Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jackson Turkey Trot 2011

What better way to spend a free day than running around the deserted streets of my town, especially when it’s with 400 other crazy runners. Yes, this year’s Jackson Turkey Trot is actually kinda halfway serious, with sponsors and everything, so that I believe attendance has like, quadrupled. There’s a 5K, 10K and a 5K walk, as well as a kids run to start things off.

And, they’ve even got swag bags, with some stuff I’ll actually use, like a pen, a travel size toothpaste (? for a run? alright....) and, in addition to the obligatory t-shirt, they’ve included a pair of light wool gloves, which I think is nice, and appropriate for the Michigan climate right now.

It’s in the 40s, and overcast, though the sky it supposed to clear up today and be sunny. We’ll see about that, but at least the streets are dry this year. My feet are a little raw from all the BF running I did last weekend, trying to get all the days in I can before the snow really gets here, and wet pavement would make running just that much more uncomfortable. I think I’m going to be ok, even though I remember some parts of this route are a little rough.

I’ve arrived early, and obtained a good parking space, twenty feet from the start/finish line, right outside the YMCA, so I can hang out in my truck and stay warm. In getting my swag, I also heard that the kids run will be at 9, then the adults will run at 9:15, so I know I can stay in a little longer. I also saw the line for late registerers inside, and I suspect we’ll start even a little later. I could actually probably bear standing around outside except that my feet are bare, and the pavement is cold, so I’m going to wait until the last minute.

So, from my truck I get to see the gaggle o’ kids that do the run. There’s only about ten of them, but they’re all insanely cute as they start off, most of them too young to even really know how to run yet, just doing their best imitation of what adults do. They run around the block and come trickling back in, to a huge roar from the adult crowd, which I’m sure they love.

I figure I better get out and join the horde standing around in the street, though instantly regret it because, well, it’s cold. I see Steve, the guy who organizes this run, standing up by the door, looking back inside through the window at the people who are still trying to sing up. Kinda annoying, that those of us who signed up ahead of time are having to freeze while we wait for these slowpokes, but ok John, let it pass. It’ll all work out.

I see the JCC cross country team is all here so, not that I had any aspirations at winning this thing, but I just know they, and I think I see the hoodies from some other cross-country teams here too, are just going to tear this thing up, probably finishing it before most of us get halfway. It’s weird. I know I have no chance of winning, yet somehow I’m all pumped to give it my all, to run as fast as I can. I guess I don’t see it as a competition so much as some kind of ritual, with all of us runners participating and pushing each other. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I’m also competitive, and I’m sure I’ll be trying to beat the majority, especially since I’m the only barefoot dude here. Gotta represent!
Interestingly, I do see two VFFers: a guy about my age maybe, and a young teen boy. For Jackson, that’s significant. I, of course, am getting the odd looks. Nobody’s being blatant, but they’re all kind of looking at me when they think I can’t see them, then whispering to each other. Ah well. I’m used to it. I do hear them using the term ‘barefoot runner,’ (vs. “that dude has no shoes!”) so I once again think that that ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ is now in the public consciousness. Even in little ole Jackson, MI.

Ok, the last of the late signer-uppers finally comes out the door and Steve starts to talk into the mic, but the PA isn’t that loud, and everyone is talking, so that most people don’t even notice. I just kind of read his lips as he begins the countdown and bam, we’re off!

We head east on Wesley. This year we even have cops blocking off the streets! I hear some more comments about me, like, “Are you serious?” “Look at that guy!” and (my favorite) “Oh my gosh!” Only in the midwest do people still say ‘gosh.’

We cut over to Washington, a two-lane one-way street. No cars, but we stay in the southern lane. The road is kinda rough. I stay out towards the middle, where there are less cracks and potholes. The crowd thins quickly, and I’d say I’m towards the front of the pack, though I can see the cross-country youths (or, ‘yoots’) way out ahead. And, I’m running pretty steady. Just slightly under out of breath, trying to keep good barefoot running form, lifting the feet, fast cadence, bending the legs. I’m trying to be better about upper body form too, since I’ve now been able to see pics of myself running, and when I go fast, my torso tends to go straight up and down and, embarrassingly, my head tends to tilt backwards! I look awful when I do this, so I’m really trying to lean forward slightly with my torso, and bend my neck forward. Thing is, I’m not sure doing so really gets me anything. That is, I feel like I run just as fast in that wacked-out posture. But, ‘better to look good than to feel good.’

We cross South West Ave., the main north/south artery through town, where cars are waiting patiently for us to get the hell out of the way. More cops here too! We must be the only game in town right now. And, so far I’m hanging with the crowd. There’s not a lot of position changing, everyone has now settled into a steady, but fast pace. My idea is to just go balls out for the 5K, which is what most people are running, and then see what I have left for the second loop (which makes it a 10K).

And here’s that nasty road. We turn left, south, for a block, over all kinds of potholes and cracks and chunks. I can’t help but slow down a little and get passed by a couple shodheads. Grr. Oh well. But then we turn left again and head back east, on Division, another one-way road, and it’s nice and smooth. And, it’s downhill, so I actually pass the passers!

The streets have been deserted mostly, and quiet. Even all the houses just look empty, but by now some people have realized there’s a race going on and are coming out on their porches in their jammies and giving us some words of encouragement. There’s even someone from an apartment building, who I can’t see, but who yells out, “Go on, y’all!”

We come back into the downtown area, out back of the Y, and turn left, then another quick left, and voila, there’s the finish line three blocks away! Everyone guns it, though again, we’re all kind of at the same pace, so there’s no last minute passing. Most people head into the flagged off chute to end the 5K, but a few of us keeping going. And again, just like last year, Steve, the organizer, who has done Iron Man Triathalons, looks at me and shakes his head, saying, “I could never do that.”

I shrug and smile, but then a young woman onlooker suddenly yells out, “Woo! Somebody’s rocking the bare feet! Yeah!” Sounds like she’s maybe even a BFers herself. And doh! I forgot to check my time on the clock!

Onward. I’m still keeping a good fast past, and steady, though maybe yes, a wee bit slower. Feeling the urge to pace myself a little. I’ve got two guys up ahead of me, and I can hear someone right behind me, she seems to be pacing off of me. I hate when people do that, but on the other hand it does kind of kick in my competitive nature and keep me moving.

And yep, the feet are feeling a little raw. I don’t usually, actually, never, run this fast on pavement. Last time I ran this fast was for the Naked Foot 5K over in Grand Rapids, but that was mostly on grass! But, it’s not affecting my speed, I’m feeling good actually, until we take the left onto that horrible road between Washington and Division. I can just feel the grit, and have to slow down, so that the runner behind me finally passes me. But again, once I’m on the smooth pavement, heading downhill, I pass her.

We’re running into the 5K walkers now, and sometimes have to duck and weave around them. They seem surprised that we’re still running, though surely there have been more than a few that have already come by. I get some more shocked gasps about my feet at this point.

One guy passes me, and at one point he tries jumping up on the curb to run in the grass. Ah, I remember when I ran shod and did stuff like that. I bet he gets plantar fasciitis. Come join the forces of light, Sir!

I don’t feel like I’m slowing down, but maybe I am, because the woman following me makes her move and passes me again, and this time puts some distance between us. Then I really do feel like I slow down a bit, with no one on my ass challenging me. But, not far now. Road’s kinda rough as we come back into downtown. I try running on the paint lines in the middle, but then the road seems to get smoother, and I’m coming up on a couple lefts anyways, so I decide to just tough it out.

And there’s the finish! There’s a long line of walkers, including some groups with strollers, but I zig and zag, not quite what I’d call sprinting, but pushing my cadence, and zip into the chute at almost 45 minutes exactly! I’m not sure if that’s good or not, but it feels good! I feel good.

I wander inside the Y, grab a banana and a bottle of water, talk to someone I know for a little bit, then head to my truck.

Driving home, I realize the time is only 10:30, so when I get home, I throw on the VFFs and go for a half hour trail run, just because I can. Tomorrow, another day off, and a LSD run. Foot check: I actually have a couple little blisters on the bottoms of my feet, which is new for me, but which I know is from running fast on pavement. I didn’t even get blisters on the Detroit Marathon, so speed really does change the way I’m running I guess. Perhaps a little bit more on the sloppy side. Perhaps inevitable?

John Yohe