Friday, April 5, 2013

Part 2 of "A Show and a Race" THE RACE

Extra! Extra! Read All about It! 
[Barefoot/Minimalist Running Declared a Conspiracy!]

Conspiracy, you say! How so? Well, my friends, let me begin by stating that our booth at the Portland Shamrock Run was a resounding success in that we got to talk to many people about minimalist shoes and all things barefoot. I am not a shy person and so had a great time talking to people about Soft Star Shoes and barefoot things as well as running in general and of course (duh, duh, duh, duuuuuuuh!) the race! Which leads me to  (duh, duh, duh, duuuuuuuh!) the race!

Oh, I had big plans for this one: you see my marathon training had me scheduled for a 20-miler and so I figured that I'd run down (I live at a higher elevation so it is literally down) to the race, run the 15K race, and run back home, thus making it a 20-mile day. But then...I woke up a bit late, most likely due to late-night karaoke at the Old Barn with my wife and a bunch of hard-core Hipsters whose studied disaffection decreased as their level of inebriation increased, until by midnight they were downright friendly and even (dare I say it?) having fun. It's so sweet to see the endless parade of "Where's Waldo?" look-a-likes here in Portland, and with just a little alcohol their inner selves shine through and they're just like the rest of us. God bless America and God bless demon rum!

So since I was usual, I made a new plan and parked a mile away from the start, which in my estimation was just far enough away to avoid major parking headaches (which it was) and give me a good pre-race warm-up (which it did) and with that I was at the start and feeling warm but not spent as I climbed the barricade to my corral AKA, the 7-to-8-mile-per-minute people. One observation about large races and the starts: it was pretty cold out at 39ยบ but when you're packed in with thousands of others, bumper-to-bumper, as it were, it's actually warm-ish. I was downright cozy warm as the first wave started out, following a fine Irish, Danny Boyesque  rendition of our National Anthem. For a minute, it even looked like my group would slip throughbut alas, no. We were held for the next wave release. 

Three, two, onego! and we were off. I was in the second line of people in the second wave and for the first 200 yards was shocked at how many people I had to weave through. Where did they come from? I mean, they weren't there when I started, and nothing stood between me and the open road but a lone guy with dreads and yellow shorts. Now he was nowhere in sight and in his place were people clumped together and moving as a herd of slow-moving things. I, on the other hand, was flying like a single fast-moving thing and as I wove/weaved (?) through the herd, I even had a moment of foresight and wondered how this pace would feel at mile two and beyond but then it left and I just kept weaving and looking like an asshole with an annoyed expression on my face. Now the funny thing, at least for me, is that a short mile down the road I begin thinking about my go-to Plan B for when a run gets too tough: (1) Faking injury and (2) slowing down and enjoying the sights, and then the combo, (3) faking injury so I can slow down and enjoy the sights while getting attention for being brave. For the record: I have yet to fake an injury or slow down in a race and "enjoy the sights" and though I know this doesn't make me any kind of hero, I'm not sure what it does make me. A masochist maybe?

Play-by-play time: So there I was bobbing and weaving like a punch-drunk fighter at the end of the 4th round, determination figuratively etched on my face. The deceptively steep climb up Broadway was forcing people to downshift into hill-climbing cadence all around me. I was determined not to let my extra winter weight get the best of me and pushed even closer to my heart-rate redline at the start of the steep section, just after the gas station. We experienced Westsiders who run Terwilliger regularly know this run: know how it climbs and curves and where it will let up and where it will fool you into thinking you have a break coming only to beat you into a crawl after having taken the bait and blowing up with yet another satanic climb before you. This course is all that and a bag of Dorritos Flamas! I will tell you right here and now that there is no tougher or more formidable 400-foot-by-3-mile ascent than this in all of Southwest Portland. As people dug in and grim became the mood, all I could think about was maintaining pace and to not be fooled yet again by the false summit that is the curve just before the Chart House Restaurant, which has broken me many a time in the past. Despite my smuggery, I'll be damned if it didn't fool me this year. To make it worse, I had to open my mouth and tell someone next to me that I wasn't falling for the false summit this year, just as we came around the curve to see the Chart House Restaurant like a big sign saying "Dumb-Ass" to any who had heard me.

So down, down, I went, just as fast as my 180-step cadence could carry me, passing people left and right, until at last the street leveled out and the last couple of milesAKA, the home stretchwas before me/us. I was moving pretty fast (for me) and had not been passed by anyone for a whilethat is until some gal had the audacity to "pass-the-Dutchie-on-the-left-hand-side" me (runner's tech talk for passing late in a race, which I just invented, FYI) and as she went by I realized I had nothing more in the tank to give and so watched her slowly pull away into the distance. Damn, damn, damn! But then I got distracted by a guy who seemed to be pacing along side of me and then we started talking, AKA gasping quick quips about nothing that I can remember today, and as we closed on the last two blocks we just sort of kept pace and finished side by side, neither of us wanting to be an asshole and race for it. (I must say, I like that.) I came in 729th out of the 7,600 people running the 15K course and 35th in my age group. Yes, I know what you're saying, and I agree, I do rock and am doing even more training so I can rock even harder next year.

Gear wrap up: My fashion choice was inspired by function with the one exception of double layering my shirts with the green, long sleeve 2012 Shamrock Run shirt (it was the only green thing I had and I figured with 25 - 30 thousand runners out there it would be a pinch fest extraordinaire without something green on) under the yellow short sleeve shirt with the Soft Star Logo as I was representing them at this event. My shorts were my current favorite Brooks 7" (no green there) and my shoes were my current favorite road shoe, bright red Soft Star RunAmoc Moc 3's.  The garments worked great! Other than having to roll up my sleeves going up the hills I was very comfortable. The Moc 3's are just awesome. There is just not much to them but the bare necessities. They have no support using a 2mm Vibram® sole which translates into great flexibility and ground feel and the soft-perforated-leather upper forms around the contours of your foot like no other shoe. I feel that they help me run with a proper barefoot form more so than any other shoe I've tried and are for serious minimalists when running although they are perfect as a minimalist casual wear as you build up your feet and lower legs during your transition. In my opinion, they are even less shoe than my Vibram KSO's. They're super light at 5 oz., slip off and on and are very compactable for easy carrying for those barefooters that like to go completely bare but bring back-up just in case of worn soles. (on your feet) The Breathe-O-Prene® liner allows me to go sock free as well as blister free. The fit is loose and may feel a bit weird at first but quickly feels normal and has not caused any problems even on steep technical trails. Something else that I have mentioned before, for those Vibram® wearers, this shoe doesn't smell. I've worn mine for over 400 miles and still no stink. Try that with other shoes.....and remember, that's with no socks! Last point; all parts of this shoe are sourced in the U.S. including the Vibram® soles and the leathers are formaldehyde free.

Conclusion and post race wrap-up: It all comes down to this, my friends. I chose to suffer by running right at the edge of blowing up for pretty much the whole race and in the end it gave me back a sense of relief that the race was over and no lines to the free post-race snacks, drinks, and very small cup of Stanford's clam chowder. Oh, and they hadn't run out of 15K-finisher's medals yet, so I've got the groovy medal that doubles as a bottle opener...that apparently breaks when people actually use it. Then off I went to run my next 10 miles of the day as this was a 20 mile long run day according to my marathon training was a nice slllllloooooooooooowwwww run and I don't think I broke a zone 2 hear trate the whole ten miles neither.




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