My First 10-k!


We were in Iowa for our niece Stephanie’s wedding.  At the pre-wedding reception Friday night, I heard that as part of PATOOT, there was going to be a 5k and a 10k run the next day.

What’s PATOOT?

My wife’s hometown, Peterson, Iowa celebrates PATOOT or Peterson Annual Trip on Old Tractors every year. Locals bring their antique tractors to Main Street and then ride them in a parade around the community and on nearby back roads.

 “What the heck!” I thought, “I’ve never run in an official 10k race before-why not do it?”  

I was planning on doing 5 to 10 mile training run anyway; I decided to do the race instead. The proceeds go to benefit the local X-country team.

 Since last week, I’ve been running in my new Vibram Five Finger KSOs on trails and gravel roads. My feet are slowing getting used to running without my toes scrunched together. I love how the KSOs allow me to sense the ground below me but without the pain of going completely barefoot. The best I can describe how they feel is: they are custom removable calluses for your feet. You can feel everything, every pebble and rock- but it doesn't hurt.

I only have had some trace soreness as the muscles of my feet and ankles adapt to this new way of running. I plan on writing a more full prduct review in a future post, once I run some more miles in them. 

I was curious how the KSOs might handle on a paved road.  Would my feet hold up? Would it hurt?

10k or 6.2 miles is normally barely enough for me to get warmed up. If the KSOs didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just slow down, stop or even walk if I had to.  Recalling my recent dismal performance at Bighorn, I thought dejectly, “of course, your pretty good at that.”

Most of the other runners were kids in their 20s or less. There were only a handful of us old farts over 40.  We started at 8AM and the young speed rabbits sprinted off. After running so many ultramarathons, it is difficult for me to begin a race quickly, even when I know I’m only going a few miles. It takes me at least four or five miles before my muscles are even loosened up.

Slowly I passed several people as I found my stride.

A woman commented about how hard these hills are going to be. I smiled and glanced back, “These definitely  aren’t hills!” I said, thinking about the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming last week.

One thing about KSOs, they force you to run with proper technique. No ground slapping or pounding the pavement with them.  Doing that would chatter your teeth, rattle your brain, bruise your heels  and shake every other part of your body.

On the other hand, running shoes allow you to run sloppy, land heel first and without paying attention to how you are landing. You might get away with being sloppy for awhile. However, even in shoes, after long distances such poor running technique will catch up with you.

I tried to stay on the soft shoulder when I could. When some of the gravel became too sharp, I moved temporarily onto the asphalt. The painted smooth white line on the hard asphalt felt good underfoot.

As we headed out of town, I saw a young kid in red shorts a few hundred yards ahead of me. He was pushing on and moving fast, “there’s no way for me to catch him,” I thought.  We turned around at the 2 mile turnaround and headed back to town. Everyone else was in back of us and falling further behind.

With no one else near me, I decided to ease off on my pace a bit. Why rush when there’s no reason?

We passed back through town and I was surprised to when the kid with red shorts suddenly came up from behind me. I don’t know where he had gone, maybe a bathroom break? Maybe he had gotten side-tracked and missed a turn? His face held an expression of pain. I told him, “Looking good!” as he passed me but he could only muster a weak, “thanks” in return.

He moved ahead and even stopped to walk for a minute. As I caught up with him again, he started running.

I wondered, “Should I stay close behind and try fighting him for first place?”

“Nah, why would I want to do that? I’m having a really good day, I might as well enjoy it,” realizing that if I did try to race him to the finish, I’d be hurting at least as much as he was.

Go on; call me lazy if you wish.  I don’t mind pain during ultras but this was just a training jog for me.

I thought, “He obviously wants this more than I do.”  So I let him keep the few hundred yard lead he’d built on me.

As we turned around again and headed towards the finish, I saw the rest of the pack far behind us. I smiled, gave a “thumbs up” sign and shouted “Looking good! Run strong!”  They smiled back at me.

I don’t know if encouraging other runners is proper 10k etiquette but I don’t care.

I am and will always be an ultramarathoner at heart; it does not matter whether I am running in a 10k or a 100k.  Ultrarunners encourage all other runners whether we/they are in first or last place. We are all brothers and sisters; we’re in this together. We do not compete against one another but rather with each other. Ultrarunning is about the experience, facing adversity, learning about yourself and surpassing your limitations. Where you end up placing at the finish line does not matter: to finish is to win. It’s as simple as that.

Not far from the finish, I saw two 5k-ers walking. I slowed enough to talk with them briefly. None of the other 10k-ers was even close to me, so I chatted for a moment before I floated on to the finish.

Even though I had no reason to doubt it during most of the race, I was still surprised when I finished 2nd overall!

I prefer trails over roads and ultras over races on roads, but I definitely see the draw of these shorter races. After this race, I felt energized rather than exhausted as I am after an ultra. I had plenty of energy to enjoy the wedding and visiting with family. If I had run an ultra, I would have been too tired to do much more than sit, rest and eat.

The others were curious about my footwear. After the race I explained what Vibram Five Fingers are and what my limited experience with them thus far has been. My feet felt great after this, even despite running almost entirely on pavement. I only have a slight hot spot at the base of my big toe. That amazes me!

Perhaps running shoes are an unnecessary luxury as so many barefoot runners claim they are?

Perhaps the need for motion control, arch support and cushioning is a myth perpetuated by running shoe manufacturers to sell more shoes?

The race organizers and 5kers who were already finished, commented on how I had jogged in effortlessly not even breathing hard. They were right; I guess that's what happens when you train for a 50 mile race and go only 18 miles. Although I had run this 10k faster than I might for a usual weekend training run, I certainly didn’t give it my all- this was just a Saturday morning jog for me.

I wonder:  could I have finished first had I tried harder? I don’t know. However, I do know that that young guy in the red shorts wanted it a heck-of-a-lot worse than I did- so he absolutely deserved it.

 My performance at this race was a complete surprise to me. I definitely prefer surprises such as this where I do better than expected compared to the opposite kind of surprise  as happened last weekend at Bighorn 50 mile.  

I feel that I’ve redeemed myself, at least just a little, by how well I did at this race even if it wasn’t an ultra.  After every DNF, the demons of self-doubt creep into your mind. Are you really cut out to be a runner? Who do you think you are entering these races? 

Having many more miles under my feet, the sting of a DNF is not as sharp as it used to be but it’s still there.  It doesn’t disappear until you redeem yourself in another race.

After this run, I smiled to myself and thought, “Gosh, I really AM a runner after all!”

Until next time my friends: run WELL and run STRONG!

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