Hello. My name is Greg, I’m 26, and I’m a Lunatic.
Yes, I treat it like an addiction, because my LUNAS are the only things I can run in.
I’ve just won last week’s Adventure Poll, and I won it by posting my ugly feet covered in mud and resting on top of the best thing I could have underneath it, my LUNAS. I’m pretty sure many people are concerned about running with Lunas on such terrible terrain, so I’m giving you guys a race report (full of pictures, because that’s what we like!) with some insights of a “Mud Monkey”, that hopefully, will be helpful somehow. The post is kinda long, but I get to the point sometime, I promise!
The race was a mountain half marathon I did in a city very near my hometown of Sao Paulo, here in Brazil. For the race, some people would run half the course, others like me would run the full half marathon (sounds weird, I know…). The only thing I knew about the race was that there would be a lot of climbing. That’s all. Why? Because I usually like to be surprised during the race, it get’s my mind busy and it’s more of an adventure to me. I’m never there to win it (not that I could anyways…), so it’s not a big issue to loose a few minutes but have more fun!
It is usually dry around this time here in Sao Paulo, so I wasn’t expecting any rain for the race. I had my trusted high mileage, first generation, naked sole Leadville all set and reserved for the race. And just like that, 8PM the night before as I was getting ready to rest for the race, it started to rain. Heavily.
About a couple of months ago, I bought some new Leadville to give the MGT footbed a try. I loved them, but I always used my older ones as they were already molded to my feet, and never got to properly adjust the lacing 100% on the new ones. When I saw the rain that was pouring down outside my bedroom window, I knew that I was going to need the extra grip of the MGT footbed, so I picked them up and got them ready for the race.
New Leadville and Old Leadville
I’m one of those anxious guys. The race was to start at 9AM, so I was there at 7AM…. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining heavily anymore, just a light refreshing rain. I enjoy rain, by the way…
I like getting there early, so I get to meet some people I usually only see during races and do some good warm-ups. It helps me to chill a bit before the race, feel more acclimatized. And while I’m there, hanging out, one of the things I enjoy is people’s reaction to my LUNAS.
Most of them talk behind my back. It’s really common to hear “dude, check that guy out, what the heck is that on his feet?”, “is he really going to run with those?”, and such. My favorite is “oh, look, it’s that crazy sandal guy again!”. I keep quiet and laugh to myself.
Once in a while a more courageous person approaches with questions. Those are the ones I like. I enjoy rewarding their curiosity with all information I know on biomechanics, Lunas and barefoot, and usually they leave looking down at their huge and colored shoes, with a confused look to their faces. I’m pretty sure some of them ordered a few pairs after talking to me!
9AM, time to run! The light rain was still there, and I was enjoying it. The race started at the town’s center, so the was some pavement running until we could get to the trail. And for me, there is nothing better than LUNAS for asphalt.
Can you find me?
The race was going normal, no surprises so far. For the first few kilometers, just some big climbs on very inclined dirt roads. I was going fast, passing some runners. People hate to be passed by the “guy in sandals”
Down we go!
That’s me running, not dancing.
Around the first third of the race, the runners who were doing the 10k had a detour to catch, just at the base of the highest peak the rest of us were about to climb. This peak, called Voturuna, is the highest of the region, it’s a beautiful mountain.
Just after the 10k people took a right turn to head back, as we are at the beginning of the Voturuna climb, every runner found a surprise: There was a lake sitting right there, in the middle of the path. The lake was about 35 meters long, 15 meters across and around one meter deep, and there was no way around it. This lake had formed the night before due to the heavy rain that fell and no one new it was going to be there. No other option but to go straight into it.
I must have passed a dozen runners just there. How? While all of them were removing shoes, socks, crossing the lake, drying their feet, putting everything back on, and such, I just ran across it like nothing was on my way. Moments like this make me love my Lunas so much… And up the mountain we go!
Just as I started the climb, I looked up to see the mountain and noticed a storm cloud approaching behind me. I put my rain jacket on and kept going up. I knew from experience that it was not going to be a gentle and peaceful rain…. Suddenly it started to get darker.
Here comes the rain! You can see some of the trail I was coming from cutting the hill.
The Voturuna peak is not a normal pyramid shaped mountain. Its top is about a kilometer long. It is a high and long mountain. For the race, we were going up one side, crossing the whole peak and going down the other side. The trail is full of large and loose rocks, very steep uphill and very technical. I love how the Lunas handle it on these terrains, by the way. I love climbing with them. And as it that wasn’t enough for a challenge, it began to rain. As soon as I reached the top and was starting to go for the kilometer run across it, came the wind. The sides of the Voturuna are some deep cliffs, so at the top, you are pretty exposed.
The winds were really strong and cold, filled with rain. Basically, it was raining laterally. Visibility was very poor. You could barely see a few meters ahead, due to the rain and clouds blocking the way. The temperature dropped significantly. Very few people came protected and prepared as I was for a sudden weather change. Just to make it clearer about the weather, later on I found out that two people had symptoms of hypothermia at that point of the race.
When the course came down on the other side, after dealing with tons of loose and wet rocks, it entered a more dense forest.
Going down the Voturuna. Can you find me?
The rain had stopped after about an hour of a continuous storm. Finally. People were soaking wet, on the side of the road, trying to treat their blisters with band-aid and trying to get water out of their shoes. Me? Just running happily, with my dry feet and no issues whatsoever…
Is this all the rain you’ve got?
Heading to the forest.
And then, came the mud. I’ve never seen that much mud on a trail run. As I mentioned before, I’m not a front pack runner. And why does this matter now? Because most of the racers had already gone through the forest and made the mud trail a hell’s path. Combine mud, a stampede of runners and more water, and you get the picture.
It’s either mud or thorn-filled plants…
They look good when dirty!
And then, I had to run through it until the end of the race!
The shot that got me a Bandito!
What have I learned on the mud? Strap you Lunas TIGHT! Very tight. Normal, comfortable lacing, will suffer in these conditions. Mud will get between your sandals and your foot, and no matter how good the MGT footbed is (and it is REALLY good), it is going to make it slippery, very slippery. When I started to face the thicker mud, I realized the front part of my feet was slipping from side to side on the Lunas. This makes it impossible to run properly, because not only you are having traction problems with the mud, but also you are having traction problems between your foot and your sandals (EVERYONE around me this time was slipping everywhere on the mud, I guess only huge soccer cleats would be the way here!). I stopped and adjusted the lacing as to be as close to my toes and as tight as possible, to try and stop that movement from happening. And it worked. The secret was to have the side straps going very tight as to avoid any lateral movement of the foot against the sandal, holding them in place. Once I got that adjusted, I kept going no problem! It isn’t the most comfortable lacing against your feet, but it is needed in order to face the challenge.
The traction of the Leadville against the mud is very good. Once I got the lacing going perfectly, I managed to improve my traction a lot. We are talking very bad and wet mud here… No shoe would have astonishing traction in these conditions, unless extremely mud specific!!
Then, after some mud surfing, I crossed the finish line! The view I had there was quite something: People having first aid on their blister infected feet (yes, the same people saying I was crazy behind my back before the start), socks being thrown away, shoes that had more mud than the trail itself and there I was, hosing down my feet to get the mud out and going to my car to head back home for a family lunch. No blisters, no anything. Just perfect feet ready for the next race.
To end, I want to point out one last thing. It’s weird how, every time after a race, one or another runner will come to me and say: “I want to say I’m sorry. When I saw you before the race, I thought you were crazy. But now I see, you might be the most lucid one here… People should learn from you. Every one looks devastated and tired, and you crossed the line in beautiful form and feeling great”. It’s almost like their inner runner knows that those shoes they wear are bad for them and want to run free. Just my impression maybe, but I find that interesting.
Oh, and of course… The funniest part is people coming to you after the race congratulating me for finishing in sandals like if this is some sort of a challenge… Barely they know that the ones they should be complimenting are the ones in “normal” running shoes. They are the brave ones!