So I Won A Couple Of Races

This isn’t bragging so much as trying to entice some fast friends to come and visit…

First, there was the Dog Day 10K on the Olympic Adventure Trail. I was planning on running with a dog from the local Humane Society (for whom the race benefited), and even took the precaution of wearing the sturdy Merrell Trail Gloves in the event I was paired with a puller and/or toe-stomper.

Somebody get me a dog!

Somebody get me a dog!

Unfortunately for me, they played it cautious (I assume it would be bad PR if one of their dogs got loose or didn’t get along with someone’s family dog), so I ran the thing dogless.

Look at Iris, all up in the front!

Look at Iris, all up in the front!

Now, this was a Fun Run in every sense of the word, and my main competition was a guy who like me had run hard the day before and was taking it easy. I took it a little less easy than he did, so I got a big bottle of wine.

I thought it was a bottle of chocolate milk. Boy was I surprised!

I thought it was a bottle of chocolate milk. Boy was I surprised!

A couple of weeks later, I ran the Quilcene Half Marathon.

I was expecting this:

Looks faster than Martinsville!

Looks faster than Martinsville!

… but got this:

Good preparation for a flat marathon, no?

Good preparation for a flat marathon, no?

No PR, but still managed to pull of a win in the wet and windy conditions.

Gravel and chip seal felt good through the Vapor soles.

Gravel and chip seal felt good through the Vapor soles.

So there you go, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Well, not entirely. There’s that whole training thing that is pretty much wrapped up at this point. I’ll post on that later. Less than a week before Victoria! I’m definitely going for a sub-three. Wish me luck.

Hamlet, Shoe of Denmark

To shoe or not to shoe is a matter of tradeoffs. Sometimes the tradeoff favors bare feet, sometimes a little shoe is the thing to catch the conscience of the king. The latter part of that sentence makes no sense, I know, but I guess I’m in a Hamletty mood. Words, words, words. Get thee to a punnery! What I’m trying to say is, sometimes I wear shoes and since this blog is more or less about my feet, I should take a moment to discuss the slings and arrows of outrageous footwear.

This is off to an awful start. Let’s keep trudging along anyway. Here’s what’s in my closet:

Merrell Vapor Glove
Frailty, thy name is shoe!
Let’s start at the end, or more specifically the last shoe review I will ever write. I have one-and-a-half pair left. No, I didn’t lose a shoe, rather my black pair are falling apart.

Fat feet, bursting at the seams.

Fat feet, bursting at the seams.

I still like them, but it seems a shoe that is minimal enough for my tastes isn’t going to be very durable. No big deal, I am financially and ethically capable of buying more, however I’m concerned they won’t be available much longer. Everyone seems to want more cushioning, which means us barefooters have failed. It was inevitable, even if you don’t consider the possibility that runners like me are freaks of nature to be able to run the way we do. Not a big deal for everyone else, but I’m concerned I’ll eventually have to go back to the WalMart aqua sock if I want a flexy-bendy trail shoe.

SoftStar Moc3
To thine own self be shoe.
These are doing a better job of standing the test of time, but they aren’t exactly in shape to be worn with a “business casual” ensemble.

Makes chip seal feel good!

Makes chip seal feel good!

Although I could probably get away with wearing them in a theistic event, given how holy they are:

Holy soles, Batman!

Holy soles, Batman!

These are still great for running, so long as I’m not running in wetness or steepness. If my feet get sweaty, I can’t run fast either without my feet slipping around inside the shoe. I mean, I can, it’s just an added thing to think about when my brain is desperately searching for excuses to slow down.

Luna Venado Sandals
There is nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it shoe.
I never reviewed these because, well, Barefoot Ted never sent me a pair and the only way I would write a review is out of a sense of obligation to the giver of free things. So I bought these to see how the straps compared to the strings of the Xero Shoe sandal (little bit the same, little bit different, whatever; it’s a slab of rubber strapped to the foot) and because I think they look cool on Patrick Sweeney. I really want them to work, and they do, so long as I have enough bandaids. Getting the snugness just right is a trial. Xero Shoes is coming out with an easily adjustable sandal too, which I’ll buy because Steven Sashen looks JUST LIKE THORIN OAKENSHIELD!

Grow a beard and a stern demeanor...

Grow a beard and a stern demeanor…

... and maybe a tan, too. Seriously, I spent the whole time watching The Hobbit annoyed that Thorin wasn't wearing sandals.

… and maybe a tan, too. Seriously, I spent the whole time watching The Hobbit annoyed that Thorin wasn’t wearing sandals.

Merrell Trail Glove 2 and Road Glove 1
Give every man thy ear, but few thy shoe.
I gave away many shoes before the move across country, but decided to hang on to these. I’m glad I did. While both shoes are shoeier than I prefer, they are sturdy. As I said at the start, everything is a tradeoff; maybe it’s not possible to have a super-minimal shoe that will not fall apart in a few months.

Flip-Flops
Something is rotten in the shoe of Denmark.
I’ve finally figured out how to walk in the things. Running is not even close to an option yet.

Merrell Jungle Glove
But break my heart, for I must hold my shoe.
This is my “formal” shoe. I never wear them.

Okay, those are all my shoes. Good thing too, because I think I used up all the shoe-related quotes in Hamlet. Who knew it was such a shoey play? Now go, bid the soldiers shoe.

Bahokus Peak: Too Slow For Salmon

Perhaps if we had turned around immediately to run back down once Iris got to the top of Bahokus Peak, maybe we would have gotten back to the Makah Days Festival in time to grab a plate of fire-cooked salmon fresh from the water. One should never assume the salmon will last forever.

We drove out to Neah Bay with fellow members of the Crooked Knee Running Club, Bruce and Kathleen. Going in, I wasn’t even sure if the Bahokus Peak Challenge (1300+ feet up in three miles) was a race at all; for all I knew this was a solemn traditional event, one where trying to win and wearing flashy running clothes would be disrespectful. This concern was unfounded.

This is not an example of a traditional Makah outfit.

This is not an example of a traditional Makah outfit.

Still, it would have been unwise for me to race. I had run a tough ten-mile tempo that morning, and I’m trying to stick to the plan for a fast Victoria Marathon in October. This plan also dictated a two-plus hour long run the next day. So to keep my racing ego and pace in check, I decided to go barefoot on the all-gravel road. It’s good to push the comfort level in different ways, I think. Learning how to be a good runner isn’t just about running fast or far. It’s about learning how to use the tools you have, and even though I have thousands of miles on my bare feet I still have much to learn.

You might think since I’ve run a few marathons barefoot, have a blog with “Barefoot” in the title, and a closet full of free shoes that I’m an expert on the whole barefoot thing; how much is there for me to learn? Why not stop being such a weirdo, put some shoes on, give in to the racing urge like a normal person and maybe even win the race? Seriously, how tiny were the chances that a hard run up a hill would have any effect on a race scheduled seven weeks in the future? Even if it did, who cares! Self-sabotage: that’s what runners do!

Rookie-like apprehension. SOOO much more to learn.

Rookie-like apprehension. SOOO much more to learn.

The fact is, assuming there’s more to learn is an integral part of my running life, and education starts at the feet. The road up Bahokus Peak was rocky, sure, but within my abilities (as far as I could see, anyway). I was nervous all the same, which to me was something that needed to be confronted and overcome. I’m not trying to create dramatic tension here, just letting you know that I too on occasion have the urge to succumb to the shoe placebo. In addition to the always valuable act of getting over oneself, this would be a lesson in focus, patience, and pace. Things I know, but don’t know know, you know?

Besides, it's not that rocky. Yet.

Besides, it’s not that rocky. Yet.

Focus: the rocks don’t hurt so long as you don’t overreact and tense up. Staying tuned in to the task at hand… er, foot enabled me to see the ground for what it was instead of what I feared it was, also to feel the ground for what it was and accept it, using it to propel me onward and upward.

Patience: My feet (or more accurately, the rocks) prevented me from starting too fast and chasing down the field when they started to wilt. Perhaps more importantly, the ground also created a sense of timelessness; the finish line wasn’t going anywhere, no point in fretting about how long until I arrived; just find the happiest line and be gentle in the now, as Siddhartha might have said. Siddhartha? Can’t remember; it’s been a long time since I’ve read that stuff. I’ve been reading science fiction lately.

Pace: For all of my efforts not to, I still managed to reel almost all the runners in. Mile one was very steep, very crowded, and the pointy ground took some getting used to. 10:50. Mile two was similar but without the crowd, just chugging along. 10:28. Mile three leveled off with a half-mile to go, as well as the man in the neon tights. Oh, why not, a little bit of racing couldn’t hurt, right? I passed and gradually put some distance between us. As soon as the finish was in sight, I heard him powering to catch up. We sprinted to the finish in front of an audience of volunteers and the five or six faster runners I didn’t pass.

Good intentions, and gravel, pave the way to hill.

Good intentions, and gravel, pave the way to hill.

A little bit later, Iris finished with one thing on her mind: to run back down. So we ate some fruit, chatted with my new neon friend and others, tried to get the photographer to show me the pictures of my finish (apparently all the zen “oneness” with the ground didn’t make me any less narcissistic), and it was time to ditch the shuttle vans and fly down on our legs. I put on a pair of Luna sandals for the descent so I could be a little more carefree (and keep up with Iris). It was all pretty spectacular, and Iris ran her fastest three-miles by quite a bit.

With all that educational and zen stuff said, know this: next year I’m putting on the Vapors and going for the Bahokus Peak Challenge course record.