Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Detroit Marathon 2011

Detroit, where the weak are killed and eaten. This is my fourth Detroit Marathon, my third barefoot, and it’s become kind of my ‘test’ for my running skill, since it’s the only race I’ve run where the course has mostly been the same, and paved. There are still variables, like especially the weather, but it’s the last long race I’ll do in the year, barefoot at least. So, this year, after attempting a hundred miler and bogging out at mile 70, and then running two fifty milers, I feel like I should be able to do better here, since my mileage has been way up. The qualifier on that though is that I maybe haven’t been keeping the high mileage up since the Dances With Dirt 50M a month ago, and even before that I had started to slack off. As a teacher, I had the summer off, so could run all I wanted, but once the Fall semester kicked in, my running time was cut drastically. An excuse? Yes, maybe. But I’m hoping that my body is still ‘charged’ after Dance With Dirt, enough so that a measly marathon will be no problem, and therefore I can go a bit faster.

The weather this morning is surprisingly warm. Yesterday a big windstorm went through lower Michigan, with some rain, and we’re supposed to have similar conditions today, but right now, at 6 in the morning, the air feels the warmest it’s been for any Detroit Marathon. In fact, I have no problem with ditching my warmer gear, my jacket and moccasins, and putting them in my gear bag, to be reclaimed later. In fact, I’m almost wondering if I need my running ‘shell’ jacket or not, since it doesn’t breathe. But I only have a wicking t-shirt on underneath, and from past experience I know the Ambassador Bridge can be bitter windy cold.

Other than that I have a pair of compression shorts, with some old running pants on over them. I’m also wearing two pairs of old cotton socks until the race starts, which are bright white compared to all my other black clothing, so getting some odd looks. People can see that I have a race bib on, but where are my shoes? Odd....

A little after 6:30 I get in the monstrous line already forming. It’s blocks long, so getting to where I want takes some time. Even now I’m unsure of my strategy. Usually my MO is to start in a faster pace than I anticipate, and take advantage of the adrenalin to run a fast first half, then penguin waddle my way to the end. After talking to some other marathoners, particularly my friend Mark from work, I’m considering starting slower, so that I can kick out the jams on the second half and feel good. Problem with that is, I tried that once, on my first barefoot Detroit Marathon, and ended up with a dismal 4:45. I kinda feel like after two hours my body just goes into ‘trudge’ mode, that no matter how slow I run, the act of being on my feet, even running slow, creates a fatigue that is hard to dispel in the second half. But I’m not sure on any of this.

Still, my tentative goal is to get under 3:50. My PR for this race is 3:59. As it happens, weaving through the crowd, I end up by the 3:50 pacer dude, so I decide, ok, I’ll start at the time I’d actually like to finish, the Middle Way, and see where I end up.

Since there’s so many people, thousands running the half and full, plus walkers in the back, the organizers start the race in waves. I’m in the ‘D’ wave, so even with the official start, we take some minutes to walk to the start line. The whole process seems to be going more smoothly this year, maybe because I’m a little farther up than usual? And when we cross, there’s no log jam, where we have to walk again. Everyone starts running and keeps running. The pace is a good warm up, doesn’t seem too fast, though the adrenaline has kicked in. We head down Congress I believe for a mile, with some onlookers coming out to cheer on their friends and relatives before heading back and meeting us when we come out of the tunnel.

Still dark, but with some street lights. I’m scanning the pavement for glass, trying to keep some space ahead of me, though people move into it as they jockey for position. A guy from the sidelines yells, “Go barefoot dude!” Which causes some guys behind me to notice. “Hey, look at that!” “Man, we should stick with him!”

Other than that, the comments have been minimal. Usually there’s shocked whispering. But maybe up here with the quick people, barefoot running is more heard of? Or maybe it’s just more in the public consciousness at this point? Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about it?

I happen to get in front of another group of people and one guy, with a noticeable southern accent, yells out as the continuation of some conversation, “I think they outta have forced sterilization for anybody on welfare!”

There’s kind of a chilled hush from everybody. He continues: “That’s right, I said it! I’m running a goddamn marathon so I’m going to speak my mind!”

The guy he’s running with, I’m not sure if he’s a friend or just ended up unlucky, tries to joke. “Aw no, we’re not going to talk about politics for 25 miles are we?”

“I just think anybody taking money from the government like that outta not have children!”

A guy ahead of me yells back, “Well, you’re sure making want to run faster than you! So I can get away!”


After the first mile, the route starts to curve, as we make our way up to the Ambassador Bridge. Something’s wrong though. A volunteer lady is yelling, “Be careful! You’re on gravel now!”

Gravel! My old enemy. And yep, there is is. Why is there gravel here? Or we not on the main ramp up? Youch! I try to maintain my same pace, invoking the spirit of Barefoot Ken Bob: “Play with the gravel John!”

Yeah right. Thing is, the gravel goes on for a while. We’re making a second loop around! What gives? This is very different. The only thing that give me hope is that the gravel surely can’t last. And then it does end, thankfully, and we get on cement and pavement, with a definite incline. Both lanes heading to Canada are blocked off for us. There doesn’t seem to be any traffic heading east at all? Hm. Oh well.

One thing I’m trying right from the start is running on the painted lane lines whenever possible. Along with my reduced mileage in the Fall, I also tend to run barefoot less, so I’m a little bit worried about rawness. I was fine for the Wild Life Half Marathon last week, but I just want to give my feets any help they can get for the long haul.

The sun is trying to come up and out from behind some clouds. Downtown Detroit looks awesome with all the building lights still on. And the buildings and lights going up each side of the river. No boats, looking kind of tranquil. It’s funny and kind of embarrassing maybe, but there’s an Occupy Detroit demonstration supposed to be happening this weekend as well. I’m not sure where they are, but I heard it’s ‘only’ five hundred people. So, 20,000 people will come out to run around the streets, but only 500 will come out to actually protest corporation take over of our government. And hey, I know, I’m one of those runners.

Oh, and the wind? Yeah, it’s bitter. I’m glad I have my shell jacket. Some people, women especially it seems, are in shorts and t-shirts. That’s gotta be uncomfortable.

The pavement feels rough. Or, rougher than I remember from last year. Even when we come down into Canada (where the first thing you see is a McDonalds sign-so, they’re civilized) the pavement seems rough. Do I just have a selective memory? Probably. But, I swear I remember the road along the river being one of the smoothest places on the course, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Hm, maybe my feets aren’t as tough as I’d like? Eep!

At least the crowd has more room here. The Canadians still seem normal in every way. Perhaps a little quiet, but it is after all 8 in the morning. They don’t have any extra limbs or anything, and they even seem to know English.

The first relay switch is here, which hardly seems that long, really. What are we at? Five miles? Six? And then we curve around and descend into the Tunnel! The only underground mile in any marathon on the continent!

Just the echo-y sound of heavy breathing and the clomp clomp of shoes. Still a quick pace. In fact, faster than I run on my own, for sure. So, will I be able to sustain this for another three hours? I’m starting to have some doubts.

On the way up and out of the tunnel, there are some Homeland Security folks yelling to make sure everyone has their bib’s visible. Notice that the Canadians didn’t care at all. Much to my surprise, when I round a small bend, I see two ‘migras’ heading towards me! But then one says into his radio, “No, hold on, he’s got his bib on his left leg.”

Wow, I was almost detained!

And then back in the USA. And, it’s raining. Uh oh. Rain is not good on the feets. Softens them up so they get scraped raw quicker. Drat. Am I going to have to bag any shot at a PR? Hm. But, well, it’s not a downpour, just a shower. Still, I make sure to try and keep running on the painted lines. Kinda tough sometimes when shodheads are hogging them. I learn why, potentially, when I overhear a woman say to her boyfriend/husband to stay in the middle of the road in order run the least amount of distance. True? I’m not sure. Doesn’t seem like it, but I’m just a dumb English major. I could write a poem about it though!

Fortunately the rain seems to stop, though the sky is still grey. The roads are still wet though. I find myself behind the 3:45 pacer. Excellent! If I could just stay with him for the rest of the race, I’d be fine. But, he and his group gradually pull ahead. I’m feeling a tightness in my upper thighs, right by the hips. Grr. Is this left over from the half marathon last week? Seems too early to be getting sore.

In the course of what seems like only fifteen minutes, I feel like everyone has started to be passing me, and then, with a loud rumble behind me, a huge group of 10:55ers passes. Really? That quick? I just lost ten minutes that quick? Argh. So I vow to stay with them.

Until, wait, what do I see but another barefoot guy up ahead! The first I’ve seen. There’s supposed to be at least five of us today, but I haven’t seen the others. So, I kick in the overdrive in order to catch up to him. And, it’s Brandon! From Burning River and Dances With Dirt! I pound him on the back and say hey. He says hello and I notice he jaw isn’t wired shut any more. But when I mention that, he looks at me kinda of strangely and says, “I think you have me mixed up with someone else. Must be a good looking guy though.”

I take a second look and I swear it looks like him, but it isn’t. Wow. Ok. I apologize and ask what he’s running. Turns out he’s doing the half, and, he’s only been running BF since September! Wow. He says he was having problems with his Achilles tendon (I think?) and that, and this is hard to believe, his doctor actually recommended that he try barefoot running! Oh how the tides are turning, that a doctor would actually recommend this.

I explain my plantar fasciitis woes from three years ago, and by then we’re coming up on the 13.1 mark. Also, we seem to have fallen a little behind the 3:55 folks. I apologize again, this time for slowing him down. He’s says it’s fine and we part ways, the halfers going off to the right for the last .1, and us marathoners going left.

That thins the herd a bit. We’ve also go a lot of spectators at this point too. My legs are still bogging out. I’m trying the whole relax the upper body thing, but bending my legs is the problem. Still, just focusing on going back to quick short steps seems to help a little.

The route winds into Indian Gardens, the cool, seemingly secret, nice neighborhood right near downtown Detroit. I don’t know how it exists, but there are plenty of trees, and cool big old houses. As usual, the inhabitants have come out to cheer us on, few in number, but loud in voice and stereos. The roads are better here. I don’t know, maybe running on the painted lines makes the roads just feel rougher? And if I just ran on the pavement my feet would get used it, like it seems they are now? The thing about barefoot running is the speculation and experimentation never end. Every run is a new adventure.

While I’ve only seen that one other barefoot guy, I continue to see minimalist runners, almost all of them VFFers. Some pass me, others I pass. One woman in VFFs stops to run a bit with me, saying, “You’re the inspiration to the rest of us out here!” Meaning I guess the other minimalists. That is very kind of her. I thank her, though I’m feeling a little down on myself for getting no where near that 3:50 goal. And, she passes me. So much for inspiration.

I feel I’m not being consistent with my running, but at least I seem to not be getting passed anymore, or not too much. I even decide to take off my shell, feeling a little too warm. But then we get out on Jefferson, right next to the river, with Belle Isle coming up, and the wind immediately gets stronger. So, I put the shell back on, having to feel how wet and slimy the inner lining is. But, as soon as it’s zipped up I feel better. I don’t know, maybe if I let myself be a little cooler I’d run better? Am I sweating more because of the shell? Lots o’ self doubt now as we head over the bridge onto the isle.

And, I seem to slow down again. Pre mental wall? We’re at Mile 19. What I usually like about Belle Isle there’s not mile markers, so we pass over Mile 20 almost without noticing, and we come out at Mile 22, with only four miles to go! Four miles is nothing! I should be able to kick in the overdrive for this.

Yet I can’t. I’m not penguin waddling, but somewhere in there the 4:00 pace team got ahead of me. I was still thinking if I could stay with them until the end, then just kick out the jams right at the end to slip in under 4:00, but....I fear there will be no PR today.

But then it seems like I’ve got some energy and I’m passing people again as we head out onto the Riverwalk, a nice cement pathway, ideal for barefoot running.

We turn back into the city, onto streets. A little uphill. Everyone straining. I can feel people digging deep. I’m trying to maintain a good posture. I’ve noticed in some photos and videos of my running that I tend to lean my head back, and I wonder if that has something to do with my speed, that I’m not leaning forward enough, and therefore not as efficient as a could be, so I’m really trying to keep the head tilted a little bit.

We’re close. Under two miles out. Other runners are bogging out, just stopping and walking. I want to tell them that they’re almost there! Maybe they know already. I don’t know. I’m trying though. Trying to keep steady, wondering if I’ll have a last minute sprint in me.

A left. Two blocks. A right. Slight uphill. I know that next left is the last one and the finish will be right there. I don’t know if I have it.

Then a hand pats me on the shoulder. I don’t know who the guy is, but he’s wearing VFFs and says, “You’re my hero!”

I thank him. He starts to pass me, kicking in, so I kick in too. “Alright! I’m following you in!”

That seems to inspire him. He speeds up. We’re getting to the last turn. Unlike myself, I yell, “Alright man, take me home!”

And we run. We make the turn, and there’s the finish a couple blocks away! We weave and duck between trudgers, and I even end up ahead of him, though just.

The course is now lined with people, but no one is really making much noise. Again, very unlike me, but I decide to try and get them going, lifting my hands and arms, signaling them to start some noise!

It’s works! Everyone starts cheering. I keep signaling as I sprint to the end! A roar of applauders! I finish!

I high five the VFFers dude and thank him.

Check the watch. Ouch. 4:06:59. Basically 4:07. Ok. I’m kinda sad, kinda down on myself, even though that’s basically a normal time for me. Same as my second marathon over 10 years ago. I guess too it’s just feeling emotional, having given my all. Also too seeing everyone finishing and having a family member or someone they know there. I gotta get a girlfriend. But then, she’d probably be running this with me. That would be ok too.

I get my medal, super heavy this year, and a reflective space blanket. A reporter for the Free Press stops to interview me, having noticed my feet. He seems guilty, because I’m eyeing the water bottles behind him, but I’m actually glad to have someone to talk to, and to represent the barefoot running lifestyle. I even give him my email in case he wants to follow up on anything. He’s just shocked when I tell him about my plantar fasciitis woes, and how they vanished. Turns out he too has the dreaded PF, and can’t quite seem to make himself believe me. “It’s just really counter-intuitive!”

While I’m talking, I hear someone call my name. It’s Katie, a coworker! She ran the half, and watched me come in. Good to see a familiar face.

I finally get some water, then two bananas. There wasn’t any fruit at any of the stations, that’s the only thing I didn’t like. Ah well.

I wander to the gear drop and get my bag, glad to sit down and put on my moccasins. My feet actually don’t feel as raw as they have in the past. I guess the run-on-paint-lines strategy worked?

Katie comes by, with her husband and two friends, who all ran the half it looks like. She congratulates me. I’m still down, so I thank her, but then go into how I’d had the 3:50 goal. After they leave, I realize how dumb that was. I should have just said thank you and shut up. No excuse. And also, I mean, I just ran a marathon barefoot in 4:07! That’s pretty damn good! I represented! Maybe I should just drop the whole PR thing and run to enjoy the run. But, how else to challenge myself? Not sure. I’ll have to think about this some more.

Shod, with another jacket layering me, I stand up slowly and start to hobble to my car.

Feet and Medal, post race

Post Race Foot, bottom view

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wildlife Half-Marathon 2011

I like having races almost in my back yard: I get up at six o’clock and that feels like a luxury. After a ten minute mediation session and a somewhat leisurely breakfast (plain yoghurt with almonds, dried cherries, a spoonful of chia seeds, and another spoonful of honey for sweetener), I head out the door at 6:45, and the ride over to Concord is only 15 minutes! Plus they have a more reasonable start time of 8:00.

What a day for a race! What a season! Fall in Michigan is the best, with the leaves all turning color, and a predicted temp of 80. I’m in shorts and a cotton t-shirt and feel fine.

I’m also feeling good because I had a great dinner last night, over at Mark’s. He’s a coworker and monster runner, getting 10th in the Burning River 100. A couple of Mark’s Marathon Maniac friends are up from Missouri to run the Wildlife Marathon, plus Joel, a JCC student, runing his first marathon, with Mark pacing him through for a good quick pace. I rarely get to talk to other runners, and never more than some quick banter before a race, so it was nice to hear all kinds of ‘war stories’ over delicious pasta, courtesy of Mark’s wife, Misty. Made me regret not signing up for the marathon, instead of the half-marathon. But, I’m running the Detroit Marathon next week and want to be in tip-top shape, so I can try for a PR.

I get to Concord High School at 7:00-ish, and zip in to get my bib and chip and t-shirt. Since I ran this last year, I figured they’d have a chip, so this time I planned ahead and brought some duct tape, to form a sticky ankle bracelet so the chip will register when I pass over the mats.

About quarter to eight I spot Mark and the crew hanging out in the Marathon Maniac t-shirts, so I close up the car and head over, barefoot, already getting some neck-snapping second looks. There’s more runner conversation, like about why ultra marathons aren’t represented in the Olympics, and why it shouldn’t be possible to qualify for the Olympic marathon try outs by running a half-marathon, which one guy is going to do today. I also learn that I qualify to be a Marathon Maniac, because I’ve run two marathons within 13 days of each other! Sign me up!

A quick kids dash starts things off right at eight. There’s about twenty of them, in all sizes, from small to super small, though the girl who wins, easily, is decked out in the latest running wear. I think she must be 12, so wow, that’s an early start. Future Olympic marathoner probably.

Then the marathoners are called to the the Start line. I wish everyone good luck. There’s about 40 of them, maybe a little more. Man, that’s going to be a long lonely marathon once they all spread out.

And without much fanfare they begin, Mark and Joel right at the beginning. Man, Mark looks determined. I hope he doesn’t run Joel into the ground!

Next up are us halfers, both runners and people who are walking the whole way, which is going to take all day. I put myself somewhat towards the front. I’m kinda not sure what kind of time I’m going to do this race in, but I’m thinking at least under 1:45. My PR is 1:39, but I’ve been pretty slow this year. Still, I’ve run a couple of 50 Milers recently, and I’m wondering if the upped mileage will help. That’s Mark’s claim: that running faster on marathons comes from upping overall mileage. Still, runing ultras, I tend to go at a fairly slow penguin waddle, which doesn’t really use the faster running muscles. I think. Not sure.

Anyways, I end up next to a woman who teaches yoga. She says she’s not built for barefoot running, even though she says she goes barefoot 90 percent of the time. That stuns me, that someone so much into the barefoot lifestyle, and who runs marathons, would be resistant to even trying barefoot running. I think I convince her to at least try it. Hopefull she does before the weather gets too cold. I don’t think anyone in Michigan is going to try barefoot running during the winter months.

And we’re off! I try not to start too fast, but the adrenaline is hard to resist. Still, even with holding myself back, I end up at the front. We go through a few twists and turns through little Concord, and the roads are pretty rough. Fortunately I know we’ll spend most of our time on the Falling Waters trail, which I’ve run many a time, and which is a nice smooth bike path. Still, to save my feetsies, I run on long strips of rubber/tar that have been laid over road cracks. Nice and soft cushy surface.

And, another plan-ahead moment, when we reach the Falling Waters trailhead, I know enough to zip around the gravel parking lot, along the outer grass edge, which I didn’t do last year. Much better this way, and I don’t lose much time at all, way less than if I tried to man-card up over the rocks.

And onto the paved path. Man, gorgeous day. Sunny, warm, but not too warm, with the leaves en regalia, and our first lake on the right. Us halfers are scooting pretty fast, so we actually end up catching some of the marathoners, who at this point are still on the same route, making for a, if not crowded, then full trail, which is about car width. I even pass one of the Marathon Maniacs from last night, who’s name I forget already. But, we exchange pleasantries. If I were running the marathon, I might be running about his pace, but for now I wave and move onward. I wish I could keep this pace for a whole marathon. Maybe I’ll be closer to doing that next week.

In the meantime, I’m loving having the home field advantage. I’m not sure why, or if it’s even really true, but I just feel like seeing all this familiar territory helps me relax a little? Which lets me run faster? Not sure, but I’m still really trying to relax into my pace. Relaxing the upper body, but keeping a good swift cadence. And, after getting a little out of breadth back through Concord, now that I’m out on the trail and basically just going straight and flat, I’m only just a little bit into anaerobic mode. That is, I probably couldn’t hold a conversation, but don’t feel winded either. I feel good. I feel like the more I relax, the faster I run, which is weird, but cool.

Through a couple aid stations. I’m carrying my Amphipod bottle, so I don’t even have to slow down. I’m liking not drinking Gatorade anymore, at least not for these shorter races, so I have all the water I need for the whole race, probably.

One guy comes up next to me and goes, “Well sir, I’ll say one thing, you’re certainly not making a lot of noise!”

And it’s true, one of the main sounds, the main sound, is the thump thump of running shoes on pavement. In fact, another guy comes up behind me and he just sounds like he’s SLAMMING his feet down: THUMP THUMP THUMP. I hate picturing what’s happening to his knees right now. There’s not way he can keep that up for years. I don’t know, maybe he’s just really giving his all, trying to catch the barefoot dude, since he seems to be kind of hanging out right behind me. Maybe not, but he’s that loud that I want to kind of get away from him. But again, instead of tensing up and forcing myself to run faster, I try to relax, breath deep, lower the shoulder, and without feeling that I’ve increased my cadence, I move faster. Relaxation = better efficiency.

At about Mile 5, the marathons split off to the right, south, to go run around the back country roads of Jackson County. Again, I feel the tug to go, but I’m enjoying the half too, the feeling that I’m going to run a fast race and still have most of my day ahead of me, without feeling exhausted! Only because I still have some student essays to grade, but still, I’m going to be in Ann Arbor to do it, with all the Ann Arbor hotties to stare at longingly.

But no, John, concentrate on the race! Man, I didn’t realize how many marathoners I’d been surrounded by. With them gone, the pack has dwindled considerably. And here comes the lead halfer, coming back the other way, well ahead of everyone else. Well, if he can keep that up, then I guess he would make a good Olympic marathoner!

There’s a final aid station at the half turn-around, with youths (or, ‘yoots’) passing out bottled water and Coca Cola. I pass on both, but thank them for being out there, since they’re not by any road.

The comments on my bare feet have been non stop. The best up to this point was one woman who said, when I passed her and her husband, “He’s barefoot! I couldn’t stand stepping in all those micro-organisms!”

But now that I’m heading back, right along all the runners behind me, which is most of the pack (not that I’m anywhere close winning this thing, no sir) everyone gets a full view of me running back towards them. And everyone is super supportive! There are many shocked, “He’s barefoot!”’s but I don’t hear any “He’s crazy!”’s. I guess since I’m ahead of all of them. This especially goes on when we start getting back to the walkers. I also see the woman I’d been talking to before the race, way at the back. I smile and point to my feet. She smiles back and yells, “Ok!”

My time at the split was 53 minutes. So, yikes, I gotta at the least maintain that pace to get any kind of decent finish time. I’m actually feeling good, no ‘bogging out’, no loss of energy. I’m wondering if indeed all the high mileage I’ve been doing is helping me out here. In fact, again weirdly, I’m kinda feeling like I have more energy than my body can use. That is, I feel like I could be running faster, yet don’t feel I can really make my feet go at a faster cadence. With five, then four, miles to go, I’m not feeling the my body is physically taxed at all. I only kind of maybe slow down just because I’m sort of by myself and can’t really gauge where I should be, speed-wise, until a woman I’d seen going the other way catches up to me, going at a good clip. Interestingly, she’s wearing shoes, but taking really short steps, and a really fast cadence. Basically, a barefoot running from almost. That’s inspiring, reminding me to get my own cadence back up, and I do, but I also go through another ‘relax’ moment, and slowly scoot back ahead of her.

After that, I don’t see anybody passing anybody, though the people ahead of me are all way strung out from each other. We get back to the gravel parking lot and I re-take the outer grass edge, not even being overtaken by the woman I recently passed. I think she slowed down to get some Gatorade at the aid station.

Back on city roads. And here comes someone just hauling ass, a guy I don’t remember seeing. He must have really been playing it slow because now he’s coming through with power. I tell him, Nice pace!, as he goes by and he’s nice enough to look back and say, “Stay with it! We’re almost there!”

Indeed, we are. We make a left, where a race volunteer informs us, “Only about a 1,000 meters to go and I can’t believe you just ran this barefoot!”

Up a short hill. That guy is way gone. I can hear someone behind me a little ways, I think it’s the swift shod woman. Again, the roads are a little rough. I at first try to run on the tar strips, but then decide, phuk it, just go for speed and take the pain for two more minutes. Not that it’s really pain even.

A twist and a turn, and another turn, with some Concordites out to cheer everyone on, and there’s the high school! Push it John! I don’t want to go into an all-out shod-type sprint, but I again feel like I can’t get my feets to move as fast as I’d like them to in proper BF form. Still, I speed up a little. I always have the fear that someone’s going pass me right at the end, probably because that’s what I would be trying to do if anyone was anywhere close. Nobody is though.

I pass over the initial chip scanner, which allows the announcer to call out my name, “John Yohe! From Jackson! Looks like you lost you’re shoes somewhere along the way!”

A round of applause from the onlookers and I cross! Check the watch: 1:44. Hm, ok. I’ll take it. Actually, let me do the math: If I was at 53 at the half, that means....Holy crap! My second half was faster than my first! 51 minutes! I also don’t feel exhausted. A little tight around the inner thighs, but not like I ‘left is all out on the course.’ Hm....

I hang out, get some water, a banana, and a muffin, and just wander around barefoot a little. A woman walks by barefoot and I joke, asking if she ran barefoot too. She smiles and says no, but that she’s tried wearing VFFs, but that she didn’t like them because they made her lower calves sore. I tell here that that’s normal, just using some new muscles, and to give it 2 or 3 weeks. I think I may have convinced her to try again.

As with a lot of races I’ve been to lately, the most up to date results are posted as soon as someone can print them up. At first they only have one guy in my age division, who finished at 1:33. Yeah, I wasn’t going to catch him. Then, the next sheet that comes has me at 5th in my age group, with the 2-4 guys anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes ahead. Ok, I’ll take it.

I also meet a guy in his 50s who finished at around 1:30 or so. I want to be like him when I grow up. He expresses interest barefoot running, saying he’s try it except that it attracts too much attention and he prefers to go unnoticed. I tell him to at least try it out on some wooded trail where no on can see him. He nods and smiles and says maybe.

No minimalist runners that I saw. Hm, well, Jackson County is always a little behind the times. Well, I think I did a good job of representin’. I’m not up for waiting around for Mark and crew to finish, I’ll check in later via text to see how they did. As for me, I’m headed back home, with another medal, for a nap, a shower, then a sunny afternoon still left ahead. I think I’m even going to go for a run tonight.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

RunBarefootGirl interview

Caity from RunBarefootGirl.com recently sent me some questions for her site. I was happy to answer. I'm putting them here for the curious. Her site is very interesting. I'm going to link her here. She has a big picture, historical, outlook on barefoot running, and also talks about the barefoot lifestyle, which I'm a supporter of. Enjoy.

You've been blogging since 2009 - what inspired you to start? Your
passion for running? Something else?

I started blogging soon after I started running barefoot. It was, and still is, and experiment. I had been interested in blogging, but didn’t, because I didn’t feel I had anything unique to offer. My philosophy about a blog is it must have a unique ‘thing’, and idea or twist, something beyond just ‘I did this today’. The first things I posted were some essays I’d been working on about barefoot running, and the reason why I started, but then I ran a race and decided to just right about that one event, and that’s been the focus of the blog, mostly. This year I’ve run a lot more races than previous years, so my blog posts are up!

I like writing about the action, and my thought process(es), and even though they may be filled with action, I also try to reflect on what worked, and what didn’t, and to share with others my mistakes. But, I think it’s the action that people really like, and that’s fine. I now have 30 followers, most of whom I don’t know. I’m glad to have inspired people to try barefoot running.

What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you while bf running?
At first I’d say it was that whispered comments at races, by people who thought I couldn’t hear them (although I also have a theory that they actually want me to hear them, so they can know that they really do think I’m crazy!)

After that, ‘crazy’ moments might be the ‘firsts’, like first barefoot marathon, first barefoot trail marathon, first barefoot 50K. I recently did two 50M, one of which, the Woodstock, was a complete mudfest! The other, Dances With Dirt, I have to walk upstream through a river, and walk through a lake! Those were wearing VFFs.

It looks like you mostly run bf - is that right? Do you have a fav
minimalist shoe brand? Do you go bf when you're not running?

Yes, mostly, though this Summer/Fall I tried ultra-marathons: Burning River, Woodstock, and Dances With Dirt, all of which I ran in VFF KSOs.

I’m not sure I’m entirely a fan of VFFs, though they’ve served me well. They’re good for trail running, but my feet end up hurting if I have to run on level pavement. They just kill the sensitivity in my feet.

I also have a pair of Barefoot Ted’s Luna huaraches, which are thinner than the KSOs, and more comfortable in warm weather. For any regular non-race running where I feel the need to use footwear, like when my feet are just too raw, I opt for the Lunas, but for races the VFFs are better. Lunas don’t work well went wet.

Also: A friend of mine just made his own huaraches with about 5 dollars worth of material from Home Depot. I’m not sure I’d ever buy a pair of Lunas again.

Nest next purchase is probably going to be a pair of Merrills: they look like regular shoes, but have the same bottoms as VFFs. I’d like something warmer in the cold weather! VFFs are not warm at all!

I love your documenting people's responses to your bare feet. What
would you like to tell people who are barefoot-curious?

If you mean barefoot running curious, I’d urge them to go ‘all in’, and not try to switch back and forth between shoes and bare feet. There’s potential for injury there, since the running style is different for both. I’d also say give it three weeks. The guy from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (Peter Segal?) wrote a negative review of VFFs after only wearing them a week. His problem was that his calves ached. That’s natural because we’re using different muscles. The ache goes away after about a week.

That said, I’d also urge people to run barefoot first, then incorporate minimalist footwear if necessary. Also, ideally, try to start in warm weather!

Do you foresee a world of barefoot people - or at least bf becoming
more popular?

I would love this, but I’m not sure. The corporations have really brainwashed people, to the point where going barefoot may always be considered by most people as something ‘dirty’. There are places where BFing is more acceptable. I hear Hawaii is good, and the west coast. But here in Michigan, people are pretty socially conservative. I lived in Ann Arbor and could mostly walk around barefoot, but now that I live in Jackson, I’ve had people go out of their way to get angry with me, so I’ve opted to not be as barefoot as I’d like. I do see the barefoot lifestyle becoming more popular, though I also anticipate a corporate/government crack down. It happened in the 60s.

What would you like listeners of The Living Barefoot Show podcast to
know about you?

If you’re a runner, please check out the Barefoot Running Society website! It’s nice to make connections with others, as barefoot running can be isolating: http://barefootrunners.org/

Also, please check out my blog: http://johnsbarefootrunningblog.blogspot.com/

And, please feel free to check out my website, where you can find more info about me, and read samples of my poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction: http://www.johnyohe.com/

I just got back from the New York City Barefoot Run. Any reason why you didn't go? I've participated in the Merrill Naked Foot 5K (I
noticed you attended one, too), which was so wonderful - and NY is
like that and then some. Next year?

I can’t afford it! I spent all my money going to Spain this summer! The Merrill Naked Foot in Grand Rapids, MI this summer was awesome. Barefooters were in the majority for once! I’d love to go to NYC, I lived there for two years, but I’d want to go longer than one weekend. I’m a teacher and can’t take off time in the Fall.