Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pigeon Toed Mo' Fo'

I discovered today why I get blood blisters on my big toes after long runs at a higher pace. Only time will tell in this experiment of one, but a 5k run at lunch time where I really focused on what my feet were telling me led me to discover that I run ever so slightly pigeon toed.

It's probably not noticeable to the naked eye, and I doubt I'd ever have realised this in the vibrams, but once I realised that my feet weren't quite landing squarely, I then noticed I could feel a bit of twisting on the big toe and its ball. As my feet lift off the ground my leg rotates outward slightly, causing enough friction to lead to some nice blisters.

A small adjustment made and the difference was apparent immediately. Looking forward to a few longer runs to see what the outcome is over a longer period.

Onto some links. I watched a couple of fantastic videos on Chris McDougall's website today.

First, Chris' take on running. It touches on some things in his book, Born to Run, but some fascinating insights into the history of running as well. Full post is here.

Second, a tutorial on running form. It has a bit of propaganda for Terra Plana (not that I am against the company, in fact I love their shoes and have a pair I wear for work which are uber comfortable), but it is well worth a watch. I'll be trying out the drills first opportunity. Full post is here.

Learn to Run Barefoot with Lee Saxby and Terra Plana
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Friday, July 23, 2010

The dog's nuts...

I finally put all my barefoot training into practice on Sunday and ran my first race barefoot - in this case, the Run Melbourne half marathon. I was feeling pretty relaxed about the whole affair, even if it was a bit brass monkey style on the feet, and my training was a little lacking (some would use the term almost non-existent) since the marathon in May.

Well doesn't going barefoot draw a crowd? All the old hands at barefooting will understand what I mean. The start line stock standard question of why aren't you wearing shoes was popular. My stock standard reply of "I can't afford them" seemed to do the trick. One poor sod even took the bait and got all apologetic for asking. I have some land to sell you brother...

The pause in conversation of fellow runners for 10 seconds after you pass them, then a giggle followed by [choose your favourite from "that's insane" / "I could never do that, I'd be too afraid of glass" / "man that must hurt!"] became my soundtrack for the last 10km as I stepped up the pace.

I found it especially amusing as I went flying past those who looked like they were trying to run a 3 legged race with 2 legs, to hear them wonder how much it must hurt to run barefoot. It's not until you are conscious of others looking at you that you pay attention to the running style of others. And are there some funky styles out there or what?!

For the record, I ran a PB of 1:39:56, edging out my 1:41-ish in the vibrams late last year. I did end up with the mother lode of bruises on the balls of both big toes though. I felt so good after 15km that I thought, f**k it, I'm gonna fly home. Well, I guess my barefoot technique is not yet up to speed with my speed. Not too sure how to fix that, other than more training, and gradually increasing the pace. I could literally feel the blisters form over the last 20 minutes, particularly the last kilometre which I ran at a sub 4:00 pace. Small price to pay. I definitely should have upped the ante earlier, the tank was still half full, but my aim was just finishing, so there's that.

I guess I'll just have to get used to all the stares and comments, because that run just felt right. All the previous niggles, even the minor ones that were sticking around in the vibrams, are completely gone. Full steam ahead now, jump aboard me mateys. Arrr.

During training I have become accustomed to the occasional stare, but it's a new game when there are thousands around you who get time to respond. So, calling all brother / sister barefooters - how do you deal with the attention? Does it bother you? Does it amuse you? Do you get sick of standing out like dog's nuts?

Friday, June 4, 2010


I ran to work last week, the first run longer than 2 or 3km's since the marathon. It's not that I have been sore or not wanting to run, it's just that I haven't had the opportunity lately. Too much study, housesitting and general life things getting in the way.

So I was looking forward to getting out on the road. Man was it cold! My feet were numb for the first half hour. Having never run barefoot in wintry conditions before, it was a different experience. And I paid for it too, with 2 massive blisters that were big enough to see from space. Almost. So now I understand why all the fuss other barefooters make about running when it's cold.

Just another lesson learned. To be fair, I didn't even realise I had them until I was having a shower at the gym, but I was certainly noticing them by the end of the day. Once popped they were fine, but I could have gone down to the blood bank and given a donation with the contents that emptied out.

This week has been my first running free week in 6 months. It feels weird. Again, it's not by choice, I have an exam on Sunday and for the first time in my life I'm being responsible and study...stud...studying. There, I said it.

Looking forward to hitting the road again (lightly) soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Economy of movement

I've taken to looking through the published articles archive of Dan Lieberman, a Harvard professor in human evolution. The first paper I looked at was one of his most recent: "Control and function of arm swing in human walking and running". It is the findings of a study that attempted to determine what role the arms play in running and walking - are they active (do they help propel), or are they passive (do they act as mass dampers, or to balance the movement of the legs for want of a less technical description)?

Turns out that they believe the arms are passive (read the article for a slightly more technical description), and are not used to help propel you. So all that excessive arm swinging is not going to help you run faster - you're better off letting your upper body move naturally. A while ago I experimented with different arm positions and swinging techniques, and discovered that if I kept my elbows bent at greater than 90 degrees and close to my chest, and didn't try to actively swing them, it felt more comfortable and efficient. So I'm sure Dan would be relieved to know I agree with his findings. Now he can sleep much easier.

I was a big arm swinger when I first started running

Are you a running windmill? How do you move your arms when hitting the street?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Runner's World - joining the party?

Just finished reading Christopher McDougall's latest post, and in it he mentions the blog of a new writer for Runner's World. He has an interesting take on barefoot running here. What I found amusing is he touches on the same theories I posed in my post last week about calf soreness after a run.

It seems they may finally have a knowledgeable and open-minded writer down there at Runner's World, one that doesn't tell us that barefooters have hard calloused feet! Kudos to you RW.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ground Zero - Marathon complete!

Well first things first. I completed my first marathon yesterday, and I have a new found respect for everyone who has completed one in the past, fast or slow. I am quite satisfied with finishing, but it was not done without experiencing the "wall" that you hear so much about.

This was not entirely unexpected. My training has dropped off in the last month due to that little thing called life getting in the way, so I went into the run expecting to be a little underdone. My longest training run was 27km, so there was always going to be a large unknown going into a run that's 18km longer than my previous best (the great ocean road marathon is actually 45km).

The first 30km went quite smoothly. I had the usual ebbs and flows, but my fastest kilometres were actually around the 28km mark. I was feeling pretty good, quite strong, and wouldn't have blown out a candle. And then I saw it. At first it was indistinguishable, almost a mirage. But as it came closer and closer, I recognised it for  what it was - the wall. For me it arrived at the 33-35km mark. As Jack and I grumbled and moaned our way through the last few kilometres, it felt like an eternity. It took us an eternity.

But we got there! And just when we thought we were all done, we had to trek the last 3 km to the official finish line. That my friends was pain. Sweet, delicious, I've just completed a marathon pain.

For the record, Jack and I crossed the line together in 3 hours, 48 minutes and some random number of seconds. I really wasn't paying that much attention to notice. A guy I was chatting to during the run said it's the toughest course he's run on, and he had run quite a few in Oz, so I'm not sure what that time would equate to on a flat course, but regardless I'm bloody stoked to have finished at all, never mind in under 4 hours. Kind of makes a mockery of my apparent VO2max prediction time of 2:41!

Lessons learned:

  1. The vibrams were quite impressive. My feet were a little tender, but I don't reckon that is any different to anyone else who ran in shoes. Afterall, I did run 18km more than I had previously. And the bonus - no blisters! No calf pain, no hot spots, overall my legs feel fine, with one major exception. Which brings me to lesson number 2...
  2. Aerobically I felt great. I think that part of the equation is working out nicely. The limiting factor for me was my thighs, which died a slow painful death, and were the reason for hitting the wall. More core and leg work in the gym I think. I felt as though I could have run a much faster time if my legs had come to the party. Perhaps a result of a lack of conditioning? I saw one guy take a novel approach to the thigh problem - he ran backwards on the downhills! This was only 25km in when I passed him, so I hope he made it to the finish line ok.
  3. Bandaids on the nipples - A+, top marks, straight to the top of the class. I discovered a few more places for chafing however - under the arms. That's a new one
  4. The home made gel was a winner. Never felt lacking for energy. Brendan Brazier's Thrive Diet book, thank you, thank you thank you.
  5. The great ocean road is freakin spectacular. The views were fantastic, and were the highlight of the run up until the 30km mark. After that, I could have been running through a war zone and I wouldn't have noticed.
  6. It would have been lunacy to attempt a marathon in barefoot only 4 months after starting barefoot running, so I'm glad I chickened out on that plan. It will happen, but I need more time.
  7. The camaraderie between runners on a marathon is amazing. I have had brief chats with people before on short runs, but this was something else. I chatted to one guy for half an hour, and it got me through a stage where I was struggling and finding it a bit tedious. And whenever someone was in pain (sometimes me, sometimes others), passing runners would pass on words of encouragement. The spectators were fantastic in their support too. It definitely makes a difference!
So now onto other runs. The Run Melbourne half in July, and the full marathon in November are the next targets, and I aim to hit both barefoot. For now though, some rest for these weary thighs!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Overlooking the (not so) obvious

With the marathon coming up on Sunday, I nearly forgot one thing: how do I attach the timing chip to my leg if I run barefoot?

I am still undecided on whether to go barefoot or in the five fingers, but if I do go au naturale, how will I get the chip to stay on my foot / ankle / leg, and not bother me? Does anyone out there have a solution that they've had success with in the past?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The eccentricity of contraction

A little while ago I was wondering why your calves hurt when you first start running barefoot / minimalist, but then the problem disappears and (hopefully) never returns. I kicked around a few ideas of writing a post about it, but due to a crazy month of travel, study and randomness, I put it on the backburner. And wouldn't you know it, someone beat me to the punch.

Barefoot Josh theorises that it's due to poor running form initially, which you correct as you learn how to run properly, lessening the impact on your calves. While I am inclined to agree that this certainly helps, I think there is more to it, and I now have not only my own experiences to add weight to my theory, but a smattering of knowledge of muscular actions which I am going to throw in to the mix. Add salt to taste and serve hot.

At the start of this year in a moment of madness deep introspection I decided to run every day in 2010. While that new years resolution only lasted 6 weeks, I kicked off the year with several long runs after a fortnight of inactivity. Bless you christmas break.

What became immediately apparent was my calves were on fire. Not flickering like a candle, but raging bushfire action. The joy of living in a two storey house become the nightmare of whimpering up and down stairs with 2 very uncooperative legs. But this was not my first attempt at minimalist / barefoot running. Since July last year I had been getting about in the vibram five fingers, so I had already gone through the learning curve (aka the calves on fire syndrome) once.

So that's why I don't think it's exclusively a newbie trait. Having been there and done that has led me to think that it's more the result of the calves copping a workout that they're not used to. But why do they hurt THAT much? Well I think I now understand a little better courtesy of my certificate in fitness studies. Of course, this is all speculation and based on limited knowledge, but I'm putting my opinion out there so it can be shot down and stomped on in spectacular fashion by someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

So anyway, long story short, here's my theory. When running barefoot, you tend to use the calves to absorb some of the impact as you land. When the forefoot lands first, the calves tense up to slow the leg down as the heel strikes milliseconds later. When muscles contract but stretch at the same time, this is called an eccentric contraction, which is what happens to the calves as you land. When muscles contract and shorten, such as your bicep contracting during a bicep curl, it's a concentric contraction.

Now here's the kicker. All the experts in exercise physiology believe that eccentric contractions are what cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It's also the type of muscle contraction that is believed to cause the largest hypertrophy (size) and strength gains. Some body builders base whole sessions around this type of training. And although the amount that the calves are contracting each time is quite small, it adds up when you do it thousands of times.

So my thought is that when starting out barefoot, the calves hurt like hell due to the eccentric contractions. I don't think this problem happens for shod runners, because the calves don't work eccentrically. They only perform concentric contractions, hence the difference in calf soreness. So us barefooters feel the pain initially, but improve strength rapidly, which is why hopefully after a week or so the condition eases and then disappears. Of course, any extended break you take is like having a break from the gym - back to the start my little hombre. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Now I'm being very hypothetical about all of this, and my scientific background extends only as far as the bunsen burners in year 8, so I am not be the most qualified to make this call. What do you think? Does this sound like hogwash? Do you have your own theory? I'm all ears...

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Beep Test - [Beep]ing Hard!

As part of my studies for a certificate 3 in fitness, yesterday our lecturers put us through our paces, performing all sorts of tests that we would expect to use on clients - flexibility, power, strength, etc. One of the tests we got to do was a beep test, which I was looking forward to, as it's something we hear about all the time with Aussie Rules draftees. Player x gets result y on the beep test, which is supposed to be exciting and we all go "ooh" or "aaah" in wonder at the endurance prowess of our club's next superstar. None of us generally have a clue what it means though!

Well now I do. And my score was 13.13. So this is where you're supposed to go "oooh" or "wow" or "is that all!". I would probably expect a "huh?" though. Well as it turns out, it's a good indicator of your VO2 Max, and mine is 60.7. Which I think is a load of horse[beep].

According to that, I should be able to complete a marathon in 2:41:46. Ha! I am aiming for 3:30, but will be happy if I can push that to about 3:15. And even more laughingly, I should be able to run a half marathon in 1:17. Double ha! My best time (6 months ago) was 1:41. I know I could beat that comfortably now, but by 24 minutes? What are you smoking?

So why the disparity? Am I mentally weak? Or mentally strong but physically weak? Has anyone else had their VO2 max tested, and does it measure up to their race times? According to this page, VO2 max is only an indicator of potential, which seems more realistic to me than claiming it as an accurate guide. So now I know I should in theory be able to run sub 3 hours. If nothing else, it's a goal to aim for. Now for more training. Barman, bring me another!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Run like a bird

After our hike in New Zealand, we were on the bus back to civilisation and there were some birds floating around along the lake shoreline. There wasn't really any purpose that I could see to their flying, it just seemed they were floating around because...they could.

It struck me that for humans, running is our equivalent. Or at least it can be if fitness is not an issue. I don't run for any particular purpose most of the time. Sure I have my training runs, where I do intervals or time trials, and yes I am building up to run a marathon, but the real reason for those long runs at whatever pace feels good is that it's my flying on the breeze. It feels good! It's what humans evolved to do, and it makes sense that it should feel fun and liberating.

Does it feel that way for everyone? Or are people out there enduring it rather than enjoying it? Is it a struggle, but you do it for fitness, or do you run because it makes you feel alive?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gale force winds...

...blowing out of my mouth as I went for another tan time trial today. Managed to improve on my P.B, 14:32 today. It was a struggle early after some interval training yesterday, but I feel ok now. Nothing like an endorphin rush to dull the ache. Pretty shagged though.

Haven't had a chance to do much blogging since arriving back from the NZ hiking trip (which was awesome). Life getting in the way and all that. I did come up with some ideas for posts that I really want to write which I will eventually get around to. Lots of thinking time when you hike for 5 days...maybe too much!

Only 11 days till the great ocean road marathon, and I am still um-ing and ah-ing over whether to go barefoot or in the vibrams. I am pretty confident I can finish barefoot injury free, but the ego in me says run in the vibrams and get a faster time. The worry-wart says I need more than 4 1/2 months of barefooting to run a marathon, especially when I haven't done the distance before. He may be right.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trainingus Interruptus

Very excited to be heading off on a 10 day holiday to NZ this evening. My training for the marathon in mid-May has been severely interrupted by trip preparation & planning, and it will obviously be interrupted by the trip itself too.

But I am not too fussed. 5 days hiking through the spectacular mountains near Queenstown will cure that ill :) I wonder if all the hiking will help in any way? I am only taking the vibrams, no hiking boots, which is a stark change from the heavy hiking boots I used to parade around in a few years ago. We've come a long way baby.

I went for another tan time trial during the week. Slightly disappointed to come in at almost exactly the same time of 14:38 that I did in Feb. This tells me that I'm at least able to maintain my fitness when reducing the running load, but on the other hand, I've hit a plateau, and to go to the next level I think I need to start running again every day. More interval training too, as I have learned during my certificate of fitness studies.

I do miss that feeling of getting out every day. Unfortunately, being quite slim already, I wasn't able to maintain my weight and was getting to a weight that I wasn't happy with. This time around I am going to up the calories. The challenge will be to do it in a helpful way, not just with junk food....

But that's all for when I get back. Right now I must finish packing. It's holiday time!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Not all footpaths are created equal

Stepped it up today in preparation for the marathon in mid May. Having run almost 15km barefoot during the week, which was the furthest I had been sans-shoes until then, today I decided was the day to find out once and for all if I could do the marathon barefoot.

The judges scores are in, and it's a win for the unshod. I ran 27km over 2 1/2 hours, and would have kept going if it hadn't been for a lack of water. Very happy! I definitely have tender feet, but given it's the furthest I've ever run shoes or no shoes, I'm not concerned at all. I know they would have been tender even in shoes. I have one blood blister to show for it, but given I used to get more blisters than this when wearing shoes, I reckon that's a stunning success.

Not all of the paths were smooth sailing however. Some were a little rough. I took a picture on one section of the footpath here:
This was taken on a stretch of path on the Nepean Highway 
near Dandenong Road. I may steer clear in future.

So yeah I had to take it easy in some sections, but the majority was fine, and at times I completely forgot I was relying on the soles of my feet for padding.

Some things I learned, and I'm glad for the early heads up:

  • I took a recently purchased fuel belt with 4 fuel bottles. I filled 3 up with coconut water, and 1 with plain water. The ratio needs to be reversed! I barely finished one of the coconut water bottles, but was dying to suck down some regular tap juice, and this is what ended my run a few km's short on the return journey. Otherwise this was a winner.
  • Chafed Nipples. Must find an answer. It didn't happen until well into the second hour, but by then I was wishing for something to protect the poor buggers from exploding. If anyone knows an easy solution other than vaseline (it stains shirts) I'm all ears.
  • Need something to hold the home made gels. A snap lock plastic bag aint cutting the mustardo. A squeezable / washable / refillable pouch of some sort would be ideal. Something akin to a toothpaste tube, but with a bigger opening.
  • Speaking of gels, these were like liquid gold. A few times I started to feel tired, and forgot that I had the gel. Once my memory came back, a quick hit of these had me back full of energy. The recipe can be found in Brendan Brazier's Thrive Diet book. This book is a fantastic resource for exercise fueling facts and recipes. I think a hit every half hour will do the trick.
  • My hydration strategy was one sip of water every km, alternating between coconut and regular. This was fine, but I need more water to wash down the gels. Water won't be an issue during races with drink stations, but out on training runs there are no volunteers. Selfish bastards.
I'm now feeling quite confident about the marathon. Better to iron out the kinks well in advance. I'm tired today, but a good tired. 

I sometimes forget that it's unusual to not have injuries from running. Well, I still haven't had any since going minimalist / barefoot. 9 months and counting. No strains, no tears, no rolled ankles, no plantar fascitis, no achilles soreness, no shin splints, no ITB, nadda, nyet, zip, zilch. I don't even bother stretching any more. Yet people in shoes look at me like I'm the crazy one.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marathon Training - 6 weeks to go

A few longer runs and some trail running with Jack in the last few weeks. The trail runs have been in the vibrams, as they have long stretches with super sharp rocks that just can't be avoided. I'm not ready for that yet!

I ran home last night barefoot. 14.6km. Not a blister, no pain, it was a breeze. I thought it might be a stretch to aim for a barefoot marathon only a few months after seriously starting the barefoot running (the previous 6 months had been in the vibrams), but I am starting to think it is not only possible, but may be beneficial.

My pace was very consistent last night, starting out at a cruisy pace of 5:20-5:30 km's, and then gradually speeding up to 4:50-5:00 pace, despite being mostly uphill (albeit a subtle climb) on the way home. It felt easy, almost too easy. At times I felt like I was barely going faster than a walk, but the GPS watch doesn't lie. By the time I'd finished, I was almost disappointed that I was home.

If running barefoot helps me regulate my pace to the point where a 15km run feels like a warm-up, I'm riding that train all the way to the end of the line.

Quote of the day

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Sounds exactly like barefoot running to me! Along similar lines is:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Ghandi

I learned something this week...

I recently switched to using an exercise ball for my chair at work. This is something I've been contemplating for a while, and I have thought it a good change so far. With one notable exception...

Sitting on an exercise ball after eating is not a good idea. It took me about a week to figure out the connection, but sitting on one after eating was causing bad stomach cramps. It makes sense (now) - traditionally, humans used to rest by lying down after eating, and so gave their bodies a chance to process the food without any extra stress on the body. But by sitting on the ball, you have to tighten your core muscles (transverse abdominus) to maintain posture, which places a lot of pressure on the stomach if it's trying to digest.

So, I now switch back to a normal chair for an hour after eating. Problem solved. Not related to running at all, but useful info none-the-less. I couldn't find anything about this with a google search.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Be the change you want to see in the world

I realised last night that there's something about myself that I don't like. I tend to preach. It's easy to get excited about things you discover, and I genuinely believe that I have made some important self-discoveries of late that I think could help others. But that doesn't mean that I should be pushing my views onto them.

I intend to take a new approach. I recently read the quote from Ghandi I've used in the post title "Be the change you want to see in the world". I like it, and I think it applies to how I want to change my behaviour. Rather than try to convince others to try new things that you believe will help them, just set an example by behaving that way yourself. If they don't notice or don't care, or aren't interested for whatever reason, c'est la vie.

I'll offer my thoughts if asked, but otherwise I think it's best for my own sanity and that of the people I know to keep mum. I'm tired of trying to fight battles that can't be won. People will do what they want, even if it's detrimental to their own health or state of mind. Sometimes you have to bottom out before you seek the help of others, or they may not be ready for that change just yet, while other times it's just not big enough a deal to be a concern anyway. Either way, they're not going to listen to you unless they're already thinking of making changes. It has to come from within.

I don't think it'll be easy to modify a part of me that's probably been around for quite some time, but I'll sure as hell try to stop whenever I catch myself in the act. I'm sure Peita will appreciate it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Run for the kids

The run for the kids came and went yesterday. I completed it in a time I was happy enough with, 62-63 minutes give or take for 14.38km. I wasn't too thrilled with the way I felt though. The first 10km were ok, then I hit the wall and the last few kilometres I felt ill, which is a first for me. It was a strange sensation - I was not out of breath at all, but my legs felt like lead, and there was a sick feeling in my stomach which wouldn't go away.

I have had many runs where I was pushing it as hard as I could and wanting to stop, but they always felt good in a twisted masochistic kind of way. This was different. It didn't feel healthy and I have been feeling pretty crappy in the 24 hours since, which is another first. I am glad I finished without stopping, but this run has made me think about what drives me to run and what I get out of it.

For starters, I will be going barefoot for all my running from now on. I just feel that the vibrams (or shoes in general), as awesome as they are, are aiding me to run faster than I am ready for. Although a few weeks ago I was definitely running faster, backing off a bit of late has meant I should have dropped my pace in the run accordingly. I think that's a benefit of going barefoot I hadn't previously considered - your feet toughen up at the same gradual pace that your fitness improves, and you can't really overdo it without getting blisters. So everything will hopefully stay in sync from this point onwards.

I have also realised that although it's fun to push yourself against the clock, I don't know that I'm really all that interested in posting personal bests any more. I get far more enjoyment out of our cruisy runs on the weekends, and I think I'm fit enough now to not be too concerned about times or miles. It feels like pushing it too hard in races is the ego talking, and unhealthy both in mind and body. That's not to say I won't be trying to improve my speed, but I think that will come naturally and gradually as my fitness improves, and the times can fall where they may.

It's a completely different philosophy of running compared to my approach so far, but one that I think will be a lot healthier and much more enjoyable.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Put the shoe on the other foot

A little while ago I was searching around for some info on barefooting and stumbled across a podiatry forum. Intrigued by what podiatrists might have to say about the subject, I had a look at some of the topics around the "barefoot running debate". Well my immediate impression was that there is some serious anger on both sides of this so-called debate!

I won't go into detail, but to summarise some of the posts I read, they didn't seem to be against barefooting, yet attacked barefooters with a zeal usually shown by David Koresh wannabes. I engaged a little with them and came to the conclusion that it was a natural defensive mechanism, as they feel that a lot of the "barefooting community" (I'm sure there are communities out there that are barefoot, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to label a few barefooters here and there as a community) attacks them personally, and that some skew the results of research to suit their own argument.

I'm not doubting this happens for a second, but it seems a little sad to me that we are reduced to such an unproductive "us vs them" mentality. Some remarked "bet the barefooters will hate this!" in response to some research which indicated certain people would benefit from motion-control shoes, and had nothing to do with barefooting at all. My problem with this (apart from the unjustified schadenfreude response) was not that the research may be incorrect, but that it merely addresses the symptoms.

I think this goes back to my rant last week. Instead of addressing the real issue (in this case it was people with over-pronating feet), the research attempted to establish the best corrective shoes for people who over-pronate. The obvious question goes unanswered - why the bloody hell are they over-pronating in the first place? Where is the research to determine if this is a natural state, or something that results from their footwear or other factors? Has anyone conducted any studies of children's feet at a young age to determine if a significant percentage of people naturally over-pronate, over-supinate, or are these occurences rare? Why do we make the assumption that there is something wrong with us?

Why not start from the other position - that nearly everyone is able to walk with a pain free gait, and that something else is causing high incidences of poor walking form? It seems to me that 2 millions years of evolution has gone into the way we walk and run, and that's it's a pretty stupid assumption to make that all of a sudden in the last century or so, a significant percentage of a species that relied on its mobility to survive now can't walk without motion correcting shoes or orthotic supports. I know that in some cases people will either be born with issues that require correction, or accidents may cause a loss of motion or mobility, but surely these are the exception.

Continuing with the theme of there probably being nothing wrong with us, I think I have found the cause of my occasional left knee pain. On our hump day run I made an extra effort to observe my running gait, and tried to detect any differences between the way my left and right legs moved. It paid off, and I discovered that I needed to make a slight adjustment. It immediately felt better, although it also felt quite strange, as it is something that I think has been ingrained in my running style for a long, long time.

Another win for going barefoot. I can't prove it, but I don't think I ever would have figured that one out while wearing shoes, or even the vibrams.

I think back to the problems I have had with my feet over the years. When I was a teenager I played a lot of golf. About the age of 16, I started getting real problems with flat feet, to the point where I could hardly finish a round due to the pain. My parents took me to a podiatrist, and they gave me some orthotics. These definitely alleviated the pain, and I was able to get moving again, albeit still with some discomfort at times. I wish I knew then what I know now - I could have saved years of intermittent achilles and plantar fascia problems, thousands of dollars on shoes, and a lot of the pain I experienced when I started running if I'd just gone au-naturale.

Treating the symptoms didn't resolve the underlying problem. It rarely does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday I've got Sunday on my mind....

It's Wednesday and I'm looking forward to the run for the kids on Sunday. Feeling fighting fit after taking it a bit easier the last few weeks. That probably means I'll run like turd on the day :)

Jack and I went for a run in the dandenongs last Sunday, and it seemed like the forest had been reserved exclusively for runners. After the awesome storms we had, not too many were keen on hitting the trails...except us and a bunch of other runners we saw. I guess we're either a little nuts, or everyone else is a little soft. Not that I was complaining, it was good to have the trails virtually to ourselves. The forest seemed to light up after all the rain, and with some fallen trees requiring some delicate negotiation, there was some climbing adventure to boot.

I am rapidly becoming a fan of those chilled out trail runs at a pace that you feel like you could sustain for hours and hours. I'm sure reality would be different and at some stage a wall will be hit, but it seems like good prep for a marathon and further. And considering I want to progress to some ultra marathons, that can only be a good thing.

It makes me wonder if I'm really all that interested in getting faster, or whether I would just rather be able to run longer. I guess if you can run faster, then it makes running at a slower pace much easier, so maybe they're not mutually exclusive.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Finding the balance

So I realised the other day when I went for a run that I've put a few kilos back on, or at least it feels like I have, and my pace at the aerobic threshold (around 146bpm for me) has slowed noticeably. I am happy with my weight now, and I don't want to be too slim, so I face a dilemma - drop a few and run faster, or be more comfortable with my weight?

It's tempting to get a bit leaner for next Sunday's run for the kids to maybe shave a minute off my final time, but really, is it worth it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The band-aid society

This is not a post about running, but something I've been mulling over for a while and I thought it was worth musing over in print.

A few things here and there that I've seen or heard recently have triggered in me the belief that we are the architects of our own demise. That's probably not a huge revelation, but the manner in which I believe that we inflict troubles on ourselves boils down to one simple thing - we like to treat the symptoms of our problems, rather than finding the real cause and addressing that. It's a quick fix with immediate results, but almost always ignores the real problems, which will then manifest again in one form or another. In short, we're lazy. I'll run through a few examples that spring to mind.

A big one first - global warming. Now I'm a sceptic of this for starters - I think there are far bigger issues we need to address first, and whether or not we're making the globe 1 or 2 degrees warmer is up for debate anyway - but how are we looking to address it? By putting taxes on everything and anything that our governments can think of. And we all go along with it (I'm generalising) because it means we don't have to think about it. It's someone else's problem to come up with a "scheme" to reduce our carbon footprint. How about looking at our lifestyles and the amount of crap we consume and spew out into the atmosphere that is causing the (alleged) global warming? That will never happen, because it would mean we have to look introspectively at our own lives. We're too lazy for that.

Take obesity - a pretty large problem, pardon the pun. How do we address it? Fat pills, stomach stapling, liposuction, wonder drugs. How about turning off the TV, getting off your arses and doing something about it, like eating real food and doing some exercise? Of course not. We look to fix the symptoms, never the causes.

High blood pressure, cholesterol issues, type II diabetes, most cancers, all problems that stem from a piss-poor diet and lack of exercise. The solution? All sorts of wonderful drug concoctions, invasive surgery, and who knows what else. Where does the responsibility for your own body come into it? It's the only possession you truly own! If the average person caught their children treating their material possessions like TV's / computers / whitegoods with the same disdain we treat our own bodies with, they'd be mortified, yet the same behaviour towards their own bodies goes unquestioned. I find it baffling.

I know this is one hell of a rant, and anyone reading this could be forgiven for thinking I'm in a state of constant anger if this post is anything to go by. I'm not at all. I just think we're capable of so much more, but we're our own worst enemies. I find it sad to think because of all our technological advances, we are becoming a lazy species so out of touch with ourselves that one day we'll reach a point where the majority of the population is relying on technology just to survive - not live, survive - day to day.

We put ourselves in a constant state of stress, and somehow manage to convince ourselves that it's all good, that we are happy. Got a problem? Put a band-aid on it, that'll fix everything. I'm not sure what the point of this essay is, but I know that more of the same is not the answer. We need a new approach.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Call me Zola...

I went for a well needed run at lunch time today, 4 days was too long a break. My knee was aching again this morning. I think it's channelling my sub-conscious and telling me to run Forrest, run. So it was 3 times around the tan or thereabouts for 12km. On the third time round a guy caught up and called me Zola. I'll take that as a compliment. I guess not many people see someone running barefoot around the tan. This was fairly evident from the countless quizzical looks I got from most people running the other way.

We got chatting and he is in training for a half-ironman in Hawaii in June. He did a full one in China last year and is now just getting back into it. So we were running together and chatting for about 10 minutes and I realised how much more quickly the time passes when you're running and chatting at the same time. Before I knew it Dave the Scot (I should have asked him how Annie Lennox is these days) was off back to work and I found myself around the other side of the tan.

Time to find a regular running partner on some of these longer runs. You out there Jack? Let's pick up the distance :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bizarro World

I went to a 21st on Saturday night where there was no music from post-1990, the oldies were the ones getting munted and falling over on the dance floor, and all the youngsters were well behaved. Welcome to bizarro world.

I had another bizarro world moment yesterday. Sitting down watching a bit of TV and my left knee started aching. I had forgetten it used to do that (a lot) before I started running about a year ago. So that's what happens when I don't run for a few days. It starts complaining!

I had occasionally been worried that the increase in running I had been doing this year might cause me problems with my left knee. It needs an operation to fix stretched ligaments to stabilise the joint (old war wound / basketball injury), but I don't have the inclination to be out of action for several months while it heals and I go through rehab. So I put up with it, and most of the time I don't even notice it. On the odd occasion though, it does ache a little while running. Not enough to stop me, but enough to be a mild concern.

Well after last night, I think the concern is greater if I don't run. I got a subtle reminder of what happens when I laze around.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tan Time Trial #3

Today was time for the tan time trial #3 for the year. I felt pretty ordinary as I went on my warmup run. I am now of the belief that this feeling after a few days of not running is due to carrying extra muscle glycogen and feeling a bit heavier. I remember the same feeling at the start of several races I went in last year, and those were always after a bit of carb loading and a few days rest from running. I guess it's a good thing to be loaded up with energy, but the heavy feeling takes some getting used to. Being familiar with it is probably a big benefit, as at least now I know why it happens and that it's a good thing.

By the 1/2km mark into the actual time trial I felt like a weight was lifted and started running much more freely. I didn't feel particularly fast, but my end result said otherwise, coming in around 23 seconds faster than last time at 14:38. I don't think I went out as hard either, as I didn't get that "I wanna throw up, why on earth do I do this to myself" feeling anywhere near as much, and felt like I could have sprinted home a little faster. The only thing that stopped me was I felt like I couldn't move the legs any quicker, even though I had the lung capacity. This might be the surface - it's hard to get a grip on the sand when you want to accelerate, but I suspect I was just more stuffed than I realised.

Afterwards I am feeling good. Love that runner's high.

Run Summary
Distance : 3.83km
Time : 14:38
Average : 3:51/km

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 47. Oops!

Thanks to monsieur valentine, I completely forgot to run on Sunday. And then again yesterday. Not sure I can blame him but I will anyway. So my goal of running everyday is now shot to hell. Bah.

Will I continue anyway? Well I most definitely will continue running most days, but now that the bubble has burst I doubt I'll keep up the blog. Maybe just when something interesting happens.

I'll definitely be sticking to at least 2 big runs a week though, possibly 3.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 44. Brilliant!

Went for my long distance run today, up in the dandenongs starting at one tree hill. It was a bit of a random affair, just trying to find different tracks, and in the process I found some magic trails. There was a bit of everything, steep hills, magnificent scenery, the oldest hardwood trees in the world, overgrown ferns, fallen trees, waterfalls...and a wallaby! He crossed the track a few metres in front of me and we stood there checking each other out for a good minute or so. I think he was camera shy though, because he was happy enough to stick around until the exact moment I opened the camera app on the phone. Doh.

And was it peaceful. Apart from the occasional walkers, it felt like I was out there alone. That's the main thing I miss when running in the burbs, a bit of quiet. My focus was just to enjoy it and not worry about my speed, take breaks when I felt like it, and it was a lot fun. At times it just felt like I was gliding through the trails, a really cool feeling.

I expected to feel pretty tight after the car trip back home, but to my pleasant surprise I felt fine. Muddy, but not sore at all. The storms a few nights back left a few areas pretty mushy, which was good fun to run through. I found a few dead ends here and there too, but it was all part of finding some good trails that I want to return to.

Run Summary
Distance : 16.37km
Time : 1:36:15
Elevation : +555.7 / -548.6

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 43. Is it even worth mentioning?

Another short run. I think I'll stop blogging these short runs unless I have a few thoughts to go with it. It takes longer to get the blog post up than the run itself...

They have put another layer of sandy gravel down on our local track which is good, as there were a few rough patches with sharp stones ready and willing to cause bruising.

Run Summary
Distance : 1.19km
Time : 5:33
Elevation : + / - 3m

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 42. Scaling back

I am scaling the running back. Not because I don't enjoy it, or because I am feeling injured or tired, but I am concerned that it may be causing me to lose too much weight. I am slim enough as it is and although I feel quite healthy now, I'm happy to drop the excess body fat, but I'm wary of overdoing it and dropping too much lean body mass along the way.

So I am going to drop to 1 long endurance run per week, and 1 speed / intervals session per week, along with twice weekly gym sessions. On the "non-running" days I will run no more than 2km at most, and do it barefoot to continue the adaptation. This may not be a permanent thing, but I will do it until I am comfortable that I'm able to meet all my body's nutritional needs first. Some reading probably required.

So tonight was a 1.25km run, 3 circuits around the aths track. I found it incredibly difficult to stop at this point! These short runs will be merely to maintain the discipline of daily running.

It was absolutely belting down tonight in melbourne, and it was a pleasure running in the rain. Heading out in the massive storm that hit earlier this afternoon would have been brilliant, but alas I had to satisfy myself with watching it from the office. Sigh.

Run Summary
Distance : 1.25km
Time : 5:51
Elevation : + / - 0

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 41. Wine > Intervals > I'm with Stupid

A glass of vino with steak is not ideal preparation for interval training.

Run Summary
Distance : 4.17km
Time : 19:39
Elevation : +20.4 / -27.1

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 40. Summer Cruisin'

Another cruisy run tonight, keeping it (mostly) under the aerobic threshold. I need to start running in the mornings again. It's so hot at the moment. Some more random barefooting on paths and grass, and I'm getting the hang of the adjustment to the running style. It's a skill just like any other sport.

Run Summary
Distance : 4.03km
Time : 19:06
Elevation : +4.6 / -14.8

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 39. I want to get high...

On grass...

It occurred to me that I have been almost exclusively running on hard surfaces, so today I hit the grass as much as possible. There are a few parks around so I took advantage of them. It is definitely a nice feeling, and no chance of blistering up :)

3 easy runs in a row...I think it's time for a bit of speed work tomorrow. I enjoy the chilled out pace but I also love to get out there and thrash it until I feel like I can't go any more. That reminds me of a passage from Born to Run - most people do their slow runs too fast, and their fast runs too slow. It makes sense. You need to either be below your aerobic threshold and burning fat (and teaching your body to become better at that), or pushing it so hard you force a response from your body to become faster, through rebuilding bigger and better and more efficient, so that you have a higher top speed, and a higher cruising speed.

Anywhere in between and you're just burning sugar. That's fine for racing (if that's your thing), but it won't get you a hell of a lot fitter.

Forgot the heart rate monitor today - bad boy.

Run Summary
Distance : 3.69km
Time : 17:49
Elevation : +9.1 / -7.7

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 38. Baby I was born to run...

Read the book Born to Run for the second time this weekend. It's easily one of the best books I've ever read, and definitely the most inspiring for runners. I did read Once a Runner too recently which was a great read, but I definitely prefer Born to Run.

Every time I have doubts about my sanity for running barefoot, I just think back to this book and realise that it's insanity to put bit thick padding on our feet. I mean, if you started putting thick padded gloves on your kids any time they tried to use their hands and went around telling people, "it's ok, it's better for them because it's safer and corrects their poor hand usage technique", people would think you're crazy. And if a company started manufacturing such a product and told us we needed it, we'd think THEY were crazy. Yet that's exactly what the running shoe companies have conned us into doing with our feet. Ah, nothing like the sound of sheep bah-ing. The marvels of modern marketing.

But I digress. Two easy going runs in a row now, and I feel fighting fit again. I certainly could have kept going today, but it was a good distance to build up a light sweat and have me feeling good, and aching to get out there and ramp up some faster runs again. I trialled what I learned a few days ago with the barefooting to avoid causing friction on the mid foot, and it seems to be a winner. On occasions where my concentration went walkabout I definitely noticed a bit more friction, so it's something that I still need more practice at.

Basically for me I need to focus on a very slight "toe-poke" as I'm lifting my feet as if a ball were just in front of me and I want to lightly touch or kick it. It takes a bit of practice to do this while still keeping the legs relaxed, but I feel like I'm getting better at it. The pace feels the same, the amount of energy expended feels the same, but without the blister inducing lifting of my feet. It's only a very subtle change, but worth persisting with.

Run Summary
Distance : 5.19km
Time : 26:44
Elevation : +6.1 / -4.1

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 37. Some discipline of a different kind

Today was a deliberately sloooooooow run. It took discipline of a different kind to make sure I didn't break out into a faster pace, and that I kept the run to a minimum distance. I felt perfectly fine, but after feeling so fatigued at times this week I know my body needs some rest. Something I'm not necessarily good at.

So there ya have it. I can restrain myself after all. It sounds bizarre I know, but it was actually difficult to do.

Run Summary
Distance : 2.25km
Time : 12:39
Elevation : -

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 36. Double commute. Double stuffed.

Today it took me just over an hour to run in to work. It took Rahul 55 minutes to drive. He lives just over 2km closer to work than I do, so on the numbers it turns out that running was faster than driving today. That's one small win for the runners :) Going home would be a different story but I'm still gonna soak this one up...

It was drizzling this morning and a touch chilly compared to the last few days. Perfect running weather. I love getting out there in the rain, it feels brilliant for some reason that I can't or don't want to try to explain.

Today there was no knee pain (I think the barefooting is reducing the impact enough to keep my bad knee totally pain free), the adductors are starting to feel a bit freer, but I was still damn tired. So I took it easy to start and by about the 35 minute mark I finally felt free of the tiredness and soreness.

I have noticed that on these long "tempo" runs I tend to hover around the 140-155bpm heart rate, and there is a slight feeling of lethargy. At the 10km mark there is a fairly steep hill I need to climb, and going up this gets the heart going, and immediately afterwards it feels like I've shaken off the cobwebs. My speed seems to improve at the same heart rate, and although I do start to feel a little tired towards the end, that's hardly unexpected after being out on the road for quite a while.

I reckon I might try a strategy of kicking it up a notch at about the 2 or 3km mark into a long run to see if it achieves the same effect. It's discovering the little things like this that I love about running every day. It gives me the freedom to experiment and pay attention to the details.

The next commute run should break the 1 hour mark, although I did stop the watch at every red light, which I seemed to get every single one of this morning, and that would have added a minute or two overall.

Run Summary
Distance : 13.41km
Time : 1:00:38
Elevation : +57.4 / -85.9

I then went and ran home after work. Jeez I was knackered at the end :) There was just nothing left in the legs. I wouldn't have blown out a candle but I also wouldn't have outrun a 3 toed sloth. Still, it was worth it to see what it feels like to run when you're operating on low muscle / liver glycogen levels and getting your energy almost exclusively from fat. Although you feel like you're running through mud, it's not as slow as it feels even though your speed does drop off.

Nice easy run tomorrow :)

Run Summary
Distance : 11.12km*
Time : 52:24
Elevation : +90.7 / -68.9

* I had a five minute break and then ran a further 1.75km but that's not listed here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 35. DOMS and the Machine

Have a good case of DOMS today from Touch Rugby on Tuesday night. The adductors were screaming all day, although they seemed to ease up when I got on the treadmill at the gym for my warmup. The run tonight was in place of running to work, which will be tomorrow morning assuming I don't sleep in.

Absolutely buggered today. 2 nights of little sleep in the heat, plus touch rugby, plus the concert last night (Florence and the Machine absolutely rock live, go you good things) and not getting home till late all adds up.

But the run tonight as usual has me feeling chipper. I dunno how it works, I just know it works. I wasn't feeling too keen on the commute tomorrow but now it's all systems go. I also found that making a small change in focus when my feet land and lift off seemed to reduce the friction on the balls of my feet. A bit of playing around with it and by the end of the run I think I might have solved the blisters problem. Time will tell but it felt right.

Run Summary
Distance : 5.67km
Time : 27:12
Elevation : +5.9 / -8.6

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 34. Sore!

I was feeling pretty sore and sorry for myself this morning after touch rugby last night. We always turn up intending to take it easy but we never do. We still sucked so badly we didn't win a game the whole season and got thrashed most games, but at least we finished it and scored at least one try every game :)

An easy barefoot conditioning run today. I am sticking with a plan of one hard day followed by a barefoot run for the next few weeks to see how everything feels. It was good to be able to knock out a few km's at a decent pace when feeling that bruised and tight, and a good stretch after was just what the doctor ordered.

Run Summary
Distance : 4.18km
Time : 18:39
Elevation : -8 / +2

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 33. On the verge

I went out for some intervals today, intending to do about 5 or 6. The hammies got very tight towards the end of the second interval though, so I called it a day early. Possibly a bit wussy, but I don't fancy getting an injury.

Run Summary
Distance : 6.66km
Time : 30:56
Elevation : +32 / -32

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 32. A new month

An easy barefoot conditioning run today. 4km around the aths track at a very slow pace. I can feel a bruise or something similar on the ball of my left foot's small toe. I am pretty sure it's nothing serious having broken enough bones before to know what that feels like. It was tender to start but seemed to ease up by the end of the run. Ironically I remember stepping on something while walking around at home which is the most likely cause of this.

Otherwise I just concentrated on light footfalls, trying not to make any sound landing, and it felt good. I suspect my heart rate monitor wasn't reading correctly at the end, since I stepped up the pace but it didn't seem to make any difference to my heart rate. Have to monitor the monitor...

Run Summary
Distance : 4.19km
Time : 21:19
Elevation : +0 / -0

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Summary - January

Well one month in and I'm feeling good. I wasn't sure if I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but I'm finding that running everyday is easier than I thought, as long as I don't overdo it. I did go barefoot 7 days in 8, and that was too much too soon, but other than that I am happy with my progress. I am definitely feeling much fitter, and my speeds and heart rate are showing that.

I want to run more km's each month than the previous month, so a starting point of 210km is a good base to begin with. Bring on the rest of 2010!

I remember the calves feeling sore in the first week, but that is all a distant memory now. I am relieved at how quickly my legs have adapted, as it might have been a bit tough keeping it up otherwise. I feel good and strong, and touch wood I don't feel even close to any injuries occurring.

Some random thoughts
  • Starting out at a very easy pace ensures your body warms up correctly and you don't place undue stress on your heart. I found the runs where I felt best were when my first kilometre or two was at a slow pace. The trick will be to find a way to achieve this same easy start in races, as you generally have too many people around at the start line to do any sort of warm up while you're waiting for the gun.
  • I think the runs where I had the heart rate spikes at the start of the run occurred because I went too quickly at a time when I wasn't feeling flash. This is related to the point above.
  • Sans music is the way to go. I didn't take the mp3 player out once and didn't miss it.
  • Sans warm-up stretch is also the way of the future. You don't need it and it's more likely to cause injuries than no stretching. 10-20 minutes of slower jogging to start out with to warm up the body is enough. A light stretch after is all I ever do, and only after harder sessions at that.
  • The barefoot feeling is fantastic, but it does take time as I've written about. I just have to give the soles more adaptation time, but they're getting there. A few more months should do the trick. The vibrams are a good way to keep up the speed and develop the fitness in the meantime.
  • Last, but perhaps most the most important discovery I have had - feeling like crap is not a good reason not to run. Feeling like crap is THE best reason to run! It will be hard at first, so go easy, but by the end of the run you should be feeling a lot better.

The numbers game
Distance : 209.48km
Tan Time Trial : 14:59
Fastest 1km time : 3:30
Number of Blisters : Too many to count
Injuries : 0
Days Rest : 0

So it's adios January, hello Feb.

Day 31. Tan Time Trial

Jack was heading down to the tan so I joined him for a few laps of light jogging, with one time trial lap thrown in the middle. After getting around in 15:27 a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure how I would go this time, but was pleasantly surprised to just pip the 15 minute barrier at 14:59. Talk about scraping it in. So the next target is 14:30. Maybe by the end of February...

It was getting warm out there even by 9 in the morning, so I'm glad we went early. This arvo would have been a killer. Although I completed about 14-15km in total, I'm just going to list the time trial run here, as I can't be bothered uploading all the other run details. Our last 1 and a half laps were done barefoot at a pretty easy pace. I had to call an end on the second trip up Anderson St as it was generating a bit too much friction even at a slower pace.

Although the tan is not the fastest track - apart from being hilly, it's a bit slower running on the sand / gravel than sealed surfaces - I think I'll make it my end of month time trial for any month where I haven't got a race coming up in the next week. The hills make me want to spew and I feel like stopping most of the way after I reach about 2km in, but that's why it's so good to do :)

So that's it for January! A summary post is on the way.

Run Summary - Tan Time Trial
Distance : 3.83km
Time : 14:59
Elevation : +41.8 / -40.0

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 30. Some intervals

Out on the aths track today after a warmup to do a few 1km intervals. These felt good, hard of course but that's the idea. I think I'll aim for a few more next time, as I felt I could have pumped out a few more today.

Run Summary
Distance : 7.23km
Time : 32:18
Elevation : +50.5 / -54.7

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 29. The two halves of barefoot adaptation

The last few days have confirmed what I already suspected. I have now been running in the Vibrams for about 7 or 8 months, and over that period I experienced the occasional tired muscle or foot / calf / ankle as muscles adjusted and were used more frequently (and correctly). This eventually disappeared and earlier this month I reached a point where I considered my legs to finally be barefoot trained, at least in a muscular sense.

However, with the excessive load I have placed on my soles as I go completely barefoot, I realised that I had only completed half of the equation. The "toughening up", or adaptation of the soles is equally important, and something that the minimalist shoes such as the Vibrams cannot help you with.

I went out today and could not even feel the blisters and "hot spots" that have developed on my soles (exclusively on the toes and balls of both feet) with the Vibrams on. When I look back at how I adapted my muscles, it was usually a case of one day of running (sometimes two), and one or two days rest. I need to apply the same strategy to conditioning the soles, and eventually building to turning the ratio around the other way, and then progressing to exclusively barefoot.

I think if I was to have my time over again, I would go 1 day vibrams, 1 day barefoot, 1 day of rest, gradually building up the distance and speed over time. But I am never one for much patience, so I don't know if I could have actually done that!

Today's run was revealing in other ways. For whatever reason I was feeling very ordinary and lethargic at the start as I headed around Albert Park lake, but by the end of the run and afterwards I felt fantastic.I realised that no matter what you feel like, just get out there and bloody well do it! Thanks to Nike for their slogan, if not their shoes :)

Run Summary
Distance : 5.78km
Time : 26:39
Elevation : +28.4 / -30.3

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 28. Can't help myself....Bad Habits...

It's time to concede I'm overdoing the barefoot. 30 odd years of wearing shoes and the resulting soft-as-butter soles can't be overcome in a month. I went against my better judgement today and decided to try to commute home barefoot. Partly because I was curious, partly because I forgot to take the VFF's to work :)

So I set out intending to take it easy, and I did, which definitely helped, but a week of barefooting distances beyond my feet's current capabilities finally caught up with me. I made it half way home before I had to call it a day. I could have kept going but may not have been able to run the next few days, so I took the smart option for once.

I have to drop 2 of the frequency, distance or speed of my barefoot runs. You can't always get what you perhaps my plan to run the R4TK barefoot is a bit too optimistic. I haven't given up all hope but it looks doubtful at this stage. Anyway, learn from your mistakes :)

Run Summary
Distance : 8.08km
Time : 42:39
Elevation : +79.0 / -57.8

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 27. The return of the hump day runners

Joined the gang again for hump day running, including running to & from the city. Just a gentle run today. I have slightly overdone the barefooting (too much too soon, as is typical for me) and the feet are a little tender. There are blisters which are not overly painful but enough to feel and have forced me to slow a little. I'll give them a couple of days to recover. My plan to run to work barefoot tomorrow to work has been placed on hold. I'll get the VFF's out and run home as far as is comfortable, but no further. No point in exacerbating the problem.

While looking for info on blister prevention, I found a good website on making the transition from shod to unshod running. It's the Barefoot Running University! I guess I'm hoping to be a graduate without the degree...It mentions some common sense stuff, like if you develop blisters, you're doing too much too soon (mental note to self: duh!).

Left my watch in the office so I'll have to update the run details tomorrow.

Run Summary - Part 1
Distance : 2.53km
Time : 11:30
Elevation : +56.6 / -25.5

Run Summary - Part 2
Distance : 2.30km
Time : 11:49
Elevation : +29.9 / -67.7

Run Summary - Part 3
Distance : 1.09km
Time : 5:26
Elevation : +14.0 / -17.4