Sunday, April 30, 2006

Running With Jody-Lynn Reicher

On April 27, a few members of my running club and I ran with Jody-Lynn Reicher. Jody-Lynn is a fairly well established elite ultramarathoner, who lives in NJ. Her goal was to run the length of New Jersey, following the route of the annual "Longest Day" bike tour. She wanted to do it in 48 hours. The route runs from Port Jervis, at the northern tip of NJ, to Cape May at the southern tip, about 207 miles. This is a feat that is greater than Dean Karnazes's "Team Dean" run, when he ran "The Relay" in northern California, as he wrote about it in his book Ultramarathon Man. It would also be the longest single run Jody-Lynn would attempt, though she has already finished Badwater a few times, and holds the US distance record for 24 hours of treadmill running.

The first leg companions were John G. and Sherrie. They were supposed to meet with Jody-Lynn at 7 PM. But she was very behind schedule. I was the second-leg companion for about 15 miles. It was after dark, about 9 PM by the time I joined the group. The last person to run with her was John E. He didn't even begin running until about midnight. Running with Jody-Lynn was a real learning experience. I didn't realize how low-key an ultramarathoner runs. She had no problem just stopping to eat, drink, get a quick massage. With my road racing background, I had the tendency to think that we should be walking while eating. It took me a while to relax and enjoy this run. There was a lot of fun conversation. And I discovered that a staple of ultra-running conversation is really bad jokes.

Here is an exerpt of the story of her run, written by Jody-Lynn herself:

"I had so much fun with Sherry, John G. And Gene, we told stories, jokes, talked about nutrition. I had a blast. I almost can't remember a time when I wasn't laughing or at the very least thinking of something funny. Soon enough it was just Gene and I. We talked about IPODs and barefoot running. Both items Gene is into and up on. He was so entertaining. Running on Canal Rd, which is an old Revolutionary canal road it was so serene." [ read the whole story here ]

She actually ran more than the 207 miles, due to going the wrong way, and raised over $4000 for the Mary Therese Rose Fund. Here is a photo of her and I at the end of my 15 mile leg, around midnight. (more photos here)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sensitivity and Perception - Warm Barefeet Are Happier Barefeet

I was gonna say that I believe the sensitivity my feet has changed immensely over time, but I have also observed that it changes from day-to-day, and even during the course of a single run. I am convinced that comfort/pain level is also affected by environmental factors like temperature, and internal variables like fatigue.

Today I am running over stuff that I would have considered painful just a few months ago.

The first second after something - usually natural tree litter like a stick or pine cone - that causes "pain", it might be painful, then it is gone....

Yesterday, in the beginning of a 7 mile barefoot run, my footstrike was uncomfortable, my technique was poor, but 20 minutes later it felt great....

When I am tired from lack of sleep or accumulated fatigue from hard training, I seem to need some running shoes more than after a day off...

Stuff that is uncomfortable at 50 degrees F is comfortable at 65 degrees F....

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

I hate carrying my shoes. But I am at the point in my barefoot running life that sometimes I start a run in them and get tired of wearing them and just have to get them off when I am still miles from home. I have done some runs where I take them off and put them back on, depending on the quality of the pavement or terrain several times. Sometimes the ground in the grassy park where I like to run is painfully hard or cold or covered with tree litter, so I run barefoot on the road to get there, carrying XC spikes that I put on once I get there.

The subject of going to 100% barefoot vs. mixing barefoot and shod running is one of debate in the barefoot running community. Some people feel the mixing hinders barefoot running technique development. Others (me for one) believe it isn't a bad thing. It isn't bad for you because I am assuming runners discovering barefooting want to maintain their current mileage. If you try to switch to running barefoot at your current mileage right away, you would probably get injured. I suggest you keep track of your barefoot percentage and raise it a few percent each week. (I use this Excel file for tracking.) Chuck any heavy trainers and wear minimal shoes when you do run in 'em. Stick with it for the long haul and before you know it, you will be running many more of your miles barefoot.

Case in point - I am doing more barefoot running than I could ever imagined. I ran 7 miles yesterday; 1.5 were barefoot on grass, 4 were barefoot on pavement, 1.5 were in Gola Harrier retro trainers. I never could have forseen that I would be able to do that much barefoot as recently as last November, let alone when I started sheding my shoes on grass for 5 minutes every-other day two years ago.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Misuse Injuries

This is a great posting to the Running Barefoot Yahoo! group, by our mentor, Ken Bob Saxton:

I like to believe that "overuse" injuries are actually the same thing as "too much, too soon". In other words we are doing more with our body than it is ready for.

However, there is another important factor, which is "misuse" injury.

Being hit by a car traveling 60mph is also a "misuse" injury. We are getting hit with more force than we are designed to withstand!

Likewise, "Jogging" is a misuse of our body.

The common injuries to modern runners, like runner's knee, etc., are commonly mistaken as "overuse" injuries. These types of injuries occur in many runners who "pound" the pavement. "Jogging" and jarring thier joints for miles and miles, because they have always heard that they need to train long and hard. But they have never heard about "HOW" to run.

Misuse injuries are, in a strict sense, also "overuse" injuries. People pounding way harder, and much more frequently than their knees are ready to pound. In fact, in this case, since we aren't using the body according to the manufacturers specifications, it never gets an adequate chance to repair the damage, before we go out and pound out some more miles.

So, much like being hit by a car traveling 60mph, "jogging" or pounding the pavement, is simply something our bodies were never designed for.

What do I mean, we aren't using the human body according to manufacturerers specifications? We are designed to run?

Yes, I believe we are designed to run. However, we were never designed to run without one of the most valuable safety features available. This safety feature was installed, at the time of manufacture, not as an option, but as a necessity. It is the feedback from our feet, as they touch the ground.

We have covered this wonderful sensory organ with shoes, blinding it to the wonderful feelings of touching the earth, just so we can run on surfaces, with such insensitive pounding, that we blow out every conceivable joint in our body. And when the joints start hurting, we take pain-killers, so we can continue pounding, and reduce our joints to bare bones, grinding against each other!

In our automobile, this might be seen as the equivelent of putting a piece of black tape over the "oil low" indicator light or pressure gage, so we aren't annoyed by it's persistent warnings!

Keep in mind, that virtually all of those studies about "normal" wear and tear as a result of aging, are based on "normal" people in modern society, who are so out of touch with their own bodies, that, if they wanted to restore a channel of communication, they wouldn't even know the phone number to call to talk, and listen, to their own body!

The "secret" to preventing this "normal" wear and tear due to aging, isn't LESS RUNNING, it is MORE AWARENESS, so that we can run more, to continue building strength and endurance, with LESS POUNDING!

Have fun,
-barefoot ken bob

Sunday, April 09, 2006


No, you are not seeing double. ... I love it when the banner ad served is from New Balance, a SHOE company, using a campaign that depicts a BARE foot with the New Balance logo on it. I guess they are implying that if you buy New Balance shoes, your foot will feel free and natural. While it is true that New Balance makes some very minimal racing flats and spikes, most people using them are wearing their cushion and stability shoes, which are fairly substantial. The "regular runners" flocking to New Balance usually do it to correct injuries and biomechanical woes. It is a lot less expensive to just remove whatever you are presently wearing!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yesterday's Run

The first half mile: Barefoot on the road to Greenbrook Park. No problem. Feels great for my feet. Rain is on its way. Very little drizzle.

The park, miles 1.5-3: Barefoot on the still-hard grass and dirt. Some of the dirt is so dry it is cracked like a dry lake-bed. The grass is a mess. There are pine cones, acorns, tons of sticks. If the ground was soft or the grass more lush, they would sink in when stepped on. But it is still very dry in NJ, so the sinking-in isn't happening. Raining just a little, but it isn't helping. We need a lot of moisture to make things softer. I even switch to the road in the park for a quarter mile or so. The road feels better for my feet than all the natural tree litter on the grass.

The road, miles 3-4.5: Barefoot on the rest of the loop on West End Avenue, Greenbrook Road, and back home. Lots of random pebbles on the road. Lots of bad pavement. Infrastructure improvements are so needed in this town. How about a run by with a street sweeper? That would be nice. Still only very light rain. Shucks.

My old Reebok XC Spikes, miles 4.5-7.5: Put on my old spikes for the rest of this workout. They are ripped out at the bottom of the upper on the outside of my feet. I have chucked the insoles. The 1/2 inch spikes are worn down to 1/4 inches. One of the spike holes is permanently misaligned, so the spike is at a 45 degree angle. Running on people's lawns back to the park. The park's debris don't bother my feet now. Running faster. Gotta get this done in time to go pick up my kid at religious school. Somebody left a soccer ball under a bush. Nobody around, so I practice kicking it home. It still isn't raining hard enough. Maybe tonight. Maybe soft grass and dirt so the stuff will sink in when I step on it tomorrow. Hope so.