Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 13 of 18

The countdown to race day is looming.  Nerves are starting to kick in.

This past week was a mixed bag for training.  Tuesday went as usual, but school obligations for the kiddos took priority on Wednesday and Thursday.  (Also, my training schedule told me to take the latter half of the week off because of the 31 mile training run for Sunday).

On Saturday my half marathon trainees were scheduled for a 9-mile run.  It was going to be their first significant mileage point since beginning training.  I debated whether I was going to run with them or set up an aid station around the midpoint.  The time came and I decided to run with them.

I started out with my pack of 12/13-min milers with the plan to catch the front group after a few miles.  Well, they are starting to get pretty fast up in the front.  I left the rear pack just after 2 miles.  It took me nearly 3 miles to catch my front runners.  I think next time I'll start in front and drop back :)

Everyone did a great job and made it back in under 2 hours!  I'm so proud of my runners!

I ended up with 11 miles for that morning.

Sunday I rested with the thought of a 31-mile run looming.  I still wasn't sure when I was going to do the run or where.  I live in a town called Stockton which is south of the capital, Sacramento.  It is just about exactly 31 miles from Stockton to Elk Grove.  I've toyed with the idea of running the distance between the two cities for a while now.  So, it seemed like the right time.

My town is too small to run 31 miles without running loops or zig zagging all over town.  I dislike loops and zig zagging even more.  It makes it too easy to stop or short-cut it back home.  I've always found that running is 98% mental (provided that you are trained up on the distance).  So, the best way for me to run 31 miles was in one long stretch.

Yesterday morning, I ate a packet of oatmeal with chia seeds mixed in, loaded up my hydration pack with some salt pills and shot bloks.  The plan was to use the county back roads leading up to Elk Grove and hit 2 mini-marts on the way for additional food.

The first few miles were smooth and easy along a very busy road.  I stayed to the sidewalks for these first few miles.  Once I turned onto the main county road, I was subjected to the very small paved shoulder and weed ridden dirt shoulder.

I had originally planned to run the majority of the trip barefoot.  However, I had carried along my Sockwa G2s for back up.  It turned out to be a good thing.  The county road was (as I had predicted) very harsh chip seal.  The thought of shredding my feet over miles and miles of this stuff only to fail at making the entire run was not an option.  So, I paused, slipped on my Sockwas and kept running.  Perfect!

It's amazing to me how little regard drivers have for pedestrians along the side of the road.  Very few cars moved over to give me a slight cushion of space between myself and their car.  More often than  not, I had to duck onto the dirt shoulder and knee high weeds for safety.

A little over an hour into my run I had hit the 7 mile mark at a truck stop area on Highway 12.  I wandered into the Chevron minimart and grabbed a gatorade to mix down in my hip bottle.  I took the opportunity to eat a few shot bloks and a couple salt tabs for good measure.  While going through these motions, a guy in a truck pulled up after dropping someone off at the minimart entrance.  He asked if I was a long distance runner.

He mistakenly asked if my hydration pack was oxygen.  Then quickly realized his error and asked if it was water.  We chatted for a few minutes about my pace and mileage.  He commented that he couldn't run a quarter-mile without having a heart attack.  He mentioned that this was his year to take control.  I wished him well and headed out down the road.

The next 8 or 9 miles went very smoothly as I ticked off the roads and freeway off-ramps that I normally speed by in my truck to work.  I finally arrived in the little town of Thornton.  I stopped off at "aid station #2", otherwise known as another minimart.  I wandered in and grabbed a gatorade and a bag of chips.  I sat down on the small lawn outside the store and proceeded to devour the chips and guzzle the gatorade.  I was worried that the gatorade might make my stomach ill since I was not watering it down.  I really didn't care at this point because I was hungry.

As I got ready to head down the road, I thought I'd pop in my ear buds for my iPhone and listen to the last part of my audiobook.  I had so much trouble with the ear bud and the audio files getting scrambled that I gave up and stuffed the whole mess back in my camelback.  (Now I know why I don't run with music anymore.)

From here it was a good 13 miles to the town of Franklin and the outskirts of Elk Grove.  These 13 miles proved to be the most tedious of my journey.  It was during these miles that my feet started to hurt more, my legs became a bit weary and I was questioning whether or not this was a good idea.  I dug down deep and told myself that I could do it.  I knew that I still could beat my 50K time (7:22) - the course being virtually flat. 

I began a schedule of walking for a minute or two and running a mile.  Toward the end, I was walking a quarter mile and running the remainder of the mile.  This kept my per mile pace at about 13 minutes per mile.  Also at this point, I let my wife know that she would not be able to pick me up at our planned time of 2 pm.  We told my dad to meet me at 3 pm.  

After I passed through the town of Franklin, I happened upon this odd sight and seriously considered using it for a few minutes.  It even had a pull-out bed.

But being that I was running short on time, I continued on down the road.

As I got closer to Elk Grove Blvd, I could feel my energy coming back (ever so slightly).  I managed to keep running more than I was walking.  Then came the sight that I both had been anxiously awaiting and dreading.  At mile 29, there is an overpass over the railroad tracks.  This hill is fairly long and takes a little work to get over when you're fresh.  It is one of 2 "hills" in Elk Grove.  I wasn't sure what I'd do when I got here.  I think mostly I planned to walk it.  However, as I reached the base, I took off in a run at a surprising 11-min mile pace up and over the hill.

Home stretch.  About another mile to the am/pm for some food and a car ride home.  I arrived at about 3:10 p.m.  My time a rough 6:24 (including my stop in Thornton where I forgot to stop my watch).  A full hour shorter than my Skyline 50K run (granted there is some serious elevation at Skyline).

I went through the am/pm like a man on a mission.  I grabbed 2 - Gatorade G3 Replenish drinks, a tall bottle of water (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I ran out of water and gatorade at about mile 25), two large hot dogs, and a big bag of Doritos.  My mind was such a blank I couldn't remember my PIN number for my card.  I had $10 and change on me - my bill $12 and change.  After I apologized to the lady at the counter and explained what I had just done, she told me she'd cover the difference because "we need to get some nutrition in you."  - THANK YOU :)  I did need some nutrition.

I went outside, sat on the curb and stuffed my face until I noticed my dad had finally arrived to pick me up.

When I got home, I stripped the Sockwas off my feet.  I knew I had a blister or two coming.  I had a nice quarter size blister on the ball of my right foot and a nasty looking blood blister on my pinkie toe of the same foot.  I guess one should probably wear socks with Sockwas if you're gonna run 31 miles.

Blood blister on my right foot

I felt pretty good at the end.  And still today, I'm feeling pretty limber.  I will say that one probably should not drink two Gatorade Replenish drinks back to back.  They did not go well through my system.  However, at the time, I really didn't care.

Back to running tomorrow. . .


  1. I am so impressed! So does it hurt to walk with those blisters?

    I am the kind of person who wil pick up upholstered chairs off the side of the road because my dad can work his magic and make them look pretty again...I would have done the same and picked up that couch, haha!

  2. The blisters actually don't hurt. I drained the one pictured above. I'm actually feeling fine. Can't wait for my run tonight.