Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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If You Can’t Beat Your PR, then Kick a Pacer’s Ass: La Jolla Half Marathon

la-jolla-half-marathon

You know that quote “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? Well, that’s a really great excuse for the person who actually plans accordingly for distance races. Clearly, that person is not me.

I signed up for the La Jolla Half Marathon because I ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon back in January. I realize that makes no sense yet, bear with me. The Carlsbad Half Marathon is race #1 of a Triple Crown series, so I decided to just do the whole thing and earn the extra medal (yes, I got suckered in to running three races just for a damn medal, get over it). And considering the fact that a two month running hiatus prior to Carlsbad yielded my worst half marathon finish time ever (even though I had a ridiculously great time running it), I promised myself that I would prepare, train and most importantly of all, plan for La Jolla. I even promised myself a half marathon PR, since it’s probably about time I work a little harder and start breaking 2:30.

Makes sense, right? So what is it that they say about the best laid promises of mice and men?

lajolla2

You probably don’t have to strain much to guess that I didn’t train for this race, and that I didn’t PR, either.  As much as I have been tearing up the trails and climbing insane hills for the past several months with some great people, my distance training has gone completely awry. And by awry I mean that between Carlsbad and La Jolla, I only ran three long runs, ever. Okay, two. And by long runs I mean only one of them was over ten miles. And it was barely squeezed in between breakfast plans and a visit to the Safari Park (which, honestly, was way more fun), just two weeks before the race.

Aside from the non-existent training, I planned my route to this point-to-point logistical nightmare of a race only two days beforehand. I sent a friend to pick up my bib. I drank almost no water the day before, and sat in the sun all afternoon. I picked my race outfit by smelling what was clean rather than washing what I actually wanted to wear. I invited myself to stay at my friend Laura’s house the night before, with exceptionally short notice. I forgot to buy gels and bananas for pre- and during-race fuel. I didn’t eat any breakfast, even though I’d managed to pack a granola bar. On the morning of the race, surrounded by four bright-eyed and well-organized racing buddies, I was the most unprepared. None of those things made me feel nervous or guilty however, and that may be the worst part of it all. But I figure that maybe by admitting all of this to you in a super-adorable way, my lack of motivation will somehow become more forgivable.

I’ll give you some time to mull that over while I quit babbling on and talk about the actual race.

The La Jolla half marathon happened on a perfect day for SoCal racing. And I add the SoCal part because the perfect day of all for racing is about twenty degrees cooler than it ever gets in SoCal, so I’ll take 62 degrees and overcast. At least it wasn’t humid, as they say. And the gorgeous scenery: palm trees, sand and ocean views…forget about it. You can’t ask for better. I was just glad that this was only a half marathon race and not also a full, that way I didn’t have to feel like one of the jerks only putting in half the effort for the day. After waiting in stellar traffic to park and emptying our bladders in the even more stellar porta-johns, Laura and I lined up at the very back of the starting line with the old ladies in walkers while the other three girls we came with filtered in farther up. I love standing at the back of the start line, though, because there’s a greater chance of passing a few people on my way to the finish.

lajolla3

Me and my hash lady friends, taking photos at the porta-johns in order to take our minds off our screaming bladders.

A quick aside on the whole passing people thing. While I was running the race I was thinking about this. After passing 50-100 people over the first three miles or so, I started feeling bad. Like I was picking people off, using them to give myself the illusion of being faster. I would set my sights on someone’s back and decide I had to get past them. Hey, little pink shirt that says “12 in 2012”, eat my dust. You there, lady with the running skirt that keeps riding up, you’re next. But, kind of like with driving (you know, when you’re safe inside your vehicle and removed from real human contact), those people ahead of me aren’t really people. They’re improvised mini-goals. Like little moving pace markers, with faces. So the truth is that when I’m trying to pass people at a race, I’m not actually competing with them, I’m competing with myself and using their ever-changing speed as a point of reference. And at that realization is where I met my biggest improvised mini-goal of the day. That one might have been personal.

Because I didn’t drink enough water the day before the race, I freaked out and gulped down an entire bottle of water that morning. Naturally, the one pre-race porta-john stop was not sufficient so by mile 5 I was dying. Each pit stop on the course had two porta-johns and at least 8 people in line, so I waited until I came upon the public beach bathrooms that I knew would be open at the base of the Torrey Pines hill. There were a dozen stalls so I only waited a couple of minutes. By the time I was done my breath was all caught up and I had an easier than expected mile-long climb up Torrey. But once I arrived at the top I looked ahead, and to my horror I saw that my bathroom break had gotten me behind the 2:45 pacer! Frack. All that well-intentioned “I’m just having fun here” be damned, I’ve never taken 2:45 to finish a half marathon, and I wasn’t going to start today.

So I kicked my pace up a notch or two, which was really hard because it was mile 6 and miles 6 through 9 is often my dead zone during a half marathon, and it definitely was today. I was hungry and my legs were lead bricks. I was feeling every missed long run and every burpee I never did. It took me two miles just to pass that bastard 2:45 pacer, whom I was convinced was either running too fast (definitely running too fast) or downright mocking me. What an asshole.

And that’s when my stomach decided to have a say.

Now, I have some pretty irritable bowels. And I don’t mean a little gas here and some indigestion there. I’m talking a stomach full of gray-haired, bejowled and sour-faced old curmudgeons in ugly cardigans, who hate when I run for longer than 90 minutes and often don’t wait until the run is over to tell me so. Today was one of those days. Thankfully, the porta-johns were clear right before the 10 mile signs so I didn’t have to wait behind any other unfortunate pit-stoppers. Also thankfully, I had swiped two of the caffeinated gels from the volunteers and downed the second one just minutes earlier. So by the time I finished dealing with the curmudgeons, my legs were finally ready to run the damn race.

I always love the last few miles of a half marathon. I’m usually numb from the waist down by then, hopped up on various forms of sugar and artificial energy boosters, and I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And the great thing about this race is the last three miles are a direct payoff from the previous nine’s upward-bound hills. I flew past that 2:45 jackass again, this time for good (although it still worried me that I ever saw him – those pit stops were going to cost me dearly), and made up a shitload of time on all those downhills while everyone else hemmed and hawed about their bad knees. I crossed the finish line with a grin on my face (as always) and never even looked at the clock on my way by.

For those of you who are curious, my final time was 2:41. My current PR (on a completely flat course) remains unmoved at 2:34, which is just about what I would have run if I hadn’t stopped at the bathrooms. I wish I could tell you that I’m embarrassed. I think fundamentally I am – a few of my friends set immense PRs that day – but in reality I didn’t expect much from the race, other than to complete it. I’ve been feeling that comfortable indifference a lot lately, and I think that’s just fine. Well, for now.

I believe there really are two completely different – and acceptable – ways to approach a race: for a PR performance or for fun. And lately I’ve just been choosing the fun route. I make a lot of jokes about being lazy and unmotivated, but in all honesty I have been putting in some good mileage over the past few months. I even broke a few weekly mileage PRs. But I actually have mindfully chosen to spend my miles elsewhere besides on the path toward the half marathon race. Or any race, really (I apologize in advance, Born to Run 50K). Instead I have been doing a great deal of group running (and beer drinking), and have come to love it so much more than running solo. I have also been spending a lot more time in the hills, which are often steep enough to require hiking, so running has sometimes taken a back seat to those amazing views of the mountains and the ocean from up above. I have rekindled my love for practicing yoga and skipped quite a few runs to hit up a class…or to recover from one. I have taken the opportunity that my new home and lifestyle has afforded me, to discover new things I love about running. And to seek out new ways to keep from burning out while keeping my mileage high enough to be able to wing a half marathon….you know…if the day ever called for it. I am most definitely enjoying this new more laid-back view of training running, no doubt about it.

But don’t worry, I’ve still promised myself that I’ll train harder and PR at the America’s Finest City half marathon. Why? Well, because I’ll never learn, that’s why. The curmudgeons in  my belly are already shaking their heads.


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I Left My Mojo in Carlsbad

The afternoon sunset at my favorite sand-covered spot, Carlsbad Beach.

The afternoon sunset at my favorite sand-covered spot, Carlsbad Beach.

For weeks, it was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere I could think of. I looked all over the house, in cluttered closets, under furniture, between my dog’s teeth and in the back seat of my car. It just wouldn’t turn up, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw it, either. I asked some of my friends if they’d found it anywhere, maybe left behind in their car after a trail run or something, but nobody had.

I even ended up making an excuse to see my buddies Vanessa and Shacky, so I could look under the tires of their Rialta RV myself, because that had to be the last place on earth that I didn’t look. Or heck, maybe Vanessa stole it herself! I mean, she’s been running an awful lot of hundos lately, and nobody is really sure where she got all that mojo.

But, Vanessa is way too sweet to do something like that, so I had to let my suspicions go.

After awhile I made some “Lost Mojo” signs and posted them all over my neighborhood. No calls, not a single one. I started going door-to-door, but this is California, so I just got a lot of weird, uncomfortable smiles and no real answers. So I resigned myself to the reality that I might never find my running mojo again. I took up yoga and even looked into Crossfit as a possible replacement, but alas, it just wasn’t the same.

Then one day I went to the theater and watched a movie that was set in the east coast. It gave me that dull ache of homesickness for the first time since I moved to California. Those cracked old sidewalks and oak trees with their leaves that fell to the ground and made a crunching sound beneath my Merrells. Then I realized, that was it! Had to be. I must have left my running mojo behind when I left New Hampshire. Surely it must have been swept up and thrown into the garbage by the new owners of my house. It’s gone for good by now. What a goddamn shame.

Since then I haven’t been running much, if at all. And when I do lace up, my runs just don’t have the same fire that they used to have. I have been reduced to slowly gaining weight from lack of exercise and bad afternoon television, as I stare blankly at the pile of beautiful unworn INKnBURN clothing and tester shoes, for which I still have yet to write reviews.

Fast-forward to last weekend, when I actually, miraculously, showed up for the Tri-City Carlsbad Half Marathon. I wasn’t going to run it at all because, I mean come on, I haven’t trained in months! After all, I’d lost my mojo! My last long run was fifteen miles, sure, but that was way back in November. I just wasn’t physically prepared for a half marathon. Not to mention the fact that I’d signed up for the full marathon originally, and had had the Race Director demote me to the half over a month ago. There was shame written all around the idea of this big ole’ race in the fine city of Carlsbad, California. So why show up?

Well, last week I was talking with Shacky, while we stood around uselessly in front of the Rialta at the San Diego 50 Miler and Trail Marathon (I had also signed up for this marathon originally and then bailed on it, which begs the question: is there any end to my bad habits?!). I told him I wasn’t planning to run at Carlsbad at all. That’s when crazy old Uncle Shacky convinced me to just go ahead and do it. “Just half-ass it,” he said. “It’s one of the prettiest road races in the San Diego area. If nothing else, you can walk most of it and take tons of pictures.”

I take a lot of advice from Shacky. I’m not really sure why, since most of it tends to end horribly, while Shacky just sits by laughing. Maybe it’s the beard, it makes him look so sweet and avuncular while so successfully hiding his true maniacal intent. I’ve been burned by Uncle Shacky advice more than once and I don’t want to talk about it.

So naturally I decided he must be right, and showed up for the race.

The morning was gray, rainy and dreary, and the marine layer was so thick you could taste it in the air. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t see much of the ocean, nor many of the other sights that typically make this so called “Surf Sun Run” so memorable. Once again, the joke was on me. Thanks, Uncle Shacky.

Look at that beard, totally disarming! *Photo by Vanessaruns

Look at that beard, totally disarming! *Photo by Vanessaruns

But all that aside, I’m glad I showed up to race, and I’ll tell you why. Even though there were something like 10,000 runners signed up, the whole event was exceedingly well-organized by the volunteers and race directors. There was water available literally at every mile, energy gels ever so often, and even pretzels and oranges (which I’ve never seen before at a road race) handed out on the course. Despite the absolute lack of sunshine, the ocean was still awesome to look at. The sight helped me ignore my aching hips and roiling tummy, which forced me to stop twice for the porta-johns (I’d made some bad nutrition choices the night prior). Conversely, because of the lack of sunshine the temperature was fantastic, in the upper 50’s, with nice cooling winds.

There were so many great things I could go on about during this race. But the greatest and most unexpected outcome happened as I rounded that one corner during mile 4, and saw those delicious foamy waves to my right for the first time. Because that’s when I finally found it: my mojo. It was there all along, on the sands of Carlsbad Beach!

Of course! I must have dropped it and left it behind on one of my early runs out here on the west coast. I was so freaking happy, I almost completely forgot I had no reason to be running 13 miles that day.

All joking aside, I’m not going to say this was the easiest long run for me to complete. In fact, I found myself walking a lot more than I typically do during a half mary (which is almost none). I had to employ my get-through-it mind-tricks a little earlier than usual, because my feet and hip flexors were on fire as early as mile 8. But despite all the pains I suffered from lack of preparation, my attitude didn’t suck the whole time. Well sure, I had a lot of trouble getting my ass out of bed that morning, but we’ll leave that aside for now. I crossed the start line of that race with a smile on my face, and that’s exactly how I crossed the finish.

I’m not going to say that there was any stellar kind of performance going on, either. I don’t even know my finish time exactly, but it was at least ten minutes behind my PR (a blazing fast 2:35)…and well, I don’t give the first shit. This race wasn’t about my finish time, it was about my attitude.

I’m not even sure what exactly it was about that day’s events that turned on my mojo. All I know is that I finished a half marathon race without any real training, equipped with nothing but my two feet, some good tunes and a boatload of determination. And that takes some mojo.

So I dunno. Maybe there’s something to be said for racing, at whatever distance. Maybe it’s that excitement we all share as we stand shivering in one large group at the starting line. Maybe it’s the camaraderie, the equality we find as we traverse the same course and overcome the same challenges. If you really think about it, the race is a place where we are all brothers and sisters, where we are a family of trials, determination and grit.

Whatever it is, whatever it was, I hope I never lose my mojo again. It was a bitch to find.

menalysacarlsbad.

Also thanks to my amazing cousin Alysa, who participated in this race as a bandit, but nonetheless inspired and impressed the hell out of me by completing her first 13 mile endeavor, despite not even being a “runner.” I love you, kid.


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Ready for the Raptor

This Sunday, I’m running my first distance race in San Diego. It’s the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon. Those of you who might know this race, and also know me, are probably laughing right now. Why? Well, I didn’t earn the mock-nickname “Hill Killer” for nothing.

You know. It’s sorta like nicknaming the 300lb Samoan dude “Tiny.” And you’re not really sure if you should call him that to his face because he’s been known to have a “mood problem.”

I love to run, that’s a given. But probably nobody in the trail running community bitches about hills as much as I do have. Hell, I complained so much about the relentless hills at my 50K (that nobody else seemed to notice…what was that about?), that my friend Krista designed a “Hill-Killer” t-shirt for her online store because of me.

And dammit, why didn’t I think to order one for Sunday?

Anyway, the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon takes place near Lake Hodges, amidst the various hills and valleys of nearby Escondido, California. The first four or five miles are completely flat and prairie-like, and then the course climbs this pretty gnarly hill for about a mile, back down the other side, and then turns around and goes back up. I stole an elevation chart from the blog of someone who did this race last year:

It looks like Batman. I should show my husband.

Now, this race wasn’t totally my idea. I have some friends to thank for my participation in it. First is my friend Shacky, who coerced encouraged me to sign up for Raptor Ridge back when I was still living my safe, flat-trailed New England life. Having run the race before, he knew how hilly it was going to be but still managed to keep a straight face while I rambled on excitedly about “my first San Diego race.” Shacky is like that funny uncle who puts toothpaste in your Oreos and super-glues quarters to the sidewalk. You always trust him when he suggests that you do something “really fun”, even though it’s usually a bad idea.

And then there’s my friend Kate, who has spent the last month dragging me and my hydration pack all over Escondido to run up and down hills until we were both bent over at the waist, breathing heavy like two old men with emphysema. It’s been pretty awesome, actually. I’ve been looking for a friend to really push me for years, and it seems now I’ve finally found one.

Lucky for me (or perhaps not lucky, depending on your perspective), I got to run most of this course already. In two parts. The first time, Kate and I parked at the Raptor Ridge 1/2 trail head one afternoon with full packs, ready to crush that hill. But we never found it because we didn’t realize it was over four miles away, and also we wanted beer. The second time we parked at a lot much closer to the hill and ran up it with Shacky and Vanessa, the two of them bouncing up the ridge like it was an easy straightaway. Jerks. But I made it up both sides, and we even got to look out over the valley for a moment before flying back down like a bunch of wild, noisy antelope. Okay, not anything like antelope.

This was the first time I’ve ever run on a race course before running the actual race. I’m curious to find out if it makes any difference for me mentally, but I think it will. I have always told myself that I’d rather not know what I’m getting into because if it’s scary, I don’t want to be privy to it. But I think maybe I was wrong all that time, because all week I have been able to put this course into perspective, plan out my pace goals, and mentally prepare for the tough spots. I’ve run this course a hundred times in my head. For the first time in any race I’ve done, I’m approaching it like something to conquer, not just something I hope to finish.

And by conquer I don’t mean foolishly attempting to beat my half-mary PR by thirty minutes or anything crazy-stupid like that. In fact, I’m not even sure I can count on breaking my PR at all. Or even meeting it. My last half marathon was on a completely flat, easy course, and I still didn’t break 2:30. I’m not hoping for any miracles here, but I did just notice that there’s a 3-hour cutoff time. I’ve never run a race with a cutoff time less than an hour outside my personal best. Combined with the added difficulty, I’m a little nervous that I’ll be crossing the finish line on a golf cart with the course sweeper. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.

It’s times like these (trail races) where I’m always reminded of how slow a runner I really am. And I’m not saying that so you’ll try to reassure me in the comments section. I am just a really freaking slow runner. I know a lot of it is because of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around these days, and that just adds shame to the slow factor. I’m the slow chubby girl in the slow stragglers section at the end of every race I run, except for the really huge and popular road races that attract 10,000 C25K’ers who just started running for the first time six weeks ago.

But then again I know lots of heavier runners and most of them are faster than me, too. Damn.

So, I don’t know what the real problem is, but it’s certainly not for a lack of trying. I’ll be cruising along at a pace that I’m sure is pretty fast, and I’ll be patting myself on the back for pushing my limits…and then some lithe little number in LuluLemon whizzes past me, pushing a baby carriage.

So I guess my only choice is to take the good with the bad. I’m probably going to be pulling up the rear on Sunday. But I’m also probably going to finish, hopefully before the cutoff, and I’m going to have some friends at the finish line to greet me when I do. Also I’m going to have finished my third half marathon, my second trail race, and my first one among the mountains of San Diego. No matter what happens, it’s going to be an achievement worth smiling about. And there’s also going to be beer.


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Training for a Race by Not Running: A Study in Counter-Intuitiveness

So, I’ve been hearing a lot of the following things lately:

  • If you do nothing but running, you’ll suffer from muscle imbalances.
  • Train better for running by weight training.
  • Running makes you better at running, but Crossfit makes you better at everything (eye roll).
  • Do Burpees.
  • Do squats and lunges.
  • Do deadlifts.
  • You want to run better? Faster? Then you gotta stop running!

And on and on with the ridiculousness. If you know me at all, you probably know how annoying I think Crossfit is. Nothing against you people who love it, I just…don’t. I really just dislike all that chest-beating, grunting, beastly, anti-runner dogma that seems to emanate from so many of Crossfit’s devotees. In some ways it seems pretentious and showy to me. And not to mention I just hate the idea of having to be inside a gym to work out.

For awhile most of that strength-training noise was coming from the Crossfitters exclusively, which makes sense because most Crossfitters think they’re better than runners. But lately I’ve been hearing more and more support of these crazy ideas emanating from the ultra runner crowd.

I know, it sounds totally counter-intuitive, right? Train for a run by not running? But it really seems to have worked for some of my ultra runner friends, especially the more injury-prone ones. For instance, my friend Krista trained for her first 100k without ever really doing long runs. And my friend Christian does Crossfit workouts almost every day (at least he does them at home) and hasn’t run more than ten miles since probably last spring (nor has he written a single blog post, I might add). But they both do quite well when they get to the starting line, despite spending over 90% of their workout time in the weight room.

Let me say this right now: I will never do that non-running crap. I run. I do it because I love it. And I mean I really love it. I don’t even see distance running as exercise, it’s simply something I want to do. It’s part of my lifestyle. Giving it up altogether in lieu of squat thrusts and 100-Burpee-a-Day challenges would be totally idiotic and counterproductive.

But…

I think there is something to be said for all-around strength and muscle competency. I mean, right now I can’t even do a pull-up. Not even one. Not even with 50 pounds of assistance. And I mean, if you think about it practically, such a lack of upper body strength could potentially translate into a major disadvantage for me in the event of a zombie attack. Sure, I could run pretty consistently until most of them lose interest or manage to die, but what if I have to climb a rope up to a third story building to avoid them? Right now I’d be totally screwed.

Yes that’s right, I measure fitness by one’s relative chances of living through a zombie attack. Don’t judge.

I’d totally live longer than this chick in a zombie attack.

So, here’s what I’m getting at: I have signed up for the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon on October 14th. That’s three weeks away. And because of all the uproar of this move, I really haven’t been training the way I should. I haven’t even run longer than seven miles in over six weeks. But that doesn’t even worry me. Thirteen miles is not much of a feat for me anymore. The problem is that a vast majority of the race involves climbing one giant hill, going back down, and then turning around and coming right back up. And since I have spent the last 9 years running on almost completely flat roads and rail trails, hills and I really aren’t friends yet. In order to complete that half without DNF’ing or dying (which would also result in a DNF), I’m going to need a major strength and endurance overhaul.

Which is why I signed up for a butt-crack ‘o dawn, weekday morning Boot Camp.

This isn’t my class, but yeah. It’s dark at 5:30am. Prime time for a zombie barrage. Just sayin’.

So for four days per week, from 5:30-6:30am, I have been paying someone to force me to run up over picnic tables, sprint and grape-vine across baseball fields, run obstacle courses, lunge, squat, do pushups, situps, burpees, tricep presses, and so on, until I’m slightly nauseous. I’m curious to see how it will affect my speed and endurance, and I am even more curious to see whether it’s going to matter if I ever do any real-deal long runs before Raptor Ridge.

In addition to Boot Camp, I plan to spend as much time as I can doing hill repeats up God-Forsaken Hill (my nickname for the crazy steep hill that sits directly in the center of Buena Vista park, right across from my neighborhood), running up and down Raptor Ridge and the hills at Lake Hodges with my buddy Kate, and cross-training by riding around on my bike. Which I haven’t done yet, but I will…I swear.

So I guess, in my lack of recent mileage, I’m about to learn how much I really need to actually run in order to be able to run better. Will I become a cross-training believer, or will I regret not running more? I’ll let you know in about three weeks.

So, what’s your take on the whole “cross-training as race training” theory?


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Active.com: Your Guide to Racing in the Heat & Pre-Race Nutrition Blunders

This week I wrote a couple of race-related articles for Active.com. Basically they tell you how not to show your inner noob. Enjoy!

Your Guide to Racing in the Heat
5 Common Pre-Race Nutrition Blunders 

teamshirt


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Slacker Theory

“Hey Trish, how’s the 50k training going?”

The answer is….well, it’s…going. Going where, you ask? Who the hell knows! Not that I can figure out how to answer that question satisfactorily, anyway. Every time I try, the following obdurate facts stomp through my head:

  • My longest training run so far is 14 miles (until Saturday, hopefully)
  • I haven’t run long for the past two weekends, due to life
  • I can’t even find the training plan I printed out in February
  • My left foot has been acting like a spoiled army brat

I feel like I’m supposed to report these facts to everyone who inquires about my training, as if they are some sort of disclaimer for my slacker ways.

But I guess I wouldn’t look so much like a slacker to you if you were my next race.

The Wallis Sands half marathon is on May 6th. It’s my “Birthday Run,” and I’m going with my friend Kirby. It will be my second half marathon race ever, and I am totally confident. As long as I don’t do anything stupid like attempt to race it, the event should be a piece of cake. Naturally I’m trying to ignore the fact that it’s a road half marathon and I hate roads. More on that later.

Now I am going to take a moment to admit that it positively tickles me to call this half marathon a “training run.” Okay, moment over.

And what about the 50k itself? Am I scared, nervous, intimidated by the thought of running perhaps twice as far as I’ll ever have before then? Strangely…no. I have none of those feelings. Or, perhaps more accurately, I’ve gotten over them. My head is totally in it now, and I am experiencing nothing but excitement and anticipation. Like a 5 year-old forcing herself to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, I simply cannot wait for May 27th to arrive.

I know this race is going to be hard for me. Really hard. But with the understanding that a race like this is 90% heart and soul, I’ve built a little theory of my own about it. My theory is that no matter what sub-par training I’ll have under my belt by race day, I’ll still be somewhere on the mid-to-high end of the “Total Slacker” scale. And therefore, barring injury, I should at least be able to finish by cut off time. Even though, in pure slacker-style perfection, it is fully possible that I may even acquire my first DFL (dead-fucking-last).

And that will still be good enough for the books.

I mean, there are certain facts that I accept about my current self: I’m slow (averaging 12mm on a long run if I don’t have to walk), I’m kinda fat, and I’m not all that experienced as a distance runner. But another fact about me is I’ve always been excellent at overcoming roadblocks and adversities. So why would something like a few extra pounds stop me?

Answer is, it won’t.

And neither will all the people reading this who are shaking their heads, thinking I’m an idiot for attempting a 50k at all. You can’t stop a steam train once it’s full speed ahead. Even if it is a slacker of a steam train.

If you’ve been around long enough to read my previous posts about this race, then you’re probably wondering why I sound like a completely different person now. It’s because I am a different person.

I’ve become a slacker trail runner.

That’s right. I might be a total noob who doesn’t (yet) deserve to walk the ranks (yet) of the ultra-marathoner (yet). But I finally found my confidence for this race, and it came to me the day I uncovered my true, abiding love for the trail.

I know the exact moment it happened, too. It was the day I turned an 11-mile long run into a 13-miler, and would have kept going if it wasn’t getting dark and if I hadn’t already been out of water for two miles. It was the moment I chose the hilly trail over the one that stayed flat, and then grinned like a shithead the whole way up. My feet still didn’t hurt by mile 10, and my IT band never hurt at all. It was the very second that I finally learned how to cruise over rocks and sand as blissfully as my dog, Oscar. And yes, it made me into a different runner. A better runner. I’ve been a better runner ever since.

Even if I still am a slacker.

So, screw the obdurate facts. Screw the numbers, the mileage per week, and fuck all these ridiculous training expectations. I’m chomping at the bit, and one way or another I’m going to chew up Pineland on May 27th.

Like a prize fighter bracing for the first hit, I’m ready.

Sidenote: I got my Team SquirrelWipe shirt in the mail the other day! Who wouldn’t be excited to be part of this ridiculous team with Jason Robillard, Shelley Robillard, Brad Waterson, Sheree Dunwell, Adam Gentile and Heather Wiatrowski? Especially when you get to wear an equally ridiculous shirt designed by my friend Krista at ZapsThreads and inspired by Jason’s latest book endeavor:

Watch out, we're kinda grabby.

See you at Pineland.

angled


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Review: Merrell Women’s Dash Glove

First off, I’d like you all to give me a pat on the back for finally breaking out the old DSLR camera for my review shots. Up until now I’ve been a lazy ass and have been taking pictures of shoes with my iPhone camera. And while the iPhone is not bad for drunken bar night candids and quick snapshots of weird people at Walmart, I can do much better with the Nikon I paid $800 bucks for and therefore should really be taking out much more often. Besides it saved me about an hour of Photoshopping.

With that said, on to the review.

Fun fact: I didn’t actually have to do a review on the Merrell Dash Glove. Before I met any contacts at Merrell, I was lucky enough to win them from a giveaway on Running and Rambling‘s awesome blog (which I read pretty religiously). Soon as I learned I’d won them I decided to write a review, because up until now I have had nothing on here from Merrell, one of the biggest minimalist shoe companies out there.

Looks
The look of the Dash Glove is bar none. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments from friends, coworkers, even strangers on my pink and purple pair (titled “Ultra Marine” on their site). They look as great under a pair of jeans as they do on the roads. Lots of right-on color choices too. I almost went with the juicy orange-toned “Lychee” color instead, they looked good enough to eat. Much kudos to Merrell’s designers on the look of this shoe – they got feminine and sporty all at once, something not everyone does right.

Fit and Feel
How do they fit? Well, as most of you have heard at least 27 times, I have really wide feet. My only previous experience with Merrell’s barefoot shoes before winning the Dash Glove was of a pair of lime green Pace Gloves that I bought and nearly maimed my poor feet, from their obscenely narrow width (this was before learning that they offered a wide width version). But that’s for another post. What that experience earned me, though, was a wary fear of purchasing anything else from Merrell. So I suppose it was sort of good that I won these shoes. No monetary risk if I didn’t like them. I figured I could give them away to my friend Killeen if they didn’t fit me, because she has a much narrower foot.

So the first time I wore them, I put them on with jeans and wore them to work. At the end of the day I still wasn’t 100% sure about them. They do have a much wider sole than the Pace Gloves, but it was still narrower than I’m used to. I figured they would probably give me some major foot problems if I ever wore them on a run.

So in typical Trish Reeves fashion, I wore them on my 4-miler the next day.

And I’m glad I did, because something interesting happened to this shoe once I got running. The mesh upper started to soften up after about a half mile (probably from sweating – which I didn’t do at work the day before), and molded to my foot. I wasn’t wearing socks so it got a little swampy in there (and I did get a little blister on one big toe), but by the end of my run the Dash Glove really did earn its name. I have been pleasantly surprised.

One interesting, if contradictory thing, about the fit of the Dash Glove is that it is rather constricting to my mid-foot. I would typically find this to be a disadvantage, given that the constriction is technically a form of support, but I admit I like the help (sshhh – don’t tell the minimalist shoe gods). Doesn’t make my foot work quite as hard and keeps the tired away longer.

But it also keeps me from wanting to recommend this shoe to a newbie minimalist runner, because I believe a beginner should run in practically nothing until they get their form down (more on this below).

I’ve put about 30 miles on these babies so far, and you can see the footprint I’ve made on them in all the pictures (I prefer taking worn-in photos – you can see brand new shoes all day long on company websites). I very much like these shoes, they are quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Minimalist vs. Barefoot
The biggest thing to know about the Dash Gloves is that they’re actually the most shoe I have ever worn running since I went barefoot/minimalist two years ago. Most of the shoes I tend to reach for the most can be described as “slipper-like” or “kind of like a sock dunked in Plasti-Dip.”

Although they are definitely zero-drop and by anyone’s definition, absolutely a minimal shoe, the Dash Glove has a thicker, firmer sole than anything else in my closet. So to me they definitely fit more in the “minimalist shoe” category than the “barefoot shoe” one. Because of this, in my own (only slightly humble) opinion, a beginning minimalist runner might be better off first perfecting good form in a more lightly-soled shoe than the Dash Glove, because this shoe has just enough sole thickness to shield poor/heel striking form.

With that said, after two years of minimalist running experience, the thicker sole has been nothing but a relief to my feet. After about 6 or 7 miles, my feet typically start feeling a little beat up, especially on the roads where my forefoot hits the ground in the same place over and over again. Those extra millimeters of rubber between foot and pavement kept the beat-up feeling at bay for much longer. Last week’s 11-miler in these shoes was on the hilly streets of Boston, and the balls of my feet thanked me when I was done.

About six months ago I probably would have shunned such a statement. I would have proclaimed that if my feet can’t handle 7 miles of pavement, they didn’t need more shoe, they needed more training. But now I am starting to see that everything, like the Dash Glove, has its place and its moment.

And to me, the perfect place for the Merrell Dash Glove is the long road run, and it will be my shoe of choice at my next half marathon, coming up in the next few weeks.

My only question to Merrell is this: Since these shoes are basically the female equivalent of the men’s Road Gloves, why didn’t they just call them (Women’s) Road Gloves? The word “Dash” just doesn’t come to mind as easily. Just me…?

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