Barefoot Rick's Psycho Psummer 50K and/or 15 Mile Trail Run/Hike/Walk
July 14, 2007

I decided to sit down as soon as I ate some lunch and put this story to type while the pain and memories were still fresh! I suppose my goal to complete my first 50K trail run (barefoot or not!) in hindsight was probably a bit ambitious, but as they say, I gave it the ol' college try. Seeing as how my longest trail run to date was the the sister race to this one back in February -- the Psycho WyCo 10 Miler that I completed in ice and snow and a balmy 15 degrees -- a 50K (31 mile) run was probably beyond my ability on this day. Jaunting over (and under) logs, sharp rocks, up and down vertical trails where you have to grab trees to steady your downhill and to pull you uphill, and a surprise 2 miles of layered gravel was an overly ambitious goal for this barefoot runner. I'm not saying that other barefoot runners would not have been able to do the 50K, however I know my limitations and I was fine with doing just the one mile loop of 15 miles on this hot, sunny day in Eastern Kansas.

I arrived at Wyandotte County Lake at about 7:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. start. Getting out of truck I hear this familiar voice say, "Hey, you can't park there, that's reserved for guys who wear shoes" (or something like that). It was renowned cyclist and barefoot runner extraordinaire Byron Rieper. (See picture to the right) He was wearing some funky looking shoes he called Nike Free, or something like that. (Kinda like after I quit drinking, I quit keeping up with all the new brews -- same way with all these fancy new shoes). Anyway, Byron said he was getting ready for the JFK 50K and wanted to do this 50K as a training run. (Byron had not ran this course before. He was in for an eye-opener!).

We chatted for awhile and with others as we waited for the start. Race Director "Bad Ben" Holmes got everyone to the starting area shortly before 8 a.m. and gave us all our trail instructions. We were off at 8ish, and immediately went into climbing mode along a narrow bridle trail. Then we walked a bit, then we ran a bit. It was pretty congested the first mile or so. Once it cleared out, I was running for the most part the next several miles. In places, however, it was beyond my ability as a barefoot runner to run where the rocks were very sharp and the downhills and uphills were very very steep with lots of limestone. I knew that if I went too fast, I would definitely injure myself to the point of having to be gurneyed off the course by the medical staff. I wasn't concerned about how fast I was going, but I did want to run as much as I could.

Which sedge ways into my creeping doubt as to whether I would stop after the 15 mile loop and do another loop to complete the 50K. At about mile 9 or 10, I was feeling pretty good and the soles of my feet were good to the most part. Then came the gravel! I'm not talking about crushed gravel, or gravel that has been pushed down by traffic, but this was loose limestone gravel for over two miles! This, I could not run on but had to walk most of the way. So, after this section I was having serious doubts about another loop and completing the 50K. I had passed Byron up a few miles before and I was wondering how he was doing, but of course he had his Nike Free shoes on. Nonetheless, they weren't much protection as trail running shoes certainly would have offered more stability for a shod runner.

The last 3 to 4 miles the soles of my feet were getting mighty tender. I had stubbed one of my toes earlier and it was throbbing a little, but mainly my soles were just tender from all that crushed rock I had traversed. Anyway, I walked/ran/hiked the rest of the way in, taking time to stop and squish my feet in wet muddy places that I would find on the trail that the horses had muddied. THAT felt awesome! Finally, I made it to the clearing and the downhill section where I could see the Finish Line. Ran by some geese down by the lake, snapped their picture, and then finished running over to the finisher's chute. I informed the timekeeper that I had become a 15 Mile participant as I crossed the finish line and they hung a medal around my neck. My Garmin showed 3:35:40 -- a blinding pace of 14:23 per mile!

(Left) A steep vertical descent with horse gifts at the bottom! (Right) Man, that mud felt awesome!

(Left) - "Honkers" near the finish line (Right) Just one small contusion in 15 miles where I stubbed my toe

More Pics!
Courtesy of Dick Ross

Shortly, after I see Byron finish up through the chute. I ask him, "Aren't you going to do the 50K?" "Nope", he says. We both agreed that one loop was enough as it had kicked our butts. Byron has a triathlon to do next weekend, so he needs to save some "in the tank" for his big event next week.

So, once again I am humbled by the WyCo trails of Eastern Kansas. This was a first for me in that I ran my longest barefoot trail run of 15 miles. My deepest regards to Ben Holmes and all the Kansas City Trail Nerds for putting on this tough event. I have a lot of respect for these guys and gals who get out there and run these trails as a steady "diet". As for me, maybe someday a barefoot 50K will be doable. It was not to be on July 14, 2007. Others may have been able to do 50K barefoot on this course on this hot, summer day but not this barefoot runner. When the trail becomes more walking and hiking than running, it quits being as much fun for me. Challenge is important, but fun is still my main reason to run. Fifteen miles was fun -- another 15 would have been otherwise on this particular day.

Having a Blessed Barefoot Blast,

Barefoot Rick

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