Written by Barefoot Dawsy
Bye Bye Vibrams
This weekend I participated in the #TwitterRoadRace, an online event where you just run 5k and report yor time. It’s all in good fun, and I’ve been looking forward to it as my first race of 2012. It ended up being one of the biggest learning experiences of my barefooting career.
Before I go into what happened that I thought was blog-worthy, I need to give you a bit of background.
Part 1: The Old Days
My preferred running distance is 10-15k and I tend to stick in this range for the most part during training and racing. Knocking out the occasional 5k is not usually any problem, and I quite enjoy them. I typically set times for that distance at about 25 minutes, though I probably could go faster in a race (I’ve never raced this distance before).
Now the trouble started in December when I hurt my back (in a non-running incident), which left me unable to run or do any vigorous exercise for about a month. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting out and doing the odd kilometre barefoot, keeping it slow and trying to get better. This week my back improved enough that I decided to tackle the race.
Now, going into the race, I knew 2 things:
1. I wasn’t ready to run 5k
2. If I wanted to run a decent time, I’d need to wear shoes (more on this later)
I’ve been running exclusively barefoot for about half a year, and in dribs and drabs for a couple years before that. I know how to run barefoot, normally do it often, and enjoy it. Before I went to exclusive barefooting, however, I learned to run in minimalist shoes (Vibram KSOs). I never had any injuries in the Vibrams, and always raced well in them.
Despite the fact that I posted my best ever time when barefoot, I always had it in my mind that the Vibrams were my secret weapon that I oculd bring out to increase my distance and/or speed in a race. Boy was I wrong.
With the exception of the Mud Run in December 2011, which was more of a Fun Walk, I haven’t run in Vibrams for 6 months. Despite this, I strapped them on, started my stopwatch and headed out to race. I started at a good pace, if a little slower than my best. I didn’t want to end up hurting myself so I pulled back a bit. By the halfway point, I was on track for a 26 minute race. Then about 100m from the turnaround, I started to get a pain in my foot. It was a really sharp pain right in the middle of my forefoot. It came on so suddenly and aggressively that after only a few steps, I had to stop.
After a moment of consideration, I whipped off the shoes and continued on. The pain subsided almost immediately and was gone within a kilometer of where it occurred. A few minutes out from the finish, I decided to try an experiment and put the shoes back on. Within seconds, the pain was back!
I finished the race, wincing, in 27:46.
As I sit here, typing away, I can still feel a little pain in my foot. It feels like I may have a bruise or that the bones are rubbiing against each other. Either way it’s unpleasant, but should hopefully go away with a bit of rest.
It’s funny that after so much time spent running barefoot, learning and teaching about it, that I would fall prey to some of the classic problems that new barefooters experience: Doing too much too soon (TMTS), running in shoes, and not listening to my body.
If I had listened to my body I would have known my limitations and would have either run the race slower, or put it off until I was ready. If I hadn’t worn shoes I would have run with better form, which would have made it less likely that I would have hurt my foot.
At this point I’m thinking that I will hang up my minimals for good and run and race solely in bare soles from now on. I hope that the new barefooters reading this can take something from this experience and try leaving the minimals at home, and that experienced runners recoverng from injuries do the same.
PS: Damn, I just noticed that I’ve even got a blister on the side of my foot!