Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Road to Finishing My first Marathon in The Vibrams

So it all started about 18 weeks ago when I felt like my body was once again decomposing. I played basketball once a week, but not really getting a lot of excersize. Not eating good, cheetos, ice cream every night. Getting fat wasn't really a problem, just not feeling very healthy. So I decided to start running. For a week or two when I would get up to 3 miles or so, my knees would start hurting. (which is why I gave up on trying to run a marathon like 5 years ago) I asked for some advice from those around me, kept trying things and nothing worked. My knees kept hurting. Figured I was just getting old or just had bad knees or something. But I really wanted to run. So I went to Runners Corner in Orem and asked if they could give me a knee brace or band or any advice to help me. He told me there are two kinds of runners that almost never get injured. Ultra marathoners and barefoot runners. Ultra marathoners, i didnt really know what that meant at the time and barefoot runners?? I didn't even know such a thing existed except in 3rd world countries. So he gave me a website to look at and I went home and one thing led to another and I found the vibram 5 finger shoes. So we I went back in to the store to try some on and finally bought a pair online(they were backordered with a waiting list at the store) Took them out for a short run and what do you know, no knee pain. come to find out I had been striking wrong. the heal strike is BAD. I had to learn to run all over again. with a midfoot strike. So i was just loving running. It felt so awsome to be running without pain and feeling the ground beneath me. I then decided to sign up for a marathon. If these shoes could help my knee pain, then maybe I could fulfill my dream of running a marathon. I signed up for the Utah valley marathon which was about 15 weeks away at this point. The training was going great. Once I got into the longer runs i would experience some TOPF. top of the foot pain. some tenderness on the top of my right foot. (which came from not taking enough time to transition into minimalist running) I would ice it after the run. I also read the book in about 3 days "Born to Run" Which is an incredible book about a secret tribe in mexico the Tarahumara indians who run hundred mile foot races in a thin pair of sandals. Incredible book which then got me excited about not only running a marathon but aspiring to the 50 and 100 mile Ultra marathons. So the training was going great. I ran my 20 miler at about an 8 minute pace. then i got curious to see how close I could come to running at boston marathon qualifying pace for my 8 mile run. which is a 7:10/mile pace. So I ran and pulled something in my foot. a tendon or something. But instead of stopping I kept pushing through the pain. bad idea. I did keep up the pace, but i paid for it after. The whole next week i had to take off cause I was limping around barely able to walk. After a week of resting and icing i did an another 8 mile run. had to walk every half mile or so cause it was hurting. What was I going to do?? 2 weeks away from my marathon. What i'd worked and trained so hard for. I was so frustrated. I went to runners corner and bought some ultra lightweight racing flats. shoes. I took the next two weeks off of running completely with the occasional trip to the gym to do the excersize bike to keep my muscles working out. I took the new shoes with me and would do like a quarter mile jog in them. So foot did hurt up until the marathon. So in those last few weeks i had a decsion to make. Run in the vibrams, which i had done every single one of my training runs in. Or run in the racing shoes that my give me a little more support and save my foot but possibly risk blisters and blood and pain. the day before the race i spent praying, asking everyone around, me, discussing with my wife, on which shoes to wear. I was set on the racing shoes. I'd rather get a few blisters than hurt my foot in the vibrams and risk not finishing the race. Then the finally, call it inspiration or gut feeling. I did a last minute switch and decided to stick with the vibrams.
So after shooting my wedding I finally got to bed at about 11:30pm. Woke up nice and early at 2:30am. Figured out how to stap my timing chip on to the velcroe of the vibrams, got my gu's and electolyte drinks ready on my back, pinned my number on, had some pinole for breakfast and headed out. I met up with my little brother, his wife and my little sister who were all running as well. I got there and it was a mad house of trips to the bathroom taking ibuprofen and other last minute preparations. We drove to the provo mall where the race started. there's buses everywhere runners everywhere. My little sister headed over to the half marathon bus and we found our bus. the bus ride up seemed like it took forever. Completely dark we couldn't see anything around us. After what seemed like a really long time we got to our destination. We all got out of the bus, it was still completely dark. We could see a light up in the distance, so not really knowing what to do we all just started wandering up the hill. It's kind of hard to describe what that felt like. We thought that's what it would be like if we died and were in heaven just following the crowds of people. We arrived to the lights. 100's of restrooms and runner in line for the restrooms. Time for one last stop. We got in line and someone on a mic said we needed to head up to the starting line RIGHT NOW! So we jumped out of line and headed up the road a little further. 10 minutes to start time. We jogged a little to warm up. Got tired pretty quick. all these things going through my head. Will my foot hold up in the vibrams? one run in the last 3 weeks, how am i gonna do this? I walked by 3 kenyans, you know the guys that win races at superhuman times. I smiled and said "you guys gonna win this" they glared at me and looked away. Okay, moving on to the start line. It was so crowded we got there at the end so we were right at the start. We're all waiting for it to start and it starts pooring rain. I had already made the decision to not wear a grocery bag or even a long sleeve shirt. Just skinny old me with my short running shorts, a thin shirt, no socks an my 5 finger shoes. First the handbikes' gun went off. One minute later it was our turn. the gun goes off. Walking for the first 30 seconds or so. the kenyans dissapear into the night. then we're doing it. All this preparation, all this planning and training for this day and it's happening right now. I forgot to take a gu pack before the race so i pull one out of my pack and another one drops out on the ground, so i turn around and run against traffic and find it and pick it up. I run the first mile with my little bro and his wife, lots of chatting and joking, then after some hi fives I decide it's time to get serious. First mile goes by at about a 8 and half pace. So i decide just for fun to see if I can catch up to the designated 3:10 pacer guy, who the race hired who ran that pace the entire way. Another runner asks me about the vibrams and continues to run the next 10 miles or so with me. At mile 10 we could see the 3:10 pacer. But i was starting to tire out. Finally my running buddy says good bye and and takes off. Slowly by mile 15, i'm getting pretty tired. the mountains and scenery are just breathtaking. The rain has let up. Taking my gu's every 45 minutes. stopping every once and while for a bathroom break. The downhill is pretty rough on me. Consistently after mile 10 i'm slowing a bit and runners are passing me barreling down the hill. Not exactly easy in the Vibrams. Little steps the whole way. I get to mile 16 and get a text from my sister who says the kenyans just finished. then another saying my little my little sister finished the half marathon. I get a little choked up thinking about how proud i am of her for accomplishing that. Getting to mile 20 i'm real tired. Mile 21 i take my last Gu pack. We're out of the canyon now heading towards the mall. Lots more people cheering now. Each one cheering puts a smile on my face and gives me a little energy. I keep thinking about the finish line where my family will be waiting for me. Each aid stations from here on out i walk for a few steps to drink and regain my composure. Just gotta keep moving, just gotta keep moving. Every 15 minutes or so someone passes me and comments on my shoes. My legs are tightening up. So tired. Just gotta keep moving forward. Then mile 25 rolls around and i can see my older sister rochelle. She makes the phone call to let everyone else know that i'm coming. I get a little choked up once again, so greatful for the support. One last hill to go up before seeing the finish line. She gives me some energy to pass one person up the hill. We round the corner and head down the home stretch. I'm getting emotional seeing all the people I love there, cheering me on taking pictures, so excited to see me. I cross the finish line in 3 hours 53 minutes. So glad it's over. I get a nice participation medal. I make it through all the runners and find my wife and kids. right when i see them and can't hold back the tears. I can't even talk just kissed my wife and kids, so happy to see them and have them there to support me. It's hard to explain why it's so emotional finishing a race like that. Such a trial of strengh and will power, and then to have the people you love cheering you on when you need it the most is just an awesome experience.
I'm so tired and sore from the race, but it was so much fun. and so worth it.
I did it. And I did it in my Vibram Five Finger shoes.
I'm a marathoner. Now on to becoming an Ultra marathoner.