Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wildwood Marathon

This is going to be an interesting test. Since stopping my ultra training about three months ago, I haven’t really run any ‘long’ runs. My training for this marathon consisted of, “Oh s**t, I’m running a marathon in three weeks, I guess I better up my mileage, at least.’ And so I did: doing a wee bit more of my ten mile loop, plus adding some ‘doubles’ (running twice in one day). Plus, though I ‘tapered’ this week, I went up to Seattle to visit a friend and of course walked all over the place talking and trying to solve the world’s problems. In fact, I just got in yesterday evening. Good thing this race is so low-key that the packet pickup/registration is just before the race.

I do have some advantages, maybe. One being that I’ve run a bunch o’ marathons now, so have the ‘mental’ edge. As in, I know I can run them, with various degrees of hurt after. Also, I have the home court advantage: this is in Forest Park, my stomping grounds here in Portland, where I do the majority of my runs. I love being able to walk out my door to the start.

There has been a last minute change though: We were supposed to start down in Lower Macleay Park, a nice big open grassy area, but apparently the Forest Park trail crew is doing trail work up in there, and no one bothered to tell anyone else. So, we’re nearby, but at this small little trailhead up in the residential area, with no parking, so they had to hire some shuttle busses to get folks up, and it’s kind of a cluster, with people registering for the half-marathon and 10K, while us ‘real men’ (and women) doing the full wait around.

Not sure how many are doing the full. I seem to remember 150 was the cap, but doesn’t seem like that much here, now. But anyways, the weather here is nice. Perfect almost: Cool enough to be a little cold with just a t-shirt and shorts. Will heat up later, but in Forest Park, one is basically in the shade all the time. I don’t really know the route, but when a woman (one of those Marathon Maniacs) explains it, it confirms that the route I was running out here for the ultra training was WAY more than 26 miles.

We line up, and this is kinda crazy: We are starting out going uphill. Like, a pretty good incline. Macleay Park would have given us a little warm up before a hill. Here, when the organizer dude says go, it’s just up a gravelly trail, which I (and I suspect everyone else if they were alone) would walk up, but since we’re all gung-ho to run a marathon, we all start out at a trot. Ugh. This first bit is and ‘out and back’, more like an ‘up and down’ that gets us the ‘.2’ of the marathon (and maybe a little more) out of the way. But, the hill definitely separates the men from the boys, or the adults from the children. I take my time, staying in back, trying to hold on to some kind of sanity, walking even. The race leaders come barreling down, all young and no body fat, and on my way down, I do the same, using one of the few advantages I have as a barefoot/minimalist runner: the ability to use gravity and maintain a (relatively) light touch, though with these Luna Leadvilles I fear I’m slamming the joints just like a shod person. I may regret this later on, but for now, it catapults me past many of the gung-ho hillrunners. And gets me going at a pretty fast pace even on the flat areas, which, again, I may regret, but that’s why I do these races: to get me to run faster than I would alone. By myself, I trot. I don’t get into the fancy watches and paces, just kinda meditating and enjoying the scenery. Which is why I never get down below four hours on a paved marathon, when I probably could.

No, if I could, if I could afford it, I’d run more races, even short ones, to keep myself honest. But at this point, I can’t. Though I’m already thinking I enjoy this stuff too much and money be damned, I’ll splurge for the a couple marathons this Fall. Plus Hood2Coast is coming up!

The majority of the race is on the Wildwood Trail, which runs the length of Forest Park. It’ll be an ‘out and back’ here too, meaning there will be cross traffic as the faster runners come back. I’m already starting to settle in to the group of people who are running at about the same pace. Or not, since I tend to come on strong in the beginning and then bog down in the second half. We’ll see. I’m kinda surprising myself at my pace. Surely this can’t last!

The route takes us uphill, on a sidetrail, Fire Lane 1 to be exact, for a short out and back/up and down, at the top of which is the first Aid Station. But man, I’m glad I’m not doing this barefoot, these fire lanes are just straight up gravel roads. And yeah, I walk it. But there are some lovely goodies, which I unfortunately just don’t feel up for eating, but I nibble on some PB&J chunks, orange slices, and one potato chip for some salt.

Down the hill! Still able to use gravity to my advantage, and pass some more folks, though also getting passed. Seems to be the key to fast versus slow runners: the fast ones are able to run fast downhill. And back on Wildwood, which, here, is actually a pretty barefootable trail, and I’ve enjoyed it that way. It’s just that there are patches of gravel, for when the this place gets soaked in the Winter and becomes a mud line. Could I do this race barefoot? Probably, but doing so would add at least another hour to my time, and I’ve been there before: coming in when the organizers are already taking down the tents. That sucks.

Oh, interestingly: Coming uphill on Fireline 1 were already the halflings: the lead runners in the half marathon. Nothing like getting ‘lapped’ by the halflings, but they will turn around at this point, while we marathoners continue north(westish) on the Wildwood. Runners are now fairly spaced out, though so far I’m not finding myself by myself, like happens with some trail marathons, where I sometimes wonder if everyone has just gone home. I’m passing some folks on the downhill, but they’re just as much catching me on the uphills. I’m alternating between walking hills, and going into ‘granny gear,’ as I learned from Scott Jurek (in his recent book). But, that can get ridiculous sometimes, when someone is walking just as fast behind me as I am running. Good verification that yeah, walking the hills doesn’t really lose you much time.


Holy crap that was my right foot! I just smacked right into something, not sure what, maybe a root. Like, hard. Like, there should be some pain. But there’s not. That’s gotta be a bad thing. I’m still running, but there’s like a numb feeling coming from my little toe. Damn, I do not want to look. But no, I have to: Oh crap. My little toe is out almost at ninety degrees. That’s not good. That’s like, broken. I’m going to have to go to the hospital. With no insurance. ‘Well Mr. Yohe, how did this happen?’


‘With your shoes on?’

‘No, um, in these sandals.’

‘What kind of dumbass runs in sandals?’

Or something like that. Anyways, can I get through the rest of the race this way? With my little toe flopped off to the side? Am I about to feel a lot of pain soon?

But, I keep running, and experiment with trying to move all the toes. I can’t seem to move the toe sideways, like to pull it in, but curling all the toes seems to work, and in doing so, kind of draws it in, so that it starts to look somewhat normal. Somewhat.... I guess I’ll go on. Maybe it’s just dislocated? Maybe I won’t need a hospital visit?

Still fairly strong pace, up until I get to the second Aid Station, which is again at the top of a side trail. I’m gulping more water—probably should have been gulping more already—and the downhill isn’t so barrely—the quads are starting to scream. And the bottoms of the feet.

But yes, that was the halfway point. Actually a little beyond because of the original out and back. Check my watch: 2:30. Ok, that’s good. I’ll take that. So, looking at over five hours. Would be nice to slip in under 5:30, way more than I expected even, but yeah, I’m a little tired now. A little weary. But, home court advantage, I know that from here, it’s all (mostly) downhill! Which helps. Helps me keep up the pace just by gravity. If this were just a flat straightaway, I’d be trudging, but here, now, I’m still running fast. Or, faster than normal, faster than I would be by myself. Can this last? Or is my no training going to lead to a total bog down?

The people I was running with (or nearby) have all pulled away. I’m seeing others coming up the trail on their way to the aid station, everyone being very encouraging, though I get a little worried when I see an older woman with a half-marathon bib. Uh oh. Did she take a wrong turn at Albuquerque? Imagine her surprise when she learns she’s about to run a full marathon. Eep.

I settle into a back and forth with some new folks, including a couple, the woman seemingly stronger at this point than her boyfriend, though, after we each pass each other a couple of times, and get up to the fourth (which was also the second) Aid Station, and back down, the guy asks me, ‘How you doing?’

‘I’m ok.’

‘My legs are screaming.’

‘Yeah. We’re a three quarters of the way there!’

But then even the girlfriend seems to bog down, and I lose them. And others are also doing some walking at this point: I catch up to some guys that had passed me a while back. Me, I’m amazingly still going steady. Legs aching on the downhills, no barreling anymore, but keeping steady, now into very familiar territory, I can visualize exactly how much longer we have to go. I wonder if that’s really an advantage? Must be. Another Marathon Maniac woman runs with me for a while, then finally makes her move. ‘We have to be getting close, aren’t we?’

‘Yes. We’re real close.’

That’s all she needs to hear, and she speeds up. I do too. A little. We pass another guy who’d been with us for a while, he seems to be cramping, but then falls in behind a little bit. Hm, I wonder how old he is? In my age category? Can’t let him beat me then! That’s my hope, that this race is small enough that I might actually get in the top three in my age category, and therefore a second medal (all the marathoners get a finish medal). Probably not though, since seems like every man in his early forties is now running marathons, but maybe. It’s enough to give me a little motivation, a little burst of speed. Plus that trailhead is coming up.

I hear it first: clapping. Yep, almost there. Just down this last little section, then, a sharp left and the Finish is downhill a hundred yards. I want so much to give my customary final burst of speed, but it’s too downhill-y, and gravelly as f**k. I can just picture myself biting it at the last minute, so actually have to put on some brakes. But yeah, the folks at the finish see me and clap and cheer. Small crowd, but still nice.

I cross. Check time: Holy crap. 5:08! I’ll take that! That’s actually a really good time for me, considering. 44th overall, 12th in my age group (sigh).

My toe seems....ok. Swollen and red, but I can move it a bit. I think I’ll tough it out with no hospital visit.

And more food and drink. Wish I was hungrier, but I think the heat combined with the exertion (and the toe?) are combining to make me a little queasy. Still, a cup o’ lentil soup and a cold root beer makes John happy. I stay to cheer in some of the folks I ran with, but now it is time for me to limp home and collapse.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tabor 2 Crest 2013

I need this. While it's not an official race, and more of a meet-up, I need a little inspiration from other runners. The official idea of Tabor 2 Crest, thought up by barefoot runner and physical therapist Sanatan here in Portland, is to do a mini-Hood 2 Coast, starting at the highest point on the east side of Portland, Mt. Tabor, and running to the (I think) highest point on the west side, Council Crest, a total of 9.5 miles. Sanatan (emphasis on second a: San-A-tan) conceived of it as a relay for some of his clients who are transitioning into barefoot running due to various injuries, but as we gather here this morning on the top of Mt. Tabor, it's looking like most of us will be running the whole thing, with only one 'team' doing any kind of trade off. Plus about three folks who are just going to walk the whole thing, barefoot!

Some of the usual Portland suspects are here: Mike, half-naked and surprisingly on time. Daniel, in his obligatory Hawaiian hula girl outfit, as well as Christy and Chris, though both of them (giving barefoot running a bad name) are still injured and will be merely escorting us via bicycle. Jen, of course, has bogued out on us again. But there are some new folks, or new to me, like Todd, the OR BRS comedian, representing the People's Front of Judea (whereas I'm representing the Judean People's Front), Sanatan, and some folks from Sanatan's office, including the famous Dr. Ray, one of the first podiatrists to espouse the virtues of barefooting.

The reason I need this is because I've been in a relative slump since my aborted Hundo. Not that I regret not running it, but I really did need to recover, both physically, and maybe mentally from all the running. It had become un-fun, so I cut back, still doing a long run a week for a while, but even that dropped off around the time of my Grand Canyon trip. I have, with the nice weather, been out running, mostly, thankfully, barefoot again, but I think what has been missing is a race or two to look forward to, and to motivate me. I know I know, one shouldn't need races to motivate one, I suppose, and yet, they are fun, and a healthy reminder that I'm part of a tribe that values that sort of thing. The problem with races is that they cost money, and due to my current financial situation, I haven't quite been able to justify the cost of any, especially those outside the city. But, so, this is free! And race-ish! And it's good to be in a group of barefooters again! There's about a dozen of us.

We all touch the metal elevation marker at the top of the grassy knoll, and begin! Down over some grass, then onto the main road down the park, past the reservoirs, and out onto 60th Ave. And yes, a lot of these guys I don't know are fast! Not sure if I'll catch them in the long run or not. Probably not. And after briefly chatting with Sanatan, I'm soon on my own, as with head west on Lincoln, through a quiet residential neighborhood, though, weirdly, I pass an older gentleman in a florescent green jacket who is running barefoot! But I don't think he's part of our group! What must he think of all of us running by him?

And in fact, when I cut through the park at 31st, two guys who are working at a community garden yell out to me, asking me what race this is. Yelling back 'Tabor to Crest' seems weird, wouldn't make sense, so I say, 'Um, it's kind of more of a get together!' Which probably isn't any clearer.

I'm out on the south side of Hawthorne, running along the sidewalk, which is possible since it's still early, and again, another guy asks me what race this is and I mumble a similar answer. I suppose I should just say 'Tabor to Crest!' and let him figure it out, but who knows.

We were instructed to wear green so as to help identify each other to each other, though most folks didn't, which is fine, since I didn't look at the race route, but I'm coming up on a woman in a conspicuously green shirt, running, except she's in shoes, but she keeps looking behind at me, so when I catch up I ask if she is indeed in Tabor2Crest. And she is indeed. I think her name is Karen, though I could be wrong, but she's a rolfer, a therapist who works in Dr. Ray's office. She's by self-admission a 'lazy runner' so is running the middle leg of the one relay team, and claims to not be able to run barefoot for more than a few blocks, so has already deployed her shoes. We chat awhile, since rolfing involves working with fascia, and I had plantar fasciitis. What is interesting is that she, and Sanatan, and I guess Dr. Ray, all feel that barefooting, and barefoot running requires a transition period, and even some instruction, whereas I always though, and still think, that BFing is awesome because one can just do it, without having to spend money or anything, and I can't help pondering that there is a financial interest in people 'helping' others go barefoot, but I just don't know—maybe people realy do need some transition? I'm not sure.

Anyway, my pace is a little too much for her, though I fear I'm at the back of the pack, except for the walkers, but we say goodbye. I think she's handing off to someone after the bridge and will meet up with all of us at the top. But yes, the bridge, Hawthorne Bridge—I love running across this bridge, getting to see the city and the river. Still overcast grey sky, but that's ok, keeping the heat down. The Portland Blues Festival is actually going on right now, today is the last day, so people are already walking to the west side riverfront, with lawn chairs and drinks in tow. The Festival is actually disrupting this very important race a bit, Sanatan had to re-route us a little, though with all the people on the streets, I lose his chalk directional arrows. Ok, I admit: I actually was looking at a woman runner ahead of me in nice tight black running shorts, and suddenly I'm a block past the bridge.

Well, thanks to Sanatan going over the route beforehand, I know I'm supposed to head towards the tram, south, basically on one of my longer regular routes, so I kind of have to improvise, or rather, follow my route, without seeing any arrows, though I do catch a glimpse of one of my fellow runners, a friend of Daniels I think (though shod). At the tram (which actually goes up to where I'm heading) I take the walkway up over I-5, and here I catch back up with the chalk arrows, which is good because they lead me through a series of super-secret walkway stairs through this neighborhood and under I-405. I would almost think these stairs were private property, since I'm going right by people's houses. I haven't seen anything like this in the US before, feels more European, but I guess they're common walkways, maybe to get people up to OHSU, the medical university up on the hill. Anyways, cool to learn about these. And yes, the uphill has begun. But so far the feets are fine. I had been a bit worried, since I've been running BF all week, and did an hour run yesterday, so starting out a little raw, but this isn't even the length of a half-marathon. And even on the stairs, I'm so far still running, not hiking. Or, well, mostly not.

And I pop out on Terwilliger, the site of a few races here in Portland, since it's up in the forested park below OHSU and the Veterans Hospital, and also a bike path to the south, like to Lake Oswego eventually. Nice and quiet up here, not a lot of traffic, with a wide paved path off to the side. Trees and birds chirping. Nice to be running in an un-usual area, and also to know Portland enough that I know where I'm at. I may actually start feeling like I fit in here.

But yeah, on my own, no sign of anybody. But I still have the chalk arrows! Though after turning left off of Terwilliger, and back uphill, I begin to have doubts, since I'm now on a big road with no shoulders, the main route to OHSU, with cars, and I just barely catch the turn off to a trail. Ok, this is the gravely trail I was warned about. Supposedly it's only gravelly at the beginning, and with the steepness, I'm just hiking at this point, but I just don't feel the gravel is getting any better. I am passed at this point by one of our group, part of the relay team, who I will soon learn woks for Soft Star Shoes, and is wearing a pair of their running brand, I forget the name. He's tall and lanky and passes be quickly.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Mike catches up to me. He's going barefoot all the way. I though have brought my Xero huaraches along just in case, and this gravel is bugging me. With non-raw feets I could handle it, but not after nine miles of pavement running. So I deploy, and immediately can run again, or mostly, depending on the hill, but mostly, and leave Mike behind. I even almost catch up to Soft Stars dude at a trail crossroads, but he sprints on.

Following the Council Crest signs, the trail soon gets just too steep to run, so I walk/hike, crossing over some paved roads at two points, but I feel I'm getting close, et voilĂ , I pop out of some trees and there's the top! With the whole gang gathered! They see me and begin clapping and cheering, so of course I have to finish strong, running up the grassy hill and into the round rocky clearing circle thingy, to more clapping and cheering, though I am chastened to learn I'm almost last. Mike is the last runner. Except, then someone remembers the Soft Star Shoe guy. I'd thought he was here already, but he's not. He must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Mike pops out and props to him that he did the whole thing barefoot. Actually everybody else did. Or, that is, those others who started out BF, finished BF. So, I guess I've become a wimp. But anyways, there's potato chips, and organic lemonade, and bananas, and grapes. John is content.

Soft Star dude finally arrives, via the main paved road, and did indeed get lost, adding a couple miles onto his route. The big surprise is that a tv newsperson shows up with her camera. Sanatan had sent out a 'press release' but he seems surprised that anyone actually read it, but she claims we'll be on the news tonight, and films us, and him giving his 'benefits of bare feet' spiel. So, some good PR.

So overall, a success, and fun. Perhaps a little too short a distance to really make it a relay. But any time a bunch of barefoot runners gets together is a good time. People noticed us for sure. People begin to drift off, some getting rides back to Mt. Tabor. With help from Chris and his phone, I get my route back home. A few more miles, just for fun. Barefoot of course!

(Next up: The Wildwood Marathon! July 27th!)