Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shannon Price: Interview with the Ultrarunner

Shannon Price is one of our region’s strongest and most humble ultrarunners, and a true gentleman ambassador for running. Shannon inspires many of us so it seemed like we needed an opportunity to find out more about him. He agreed to a “blog interview” which follows this brief preface.

I got to know Shannon in the Fall of 2009 when I was gearing up to run the Richmond Marathon – my 1st, and his 37th marathon (11th Richmond in a row at that time). We work out at the same gym and have run together a few times.  Luck was with me and he was the pacer for the 3:40 group that I would run with. I locked in on Shannon, fed off his encouragement, and finished with a Boston qualifying time and the bug for more! He has continued to be a source of inspiration to me and to others.  Here’s an excerpt from last June when I asked him for a “pep talk” prior to a triathlon:
“As the start time comes just let yourself go. Go out knowing you will never get this moment back ever again so let your fire grow. Go out hard and let your drive, excitement, adrenaline, and fear push you to your next level. Go out like a wild animal determined to pick off the person in front of you….Grab your fear and excitement, strap yourself in tight, and hold the hell on!!!”
Last weekend he completed the Umstead 100 miler…in this interview he’ll tell you the outcome. I can attest that he earned it. His work ethic, resiliency, and sense of play are second to none.

I know your involvement with running goes back some time because you've participated in the Richmond Marathon for many many years. But how and when did you get interested in ultrarunning?
Richmond 2009 Pacer
Ultrarunning actually came to me as many failures in marathons many being Richmond. Don’t get me wrong I love the Richmond Marathon but it broke my heart so many times. I would train what I considered “hard” to run Richmond and qualify for the Boston Marathon. In 2008 I was in the best shape of my life up to that date. I went out and was on pace for a qualifying time and blew up at mile 17. I fought back as hard as I could but still came up short. When I finished the race is was crying, heart broken, and mad. I remember saying to myself that “if I cannot run fast enough to qualify for Boston then I am just going to run longer”. That is when my ultrarunning career was born.  (interviewers note: he has since MORE than qualified for and run in Boston)

What other sports and hobbies have you done in the past or do you enjoy currently?
In the past I was a natural bodybuilder. When I was 19 and 20 I weighed in at 238 pounds off season and 206 pounds show weight. After my bodybuilding days I went through a short time trying multiple sports from triathlons, biking, running, golf, and softball. I finally found my calling with running. I still love to golf and go a lot with my family during the summer months when I am not racing as heavy.

I enjoy when you post pictures of some of your post-long-run meals on Facebook, and it appears you have some skills in the kitchen! What are your favorite fuelling meals and foods?
One of his many food pics...yum!
I wish I could take credit for the incredible food but my wife Megan is the cook. I can make cereal, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and a few other very basic things. My favorite meals for fueling have always been some sort of very clean pasta. I used to love lasagna as my carb load meal but it is tortellini with Alfredo sauce right now. I have found that it works best with my body. I always carb load 36 hours or so before a long run. I have not found a lot of success in loading the night before a long run.

Those of us who know you and follow your running are aware of the very intense, high-mileage, and largely solitary training you do week-in-and-week-out, yet you seem fairly immune to burnout. How do you manage to keep it fun and interesting?
I use many things to help keep my driven and determined. I am a very goal driven person and like to pick races that really peak my interests. I also change my workouts up a lot especially on the weekends. Some days I will do hill work for a long run and others I will do tempo (marathon pace), or intervals, or anything else to change things. I will go from road to trail to single track and back. I will run in the mornings some weeks and afternoons others. Mainly I just listen to my body and give it what it wants. If I am craving mountains I will hit the AT at McAfee’s Knob, road I head to my undisclosed running paradise, and anywhere else I can think of. My lack of burn out comes from keeping things fresh and trying new things/places.

You've had a few challenges this fall with races that did not go according to plan. How do you bounce back from those and stay mentally tough and confident? What advice would you have for others in that situation; because it's inevitable we will each face our own race disappointments.
I was talking to Bart Yasso a couple of years back and he told me the only true disappointment is not trying. Sometimes I just have days when my body will not go. It can happen on a training run or on race day but it will always happen at some point. I will typically break down the race and see if there was anything that I did wrong or was it just not my day. I will admit that I do beat myself up a lot, question my training, and somewhere along the way get over it. Once I am past it I move on quickly because I know my next race is right around the corner. I would rather take my race day performance (or lack there of) and use it to drive me to train harder and peak at the right time. A DNF can beat you if you dwell on it for to long so my advice is put it behind you by signing up for another race that peaks your interest as soon as you feel comfortable.

What are the major races you are hitting in 2011 and what are some of the goals you have or races you'd like to get to in the future?
I am currently working on this. My spring “A” race was the GRR 100 Miler in Georgia a month ago. That day was a rough day to say the least. It rained like no day I had seen. The course was ankle to shin deep in cold, wet, unrunnable mud. The course and the weather finally beat me at the 50K mark and I came home. I quickly turned my mindset to Umstead 100 which was last weekend. I was using it as my redemption race to prove to myself and others that I still had it. I had a great race and ran a 19:10:10 (PR) and 21st overall. Even better is that I beat my last year’s time by more than 3 hours and 35 minutes. I never really tired at this race which shows my training is going in the right direction but there is so much room for growth physically and mentally. Races in the future…wow where do I start?!!! I would have to put Western States as my life “A” race. The thought of this race is one of the main reasons for my ultrarunning. However I do have many others I would like to do like Leadville 100, Wasatch Front 100, Hardrock 100, Miwok 100K, The Bear 100, Cascade Crest 100, Way to Cool 50K, North Face Championships in San Francisco, and I could go on and on. Basically I would like to hit 2 100 mile races a year with another 8-10 races ranging from marathons to 100Ks.

You are truly an ambassador for running and you do a great job of giving back, not only as a regular marathon pace group leader, but less formally too by encouraging and helping everyone around you with their own running goals. I've received many a pre-race "pep talk" from you and I find your words are very powerful and motivating. Who are the mentors or supporters who encourage you?
Encouraging the next gen...MY kids!!
Well thank you!!! Coming into the ultrarunning family was odd to me because everyone (for the most part) is there to encourage. The family is so small that you get to know everyone very well. I have always been a “go for the kill” type of runner when it comes to racing but I have learned to support and help in anyway I can. I will never forget I was on a trip to San Francisco and read Dean Karnazes book “Ultramarathon Man”. Now I hate to read books and I could not put this one down. I remember thinking if he can do it then I can as well. That is the day I fully made the transition. I finally met Dean in DC last year at the North Face Endurance 50 Miler. We talked for a few minutes and I ended the conversation thanking him for sharing himself and his stories to the world. Reading his book opened my eyes that I was not living to my potential and life was too short to wait. Currently…I know this is going to sound cheesy but I get more joy in watching others dreams come true. Nothing inspires me more than being able to help others who want to do something but don’t quite know how or need an extra nudge to put them over the top. My races are fun and I enjoy everything with them but watching someone go from couch to a 5k does it for me. Seeing the dream realized on others faces when they get the “I can take on the world” look can never be replaced. Every runner has a responsibility to pass the passion on by helping others. We were all “there” at some point in our careers so don’t ever lose sight of that.

Tell us a little about your involvement with the Brooks team and what that endorsement means to you.
My sponsorship with Brooks is very dear to me. I have never been the fastest runner out there but I will always try to inspire as many as I can. Brooks has a program called the PACE ID (Performance and Coaching Excellence Inspire Daily) Program. We all call it the ID’ers. The main goal of the program is to life Brooks culture of “Run Happy”. It is not about distance, time, or heart rate but rather all about getting out and running, inspiring others to reach for their dreams, and smiling the entire time that we do it. So the program fits me perfectly as I love to try to inspire others in everything they do. Every time I put my running gear on I am always thinking that I am representing the team so do things the right way. Being on the team has brought me back to my roots and joy of running by helping to make it fun. Last year at the Boston Marathon I ran with quite a few team members during the race. At one point we had 10-15 of us running together with our racing outfits on. People were screaming “Go Team Brooks” and we were waving and smiling. For me it made for such an enjoyable experience to be added onto the Boston Marathon. I have met so many great runners on the ID team

Your wife Megan is obviously very supportive. What would she tell us about you and your ultrarunning lifestyle, or maybe some of your idiosyncrasies?
My wife Megan is my rock. She is my coach, my crew, and my best friend. She has learned over the years to support me or tell me to suck it up. I think she would tell you that ultrarunning is a lifestyle that fits me well. It is normal to go out and run 60-80 miles a week with or without a race. She would probably also say that I am very hard headed when it comes to my training and racing but that makes me the runner that I am. She would also say that she knows me better than I know me (which is true) when it comes to my running. She is one of the very people I would ask advice from and take into consideration.

Now for the "quick fire" round:
  • IPod or not? Speed work, tempo, or inside yes
  • Mantra or something you tell yourself when the going gets tough? If it were easy everyone would do it…do you want to be normal or be you?
  • Number of pairs of running shoes you own right now? 5…I just got rid of 4 pairs and am getting ready to order
  • Average number of hours of sleep you get? 6
  • Place you would most like to run? Rocky Mountains, Tetons, Alps, and London…there are so many that are close to these but these are at my top.
  • Describe what you do for work? I work in the relocation industry. I work with companies/higher education institutions with their employee relocation needs. For example if Virginia Tech hires Dr. Smith from Colorado and he needs to move his house and family to Blacksburg I help them with the “move”. It is a fun industry that I did not expect to get into but it kind of found me and I enjoy it.
Anything else that you'd like to share? Anything! 
Always remember the worst thing you can do in life is not try. Be crazy today…you might surprise yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek help as we all put our running shoes on one shoe at a time.

Thanks, Shannon!!