Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hippie Half Marathon: September 25th, 2010

This race takes me to Hell, MI for the second annual Run Woodstock weekend. I must say this was quite an event and definitely the right setting for my final race of the year. This event is held at a private campground called The Hell Creek Ranch and all the events begin and end at the campground. There were all different kinds of distance events from a 5K all the way to a 100 mile race and every other distance in between. Also, since this event had a Woodstock theme they provided live music all weekend. Before I write about the actual race itself I must write about some events that led up to this run. Here is the classic Run Woodstock Van:

As many of you know, Jess and I have been doing different races all summer. Usually 5K and 4 mile runs. I had a goal in mind at the beginning of the year that I wanted to run a half marathon before the end of the year. Since I have been building up my feet and leg muscles for more then a year in my barefoot style shoes, Vibram Five Finger KSOs, I thought I would surely be ready for this run. I had been thinking all summer about doing the Run Woodstock Hippie Half. As the summer grew longer I realized that I have only built up to about 5 or 6 miles per run and started questioning my ability to go thirteen miles. My good friend Luc Harbarger, who is an avid ultra marathoner, and a fellow minimalist (wears Vibram Five Finger Treks for running) told me that I would be able to do this run without any problem and also told me that if I signed up for the race that he would drive up here and run it with me. That settled it, I had no reason not to do it at this point. So I decided that I need to start training a little harder then usual. This is when my body began to do everything possible to stop me from running this half marathon.

About a month before the race I started to feel a mild pain where my heel meets my arch. I did not let it bother me and kept pushing hard in my training wearing my VFFs and huarache sandals. About two weeks before the race I went for a seven mile run, the longest run I have ever done! The heel / arch pain was pretty bad after this. It dulled out over the next two days. Then on the third day after my seven mile run I went out and did a seven and a half mile run, again setting my PR for distance. This time the damage was really done, the pain had gotten extreme. I tried to do a little one mile run a few days later and had to quit. I did not run for a week and a half and the pain was still mildly lingering. Also, I got a severe cold the weekend before the race. I was thinking to myself, what else is going to happen? The Wednesday before the race I was feeling a little better and did a three and a quarter mile run and tried to change up my form a bit and it seemed to work well. I simply leaned back a little more and bent my knees a little further, this took the pressure off my feet and put it on my calves and hamstrings...the muscles that the human body evolved to absorb shock from running...damn, wish I would have done this sooner :)

Anyway, I was committed to the run and I wanted to accomplish my goal so I figured that I would run as much of the race as I could and then I would walk the rest, no matter what I was going to do this thing! So, Friday rolls around and Jess and I head to the campground after work to get set up. After we got done setting up, brother Luc arrived and we helped him set up. After that we were chilling and listening to some live music on the stage they had set up at Run Woodstock. Also we were cheering on the 100 mile runners who had started at 4:00 PM on Friday. They had a 16.6 mile loop that they had to complete 6 times. This loop took them through the tough trails in the northern part of the Pinckney Rec Area. And yes they had to transverse these trails in the deep dark woods all night in the dark with their headlamps guiding the way. Every time they completed a loop you could see their light coming out of the woods into the campground where everyone would clap for them. The cut off for this event was thirty hours and 32 runners finished the 100 mile event...Amazing! Anyway after the live music finished we decided to crash out since we had to get up early. Here is our camp and also hanging out Friday night:

Jess was the first one up at 5:00 AM because she was volunteering at registration and also the finish line. She was very busy since there was not a full staff of volunteers. Although I will say this event was well organized in most aspects of the weekend. I could not really sleep as I was reeling with anticipation for the run, and it was very cold sleeping in the tent. I rolled out of my tent about 6:30 or 6:45 and Luc rolled out of his tent about the same time. We both strapped on our VFFs and Garmin Forerunner 305 watches. Luc had an extra water bottle that straps to your hand and he let me borrow it, which was nice because I did not have to wear my camelbak. We arrived to the starting line about two minutes before the start and it all happened so fast that before I knew it we were off! Most of the other races were starting at the same time so there was a huge bottle neck of runners entering into the single track trail. After the traffic jam filed down to one lane the running resumed! I felt pretty good for the first mile running through some gently rolling trails. Then at mile two we got out to a nice flat wide trail that lasted a few miles. At mile two I started feeling the heel pain and it got bad quick. I told Luc that I was in pain and needed to walk for a minute and that he could keep going if he wanted to. He said he was going to stick with me through the whole race..thanks for that bro.

So after walking for a minute or two we started to run again. We did not make it very far and the pain was excruciating. So at mile three I told Luc I need to walk for a little while longer. We walked for a few minutes and then I told him I would run for a half mile and then walk some more. Well an awesome thing happened, after that half mile the pain seemed to have disappeared...sweet! The nice wide path lasted for a few miles and then we turned back into the trails in the woods around mile five. The trails started to get kind of hilly and technical. We kept pushing on. In fact, we ran all the way through to about mile ten and a half or so. I also could not believe it when we got to mile 8 and I realized that every step I took was a new distance record for myself. At mile ten and a half we entered into this two mile bow tie loop through some one hundred foot pine trees. They were in perfect rows and there was tons of them. It was really an awesome sight to behold. Plus the pine needle forrest floor was soft and felt good to run and walk on. On the negative side of things my heel pain had come back by now and I started to get extremely hungry. For the last two and half miles we sprinkled in some walking with our running. Here is a few pics of us on the trail and back in the pine loop:

I was really excited to come out of the woods into the campground and see the finish line. At this point both of us ran the rest of the way. It was a great feeling crossing that finish line and seeing Jess who was excited for us. Our finishing time was 2 hours and 38 minutes. I was overcome with shock that I just completed a half marathon against all odds. I owe a lot to Luc who stuck with me through this thing and made me believe it was possible. I thought I would have to walk most of this race but we ended up running at least 90% of the thirteen miles through some tough trails. Since we just burned over 2,000 calories on an empty stomach we mowed through a bunch of cookies and bananas at the finish line. Those were some of the best snacks I have tasted in my life! Here is us right after finishing the hippie half marathon:

After we got cleaned up and Jess's volunteering duties were finished we went into town (Hell) for some pizza, which also tasted great. I guess after running thirteen miles everything tastes great! Jess left Saturday afternoon and me and Luc hung out the rest of the day, drinking a few beers and listening to the music. We also ran into someone I recognized from the google minimalist runner group, Jason Robillard, he is a barefoot running activist from Grand Rapids who teaches barefoot running clinics and wrote a book titled The Barefoot Running Book. Jason was there pacing a friend who ended up winning the 50 mile race. Jason has run several 100 mile ultra marathons. During his most recent one he did 33 miles barefoot and the rest in his huarache sandals. It was nice to meet him after following his discussions in the google group.

That night we decided to walk in the trippin 10K night fun run, since I told Luc there was no way I could run anymore that day. We had free entry into this run since we did one of the Saturday morning races. So we did one loop and by that time my heel and knee were killing me so we called it quits after 3.5 miles. We ended up hanging out by the fire and drinking a few more beers while talking with some of the other runners. Luc and I had a great time hearing other peoples stories and watching as the last 100 mile finisher came in about 9:20 PM Saturday night!! He made the 30 hour cut off with 40 minutes to spare!

Again, this was an awesome event. The races all went well and the trails were well marked, at least we thought so, but I guess some of the others thought differently. Check out the results page to see how many events there were at Run Woodstock. Thanks to Luc for taking all the great pics and video during our run. For more great pictures and commentary on our weekend check out Luc's Blog. Hopefully next year we can get a few more of our friends to come and join in the fun. I am now taking some time off running to let my foot heal up from the heel / arch pain and let all of my other pains heal up. Doing this half has really got me pumped up to take my running to a new level. I cannot wait to get back at it. I am going to train hard this winter and my goal for next year is to complete a marathon. Until next time, keep on keepin on!