A Holiday Gift: The Barefoot Josh Calendar

This was a very good racing year for me, to the degree a recap would be unseemly. It would make me, the humble and meek individual that I am, uncomfortable. It just doesn’t seem right to be all “look at me!” like that. Not in my nature.

I could also do an award-themed post, rating the various running gear I’ve acquired with varying degrees of legitimacy. You know, like Product That Made Me Faster (the saucony split poledancer shorts), or favorite running footwear (tie between Sockiplasts and Moc3s), or favorite work footwear (Invisible Shoes, honorable mention goes to Branca), or best distance fuel (vanilla Gu, I guess), but that would insinuate my lowly opinion is worth anything. I’m FAR too humble and meek for such opinion spouting. Not in my nature.

Instead I’ve compiled a bunch of meek and humble pictures from the time spent spinning around the sun this go-round. I’m probably not even in any of these pictures. If I am, I didn’t notice. I doubt you will notice, either, since I’m so meek and humble. There are twelve of them, in case you wanted to make a calendar or something. Let Barefoot Josh tell you what day it is.

I’m also very fair-minded, and try to make everything equal. That’s why I’m so noncompetitive when I run. Therefore, I will not select any of these pictures as the “best.” However, some are more equal than others, and this one is the equalist of all:

I'm really much more masculine in my mind.

Shannon, On the Mark Sports, Activate Martinsville, the wife of that guy who beat me by a couple of spots at Pilot Mountain, and Kim Hary:
On behalf of narcissists everywhere, I thank you.

The Moc3 RunAmok: no last, so they’ll last (with a bonus rant!)

I have a confession to make. After watching this video, I wanted to buy a pair of Moc3s. Not just because it looked like a serviceable winter shoe, which it is. The Mocs strike a nice balance between providing enough warmth for comfy feet in freezing weather, but they BREATHE. No other shoe has ever made me look forward to cold winter running.

Wait a minute, you’re surely saying to your computer monitor serving as proxy for my face. I thought you said no more shoe reviews, Mr “Barefoot” guy. That’s true, I did. Hey, you gotta stay on your toes around here. My brain is like a feather, drifting hither and thither through the ether. I’m all about the stream-of-conciousness prose, in the fine tradition of Thoreau. Which reminds me, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who strikes at the root” is a great line, but if you’re seriously trying to cut down a tree (evil or not), you can’t really hack a root, what with it being underground an all. Better to hack all the branches for a tidy TIMBER!, then get a stump remover. I’m not suggesting this as an effective means of fighting evil, by the way; and leave the trees alone, unless you need wood. Or if it’s about to fall on your house. Or if it’s where you want to put the chicken coop. You know what? Never mind. It’s your tree, you do with it what you want.

Where was I? Right, the Moc3 review. As far as performance goes, I don’t have much to add to my mention of them in the Pilot Mountain 5k: they stretch to fit my feet, although they’re a little loose around the ankle. That hasn’t been a big deal on any of my runs in them except for the super steepness of the Pilot Mountain trails. The fact that I chose to wear them for such a ri-DONK-ulous race at all shows my affinity for the product.

More than the actual product itself, however, I am thrilled by the perspective of the design. Mike Friton, the intelligent designer, focused on making a shoe that stays out of the way the human foot works. Perhaps I’m reading more into it than what they intended, but it’s like he acknowledges the existence of the trade off, that when you put a shoe on you’re compromising the utility of the foot. That’s the price of warmth and protection from annoying sharp bits. And that’s all the Moc3 does. It’s a slab of thin rubber with an upper that has stretchability to conform to the shape of your individual foot.

Look, I know what’s going on here. I have a blog, shoe companies send me their products to write about. Not because they’re seeking my input as a barefooter, but for me to generate buzz for their product. I’m mostly ok with that. But what I’d like to see more of in the shoe industry is a greater pursuit of understanding how the foot actually works, so they can design around that, instead of forcing the foot into an aesthetic (the “last” in the video). Or to put it another way, do what SoftStar is doing. Not just for me, because I want a flexybendy shoe when it’s cold and/or pointy out. Consideration of foot functionality further propagates the meme that, well, your foot has functionality.

Too many runners still ignore their feet. When they do think about their feet, they think of them as if they were hooves lacking functionality with a propensity to blister. If you want to make the sometimes dramatic step of including your feet in the process of moving about, first buy into the concept that your feet have functionality. Then spend time figuring out what that utility is. Should you feel the need/want for some kind of footwear, find a shoe that interferes with that utility as little as possible. Chances are that shoe is going to be something like the Moc3, because SoftStar is focusing on what the foot does, not what they think it should look like.

Mine are decidedly muddier.

I hope other shoe manufacturers follow SoftStar’s lead and re-prioritize their design objectives to a shoe that not only leaves the foot alone, but provides flexibility of fit to accommodate different foot shapes.

Anyway, Moc3, nice shoe. I feel like an Amerindian running through the woods when I wear them. Maybe I’ll add some decorative beads or something, or tassels, to complete the look. Either way, my feet will be comfy this winter. Thanks, SoftStar.

(Dog is my co) Pilot Mountain 5k Report

Time: 30:12 (winning time was 25:12)
Overall: 14/141
Bareshoes: 2/3

Not only is Winston-Salem and the surrounding environs a bigger (faster) running pond, the Pilot Mountain 5k attracted some very accomplished ultra and trail runners. I was feeling a little bummed to not make the top ten, but a little perspective…

Wait, what did I just write? Isn’t one of the reasons I blog about running to ensure that I’m never bummed out by a race performance? What happened to “I either have a great race or a great race report. Win/win?”

Hm, things change, I guess. Anyway, I’ve got no business being bummed so don’t enable my absurdity with words of encouragement. I ran a crazy hard course that I didn’t train for when I really should be on a rest break and still did pretty well. I meant to just “fun run” it, but I succumbed to the ol’ siren song of pursuit.

Pictures (from the Scott-tastic Der Scott):

Don't believe me?

We could have moved to the beach, where it's flat. But why would we do that?

Steps like these. I haven't been training for steps.

And these. Who knoew there were Mayan ruins in Cackalacky?

Another example of the cushioned surfaces our ancestors trod upon.

At the finish we ate chili, watched runners who most decidedly were NOT me collect their speediness prizes (sniff), then stowed ourselves away in a minivan back down the mountain.

When you're a big time running celebrity like me, you travel in style. Yes, I'm sitting where the grocery goes.

Because I’m prone to loneliness, Scott gave his best Bag Of Poptarts, String Cheese, and Beer impression:

"Getting to know you! Getting to know all about you," Everybody sing!

Oh, right, footwear. The people over at SoftStar liked my Gobbler 5k report in which I wore the pair of Sockiplasts, so they sent me a pair of Moc3 Runamoks to try out. Whew, that was a lot of linking. Anyway, they work GREAT for colder temps on roads and trails – I ran about 8 miles in them on the very trip-tacular trail loop in Mayo Park. I chose to give them a shot on Pilot Mountain because a) Scott was wearing his Runamoks, and b) another runner was wearing vffs. If I wore the Merrell Road Glove as planned (the race was sponsored by Merrell), I would have been the least minimal of the bareshod runners. That just wouldn’t do.

While it was very nice to have all the flexybendyness I like, the relentless incline of the course pulled my heels out of the shoe. A little more snugness would have served me better.

Sidenote: From now on, that’s about as much of a shoe review as I’m going to give. This blog has gotten too shoey for my taste.

This was an excellent race. If ever I decide I need a training camp nearby, where I’ll live in a yurt and shut out the rest of the world to focus on nothing but THE RUN a la Once A Runner, it’s going to be at the base of Pilot Mountain. I want to get good at running those trails (and steps).

Alright, so now I rest. I think I’ll take a week off from running entirely, even though I’m feeling very good. Then it’s back to fun runs for about a month and a half, followed by focused speed work to get me in shape for a fast Martinsville Half at the end of March.

Until then, I foresee a lot of eggnog and pastry in my near future.