Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Weeks 14 and 15 of 18

Apologies for being behind in my postings.  I think I'm busier when I'm on "vacation" than I am when I'm working.  I need to review what has been happening for the past 3 weeks.  I'm going to do Week 16 as a separate post so I can catch up :)

So, let's see...

When last I wrote, I had just completed a 50K run from my town to the next - 31 miles.  After that run, I took it easy for the remainder of the week with a 5 mile run on Thursday (after the Monday 50K).  The following weekend, I ran 12 miles with my half marathon training group.

The following week (week of March 11-17) I started took it fairly easy as well because that Saturday I was planning to do a training run on the AR50 trail section put on by James Barstad.  I was also hoping to meet up with Jason and Shelly Robillard that day.  However, they took the opportunity to head over to the Rodeo Beach 50K a day early to prep for the race (in costume no less) with Shacky, Krista Cavender and Vanessa Runs.

There were a lot of runners from the Folsom Trail Runners.

Here's a recap of the trail run.

I got up early to make the hour plus drive up to the Auburn Overlook where people were meeting to carpool to one of two starting points Beals Point (22.5 miles) or the Nimbus Fish Hatchery (31 miles).  My directions were terrible and got me to Auburn, which I already knew how to get to.  Thank God for smart phones.  I managed to find directions and arrived as everyone was taking off.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Veronica (I think that was your name) for allowing me to ride with your group from the Overlook to Beals Point.  Also thank you to your small group for helping me pull out the last few miles of that run - especially the Dam Wall!

Beals Point is at a little over 26 miles into the AR50 course.  The first 3 miles out of Beals is gravel levee tops.  Since my feet were fresh, this was not too terribly bad.  The cold did make my feet a bit more sensitive to the rocks.

Once the gravel ended and the single-track trails began, that's when the real fun began!  It had been raining for most of the week and rain was predicted that day.  However, the skies were beautiful and it was a perfect morning for a run.  The best part was a big storm had blown through the night before and left the trails wonderfully muddy in places.  By mile 5 I had really started to find a groove.  Most of my miles were averaging in the 11-min range with mile 5 down in the 9s. 

I was feeling pretty good after the first hour, which is when I kind of made my first mistake.  What I should have done was pause to eat a shot blok and maybe even a couple of salt pills.  I felt pretty good and didn't want to take the time to stop.  I actually had to stop several times in the first 7 miles because my water belt kept falling off (the velcro is shot).  So, I pushed on until about mile 9 before pausing to eat and take some salt pills.  Still, I was feeling great.

At about mile 10, I began to hear the ringing of a cowbell.  At the top of a small hill was the one aid station that the organizers had set up.  The small crew there was awesome!  They had a great spread of food (one of my favorite parts of ultra running) and were very friendly. 

The first question I got was, "How long have you been doing that?" (referring to my bare feet) 

"Do you mean today or how long have I been doing the barefoot thing?" I replied.

"Today," he clarified.

I informed him that I had come in from Beals Point and that I was planning to go the whole 22.5 miles that day.  The group was quite impressed and we chatted about the course and how I got into barefoot running.  The lady at the aid station took a couple pictures of me and my feet.  After hanging around for 5 minutes or so, I figured that I should be moving on.  I thanked them for being out there and headed off down the trail.

Things continued well for the next few miles.  My pace was slowing down a bit due to the hills and having to climb across a few fallen trees.  Climbing over fallen trees while barefoot was a new one for me.  Most weren't too bad, however, one section had a nice sharp manzanita tree that was a bit tricky to get across. 

The best part of the day - MUD!  There were puddles everywhere.  I splashed through nearly every single one.  Gooey mud, red dirt mud, and even slippy mud.  All of it was FANTASTIC!!!  After crossing a small bridge there was a fair sized puddle of mud.  At that point the trail took a hard right turn.  I planted my right foot in the middle of the mud and turned my body to the right.  My foot began to slide and had I not been quick to put my left hand out I would've smashed into the side of the mountain. 

After I left the aid station, I began fueling a little more regularly now.  But when I approached mile 17 my head started to get a little fuzzy.  At one point, I was crossing a small log bridge and it appeared as though the bridge was floating/moving a bit.  I decided that I needed to eat something and take a few extra electrolyte pills.  I stepped off to the side of the trail for some approaching runners while I ate.  As it turned out, it was several of the people who I had hitched a ride with down to Beals Point.  They paused a for a few minutes to fuel up too.  It was a pretty nice location to look down over the American River Canyon and enjoy a snack.

Their arrival turned out to be a good thing for me.  Although I am used to running alone and enjoy it, it can be nice to have company.  I let them take the lead for the next 3 miles.  It was kind of like having a pacer, I guess.  Just some people to stay focused on and chat with from time to time.

They informed me that the Dam Wall was rapidly approaching and that it was not going to be an easy climb.  They reached the base of the hill a few minutes before I did and were admiring the view.  As I came up to the bluff, I could see the hill climbing to the left.  The trail or fire road was very steep and  was covered with some pretty rough looking gravel.  I paused for a minute or two and chatted with a few other runners procrastinating the upcoming climb.

I started out in a brisk walk.  No sense in killing what little energy I had left on such a steep hill.  After cresting the first rise, the gravel was somewhat more manageable.  I started to take the next hill at a slow jog.  The next section was paved chip-seal asphalt.  It would have been easy to run this section except there was tiny sharp gravel spilled across most of the roadway.  I began to run/walk this section trying to avoid as much of the loose gravel as possible.  The chipseal gave way to another section of gravel fire road.  By now, my feet were virtually on fire and super sensitive to every rock.  At about 21 miles I finally threw in the towel and slipped on my Sockwas. 

Not long after throwing on my Sockwas, I realized that I was stark-raving hungry.  All I could think about was food - more specifically a Carls Jr Western Bacon Double Cheeseburger.  Since none was to be found, I devoured an entire pack of shot bloks and kept on moving. 

One of the guys I rode with was now run/walking with me as we approached the main road to the Auburn Overlook.  With the road being smoother asphalt, I tore off the Sockwas which had started to blister my toes and completed the last stretch to the "finish line" in the parking lot.  It was a great relief to be done.  My right foot had developed a half dollar size blister between the ball and arch.  The tips of the first three toes had also blistered due to the Sockwas combined with softer skin due to running through all that water.
At the aid station, I wolfed down a bowl of nice hot chili followed by a couple of large M&M cookies.  I chatted with the group I had met.  It was then that I noticed that the weather had changed and the next storm was moving in.  The wind was picking up and the temperature had dropped.  I realized that I had begun shivering pretty bad.

I said my good-byes and headed over to my truck, threw on some pants over my running tights and stripped my wet shirts off and replaced it with a dry shirt and my jacket.  I shivered for a good 20 minutes as the my truck's heater warmed up.  On the drive home, I stopped in at an In N Out for a juicy Double Double.  It wasn't the bacon cheeseburger I had been craving, but it was satisfying just the same.
My right foot - post run

My left foot - post run

The next morning I met with my running group for their 11-mile training run.  I had taped my blisters and decided to run in my SKORAs to protect my feet a bit more.  My quads were very sore, but I knew that the 12 miles I was planning to run that day were going to help more than hurt. 

So for that weekend, I ran a total of 34 miles and a total of about 8 hours. 

Stay tuned for my next post (I'm still catching up)...


  1. Wow.. I am super impressed!!!

  2. Wow. You are inspiring! And I love that stretch of trail! I've ran parts of that barefoot in the mud, too!! Love all the granite boulders to climb around on as well. That single track is gorgeous! I so wish I could help out and pace you a bit for AR50! Can't wait to hear how you do!