I wanted to do something a little different with this interview. Dominic Grossman is someone I have wanted to chat to for a long time and having been friends on social media for a while now, I know he has an eclectic and varied group of close friends. Some of these are ultrarunners themselves, such as Katie deSpliter and others have found different paths but are equally obsessive and focussed.
And it was this that got me thinking; just because I have found ultrarunning as my ‘route’ how many of us have friends that forged other paths of extremity? Naturally, I am drawn to extremes, from the days I would rather forget of my early 20’s through to my running of today. I know I am not the only one and this is why I believe the friendships and bonds carved in and around ultrarunning are hard to beat.
Hillary Coe is not (yet) an ultrarunner, but has found other paths- including the fastest female drag racer in the USA ( ¼ of a mile in 8.72 seconds and 154 MPH in a diesel truck). Like Dom, she has a passion for adventure and pushing herself. Whilst she may yet run an ultra, her friendship with Dom is a result of their shared passion for life, danger, endorphins and above all enjoying this journey.
Dominic, what drew you into ultras in the first place and what got you running at all before that?
I was coming back out west from going to school in Maryland, and I just wanted something new and different from collegiate running. Ultras really fed my hunger for adrenaline, adventure, natural beauty, and challenge.
Hilary, when did you first start car racing and why?
I saw professional drag racing for the first time when I was seventeen. Watching an 8000 horsepower engine spin up and launch a dragster down the raceway was shocking and intoxicating. It felt like the first time I had truly seen something extraordinary. After the race, one of the drivers offered to let me sit in his seat. I remember telling him “I don’t want to sit in it, I want to drive it!” I guess I’m drawn to these adventures that push my limits.
How did you guys become friends in the first place and what was it that inspired you about each other?
Dominic- I met Hillary through my friend Peter I used to run with. Hillary is basically a huge dork, who is also very thoughtful, intelligent, and creative. I think we’ve got a similar outlook on life about going big and working hard.
Hillary- I met Dom through a mutual friend (shoutout to Peter Williams) and the first thing I noticed was how ridiculous he is in everything that he does. He is vibrating on a totally different scale, and something about that bonded us. He is obsessed and determined in a way I have rarely seen in people, and it makes me feel a little less insane.
Dominic, how has your year to date been in your races?
I was hoping to run a little faster in my races, but I’m happy with my progress and finding my limits in training and racing. I think I over-trained a bit for Western and Angeles Crest, but I was still happy to finish as well as I did… but I want to go back to Western and run faster.
Dominic, I saw you finish Western States and I know it didn’t quite go to plan but was the experience everything you hoped for, even if the result wasn’t?
Runners always want things to come together neatly and nicely, but we secretly know that things will get ugly. I think the middle of the race was very tough for me, but it made the end much more sweeter as I started to pass more runners. It gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to rally in running and in life.
Hillary, you guys both lived in LA for a long time and now you are based in San Francisco. How has this changed your adventure planning together?
Nothing compares to a text from Dom that says “we’re going to cowboy camp in Altadena and then run 25 miles through the Pacific Crest Trail before lunch, you in?” It’s definitely harder to have sassy, spontaneous adventures, but I manage to make it back down to LA periodically to hang out, or for big events like the AC-100.
Dominic, what is next for you race wise and do you plan to challenge any of your competitors into a Fastest Known Time (FKT) record any time soon?
I’m just coming back from a hiatus, and might race in TNFEC in December, or I might wait until February to race at Sean O’Brien. I want to become a better climber and lower my time on the Mount Wilson Trail, which is a great place to suck wind and pump lactic acid.
Hillary, any plans to enter an ultramarathon in the near future?
I think it is going to take a couple more years of training before I tackle such an honored feat. But it is in my blood now, and I am going to keep on running.
Both, what is it within your friendship that helps spur you on, whether it is a work or running or adventure challenge?
Dominic- I think Hillary gives off a lot of positive energy. She usually is saying something like “well, hell yeah you’re going to kill it, you’re a friggin’ badass” and I know if someone as accomplished as Hillary believes in me, then chances are my goals are valid and worth chasing.
Hillary- When I lived in LA, Dom would get me up twice a week to run seven miles before the sun came up, and sometimes he’d take me to the Angeles Crest to get lost in the mountains for another eighteen. I bled, I blistered, and I cramped up in places I forgot were even on my body, but it was exhilarating. I saw in Dom that same excitement that I had watching my first drag race. He has an inspiring energy that stays with you. He should figure out a way to bottle it and sell it – he’d make a fortune.
Both, if you could take on one challenge in 2015, what would that be?
Dominic- If I had the time and money, it’d be to run the PCT. Realistically, it’ll probably be Western States and/or UTMB.
Hillary- I would love to surpass 30 miles through the Marin mountains, above San Francisco. Followed by 3 In N’Out Double Doubles. With fries.