Friday, December 18, 2009

Rocket City Rocks

Huntsville AL
Rocket City Marathon

Even though it's number 2 for me in Rocket City. When I came to town it was for a very different kind of event. I was coming this year as a new kind of runner. A barefoot runner. Even though I sort of was familiar, I was so focused on breaking 3 hours last year I didn't pay any attention to roads from my new perspective. In fact, this being only my second running of a marathon barefoot, I am not exactly sure I would even know a good course if I saw it. There are not a lot of folks to ask about these matters. My assessment from Saturday now is that Huntsville is a very fast course if you wear shoes. Just looking at the faster than normal average times for my age group indicates that most who come to town, come to race fast. Unfortunately, for a guy with no shoes, the roads, especially in the neighborhoods, are quite rough. It was so chilly that morning I decided to wear socks for the first few miles. I ended up wearing them for more than half the run but I suspect I'd completely worn holes in them much earlier. They did seem to keep my feet warm at the beginning. By the halfway point my feet were hurting badly enough I had to step up on the sidewalk and slow considerably. I ran the first half in about 1:40. Two factors also contributed to my poor showing. I was not able to do any real tempo work on roads. My barefoot transition is still early and it and the miles of chip seal in Peoria prevented that. Secondly, it was quite chilly. I wore tights, something I've never done for a marathon. By mile 15 I was considering stepping off the course as I realized my feet would pay a steep price if I continued but being my last marathon of the season and not having ever completed a marathon without shoes I decided to press on to the finish. By mile 18 I was walking regularly and stepping off the roads into yards and sidewalks to minimize the pain. When I reached mile 20 it was all I could do to muster the will to finish. As I arrived at mile 25 I was heartened by the knowledge I would soon be done and I put on my best face and finished. One other barefoot runner, Matt Jenkins from Macon, GA was there and wrote similar comments about the rough roads. I don't know if I can learn to overcome this kind of surface but I might need to if I want to continue my barefoot running. Peoria, my home town is paved much the same making it very hard to do pace work barefoot. If you read this and have any barefoot tips I can use please comment. Overall, I'm happy with my run. When I finished and went inside it became evident how much skin I had taken off my feet. I hobbled up to my room and my wife filled a pillow case with ice and dumped it in the tub. I soaked my feet in ice water and noticed they began to bleed like two stuck pigs. After pulling them out of the water and tramping across the bathroom floor for a towel I looked down and noticed the mess I was making. I tried to wipe it up with toilet paper but being hobbled I mostly smeared the blood. I threw a hand towel on the ground to step on but my feet continued to bleed into it. When I finally got the feet wrapped and I got dressed the bathroom looked like a serial killers crime scene. Yuck! A week later my feet are much better but still not healed enough to run on.


Anonymous said...

I was happy with my 4:28, so I don't know if I'd call 3:49 a "poor showing." I guess you're up there with the BQ folks though.

Congrats on finishing Rocky City. Those final miles were pretty brutal. I ran 3 marathons this year with similar road surfaces, and they each took me longer than 5 hours to finish.

My feet keep getting tougher and tougher, so hopefully yours will follow the same pattern.

If you're thinking of a January one, stay away from the Museum of Aviation Marathon in Warner Robins, GA. I think the course is probably worse than Huntsville.

The marathons I'm putting on here in Boone are really barefoot-friendly, but also pretty boring and very low-key.

Sorry I missed you in Alabama. It does explain why people were saying "There's ANOTHER guy in socks."

Anonymous said...

Try to use those smooth yellow and white lines in the road as much as you can. Though they weren't much better than the roads in Hunstville.

I also try to use the grass sometimes, but I've found that it changes my stride and ultimately slows me down. Plus, I stepped on some broken beer bottles in the grass in Hunstville. It's harder to see what you're stepping on.

Making an effort to stop and check your feet every so often is also good. Especially on a cold day like that when you might not know that you have a tiny pebble stuck on the ball of your foot. That stop can also give you time to apply some vaseline to parts of your feet that may be especially worn. Especially in socks, where the vaseline won't act as a magnet for every piece of glass or rock in the road.

You're probably already doing all of those things, but maybe there's something in there you hadn't thought of.

Anonymous said...


Rob F. said...

Thanks Matt. I'll try these tips out. I appreciate all the advice.

Matt S. said...

I just translated (on Google) what the guy above wrote.

"The most agile, may not win the contest: the most powerful, not necessarily wins the war: Time and opportunity are the main"

Good stuff.