Friday, November 23, 2018

Turkey Trot 2018, Boulder, CO

There are arguments against running a Turkey Trot on t-day, not least being paying $30 to a company that organizes races all year round, so that I feel my money is going to them rather than the non-profit they are supposedly donating to. But they are, and here in Boulder, where I am visiting, it's to a non-religious organization that feeds the hungry without any proselytizing, and people are bringing cans of food to donate too, so that's ok. The actual organization of this particular race is a little disorganized: I've run Turkey Trots run by volunteers that are done better.

Not to mention that with a full free day, most 'serious' runners might rather run a longer distance on their own, with the streets mostly quiet and car-less, which I would have been tempted to do, if alone, but I'm not, I'm with friends and that counts for a lot. Plus we've biked to the race—it's Boulder, with bike trails everywhere—and will bike home, so we'll get a little extra calorie burning before the later feasting.

It is a wee bit cool this morning. Supposed to have gotten to 48 by the start of the race, but that's not happening so far. The sky is slightly overcast, which at this altitude can change the temp ten degrees. I have some layers on, and a wool watch cap, and I've pedaled over in my moccasins, but take them off as the start approaches, and the cold pavement is, well, cold. If I could just get running I'd be ok, but it's the waiting around. Shoulda/coulda worn some throw-away socks, which I've done before, but I keep thinking, it's just a 5K, any suffering won't last long.

We are running on pavement, on road, starting right outside the race company's building. Yes, they have a building. And four vehicles. But they couldn't get a permit in time to go on a path on a green belt, so we're doing a little loop around an industrial 'park' area of side streets. Perfectly fine, though we have to do the loop twice which, when the organizer explains it in his australian accent, just sounds confusing, but apparently there are some Serious Runners here who will do this fast, since this is a qualifier for the famous Bolder Boulder 10K in the summer. First I've ever heard you need to qualify for a 10K, but I guess it's huge and you can get placed into time sections. Anyways, we have make sure to run on the right side (or left? or something...) so that when the sprinters come through we don't get in their way on the loop.

Whatever, I'm just here to chew bubblegum and run barefoot, and I'm all out of bubblegum. I'm getting some looks from folks as we wait to start. No other barefooters, which in Boulder I'd have thought there might be. Not even really any minimalists, except some zero-drop Merrill's here and there. Oh people, those thick soles will hurt you in the long wrong. But who am I, just some strange barefoot dude.

We're off! Over the time pad. I remember when the time chips used to be these big clunky things you tied onto your shoes. Now they're slim strips of metal on the bibs. Easy peasy. One friend and I positioned ourselves 2/3s of the way up, so as to avoid all the slow people, but the downside of that is that I'm with fast runners, so have to run fast, and immediately, though the mob thins out quickly, people are passing me, which is bad for morale. Mine, that is. Ah well. But now I'm hearing some comments: "Wow, no shoes!" and "Oh my god!" Not to me, just talking behind my back. But that's fine.

A woman and her daughter, like 12, seem to be running about my pace, and I hear the mom point me out. She comes up next to me at a curve. "We really admire you for running barefoot!"

Oy. Well, be gracious. "Thank you."

"You must have tough feet."

I want to say, well, we all have tough feet, and you could do this too, but I'm kind of sucking air, and don't want to be some mansplainer, so I just smile and shrug and say, "Eh." I hope that isn't taken as rude. Probably is, now that I think of it. I'm a horrible barefoot ambassador.

I've left one friend behind, but another passes me speedily. We exchange ça va?'s and she's off. I'm just in a steady stream of people passing me. Merde. But, the feets are good. Warming up a little, though I felt, at first, that I was really running 'clunky', really slamming my heels down. Not sure if that's an illusion or just because of the cold, but gradually I'm feeling more normal. A more than normal pace, of course, which is the advantage of running a 5K, versus running on your own for longer: a good sprint practice.

We come to a sharp right turn around some cones, then another turn and a long straight-away back to the start, where we can see the Serious Runners already coming back on the second loop, some of them in a full-on sprint. And then I too am making a sharp right around a cone and into loop two. Et voila, le soleil, the sun comes out and warms everything and everyone. Now a perfect running day, though may not last. We come into the last straight-away, but do a hairpin turn for the second loop.

A guy comes at from the side, almost as if he wasn't quite running in the race? Not sure? He's older. Or, older than I. "How's that barefoot running going?"

Uh oh, he sounds like he's getting ready to run the rest of the race with me. "Um, going fine!"

"Do you run with ____'s group?"

So apparently there's a Boulder barefoot running group? Cool. "Um nope. I'm from out of town."

"Do you know Barefoot Ted?"

Whoah, random. I didn't even tell him I'm from the northwest. "Um, I've met him."

"How long have you been running barefoot?"

I have to think. "Um...since 2009?"

"No s**t? Wow that's amazing. You know, that's when barefoot running was really a fad. There's was this book that came out that year, really made it a fad. Barefoot Ted was featured in it."

He is of course referring to Born To Run, which everyone always thinks of as the barefoot running book, though it's not. It just has Barefoot Ted as one of the featured runners, but is really about long-distance running. As anyone reading this will know. Or, I guess not. But somehow people who see me in races seem to think I'll have never heard of it. I don't know, I just want to run alone, dude. I don't need your passive-aggressive "fad". So I say, "Have a good race!"

He gets the clue and  goes off to talk to someone else. Then I get passed by a big group of folks, I'm not sure if they all know each other, seems like some kind of pace group? But for a 5K? I don't know, but man, I've just been passed the whole race, though I don't feel I've really slowed down that much. Well, maybe a little. Still sucking air, feeling that altitude, and the coldness of it too. I'll be coughing all day.

And then we're in the final straight-away, for the second final time, though looks like some of the Serious Runners are even going around for a third lap? Why not? I try for my usual last-minute sprint, which works a little, and I pass maybe one person. The thing with 5Ks is that everyone else still has a reserve too. Sprinting barefoot on pavement, this will actually be the most sandpapery part of the race. But! I cross!

28:13. Shaved off almost two minutes from my Monster Dash 5K of a month ago, though slower than my glory days of, like, five years ago. About halfway among total finishers and halfway in my men's age category. Can't complain. A fun morning. Time to find my friends and go on to eating lots of food.

PS: The Race Director wrote me, to clarify some points I misunderstood: Voila:

Hi John,
I just read your post that was sent along to me:
Thank you for being a part of the event. I just wanted you to know that even though we used the Bolder Boulder parking lot, they did not put on the event, I did. The offices are certainly Bolder Boulder's, and not mine. We just used the space for number pick up etc..
The only permit we did not have was the alcohol permit. We had all road permits and we are NOT allowed to use bike path or trails here in Boulder, so hence why we were confined to the Flatiron Park industrial area.
The event donated 664 Lbs of food and it will also donate roughly $3,000 to the Harvest of Hope Food pantry.
We have not had a Thanksgiving Day event in Boulder for 3 years, so we were delighted to finally get the City of Boulder's approval to stage an event.
We have already started working with the City to hopefully have 1 big 5K loop and not 2 x 2.5K. I know a looped course like this is not ideal, but for our first year, that is all the City would give us. The event had numerous volunteers on the day but we were around 10 volunteers short for what we needed, but I was happy with how hard they all worked to make the event as safe as possible.
Thank you for being a part of this event and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day. I hope we see you next year with a lot more things to be added, that I am sure you will enjoy.

Race Director

Monday, October 29, 2018

Louisville Monster Dash 2018

I'm baaaaack!

Actually, I never quite left the barefoot running scene, just haven't been that visible. Not running races because basically I'm poor. Also, being a fire lookout doesn't lend itself to running: this last summer I 'ran' but it was basically run downhill, then hike back up. Which is not nothing.

Also too, I suffered a non-running related injury that I've been working through this last year. I could go into the details about how once again doctors were useless and I had to heal myself, but you probably already know that. So, I've been nursing myself, doing short runs. I would like to get back to marathon mode, but it's been some years, and right now, a 5K sounds good.

I usually don't do many short races—paying $30 to run a distance I'd usually do on my own seems a waste. Except when it's fun, and I'm with a friend, and it's not really a race but a fun run anyways: The Louisville Monster Dash for upcoming Halloween. And note: this is Louisville, Colorado, outside of Boulder, where I'm enjoying a post fire season R&R. Gotta rest and recreate after sitting on top of a mountain all summer. Also, this town pronounces the 'S', Louis-ville.

There is a 10K as well, and a friend of my friend is running that, and I am tempted to try it, but I just have not been running anywhere close to that distance in a long time. I could probably power through, but I'll just have fun. Plus, there may be the problem that some of the course is on gravel trails. When I quiz my two compatriots, locals, they don't think it's gravel gravel, but what is called "crushed fines" which I'm sure I can handle. But if the gravel fairies have been around, then  10K would be pretty brutal.

So 5K it is! And since it's Halloween, the costumes abound on this warm sunny day. We three are not costumed, and not everyone is, but here is a woman dressed as Pac Man, with her boyfriend as one of those blue monsters. Whether that says anything about their relationship dynamic I don't know. And here is a bumble bee woman. And here is a Frankenstein's Monster (the 'theme' of the race this year is Frankenstein) and his bride. And here is a young girls as Bride of Frankenstein. Because yes, this is a child-friendly event, there will be three children's races after the adults have their fun.

We are led thru a pre-race stretch from a member of the local yoga place. Which is actually not a stretch, which I don't recommend before running, so much as a loosening up. Surprisingly, everyone joins in. This is Boulder after all.

The 10Kers line up first, maybe fifty strong. This is not a high stakes race, though we have 'chips' or whatever they're called now that their super light. And they're off! We 5Kers line up. Maybe a little more of us. 70? I position myself mid-way in the pack. I don't think I'm going to be doing any feats of speed today, but I'm feeling pepped up. I'm still not quite sure what to expect on the trail, but I can do 3.5 miles of anything barefoot.

Btw, I am definitely the only barefoot runner. In fact, I couldn't help feeling that I was more of a gawking attraction around the area than the various costumed folks. I would have though maybe in Boulder there'd be some fellow barefooters, but no. I wonder. Did I miss the peak while out of action? Ah well.

We're off! Everyone surges. A monarch butterfly woman in front of me spreads her wings to start, which is get, but a few of us are trying to get around her. I don't know why everything is so urgent, but I figure at 49 I might be one of the few in my age group and might actually place. Ha! I've already gone to "I wonder if I'll survive" to "Get out of my way!"

We are soon on the trail part of this park, and yes, it is indeed composed of crushed fines: basically gritty sand with small round pebbles. Totally doable. As the pack spreads out, I pass some folks, though am also passed. The big surprise is the altitude. I've been in Portland for the last few weeks, kind of a flatlander. I'm gasping for air. Gotta tone down my 'dash' and go for my penguin waddle. But, I'm running! In a race! I'm back! My heel if fine. My feet feel great! They are thanking me for running barefoot again. It is a good day.

Alas, the odd race dynamics which sometimes happen, happen: I am sort of running pace with this Mom From Hell, who is running with her young son, which is cool, or could be cool, or would be cool, if she were not yelling at him non-stop. This young guy is doing his best, he's doing a slow jog, he's running, but she's wanting to go faster, and his little legs are just not going to go any faster than what he's doing. Which is not bad, but not good enough for her. "Come on! You need to run!"

"I am running!"

"You're not running! You're walking! Give me your hand! If you can't run on your own, you run with me."

The boy is crying. But he's not stopping. He just wants to go slower. "I can't!"

"Yes you can! Hold your arms up if you're cramping. Come on!"

I can't stand to be around this, so I put on a little more energy to get away from them. Alas, I need to urinate, so pull off behind a tree. When I get back out, they've caught up to me. And she's still going. He is not going to grow up to like running. Nor, as my friend points out, is he going to grow up to like his mother.

There are a surprising amount of children running this 5K. Hard to judge ages, but I'd swear like seven to ten year olds, boys and girls. Some of whom are beating me. Ouch. But the pack has thinned out now, and everyone basically has settled into their pace. I learn that we're doing sort of an out-and-back, with a small loop, because here comes the leader, a fit, serious-looking dude just sprinting his ass off. And he might be in my age category. Ah well....

The trail changes to bike path for the loop, which allows me a little bit more oomph. The crushed fines have been fine, but the smooth pavement let's me not worry about the stray sharp pebble, maybe a longer stride. I come across people who are walking, exhausted, either didn't pace themselves and/or maybe don't just run that much, which I think happened in short races like this. Not a bad thing, I understand the urge to think one can sprint the whole thing. But you can't. It's still 3.5 miles.
And the loop is looped. I realize we had been going uphill slightly the whole time, so that's nice to have a little downhill here for the end. Back on the crushed fines. Still ok. I suspect my feets will be a little sore from it later, or tomorrow, but maybe not. It just feels great to feel something on the soles. I'm not saying it's like a foot massage, but I feel alive.

Though still gasping for air this whole time. I'm right on the edge of out of breathness. Just cannot get enough oxygen, so almost wheezing, though I have my pace, and I'm doing ok, passing some folks still, though once in a while some person zooms by. Not sure if they registered late or what, but amazing they can still zoom at this point.

I hear someone coming up behind me, and suddenly some dude is leaving over yelling into my left ear. "Hey! Have you every read the book Born To Run?!"

Startled the heck out of me. I just cannot recover and make friendly, and say how much I liked that book. I instead hiss out a yes. Which is hissy enough for him to realize he's angered me. That or he just thinks I'm a jerk. Which I probably am. Either way, he backs off. "Seeing you barefoot just made me think of it." He backs off and I don't say anything else. I'm a horrible barefoot running ambassador.

But here's the finish line! I've done it! My feet survived! I give it all I can at the end, a sprint, passing a couple people (who aren't in my age category so it doesn't really matter)(But the overall category! Gotta remember the overall!)

At the finish line, one of the women handing out the medals says, "Oh my god! You're barefoot!" as she hands one to me. And then....I'm done. Time, 30:04. I finish 10th in my age category, and 32nd in men overall, and 69th in everybody overall. I will take all of that. Numero uno in the barefoot category!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Prio by Xero Shoes

The Prio
Xero Shoes

The lowdown: best minimalist running shoe on the market

With Merrill Shoes getting out of the minimalist running shoe business, amazingly, you're best bet for an actual shoe, and not, say, a huarache sandal, is the Prio from Xero Shoes. They offer zero-drop heels, and with a thin, bendable sole, though thick enough to offer some protection from heavy gravel.

Unlike Merrills, and especially 'normal' running shoes, Xeros are not sleek. They're not meant to be. And that's a good thing. Sleek implies narrow and thin, and you don't want that in a running shoe: you want a large 'toe box' for plenty of room for toes and feet to spread out, with any narrowness coming in the middle of the foot, where the laces come in. This is exactly what Xeros have, with a good addition: their laces actually loop down through side loops attached to the sole, which helps snug in the foot under the arch, though that does not mean any arch support. Remember: arch support is not your friend. It may feel good in the short term, but long-term it weakens your fascia, and your foot in general.

I have had my Xeros for about six months now, and they have served me well for running in the colder, wetter temps of Oregon winters, when barefoot running can be a wee bit miserable (though for the record, I did run barefoot one winter in Michigan [insert link]). They also served me on a multi-day backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park, up through the mountains and across a desert slog. And they've just been a casual sportwear shoe for around town. Most especially, when I received a non-running injury to my heel, they ended up being the most comfortable of all my footwear to wear while recovering.

One that note: when I last tried to buy some Merrill shoes in an actual shoe store, a salesperson told me they'd stopped carrying the minimalist kinds, because they were getting too many people returning them, having, supposedly, injured themselves running in them. So, a gentle reminder Gentle Reader: the best way to learn how to run in minimalist (or so-called barefoot) shoes is to actually run barefoot for a while first. Which is actually, or should be, your goal. Minimalist shoes are just for occasions when running barefoot isn't quite comfortable, like in snow and heavy gravel. 'Normal' shoes incline us to heel strike: a no-no anyways, and even worse if you do it in minimalist shoes. Go easy at first. Trot. Jog. Trail-running preferred.

Order the Prio from Xero Shoes here:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

pics from the office

Some more pics from my office....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Barefoot Heaven for the Summer

At my new lookout tower, for a summer of barefoot Heaven...that is, when it warms up!

Sunday, February 7, 2016


I'm back, female dogs!

I haven't run a race in about...oh, close to two years now. I just reached a point, economically (as in I didn't have a job) where I could not justify spending up to a hundred dollars or more on a marathon or a half, and the thought of running a 10K, and spending $50 on it, seemed silly. So, I stopped. I do think races are a great way to stay motivated, and to challenge oneself, and if I ever get a decent job again (ha) I'd spend at least some of my disposable income on races. But for a while, I've just tapered off. I still run, and barefoot at that, but under the radar, for half hour or at the most hour chunks.

Until now. Because the Zena Road 15K here in Salem, OR is only a mere $15 for early sign up. Can't turn that down. Because I'm american, I'm not quite clear on how long 15K actually is, but seems like a short half-marathon. So ok. There is also a 3M run/walk, and a 6M run, neither of which actually goes on Zena Road, but we're all out in the West Salem area, across the Willamette (pronounced will-AM-it here in Orygun) up in wine country (and some hops fields). Nice forested hills. Quiet, except for this running mob.

I gotta say, the Zena folks know how to do a race, because we're actually starting at a sane time: 11AM. Unheard of, but blessed be. So nice to get up normally, lazily, have breakfast like normal, and some green tea, like normal, waiting for the fog to lift (which is isn't) for the predicted sunny warm day. And it is a casual affair. There is a parking lot up the road, with a bus shuttle, but most folks are parking on the side of the road nearby. No cops. No roads closed off. I'm not even sure any officials anywhere know or care this is going on.

The 3M and 6M are out-and-backs, heading south. Us 15Kers will head north, loop around, and come back on the same road the lesser beings, the weaklings, are running. And whoah, we'll head up the biggest hill in the area, right from the beginning. Ok...We all line up together, just facing in opposite directions, everyone starting at the same time. After the obligatory singing of the Star Spangled Banner (the first verse anyway, before it gets political) some dude with a microphone gives us the ready, go!

And we go!

Straight up hill. Fortunately for my ego, I've started in the back, so as not to get passed too much. I know I will finish this thing, just have no idea in what time, nor, again, what distance it actually is. Ten miles? Eleven? Nine? But I haven't run this long in a long time. Still, I have the mental experience. But man, this hill. It's a 300 feet gain in the first mile, is what I hear. The road here is nice and smooth. I'm wearing my VFFs, having been warned that there are gravel roads on this loop.

Because of the hill, the pack stays fairly grouped together, unfortunately, because, voilà: another reason I don't like races. Here's a person cranking her iPhone with her favorite americana oh-so-profound singer, and she's sharing it with all of us. In the spirit of do-unto-others, I think I'll start carrying my own phone, and when someone does this, I'll crank up Slayer and run right next to them for a mile. But, she's faster than I, and soon leaves me behind, to the quiet streams and birds and huffing runners.

Still on the uphill, we do indeed hit the gravel road. And it's the worse kind of gravel: like with a hard packed dirt and stones, almost pavement (there's probably an ODOT term for this) with gravel on top of it, so there's no give when you step on a stone. Even the shod runners don't like this stuff. Well, I was forewarned. And with VFFs, the gravel is like a foot massage, right? Right?

One other minor annoyance about races: when a group or duo lock in behind you, and then talk a lot, and loud. Ok, well, a good opportunity to stop and take off my sweatshirt. Sun starting to break through up at this elevation, and that hill warmed me up. And a bigger good point about races is in-shape women in tight black running pants. So the pluses outweigh the minuses.

We peak up on top of the hill, and the road becomes more mild hilly-like. I'm feeling good, I actually ran up the hill, didn't walk, and am trying to pace myself. Have been passed, and most of the pack is ahead of me. Sigh. The loneliness of the long distance runner. But, it's good. It's good to be in a race again. I won't 'win,' it's just more of a mutual inspiring, we're all in this together. And, it's an ancient, primal, reenactment of the great mammoth hunts, when the whole tribe would get out and run.

Mercifully, the gravel stops, and we hit some really nice smooth pavement. Can this be the end of all the gravel? This soon? I think it is. Time to stop and free my soles. And even now, after years of barefoot running, in races even, there's a hesitation, a feeling of, 'oh, everyone's going to think I'm weird now. I should just keep my VFFs and run the whole run this way.' Like, why do I care? And it's not even about being weird: what is best for me and my feet? Being barefoot, obviously. So bam, off with the shoes!

So nice. I love my VFFs, they've served me well, but running on pavement in them can cause a little soreness in the heel. I just can't feel anything, so my feet start to go Sarah Palin on me. Bare, I keep in a healthy stride, nice and short.

We've peaked the hill, and begin a steep downhill. I do my best Barefoot Ken Bob and let gravity take me, but don't pass anyone. In fact, a couple lurkers, those who start way way at the back and reel people in, reel me in.

Down down down, to the intersection with the actual Zena Road, where cowbell-ringing volunteers direct us to the left. And, aw, Zena Road is not smooth. Like, at all. The ole dreaded chip seal. A brief thought (my inner self-doubting Loch Ness Monster) appears, like, maybe I should just put the VFFs back on. But I say no Loch Ness Monster! Ye shall not conquer me! It's a matter of pride. And weirdness. I shall finish the rest of this thing barefoot! Gotta represent!

Still a mild downhill here. Again, road not closed off at all. And all the winery visitors are coming out. Some runners ahead of me accommodate them be running on the road should, but I say nay, I shall not: The cars must accommodate me! Schweinhunds!

I am starting to feel 'it.' I'm sore, though it might be coming more from the tensing up I do during a race. If I were on my own I'd be all relaxed. There have been mileage signs, I'm at like Mile 5, or 6, or something, but I'm not sure what that means. If they do the race in Ks, they should give the mileage in Ks!

We reach the next intersection, off of Zena Road. This is where the 6 Milers did their turn around. There's a water table, and oh yeah, another mild experiment I'm trying, based on something I read in Christopher MacDougall's last book Natural Born Heroes: just not drinking water. Or, drinking only if really thirsty, which I'm not. The idea being that we actually drown ourselves in water during races, with that whole brainwashing thing of 'stay hydrated!' which leaves us sloshing. So far, I'm fine. I didn't drink a lot of water this morning either. So I think this is an affirmative on that theory.

Ok, so, there must be three more miles to go. So...I was at six last I saw. Does that mean 15K is only nine miles?! Is that right?! Well ok. I'm gonna do this.

Except, gosh darn it, this road is even more chip seal-y than Zena. Argh. Again, the VFF angel briefly lands on my shoulder and says, 'John, why not put them on? Why suffer for pride?' But I throw him to my Loch Ness Monster. I do have to admit though that the road is bad enough to be cutting into my speed. I try running on the middle line, which helps a little, but the road isn't closed off, so there are cars, and the road seems to hurt more after I've been on the paint line, so just staying on it, I get more used to it. Or, numb to the pain. Something. Grin and bear it. Or, bare it. Ha ha. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week!

Also a mild rolling uphill here. And yeah, I'm feeling it. I'm a little sore and tight. But....not down and out. Challenging, but not impossible, and in fact in a weird way this feels good! Good to be pushing my body. I do miss races, this feeling, the pushing beyond what we think we can do. We all need this in our lives, whether physically, or even mentally.

I hear the cowbells: must be close. And yes, there it is, the finish! I do my usual sprint(ish), pumping up the arms and finishing strong. Yes, even on the chip seal. Just grr over it, the pain won't last, and in fact the pain goes away with the adrenaline. People cheering, even my fellow 3M running companions who have been patiently waiting for me to finish. I actually have to zigzag around a couple of 3M walkers who are just finishing. Wow.

Bam. Done. Did it! 1:35. I have no idea if that is good or slow. I suspect slow. But ok, I'm good with that. And I even built some weird cred with the crowd by finishing bare. As in, 'that dude's crazy!' As far as I can tell, I'm the only one who even wore minimalist footwear.

Zena 15K: good race! We need more of these cheaper races!

(photos of me running courtesy of Alex P. Thanks Alex!)