Two weeks ago I was running on the beach barefoot in a mental funk over tribulations of the heart. I started running angry with passion which turned into efficiency and speed, 16 miles laters I was at peace with myself realizing that I was fast. I went on to clock 117 miles that week mostly barefoot or in Vibram fivefingers. Somthing had clicked in my phcye I no longer identified myself as injured or gimpy as I had for the last year. A mental road block had been broken, I could now accept the fact that I am healthy and faster than I have ever been. I'd been cutting down my calorie intake eating healthy and got my weight down to 142 during this time. The Palos Verdes marathon was coming up and I new I could I could set a new PR if everything came together. This would be my first Marathon without running shoes and there were still some questions left to be answered.
Race day I did'nt sleep well. I was up at 4 in the morning. I ate about 1,000 calories of toast bannana's and chia seeds. This may sound like a lot but I think it's the least I have ever eaten before a race. I was real excited for my sister who was doing the 1/2 marathon which started 30 mins later and would run 1/2 of the there and back course. I new if I ran fast I would see her and I was excited to root her on.
I planned on running the race in Vibram fivefingers but I did'nt know which pair. Previosly I had ran a 5k and a 10k in "sprints and a 50k and 50 miler in Kso treks. Last wednesday I found out the "Bikila's" were on sale. I ordered them next day air for a $30 shipping charge (ouch). I wear size 44 in Kso's and 45 in sprints. I decided to order size 45 bikilas. Thursday I did one last short 4 mile run in a pair of standard Kso's as a back up plan. They felt great but both shoes ripped on the toe seem and I could'nt risk them completle falling apart during the race. Well the Bikila's arrived Friday night I was very excited. I have narrow long feet and the Bikilas were way too big for me. I'm guessing even a size 44 will be to big too. Reluctantly I decided to go with a fairly new pair of Sprints. When training I don't usually wear socks but for racing I use injingi trail socks. I decided to go shirtless wearing some racing short shorts and some Argyle Moeben sleeves. In my sleeve I stuffed my Zen mosaic mp3 player with speaker so I could rock out to some Voodoo Glow Skulls during the race. The last piece of gear I used is my trusty Garmin 310xt.
Before the race started I met a few running friends. Dan Westergaard was there a man who has doubled Badwater the last 3 years and who will be my pacer at the San diego 100miler. I also ran into a very inspiring Barefoot runner named Jullian who recenlty ran a sub 3 hour barefoot L.A. I had challenged Eric Clifton a former Badwater winner to see who could look stupider come race day. He is notorious for wearing tie dye running tights and sometimes a running skirt. Sadly he got his dates confused and did not make it to the race.
The plan for the race was to start fast stay fast and finish fast. It's fun running shorter races like this that are all about speed, no need to pace myself, the race will only last a few hours not all day. My training is pretty unique for an ultra runner or marathon runner. I work out almost exclusivly barefoot on the soft sand of the beach I rarely wear shoes. I rarely run man made surfaces and I hardly ever run hills and never train on trails outside of races. The PV course is very hilly tough marathon with most of the downhill portion on the first half. Barefoot or Five Finger running is great for going uphill or on flat ground but for sprinting downhill it can be a little nerve racking. My plan was to go out fast with reccluess abandon on the downhills knowing that If I could just keep from falling I would have some extra time to use climbing on the return, where I felt I could have an advantage over my compitiion. Anyway I set the virtual partner on my watch for 6:30 miles and thought that would be a good number to try and hang with as an optimistic goal. To tell the truth I was'nt even that confident that my first mile would be a 6:30.
When the race started I got right up in the front and jumped out at very comfortable 5:30-45 pace for the first 2 miles. It felt good I was'nt trying too hard and was joined by one other runner beside me and the cop motorcycle in front. We hit Western Blvd a super steep .4 mile climb, I held a 7 min pace and distanced myself from the other runner. Next came about four miles of mostly downhill running (not my fortay in Fivefingers) I decided I would run this stretch faster than I wanted to and deal with the consequences. I was flying down the hill pretty quickly at about a 5:30 pace, nobody was around it was just me and the Motorcycle and the Voodoo Glow Skulls. I managed to sneak up on the water stations, on six of my first nine attempts to grab water I failed. Thank you to all the volunteers, I take full responsibility for the failed hand offs, it's funny that when your running in front the volunteers have no practice handing out water many of these exchanges looked like a water balloon being popped between our hands. I love running with my Ultimate direction handheld, it is probably the most important piece of running equipment I own and it goes with me everywhere, but since a marathon is all about speed I didn't want to worry about filling a bottle mid race.
I kept telling myself to hold onto this pace. I hit the 10 mile mark in about 59 mins. I knew I was capable of 10mph but don't think I had ever kept it up for this long. Just after 14 miles came the turn around where I would finally see what kind a lead I had. I saw 2 runners one was about 5 minutes back and the other was seven minutes back. I new I would be slower on the return but realized if I could stay around a 6:30 pace I would be hard to catch going uphill. My feet were feeling great no blisters and the fivefingers were holding up good. I saw Dan Westergarrd and Barefoot Jullian on the return which gave me gave me an adrenaline boost of encouragement. It was a lot of fun running back everything felt good and I was getting cheered on by the rest of the marathoners who were still on the first half of the race. I could hear a lot of people commenting about me being in "vibrams" or in "the barefoot shoes." Everyone was super positive and I was having a great time. The motorcycle in front of me would stop go, talk to his cop buddies and direct people out of my way. I felt like I was getting presidential treatment.
I hit mile 20 at About 1:59:00 and could hardly believe it. I was climbing uphill and it felt easier than the decent. I had no idea how far back the competition was as I entered the home stretch. The last 4th of the race is very congested as it meets up with the slower 1/2 marathoners. I found myself having to run into the lane of vehicular traffic as continued to pound the pavement uphill past the 1/2 marathon walkers. I wanted very much to still be in first by the time I caught up with my sister running the half. I kept waiting for the hills to get difficult but they never did. I guess the soft sand training did it's job. A lot of people were taking my picture along the way back I think they wanted to show their friends that anything is possible if this dumb ass could be in first place. I even overheard a lady tell her friend "unf**king believable" as I jammed past (made me smile). I am a little worried however that many of them may go purchase five fingers for their next race. I definitely think the right approach is to go barefoot before using Vibrams. It's too easy to over work dormant foot muscles by going too far or too fast when your foot is accustomed to the cast that is the modern running shoe. The 7,200 nerve endings in each foot will tell you real fast when you need to stop.
I caught my sister at mile 22 and she looked strong. I gave her a loud cheer of support as I passed her and she gave me The cheer "Go Pat Go" my variation of Pato Banton's "Go Pato" All that was left was a sprint down Western and 1.8 mile gentle uphill to the finish line. Earlier In the week I had dreamed about falling while running down this hill. In reality I was flying,I looked down at my gps and it said I was running a 4:15 and I had no brakes. Near the bottom I saw my good friend Kate running in her first 1/2 marathon I gave her a cheer and I was off. I was on cloud nine and the race was almost over. I just had to keep it going for another 10 minutes. I got back into a comfortable 6:10 pace and then all of a sudden my left calf totally cramped up. I was paying the price for sprint downhill. So close to the finish I had felt good for so long, a little cramping wasn't going to stop me. I gritted my teeth found a rhythm and accelerated towards the finish line I thought the guy behind me may be close. I was back to a fast pace as I saw my mom and my nephews cheering me on. For the first time in a race I raised my hands in victory as I sailed through the tape. It took me about 100ft to stop. I was going so fast my nephew couldn't get me in the pic. I had held on and I was happy. I figured before the race that a 2:45:00 was possible if everything went right, however realistically I wasn't even sure if I could beat 3 hours. Well everything went right and I ended with a 2:37:14 about 17 minutes faster than I had ever ran a marathon before. It was the 2nd fastest time run in the last 11 years of the race.
I felt good people were congratulating me left and right. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my vibrams and my my Argyle moeben sleeves. everyone was super nice I talked with the press posed for some pictures It was my day and I was soaking it in. I new Kate and my sister would be finishing their race soon and I was excited to cheer them on. I also wanted to root on my competition. A little over 11 minutes later the 2nd place finisher came in with loud cheers from myself and others Pretty soon Kate came in finishing her first 1/2 marathon as my family her finance and I cheered her on, and then my sister came in looking real strong. I think I was more excited for her than I was for myself. Eventually Dan and Barefoot Jullian both came in with respectable times.
It was time to sit around and wait for awards. Winner of the PV marathon historically gets a nice watch and I was ready for it. After the race I went to my friends for a barbecue and then off to work.
News articles from race