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:

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....

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!