Saturday, June 25, 2011

Race for the Animals 10k trail run

It is a gorgeous Saturday morning.
The sun is up but the air in Lower MacLeay Park is still cool and fresh from the last night as I arrive to the starting point filled with the usual pre-race excitement and expectations.

The Race for the Animals is a 5k/10k event which takes place in Forest Park and the course is mainly on the beautiful Wildwood Trail. Today the trail is all dry and not muddy as most of the year here in Pacific Northwest.That promises a perfect run today.

I am really happy to know I am not going to be the only barefoot runner here. Our Barefoot Runners Society Oregon Chapter really represents today.

Josh, Jasmine, Suzanne, Mike, myself and Martin (down)

I know the course well. I have run it multiple times (it is actually one of my training runs) so I know almost every pointy stone on the trail. This gives me a real confidence so I am not taking any emergency shoes with me. I am pretty sure I can finish  easily and my only goal for today is not getting injured on the sharp rocks, have fun as always and stay under 1 hour.

First part of the course follows the beautiful Balch creek

Me at the start

The first half a mile is on a rocky trail along the charming Balch creek. The runners pack is dense and it is hard to slip further ahead. I start passing runners anywhere I can find a wider spot and soon I end up at a tail of a small group running at my pace.

Rocky section along the creek

First half a mile is somewhat technical at places

I stay behind the group and wait for my moment. That comes at mile 2.
There is a steeper climb up ahead so I shoot forward. I easily smoke all 4 runners in front of me and quickly find myself running alone in the woods. I see some faster runners in front of me flashing through the trees but other than that it feels like there is no race today. I am just comfortable running mu usual route enjoying the calm forest.

Three miles climbing up done, now to the downhill part. I lean forward, bend knees more and fly downward with a hellish cadence.

At mile four there is a short but steep climb. Two shoddies in front of me stop and start walking up.
As I pass them I hear some nice encouraging cheering from behind.
"What a nice day it is to run today!" I think to myself.

Soon my feet hit the familiar rocky surface of the Balch creek trail again and I start hearing some runners behind me closing in.
"Nobody is going to pass me here and now !" I hear my competitive part of me and I decide to listen to it.
The last half a mile is definitely the fastest I have ever done at this place. The chasers are gone and I can not be happier seeing two fives on the timing board as I sprint to the finish line. I wait for Mike, Martin and Suzanne and snap some pictures for them.

Jasmine finishing

Martin finishing

Mike finishing

Josh with Jasmine ran the 5k course and Josh actually won the race ! We had a good celebration after the race in the park with a cold refreshing beer.

Our contingent of barefoot runners even got a bit of respect in the local newspaper's running blog :

"Starting and finishing at Lower MacLeay Park, this well-organized tour of Portland's urban forest brought out an enthusiastic group of runners, including a contingent of barefoot athletes who somehow braved the rocky surface of the trails east of the Stone House."

Race stats:
Length: 10k
Elevation change: 610 ft.
Time: 0:55:08 (Pace 08:48)
Placed: 18th overall

Race course:

Race profile

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My 1 year anniversary of running barefoot

On June 23 2010, exactly one year ago I decided to ditch my shoes and went for my very first run barefoot.
I only did 0.9 miles on a rubber track and it took me 10 minutes. My feet were quite sore after that run and I had to take the next day off to recover.
But that memorable run successfully started my path to barefoot running and what a great journey it has been so far !

I have run total about 700 miles, all barefoot with only two exceptions. One winter run on snow in freezing conditions and my very first trail run on a rocky forest road. Both in Vibrams.

For the first 25 weeks I was running on a pavement only. Then I tried trails and immediately got hooked. These days 80% of my running is on trails, the rest is pavement. 

My weekly mileage in my first year of barefoot running

As much as I was trying to avoid it I also fell victim to TMTS.
Looking back at the graph now I realize running almost 35 miles in my 26th week was not such a good idea. I paid for that and got injured in my 31st week. Luckily it was only a stress reaction on my lower fibula but it still took me 6 weeks to fully recover.

Here are some highlights of this great adventure

Fastest run
June 21, 2011 (week 53)
Summer Solstice 5k
Time 0:23:32  (7:31 pace)

Farthest run
June 12, 2011 (week 52)
Wildwood trail, Portland, OR
Distance: 12.5 miles
Time: 01:59 (9:30 pace)
850 ft elevation change

Fun run
October 24, 2010 (week 19)
10k Run Like Hell Portland !
Time:0:48:19 (7:47 pace)
Running in Hawaiian man costume

Most beautiful trail run 
March 14, 2011 (week 39)
Wildwood trail, Forest park, Portland, OR

Coldest run (barefoot)
November 25, 2010 (week 23)
10k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day
Time: 00:54:34
Temperature: 32F, icy patches mixed with a little snow on the trail

Most painful run
...not counting the one I injured my fibula on...
November 28, 2010 (week 24)
Leif-Erikson drive in Forest park, Portland, OR
Distance: 8.8 miles

This was my very first trail run, the forest road was full of gravel and sharp rocks, not the best choice for a beginner. I lasted for about an hour and then I gave up and put Vibram Five Fingers on for the last 20 minutes. My feet were burning after that and I got 4 bruises in my arches.

Needles to say these days I run on the same road about three times a week, comfortable, relaxed and without any pain. It still amazes me how human body can adapt.

Muddiest run
May 15, 2011 (week 48)
X-Dog Havoc at the Hideout 5 mile trail race
Elevation change: 980 ft 
Time: 0:53:46 (10:30 pace)

It was raining all night before and all day at the race. Everyone was slipping like crazy. We had a ton of fun :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Sundowner 5k race

It is a beautiful hot summer evening, the longest day of the year.
I am taking my son Lukas and his buddy Jessie and we head to Oregon City for the annual Summer Solstice Sundowner 5k run.

It has been almost exactly one year since I first put my shoes away and started my barefoot journey.
I remember myself and Lukas being here at the same spot one year ago just to see the race because as much as wanted to run I simply could not. I was just in my early transition time to barefoot running and my calves were really sore after almost every run at that time.

A year has passed and it is a different story now. Today I feel strong and confident. I have run 700 miles in the past 12 months, all barefoot on all kinds of surfaces and right now I am really looking forward to run a road race since it has been a while I ran one.

Lukas and Jessie run first their ¼ mile Kids run. It is just one loop on the track and they both enjoy it with the kids spontaneity.

For the 5k there are about 220 runners. The course is mostly flat, two loops around the Clackamas Community College campus on pavement with some sections of a crushed gravel paths.

7:15 PM and the gun shoots. I am starting with no rush somewhere in the middle of the pack. I am the only barefoot runner here today and I only see one older lady in Vibram 5 Fingers.

I feel strong but relaxed. I start adding speed right after the start and start passing people in front of me. Then we hit the pointy crushed gravel part. I am really curious how fast I can handle it and happily realize right away this is going to be an easy one.
I am well trained running barefoot on gravel and rocks from all my trail running in the past 6 months so I do not slow down much and even keep passing people. For the whole race nobody passes me and that feels really good.
Two loops done and I am sprinting to the finish line. I glance on the numbers on the board – 24 minutes. I am really happy and smiling.
My new 5k personal record, my fastest run up to date and my feet and legs feel great.

“Daddy, I want to run with you next time” Lukas asks. What a lucky dad am I :-)

Time: 0:23:32
Pace: 07:36
Overall place: 39/212
Place in my age division: 2/15

Summer Solstice 5k course

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My first Trail Half Marathon - barefoot

Sunday morning, it is a beautiful sunny day today.
I have been running for a while and I feel really good and strong. The longest run up to date was 10 miles on a trail so I decide it is time to finally test my feet on a bit longer run.
Today it is going to be the half-marathon distance (about 13 miles).

I pick Wildwood trail in the Forest Park as the place for this event since that is where I run most of the time. I am only taking my cell and a small handheld water bottle with me.

The trail starts climbing up right from the trailhead and I am working hard, breathing heavily but as I gradually warm up by the mile 4 I already feel great and all relaxed.

The first 7 miles is just a steady climb up from 150' to 1000'.
When I reach the turning point I just sip half of my 12oz bottle and turn running back.

At mile 10 I feel like my legs are running by themselves and my body is just hovering above the ground flying through the woods. Awesome feeling.

At mile 11 there is the longest downhill (250' drop over 1 mile) of the route and I almost shoot both my knees on it. I have to stop and walk 50 yards down and then slowly start running again. For some reason my knees hate running down long hills despite of my full concentration on a high cadence and having them bent all the time.

The last mile is a piece of cake running along a beautiful creek.
At the end I feel really good. My feet are in a great shape, no bruises, no blisters and no hot spots.
I only consumed 6 oz of water at mile 7 and no food.
Overall great run. Feeling ready for the real Half.