Just 2 months into my running career, I had already completed my first 1/2 marathon in 2:11. Heading into the big Country Music 1/2 Marathon in April 2010, I had an injury. I don’t even remember what the injury was, but I finished in 2:30. It was definitely a cool experience, but I remember thinking how much more enjoyable my training runs were. There were people everywhere. There were cups, GU packets and water all over the ground. The last 3 miles were spent surviving. Running some, walking more. I felt like a failure. I know I was hard on myself, but I had been training for 4 months for this race, so I had the expectation that I would preform better than the one 2 months prior.
I kept signing up for races to keep me motivated. My wife, Karyn, and I had been wanting to visit San Antonio, so we scheduled a run-cation for the Rock ‘n Roll race in November. In the midst of that training, I was offered a spot on a Ragnar relay team, which was a week before San Antonio. The 12 man Ragnar team, quickly faded to a 6 man Ultra team, which meant twice the running. I was by far the least experienced runner on the team. One down hill run in the middle of the night destroyed my knee. I figured opening up my stride running downhill would get me there faster. I was wrong.
I finished Ragnar with a banged up knee and plantar fasciitis. Having a destination race in 1 week, I went to the Good Feet Store and left $700 there to quick “cure” my foot problem. Apparently God messed up when He designed our feet with arches. If only the plantar of the foot had adequate support, we would not get these running injuries. This was the first seed in my brain that said “something’s not right here.”
San Antonio was a marginally better performance than Country Music, but I was in pain and miserable for the last half of it. I finished in 2:19. Then I had to walk a mile back to the hotel!
Being a glutton for punishment, or proving to myself that I could do a better job, I signed up for Tom King and Country Music 1/2 again in 2011. Tom King as a non-starter since I was ill for the race. Country Music creeped up on me. I was overweight and under-trained. I believe I had a glute injury for this one. I finished in 2:18.
In mid-April of 2011 I started reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougal. It is about the indigenous tribe of ultra runners in the Copper Mountains of Mexico. They run hundreds of miles in “barefoot” shoes. The tagline on the book intrigued me: “An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt?” The book sucked me in and I finished it in few days. Basically, McDougal discovered that physiologically, we we designed to run long distances. If we were just meant to walk, we would have flatter feet like apes. We can breathe independent of our stride. The foot was designed to reduce impact when landing mid-foot as opposed to landing on the heel.
After Country Music and a full year of running in pain, I had nothing to lose. I went to Bink’s Outfitters and bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers and started my minimalist journey.
I was in love.
It was like when I first started running. I was invigorated. I felt like I was faster, more in touch with the ground. There was definitely a transition. I got blisters, calf soreness, a little Achilles pain, but no real big injuries. Three weeks in I ran Muddy Buddy in the Vibram KSOs which is their thinnest sole. The Muddy Buddy course was extremely rocky, so I did my best to avoid those rocks, but realized I need a bit more sole, so I went with the Bikila LS model. This shoe was my buddy for the next 12+ months. I even bought a second pair to put on after I ran. I put about 850 miles on those bad boys, including a 52:30 10K, 23:45 5K and 1:57 at Tom King 2012!
I am the first to admit these times are not stellar for most experienced runners, but they were indicative that I was on the right track. I kept saying it was the Vibrams that helped me and for the most part that is true. When you wear Vibrams, there is no room for error; You are forced to have good form or pay for it with pain.
My year of Vibram running culminated with my nemesis race, Country Music. I had ran 30 miles at Ragnar SoCal the weekend before and my knee was hurting due to stupidity on hill training a few weeks before. The knee wasn’t feeling much better with a week of rest either. 18 miles into Country Music, I was in too much pain to keep running. I had blisters from the Vibrams, so at times I took my shoes off completely. This would have worked okay, except the roads were rough and the ground was hot.
I finished my first marathon in 5:33 which isn’t terrible considering I walked the last 8 miles. Here I was back at square one. My Vibrams had let me down.
I figured my biggest problem was that Vibrams did not have socks to wick away the moisture from the feet. So, I tried New Balance Minimus for a while with Swiftwick socks. This was a good choice for awhile but I felt they were way too narrow. I actually bought a pair of Swiftwick socks from a store called M8 Sports.