I have hit many speed bumps along the way this year and have had to change my perspective and expectations I have placed on myself. I had anemia over the summer and started working for nuun active hydration so I had to modify my diet and training in order to make it to the finish line.
I had to relax. Sound familiar barefooters?? Relax. That's the barefoot motto and I also like to think that if you are not having fun, why do it? I can honestly say that I enjoyed every step of my marathon training as well as the race itself. I didn't force myself to run those training runs that I "had" to do based on a typical marathon training plan. I took breaks when I was feeling like I needed it and found I came back stronger for it.
My training strategy was to run three quality runs per week. One long run. One run of hills, and one run of speed work. I did fartleks and tempo runs. I left the rest of the week open to run when I wanted but the three would be my focus.
I went into this with my own plan and I was not overly concerned with a time to finish. I took into account that I had just worked two 10 hour days at the expo so knew I was going into this tired and accepted it so no powerful nerves. Race day would be an experiment of five variables and all about breathing, relaxing, smiling a lot and finishing. The five variables are as follows.
#1. Drink 2 cups of coffee at 6:00 a.m. with hemp milk to soothe my stomach if the the coffee disagreed with it. The goal was to speed up the inevitable cleansing that I wanted to happen on my time frame not some unexpected point on the course. Runners will know what I mean about the visits to the loo from nerves about the race. I didn't have the nerves so I was very afraid of the loo visits not happening at an opportune time.
#2. Fuel throughout the race based on a plan and stick to it no matter what
#3. Stay hydrated and not piss my pants. After having 4 kids sometimes the bladder is unreliable. More nodding from the mother runners in the peanut gallery. So, stay hydrated but be humble enough to stop at the porta potty before it becomes an emergency.
#4. Run the marathon barefoot. Meaning nothing on my feet. Not barefoot shoes but totally nekkid feet. The running and weather gods both smiled on me this day.
#5 keep a stong straight posture and represent well. Honestly, I didn't want to have a bunch of slouchy photos of me floating around.
Its funny but I was more worried about bathroom issues and hitting the wall than running barefoot for 26.2 miles!
This has become a very long post with many pictures and videos. For the sake of brevity, I will share my fuel and hydration plan.
Eat a gel on the 5's and shot blocks on the 2's. More if I wanted it but never less. I held to this and wished that I had another pack of shot blocks to eat along the way and a gel for the finish line area. I found Clif products to be easiest on my stomach with no GI issues and it did not give me a super high sugared out feeling even after consuming the gels with caffeine. I believe this was the key to not hitting "the wall". Thank you so much Tall Mom and SUAR! Beth and Mel both qualified for Boston this year and gave me their fueling strategies.
I thought that 4 tablets of nuun and 4 bottle of water would be more than enough. I was off by two or more bottles and had to drink two bottles of just water and was very glad that I had an extra sodium pack of Shot Bloks. I still asked an aide worker for some salt at about 6 miles to the finish. I ate 5 packets of salt in one mouthful and my quad cramps around the inside of my knees instantly dissipated It was strange and I did not expect that but so glad that dude had the salt with him.
Next time I will have a whole tube of nuun just in case and in case anyone else is in need. I peed twice the whole race and drank over120 ounces of water. I tried to pee once early on and felt cramps in my bladder and nothing happened so I started drinking until I actually peed comfortably and it wasn't dark at all. I stayed on top of the leg cramps but not by much and want to lessen that margin next time.
One of my training strategies was that I run a couple marathon distance long runs. I did this with my barefoot treadmill marathon I ran while I was trying to wear myself out so I could sleep on a trip to Omaha working for nuun. I ran a marathon but still couldn't sleep, go figure. I had the mental advantage after that experience of confidence in being able to go the distance. There was no point in this race where I questioned my ability to do the distance!
On race morning, I was the only one awake and I had the coffee maker ready to go the night before. Still dark outside I turned on my playlist and listened to The Cave by Mumford and Sons while I got dressed and ready for my big day. I thought of Kitty, Shelly,Shacky, and many others all of whom would be running in races around North America today. My clothes and gear were set out the night before so it was all about coffee and music race morning.
My friend Molly and I had planned to caravan downtown and walk to the start together. She was going to run her first half marathon! We met a few years ago while our special needs sons were in therapy together at Childserve. We have remained friends through facebook.
I filled my handheld with water and dropped in a nuun. I planned to start drinking water at the start of the race.
Five Clif gels, two packs of Shot Bloks, and 3 nuun tablets were ready to go. I really like how the Clif Gels are made to go on a belt and the Shot Blok packaging is so clever and ergonomically designed. My camera in my SPIbelt and my phone and drivers license and a debit card in my back pocket, I was as ready as ever.
Molly and I made our way downtown at 7:00 right on the dot! I stepped out the door and immediately started shivering. Last year the temp was 35 when I left the house. This year it was 41 and dry. It felt so much warmer in comparison and yet still made me shiver.
Last year at the Half marathon I took my socks off about half an hour too early. Totally not going to make that huge mistake again. I didn't injure myself last year and had a great time but I had cold feet the entire race. This reduces the sensory input and increases the risk of injury. I was lucky and able to keep good form. This year, the plan was to take my socks and flip flops off about 2 minutes before the start of the race and hopefully my body would warm up from running before my feet got too cold. In case I forget to mention it later. This plan worked and I managed to stave off the numbness and only had numb feet for about 15 minutes at the beginning before the sun was fully up and we were still in the cold downtown area.
Here Molly and I are at Nollen Plaza where the Des Moines Marathon starts and finishes! Molly went on to run a stellar half marathon! She came in at 1:52 for her first half. I am totally impressed by her oh and she is addicted now too and already searching for more races! I am proud to take credit for talking her into signing up for her first half.
Its amazing how the chill is cut by a large crowd. I could feel the heat radiating off of those around me.We were packed together like sardines on the street in front of the start line. Molly was going for a 2 hour half (she ended up with a 1:52!) and I stood with her thinking I might follow the 4 hour pacer. The vibe is infectious at the start line and the time for proof of training has finally come.
The sun is just coming up and the day is looking to be a beautiful one. Everyone was fidgeting and chatty.
Many people were quietly talking about my socked and sandaled feet and when I took my socks off the questions started outright. There were several girls who shared their stories of trying barefoot running or being curious yet nervous about it. Everyone was supportive and eager to learn. I did not feel any negative vibes coming from anyone throughout the entire race. The times seem to be a changin'.
Timed races pose a challenge for the unshod runner. There are many ways to wear your timing chip.I have duct taped a chip to my minimal shoes before. I have a small dog collar for having a chip around my ankle however a soft round shoelace tied in a huarache style seems to work best for me. It sits gently on top of my foot and has proven to work in that it registers the time. I din't want to chance that it will work the same if its around my ankle.
I kicked off my flip flops as we started to run. Score for me, I was able to wait! I planned that just right and the patience paid off as I could wiggle my toes and had all feeling!
There was an abrupt hault by the crowd and a collective "aaaahhhh" as we stopped again after lurching forward and then everyone started to laugh.
Off we went towards the capital building and wound around the downtown area. The crowd support was amazing and the beginnings of "Go barefoot Girl" cheers. I would raise my arm in the air and smile! Running through downtown is amazing. It was a bit chilly since the sun had not been up long enough to warm the streets but there were so many people and the buildings blocked the breeze.
Drummers set the pace and again made me smile with gratitude that people would be out to support all these crazy runners. I realized as I came to this point in the race that I didn't know the pace but it felt good so I just sped up a bit and kept steady. As it turns out I only looked at my watch once and instantly wished I hadn't.
Just west of the downtown area the half and full marathon runners split and go their separate ways.I felt a bit of pride taking the Marathon route this year. I ran the half last year and thoroughly enjoyed it and now a new chapter would begin. The foot of the first hill was just a hundred yards or so away.
The first of the hills began as we made our way up Grand and then off into the residential area. Running this time of year with the changing trees and the sweet smell in the air makes any run lovely.
I heart to run hills. I was not afraid of the hills however I felt dubious about my stamina and endurance when the hills would be taking up the first 17 miles of the race. The beauty of the course and friends along the way made it very enjoyable. Several of us talked about the houses we were running by. They were huge massive homes and we picked out our favorites when we could catch our breath long enough to say so.
Hello to Skylar from Kentucky! It was nice talking with you and fun to see you as we were passing each other at Drake Stadium!
I had been excited about running around Drake stadium from the start of the race! It was a landmark in the race I could keep in mind and when I came to it I felt rejuvenated!
There was a band set up to greet us as we ran into the stadium to do a lap around the bouncy bright blue track.
It looks as though there was some kind of homeless fundraiser with a cardboard box city on the field.
The mile 12 marker was in the stadium and gave me some added pep. I don't recommend running barefoot on such bouncy surfaces but for this short duration it was really fun!
This part of the race is a bit of a blur now. I am not as familiar with these neighborhoods so I don't have a very clear memory of the events although I do remember the streets were always lined with a crowd cheering us on! People had tents and lawn chairs in their yards like it was a big party!
One kid that will always stand out in my mind as he rocked out on his guitar with his super long thick mane hanging down his back. He played that electric guitar with such heart and blended our worlds. It was surreal. He returned my metal sign with a big knowing smile! I know your rebellion kid. We both rebel just in different ways. Rock on.
There were homemade signs all along the entire course. They looked like they were made with much love and support and a fair amount of sass! I also liked "Run like you stole something". When I pulled out my camera to snap a pic of the slacker sign, the lady cheering close by laughed out loud that I was snapping pictures and liked her sign.
I came upon my friend Penny and her running buddies at WaterWorks park. Penny and I had met online and on facebook and then in person at the expo. I happened to come across her as we were running in the park and was so proud of her!
I stopped at 5 water stations briefly to fill my Nathan Handheld Elite water bottle. I would have it unscrewed and ready as soon as I saw the water stations ahead. I would pick a person, make eye contact, and asked for a pitcher to fill my bottle. I wanted to get through water stops as quickly as possible.
The volunteers were fast and efficient and their enthusiasm tugged on my heart strings when I was feeling most vulnerable in my race. I knew I wouldn't choke up at the finish line. Its not my style. Along the course though, the profundity of what we were all doing and the support from the volunteers was overwhelming. I had to tell myself to snap the eff out of it so I could breath.
I have lived in Des Moines for a few years now and have finally begun to feel like its "my town" and I felt a sense of pride running through my streets with all these other crazy ass people!
I suppose I should mention my feet. I did not develop any blisters and I never felt any hot spots. I ran gently with relaxed form. I pushed myself, but not too hard. My feet were never a worry, even when the roads were rough and my nemesis squirrels left chewed up acorn mines all along the park roads. I foiled your plans you squirrels!
In Grays Lake I was happy to see a kilted, bare chested, barefooted friend up ahead. It took a while for me to catch up to him but I enjoyed seeing a familiar face when I was feeling the miles. Forey is the kilted barefoot guy that you will see running races throughout the year. When I met up with him, his birthday party from the night before had also caught up to him. Still a great race Forey.
I felt a new sense of purpose and determination as I ate that last gel and chugged my water.
I felt proud of my fellow runners and encouraged those around me to "keep it up", "you look stronger than you think you do", "finish strong".
After watching this video I realized that I was more out of it than I thought. I was following the 4:30 pacer and yet was saying 5:30. Everything did hurt, except my feet of course. The endorphins were equally lovely and I knew that finish was so close. I think the endorphins were making me loopy and I was giddy with the thought of food up ahead! The thought of food consumed me and getting my medal.
There were a couple of girls with "marathon Virgin " written on their calves. I yelled at those "Virgins" to push a little harder a couple times. I think it might have pissed one of them off but good girls for listening! I saw you finish and one passed me at the end. Thats the one that I pissed off!!
I am guessing that I ran solid 9 minute or less miles for the last two. I sprinted to the finish feeling strong and ended with sore cheeks from all of the smiling! The streets were lined with spectators cheering for us, for me, the barefoot girl.
As soon as I stopped to take off my timing chip my left hamstring seized up and gave me the most intense charlie horse of my life. I knew I needed to find some electrolytes. I kept moving and ate two bananas and chugged a very unpleasant electrolyte drink. What can I say, I am a nuun snob now.
While standing in line to get my results I chatted with the pacer. Thanks for the cheering and motivation to kick some assphalt at the end!
I was already thinking of running next year.
Now, 4 days later, I have ran twice, barefoot of course, and most all of the soreness has gone from my quads. I had a nagging and sharp pain in my right foot around the inside of my ankle bone. I was worried and thinking worse case scenarios the day after the race. Just as my worrying came to its peak, the pain subsided and was gone the next day.
I love to run. I love to run because I run barefoot. I can run happily for 26.2 miles and not be out there all day. I look forward to doing it again.
The keys to it all....relax. Let go of your preconceived notions as to how things are done. Run gently with a light step. Be consciously aware of those that are helping along the way and embrace the gratitude. Last but not least, run with straight, strong posture as if the paparazzi are always watching.
Run Happy my friends!
Marathon photos! My last name is Bishop and my bib # was 859