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!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Prio by Xero Shoes

The Prio
Xero Shoes

The lowdown: best minimalist running shoe on the market

With Merrill Shoes getting out of the minimalist running shoe business, amazingly, you're best bet for an actual shoe, and not, say, a huarache sandal, is the Prio from Xero Shoes. They offer zero-drop heels, and with a thin, bendable sole, though thick enough to offer some protection from heavy gravel.

Unlike Merrills, and especially 'normal' running shoes, Xeros are not sleek. They're not meant to be. And that's a good thing. Sleek implies narrow and thin, and you don't want that in a running shoe: you want a large 'toe box' for plenty of room for toes and feet to spread out, with any narrowness coming in the middle of the foot, where the laces come in. This is exactly what Xeros have, with a good addition: their laces actually loop down through side loops attached to the sole, which helps snug in the foot under the arch, though that does not mean any arch support. Remember: arch support is not your friend. It may feel good in the short term, but long-term it weakens your fascia, and your foot in general.

I have had my Xeros for about six months now, and they have served me well for running in the colder, wetter temps of Oregon winters, when barefoot running can be a wee bit miserable (though for the record, I did run barefoot one winter in Michigan [insert link]). They also served me on a multi-day backpacking trip in Big Bend National Park, up through the mountains and across a desert slog. And they've just been a casual sportwear shoe for around town. Most especially, when I received a non-running injury to my heel, they ended up being the most comfortable of all my footwear to wear while recovering.

One that note: when I last tried to buy some Merrill shoes in an actual shoe store, a salesperson told me they'd stopped carrying the minimalist kinds, because they were getting too many people returning them, having, supposedly, injured themselves running in them. So, a gentle reminder Gentle Reader: the best way to learn how to run in minimalist (or so-called barefoot) shoes is to actually run barefoot for a while first. Which is actually, or should be, your goal. Minimalist shoes are just for occasions when running barefoot isn't quite comfortable, like in snow and heavy gravel. 'Normal' shoes incline us to heel strike: a no-no anyways, and even worse if you do it in minimalist shoes. Go easy at first. Trot. Jog. Trail-running preferred.

Order the Prio from Xero Shoes here: