Posted by: Steven Hammer | June 22, 2010

Grandma’s Marathon

What a fun weekend in Duluth. The city is beautiful, the people friendly, the event well-organized. My race experience, however, was, well…interesting.

I was daydreaming when lining up, apparently, because in order to run with the 3:10 pace group I had a lot of catching up to do. I found the group and settled into the pack. I felt wonderful: easy breathing, no soreness/sign of injury, feeling great. Until the 10 mile marker. It was then that I felt 4 hot spots on my feet. I knew it was going to be an interesting race. I decided that I would hang with the pack until the blisters became too painful, then I’d just barefoot the rest of the race and carry my shoes. My half marathon split was on goal pace, but I had reached my threshold of foot pain. I pulled over, cursed at my shoes while I peeled them from my sensitive feet, and began the long and barefoot journey. My pace slowed by a minute per mile or more, and it became a finish-with-a-good-attitude goal. I finished at 3:32 or something, and had fun.

So, I didn’t come close to a qualifier, but had a good time and ran my first barefoot half marathon…? It was a good experience to encounter that kind of adversity. I’ve hit walls before, but I’ve never been passed so much in my life. While I cheered the passers on, I felt a little sting of humility inside… It really tested my “have fun, don’t worry about numbers philosophy” that I’ve tried to adopt. I won’t say that I was a zen master out there–at times I really felt sorry for myself. Felt like I gave up, felt embarrassed to be running slower than usual (as if anyone cared or knew…). Ironically, I felt more supported by the spectators then than I’ve ever felt before. I really needed them to keep my chin up at times, to finish. I guess I’m trying to say that I learned a lot from a seemingly unsuccessful race.

Now, training will change significantly, as I focus on the Lean Horse 50-miler. Marathon training philosophy and practice is out the window. I wonder how I’ll adjust to the shift. I wonder what I’ll put on my feet (I’m now even more convinced that minimalist is for me…at this point I’m planning to transition to full-time in my Vibrams). I wonder how I’ll deal with the increasing mental challenges.

I’m looking forward to the adventure. I hope you’re enjoying yours, friends.

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