Thursday, May 9, 2013

Inside the Backside- The Backside Trail Marathon Directors Report

Pre-race notes and they're off!

The time it takes to direct a trail marathon increases exponentially as race date approaches. I started planning The Backside Trail Marathon 2013 edition nearly 7 months before race date. Early on in the planning and organizing phases, things are pretty stress free. It's all about contacting vendors and sponsors and lining up details on a macro level. If you start the planning process far enough out, the time crunch doesn't weigh you down. 

Early morning sunrise setup

I planned for my racing season to culminate on April 6th at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run to provide the entire month of April to focus on directing the Backside Trail Marathon. I had to sacrifice running the Derby Marathon which is the day before, but I knew for the Backside to be fully successful it would require 100% commitment from the RD, (yours truly...ha ha). This month wasn't about me, it was about The Backside runners. In turn, I ran the fewest miles I had run since my daughter Denali was born. This dedication yielded amazing results as the race was a huge success thanks to our awesome volunteer staff and sponsors. 

I stressed about course markings for months before the race. It was the one thing I couldn't take care of before race weekend. Every other detail could be managed and scrutinized, but the course marking which is one of the most important aspects of the race was up to me to do one day before the race. I was pretty elated when most of the runners applauded the course markings upon finishing, even runners who, "get lost all the time had no trouble finding their way easily on the course!" There are a few spots I want to improve course markings at next year, and I want traffic control at the start finish but otherwise it was smooth as butter.

The Backside is held the day after the Kentucky Derby Marathon. We invite runners to "Double-Down". Runners who "Double-Down" and run both the KDF Marathon and The Backside receive a special medal. (We have the coolest medals in the planet...verified by our runners! You should see the reviews!) Runners can Double at full marathon distance of 26.2 miles and also at the half distance of 13.1 miles. Various running clubs award members points for running back to back marathons in the same weekend, and usually they have to travel to different cities on the same weekend to pull this off. The Backside and KDF Marathon combo provide runners the chance to do this in one city! The city happens to be Louisville at Derby time. There's no better place to be!

My goal was to make the race about each individual experience. I wanted prizes for each and every runner. The cool thing about trail running is the amazing vibe out there on the race course. Ultrarunning and trailrunning are both full of uber-talented athletes competing at a top level, but the emotion on the trail is one of camaraderie and community. I wanted to literally embody that in this race. I wanted runners to realize this is their race. 

With my goal being to provide each individual runner with a unique experience they could cherish, the race had to be an organizational superpower. Every aid station had to be stocked always, runners had to stay on course and not get lost, and timing had to perfect. I had an awesome crew of volunteers to help this happen. 

Volunteers showed up early to their shifts, and people even sought me out on race week asking to volunteer! How awesome is that? I tried to communicate clearly with volunteers and get back promptly when questions arose. In the same regard, I wanted to be the most accessible RD these runners had dealt with. Emails went straight to my phone and I tried to respond to folks immediately. I don't think anything fell through the cracks! Managing the list of who was "doubling" was pretty challenging as I didn't put a link on registration to let me know who was doubling. Every few weeks I would send emails having runners contact me so I could add them to the list. I also mentioned this at sign up but some runners missed this piece of info. Next year runners will have to answer whether or not they plan to "double" at sign which should ease the process.

The point in mentioning all this is that although I am ecstatic about the race I want runners to know I am taking your concerns to heart, and I want to strive for continual improvement. The race was a success and I want to build upon that.

Here's how the 2013 edition of the Backside Trail Marathon went down.

Right to left- Troy Shellhamer RD- Ricky George course sweeper/cleaner- Lauren Adwell DPT with Advanced Ortho, Traci Falbo Overall Marathon Winner, Jeff Mires registration volunteer

Cloudy skies and rainy weather yielded comfortable running temps and our trail turned in to a tough mudder rather quickly. Runners looked pretty badass covered in mud and soaking wet ripping down the course on race day.

Traci Falbo was the overall winner of the marathon which is a big accomplishment. Not many women can claim overall wins over the boys in trail races! Ben Smitherman was only 4 minutes behind to claim second overall and first for the men. It was cool to award Traci the win, but I have to admit I'm glad my course record still stands from the previous year when I doubled down!  

Damien Rock won the half marathon and Erin Rock was first for the females. A power duo from Lexington!

Winners received some awesome shades from Smith Optics and had first grabs in our North Face prize tents which contained a smorgasbord of sweet items like hoodies, backpacks, water bottles, and hats. Over half of our half-marathon racers received prizes and all of our marathon runners received prizes! Against the Grain Brewery donated some hoppy goodness to get the runners some carbs in liquid form. Advanced Orthopaedics was on site to provide medical treatment and rub runners down after their run. Headfirst Performance did a great job keeping the timing straight. Injini donated a ton of awesome toe socks to keep our participants blister free. Thanks to Clif Bar also for giving us a deal on race nutrition.  Luckily, we never ran out of food... I kept detailed spread sheets of aid station supplies and sent out an excel sheet to runners detailing the calories per runner per aid station and what would be available! We will have a great forecast next year to keep you well fed and hydrated! In line with the plethora of prizes and awesome giveaways we offered free digital images were available to all runners! Our photographer got some great shots of you muddy beasts rockin' it out on race day!

I was pretty stoked to see runners faces when they got to pick out their prizes and receive our hadncrafted medals. The medals were a collective effort between myself and Rhonda Curry. (Curry owns The Queens Jewels- Jewelery and Awards.) I heard multiple times that our medals were the coolest people had ever received! Score!

Thanks to our runners donations at registration, (runners had the chance to donate to Olmsted at registration), we were able to donate money to Olmsted Parks Conservancy. (The conservancy manages the trail network we raced on.) Quest and myself also kicked in some extra dollars from the race proceeds to help get the conservancy as much money as possible to keep up the great job they do managing the parks we are so lucky to have here in The 'Ville!

I would definitely say the race was a smashing success, but I'm not getting comfy. More improvements are in store for next year. I want to up the registration numbers again. We sold out this year and had a long waiting list. I fought hard to get runners who were injured to drop out and I even offered refunds to anyone who did. Most races don't offer refunds but I was glad to do so to get runners in from the wait list. Many thanks to runners who contacted me to offer up their spots!  Next year I will once again offer refunds in the event of a wait list, but only in the event we sell out.

The Backside Trail Marathon will have a webpage in development that I'm working on now. It can be found at 

Also in store is the planning of a new fall race. Keep your ears open as word spreads on the vine of whats in store. (I'm working on a timed event. More details to come!)

First edition of the finishers Double medals!




  1. Awesome event Troy! You were hands down the most accessible RD I've ever worked with. Was happy to volunteer and be a part of it!
    -Ashley King

  2. Thanks Ashley. Congrats again on a stellar Boston time! I hope you'll help out again next year!

  3. super awesome event that was well planned and even better executed! loved all the swag! the course was fun and the volunteers were amazing! thanks!

  4. Thanks for organizing such a fantastic event. It will be hard to improve off of that effort! We appreciate all your hard work and already look forward to 2014.