Friday, June 26, 2009

First VFF Run

I ran in my Vibram Five Fingers KSO's yesterday.  It was a short run of three miles.  There is the feeling of running barefoot, but just not on top of your foot, and of course there is all that protection underneath.  For the first two miles they felt pretty good, but I could not help thinking I would rather be really barefoot.  My soles were missing the real feel of the road.  I had to stop a couple of times to tighten, then loosen the Velcro strap.  After about 2.25 miles I gave in and took them off.  It is the upper that was giving me some chafing, and I did get a micro blister on the inside of my foot above my right arch area.  I think I need Injinji socks - the ones with the toes.  And I think these will be used on trails, and maybe for racing, not for daily runs in warm weather.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Series XC #2 & My Birthday Party

I ran Summer Series #2 in my Nike XC spikes last night.  There were parts of the course where all the recent NJ rains have caused erosion and the exposure of random rocks and other scree.  I would have had to slow down a lot if I ran barefoot.  But it was very hot and humid last night and I am not acclimated because it just hasn't been hot this spring.  The spikes felt so heavy and hot I really wanted to stop and rip them off my feet.  I won my new age group, at least.

The greatest thing about last night was everyone in my running club that made it special for my birthday.  The race directors, Doug and Janice, gave me bib number 50.  They announced it at the start line and gave me a special start line about 10 yards ahead of everyone else.  It felt so unfair but it was humorous.  There was another former president, IronPete , that shares my birthday, but 10 years younger.  He got a head start too, as well as bib number 40.

After the race there was the singing of Happy Birthday and an absolutely wonderful birthday cake, made by Rebecca T.  It was an amazing work of art that is cheapened by text description: It was totally themed with icing as a plush mountain with a path to the top on one side.  The path had shoes cast aside and bare footprints passing milestones marked 35, 40, 45.  Over the top, the other downhill side had a gray rocky barren down-hill path with animal bones and skull exposed.  Rebeca spent like 10 hours creating that.  She should do that for a living!  And she cut it up herself.  (You might be able to see pics of it on Facebook.)

Finally, Chris L had people chip in for a gift last Saturday.  What a guy!  They got me Vibram Five Finger KSO shoes.  I had been wanting them for a long time but have been too cheap to buy them.  So that was wonderful.  Of course we hung out and drank some beers as always.  It was absolutely the best 50th birthday I could have ever wanted!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Age Group as of Today

Today I am crossing the line into the 50+ age group.  Time to rock & roll!  First race as a 50 year old is tonight, but it is a series race that scores you for the same age group for the entire series, so I will be scoring in the 45-49 age group.  But that is OK, because the race will also be MY PARTY!  My real debut race will be Sunday at Pine Beach 5K, which is a NJ Masters championship.  I am looking for hardware, since I will be the youngest in the age group, but it will be more difficult to do that at a championship.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Training June 15 - 21, 2009

I had a moderate workout week this past week.  Considering the extra work at camp for a couple of days, I can't complain.  President's Cup 5K on Monday night resulted in my fastest 5K since July of 2005!  Bike ride yesterday on old rain bike had a decent speed considering what I was riding, and was mostly big-ring.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yep - I'm Insane

"Dad, we saw you running before, on the way home," said my 11 year-old daughter.

She had been in the car, with my wife and son, on the way back from a store.

"Where?" I asked.

"On Greenbrook Road."

"How come I didn't see you? Which way was I going?"

"Towards home."

So they came up from behind me while I was concentrating on the road surface to avoid stepping on small pebbles and random road scree, which has been worse than Jersey-normal because of the huge amounts of rain we have been experiencing for two weeks.

"How come you didn't wave out the window and beep?"

"Because you're insane," my 15 year-old son chimed in.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because you were barefoot and wearing short shorts and running in the rain," he answered.  And he is a developing runner and he goes barefoot a lot - but not when he runs.

"I see - and you make it a practice to not beep at insane people?" I asked rhetorically...

I proceeded to explain how they should not conclude I was crazy.  That instead they should be impressed with my abilities. I told them that what I was doing took an extremely high level of skill, concentration, core strength, posture & balance - not to mention the fitness to keep this up for an hour and a half....
But it fell on deaf ears as they were back concentrating on the X-Box.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alive & Well & Fast As Hell

The full account of making some stupid dangerous moves on my bike commute to work this morning:

What happened was a domino effect.  Picture a red light with a left turn lane in front of you, with lots of cars backed up at the light to go straight on a moderately busy road, Washington Avenue in Piscataway, NJ.  I usually sneak up on the right of those backed up stopped cars.  There was a truck very far to the right and I wasn't going to fit.  So I figured I would sneak up the left side and cut through the red light before it turned green - no prob, I do that illegal move all the time - it is probably safer because it keeps me out of the traffic when it starts moving - at that point I am already on the right in the shoulder and everybody sees me.  Anyway, when I make the decision to pass on the left, a school bus pulled into the left turn lane and stops, and it was squeezed close to the other lane, so I couldn't slip between, and I decided to go left of it, even though it would be turning left!  But still no prob, as long as the light would remain red.  But it didn't, or course.  It goes green, and there were hesitating oncoming cars, so I went even further left to the crosswalk, which should have been fine, except that the oncoming car waved the bus through and it began to accelerate straight into me and I saw it out of the corner of my eye and all I could do is accelerate hoping to get out of its way and I heard those kids scream as it just missed my rear wheel!...  The kids saw me but I am 100% sure the driver never did.  This is the view from the perspective of the bus driver of the intersection (Google maps with street view is amazing!)

View Larger Map

It had been raining here in NJ for two weeks, so I have been driving daily  to work.  I needed this ride and prepared hastily when I saw on TV from my bed this morning no rain in this morning's forecast. Not one clip-out and those stupid dangerous moves resulted in a new speed record for this route. In my morning haste at home, I realized I forgot my wallet this morning after I got to work, so had I been hit I would have been without ID.... But it was fun hearing those kids on that school bus scream when they thought the driver was going to t-bone me.  I guess I am both a stupid and lucky guy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stroke of Bad Luck! ~ Escarpment Trail Run Entry Accpted

Received my accepted entry notification this week for The Escarpment Trail Run. It reads, "Due to a stroke of bad luck, your entry has been accepted...." This will be my 5th Escarpment Trail Run, a 30K wilderness run with 10,000 feet of climbing in New York's Catskill mountains.

On July 27, 2008 I ran my 4th Escarpment Trail Run. It was my slowest at 4:48. My previous times in 2005-2007 were 4:15, 4:09, 4:41. This race has no awards, just bragging rights. But they do give out 100 miles shirts. I am not sure if this coming 5th race is considered 100 miles, or if it is going to take two more races until I earn the 100 mile shirt.

I never wrote a race report after the last time I ran Escarpment. For my legs the race was the least painful of the four. One of the reasons is it was the slowest - because I knew I had to go slow since I was running with a broken little toe on my left foot. I had broken it a few weeks before and most of the pain was gone, except when I hit it or moved it in a certain way. This course has endless rocks, so I had to run gently to protect it. The broken toe also curtailed my training, so I factored that in as I walked a lot more than I had during past races. This slower pace became both a blessing and a curse, however. Because about half way through the intense thunderstorms started. In the mountains this meant lightening strikes that were frighteningly close, and also some hale hitting my bald head. The storms continued and flooded the trails, which cooled my body and my sore little toe - that was the blessing that made this race easier on my body. But it also risked every runner's life. It is amazing how one suddenly re-discovers religion in such a situation. But with no road crossings, no shorter routes, and no buildings, there was no choice but "on-on". The severety of the storm was unprecidented. I am not exaggerating that I feared for my life - read Tony Fletcher's report for verification. Here is winner Ben Nephew's account. Until I read Ben Nephew's account, I had forgotten how dark it got as the storm brewed. It was a very scary race and I can't wait for the next one this coming July! With some luck and hopefully no broken toes as in '08, and no Achilles tendonitis, as in '07, I think I can go at least as fast as I did in '06.

Another Twitter-er

To me via Twitter:
I'm sensing a convergence on barefoot/minimal coverage running. 2 friends have reco'd "Born to Run" & 1 bought Nike Free's.
I responded:
The more you look, read & question, the more it makes sense. Unfortunately, Nike Free sucks as a "barefoot" shoe: 2 much heel lift

She responded:
Yeah, the jury's still out for my friend who bought them. I'm looking at Vibram Five Fingers.
I replied:
VFF's are raved by as best "Barefoot" shoe. Pricy tho - get fairly close to the BF technique in XC flats. & just run BF 5 min/day

" Making a (barefoot) impression" ~ A Facebook Message & My Response (after President's Cup 5K last night)

As I drove down Millburn Ave with my wife to the race last night, she saw you warming up and said to me "I think I saw somebody running barefoot". I looked over and said "Yeah, don't you know that he does much of his running barefoot?".
We got into the discussion of hurting the bottom of your feet on all that you find on the road. I thought I noticed your later warm up with Ray that you were wearing shoes.
I have read with great interest some of your opinions as well as some of the links about barefoot running. I especially liked the comment that bad shoe design causes so many of the injury problems. When I think of who is NOT running these days and talk to so many people with injuries, I wonder if barefoot is the way to go. How would I start to at least attempt it?
I don't know what your expectations are these days, but I thought you ran pretty well last night....


Hey DL - I saw you warming up too. Ray and I were about 50 yards behind you heading up the hill before the race.

Yea, I switched to shoes for the race. I can simply run faster with shoes - about 15-20 seconds per mile faster. But the "barefoot" form and efficiency carries over, as long as the shoes are flats, not those over built, over hyped, overpriced trainers.

I am in my fifth summer of running barefoot - over a year it probably comes to about a third of my total mileage. In summer it is probably about 75% of my total mileage. But I worked into it slow. At first, it was just 5 minutes at a time on a well groomed soccer field. Now I can do 8 miles on pavement (probably more if I wanted) and have done 12 on pavement plus grass. And I stay as barefoot as possible when not running to support the practice.

There are tons of stuff to read about it. The two books to read are Chi Running and Born To Run. You don't actually have to run shoeless, but you can do the same technique if you get minimal flat running shoes. And train in them. I now exclusively run in cross-country flats, on and off road.

If you google BF running, there is tons. A classic place to start is here .

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shoes are always the answer! NOT

Via Twitter, saw this tweet:
Awesome race yesterday, aaand I found out what's causing my knee issues. Apparently I'm an over-pronator. So I got new Brooks to fix it!

I replied:
New shoes do not fix over-pronation. They make you weaker by allowing it. Form corrections fix the prob that is due to heel strike

She repilied:
How do I fix it? Just start focusing on perfecting my footing?

I replied:
You could start looking at your technique issues. Most people have technique tweaks that manifest themselves in injuries. It is those soft and supportive shoes that have been allowing people to run long distances with sloppy technique that leads to eventual downfall. People who have been running for a long time are more vulnerable than new runners because the weaknesses sneak up on you, especially as you age with such great aerobic fitness.

We have been told for so long that heel striking is the right way to run long distance, but that is so wrong. We were naturally selected to run with midfoot strike. The heel can be touching, but it should not be bearing the impact. Impact is dissipated by your entire body and not just your foot/shoe. Some studies actually show that the softer the shoe, the greater the impact, because your body needs to feel and respond to your foot plant! You mentioned you problem as being caused by pronation - the great enemy of all runners, according to the shoe companies - we gotta control that pronation! Well, if you run with proper technique, there is in fact little or NO pronation. All injury problems than go "poof" and they are gone (in time).

Tweaking technique is a real process of reeducation, unlearning some false beliefs put forth by shoe company marketing, and physical practice. And since most of us have been running in over-built shoes for so long, the process needs to be slow, or else there are a host of other problems that you could create for yourself by trying to change something too quickly, even though it is the right thing to do! The absolute best place to start is reading the book Chi Running by Danny Dreyer....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Workouts June 8 - 14, 2009

Had an easy workout week this past week, which was needed following the Towpath "Train"ing Run.  Rain has been relentless.  This is keeping bike mileage way down.  Raced fairly well on Tuesday night considering the 27+ miles of running I did last Saturday.  I guess I will run all the Summer Series XC races barefoot.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

RVRR Summer Series XC #1 Barefoot - June 9, 2009

My last three races were marathons.  MARATHONS!  They were Philly in November of '08, The Watchung Winter Ultra in January '09 (in which I fell and broke my rib), and Boston in April '09.  The last time I ran a 5K it was the RVRR Summer Series #4 in August of '08.  So I have been mentally and physically prepared for nothing but big distance runs for more than 6 months!  I had two Tuesday track workouts in before this race, with two weeks of skipping them before this first XC race of '09.

So I ran this one on Tuesday night barefoot.  Finished in 20:17 for 4th in the 45-49 age group.  That time would have won 35-39 and 40-44!  Also note, this race comes just 3 days after the Towpath "Train"ing Run where I ran 27.3 miles.  (Perhaps I should not make an issue with that, because the winner of this XC race, Mike Dixon, ran the entire 34 miles of the D&R Towpath on that day.)  I didn't feel like being barefoot slowed me down at all!  I was surprised how I could run on the cinder path with no problem.  I did use the grass next to the cinder as much as possible.  My legs were definitely fatigued from the "Train"ing Run and my habitual lack of sleep.  I did not have much strength up old Red Barn Hill, but I felt I was cruising the flats very comfortably.

I am feeling a little Achilles strain on the left side after the race.  This may be because I have not done any fast running barefoot.  My track workouts were in spikes for the fast parts.  My average pace barefoot is 8:30-8:45 per mile.  My pace was 6:32 for the race.

I ran in Mizuno road race shoes last night to give my Achilles a little rest.  I need a day off.

The next RVRR Summer Series race is June 23rd, in two weeks, and it is my birthday party!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Training June 1 - 7, 2009

Good training week even though I lost my voice on Wednesday - have some respiratory thing going on.  I need some extra sleep to kick it out.  Lots of good barefoot running.  Not much cycling due to rainy days.  Still failed at trying to run the full 34 miles of the towpath, but had a great time with the people on Saturday.