Allison Tai recently finished World’s Toughest Mudder as the second place female. This mother of two, fitness coach and obstacle racer calls home in Vancover, Canada. This 32-year old has overcome many obstacles in her life. In 2006 she was in an accident which left her in a body cast and unable to roll herself over in a bed for nearly a year. She was told she would never be able to run again and today she is competitive racer finding her way onto OCR podiums.
How did you get involved in your sport?
I got involved in obstacle course racing on a whim. My road racing club was doing the Warrior Dash and I thought “why not”? I had so much fun that I got hooked.
Were you always an athlete?
I wasn’t always an athlete. In fact, I’d hide rather than participate in track and field in school. I rode horses through junior high and high school and professionally in early adulthood. When I went back to college I picked up running to maintain my weight and joined the cross country team. Turns out that I could run long distances well… I had just never tried.
What are some of your athletic achievements?
I won the Timex Athletic Alberta Road Race Series in 2003 and came second place in my age group at Ironman Canada in 2006. For OCRs, I won the Squamish Super in 2012, Vancouver Sprint in 2013, the Edmonton Sprint and Sun Peaks UltraBeast in 2014. I also came second at World’s Toughest Mudder in 2014 and had several other podium finishes.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
I’d like to get stronger on hills and short distances and improve my technical capabilities. I actually like burpees, just not when I’m racing.
Who is/are your inspiration?
I think challenge is such a critical part of our lives as humans – that most have lost touch with. Every time you embrace challenge, you grow stronger. And then one day, you’re Amelia Boone… and you’re mentally and physically tough enough to take on almost anything. That inspires me.
What is your most proud moment in sport?
My proudest moment in sport happened at WTM on top of the slippery wall known as Hump Chuck. I was the only one at the top and there was a really beefy dude trying to climb it. He looked as shocked as I felt when I got hauled him up.
What is your most proud moment in life?
My proudest moments in life are when I see my kids interact with others. They’re becoming people that I can be proud of.
How do you overcome a bad race or training day?
I think that changes when you become a parent. I used to really best myself up if I didn’t do what I wanted to out on the course. Now, I just do what I can, knowing that my family and friends will love me just as much no matter what happens. I went into my hometown race last year with a busted ankle knowing that I’d have to walk it. At the finish-line my daughter asked if I had fun and if my watch got dirty. All the perspective you need right there.
What is your training routine like?
I usually sneak out of bed at 5am to jump on my bike or run to crossfit. I also do a lot of steep hiking with my baby strapped to my front and my older daughter strapped to my back. It’s a great strength workout and we have fun passing the time with the “alphabet game” and “I spy”. I also do some parkour and have an obstacle course set up in my backyard where my husband coaches me.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
My advice to newcomers would be not to take it too seriously and to believe in yourself. It should be fun. That being said, it’ll be a lot more fun if you train for it… and it will be a lot easier to believe in yourself too.
What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?
I have a pretty good stomach so I’m not ritual about food. I definitely carb load for any race lasting longer than 3 hours. Race morning I will have something bland and made of simple carbs like a bagel. I have a very small cup of coffee because I have a very small bladder. After, I try to eat a little protein and carbs with a lot of fluid within that magic 30 minute window.
When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?
I love being active with my family. We hike, snowshoe, cross-country ski, bike ride, and generally just have awesome adventures. I do love to snuggle up after to read or watch movies though.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
“It’s like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t rest when you’re tired, you rest when the gorilla’s tired.”
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
My Ironman coach, Marilyn McDonald, used to always say that bad workouts make tough athletes. She also used to tell me to just keep moving forward when things got nasty and to not waste energy on anything you can’t control at that moment.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
I’d say to attack your weaknesses but remember your strengths.
What is/are the races you are most looking forward to this year?
I’m most looking forward to getting back out there with the best of OCR at the Spartan World Championships and World’s Toughest Mudder.
Any additional information you would like to share:
I have a 24.5% permanent disability rating from getting hit by a truck at highway speed while riding my bicycle in 2006. I broke my back, pelvis and arm. I was in a body cast and couldn’t even roll myself over in bed for nearly half a year. Nobody was sure that I’d be able to run again or use my left arm. So I feel really grateful that I can do it at all, let alone compete at this level.