Nice grassy meadows, some patches of snow, some gravelly service roads. Everyone else rushed to remove their shoes after the race. I didn’t wear any. My feet felt great – after I finished soaking them…
- 50.00 Kilometer
- 06:15:00 (official time) Personal Record
- 1 Barefoot 50.00 Kilometer races from 1998 to 1998/06/06
- 11 Barefoot races (any distance) from 1998 to 1998/06/06
- My Distance=50.00 Kilometer
- My time: 06:15:00
- surface (0-10): 6
- hills (0-10): 8
- Description: asphalt, dirt, grass, granite, gravel
- Location: Green Meadows Outdoor School
- City: Fish Camp
- State: California
The 50K Race that wasn’t Satisfied with ONLY 50K!
50 kilometers equals about 31.1 miles. Various runners, using GPS devices, have since measured the Shadow of the Giants course at 56 kilometers. No one seemed to care. After all, what’s a few kilometers running with friends?
Shadow of the Giants is a trail run. The first part of the course was a loop, which we ran twice. Going uphill, up some more hills, and then up again, until arriving at a lush green meadow, with water trickling from melting snow everywhere in the sponge-like grass. Except, of course where there actually was still some patches of snow, in the shade of the giant sequoia trees. It was early June in central California, and the temperatures were rising as we ran up the hills to the meadow. By the time I got to these snowy patches, the temperature was getting close to 70 degrees. It felt great running through these small patches of snow, though at the end of a longer patch, extending along about 100 meters or so of the trail, it was a relief to get back on the grass again!
Well, like Blood, Sweat and Tears sang, “What goes up, must come down.” And so this loop did. But first there was this wide creek with icy cold water, and on the other side, a steep snow covered bank to climb. Or you could run on the log that lay fallen over the creek, about 10 to 15 feet above the water below. I had run up to this part of the course the previous day, with Matt, who wanted to show me the spot where he had fallen and broken his jaw during the previous year’s “Shadow” race. Matt refuses to use the tree bridge, so he crosses the icy cold water, and climbs the steep bank. At this point, I’m running across the tree bridge just in front of Maria. She is in the lead of all the women, and after the first loop, pulls way ahead of me, to go on and win the women’s overall race in 5 hours and 22 minutes..
The Young Ultra-Runner
Jim, an 11 year old, who I had met camping with his family a couple days ago, at the campground up the road, was having no problem keeping up with us, in fact, despite the the race directors hesitation to allow an 11-year old boy run this event, Jim was not only able to keep up with Maria (Maria won the women’s division overall!) the entire distance, but passed her at the finish and won the 0-29 year age division.
The Tree Bridge
Anyway, we all made it across the tree bridge, except Matt. But, he managed to ford the river and climb the 10-foot cliff, but was now falling behind. From here, back to the start/finish area, and one of the only aid stations on the first and second loops, was mostly fire roads, hard packed dirt with lots of scattered rocks, varying from pea-size to walnut size. Wonderful if you need to get a fire truck or rescue vehicle up here, but not that great for Running Barefoot.
The Second Loop
I finished the first loop with Maria and Jim, and like I said, this first loop, we ran twice. Maria and Jim left me far behind on the second loop. Each of the two times past the aid station near the start/finish line, I stopped to eat another banana, and grabbed a second banana to eat along the way. The second time around this loop, most of the snow was trampled down, and in fact, it was important to be extra careful, because a lot of places broke through to water and ice below. That is, there wasn’t actually solid ground underneath some of the snow. So, I spent a bit more time, running carefully through the snow patches this time around the loop. I did break through the hard packed snow in a few places, but I never got my shoes wet!
Rock Solid Trail
After finishing these first two loops, the trail went through some forests, and came out in what looked like a clearing, but was actually just part of the river wash. It was solid granite. Many people, none more than those trying to sell shoes, have tried, again and again, to convince me that today’s modern asphalt and concrete are too hard and unnatural for Running Barefoot. Perhaps they are just taking some of these “natural” rock-hard surfaces for granted, or was it granite?
Having been polished smooth by melting snow flooding it for several thousands of spring seasons, this granite was baby-bottom smooth, and was actually wonderful for Running Barefoot. Just be careful, cause, not only was it important to watch the footing running down this hill, but, since it was a race, we also had to keep an eye up in the branches for the orange ribbons marking the course.
One of our friend’s, shod Ken, would have beat 11-year old James, and won the 0-29 year age group himself, had he not found himself lost, and wasting about 20 minutes backtracking to get back on course. I guess that being able to follow the course, or not, is just one more aspect of trail races like this.
The Final Loop
OK, that was the “easy” part of the course. Now the final loop, covering the last 14 miles or so. I guess it wasn’t really all that much more difficult, perhaps just less interesting, or maybe, it was that I had already run nearly 20 miles, and not feeling as interested in the scenery as earlier in the morning.
Now the second place female, Sherri was passing me, and leaving me behind as she ran up the hill… I mean, mountain… which climbed another 1500 feet from the 5000 foot elevation at the start.
Getting Undressed for the Occasion
Anyway, I was starting to get hot, so I ducked into the forest to remove my long black tights, and long-sleeved shirt. I put my shorts back on, which I was wearing over my tights. I wrapped my extra clothes around my waist, and ran back out to the trail. Matt passed me, followed by Nancy, the third place female. I ran with Nancy for a while, until she sped up. OK, I guess maybe I was slowing down.
Now we came back out to another fire road, and one of the two other aid stations (besides the one at the start/finish), where I dropped off my extra clothes, and grabbed another banana or two.
More Gravel Fire Roads
The fire roads, were still that same kind of gravely stuff on hard packed sand. Still, it wasn’t any significant discomfort running barefoot, even on these rocky dirt roads. But I was definitely slowing down. It probably really was the previous 20+ miles I had already run. I’m pretty sure it was the previous 20 miles. Or maybe the altitude. No, I felt pretty much like this after 20 miles at lower altitudes too. Anyway, the miles or the altitude, something was slowing me down significantly, and, unlike my first marathon, 11 years ago, this time I couldn’t blame it on my shoes! I had to walk long and frequently. I’ve just got to face facts, I’m simply not a great marathoner, let alone ultra-runner.
Shadow of the Giants Loop
Mark, another of my fellow “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Trail Runners” caught up with me, and we played leap frog for several miles, walking and running, running and walking, then walking and running some more. It was good having company to chat with, until he left me in the dust up one of the many, many, very, very long, really long hills, right around the “Shadow of the Giants Loop”, which was an amazing side loop, adding about a mile to the course, but well worth it, as it circled through a “grove” of giant sequoia trees, thus giving this course, and specifically, this loop the name, “Shadow of the Giants”.
Just Another 1000 Feet Uphill
The course climbed another thousand feet or so, before the final 3-4 miles, which were nearly all steady down hill. Perfect for running fast, and I had done enough walking on those long uphills, that I really felt like running now! Maybe I could even catch Mark, even though he was probably a good half-hour ahead of me by now. Maybe, if he was crawling these last 3-4 miles…
Down Hill – Yeah!
I ran the final 3-4 miles at about a 7 minute/mile pace. Not bad, after running nearly 30 miles before! Ah, there’s that nice wooden foot bridge crossing the final stream, just a couple hundred meters from the finish line. There was Mark, and shod Ken, and a few other runners soaking their bare feet in the icy cold water. Hmm, that looked good. So I hurried and finished in 6:15, just 6 minutes behind Mark.
Soaking my Feet
I took off my shoes… wait a minute, I’m not wearing any shoes! Guess it was all those other runners, who, after finishing, were painfully peeling their shoes off their feet, revealing ugly feet, covered with blisters, and black toenails, that would fall off during the next couple of days, and toes forced into unnatural positions from constant pressure of shoes that conform more to fashion than to the shape of any natural human foot. It reminded me of my first and only marathon with shoes. Guess some people take a bit longer to learn, than others.
Well, anyway, I ran back to the stream to join the other foot-soakers, and dipped my feet in the water for several minutes.
Just Another 8K Road Race the Following Day
After the awards ceremony, I took a nap. Then drove four hundred miles to run an 8 kilometer race in San Diego the next morning! It was actually my first 8K race, so I set 2 personal records for the weekend!