Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heart Breaker Half Marathon

Cold February Sunday morning, 6 AM.
Hot shower, banana and some water.
The usual pre-race ritual.
Rolling calves on my water bottle. Spreading a little Vaseline on my feet, putting ankle warmers on and heading out, barefoot.
It is brisk outside, a windy 35 degrees.

Heart Breaker Half Marathon story

About a year ago, first week in January 2011, I signed up for the traditional Portland's winter half marathon - Heart Breaker Half. I was feeling great, ready for my first half.
That was week 26 of my transition to barefoot running and I ran 35 miles in it.
Too much.
Too soon.
My right fibula did not like the pressure and cracked. Stress fracture just six weeks before the race. That reminded me I was still in my early transition to barefoot running and to take things slowly. The dream of running a half marathon did not happen at that time.
A year has passed.
I got stronger. Faster too. Somehow lost interest in running on pavement anymore. Have been running mostly trails.  A trail freak - some friends call me. Ran my first trail half marathon last year in July and did pretty good.
However a road half marathon is still somewhere on my list.

6:55 AM
All this is in my head as I am walking slowly to the race registration booth feeling the cold pavement under my feet. Sun is still down but it is getting lighter outside. Downtown streets are calm and quiet and the only busy area is around the World Trade Center where the race starts.
Lately I have been feeling really good on my runs. It feels like I finally got over all the growing pains in my transition so last night I decided to grab the opportunity. I am going to find out how a road half marathon tastes like and run it today.
I strap my Five Fingers to my arms as emergency shoes and I am ready to roll.

7:30 AM sharp and off we go. A pack of about 500 runners slowly spreading out. I start somewhere in the middle. 35 F. It is cold but the pavement is dry so feet will warm up in no time. It is the perfect running weather.

At the start

Mile 1 to 5
All flat. I am quite familiar with this section. I have run it twice before at 10k races so I know what to expect and where. There are some rough pavement areas so I occasionally stick to the nice, soft, painted line saving feet for later. At one aid station they are offering fresh strawberries which is nice so I grab one and save it for later too. You never know.

Mile 5 to 10
Climbing up 600 feet. At the beginning I quickly eat my strawberry convincing myself the fructose rush is going to help me to conquer the hill. The placebo effect works its magic. I am really enjoying running uphill. All 5 miles I keep passing the runners in front of me.

Mile 10 to 13
Fast downhill all the way to the finish line. Pavement, pavement and more pavement. My feet get bored and I have to find a way how to entertain them somehow to compensate for the missing trail elements (mud, sharp rocks, slugs). I start running on raised curbs wherever possible trying to keep balance as long as I can and when that is not enough I run zigzagging the road. It is nice to have some fun on a run.


Strawberry is long time gone but adrenaline still works so let's sprint to the finish line.
My time right under to hours is about the same I had on my trail half marathon but the feeling is different. 6 months ago after finishing the trail race I had to massage and roll my calves heavily to deal with cramping and balls of my feet were sore for the rest of the day.
Today I feel great. So great I go playing soccer right afterwards. This is the way running should be. Easy, comfortable, relaxed and FUN !

Hopefully I inspired some people :-)

Race stats:

Distance  13.1 miles
Time  1:57:09
Pace   8:56
Placed   23 / 39 in my AG
            182 / 464 overall

Course map

Aerial photo

Course profile

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sole conditioning at 18 months

Sometimes the human body adaptation still amazes me.

I have been running barefoot for 18 months now. Although I started on pavement, last 12 months my runs were primarily on forest trails. I have been experiencing some changes to my feet along the way, mainly spreading of the toes, loosening and flexibility of the toes and a wider, more muscular foot.
I thought it would be interesting to do a sole conditioning photo comparison so I went through some old photos I took early after starting running barefoot. I found one I took at about 1 month and tried to shoot a new one from about the same angle.

This is a sole conditioning comparison of my foot at about 1 months and 18 months of running barefoot. I think it is pretty interesting to see the adaptation capabilities of a human body.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ubertons Resolution Run 2012

Saturday 10 AM, Cook park, Tigard, OR

My first race this year. In addition to the usual pre-race excitement I am also really happy my wife Zdenka and my son Lukas (6) are joining me today. Lukas really wants to run the Kid's race today and Zdenka agreed to work as a support team.
Weather is looking good, around 50F, ground is soaked and wet after the last night's rain and sun is occasionally peeking through the grey cloud cover.
It has been raining solid for the whole past week. Nothing unusual for our west of Cascades region this time a year but rivers are already overflowing.

Barefoot and minimalist runner

This trail race was originally planned in a beautiful Champoeg State Park but because that area is now flooded, Ubertons moved it to this small city park at the very last moment.
I have never been here before and after seeing a nice smooth concrete trail weaving through the trees I am really hoping there is going to be some nice dirt trail section as well. Running on a smooth pavement in not my idea of a trail race.

The rest of our Barefoot Runners Society team is showing up. There is Jennifer, Kevin with his little one in a stroller and Jim.

Our whole group, only Kevin is missing in this shot

The organizers are announcing a "big dangerous slippery mud covered hill" on the course. After seeing the well maintained trail I take that warning with a grain of salt but having "better safe than sorry" in mind I clip my Vibrams on my forearms just in case and head to the start.

There are not that many runners around. About 100 people altogether, half going for 5k and half for 10k. The course is just 5k so the second group is running it twice.
Our barefoot/minimalist team starts last. We have nowhere to rush. Everyone just wants to enjoy the run. I have no plans to beat my 10k PR today. Although I feel really good and strong, my left fibula spot above ankle has been acting up on some recent runs so I will only gun it if it behaves today.

And off we go - Kevin with stroller, Jim, myself and Jen

After a quick warm up I feel like speeding up a little. It takes me the whole 3 miles to completely relax and settle into the right form. Sadly there is no dirt or gravel on the course. The "big dangerous slippery muddy covered hill" is a joke. There is however a good number of nicely sized puddles on the trail and I make sure I do not miss the joy of splashing through all of them. I realize my Vibrams work just as weights on my arms so I throw them out when starting on my second loop.

Throwing shoes out

The next three miles are great. I feel fast and relaxed. Aiming for the puddles second time, having a blast. When sprinting to the Finish line, Lukas is cheering me up in his Five Fingers anxious to run his Kid's race next.
49 minutes gone and feeling good !
Jen and Jim in Vibrams show up soon and Kevin gets a big applause finishing 5k pushing his stroller all the way to the finish at solid 9:42 pace.

At Mile 5

Joining Lukas at his 1k Kid's race

Since there are almost no kids participating in the Kid's 1k, Lukas takes home the gold medal which he is pretty happy with.
The rain starts at the perfect time, right when everyone is heading home. A good lunch with a good company is in order, time to plan some more group runs together.

Jim, Kevin and Jen

Barefoot Runners Society Oregon chapter is getting bigger and stronger !

Race stats:

Length: 10k
Time: 00:49:08
Pace: 07:55 
Placed: 8 overall (of 52), 2 in my AG (of 12)