Allow me to introduce you all to Hillary Shusterman. By day, this Bad Ass Women of OCR works as a marketing consultant. By night/weekend, she is a bad-ass on course pushing herself past pre-conceived limits. I wanted to share her story, as I feel what makes Hillary bad-ass is that she can admit when things are outside of her comfort zone, but still finds a way to succeed. Being a Bad Ass woman of OCR doesn't mean you are 100% fearless, it means you do not let the fear cripple you!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm a 27-year-old Boston resident working as a marketing consultant near the North End. While I'm not working, OCR is pretty much what my life revolves around—whether it's my friends, my training, my racing, nutrition—it's all in service to race season. It gives my life some much-needed dynamism.
What do you do for a living? Tell us about that.
I work as a marketing consultant for a small firm near the North End of Boston. Been working there for almost 3 years and love it! I work to develop marketing strategies and execute campaigns for clients that exist in markets that are going through profound change—namely energy, higher education, and healthcare. As a bit of a side hustle, I got my sports nutrition certification and regularly work with my clients to help them reach their goals.
Did you always consider yourself athletic?
From a young age, my parents have raised me to be athletic. I played tennis from age 6 to when I played varsity in high school. From there, I was introduced to going to the gym in my teens and found myself really enjoying the “bodybuilding” style of training. In fact, I tried my hand at P90x in college, which turned me onto weightlifting.
What initially drew you into the world of OCR and adventure racing?
I liked the notion of trying something different; something that I wasn't necessarily sure if I could do it. That sentiment has carried with me throughout my pursuit of this sport. I never knew I could get to the level I'm at now, and I am constantly striving to be better—that's the beauty of OCR.
What was your first race like? Which one was it?
My first taste of OCR was a Spartan Sprint in 2013 in Amesbury, MA. From there, I was hooked.
Tell us about the races you have done so far.
From 2013-2015, I had completed 4 Spartan Sprints, 2 Supers, and 1 Beast—the Killington Founder's Beast in 2015. In that time, I also did my first Tough Mudder at Mount Snow in 2014. From there, I took a year off after dealing with a nagging Achilles injury. In 2016 I came back with full force, having completed 27 total Tough Mudders (including World's Toughest Mudder 2018), along with some smaller races like the Viking in upstate NY and Savage Race. It's been a crazy ride!
Do you feel that due to strong women like yourself, that others are more willing to push their own limits?
I would like to think so. I regularly train at my local CrossFit affiliate, and everyone in my community knows me as “that OCR girl”. I'm the one in 15-degree weather who is going outside and doing her running intervals, coming inside and carrying atlas stones, and playing with the gymnastics rings. If anything, I hope people look at me, see that I'm not your typical elite runner body type, and are inspired to challenge themselves. Sometimes I feel like not coming from a running background puts me as an underdog for this sport; but the one thing I've learned, and I hope others glean from my experience, is that it doesn't matter if you don't have a svelte runner body type. Put in the work, and it will pay dividends on game day.
On course, what has been your favorite obstacle and why?
I love Kong Infinity from Tough Mudder. It was one of those obstacles that at face value you think is incredibly challenging, but once you go for it, it's incredibly fun!
On course, what has been your least favorite obstacle and why?
I'm not a huge fan of obstacles where you need to spend an extended time underwater. I had a bit of an anxiety attack experience with Augustus Gloop from Tough Mudder, where my hair got caught in the fence as I was trying to swim underneath the vertical tube in order to breathe. Since then, water obstacles have always made my heart beat a little fast.
Is there is an OCR or endurance race that you will never do?
Never say never. I find that I am a very challenge-driven person, and if you put an opportunity to challenge myself in front of me, and I deem it somewhat achievable, I will try for it.
What type of training do you complete for OCR training?
My coach is the head coach at my local CrossFit affiliate, and I've been working with him regularly now for a couple of years. The volume changes throughout the year, depending if we are in-season or not. For the most part, our programming includes a lot of your standard running volume-building work—a lot of intervals, longer runs, hill sprints. We pair that with leg strength, heavy load carries, and grip—which means a LOT of pull-up work!
If you have one, what is an on course nickname people have for you?
The only one I can think of is something akin to Hill-Dawg.
For someone that is newer to the OCR sport, what is one solid piece of advice that you wish to pass on?
I will steal a quote from one of my favorite childhood TV shows: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” Another BIG piece of advice I give to those suffering sport-induced injuries is to take your time. Far too often you see people putting off, or rushing through, their PT treatments and finding themselves re-injured. Patience is key to the longevity of this sport.
Who inspires you?
To be honest, I find it hard to pinpoint this to one person. Being a part of something so special, that inspires people to be better and motivates them to push themselves beyond what they thought was possible is incredibly heartwarming. The stories you hear of those who have faced all sorts of adversity to be standing at the start line makes me want to come back year after year.
Is there anything else you want to share with us?
Just as a call-to-action to all the readers: If you see me on course, I am open for bear hugs.
What's the best way to reach you on social media if someone wants to reach out?
My Facebook is Hillary Shusterman, and my Instagram is @Hilldiggity.