Sunday, March 28, 2010

Three Run Sunday

With not a cloud in the sky all day, the temperatures in the mid sixties, and today being the last day of spring break it was difficult to not keep going back out for another run. The first run was in Nike Frees around Boulder while Ruth, Valerie, and Elliott were shopping in Target. The second was a relatively short run pushing Elliott in the running stroller. The last run was after sunset and faster. The GPS lost me at some point but I did a little over four miles at around 8:50 pace. The day's total was 11 miles.

One of the benefits that I have discovered about running barefoot, although I didn't today is that I am much better at running differently in different situations and I'm OK with the various ways. I know that if I'm in the Frees I need to take it easy and run as if barefoot; they do seem to allow me to do that but I know I need to be careful and not do anything or any more than I would than if I were barefoot. I can do a heel-striking shuffle pushing the running stroller, almost as if walking fast in the Asics. When running faster in the Asics I can go from my comfortable old stride to more of a mid/forefoot strike if I want to pick up the pace or power up a hill.

I know there are some people who visit this blog occasionally that may have an interest in the rest of the family or other things that are going on. I may set up a separate blog for some of those things. Hang in there.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

50 Mile Week with some Barefootin'

I had this past week off for spring break and was able to run every day, sometime even twice. I got a couple of nice runs in with Alex being home from CU for the week. His conditioning certainly improved between Monday and Friday. I left him on the hills on Monday and he left me yesterday on the hills. On our return on yesterday's outing I mentioned feeling like my energy was kicking in so he picked up the pace and we did the last three miles around 7:45 pace.

I had a total of 50.1 miles for the week broken down as follows.

31.6 traditional running in Asics Evolution 5's on mixed surfaces
9.3 barefoot on pavement
3.0 Vibram Five Fingers
6.2 Nike Free

I don't know where my barefoot running is going; I may not convert completely but it is educating me about being able to run differently. I can cruise uphills easier now in traditional shoes because I am able to put down a mid to forefoot foot strike and have the conditioning to sustain it going up. A long stretched out rear strike on a paved downhill still seems an efficient way to descend. I can see myself using the Vibrams for a more natural trail run and I think my muscles can do the barefoot run even though I find myself in the Frees.

Running Barefoot on Sandpaper

I just returned from a 2.45 mile barefoot run on concrete sidewides and pedestrian paths. I had intended to go three miles but at 1.25 miles I thought to take a peek at the bottoms of my feet. The bottom of my big toe had a red raw area about twice the size of a pencil eraser head so with a mile and a quarter still to go I thought I better turn around. I made it back without doing too much additional damage. Once I was home and washed my feet I discovered that the skin of the big toes looked rather like fish scales; If I brushed the shreds all in one direction there was still skin everywhere. If I rubbed it the other way it was like opening the window blinds to reveal wet red velvet wallpaper.

What information can I take away from this? If you were to look at the bottom of any pair of running shoes I've had for any length of time you would see the sole worn down at the big toe, significantly more on the left foot, but there is wear on both. There are probably several ways I could interpret this. I could assume it is normal; my big toe gets the biggest bite at the ground and it needs to toughen up slowly or on kinder surfaces. (After all, concrete is rather like running on sandpaper.) I could continue to use running shoes and let them wear down instead. I could be overpronating; maybe allowing my foot to roll that far over is a sign of weakness. It certainly took added effort to keep them from getting more shredded on the way back. Would continued barefoot running and a desire to not shred my big toes train me to not allow my foot to roll so far over that the big toes get chewed up?

I was just going to say that I'll continue to do what comes naturally, but that may be a poor choice of words. I think it better to say I am going to continue to run barefoot and let myself learn. I just read an article about a research project and the researcher was talking about telling shod people to just run however is natural for them. So to extend that thinking a little further, what if I were to put people in high heels and tell them to just run naturally. I hope someone would admit that they couldn't. So if I were to keep changing the shoes to less and less high heel-like, at what point does someone say he or she can run naturally? I speculate that most people in US society don't truly know what running "naturally" is. Even if I were to include running barefoot I would say people don't know. I think I can find out what a natural gait or stride barefoot is for me but it will take time. I need to build up to doing it and allow my body and mind learn what works better for it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running Barefoot after a Soggy Run

I ran four miles barefoot yesterday and so to give that set of muscles, etc. and my soles a break I thought it prudent to run in traditional running shoes today. I ended up going about seven miles. Four of those were in snow or a mud/snow slop; consequently my feet were soaked the entire time. Valerie (daughter) and I had made a deal earlier in the day and she owed me an accompanied mile so I decided to do the mile barefoot. Valerie ran barefoot too and liked it! I discovered that my feet were quite tender because running with them wet for over an hour was like a softening treatment. FYI

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Barefoot in the Snow

The snow was supposed to fall all through the night, but it had stopped accumulating by 10PM. The streets were warm from earlier days so with the cars passing over and mashing it and the strong spring sunshine they were dry by mid-afternoon. I was Elliott's entertainment most of the day so around three I took him out in the running stroller and hung the Vibram Five Fingers from the brake lever. He immediately fell asleep.

At almost a mile out I had to put the VFFs on because the pedestrian path we needed to take had not been plowed. The 12 inches of snow that had fallen had compressed to about six inches which created a nice uphill workout pushing the stroller. My feet became immediately cold. I took off the VFFs when we reached the end of the path and ran on the streets of the adjoining neighborhood. I had assumed that a major sidewalk along 95th Street would have been plowed, but it wasn't; I had to run about a quarter mile with the VFFs and by the time a reached a neighborhood I could duck into and run on their streets my feet were numb.

I must have been rather a source of amusement as drivers watched me navigate the running stroller over snowbanks at intersections and then pick my way over them barefoot. I was out for almost an hour and only ran four miles. Pushing a running stroller may be a good way help a new barefoot runner keep a gentle controlled pace. It's also nice to have something to put some of your weight on while brushing grit off your soles.

My observation is that there is just the right step for running barefoot, a sweet spot in a stride sense. If you find it, there seems to be almost no abrasion of the feet. I have had a callous for a long time in the middle of the ball of my foot, maybe from running in running shoes. This callous seems somewhat incompatible with what needs to be happening with the bottoms of my feet now. There was pain there and when I was done I noticed a red line which looked somewhat like a fissure under the surface. I could still feel that my calves were getting a work out. I am keeping my pace and distance conservative until I see how my knees hold up. I had some runner's knee symptoms when I was running seven miles in the VFF's or Nike Frees. I certainly feel optimistic at this point, but I need to wait until I have a significant miles to make any kind of judgment on running barefoot. Running with the bare feet on pavement certainly trains one to have a ginger foot strike. The plan for tomorrow is to go for a longer run in Asics.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barefoot Barefoot

Today is sunny and it was already warm enough for shorts and a T shirt by eleven. Elliott was restless so I decided it was the perfect time for the next step in the progression of barefoot running and to take Elliott for a stroll in the running stroller (the one we tried to sell at our garage sale the May before the summer we found out Elliott was going to exist).

The surface of our streets seemed even more torturous than yesterday because I think my feet were left a bit tender. I immediately ran and it was endurable. After about five minutes though I was able to slip into the abutting neighborhood where their streets are much newer and smoother asphalt. I then switched to a concrete path; who would have ever thought that concrete could feel so good. I end up going three miles.

The bottoms of my feet felt fine; there was no wearing down like what happens in certain places on the soles of my Asics. The area around my ankles started to feel a bit tired and I could tell my calf muscles had been working to keep each footstep controlled.

Elliott thoroughly enjoyed the outing. Every time he would see a big truck or a colorful sign he would move his feet back and forth as if running, wave his arms back and forth, and let out a yell for joy...more or less what I was doing just without the yell.

Starting Over

Alex is home from CU for spring break. I thought I would wait for him to wake up before running; maybe he'd go with. I should have realized that a college student's first night sleep of spring break might run until almost 2PM. I didn't even have to invite him though; he said he'd run with me. I'd enjoyed the hills behind the White Rock Preserve last weekend and that wouldn't be too much longer than what Alex would be willing to do so we head over there in the truck.

We went a nice easy pace on the flat first mile and kept the pace as we started up what I would estimate to be a 15% grade. I enjoyed the climb mostly because there have been times when I have found myself having to walk in places there. Also, I wasn't feeling any of the runner's knees symptoms that I had experienced a couple of days earlier. Alex was right behind me; all I heard was his breathing, and then I didn't. I turned to look back and he was about 80 feet behind. I continued on to the top of the first climb and waited. When he caught up I asked him if he was trying to make me feel good and he said no, that he was finding out he wasn't in very good running shape.

Alex has added the "freshman fifteen" pounds, a lot of it as muscle though in his shoulders, arms, and chest. He's been lifting weights, but not getting to run as much and he had a nasty cold that persisted for about three weeks. We plodded on and he gave me permission to go on ahead, which I did. About eight inches of snow had fall a couple of days earlier; it had melted between yesterday's sunshine and today's sunshine and 60 degree temperature, but left a very slick muddy trail as we went higher. We ended up walking some and picking our way along the side of the trail. Alex closed the gap and we pushed through the final stretch to the summit together. The ascent took five and a half minutes longer than last weekend. Alex seemed to have recovered and we stuck together on the descent.

When we returned to the house Valerie said that Ruth was out for a walk with Elliott. I've been wanting to start over at the beginning with the barefoot running so I decided to go out and see if I could find Ruth and Elliott. I decided to go out truly barefoot. I thought I would walk first to accustom my feet to the surface. Oh what torture! The streets in our neighborhood are of a rather coarse asphalt that is breaking up in many places and there has not been enough traffic to work all the sand to the sides of the streets that was put down by the county for winter traction. The sand would stick to my tender feet and be there pressed in to the flesh ready to be pressed in again with the next step. I endured for about half a mile, thinking I would get used to it soon. Finally, it occurred to me to run; running was less painful. Walking had been like trying to remove a band-aid slowly that had been put on over hair.

I only went about a mile and a quarter on the barefoot outing and when I got back to the house Ruth and Elliott had already arrived. Upon inspecting my feet, they already seemed more calloused; I had one tiny spot of blood and another spot where it felt like something microscopic had found its way in. Today they don't feel so calloused, but just thicker in general. I think I will continue to run whatever distance is right for the day with traditional footwear and just add the barefoot running on each day. I'm going to take the advice of the barefoot gurus and go without any protection until my miles are up because the VFFs and the Nike Frees afford too much sole protection and I do damage because I haven't built up as I should. As my soles can handle more so should everything else.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Body-Mind Discord in the Homo Erectus

The view out the back window makes me think it's the middle of January. There is a blanket of fresh snow all the way to the Divide. Today is the first day of spring. I would like to get out for a run today although it may be advisable to rest.

Since I bought the Vibram Five Fingers and the Nike Frees I have put 18 miles and 13 miles on them respectively and another 35 miles on traditional running shoes. I now wish that I would have had a more conservative interpretation of what slow and gradual mean. I was fine with sore calves; I actually enjoyed the proof that I was running different and strengthening leg muscles. The feet themselves have been fine aside from pain related to a couple of chronic issues like plantar fasciitis and hallux trouble. I didn't anticipate runner's knee. Does this mean I haven't been a runner all these 26 years that I've been running? The pain is mild but definitely present when I swing my legs. One of the suggested remedies for runner's knee is a shoe with a good arch support. I suspect the barefoot philosophy would say strengthening of the arch. I plan to start over again on the barefoot training. I intend to go truly barefoot and much slower and shorter distances. I'll do my regular running in the Asics for now and slowly work at transitioning the miles from one to the other.

I have the next nine days off from work or spring break and Alex will be home so I am hoping that I lots of fun runs are possible. After reading Born to Run I feel like I'm an ultra runner, as if I had been along for the stealthy runs in the Copper Canyon but the reality is that my longest run was a four hour 15 mile train run (I didn't drink donkey muck, but I did eat snow for hydration) and everything else had been between four and seven. Does having the mindset count? I'm even drinking pinole with chia seeds and agave azul syrup for breakfast!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Next Steps

I ran just two miles at lunch yesterday. I normally have an hour for lunch, but there was meeting that took up half an hour and I had to change and get out to the track so I was left with about 17 minutes. It was sunny and the temperature was about 60. (Today it is supposed to reach 70) Something I've observed about my new stride is that when I'm running right it feels like my feet aren't even hitting the ground. It almost feels like they're rolling. My concern though is that later during the day I feel little twinges in my knees; I wonder if I am stressing areas that weren't being stressed with my old stride. Am I doing some damage or are these just minor adjustments? I've never had knee issues. I may be doing too much too soon running a la minimalist. Yesterday's 17 minutes were at 8 minute per mile pace in the Nike Frees. I am going to try mixing up the running a bit more. Today at lunch I will run the old way in the Asics for about five miles; that will give parts tied to the new way a break. I want to do a true barefoot run here soon; that will be short and slow. I'd like to work in a longer trail run as least partially in the VFFs on the weekend. In the normal scheme of things I would be due for about a 20 miler at this point, but I don't know about making that happen right now. Which shoes do I wear, what terrain do I go on, which stride do I use?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Running Free

Thursday I ran five miles on grass in the Vibram Five Fingers. I discovered that it is possible to get blisters wearing them. Well, of course, anytime the foot experiences friction a blister can develop. One developed on the out side of the big toe while another on appeared about an inch and a half away from it on the very edge of the ball of the foot. Having some mud in there to abrade and the unfinished nature of the inside of the shoe were probably the culprits. True barefoot runners who wear these as occasional protection in extreme situation probably don't experience blisters because their feet will have built up adequate callous.

Although the blisters have hardened I wanted to give them more time to toughen up so I held off on using the VFF, but my regular Asics Evolutions aren't suited to my new gait so I decided to seek a new pair of running shoes. Heading to the Boulder Running Company I presumed I would be choosing among racing flats or some kind of lightweight trainer. I soon discovered that racing flats are very narrow. My Asics are 2E; I have even had 4E so I am accustomed to space; racing flats would not do. The lightweight trainers, although they have less cushioning and material for stabilization, had too much of a heel, which is the issue with the Asics now.

The clerk suggested the Nike Free; according to him it is what all the barefoot runners are buying. I had read that this wasn't the case; that the Free didn't really match barefoot characteristics. Immediately upon slipping my foot in to one I could see that they are not like barefoot. They are narrow; when you run barefoot, your toes aren't all squeezed together. The Free doesn't come in widths. The clerk suggested a half size up. Hmmm, so to get room for the toes I'd have to put up with sloppy everywhere else? I hesitantly assented, and it was actually still a good fit with more space at the end of my toe; maybe a good thing. I tried them out around the parking lot, running with one old Asics on one foot and the Free on the other. The Free seemed better suited to my new stride. I wasn't sold on them, but I bought them.

Now to give them a real test. I drove to the White Rocks Open Space where there is about a 400 foot net elevation gain to the summit with lots of ups and downs along the way. The first mile and a third is flat and the shoes didn't seem like quite the right tool for the job. I started uphill and I cruised. This run usually finds me just barely not having to walk at points but I ascended easily, even passing bicyclists on the climbs. The downhills were a little easier to handle in the Frees than in the VFF, I think because the Nikes do have a heel, and descending, it is easier to land it first.
Clearly I was and am still unsure of how to run downhill fast with a barefoot stride; it took 32 minutes to go up and 35 minutes to come back down.

In an aside to the focus on the feet, I had pinole with chia seeds for lunch before the run. I sprinkled the two in to boiling water, like you might for making cream of wheat, and drank it. I wondered if it had anything to do with my good energy cruising up the hills. It would make sense, not because corn meal is so magical but because it is in a solution easy for the digestive system to access.

My sister advises me to not draw conclusions from minimal data. I won't, but I can still report observations; I suspect I'll need about a year of running minimally shod to conclusively say that it is appropriate for me. My calves are sore again, or rather still, but I think that stronger calves certainly contributed to it being easier to run uphill. I still have plantar faciitis pain; last night I had to leave my foot submerged in an ice bath for half an hour. I've had the PF for eight months. When it goes away I won't be able to say that it was because of the change and if it gets worse i won't be able to draw any conclusions either. I don't feel any other pains or stresses that you might expect from running 7 miles in Nike Frees the first time out, but we all know that running injuries can take a long time to develop....and a long time to go away.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eliott Stacking

We found it rather funny that whenever we stacked blocks to model for Elliott what we expected him to be able to do at X number of months he felt an urgency to knock them down and put as much distance between them as he could. A little before 12 months he assented to stack a couple of block and we felt reaffirmed in the intelligence of our offspring. I just read a brief blurb of a mother who wrote in to a baby magazine distressed that her baby wasn't stacking blocks at 15 months. Oh no! One should be careful of what one wishes for; Elliott just turned one year old last Saturday and a coworker of Ruth's gave us 26 inch high baby corral. Elliott's knowledge has already transferred; he stacks up the objects in the corral and climbs on top of them to try to get out!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Five Fingers for Lunch

Today was our last day of the yearly CSAP testing at school. The kids left the building at 12:30, I locked my door and changed into running clothes in the corner of the room out of view of the door's window and worked my toes into the Vibram toe receptacles. I don't want to wear them out running on pavement so I decided to run around the school track...and I mean around it; it's asphalt so I stayed on the turf on the outside and on the infield. It was sunny and about 50 degrees. I did five miles at 8:48 pace which was enough; my calves were feeling it toward the end and I also developed a blister on the lower outside edge of the left big toe joint. I am either going to have to build up some callous there or use Vaseline which I'm hesitant to do because it could end up sloppy or messy in there. My guess is that true barefoot runners who occasionally wear them have enough callous to not have this type of issue.

This morning was the first time in a long while (several months) that I didn't have pain stepping out of bed. I thought maybe the PF was relenting. After the run today I could press down on the heal and make it be painful. I want to believe the barefoot running is alleviating the inflammation somehow.

I am optimistic about getting faster and being able to run farther. I definitely find myself running in them how I would run if I were playing a sport that involved running fast like soccer or baseball. Even though my distances were long before and my times were OK and I certainly had a runner's mindset I feel like everything I did before was jogging now and this is running. Would it offend (myself included, although I don't really take offense to anything)to say that heal strikers in motion-control-stabilizing-cushioning running shoes actually jog?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Happy Birthday, Elliott!


On your first birthday you enjoyed the balloons with faces and Winnie the Pooh party hats that Mommy hung from the ceiling. Your big brother Alex came home from the university for the afternoon and Valerie's friend Evan came over as well. We went to the little park in Indian Peaks and you slid down a slide for the first time and kept climbing back up so you could do it again. You didn't like the swing as much, but when you saw Valerie and Evan swinging as well you were a little more accepting of it. You crawled around in the grass and watched older kids climb on rocks and jump off.

You took a nice little birthday nap while daddy made fettuccine alfredo with sauteed vegetables. We thought you might like some noodles with a creamy sauce but you demonstrated your disapproval by pushing the noodles off the plate and turning the plate over. We had a carrot cake made for you at the little cake shop across from Daddy's school that said "Happy Birthday Elliott" on it. We started to sing Happy Birthday to you but you started to cry at the discovery of being born into a family of non-singers. Mommy helped you extinguish the little blaze before you grabbed it with you curious little fingers. We enjoyed the cake but you did not approve.

You were presented with a nice big basket full of presents. You tore open a couple of them before becoming bored with the routine. We put the gifts aside so that you can open more of them on other days when you are in the mood for something new.

It has been a fun first year for us, watching you discover your world through your eyes and ears and nose and mouth and fingertips. We look forward to your first unaided footsteps here pretty soon and for you to speak some words that not just those closest to you recognize. Let's play!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Mesa Trail

The Mesa Trail runs from Chautauqua Park in Boulder to Eldorado Springs. Of course, it can be run in either direction. I chose to run it in both directions and even in some directions that it doesn't go for an additional unanticipated two extra miles. I started at Chautauqua with my Asics, shorts, and a T-shirt, and a baseball cap. It was a warm day for March 6th. I carried the Vibram Five Fingers in my hands, and they stayed there the entire fifteen miles. I had intended to use them but there was just too much ice and snow and ice cold mud.

I had been reading about Scott Jurek in Runner's World magazine and about Jenn Shelton online before going to bed. I dreamed all night that I was running ultras, so I figured I had to get out for a long rugged trail run. I have the mapmyrun app for the iphone and it shows that most of the trek is around 9% inclines up and down but it doesn't calculate in small enough increments so if I were run an eighth of a mile up a 10% incline and the next eighth of a mile down a 10% incline it would average me out as having run on the flat. There were some sections that looked more suited for the luge and I was thinking that it was about 50/50 in several places that I would fall. I was fortunate in that I took no tumbles.

I had left a water bottle full of Gatorade in the truck. Next time I'll leave the alternative footwear and tote the water. On the return trip from Eldorado Springs I ate snowballs on most of the uphills. I also felt it rather refreshing to store some snow under my cap. I ate some of that too. I expected it to trickle down my face and neck but it seems that maybe it just evaporated.

I have felt beat all afternoon with a sore tendons in the PF area to boot. The fifteen miles took four hours. The highest elevation was about 1200 feet above either end so I had that elevation gain twice and there were several ups and down in some intermediate gullies and ravines. My guess is that I don't run tomorrow, but I could get inspired if the weather is as nice, but surely I'll be closer to home on comfier turf.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Denting Elliott

Elliott is becoming quite mobile, especially on all four, and he practically runs on his two feet if we hold his hand. He can go up the stairs by himself, sometimes putting a knee on the next tread, sometimes going with a foot first. Last night he cruised up almost without breaking stride. I followed him up. He crawled halfway down the hardwood floor in the hallway and turned to look up at the light and pictures of Valerie and Alex on the wall. As he was sitting there I thought it a good idea to pull his socks off and have him walk a little more with better traction. Bad idea. I tugged and the sock didn't come off, but rather I spun Elliott and he did a head plant into the metal corner of the heating vent. He immediately cried and had a nasty triangular puncture on his forehead with a bump and bruise surrounding it. Ruth should work for social services; she was on the scene immediately and removed Elliott from my care. He was fine after a bit of consoling. The wound doesn't match the "chipote" on the other side of his forehead.

Tomorrow is his first birthday. We are going to celebrate it quietly as a family. I'm sure there will be plenty of sugar-fueled frenzied bashes that fifty-somethings were meant to be spared, so we'll enjoy this one without "invitados". There is a little cake shop cafe right across the street from the school I work at so I ordered a carrot cake from there. Elliott will know "sweet" tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Urban Vibram

My calves weren't sore today so I decided to take another spin in the VFFs. The temperature when I headed out in short and a T-shirt at lunch was about 60degrees. I didn't have much time, which was perfect because I figured on going just three miles. Most of the running surface options in any direction from Hidden Lake High School are pavement. I headed up Lowell, did a little bit of a loop and came back down the same street. I did do some out and backs on the grass in a small park but mostly I was on concrete sidewalks, asphalt, or compacted dirt. I could feel my calves again when I was done. I didn't enjoy coming back down hill. Three miles was a good distance but I think I will reserve the Vibram for off-road.

All of a sudden I am a runner trapped in a non-runner's body. My heart, lungs, and quadriceps could carry me all day but I have a short slow range running "barefoot". Consequently I went out again this evening for 3 1/2 miles, but in Asics. It was difficult though; running how I have for 26 years felt wrong but I couldn't do more following my new-found foot strike.