JON: Parker 5k and Running of the Green 4 mile

Since Katie and I started this blog we have run two races, so I figured I would share some thoughts on my time racing in Vibrams (black KSOs).

The Running of the Green was a road race in Green Island, NY (right next to Troy). Mostly flat pavement with a few rolling hills and some uneven spots (I caught my toe near a railroad track and nearly bit it). It was a different race distance than the usual 5k, so I thought it would be good to see how speed and pacing would work in a slightly longer race. It was a chiller morning than we expected (low 30s), so I opted for tights, tee and my green Nike jacket, gloves and my black Buff (Katie calls it my “puff”). No Injini socks, which I had been wearing on and off. My feet are snug in the KSOs, but its not uncomfortable. Race started nicely and I stayed with Katie for the first mile or so and then sped up (pace for miles 1-2 was 18:27 and 15:06 for the miles 3-4). I did not plan on picking my pace up that much, but I really felt good so I decided to just go with it. Saw two other runners in Vibrams (both in Bikilias, which are on my “to get” list) and had a good conversation with one about the pros and cons of running in minimal shoes. It was a fun run and we both really enjoyed ourselves.

The Parker 5k was held at the Robert C. Parker school in Wynantskill. It is a small elementary school, but man it is gorgeous! The day turned out to be a lot nicer than forecast. Sun was out with a mostly cloudless sky. I ran in my KSOs with shorts and green Nike jacket; I wore gloves and my Buff. (I did get warm midway through the race but it was probably a good choice—I have terrible circulation in my hands!) This was our first trail race and we were really excited, but unsure about what to expect. So when we lined up at the starting line and the race director said this would be a “challenging course” and that “one of you will fall” I wondered why this info had not been in the registration info. Oh well. Horn sounded and off we went.

The course was a double loop, the second time we cut off a small portion of the first loop. Since I have never run a trail before I have no way to gauge whether this was a challenging course or not, but from first impressions this one was tough! There were multiple water crossings that had bridges, but in a few cases I decided to forgo the bridge and either hurtle the water or simply run right through it (cold and muddy but it felt great!). There were some significantly steep hills that were littered with snow, mud, stumps and craves, making it even more difficult to scale them. Numerous sharp cutbacks and narrow passages between trees simply added to the congestion and slow pace at the beginning—it opened up a lot more after we hit the first couple hills and once we had all gotten past the first two tiny bridges. The thing I notices right away was that I simply could not keep my stride length and the number of strides the same—especially since I was running in Vibrams. I had to be conscious of every step and by the end of the race I found that I would be mentally plotting my route to find the easier places to land (and I found that this was not always the most direct route). On the second loop I decided to increase my pace, and I really tried to hammer away at the hills. I knew the race was short so I could afford to plow ahead even if my lungs and legs were burning. (I think I have come to love hills, though that might change on longer races.) The best part was running straight though to muddy bog areas! The mud felt good on my feet, and after a few minutes of running they started to dry somewhat.

One issue: As my feet got wet I found that they start to slide a bit in my KSOs. It was not significant (I had ratcheted the velcro pretty tight) nor did I experience an injury or any pain, but I found that I need to be careful how fast I took the cutbacks and how I moved on uneven terrain (there were 2-3 places where my left foot was noticeably higher than my right, so I needed to be careful how my feet landed so that they did not rollover). (PS: Katie told me afterward that in shoes that type of terrain made it very difficult to run without rolling her ankle because she could not feel the ground like she could in her Vibrams.)

I finished the race tired and sore—but smiling, and surprising cheerful: “I think I love trail running. Why had we gone this long without doing it?” This was certainly the start of new love affair—now I just have to find trails to run despite my urban living.