Holiday Half Marathon Race Recap with ENERGY BITS!

Wow this race recap took a while for me!  Sometimes, life gets in the way…  I am still at home recovering, so I have some time to catch up.  The Holiday Half Marathon and 5k is a festive little event in North Portland near the Adidas campus that took place on December 16, 2012.  This was my second year running it, so I felt pretty confident I could beat my time from last year.  Last year, I ran it in 1:47:23.  My goal time going into the race was 1:45, and I felt that was a perfectly attainable goal.

My mistake with this race was not getting my things ready the night before…Hehe, I think it’s safe to say I was a bit over-confident.  “It’s going to be fine!” I thought to myself, no problem.  We sat around, had a nice dinner, and went to bed.  We woke up with plenty of time to eat some breakfast, but realized that we didn’t have any coffee.  I am not a coffee drinker, but it’s my tradition to have a small cup of coffee before a race to give me an extra kick in the pants.  Caffeine has certainly been shown to do that with running, so I was insistent that we get coffee somewhere.  So we decided we would hit the 7-11 before the race, which was the only thing open that early in the morning on a Sunday.  The absence of coffee in my pre-race routine must’ve been the thing that kicked off the chaos that ensued.

While I was pouting around the house about the missing coffee, I began putting my race clothes on.  I had this really silly ugly Christmas turtleneck from my Mrs. Claus costume from the Jingle Bell Run, so I decided to wear that to be “cute” and festive during the race.  I also donned my striped elf socks over my tights for a little extra flair.  My running jacket happens to be green, which was perfect for the theme so I put that on too with the intention of converting it to a vest during the race. Knowing that we needed to stop and get coffee, we hurried out the door with probably not enough time…

We got coffee and headed downtown.  About 2 minutes onto the interstate, I realized I’d forgotten my watch.  Now ordinarily, I really wouldn’t care that much because I’ve never been much for wearing the watch anyway, but today, I was going for a PR!  OH NO!!!  I would need to monitor my pace in order to get the time I wanted right?  PANIC!!  I was driving, so I obviously started beating the crap out of the steering wheel with my clueless husband sitting next to me with his mouth hanging open.  “I FORGOT MY WATCH!!”  We really didn’t have time to go home and get it, because parking down there is a complete nightmare.  As in there’s none right around Adidas, so you have to take a shuttle if you don’t get there early enough, which of course, we didn’t get a ticket for.  So we kept on heading downtown, and I was frantically coming up with ideas.  “Can’t you download a thing on my thing? You know what I’m saying??” I was practically shrieking.

My husband is wonderful, and knows how to translate.  “A GPS running app for your iPhone?” he said, trying not to laugh at me.  Of course he could laugh, he had his stupid GPS watch.  He got to work on my iPhone as I continued to curse myself for forgetting my watch and for wearing such a silly turtleneck.  I realized this was going to be a problem because it was pouring rain.  Now, a cute Christmas turtleneck from Goodwill is one thing if it’s nice, sunny, weather, but it’s a terrible idea if it’s down pouring.  Heavy cotton is the last thing you should be wearing in the pouring rain and wind.

When we pulled up to Adidas, we realized we were too late, because they’d already shut the roads down so we couldn’t get through to try to find a parking space.  We were directed down to the parking lot a couple miles away, so we would need to take the shuttle.  Which we didn’t have a ticket for.  We were screwed!  The guy mercifully let us onto the shuttle, so I plan to contact Foot Traffic to see if we can donate some money to them or a charity of their liking for letting the bandits on the bus, wearing an ugly Christmas turtleneck nonetheless.

On the bus, I tried to familiarize myself with my new running app on my iPhone thanks to my wonderful husband.  I also realized at this point I’d forgotten a hat, which would have been pretty crucial in the weather.  We pulled up to Adidas for the start with a few minutes to spare to check our bag and prepare to start.  The line for bag check was wrapped twice around the garage.  Wow!!  I think they underestimated the amount of people at this race!  Here we were, 20 minutes until the start with hundreds of people trying to check bags, and the line was immobile.  The porta potty situation was pretty poor too, forget about going to the bathroom before the race.  There must have been more people than last year!  Either that or our planning was terrible, I’m not sure which. Probably a bit of both.

In line, I adjusted my Injinji socks and my VFF See Yas, which were just starting to get a little hole in the pinky toe.  Wow, I’ve been putting some mileage on these!  I suppose I’ve had them since April now, that’s pretty good for such a thin sole. 3 or 3.5 mm if I remember correctly?  I feel almost sentimental towards those shoes!  I also counted out 40 Energy Bits and swallowed them with some water.  Here goes nothing!  First race with Energy Bits!  I’d been training with them, so I knew I could expect a wonderful surge of energy that would carry me through the race, despite a pretty low start to the morning.  No one to blame but myself for that though…

Because it took us so long to get our bags checked, we were stuck in the middle to the back of the crowd.  It was raining pretty hard at this point, and I realized that I had also forgotten to convert my jacket into a vest and check the sleeves.  I had no choice but to take the sleeves off and pack them into the back of my jacket, which makes me appear to have a giant booty bouncing around from far away.  I’m told it’s pretty entertaining!  You’re welcome, to the people running behind me 🙂  I had my iPhone in my front pocket of my jacket, which also felt big and bulky to say the least.  I started the iPhone as I crossed the timing mat, which was pretty awkward because I was juggling my phone and some red “throw away” gloves.

There were lots of turns during the first part of the race, so I was effectively blocked in by runners as we funneled through the narrow streets.  I was pretty antsy, so I scurried over to the sidewalk with a couple other runners who were doing the same in order to pass some of the others.  This seemed to work pretty well and I was trying to make up the time that I’d lost being blocked in earlier.  I finally fished out my phone to see how fast I was going, and I was holding a 6:30 min/mile pace at that point!  Ok, ok, that’s too fast!!  To get a time of 1:45, I would need to hold 8:00 min/miles, or slightly less.

I slowed down to about 7:30 min/miles, but I am incredibly stubborn and could not convince myself to go any slower than that.  I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me sometimes.  I just feel SO GOOD during the first half of the race!! I can hold this, it’ll be great!  I fell into running with a group of ladies that looked very strong, a local running group.  I was feeling great, so I tried to talk to them a little, saying some encouraging things.  By this point, we were starting to see some of the leaders coming back, which is always inspiring to pick up the pace a bit.  The race is mostly out and back, but it’s a bit further out than it is back.  I said something like, “Wow, it’s great to see the really fast people coming back!  It gives me a little more energy!”  The ladies I was running with were not amused.  They apparently all knew each other and did not particularly want to associate with me.  Oh, I forgot to mention I was also wearing Christmas underwear over my pants.  Superhero style.  With the Muppets character, Animal on them.  So I guess wearing a soaked Christmas turtleneck and underwear is not quite as cool as their slick tech running club shirts! Oh well, that’s ok.

During the race, it began to monsoon.  That was some of the most killer rain and wind I’ve ever run in, much less raced in.  The rain and wind made things irritating.  My gloves became sopping wet, and I couldn’t work my phone with them on, so I decided to throw them out.  I then tried to shelter my freezing hands with my shirt, but it was also dripping cotton.  My jacket, which I was wearing as a vest, is supposed to be water resistant, but nothing could resist the pelting rain and wind. My vest offered no protection to my phone, which became totally soaked.  My fingers were so cold, that at about mile 9, I was totally incapable of working it.  I’m pretty sure my phone also just completely pooped out at that point and decided to quit.  The only real problem I have with this race course aside from the terrible weather that struck is the cant in the road.  The cant is quite severe on many parts of the course, and I felt like I should have been in a velodrome.  The road was so slanted, sometimes I found myself running from side to side because I couldn’t stay on a straight path!  Cant is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, but it could be because I’m a PT and notice things like that.  I even began to imagine at one point that I was developing hip pain from the awkward surface, but decided it was all in my head.  (It was.)  On the bright side, there are some nice neighborhoods that we ran through, as well as a pretty view of the river.

Along the road with the pretty view, the wind was threatening to blow us over.  My race number, poor thing, couldn’t hang.  Probably about the same time I lost the ability to use my fingers and my phone, my race number took flight.  I’d noticed that one of the four holes had ripped, so my race number was hanging by three safety pins and flapping provocatively in the wind.  I was trying to bow my head into the wind, which was coming from the right on the way back, when all of the sudden I saw a race number flying around.  “Oooh, that sucks, bummer for that person,” I thought, looking around for the idiot without a race number.  It took me about 5 seconds to realize that I was the idiot!  Oh no, my race number with my chip is flying around!!  I started chasing it around on the ground, but of course,  as soon as I came up to it, the bastard would fly away again.  Finally, the rain worked in my favor and held it to the ground long enough for me to get it.  Mind you, my fingers were still not functional so I sort of balled up the number and held it in my left hand.  I had to keep looking down to make sure I was still holding it!

My pace stayed at 7:30 until about mile 6 when I decided I really needed to slow down.  I slowed down to 7:45 or so until right after the turn around, when we started going uphill and into a headwind.  At that point, I looked down at my phone and I was going 8:30 min/miles!  Luckily, it was at that time that my lifeboat arrived.  I felt strong and the Energy Bits were working.  I kicked it up a notch, bowed my head into the wind and took off.  I checked my phone again and kept it steady at 7:45 min/mile throughout the rest of the race.  I think, anyway, but I’m not sure since I couldn’t look at my phone after mile 9.  But I must have, based on my finishing time.  I felt strong, and hammered through those last miles despite the conditions absence of the ability to use my fingers.  I couldn’t even stop at the last water stop because I was incapable of grabbing a cup!  Again, totally my fault.  I was figuring that I had maybe a mile left, when all of the sudden, I looked up and saw the mile 13 marker.  What?? I only have 0.1 mile left?  That set a fire under my Animal underwear, and I took off!  I tore for the finish, and was so happy!  My finishing time was 1:42:16, 5 minutes faster than last year, and a new PR for my half marathon.  Mike blew my mind with a finishing time of 1:27:33!!  That’s a pace of 6:41. He never ceases to amaze me.

What I want to really focus on, is how Energy Bits got me through this race.  One couldn’t ask for worse conditions and worse planning on my part.  A poor start to the morning was followed by pure energy, focus, and the ability to stay above the intrinsic and extrinsic barriers that I faced during the half marathon. I truly felt I could rise above the weather, the cold, and the idiotic wardrobe choices.  So have you heard of Energy Bits?

Let’s talk about them. I discovered Energy Bits when I became interested in using real food for fuel vs. the sugary gels that I’ve used in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I still use Clif gels for a kick in the pants, but prefer to use cleaner energy if possible.  Energy Bits have one ingredient.  One.  Spirulina, which is a form of algae, has been recognized as the most powerful, nutritionally dense food in the world.  And that happens to be the one ingredient in Energy Bits.  The minimum recommended “dose” is 30 bits, but more is obviously more beneficial to your performance.  I took 40 before the race and it really seemed to do the trick for me.  During training runs, I ate Energy Bits and had some of the fastest training runs I’ve ever had.  And I typically don’t train fast, which is a flaw of mine, but these things just facilitate a stronger, faster run.  Not to mention, a happy run!  It sounds silly, but I always feel really happy, or almost elevated, or dare I say high?  Keep in mind, Spirulina is NOT a drug, it’s just an amazing superfood!  While it may sound hard to believe, healthy, pure, nutritional food is the key to our health and therefore our performance in athletics.  We are unfortunately, a society that is run by pharmaceutical companies and gimmicks to put a band aid over our problems and provide temporary fixes, as well as temporarily boost our performance.  Overall health is about enriching our lives with the best foods on this earth, and increasing our longevity.  That’s what Energy Bits are about.  Health, performance, and longevity via the simplest route you can think of:  Find the most nutritious food on this planet and grow it organically for the most pure supplement and performance enhancer.  Did I go off on a tangent too much?  🙂  Don’t get me started on pharmaceutical companies…

Anyway, on the Energy Bits website,  they discuss the performance aspect of the bits for athletics:

“For any sport or workout, you need glucose and protein and for a really top performance, your muscles need rapid access to them. This is why nitric oxide is so important. It opens up blood vessels so key nutrients can quickly get where they need to go. Our algae tabs are the trifecta of nutrition because they provide your body with glucose, protein and even nitric oxide. All naturally too. Our algae tabs have the highest concentration of protein in the world (over 60%), all in amino acid form so it quickly converts to glucose. This gives you an energy boost and mental wake up without chemicals, sugar or caffeine  All for just one calorie per tab. We recommend our ENERGYbits® algae tabs (which are 100% spirulina)  for any athletic or high endurance activity.   Spirulina algae has been a favorite of Olympic athletes and trainers for decades. You’ll find out why the first time you try them.”

I am so impressed by this company, that I recently became a proud ambassador for them.  If you have any specific questions for me, please ask me as I’m happy to answer.  I should mention that the bits are going to be a powerful tool for me while I’m recovering from my medical emergency, as I’m slightly anemic due to blood loss.  I couldn’t tolerate an Iron supplement, so I’ve started taking the bits daily to see if this is beneficial for getting my hematocrit levels to rise.  Here is a little snapshot of some of the nutritional highlights of Energy Bits and spirulina, taken from the website:

Nutritional highlights of Spirulina:

  • Provides 12 times the amount of bio-available protein as steak
  • Is composed of 60%-64% protein compared to meat (27%) or soy (34%)
  • More beta carotene than any other whole food
  • 58 times more iron than raw spinach
  • 12 times more iron than beef liver
  • Richest source of antioxidants – necessary for health, and anti-aging
  • Richest source of vitamin A (which helps your eyesight)
  • Richest plant source of GLA to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure

Summary:

To summarize the half marathon, a poopy start to the race followed by even poopier weather and slanted roads ended up ending on a high note as I finished 5 minutes faster than my fastest half marathon, and 3 minutes faster than my goal time thanks to Energy Bits as fuel and my Animal Christmas underwear.

Interested in ENERGY BITS?  ASK ME QUESTIONS!!  INTERESTED IN A DISCOUNT?  USE the code BAREFOOT at checkout at EnergyBits.Com for 30% off!

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Holiday Half Marathon Preview and Energy Bits?

There comes a time in training for an event that you think to yourself, “Wow, I can never run that mileage that I’m supposed to run during training!”  Then, there’s that pivotal moment when you realize that not only have you done the training, but you’re faster and stronger than before.  That’s the beautiful thing about running.  You only get out of it what you put into it.  So when that moment comes that you realize you’re a BAMF, (I just learned what BAMF means) celebrate your strength and say, “Hey Jack! Hey, you’re gonna do this race boys.”  On a side note, I’ve been watching WAY too much “Duck Dynasty.”  Have y’all ever watched that show?  I think I’m slowly turning into Uncle Si.

This coming weekend, Mike and I are doing the Foot Traffic Holiday Half Marathon in downtown Portland.  I am still putting my costume together.  I’m thinking tacky Christmas underwear over my tights with a Christmas turtleneck.  At the very least, anyway. Now usually, I am content to have a goal of just finishing the race, but for some reason Mike and I both decided to actually go for a PR.  My goal time is 1:45 or around an 8:00 min/mile pace, and Mike’s is 1:30 which is about a 6:45 min/mile pace. Yes, he’s fast!

My husband was hit by a car in April of this year, and ever since then, he has had a zest for life that is difficult to keep up with.  Ok, I’m totally exhausted. He has always been athletic, but I’ve never seen someone so determined to recover from an injury.  He was obsessive about his rehab and has carried that over to his training for the Portland Triathlon in October, (hit by a car and 6 months later racing again) Run Like Hell 10K, and the upcoming Holiday Half Marathon on Dec. 16.  Needless to say, his energy is contagious and I decided to actually try to run faster too.

We found a half marathon training program that was labelled intermediate, but if you ask me, it’s harder than that.  I still have this ingrained fear of running more than 2 days in a row due to my history of injuries over the last 15 years give or take.  I now realize that I can run more than two days in a row, or even three or four, without getting injured due to my barefoot running and veggie fuel.  And I’m a BAMF.  So I’ve been running 30+ miles per week for the last several weeks, which is more mileage than I’ve ever logged during back to back weeks consistently.  That may not sound like much to some, but to me, it’s still not even real.

For fueling runs, I typically use Clif Shot Gels, which have never done me wrong.  But, they may not be as right as I’d like them to be. I’m getting picky now!  All gels in general are pretty sugary, and so even the ones without caffeine can leave me feeling a little jittery at times.  I’ve already known some about the benefits of adding super foods to the diet including spirulina and chlorella, two forms of algae, as I already use Catie’s Greens. Anyway, I was snooping around the Twitter, and I kept seeing posts about bits and Energy Bits and #PoweredByBits.  I was curious, so I checked out their website.  I will go into much greater detail on a later post, but the Energy Bits are basically pure, compacted spirulina. Obviously, an all natural, plant protein superfood magical tablet. Sold.  I talked with one of their ambassadors, Ray Jackson @RayRunsLong who is an ultra runner, and was convinced when he told me they could fuel his long runs.  So long story short, I ordered a bag and off I went.  I will officially review Energy Bits later when I’ve logged more miles with them, but these things are great so far.

So that pivotal moment, the one when I realized that I am going to meet my goal time this weekend, was last night when I ran 8 miles after eating 20 or so Energy Bits.  After skiing 3 hours in the morning. Man, I felt good! So I think I will use the Bits this weekend when I fuel up before the race vs. my usual Clif Gel.  It’s a little scary, but I’m going to take the risk based on how I’ve been feeling while using them.  Just a pure, happy energy during running.

In the meantime, a QUESTION FOR YOU!  WHAT DO YOU USE FOR FUEL, and WOULD YOU EVER TRY ENERGY BITS?

Jingle Bell Run Review and Portland Monsoon Season

This time of year in Portland, OR is infamous for forcing one to question their own sanity for choosing to live in this place.  This place where it rains ALL THE TIME.  When the interstates are flooded and cars are stalling out due to high water in a place like this, you KNOW it’s seriously pouring outside.  Apparently, the Pineapple Express from Hawaii is here, and it’s also wreaking havoc in Northern Cali.  The Pineapple Express might sound like a happy little train with pineapples and tropical joy, but it’s actually the monsoon that’s beating on my windows and convincing my two little dogs that they should stay inside instead of ducking their head into the wind and rain to go out and poop.

meh... too much rain señorita
meh… too much rain señorita
Mom, it's raining out
Mom, it’s raining out

Unfortunately, the ugly Pineapple also wreaked havoc on some big races in California over the weekend.  The California International Marathon in Sacramento looked like a scene from the movie 2012, and the North Face Endurance Challenge was cancelled on Sunday after Saturday’s 50 milers got pummeled by the storm. http://instagram.com/p/Sv_wFIl8oY/

Miraculously, on Sunday morning in Portland, the clouds lifted and the sun shined brightly on all of us Jingle Bell Runners.  It was predicted that we were going to be destroyed by heavy rains, but instead it was quite the opposite.  The big orange ball in the sky was nearly alien as it pushed its head through the clouds and we all stared at it bewildered and blinded as we tried to find our place in the lineup.  Dumb and blinking like crazy, I asked someone, “Where in the heck do the runners go?”

“Left!” he said, looking to the right.  Finally, I think we got lined up in the correct spot, where other runners were waiting for the gun.

The Jingle Bell Run is a nationwide event that benefits the Arthritis Foundation and is a wonderful fundraiser.  At our event, there was even a costume contest before the race which Mike and I of course, took very seriously.  I raided the thrift stores and found the perfect Mrs. Claus and Santa outfits.  Mike and I decided not to race this one, but instead run with friends, which made our costumes even more fun to parade around in.  We were also able to meet up with the Portland Barefoot Runners before the race, and they were hysterical as always.  The chapter president’s husband was wearing women’s red lingerie with jingle bells on his ta tas, making him the unofficial winner of the BEST costume at the entire event.

Also, our wonderful co-worker Becky was there with her husband Shane and their cute little elf, Bella.  Bella won the cutest elf award, that’s for sure.  Becky had on a killer christmas sweater, and Shane was Buddy the Elf.  I LOVE BUDDY THE ELF!  They are great runners, and Bella is surely going to be a runner herself!  She loves to be in the stroller in the fresh air, and apparently sings along as Shane and Becky run.  CUTE!

Mrs. Claus and Santa
Mrs. Claus and Santa

Our friends Ellen and Nate decided to run, and it was Ellen’s first race.  It was very exciting to be able to run with them for Ellen’s first 5K!  Nate and Ellen made it clear that they were not planning on running with Mike and I and that we could go on ahead, but we had other plans.  We decided to force them to run with us, even though we were embarrassing as Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Ellen’s goal was primarily to run the entire race and secondly to come in under 35 minutes, a great goal for her first race.  I had my Garmin watch and knew that if we kept at least an 11 minute/mi pace we would come in under 35 minutes.

Before the gun, I took off my Xero Shoes/huaraches and prepared for my very first totally barefoot race.  The ground was pretty cold, so I tried to dance around in place and ignore all the open mouthed stares.  Surely, they must have just been admiring my green and red painted toe nails.  They were sparkly.

Sparkly toenails
Sparkly toenails

The gun went off and slowly we started to ease forward toward the starting line where we got held for the second wave.  Finally, we crossed the timing mat and off we went through the streets of Portland, the alien sun pressing on our shoulders.  The streets of Portland are ROUGH!  It took me about a half a mile to really get used to the feeling of the chewed up asphalt streets.  We started out just a little slower than our goal pace, so after getting the ok from Ellen, we quickened our steps and quickly got down to 11 minutes.  The race was out and back, so it wasn’t too long before we started seeing the speedsters heading back towards the finish line.  It was really exhilarating to see everyone go by!  I got to see a couple of the barefooters flying by, light and nimble.

Finally, we started the ascent up the bridge to the turnaround spot.  Halfway already!! And Ellen was looking great with Nate by her side.  While the hill on the bridge didn’t bother me, the bridge surface was really rough!  That was the main area where I noticed my feet.  Ouch, my feet were a little tender at that point.  I found some relief however, when I began running on the white lines of the road.  We turned around and headed back down the bridge, breathing a sigh of relief that we were halfway done.  I was secretly hoping that Ellen wasn’t paying attention to the Negative Nancy next to us complaining about how we were only halfway and she’d never make it to the finish.  Our glasses were half full, whereas hers was apparently half empty.

On our way back to the finish line, we had the chance to see all the walkers who were more dressed up in costume than the runners.  They were so entertaining!  To top it all off, Mike was literally yelling “HO HO HO!!!” the entire way back with Mrs. Claus at his side cracking up, asking the childrens what they wanted for Christmas.  I had a lot of pointing and staring at my feet too!  All of the sudden, we rounded the corner onto the riverfront, and we were about a half a mile from the finish line.  As the finish line loomed into view, I saw Ellen put her head down and get ready to dig in for the finish.  She looked determined.

We all charged across the finish line at what turned out to be about 34:55, 5 seconds to spare for her 35 minute goal.  We were all so excited! I had such a good time running that race with Nate and Ellen, because I loved seeing the pure grit and strength from Ellen as she powered through the race.  Afterward, she looked like pure joy as she told the barefooters her time and that she was able to run the WHOLE RACE!  She was so proud, and it was delightful to see her glowing face after she crossed the finish for the first time.  Mike and I could have tried for a new PR, but I truly think we had a much better time seeing the results of Ellen’s hard work after completing the Couch to 5K program.  So while the costumes were fun, the highlight of the race was seeing a new runner spread her wings, so to speak.  So Ellen, welcome to health, welcome to your new-found strength, and welcome to your new status.  You’re a runner!

Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen
Mike, Leigh, Nate and Ellen

IMG_0629Running this race barefoot was also significant for me and my cause to promote barefoot running.  I was told in my early twenties that I had decreased space in my right hip as seen on XRAY, possibly indicating early onset osteoarthritis.  This, I was told, may lead to the need for a hip replacement at a young age.  Afterall, I had a leg length discrepancy, the right leg was just going to take more stress and that’s it and that’s all.  At the time, of course, I was trying to run in the most supportive shoes on the market, leading to higher impact on the ground with my right heel as my foot searched for the hard surface, leading to more hip pain and inflammation.  My light, low impact barefoot running style has eradicated any trace of hip pain, knee pain, etc.  Welcome to a stronger body and a peaceful mind, as the foot just barely kisses the ground while traveling forward.  Along with healthy, plant based eating, barefoot running may just be the key to maintaining a healthy weight and building lower extremity strength, thereby reducing stress on joints.  Reducing the stress will decrease inflammation and deterioration of the joint space, greatly reducing the number of osteoarthritis cases.  So for me, the Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Foundation was my chance to demonstrate to others that they have other options besides the most expensive shoes on the market and custom orthotics.  I know that if I had seen other folks running races barefoot back when I was arthritic, I would have done my homework sooner.  Luckily, we had a great turnout from the Portland Barefoot Runners, so there were several examples of healthy, barefoot runners.

Next race will be Portland Holiday Half Marathon!! Stay tuned for more holiday costume madness.  Hopefully the Portland Monsoon will take a hiatus again for the Holiday Half and our orange, spherical alien friend will come back to join us. For an hour or two anyway.

The Bent Knee Concept + Jingle Bell Run Preview

I am currently reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s Book, Barefoot Running, Step by Step, and I highly recommend it.  Barefoot Ken Bob was one of the first people that I’d heard of as a barefoot runner, and that he was the master, the guru, THE MAN.  I’d checked out his website several times, and all I really remember from that was that every other line he was saying, “Bend your knees!”  I didn’t really appreciate this though, until I started reading his book.

Ken Bob has been running barefoot his entire life, mostly out of necessity, due to his sensitivities running in shoes.  Because he has been running for so long barefoot, and because he is THE MAN, he really has some of the best words of wisdom on barefoot running out there. If you haven’t checked out his website or his book, PLEASE do it.

This weekend, I went for a long run on the Wildwood Trail, my home away from home.  I went solo because Mike went surfing, and decided I would try some COLD barefoot trail running.  It was about 37 degrees when I started, so I knew I would have some cold feet if I didn’t warm up first.  I was wearing my VFF Spyridons for the first 9 miles, then took them off for the last 5+ miles for some sweet sole time on the trail.  During the time that I was wearing my Spyridons, I really tried to think about this bent knee deal.  I know that I always bend my knees when I land, but I get the feeling that it’s not ENOUGH.  So I really got into this, and even thought about the image that Ken Bob uses with his landing, which is this:  Your forefoot should swoop into the ground like an airplane coming in for landing.  What?  Yes, that’s right, turn your foot into an airplane.  The point is, if the knee is bent enough, this is quite easy to do.  Sure enough, I was really exaggerating this knee bend on landing, and I started feeling like an airplane.  And my legs started spinning underneath me like I was riding a bicycle.  It was nearly effortless!  It’s funny that I’m using all these other forms of transportation to describe how it felt to run, but honestly, it still shocks me that running can be this easy.  That it can be this rewarding and feel this good.

Going downhill, on level ground and slight uphill did actually feel effortless.  Going up steep hills on the other hand, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the bent knee there.  Since I used to be a booty runner, I still have that tendency to bend at the waist when going uphill.  I’m constantly reminding myself to tuck my butt and lean my whole body into the hill, not just my upper half. Going downhills, I was FLYING.  I decided to relax into the downhill more than ever and really let the knees bend, giving into gravity instead of resisting it.  It was fantastic, and I felt more confident than I ever have.  I didn’t slip as much in the mud either, because I wasn’t resisting, I was just going with it.

I ran the last 5+ miles barefoot on the trail, which was wildly entertaining.  That is my longest barefoot trail run so far, and you can bet I’ll be doing a lot more of it.  There is simply no other feeling or connection like barefoot trail running.  The pine cones, sticks, leaves, and mud that come in contact with the feet is something that you never feel otherwise.  I never realized how much I was depriving myself by keeping my feet cast away in sloppy, soggy, wet shoes and socks before.

However, I forget that I am still very much the minority among runners and hikers, especially when I run into people like the Tracksuit Poodle Man. Tracksuit Poodle Man is a regular on WW Trail, but this was the first time I’ve seen him when I was totally barefoot. In case you’re wondering, TPM has two standard white poodles that he dresses head to toe in shiny track suits.  I’m laughing out loud just thinking about them!!  They’re always perfectly groomed little boogers, so they stick out quite a bit in the muddy wilderness with their prim and proper outfits.  He’s one of my favorite characters though, so as I was running towards him, I said my usual, “Hi, how are you?” while trying not to crack up.

He looked like he might be sick as he was staring at my bare feet.  “Looks like you forgot something at home,” he growled, still looking vomitous.  Well, I suppose not everyone is a fan of us barefooters.  But then again, when looking at me versus TPM, an outsider would probably say we are both a little odd.

What is up with the gravel though?  I suppose they’re trying to prevent erosion, so they lay down gravel along sections of the trail.  This does not help the barefooters’ image (we all know image is the most important thing right?) because as I was running past the fellow hikers on the trail, I would frequently get the question, “Barefoot eh?  How’s that?”

If it happened to be on a gravel section, which happened a few times, I would grit my teeth and say a little too loudly, “It’s GREAT!  BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!”  Under my breath, I was cursing the gravel.  I have to admit though, the gravel was serving a purpose other than supposedly preventing erosion.  It was preparing my feet for this weekend, The Jingle Bell Run in downtown Portland!!  In case you haven’t seen the roads in downtown Portland, they appear to be eaten, chewed up, spit out and pooped on.  Hopefully not pooped on.  But seriously, those are the roughest asphalt roads I have ever seen/felt in my life.  During the Portland Marathon, the rough roads taunted me when my mental strength started to waver.  And I was wearing my VFFs.  This weekend though, no sir, I’ll be barefoot!

This race benefits the Arthritis Foundation. I happen to firmly believe that my barefoot running prevents me from having early onset osteoarthritis, so I will definitely be barefoot.  I will also be Mrs. Claus and Mike will be Santa!  I did lots of thrift store shopping today, here is a sneak peek of my costume.  Full body Mrs. Claus shots to come, but only after the race.  She’s killer.  One thing’s for sure, this Mrs. Claus will be bent knee barefootin’ through the streets of Portland this weekend!

RUN LIKE HELL, Portland’s Freaky Halloween Race 2012

Ah, Halloween, one of my all time favorite holidays.  I’ve come to appreciate Halloween even more now that I live in one of the freakiest cities in the United States.  I have no data on that, but it has to be true.  Afterall, people walk around in costume daily  here; you can’t even begin to imagine what people come up with when they’re actually going to a costume party.  Even better, how about a Halloween race?  Runners are mostly a bunch of weirdos anyway, so the costumes were just the icing on the cake at Run Like Hell, 2012.

Run Like Hell supports one of my favorite charities, the ALS Association.  I’ve had a handful of patients with ALS over the years, and am treating one now.  ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating, progressive disease leading to weakness and eventually paralysis.  The ALS Association is a lifeline for these individuals, providing support for the entire family as well as medical equipment when needed.  My first question to my patients is always, “Are you hooked in with the ALS Association?”  These people are real live angels walking this earth.

Run Like Hell features three distances, the 5K, 10K and half marathon as well as a kids race.  This year, the theme was “Super Heroes” which was nothing short of hysterical.  Last year, the theme was zombies and Mike and I made the mistake of going downtown to breakfast that morning only to realize that we would be eating with the living dead.  The sweaty living dead I might add, considering they had just run a race!  Mike and I decided we needed to go along with the theme, so he was The Riddler and I was Cat Woman from The Dark Knight.  It would probably help if I had actually seen The Dark Knight, but you do what you can.  Here are some pictures of our costumes:

My costume came with ears, but they kept falling apart so I decided to go without.  I think people still got the idea!

When we got downtown for the start of the race, it was POURING!  And cold, in the lower 40’s when we arrived.  We huddled with some other heroes underneath the precious canopy of Starbuck’s in the middle of Pioneer Square.  Mike was getting quite a bit of attention, especially from the ladies, which isn’t unusual 🙂  The start of the half marathon was delayed by 15 minutes, so the higher ups decided that all races would be delayed by 15 minutes.  Mike ran the 10K and I ran the 5K, which would now be starting at 8:35 and 9:25 respectively.

The Joker was the race announcer, and the 10K started off with a bang.  I watched Mike tear by in his Riddler costume, people shouting “Riddle me THIS!!” after him.  Around the middle of the pack, I saw a pack of barefooters happily running along with Barefootrunners.org painted on their backs.  One guy was wearing a loin cloth with painted toe nails and another guy was a Hawaiian in a grass skirt.  I made a mental note to find them later and pick their brains.

Meanwhile, I had plenty of time to kill, so I wandered around for a while and met some Ninja Turtles, The Hulk and Wonderwoman, and The Ambiguously Gay Duo to name a few.  The Ambiguously Gay Duo was made up of two of the funniest guys since SNL, and they were not so ambiguous.  During the Best Couple costume contest later on, they dutifully shoved whole bananas in their mouths as the announcer introduced them.  I was on the ground laughing!

I knew my race was supposed to start at 9:25, so I decided to head to the porta potty around 9:10.  Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom when you’re wearing a full body suit?  Take off gloves, take off backpack, take off jacket, take off belt, unzip body suit, take off sweatpants, hover (hello, this was a porta potty!)  By the time I made my way out of there, I was sweating like hell despite the cold weather.  How’s that for a warm up?  I headed over to clothing check and checked my bag quickly and began to jog over to the starting line.  By this time it was about 9:16 or 17, so I figured I had plenty of time to take a little warm up jog, because there were still plenty of 5Kers milling around in Pioneer Square.  It’s a good thing I took the back way to the starting line, because when I showed up at around 9:17, the announcer was saying, “Ok folks, we’ve got about 30 seconds to the start!  The countdown begins!”

WHAT?  I guess they decided to start early!  I fumbled around with my Garmin watch and it began searching for satellites.  Not an easy feat when you’re smack in the middle of downtown with skyscrapers around.  There wasn’t a chance that thing was going to pick up a satellite in the next 20 seconds.  I desperately held my arm up in the air as if that might help and even tried a few white-girl jumps to get my arm closer to the invisible satellites orbitting above.  Failed.  The race started and off we went.  WHEEEE!!  I love race starts, they  never get old.

My Garmin continued to search for satellites for what turned out to be the first 1.5 miles, until all of the sudden, there was the dreaded “DING DING DING” of a train barricade coming down.  “STOP RUNNERS!” shouted the officers as they formed their own little barricade across the tracks as if to prevent any renegade runners from darting across at the last moment.  Although I had no idea how fast I was going, I was disappointed by the train’s appearance because I had a feeling I was going to get a PR if I kept up my pace.  I really have no concept of pace unless I have a watch to monitor it, so all I knew was that I was near the front of the pack and I felt like maybe I was going faster than usual.  Miraculously, my watch decided to find a satellite as the train slowly chugged by, so I was back in the know.  Except since there were no mile markers that I saw, I really had no clue how much further I had to run. 

All of the sudden, I saw a marker for mile 6 for the 10K course, as the 10K and 5K courses came together at some point.  What?  That means there was only .2 mile left to get to the finish line.  I looked ahead, and sure enough, there was the balloon arch signifying the end.  I was totally confused, and prepared to turn off somewhere to finish the 5K because there was just no way I could be done already!  Then I saw a sign for mile 13 for the half marathon, indicating there was only .1 mile left.  I think it was then that I realized I was almost done, and I sprinted for the finish.  Success!  It turns out that after you run a marathon, a 5K seems incredibly, wonderfully short.  I’ll take it!

I still had no idea of my time, but quickly found Mike waiting for me at the finish line.  We then headed over to the post race celebration in Pioneer Square in search for the brews from Lagunitas.  One of the best parts about racing in Portland is that you almost always get a couple of post race beers with your race number.  While standing in the clothing check line, Mike continued to get lots of attention in his costume with the standout being his neon green contacts in his eyes.  One girl wearing some sort of  leather dominatrix outfit (so not Superhero) asked him, “Are those contacts?” 

Mike, always the jokester, replied, “Oh no, these are real!”

Ms. Dominatrix replied, “Yeah right, so are these!” and shook her ta tas around in a way that was not so kid friendly.  Did she just shake her boobs at my husband?  Time for a beer!

Beers in hand, we made friends with some friendly costumed people in front of the stage, where a bluegrass band played.  They were awesome, I wish I got the name of the band so I could go see them around town.  I got to talk with the barefooters too, they were great!  I totally wussed out today because I was thinking about running the race barefoot, but my feet were so numb at the start due to my inadequate warm up that I wore my VFF SeeYas.  I talked to a great guy named Mike with barefootrunners.org, and it turns out theres a Portland chapter that meets for group runs.  Their Facebook page apparently is the place to get all the info for their get togethers.  I joined today and I’m excited to go forward!  I really wish I had remembered to get a picture with them.

Eventually, we heard a rumor that the results were in, so we made our way up to the results tent.  On our way, we ran into a Giant Banana.  This wasn’t just any Giant Banana though, it was our friend Dennis Le!  Dennis is a personal trainer who coached me before my wedding.  Thanks to his expertise, I pushed myself harder than I ever have in the gym.  I gained physical strength, but the mental strength that I found within truly made it all worthwhile.  Several months have passed since I last saw Dennis, and I have to say, he looked great!  Then, I glanced down at his feet and saw that he had crossed over.  Yes, he was wearing Vibram Five Fingers, what looked to be the KSO model for men.  I always wore them when he trained me, and he asked me about them a few times, but you could tell that he really thought I was nuts back then.  It turns out that Dennis developed plantar fasciitis some time ago, and decided to make the switch to minimalist footwear.  Guess what?  Plantar fasciitis gone.  This is what happens when you strengthen your feet and allow your body to move naturally!  I really regret not getting a picture with Dennis either, see what happens when you drink beer after races?  Dennis said, “Thank you, thank you guys,” and continued telling us how much better he’s doing.  Talk about pulling at the ol’ heart strings!  This is just one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about minimalist running, it’s truly a gamechanger and a lifesaver.  Made my month.  I salute you, Giant Banana.  You can find Dennis Le training at Boom Fitness in Tanasbourne. 

We finally arrived at the results tent, and found our results.  I’m terrible at remembering times, so I went somewhere around 21:30ish for the 5K (2nd in my age group, I got a ribbon yay!) and Mike went 39:30ish for the 10K.  He’s fast.  Ridic.  He was hoping to break 40 minutes in the 10K and he did it!  Look at that, hit by a car in April and setting new PR’s in October.  I’m so proud! 

Meanwhile, the announcer on stage was saying something about Best Villain costume, and so Mike took off running for the stage.  As soon as he hopped on stage, he was playing the part, egging on the crowd and acting like a crazy mofo.  Here’s a pic to prove it.   

Of course, Mike won first place for Best Villain!  He won a great prize too, $30 off entry fee for any Terrapin Event in 2013.

After the race, we headed to Morning Star Cafe for breakfast, costumes and all, in memory of last years zombie breakfast.  All in all, it was a great day for a great charity.  We both got new PR’s in our respective races despite a train, and the weather cleared up just in time for the start of the races.  The sun even came out!  Racing is truly a great way to improve your level of fitness and get out there and meet new people, even if we’re all a bunch of freaks here in Portland.  Just cover your kids’ eyes when Mrs. Dominatrix comes around.