Sometimes it’s hard to relate to professional athletes when you are not one yourself. When you’re sat behind your desks, dreaming of being in the mountains or down at the climbing gym, the lucky few are out there crushing it all day, every day. Equally, for pro rockstars -the thought alone of earning a living any other way might be too horrifying to even consider for a second.
Tori Allen was just 14 years old when she grabbed Gold in the Speed Climbing Category at the X-Games, in 2002. Fast forward to 2012, where girlcrushrock was honored to hang out with the wonderfully humble, and incredibly inspiring Tori, who has experienced more in the last 10 years than others have in a lifetime – and we’re not just taking about her climbing.
For anyone out there who has a dream, or for any pro’s wondering what life might exist beyond climbing, you might like to read on…
Oh, I AM in a really good place right now in my life! I live in the most perfect mountain town in Colorado- Steamboat Springs. My A-frame house sits in the middle of a huge field on top of a hill and has panoramic views of the whole Steamboat area. I have a wonderful, patient guy in my life who lets me be my crazy, random self, but who also pushes me to try new things like hiking 14’ers and skate boarding (on the ramp we built in our basement). I even have a devoted Labrador named Sampson to snuggle with and 5 egg laying chickens to give me fresh eggs every day.
In addition, I love my job and the people I work with. It’s a true gift to have landed in such a strong and respected local company (Central Park Management) and in a position that is a great career opportunity (a rare find in a ski town). And, to top it off, I’m diving into the social fabric of Steamboat Springs and beginning to feel like I am “part” of the town…dancing in the annual benefit, playing rugby on town’s women’s team, playing rec. softball with people from work, snow boarding with friends every weekend from Nov. -April, wake boarding with friends and family on the reservoir all summer, attending Steamboat leadership training, climbing with a fun group of locals, volunteering everywhere I can, and much more. Life is very very good. =)
Congrats on the promotion! You manage a full time job, as well as your passion and talent for climbing. Do you feel that your experience in business has helped you at all with your climbing or visa versa?
Everything I do in life, I approach it like I approach climbing. When I climbed competitively, I never looked at a route and thought “oh, that route looks hard, I think I might fall there, at that crux”. It never occurred to me, ever, that I might fall on a route or that I might not complete a boulder problem. Also, people used to remark on how dynamic of a climber I was. I was short (I didn’t reach 5’ tall until I was 14 years old), so, often, the only way to get to the next hold would be to jump/dyno to it. For me, that wasn’t risky or scary, it was merely the “way” for me to get to the top of a route.
I approach my professional life in these same ways. There is never a task that I view as being too hard for me and failure is not an option. If I set a goal, whether it be to learn a new skill or to get a promotion, I assume that I will succeed. Also, I take risks without fear. I see what I want and I go for it. That is true in small things and large, such as having the dream of opening my own business one day. I’m willing to take the “leaps” that are necessary to get to the top, professionally, without fear, doubt or hesitation.
Wow, it really HAS been a journey for me and “climbing”. I can still remember that first junior national competition, 6 months after the first time I ever climbed on a wall in a mall…staying with family friends in Virginia to save money, other climbers asking me who my sponsors were (and, “baffled” me saying that my mom and dad were my sponsors), and ripping off my comp shirt (ALA Brandy Chastain) to reveal my self-designed, tiger-striped sports bra when I reached the top of my finals route.
After that win at age 11 and 1 day, it was a whirlwind for the next 5 years. The real turning point happened right before I turned 12, when I won the Gorge Games in adult bouldering and placed 2nd in a climb-off at the adult national difficulty competition. From that moment on, I was a “professional” climber. I had companies coming out of the woodwork to give me free stuff and to offer to pay me to go to appearances and competitions. During this time in my life, I saw climbing merely as a puzzle to be conquered. I never viewed other climbers as my competitors (my thought was …if their best was better than my best, then, good for them….). In truth, the route setters (puzzle-makers) were my REAL competitors (and there were some AMAZING competition route setters around at that time…Chris Bloch and Jason Kehl, for starters!!!!). That continued all the way up until I was 16. And as “fun” as that sounds, at the same time, my success brought out a lot of negativity in the climbing community, mostly in the form of harsh lies about me and my family, and that was hard for all of us.
At age 16, after 4 years of balancing a competitive climbing AND a pole vaulting career (I had even represented the USA at the Youth World Championships in pole vault, and placed 10th), I decided that I wanted to try to go to college on a pole vaulting scholarship. I did not see that I had any more to “prove” in climbing (since there were no World Cups on US soil at that time and being a “professional” climber meant competing in obscurity in Europe.) Plus, I really wanted a college degree and an opportunity to make a life for myself beyond “climbing”. But, my family wasn’t rich and I wanted to go to college out of Indiana, where we lived at the time. So, my only option was to get a scholarship in order to do so.
Along with several other universities, Florida State University offered me a scholarship to attend and pole vault for them. I accepted FSU’s offer and embarked on a new road. I did not climb at all during my first 3 years at FSU. I wanted to be free from that part of my life for awhile. Yet, during my last 18 months at FSU, I did find a small, local gym and climbed there a few times each month. That was the beginning of my “new” relationship with climbing.
Since leaving FSU, I have completely rediscovered climbing. A lot of people ask me why I don’t start to compete again and I tell them that there is no need. I did what I wanted to do and I’m happy with the competitive career I had. Climbing for me, now, is like meditation. It’s personal. I don’t climb to impress anyone or to accomplish anything. I climb because it’s fun and it’s the place where I feel most at peace. It’s still hard sometimes because easy routes for me are hard for a lot of other people and egos are fragile, especially with guys who climb. But, I’m learning these things, slowly, and am more and more careful about who I choose to climb with, esp. outside. In that respect, I am thankful for my little group of local gal climbers, they are really supportive.
I am totally LOVING playing rugby on the Steamboat women’s team. It’s scrappy and dirty and nothing like anything I’ve ever done before. I get to use my sprinting skills and my mental toughness (from pole vault and climbing, respectively) to be the best “wing” I can be. Plus, it’s the first team sport I have ever played. So, in addition to learning how to let go of control and count on my teammates, I am building some great friendships.
Although there are many individual moments that were really spectacular, such as winning the X-games, I would say that going to college at Florida State University was my best life experience to date. College is where I really found myself, the whole me. Up until then I had lived this extraordinary life -first as a conspicuous, missionary kid in an African village with a pet monkey and then, as a professional climber with sponsors and speaking engagements and TV interviews. In college, though, I was just another athlete. Yes, I went to college only 2 weeks after I turned 17, which was 1-2 years younger than every other freshman–but, no one really knew that about me. And, I was on a scholarship to pole vault for the track team-but female track athletes were not stars, only the football players were. Plus, pole vaulting never came easily to me like climbing did so it was a humbling, daily battle to improve, even incrementally. Through those years, I learned who I was outside of being in the spotlight. I pursued my passion of fashion design, made friends with people who had never heard of “Tori Allen-the climber” and even waited tables for 20-30 hours per week for extra spending money. I graduated from Florida State University knowing, without a doubt, that I am a more complex and capable person than can be summed up by just some climbing accolades.
girlcrushrock would like to thank Tori for such an honest account of life in the fast lane. We wish Tori, Corey, Sampson and the chickens all the best for the future! We feel sure their lives are going to be fun-filled and fabulous.
Watch this awesome video of Tori in a bouldering comp
Follow her adventures by hitting ‘like’ on Tori’s official facebook page