At the Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass 50K on January 21, 2017, race director Herb Reeves was surprised to see the first finishers striding casually towards the finish line together. Neither racer seemed to be … well … racing. For husband-and-wife duo Gina and Steve Slaby, it was just another training run.
Reeves awarded Gina an honorary one-second lead, for an official first-place finish. “After careful consideration and deep introspective thought, I determined in my totally biased opinion, that Gina out-leaned Steve for the win by a few 10th’s of a second,” says Reeves. “I rounded it up to one second for the official results. After all, it’s only a Fat Ass!”
It’s not the first time—nor will it likely be the last—that the Slabys have jointly won a race. The pair met in the Navy eight years ago (Gina is an officer in the supply corps; Steve is a civil engineer) and started training together before they had even started dating.
Together they’ve earned top-10 overall finishes at Hawaii’s HURT 100, Utah’s Capitol Reef 100-mile, Washington’s Lumberjack 100 and the Vermont 100. Gina has also twice qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon and, in December 2016, broke Ann Trason’s longstanding 100-mile record at the Desert Solstice 24-hour track event.
The pair may be serious competition for other runners, but they rarely compete with one another. Of the 14 ultras they’ve run in the past two years, they’ve finished eight side-by-side, including top-five finishes (first female, for Gina) at the 2016 Vermont 100, the 2016 Orcas Island 50K and the 2015 Capitol Reef 100 in Utah.
“Run[ning] races together makes it more enjoyable,” says Steve. “Our vacation destinations are centered around our races. We’ve only had a handful of ultras that we haven’t run together.”
When they tie, neither Steve nor Gina care which of them gets what place in the official race results. Of her win at Capitol Peak, Gina says, “I think [they gave it to me], because they like to see the men get chicked!”
The Slabys took time to chat with Trail Runner about training and racing together as a couple, supporting one another’s competitive ambitions and whether a re-match 50K is in the works.
Steve, how do you feel about Gina’s win, and will you seek revenge at the next race?
I don’t care really that she got the registered win on this one. We ran together and finished together. The race that stings is Lumberjack 100 last year, when we actually raced each other and she beat me by an hour and a half! We were together through about 62 miles, and then I suffered. [Editor’s note: the duo still stole the top two overall spots at that race, albeit not hand-in-hand].
Gina, any plans to try to widen your victory margin to more than one second?
I don’t have any plans to get a win over Steve in [any race less than] 50 miles! He is much faster than me. We ran this as a training run, so if Steve wanted to, he could have dropped me the last couple of miles. The only chance I have is in the races that are 100 milers or longer.
How do you handle working, training and racing together?
Gina: It actually makes things a lot easier. We are able to work our schedules so that everything lines up. We train together, and do [the same] workouts at the same time. However, Steve is much faster than me on all of it.
Steve: I find it is easier to get through the longer, more grueling workouts with Gina. If I ever let up, she’ll catch me, so that keeps me pushing when I don’t want to.
How do you fit quality family trail time in between training and racing?
Steve: Training and racing is great quality family time. We schedule most of our races together, so that our training schedules build up similarly at the same time.
Steve, when it comes to low points in a race, or in training, who pushes who?
When we run races together, we each hit low points at different times and help each other through it. Gina could have run much faster on all of the 100 milers we raced together, if she did not have to wait for me through my bad patches. I have had some horrible ones that lasted for hours where we just walked the entire time.
Gina, what is the best thing that Steve does to help support you in your running/racing?
One of the main things is that he has sacrificed his training to push me to faster speeds, like [when I was training for] the Olympic Trials marathon. He does it without batting an eye.