Friday, 24 June 2022

Interview With Abby Hall

 Interview with Ultrarunner Abby Hall:

I've been fortunate enough to land an interview with yet ANOTHER prominent ultrarunner, Abby Hall. Currently residing in Flagstaff, Arizona, as is a classic for elite ultrarunners it would seem, Abby was introduced to running at school through track and field. Although not originally planning on pursuing this as a career she was later introduced to the world of ultrarunning whilst working as a (very talented) graphic designer in Boulder, Colorado, where she met her now-husband, Cordis Hall, both professional trail runners for Adidas TERREX. Some of you may in fact know her work if you own a copy of Jason Koop's book, 'Training Essentials For Ultrarunning' (second edition), for which Abby was responsible for making look so pretty and well laid out. Some of Abby's notable running achievements include 2nd place at UTMB CCC 100k back in 2021 (an extra-special race given she had originally placed 8th there in 2019), 2nd woman at Canyons 100k in 2021 then in two races only recently, 2nd woman at the 125k Transgrancanaria in March and 1st woman at the Innsbruck Alpine 65k just last month. So you could say she is...ehem...*somewhat of a big deal*.

Photo credit to Ian Corless

Something also worth a mention is Abby's two attempts on the FKT (fastest known time) for the John Muir Trail in California which stretches 223 miles from Mount Whitney all the way to Yosemite Valley with a mere* 44,000ft of climbing. Having attempted this record first in 2016 unsuccessfully, if you can really describe even an attempt at such a feat unsuccessful, she returned in 2020 for a second attempt unsupported (carry all gear by herself and not meeting any crew along the way for any help). Although narrowly missing the record by 6 hours, 20 minutes, Abby completed this enormous journey in just 4 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes becoming the second fastest woman and 6th fastest person ever to have completed this route. Running such a distance in such a style of an FKT puts your body and mind under unimaginable stress which is shown by the hallucinations Abby had to battle on day 4. Just finishing is a very rare achievement I hope others can aspire to as much as myself. If you are interested in a short video about this FKT attempt you can find it at:

*a shit tonne

So getting into the interview...

"You were introduced to running in 5th grade through a series of races ran with your family in Vermont. Was it instant love and obsession or more of a natural slow progression through to now?"

"The love was instant; the progress was slow and steady! I would consider myself obsessed right out of the gate. I started a training log as a 5th grader and would go practice running the contours of the turns at the county meet so that I could nail it on race day. I had a desire to be excellent at running from a young age. The pursuit of what I might be capable of has kept me going for over 20 years now, which is crazy because in some ways I feel like I'm just getting rolling. "

"If asked for a summary of your running career, what would you say?"

"Great love > clinging too tightly to outcomes > heartbreak > continuing because I loved it > letting go of outcomes > prioritizing consistency and process > performance from a place of love and presence. Repeat as necessary. "

"A lot of runners are very data driven, would you say your training is orientated around numbers or are you more of the 'run by feel' type?"

"The main number I consider is duration. The main feeling I consider is RPE or rating of perceived exertion. I definitely enjoy reviewing my workout splits and numbers, but I've found it's important to know when to throw it out the window and not read too much into it. Above all, I think a properly-calibrated scale of RPE is the most valuable tool you can bring into racing an ultra."

"I think it was in 2016 you met your now husband Cordis. Tell us about the first meeting and the progression of your relationship. You seem like such a power couple!"

"Thank you! Cordis and I first met at a group run in Boulder. I was doing a lot more technical climbing and scrambling at the time, and was telling Cordis I planned to go do the Kiener's Route on Longs Peak by myself that weekend. Cordis was worried about me onsighting the route without being shown the proper line, so he told me if I waited until he was done with work at 5:00 that he would go with me and show me the way. I don't think either of us thought of it as a date until we were suddenly on the North Face of Longs at sunset sharing our own little corner of paradise together. After that, we never stopped adventuring together, moved in together shortly after, and the rest is history! We got married in 2019. "

"How do you balance supporting each other for races? I notice you have run a few together, are they mostly joint goals that you share or do you take it in turns to make big goals?"

Overall, I would classify them as individual goals that we support one another towards. For example, if I'm crewing Cordis, I see it as his goal that I want to do everything in my ability to help him achieve. Sometimes our goals collide in similar timeframes and we've got to divide and conquer, like during UTMB week for example. This past year, Cordis ran TDS which goes from Tuesday-Wednesday, and I ran CCC on Friday. Even though I wanted to crew him through the night at TDS, I had to get a full night's sleep before CCC to set myself up for success. It's those moments where it takes a lot of trust to be able to let go and say, "see you on the other side!" 

Photo credit to Ian Corless

"What would you say the best and worst parts of van life have been for you so far?"

The best part without a doubt is the combination of simple living and immediate access to wherever it is we want to be. To wake up and open the door with a big cup of coffee and know that we've got a bed, a little kitchen, and a hot shower has a way of instantly rooting me down every time. The worst part has been figuring out how to winterize our water system, a meticulous, but important detail! 

"Do you have any philosophy you follow on nutrition? I know you are vegan, are there any other (for lack of a better word) rules you follow?"

For me being vegan is not so much a rule around food as it is a moral framework. Another way I put it to myself, "eat whatever you want, just don't bring animals into it."  Because I am able to go to the store and make a choice about the food that I eat, I feel like it's an easy choice to opt for one that doesn't exploit animals. I've been vegan for about 8 years now and I don't really think about it anymore. 

"What does a typical week of training look like for you?"

"I often take a rest day on Monday. I usually have two workouts per week, sandwiched between easy endurance runs and a long run on the weekend. Beyond that, I do two sessions of strength work per week, plus some yoga as I crave it. I see my physio every other week for body work and it's not uncommon for me to also weave in sauna sessions after my runs.  "

"What are a couple of either your favourite memories from running or people you have met through the running community who inspire you?"

"Some of my favorite memories from running are: my first date with Cordis on Longs Peak, my four all-nighters on the trail while going for the JMT FKT and running through Chamonix on my way to finish 2nd at CCC. There are so many people in this community who inspire me, but what immediately comes to mind is our adidas TERREX team. We're a group of trail runners from all over the world and all walks of life who come together and support one another. Most of us speak different languages and run different kinds of races, but the trails bring us together like a family. That's about as good as it gets to me!"

That concludes our interview, if you'd like to follow along with Abby you can find her at @abby.k.hall on Instagram ( Her Strava is also worth a follow :) Keep an eye out for the next race in Abby's calendar, UTMB CCC 100k which I am very excited to watch. I really hope you enjoyed reading, I'd like to thank Abby for the privilege of speaking with her and for her amazing patience in me actually writing this interview up whilst I completed my final year university exams, it's really appreciated and has been a pleasure!

Lots of love as always,
Helen xx

p.s. let's get after it

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