Last July (I did mention this blog is catching up from last May), I ran a trail race for the first time ever in VFFs. (It was actually my first season back racing after a 4-year hiatus due to a back injury.) I ran the Sprint distance at the Sundre, Alberta 5 Peaks Trail Running Series.
I remember being incredibly apprehensive about running in the VFFs. Would the trail be too rocky for my pansy feet? Would I have any grip in the mud? Would I have any grip going uphill on slippery terrain? Would my arches start hurting because I haven't strengthened them enough to run this distance on trail?
Turns out that most of my fears did not come to pass as reality. It was a beautiful day for a trail race: perfect temperature, sunshine, and a much drier trail than the year before (even though I didn't race the 5 Peaks before, I have volunteered at their races for 5 years now). The trail was mostly grass for the 6 km race course as it's a popular cross-country ski trail in the winter. There was one big mud puddle near the beginning of the race that I had a little trouble getting through but not too difficult. I just went slow and tried not to fall in the mud (I'm a bit of a klutz). The hills were no problem and my arches didn't have a single twinge in them the whole race.
The things I remember most about wearing the VFFs for that race are the weightlessness of my feet and FEELING the terrain. I find that trail runners feel heavy after a short time, whether it's from lack of leg strength or water/mud weight, I don't know. There was no such heaviness to my feet that day. I also discovered that trail races are much more fun when you can feel the roots, pine needles, leaves, mud, grass, puddles, dirt, and pebbles (although gravel isn't that much fun for me). If you've run barefoot, you know what I mean; if you haven't run barefoot, you probably don't. It is a completely different experience.
I finished the 6 km race with no pain in my feet, legs or back, which was my goal going in. I'm not about the time that it takes to finish a race but more about how I feel while I'm running it. I was proud of myself for attempting the run in my VFFs and happy that I accomplished my goals for the day.
I also finished the race with soaking wet, extremely muddy KSOs. I was relieved when they came out of the washing machine the next day looking brand new again.
I also remember that there were two other runners in VFFs after the race, neither had run the race in them as they are both extremely competitive trail runners, but they both chose VFFs as their after-race footwear. I was practically giddy to see other people enjoying VFFs as much as I do.