In short my story of running has been essentially a story about me getting out of the way of myself. But before I could learn about getting out of my own way I had to get rid of the technology that was getting in the way of me discovering myself. And if that sounds like nonsense I won't be surprised, for in some ways sense had nothing to do with it. This story like all the best stories started with a girl. It started with a girl I once liked and the shoes she wore. Enter the five figured Vibram.
When I first donned Vibrams, my first pair of minimalist running shoes I had no idea they were even made for running. Nor did I have any inkling that this weird guy named 'Barefoot Ted' (who lived only a few miles to my south) had a hand in persuading Vibram into making a running 'shoe'. At the time I hadn't even heard of ultra-marathons or running Tarahumara Indians or crazy Eat and Run vegans named Scott Jurek. No, I just liked a girl who ran barefoot(ish) and who wanted to try a raw food diet for a month. I did it because the girl did it.
That first run in Vibrams was an instant revelation. More to the point I began discovering what running actually felt like and what my body felt like when it was running. With no soles under my feet I discovered that the ground (pavement in this case) was hard and uneven. I also discovered that my body, now feeling this hard ground, could also begin to feel itself. My posture and form lurched away from my old way of running because it hurt too much to slap and paddle my way through block after block.
Brooks Green Silence
With the discovery of hard ground and battered body under my belt and with heel striking already a distant memory I next discovered that soil was softer than pavement even when it had lots of rocks in it. Running in the woods was more fun that running Queen Anne just as back-country skiing had long since supplanted the boring inferiority of ski resort skiing. For the first time ever running sometimes felt good. Minimalist Brooks and Vibrams launched me to my first 50 mile foot race and it was there I learned that 'ultra' most often meant running anything beyond 30 miles or 50k. I also attended my first pre-race meeting with one Scott McCoubrey (WR 50) and got my first dose of the electric, full-of-life, zany, crazed, no-red-bull-required, bright-eyed, dirt-bag worshiping, down-to-earth, party mongers that are the ultra running community.
It was the next day at the start of the WR50 that I met Barefoot Ted running in those Luna Sandals of his. We ran for 16 or so miles together talking of all manner of things Luna related - from philosophy to religion to failing relationships to connection to the earth. We also talked running and Luna and Ted was testing out some Luna prototypes what would become some version of a future Luna Leadville. For all his passionate wackiness much of what Ted talked of spoke to some of the things I was already learning about getting out of the way of myself. So of course after the race I went and got my first pair of Luna Classics. Almost immediately 90% of my running was in Luna's. It was a no brainier switch from Vibram to Luna for even the Luna Classics had more cushion than Vibrams. What is more I could still feel the ground and my prodigious foot sweat problem became no problem at all in Luna's. To this day I have tried more than 5 different models of Vibrams and in each my feet get sweaty, hot, and blistered. I hate moisture and blisters therefore I run Luna.
After I bought my first Luna's at Bellevue's Born to Run store I also picked up a copy of Born to Run the book and I've been drinking the cool-aid ever since. Over the next year I would drink enough Tarahumara cool-aid to increase my mileage in Luna's to run the WR50 again in 2012 as well as sign up for and DNF a Leadville 100. In addition to nailing 46 miles of Leadville (I made it just past Twin Lakes aid station) I entered and completed at least 5 other ultra's (in 2011/12). I blame my Lunatic bug for that too. I ran my second WR50 in the Luna Mono and Luna Oso about 25 miles in each. I ran my version of Leadville in the Oso.
Luna Mono 'The Monkey'
Pictured here is a custom version of the Mono with a grey goat skin foot bed. One of the great things about Luna is their ability to make custom sandals using any of the footbed and vibram soles they currently have available. Visit the factory on Capitol Hill as I often do and you'll likely get to meet some of the Lunatic team busy at making Luna's for sale and new Luna's for testing. Sometimes Barefoot Ted is even there harassing his staff with direct-trade, organic cocoa nibs and preaching the virtues of being a meat eater. I can't recall if he was onto the grass-fed locally sourced and butchered versions of bull meat yet so you'll have to visit yourself to find out. Go there also to try out a pair of the Mono's and experience the Birkenstock of Luna sandals as it is perhaps the quickest of the Luna fleet to mold to your foot. The Mono is the softest and one of the lightest Luna's and doesn't sacrifice on rock protection.
Luna Oso 'The Bear'
Lastly we come to the present and the Luna Oso. This most current version of the Oso due out this Spring comes with a 4mm (8,10mm optional) Vibram sole and Pittards Leather footbed. I may have to correct my information on the sole as there are still a couple variations in testing. Needless to say this newest of the Luna fleet is by far the best and my favorite. It is the lightest Luna I've run in and the best and protecting against sharp crushed gravel while still allowing the runner to feel the ground and its variations beneath. I do what I call the 'crushed gravel test' with all of my Luna's to see how they fare on the sharpest of nail-like rocks. If a sandal or shoe passes my crushed gravel test, chances are they'll run any trail with comfort and security. The Oso went out with me on over 70 miles of hiking this past summer (that's one of the hikes in the Grand Canyon pictured at the top of this article) with a full pack and held up wonderfully. As I indicated it did 25 miles of WR50 and 46 miles of Leadville and saw me through both with well protected and well ventilated feet. They've even seen snow travel and a few other ultras besides. I fully expect and plan for the Oso to be with me when I complete my first 100 mile Ultra. Right now I'm dreaming of Pine to Palm, Cascade Crest or the Bear 100. I know it would only be fitting if it was the Bear but we shall see.
Check out Luna Sandals at www.lunasandals.com.