Wednesday, November 23, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things... A "Year-End Gear" List

Well, here we are. Another year is in the rearview mirror, and the next year holds infinite potential for all kinds of running mayhem, barefoot or otherwise. Since it's that time of year, I figured it would be fun to put together a list of running-specific items that made my year - at least the last few months of it - a relatively enjoyable and successful one running wise. I selected mostly winter-specific gear for obvious reasons. Wearing this stuff, all or part at any give time in the cold months, is how I survive Winter without a treadmill (HATE treadmills!). I love checking out these lists when other people put them together, so hopefully you'll find mine just as worthwhile and enjoyable. Maybe you will see something here that gives you an idea for how to spend all that Christmas cash Grandma sent you.

Mizuno WP Jacket

I got a wicked deal on this jacket last year around Christmas when (best running supply shop on the web BY FAR!) had their big clearout sale. I wanted a Brooks Utopia Softshell at the time, but it would have been way more money, the wrong color, and they sold out of my size before I could pull the trigger anyhow. Turns out I stumbled into the right decision anyway (the Utopia would have been too warm for mild Tennessee climes, methinks).

The Mizuno WP ("WP" stands for windproof) is probably the best looking running jacket on the market thanks to its minimal ornamentation and sleek taper at the midsection. The stretchy, perfectly-thin fabric makes it very versatile for layering, and its ventilation allows it to be used up in the 50s comfortably when the wind picks up.

Two complaints about the WP jacket: 1) The zipper is on the wrong side for dudes. This is admittedly a minor issue , but seriously, Japan? 2) The thumb holes - a major selling point for me because I don't like gloves unless they are an absolute necessity - are WAY too small for my thumbs. It's like they made them the appropriate size for a prepubescent girl. Again: seriously, Japan? Sidenote: since I purchased my jacket last year, Mizuno has changed the design to something significantly more vented. No word on if they put the zipper back on the correct side, though.

Regardless, I still love this jacket. It kicks the crap out of everything sold at the big-box retailers, and I got it for half of what anything comparable would have cost. Runningwarehouse rocks.

Reebok Run Gloves
I was inexplicably unable to locate these gloves on the internet. I purchased them at Dick's Sporting Goods last year, and they are still sold today (just saw them on an end cap last week). They were $20, and I found them to be much better in every way than the Nike offerings at the same price point: fuzzy little doodads. With comfy poly construction, terry cloth forefingers for wipeage (ew, right?) and grippy silicone webbing on the palms, they are comparable to the Under Armor gloves priced at $35.

Brooks Infinity Half-Zip
While I can't - or won't - say anything about their shoes, I don't think any running company produces running clothing that can rival the quality of Brooks. While, like other running-specific clothing producers, their wares can be quite pricey, Brooks has delivered a homerun on every piece of kit I have ever purchased from them. Of course, I buy on sale... clearance preferably, so take that as you will.

The Infinity Half-Zip is one of the most used items in my closet between October and April and for good reason. The thing is super comfy-soft, attractive, stretchy, and has held up beautifully while taking quite a beating. Brooks nails the perfect sleeve length and ideal thumb-hole cut, to boot! (In your face, Japan.) It's my cold-weather workhorse uniform.

Brooks Sherpa Short
Definitely the most versatile running short I have ever worn, the Sherpa is a winner. These are my go-to shorts for nearly any physical activity where I have to be seen by other humans: the cut is long enough to not be "that guy" in public. Brooks sure does make a great pair of shorts.

Mizuno Tights
I got these for half price when our local running store went out of business (*sadface*), and it has turned out to be a wise investment. Running tights are a step toward seriousness for guy runners; we just don't wear tights for anything, you know. You have to literally care a lot about your run and virtually nothing about what people may think of you. These tights fit well, have held up beautifully for over a year now, and have all the features a non-thermal tight is supposed to: drawstring, back zipper gel pocket, zip cuffs at the ankle...... and that's about it. I like 'em.

C9 sport socks
It blows my mind how much people pay for running-specific socks, especially when, in my opinion, the less sock, the better. All I look for in a sock is chafing protection in certain shoes. Otherwise, I would just rather run sockless - or barefoot altogether for that matter. Target's C9 socks are synthetic (an absolute must), provide mild compression to make sure they stay in place, and are pretty darn cheap for what they are.

Merrell Versa Band

It's a neckwarmer! No, it's a headband! No, it's a balaclava! No, it's all of the above and more including a do-rag, head wrap, and mask. This is the only piece of un-purchased gear on my humble list. I got in my swag bag for running the Merrell Naked Foot 5k in Nashville, and I absolutely adore it. There are probably over a hundred different companies that make and/or sell items similar to this, but this is the only one I have tried or owned and it's fantastic. No runner should be without one of these.

Garmin FR 305 

"Yes I love technology, but not as much as you, you see.... but I still love technology. Always and forever." If you are a runner without a GPS watch, you fall into one of the following categories:
1. You are a "free runner" who hates having your spiritual connection with nature interrupted by having to fiddle with invasive techno-nonsense.
2. You think it's too expensive.
3. You are not very experienced in the world of running and don't know what this thing could possibly offer you.

If you fall into #2 or #3, you really should look into the Garmin 305. It's not the newest or the flashiest bit of innovative compudrama, but it's solid, proven technology that's getting less expensive every day. I got my 305 last year for Christmas and have worn it on well over 100 runs so far. It's awesome! I can't possibly explicate the myriad features this sucker has to offer here, but I can link you to someone who has:

So there it is, folks. My very Gear of the Year list, even if some of it is more than a year old. Happy New Year, and happy running!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New Balance Minimus Trail vs. Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove: A Tale of Two Trail Shoes

I am going to make a statement, and I want my meaning to be clear: I'm a barefoot runner. By that I mean I run the vast majority of my miles wearing absolutely nothing on my feet. This has been my preference for the past two years or so. Apparently by "running barefoot," many people mean they run with some kind of minimalist shoe on their feet. "Bare" means, according to Webster's, "without covering or clothing." I love running barefoot on most surfaces in most weather conditions: grass, pavement, and concrete sidewalks as long at it's above 35 deg. F. However, true barefoot runners always encounter a dilemma: many of us, myself included, also love running gnarly trails that are not so barefoot friendly. And I love running year-round (I don't own nor do I care for treadmills). What's a fella to do?

As luck would have it, the shoe manufacturers that specialize in trail running wares also are at the forefront of the whole minimalist movement catering to runners with a "least is more" foot covering philosophy. The two names that are clear front runners in the category of minimalist trail shoes are the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove and the New Balance Minimus Trail.

So which one is the king of minimalism off the beaten path? I'm going to break down each key difference between the two shoes (as I see it) so you can make an informed decision. Disclaimer: I was provided neither shoe by a sponsor, so I get nothing other than personal satisfaction from writing this review. All opinions are painfully and willfully subjective; It's what I think, and your experience may differ. The pair New Balance Minimus shoes I am reviewing came courtesy of the Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, one of my barefoot running blogger friends and primary influences. Check out his site RIGHT NOW!

The Contenders
*Ding ding ding* In this corner!...
Merrell Barefoot collection flagship: The Trail Glove (the "Trail Glove" or "MBTG")
And in the other corner, the challenger...
The New Balance Minimus Trail (or just "Minimus"). You might notice the drawstring laces; they're Yankz brand, and I love them. I hate laces and much prefer drawstring-type or velcro strap systems.
This is the most subjective of all the several rather subjective categories of shoe design. People's taste in the look of a shoe can be as varied as people themselves. Because of its tall and wide toe box coupled with a very narrow sole through the midfoot and heel, the Merrell takes on what has been described as a "clown shoe" appearance. Still, the color combination looks quite appealing and understated: a big departure for minimal shoes when it first arrived on the market. In contrast, the Minimus Trail (often referred to by its model name: the MT10) is quite attractive by traditional running shoe standards. There is nothing really remarkable about its shape, but it lacks the awkward width offset of the Trail Glove so that's something. The fishnet look of the upper is pretty sweet, too. I also totally dig the "LOOK AT ME! I wanna be like Anton Krupicka!" orange - because, of course, Anton is the man. If you watch the video about him here and don't want to go out and run some mountain trails right this minute, there is something very wrong with you.
Advantage: New Balance Minimus Trail

This is a category I could spend quite a bit of time on because it is one area where the shoes are a stark contrast to one another. If there is one factor that causes people to strongly prefer any one similarly-purposed shoe over the other, it's probably going to be how they fit.

The Minimus has quite a wide toe box that is soft and pleasantly stretchy at the top. This is due to the lack of toe cap protection restricting movement - definitely a tradeoff with value dependent on the high-root-and-rock content of your local trail. The midfoot upper of the Minimus has been the source of much controversy due to the metatarsal band that runs across the top. I did not find this to be a problem because I have pretty narrow feet for a barefooter, but more than a few people who have worn the MT10 do not like it for this very reason. Through the rest of the shoe, the Minimus Trail fits much like a traditional shoe albeit a bit slimmer through the midfoot.
Wiiiiiide. Just how I like it. 
The Trail Glove has an equally controversial fit issue that sparked a lot of rants online. The Merrell is very slim-fitting through the midfoot and heel. It has often been described as glove-like, which I think is dead-on. This is a fantastic feature on the trails - one of the BFTG's best trail-specific features. The shoe stays in place... as long as you cinch the sucker down, a job made much easier with its really clever Omni-Fit lacing system. Basically it has nylon loops that sweep around underneath the tongue and attach to the upper effectively connecting the midsole to the tongue. The feel all of this creates for a wearer is a decidedly acquired taste. In addition, the middle portion of the footbed has a "rise" that touches the arch. I have found that this "rise" flattens itself out over the course of the first 20 miles or so. It gave me fits when initially trying the shoe on, and I actually considered sending it back; Yes, it really felt that weird. The shoes are well-broken in now (>50 miles), and they feel very conformed to my foot.
I tried to take a detailed picture of the Omnifit lacing system. This is the best I could do.
Sockless wear is a major consideration for many barefoot runners looking for minimal trail protection. Socks are just another layer between you and the ground. Both the Trail Glove and Minimus advertise linings that are no-sock friendly. I got a blister going bare in both, so I wear thin socks on the trails. With all said and done, this category is pretty much a toss-up. I like the fit of both shoes for very different reasons, but I am going to go ahead a pick a winner which I'm sure my fellow shoe reviewers will have fun picking apart. The primary factor that puts it just over the top is the toe box.
Advantage: New Balance Minimus

This is pretty simple: The MT 10 has a 4mm lift in the heel; the Trail Glove is flat. The narrowness of the Trail Glove along with the contouring of the sole in the arch creates some awkwardness at first in the shoe as I mentioned. Many have mistaken it for arch support, but it is simply the glove-like fit at work. The contour is reduced as the shoe is worn. By 25 miles not including casual wear for break-in, I could no longer feel the rise in the arch. The very small bit of cushion in the sole compresses with wear. Having not heel lift is a serious advantage for a minimal shoe, in my opinion. The less "shoe" I have to interfere with the normal function of my foot, the better.
Advantage: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

You can see the "drop" from the heel to the midfoot. It looks like an afterthought not even integrated with the shoe. Why NB felt the need to throw that in there, I have no idea.
Ground Feel
The amount of feedback a shoe allows is viewed as an important "minimal" factor with more tending to be better. However, for a trail shoe, a delicate balance must be struck between feeling the running suface and protection from nasty rocks and roots.

While the distance between your foot and the ground is quite minimal at 11mm forefoot and heel, there is sufficient protection from pointy debris... provided you don't land on your arch. Ouch!
The Minimus has a slight bit more material between foot and ground at the heel (14mm vs. 11 of the Trail Glove) but less at the forefoot (10mm vs. 11mm). However, the Trail Glove features a harder, less supple sole with a rock plate just behind the ball of the foot at the instep - which I found to be ideal placement to prevent those nasty rock bruises. The extra material in the Minimus does give a slightly more cushioned feel despite the "hard" density of the midsole which is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. All things considered, I would have to give this one to the shoe with best balance between ground feel and protection.
Advantage: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

The weight difference between the NB Minimus and the MBTG is fairly negligible. They are advertised at 7.1 ounces and 7.0 ounces respectively - not a big enough difference for me to declare a clear victor.
Advantage: Draw

A very important feature of a decent trail shoe is its ability to grip the trail. One can imagine the challenges encountered creating a grippy trail shoe that maintains its minimalist qualities. The Minimus performed well in most conditions on most surfaces, but the MBTG clearly outperformed it across the board. I find this curious considering the fact that Vibram designed the outsole on both shoes, but the design differences, and the advantages of the MBTG, are obvious even at at a cursory glance . On the flip side, the Minimus probably owes its better on-road feel an performance to its less-pronounced, disc-like traction lugs.
Advantage: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

Yummy traction. The "widow" slits on the left show off the rock plate.

The dimples on the individual disks added some grippiness, but they have begun to wear off after less than 100 miles, especially at the forefoot and far back on the heel.

Due to its slightly increased sole thickness, the Minimus has considerably less flexibility in the mid and forefoot than it could potentially be. The MBTG is fairly flexible throughout the foot except at the rock plate. I have also found the outsole of the MBTG to be harder and less supple than that of the Minimus, making a "clunking" sound almost like a dress shoe when walking indoors. Once again, both shoes have to strike a balance between pure flexibility and performance on the trail which requires both to hold their form and stay in place on the foot. If you try both shoes on the trail, I don't think you could come to any other conclusion than what I have here.
Advantage: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

I don't think I will ever publish a shoe review without a shot like this.
After more than fifty miles in either shoe, I can say definitively that the rubber sole of the Trail Gloves appears to be holding up better. Both shoes are above average in this department, so I'm really splitting hairs here. The one factor that makes the biggest difference is the interior of each shoe; the lower sock liner glued into the Minimus, which is typical felt-like fabric found in many shoes only supposedly permanent in this application, is coming detached an wrinkling up. It's a minor annoyance and easily dealt with, but it's enough to push the Trail Glove to the front in this category.
Advantage: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

Minor wear on the heel is pretty apparent. The same can be seen at the forefoot. Despite falling short to the MBTG in this category, the Minimus has shown itself to be very resilient over the past few months.
A shoe's ability to perform well on multiple surfaces and various conditions is a HUGE plus for me because I run lots of mixed surfaces (pavement-to-gravel, pavement-to-dirt, ect.). Despite both shoes being designed and advertised as trail-specific, I found both to function quite well on hard surfaces. In fact, I set a 1-mile PR in both shoes (Minimus first, then the MBTG). While I greatly differ from many of my fellow reviewers on this opinion, I think both shoes are decent road shoes especially if you are moving down from a more traditional running shoe. There are better road options out there for people looking to get a closest-to-barefoot experience (Vibram Fivefingers, Invisibleshoe huaraches, Softstar Runamocs, etc.), but the gap between those extremely minimal shoes and these two trail-bred workhorses is not as wide as one might expect. The hard part: which one is more versatile? If pressed, I'd have to say...
Advantage: New Balance Minimus Trail
Me setting a miler PR in the MBTGs. Pic provided by one of my fellow teachers.
MBTG: $110, NB Minimus $100.
Advantage: New Balance Minimus Trail

Other Considerations
- I replaced the laces in the Minimus because they didn't glide through the lace loops - not a problem with the elastic Yankz.
- The MBTG suffers from a similar problem with the wonkiness of the Omnifit system only tightening on part of the foot at a time - a major headache for me, but some people see it as a positive feature. Go figure.
- There are other competitors on the market - particularly if you are interested in a bit more protection and/or significantly more traction for rougher conditions. See my review of the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails for one such shoe that is also a very viable option.
- My VIVOBAREFOOT Neos are still my go-to shoe for running on the road when it's too cold and too dark to run barefoot, but the MT10s have joined the rotation.

The winner: Merrell's Barefoot Trail Glove with a score of 5! The Minimus came in with a score of 4, but there really are no losers in this showdown. Both shoes are very capable on the trail and better than expected on the road - a pleasant surprise for you frugal runners such as myself and those demanding versatility from their footwear. While the shoes are wildly different answers to the same problem, they both some how hit the mark. What was most interesting to me while breaking down all the myriad features of each shoe is that there is still quite a bit of room for improvement, especially with the Minimus. New Balance has already announced and previewed the release of the new zero-drop Minimus line which promises to raise the bar while lowering the sole height for minimalist shoes. It's really starting to get exciting for minimalist shoe nerds. I can't wait to see what's next!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Minimalist Shoe Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail

I don't know about you guys, but I just think that shoe looks great. 

I absolute love running trails. I also love running barefoot; in fact, I much prefer running barefoot to any footwear option I have discovered up to this point. Well, that creates a bit of a conflict. I was recently given the privilege of testing out the newest trail offering from VIVOBAREFOOT, the same specialty running shoe manufacturer who produced the awesome Neo that I reviewed back in the Summer. Needless to say, I was totally excited to get my feet into this new minimalist off-road offering and down the closest trail.

I spent a lot of time building the repertoire for this review mainly because I don't have a proper trail very close to my house. The nearest one is a nearly 20-minute drive from my house, and driving in order to run and eventually drive back is something I have always seen as a contradiction. This meant that testing the Neo Trail, as it is called, was going to be spread out over a several weeks - far longer than I wanted to wait to do a write-up. For full disclosure, I have yet to get a chance to run in the real slop with the Neo Trails, which you will see is what is truly appears designed specifically for. I will update this review as my experience with the Neo Trail grows.

With the newer, thinner insole removed, the sockless-friendly Neo Trail is significantly more inviting than its predecessor, the original Neo.
Interesting choice of materials, but I totally dig the result. This shoe looks rugged but maintains the svelte profile of a racing shoe. I honestly can't say enough good things about the NT's looks. VIVO nailed it!

Initial Impressions
The Neo Trial looks all criss-cross strapped, rugged and utilitarian. The first thing I noticed that "stuck out" was the sole. One word: "gnarly." And by "gnarly," I am not making a lame attempt to sound like Johnny Utah from Point Break.

"Whoah." - Keanu

I am talking about the intensely "gnarled" lugs on the Neo Trail. These are one step shy of full-on cleats. I also couldn't help but notice the rock plate in the arch (more on that later). With the extremely grippy lugs on its underside and the low rise, it definitely looks the part of a legitimate trail racer. I totally dig the appearance and get the impression that it will have appeal to a broad range of trail runners who are style-conscious. I really love the colorway that VIVO sent me, too, which is awesome!
A tad of toe spring; it was not noticeable while wearing the shoe.

Uh... yeah! This ain't your Daddy's minimal trail running shoe. Check out the rock plate: arch protection that is just in the right place. It looks small, but it sure seemed to do the job for me.
First Fit
With its slightly thinner insert, minimalist nuts will be pleased at the initial fit of the Neo Trail. In addition, with the insert removed, the footbed is much more "sockless friendly"; it's significantly kinder to the bottom of my feet than the original Neo's cross-hatched footbed. The materials used on the seamless interior are also a departure from that of the Neo with an apparent eye toward greater ventilation. All this I would consider to be a step forward for the brand, and I hope to see further progressions in later iterations of this shoe and others in the VIVO lineup.

Seamless interior for great sockless comfort. The liner is a perforated synthetic material instead of the microfiber of the standard Neo which means the shoe was easier for me to get on and off.
What wasn't great, however was that VIVOBAREFOOT somehow inexplicably decided to give the NT a more traditional (read "narrower") toe box. What in tha??!?! Maybe it's just my perception, or maybe it's the different materials or factory variations, but the front of this shoe definitely has a more traditional narrowing of the toe box. I don't believe this to be a deal breaker, but it is disheartening considering that the original Neo was  highly praised across the board for it's fit and roominess inside. Why do we have to go messing with a good thing? The shoe is still zero-drop and super wide at the collar which is cool.

On the Road
The Neo Trail is a pretty narrowly specialized trail shoe, so I was surprised to find them so easy to wear on the streets. Now, that is not to say that I would choose to put in significant miles in the NT on daily road runs, but you should have no problems hoofing it the 1/2 mile to your favorite dry creek bed or down the mile of asphalt in the middle of your mountain park trail.

On the Trail
Just as I expected after first laying eyes on them, the Neo Trails were right at home on the trail. Also as expected: Grip for days! I could not determine a single glaring deficiency in on-trail performance for the NT (other than what was already mentioned, namely the toe box width.. The ground feel is slightly more dampened than in my Merrell Trail Gloves, and the lugs allow rather large gravel to be dashed across with ease, unnoticed by my soles. Taking on steep inclines is really where the NT shines! I think VIVO has found the perfect balance of connection with the running surface and still being able to run fast and free. I had no problem maintaining good form over some pretty gnarly bits of surface.

Note: Unfortunately, I was unable to test out the NT in truly challenging trail conditions, but I will be sure to update my blogpost as soon as I get the opportunity to do so.
Trying to show the depth of the lug tread when viewing the shoe from a profile.
A lug detail. You can see the Jade-colored rock plate in the background. It came in quite useful on the jagged rocks and roots on our Tennessee trails.
Criteria Rankings
Width/Toe Box - 7/10: Down from the Neo's perfect score, it's still wider than most anything non-minimalist. 
Flatness - 10/10: No support or real cushioning of any kind. Just how we like it!
Ground Feel - 9/10 - 
Weight - 6/10 - I like 'em airy, and the NT cannot be described that way. But there is a price to being gnarly.
Durability - *
Flexibility - 7/10 - Pretty ideal for a trail shoe.
Attractiveness - 9/10 - I really dig the rugged look of the NT. The multiple colorways just sweeten the deal.
Price - 5/10 - $130.00. A little steep... until you compare it to the competition (Sonic Glove, etc.). Even then, it's priced just above it's adversaries.

Verdict - The VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trail is a strong addition to VIVO's growing line of attractive, well-made minimal shoes. Just two unfortunate flaws keep the NT from winning absolute rave reviews: the toe box and the weight. Of course, those trail runners changing over from the typical trail running fare will not be so down about the weight, but all I know is that a pair of NTs are a few ounces heavier than their direct competition (NB Minimus Trail, Merrell Trail Glove - or actually Sonic Glove due to the fact that both it and the NT are water resistant). With the competition heating up and lots of hype accompanying future minimal shoe offerings from New Balance, Merrell, and others, it will be really interesting if the Apple/Macintosh of minimalist shoe makers can stay at the tip of the spear. A good place to start would be shaving weight and making sure future shoes have more room for my toes to splay.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shoe Preview: Merrell Barefoot Road and "Other" Gloves

I got a chance to fondle the anxiously awaited Merrell Road Gloves this Saturday at the Nashville leg of the Naked Foot 5K. I also got a bit of a surprise when inspecting the Spring 2012 collection - an unnamed shoe I had yet to hear anything about. Check them out:

The Merrell Tent! Yes, that's Jason and Shelly Robillard there to the left affixing their race numbers for the 5K. Notice the never-before-seen (at least by me) shoes hanging to the left and right of the table.
Oh heavenly minimalist shoe sweetness! But what's that there on the back row?
Well, if it isn't the Road Glove! Very subdued looks with the "webby" overlays that invoke the Sonic Glove's styling (imo).
Nice. Yes. Show me more!

Very cool. Much flatter than the Trail Glove, but it looks like the foot-hugging midfoot is still present - at least by outward appearances. The grippy toe grapples remain except on the big toe.
I really dig this shoe.

This shoe caught me off guard. I had never heard anything about it before and meant to ask Jason. I don't know its name, but it seems to be competitively directed at the New Balance Minimus Life (or whatever they wound up calling it).
Most of the sole was foamy eva similar to my old Nike Free 5.0s. Only the ball and heel contact points were rubber. The durability is sacrificed for significantly reduced weight.
Very vent-y. :)
Feel free to leave feedback, questions, insults, etc. in the comments.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Merrell Naked Foot 5k Nashville Race Report

My running partner, Sebastian the Boxador, after a brief warm up jaunt back to the vehicle to deposit swag. Check out that tongue!
What a beautiful day for a run! Cliff's Notes: Had a great deal of fun, PR'd (22:08), and got to hang out and chat with Shelly and Jason Robillard. Awesome morning! I will let the pics and captions tell the rest. Pictures are more interesting than my ramblings any day of the week.

Milling about pre-race. Lots of family types on the course. Several military guys from C-ville (they stick out like a sore thumb). Really laid back, friendly folks.

Aw, the "wares" tent. Got a close look at a few upcoming models that spark my interest. Stay tuned for a preview.

What have we here! (Back row - two pairs on the right: gray/orange, and blue/gray = Road Gloves!)

Several minimalists in the crowd. I love how Vibram has really decided to go low-key with their latest designs. /sarcasm

There are the barefoot Yoda and Yodette at the pre-race briefing. Actually, Jason is more like a Qui-Gon Jin... or maybe Obi Wan due to several factors, particularly youth. Not sure what that makes Shelly. Ken Bob is definitely Yoda being the eldest and wisest of the barefoot advocates. Excuse me while I adjust the tape on my glasses. ...laugh *snort* laugh...

Quite a few first-time barefooters in the crowd, which was rad. Also, Sebastian was one of about 1/2 dozen doggahs that ran the course.

Anxious to get this party started. This guy lives for cool weather runs!

And we're off! Dude in yellow had awesome form.

The trail was about 1/2 asphalt paths, 1/2 grass and dirt. Only one gravel patch at a crossing. Very smooth, very fast course.


Through the grass and freshly fallen leaves.

Flags mark the way to the finish. The Parthenon on the horizon make you feel like an OG Greek Marathoner.


Closer still.

And we're done!

Rest time! I think his tongue grew significantly in the last 22:08.

This band was rad. They're called....erm, I can't remember. It was something like "Studio 10" or other. They were fantastic, though, and represented a progressive Nashville flavor.

Chillin' after cool-down.

A barefoot clinic with Jason.

"Qui-Gon" at work. Learned an awesome new drill from him for use with my middle school running club.

I ran around to snap some pics before participating in the dill.

The master at work.

Jason and I love us some Brooks Infinity racing split shorts. Seriously, try them and you will never go back to "basketball shorts" ever, ever again.
I learned a few things today. 1) I kind of already knew this, but I can absolutely fly on grass barefoot. As soon as I got back on pavement my pace slowed considerably. 2) Running with a rambunctious dog and an SLR camera in hand is incredibly challenging (but worth it for my blog). 3) People love dogs at races. 4) Jason and Shelly rock! I hope I get a chance to hang out with them again soon. Next priority: finding a justification to travel to Minnesota to hang out with my fellow lanky internet barefoot blogger, Christian - AKA the Maple Grove Barefoot Guy.

Up Next: Merrel Barefoot Road Glove - First Look!