After resigning myself to no exercise for all of January and much of February due to upper respiratory illness, I have been carefully adding on the miles and gradually increasing effort in all of my running, biking, and swimming. The running plan has included transitioning back to totally barefoot running since using running moccasins for most of the winter. I had worked back up to 5 miles barefoot as of 4 days ago, so I thought I’d give 6 miles a try yesterday. With my folded Moc3’s (SO easy and light to carry) in my hip bag for back up, I started off on the day’s course. I experienced anew the different effects variations of asphalt can have on the feet.
I had run this basic course barefoot a number of times last year, but my latest barefoot miles had been at Wilson Springs, though at much warmer temperatures than mid-winter. There had been a bit of gravel and dirt scattered a bit over that asphalt path. Yesterday, there were numerous asphalt variations. I enjoyed nearly every minute of the run, and thought about whether or not to don my footwear, but the ground feel so much nicer with bare feet.
The first section of my course was quite pokey, but more manageable than last time I tried it this spring. I was definitely going slowly, trying to land gently. Once at Sunnyridge Road, I had less rough options as long as there wasn’t too much traffic on the hills, which always requires the precaution of stepping into the thick gravel on the road side.
My pace was looking like about 11 minutes per mile for the first two miles, when it had been 9:15ish on the other (Wilson Spring’s) asphalt. I accepted this reality and continued on into what I have always thought of as the mini-cobblestone section of this road. The asphalt here both feels and looks rounder from the running position, but the photo shows it as fairly rough. Much like the recently chip sealed portions, more of the foot ends up making contact with the ground.
Cracks on this part of the road had been covered with tar within the last couple of weeks. I remembered seeing the crews. There were a LOT of cracks once I got over the hill, so avoiding the supposedly hardened rivers of tar became an act of agility. I didn’t always clear them, leading to the discovery that they were slightly warm and soft. That tempted me to run on them even more, but the possibility of breaking through the top shell to liquid tar deterred me.
At this point I took a short dirt and gravel trail to make a mile loop around the local high school. On both ends of the trail I had to pass through some new loose asphalt mix that I’ve only seen this year. It is dusty, slippery loose. I did a very slow-mo run over it, then brushed my feet off. It is a mystery to me why they are lining the sides of some roads with this. By this time, I admit, my feet were feeling sensitized, but there was no evidence of injury and no pain. I decided to continue enjoying the bare foot sensation.
I picked up my pace some while on the featureless asphalt behind the school, then moved to the sidewalk at the more traveled street, which, besides having no room anything besides vehicles, had JUST been chip sealed. I knew I should skip that for the time being. There was an irritating amount of chip seal gravel on the side walk and I was feeling the texture of the cement more than usual, though still keeping a faster pace. In spite of all the traffic and odd looks caste my way, no one offered me any suggestions….
Knowing I was almost to the greenbelt path along a vigorous stream was heartening. The path is secluded and lined with trees. It was one of the places that I could get in some short bare foot stints during the winter. It was easy to run on except for some pockets of tree and plant debris, which seemed to stick in my feet more than usual. I made use of the plush grass to let a stride now and then whisk over the blades and clean the my soles. (There was no goose guard when I ran, I went back later for photos.)
I was now ready to brave the shopping center traffic around Albertson’s and Walmart. Possibly you wonder why I do this. My current frame of mind is that I really don’t like having to run uphill on the final leg of the trip. The only way I have come up with avoiding this is to run around to a large hill on the main highway, then return to our house downhill. There is a fine sidewalk along the much of the way, but I do have to cross multiple store access points. As during all of my run, when traffic is around I wave my arms a lot, and sometimes call out, to make it more likely drivers will see me. I make no assumptions.
Around the last corner, I had to deal with the same pokey asphalt as at the beginning. My feet had had enough and I walked the last 50 feet or so. Then, I noticed a smidgen of blood on my right foot, but still no pain, which was curious. It wasn’t anywhere near cold enough to give me numb feet AND I could feel the soles. I got right to washing them and found a tiny split in the middle of my right big toe. It still doesn’t hurt. I do have a sustained, but mild, tingly feeling on my soles. I can see that a few spots that were minimally chafed. It is not unlike a work out for the muscles, where you push yourself a little beyond to gain strength. Next time, this same course should be just a bit easier. My goal is to be able to run the Lake Lowell 10K with bare feet on May 5th!