HILARY: [00:0:00] I had two older brothers. So, imagine that was some of the influence. So, we were just skating all the time and I’m up in Canada and I mean, I’m in Vancouver so it’s not that cold, but we definitely had some ponds freeze over. So, we were kind of skating all the time. And I was in ballet, which lasted like three classes before I think they politely asked me not to come back. But I just kind of found my place, playing hockey and that became a huge part of my life. I played every sport that I possibly could, but hockey was definitely the number one for quite a few years.
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JESSE: [00:01:23] Welcome to a very early morning edition of the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a former collegiate and professional hockey player. She is a trail runner currently, so a little bit of a change in sports. She’s a run coach at Rugged Conditioning and the host of the Trail Running Women Podcast. Welcome to the show, Hilary Spires.
HILARY: [00:01:45] Thanks. I’m super excited to be here, and thanks for chatting with me so early in the morning
JESSE: [00:01:49] Yeah. Thanks for being excited this early in the morning. So, wherever you are listening to this, hopefully, it’s not quite as early as we’re up. But that’s what you do when you need to record a show and the best time for both the host and guest is early in the morning. You just get up and get done. So, thanks for making the accommodation and hanging out with me, especially because you mentioned you got to get up before, I think you said your son is going to wake up which then I’m sure throws everything out the window for the day and you just got to take care of him.
HILARY: [00:02:24] Yeah, exactly. So, that is why I do have to do these recordings usually pretty early. And as you mentioned, I have my own podcast. Most of the time my guests ends up being in the later time zone, which works great so I don’t have to force anybody to get up as early as I do. But once the toddler is up and we also got a puppy and I work full-time it’s kind of mayhem, but that’s okay, it’s fun.
JESSE: [00:02:47] I feel like it maybe if you interviewed guests exclusively from Europe, it would be perfect. Because you’d just be getting up and they’d be in like middle-afternoon early-evening where they’d just be finishing their work day and kind of settling down for the evening. Everything would line up really nicely with that timezone jump, I think.
HILARY: [00:03:11] Yeah, we’ve definitely done that. It is nice. The only challenging one is Australia where they’re a full different day and I get it wrong every time.
JESSE: [00:03:19] Yes. For an upcoming product, I’m working on a new sports drink where we’re going to be doing sweat testing and stuff to try and match people’s electrolytes with what their body loses. I’ve got this machinery from this Australian company and trying to like coordinate Zoom. Zoom talks with them was interesting. Trying to make sure that the dates are right, where you’re like the date for them is a different day from today and they’re morning and my afternoon are — time zone changes and online web conferences are a challenge at best.
HILARY: [00:04:02] I don’t doubt it.
JESSE: [00:04:04] So, I was reading with the, I’ll call it a packet of information that my assistant sends to me about you that you started hockey at a very early age.
HILARY: [00:04:18] Yeah. I had two older brothers. So, imagine that was some of the influence. So, we were just skating all the time and I’m up in Canada and I mean, I’m in Vancouver so it’s not that cold, but we definitely had some ponds freeze over. So, we were kind of skating all the time. And I was in ballet, which lasted like three classes before I think they politely asked me not to come back. But I just kind of found my place, playing hockey and that became a huge part of my life. I played every sport that I possibly could, but hockey was definitely the number one for quite a few years.
JESSE: [00:04:55] You know, I’ve talked to a few hockey players. And so normally I go, well, how did you get into hockey? Because it’s not quite as prevalent in the US. But then once I saw you live in Canada, I was like, well, that’s not really that relevant of a question anymore because it’s like the sport in Canada. [crosstalk]
HILARY: [00:05:18] Yeah, of course…into hockey. Yeah, exactly.
JESSE: [00:05:20] It’s more of a question of like, oh, I wish I could remember the gentleman’s name, who’s a Canadian Olympian who played field hockey. And that was a question I was like, with the field hockey instead of ice hockey? Because it’s more a question of how are you not playing hockey as a Canadian, rather than why are you playing hockey?
HILARY: [00:05:41] Yeah, that’s actually totally true. But field hockey is pretty popular up here as well, but less so on the male side.
JESSE: [00:05:49] Yeah. And that’s kind of what he said. He was like, it was not easy, but I think a little easier to get on the Olympic team comparatively. Well, in his situation — Gosh, I’m going to have to try and figure out how to look him up right now which is tough because I can’t remember his name. This is what happens when you’re 100-and-some-odd episodes in, things start to escape your brain. But he was like, finishing a Ph.D. and playing on the Olympic team at the same time. I was just like you’re out of your mind.
HILARY: [00:06:23] Yeah, that sounds crazy.
JESSE: [00:06:27] So, you went from playing college to playing pro. Tell me a little bit about your career, I guess.
HILARY: [00:06:34] Oh, gosh, that’s a loaded question.
JESSE: [00:06:37] Oh, I didn’t know it’s a hot button topic.
HILARY: [00:06:41] Yeah. No, it really — So, I actually played Women’s Professional before I played University. You’re not technically allowed to do that. You can’t go back to being like “amateur”. But given the women’s side again, especially over in the Western Conference, you kind of had — The Western Conference at Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, we had actually a lot of people from the US National Team come up and play for Vancouver. So, we had Cammi Granato who was the captain of Team USA for a long time, arguably the best female hockey player of all time.
People are going to say Hayley Wickenheiser in Canadian, but no, I believe it was Cammi. Anyways. And then you had most of the Canadian Olympic team playing for either Calgary or Edmonton. And then after that, to fill out the teams, it was just — they had these huge tryouts. But the development probably wasn’t as good in that, like right under the Olympic caliber area. So, they had to have a few younger players. So, I was 16 with one other girl on our team who was also 16. We got what’s called grandfathered in, so that we could still go play in the NCAA after.
So, now that I think about it, like I don’t even know if I appreciated the wild ride that that was at that age, because your friends are all going on dates or studying and I was hopping on a plane on a Thursday night or Friday morning to go play three games versus Edmonton and come back and try to do all my work on a plane and then going to like the pub to watch like Cammi’s brother play, who played — coached at the time, actually, Tony Granato for Colorado Avalanche, and then like going out with people from the flames after because they knew the women and it was just like, it seemed very normal.
And now that I look back, like, they must be like, “Who’s this annoying senior?” But it was absolutely amazing. And it gave you kind of this mindset of like, anything’s possible, and you’re playing with people who have played in multiple Olympic Games. And that always is kind of, you learned so much from people like that. And it was just an amazing experience.
And then I wanted to go to the Olympics, of course. But I would say that I wasn’t good enough to go play in the NCAA and get trapped, that’s a lot of money and still make the Olympic team like, I kind of had to make that decision. And at the time, it seemed like education was probably more important if you could take advantage of a scholarship and go play in the NCAA. So, I went down and played down there. And yeah, it was fun. I do think I went through like growing pains of being an adolescent-young adult-type person, and not as focused as I was as a young kid.
And then when I finished playing hockey, I just kind of craved that structure again. I guess because it had been such a huge part of my life for so long, and the focus on these goals. And running was something I always did as a stress relief. And I really enjoyed it. And I didn’t have to — I wasn’t partaking in a whole bunch of races or anything at the time, but I didn’t have to. For me, it was about — and it was never about speed, it was always about distance, that I could just go out and see if I could run farther than I could the day before, which I really got to, like, I guess, a kick out of that.
And then I found MMA fighting, and that I don’t think you knew, maybe not really took over for a little while. And as an athlete, that sport fits me, probably 100%. You have to be fit, you have to be strong, fearless, and you have to be able to read somebody else, and then react to them, or hopefully, be ahead and force them into reacting to you. [crosstalk] Yeah, and I loved it. And I had had a knee surgery, so being on the mat, and the softer impact seemed to be really good for my body, instead of just pounding the pavement, right.
And had some tournaments and some fights, and it was amazing. But I got a few concussions and I was getting older. And the concussions were actually just kind of freak accidents in training. But they are something that could happen in fights and there’s no headgear, what I was doing and that started to look like maybe that’s not something I want to do long term.
And at the same time, I was kind of just fiddling around playing other sports. Like, I love being a beginner. I absolutely love having no idea because then there’s no pressure. Because when I was playing hockey, there was always this expectation. So, to play new sports, there’s no expectations except to totally suck.
And then one day, I just went to a trail race. And it was this like magical experience. And I slowly kind of realized that I didn’t really want to do much else I just wanted to run around in the forest. And I’m still, like, I’m brand new at tennis now and I’m loving, totally sucking at tennis. But pushing the distance in the mountains just caught me and I haven’t really been able to look back since.
JESSE: [00:12:18] There’s a lot to unpack in this story.
HILARY: [00:12:20] Yes, sorry. I went on a tangent there.
JESSE: [00:12:24] No, it’s fine. There was a point in my life where I was considering MMA. I’m a very, very out of practice black belt in Shotokan karate. And I had talked to my instructor at the time and I said I’m kind of interested in that. And she said, well, do you like your nose? If you’d like your nose, you probably shouldn’t do that. So, I think that along with some other conversations led me away from that, and also I was more than running. And then you ran collegiately. So, I was — 16, so still in high school, kind of similar age when you were coming to be a pro in hockey.
HILARY: [00:13:11] And karate is very different from the boxing — [crosstalk] the actual impact of the face punches, it’s a different thing. But it also was really fun and like you learn — like you protect your nose, it’s just part of it.
JESSE: [00:13:25] Well, right. And I mean, I’ve been taking punch in the face before that. So, at the point I was at, we were starting to mix other martial arts, like the program I went to, so the instructors I had were in Shotokan, but one of the other black belts that came and worked with us and helped instruct with us, like he was starting to take Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. And so we would practice some of that stuff because Shotokan itself, it’s relatively a stand up kind of style.
And Judo helps and Jiu-Jitsu helps fill in a lot of that like groundwork that you really need if you’re going to go that direction. You know, if you think about early UFC fights and you got like the karate guys out there in their gis, they’re fine as long as they’re standing up, but as soon as they’re knocked down, they had a hard time, and obviously the sport developed but — [crosstalk]
HILARY: [00:14:24] My colleague was a really high-level MMA fighter as well and that was kind of exactly like we had to get into Jiu-Jitsu and no-gi Jiu-Jitsu and Jiu-Jitsu tournaments like ASAP. That was, yeah, exactly what he said as well.
JESSE: [00:14:38] Yeah. So, that sport’s been interesting to kind of watch develop. I don’t watch it so much anymore. I’m not — [crosstalk]
HILARY: [00:14:47] I think the women are more interesting than the men.
JESSE: [00:14:51] Well, just like I think, overall, for me, it’s like, from the standpoint of there are people that like watching it because they like watching a blood sport, basically. I’m more interested in the technical side of it. And so it becomes like a spectacle as like, oh, let’s see how much this guy can beat up this other guy. And I’m like, I don’t know that I care about that kind of vicious part of it so much as like the technical mastery of a particular individual over somebody else.
HILARY: [00:15:21] And you have to know the sport to be able to watch that and pick that out, right?
JESSE: [00:15:23] Right, right. But the commentary, I don’t know, always lends itself to that particular bend. So, I just go, eh, nevermind. Anyway, so I got to back up a little bit. Thinking about you playing professionally when… 16. So, you’re 16. How old are the other girls, women that you’re playing with at the time?
HILARY: [00:15:50] My defense partner was 27, which I thought was so old. She was just a child as well. Cammi at the time was probably early 30s. Many of the players were 32, 35. 36, somewhere in there, and then a few probably in their young 20s.
JESSE: [00:16:08] Okay. And did it strike you odd at the time, or were you just like, this is me, this is where I’m at?
HILARY: [00:16:20] this is going to sound super cocky. But I think this is part of the reason that it was okay. It was not about age at all to me, it was I belong with these people as a hockey player and that’s it. And I always had, especially female hockey, I always kind of played with older women, not — well, older girls. I should say. I didn’t play with older women until this team.
But I was so focused, and probably so mature, not as a human but as an athlete with my drive, and ability to make choices, that would make me a better hockey player, that it didn’t feel out of place. Once I went to university, I sort of lost that. And it was like I made up for lost time and kind of exploded in a sense. But when I was that young, for some reason, it just fit.
JESSE: [00:17:14] You know, this doesn’t really have a definitive answer, because we can’t live our lives twice. And I didn’t have the exact same experience as you, but in a similar sense, I often related more to like adults than people my age and those kinds of things. So, I am wanting your opinion, I guess, on your situation on whether, as you said you were really mature as an athlete, but not necessarily as a human. Did that juxtaposition you feel like, screw with you at all or are you well-adjusted? Another loaded question.
HILARY: [00:17:53] Yeah. I think I’m well-adjusted now. I think I went through a period when I wasn’t, and I don’t know if it was suddenly when you’re in university, if you — then I am the same age as everybody else. And I’m sort of just feeding off of what that life is. And I kind of got caught up in it. And we were good friends with the men’s team. And when I was in high school, I didn’t care about the guys at all, because they didn’t understand having a passion and I just thought that was kind of sad, and like it wasn’t interesting.
But then you get to university and you’ve got men who might make the NHL and not just because of them being good at athletes, but like they understood giving things up to be a good athlete. And then I saw how they could maybe behave and still be good at hockey and I just got caught up in it as far as staying out late or starting to drink, all of those things.
And yeah, I just sort of had to go through a time where I just had to grow up, I guess, is the best way to put it. And then it shifted because you do grow up. And I started to realize, okay, so I don’t have to be defined as a hockey player if — Because the idea that this is going to end one day and all of your decisions have been based around this one sport is really daunting, and a lot of athletes go through that. And so then as that comes to the end, it was starting to realize like okay, I can have financial goals and I can have career goals. And those can drive me and I don’t have to be defined by any one thing.
I can just be a person and it’s easy to say that but at the same time believing that I’m worthy of anything without being a hockey player was not — took a long time. I don’t even know if I still believe that and that kind of screws with you, but you do kind of grow up. And suddenly, the things that you did as a young kid that made you who you were and the reason I was like a captain of team BC, when I was young, not that’s like a huge thing. But there’s a reason you’re in that leadership position at that age. Like those are still qualities that are me, and then they became useful in such things as career and like goals, buying a house, things like that. Does that make sense?
JESSE: [00:20:26] Yeah. It’s tough. Like I’ve been kind of mulling over the last few years. On a personal level, kind of wandering around aimlessly a little bit. You mentioned like, after leaving hockey, you wanting to come back to something like a little more structured and kind of goal-oriented a little bit. And so I’ve kind of found myself just floating out in the ether after leaving behind my own kind of athletic dreams. And so it’s something I’ve been just considering of like, I don’t know — I imagined probably did, but please correct me if I’m wrong. But it’s like I would deemphasize holidays or get-togethers or whatever. It’s like, I was more concerned about a need get enough rest for training or get my run in or what —
Like, if the Christmas party was at 10:00 AM, and that’s when I needed to go run, like, that sucks. Like, I got to go get my run in and I’ll just come in sweaty afterwards. Like, it was I lived to run instead of ran to live. And now being the age I am and kind of where I’m at, in my stage of life, I go, was that the right thing to do? And sometimes they go, no, it wasn’t. But then talking to you, I’m like, well, maybe it was, and this is simply the after effect of that, and that’s fine.
HILARY: [00:22:00] You know, what I think it’s like, I totally know what you’re saying. And that’s exactly what I was like. Like, we — I didn’t drink at grad when everybody was because I knew I had tryouts like a week later. And I didn’t want anything to affect that. And I think, no, like, I wouldn’t change it, and I wouldn’t do it any differently. And I don’t think you would have either because it doesn’t make you happy. Like the structure and the personal fulfillment. And then like, I guess the part I had to go through was being like, okay, is it still worth doing these things, if I’m not the best, if I’m not on the Olympics? And then does this become silly.
And that’s something I kind of struggled with, but it doesn’t, because I enjoy it. And that’s what I had to — Like, there were so much expectation with hockey. And I think that’s why I started playing a bunch of new sports after because you finally get to a point where you’re like, oh, I do this just because I like it, and no one’s telling me to do it anymore.
And now that I’m allowed to not do anything, I’m still deciding to put training first because it makes me feel good. And I can remember being like 22 and playing on a slow pitch team and being late and someone asking why. And I said, well, because I had to take 100 putts before I got here because I was going through a phase where I wanted to be good at golf. And they were just like, why are you doing that? And I just looked at them, like, why the fuck not?
Like, because I want to be good at a sport. And so now like, I’ve come to a place and it’s taking a long time where like, I’m never going to be the best runner. Like I can win a race that I go to, if the conditions are right and it’s a long enough race, and it’s difficult, and I’ve trained really hard. But I’m not going to be on Team Canada for — I’m just old, this is not going to happen.
But I love seeing how good I can get personally and training for things. And it’s really, really fun. And it sounds restrictive and crazy to some people but I can watch a nine year old play baseball, and there’ll be two outs in the bottom of the ninth or however many innings they play and a runner on third and a kid like hit a home run and I will cry. Because this game, sports to me in general mean so much and I can just see how much they’re loving it.
So, I don’t think it’s the wrong decision. I think it’s just what makes people like us happy and I’m super excited that, like I’m at where I’m at now because I can watch my son play sports without feeling like I need to push him at all. But if he loves it the way I loved it, like that’s just so cool that he gets to experience that. And then the fact that we got to play at elite levels, like we’re just really lucky.
JESSE: [00:24:52] Yeah. Well, I find and I’ve spoken to — I don’t know how many games now, former pro players, current pros, just high-level athletes. And I find almost universally that they’re like, yeah, I’m not going to — Like, if my kids want to do stuff, it’s up to them. Like, I’m not going to push them. Yeah, I don’t feel like you get that, I don’t know, helicopter parent or the like, super high pressure parent out of people that made it that far.
HILARY: [00:25:30] No, because those kids quit when they were 15 as soon as they could. So, you’re not talking to them because they’re not playing anymore. They’re like my dad — I knew so many people who after a bad game, they were afraid to leave the locker room because of how much shit their parents were going to give them. And I was like, I could not get my mind around that. And my dad, if I had a bad game, he would just shrug.
Because like you’re a fucking kid, sorry. [crosstalk] Like, I get so passionate about this stuff. Like, I never once felt like my parents were not 100% in my court, no matter how poorly I played. So, that breaks my heart. And that’s just what you’re seeing is that the people that made it, it was still fun to them. They’re not there because they got pushed by their parents. It’s so ridiculous.
JESSE: [00:26:17] Right. Well, there’s this culture of, oh, we’re going to push the kid and they’re going to have all these extracurriculars. And they’re going to go to college and get a scholarship, because — It’s like, yeah, but what are you doing to that human? I don’t have any children so I guess I’ll say that up front. And maybe if I had children, I would change my mind. But I feel like we look at kids fundamentally wrong, at least as a US culture.
And we say, well, they’re kids, they get treated a certain way. And my thought or contention is, no, they’re not kids. They’re adults that haven’t reached adulthood yet. And who they are on their own out in the world is an effect of how we treat them now.
So, if you treat them differently than you would treat an adult there are obviously developmental things that you do with children that are different than adults. But just — I mean, like, respect-wise, and like all this extra pressure and giving people a hard time about nonsensical things, like things you wouldn’t do to your friends. Like, I feel like you’re fundamentally harming that, that future adult.
HILARY: [00:27:39] Yeah. 100%. And it’s really touchy. Like, fundamentally, I was sort of ruined by having only positive responses as well, because I started to think like, they were so excited for me when I was doing well without, because they’re your parents, and they’re excited for you. But as a young kid, I probably took that as like, oh, I’m special, and I’m loved because I’m really good. But like, they would have been the same had I, like done nothing.
But it’s impossible not to just perceive it as like, getting love because of your being good at a sport. So, what I’m saying is my parents basically did everything that you could possibly do right that the book says, that everything says and it still ends up messing with your brain.
So, it’s such a touchy subject, it’s really hard. There’s no way to know how do we support it without being too hard, but having structure without making — It’s just hard. I think you just have to have open communication about everything. But you’re totally right. Like, they deserve just as much respect as — Like, can you imagine if you went to work and your boss just like, y you had a bad day at work, like, walked you up to the building yelling at you and saying you were stupid, and like, why would you do that? Like, why would we do that to a kid? Yeah, you’re totally right.
JESSE: [00:29:07] Right. Well, and to your point, I also have a philosophical point that all parents screw up all children to a greater or lesser degree. Which is impart just an admission of humanity. Like, we all make mistakes. [crosstalk] Right. It’s not it’s not saying all parents suck. Like, I think my parents did a pretty good job in general. Do I still have issues? Sure. Why? Because they are people. Like, we all have problems. We all make mistakes, and that is the messy nature of life. But you talking about the kind of too much positive affirmation reminded me of a conversation I had, and this was back on episode 106 with AK Ikwuakor.
He was a 400 meter hurdler trying to make it to the Olympics. And he just — he talked about how there’s like an adjustment when, you know, he was an NCAA and competed at a high level, all these things. Competed professionally. And there’s just you get so much attention, adoration free stuff, like all this positive reinforcement because when things come relatively easy I guess I’ll say compared to like say if I was trying to be a 400 meter hurler nobody would care at all. So, he was just talking about the adjustment period when you leave that all behind and nobody cares about you anymore. And you don’t get all of that positive attention that’s been like kind of heaped on you because of your talents and hard work to that point.
HILARY: [00:30:57] Exactly. And that’s what I was saying by like after your sport’s over and you identified as a hockey player and made decisions, it’s that same transition and like we, in university, in the NCAA, it’s a big deal. People ask for autographs in the mall, like it’s bananas. But it happens to young kids there who are excited to see you. And I just want to correct here, I wouldn’t when you say my parents gave too much positive affirmation. They weren’t like you know if I played bad, like they were very real about it. But it was you can’t not be excited for your kid when they do have success. And there was a variety of like that your 400 meter person, things going well. And like you know, you start getting letters from Harvard in grade nine and all these things. And like those are just things that are talked about.
So, that, it all adds to it. But it wasn’t like — and the reason I’m stressing this is because I think the too much positive affirmation might be one of my biggest pet peeves in the whole world. Like a participation badge or a kid that comes in last. Because I think also you do have to celebrate people who are talented at running. Because what if that kid maybe is the worst math student but everybody else, so they’re not saying oh, you participated in math class, congratulations. They’re still giving honors to the kids that do the best. So, if somebody’s only good at running and they’re struggling at math like you have to celebrate what people are good at as well. So, I guess — I just hate the super soft parenting and that’s not what I had either. Just as a disclaimer.
JESSE: [00:32:39] Right. No, no, no. I’m with you. Yeah. Yeah, well and you know, we’re talking about karate. We had participation ribbons or whatever in karate. I don’t think — and maybe I did but I just don’t really remember caring about them much.
HILARY: [00:32:59] Yeah, because it’s a cop out.
JESSE: [00:33:00] Right. Like, I went to tournaments and I won trophies for actually being in the top four or whatever event it was. Like, I cared about those things. And then now that being a thing where it’s like people roughly our age being criticized about oh, you grew up with participation trophies. It’s like, well, we didn’t ask for participation trophies.
HILARY: [00:33:26] Totally. And they don’t keep score in young kids soccer and I’m just like, there is something about competitions good for people. And now we can’t find staff in BC in scores because you can sit at home and get the government money because of the pandemic. And that kind of thing, I’m like there is something positive about competition and drive and that’s why people make investments in the world because they want to outdo each other. And like just saying that everybody should be fluffy and equal as a kid. I’m not super high on it either. Anyways, this is a totally sidebar, so go ahead and put it back on track.
JESSE: [00:34:04] You probably didn’t listen to many of my podcasts, but this happens frequently because this is how I have conversations. We go off on to all kinds of weird sidetracks and rabbit holes. But no, just thinking about, like, not tracking kids soccer, I don’t know, like, I’m not a child developmental expert. You know, I have an undergrad in psych, but did not specialize in developmental psychology. But there’s a balance, right where it’s like you got to teach kids skill.
So, for playing soccer, you have to teach them how to run with the ball. You got to teach him how to shoot. Eventually, you got to teach him how to take Piquet’s and you got to teach them all the skills. But there definitely is a point, and I don’t know when that is, whether it’s from the beginning or later. But it’s like you have to — One of the skills is learning to deal with failure.
HILARY: [00:35:10] Yes, yes, exactly.
JESSE: [00:35:13] Because life is full of failure. And we’ll get to this, but there’s a question I asked everybody on every episode, which I’ll ask you at the end, and which has to do with failure, but it’s like we shy away from it.
HILARY: [00:35:28] Yeah. No, you’re absolutely right. I’m happy that you said that because I think that’s what was floating around in my brain that I couldn’t articulate. Because then when you go to a job interview, you might not get the job. And you have to know like, okay, so what do I take away, and how do I deal with this? And if it’s the first time anybody’s ever said no to you, or not like, oh, congratulations, you showed up, you get a job, like, the world will be a sad place.
JESSE: [00:35:55] Right. Or like the idea, there’s this idea, at least for a while, maybe it’s still floating around. It’s like, well, if I went to college, I deserve a job. I had this conversation with a friend when this came up probably a couple years ago now. And I was like, well, let’s take this idea to the extreme, and say, everybody that goes to college wants to be a professional pianist. Well, there’s not enough jobs for everybody to be a professional pianist. So, like, does everybody deserve to get paid to play the piano? Like, no, like, there are other jobs that need to be done? And that’s part of like, the skill of learning how do I be productive? How do I fit in? How do I use the skills that I have to maximize my own potential? How do I deal with setbacks and failures, like, there’s these soft skills in life that they seem to gloss over sometimes.
HILARY: [00:36:55] Totally. And it’s funny, you’re coming from like a person who would think mainly played individual sports, but you just described a team, right? Not everybody — [crosstalk]
JESSE: [00:37:03] I mean, yes, I played individual sports because I didn’t want to rely on my team. But then I end up having a very wonderful team because cross country is a team sport in college.
HILARY: [00:37:12] Totally. But as a hockey player, if you’re a defenseman, your job isn’t to score all the goals. So, where do you fit in? You have to be very good at stopping other people or — the corner. And you don’t win games — And they say this to teams too, to be like accept your role and be really good at that. And that’s the same kind of thing that you’re saying is like, you don’t build a house with just a hammer. Like you need all of the tools in the toolbox and the society does as well. So, we have to make sure we’re — Yeah, like giving people the opportunity to be good at a bunch of different things.
JESSE: [00:37:46] Yeah. I don’t want to run out of time before I ask you about this and if this is an inappropriate question you’re welcome to tell me so. Well, because it doesn’t really have to do with you so much as on your Instagram I saw you had a picture of your grandma turning, I think 103, and I wanted to ask about her and wonder if — Is it a Canadian thing, was she playing hockey from a young age? Like how is she? Because she looks excellent. Like, I wouldn’t have any idea that she’s 103.
HILARY: [00:38:18] Well, she’s 104.
JESSE: [00:38:19] Okay, so yeah. So, my point being like, she looks great like you would think at best she’s in her 80s, maybe. At least from that photograph. So, I wanted to kind of a little bit tongue in cheek ask you like what’s her secret? You know how does she still looks so good? I assume she’s — I think you said she’s living on her own still, like that’s a very unusual situation.
HILARY: [00:38:47] It totally is. So, her siblings, one actually just died at 99, but the others are 96 and 94. The 96-year-old is a male which is even more impressive, I think. He flies a plane still. He has like a little plane. He has to have a copilot now, they make him go with somebody else, but he still flies. So, I mean obviously there’s a genetic aspect to that. My dad looks amazing for his age, as does my uncle. But she was always active.
And not in a way that was like high stress exercise because there just wasn’t — like they were poor. Right? So, they were trying to — there just wasn’t the luxury of taking that time. But she was telling me about when she had Bob, my uncle, that they only had two diapers. So, she would have him in one and then have to wash the other by hand. Then they had their garden where they grew all their own vegetables and they had their dogs and they had the farm. So, she was always moving, always moving, eating healthy vegetables, fruit.
But I think the one thing about her, because she’s the smartest person I know, the university when my parents were growing up was never an option, it was just what they would do. And that’s I guess the one bit of like really intense structure is that was just kind of expected that they would get post-secondary. Which if you think about how old she is, how amazing that is. You know, 50 years ago that her kids would go to post-secondary, but she can read a book in a day, and I think it’s the mental stimulation, how smart she is.
And she’ll still walk around and go — We take her out for dinner. And obviously she walks around her massive condo that she lives in alone. So, movement and using your mind I think are the two keys. But yeah, she’s pretty impressive. Like if you are stumbling to remember something from history, she’s just like, oh, yeah this, that, like remembers everything. Yeah, it’s really cool.
JESSE: [00:41:07] So, what I took away from that is, first, have good genes, but also eat well, move, and don’t stress yourself too much. That’s what I wonder about coming back to trail running. I wonder about, like ultras are big, right? And I kind of wonder about the longevity of some of the ultra runners. And I’ve seen, like this is another diatribe or a tributary of thought, but I saw a post on the running subreddit a while ago about somebody who is running 100-mile weeks after — this is the third year that they’ve been running. And I’m like, I’m skeptical of your longevity.
HILARY: [00:41:50] I know a lot of people that are in their 60s and 70s and running multiple 100-milers, and I think this is just basically opinion and personal that —
JESSE: [00:42:00] Right, it’s all conjecture.
HILARY: [00:42:03] Yeah, everybody has — I think everybody’s different and I know that I have a certain mileage per week that things start to break down. But, that if I stay under that or like right at it, so about 60 miles. I can do 100K a week and feel really good and that’s with a ton of elevation. Not on road, but in the mountains where I’m hiking, a lot of it, the ground is varied, I feel amazing. I ran 135K race last weekend that went super well. And I had, knock on wood, zero aches and pains after. That was kind of like the perfect distance, but there’s over 21,000 feet of elevation.
So, obviously, the type of movement is really varied throughout that. But I can survive at that pace and doing big long weekends at a comfortable pace just under that junk mile and feel really really good. As soon as I start adding speed to things and speed on road, then I have to be more careful. So, I think when — if you get these ultra runners who are on soft ground and they’re going in a very comfortable pace, I think that they can last a really long time. And I think that’s why you don’t see 70 year olds at the start line of the 50K which like in the ultra world is kind of a red line right? But you see them at 100 miles because they’re just moving through the forest.
JESSE: [00:43:35] Right. I mean, it makes sense. I think we — Maybe we talked about it. I’m trying to get back into cross country and thinking about trail and stuff, all the… short, short stuff — [crosstalk]
HILARY: [00:43:52] Yes. So, you’re — hard because you’re going faster and it’s harder on your body.
JESSE: [00:43:54] Right. Yeah. So, like right now I’m at like just finally again, knock on wood, just over 40 mile weeks. Most of my stuff is, you know, road sidewalk. I get a little bit of grass and chat trail here and there. But I would say 80% of my miles are on harder surface. This has been kind of the breaking point a couple times. We’ve been building base back in from triathlon. So, in college, 60 miles is about all I could handle before things really started to break down and then putting the speed on.
So, yeah, I think there’s probably some efficacy to thinking about that like personal mileage threshold and then also, what surfaces you’re on. Okay. So, I know we’re getting close to time so I gotta ask you my season question that I always ask everybody. We were talking about failure earlier. Well, why are you such a failure? No. That’s not the question. The question I’m asking everybody this year is how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?
HILARY: [00:45:09] How do I stay motivated after failure to reach a goal? I think there’s two aspects. I think, in a small failure, like, in July I ran 100K, that went really terribly. But there were very obvious reasons. Then it was extra motivating to be like, okay, I’m not that poor of a runner. I’m not that shitty of a runner. Poor is not the correct word there. Those are things I can fix, and I can do better. And now I’m exponentially more motivated to prove it to myself to anybody that cares. And so I buckle down.
And then I get the reward of last weekend, having a race where everything went great. And it went well in the standings and it went well physically. And that is so much fun to be like, I failed, I fixed it, and look what I can do. And that transfers, not like, look what I can do, but like personally, like I’m in control to make things better. And that transfers into like I can be a better parent, I can improve anywhere.
Overall, like, say, my biggest dream, going to the Olympics, and essentially failing at that is a deeper question. And that’s more challenging, and that is, having to accept that that doesn’t mean that I am a failure overall. And that’s way harder said than done. And then trying to decide, like, am I doing these things to prove that I didn’t waste my athletic ability or am I doing them because I enjoy them. And making sure that my motivation is coming from a positive place and not from somewhere where I’m never going to be satisfied, because I’m never going to win a race and suddenly go back in time and achieve that first goal.
And so that was something I really had to work through for a long time, and probably still am. But it definitely became apparent that I do do these things, because I love it, because it brings me so much joy. And like I said, I know that because I get just as much fun out of being a super shitty tennis player or watching the kids play baseball than I do from winning a race. So, yeah.
JESSE: [00:47:43] No, that’s a great answer. Hilary, where can people find you get in touch with you, hear the podcast, all that kind of stuff?
HILARY: [00:47:53] Yeah, the podcast’s called Trail Running Women, so it’s on where any podcasts are out there. And it’s a lot like this. It’s a casual conversation, but we just talk about the regular life that people have and go through their stories that also seems to lead them to running really long distances in mountains. It’s a lot of fun. So, find us there and then find me on Instagram at HilSport, H-I-L Sport 55. And the link to the podcast is there. And yeah, this was really fun. I really appreciate you inviting me on your show. And yeah, I had a lot of fun. So, thanks a lot.
JESSE: [00:48:27] Absolutely. And for everybody that, if you’re on YouTube, those things will be on the screen. If you’re not or even if you are, those will be down in the description below. So, you’ll be able to click on those and don’t necessarily have to type them all in. Just easy to find her that way as well. So, thank you so much for joining me today, Hilary.
HILARY: [00:48:44] Yeah. Thank you.