The bare foot is the best running coach money can't buy.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

MistlefrostbittenTOE Half Marathon

I don't know any details yet other than I finished 1:36something. That's because I was in the emergency room during the award ceremony.

It turns out fellow Barefoot Josh was prophetic when he cautioned me about the weather. Wet and wind are not my friends.

I left the house with temps warmer than forecast - around 42 degrees, but raining heavily - wearing thin socks inside my gortex socks inside my aqua socks. It was a little tighter than I thought it would be. That thought was nagging me the whole drive into Winston-Salem. It was really bugging me.

I picked up my shirt and number and went back to the car. "I'm wearing the Vibram's," I decided. So I make the switcheroo. Decision made.

At the starting line waiting for the gun, the Vibram's got soaked. Which made my feet cold. "Well that sort of defeats the purpose," I figured. So I took them off.

The race went perfectly. My left foot wasn't tight, my hip was fine. My toes felt a little cold, but not as cold as my gloved fingers. After the first mile at 8 minutes on the nose, I ticked off the remaining 12 at a steady 7:15-7:30 pace. I had enough to pick it up at the end. I was exhausted, but very happy with my effort. Until I looked at the bottom of my right foot. I want to be honest and forthright about my barefoot running experience, but I don't think I'll be posting any pictures of the foot anytime soon. Just google "frostbite," if you're into that sort of thing.

Fortunately I parked right next to the finish line. I got in my car and gingerly put a couple pairs of socks, stepped in my sandals (I brought everything today) and hobbled to the ambulance. They said "yup, it's frostbite. Do you want us to take you to the hospital, or can you drive?" Is it that bad? I panicked to myself. "We have to ask." I drove (my car, not the ambulance).

You get funny looks when you tell a nurse that you have frostbite from running 13 miles on a cold wet December day. Sort of a cross between No Shit Sherlock and I Might Need To Sedate This Lunatic. When the doctor showed up, he asked my which injuries were from the race and which existed prior. He (understandably) assumed that a barefoot runner would have messed up feet. "Doc, my feet were beautiful this morning." Those words hit me like a brick. Especially the past tense-ness of it.

An excruciatingly painful warm foot-bath, some bandages, a tetanus shot, some Advil, and a miserable drive later, I'm home. It doesn't hurt too badly, although I almost wish it did. I assumed it had to be freezing to get frostbite. Plus, I recently ran ten miles in similar conditions, and my feet were fine. Iris (the wife) thinks I might have started the damage on my very cold short run yesterday. Who knows. All I know is 1. I can't run for one, maybe two months 2. When I can run again, it can't be in the cold 3. My base training for Blue Ridge is over, and 4. I'm feeling very depressed and embarrassed and stupid.

So there you have it. After 490 barefoot miles, I'm done for the year. At mile 477 the feet looked and felt great. Since I can do little else but sit for a while, hopefully I'll start posting some art.

That is, until I cut off my hand in a watercoloring accident.


  1. Maybe plastic ziploc baggies next time? Hope you feel better soon man!

  2. First, I am really impressed with your half marathon time!! That is incredible. Really well done!! Second, I am so so sorry about the frostbite. I grew up in Wisconsin and like to claim I had frostbite several times, but probably never did. However, my near-frostbite expereinces are enough to leave tears in my eyes when I think about it. So I can only imagine how your poor toes are. Third, can't wait to see the art. You are a runner for life, and a few months off is nothing in the larger picture. So let the toes heal. Maybe draw them?

  3. Holy crap that sucks. I also didn't know you could get frostbite without frost. You shouldn't feel stupid because you ran in the cold before. No running for 2 months is bad, but at least they are winter months. Could you wear shoes until it heals?
    In any a case, a 1:36 in bare feet is awe-inspiring.

  4. Oh no! Sorry to hear about the bad end, but the finish time was great. On my last few runs, I know that if I would have gone that distance, I'd be facing the same disaster too.

  5. Josh - this is heartbreaking, just because you were kicking so much a** with your training and running times. Don't feel stupid... I wouldn't have thought you could get frostbite in above freezing temps AND I would have thought the running would keep your blood moving and warm enough to prevent that. Feel free to come use our stationary bike for some cardio work until you can run again.

  6. RunnerDude: Ha - I could store my feet next to the blueberries.

    Shannon: I grew up in WI too - Menomonee Falls, just NW of Milwaukee. Ironically, we moved to the south in part to get away from cold winters. Here's my art site:

    AC: I'm just trying to catch you, dude, so we can race together and hear comments like "Did you see that guy? He has no shoes!" and "Did you see that other guy? He had no PANTS!"

    Fellow Barefoot Josh: I wish this lesson were less painful.

    Dena: Your offer sounds much better than the wallowing in self pity I had in mind. Thanks.

  7. Ahh, Menomonee Falls! Did you know Ernie von Schledorn personally?

  8. Who do you know wants to buy a car?!?

  9. main street in menomonee falls...
    And where did you go to high school? I went to Pius.

  10. Milwaukee High School of the Arts. I was a stage kid. That show Glee hits a little too close to home for me to enjoy. We also had the distinction of being a block away from Jeffery Dahmer's apt. I knew a guy who toked up with him in a Taco Bell bathroom. I think that almost makes me a celebrity.

  11. Absolutely!! I grew up on Washington Blvd, not too far away. Did you by any chance know Jacob Pfeiffer? He was/is a friend of mine. I went to 8th Street Middle school and I would sometimes ride the city bus home with all the School of the Arts students... What are you and Iris doing for New Year's Eve? Anthony and I are having a party...

  12. That blows - the toes. THat rocks - the finishing time. I appreciate yu doing this - now I do not have to find out for myself about running barefoot in cold weather. Not gonna do it - wouldn't be prudent...

  13. Shannon: I knew who he was, but we didn't know each other (I don't think; I've blocked out much of my youth. For my own good, probably). He was an art student, I was in theater (or theatre, as I spelled it those days). The two groups didn't mix much. If he remembers me, he would say I was the guy always singing show tunes in the hallways.

    Crap. I thought I blocked that one out.

    Jamoosh: Some people can do it. Trouble is, how do you know if you're not one of them without risking damage?

  14. My high school years sucked too, and I also can't stop singing that car tune song. So I am very sorry for bringing either of them up. I am full of bad ideas.

  15. Congrats on an awesome 1/2 finish time! Sorry to hear about the frosytbite. I wish you a speedy recovery.

  16. Ouch!

    Congrats on the awesome time. I wish you a very speedy recovery.

    Even though I've done a handful of cold runs over the years, my experience of cold and wet is painful. For some reason, that combination can be very unpleasant. But I think my feet react a lot different to cold when I'm racing, compared to my regular runs. I am a long ways from figuring this out.