Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hills, Heat, and Bare Feet: 10K race report

“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.”
**Thomas J. Watson**

WOW! What a day! I ran my first barefoot (BF) race!

I signed up for the "Chesty" Puller Memorial 10K, long before I considered running it BF. I was warned it was a tough one, just like its name sake, the Marine hero Chesty Puller. We ran past his childhood home, up over a huge bridge, back over the bridge, and then over and back on another huge bridge. That is 4 Bridge crossings in 6.2 miles, with the thermometer nearing 80, and the humidity at about 90%. I haven't run a 10K since the Turkey Trot back in November of 2007, when it was cool and flat, so I really wasn't planning on a personal record. Once I decided to run it BF, my goal was simply to finish without shoes or blood.

The number one question I was asked was, "Why are you running barefoot?" My answer was honed down to: 1. To improve my running form, 2. To rebuild the muscles in my feet, 3. To slow or halt the damage of RA to my toes, and 4. To decrease the impact on my joints when I run. Generally the person would focus on one of these and ask more questions.

I got a lot of positive comments along the route, including a shout of, "Impressive!" from one of the front runners passing me after the turnaround, COOL! The best part was that my back didn't ache after my run, and any joint that started to hurt caused me to reassess my form and fine tune it, which always made the tenderness fade away. My single biggest problem was the bridges. Not because they were high, which they were, or because they were steep, which they also were, but because the concrete was grooved to give the cars traction. The grooves consisted of a deep ¼ inch wide cut, every ½ inch. I had to really focus hard on my form to keep from scuffing my feet going up or down. There was also a lot of debris on the road. I'm guessing there are a lot of logging trucks that pass through this area because the side of the road was littered with large and small chunks of wood, in addition to the usual gravel and junk that accumulates on the side of the road. It turned out that the wood wasn't a problem, and I only hit one rock hard with the outside edge of my foot. I ran the next 10 minutes with that foot falling always on the painted white line and by the time I had to turn off, it was feeling much better. With ½ mile left to go, I was feeling a blister coming on just below my second toe. Again, I checked my form, relaxed, and focused on not popping it with a twist or a scuff of my foot. It worked because my Garmin recorded my last .1 of a mile with a 7.5 minute per mile sprint and my blister never opened up.

The break down of the mile splits were:
Mile 1 (11:31) "Okay, cool, I can do this, the pavement isn't too bad."
Mile 2 (11:42) "Yikes! That is a really big bridge!"
Mile 3 (11:02) "So far so good, the bridge isn't so bad, I can do it again. This is a nice neighborhood, kind of need to resurface the road though."
Mile 4 (11:41) "Crap, another dang bridge."
Mile 5 (11:07) "OMG, will this bridge ever end!"
Mile 6 (11:14) "This road is a LOT rougher than it was on the first pass."
Mile 6.1 (0:40) "To heck with it, I'm sprinting across the finish line!"
Post race, "Can I have a second bottle of water to pour on my steaming feet?"

Sitting on the steps watching the awards being given, I talked to a couple full of questions. The wife, who won the first place plaque for my age group, was really interested in how BF running has taken away my back pain, a constant problem for her. I lamented the fact that if I had been 6 months younger, I would have had a 3rd place plaque (seriously, who would have thought women over 40 were SO fast!) All in all, I may have limped a bit walking back to my car, but it was so worth it! I'm tired, but not as tired as I usually am after a race. My feet are a bit sore from the blisters, but not from the muscle fatigue that I usually have after a long run. Most of all I'm excited to be part of the small minority that has the courage to kick off their shoes and go for it.

Morning after post script: This morning the mild tenderness in my hips (most likely due to hills) is gone, the blisters are dried and don’t hurt, and everything else feels great! I’ll take a couple of days off to rest, but I can’t wait for my next barefoot adventure!


Rich said...

I have been following your posts on the Yahoo group, and am impressed with your tenacity and daring. Keep it up, your doing great.

Dustie said...

WENDY --- YOU FREAKIN ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clare said...

seriously?? i just can't imagine how that doesn't hurt more. is the RA in your ankles at all? maybe that's what scares me. well, that and rock, broken glass, etc. maybe i should try some BF running on grass? i bet it is good for your foot muscles. hmmm....i am really impressed that anyone would do that, let alone someone with ra. food for thought...

Sherri said...

wow! I can't believe you ran bf. Seems like that would be so hard on your feet. I am so tenderfooted. I'm sure I could never do that! Maybe on grass or a beach but not on asphalt and road. you are crazy but rock!

Erin said...

I enjoyed reading about your struggle and your courage to tackle it BF. I ran the 10K as well and the first thought I had was of the Olympian back in the eighties, Zola Bud. She ran everything barefoot. Very impressive...the both of you. Keep it up and I hope to see you in future races. Erin Darcy