To the Sun: Allen Lim

Illustration by Matt Hall |

In the first of our series of interviews speaking with inspiring and positive characters, we spoke to Allen Lim. The Skratch Labs founder is a coach, a mentor, a chef, a doctor (he literally saved my life once) — and a nutrition guru. But, how does one run all these things without going crazy and maintain a positive outlook? Easy, focus on the people.

You have become a beacon of positivity for the cycling and sports nutrition arena— what do you do to keep yourself so upbeat and motivated on a daily basis?
Staying upbeat and motivated isn’t always easy. For me, I’ve got a whole litany of coping strategies that run the gamut from ritualistic to weird, but they all have to do with finding ways to check in and check out. Checking out is the easy part and something that’s become pretty essential for me, especially when life gets stressful. When I was in grad school and I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, I use to do this thing with my parents, where I would call them and tell them I was quitting school. In return, they’d tell me how they understood and that it was okay. I’d end up going to bed totally relieved and by the time I woke up, I’d be so fresh that I’d decide to just do one more day. It basically went on like that until I graduated. Now checking out has a lot to do with alone time and daydreaming – quiet bike rides on dirt roads where I just lose myself in thought and fantasy.

But the real key is checking back in. As clichéd as it sounds, being super present to the people around you is all that really matters. Sometimes that takes a firm slap in the face and a very conscious reminder and internal mantra to “focus” but if and when I do cut out all the background noise, that’s when I find myself most happy and when I know I can really contribute to others. I tend to be really sensitive to anything negative and I use to find myself getting really down about what I’d hear on the news or the cynicism that peppers the internet. Then I realized that the only thing that was actually real were the interactions I had with other living beings each day. And when I started thinking and focusing on whether those interactions went well, it became a lot easier to stay upbeat and motivated because there was direct and positive feedback right in front of me each day, reminding me that how I act with others is important and a key part of all of our happiness. Ultimately, it’s that personal happiness that drives success, it’s not success that makes us happy.

Nutrition/ exercise/ the outdoors, they are all linked to creativity and well-being. Your go-to seems to be the bike. What is your current escape?
Nutrition, sleep, exercise – it’s all linked to creativity and our general well being. My go-to has always been the bike. It has been since I was four-years-old and recently, I’ve been able to make it more of a priority primarily by giving up on the idea that I need to have anything other than a bike to ride. As an example, on a trip to Chattanooga, I ended up using the bike share program they have in the city for my daily ride and it was fantastic. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your kit or shoes or the right wheels. Just find a bike and ride it.

Interestingly, that attitude has changed the type of clothing I buy. I purchase a lot dual-purpose clothing now – merino wool t-shirts, puffy things like the Rapha Transfer Vest (which I am wearing right now while sitting at my desk), and stretchy jeans that I can wear at the office and on bike rides. That all said, my go to escape are the dirt roads and trails that surround Boulder, CO that are easily accessed on a cross bike. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it’s always fun.

Favorite cookbook (besides yours) that you have seen recently?
I really dig this cooking magazine called Gather Journal. Each issue is like its own cookbook. No ads or distractions, just great one-page recipes that are simple and beautiful and that focus on real and seasonal ingredients. They usually do two issues a year – a spring/summer issue and a fall/winter issue. It’s worth a look.

Do you have an easy and inspiring meal to get us started on our training plan as we head into the lighter months of the year?
I think one of the best things about heading back into the sun or lighter months are the fresh fruits and vegetables that become more available. I’m a huge fan of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and one of the easiest things to do is to sign up with a local CSA [or equivalent]. When those veggies start rolling in, chop up whatever is the basket, get a pan really hot, and make a little stir-fry. If you want some protein, throw in an egg, some tofu, or animal protein in the mix and spice it up with your favorite seasonings.

I like keeping it Asian style, so my go-to flavors are garlic, scallions, a little ginger, some sesame oil, a splash of vinegar and Braggs Amino Acids, all stir fried up with a little olive oil. Throw that all on top of some freshly steamed rice or the starch of your choice like quinoa or couscous and you’ve got a quick and easy meal that is seasonal and fresh. Something this simple not only works great for athletes, it’s great for sharing, so make sure to let people know you’re cooking.

One more cycling related question. Since you get to see some of the sport’s highest level athletes — who’s your pick for some of the early season races?
I actually have no idea, or more correctly, I try to pretend not to care. One of the things that I’ve found about coaching is that as a coach you have to be invested in the person, not in their results. So I’ve never really been a fan of bike racing per se, but I am a huge fan of cycling and the athletes I’ve worked with. It’s great when they do well and that’s always the goal, but success in cycling is a low odds game. At the Tour of Missouri one year, Danny Pate pulled off an incredible stage win out of a long breakaway. During the press conference, a reporter asked him if he woke up that morning thinking that his chances of success were good. Danny looked back at the reporter with a confused look and responded, “Well, this morning I woke up and I knew that there were about 140 riders left in the race, so I thought my odds were 1 out of 140 that I’d win.”

But who’s my pick? Throw a dart. I will say that there are some real characters in the peloton and that some of my favorites are riders like Alex Howes, Lachlan Morton, Lucas Euser, Taylor Phinney, Evelyn Stevens, and Mara Abbot. Whether they win or not, I’d have a cup of coffee with any of them and wax philosophic. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Alex Candelario (aka Candy) and Mike Friedman (aka Meatball) are going to do this next year now that they’ve got Brad Huff (aka Huff) back on their team [Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies]. Candy, Meatball, and Huff – if you don’t know these guys, they’re worth a closer look, if anything, simply because they are a road trip dream team.