Thursday, December 30, 2010

Icing on the Cake

It finally looks and feels like winter here on the Front Range of Colorado. About six inches of snow have fallen and the temperature has dropped to about 5 degrees. I would rather run in a blinding snowstorm than with the temperatures in the sixties and that nasty wind we can get here so I threw some weight in the back of the pick up and drove down to Eldorado Springs. Six inches of snow had already fallen there and was still coming down when I pulled in to the Dowdy Draw Trailhead.

I put my iphone in a ziplock bag in my windbreaker pocket and headed up the trail. I clearly was the only one out; it was virgin powder as they say in Colorado. The South Spring Brook Trail and the Goshawk Trail are somewhat twisty and rocky; on the way up I was able to at least see where the larger rocks were covered with snow and avoid them. It was a little slower going moving my feet through the snow but the running seemed easier because of the trade off of slower speed.

At three miles and 700 feet of elevation gain I turn and headed down opting for the North Spring Brook Trail which is slightly longer, less steep, but canted to the downhill side. This proved to be more difficult because the upslope wind was driving the snow into my face and the late afternoon light was completely flat so I could no longer visually distinguish any rocks, unevenness of the trail, or holes under the snow cover. They say that if you let a horse run how it wants it won't step in a hazard. I must have had the horse sense in me today because I couldn't see anything and had no mishaps, just a great run that you had to be there to appreciate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

1200 Miles for 2010

I was hoping to run about 1600 miles this calendar year but a stress fracture cooled my heals. I didn't run for about two months and then started back slowly and didn't build back the base I had because of priorities. I am happy with where I am for the moment though. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago that made me miss ten days but I've run the last eight with each day including progressively more elevation. Today's 8.6 miles had 1000 feet of elevation gain mostly in the first half of the run and I felt good all the way so I'm content.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NB MT101 Disappointment

Up until a couple of weeks ago I had been doing some aggressive trail running on the weekend but not much midweek, then I caught a nasty cold just as winter break was beginning. I recovered relatively quick but had to ease back into hills and distance. For Christmas, I made sure I received a pair of New Balance MT101's.

The weather has been mild and we have absolutely no snow. Christmas Day I put the new shoes on and head out to some nearby trails. I liked that the MT101's required me to run with a barefoot gait. The three-pronged nibs on the soles provided decent traction. That is it for the pluses. Descending even the slightest incline did not feel right; my impression is that more forefoot flexibility is necessary for the feel I'm looking for; the rock stop layer certainly makes the front stiff. This also made my foot/ankle want to twist too easily with any uneven step, although I was able to plow through rocky trails without much concern for the bottoms of my feet. The shoe also doesn't come in anything broader than a D width. I had to buy an 11 instead of a 10 1/2 which was snug all the way around. By the time I was done with 6.5 miles my big toe was screaming with every step.

It seems as though New Balance just took a racing flat or cross country shoe and put a stiff piece of silvery plastic in the sole and called it a minimalist trail shoe. I suppose that would be a manufacturer's strategy to get something on the market in a hurry. I hope someone has designed something from scratch and has it on the market sometime this spring that isn't just for the narrow-footed.

In the meantime I'm just running with screws in any old worn down pair of running shoes. I have enough of those.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Haven't a Thing to Wear

...on my feet.

I have a pile of running shoes in my closet; four of them were purchased this year. None of them suit me and it doesn't seem that anything on the market matches what I perceive as my need. Over the years I've run mostly in Asics Evolutions or a similar medium motion control model. I usually ran on the roads and the typical feedback from my body during those years told me that my limit was about 35 miles per week.

Last spring as I incorporated barefoot running, I switched to mostly trails, and my feet and ankles strengthened accordingly I discovered I could run much more without my body complaining. Unfortunately, the Asics were causing a problem that wasn't apparent until the miles went up and was exacerbated by scanty padding in the FiveFingers or bare foot.

After seven weeks off because of a stress fracture I believed I should ease back in to running while protecting the injured part; I was sold on some big New Balance boats (1226)which allowed Achilles tendonitis to develop in just 44 miles of a walk/jog combination over 18 outings. I've gone back to the old Asics, but the problem of uneven thickening and callus build-up caused by the pronation-limiting features returned. This is what caused undue stress to occur to the second metatarsal that fractured. I've cut a hole in the insole to allow some space there.

I like the flexible bottoms of the FiveFingers although a couple millimeters more in thickness might protect better on rocky trails. They don't protect well from stubbing a toe. They're also quite cold in the winter. I was hoping the NB MT 101 would be the shoe, but they haven't been available around where I live (Boulder) to even try on and they don't make them in a width other than a D. I have the Nike Free. I was sold a larger size to make up for their lack of width so I can tolerate running in them for three or four miles on pavement (they do permit a typical minimalist foot strike) but they're like wearing skis on a trail, not to mention that the tread is unsuitable for trails.

I may venture to market again to see if there isn't something I previously presumed unsuitable. If I do find a shoe I am convinced that it is important to break myself into it little by little. The alternative shoe and the fall back shoe will be the old Asics, the tread worn off, but with hex-head screwed for traction.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Return to Shadow Canyon

I hadn't run Shadow Canyon since early July before I fractured my foot. I hadn't planned on going there but to get Alex to run with me it has to be more interesting than our nearby open space trails. I invited him to Eldorado Springs and from there gave him a couple of options and he chose the steeper one. The temperature was about at freezing and Alex suffers from exercise induced asthma when it's cold. We actually stopped by the pharmacy to get a refill on his inhaler prescription before going but it had expired. We took it easy and even hiked some sections but the narrow rocky trails higher up just want to be run. We still complete the 5 miles in a tad over an hour. I was disappointed the last time I posted video on here but I'm going to try it again.

You may want to mute the volume so you don't have to hear me grunting about filming and watching my steps at the same time. And this is different footage from what I posted of Facebook.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Runner is Born

At the alternative high school where I teach we have experiential learning outings at the end of each six week term for students who pass all of their classes. Yesterday, they chose from a vertical wind tunnel, a tour of Invesco Field where the Denver Broncos play, slam poetry at downtown cafe, a scavenger hunt at the Denver Museum of Natural History, or mountain trail running with me. Needless to say, my offering wasn't many kids' first choice. They had to rank their choices 1-5. I didn't ask but it occurred to me that maybe the four that signed up for me got mixed up on whether 1 was the top choice or 5 was the top choice; I know I've done that on surveys before. By the departure time yesterday morning, two had been disqualified, one showed up after we had left to catch the bus, so it was just one student and I.

We took public transportation to Boulder and were in downtown at 9:50AM. We dumped our backpacks where I store our vending cart, made a pit stop, and head out walking and connected up with the Boulder Creek Path. We reached Settler's Park where we were going pick up mountain park trails but they were all blocked with police tape because a helicopter was loading power line parts and flying off with them. We bypassed the whole area by walking through a historic Boulder neighborhood.

We arrived at the Mt. Sanitas Trailhead and started to jog. My running buddy for the day had run the Bolder Boulder when he was in middle school so although he wasn't in runner shape, what to expect was not unfamiliar to him. We alternated between jogging, walk, climbing, hiking, and taking an occasional brief breather. At one point after I took off jogging on a flatter part of the trail I noticed he hadn't followed. When he caught up, he said he didn't feel so well, that maybe he should have eaten something. I had advised him beforehand and also offered the option again before heading out. I gave him a gel, which he didn't enjoy but it seemed to revive him. Before too long we finished our ascent of 1400 feet at the summit of Mt. Sanitas. We caught our breath and started down a steeper trail than we had taken going up. In some places we had to climb down facing the mountain to avoid slipping and becoming our own personal mini avalanche.

We made it down without incident and took the gently sloped Dakota Ridge valley access road down to the trailhead. At one point as we're cruising down the path he punches out at the air and declares, "I feel like Rocky".

Perfect. Mission Accomplished.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bonus Days

Being able to run after work this week was like finding a three dollar chocolate truffle after eating your way through the trick or treat candy that filled your pillow case. It had to be savoured. Daylight savings starts tomorrow so any runs after work for the next few months will be in the dark and cold. The temperatures have been in the seventies all week but with the last hour of daylight they slipped into the sixties; what a treat to run on a November afternoon in shorts and a T-shirt.

I had run a lot last weekend so on Monday afternoon I was content to just get out and take Elliott for a stroll around the neighborhood as the trees began to cast long shadows across their golden leaves that lay underfoot. Tuesday and Wednesday were marathon teaching days with four hours of adult classes each evening after my regular workday with the alternative education congregation. I was content to have chat quick meal and a beer while catching up with Ruth and being entertained by Elliott for a few minutes before going succumbing to slumber.

Thursday, was the kind of day you want to tell everyone you know to get outside and enjoy the day so before changing into summer running clothes I poked my head into Valerie's hazmat zone where she was seated at her little desk with books propped open around her littered with bite-sized candy bar wrappers, the radio on, the laptop in front of her, and cell phone in hand. She swung around, clearly having an OMG moment and knowing she was going to surprise me said,"I've been thinking I want to run cross country next year, but that would mean starting to run so I decided that they next time you invited me I would go, but I have too much homework right, the next time." Wow, what a surprise. I enjoyed the sunny late afternoon running all the streets and cul-de-sacs of the adjoining multi-million dollar-homed neighborhood feeling so fortunate that I felt like I was slumming there.

Yesterday afternoon I was drawn directly home by the prospect of savouring the last sunny post-work run of the Indian summer for this year. I texted Valerie on the way home,"Run?" "X_X....Maybe" I texted back,"fuel hydrate". When I arrived she was already in running shorts, a T-shirt, and her like-new Asics from last year. :)

I had a couple of things to take care of first; Valerie went out for a quick mile and a quarter warm up around the neighborhood. I wanted her reacquaintance with running to be more than just plodding along on pavement so we drove around to get near the open space trails that I usually run to from the house. "We jogged and chatted side by side until we came to the single track and Valerie went ahead to set the pace. Before we reached the high point of our trail the sun had ducked behind Bear Mountain and the air felt cooler although we occasionally passed through warm pockets of air. Valerie sprinted up to the summit and I pushed as well, thinking about how she'd feel the today. We stopped for a minute enjoying the view of almost the entire county before coasting back down to the truck.

Many runners lament their children not following in their foot steps. Who knows if Valerie will join me again but yesterday's 2.3 miles was better than a three dollar truffle at the bottom of a trick or treat bag.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Warrior

Running has taken a back seat on the bus of my weekly activities. The eight or nine students that would inconsistently run with me at school has dwindled to zero. Now it is difficult to justify going out for a run by myself while on the job. (I have been eating at lunchtime but maybe I should make some adjustment there.) Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I teach Adult Spanish classes and the other three weekday evenings usually find me running errands, taking care of household chores, engaging in a little human interaction with my people. Elliott of course needs some daddy time and it can't all be in the seat of the running stroller. I have managed to escape a couple of times on the weekends.

Yesterday, I was able to enjoy an Indian summer afternoon - sunny, seventy-five, and calm. I ran open space trails and some pavement for an hour and a half covering nine miles and today I it looks like I should be able to go for a FiveFingers run. That will probably just be three or four miles because my feet and calf muscles are having to get accustomed to being minimally shod all over again.

I am anxious for all the minimalist shoes to hit the market. As I've mentioned in a previous blog, I ended up with Achilles tendonitis just 44 miles and 18 days after being sold on a pair of New Balance boats. It can't be a coincidence. It sounds like finding the right pair is not going to be easy either. Here in Boulder, Colorado, definitely one of the running capitals of the country, the running shoe stores are saying they might carry one or another; clearly I'm going to have to shop different stores to compare them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unceremonious 1000th Mile

I finally reached 1000 miles for the calendar year yesterday on a 7.1 mile run. I had anticipated reaching 1000 in July and maybe even two thousand by the end of the year but a stress fracture will put an end to grandios running dreams. I enjoyed a half hour 3 mile Vibramed trail run this afternoon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parenthood Paranoia

Elliott has been a dream child. He wears out his grandpa-like dad and mother-like mother because he is on the go from the time he wakes up until after we'd like to be asleep. He's even foregoing naps of more than about 20 minutes. He's never been sick (knock on wood), not even a cold, since he was born even though we've all had our turns at being ill in one way or another. He understands Ruth and I regardless of whether we speak to him in English or Spanish and his vocabulary at 18 months included words from both languages with almost an equal number from American Sign Language.
...................Elliott with Lego phone

Little by little over the past month it seemed as though these words were going away and everything seemed to be replaced with his pointing at something and saying "teen". He also seemed to be a bit indifferent to my presence. I was noticing but not really processing it until Ruth mentioned about four days ago that Elliott's language seemed to be regressing and that there were some other behavioral things that concerned her. I said I thought the same thing. I woke up at about 2AM Wednesday morning and fired up the laptop and googled "language regression" or something similar. I learned that nineteen months of age is the median age for language loss related to autism. I didn't read much beyond that. I felt an unfamiliar wave of devastation come over me. I woke Ruth up and neither one of us slept much more than an hour before morning.

I made an appointment with the pediatrician for Friday and Ruth began some intense infant interaction and documentation. She worked at prompting him to produce words that we knew that he had been using. She was encouraged by her day with him. I played some hide and seek with him and when he would find me or I would find him he would run up and hug me around the legs.

I had read at some point that older parents, children born between October and March who had jaundice at birth were more likely to have autism. I also remembered reading at some point about other characteristics of the disease and I know that Elliott hadn't been exhibiting any of those traits. We started to review his behavior and nothing was alarming. We felt a bit more at ease.

We felt more at ease once we met with the pediatrician and after answering his questions and recounting our observations he declared with lots of confidence that Elliott was a healthy normal child. We had been letting a little cartoon called Pocoyo that we stumbled upon on Youtube and Sesame Street entertain him so that we could attend to household chores,etc. He seemed to enjoy them and was mesmerized. Although he enjoyed the video input it was only a receptive (in)activity. We wonder if we were just letting him get away with his one word. We've engaged him continually for all of his long waking hours and when he's said "teen" for something we've made sure to state the word for whatever it was. It would be convenient to think he's been saying "thing" but I don't think so.

This morning he wanted to go outside. While in the driveway, I said, "Let's go to the mail box." He started off toward it with me in tow. I lifted him up to open it. "Nada," he said, Spanish for "nothing". What's wrong with Elliott? Nada.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Navigating Uncertainty

I broke seven miles yesterday for the first time since breaking my foot. October in Colorado provides perfect conditions for afternoon runs. The sunshine highlights the autumn colors and with the temperature at 65 and no humidity it is hard to beat. I wish I could plod along more confidently though.

I'm facing a couple of concerns. Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis were first felt after 44 miles spread over 18 days (two weeks have passed and I have somewhat kept it at bay through downtime stretching) in new New Balance 1226 high mileage trainers. I had believed that I should protect my feet somewhat as they acclimated to running again after seven weeks of relative inactivity. I want to return to barefoot running again and have worn the FiveFingers twice for a total of 5.4 miles. The concern there is that it doesn't seem as though the foot that had the stress-fractured second metatarsal has returned to normal yet. An indication of this is that I my three middle toes claw when I put pressure down on my forefoot. I've done some reading with respect to the possible causes and there are a couple of possibilities consistence with my case. It can occur when the foot and even seemingly unrelated parts of the body experience a trauma. It can occur when a foot is relatively flat and the pressure causes one muscle to pull harder than the one that would otherwise balance it out. Both of these seem consistent with my case; After seven week of not using the foot I suspect that the arch may have lost some of its form.

The dilemma then, is deciding how to approach the recovery. Orthotics, or at least a supportive shoe are often recommended to support the arch and hence allow the muscles to pull in a balanced fashion so that the toes don't pull up and back. Does this just allow the foot to continue in its weakened state? I'm concerned that if I were to run more in the FiveFingers expecting to restrengthen the foot that I may end up doing harm by pounding on the recovering forefoot and also cause injury by repetitive movement of parts that are not operating in the correct position relative to each other.

I've been addressing the problem much as I approach the transition to minimalist running: by doing the longer runs with shoes, the shorter runs in the Vibrams on softer surfaces, and general walking around in bare feet.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nap, Beer, or Run

I had intended to get out for a run this morning but Valerie's birthday party was to begin at 12:30 and there was some house cleaning to do and some errands to run so it didn't happen. Once the party began there were chips to eat, then a range of Chinese food and Chantilly cake to consume. After all that I was more torn between having a beer or a nap. I opted for the nap but ended up reading the Bart Yasso article in November's Runner's World. After reading that, it was hard not to get up and go for a run, which I did. Sometimes we have to go for that run because there may come the day we can't. I also feel we have to run for others as well. Thank you to everyone who carried the torch and kept the running gods happy while I was out of action.

It was a cool day all day and dusk was even cooler. My legs had good energy which counteracted all that my stomach was carrying. I ran neighborhood streets, concrete bike paths, and open space dirt trail. It felt as if I was running normally again. I did five miles at 9:20 pace. I'd go out again if someone were to invite me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Too busy to run much not such a bad thing right now

Being busy and having obligations is probably not such a bad thing at the present time. I can now run normally; I just don't have the time. I don't feel any discomfort in the foot that had the stress fracture so consequently my gait has returned to normal, normal for wearing running shoes that is. When I walk barefoot I still have the sensation of having a wad of tissue stuck on the bottom of the inside of a shoe so I haven't returned to minimalist running yet.

I managed to get in four outings of a little over three miles each this week. I had mentioned that I felt the onset of some Achilles tendonitis. I didn't notice it on the mornings of the three days after the days I didn't run, but I felt it this morning after only running 3.2 miles yesterday evening. Everything in the backs of my legs is tight. I had forgotten to stretch last night. The stretching had been helping; I need to continue.

The weather has been good for running so if I were to have the time I'd probably be increasing my mileage too quickly. I have a tendency to do that. I'm 25 shy of 1000 for 2010. I was a little shy of 900 on July 13th when the fracture occurred. I may go for 7 or 8 miles tomorrow knowing that I may have two or three day rest again after that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not Fair

After forty-nine days of not running because of a stress fracture of the second metatarsal in the right foot I ran a little almost every day of September. I only truly ran about three times. Almost every day was a run/walk with beginning runners of high school age on flat suburban streets. Our outings were between 2 and 2.5 miles. The longest they've been able to run without having to walk a bit has been 1/4 in about 3 minutes. The three true runs still were only between 3 and 4 miles and about 10 minute pace. The total for the month was 63 miles; close to 30 of that probably shouldn't even be counted because it was the walking part of those walk/runs.

I had been averaging 45 miles a week May through July so it doesn't seem right that I'm starting to get ACHILLES TENDONITIS IN MY LEFT FOOT! I noticed it a couple of mornings ago upon arising. I discovered my calves and area through the backs of my knees are were very tight. Who would have thought!? I'm hoping that by continuing to keep the mileage low for a little longer and lots of stretching throughout the day I can keep it at bay. Three or four years ago I had it for months and it didn't go away until I stopped running for an extended period of time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stress Fracture Recovery Summary

On July 13th I got a stress fracture in the second metatarsal of my right foot which was confirmed 8 weeks later when it showed up on a follow up Xray. I had been averaging 45 miles per week with lots of mountain trail running and "barefoot" running thrown in. Two weeks before the break I had reached 70 miles for the one week. I dropped to 30 the next week and the following Tuesday the fracture occurred.

I went 49 days (7 weeks) without any running, very little bicycling, and some short walks. I wore a Cam-walker for about five of those weeks and it was very helpful in making the foot pain-free without making getting around too difficult. I rode a motorcycle a lot, which was easier than putting it on and taking it off for driving.

I ran three times that first week after the 49 days, all less than 3 miles. The following week I had a cold and ran a short distance a couple of times toward the end of that week. Last week I ran 6 out of 7 days but 2.3 miles was the maximum and most of those "runs" were run/walk because I'm running with teenagers who are beginning runners. I had one scare in there when the foot felt extra achy and a tad swollen when I went out for three more miles on my own in Vibrams one afternoon after running with the students.

Yesterday I didn't run, as mentioned, and today I ran 3.9 miles at 10 minute pace on pavement with the temperature at 90 degrees(it reached 96 today). There was no pain and I didn't feel as if I needed to favor the foot. I've been going around my normal business all day and it has felt normal.

I'm going to continue to take it easy, continue to run in shoes on smooth surfaces for a couple more weeks and then reassess. Most of this has been mentioned in previous posts, but I thought that if someone finds this looking for insight into what they can expect with a similar stress fracture he or she could just read this one summary.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tender Foot

I'm a little concerned about my right foot that I stress fractured a little over two months ago. I starting some easy jogging a couple of weeks ago and took a week off from running because of a head cold. My little running group of students at school is starting to grow so I've been going out with them. So far we've been going two miles and alternating jogging and walking. The eight who have gone with me so far are enthusiastic; I must say though that I was rather startled that two had a cigarette along the way yesterday. More say they are going to join us.

A couple of days ago after work Elliott needed to go for a spin so I took him out in the running stroller. My foot was feeling pretty good so I wore the FiveFingers and continued with the walk/jog pattern. Oops. By the time I had done a mile and a half of that I realized I better just walk.

There wasn't localized pain, nor was it sharp, but there was some generalized discomfort that developed and I was uncomfortable with that. This has persisted for the past couple of days and outings with the kids so I'm going to limit my running to the couple of miles of walk/runs that I'm doing with the students and wear the Asics with an orthotic.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Running Shoes for a Barefooter

I may run barefoot but I'm not crazy. I figured some shoes might be in order for the recovery period of my metatarsal fracture, plus winter is not far off. I was near the Boulder Running Company yesterday and stopped in to see what was new. I think the young woman (from her physique, clearly a serious runner) was intimidated at the prospects and responsibility of finding a shoe for me after I told her I couldn't go breaking any more bones. She was going to hook me up with Mark Plaatjes (South African marathoner) but I ended up with another fellow who seemed to zero in on the twisting motion that had been creating the callous under my second and other metatarsals. I ended up with a pair of New Balance 1226 2E's after trying several pairs. To me, they are not unlike the Asics Evolutions that I've had. I guess I'll see. A friend asked me, "Another pair of shoes you're not going to run in?"

I tried them out yesterday, running 3.1 miles at 10:45 pace pushing Elliott in the running stroller. Everything felt fine at the time. This morning there was some pain on the top of my foot above the non-break end of the metatarsal. Over the course of my normal activities today this pain subsided.

I plan to hit the urban streets tomorrow with students although we most likely will be doing a mix of walking and jogging. Sounds perfect at this point, although mentally I feel as if I could to do a 50K trail run...even though I never have.

My shoe plan is to use the 1226's for pavement, the NB MT 101's (not yet purchased; I'm concerned that the D width will not work for me) for rocky trails, and I noticed that the new FiveFingers seem much more foot friendly, so those for routine trail runs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Less Running

After surviving three runs last week on a recovering stress fracture I only ran once this week but went for a few walks of about a mile and a half. This was due more to a cold than the foot. I know some people feel running helps them through a cold but it often seems to make it worse for me. It feels like the infection is able to extend to the farther reaches of my airways.

I spoke with my doctor on Thursday and he felt that running two to three miles if I'm pain-free was ok, and that I shouldn't increase more than 10% per week and if there is pain, I should not try to run through it.

At school, I had 25 kids sign up for running but on the first day that we could go one girl showed up prepared to go. We went two miles mostly running a block and walking a block. She was enthusiastic about continuing the runs so I felt that it was a success. It seems most of the other kids need to get organized to have clothes to run in at school. I found out that students have to pay $5 if they want a locker and so most kids are going without. I'm going to look into getting the fee waived if they participate in the running program. I also wrote a grant for $750 to help buy the participants running shoes. That may sound like it wouldn't go very far but I think with working a deal with a store or online closeouts plus funds from a student activity account they should be able to end up being free.

The hope is that little by little, more and more kids join in and it becomes the thing to do.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's your advice?


Elliott and Almond Butter

Twenty-five students from the alternative high school where I teach have signed up to run with me. I am thrilled, but also worried. All the runners I know love running. How do I help these kids to know that which we have all come to love doing? I don't want to ruin it for them. All of them will be new to distance running.

My instinct is to have them go slow, at a pace they feel they can maintain for a bit and then walk until they feel they can begin again. How far should we go the first time? What is a reasonable goal? A mile out and then walk back so that we can put down two miles? I want to tell them to run whatever pace, time, or distance that they can that will allow them to be willing to come back and do it again the next day. It seems like trying to get someone hooked on a drug I have to sell that may not be all that enjoyable at first. Any suggestions are welcomed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Exercising Caution

After running two miles on Wednesday pushing Elliott in the running stroller at 13 minute pace and having the stress-fractured foot after seven weeks of repose survive I decided to go out again Thursday. I pushed Elliott, I wore the Nike Frees, and ran 2.7 miles at 12 minute pace. The foot survived, although afterwards it felt a little achy, kind of like how your feet can feel after ice skating.

I felt that a rest day was in order for Friday so I didn't run. Yesterday, the foot felt better than it had even before I ran on Wednesday so I decided it was OK to test it a little more. Again, I took Elliott along and ran in the Frees. I chose them because they provide the most comfort for the foot and by no means was I pounding the pavement; my gait was more like a shuffle, almost barefoot style. I felt comfortable with a faster pace and averaged 10 minute miles and even found myself passing a bicycle on one of the two hills on the route.

After that run there seemed to be a bit more general discomfort and even some pain focused where the original fracture occurred. Moving the foot around this morning and pressing down on the floor with firm pressure on the ball of the foot I still feel localized pain so I expect that I will make today be another rest day. If I run tomorrow I'm sure I will keep it under three miles and more at about 11 minute pace.

I gained just about a pound per week while I was down. That makes sense; I didn't change my food consumption much and I would have needed about 30 miles of running to keep off the pound. I have gotten commitment from about 25 students at school who say they will run in a club/group. I presuppose that many of them are interested in weight loss or control; I will show them the math and use myself as an example for taking those seven pounds off. I'd really like to shoot for twelve pounds.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Ran

It has been seven weeks since I presumably got a stress fracture in my foot. I went to the doctor today for a rather inconclusive consultation. She was ok with ordering an Xray so my foot did pose for some pictures. I received a voicemail saying they had something to report just before I go home which was about two minutes before they closed so when I called back it was already after office hours. So I have to wait until tomorrow.

I'd been cruising up and down the stairs at work without any discomfort so when Ruth asked if I would take Elliott for his second stroll today I decided to jog. I wore Nike Free because I felt the Asics Evolution 5's were a contributing factor in the fracture in the first place and I certainly don't think the foot is ready for its nakedness to be striking asphalt. At 0.3 miles I had a rather painful almost lock up of the knee (knee cap, odd) so I walked a half a block. It did it again so I walked a little more then tried again and finally it didn't give me any more problems. My guess is that between wearing the boot for almost five weeks and favoring it the rest of the time things might not have been tracking how they should.

I ran more or less pain free, but the foot definitely felt different from the other. Including the walking and stopping for the knee I ran the two miles in 26 minutes. I'm sure I looked like an old man shuffling along out there pushing his grandchild, ...pretty accurate except that Elliott's not a grandchild.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Elliott on Film

The iphone 3GS works pretty well as a video camera; unfortunately, on this blog it doesn't show up with the rather remarkable clarity that it does on my computer. Anyway, as promised quite a while back here is some video of Elliott. I don't know how much I'll be able to post since these videos are relatively large.
Today marks seven weeks without running. I see the doctor tomorrow. I am going to propose an Xray to see exactly where the presumed calcification and break are. I would like to get the ok to try a little light running.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I've Given the Boot the Boot

Today is the 37th day since I broke my second metatarsal on a run not long after a 70 mile week. (I was actually thinking that doing a 100 mile week could become a reality). For the last two days now I haven't worn the post op boot that had been providing protection for my foot and allowing it to heel. I do have an orthotic in that shoe that keeps pressure off the forefoot but I have walked around barefoot as well.

It has been difficult to walk normally. I don't know if this is from my walking mechanics being thrown off so much by swinging the boot or if I'm subconsciously favoring it. I don't need to favor it; it doesn't hurt. It still feels odd, as if a bit swollen. The greatest concern I have is that the three middle toes are clawing; when I put pressure on the forefoot the three middle toes pull back toward the foot with the toe joint rising up. I hope this is just a temporary situation as the foot continues to heel and return to its normal function.

I find it odd that I haven't gained any weight; I speculate that I have lost muscle mass in my legs and that some fat is depositing around the middle.

Presumably, I've lost all the conditioning that the foot had from running barefoot. The other one has probably weakened as well. My knees have been hurting on occasion; I suspect it is from walking with an altered gait.

I'm going to suggest an Xray when I see the doctor in a couple of weeks. I hope that some heeling is evident; they say that stress fractures don't show on Xrays until some weeks later after they've had time to start heeling. The sensation of walking with a hackysack underfoot has subsided although there is still excessive thickness in the area. This was there before the break and I had assumed that it was something the feet did in response to running barefoot. It may well have been, but not a normal response. I want to allow the foot to get back to normal, like the other foot, and then begin running barefoot again as well as using a neutral shoe as opposed to a motion control one.

The Leadville 100 is this weekend. I won't be a threat...wouldn't have anyway.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unsatisfying Bicycle Workout

After three weeks of physical inactivity I decided to try out the bicycle on the Boulder Creek Path while Ruth was at an appointment in town. I pedaled as hard as I could for 38 minutes but could never get enough big muscle groups working hard enough to require me to open my mouth to breath. The weak link seemed to be the hamstrings. I felt limited by muscle fatiguing in that area. Everything else was fine. The boot was no impediment and there was no pain in the foot while pedaling.

I think if I build up a bit I can strengthen the muscles that are more specific to bicycling and then maybe I'll be able to get some cardiorespiratory benefit. I imagine it is going to take some time to build up the bicycling muscles to match my current cardiac condition. My guess is that after three weeks of rest I haven't lost too much conditioning but if I go on any longer I will start too lose it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Callous Analysis

I'm coming up on three weeks of down time because of my injured right foot. The pain has dissipated from being focused right on the end of the second metatarsal to now being more generalized and often spread out across the top of the forefoot. I've been wearing the boot as much as possible; it does help minimize any pain and keep the foot protected, although being so rigid I have felt as if I were going to twist or break something else from stepping on the smallest of objects accidentally.

After hearing the doctor note the callous under the end of the second metatarsal and a little Internet investigation I decided to look back at a picture I had taken of the bottoms of my feet a few weeks ago after a hot pavement barefoot run. They really were not as bad as they look in the photo (mostly dust stuck to sweat) but the callouses were real. I've outlined with red where the callous was heaviest from my foot coming into contact with the ground (It looks like a smaller sole within a sole). The dashed blue line indicates where I believe my foot would have been striking if I hadn't been wearing such a motion controlling shoe. The Asics I wear fall somewhere in the middle for pronation control. I think if I had been running exclusively barefoot or in a shoe that would have allowed me to pronate over at least to the rest of the forefoot pad I wouldn't have developed such a callous where in effect I was pushing off over the second metatarsal that is not designed for such a load demand.

Barefoot running may have exacerbated the issue once this callous, that was already well-developed from running in shoes, was subjected to tens of thousands of footstrikes and push offs with the second metatarsal directly above it. Your feet can provide a lot of information. Take a look at callouses and blisters, etc. to see if they're not trying to tell you something. If you don't, I have a sweaty boot and crutches I can loan you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Three Pounds per Square Inch

It has been two weeks since I injured my foot. I hobbled around with crutches for the first week and have spent the past week in one of those post-op boots which helped a lot to protect it and keep the pressure off. Today I had to do some big city and highway motorcycle riding so I wore hiking boots and discovered that I could actually walk in them slowly and without too much of a limp if I stepped gingerly and evenly. I can stand still flat-footed without pain which says that I can tolerate about three pounds of pressure per square inch on my foot.

I guess that's progress.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Foot Sleuth and Fancy Free

I hurt my foot running. A seemingly simple question to ask is "Why"? I ask this question because I don't want the same thing to happen again. I've been looking for answers. Most sources answer the question from the perspective of their area of expertise.

The ER doctor diagnosed the injury as "foot pain" because the Xray was negative for a break, although a stress fracture was suspected. The doctor at my regular clinic diagnosed it as "metatarsalgia", which suggests an issue with the metatarsal bones but in most literature it looks like the reference is to general pain in the ball of the foot. It could more specifically be capsulitis which is an irritated joint capsule at the end of, in my case, the second metatarsal. This capsule can even rupture. It could be a bone bruise at that same end of the metatarsal or both.

Most of what I read regarding descriptions of similar diagnoses do not sound like a similar injury. Most people seem to experience some relatively gradual build up to soreness or pain. I had a gradual build up over one day and then a sudden intensely painful event the following day. My interpretation of this is that there was some type of catastrophic failure, albeit rather localized. Much of the metatarsalgia accounts speak of the sensation of a stone in the shoe, not of a spear suddenly being jabbed through it. So I'm picturing either the ruptured capsule or some kind of fissuring of the end of the joint. Something that was definitely stressed gave out. Why?

Some might say overuse, or too much of an increase too soon, was the cause. OK, fair enough. I've had other overuse injuries and they've all gone away. Why was there this failure at this particular place in my body? Clearly there was too much repetitive pressure/stress on the same spot. In just a three week period, this particular point on this 52 year old foot struck the ground at a running gait approximately one quarter of a million times with a 180 pound cargo. Did I exceed the limit or was there some pathology that allowed this failure?

My impression is that if I ask the orthopedist I will be told that the bone rides lower than it should and could be shortened, if I ask a physical therapist I will be told that I need to strengthen certain muscles, if I ask the chiropractor I'll be told my hips are out of alignment and I need adjustments, the HappyFeet people will say I need their orthotics, the nutritionist will say I need calcium, the running shoe people will want to put me in a shoe that controls pronation which they've done for 20 years. (Analyzing the implications from the callouses on the bottom of my feet, particularly the right, I would say that my feet don't complete their pronation which should go all the way to the big toe side. Hmmm, this problem was already occurring before I kicked off the running shoes.)

I'd like to have all of the above knowledge in one person, but I think the only way to do this is for me to be that person. I need to look at some evidence: My left running shoe has always had much more significant tread wear than the right foot and since I've been running barefoot or minimalistically my right foot has become significantly more padded and calloused than the left. When I've had plantar faciitis or Achilles tendonitis they have always been worse on the right leg. I've always thought the muscles in my right leg looked bulkier than the left leg.

To me, much of this might suggest a longer left leg or maybe unlevel hips. It makes sense; shorter limbs often look more muscular. Wouldn't the foot on a longer leg scuff the ground more often than its shorter counterpart? Would the padding on the foot of a shorter leg thicken to balance things out? Hard to say. Would it thicken because the forces coming down on it were greater because it has farther to go to reach the ground? More conceivable. Tight calves supposedly contribute to plantar faciitis, which I had for a long time so presumably I've had tight calves. I read that tight calves can lead to the far end of the metatarsal riding lower which makes it take more of a load. If that takes more of a load, then a callous builds up under it. If a callous builds up under it, that callous becomes the point of propulsion instead of the big toes and the part of the pad that corresponds to it. Did wearing pronation control shoes for so long cause the middle of my foot to become the point of push off instead of allowing the big toe side of the foot to become involved? Once I took my shoes off to run and there was this big callous in the middle of my foot was now a part of my foot handling a job it wasn't designed for?

So how do I fix this? If my hips were not level, the chiropractor could adjust this and the adjustment would probably last as long as the car ride home. I could get routine adjustments, get physical therapy, and do exercises to support the adjustments, but I just don't picture all of that overriding 52 years of me being a little bit crooked, not to mention the cost nor the discipline required. How about lengthening or shortening a leg? For someone who's impatient waiting for a bone bruise to heal!?

My feet seem to be trying to correct the matter themselves by adapting. Maybe I should follow their lead. I can support them by continuing to not let the calves interfere by keeping them from tightening and pulling on foot parts. I'm picturing a little bit of orthotic padding under the termination of the first metatarsal; if that were in effect lower to the ground, when the foot pronated from its initial foot strike on the pad between the 5th and 4th metatarsal ends inward, it would roll to next point closest to the ground which would be the padding, taking the 2nd metatarsal out of the picture. The big toe and the corresponding metatarsal are significantly heftier and are intended to handle the push off. This padding would have to be tapered to nothing as it crosses the forefoot pad. This could be done inside a minimalist shoe or the Vibram FiveFinger. I could try to get my foot back to how it should be naturally without the big callous in the middle of it.

This is the state of my pondering to this point.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010



It's been a week since the onset of Sudden Sedentary Summer Syndrome. I had assumed, given the symptoms and an Xray that didn't reveal a fracture, that I had a stress fracture in the second metatarsal. I wanted to make sure I was not doing it any harm and that I was optimizing the prospects for a speedy recovery so I made an appointment to have it checked out again.

My regular doctor apparently is on vacation but I felt confident when the alternative said she thought I looked familiar, that maybe she had seen me "on the trails". I doubt it, but at least she let me know she was a runner.

She must have asked sixty times or so whether this or that hurt when she did this or that as she felt around my foot. She clearly knew where it was going to be excruciating and she saved applying pressure there for last. Interestingly, she felt that it wasn't a stress fracture as I had assumed. Even before I started barefoot running I had a relatively thick callous in the center of the ball of my right foot. Since I've been running barefoot or minimalistically that callous and the callous in general on the foot has developed more than that of the left foot. Evidently, this center callous is related to the metatarsal directly above it. I think that mostly because of this detail and the fact that the pain is relatively localized and came on rather suddenly she diagnosed it as metatarsalgia. From what I have now read regarding metatarsalgia, it could basically be called a nasty bone bruise at the joint end of the bone.

She tried to fit me with a post-op shoe but we couldn't get it to allow me to walk without significant pain so she tried one of those big post-op boots and that allowed me to walk without any pain, although it does seem to torque the knee somewhat.

The questions now are: Is this better than a stress fracture in that the recovery time is faster? (I saw references to recovery times of 2 to 4 weeks to 5 to 6 months)Will I be prone to recurrences? Did the barefoot running alone cause this or would it have happened anyway with higher mileage? Will I be able to continue running minimalistically?

Oh, and NSAIDS are now thought to impede bone healing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Running Gods Have Struck me Down

For the past three days I've discovered the occasional thought coming into my head about where I'm going to run today, or how far I'll go, how much hillplay will I do, whether I'll go shod or barefoot...and it's about then that I remember that the bare foot is sadly swollen. I can walk without the crutches, but there's no pretending nothing is wrong; I can step down over a line that runs from the heel to the little toe. Any misstep with weight over the center of the forefoot reminds me of why humans invented have developed narcotic painkillers. I've been taking Naproxen, not for pain relief because it's easy enough to avoid pain, but rather to reduce inflammation. Are swelling and inflammation two different conditions? (Photo included in previous post of swollen foot compared to normal)

I should be able to attend to many to-do list type tasks while I'm not running. An hour or two, or three a day running does cut into time for chores and when I pose the question to myself: Would I rather run or figure out how to get the squirrels out of the attic or Would I rather run or restain the deck I keep (kept)choosing "run".

There is some issues I'm facing now. The main one is to limit what I eat. I had been holding steady at 176 after having come down from a lifetime high of 206 when Elliott was born 16 months ago. I can actually lose weight better by not running because I eat when I run. So I need to record calories and limit them to about 2200 a day. Another issue is whether I do some kind of alternative exercise. I suppose I should be able to walk normally in a week or so. I could pedal a bicycle as well but currently I can't imagine being able to pedal with the requisite pressure to actually make it be considered exercise.

The third issue has to do with where do I begin when I return to running. Let's say I begin to run again in eight weeks. Do I start as if I were a beginning runner? Can I accelerate the return to my former self? How much conditioning and strength does one lose in eight weeks? Will all that barefoot conditioning be lost? Do I start over again? If my foot broke, was I actually "conditioned"? Is there a chart or formula that has miles run per week before suspending running combined with weeks off that tells you where you can expect to be? So, let's say as in my case I was averaging 45 miles per week and I take three weeks off, where would I be? Eight weeks? Is eight weeks with an injury different from eight weeks without?

I had gotten to the point that I was rather undaunted by the prospects of almost any run (OK, maybe not 50 miles with thousands of feet of elevation gain in ninety degree weather); I was very pleased with my conditioning and my muscles were never sore or even tired. I was always ready for another run. That conditioning was in some sense an illusion. The weakest link is a little bone smaller than my pinkie finger. How can I have a better sense of where I really am physically and when I am at a point that I'll break? Should I just look at the data and see that I went from an average of 30 per week for a year to 45 per week for six week with a peak of 70 and realize that although I felt great, a spike in mileage like that is risky? After that 70 mile week I was actually pondering the prospects of going for 100 in a week. And I didn't think I ever got a runner's high; clearly I was high.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sudden Sedentary-Summer Onset Syndrome

...otherwise known as a stress fracture

I got home from the emergency room about 11pm last night. Xrays from three different angles showed a perfectly normal foot. Stepping on the floor provides the unpleasant illusion of being impaled on an inch diameter stake.

I had responded to an ad on Craigslist of a fellow looking for a training partner for a 50 mile race. I answered saying I wasn't training for a 50 miler but I would be willing accompany him on any distance he wanted. We met at the Mt. Sanitas trailhead on the western edge of Boulder. The run would be a 1450 ft. elevation gain and about a mile and a third to the summit and then back down. We walked a couple hundred yards getting acquainted and started to jog as the trail began to rise.

I felt a sudden sharp pain, let out a yell, and immediately stopped, thinking I had stepped on a rock. I quickly could tell that I hadn't stepped on a rock because I would have felt as if the sole of my foot were bruised. There was a stabbing pain radiating to the top of my right foot. On my run the previous day there had been an unusual dull pain in the same area and I had felt an occasional twinge during the day. My new soon to be ex running partner said it was a bad sign that the pain was on top; he said the same thing had happened to him once and he had broken three bones in his foot. We shook hands, he headed up, and I hobbled down.

As I dragged myself up the road to the parking lot I could hear a car alarm and suddenly an SUV came speeding out of the lot; it took me a moment to put one and one together but I discovered a Jeep Liberty with a smashed out window. I called 911 but told them I wasn't going to stick around because I had my own issue to attend to.

Riding the motorcycle home was not so difficult because shifting is done with the left foot and the strongest braking is down with the hand brake. Normally I would just wait until the next day but I my impression has always been that broken bones are best treated sooner than later. I expected to see splintered bone shards in the Xray but nothing, not a shadow of a line, nor a metatarsal even a millimeter out of place.

I've read about other people's stress fractures; it seems to me they were at least able to walk. What a wimp I am if a fracture that doesn't even show up is this painful, imagine if I were to break a bone enough for it to show on an Xray. The regimen now is ice, ibuprofen, and idleness.

For anyone who reads my blog (I guess that would be my sister) you'll know that I have been running barefoot and minimalistically for about four months so if you want to add me to the statistics of those injured barefoot you can put me down in that column although I now people have had stress fractures with running shoes and increasing my weekly mileage from an average of 30 per week to 45 per week muddy the statistical waters.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Elevation in Shadow Canyon

(We have been video filming Elliott lately so no pictures but maybe some video soon)

Yesterday I wanted to explore more of the trail that I had run on Thursday. I decided to wear regular running shoes instead of the FiveFingers because I knew it would be rockier, and was it ever. The trail eventually got to a point where it was no longer runnable. There were places that it was all rock and on the return I even had to climb down backwards in places.

The first mile and a half was the same 750 feet of elevation gain as Thursday but the next mile had another 750 feet of gain but in just a mile. I had intended to go farther but ran out of time because I had a commitment to pick up a friend of Valerie. I was content to not have gone on any more because from what I could see it was just going to be more bouldering.

I hope the pictures capture the conditions. The iphone is not a good camera and as you can imagine in a place called Shadow Canyon it might be rather dark.

(The rocky images are taken in the area behind the distant image with the devil's thumb in the middle of it. The steps photo is relatively early on the way up)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Short Runs

I'm having difficulty getting in the runs that I'd like to this week so far. One run was 7 miles but everything else has been in the 3 mile range; yesterday I ran 3.1 miles at 8:16 pace. The weather has been unfavorable for running. The temperature has been great(Ruth was on the couch with a blanket earlier), but it has been raining on and off which isn't that big of an impediment, but navigating around lighting is.

I was feeling bored with my usual runs so I decided to head toward the mountains. I like the trails around Eldorado Springs so I headed over there this afternoon on the motorcycle. Unfortunately, the darkest clouds were right over the canyon. Upon arrival I changed into the FiveFingers and slipped off my jeans. I decided that I would run until I heard thunder and then turn around.

The trail goes uphill rather quickly, but never gets so steep that it can be run. Mapmyrun had the steepest incline as 15%; the overall was about 10%. I had only run about 1.55 miles (750 ft. vertical) before I heard thunder. The sky was darkening as well. The trail was challenging for wearing VFF, descending it was very much like skiing moguls. I was all the way down, parallel to the stream, when I violated my first rule of VFF trail running: Don't take your eyes of the trail. I had come down on a different trail than I had gone up so I took a glance across the creek to see where I was and WACK; I jammed the little toe on my right foot. It was a serious jolt but I decided to just keep going.

I arrived at the motorcycle just as raindrops began to fall. The clouds had been building exponentially. On the way home I was barely able to keep ahead of the impending storm with cold drops pelting my arms.

Maybe tomorrow will be the long run day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Miles Milestone

I skipped right over ever having a 60 mile week and ran 70.2 miles this week. I ran three times last Sunday for a total of 13.8 and today I ran 14.4 and went back out at 10:30PM to add on the last two miles to break 70. I was going to be content with reaching 60, but I ended up having to elude thunderstorms and kept getting pushed farther and farther from home. I eventually decided to run to a bus station that I knew I could catch a ride home through the storm on but ended up waiting the storm out in a laundromat (good cashews and M&Ms in those dispensers) and made a beeline home once it passed. When I realized that I was close to seventy for the week I decided to go back out after I got home from working the cart.

Half of my miles this week were either in Vibram FiveFingers, barefoot, or in Walmart Sand and Surf shoes. I am working on a blog that summarizes my four month and continuing experiment with marginally shod/barefoot running.

Barefoot Running Report

I believe that moving away from exclusively using traditional running shoes has allowed me to increase mileage and eliminate the common overuse injuries that runners typically endure. I am ready to give some definitive conclusions about my "barefoot" running and transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running.

I have not found that I can run faster barefoot, in fact I run a minute or so slower per mile without running shoes, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't contributed to improving my ability to run faster. Pushing the limits of speed seem to require some of what shoes can do for a person; after all, the whole evolutionary premise that man evolved into a runner was not about being fast but rather about being able to go the distance in the persistent hunt. Doing something we were not meant to do (run fast) requires something we were not meant to wear: shoes. But there is more to life once you're not having to exhaust your dinner before you dine. Steel-toed shoes may be required on the construction site, ski boots help keep our feet warm and our feet attached to the skis, and some pointy high heels might make us attract a mate, and so likewise for stretching a double into a triple or delivering a 10K PR we may find that specialize footwear aids in those endeavors.

If you are interested in running farther, more frequently, and without pain from overuse injuries I am comfortable suggesting minimalist footwear. The idea being that you will strengthen your feet and other parts related to proper distance running and those parts will be allowed to work in harmony and not be forced into an unnatural relationship by wedges of gel that are supposed to correct something presumed wrong with you. Injuries of the non-overuse type such as torn cartilage, stress fractures, bone spurs, arthritis, etc. are not going to be resolved by taking off your shoes; these may require repair, treatment, and rest.

If you don't even walk around indoors without some form of footwear I would start by leaving the shoes off around the house. From there, I would suggest finding some nice relatively new asphalt. Concrete is actually rather abrasive and manicured lawns may be too cushioned and not require you to make the necessary changes in your stride to run barefoot. For some, a few hundred feet may be a good start, for others, maybe a mile. You certainly don't want to run to the point that you've worn a couple of toes raw.

Some conditioning has to occur on a few fronts. The skin has to become calloused on the bottoms of your feet, the pads of your feet need time to thicken as a response to the running, all the internal components of your feet need time to adjust and strengthen, and different muscles, particularly in your lower legs need time to build. Applying the 10% increase rule may be prudent. So let's say you run barefoot for a mile three times the first week, you could up that to 3.3 miles the following week even if you're running 30 miles a week in traditional running shoes, or maybe the barefoot running is all that you do if you haven't been running. If you have been running, the barefoot miles can be included in an overall mileage increase. I would also do any barefoot miles before a shod run, not after.

Many people have opted for minimalist foot coverage like the Vibram FiveFinger foot gloves. I like them but I have found that they have the same effect on my skin as boiling water has on a potato skin so I use them within limits. I also wear an inexpensive alternative; I have found that the sand and surf type outdoor slippers work quite well although they have less traction. You need to consider where you will typical run. I don't frequently encounter broken glass but we have a nasty nugget of nature where I live called a Goathead which is a hard spiky ball about the size of a kernel of corn guaranteed to puncture a mountain bike tire or stop a dog in its tracks.The path of the car tire on lightly-travelled neighborhood streets is usually adequately clear of debris.

If you've been pounding your heel in running shoes you will quickly discover that you will not want to do this barefoot. I have found that the outer edge of my forefoot strikes the ground first and then rolls to the inside as it lands with the heel lightly coming down as well; a large calloused pad has developed behind the four smaller toes. Allowing the toughening of the skin on your feet be a determining factor in your mileage build-up is a good guide. If you use some type of minimal footwear you will not be able to base your mileage increase on the toughness of your soles.

Over the eighteen weeks that I have been transitioning my weekly average has gone from 20 miles per week for the six week prior to kicking off the running shoes (32 miles for the prior eight month period) to 45 miles per week for the most recent six weeks of incorporating minimalist running. I still run about half my miles in traditional running shoes. My body seems to be able to handle it, possibly because of overall strengthening or because the mileage in them is tolerable in that it doesn't constitute overuse. The average weekly mileage in running shoes over the eighteen week period has been 21 miles per week while my overall mileage average has risen significantly; this most recent week I comfortably ran 70.2 miles. I have discovered that alternating between running "barefoot" and in running shoes is like running on two different pairs of legs. If I run ten miles one day in shoes when I go out the next day in the FiveFingers my legs feel as if I hadn't run the previous day.

Don't do speedwork barefoot and don't race a roadrace barefoot. Minimalist running is not about fast and hard. It's about avoiding injury and going the distance. It's also a great sensory experience; you wouldn't listen to music with earplugs in, or watch the sunset with your eyes closed, or smell the flowers with a clothes pin on your nose. Allow yourself to feel the planet.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June Summary

June was a wonderful month in terms of runnng. I only missed two days, one being the intentional rest day before the Joe Colton race. I enjoyed 38 outings which means there were ten days that I went out more than once, actually nine because I had three run on one day. I read a blog in which the fellow said that running two-a-days felt like training. I'm glad I don't have that perception; they seems like luxuries to me. Actually, it probably means I didn't attend to something I should have that day.

I ran a total of 194 miles in June which averages to 5.1 miles per outing, which doesn't reflect a typical outing. Most of my runs were either clustered around 3.5 miles or around 7 miles. Most of the short runs were run in some sort of slipper pushing a running stroller. For the longer runs I was traditionally shod. Shod running accounted for 115.7 miles and running in VFF, river shoes, or barefoot accounted for 79.2 miles or a little over 40% of total running.

It sounds like my little stroller buddy is up so let July begin!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eldorado Springs

I try not to drive to run, but my little Honda 250 gets 80 miles to the gallon so I don't feel so bad about it; I just feel like a bad example going 50 mph in running shorts and a T shirt. At least I wear a helmet; the odd thing is, I do take the precaution to put sunblock on exposed skin before I mount the bike. Oh, and I wore running shoes on the bike and on the run.

The area around Eldorado Springs has some nice single track. I only ran 8.3 miles there today, but that included about 1500 feet of vertical. I don't have much to say about today's run other than it was about 90 degrees (although the heat index would probably reduce that a bit because of dry air and a breeze). If I can get 12 miles tomorrow I'll have my first-ever 200 mile month.

The photos say everything else there is to say.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Expensive Socks Cheap Running "Shoes"

I decided to try the $6 Walmart Sand and Surf shoes today for a longer outing. The miles in them ended split up because I took Elliott out for 3.5 miles in the Baby Jogger in the late morning, brought Valerie to work at the cart, and returned to do 6.7 miles in the early afternoon on open space trails. I had bought a three pack of Pearl Izumi socks earlier in the week and found them to be too thin to wear with my Asics so I thought I'd try them with the Sand and Surf shoes. The "slippers" and socks worked fairly well together. (the irony is that each pair of socks costs the same as the "shoe" I ran in) I experienced a little slippage when there was a perpendicular slant to the trail or significant ascent or descent. The plus is that the slippage was given up between the socks and the insole of the slipper instead of my skin separating from the flesh of the sole of my foot as with the FiveFingers on inclines and cambers.

I finished off the day with a late afternoon run in Asics of 3.6 miles with Elliott in the running stroller again for a total of 13.8. I could have easily gone another five or six but it is difficult to justify running for three or four hours in a day when there are other priorities.

Friday, June 25, 2010

At least there's no Humidity

Often in the summer my runs get pushed to the hottest part of the day because of other pressing priorities. I know; it's hard to imagine. Today's hottest part of the day was 99 degrees. It was 93 yesterday; at this extreme, six degrees make a lot of difference so today I mixed up a half liter Gatorade to bring along. I filled the bottle full of ice and added water and Gatorade mix to fill up the remaining space; in less than two miles there was no longer any ice to clank against the plastic bottle. At three miles I decided to drink it; at least it was still refreshing. At five miles I dipped my head in an irrigation canal which coincided with the approach of much-appreciated cloud cover. From there it was all downhill, really. Arriving at the house, the iphone indicated 6.9 miles for the run which put me 2/10ths over my first ever over 60 miles in a seven day period.

Do you have Claustrophobia? ...maybe

Last Sunday, on Father's Day, I was scheduled for an MRI on my shoulder. The doctor was fairly certain I had a torn rotator cuff. I didn't think so; I felt there was some other cause of impingement. They had already ruled out a bone spur with an Xray. The doctors asked if I had injured it in some way. I told them that the pain began after the initial muscle pain of this year's seasonal flu shot subsided; I was left with not being able to lift my shoulder past a certain point similar to how it would be if you were to insert a stick of wood between a door and it's jamb. They poo-pooed the flu shot connection.

I arrived at the hospital, signed in, and was sent to the waiting room. I told them I would leave if they didn't change the channel to something other than Fox "News". I was able to stay.

I filled out a questionnaire related to medical history and MRIs. One of the questions asked if I had ever worked with metal tooling and another asked if I had ever had anything removed from my eye. Turns out the questions were intended to be related, but since I had worked with metal (30 years ago) and had a splinter of wood removed from an eye 35 years ago they felt an Xray was in order. They convinced me, rather easily, that I didn't want the magnet to draw a buried piece of metal through my eye to the surface. My eyes were fine so we proceeded.

I answered all the other questions with "no" except for the one that asked if I had claustrophobia. For that one, I made my own box with "maybe" and put an X in it. I'm OK with small spaces until I can't move or free myself and I didn't know whether that would be the case or not. Once I saw the unit, something akin to a big fat doughnut, I figured I would be able to handle it. It didn't look that confining; after all, I was certain that persons with larger girths than mine had to fit in there. Although the taper of the doughnut hole gives the illusion from the outside that there is more space than there is I soon discovered that I would be able to wriggle myself out if I wanted to.

Before being slid into the tube I was given earplugs to reduce the "jackhammering" sound and a panic button was put into my hand. Suddenly I was asking myself if I would panic, and started to panic a bit about that. That didn't seem fair. I was told it would be about 35 minutes and the technician slid me into the machine head first up to my thighs which left my hands at the outer edge. After about five minutes of lying in silence trying to decide whether I would deal with the confinement better with my eyes open or closed the technician's voice announced through a speaker that the machine had been warming up and was about to start. I called out asking whether that was included in the 35 minutes or not. No answer. Great, so she actually couldn't hear me. I'd try again, with a different question,"How much can I move?" No answer. Oh no, my nose itched; could I reach up and rub it? I could certainly crinkle it; that certainly couldn't mess up the imaging for my shoulder, but it really didn't make the itch go away either.

Then the noise began. It wasn't like a jackhammer, but rather what a loud repeating high voltage pterodactyl zapper might sound like. Did I have the genes of my grandmother who was tortured by a faucet dripping? Definitely. I was ready to give up secrets to the enemy. Thirty-five minutes? Had it even been a minute? All my innate time-keeping instincts were experiencing interference. OK, so I didn't have claustrophobia, but the question of amplified water dripping wasn't asked. Could I find my "happy place"? Should I squeeze the panic button. I decided to imagine being on a run, although that might be considered torture for some, a thirty-five minute run would be short. But, how would I know how far into it I was? I don't even like music when I run though and this was incessant. Suddenly, the noised stopped. That certainly wasn't 35 minutes; maybe it was the under promise - over deliver concept, tell them 35 minutes when it's only 10. No. Now it was time for the jackhammer.

To me it sounded more like a diesel on fast idle. Now I had something I could relate to; lying trapped under a low-rider semi. Could I ride this out? I still felt as if I were trying to endure a torture. The evilness of many tortures is that they allow uncertainty and fear to interplay with the subject's own mind. The worst of it here was I knew I was secure from everything, except my own mind. Then I noticed something; some time had passed and I felt almost meditative and numb as if I were about to doze off for an afternoon nap. The idling diesel was like a mantra. I was totally relaxed, as if floating in a sensory deprivation tank although I don't really know what that is like. I went with the flow; I was enjoying it. the diesel sound started a stopped three or four times and I was able to stay in the pleasure state. The voice came through the speaker again, announcing I was done.

The results came in the mail today: ...some tendinosis within the distal supraspinatus and suscapularis tendons with a little interstitial longitudinal tearing...the inferior joint capsule demonstrates significant thickening and edema throughout the capsule...the deltoid muscle is unremarkable (ouch, did they really have to throw in an insult!).

So, speaking with the doctor it sounds like, it sound like there is nothing to repair surgically, but things are somewhat of an inflamed mess in there. I have an appointment for Monday; I think a steroid injection might alleviate a lot of this; I think physical therapy is just going to irritate it more.

Going up a Level

I feel as though I have made a breakthrough in my running. There have only been two days so far in June that I haven't run and there have been several days when I have run twice. The exciting part is that the plantar faciitis seems to have abated. I don't know if this is from more minimalist running, more running in general, or as my sister says, PF seems to go away after a year all by itself.

If I run 8 miles today (very likely) I will have my first-ever seven day period of 60 miles. I ran over 10 miles each of the last two days with lots of hills and temperatures over 90 and it was easy. Right now I feel as though I could run 10 miles or more everyday. Today is supposed to reach 95 degrees; if the temperature goes higher than that I need to run near water to dip my head in occasionally.

I do feel some twinges in my knees occasionally, like when I push in the clutch while driving or when I put down the kickstand to the motorcycle. At least this is a warning sign I can monitor; if it gets worse I can rest it or ice it or medicate it or all over the above.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Joe Colton's Off Road Adventure Run

For someone who runs a lot, I don't participate in many races. Here in Colorado they cost too much. I like this race because of the longer distances measured in miles. There is a 5, 10, and 15 miles version. The race starts in Rollinsville, Colorado and goes west through an ever-rising valley toward the Continental Divide. The scenery is picturesque Colorado but I have to admit that my eyes mostly fell on the compacted dirt road.

It was already warm in Boulder when we left the house at 7:40; I said to Alex that if we get out of the car at 8400 feet and it doesn't feel cool, running is going to feel hot. There was no chill in the air when we stepped out, but maybe because of a slight breeze running was tolerable although we were under a cloudless sky.

All the runners started together, but since I was in the 15 mile race I was OK with starting toward the back. Also, with chip timing I would know my true time which ended up being 11 seconds faster. Even though I started toward the back I still found myself working my way through the crowd for a while. Alex started somewhere up toward the front.

Sadly, I came across Alex at about mile 4. He was struggling because of asthma possibly triggered by the altitude, although he had used his inhaler. Also he hasn't been sleeping well because of allergies. I was going to ask him if his deltoids and biceps were weighing him down because he has been doing lots of landscaping and his upper body is quite fit. He's had to deal with this on other occasions so I knew he would be OK although it would be no run. He stuck it out for the other six miles and ended up winning his age group and a $25 prize because he was the only one in his age group. No one under 20 ran the 10 mile race and nobody under 30 did the 15 mile race.

The course takes a gradual climb from about 8450 feet above sea level to 9200 before turning around. I felt good in every sense and enjoyed the running. After about six miles it seemed our positions had pretty much been settled; occasionally someone would go by me when I stopped for refreshments but I'd eventually catch them again. By the time I reached the turn-around it felt like I was alone on the road. I could see a person about a quarter of a mile ahead occasionally when the road was straight but I couldn't seem to close the gap. With about a half mile to go I did catch two people on a hill and then pushed on, feeling rather good, to the finish.

I finished in 2:18:37 which was a 9:16 per mile pace. It would be interesting to know how that would compare to sea level. I was 4th out of men 50-54, although I could also say I was last out of men in that age group. I finished 43rd of 73 overall. It may seem like nothing to be excited about. Running a race is always about competition with oneself, not with others, although I do like to think of myself as beating all the people who didn't run. That way, I feel closer to the top and not the bottom...but of course, that's not important either.

I encourage everyone to get out and put one foot in front of the other then repeat, and then do the same the following day, but either go a little farther or a little fast or both.

Friday, June 18, 2010

700 Miles

I reached 700 miles for the year today with an uneventful run. It was 85 degrees and dry, conditions I like to run in. I did come across a five foot long snake that I have yet to investigate what species it was. Tomorrow should be a rest day or a Vibram FiveFingers day because Alex and I are planning to run the Joe Colton Adventure Run. I'll do the 15 mile run and Alex says he's up for the 10 mile version.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Anemone Trail

I helped Valerie set up our jewelry cart; she was going to work it for the afternoon. I had worn the FiveFingers so I decided to do a quick mountain trail run before heading home. The first mile was a gradual uphill of Boulder neighborhood sidewalks. From there, things get serious right away. The next leg of the run was only a mile and a tenth but had an elevation gain of 800 feet. I didn't know the trail well and assumed that if I continued on further I would begin to loop back down, but instead found myself running to other little summits. I finally asked a hiker if he knew whether the trail loop around and he said that it didn't. Oh well.

I turned around and headed back from where I came. The trails were rather rocky and sandy, but no where near as brutal as Sanitas or the trails on Bear Mountain. No jammed toes today and no shattered iphone. The ascent took about 30 minutes and the descent including going the wrong way for a while was about 45 minutes. I've been feeling tenderness at the metatarsal-phalangeal joints to the little toe on both feet; I presume this is because that is where most of my bare footfalls are and the stone-laden trails exacerbate the issue. I don't notice it while in regular running shoes.

I've started the week off easy; Sunday I didn't run at all and yesterday was easy four mile jog with Elliott in the running stroller. I'm hoping to ramp up the miles here tomorrow and Thursday. Alex said he would do the Joe Colton Off-Road Adventure with me Saturday. It starts in Rollinsville at 9000 and gradually goes up. We did the 10 mile version a couple of years ago; it's a nice run. I want to do the 15 mile version this time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Six Dollar Running Shoes

Ruth has been dragging stuff out of storage for our neighborhood garage sale this weekend and found a pair of "Sand and Sun" shoes that I bought at Walmart a of years ago. I decided to give them a try. I went for a 3.3 mile pavement run with my running buddy (pictured) and they were fine, much like running in the FiveFingers, although they don't have great traction so I wouldn't recommend them for trails that require good grip.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bonus Day

I was anticipating a day off from running today, partly because I had already run the past ten days and felt a little spent after yesterday and it was supposed to reach 96 degrees today. We had a quick thunderstorm pass with some rain about 5:30 that cooled things off nicely. It hadn't reached the nineties anyway, but with the rain shower the temperature dropped to about 70.

We had dinner shortly after the rain ended; when Alex works we tend to eat early because he comes in hungry from doing heavy landscape work all day. I went out for a rare post(spaghetti and salad)dinner run and felt rather good so I ended up getting in 8.3 miles by the time the sun slipped behind the Rockies bringing my miles for the week up to 35.8 with Friday and Saturday left to go. I felt like I could have run forever with the lower temperatures, but maybe I'll do that Saturday since it is not supposed to get out of the fifties and be rainy.

The pictures are of:

1. Elliott playing chef on the kitchen floor just before catching his fingers between the cabinet door and the jamb.

2. The blogger mid-run

3. Longs Peak (a fourteener) visible in the single track trail at sunset

4. The plains of north-central Boulder County

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Miles are Miles

I understand the concept of junk miles, but I never feel like my miles belong in this category. At fifty-two moving the mass a given distance is work. Muscles move, calories are burned, and joints are jostled. It's all good, as they say. Today I squeezed in miles where and how I could. I had intended to run trails near Eldorado Springs for a couple of hours but my time ran short.

I rode my motorcycle over to a trailhead just east of Eldorado Springs, slipped off my jeans, switched running shoes for FiveFingers and headed out. I climbed about 500 feet over 2.1 miles of single track. It felt great, but on the way down I detected a blister developing on the ball of my foot at the base of the big toe. I was able to favor it the rest of the way down. I decided to switch back to the Asics but realized my time was running out so I got on the bike and rode home.

Ruth had an appointment so I was able to squeeze in 4 1/2 more miles along my old plodding ground of The Boulder Creek Trail. Later, Elliott was needing some time out of the house so I managed to tack on another 3.4 miles with him in the stroller. I ended the day with 11.8 miles pero no al estilo que esperaba. Oh well.

Yesterday's four miles involved pushing a running stroller and wearing running shoes. The day before that saw temperatures of 94 degrees; it was a nice opportunity to sweat a bit and put 7.5 miles in the books with some hill work to boot.

Today was the tenth day in a row that I've run since the rest day on the day before the Bolder Boulder. Maybe tomorrow will be a rest day and I'll be able to go for that two hour run on Friday. I need to locate the inov8s or NB 100 because, although the VFF are a thrill to mogul run up and down in they are not being kind to the bottoms of my feet.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hot, Inclined, and Crowded

Valerie and I worked our jewelry cart on the Pearl Street Mall today. It was the day of the annual Jewish Festival. At about 12:30 I decided it was sufficiently hot (85 degrees) that I needed to go for a run. Being closer to the mountains than I am at the house I felt that some vertical was in order. Mt. Sanitas was the closest and most accessible so I headed off in that direction. From where I was it was a gradual uphill for about a mile before the rocky trail up the mountain begins.
I ran everything I could and climbed the parts that were too treacherous. I had one misstep, stubbing my little toe that was already purple from a similar incident on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I lost a firm grip on my running companion and he went face first into the rocks; I understand that the iphone glass can be replaced. Total elevation gain on the trail was about 1400 ft. in 1.4 miles. The 2.3 mile run took 45 minutes. Oddly, the return trip was longer by about three minutes, I think because this type of running is somewhat like climbing a tree; it is easier to go up than come down. There were lots of hikers huffing and puffing; they must have thought I was crazy out there in FiveFinger slippers.

I feel some twinges of pain in my spine. I think this type of run, although fun just has too many possibilities for catastrophe. Just before the iphone did a face plant I was wondering if it would be prudent to wear a helmet. Certainly, my toes have been lucky so far. I think I will stick to more fifty-something-friendly trails.

The apparent rockfield in these pictures is truly the trail. Vista photos look over to Bear Mountain and down to Boulder and the University of Colorado.