16 January 2013

Race Report + Gear Review: The 2013 SHITR + Salomon Speedcross 3 shoe

Pre-pre-post note: One year ago today, I on a plane to Africa. Whoa. Read all about it here.

Pre-post note: I don't really do gear reviews (because I disagree with over-commercialization of outdoor activity...there is not one piece of "magic gear" that will make you "faster"). However, shoe selection was a big part of my success in this non-race, so I'd like to point out some of the helpful features of the Salomon Speedcrosses I wore. You can use these principles when shopping for shoes of any brand.

OK, so onto the non-race report.

What's a non-race? It's something I hadn't heard of before getting involved in the STL outdoorsy scene, but I'm sure we aren't the only crowd that enjoys them. A non-race is basically an unofficial gathering of people who start at the same time and cover the same course. Time is either self-reported or entirely disregarded. Aid stations are either non-existent or full of donuts and whiskey. Finishing order is for bragging rights only. Prizes are whatever the non-organizers feel like handing out...sometimes nothing, sometimes awesome things. Sound interesting? Join me for the 29(mile)r!

The devilish minds of ROCK Racing put together this non-race, the Lost Valley SHivering Icy Trail Run...aka the SHITR...a 13.1 mile night-time trail race. I invited Megan on a last-minute whim and she excitedly decided to join me, even convincing her husband (newly relocated to STL) to come along and check out the trails. Fit friends are awesome. The day started so pleasantly, with temperatures in the 50s at my apartment. Megan and Adam picked me up and we drove out to Chuck's Boots (sort of on the way) and I chugged my coffee while inhaling the aroma of fine leather...mmmmmmm. Then it was off to The Mound where we were one of the first cars to arrive. Adam took off on his SSMTB while Megan and I non-registered, saying hi to Sasha and SuperKate in the process. More and more vehicles arrived and pretty soon we had a crowd 40+ strong! The whole time, temps were dropping significantly. What had started out as a 50F day was now a 30F evening. I changed out of my new Pfoodman running shorts and into a more appropriate pair of 3/4 tights. On top was a lightweight wool tee, a long-sleeve 1/4-zip shirt, my pack with water/calories, and a lightweight windshell. Layering is the name of the game for unpredictable conditions like these!
That's a lot of SHITRs. Photo by Robin Rongey.
Robin and Chuck give us some last-minute words of advice and we are off! The first task is to run to the top of The Mound. Megan and I start out in the first 1/3 of the pack and are content to let the speedsters go. I gain a few places bombing down the stairs (hey, I like downhills) but then quickly let those people pass again once we reach the Hamburg. It's about 2.5 miles of doubletrack that includes a fast downhill connector into Lost Valley itself. Megan and I just cruise along, chatting, adjusting layers and lights, and getting ready for a fun run once the sun completely sets. The rain starts up about this time too, a gentle drizzle that will stay with us the rest of the evening.
Me in red. Megan in black. Both of us blasted through the crowd coming down the steps.
When we hit the first section of singletrack (the lower section at LV), Megan starts scooting ahead of me. I'm expecting this since whenever we MAF together, she's a good 1 min/mile faster. So I'm content to run my pace and stay upright. Lori is taking pictures at the first creek crossing which is totally awesome! Lori you are so dedicated! It's pretty Zen out there...dark, chilly, rain softly filtering through the bare trees, my breath puffing out in clouds. Half-marathon pace is exactly right for this situation - hard but maintainable, focused but still calm. I'm loving that I've biked these trails so many times before, it feels like I'm chatting with an old friend. OK, I'm weird, but it's true.
Me running away from the creek crossing. Photo by Lori Vohsen.
I pop out of the lower singletrack (a little more than 1 mile) alone and set to the task of tracking down speedy Megan. I've got about 1.5 miles of doubletrack to accomplish this. Fortunately, she has decided to run this section easy so I catch up with her and my friends Joe and Bill after about a mile. I feel really strong at this point - my prep for the 29(mile)r has been going well and even though my biggest miles are behind me, my form is feeling confident and powerful.
We veer right onto the new singletrack built by GORC. New, as in only a few months old. The benchcut hasn't quite set up yet so the trail is off-camber and slicked with rain. This is where shoe selection is critical and the gnarly lugs on the Speedcrosses are absolutely perfect. I see lots of wipe-out tracks by the faster runners, but my shoes stick like glue to the sloppy trail. So, kids, when you're shopping for trail shoes, the first thing you look at are the soles. What do the lugs look like? For muddy, slick conditions, you want lugs that are big and widely-spaced. Not unlike mud tires for mountain or 'cross bikes. Mostly thanks to the spectacular traction provided by my shoes, I start pulling away from our little group of 4 and catching up to the chase pack runners. I think I passed 3 or 4 people here, each one having some trouble with the slippery conditions. Most notably, I pass Eric for the first and probably last time in my life. Granted, he's already put in a lap or two at nearby Lewis & Clark trails, but I'm still amazed.

I'm running with a loose group of 3 or 4 as we hit the end of the new singletrack and the beginning of the upper section. This is about mile 6, and we have about 4 miles of singletrack and 3.5 miles of doubletrack til the finish. I'm behind a couple runners without a good place to pass, but I just tell myself to chill and cruise along. We work together to find and complete the mystery challenge, which involves visiting an abandoned graveyard. Spooky! Once we get back to the singletrack I know I have to boogie. Even though it's a non-race, I can't resist the urge to run fast through the woods. That, and my headlamp starts issuing warning blinks that mean the batteries are running low. I can just hear Erl sighing in my head because I didn't put fresh batteries in before the start. I have a spare set in my pack, but I don't want to stop and mess with them at the moment. So, I just continue on and hope I don't repeat CPT Nats!
I like Paint.
The upper singletrack makes me feel like a rock star. My shoes are loving the conditions, my body is warm and well-fueled, and my familiarity with the trail just invites me to push the pace. So I do and find myself alone towards the end. Just as I'm popping out onto the final doubletrack section, I spot the very faint glow of a headlamp in front of me. I'm excited to have caught someone because the last section could be very tough otherwise. It's about 5k of non-technical running that gets more exposed (windier, rainier, and COLDER) as you get closer to the finish line (The Mound). So I start chatting and learn that my new friend's name is Colby. We work together for almost this whole section, mostly Colby pushing the pace and me trying to keep up. He gives me the ultimate compliment "So, did you run in college?" and I have to admit that no, I didn't (I played DIII soccer for 2 years but then quit the team). But I'm still flattered and try to live up to the standard of a college runner.

Pretty soon, the eerie glow of The Mound's parking lot lights come into view and I'm really thankful to be close to the finish. I'm soaking wet and starting to freeze. Colby has pulled away but I can still see him a few hundred meters ahead of me. ROCK Racing starts clanging cowbells to welcome us in and I'm amazed that anyone is around in this miserable...ahem...shitty...weather. Robin announces me first female and I get to pick a prize from the back of someone's car! I use the car's clock to declare myself a sub-2hr finisher and call that good (my Garmin is in the middle of a warranty replacement). Robin hands me a custom SHITR car decal that Lori made for all of the runners. This is better swag than most PAID races. Wow! I hustle over to the car where Adam is waiting. Megan isn't far behind me and we both shiver as we change into dry clothes. From there, it's off to get an early start on the Mexican food! Ole!
The decal handed out to finishers. I put mine on a Nalgene.
One final note about the Speedcrosses...they took a while to break in. I actually hated them for the first 10 or so hours of running and tried to give them away to Carrie during my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad orienteering meet. But eventually they conformed to my feet a little better and are now pretty enjoyable to run in. I'm still not sure if I'll use them for longer ARs, but for shorter trail races where traction is critical, these are my go-to shoes. Pin It


  1. Great report. Thanks for sharing. Do the Speedcross have regular laces or the Salamon speed laces?

    1. they have the salomon speed laces. they are cool but not any better/worse than the yankz i put in most of my running shoes.

  2. Great Report Emily! Glad you had a good time. I know just what you mean about the trail feeling like an old friend, I get the same thing every time I'm out there.

  3. Great post. I have actually read a lot of your blog posts in the last hour. I really enjoy what you are doing here. (And as a writer of fantasy novels, I'm enjoying looking at different aspects of that when you go through them in blog post). And truly, I love world-culture building. mountainbikeez

  4. Great report. This is going to sound controversial for anyone who’s really into trail shoes, but I think Salomon Fellcross are the best shoes ever made for running on trails.