Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rival: Barefoot Josh

Josh, prancing his way to a sub 3:00 in the Tulip Marathon
“Whats’s up with this weirdo?”
This is my initial reaction to seeing Barefoot Josh for the first time.
It was at the 2009 Triple Lakes Trail race, and he was there wearing long baggy shorts, a long baggy shirt that said “will run for pancakes”, and was shuffling around in what looked like slippers.

 “Is he here to run the race?” I asked myself, “Or paint one of the buildings? Because if he is running, he is doing everything WRONG

 I, on the other hand, was doing everything RIGHT:
  • I had on short shorts and no shirt to reduce weight.
  • My hat was on backwards to reduce wind drag. 
  • I had my GPS watch with the course map programmed in. 
  • I had my brand new $110 Brooks Cascadia 5 Trail Shoes.
I was a trail running machine.
Hell, my monstrous new shoes had a “Ballistic Rock Shield”; I was fricking BULLET PROOF.
I wasn’t just going to run on the trail, I was going to stomp it into submission.

In case anyone tried to shoot at my feet

Well, it didn’t go as planned.
Instead of helping, my GPS watch actually took me OFF COURSE.
My feet ended up bruised, not from the trail but from the shoes themselves. They were so thick they felt unstable, like my foot was sloshing side to side. So I kept tying them tighter and tighter, trying to fix the problem, but only succeeded in bruising my instep.

I ended up 2 minutes slower than the year before, and felt like the one who got stomped. I hated my new expensive monster shoes. Instead of helping, they felt like they were getting in the way. But they were supposed to be great shoes, designed by trail running god Scott Jurek. It didn’t make sense.

Walks on water, floats in the air
Afterwards, I discovered Josh’s blog and that he ran the trail race in aqua socks. I was amazed.
He was slower than me, and fell down a lot, but that was just inexperience. The amazing thing was that the roots and rocks didn’t bother the bottom of his feet.

He didn’t need 2 inches of foam, rubber, and ballistic rock shield. And he wasn’t some mythical Tarahumara, just some regular guy. Maybe my instincts were right. Maybe I need less shoe, and not more. Maybe Scott Jurek is an idiot.

He just can't finish the race like a normal person
So at first, I found Josh inspiring. Though his blog was sometimes painful to read with all of the horribly bad puns (are there any other kind?). Shannon likes the puns, but she is easily amused.

It was sometime in late 2010 that I began to hate Barefoot Josh. Over the year, he had gotten much faster and was running more than me. He would post something like:
“Just ran 20 miles at a 7 minute pace and feel great!” 
It was the “feel great" part that irked me, because I had just run 10 miles at an 8 minute pace and felt terrible. My training method of staring at my Garmin, trying to make the average pace number go down, was just wearing me out. While his artsy fartsy, touchy feely, new age hippy training methods were producing amazing results. I found that really annoying.


As he got faster, I become more broken.
In our last race, the Runway 5K last May, I barely edged him out by a few seconds, preserving a perfect 7-0 record against him.
Shortly after, however, my knee was completely shot and I could not run at all.
He went on to run a sub 5:00 minute mile, something I have never come close to, and a sub 3 hour marathon, something I have been failing at for years.

Though I had never lost to him in a race, I felt as though he had defeated me. It turned out he was doing everything right, and I was the one doing everything wrong.

Hopefully I can deflate that huge head of his
After several painful and failed attempts to start running again in 2011, I finally realized what Josh’s secret training method was: Patience.

Patience lets you take a day, week, or month off, confident you'll come back stronger. Patience lets you run slow today, so you can run your fastest next week. And patience is something barefoot running teaches so well.

So I decided to beat Josh with own methods.
I started over. For my first run, I ran barefoot for one third of a mile.
Next I ran a slow half mile in my Merrell trail gloves.
Slowly, I am building back up, patiently. But it hasn't been easy.

Since I was starting over, I had to sit out my favorite race, something I look forward to all year: The Umstead Marathon. Instead, I did volunteer duty on my bike.
Adding insult to injury, I had to watch Josh run by me on his way to earning a plaque. As he went by he threw his disgusting sweat soaked hat at me. He said something like "Here, take my disgusting sweat soaked hat".

The gauntlet, or hat in this case, has been thrown.

Rivalry Stats
Total Races vs7
Record vs (W-L)7-0
Greatest Victory2011 Umstead Marathon (-1:04:42)
Worst Defeat2012 Umstead Marathon  (DNS)
Next RaceThe Scream Half Marathon , July 14, 2012
Current StatusUnderdog

The Scream
The scream is going to be very difficult. I will have to be in the best shape of my life to keep up with him.
But if I can, I'll make sure my hat is good and sweaty when I pass him at the end...

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