Saturday, April 23, 2022

Oral Cancer 5K

Oral Cancer 5K

Rangley, Colorado

The weather last night here in Rangely, Colorado was cold and rainy, and snowy at just five hundred five higher elevation, so I halfway expected to wake up to snow on the ground. But no, this morning is sunny, dry pavement, if still cool: people at Registration are wearing winter coats, though runners are in jackets or hoodies, with long pants of some kind. I am the only one in shorts, and regretting that decision. At least the race starts at 8:30 rather than, say, 7:00. Enough for the sun to come up and warm things a bit.

This is my last race here in Rangely (population 1500) in the northwestern corner of Colorado. A goodbye as I finish my semester teaching and go on to other adventures. I’d hoped to get more in shape these last two years after a previous two or three years of injuries, including a broken heel bone and a fractured ankle, both in the right foot. (Note: not from barefoot running, though the heel break happened when I was barefoot and landed hard on a wood floor, and the ankle was on a backpacking trip wearing huaraches). Rangely has a lot of dirt roads, and I’d hoped to get maybe back up to marathon levels, but it just hasn’t happened. I could maybe run a half-marathon, just on mental effort, but I fear my big running days are over: after being out, and gaining some weight, and just getting used to doing other things, I’m not sure I even want to run that much anymore. Which makes me sad to say. So, I’ve only this last year ever been running up to an hour at a time. One thing, motivation-wise, is being so far from civilization here in Rangely that races just are not usually an option, except for these occasional 5Ks.

The organization for this race has been about what all events here in Rangely are like: unorganized. First it was a run, then it got labeled a walk, and then the flyer for it I didn’t even realize was the flyer for the event, since the big letters said Oral Cancer, and in small type were the words 5K walk. A good flyer should be readable from ten feet away, and a race flyer should have to the 5K part in huge bold letter, with the charity in small letters: no one really cares about the charity, they want the run. Anyways, mostly stuff gets around by word of mouth here in a small town like this. But there seem to be about seven runners and maybe ten walkers—smaller than even the other two small 5Ks I’ve run here. But, I’m grateful there is a run and I shouldn’t complain. I just have that personality where if something isn’t being run well I want to step in and run it right.

This is a charity run for Oral Cancer, put on by the Dental Hygiene department at the community college where I teach, Colorado Northwestern Community College. The organizer, one of our instructors, whose name I can’t remember, gives a little speech beforehand with, for example, the statistic that one person dies from oral cancer every hour. So, wow. You may see more of this charity, as she told me she basically got a ‘kit’ from the main charity on how to put on a race.

 After a group photo, we vaguely line up under the balloon arch and someone says go, and we go. The group of six or so young twenty-something runners take off, with me a little behind, then the walkers, one of whom says, “Oh, is this a run? Are we running? I guess we’re running!” A half a minute later she’s like, “Ok, that’s enough.”

This is an ‘out and back’. We curve around the park to the west, do a zig at the baseball field, then a zag that gets us on a long straight paved road that heads out of town on the south side of the Rio Blanco. It eventually turns into a dirt road, but we won’t go that far before we turn around. And I am out of breath. I tried not to sprint out the start and I swear I’m doing my normal penguin waddle, but I am gasping for air. There is a slight uphill at this point, and just the excitement of running with other people. I try and calm my breath.

Kind of gritty right by the park, and I run on the yellow divider paint in the middle for a smoother surface. I’ve been shod all winter, getting out in my huaraches on the super gravelly roads around town, but only recently going out for barefoot walks to start building up my soles, especially earlier this week to prepare, which I think I overdid, so actually still a little raw feeling to start. Plus the cold makes bare feet more sensitive. But, I’ve run the Detroit Marathon in November, I know cold, and know that my feet will warm up in a bit as they get blood pumping to them. And it’s only a 5K: that’s my thought, that no matter what, it’s only 5K, no matter what happens, I’ll finish.

The river road does smooth out, and straighten out, though now there is a brutal cold headwind, coming up the river valley. The fast runners are farther and farther ahead, staying in a group. Looking back, the walkers are just turning the bend. So, it has finally come to this: I am the Last Runner. Given, there’s only seven of us, but still, it’s kind of a tough realization. Oh well. I’m twice the age of any other runner. I still got game!

I had asked the organizer is she’d had to coordinate with any police or anything to close city streets and she said the city just didn’t care. So, we’re on out own, and there is regular traffic on this road. Not a lot, but one truck seems particularly annoyed that the front pack of runners is taking up his whole road and honks at them. To their credit, they don’t move and he has to go around. Any other vehicle just seems surprised to see us. We’re not even wearing race tags or anything—we could just be, and basically are, randos out running.

The feets are ok! A little raw still, but now warmed up and don’t feel cold, though the headwind persists, and my two shirts and a shell jacket feels about right. The lead runners come back at me on the ‘back’ portion and we wave. They look at me oddly: I think I have their respect for the bare feet, if not the time. But, my time would be the same if I had shoes on. I don’t feel lithe and free, but I don’t feel encumbered either. But there is the turnaround: three women with a truck by the side of the road, and a table with some bottled water, which I pass on: water during this short a race would just make me feel sloshy.

Alas, since the road soon turn to dirt at this point, this lane of the road is much more gritty, from all the vehicles coming into town bringing some of the gravel in their tires. I try the middle yellow line a while, then find a long line of crack-sealing tar and that gets me to the point where the stray gravel starts to diminish. Over half way. My breathing is back to normal, has been, and I’m in simple trudge mode. Wind at my back now feels like no wind at all.

The running pack is long gone from my sight, but now I’m passing the walkers on their ‘out’ phase. See a couple colleagues. One young woman films me on her phone, yelling, “Woo hoo!” I guess I’ll be the conversation later today. “Dude, there was like this crazy guy running barefoot! I think he teaches english or something.”

Once off the country road, taking me home, to the place, where I belong, only now do I realize I didn’t bring a watch, and I haven’t been timing myself. Wow. Usually I’m pretty good about that. I guess shows my mental state: just go and finish. And I am the lone wolf, in between the good runners and the walkers. Back to the park, back to the gritty road, hard to get a sprint on, back around the corner and up to the balloon arch where some folks clap me in. The Last Runner. It’ll be fifteen/twenty minutes before the walkers come around.

I ask to see if anyone is keeping track of time, no clock is visible, and no, no one is. One of the other runners whom I know, a student, says she finished at around thirty minutes, and I’m about three minutes behind her, so ok. There was a time when I ran a 5K in 21 minutes, I swear. But, I’m just happy and grateful to still be out running! Time for a banana.


 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Hana by Xero Shoes

The Hana (leather) by Xero Shoes 

The Hanas, like all shoes from Xero, are super comfortable, with think flexible soles, zero-drop heels, and and spacious toe box. What I was hoping to get from Xero Shoes Hana was a moccasin-type shoe, something with the feel and comfort of my Minnetonka Moccasins, but with a tougher sole, so they would last longer, and be able to handle wet sidewalks, while also being somewhat dressy for work, or out on the town. There is a canvas version (I think? Grey, doesn’t look like leather), for a more casual look, but I ordered the black leather version. They could/should perhaps just be two different styles, and names.

The first time on, the Hanas fit very nicely. Not too tight or snug, but not loose: no having to break them in and stretch them out like with my Minnetonkas. Plenty of room in the ‘toe box.’ Instant comfort!

These are not sport shoes: not for running. Like with other Xero Shoes, the soles are super thin, but made of tough materiel. You can fold these shoes in half. 

 


These are be fine in fall and spring especially, for a little more warmth. And one can walk over wet sidewalks and light snow—lightly water resistant, tops and bottom. If it gets really cold, the soles will not be too warm. But then you deploy your Xeros boots: the Denvers!

One of the Xero technologies for all their running shoes is to have strap-loops coming up around the middle of the shoe, which are looped into the laces. This is how their shoes stay snug, but without pinching in the toe area. The leather Hanas come with laces, and this lace system, but they seem more for show than anything. There aren’t that many lace holes, and the shoes have stretchy material on the sides at the top, so that the shoes can really just be slipped on, with a little tug from the fingers. So, I’ve ‘hacked’ the Hanas a bit, but simply taking the laces and straps off. I’m not running in them, so I don’t need the snugness around the middle. And, they’re fine and comfortable without them.

Overall, a very comfy yet dressy shoe. Suggestions: get rid of the laces. Maybe offer a brown leather version. 

         The Hanas! Without laces!

 







Saturday, September 4, 2021

Septemberfest 5K: Fast, flat and free

Septemberfest 5K: Flat, fast and free

I’m amazed to have yet another 5K race here in little ole Rangely, Colorado, two weeks after the last one, and this is indeed as advertised: free. All one has to do is show up here in the Elks Park parking lot before 8, sign a form, and you’re given a ____ with a number. I’m second, so I get 102. How or why this is happening at not cost I’m not quite sure, but I think that the richest guy in town is sponsoring this whole three days of festivities over Labor Day weekend, which is I think ironic, but nobody really celebrates the labor part of Labor day anymore anyways. In any case, there are volunteers—a cadre of young women.

The air is chilly this morning, here at 5,000 feet, which is nice. I’m wearing my Xero sandals to register, and one of the young women says, with alarm, ‘You’re not going to run in those are you?”

‘No. It gets worse!’

‘You mean you’re going to run barefoot???’

‘Yes. I’m sorry.’

I’m not, but I’m trying to lessen the shock for her. As the start time nears, I come back out barefoot and feel the whole crown staring at me. There are about maybe thirty runners, maybe including a few walkers (much less walkers than two weeks ago, which was a fundraiser). There are some youngsters, like under ten, and looks like most of the high school cross-country team is here. So yeah, I’m not going to be anywhere close to the front of the pack. A guy I know from work says that usually there are some students from our college, like the whole women’s basketball team, who come run this, but not this year: there’s been some quarantining recently.

I do recognize a couple high school students who took my writing classes last year, though I’m not sure they recognize me, with my long hair tucked up under a hat. And the bare feet.

We all gather and one of the volunteers basically says, ‘Go!’ And we go.

Quick start, even a little downhill, and I’ve winded myself. I’m feeling more in shape this summer than in the last two years, but more in the LSD mode—long slow distance—I’ve had two major foot injuries in these two or three years. Not running related, but most recently, a year and a half ago, a torn ligament. Still feeling soreness, still taking r-x anti-inflammatories—about to run out—and it comes and goes: Two weeks ago I felt fine. Today, here, right now, I’m feeling a twinge of soreness. Not sharp pain though, so it’s ok. I’ve been upping my distances recently.

Anyways, we head west on a neighborhood road, turn left onto River Road, which does eventually parallel the White River and turns to gravel—eep!—but Rueben thinks it’ll stay pavement for this race, which is an out-and-back. The pavement is relatively smooth. As long as there are no stray goatheads, I’m good!

I slow a bit to get my wind, but then try to get a decent pace in my brain: lifting the feet on the beat to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” while trying to keep a lean of any sort. Has been my problem since starting to run barefoot maybe 14 years ago: I always feel like my torso has a tendency to lean back, especially now that my buddha belly is a little bigger.

The cross-country pack are of course gone, along with the one older gentleman from last race who was one of the top three—and I think he may be older than I. But, I do catch Rueben, who wasn’t sure he could run the whole thing anyways, and Greg (I think?), maybe a bit younger than I, with whom we were talking to before the race, and there is this guy Ross, older and more rotund than all of us, who is way back there. He’s I think an executive in what remains of the Chevron oil fields offices here in town. Along with some of the wee sproggins (sp?) and their moms. So yes, I’m celebrating passing 8-year-olds. But my point is, I started at the back of the pack and I’m just gradually catching some of the quick-starters. This looks like it though: I don’t think I’ll catch anybody else. There’s a couple few people fifty yards ahead but....

The two-lane River Road is clear so far. We pass a pair of women who seem to be out for a regular morning constitutional, non-race-related. Sky clear, we’re out of the pines around the park, so the sun is now on us. So, glad I didn’t wear my running shell, but not actually warm either. Perfect running weather. The feet feel good. Like I said, right food mildly sore, but I don’t know if that’s just psychological at this point. I’m really actually used to running hills and gravel roads (in Xeros) so this long flat area feels odd. Breath is back to somewhat normal, though I’m trying to run a wee bit faster than my normal penguin waddle, knowing this is a shorter route.

Here come the fast folks on their way back: One teen boy in front, then that older gentleman, then another teen boy, then the whole pack of cross-country folks: maybe they’re not even really trying. But there’s Mary, one of my high school students from my college class last spring. I point and say, ‘Hey Mary!’

She looks at me blankly and is gone, but then I hear her: “Was that Mr. Yohe?!”

Yes. Yes indeed, that was Mr. Yohe.

Et voilà, there is the white Jeep, the turnaround point. And there also is Lindsey, the head maintenance person at the college, just on here way back. She’s cool. We wave and I say, “I didn’t know that was you I was following!” So yeah, I actually know some folks in Rangely now.

I come to the Jeep, where one volunteer is stationed, handing out waters, though one of the runners has stopped to chat with her. So, we’re not super competitive around here, I guess.

I make the turn and head back. Halfway! No one close behind me here, but I pass them all, giving them waves. There’s Rueben, walking now, and Greg and the wee folk with their moms, and Ross, sweating his ass off. Man, all these out of shape older guys trying to run fast seems like a recipe for a heart attack but oh well! Onward!

I’m not going to catch Lyndsey, but there is a young teen boy, maybe 12?, who’s going back and forth between running and walking. I suspect this is his first race, maybe not pacing himself. He doesn't seem to be hurt of have a cramp or anything. But, his mom, I think, is hanging back, giving him some encouragement. I can tell she wants to keep running, but she stays. So, I leapfrog with them for a bit, then finally leave them behind.

This side of the road is a lot more grittier: from the traffic coming into town, from the gravel road section. I keep more to the center, in the hopes that the grit will tend to roll down to the sides, but I’m not sure that’s really the case.

Pass the walkers. Some traffic now, leaving town mostly, but nobody going fast. I’m not even sure how official this race is: no cops, or signs, or nada. But, at least now we seem to be on a slight downhill back into town. Take the right towards the park, and pick up some speed, to look and feel like I’m giving it my all. Don’t want to sprint though: sprinting on pavement with bare feet always rips up the bottoms of the feet, even with good calluses, which I don’t have.

Again, feeling the stares from everyone as I cross the finish line, though at least some folks clap politely. My time: 30:59. So I shaved off like 32 seconds from two weeks ago. Ah well....

I do hang out to watch the rest come in. Greg come in two minutes behind me and says, ‘Man, I was trying to use you as my rabbit, you’re super-steady, but I just had to walk a bit.’

Well, at least I’m something. Rueben comes in running, though perhaps walked most of it, but all good, he did it. Ross brings up the field of older runners, in full sweat, but shaved off four minutes from last year. ‘Too bad I like to eat more than I like to run!’

And older spectator comes up to me and says, ‘I was going to tell you out on the race that you forgot to tie your shoes!’

Normally I get a little defensive about lame barefoot jokes. Like I haven’t heard them all before. But, he’s I think sincerely just trying to chat and curious about why I’m running barefoot. So I tell him how I got plantar fasciitis (if I still perhaps can’t spell it) and it wouldn’t go away for two years until I tried running barefoot on the suggestion of my friend Jen, and how the first time I tried barefoot running, my PF went away.

He looks surprised, then surprises me by saying he had the PF too. ‘I tried all kinds of inserts and stuff, but it didn’t ever work. Look at my ankle now!”

I do: his right ankle puffed or bent or otherwise bulging out. Holy crap, that’s from plantar fasciitis?

Anyways, feels good to have made conversation with someone here. His son won the race.

Now for a shower, then the drive down to Grand Junction for drunken noodles!

 (PS-I ended up getting 2nd in the men's category! I missed out on a free mug!)


 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Becky's Walk: 5K Run Walk Bike

Becky’s Walk 5K

Saturday August 21st, 2021 

Rangely, CO United States

This race, like most things here in Rangely, Colorado, is not that well organized, at least in the ‘sign up’ and ‘get the word out’ stage. But, I’m here, on a cool overcast Saturday morning, which in August, around here, in the high desert of Colorado, is a blessing. The ladies at the check-in desk are all friendly, and even know my name, which happens in a small town. Except to me: I can’t remember names at all, to an embarrassing degree.

This is a 5K run/walk. Becky’s Walk. Third annual. Benefit for Multiple Sclerosis. Becky was a local. I think this is put on by her relatives. There are only only 25 folks signed up total, which seems a shame. I know there are some runners in town who aren’t here. Ah well. I’m first to arrive, so I get the number one bib! Ha! It’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of run. Three main reasons: 1. being a fire lookout doesn’t allow for much exercise, period (an excuse perhaps, but yes). 2. Poverty: Just couldn’t afford to run those longer $200 races for a long while there. 3. Injuries: I’ve broken my right foot two different times in the last maybe three years and I’m still not quite one hundred percent on it. May never be, is how it feels, even though I have been running regularly, and hiking.

So, I’m out of shape. Gone are the days of marathon running. But, it’s a 5K. I can do that in my sleep. The only question I have is whether the race is going to be up in the gravel roads around town, or on pavement here in town, and it’s the later. If it had been on the gravel, I might have worn my huaraches, my Xero Genesis. The gravel fairies around here are fairly liberal with their gravel, so I’ve mostly been running minimalist this past year. Also, gotta admit, being a new person in a small town, where I’m already an eccentric English teacher at the community college, I confess I’ve been self-conscious about going barefoot around here.

But, here I am, standing in the Elks Park parking lot, barefoot, suffering the gazes of the locals, who all know each other. Well, time for some barefoot pride. Represent!

A guy gives a pre-race speech. I think he knew Becky. But, says he checked recent info on research into MS, and that there are four new medications developed in the last year, and that money raised here will help go for that. So, right on.

We line up. Yeah, there’s maybe ten of us who are actually running. And most of them are youngsters, probably on the junior high cross-country team. No age categories for this one. Actually, the other two older runners are dudes maybe around my age. So, I may be last of the runners, in any category. Ha. So be it.

We’re off! I have no idea where I’m going. Supposedly there are spray-painted arrows to direct us, but maybe I can stay in sight of the youngsters. Use them as rabbits.

I do a fairly quick start, not a full-on sprint or anything, but it’s slightly uphill and man, I am just winded, sucking air already. Calm, John, calm. Breathe. This is just a local 5K run, no need to get all nervous. Except now I have to piss too. Argh.

We head down the short bike trail. One like five year old girl runs alongside me for a while. Excellent!But she tires out pretty quick and goes to walking. The youngsters are all out in front, plus one older guy, who looks like a long-distance runner: skinny. I used to be like that. But hey! I’m barefoot! Feels great! Why don’t I do this more often? But at least hiking and running in the Genesis huaraches has still given me good calluses. We cut on to a road, and there’s an empty lot with trees. I duck in to use the boy’s room, and get passed by two runners, the other older guy and a girl of about 13. The walkers are not in sight. So, I’m now the last runner, as predicted.

We go past the high school then up White Avenue? I think? I don’t even know all these neighborhood roads. But, uphill, ugh, for a bit, then left and down through an area I’ve never been before, tucked away, downhill. I try to lean forward, let gravity lead me. Just lifting the feet. Trying to maintain at least a brisk trudge. At least I don’t feel winded anymore. But neither do I feel sleek.

We cross Main Street, north, with a local Sheriff there to stop traffic, though there is none. I thank him. He stares at my feet. Like he wants to arrest me for being barefoot. Ha! If I wasn’t in a race, maybe he would!

We go north one block, then cut left again, heading west, for a long straightaway. Here, the thirteen-year-old ahead of me slows to a walk. She’s wearing a knee brace, hope she’s not aggravating it. I give her a wave. The second older dude is a couple block ahead of me, with the gaggle of youngsters way out, all sticking together. Right on. We’re all setting off the local dogs to barking. Having had some bad experiences with dogs around here, I’m expecting Cujo to come jumping a fence at me, but no.

This road is a bit gritty. Couple places where I swerve to avoid potholes. One place I can’t, just grin and bear going over the gravel. But, all good. Again, it’s a 5K, I can survive anything. And I must be over halfway, I think? Surely? Don’t call me Shirley!

Quiet. Only a few folks out in their yards this morning. Oh Rangely, with your battered down house and economy. The coal plants shutting down soon. Will people stay? Nearest grocery store is 45 minutes/miles away in Vernal, Utah. Or go an hour and twenty south to Grand Junction. Going to any other races will require an overnight stay.

Anyways, another left, back up (or, south) to Main Street, cross, wave to the police, into the small park, past the one hotel (the other two motels out of business). I run up on the sidewalk here: the cement way smoother and less gritty than the pavement at this point. Out past the two apartment buildings, which the locals call A and B. B is condemned. Past the almost empty trailer park. I have lost sight of anybody—no one in front, no one behind. Story of my life, somehow. But, back on the pavement, the spray-painted arrows have been accurate and visible. Another left et voilà, there’s Elks Park! I’m almost there! Maybe I should increase speed, to at least look, if not be, respectable!

I quick trot around the corner across the finish line at the parking lot, with a small group of observers clapping me in. That’s nice. One of the youngster runners looks at me and says loudly, “Wow, dude don’t have no shoes!”

The first three finishers are gathering for a photo: Looks like the one in-shape older dude made it in there with two of the youngster boys! Excellent! They get something in an envelope, not sure what. No medals or anything for the rest of us. Which is fine. The other older dude I see walking it off in the parking lot. I don’t think I was behind him too much. My time: 31:31. So, ten minute miles. Not my best 5K. I think I’ve done one in 21 minutes one time. Ah well. But yeah, I’m the last. The girl with the knee brace isn’t in sight, and the walkers are all about halfway at this point.

I am content. To run barefoot again, that’s all the really matters. My feet feel fine, great even. Time to head back to my apartment for as hot shower!


 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Genesis Sandal by Xero Shoes

Genesis Sandal

by Xero Shoes


 

I can’t believe I took so long to order the Genesis sandal/huarache from Xero Shoes. It is the perfect sport sandal/huarache for running, hiking and especially walking. I’ve been a fan of most Xero Shoes products, and was there when they first came out: their original huaraches sandal, now called the Feeltrue Sandal, and still for sale on their website, is the best sole of all the huaraches. I’ve compared them before, but for example, the soles for Luna Sandals, even the thinnest, the Leadville, are twice as thick as Xeros, but softer, and therefore they somehow hurt my heels to walk around town in them. Hiking and running are ok, especially if really rocky or gravelly.

The Xero huarache, or the Feeltrue, sole on the other hand, is thinner, but made of tougher rubber, so your feet are closer to the ground, and even feel the ‘bumps’ more (which is what you want!), but just as flexible and light.


 

My only negative about the Feeltrue was/is the lace that comes with it: a simple nylon shoe lace, which actually doesn’t work well with the traditional huarache wrap, though Xeros came up with a different wrap, in which the laces ‘double-up’ in back and around the ankle. That works fine. The problem is that the shoe lace doesn’t last very long, and it will inevitably break at the thong section between the toes, and since it’s nylon, will fray (in the middle of a run or hike) and feeding it back through the toe hole is almost impossible without a lighter to melt the frayed ends together.

This is breaking off at the toe hole is true of any huarache with the thong through the toes design, which is why I like/d the traditional leather lace from Luna: it’s tough and strong, and if it breaks, very easy to feed through and tie off and get moving again. 


 

I had tried the Luna Sandal ‘sport lace’ with their Leadvilles, and like it: slips on well, looks sporty, and still stays snug to your feet. But again, I can not walk around in them, especially on pavement, without my heels hurting. This doesn’t affect everybody, but does affect some folks, from what I’ve heard.

So, again, I don’t know why I ignored the Genesis so long, since it’s all about the Xeros Shoes ‘sport lace.’ I guess I liked modifying my Feeltrue sandals: using leather boot laces, which are narrow enough to fit in the Sole holes, and going with the traditional wrap, and look. though those leather laces tend to break off fast. An easy fix, but the laces wear down fast, and it becomes harder and harder to find leather boot laces, for some reason.

When buying a pair of Xero Shoes recently (look for that review!) I finally decided to try a pair of Genesis sandals. The ‘sport lace’ system is different from Luna’s: each section of the lace is made of soft doubled tube-like material. Not a shoe lace: thicker and rounder. It also has two places to adjust the tightness, which rest on each side of the ankle but do not get in the way or rub or anything. Very easy to work and adjust. Just felt so good and comfortable from the first try.

I’ve now been hiking and running in them, in dry sandy and rocky terrain. Mud and water doesn’t work well with most huaraches anyways, but these I think will be ok, better than the Feeltrue, because the sport lace is more snug. (For super muddy or wet terrain, I’d recommend the old VFFs!)


 

The only thing to worry about, and I hope not for a couple years, is when the thong section between the toes will break, as they must inevitably do. The sport lace at least has enough material that I think one could rig it up to feed it through the hole and get back home, which I could not do with Lunas, when it happened. I only say this about breakage because there is one Xero Shoes product that I didn’t like—the Z-Trail, which had some plastic clips at the ankle straps, on both pairs of sandals, break within days of each other on a hike in Grand Gulch (see link to review below).

By the way, I know there are still people who think they don’t like the thong between the toes, on any sandal. I used to be like that, but finally tried it, years ago, when trying huaraches. And, you get used to it so quickly. But the Z-Trail was the first of several models of sandal Xero now has, which don’t have a thong, but instead a strap over all the toes, like their new Z-Trek and Naboso (neither of which I have tried). I strongly urge readers to consider saving money and just getting the Genesis. $20 cheaper than the Z-Trek, and $50 cheaper than the Naboso (!). They have thicker and stiffer soles anyways.

I also, again, highly recommend the Genesis over any other basic huarache or sport sandal: you don’t want thicker soles, and you don’t need fancier straps, and you don’t need to spend more money. And the Genesis looks fairly sporty, if I say so myself.

Order Xero Shoes and sandals here: https://xeroshoes.com/

Link to my review of the Z-Trail here.

Link to my previous comparison between Xeros and Lunas here.

Link to my review of the Xero Prio running shoe here.

Link to my re-review of Xero huaraches (the Feeltrues) here

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Z-Trail sandal by Xero Shoes: A Review


Z-Trail sandal by Xero Shoes

Lowdown: surprisingly disappointing

After owning my Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals for less than a month, I had both of them blow out on a recent backpacking trip in Grand Gulch, the left foot on Day Two, the right on Day Four. The same thing happened to both: a small metal 'clip' thingy that attaches the main strap to the back velcro heel strap simply snapped off. I was able to adapt: the main strap was long enough that I could run it around my heel in kind of an old-school huarache wrap, though it was not at all sturdy or tight.

I was excited to see Xeros being stocked at REI, and though the price there was about $20 more than at the Xero website, I bought them. They look good: Xero's answer to sport sandals like Tevas and Chacos, with a way-thinner sole—still flexible like a huarache, but made of tougher material than their huaraches: Still bendable, but you can't, for example, roll them up. Very comfortable for walking around town and looking stylish.

I ran in them, both pavement and trail. I would be careful running in them on pavement, and if you're running on pavement you'd be better off just running barefoot anyways, but the toughness/hardness of the sole made them a little clunky: the first time I ran on pavement my heels hurt a bit after, but the second time I really concentrated on not heel-striking. For trail running they were good: the toucher sole makes them better for gravel, where even the Xero huaraches can leave my feet a little battered-feeling.

The Xero claim for the Z-Trail is “Adventure Everywhere”, and I was hoping they'd be both a running sandal and something I could take backpacking. So, I took them on a four-day hike in Canyonlands National Park, then a week later on a five-day in Grand Gulch, where they blew out—again, after less than a month.

One of the main ideas for the Z-Trail seems to be to get away from the 'thong' of the huarache: instead of a strap or lace between the big toe and the second toe, this new design instead runs a wider canvas strap across the toes, then flipping around to go across the top of the foot. I know some people hate the huarache thong, so they may like that (though I will say I used to be one of those people, but you get used to the thong, I swear). I will say that, at least at first, the sandals felt snug and comfortable, more than the Xero huaraches, though one problem with the strap across the toes, for my feet at least, was that my little toes got scrunched and irritated, though this happened more after I had to adapt the sandals after the blow out.

Another new thing Xero has introduced is a sort of 'heel cup'. I'm not sure why: if your heel hangs off your huarache, you should be wearing a bigger size. Maybe it's purely for looks, to make them look more like a sandal? In any case, what the 'heel cup' really does is catch pebbles and sand really well, and make sweeping them out harder.

So if you just want a thin-soled sandal you can wear around town this summer, with zero-drop and no toe thong, the Z-Trail is way better than Chacos or Tevas, and even more comfortable than a Luna sandal (which hurt my heels if I just walk in them on pavement). But I would not guarantee them to handle any kind of trailwork. Or to last long. I've been a fan of Xero, and would still recommend their minimalist running shoes over anybody's, but the same thing happening to both sandals within two days shows a lack of quality care.
(Sandals post-blowout, with main strap running around back to hold heel)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Salem Paddy Pint 10K


Top o' the morning to ye! A fine sunny day to run a 10K, and at the reasonable hour of 10am! Instead of paying $100 for a St. Patrick's Day race in Portland tomorrow, I've opted for a cheaper one, $40 (and that was because I registered last minute) down in Salem today, where the money goes to a charity. I guess I'm less enthused about races in general, especially at the shorter end or 5K and 10K, distances I might coneiveably run anyway, but being with a pack does motivate me to push myself, run faster, though would be more fun with a friend or two. Or at least a fellow barefooter. Alas, I have neither.

The route starts in Riverfront Park, and loops around Minto Park, areas I've run before on my own. The 5Kers have a different start and will go directly to Minto, while us 10Kers will first go over the footbridge to West Salem and run around the baseball fields. I'd say the 5Kers double the 10Kers in number, and few of us even want to start near the START line (a chalk line on the sidewalk) thinking, like I am, that there's no way I'm doing this fast.

Air cool enough that I have running pants and sweatshirt on, though some folks are in shorts. They have shoes to help keep them warm. I'm not worried about whether the feets will make it, I'm just kind of out of shape, having spent the last month in Europe, walking on cobblestones a lot, with two hour-long runs since I've been back. Still, a 10K is doable. More a question of what kind of shape I'll be in afterwards. And, I can always walk.

Pretty low-key at this event: The countdown comes from a dude over at the rotunda on a PA, for both sets of racers, and we're released! Following one of the organizers on his bike, though there are volunteers at each of the major turns. He may actually be here to warn the normal pedestrians out here on a Saturday morning, of which there are many, looking at us like we're all crazy.

We go north and take a left over the Willametter River on the pedestrian bridge. So far no whispers behind my back about the bare feet. Maybe I'm just another Oregon crazy. Also, maybe my pants, which are loose, cover them up a bit. But feels good! Bare sole to pavement! I've missed this, what with traveling and cold weather.

I am going slow. I was at the back to begin with, and getting passed, resisting that urge to start fast in a race, hopefully to avoid the burnout halfway through. Or maybe I'll just come in last. We cross the bridge, take a sharp right down to the baseball fields and a large road loop, the pack starting to spread out. I get stuck behind this group of college kids, or that age anyways, all of the young women clustering around this one young man, it's 'his' group, as he regals them with a long joke. I don't know, I guess this is what extroverts do when they run.

Right in front of them is some guy running with a backpack, attached to which is some kind of speaker or Alexa-thing blaring really insipid fizzy techno music, loudly. Like, 1) Did you ask anyone if they wanted to listen to your music? 2) You couldn't wear earbuds? and 3) That's what fires you up to run?

That combined with all the people and their beeping ant twirping watches feels like I'm running in a video game. Well, so, I can either slow down and let them all get ahead, or, use this as an opportunity to pick up the pace for a little bit, just enough to get me far ahead of them. So, adelante! And I do pass them, or at least some of the beepers and Techno Blaster Dude. Unfortnately, the Cult of Personality group also picks up the pace after me, coming up right behind, and the joke is still ongoing. And it's not even being told well! We've gotten on a bike trail, and I step off, so I at least don't have the guy yelling right at my back, which one young woman mistakes for me just getting out of their way because they're taking up the whole bike path. She says thank you. I don't know, I guess I'm just jealous that the young women are clustering around him and not me. But why would they cluster around me? They never have in my whole life.

But running! Yes! Body in motion in the sun and, DOH!, I stub my toe. This happens to me, and somehow the more it happens to more it seems I'm likely to do it. Nothing major, or doesn't hurt, just scrapes the tip of my right big toe, but I know immediately what's happened: just a little scrape rips open a flap of skin. I look down: blood covers my toe. Argh! Again, no pain, and I'll finish the race, won't even slow me down, but it's the optics of the thing: I want people to see how easy barefoot running is. This will not convince anyone, this will kill all curiosity, this will horrify. I'm the worst barefoot running ambassador.

Grr, adelante....Up back across the pedestrian bridge, back through Riverfront Park, where the 5Kers are already returning. That was quick! Have we gone halfway already? Must be. Up over the Taco Bridge into Minto Park. This is a new bike path, just completed last year, connecting to 20 miles of trails overall, including along the Willamette, though we're crossing a 'slough' at this point out into a marshy area, still on bike path, and while the route so far has been smooth, at this section the path gets a lot of pebbles on is, so I have to pay a bit more attention to where I'm stepping, even then still getting the occasional rogue pebble.

Along a pine forest/old plantation, still on paved bike path. We take a right towards the Willamette, and I'm hoping/thinking that we'll go along the river, but no, I can see runners in green turning left: onto the gravel road. Gravel: my nemesis. And it ain't gravel fines either. Fortunately there's a thin section of grass to the left, but that soon gets into a section of blackberry brambles, which has been cut back from the road, but that has left some smaller sections of blackberry twigs. Which have thorns. Argh! Please no splinters please no splinters! Gotta shift the gravel! Argh!

I slow way down, and who should catch up to me but Techno Blaster and his girlfriend. A whole bunch of people pass me here. But it doesn't last long. We hang a left across some grass and back on bike path, where my pace picks right back up and I proceed to pass everyone who just passed me. Including Techno Blaster. And, he's just cranking it, with some kind of computerized pacer thingy that interrrupts the music to announce his pace and distance.

He's got some other folks behind him, and his speaker is facing them, not even himself. I pass him, but I can't help myself, and as I do I turn to him and say, 'Hey man, could you turn the volume down a little bit?'

He's shocked, shocked, then disgusted. He sneers. 'No man, I'm good.'

Ok, I tried. Not gonna press it. Maybe if someone else says something he'll get it. I'm actually at a good pace, and I pull away. I hear his girlfriend ask what I said, then the music seems to get louder, and I think, Oh wow, he just turned it up to spite me. But then it stops! I do believe his girlfreind got him to turn it off! Bless all girlfriends of asshole dudes!

Loop back around past the pine trees, back over the rogue pebbles, passing all the walkers now (which, as a side note, how crazy is that to pay money to walk in a park you could walk in anyways? How crazy are we all?) and back over Taco Bridge. Home stretch! One little loop-de-loop, clogged a little at the kids' playground and the 5K walkers and their strollers, none of whom see aware that the 10K runners are coming behind them. 'Make a hole!'

I put on the sprint. I always push it at the end. Maybe only gets me five seconds on the time clock, but it's a matter of personal pride. One guy I pass gets inspired and starts to sprint too, and this is the benefit of running a race, we inspire each other. A guy ahead of me I guess hears my feets slapping, or my labored breathing, and he starts to sprint. I yell out, 'I'm coming for ya!' but he's got it. We all get some claps at the finish line for the extra effort, which, the appreciation is nice, and we're done!

And, crickets. I look down at my feet. Oh wow, that's bad. Somehow the blood has sprayed everywhere and my left foot is covered too. Damn, this is embarrassing. Well, my work is done here, results will be posted online later. I have a mild curiosity, now that I'm 50, if I'm decent in my age class, but I'll find out. Not with a bang, but a sore limpy body do I make my way to my truck...


PS-Placed 62nd overall (our of 114, so halfway), 57:42 tra la la....
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