Benson Brawl 5K Report: Out-Barefooted, but Not Out-Run

It cannot be denied: I beat ac. With a strategy of psychological warfare and guts, I was the faster man on this day. But before I tell the tale of my competitive trickery, a hearty congratulations to my rival is in order: although he fell victim to my brain power (he is, after all, only human), he out-barefooted me. I will happily accept defeat in this category, because the guy is the real deal and ran very well on some pretty nasty surfaces. Kudos to you, rival.

My security blanket when I have to run fast in the rain. Which it didn’t. Rain, that is.

I shall relinquish my 1st place barefooter medal next time we meet. However, the race victory is mine all mine. The tape had no performance enhancing qualities, and actually disrupted my very important groundfeel (as pointed out by Maple Grove Barefoot Guy) and added weight to only one toe, throwing me wildly off-balance. But I persevered, and won. In fact, by being entirely barefoot, ac was the one with the advantage, making my victory that much more inspirational, I think. With that matter cleared up, on with the show.

I’m nowhere near racing shape or fighting weight, so I needed a plan. Ideally, if I could get him to hold his breath for a few seconds in the middle of the race, he would suffer a bout of intestinal distress when he starts the finish-line kick. This is a little-known scientific fact, but it’s true. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of how to get him to do this, so I let that tidbit sit in the back of my brain.

My completely true statements of unpreparedness were having no effect on ac. He remained convinced that I was faster then I was letting on, which worked against the plan I had in mind: to psychologically manipulate ac to run slow enough for me to hopefully out-kick him at the end. “Hey, if we’re in first and second, I’m cool with holding back a bit and go for the win at the three-mile beep. We’re both in training, after all, no need to kill ourselves, right?” I said. “How many seconds per pound is it for a 5K? I still have a lot of weight to lose,” I confessed. “I usually eat five pancakes and a western omelet before a 5K,” I lied. “What? You eat nothing? Hm, I’ll give that a try!” In fact I run on empty all the time.

Still, he seemed skeptical. If I was going to get him to let his guard down, I had only one option left: Operation Wheeze.

It is said that the wheeze can suck the life out of an otherwise faster runner. Something about reminding them of the inevitability of death. So as the race starts, I start breathing heavily. It wasn’t entirely an act, but I added a little sense of desperation to it. AC, running nearby, probably noticed it only on a deep, subconscious level. “Boy, this is feeling kind of hard,” said ac.

“It’s…nguh… the wind…”

“The wind? Oh, right, I suppose it is,” said a struggling ac.

There was no wind. AC is highly susceptible to the powers of suggestion.

“Oh, look ahead – chipseal!” I suggested, powerfully.

“Seriously?!?” exclaimed ac as his cadenced sped up, face grimacing.

I ran up right behind him, and pumped up the volume of my strangled gasping.

“You’re breathing really hard. Try taking a deep breath. In, hhhnnnnn, out, whooooooo.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. On a gold platter, he presented me with the Breath-Holding Kick-Killer card! I leaped into action. “That sounds… nguh… very zen. Hungh. Hungh.”

“Ha, it is! Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…”

He fell for it! Excellent! Now all I had to do was hang on. No easy task, be he was now convinced that I wasn’t a threat so I was able to handle the pace. Whenever he started to speed up, I would say “goodness, more chipseal!” and he would slow down to something more manageable.

And then, there it was. The finish-line. It was time for me to gut it out. If I didn’t kick hard enough, ac would could still manage to beat me. No more mind games. Just kick, and kick hard. Not looking back, I finished the last .1 at a 4:45 pace. I won.

After the race, ac congratulated me. “Man, I don’t know what happened. I tried to go with you, but my stomach just seized up.” I felt a brief twinge of guilt.

So there it is. If you haven’t yet, go read ac’s account of the events. You’ll see his perspective confirms my account.

Hit the Brixx 10K & 5K Report, Plus Plans

The plan was to not race. I wanted to run fast, with a strong and steady effort, but not get caught up in the ol catching up. Run “within myself,” as somebody says somewhere. The goal was to find where my “fast” currently lies. Turns out my steady fast is a 6:30 pace for 15K over the course of two races separated by a forty-five minute intermission.

The Hit the Brixx 10K was first. The course was what I would call nicely hilly for the distance. I finished 8th in 40:01. A sub-40 was definitely possible, but I slowed down for the camera:

Real men wear tights… on their arms.

Photo by Scott Bassett, the Event Director of On The Mark Sports.

Then the 5K. The legs felt a little heavy, but I fell right back into the 6:30 pace. That one took 20:14, putting me in 18th overall.

Needless to say, I’m pleased. I’m feeling good and am getting close to my previous fitness level. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be victorious in this Saturday’s Brawl in Benson. What’s that, you ask? Ac challenged me to a barefoot 5K in a town named, well, Benson, of course. Apparently there’s prizes for the first three barefoot finishers. I can’t resist a prize, even if it means coming in second to BFAC.

For a moment I thought that by “barefoot” they meant “Barefoot,” as in “Mr. Barefoot” or the “Barefoot Family” or “Dr. Barefoot.” That is, “Barefoot” as in a name. Wouldn’t it be funny if a kerfuffle broke out between the top three Barefoot runners and the top three runners without shoes. I kind of hope that happens.

The last tidbit I’d like to leave you with is this: I’ve just started a Hal Hidgon plan for the Umstead Marathon. The only goal is to BEAT ANTHONY CORREVEAU. In size 5 shoes.

Merrell Bare Access 2 Review: Welcome to Kanagawa!

I could have gone with a less obscure reference, like something from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, but no, I go with Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures. What I’m trying to say is, wearing the Merrell Bare Access 2 makes me feel like a geisha.

I own a small commercial venture
With a modest clientele
In Kanagawa.

I should mention that they sent me the wrong size, and that it was totally Iris‘ fault. While that helps explain some of my initial shock at their gargantuaness, I’m afraid even a properly sized pair wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

The last is the same as their other shoes in their Brefoot (sorry, can’t do it) line, so that part is all good. Wide toebox, etc. They’re really light, too, which is an impressive feat (ha) of technology given the stack of the sole. I don’t know how high off the ground they claim their shoes will take you, but I’m a barefoot runner with excellent proprioception and I can say with certainty that I am eight inches taller when wearing this shoe.

Now, I know you’re probably expecting me to say all this cushion is a bad thing. And, in a few cases, I will meet your expectations. As the open-minded and humble person that I am, however, I am able to see the advantages of the added elevation. The three that come immediately to mind are:

1. There’s a water crossing and you don’t want to get your feet wet.
2. You’ve entered the Thumbtack 5K.
3. You want to know firsthand “how’s the weather up there.”

I’m sure there are others. Merrell says they’re for ultras and beginners. Ultras I can understand, but in a way that makes me not want to run ultras. I can imagine being so exhausted and tired and, uh, sleepy that my body is incapable of running with good form, and the the course still has lots of technical descents to go. Then I might want a little extra cushion, because screw gentleness, just get to the damn finish already. But beginners…

Wait, first let me tell you how my 3.8 mile run in them went. Not as bad as I thought! One of the advantages of being all barefooty is that my feet are smart. I can adjust to different environments, even an oversized cushy shoe. I even kind of enjoyed them, especially on the downhills. I did something I haven’t done in years – I stomped! None of that namby-pamby fluttering down like a downy feather released from a stork carrying a newborn puppy in swaddling clothes. I felt like Voltron landing after all the lion parts come together, all thuddish and substantial.


Which brings me back to beginners. Obviously, I’m at odds with the whole “transition to barefoot” thing. I think it’s backwards – that if you want to run like a barefooter, you should human-up and take off the shoes already. Change the way you move and think until it goes from painful to uncomfortable to tolerable to not so bad to quite nice.

But I’m in the minority, and recognize the fact that most people are going to insist on some kind of shoe. Fine, but those who aspire to run in a minimalist fashion would be better served finding a shoe that allows stomping to hurt. The Merrell Bare Access 2 isn’t it.


This felt like I was born on the side of a hill.

The size discrepancy isn’t as pronounced as this looks. The sole is so thick, it’s considerably closer to the camera.

The Road Glove and the Trail Glove are MUCH easier to clean after stepping in dog poo, although both are beat by the Flux Glove. This is an important feature for someone of my vocation. The deep grooves in the sole gross me out.

I think this might be the most negative review I’ve ever written. Now go out, buy the shoe, fall in love with it, and tell me I’m a cranky purist. Don’t worry, I can take it. Besides, I feel like Merrell is just setting me up for the Vapor, which I like to think they designed especially for me.