AROUND THE BAY 2011 RACE REPORT

MY GOALS FOR THIS RACE

To run it:

1. Without shoes.

I haven’t used shoes since last October, so this is pretty much a given now. But this was still my longest race in VFFs (though I’ve run further for training).

2. Like a training run.

I’m in the middle of my ultra marathon training, so 30k was actually the distance I had to run today anyway. The distances are increasing every weekend, so next weekend I’m going up to 50k over Saturday and Sunday. I also have another race next weekend, and possibly a group trail run. Because of that, I didn’t want to kill myself out on only 30k.

3. Like a pacer.

I felt privileged to be Lou’s pacer because he’s such a great barefoot runner, and I had such an amazing experience when Shacky paced me for my marathon that I wanted to pay it forward.

4. In 3 hrs or less.

This was Lou’s time goal, so my goal as a pacer as well.

5. Without a watch.

I’ve stopped using a watch when I run because when I do have a watch, I’m a slave to it. I don’t want to rely on electronics, but rather get to know my body well enough to know what pace I’m going and how hard I can push. This has been an amazing process for me, and I’ve been able to develop my pace/time/heart rate estimations with impressive accuracy. I am also much more aware of how my body moves.

MY MILESTONES FOR THIS RACE

  1. My longest race in VFFs.
  2. My first long race of the season.
  3. My debut as a pacer.
  4. My first race without a watch.
  5. My first ATB ever!

MY EXPERIENCE

The first half of this race was lovely and pleasant. Slow and easy. Our good conversation was interrupted every once in a while by people telling us how brave and awesome we were. Lou felt more shy about the compliments, like running barefoot wasn’t a big deal. I just smiled widely and said “Thank you!” – because quite frankly, I thought we WERE awesome.

We didn’t get any negative comments, although a few people seemed genuinely worried about us. It was cold waiting for the race to start, but we warmed up pretty quickly. The sun had been hitting the pavement where we ran, so the surface was warm.

One thing about trail running is that I’ve noticed I’m a lot more aware and sensitive to sounds while I run. At one point when Lou and I fell into a silent stretch, I was shocked to hear the POUNDING of feet all around me. Really loud thumping that frankly sounded quite painful. Neither of us were making any noise.

I was thrilled when Lou ran the grated bridge barefoot, because I thought that was quite the feat (more on that later). I predicted he’d be famous because of it because I’m sure that NOBODY has ever run that bridge barefoot.

I was surprised at how many people ran this race! The crowds never fizzled out and we were constantly maneuvering, right to the end. In the last 10k there was a fat guy with long hair that came to sit out on his porch and flip his middle finger off to the runners. A couple of the runners who noticed flipped him right back. I thought that was pretty hilarious…

Lots of people passed us in the first half, but I kept promising Lou that we’d get them on the hills – and we did! We didn’t slow our pace on any of the hills, and we passed the 3-hr pace bunny on the final hill. My plan at that point became to stick with the pace bunny, then sprint past him in the final moments for a sub-3. I sensed at the time that we were running more like 3:05 finish time, but the bunny kept looking at his watch so I figured he knew how fast we were going.

We were nearby when the pace bunny yelled at people to run ahead for a sub-3. We did. We actually picked up the pace significantly with about 1-2km left, and then sprinted the final 800 meters or so. We were a good 2-3 minutes ahead of the bunny, but we actually came in at 3:03. I was slightly disappointed, but it did teach me a very valuable lesson – my own body is a much better indicator of my pace than a pace bunny with a fancy watch. Always trust body over bunny.

The grim reapers in the final sprint cracked me up. “YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT….”

I looked and felt great the entire race. I wore my red Hunter’s mini Sport kilt with black leggings, and surprisingly got more attention around the kilt than I did with my VFFs. One lady came to look for me in the end to ask where I got it, and there were several comments throughout the race. Mostly ladies and of course a couple of guys. I’ve definitely developed my own individual style around running. I don’t own any bright running jackets, and my leggings aren’t even for running – just some cheap pair I found at Garage.

I ALWAYS run in skirts – either Sport kilts or tennis skirts (running skirts tend to be more expensive).  I like how the skirts look with my monkey feet. I wear layers, sometimes thermal, but never specifically for running. Most of my layers I got at Marks Work Warehouse. And I’ll wear an old race t-shirt on top of it all – usually from a race I’d like to specifically remember that day.

Today I have no issues – feet still look and feel great. No marks/blisters/soreness of any kind. Good times!

LOU’S EXPERIENCE

Lou started off very nervous. He didn’t sleep well, his breakfast didn’t sit well, and he was anxious. At one point I grabbed his bib with mine as we were leaving the car, and he was starting to freak out when he didn’t see it. He was worried about the timing chips not sitting right – he was jumpy in general. I tried my best to calm his mind and I figured once we started going, he’d relax and enjoy himself.

I think there’s a lot of pressure sometimes for us minimalist/barefoot runners to constantly perform at our peak. Although nobody expects us to win, we can’t go out there and look like we’re dying because people are going to blame a lack of shoes instead of a lack of training. When you’re running barefoot, people are constantly watching and judging you, both during and after the race. So I think this was the source of Lou’s stress.

I’m the kind of person that races for pure fun and FU if you don’t like the way I run. I don’t feel pressure to perform for anyone. I also feel the best example I can set as a minimalist/barefoot runner is the pure joy of running itself. I’m not out there to look like a martyr; I’m genuinely having a blast and making it look easy. Too few people out there truly run for the fun of it.

Lou wanted a sub-3hr time, and I wanted to do my best to get him there. I told him to just follow my pace and let me know if he needed to change pace or stop. We had some rough patches in the beginning (broken roads, rough surfaces), and I asked him a couple of times if he needed to stop. He said no, and after a while I didn’t want to give him that option anymore so I stopped asking.

The first half of the route was flat and slightly downhill. Lou was in great spirits – he chatted with the people inquiring about his feet, and we shared some good conversation. He was pushing his pace a little quicker than I knew he should, so I held him back a bit in the beginning. He was carrying water and I had nothing, so I was relying on the stations for sips. I told him to keep going and I’d catch up with him after my water station delays. In the first half he’d make it quite far without me – I’d have to sprint a bit to catch up.

After the grated bridge things started to change for him. He was less chatty, and when people asked him questions he was short and abrupt. In the last 5k, he was struggling. I told him to just focus his mind, block everything out and RUN. He took that to heart and stopped talking altogether. He fell into a zen-like trance and when people spoke to him, he totally snubbed them like they weren’t even there. So I found myself running circles around him, fielding questions like his PR rep. I didn’t want people thinking he was a total snob…

“Yes, he’s ok. He’s doing great!”

“Yes, he ran the bridge! He survived!”

“No, he’s not cold.”

“No, he didn’t train in shoes – he’s actually never run in shoes.”

“Oh you want an interview? Contact me after the race.”

Shacky later told me that I should have told people he was deaf. A brilliant idea that I wish I had been smart enough to think of.

I lost Lou on the final sprint. I looked over my shoulder for him and it was clear he was going as fast as he possibly could. I thought about stopping to wait for him, but decided I’d be more of a motivation sprinting just in front of him. I know he’s competitive and I wanted to give him something to catch.

In the end I wasn’t too disappointed with 3:03 because it was clear that Lou was giving it ALL he had. I don’t think he could have run this race more perfectly, or pushed himself any harder. He later told me that as he was coming into the finish line, he felt like he was starting to black out. I think I took him RIGHT to the edge…

I was THRILLED when he crossed the finish line and wanted to immediately explain to him how well he’d done, but he looked incredibly pissed so I waited until after the food tables to say anything. He was like a walking zombie. He blew past the people handing out bags, and rushed straight to the food.

Then they gave him so much food that he couldn’t carry it and he looked upset about that. He was starting to backtrack to get a bag, but I grabbed him and got him to dump his stuff in my bag instead. I probably found his state more amusing than I should have, but I was chuckling because it reminded me SO MUCH of my own post-marathon state back in October. I just wanted everyone to die.

When I finally decided to approach him for a “Great job!” and “Congratulations!” he made a full 180 and walked directly away from me like 3 times. He looked SO MAD AT ME that I wanted to laugh, but was also slightly concerned that he might never actually speak to me again.

I left him alone and very slowly he came out of it. Anyway at that point he needed me – I noticed he couldn’t open his juice box and he looked like he was about to cry over it. So I opened his drinks and the snacks they gave us and put them in his hand. He munched quietly.

WHY I’M PROUD OF MYSELF

1. I had enough energy to sprint to the finish.

2. My recovery was super quick. When I got home, I felt like I could repeat the same distance. And one day later I feel like I could easily go out and run again.

3. I felt like I could have run further, or much faster.

4. Almost all my training runs have been on steep, hilly trails, and I was able to feel the direct results of my trail running in two forms: a) The paved surface was like a walk in the park b) The hills were a non-issue. I had heard a lot about the hills so maybe my expectations were exaggerated. But I kept looking for the “big hill” – until I realized we were on the final stretch and we must have passed it. In the woods, hills are a completely different beast. A “big  hill” to me now means basically crawling on your hands and knees! And when I have run paved hills for training, I’ve done it with 10lbs of schoolbooks strapped to my back. I didn’t realize how drastic of a difference that would make in this race, so it was encouraging to see. I flew those hills.

WHY I’M PROUD OF LOU

1. He took the grated bridge completely barefoot. He was swift and quick and focused, and took it like a man. He fell into a very focused and determined state. He didn’t hesitate or slow down, but just flew over it and didn’t flinch. I couldn’t tell by his face that he was suffering, but I knew that it was rough. I tried my best to verbally coach and encourage him. He wasn’t responsive at the time but later he said that it helped to hear that we were passing people. We did pass quite a few people on the bridge – they were slowing down and we were speeding up. I think it was easier to just get it over with.

2. This was his longest distance ever, and he ran it at a steady pace without stopping. Keeping a steady pace through a long run is really hard – especially near the end when you feel like you’re dying. Lou stuck beside me until the very last stretch. In the last 5k he told me I was killing him, but I figured he’d thank me for it later.

3. He took the hills like a gazelle and kept right up with me. I’ve done some pretty hard-core hill training on trails, so I think I was better conditioned to take the hills than Lou was, but he stuck right by me. When he fell behind, he’d catch up. We never stopped on the hills and I was very impressed with him. He didn’t slow his pace, and was actually faster going downhill than I was. He was slower coming off the hills and he started getting quiet after a few inclines, so I knew he was reaching deep. But he never stopped.

4. He was hurting every second of the last 5k, and pushed through it. I’ve never seen anyone empty their tank to THAT extent! I think he crossed the finish line on fumes.

CONCLUSIONS

I had an incredible time. I laughed/smiled more at this race than any other yet. I got a stitch once but I think it might have been from laughing…

A great race with great company.

Eye on the finish line!

Race start line!

Zero barefoot injuries!

After Lou and I were back on speaking terms ;)

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9 responses

  1. What an awesome race report, Lou is A MACHINE! :D Congrats and hope to see many more milestones! (And hope to share mine with you also!)

  2. P.S Why was he so angry with you?! LOL was it all the ‘Im-done-this-race-now-get-away-from-me’ that you were talking about when you finished your half? :)

  3. I felt like that when I finished my full marathon :) He wasn’t actually mad, his blood sugar was just really low and he was trying to keep walking so he wouldn’t cramp up.. I’m just making fun of his misfortune :D lol

  4. That was a great report Vanessa. Well done to you both! I had been testing out the new trail gloves to try for this race but the distance was growing too quickly. I wish I had worn my VFF’s – maybe next time… Wow, running on that bridge barefoot must have been intense.

  5. What an amazing run, pace, and time! That is excellent you should both be so proud of yourselves! I actually laughed out loud several times during this blog post. You are such a funny girl.

    Congrats!

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