For Shannon Payne, her mountain running experience started when the gun went off at the Mt Washington Road Race on Saturday. It seems almost hard to believe that the the 28 year old University of Colorado at Colorado Springs alumni (who lives and trains in Colorado Springs still) hadn’t run up one before. Could’ve fooled us. Shannon ran up the Rockpile like an old pro and her 1:10:12 was the fifth fastest time ever run by a woman there. It was a deep field all around and Shannon placed 19th overall.
Right now, Shannon’s living the running dream: she runs for Boulder Running Company/Adidas Race Team (also works at the BRC), does some race timing, and a little freelance writing. Shannon even lives with a couple of elite marathoners and an ultra runner, and as she said to us, “there’s a lot of running going down around here.” Indeed. Judging by how she did at Mt Washington, it must be some very fast running.
Here’s our Q&A with the new Queen of the Rockpile:
What made you decide to race up the Rockpile?
I’ve always wanted to try some more ascent type races because longer hill type workouts and runs and the more grind-it-out type stuff have always been my favorite, so I was curious as to what would happen if I tried something all uphill, but I was always busy doing more road, track and cross country. So on a whim a couple months ago I went out to run Black Canyon because I had several friends who were headed out there and it sounded intriguing. Admittedly I wasn’t super-prepared at that time for something that was just uphill, but it went really well, I loved it, and decided to try something bigger. I actually had signed up for Mt. Washington last year as per the suggestion of a friend, but I had some injury stuff and I never ran it.
Is there anything you did special to prepare for the this race specifically?
We have a ton of places out here that are ideal to train for something like this. I have to give a shout-out to our local favorite mountain runner Simon Guitierrez here, because I think a lot of the workouts that were given to me to prepare for it were taken from some of what he does. We have a road that runs up Cheyenne Canyon (Cheyenne Canon Road), and I’d say it closely mimics the grade and terrain of Mt. Washington more than anything else around here, even though it’s less than half the distance. So I did some stuff out there where, even though the duration’s not as long as Mt. Washington, it’s at a harder effort. We also have Rampart Range Road out near Garden of the Gods, it’s not as steep but you can get in some pretty good distance at a hard effort. There were a number of other good workouts in there too; fartleks on steeper, more technical terrain, and shorter, harder efforts up some pretty steep stuff, and overall just keeping a decent amount of mileage every week.
The top 5 women this year finished faster than last year’s winning time. Were you planning on a battle with a much faster, deeper field this year?
I actually hardly know any of the big names on the mountain running scene other than the folks from Colorado (of which there are a lot). I also didn’t really know what constituted a good time on Mt. Washington. So I kind of went into it without a whole bunch of expectations. Mostly I really wanted to make the team for the WMRA Long Distance Challenge, which I knew I’d probably need to win it to earn a spot, so I wanted to give it the best effort I could.
What was the key point in the race for you?
I’d say it was somewhere around mile 2. I was with a few guys and I knew Brandy (Erholtz) and Valentina (Belotti) weren’t far behind. I kept thinking to myself that there was no way I should be ahead of these stud mountain runners, so they must know something I don’t, and if I start going now then I might blow up because they know what they’re doing and I kind of have no clue. But then I remembered kind of feeling the same way at Black Canyon, and that I did just kind of start going and pulling away and hat was able to keep going and that I didn’t blow up, so why not try it again today? So it was right around there when I decided to just not be afraid and just give it shot and see what happens.
What part of the race was toughest for you?
I guess kind of feeding off of the last question, more just the mental aspect of believing the WHOLE way that I belonged where I was and could really do well even if I wasn’t real sure what I was doing.
Oh, and the other toughest part of the race was the day before when Sage took Ryan Bak and myself on a course tour and I had never seen a race like this one before, and I couldn’t believe people RAN up this thing, and I almost just called Paul Kirsch to tell him I was going to scratch (Okay, not really. But seriously.).
US Champs are in less than two weeks now at Loon Mt. Will we be seeing you back here for it?
What have you heard of the infamous Upper Walking Boss and are you ready for it?
I’ve heard it’s a doozie. Something about a 46% grade? Which means it’s 64% flat, which is over half-way flat, so it isn’t that steep….right? No but in all seriousness I will probably hit up a certain super-secret-off-limits ski slope that we have around here, it seems like it could be the closest thing we have to our very own Upper Walking Boss.