I very much enjoyed this little race last year and vowed to run it again. I particularly enjoyed the cool forest trails and natural setting. I remember thinking that I would like to try some barefoot running and if ever there was a race to run barefoot this would be it. In the Summer I started some barefoot running on grass, mostly to strengthen the muscles in my feet that don't get worked on as they are trapped in my clunky running shoes with orthodic inserts. Being careful to not over do it and get injured, I gradually built up some strength and adjusted to a completely different foot strike. Along the way I discovered that I love the feeling of the earth beneath my feet and that I can run just as fast without shoes as with, as long as I am on soft ground and not in pain from stones or pavement. A few weeks ago I picked up a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers, which offer some protection from sharp stones but are essentially the same as running barefoot. I have built up to 1.5 miles on them and I hesitated to race a full 3 miles, but at the last minute decide to go for it. No time goal and if it becomes painful I will just walk it in, or switch shoes for the second lap. This morning is the coldest day of the year so far, just sub freezing. I jog about a mile in regular shoes and take some photos of the course, then join Bill for another warm up lap. A few minutes before the start I switch to the Vibrams and my feet start getting cold right away. Debbie, Lynn and Sabrina show up to watch and help with the race, so I give my camera to Lynn who was able to get some good shots of the race....thanks Lynn!!
Start - Three more runners than last year. I either know or introduce myself to all eleven of us. Karen Steen is going to run with her dog. Race Directors Craig and Rich have marked the course which will be a little different from last year. They are explaining the route and I really should be paying attention but somehow my mind wanders and I am not really listening.
Mile 0.3 - Down the "road" which has the most gravel of the course. I've tucked in behind Bill and am in a group of five. Casual atmosphere, I do not look at my watch to check pace. Angie asks about my marathoning and then another runner asks what my favorite marathon is. That is a question that I could go on and on about. I mutter out a few races but decide to not ramble on. In fact my feet are adjusting to the Vibrams, I am warming up and feel like I could go faster. I make a move speeding up just as we enter the second type of trail.
Mile 0.8 - I really like the feel of this trail. Softer and no stones. The big puddle from last year is merely a patch of mud. Ohh it feels lovely squishing around my feet. "Its a treat to beat your feet on the Millersylvania Mud". I pass one runner and the others seem to fading away behind me.
Mile 1.3 - Third type of trail, no picture of this one. Dry and very narrow track with uneven grass on either side. I run on the grass and my foot goes in a hole hyper extending my right leg. Scary but a minor issue as I continue on and feel OK. On to the grass to finish the first lap.
Mile 1.9 - Feet feeling the stones on the gravel road more that they did on the first go round. Trip up on a small branch. A number of very minor ankle turns and slips that would not have happened in regular shoes. I wonder if I will regret this. First look at watch. 7:42/mile pace.
Mile 2.2 - Back onto the softer trail and although I have to watch for roots and branches and general unevenness of the trail I simply love this part. I can speed up some, enjoy the squishy mud, and I just relish racing on the trail.
Mile 2.7 - Did fine on the narrow track this time. Course takes a right turn on this second lap and I can not help but look back to make sure no one is close behind. In fact no one is and as I go down the gravel road I slow a bit due to lack of competition. Soon enough it is time to make a sharp left and enter the field and final section to the finish.
Mile 3.0 - I look at my watch and realize that I can beat 23 minutes if I push it. The "crowd" is cheering and I crank it up a notch to the finish. Craig hands me a pumpkin pie. I change shoes and put on warm clothes and watch the others come in.
This race has a number of wonderful things: simple day of race registration (free for Club Oly members), two experienced race directors, accurate timing, small group of mostly Club Oly members and a fast beautiful trail. My calf muscles tightened up after the race, but the feet feel fine and I will race in my Vibrams again sometime.
5th place of 11