Shoe rotation + duct tape = no blisters
The most amazing thing about Saturday’s 50-mile run/walk is that we didn’t get any blisters. None. Zero. We think this is because we changed shoes every 10 miles and put duct tape on any “hot spots.”
“If we put any more duct tape on our feet, we won’t even need shoes,” we joked.
The tape stayed put better than ordinary Band-aids and provided a nice durable barrier. It’s a bit tricky to remove, though, taking a piece of Traci’s skin off with it.
The shoe bank
As for our shoes, we each had one new pair — my Newton Gravitys and Traci’s Brooks Pure Flow — plus last year’s shoes and a pair of grizzled veterans in the mix. We even traded shoes at one point (which coincided with the beginning of my ankle pain, perhaps coincidentally). If we’d lasted to the 60-mile mark, Traci was even planning to try a pair of non-athletic shoes she wears at the hospital.
Here’s a recap of each 10-mile “bite of the elephant,” shoe by shoe:
Miles 1-10: We started at 10:20 a.m., running the first 3 miles of a 10-mile lap from Traci’s house into Ouabache State Park and back, then walked 2, ran 2, and walked the last 3 because we didn’t want to burn excessive energy running against the 20 mph+ winds. It was sunny and in the 50s most of the day, and we were protected from the wind while inside the park. I wore last year’s lightly padded, beat-up pair of Saucony Kinvara 3s, which were fine for the first lap but I knew wouldn’t offer much protection the rest of the way. Traci wore her newest pair of shoes, Brooks Pure Flow, which look cool but haven’t won her over yet. We did this first lap in almost exactly 2 hours. Traci applied her first layer of duct tape during our 10-minute pit stop. (Break times were included in our overall elapsed time for this event.)
Miles 11-20: For Lap 2, I switched into my brand new pair of Newton Gravitys and instantly appreciated the superior padding and roomier toe space. Traci donned her last year’s Brooks Pure Cadence, which she prefers to her newer pair (maybe she’s just not used to them yet.) We ran the first mile, walked 1, ran 1, walked 2, ran 1, walked 1, ran 1, walked 2. The middle run was tough, but primarily because we were going too fast. We slowed down on the next run and it felt much better – almost a relief, really, to move our muscles in a different way than when we’re walking. We saw what may have been our last snake of the year on Garter Snake Alley, a sluggish-moving 2-footer that was reluctant to leave its spot on the lukewarm pavement. (For once Traci was more unnerved by this than I was, but that’s because I saw it first and had more time to react.) I thought I might have calf pain from the Newtons, but we were still feeling pretty good after 20, finishing again in just over 2 hours . This time, I decided to duct tape the wide part of both feet during our pit stop.
Miles 21-30: This was our third and final lap to the state park, because with the time change the sun would be setting upon our return. Traci’s husband Gunnar and her older 2 kids, Madison and Mason, rode their bikes with us in the park and had fun exploring while we walked and ran (just 3 miles this time, all in 1-mile increments.) Dad kept texting us from our nephew’s football game (he’s a wide receiver at Franklin College) for mileage updates, and it was fun to report getting to the marathon mark a little after 4 p.m. … Our support crew biked ahead, and when we came out over the bridge Madison came running up to report she’d just called 911 after they’d found a woman struggling to crawl up the river bank after a suicide attempt. Gunnar helped her up the bank — “She was all muddy,” he said afterward — and tried to calm her down while Madison called the police, but the woman got spooked and zoomed off in her car before the police arrived. We never did hear how that turned out. … We got back to Traci’s a little after 5 p.m., where Bob had delivered our kids and pizza. We each ate a couple of slices and tended to our duct taped feet during our longest break to date, about half an hour. I switched out of my beatup but rejuvenated Kinvara 2s, which held up favorably and felt comfortable but just a bit tight, due to the fact that our feet were starting to swell. Traci had worn her oldest pair of shoes as well, a 10-year-old pair of Nikes that she reported felt better than either of her newer, more expensive Brooks.
Miles 31-40: Now that it was dark, we switched to a set of five 2-mile laps around the Bluffton schools complex. We ran ¼ mile on each end of the rectangle, giving us 2.5 miles of running during this segment. Initally the running segments felt pretty good, giving our muscles a different feel. But we’d decided to each wear the other’s newest pair of shoes for this segment, and while Traci didn’t seem to be having any trouble with my Newtons – despite my warnings that they were hard to get used to – her Brooks were giving me fits. The right shoe, in particular, felt really weird just below my ankle, and it felt worse every time we ran one particular stretch of the section. Finally I realized we were running on sidewalk. Concrete. “Our feet are taking a ridiculous pounding here!” I yelped. “What are we doing running on concrete?” After that we ran on the grass beside the sidewalk, but I still couldn’t wait to change shoes. In retrospect, I find myself wondering: Did these shoes feel funny because my ankle was already swelling at this point? Or was my ankle beginning to swell because the shoes didn’t feel right? It’s hard to say. But I didn’t want to stop and change until we got to our 10-mile pit stop, and that may have been a mistake.
Miles 41-50: I switched back to my Newtons, my roomiest and best-padded pair of shoes; Traci put on her aged but comfy Nikes. I was feeling slightly nauseous as we emerged from our pit stop, probably from the poor combination of a Mountain Dew and a banana. (I wanted coffee, but our support crew was temporarily unavailable, so that was the most convenient form of caffeine available at the moment.) “I don’t think I can run anymore,” I announced, momentarily forgetting we weren’t at a running point anyway. I was really struggling mentally, and my ankle was bothering me. I knew Traci’s hips, knees and shoulders hurt – she has a lot of joint trouble in general – but you’d never have known it from her brisk stride. “We’re fine!” she said. “We only have four more 10-mile chunks to go!”
We decided to start walking laps around the middle school, and shortly into this section our parents returned from the Franklin game with our two younger nephews from Indy. Riley and Max got out and walked a few laps with us, which helped perk us up, along with a coffee delivery. “Now why are you doing this again?” Riley asked. (More on this in a later post.) In reality, though, I was having a hard time keeping up with their long-legged strides, and when our parents left to haul two carloads of grandkids out to their place for a sleepover, our spirits sagged considerably.
“We’re only at 3 miles,” Traci reported. Suddenly the prospect of more laps around the school was more than I could bear. Hearing sirens downtown, we decided to walk in that direction and see what all the hubbub was about. This was a route we’d run many, many times, but now it seemed to be taking forever. Each step hurt now – not just my increasingly tender ankle or Traci’s knees, but our feet just in general felt like swollen sacks of meat. (Maybe we would’ve been better off with blisters, so some of that fluid could’ve oozed out?) Still, we hated to slow down. “I felt like if my feet spent less time in contact with the ground, maybe they wouldn’t hurt as much!” Traci said afterward.
We hobbled past the old Franklin Electric building, past Bluffton Regional, and finally arrived at the Hardee’s parking lot, where we’ve started so many of our Greenway runs. There was no sign of a fire, or anything else of interest. We began the long, slow march back with hardly a word spoken. We were both wondering how we could possibly continue, but neither one of us wanted to be the one to bring the subject up.
Back at the house during our pit stop, we removed our shoes and propped our legs up to contemplate our next move. I didn’t want anything to drink or eat, didn’t even feel like a bathroom break. Finally I forced myself to get up and drink something – only I couldn’t seem to put any weight on my feet.
“Look at your ankle!” Traci said. “It’s all swollen!”
Traci couldn’t straighten her knee, though she insisted she’d keep going if I wanted to. But we didn’t know what was going on with my ankle. Was it a stress fracture? To top it off, the phone we’d been using to track our mileage and time was dead, and we were falling dreadfully behind schedule. We decided to call it a night, settling for a 50-miler instead of going for 90. We ended our quest at 11:11 p.m., after 12 hours and 51 minutes.