This post got really long and is probably boring, but I felt the need to share my first barefoot race adventure with the world. :)
Today I (finally) ran a race barefoot. I wish I could say it was perfect all the way around, but it wasn't - although you can't get much closer without it being so. Why did I run a race on a Thursday? It was a charity event at work, so we were given time to do it during the work day!
So, here's the story...
Racing was actually a last-minute decision. I had been toying with the idea for over a month, but kept putting off registering because, well, I'm lazy and there was plenty of time to do it! Then yesterday I realised that it was time to make the decision.
So, I came home and ran yesterday evening around 5:30. In the rain. Barefoot. Now, people who run barefoot know that running unshod in the rain isn't always the smartest thing to do. You know how, if you stay in the water a long time, your skin gets all pruny? Well, imagine scraping that skin on the pavement for 30 minutes while it's like that. If you're like me and you don't have perfect form, you're likely to shred your feet. Remarkably, I managed to get through the run yesterday without too much issue, just a tad of burning when I was done. I did 3.75 miles or so.
Just before bed I decided I was going to run the race, but I wasn't sure whether to wear my Bikilas or go barefoot, so I of course planned for both. I was apparently still debating in my mind when I went to bed, because I had a hell of a time getting to sleep!
This morning I got up and decided to go ahead and get a shower (I hadn't planned on it; I find it silly to shower before working out, even if I am going to work to work out - after all, I was only going to be there for an hour before running!). I basically hosed off real quick and got dressed in my running clothes (but I did my hair and makeup - which turned out to be a smart thing because they had the locker rooms locked and I couldn't shower after the race).
Anyway, I get to work and I'm still debating whether to run in shoes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet and more rain was imminent. When the time came to register, I decided, "Screw it, this is my chance to race barefoot, I'm going to do it!" So off I went to dump my stuff in my car.
While warming up, I was running around the starting line like other "real" (tongue in cheek in my case) runners, and I passed the race director (who IS a real runner). I don't really know him but I knew who he was. He said, "Nice shoes!" and smiled. I said a thank you and smiled back.
I started in the front-middle of the pack. I'm not really a fast runner, but given the circumstances (i.e. this race did not involve a lot of people who really race, or at least I didn't think so) I figured that was as good a place as any. There were nearly 1000 people in this event and I knew I wasn't front-row material in most cases.
A few people struck up conversations with me, obviously based on my lack of shoes, but nobody was unpleasant. Most people were inquisitive about how I do it, how tough I must be, doesn't it hurt, etc. I was polite and cheerful and admitted freely that this was my first race without shoes. One guy nearly fell out when I said that - he mistook "first race" for "first run"! Anyway, everyone was very pleasant, but it was obvious that a few of them were doubtful that anyone could even do what I was about to attempt (I live in a small town in the South, so yes, people are that naive).
I had a GREAT race and a WONDERFUL time during. I felt good, the terrain was comfortable (asphalt) for the most part. Near the end I had to get on the sidewalk because the pavement was too rocky, but ultimately I got back in the road and ran on the painted lines.
I was shocked at how many people I passed, and at how few people passed me. To reiterate, I never thought of myself as a fast runner - in fact I would put myself in the average group shod, and barefoot I would say I'm closer to "slow". My runs are usually around 9:00/mile on a perfect weather kind of day. I don't do speed training, I don't do fartleks. I just run because honestly, I'd prefer sleeping late on the weekends to getting up early to come in 50th (or 500th) in a race.
The first mile was 8:24. All I could think was, "Wow, I didn't know I could go this fast! I wonder if I can keep this up? This is great!"
The second mile was 8:07. At that point I was thinking, "I wonder if I can go faster? This is freaking INSANE! But it's still great!" Yeah, the endorphins were kicking in about then I think because I remember getting excited about how I felt.
The third mile was 7:50. I decided that the last tenth of a mile I was going to pass this guy ahead of me but I was really going to have to kick it in gear to do it. I didn't make it, but that last .1 was at a 6:53 pace and I could have kept it up for at least a half mile (probably not a full mile though). When I stopped running I had that wave of "Oh God, please don't let me hurl on this guy!" Fortunately it only lasted a few seconds though.
My time was somewhere around 24:56, but I'm not sure officially what it was. I turned off my GPS at 24:59 but I was already through the chute.
I decided to stay for all the festivities because I was on the clock and because they were giving away drawing prizes, and you had to be present to win. The temperature was actually dropping at this point and it was cold, but I stuck out the hour and a half. I didn't win any of the prizes from the drawings and I was slightly bummed out about it.
Then they got into the awards. They announced the overall winners, men and women. Then they announced the top three finishers, men and women. Then they announced the Masters division (this is 40+). So the guy says, "Women's Masters winner is Heather Duey." I was shocked! I knew I had done well for myself, but never would have guessed I'd come in first in my age group much less the whole Masters division. I walked up with a huge dopey grin on my face, and the race director gave one right back. I still was barefoot and he remembered me from earlier.
So, while the race could have been better (my feet could feel like a dream right now, but instead because of my stupidity they feel raw), I really can't complain at all. The "bad" thing is that beating this PR might be hard!