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Celebrating International Barefoot Running Day a Week Early at the Into the Wild OC Trail Race (Barefoot, of Course)

April 29, 2012

The 2nd annual International Barefoot Running Day (IBRD) is May 6, but I got a head start on celebrating it by having a good time on the trails at the first-ever official race through Limestone Canyon on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy yesterday.

“Changing the running world, one odd look at a time.” That’s the motto of the Barefoot Runners Society, which sponsors IBRD. I got a few odd looks at the Into the Wild OC Eco-Challenge 12k and 20k race. A few odd looks, several nice conversations about my choice of no-shoes, and a stellar day to be out on the trails in beautiful Limestone Canyon.

Here’s the story in photos:

The entrance to the Augustine Staging Area off Santiago Canyon Road

At the start. Not too many barefooters today. They don't know the fun they're missing.

The first mile or so was through the oaks in Limestone Canyon. Though many of the trees look "normal," some of these venerable giants are now toppling, 4+ years after the 28,000-acre Santiago Fire.

I found this hawk feather along the road. Since I was definitely not in a hurry, I had some fun with a photo shoot (the first of many during my 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 44 seconds along the 12K--a little over 7 mile--race).

After 50 minutes--lots of elevation gain to get to the top of Limestone Ridge--I was happy to see I was a bit more than halfway done. My left knee (an 8-year-old problem with patella tracking issue) began hurting after less than a mile, and was the only negative about the day.

After the initial half-mile of gravel road, the trail was pretty smooth--except for a few stretches like this that reminded me why it was named LIMESTONE Canyon--those rocks are a bit sharp around the edges . . . but there was always plenty of non-rocky spots between them for my feet to find smooth passage.

Eventually the fastest folks in the 20K race passed me. Oh well. I was having my own kind of fun . . .

. . . enjoying the many wildflowers along the trail, like these mariposa lilies.

The views were fabulous throughout the race.

Shoestring Trail begins here at the top of Limestone Ridge--this was the last long downhill of the race, and my sore knee was not happy. Running uphill was a lot less painful--I was glad the race had lots of uphill!

More hazardous than rocks: the dried dagger-stubs of mustard mowed down on the trail. It was probably the trickiest section to negotiate barefoot. No punctures, though.

Shoestring trail cuts through the middle of a horrific stand of invasive mustard weed, now in bloom at a wildland near you. Lots (most?) of the folks in Orange County don't realize this prolific yellow bloomer is not a native wildflower; in fact, it has some pretty negative effects on our wildlands, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy's science team has several research projects going to study ways to restore habitat that has been invaded by non-native noxious mustard.

The new Shoestring Trail bridge. Shady-good-times . . . getting near the finish line.

Almost two hours (and lots of fun and photos) later, the finish line. Cow bells and cheering and a cool race-medal-key-chain and munchies galore: a fine ending to a well-run race.

Birds of a feather: there was one runner there in VFF's, and Charlie and I had a good conversation about different approaches to minimalism/barefootism and running.

Yes, that was a bit of blood on my foot in the photo above. Souvenirs from the race include this OC Parks water bottle I won in the post-race raffle--as well as a little cut where I caught a rock just before the end of the run . . . something that's happened more than once when I get tired. "Just a flesh wound."

Thanks to all who helped make this race happen!
Happy Trails! (Barefoot, of course)

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