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.
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).