Thursday, May 17, 2012

First marathon

It's been 10 days, and thanks to Elastoplast's moist wound-healing SOS Plaster System, my blister has almost completely healed. Which, if you'd peeked at it on May 6, in all its wretched meaty bloody glory, would amaze you.

It was a great run, and blister was really the only regrettable part of it. The day before I was still waffling back and forth about what to wear on my feet. I'd brought my old Minimus shoes, just about completely worn through in the uppers, and thought that perhaps I could run in them and discard them in a garbage can partway through if I decided to run partly barefoot. Or I could wear them the whole way. Or I could take my huaraches, and try for a mostly or partly barefoot run. By dinner time the night before I'd decided to just wear my shoes and forget about the barefoot bravado points. But by the next morning I had swung back the other direction. I set off in my huaraches.

I was early for the race, but I'd hardly slept, and it felt better to be sitting in the SkyTrain station sipping a latté and watching the runners for the Half (starting an hour earlier than the Full Marathon) piling onto trains for the start area than sitting in the hotel room in the dark. Chuck, Fiona and Sophie were still asleep and needed to head to the airport an hour or two after the race started to pick up Noah and his Corazón compatriots. So I meandered slowly out to the start area.

I had checked out the last 10k of the route a couple of days before and it had been lovely and smooth, perfect for barefooting. I'd had high hopes for the rest of the route. As it turned out the first two-thirds of the course was fairly abrasive chip-seal and old asphalt. There were a few smooth streets but mostly it was stuff that pushed the envelope on my sole-conditioning. I shucked my huaraches for a couple of kilometres twice, but soon decided it made the most sense to save my feet for later in the course.

Blister, day 10: almost gone!
I had never run more than 8k in my huaraches before, though, and neglected to snug up the laces as they stretched out over the first 20 km. My left sandal stayed in place pretty well, but my right one was loose, and I ignored the saggy fit since to my eventual peril. The ball of my right foot was riding over the edge of the sandal with every step -- although I couldn't really feel a problem with it -- and inevitably a big blister formed. By the time we reached the smooth asphalt of the seawall, my foot was in no condition to be unprotected on the ground. So I snugged up the huaraches and kept them on until the end.

Having heeded all the warnings to be sure to drink enough, I over-hydrated during the early part of the race. Stopping to pee and to put on / remove / adjust my sandals added about ten minutes to my time.

I finished in 4:24. I had figured if I ran in huaraches or bare feet, anything under 4:40 was fine, though in shoes I would have wanted to aim for 4:15. So I didn't feel like I was fast, but I was fine with my result It was a stunning course and a great run. You can view the route in this video -- really amazing. The weather was perfect: sunny and breezy, with temperatures peaking at about 13ºC.

I had hurting feet during the last 12 km, but I didn't really feel like I'd run out of energy or motivation. And my hurts were all superficial -- chafing at the neckband of my shirt, a neuritis on my wrist from my Garmin strap being too tight given the heat and inevitable bit of edema, and the pain in the soles of my feet. No knee pain, no ankle / Achilles / plantar / hip discomfort. So I think the basic biomechanics of my form are serving me well.

So in retrospect it was not a great move to go with the huaraches and the option of bare feet. Next time I think I'll try minimalist shoes. But the worst move was to head immediately from the end of the race into the minivan and do nothing but sit as we drove home in order to get the kids back in time for bed and school. What I needed was stretching, movement, ice, a shower, some massage, and lots more movement and lots more stretching. Instead I arrived home 9 hours later in time for bed and another 6 hours of relative immobility while asleep. By the next morning I was very stiff indeed.

Ah well, it only took me a couple of days to get myself limbered up. I'm happy and caught up on my sleep and running again now. And thinking about where to go from here, thinking about my next marathon.


  1. wow, excellent. you just keep on inspiring.

  2. great story! you will kick ass next time in the minimalist shoes :)

  3. Yikes! From all I've read about marathon and ultra preparation, you go in footwear you are used to over long distances. Having never run more than 8km in your shoes in one go could've been a bad mistake. Lucky it turned out so well.

  4. Well, there's little to no biomechanical difference between huaraches and bare feet. I had done a number of runs of 30-35 km in a combination of the two, switching part-way through. What was different at the marathon was that the proportion in one vs. the other reversed.


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