Favorite Pastime - Resting!

Favorite Pastime - Resting!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

New Barefoot Personal Record - 3:45 Marathon

Happy Halloween Barefooters,

Beautiful Drive to VA

Finish of Delaware Marathon
I'm happy to report that my speed is improving following my recent high mileage workouts.  I'm not completely convinced that the high miles led to the new Barefoot Personal Record but I was very happy for the improved time (more on that in a little bit).

The month started off with a week of NO RUNNING while I joined 4 hiking buddies on a 50 mile, 5 day hike on the Appalachian Trail.  We hiked a very beautiful part of the trail in Virginia know as Shenandoah National Park.  It was absolutely gorgeous and we had near perfect weather the entire trip.  When Mike (Maroney) and I arrived on Sunday Oct. 4, the locals told us it had been raining for the past 11 days straight. 

AT Hike - Start of 5 day hike
Our compadres arrived later that evening--Steve Walker, Bill Schulke and John Bitner--and we bunked out in a cabin at Skyland Resort before beginning our 5 days of Northbound hiking and camping.  The weather cleared the next morning and the beautiful Autumn colors exploded all around us.

This was the third time I have hiked with this group.  We are what you call "section hikers" in that we only hike a particular section of the trail.  This is as opposed to "thru-hikers" which hike the entire 2159 mile trail in one season.  The middle guy in the picture (John "Churchill" Bitner) actually thru-hiked the trail back in 2010 as a Sobo (South Bounder) but now he comes out every year or so with us hiker wanabees and shows us the ropes.

It is quite a commitment to thru-hike this trail and requires quite a bit of planning and coordination to re-supply and carry just enough to get you to the next point without breaking your back trying to carry everything you "think" you might need.  Thru-hikers are a different breed and it was an honor to get to get to meet several Sobo's on our trek through VA which is the lower half of the trail.

Toe Surgery in Tent

Duct tape can "fix" anything!
We hiked about 10 miles a day although some days were a little longer.  On the second day I began to develop very bad blisters on both pinky toes due to the moist hiking boots (remember:  Me and shoes DO NOT get along!)  Before arriving at the campsite that second night I had already popped the blister on the left foot and the right foot looked like a balloon ready to pop!  I was pretty bummed out about it and not really sure what to do.  As I began to worry about the barefoot marathon coming up in one week it was all I could do not to panic...I had to just pray and "Give it to God" knowing that somehow He would work it out.  One seasoned veteran (Sobo) at the camp that night told me to "duct tape 'em" and keep going!  And that's what I did.  I performed minor surgery in my tent that night cutting away SOME of the loose skin on the left pinky toe to keep it from wrapping back under the broken blister and causing worse damage.  I then bandaged the popped blister and then wrapped both pinky toes in duct tape.  It worked surprisingly well.  The right toe never popped the whole rest of the week and with nightly "drying" and re-taping each morning I survived the week.  Many answered prayers during these last several days since I knew the DE Marathon was coming up in 10 days and may have been in jeopardy.

Coffee Break on Trail
One highlight from the hike was on day two when I spotted a black bear while all alone on the trail.  I heard a lot of rustling in the trees overhead as I hiked near Elk Wallow Wayside and at first thought it was just another bunch of gray squirrels which I had seen numerous times already.  But this was a LOT of rustling leaves from something BIG, and as I looked up about 30 yards off to the right of the trail, I saw a large black bear climbing down the trunk of a tree...he stopped half-way to the ground...perked up both ears...and then he and I locked eyes with each other!  I just kept moving along the trail, not really sure what was going to happen.  He immediately climbed the rest of the way down the tree, the bottom of which was below 
Snake by My Tent!! 

grade, so I couldn't see which way he went as he got to the ground.  Oh no!  Again, I just kept on moving away and looked back frequently but never saw him again...but boy, did that get my heart rate going!  I was the only one of our group of 5 that saw a bear all week (and survived to tell about it!) so I felt pretty fortunate.  Other wildlife sightings included deer close enough (and tame enough) to pet, gray squirrels, chipmunks, birds and of course a 6 foot black/white snake on day 3 just 10 feet from the tent I just set up...I watched him climb into the trees to get some sun and he just left me alone after that.

RR Crossing on Appalachian Trail

Another sort of injury occurred during the hike as I started lacing my hiking boots very tight to avoid the slippage which seemed to be causing the blisters.  While this did keep my feet from sliding around in the boots, it seemed to put a lot of stress on my ankles.   My right ankle began to swell on the third day and even after loosening the boots it didn't seem to recover.  Again, more healing prayers were answered as I finished off the week and took each day "one at a time" to try to recover before the marathon just one week away.

Autumn on Anthony Road,
a "Tunnel of Trees"
I did begin running that next week (back in Indiana for only 4 days) but really took it easy.  I left the now "loose" callous in place on the left pinky toe and prayed it wouldn't become an issue for the race on Saturday.  The callous was basically a hinged flap and I figured if I cut it away I would be forcing myself to run on the new tender skin underneath.  Earlier in the week, I had been contemplating calling up the race director and getting a one-year injury deferment and changing my flights and hotel...but what a pain!  But by the end of the week I was gaining confidence and knew that God was with me, as always.  I prayed for good dry weather and just to make it through the weekend.  After all, this would be my third marathon (attempt) for the year and I was still yet to have a "good" one.

Start of the Dover Delaware Wounded Warrior Project
Monster Mash Marathon - October 17, 2015
I flew out to Philadelphia on Friday and drove down to the Monster Mile (Dover International Speedway) to pick up my race packet at the base of the Monster statue.  My hotel was less than half a mile away and I got to bed early after a full day of carbo-loading (Breakfast @ Cracker Barrel, Lunch @ Longhorn Steakhouse & Dinner @ Applebees!).  Race day (Saturday, Oct 17) was absolutely perfect race weather.  About 43 degrees at the start, dry and no wind.  I was one of the last runners to the starting line (on the actual track) and got lots of stares and comments, being the only barefoot runner there.  It was a combination Half and Full marathon so we were a little conjested the first 6 miles or so but not bad at all. 
Monster Mile Statue
I went out trying to keep the early miles just under 8:45 but actually eased into a quite comfortable 8:16 pace and couldn't seem to slow it back down.  Between 6 and 12 I ran with Keith and Joyce (fellow 50 staters) and enjoyed the relatively easy miles.  At mile 13 I stopped at a Port-o-let and never really caught back up to them.  My pace slowed some in the last 6 miles but never enough to blow my goal average of 8:35.  I came within 1 second of my overall time goal of 3:45 with a brand new Barefoot Personal Record of 3:45:00.9 which beat my previous BPR (Wyoming last year) by more than 5 minutes!  This was good enough for 50th place overall and 8th in my age group.

Liberty Bell Sidetrip

I stayed around for the "after party" including barbeque and beer and traded war stories with the other runners.  Many other 50 staters were around and even a couple of "50 Sub 4" wannabees like myself.  Once the sun disappeared behind clouds and the wind began to pick up, the crowed thinned and I headed back to my hotel to rest up for the trip back to Indy the next day (had to stay over Saturday to get a reasonable price on a flight).  The next day I arose early and drove south to Slaughter Beach and then back up north toward the airport. 
A REAL Philly Cheese-steak
I went down to downtown Philly, and stood in line to see the Liberty Bell before heading over to the Red Owl Tavern for a REAL Philly Cheesesteak and a beer...then I headed to the airport for the plane-ride back.

I ran a little last week but surprisingly the right ankle continued to ache all week.  I decided to take this whole last week of the month off and see how it feels before doing anymore running on it.  Next week I leave for two weeks in Europe (Germany and Austria) so I'm not sure how much running (if any) I will do over there.  I'll just take it easy if I do start back up and relax, knowing that I've already hit all my distance and time goals for the year.  Not sure which marathon will be next but I still need a sub 4 in both Florida and New Mexico to finish out the 50Sub4 thing.

Happy Trails & God Bless,

Barefoot Dan

October Mileage = 86.18 miles (low, but lots of much needed rest!)

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