I haven't run regularly in at least 9 months and even then it was sporadic.
I don't consider my self a "runner". I like being able to run for long distances. And when I do run, I like the effect it has on the other physical things I do.
But getting out there day after day and putting in the miles, plodding along, step after step, well it's never been one of my favorite things.
I thoroughly enjoy running on the beach or on mountain trails, but Atlanta didn't have the first and the second would always involve a goodly amount of driving and planning.
I had decided to ditch my running shoes after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It was a little strange at first and you definitely have to start off slow to strengthen all the supporting muscles that have for years been bound up and "protected" by shoes.
I had done that and the last time I had been running at all consistently, I had finally "gotten it" . When I was gliding along with my Vibram Five-Fingers, I could practically see the ground with my feet.
Agony of deFeet
I thought it would probably be a good idea to get in at least one run at elevation before the day of the 10k.
My lungs were heaving within a minute. You'd think I was a smoker, who'd never run a day in his life. Within a hundred yards of starting up the trail, I slammed my left foot into a rock.
It felt like I had broken my toe. I hobbled onward and finally the pain subsided and my normal gait returned. Twist went my ankle on the other foot. I bounced forward and limped as I continued running, now on the other side. This practice run was looking to deep six my 10k plans.
I focused on running naturally. I started to remember my mid-sole strike. My feet started to feel the trail. And I remembered how much I loved running in nature. I was going to take it easy and do around 30 minutes. I ended up being out for 45 and would have done twice that if I had water and Skye wasn't waiting for me.
It was a brisk 48F when we started the race, sunny and absolutely gorgeous.
There were a lot of serious runners and athletes out there. This was not a "fun" run.
I looked around for the slacker or walkers that usually outnumber the people looking for to win, place in there age group or best a personal record. Not too many of those types could be found.
As we started the race, we immediately started uphill and my lungs protested like they did before. I pushed on, but people were passing me almost effortlessly. I would find out later that pretty much everyone out there was from Colorado and used to the high altitude.
I was not, so when we ran into a bottle neck as the whole race funneled onto a trail meant for one person, I was more than a little relieved.
The whole race came to a grinding halt.
When we started moving again it was uphill, almost straight up. There were more than a few times when I was practically crawling. It was that steep.
The End Is Near
After the initial climb, the race spread out. Even so there we many places where only one person could fit on the trail. There was always a little pressure not to slow people down that were behind you.
The views were incredible, and even as winded as I was, I couldn't stop smiling.
So happy to be up in the mountains, running.
The Sound of Running
When I used to wear running shoes, you could hear me coming from a mile away. My feet literally were pounding the pavement, or whatever surface I was on. With the switch to barefoot or minimal shoes, I had to shorten my stride, increase the my foot turnover and land more softly, forcing my legs to take the impact of landing rather than my shoe.
Now my feet would fall softly onto the path, barely making a sound. Meanwhile the runners all around me sounded like a herd of galloping horses. At one point I was sandwiched between to female runners on a narrow downhill section of the trail. I couldn't believe how much louder their footsteps were than mine.
My breathing was another matter. I was huffy and puffy like I was going to have a heart attack. I felt like Darth Vader and when things really bunched I felt like a creepy stalker breathing heavy into the phone. I was getting self-conscious because no one else seemed to be gasping for air like I was.
I used to pass so many people on down hills. I would stride out, practically leaping down the trail, my big legs and hips acting like shock absorbers. You can't do that when you're barefoot. Now rather than reducing the number of footfalls, I am adding to it dramatically. My feet are spinning to try to keep up with my body.
It takes more effort and is lot more tiring but much safer and better for my body. When I feel my ankle turn even the slightest, my weight transfers almost instantly to the other foot. Before I would have crumbled and had a messed up ankle.
I finished in 1:42:55 ,around 42 minutes behind the winner. I was happy to make it under the two hours I had given myself. It was a tough run. The hardest 10k I had ever done. But in the end I felt incredible.
I miss the mountains already.