My 2nd barefoot half marathon is officially done! That being said, I should probably change my name to "Stubborn" Barefoot Terry.
Why, you may ask?
Well, let's start with being under trained for this race.
For some reason, the Avenue of the Vines Half Marathon seems to come at a time when I'm not fully trained up for the distance. I've run this race twice now - the first time was the inaugural race (I was still running shod). I had run the California International the previous December and had not put in much serious running since. Yet, I was compelled to run this race because it was the inaugural race and the most local half marathon around at the time. I suffered for my lack of training and ran/walked the second half of the race. I finished at 2:22:49. Not bad, but easily a half hour over my PR.
If you've been following my journey, you know that a couple months ago I had a terrible cough/cold that put me out of commission for two months. Prior to getting sick I had completed my first barefoot half marathon and was working my way toward a 50K race in March. Since recovering from my illness, my training miles have been sorely lacking. I've been lucky recently to get out a couple days a week at best for short runs, but nothing very long. In fact, since coming back my longest run was a 10K for International Barefoot Running Day on May 1, 2011.
The day before the race I was feeling very much "off". I had slight nausea, dizziness, achiness, and let's just say issues in the bathroom. I tried to sleep it off through the day and missed a family baby shower. My goal in sleeping was to be able to attend my son's first communion and dinner that night. I made it through dinner but was not feeling great and likely a bit dehydrated. My son, however, must have had something similar because he vomited twice that evening before we managed to get home.
I informed my parents that I was unsure if I would run the race the next morning. Both of my parents were going to be running in this year's event - Dad in the 5K and Mom in the half marathon (wearing VFFs). Since they were planning to drive me to the race, I told them to text me in the morning.
Strangely, sleep came pretty quick that night (I never manage to sleep early or well before races). However, I slept very lightly and got up a few times during the night. I woke at 5 a.m. to be ready to leave by 5:45. I showered and went down to get some breakfast. As the oatmeal was cooking, I found myself doubting that I would be able to stomach anything. I managed half a bite of oatmeal before my parents arrived. I grabbed my water bottle, belt, and huarache sandals and headed out.
After we had parked, I headed over to the winery to get my bib.
A very tall gentleman stopped me and asked if I'd be running in my sandals.
"Nope," I said. "I'll be running barefoot."
Like most people who inquire of us barefoot runners, he was amazed. We wished each other luck and I headed off.
After I had retrieved my number and timing chip, I wandered outside to find my parents again. Dad was running around getting warmed up. My mom however took to pointing out the various clusters of runners who were pointing and talking about me standing there in my sandals.
A couple of ladies approached me to ask the usual set of questions -
- Are you really running like that?
- So, your feet must be really calloused, right?
- Can we see the bottom of your feet?
I chatted with them and answered their questions. Then one asked, "But, doesn't that hurt?"
I've been reading Barefoot KenBob's new book, Barefoot Running Step By Step, and thought it was the perfect time to use one of his responses.
"Don't those hurt your feet?" I asked, pointing at their shoes.
The ladies laughed and took the point graciously.
My parents and I caught an event photographer to take our picture before the races started. Then my mom and I headed over to the starting area. My father went to wait for the 5K (which would start 15 minutes behind us).
My mom and I lined up for the race. I could see a few clusters of people chatting and pointing at my feet (something I've grown accustomed to). A few last minute announcements about the race sponsors and beneficiaries, then the horn sounded. We were off!
Now for reason #2 for possibly changing my name, two words - chip seal.
Last year, I had run the 5k as my first barefoot race. The course, as I remember it, was fairly smooth asphalt - and it was. For the first two miles, anyway. Almost as soon as we passed the 2-mile marker, the street changed from smooth asphalt to fairly rough chip-seal. No worries, I thought, hoping that the course would not be all chip-seal.
As I made my way down the course, focusing intently on my form, one of the cycling-medics passed by and shouted, "You're running barefoot! You are a stud!"
"Thanks," I said. "But this chip-seal isn't the easiest to run on."
The next couple of miles were fairly uneventful. I had my huarache sandals tucked in my belt just in case of rough asphalt. However, as I said at the beginning - I'm stubborn.
As we came off the country road and onto a more major road, the asphalt became very smooth. The course passed several choice-smelling dairy farms. The roadway was spattered with - well, let's just hope it was dirt from various farm machinery.
I entertained several questions about barefoot running, the book "Born to Run" and whether or not the asphalt hurt my feet. I was quite pleased with the current smoothness of the roadway after running for two miles on something that left something to be desired.
We made a turn about the 6-mile marker at the furthest corner of the roughly rectangular course. This again was more rural road - a single lane road with even rougher chip-seal asphalt. I took a deep breath and focused even more on my form. Fortunately, I've been reading Barefoot KenBob's book "Barefoot Running Step by Step". I had even begun to experiment with running on the gravel on the edges of roadways in my training. In my mind I was saying, 'lift the foot' and trying to keep my cadence high.
Somewhere around mile 7, I decided that I was getting tired, so I began alternating running and walking. This is about the same point that I fatigued five years earlier on this course (having been undertrained as well). One lady (I think she was a teacher), in the brightest neon green shirt I have ever seen, and I began a series of short chats and turns racing ahead and falling behind. She began calling me "Tough Toes Terry" to whomever was around at the time.
By mile 9, I was pretty fed up with the chip-seal. The asphalt was rougher here than it was between miles 2 and 4. I kept thinking about the huarache sandals flapping on my back. The stubbornness in me kept saying - no, you're going to run this half marathon barefoot even if it causes blisters. I did happen to check a couple of times and happily found that no blisters were forming.
By the time I reached mile 10 or 11, my thoughts turned to - hmm, what was my mom's goal time? I was hoping it wasn't 2 1/2 hours. I kept checking my pace and time on my Garmin. I knew a PR had long since passed me, but I did have a shot at beating my course record. However, the thought of my mom catching and/or passing me was something I couldn't bear. (I do love my mom, but I'm also very competitive.)
After making the final turn at about mile 12, I focused on the task at hand. I tried running the entire last mile, emphasis on tried. I ran about a quarter mile, then walked some more. Once I got within about a half mile, I buckled down and was determined to finish with a strong run.
I crossed the finish line at 2:20:01 - 2 minutes and 48 seconds faster than my shod run at the inaugural Avenue of the Vines in 2007.
After finishing, I found my dad, who had taken 1st place in his age division (70-79). We wandered around while waiting for my mom to come in. The clouds were moving in and the wind was becoming unbearably cold (especially in running shorts and a microfiber shirt). We finally spotted my mom as the rain started to fall. She crossed the finish line at 3:10:10 sporting her VFFs. Way to go MOM!
While it was not my best half, shod or barefoot, I did finish. Undertrained and with a healthy helping of stubbornness mixed in, I completed my second barefoot half marathon after running 9 of the 13 miles on rough chip-seal. I don't think the chip seal mattered as much to me as being undertrained. The chip-seal was challenging, but with proper barefoot form it was manageable. I ended the race with not so much as a blister on my foot. However, they did feel tender for the next few days. I don't know if I'd run this course again barefoot, but then again, I'm pretty stubborn.