a vegan couple: eating; running; living–minimally.

Tag: road

The 1st (and only) Jonathan Auyer 30th B’Day 30k: Race Report

The 30B30k map

At 9 am Katie and I headed out on the 30k (18.6 m) run in celebration (this is how we chose to celebrate?!?!) of my upcoming 30th birthday (Thursday the 20th). We had changed the order of the loops so that we would run the longest loop first, then the next longest, and then the shortest. We were blessed to have both of my parents act as our aid station volunteers/photographers/cheering section/dog watchers for Arlo—they did a great job, and I cannot thank them enough for all their help.

Weather conditions The forcast had been for rain, but as the morning dawned it was overcast but for some pockets of sun. It started off cool—we both wore the race tee shirt, I wore a hat and gloves—but before the end of the first loop the sun had made it warm enough to shed my gloves (kept the gloves cause my hands are always cold). The day turned out even better than predicted with the sun coming out in full force and the temperature rising into the 60s—perfect running weather.

The Race

Loop 1: Miles 1-5 This was a relatively easy and laid back section, although I started to rethink running two loops of Washington park because (a) it seemed to drag on way too long and (b) it was a bit more hilly than I would have liked. (These hills would prove to be the least of our worries come Loop 2!) Ironically, a breast cancer event was setup in the park, with aid stations set out for what was probably a 5k—luckily we did not have to crash the run, nor did we have to run into oncoming runners.

Loop 1: Miles 5-8 We exited the park and headed back towards home. The pavement was proving to be annoying—this was just the start of a running conversation (pun intended) Katie and I had for the rest of the run (see below). As we turned onto Kate St. we saw my parents, cameras rolling, cheering us on. These moments would prove to put smiles on our faces. Sure wish we had more “fans” throughout the run—it would have made things somewhat easier.

Loop 2: Miles 8-10 We fueled up on humus pitas, energy chews, and dates and then headed down Delaware and across the closed bridge over the Normanskill river. We were both beginning to get uncomfortable—Katie’s hip flexor, soles, and the inside of her left leg; my soles, both ankles and my left knee—but we tried to talk and take our minds off the pain. Running through the woods and across Normanskill was quite beautiful and made us long for the trails.

Loop 2: Miles 10-12 This felt a lot longer than I remember when I first ran it. We took our first walk break, choosing to walk up an abandonded road and finally heading onto Kenwood (which seemed to last forever)—eventually we saw Elsmere which took us to Delaware Ave. There was a lot of banter back and forth during this part, which was meant to make things go faster but, let’s be honest, there is nothing that can do that except running faster—which wasn’t going to happen. We also forced down another GU (mint chocolate: our first one was 15 minutes before the start) in the hopes of gaining a bit more energy.

Loop 2: Miles 12-14 After turning onto Delaware Ave. we had a surprise: my parents waiting with cameras and words of encouragement. This did help, though we realized just how much further we had till we got home. We finally reached the half-marathon point after crossing Normanskill (hurray?!), but by now we were both starting to be in a great deal of pain. Knees, hip flexors, soles, ankles were all aching and making us really rethink what we are doing: Had we trained enough for this? Maybe—even if our lungs were feeling great the rest of our bodies were in agony because we had never run this far on pavement before, let alone in minimalist footwear. Trail running had strengthen us, but now we were realizing a deep hatred for running long distance on pavement. Not only is it incredibly boring but even with what we thought were strong feet and legs it still takes a terrible toll on your body.

Loop 3: Miles 14-16 We arrived at the house, trying to hide our discomfort, and fueled up on more humus pitas, chews, and dates. Importantly, though, we changed shoes: opting for our Merrell’s in the hopes of getting a bit more padding for our forefeet. This did not help us as much as we like: there was somewhat more cushion in the forefoot, but at the least it gave our toes a bit of mobility compared to the Bikilas. It was now, as we headed down Whitehall, that the pain, the run length, and the mental exhaustion seem to set it. We walked a bit as we turned onto New Scotland, and stopped briefly to stretch our calves, which were starting to seize up. By the time we hit Mile 16 it seemed like we were really breaking down—physically and mentally. This was a stupid idea, especially on pavement, we thought; we were in lots of pain, and it is my belief that it was due entirely to the pavement. Could we even finish?…

Loop 3: Miles 16-18.6…YES! “We are both strong!” I kept saying under my breath, over and over. At this point the vocal filters had long since fallen away, and we starting joking with each other (“A woman walks into a bar with a duck under her arm…” [see The Breakfast Club]), slapping our legs, and telling each other we could do it. We also tried to run mini-races: “We are almost to the stop light,” “Ok, we made it, now I can see the Mobil station by the next turn.” There is no denying that the pain and discomfort were there, but we knew we were close and that we could finish. As we turned down Ten Eyck we picked up the pace a bit, and even though there was no “last gear” or “final sprint,” there was the realization that we were runners; we could push ourselves; we could do things beyond what we thought we were capable of; and, we would finish together. In the end we finished in 3:38:50. Not a bad time for our longest ever run, and certainly not a bad time for our longest ever run in minimalist shoes. (On a side note, our time was actually 7 minutes faster than Katie’s time at the Monster Half Marathon. Just shows how crazy that race was.) 

Final Thoughts There are two major conclusions that I want to share:

First, we hate running roads. Sorry, there’s no mincing words here. I do not mean this to deter first-time runners, or to belittle or diminish the accomplishments that others can and will do while running on pavement. But for us, given who we have become as runners and the goals we want to pursue, running roads is not an enjoyable experience. Running trails affords a much more robust and enriching running experience, one that is filled with sights, sounds and smells that do not remind you of how the urban environment seems to be engulfing the beauty of nature. It also does not seem to take the toll on the body in the way running on pavement does. At least for us, running “shorter” distances seems to be ok, but as our runs exceed half-marathon distance the impact on our legs really becomes noticeable.

The second conclusion extends and compliments the first. Having become barefoot/minimalist converts, I can say that if we do decide to run longer distances on pavement (e.g., we want to run the Wineglass Marathon next year) it seems as though a zero-drop shoe with a bit more cushioning would really help. There are numerous benefits to running barefoot or in minimalist footwear; and we have no problem running distances up to a half-marathon in our VFFs (5ks and 10ks are particularly great in VFFs), nor do we have trouble running trails in Bikilas or Merrell Trail/Pace Gloves. However, the simple fact that your foot is repeatedly hitting such a hard surface makes a shoe with slightly more padding highly desirable. That said, we will have to get back to you should we decide to add some kind of zero-drop shoe with slightly more cushioning to our arsenal (we are looking into the Saucony Hattori or possibly something like the forthcoming NB Minimus Zero).

You might notice the change in the layout of the race report. I should thank Eric from who used this kind of format in his race report of the 2011 Wineglass Marathon

Downtown Burlington 10k: without my partner; with a cheering section.

This past weekend was the 3rd running of the Downtown Burlington 10k, a race that both Katie and I were very excited to run for two reasons: first, we both love Burlington (and Vermont in general) so being able to run through the downtown and along the waterfront was going to make for a beautiful run; second (and more importantly) Katie’s sister was due to give birth the week before the run and we wanted to be the to see our new niece.

Jon, Inez, and Elliot

Jon, Inez, and Elliot

While we did get to see the new baby, Inez Eleanor Medick, only I was able to run because Katie had sustained (what we think is only) a bruised foot from the HMRRC Anniversary run. The bone under her big toe has been very painful since that run, and while rest and ice have helped somewhat she did not want to risk further injury-primarily because she wants to run the Jonathan Auyer 30th Birthday 30k on October 16.

So while I did not have my running partner I did have a great cheering section as Katie brought our dog Arlo along to the race. The day turned out to be beautiful, a bit warmer than normal but no rain and open, sunny skies. The course started in front of City Hall, went down to the bike path along the water, and then cut back towards downtown, finishing back in front of City Hall. Most of the course was flat, which made for rather fast times. The route to the bike path was downhill, and then on the way back to the finish we encountered some rolling hills, ending on a downhill on Church St.

While my time (42:02) reflects a fast pace, it proved to be a rather odd run: I was only just into the race when I felt my left calf seize up. Now, I’ve felt a calf cramp before, and this was definitely something more—it really did seize up. I felt it tighten and tighten and tighten to the point of wincing pain. “What the heck is going on?” I screamed in my head. I cannot explain why it happened. I was able to run through the pain, as I did not feel it was a serious injury but merely a cramp. Despite this, I am left in a bit of a quandary.

So…a little background. When I began running longer distances in VFFs earlier this year I experienced what lots of newbie barefoot minimalist runners experience when they do find themselves in the grip of TMTS (too much too soon): my calf, specifically the soleus muscle, tighten up to the point where it was unbearable to continue walking, let alone running. When reading up on this kind of injury I found that it is most likely the result of engaging the calf muscle too much when landing on and then pushing off with the forefoot. This is a common thing for runners who are new to barefoot and minimalist running: because you can no longer heal strike you overcompensate by landing on the forefoot; this, in turn, leads to pushing off with the forefoot and engaging the calf muscles, which leads to sore, and possibly strained, calf muscles.

But I have been regularly running long distances for quite a while now. I have “broken-in” my legs to the experience of pure barefoot and minimalist running. So why would my calf *calves* seize up to the point of such serious pain? (*Turns out that my right leg is just as painful the day after.*) There are two possibilities. Both are unlikely, but the latter seems more plausible. First is that I had not run much the two weeks prior to the race. I had felt a very slight pain in my left knee after the HMRRC Anniversay run (probably form my ITB pulling on it). As such, I decided to take it easy and not do to much. Second, and more likely, I had slept on a couch the night before the race, and had to contort myself into various positions to fit on it. This meant keeping my calves in both flexed and un-flexed positions for long periods of time. If that was the case, the cramp would not really be the result of the run itself—thus it would not be an injury caused by running so much as an injury caused by sleeping wrong.

Regardless of why my calf seized up, it made for difficulty walking both the rest of the day and the day after. We still haven’t decided whether to run the Voorheesville 7.1 mile race next weekend, but if we do it will certainly be at a slow pace in preparation for the 30k two weeks later.

We have both grown to love the 10k distance, so I hope that next year both of us can run this race. It was very well organized and had great volunteers, the course was basically flat and fast, and the shirt (long sleeve) is good looking and super comfy! If you get a chance to run the Downtown Burlington 10k I highly recommend it.

Here are the pictures from the run.

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