Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Barefoot Panel Discussion

A friend called this afternoon to give me a heads up about a panel discussion on barefoot running. The panel was comprised of Alan Culpepper -- Two time Olympic distance runner and owner of Solepepper Sports, Bobby McGee-- World renowned expert in running biomechanics for more than three decades, Charlie Merrill-- Physical therapist specializing in the treatment of running injuries, Melody Fairchild-- Professional runner and coach, and passionate barefoot advocate, Danny Abshire-- Co-founder of Newton Running; footwear developer/shoe designer, Aaron Anderson-- Pedorthist with more than 14 years of experience in orthotic design and fitting, and Barry Siff:Moderator; former pro endurance athlete and current member of the Timex Multisport Team. With the running shoe designer, shoe store owner, and two orthotics people I presumed rather quickly that there wouldn't be much of a debate, that most of these people would argue against barefoot running. It turns out I was wrong. Most of them seemed to support it.

The consensus seemed to be that your footwear predisposes you to run how you run and that mMost people should be able to accustom their lower bodies to running barefoot unless there is some significant pathology. It is something that needs to be moved into slowly. The person who arranged the panel discussion (turns out it was my son's high school cross country coach) has spent two years in transition; evidently he spent several months just wearing the Vibram Five Fingers at his work. They also said that runners tend to be gung-ho about everything running and go at it too vigorously and end up injured. It takes a long time for the tissue to become conditioned. Alan Culpepper said that if he's just doing a 6 minute per mile 20 mile training run (like the rest of us) he is a heal striker, but when he starts running fast (like doing a sub 4 mile) he goes more medial or forefoot. They also said that running barefoot can train you to run faster when in footwear even though you don't run faster barefoot, effectively overriding the type of shoe you are in. I've had this experience, but it's not fun. They seemed to think that this is difficult to sustain though for a long fast run; the lower leg muscles can only do so much for so long.

Most seemed to think that minimalist footwear is really where "barefoot" runners are headed because of issues such as pavement temperatures, debris, thorns, etc. Nobody there seemed to be doing their miles exclusively barefoot; most seemed to use it in their training, or be part way through a transition.

I am interested in the Newton shoes for road running and road races and am going to go take a look at them since they're right here in Boulder. I've included a link here. The owner of this footwear company seemed to be the strongest proponent of "barefoot" running, probably because from what I've seen he's the only one who has a traditionally designed running shoe that allows one to run as if unshod. Alan Culpepper said that racing flats serve the purpose as well, but after looking into it I found there are no wide toe box racing flats. The footwear is coming...ironic.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Hour Run, No Fun

After not running for three days mostly because of rain I was ready to get out and enjoy a good run. I started off a little sluggish but I was expecting to feel more energetic as I went along. At the start of the run there was a brisk wind that made it feel chilly. (Today was a standard running shoe day. Maybe I'll do a little barefoot tomorrow.)

It warmed up though and I started to sweat, which is normally fine but I couldn't find my running hat so I had to put sunblock on higher up on my head than usual, specifically on my forehead. The tube of Coppertone Faces said "Won't run into eyes and sting" so I felt OK with applying it above my eyes. What a mistake; my eyes burned for the next hour and forty-five minutes.

If that wasn't enough I felt my heartbeat go irregular (atrial fibrilation) at about four miles and consequently ran the next seven and a half feeling as if I were not running on all cylinders. And my feet were still hurting from the abuse they took in the basketball game on Wednesday. Waaaa!

I pushed through though. I think that's what most people think of runners; that they are able to keep pushing. That's not really me; I run because it feels good, it's good for me, and I enjoy it. If I were having to push through pain and discomfort all the time I would probably start watching golf on TV.

The upside is that I reached 440 miles for the year and have averaged 32 per week since last June 20th.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Basketball in Nike Frees and Ice is Nice

I've been soaking my feet in ice before going to bed the past few evenings and the plantar faciitis pain and big toe pain seemed to be abating. Yesterday was a rest day because I was on pace for a 50 plus mile week. I was going to run today but we've had some nice heavy rain. My exercise for the day ended up being a faculty/student basketball game. It felt great running up and down the court with the seventeen year olds not letting anyone break away. The cardio-vascular was there and the muscle conditioning but I hyper-extended my big toe, but it also felt like it was freed up somewhat. The PF didn't hurt during the game but got more and more painful as the day went on. I also have a rotator cuff issue in my left shoulder and at one point cried out when I reached high for a rebound, but that also feels like it's been freed up as well.

I don't have basketball shoes so I had to decide whether to play in Asics Evolutions or Nike Frees. The Nikes won out; they actually felt quite good for playing basketball. A shoe with no support and rather flexible might seem counter to what we expect in a basketball shoe but they really felt like what is indicated for the sport.

I may be forced into another day of rest by rain or pain tomorrow. I've iced the foot three times this evening and it feels much better. Thinking about writing about this made me feel like an old man complaining about his aches and pains but the real purpose is to share with others who may benefit from reading about the plight of another. That's what I'm mostly doing when I read other people's blogs.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

10K in VFF plus Traditional Miles

The weather today was exactly how I prefer it to be for running. I like to be able to go out the door in shorts and a T-shirt and be comfortable right at the start. This morning I was due to run in the Vibram Five Fingers and I did. I ran 6.2 miles on mixed surfaces but mostly dirt trails. I didn't get the calf fatigue that I've been experiencing around four miles, but I also believe I reached the limit for those muscles by the time I was finished.

I went back out in the late afternoon after we had spent about three hours exploring grocery stores as was planned and mentioned in the previous blog post. I ran in the Asics Evolutions which also felt good. I felt like I was running on fresh legs, the calf muscles just being along for the ride when heal-striking in the Asics. I finished the day with 14.8 miles. Too bad I don't count strolling up and down supermarket aisles. I had good energy today even though I was mostly powering myself with dry pinole and chicken vegetable barley soup.

An observation I feel compelled to share regarding the VFF compared to traditional running shoes is that the foot seems to get torqued around considerably more in running shoes when not on a paved surface. Imagine a crochet ball as the bump in the grass or on the trail and a small piece of plywood on top of it as your running shoe. If you step down on this you would quickly go one way or another with a lot of leverage torquing on your ankle. Oddly, running barefoot seems to smooth out all of these lumps and bumps. At one point on a lumpy surface I even closed my eyes and ran about 40 feet and it still felt smooth with my feet making micro-adjustments before I would even be able to do anything consciously. The same type of surface in running shoes is unpleasant even with eyes open; the foot rolls one way or another stressing sore tendons or over-bending the big toe.

I still suggest working in barefoot running little by little. (I even wonder if runners should break in every new pair of running shoes almost by starting over) I've seen articles suggesting that barefoot running should be about 4% more efficient because of less weight which would equate to 4% faster. I have been taking about 20% longer running the same distances barefoot. I am in no hurry to do speed work barefoot.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

400 and Counting

The running week finished off nicely with a two hour outing late Saturday afternoon. I thought to get out early but ended up puttering around a bit, playing with Elliott while Ruth did some household chores, then I cleaned up the kitchen somewhat and made a batch of chicken vegetable barley soup, and brought some yard waste to the compost center. After that I succumbed to a nap. Ruth let me rest for about an hour and then it was time for coffee and pan dulce. It had drizzled some in mid-afternoon but around five the clouds had broken up a bit.

It was perfect running weather, mostly overcast and about 53 degrees. Energy-wise I felt as if I could have gone on well after dark but my feet were not happy. My right heel was starting to hurt as well as the big toe joint on the same foot. I ran for a while as if barefoot although I was in Asics. I felt like I was running in high heels. It did provide some relief to the heel and toe though.

Tomorrow I plan to work in more barefoot time as well as more mileage. I finished the week with 41.8 miles (my running weeks end on Saturdays)and I'm at 405 for the year. Ruth and I plan to hit about five supermarkets tomorrow although we don't need much food. She'd like to see more of what Whole Foods has to offer and she has never been to Rancho Liborio, a Supermarket that caters to the Mexican market. It has great prices on staple foods. I need to go to Costco and Walmart to buy for the school store and we invariably need some things from Kings Soopers.

Time for some of that soup.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Less Painful Running Ten Miles than Driving

I did some nice mileage today. I ran 4.0 at lunch, walked 1.4 in the VFF pushing the running stroller, and then 5.2 in the evening. The only time I felt any significant pain in my heel was while driving. It seems that if I could just keep running I'd be fine. The problems arise when I lay down for the night or step on the gas pedal. I plan to incorporate more barefoot miles in the next three days. It will be interesting to see how the PF goes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Elliott Walks, Daddy Runs

Elliott has been flirting with walking and we marked Sunday as his first day of walking. Several times he covered about three or four feet quite confidently. He would give a smile and say "heeeey" with an I did it tone. Yesterday he walked from a standstill about three feet and then turned and walked about three more before reaching Valerie. He's even managed to walk on our not-all-that-firm bed. On another occasion he seemed to actually run about five steps and then dove on top of me where I was lying on the floor. I hope I'm still running when he's old enough to distance running; of course, that could be when he's in his twenties. Who in their twenties wants to run with a seventy-something geezer?

This geezer has his right foot in an ice bath at the moment. I ran two miles on the asphalt track at lunch today and the almost six this evening after work. All of the miles were in Asics running shoes. Things felt good at the time, but after running all kinds of errands in the car my plantar faciitis began to hurt. Holding ones foot down on the accelerator is a bad position for these particular inflamed tendons.

Beginning tomorrow and running for six weeks at the school any student or teacher who wants a pedometer to keep track of miles covered is welcome to have one. There will be some friendly competition to have the most miles. I can't imagine anyone doing more than me, but we'll see. I'm at 375 so far this year, 1225 since June 20th of last year. About a thousand of those miles have been with heel pain; I'm hoping it will go away soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jinxing the Body of the Rational Mind

In my blog yesterday I spoke of plans to do two or maybe even three runs during the course of the day. I should know better. I don't like to talk about, or write about what I'm going to do. It jinxes the outcome for me. I work with a math teacher who is coaching his daughter to run in the next olympic marathon. He has every day planned out until the olympic trials. Aside from favorable genes, undying determination, and twenty-five years maybe that's why she's has a chance and not me. A list can be a useful tool and I may make one if I have some bills I mustn't forget to pay, or there are some things I better not forget at the grocery store but I don't like my running to be like chore to be checked off on a list. I want it to remain in the category of whims to which I may succumb.

Yesterday morning I succumbed to the whim of running 5.4 miles on trails in the Vibram Five Fingers; what a pleasure! Something less than five miles seems like the barefoot limit for me right now; my calves begin to fatigue and steps become an effort. Clearly I am still building muscles that are needed for natural running. I recently read someone's guide for transitioning to barefoot running. She felt that the runner should count each barefoot mile as three miles. So if you run two barefoot and four shod in a day you should think of it as ten and to do this for the first few months. Then change the ratio to 1 to 2 and after the first year you can begin to count barefoot miles 1 to 1.

I came home to Ruth working in the yard and I joined her. I ended up turning over a fair portion of the garden with a shovel. My plantar faciitis eventually became more and more painful everytime I stepped down on the shovel. I eventually had to switch to pressing down with my left foot. I found myself hobbling around the rest of the day instead of going out for more runs, obviously jinxed I took 220 mgs of naproxen and submerged the offending extremity in an ice bath for 15 minutes, and I took 440 more millgrams of naproxen before going to bed. It seems to have help somewhat; aside from the first few painful steps upon arising I am able to ambulate normally. I am anxious to see what my whims have me do today.

Young Elliott has joined me at the table and is enjoying a whole wheat bagel topped with a slathering of organic almond butter. He has applied some to his face; I don't know if it is to enjoy later or he has heard that almond oil is good for the skin. Actually almond oil was probably the first non-breast milk food product he consume because Ruth applied it to those tender areas of early nursing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pre-run Talk

The next five days promise sun and temperatures around 70 degrees which is ideal running weather for me since I prefer things on the warmer side. The weather is favorable ad my schedule is favorable; I have the next three days off from work and for the two days that follow I don't have students; they are on what we call Intersession, a time between grading periods when they could come in and finish work if they so desired.

I am concerned about the foot factor; I've been running with plantar faciitis for about nine months. It doesn't seem like a full blown case whereby there is pain from the heel all the way out through the arch but rather just localized on the bottom of the heel. I stretch it throughout the day. Driving makes it worse; it is the gas pedal foot and extending the toes seems to allow the tendons to tighten up. I haven't been so diligent about doing what I know to make it bearable such as ice baths and the anti-inflamatant Naproxen. I have been cross-training; I've decided to count barefoot running as cross-training. Rest is always recommended; I haven't run for the past five days. I know that hardly counts as rest when speaking of tendons healing but time's up!

I am fueling up with some pinole with added chai seeds, cinnamon and blue agave nectar; it is only appropriate that the first run of the day be barefoot or in this case in the Vibram Five Fingers because I am heading to terrain where I picked up goatheads and thorns the last time. I haven't done a morning run in a while. Bye.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Elliott Entering Toddlerhood

Elliott is about to walk. He can stand without holding on to something and take about four or five steps if there is a secure destination. He is also using lots of utterances that we recognize for specific things although no one outside the family would. He certainly seems like a little person now. Here are a few recent photos.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Elliott and Plastic Eggs from China

Valerie wears this hat that she and Ruth made all the time. It finally seemed more appropriate, being Easter and all.

Long Thorns, Goatheads, and Vibram FFs

I had planned on a long run in running shoes and a short run in Vibram Five Fingers. Instead I took a long nap with Elliott and did a medium length run in the VFF. If the coffee wasn't enough to wake me up I discovered that thorns from goatheads can penetrate the soles of the VFF. It wasn't enough to stick into my foot but enough so that I knew it was there. If this had been a true barefoot run I would have been quite distressed because when I sat to pull it out I discovered eight of them in the sole of one shoe. I continued to run on trails in fields but when I came to a big square field that only had a trail that crossed it I ran the edges to get more distance. Unfortunately bushes with very long spikey thorns grow along hedgerows and break off and are camoflauged where there aren't trails. I stepped on a branch I didn't see and one of these thorns went right through the rubber and rather deep into the ball of my foot. (No significance that this happened on Easter, I hope) I sat down and had to pull rather firmly to remove it. It hurt for a a few minutes; I'm just glad my tetanus shot is up to date.

The outing was 5.5 miles. Barefoot seems so the right way to run. My calves are sore, which I take as a good thing. I took Elliott for a walk in the running stroller today wearing the VFFs as well and it occurred to me that it is even a bit jarring to walk with a heel strike without shoes. How much have shoes changed how we walk even?

Wind, Running Gods, and Doble Desayuno

Yesterday was windy here in Boulder County. I can handle sub-zero, snow, rain, 95 degrees, but just plain wind rattles me. I managed to force myself out the door around 4PM. For the first mile I kept thinking about just going back, but I adjusted and the headwind became a non-issue.

I ran in the Frees so I was going slow and striding as if barefoot. It is definitely important to run barefoot before using these to run in; it would be too easy to run normal and hurt you feet otherwise. I had decided to only go five miles but after being out for a while I wanted to stay out and probably would have gone more than the 7.3 that I did if I were in different footwear. My week ended with just 22 miles (my sister did 24 yesterday alone) but I'm OK with it after doing 50 miles last week.

My motivation drops sometimes but I just read a blog post of a Boulder runner who did four negative split of a 5.5 mile loop with a 2500 ascent into the same wind. He's already done the loop over 100 times this year. He calls it his mistress; I say he's married to it! He's won a lot of ultras; I'll be content to finish one someday.

I definitely will get out for a run or two today. I have to; I just ate a bowl of blueberries, raspberries, yogurt, cream, and Grapenuts cereal and when I was putting the last spoonful in my mouth I noticed the empty bowl from the oatmeal I had just eaten a half an hour earlier. I have forgotten to eat in my life, but forget that I just ate half an hour earlier? That hasn't happened. Well, I am getting old. At least I am fueled.

I anticipate a longer run today and a shorter barefoot or VFFered run as well. There is a breeze but it seems less assaulting than yesterday.