Monday, July 4, 2011

Journey of 1,000 Barefoot Miles - Weeks Ending July 2, 2011 Manitoba Marathon Edition

Me Before the Manitoba Marathon

(Photo Courtesy of City Park Runners)

Note Added July 1, 2011:
Wow, I just realized that I have been working on this post for almost 2 weeks!! I know there usually is a letdown after you finish a marathon, as suddenly you don't have anything to train for, but holy crap I have to get out of this funk. I have been really not keeping up with my runs, as is truly evident by the mileage that I haven't ran in the last two weeks. Things are going change. But on the note here is where we are sitting to date.

I decided to change up the format on my weekly mileage wrap up due to the running of my first official barefoot marathon on Sunday. Because you know, it's kind of a big thing, the first step (all be it barefoot) in my future goal of transitioning to running Ultras a la naturale.

Anyway I digress, this week I am going to start with Sunday the 19th and work backwards towards Monday the 13th, because, well I am writing this so I make up the rules.

So here we go:
Sunday June 19, 2011
Father's Day

Manitoba Marathon

Barefoot: 26.51 miles*
Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 26.51 miles

*Marathon distance of 26.2 miles plus additional wide corners, etc. or so they tell me.

Well, what can I say to explain the nervous excitement I was experiencing up to the start of this race. Sleep did not come easy the night before, I would of been lucky if I got more than 2 hours of seeing the back of my eyelids. I just could not shut my brain off, no matter what I did, I was pre-running the race in my head over and over again (which is really ironic because I had no clue where I was really going). The alarm clock went off at 4:15am, not sure why I set it quite that early, so after a couple of snooze button strikes I jumped out of bed and started to get ready. The nervous energy was still there, so I had a hard time sitting still enough to get some breakfast down which consisted of oatmeal and a banana for some quick energy. Someone told me once that you should ensure to eat no sooner than 2 hours before a big run, so I was taking this advise to heart. Once I finished packing my "After The Race Bag", getting my number (673)pinned on, eyes in (I was wearing my new contacts), application of Glide.

Funny story here, I was so distracted with my upcoming run, I accidentally applied Solid Relief instead of Glide where I typically chaff in the thigh area from my shorts rubbing, for those who do not know what that is, here is a quick explanation. Solid Relief is a all natural hot/cold muscle relief stick that heats up quite nicely, a great product for loosing up tight and sore muscles and joints. Not so good to apply on the inner thighs, needless to say I had some hot flashes that I was really not wanting nor prepared for. After removing the Solid Relief and applying the correct stuff I was ready to go and it was only 5:15 am. I was quite pleased when I looked at the weather and found out the forecast was 15 degrees Celsius and overcast, perfect running conditions in my books.

Nicole and the kids were going to drive me to one of the shuttle stations, so I could get to the start location at the University of Manitoba in plenty of time for the 7:00 am start. I also had planned to meet up with everybody from City Park Runners prior to the race for pictures and well wishes as well. With this in mind, we left the house at 5:30 to ensure I could make the 6:00 shuttle from the pickup spot. Wow, what a sight when we got there, obviously everybody else had the same idea, because the parking lot was full of runners waiting to get on one of the buses. There was an easy 500 plus people waiting to catch a ride to the U of M, but fortunately the volunteers were doing a great job of organizing everybody and getting them on and off to the Marathon site in a timely fashion.

The crowd of runners waiting for the shuttle buses. It took me about 20 minutes before I got on my shuttle, and the line grew substantially by that point.

It took us about 5 minutes to get to the drop off spot with the WPS doing a great job of directing traffic away from the university. I decided that I would leave my VFF's on my feet till I dropped off my 'After the Run Kit', as I wanted to fly under the radar so to speak until it got closer to race time. I got a really strange look from the volunteer at the clothes drop off station when I took my VFF's off and shoved them in the bag before I handed it to her. Then she realized I was running the marathon and I wasn't wearing any shoes, I just shrugged and smiled and turned to walk away. I figured there would be some type of conversation going on after I left, about the crazy guy running the marathon with no shoes.

As I headed to the start line, as it was getting closer to 7:00, I noticed the City Park Runners crew over in the adjacent parking lot, figuring I had enough time, I sprinted over to wish everybody a good run prior to lining up. City Park had a good representation for this run, and I have to thank Eric, Cheryl and the rest of the gang for helping me reach my goal of completing this marathon run. Without the extra training runs, the open minded running partners (you know who you are) and the motivation and encouragement showed throughout by all, I might not of been ready to do this. Also a big thanks to Cheryl for the great before picture shown above, I hope you don't mind me thieving it (I promise I will not use it for profit). I did miss out on the group photo, which I probably had time to do, but once again the nervous energy and excitement got the best of me, as I headed to the start line.

Once I figured out where I was going, I found the 4 hour 30 finish time starting point and started limbering up. I set a goal time of 4hr30 mins for this race based on how my training runs went previously, I figured if I went out at a 10 min/mile pace for the first couple of miles until the field thinned out. Then if I felt good I could pick up the pace and start moving up the ranks, as the race went on. I have been very happy lately with my ability to pick up the pace and finish all my runs strong no matter what the distance, so I was expecting no different today.

I was also trying to meet Andy as well, as the plan was to run the race together to help push each other along, and at about 6:50 both him and his wife Liz arrived to join me. Liz wasn't running but was there to see Andy off prior to heading to work to tend to her flock (she is an ordained pastor). As we waited we saw the wheelchair marathoners head by for their start, and the nervous energy was really starting to rear it's ugly head. Luckily while we waited, I had a number of curious runners asking questions about my barefeet including, 'You're not really going to run like that are you?', and 'You're running the full marathon?' . Also my favourites, 'Damn that's hardcore' and 'You must have really crazy callouses?' This of course distracted me as I answered questions and had some fun with some of the people as I did leg lifts to stretch out my hips and quads. This of course brought more attention to my bare feet and thus more finger pointing, oooh's and ahhhs, and whisperings which brought a uncontrollable crazy grin to my face.

Then after the introduction of the race director, and the standard call of the 'Ready, Set, and Go', there was a slow shuffle to the start line as the front runners took off to begin the race.

The Start of the 2011 Manitoba Marathon
(if you look really close you can see my bare feet through all the legs)

It took Andy and I about a minute to get to the starter strip to begin the race but once we got there we started to slowly pick up steam, the plan of the 10 min/mile went out the window as soon as we started, as we were swept up by the atmosphere and all the adrenalin that was surrounding us. For the first mile or so, we were struggling to keep the pace down to a reasonable rate, we both knew from previous experiences if we go out to fast at the start, once the miles added up we would not be able to keep it up, and our goals would be in jeopardy. With this in mind, I was a little surprised at how I was feeling, my feet were responding really well to the road, my breathing was even and steady, and it appeared that no matter how fast I was running, it felt right.

As we left University Drive and turned north onto Pembina, it was like people started to notice I was running barefoot, I started hearing ooohhs and ahhhs from the crowds, etc. I also starting hearing runners talking behind me as I moved along, Comments like "I could never do that, I can barely walk on my deck without shoes" and "I would be worried about stepping on glass or sharp rocks." I always find it funny, do they not think I can hear them, or do they think that I wouldn't connect the dots that they were talking about me. I just smiled, shook my head, and answered their questions over my shoulder. The most common question seems to be "You must have some crazy callouses on your feet to run like that!" This one still amazes me, because let's think about that, I am running on pavement, rough concrete, gravel, etc. Can we say 'Nature's Emery Board!", my feet are probably softer than most peoples, I get a pedicure everytime I go out for a run. For some reason a lot of people relate tough strong feet (thicker plantar skin) to callouses, oh well I am taking this as a opportunity to educate the masses I guess.

Anyway as Andy and I moved onto Crescent Park Drive and through the park, we started to slowly pass other runners, we were unintentionally doing this, but we ended up tailing a couple of quicker runners and once again we were caught up in the excitement and off we went. Running through the water stations, we both took advantage of the wet sponges to douse ourselves with to keep cool. This was becoming more and more important to both stay hydrated and cool as the humidity was starting to creep up. I actually had one girl drop the sponge she was holding out for me before I got to her when she looked down at my barefeet. Good thing there was another one just after her which I snagged with a quick thanks, the sponges were a good thing to keep my body from overheating throughout the run.

South Drive was fairly uneventful, I had one of the bike support crew members riding along side me for a short period asking all sorts of questions, his curiosity got the best of him I guess. After he went on his merry way, another one of the great volunteers (and I sincerely mean that everybody who volunteered was great and a big thank you goes out to all of you) pulled up to check on me as well, he had more of an agenda though, as he was checking to make sure I knew what I was doing and had ran this far barefoot before. He was glad to hear that I have been running this way for over a year and this was my full time running thing. He then proceeded to tell me he was concerned when he first saw me because of a girl that decided last minute to try to run the marathon barefoot and got pulled off with shredded and bloody feet. Talk about 'too much to soon' that is how people get hurt and barefoot running gets a bad reputation, you seriously can't think that you can just take off the shoes and run a marathon, pretty silly if you ask me.

Just before we pulled back onto Pembina, we hit Relay Exchange Station No. 1, this was a hoot. I charged through there with the biggest smile, as the largest gathering point of spectators was the Relay Exchange Stations, both runners and cheerers (is that right) gather at these points. After another quick sponge soak, some waves to the crowd and some well wishes from some of my adoring fans (lol even I find that funny), I was on my way once again. It's funny you go through those cheering sections and the adrenaline just starts pumping and I felt higher than a kite (bad comparison but it seems to work in this instance). Once back onto Pembina, we hit the split with the half marathoners, not sure if there was too many of those as we carried onto the Jubilee Overpass, but I am sure there was a few.

It was a straight shot up Harrow towards River Heights and Wellington Crescent, passing more confused spectators and runners alike. I was just having a whole lot of fun and my feet were feeling fantastic, no ill effects as we passed mile 8 and 9. I pulled away from Andy a couple of times as I got started into conversations with other runners, including an absolutely amazing woman who was running her first marathon. She was a single mother of 5 (yes I said 5) children from Steinbach, I don't know to much of her story because she keep changing the conversation back to barefoot running. Try as I might to find out a little more about her and express my admiration about her determination and drive to train for and run a marathon along with raising 5 children, she keep turning it around. She even went so far so call me her hero, for doing what I do, all I can say to that is: No way, you are my hero for doing what you are doing!! Anyone who can raise 5 children on their own and still have enough time to do some serious marathon training (with one of those wheelie cart strollers to push her two youngest around), deserves more kudos than my barefeet do. Also a big ooh yeah goes out to her sister for graciously watching the kids and letting her run today.

Once we hit Wellington, my bladder decided it need to empty, so I quickly found the first port-a-pottie I could find. Doing this I told Andy to keep going and I would try to catch up when I finished, of course I did not account for the guy in front of me taking 4 minutes to go, crap. Tick tock, tick tock, that had to be the most aggravating time period ever, seemed like everything was going in slow motion except the runners that I had passed that were now passing me. After what seemed like forever, I got in and out and back on the road to some more crazy comments about my feet, par for the course I guess. Feeling totally rejuvenated, I picked up the pace, and started regaining some lost ground. I caught up to Andy just before the 2nd relay transition station, and once again had a great time running through the crowds. Passed by my father-in-law and his wife for the second time, not really sure if they were cheering or embarrassed to admit they knew me (I don't think they would of admitted it to me anyway). I did hear quite a bit of 'Cheering for the Barefoot Guy', very interesting, I almost looked around to see who they were talking about, then I remembered that was probably me.

After passing through the relay transition location, I was feeling awesome and Andy just said 'don't let me hold you back, go!!'. I was so pumped, I just picked up the pace and took off into Assiniboine Park, passing more runners and just having a great time, my legs felt fresh it was hard to believe I had just passed 11 miles and was heading for the foot bridge over to Portage Ave.

Me passing a group of runners before I spot my wife and kids cheering me on just before the foot bridge.

Me heading back onto the course towards the foot bridge after a quick hug and kiss of the kids and wife. The lady in green just realized I was not wearing any shoes and started yelling.

Andy heading to the foot bridge to get to Portage Avenue

I spotted my wife and kids cheering me on just as I was coming up to the foot bridge waving signs and just appearing to have a good time. I took a couple of seconds to weave myself out of the pack and sprint over for a quick ruffling of the hair of the boys and a kiss for the wife, I was feeling so good. I don't think they were expecting that, but what the heck I was having fun, and there is no rule against it is there? I was so pleased with my time to this point I was right on track, I figured I would hit the foot bridge at about 1:50 and I was right on (just under 12 miles). Not to bad, and I still had loads of gas in the tank, I wasn't even fatigued in anyway. I felt like I could run at least another half marathon, good thing I was.

Over the foot bridge we went and east on Portage, still maintaining a pretty steady clip, I hit the half way point (13.1 miles) at around Polo Park with a time 2 hours and 6 minutes. This got me smiling even more as I realized my 2 hour half marathon goal time was in reach with this type of split. Just by increasing my marathon pace by about 30 seconds a mile, under 2 hours is definitely achievable.

I started running with another Vibram wearing marathoner, it was really interesting to see the amount of Vibrams out, it actually makes me think that this minimalistic (or natural) running thing might be catching on. Anyway she was telling me she was having a great time running behind me watching the reactions on people's faces as I run by and they notice that I wasn't wearing any shoes. It was like, 'cheer, cheer, ch-ee....., holy crap he doesn't have any shoes', it seems I was getting more of a reaction then I was expecting. Anyway she was quite content to run with or behind me, as supposely she was not being bothered for her choice of footwear.

As we turned into the Woseley area, I saw a guy holding a sign, and I automatically thought of Gail, as it was a sign that I figured she would be holding up. It read "Run Faster Than Your Mascara", it just started me laughing, and low and behold who do I see a little way up the road but G and the B-man cheering away. It was good to see them out and cheering on the runners with reckless abandon.

The Infamous Sign ' Run Faster Than Your Mascara' . Gail I know you had someting to do with this. (photo credit by G.O.)

This was part of the Elvis Themed Relay Running Team

(photo credit by G.O.)

As we headed up Wolseley Aveune towards the Relay Exchange Zone No. 3, we noticed a definite increase in spectators, it was a lot of fun running through this area with the tree canopy and the older homes, very surreal. I could hear all the cheering at the Exchange Zone, and of course this got the adreline going, which increased my speed. I hit the crowds almost in a sprint, there was a lot of cheering, some more gasps and comments and some hi-fives with relay participants I knew and didn't know. I say Daniel (who I used to work with) and Leo (who I currently work with), waiting for there respective relay partners to check in, with some words of encouragement. I steamed through this section fairly quickly, while taking a moment to grab a drink and a sponge to ensure I was maintaining my hydration as the humidity was starting to take its hold on the day.

It was a mostly uneventful run through downtown, hit the sprinklers, soaked myself with sponges, drank lots of water, popped a GU, you know the normal stuff. We did pass by an apartment with some really loud spectators, I don't believe they spoke a stick of english, but boy were they having fun, cheering on all the runners, screaming, hooting and hollering. It was good to see them have so much fun.

After I hit mile 17, which was right around where we turned onto Main Street and the Norwood Bridge, I was noticing my legs starting to fatigue a little bit, I think the humidity and heat were starting (just starting) to take their toll. I was averaging just over a 10 min mile, still not to bad, but definitely a difference from earlier in the run. The funny thing was that my feet still felt fantastic. I had stepped on a couple of stones along the way that I honestly should of missed, but other than that no issues, my feet still felt very strong and no tenderness at all. Not that it would of mattered as I left my safety blanket (my VFF's) behind anyway, I would either finish barefoot or I would not be finishing at all.

As I crossed the Norwood Bridge, to the delight of many honking cars, and the tune of 'Go barefoot runner, Go!', I turned onto Lyndale Drive and got jumped by the paparazzi. This photographer was standing there casually and as I was approaching he noticed my lack of footwear and he took off like a shot to get ahead of me. I swear, he must of took at least 50 pictures of me coming towards him as his finger never lifted off the camera button. I just shook my head, waved and smiled as I cruised by him with a bit more of a jump in my step. I honestly felt like my feet were going to be in the paper the next morning with the amount of picture taking that was done throughout the course. After all that sillyness, it happened, just before the 18th mile marker in the shade of a big tree, my thirst quenching heroine called my name. It was HB with her beer stop all set up, just like it was meant to be. Oooohhh what luck, this was the extra boost that I needed. HB is a long time member of the WH3, of which I am a proud member. With a quick down down (I never thought Sleemans Honey Brown ever tasted so good), a good luck hug and some words of encouragement, I was off again with a bit more of a bounce in my step.

Around the corner I went and there was Colin and his family sitting there once again cheering everybody on (I also passed them somewhere in Wolseley), it was almost like they were following me. It was like this bicycle riding clown that I met up with numerous times through the course, everytime she saw me she made this shocked look, like I was stalking her, it was quite entertaining, but my perspective might be a little warped. Anyway carrying on Lyndale Drive and back towards St. Mary's, still mantaining a steady pace at around a 10:00 mile, I was quite optimistic that I would blow my goal time out of the water (note to self, never do this especially at Mile 19 of a marathon as the WALL has not reared it's ugly head as of yet). All I could think was my feet were not showing any effects of the distance, my legs still felt like they had good spring to them, and my breathing was steady and strong, I am going to finish this thing in dare I say it, just over 4 hours. Suddenly my goal had changed in my head, and I started to pick up the pace, big mistake made. I had trained for a certain pace in the latter stages of the run, and in all my brilliance, I decided I should push it up way too soon. Here I hadn't even hit 20 miles yet and I was looking too far ahead, instead of staying with my original game plan of between a 9:30 mile and a 10:15 mile until the last 2 or 3 miles (not including adreline boosts from the spectators), I pushed it up to a 8:00 mile. Of course this did not last too long, my breathing quickened, my legs got heavy and I had to do what I did not want to do, I slowed to a walk for a couple of minutes to catch my breath and give my legs a break. Crap, the mistake was made, I find that once I slow for that first walk, I will see myself doing that numerous times from that point forward.

As we hit Relay Exchange Zone 4, I had walked a couple of times, and I was not happy about it. With a quick sponge shower to cool me off, a drink and a GU, I was off again, and then a thought occured to me when I turned onto Dunkirk Drive (mile 22), I am running a marathon the way I believe I was intended too, and damn it I am having fun. Who cares if I have to walk a few times, my goal was to finish the entire 26.2 miles with the power of my own barefeet (not with a pair of over-priced foot coffins) and a grin on my face, and that was what I was going to do. This epifiney changed my thought process on how I was going to finish the race, now I was going to give it everything I got and run as hard as I could (with proper form of course) for as long as I could then I would walk a little bit, and then do it all over again.

With this in mind I started running with a biker who was volunteering this year for the first time (or maybe he rode with me) for about a mile. He told me he had ran every Marathon up until this year, but could not go this time but felt he still had to be a part of it, so he volunteered to be a course marshall. He also told me that he was proud of his son who took up the tradition and was running his first marathon this year, you could see the proud look in his face as he told me this. Its amazing the stories that you hear along the way, people seem to open up a little more when they run, barriers appear to come down. People talk to people that normally would not converse with, you seem to become part of a community that wants to see you succeed. I don't know if it just me, but running allows me to express myself in ways that I normally do not get too, typically I am a quiet guy, I do not go out of my way to talk to people. But take off the shoes and allow me to run for any given distance, and I turn into a totally different person, I seem to come out of my shell and just have fun. I will talk to anyone, I pretty much have no fear when it comes to talking about the way I run.

As we pulled onto St. Vital Drive, I was still maintaining my pace and walking when I needed to, as I started up running again, I come up on this small cheering section with the cutest little girl I had ever seen. She was probably 4 at most, and cheering the loudest at all the runners as they went by her. When she saw me, she stopped cheering, her eyes went wide and started pointing at me with her finger and said something that I will remember for a long time,

"Mommy, Mommy, He's running with no feet! Can I run like him one day"

I don't know why this touched me the way that it did, but from that point on I could not keep the grin off of my face. I must also say her mother was turned and facing the other way when she said this, so she whipped around with a big "What?" Then she realized I was just running with no shoes, and the relieve that showed on her face was priceless. This area was full of families cheering on the runners, it was good to see the parents showing their kids that it is good to support something like this. I next came across another family that was handing out freezies to the runners, I spotted the youngest one, a little boy and headed right to him. The look of delight on his face as he passed me the freezie was worth it, especially when he looked at my barefeet when I stopped in front of him to thank him. All I heard as I headed out was, "The runner with no shoes took the freezie from me, did you see that, he came to me." I don't know if I made his day, but along with the other girl, he made mine. The innocense of children never ceases to amaze me, I wish it never went away.

As I got to mile 23, River Road and the aid station where a bunch of my running friends were helping out, I still felt pretty good, with a quick bit of water (I think I surprised Ken who I don't think recongnized me), some hello's to Fast, Agent and Tram I was off again. Once we pulled onto Bishop Grandin, I decided to walk the bridge across the Red River, I figured it would be good timing to rest up for the final push to the finish line. This was really interesting to walk over, with the non-freeze textured surface on the bridge there was some really hot spots where the metal was located. Further to this, there was some pretty crazy sharp rocks lodged in the cracks. I ended up running most of the bridge as it was a little warmer than I had originally expected. With this I ended up walking some of the off ramp up to Pembina Hwy, which was not as originally planned, I usually do not like to walk up inclines. Here we turned onto University Drive for the home stretch to the finish line.

As I passed mile 25, I saw this young relay runner who was really struggling to push forward. So I pulled up beside him and tried to encourage him on. Maybe it was my words of inspiration or maybe he just didn't want to beaten by a barefoot runner, but he picked up his pace and we ran in most of the way to the end. Just before we turned into the stadium for the final distance to the finish line, I pulled up and let him go ahead, that was when he turned his head and mouthed. "Thanks" and off he went. Stopping for a second, I thought to myself I did it, I am going to finish this thing and I pushed off for the final kick.

As I entered the stadium, I felt like I had just conquoured the world, me and my barefeet. I looked at the crowd, saw a lot of people cheering and waving and I poured it on for the final push, my legs felt light and my feet seemed like they were floating as made the corner to the finish line. I looked up at the time, and to my surprise I was still under 4:30:00, now knowing that I did not get across the start line as the race started, I had a minute of grace time but I was not leaving it to chance. I kicked it up another notch and passed 2 runners prior to the finish, as I raised my arms and crossed the timing belt with a posted time of 4:27:46. This translated to a chip or official time of 4:26:58. I was elated that I did it, and finished as strong as I did.

I did it, I finished my first marathon barefoot.

Me coming into the finishline, I passed the guy in the orange just before the line.

Me with the big silly grin on my face after I picked up my finishing medal.

My boys with me after the run, my feet are in perfect shape, looked like they did before I started today. Notice the only thing my boys are concerned about are the spoils that I received from the Recovery Area.

The winner of the 2011 Manitoba Marathon, Philip Samoei of Calgary in a time of 2:35:45.

With the Manitoba Marathon over with I have gotten into a real funk, that I am currently trying to get out of, it took me a long time to get this blog post finished and out, so I have decided to finish it off with just the mileage from the days I have ran with no explaination. Honestly they are few and far between but they will all count towards my end goal. I have a half marathon scheduled for the end of the month and a 50km scheduled for mid August so I have to get back to my running post haste. Next week I will start posting as per before, but this one other than the Marathon report will be down and dirty. I hope you enjoyed a look inside my head during a marathon, it was quite the experience and I will never forget it.

Anyway here are the rest of the runs that I have finished over the last few weeks:

June 13th, 2011

Barefoot: 3.59 miles

Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 3.59 miles

June 16th, 2011

Barefoot: 6.20 miles

Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 6.20 miles

June 20th, 2011

Barefoot: 2.12 miles

Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 2.12 miles

June 23rd, 2011

Barefoot: 5.12 miles

Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 5.12 miles

June 28th, 2011

Barefoot:7.19 miles

Vibrams: 0.00 miles

Total: 7.19 miles

Totals Year to Date:

Barefoot: 300.89 miles

Vibrams: 71.26 miles

Total: 372.15 miles

May your soles caress mother earth at every opportunity

On, On.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this account, Bob. I am attempting to get into barefoot running and reading of your Manitoba Marathon adventures was inspiring. I may try to join some of the Sunday long runs once I get a bit more mileage under my feet.