A conversation I had this past weekend reminded me at once how deliberate and bizarre our sport is. Finishing up a shakedown run on the afternoon before the Ghost Town 38.5 I remarked to Tim Long that this is the foot-trashing phase in my preparation for Western States. After a few comments about taking a hammer to my feet to really seal the deal I realized that truly this is a strange undertaking in which I’m involved.
For the past few years I have intentionally run all of my runs in January and February in all of my worn-out shoes. Switching shoes almost every day I have pulled out some of my favorites from past races to pound the pavement or run hill repeats just to feel the pain in my feet. I know to some this may seem weird but to me the feet are where it all begins and ends. Sure, there is the blister issue but a couple soaks in a creek followed by a 15 miler on dry, dusty trails will take care of that in a hurry. Plus, blisters are no reason to stop running.
No, more to the point, is the way running 100 miles weakens the feet. All those little muscles and bones that make up the foot need to be strong and tough and tried and true come race day. Hence, beat them up in January and February and they’ll be ready for the pounding in June with new shoes on fresh trails.
I know this may seem completely out there but it works for me. I’ve still got three more pairs of worn out shoes to go and it’s not even February. A couple of them have holes in them and the third has a patch on the heel that is about ready give out. These are the shoes in which I’ll pay my dues. I’ll feel those crunching bones when I get up in the morning and my heels will ache until lunch. But then, when things get rolling in March and April I’ll be ready to go. Pay now or pay later.
Finally, there is absolutely, positively no science to back this up. For all I know this technique is totally stupid. But, for the past five years it has worked for me. So, if you’re worried about trashed, tired, blistered feet bringing you down at Western States (if stomach issues or quads don’t do it first) give this technique a try.