Saturday, February 9, 2013

Heart Breaker Half Marathon

Third time's the charm.

And here it comes again, Heart Breaker half marathon, one of my favorite annual challengers.
2 years ago I had to refuse the challenge at the very last moment because of a stress fracture from doing "Too Much Too Soon".
Year later I felt strong and confident and went for it full speed. Had a blast (full story here Heart Breaker 2012 ).

The race course was an easy one, mostly smooth paved downtown roads.
This year they have moved it out to the countryside and made it more challenging for a skin-to-ground runner. One more reason to go.

Saturday 8 AM, race day
Painting feet is one of my pre-race rituals. Today's paint job = rainbow shoes. At least my idea of it :-)

Morning is cold, overcast, with light drizzle and quite wet. I was expecting sun, that's what the weatherman was claiming last night. But I take it, it is winter time after all and running barefoot in 2 feet of snow somewhere else on Earth would be probably less fun.

Big crowd of runners. Nobody around is barefoot and I don't see any Five Fingers among half marathon people. Only Jen and David running 5k and 10k are in Soft Star moccasins. My choice of footwear attracts attention. In a good way, people are curious.

I know most of the course is going to be chip and seal roads with some sections of gravel. Five Fingers strapped to my arms give me a good feeling of some added security.
I finish my slushy Chia seeds cocktail and feel ready to roll.

Mile 1
Smooth pavement. Nice beginning, relaxed. I am still cold, feet are cold too, a couple of toes go numb. I know this is going to pass soon.

Mile 2 to 12
Chip and seal roads, some up and down hills. Under a nice old railroad trestle.

Feet warm up. Hands not so much. I shouldn't have left the gloves in car. Damn.
I find out pretty soon going downhill on this rough surface is the most challenging part. At mile 3 there is a short half mile section of a crushed gravel road. I go very light, knees bent, feet relaxed to allow just mold over the gravel. I have to run this twice (there are two loops here for the half marathon) so I am also scouting the terrain for the best second approach.

People spread up more now. After passing a couple of lonesome warriors I catch up with an interesting couple. The guy is all naked running only in a short leather loin cloth (and shoes). 
"What a nice pair of shoes you have!" he starts with a big grin.
We stay together for about a mile chatting so the time passes faster.

My forearms are frozen hard now. I can hardly bend my wrists. I should have known, that's a beginner's mistake. Looking at the bright side, Chia does its magic and keeps me hydrated so I do not have to stop at any water stations and can just keep running like Forest. 

Soon after mile 10 I start feeling the effect of wet roads. Pads are getting softer, pavement harder. Running on painted center lines is not helping much. Somehow the paint on a chip&seal is rough too.

"Do not run through pain" I hear my less competitive half.
But there is no pain, just soreness and it is only 3 more miles to the finish. I guess Five Fingers can stay where they are and just enjoy the rest of the ride.

The last mile's nice smooth pavement gives me a welcome relief. When sprinting to the finish line and looking at the timer with 01:53 I feel really good. 3 minutes faster then a year ago and all that barefoot on a much more challenging surface ! 

There is no visible damage on the bottoms of my feet and besides the pads soreness and frozen hands I feel very good. Another fun race with a bit of challenge, couldn't be better. Loving it.

Soles right after the race

Race stats:

Distance  13.1 miles
Time  1:53:59
Pace   8:42
Placed   23 / 39 in my AG
            157 / 474 overall

Course map

Aerial photo

Course profile

The Aftermath

Balls of the feet get really sore in the next two hours after the race. To the point I can only walk in a pair of thick cushy socks for the rest of the day. I soak feet in hot Epsom salt bath to reduce the inflammation. The next day is much better. Two days after the race some deep tissue blisters show up but the recovery is really fast. I can run barefoot again in four days. Considering the run conditions I take it as a success. Human body has amazing adaptation capabilities.

Pads one day after the race

Pads two days after the race


  1. Well done, well written! Inspiring and motivating. P

  2. I like your finishing photo! I am going to try my first ever half marathon in May and hope to do it barefoot, so your story was encouraging.

    Laura aka happysongbird on BRS forum

  3. Congratulations, you have been a great career, a great challenge, and as I said in the BRS am fan of yours

  4. Daniel,

    I was the "mostly nude" runner (in shoes) from the Heartbreak Half a few weeks back. I found your blog and have been reading through it. I do run barefoot, but not full time obviously. Slow and steady... Would love to know more about how you started BFR and how it's been going for you. I get plenty of comments about my attire, so of course going barefoot would be a small "step". hahahahahaaha

    Clint Coleman

    1. Hi Clint !

      It's good hearing from you. Looks like you have already found our Oregon Chapter at BRS ( so I am hoping we will get together again soon, either another race or a group run. We also have a FB group where we are planning the runs at
      I started BF almost three years ago and so far it has been a blast. Happy running and keep having fun !