Shannon Payne charged on to the mountain running stage in 2014 with wins at the Black Canyon Ascent in Colorado, and at Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. She capped that summer with a third-place run in the Pikes Peak Ascent.
Injuries and frustrating down time followed, but she is now healthy and running strong. A Salomon tech rep, Payne won again this spring at the Black Canyon, and is fresh off a second victory at Mt. Washington, where she placed 12th overall with a time of 1:11:21.
When the road, or trail, tilts up the "Payne Train" is hard to stop. When she isn't running, the 31-year-old Colorado Springs resident can be found rambling around southern Colorado and New Mexico, preaching the virtues of the Salomon brand. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
(Photo: 2014 Pikes Peak Ascent, by Kevin Bergsten)
Three starts and two wins at Mt. Washington. What is it about that race? Mt. Washington is one of those places where because my initial experience there in 2014 was such an outstanding one not just because of the race result itself, but because of all of the people that I met there and just the great energy surrounding such an iconic event. There will always be nothing but great feelings associated with it despite the fact that it entails spending about eight miles in a special kind of pain cave. It’s sort of a “comforting” place to always go back to I guess you could say. All the race organizers take so much pride in their mountain and their race, and they go so far out of their way to make it amazing for everybody. Additionally, every time I go back I meet a bunch of new people who I can’t wait to cross paths with again the next year. Not to mention there’s always somebody there doing something awe-inspiring. This year for instance it was George Etzweiler running his 12th Mt. Washington Road Race at ninety-freaking-seven years old, or you’ll hear about somebody racing it for their 30th consecutive year or something equally bananas. It seems like everybody there is slightly off of their rockers in the best of ways. Birds of a feather I guess. How could you not want to keep going back?
Tell us about the moment when you knew things were going right. I guess I knew back in May at the Black Canyon Ascent. I was just a few seconds off of my time there from 2014 despite doing things pretty differently than I used to. So I knew stuff was in a good place.
Everybody has their own mental preparation. How do you get yourself to the starting line on race morning? Sometimes I’m actually not sure how I get myself to the start line on race day. I sort of swing back and forth between being so excited that I just want to prance around singing Christmas carols because it feels like Christmas morning, and being so nervous that I want to curl up quivering in the fetal position in the darkness underneath the bed and live out my days under there. No but seriously, I just kind of have to remind myself that on race day, one: you’re darn lucky to be here so enjoy it, and two: as long as you walk off the finish line knowing you did all you could that day, you can’t ask anything else from yourself.
What does your typical week of training entail? Nothing fancy or all that structured. Usually a couple of harder days, one longer run, and other days are just easy, “fluff” runs I like to call them, in places that I think are cool. Also, a sort of ungodly amount of cross training since I don’t do super well off of higher mileage however much I wish I did. I don’t like running to get to where it feels too much like “training-with-a-capital-T” or I just get neurotic and weird and don’t’ have as much fun doing it for whatever reason.
You used to run in lots of track and road races. Now you're hooked on the trails, especially those that tilt uphill. How did that transition come about? I’ve actually only run one actual trail race (Pikes Peak), a lot of other stuff is uphill, but on roads, which doesn’t necessarily equate to being good at racing on trails. I just run whatever nowadays if I think it sounds awesome. I like trails, but I still like road racing a lot too, and l still love cross country, track is a huge pile of nope. I’ll do more trail stuff for kicks even though I’m a spectacularly uncoordinated individual and sometimes fancy footwork is involved so the outcome may or may not be pretty. So there hasn’t really been this “transition” of which you speak.
2017 Pikes Peak Ascent, yes? RESOUNDING YES. (She also plans to race in the gritty Vail HillClimb, on July 8.)
Speaking of Pikes Peak, you’re great friends with 2014 Ascent champion Allie Mac. Did her second-place run at the U.S. Mountain Running Championships lend any motivation? Absolutely It did! A-Mac darn near made me cry the day she made the U.S. mountain team. You see someone make a rebound like that and how can you not believe? I definitely went into the race (Mt. Washington) with an unusual amount of jitters that basically stemmed from the fact that I haven't accomplished diddly running-wise in a couple of years, and I've invested a ton into this. But what if I go out there and blow it? But then it was like, well Allie was in the same boat, but she didn't let it get into her head, she just showed up and threw down.