Sunday was the 27th annual running of the James Joyce Ramble 10K and my first. I was excited to be able to get some literature in me while enjoying a run. But I faced a dilemma that day, what shoes to wear. You see I had recently purchased a pair of Vibram Bikilas and they were just itching to get out and go fast. The problem was that I wasn't sure if I was ready for a 10K in them; up to then the longest I had gone was 4 miles. The longest I had run since the New Bedford Half back in March was also only 4 miles. Add in the not-so-perfect fit of the shoes and I had a tough decision to make.
Ultimately I went for it. I figured that I could use the race as a good way to get back into speed work and to test out how the Bikilas function in the real world. Maybe I would hold a 7-minute pace or something around there to make sure that my feet and calves didn't get too banged up, after all I have the relay this weekend. Even though I explained this all to Jen she just laughed at me and told me I was dreaming, I could never hold my pace back. And she was right. Again.
The gong goes off, we all race forward, and the first mile marker ticks off 6:17 as I pass it. Another brilliantly thought out plan laid to waste. But the shoes felt good. So did I. No signs of any pain and I was hitting my form without having to think about it too much. That was a good sign.
Halfway through the calves finally began to ache, I expected this and monitored them closely. Strangely enough they never really got bad, they just stayed achey. I took that as a good sign. Finally at mile 5 the bottom of my right foot began to get sore, probably because at this point I was getting tired and my form was less than perfect and I was slapping my feet more than I should have been. The pace had been kept at a pretty steady 6:30 so I was happy with myself up to now. Another mile and I crossed the finish feeling tired but very impressed with my 40:25 time. It wasn't until later that day that I found out that it was a new PR by about 80 seconds! I hadn't even been trying to beat it.
The Bikilas worked out great. They seem to be a good blend of minimalist and protection. The pods on the soles and the light padding really helped when running through debris like small rocks and when I stepped on some even though I felt it there was no jarring pain or need to recoil from it. The lack of support still forced me to concentrate on keeping a good form but because of the extra thickness in the sole they were a bit more forgiving when I made missteps than something like the KSO would have been. But it is the weight of the shoes that is its best attribute. I haven't put them on a scale and no manufacturers stats are available but I would be really surprised if they weighed more than 6 ounces a piece.
The only downside to them was how they fit me. Because they are a bit loose middle to back they do slide around a bit on the downhills and around sharp corners. But without the big heel in running shoes to have to deal with, on the downhills I found that I was able to fly down them and keep almost the same form as if running on flat ground. I am still working on a good form for downhills but clearly the shoes worked out rather well and helped me get that PR.