men before. And this started with, um, a lot, uh, groups of friends and they’re awesome guys, and I love them and they’re really supportive of me and, you know, help, help make me feel, have helped make me feel like a really integrated member of the team.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:05:30):

Um, and also then as I got more experienced and my husband and I started doing more things together, we actually have done, I’d say like most of the routes that we’ve done in the last few years have just been the two of us. And so then it’s just kind of like a teamwork of our, our little duo. Um, so this was really the first time that I have done any real technical stuff with another female. And I, I just like, feel like there’s something so there’s so like eye-opening to go through this whole experience with my friend, Alex, and I think a lot of things, a lot of reasons why like, w you know, I think until you’re put in a position where you are suddenly forced to really like, look at your faults and your dependencies, you maybe don’t really know that they’re there.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:06:18):

And I found that this was kind of true for myself of going through all this stuff with Alex. Like, I think naturally I just default to asking for, um, a second opinion from my husband a lot about like, Hey, what, what kind of, what do you think I should bring? What ropes should we bring? What should we do for this? Um, and even though I know the answer, I know I can make that decision myself. I tend to just like, look for approval and that is no fault on him. I think it’s just something that like, I just, I just do. And I think maybe a lot of us do, and even with like, kind of, decision-making like, I’ve, I’ve led a lot of our trips up, um, up mountains and stuff, but I think also just having that kind of support that, you know, is there, um, you know, doing it with Alex, like we, we went through the entire preparation planning, logistics.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:07:06):

Um, we did this as a self-supported thing with, um, gear drops and things, and like a hair, her husband, I think, was out of town on a work trip that time. And the week before, um, I did, we did the trip, my, my husband Ellie was super busy with work. And so he just wasn’t really home that much during that week. So really like, all of it was just the two of us coming up with. And like, I think it was such a powerful experience to go through that and realize like, I can do this. And also, like, I’m weird, like capable of, of leading these things and supporting each other and pushing each other in, in different ways that I think is not really possible and like pushing each other on, on the decision-making. And, um, I don’t know, like it was, it was, it was really, really cool.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:07:51):

And I’m, I think like through that, like, I definitely grew a lot as a person and, and also came out of it with this really amazing friendship with a friend who I was close with before. But I think now it’s like, we almost seems like we almost became sisters on this trip and we spend so much time with somebody, um, and you’re really making pretty serious decisions. So I think like that was a really cool experience. And like also while we were out up on Mount Rainier, I think we saw like barely any women and every time, which is not abnormal, like when I’ve gone up there before, you know, I might see like three other women and like 50 other men or how, you know, it depends if you’re on the weekend or not, but every time we saw another woman, we, we, you know, we gave him a high five and we were just like, you’re awesome. Um, and

Hillary Allen (01:08:38):

I think like a lot of people

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:08:40):

Were pretty shocked, um, not so much on the trail because I think trails tend to have a lot more, or at least like, you know, we spent the whole podcast really talking about how it’s starting to be more inclusive and they’re starting to be worth more women and stuff, getting out and doing these kinds of adventures. But definitely once you get up to, you know, more technical mountaineering, I think there’s the numbers drop a lot. And there were quite a few groups that, you know, were either really, really supportive when they saw that there were two women coming up behind them. And especially when we told them that we were doing, I think they were stoked, but there were also a lot of people who were really hesitant to let us pass them or, um, kind of maybe not the most encouraging, um, because we were women.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:09:27):

And I think like, I don’t know, I think that that’s something that will take time to change, but I also just think that the experience of going through something big and audacious like this with another woman was, was really awesome. And I would encourage anyone else to do that. But I think to get there also, like it takes, um, inviting friends and partners and stuff onto things like this, because I think there’s a little bit of a bottleneck and P women maybe who want to be doing more of these kinds of adventures, but don’t quite have the full skill set they need to get there. And it’s going to take someone else, whether it’s male or female to, to, to grab their hand and be like, Hey, come do this thing with me, I’ll teach you how to do it. Um, and I think a lot of times like that, that kind of piece is missing and it only helps perpetuate this stigma of what men and women are capable of doing.

Hillary Allen (01:10:23):

Oh my gosh, you just like the last question that I was going to ask you to end this is, um, is like, what is your advice to, you know, to eat? I mean, the next generation of women or, you know, women who are just getting into trail running right now, um, like, do you have any advice for, for, for those, for those women who are training hard, you know, like they’re super excited about the sport and they, they know they want to see where it can take them. Yeah. I,

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:10:51):

I think probably most of us have goals and dreams and even like maybe like bucket list things that we want to do, but we’re kind of afraid to go for, or, or tell other people that we want to do, because we’re not really sure if it’s possible or you think maybe it’s a little bit crazy. Um, and I think I’ve been doing that to myself for years and little by little, I’m starting to check those things off and starting to learn that it’s not crazy. And actually like you can go for those things. And so I think like the first step towards a lot of this is just listening to your gut and trusting yourself and being bold. And then after that, you know, going for the asking for help, um, finding other friends to go out with getting, getting the resources and stuff, you need to do this kind of thing.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:11:44):

Um, asking, you know, asking finally finding role models and asking them for help for things and not being afraid of that. And I think if you are in the position, you know, where you have people asking you, or you’re, you’re trying to lead by example. And I think like you and I, I, you know, I, I definitely want to try to do this more, like be open to helping people and sharing, sharing advice with people and just trying to do the best that I can do to help provide resources, to get people out there and kind of break some of these stigmas a little bit more.

Hillary Allen (01:12:16):

Oh man, I love it. And I think you’re right. It’s like, it’s, it’s yeah. It’s, it’s kind of people taking responsibility and, and also just like being the source of like a positive encouragement. And with that, I think it can go a long way. And man, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much for taking the time. I mean, I think like we had, Oh man, like I said, I could keep talking to you for forever about all this stuff. And, and I encourage those of you who don’t know about the infinity loop. Like look more into it. It’s super gnarly. I’m S I’m like, Oh man, I want to just have like a podcast interview about like that experience. But

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:12:56):

Yeah, there are a lot of stories, but yeah, no, we could go on forever. So we should probably cut it off here at some point.

Hillary Allen (01:13:03):

Um, but thank you so much. And it was such a pleasure and, um, yes, I guess, you know, I’ll see you on the trail sometime soon. I hope so. Yeah.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:13:11):

Thanks so much for having me on and thanks for not being afraid to talk about some of these kinds of tricky topics with me.

Hillary Allen (01:13:20):

Absolutely. Anytime.

Kaytlyn Gerbin (01:13:23):

All right. Talk to you later. Thanks.


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