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Time to celebrate 8 years of barefoot running and hiking . . . with a 50-mile race?

January 25, 2018

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Back in January 2010, a chance encounter with some barefoot folks during a cold winter morning birding class led to me being 1) Amused that anyone would be silly enough to go shoeless outdoors and 2) Interested in WHY anyone would want to do this.

As per my entire life, “interest” opened the door to research, which led me down this crazy barefoot path that still stretches out ahead of me . . . I hope until the day my toes go cold for good.

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Long before I had any interest in running barefoot, I was obsessed with just plain running–especially trail running–and in 2004 (at age 44) I set myself a goal of training for and completing a 50-mile trail race by the time I was 50.

Fast-forward through 14 years of chronically intermittent aches and pains (feet, knees, hips, low back, neck, you name it), through 14 years of all kinds of physical therapy and learning about less-obvious causes/cures, to the wonderful-ness of TODAY, when I am only a month away from the starting line of an awesome desert ultra-marathon, and–by the grace of God–feeling more healthy and fit and ready to run 50 miles than I ever have been (ha–or at least the “ever” that I can remember, my memory being a slowly eroding riverbank through the gully of my life).

Even in my 20s, probably my peak fitness years, when I was training in a gym and racing off-road motorcycles, I might have been stronger in terms of lifting power, but I know I could not have busted out the weekly 3-4 hour runs I’ve been doing the last few months with such enjoyment–and very little soreness etc. the next day.

So here’s to 2018, to being 58 years old and able to do my first chin-up on a bar in decades, and having a 50-mile challenge looming to look forward to.

(Truth in training note: it seems I should be up to runs a bit longer than 3-4 hours at this point in the training cycle, but Christmas. Family. Excuses.)

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Here’s me & the granddaughters at the live-cut Christmas tree farm east of town. What’s up with all these boots?!

Below is a run-through of images from the last month-or-more . . . stuff I’ve had good intentions of posting on this-here blog right after each run. Hmmm. My aerobic exhilarations most definitely overshadow my blogging aspirations . . .

. . . Aspirations that have included schemings & ponderings on some-if-not-all of the following topics since the last post:

— Trying to stick to a race training schedule through the December holiday season

— Wildfires and rain and mudslides, oh my

— End-of-2017: musings on the year that was

— Equally deep beginning-of-2018 anticipation/trepidation

— Being the mother of a 42-year-old?! (his January birthday gets me every time)

— Running more than three hours, and the accompanying mind games; my longest run to date (almost two years ago): 34 miles in 10.75 hours. Looking forward? to? 50? miles?

— The idea that our worth as an individual is based on our productivity (this is a deep and wide thought-stream for yours truly, especially as retirement finds me without all the academic objective-outcome falderal)

— How much fun it is to while away an afternoon playing scales on a guitar using a variety of fingerings (see comment immediately above)

— Dealing with obsessive thoughts (watch the news, anyone?) using newly discovered “awareness” techniques. Yay for lifetime learning.

— The Alexander method and its intersection with running

— What constitutes a good list, really? (Knowing when to cut to the photos)

 

 

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In the fire-denuded foothills, living creatures are few, so I appreciated this photo op with a Jerusalem cricket (which is neither a cricket nor from Jerusalem, but a non-venomous nocturnal creature capable of “emitting a foul smell and inflicting a painful bite” . . . sound like anyone you know?).

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No, I was not a victim of a Jerusalem cricket attack, just my own momentary inattention to a submerged rock-iceberg on the trail.

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When my feet are free from open wounds, nothing feels better than a dip.

roadrunner in burned area

This photo is un-retouched in terms of color . . . it’s just an ashy world out there in Weir Canyon where fire burned last fall. But, making its way back into the gray landscape: roadrunner!

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The New Year dawned with this familiar face looking down on all the newly scorched hills, ridges, arroyos.

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Another day, another moonscape. Here is a prickly pear that “survived” total annihilation, but what of its photosynthetic future?

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With most of the vegetation scorched off the face of the hills, these spunky Nolina are a green inspiration.

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And then it rained! Green days are on the way!

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Local rains caused a few minor ash flows like this, but nothing along the lines of the Montecito devastation. Lord have mercy.

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For a four-hour cruise, this has become my new favorite place. (And note the proximity of homes to burn area .)

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Some intricate Weir Canyon geology, sans vegetation.

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I’m not sure what “winter” means any more, there’s been so many warm days lately.

Happy Barefoot Trails in 2018 . . . may it be a year of new growth!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Paula Peeters permalink
    January 30, 2018 3:51 pm

    Good luck for your race Thea! I hope you ?enjoy it 🙂

    • January 30, 2018 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Paula! I’ll try to keep the word “enjoy” on my mind throughout the day 🙂

  2. Scott permalink
    January 25, 2018 8:50 pm

    Hi Thea,
    I was wondering how you were doing with all the disasters down there. 50 miles! Very cool! Alexander technique and running sounds like an interesting post, also the whole productivity as worth. I struggle with that one. What constitutes productivity? I’m also curious about the mental stuff for those long runs and how your feet hold out as you increase the mileage? Does muscle soreness/fatigue change form which causes more scuffing and foot wear? What about running two days in a row?

    Just feedback and ideas in case you want any… I enjoy your posts.

    We got a new puppy and then the flu, so running has been curtailed for a while (and it is my favorite barefoot running season with all the muddy trails!) But the puppy got his final Parvo vaccine and we went for a long trail walk and that was great. Both of us barefoot. Looking forward to training him up as a running companion.

    All the best,
    Scott

    • January 26, 2018 7:22 am

      Hi Scott! Thanks as always for your response . . . it’s good to know someone else is thinking (and running!) along the same sorts of lines. The local fire (Canyon 2) occurred while I was gone for a week of backpacking at Grand Canyon . . . completely media-free zone . . . so it was crazy to come back and see all “my” hills/trails fire-scraped of most vegetation. Then I headed north to Ventura County where I babysit my cute grandkids each week, and there were some days we couldn’t even open the door because the smoke was so bad. And day after day we could see the southern flames/edge of the Thomas Fire across the valley. Yikes.

      But then those heavy rains hit Montecito . . . wow . . . it’s been hard to look at the photos and imagine what all those folks went through. And then, of course, Puerto Rico’s post-storm woes continue, and the rest of the world, and it can seem overwhelming.

      As far as the Alexander technique ideas go . . . I’ve recently read three books that related these ideas to three different activities that interest me: running, horseback riding, and acting. It’s been fun to compare similarities and differences to Feldenkrais, a similar “movement awareness” philosophy that I’ve been working on in once-a-week classes for a year or two now (as well as occasional one-on-one hands on work).

      Productivity! A lifetime of personal and cultural baggage to unpack here! I’ll keep you posted 🙂 (but in the meantime, just sitting and learning to pick guitar is going a long way toward “curing” me of this dis-ease).

      The long run mental games will probably be the subject of my post-race post next month. Spoiler alert: the Alexander technique stuff has done nothing except reinforce my ideas that “distraction” via music etc does not work in a runner’s favor).

      Feet health: all good on these barefoot training runs! One morning, though, it was a bit chilly, so I wore my Sockwas for the first 20 minutes till my toes un-numbed. I’m already mentally planning on a lot of Sockwa time during the 50-miler . . . and a lot of walking. The cut-off for the 50 mile race is 15 hours, so my goal finish time is 14:45 🙂

      The flu! Oh no! So many people are sick around here as well. Hope you get over it and are able to get muddy again soon.

      But a puppy! Yay! A barefoot companion for sure 🙂

      Happy (Puppy!) Trails in 2018!

      Thea

  3. Caveman Hiking permalink
    January 25, 2018 7:25 pm

    Wishing you a wonderful 50mi race!

    • January 26, 2018 7:08 am

      Thank you much! Many happy barefoot miles to you as well 🙂

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