Tuesday, April 5, 2011


On Sunday March 27th at 1:10 pm, after walking for 4 hrs 40 minutes and 45 seconds I crossed the finish line of the 2011 AROUND THE BAY 30K, shaving 15 minutes off of the previous year's finish.



The marathon Gods were smiling on us as that day as the sun shone throughout the race. It didn't rain or snow, though a smattering of stubborn snow patches remained here and there from previous storms. The days leading up to the event were cold, dull, overcast, windy and often wet so it didn't bode well for race day. Was I going to trudge through the event in hiking boots or brave the predicted double digit cold temperatures in my Vibram 5 finger shoes? All I could think about was the terrible state of my feet after tackling last year's 30K in walking shoes, the blisters were so bad that I was forced to walk the last 3K in bare feet or risk not finishing. Once I got out of my shoes I felt some relief, though walking through streets with broken blisters felt a little dicey.

This year, I decided anything would be better than repeating the experience of my '10 finish, so I wore the Vibrams.
They look just like my feet!
 The worst part of the race was the 10 or so minutes that Candy and I stood around in the cordoned off area waiting to start. The shadows cast by the surrounding buildings kept the pavement at a freezing temperature which bit into the bones of my feet. As I shifted from foot to foot to keep them warm, accompanied by the occasional grimace, I looked like someone who had to pee real bad. I bent over now and again to wrap my toes in my "I am Canadian" 2010 Olympic gloves and my back pack ploughed into the back of my head each time.

For the first 3K my feet were burning from the cold and I thought maybe I'd made a mistake in not taking a pair of hiking boots as back-up. But, as we progressed, the sun soaked the pavement, making it warmer and warmer. The "barefoot" experience became very pleasurable indeed!

I'm pretty sure I was the only walker to wear these shoes though I counted 3 other runners in my model, one runner in a blue pair (which has segmented pads on the underside) and one truly brave soul running literally barefoot the whole distance. There were probably more "barefoot" runners (using the Vibrams) than I counted, but, being the only walker meant that I got chatted up, a lot. Walkers seemed less able to imagine covering the distance in these shoes than the runners, probably due to the amount of time it takes to walk vs run. So many runners would slow and comment on how they always wondered what the shoes felt like and asked, "Do you like them?", "Isn't it hard on your feet or back?", "How do you get used to them?" The answers are: definitely; nope, far more comfortable for me than shoes although my sciatic did begin to bother me towards the end of the run (see*); because I'm barefoot most of the time they take no getting used to, however if you wear runnners or walking shoes you may want to take a clinic in barefoot running. Check out your local running store/club, in our area that's - NEW WORLD RUNNER'S on Plains Road in Burlington.

When I was asked, "What do the soles look like?" I'd hop around to reveal the smooth, thin sole as we made our way along the route. The soles are smooth, have no grip, but do have some lines of wavy slices through the areas which need more ability to flex such as the balls of the feet and minor built up areas on the heels, base of big and little toes and the pad of the toes.
click on this pic to check out the soles
*By the last 5K my feet were burning a little from the stimulation of the surface beneath them, but last year they were burning, swollen, blistered and excruciatingly painful. I realized then that the last 5K are challenging for me with or without these shoes. Relief was gained by jogging down the hills which lessened the impact on my heels and gave my metatarsals different stimulation and though last 3K was flat, jogging now and then mixed the stressors up in a good way. It was during this time my right sciatic began to bother me but I chalk it up to needing longer training sessions and the addition of the back pack which kept on shifting throughout the course and was a major pain in the butt (note to self: next year smaller, snugger pack).

Hopefully, next year, the weather leading up to the race will be kinder and I'll be able to train more in the Vibrams. When I ran, the little bit that I did, it felt amazing - my feet felt light and without the cumbersome binding and padding of regular walking/running shoes my stride was natural and free...almost makes me want to run it next time.

I can't attribute the 15 min difference in finish time solely to the shoes. Candy and I fell into a system wherein we alternated when we used the loo. One would take a pit stop and the other would continue along.  Pit stop-pee would then run/walk to catch up to the non-pee'r and so no time was lost. Also kudos to the race organizers who placed enough stalls along the route that we never had to wait in line!

Best of all, I finished feeling fantastic in body, mind, spirit and sole!

Thanks to all who sponsored me for this run. Together, at last count, we raised $340. for St Joseph's Healthcare Foundation in Hamilton!

Thanks also to those great people who manned the watering/gatorade stations and the many supporters who lined the route cheering us all on, this is what also makes the event so much fun!

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