This race was to be my coming out so to speak, it was suppose to be my sub 2:00 barefoot half marathon, I was feeling confident, strong and ready to totally destroy my previous personal best at this distance, it was going to wish it have given up the PB title long ago. Yes, I know this is a bit of a touchy subject for me, I thought I was going to get the elusive sub 2 hour run last year, and if you count the first half of the Bismark Marathon I ran last year, I would have it. But that is just not the way this guy's bare feet turn over, it had to be an official Half Mary, so I could get the official time, something to look back at and tell the grand kids, yes sirree, 'I ran that half marathon in under 2 hours in my bare feet cause back then I was so tough I didn't need shoes.' Hell, everybody needs a "I had to walk 13.1 miles to school when I was your age through snow and rain in nothing but a pair of rubber boots." story to tell the grand kids and that will be mine.
Anyway, I digress...........
It was a dark and stormy night........... no that's not right,
Let's try this again........
This was going to be a special event, a friend was running her first half marathon, I was going break the 2:00 hour mark, Nicole and Gail were going to run their longest run in a month, some of my Running Clinic peeps (Ramona and Sarah) were going to surprise themselves with a fantastic run and finish and some lucky female runners got a sneak peek under my kilt as the wind flipped it up while I was going over the train bridge, oh yeah it was also my last race as a 40 year old. All and all everybody got what they wanted and some got a bit more than they bargained for except for maybe one item (officially and no I not talking about the kilt).
There was a great turn out for the race, as per every year it sells out usually around the February or March area, now not everybody shows up but there was between 1900 and 2000 runners this year. The weather was perfect for this type of event, overcast with a light wind and about 10 degrees, great running conditions and primed for some PB's to fall for sure. We got the customary fly by, by the Canadian Forces Hercules, and it was timed out perfectly for the start of the race, also a sign of a good race director, attention to details.
A Canadian Forces Hercules does a fly by to signal the start of the race
As I noted above, a good friend was running her first half marathon, it was also her longest run ever, she had never gone over the 9 mile mark (and this was done on a treadmill), so this was going to be an event to remember for her. Way to go Les.
Gail, Nicole and Leslie before the run posing in front of the WPS Chopper, Air Wolf bite my dust
As per my typical fashion, I started at the back of the pack which ensured me going out slower at the start so I can get my legs warmed up. Without the blood flowing freely through my legs and feet, I have a hard time maintaining a quicker pace. Basically I start slow and ramp up to my 8:00 to 9:00 min/mile pace so I can maintain it, if I start out at the quicker pace my legs just don't respond as well and my time suffers. Of course, I was getting a few looks and comments with my attire, I guess my blue City Park Runners Singlet was clashing with my red kilt and bare feet, I didn't think so but obviously with all the whispering and pointing going on that supposed fashion faux pa must of been it. I zigged and zagged through the slower runners, getting myself bottle necked a few times but was able to get clear by the time we reached the back half of the Formal Gardens and the exit from the park. I ran with Julio for a couple of minutes, said hi to some other runners that I knew and ran behind the 'Super Friends' prior to ramping up to my 8:45 comfortable pace and heading out onto Wellington Crescent. I was feeling very comfortable as I continued to pass other runners, answered questions like, "What ya wearing under that kilt?", "Holy crap how can you run without shoes?" and my favorite, "Where are you hiding your bagpipes?" Of course the answers flowed out to the tune of, "Regimental, baby, regimental", "Holy crap, how can you run in those shoes?" and "Only the wife will find that out, sorry"
I guess I was creating a bit of a stir out there on the course, not quite sure why, I was just running my race, and hoping that the running gods were on my side this time. Everything felt fantastic as I passed by another runner in a kilt (he was wearing shoes though), my feet were responding well, my breathing was good and steady, everything was just falling into place. I turned up towards the train bridge and across the Assiniboine River on the gravel path to some ooo's and ahhhs and Kim yelling 'Go Barefoot Bob', I guess this caused a bit of a reaction from the other spectators around her, I just waved, fist pumped and carried on. There was a Military Band playing the bagpipes and drums at this point and I start hooting and hollering that they rocked as I went by. I was in front of a group of women runners as I hit the train bridge and just as I got to the middle, a nice gust of wind took my kilt and lifted it above my waist. Well I am quite sure they got a good view of my bare buns of steel before I was able to corral it back down. If anybody was looking behind them who was in front of me at the time, they would of gotten a real sight for sore eyes. Had to slow down a bit going over the bridge to hold my kilt down, but once I was over it was off to the races again. Going through the neighbourhoods is always a lot of fun as people come out of their houses to cheer the runners on, this always brings a smile to my face. I got quite a few great comments through this area, especially from a older gentleman (must of been at least 70), who yelled out "Now that's the way to run, bare feet, that's the way i used to run." I gave him the thumbs up and sped up with a little more gitty up in my step than before.
As I worked my way onto Portage Avenue, getting closer to the half way point, I took a quick look at my Garmin, and I was still under a hour, 55:24 to be exact, my only thought was here comes my goal time, and that smile creeped across my face once again. I saw Karen and Vicki cheering everybody on along Portage and Vicki got this photo of me
About the half way point of the WPS Half Marathon, I was having a great time
I was making pretty good time and as we swerved back into the neighborhoods just south of Portage prior to heading over the Moray Bridge to Charleswood and I was feeling good, too good in fact. It was just going so well, that you knew something was going to happen to say hello, are you with me. Well it happened, just as I got over the Moray Bridge, my stomach started to cramp and my bowels (I know too much information, but I'm going to say it anyway so you get the whole experience) started to rumble. First is was a little bit, then the tremors turned into full blown volcanic explosions of gas. I had to stop running for fear that my bowels would just let go.... Luckily I didn't have to worry about messing up my shorts, because I wasn't wearing any. So I walked for a minute or two to get everything back under control, and when I was sure I had just that. I started running again in search of the elusive and recluse port-a-potty. Did you ever notice when you really need one, there is none to be found, I was hoping that there would be one stationed at the turn-a-round on Roblin, but of course there was not. I had to run fast and quick all the way back across the bridge and onto Portage and west to just past the Robins before I found one. To make matters worse, it was occupied, seriously of all the luck. So there I was, dancing around in my bare feet and a kilt like a Highland Dancer on crack, waiting for the nice runner to finish up before I could get in. While I was waiting, I had a great conversation with some of the volunteers about my running style and this helped take my mind off the 'Thing That Should Not Be Talked About', oh ok my EBS (Erupting Bowel Syndrome).
After perfecting some pirouettes, side leaps and chassa's (those would be ballet terms for the uncultured or those that do not have access to Google), the bathroom door opened up and I sprinted in before she could let go of the door with a quick thanks.
It was a 'lightening' experience as I finished up in there as quickly as possible. Damage included over 4 minutes of non-running or non-moving forward time plus my unwanted walk break earlier. How the hell was I going to make up over 5 minutes of unexpected delays and still make it in under 2 hours. Well, I figured I would have to pick up the pace and see what my legs had left in me. So I straightened my kilt, brushed the gravel off my feet and set out with a determination I don't remember having for quite a while. I took off down Portage to the turn off into Woodhaven and screamed by a couple of really surprised police officers who were directing traffic and cheering on the runners. I must of looked quite interesting running towards them with a scowl on my face and dressed in a kilt. I smiled quickly said thanks for coming out and made the tight turn into Woodhaven. I will be blunt, the streets of Woodhaven suck, the asphalt is all broken up, there are more uneven surfaces and the roads don't look like they are ever cleaned or swept. Basically a runners potential nightmare for sprained ankles or twisted knees, but to run barefoot through here is so much fun but dangerous. You have to be on top of your game and be able to change direction at a moments notice to avoid a crumbling piece of asphalt. So as I sprinted through the mine field affectionately called Woodhaven Blvd leading to Assiniboine Avenue where my hasher friend Chilly is waiting with his ever present Beer Stop. Well let me say, I felt like a quick chug of beer would give me that extra bit of umph to get the rest of the race done, so when I saw Chilly in the distance my spirits picked up. Then I realized he didn't have his cooler out, I did not see any beer just Chilly standing there with a Beer Stine filled with 'TEA', what the hell is that...... wait is that a police officer just standing down from Chilly........ oh, this could be why there is no foamy nectar of the gods present today. Oh well, On On. So with a quick hello to Chilly, I turned left onto Assiniboine and tore up the road towards the last few miles of the race.
Me on the return trip up Portage Ave to the finish
I was still feeling good when we crossed under the Moray Bridge and through the curvy wall thingy that lead back to Pinewood Drive and then back onto Portage for the last sprint to the finish at Assiniboine Park. This was where I met up with Connie (who I had the pleasure of running with last year at the Ted's Run For Literacy which is taking place again this year see here) and her friend and for some reason her name is not coming to me. We went back and forth with them in the lead and then me passing them and then back the other way for most of the way down Portage. At this point I let them go with a quick 'Don't let the barefoot runner beat you now' comment. They both had picked up their pace and I was wavering a bit, not a lot but enough. I did have enough to kick it into another gear once I got to the foot bridge that crossed to the park and made the last turn and .10 miles to the finish line. I am sure I looked pretty determined as I crossed the line. I looked at my Garmin and it read 1:58:36, woo hoo I did it. But wait, I needed to check the official time when they print it off and set it up at the Duck Pond. So now that my race was over, I waited for Nicole to come across the finish line and hopefully get a good picture. But as luck would have it, I missed her somehow in the throngs of runners and spectators so the picture was not to be. But Nicole had a great time at just over 2:11:23 just a few seconds off her personal best, Gail ran it in 2:10:51 and Leslie who was running her first half marathon finished in a quick 2:52:00, not bad for someone who could barely run a year ago.
But getting back to my time, it was not posted at the Duck Pond in the results when I checked later, could not figure that out but assumed there had been a problem with my timing chip or something. Oh well, I guess I would have to wait for the website time to see what I ended up with. Well I found out later that night and I was not to impressed, the final official results had me listed at 2:00:54, all I could think was WTF. My Garmin had me at just over 1:58 and they had me listed at over 2 minutes more. The only thing I could assume is that the time they gave me was the time I finished at when I crossed the line. That would make sense because it was about 2 minutes before I got to the start line by starting at the back. Son-of-a-bitch, so close to that elusive sub 2:00 official time, I guess I will have to give it another go in the fall at the WFPS Half Marathon.
Once again, another great event by the WPS organizers, hats off to them and looking forward to next year.