I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking when I registered for the Whitby 10-miler, but I was NOT thinking -8C with a brutal windchill. The one-minute walk from the car to pick up our race kits was already torturous and I soon realized I had grossly underdressed. By the time the race started I had pulled on a sweatshirt I had in the car and my yoga pants (on top of my capris), neither of which I had planned to race with.
Lou and Paul were awesome company. Paul lives in Whitby so he knew every detail of the route’s terrain. Lou is like an encyclopedia on barefoot running, among other things. He even has shoes in his car that he cut the soles out of so they appear like normal shoes, but have nothing underneath. Spending the day with these guys was a lot of fun.
Lou was barefoot the entire time and Paul wore socks until the race started. I was in my VFFs, by far the biggest wuss of the group. In their company, I was just a normal runner and it was funny listening to other people’s comments and watching their reactions. Frostbite was the word of the day among our spectators and fellow runners. But nobody could deny that these guys were truly brave souls.
It’s interesting how significant terrain becomes for barefoot racers. The terrain on this race was quite varied. We ran over gravel, a boardwalk, smooth sidewalk, broken sidewalk, grass, and even an ice patch. Then we reached the halfway mark, turned around, and did it again.
To me there are few things better on race day than watching a barefoot runner pass a runner in shoes. And although it was a small race, we passed a lot of people. This was Paul’s longest barefoot distance and Lou ran it like a pro.
In my VFFs, I really didn’t get the same experience. My feet were never cold, and for most of the race I felt as though I was wearing shoes. I’m used to using my VFFs on trails where the terrain is a little rougher, alternating with barefoot trail runs. So maybe I could’ve done this barefoot after all. It wasn’t really the terrain I was worried about, but the FREEZING cold. I basically chickened out.
After I got home I still wasn’t happy with my lack of barefoot mileage, so I ran another 7.5k in bare feet. It was late though so I stuck to the treadmill. I can’t run on a treadmill for much more than 45min before it starts to feel like I’m running on burning coals. My feet get really hot and I start to blister. Socks don’t help. So I stopped before it got too uncomfortable and called it a day.
This morning I woke up at 5am and went out again. I wanted to know how my body would handle back-to-back long runs (in preparation for a 12-hr race followed the next day by what I’m now hoping will be a full marathon instead of a half). I also decided to do 5 km loops to get my head into the repetition of loop racing (the 12-hr MTD race is a repeated half mile loop).
I have a hard time with loops. Mentally, it’s exhausting for me. Truly a psychological challenge far beyond any physical obstacles. I did 5 km loops for 10 miles in my VFFs, and felt proud of myself.
My body and feet feel great. I’m going to try to concentrate on speed work for the rest of this week, which means shorter but more intense and faster distances. Some hill training and maybe some stairs again. Plus my regular swimming.
My next race is my Tannenbaum 10k in December. It should be colder by then so I think I’ll mostly likely stick to my VFFs. But I may push myself on speed for an additional challenge.
I had a great workout week last week. I logged 55 km and 14 workouts in 7 days. I feel like I have yet to find my physical limitations and I’m learning that my mind limits me far more than my body. Not every week can be like this of course, but I’m going to try to keep pushing myself in one way or another. It’s a work in progress. And like my barefoot friend Lou says, “You haven’t mastered it until you can run barefoot in the sand and not leave any footprints.”