Friday, September 4, 2009

Barefooting: A Loathing Love

Yesterday, I had two very different barefooting (five fingers) experiences. One of love, one on the edge of hate.

1) The experience of freedom and love that is so often heard when it comes to barefooting was fully realized yesterday morning during a 7 mile tempo run on grass. Wow. It was a thick, lush field of grass and after a couple of miles I was cruising - shirtless, tinsy shorts and barefoot, I felt like some sort of primordial tribesman chasing mega-fauna to the point of exhaustion (the animal). So, the barefoot experience was, in a word, glorious. It stole my heart.

2) So I had been meaning to take the five fingers and the barefooting experience into the mountains and since yesterday was my mountain run day - and riding high on the glorious barefoot experience in the morn - I went for it. I have a difficult time doing things conservatively and often times don't fully realize the undertakings I embark on, so smitten by out-of-body experiences as I am. The point is I chose a pretty formidable mountain run for my first five fingers mountain experience; my favorite 8.5-9 mile north face of Mt. Sentinel run.

From the first step on the Kim Williams trail to access the Mt. Sentinel trail I knew it was going to be a painful outing. My feet were, uncharacteristically, sensitive to the stony path. By the time I made it to the Sentinel trail my feet were screaming. I suppose I could have called it a run at that point, but I was pretty set on doing some steady ascending on Sentinel. It had been awhile. I was secretly wishing I had worn my shoes and plodded on, up the trail. I had to fastiduously powerwalk a few of the pure shale stretches of the opening section of the trail. My feet were screaming. I continued up the mountain and nearly had fun along the way. To the five fingers credit it was a light, fun and relatively quick ascent (that is, on the sections free of arrowheads sitting complacent and vertical - which was only 10%). I felt every rock on that mountain. I topped out effortlessly and with great fear of the forthcoming ascent.

The entire ride up, I scathingly leered at sections of the trail that would likely be, at best, tedious on the descent. The whole of thing, the descent, proved even more tenuous than I had anticipated. Every step down was an exercise in controlling my tongue and explicit verbage that echoed in thoughts. A great lesson in self control; for the woods are always listening and afford the greatest critique of a man's character. I tuned out for the 3 mile descent. Literally turned my mind off and slogged through the last portion of the trail. Wow. Check that, ouch. Now complete with aches and pains, it was back to the Kim Williams trail and back to the office. I had never been so pleased to run on pavement. No pebbles, rocks, talus or scree! Yeehaw. Never before had I so appreciated man's transporation amalgamate; cement.

All told, I am very happy to share this experience as it was humbling and eye-opening. I really ran well, albeit slow, considering the terrain. My form was incredible and, consequently, my recovery was instantaneous from the run. It was interesting to me, to have that intense, that focused and present, of an experience. Running barefoot on tenuous terrain requires every ounce of your attention and spirit. I was all there, and truthfully, enjoyed it. Though 95% of the run was honest-to-goodness pain, the moments and the result of a more humbled and well-rounded runner, now versed in the barefoot mountain experience, are priceless.

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