Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smuttynose Marathon - Race Report

Windy, rainy, and cold, those were the weather conditions during the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon on October 2, 2011 at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.  This being my second marathon, I had, at the very least, experienced what running 26.2 miles was – although no two marathons are ever the same.  I had a strategy, one that I included as part of my training, particularly during the three 20 mile long training runs leading up to this race.  I followed a three month training program and the prescribed rest period prior to race day.  I carb loaded and hydrated appropriately.  In short, I was as ready as I was going to be.  My planned pace was 9:42 minutes per mile (min/mi), which would have brought me in at 4 hours 14 minutes 8 seconds (4:14:08) and I believed I could complete the race around that time.  However, I also knew that a marathon just isn’t that predictable.  Nonetheless I fully expected to completed the race in under 4:30:00.

I never heard the starting pistol, I only knew the race had begun as the pack began to shuffle toward the starting line.  At mile one, I was a little surprised to see my pace was 10:04 as I didn't think I was going that slow, but I assumed that this perception had to do with still being in a somewhat dense pack of  runners.  I also figured that as I warmed up my pace would pick up and I’d settle into my pace.  My pace slowly picked up a few seconds with each passing mile, at mile four my pace was 9:50 and my average pace was 9:54.
Learning how to pace yourself during a marathon is key to finishing a marathon successfully.  In the beginning of a race, you’re still fresh and have a lot of energy, which is one of the reasons I’ve had a tendency to start out too fast in fast races – it didn’t feel like I was going as fast as I was.  The consequence, of course, is you have less energy towards the end of the race – in my case, my pace at the latter end of past races have been much slower than my planned race pace.  Lessons learned, my pace was a big focus of my training and I was fully aware of it during the race.  It was around mile four that it started to dawn on me that I was running at what felt like a comfortable pace, but where was that energy that I thought I’d have to rein in?  I was a little concerned and I didn’t really know what to do about it.  I thought that maybe the humidity had more of an impact than I anticipated despite the ideal temperature; or perhaps the cooler weather combined with the taper just required a longer warm up period.  I even considered that all of this was mental, that maybe at some subconscious level I wasn’t as confident about my planned pace as I thought I was, that maybe I was holding back in fear of burning out as I did during my first marathon.

I made a decision:  I prepared for this, I found my times, I found my pace, I rested prior to the race, the temperature was right, this is what all the training over the summer was a for, I needed to go for it – I was going to stick to my plan and get on pace.  So I picked up my pace a bit to make up time, but I was going to do this gradually and attempt to maintain what I felt was the upper range of a comfortable pace.  My average pace continued to get closer to my planned pace as each mile passed.  At the 10 mile point my pace was 9:31 (thanks to a nice downgrade) and my average pace was 9:46.  I was feeling good and I was close enough to my planned pace that I felt I could slow things down a bit.

When I ran my first marathon I carried some water with me.  This was mostly due to the fact that I had carried water when I trained and that I was still somewhat inexperienced when it came to racing.  The downside to carrying water is the extra weight of both the water and whatever device you’re using to carry it.  What I’ve found during my races was that water stations are generally located every 2 to 2.5 miles along a race route and I really don’t need to carry extra water with me.  I did not memorize where the water stations were located along the route, but I knew the spacing was consistent with that of my previous races.  At mile 9 I grabbed a half cup of water and continued on.  At around mile 11 I was ready for more water and was looking ahead to see where it was.  The marathoners and half marathoners split off from each other shortly after mile 11, so I assumed that the next drink station was moved past the break to prevent confusion as we split off.  Mile 12 came and when with no water station in sight as did mile 13, needless to say, I was getting highly annoyed.  Not only did I need water for hydration, but I also needed water to consume electrolytes and fuel, these were essential to my race strategy.  My average pace at miles 11, 12, and 13 were 9:47, 9:46, and 9:47, respectively.  The drink station finally appeared at 13.5 miles, for the first time during the race I stopped so I could drink down two cups and fuel.  I found out later that the volunteers for the water station at mile 11 and 24 never showed up.  My pace started to slip after this:  My average pace at miles 14, 15, and 16 were 9:48, 9:49, and 9:51, respectively.  I also started to feel some pain in my left knee, which I later identified as an IT band issue.  And to top things off, the drink station that was suppose to be at 16.2 miles wasn’t there either.  I stopped at around 16.4 mile to stretch out my left knee.  I’ve not experience an IT band issue before.  I suspect the cause was a predominance of right pitching roads (chamber), which in some cases was rather severe.
Since I didn’t memorize where the drink stations were located, I didn’t immediately realize another one was missing, but it became apparent soon enough.  I asked a volunteer where the next drink station was, to which he replied he didn’t know.  This was ridiculous, did I somehow miss a water station?  Finally, at 18.2 miles a water station: I stopped, I drank, I consumed.  Oh, and they had portapotties, I …..

My splits for miles 16, 17, and 18 were 10:19, 10:56, and 10:19 min/mi, respectively.  My pit stop at 18.2 miles resulted in a 19 mile split of 11:34.  And accordingly, my average pace continued to slip:  my average pace for miles 17, 18, 19, and 20 were 9:55, 9:56 10:01, and 10:03 min/mi, respectively.  At 20.2 miles I stopped at the water station and drank down two more cups of water and took in electrolytes.  At some point my feet were starting to feel tired.
During my first 20 mile training run I had discovered that by taking off my Vibram Fivefingers (V5Fs) to complete the last several miles barefoot, both my feet and body began to feel reinvigorated.  I did this again on my two subsequent 20 mile runs, each time a little further from the end.  I didn’t plan on actually using this little trick of mine during this race, though it was always an option, I just didn’t think would need to come race day.

When my feet started to feel tired I started thinking about taking the V5Fs off, but the question was when.  I didn’t want to take them off too soon – although in hindsight this might have been the better choice.  At around 21.2 miles I stopped and took off the V5Fs and used the laces to tie them around my waist.  This seemed to have an immediate effect on how I felt overall, but at this point the damage had been done, my splits for miles 21, 22, 23, and 24 were 12:32, 12:01, 11:56, and 11:47 min/mi respectively, which left me with an average pace of 10:23 min/mi at mile 24.  Since the mile 11 and 24 water station volunteers never showed up, my last water station was at 22.2 mile, yet again, since I didn’t know where they were located, I didn’t know this was my last drink until the finish.  Strangely enough, when another drink station just didn’t appear, I think I had just accepted that the organizers of this race just didn’t have their act together.  But it wasn’t until I saw a runner in front of almost get hit by a car somewhere between miles 24 and 25 that this race official became the worst organized race I had participated in.  This was not just a poor choice by a random driver, there was a serious traffic issue here, yet there were no traffic controls in place.

I’m not entirely sure what happened between miles 25 and 26 as my split was 14:03 minutes.  I had to stop and stretch out my left knee again and I came along another runner that was also having problems with her left knee.  She would try running for a bit, then walk, then run, etc.  She said she didn’t know what was going on as she never had this kind of issue before.  Sound familiar?  Well it seemed to support my chamber theory, which I shared with her.  My first thought was to run with her, which I started to do, but she started to walk again.  I left her with some words of encouragement and continued on to the finish line.  As I got closer to the finish line, that little bit of energy that I just didn’t think I had left kicked in and I came in strong.  I finished in 4:42:00.

Of course I would have preferred to have come in under 4:30:00 as I had fully expected to, but after crossing the finish line it really just didn’t seem all that important.  I felt a ran a good race and I got through some unexpected challenges.  Not only was my finish time a significant improvement over my first marathon, but I just ran a better race overall.  As with my first marathon, I come away from my second a little wiser.  As I said, no two marathons are the same, but each marathon I complete gives me a little more experience and that will help me get through those little unknowns more successfully in future marathons.  While the course and conditions were not ideal, several people qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time – these runners, btw, were not first time marathoners.  

Oh, and that girl with the IT band issue I had run with earlier, she finished despite being in extreme pain the whole way.  I cheered her in as she approached the finish line, once she crossed, she came right up to me and gave me a big hug, it caught me off guard, but I completely understood it, it was that camaraderie that comes from shared experience.  Being apart of someone else's marathon experience, however brief, was, in itself, an amazing experience.  In my mind, she is the epitome of what running is all about, it is about exceeding what you believed you were capable of, about going on when there's nothing left and yet somehow you do, it's about heart.  I don't remember who crossed the finish line first that day, but I'll never forget girl who finished on nothing but heart.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Buying Time w/ Pix From Smuttynose Marathon

Alas, still no race report, but my official race photos came in so I'll distract with these to buy some time :D

This is the first loop between miles 9 and 10.

Still feeling great at this point.

The second loop was a little longer than the first,  this is between miles 22 and 23.  The Vibram Fivefingers came off around mile 21. 

Despite my attempt to put on a good face for the camera, you can tell I'm drained.  You can see the Vibram Fivefingers tied around my waist.

This pic was taken by my dad - The finish line is in sight.
Crossing the finish line.
That's me knowing I just completed my second marathon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ouch - Post Marathon Note

Since my marathon this past Sunday, I've been resting with only running some short and easy miles.  On Wednesday I ran 2 miles.  I had some knee discomfort during the race, which I'll discuss in my race report, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had some minor tightness and my legs did seem a little wobbly for a good part of the run, but all and all I was very pleased with how my legs were working.

On Thursday I ran 3 miles.  My legs were a little wobbly for the first 1/2 mile and I still had some tightness in my left hip, but that worked itself out - it was a good run.

Today I started out on my planned 3 mile run keeping to the theme of "easy" and everything was going well until my turnaround point at 1.5 miles, which I'd done carefully.  Well, I must have turned in such a way that it created enough strain on something in my right calf because shortly after that I noticed a tight pulling sensation.  I automatically went into self diagnostic mode and quickly realized it was not just a passing discomfort.  I stopped and stretched it out a bit, then tried to run a little more to test it out.  It was still there, but so far it still seemed minor.  I've enough experience now to know when to stop - running further at that point could have turned a minor injury into something more serious.  I stretched it out some more and started my 1.5 mile walk back.

It was actually a very pleasant walk since it's a beautiful day today and comfortably warm.  My calf felt OK and I wasn't limping.  I think walking actually may have been beneficial at times and, at least in the beginning, I was not even aware of it.  The distance, however, was probably further than what was good for it as my calf started to feel tight again with a little under a 1/2 mile to go.  I stopped more frequently to stretch it out and kept my strides small to prevent aggravating my injury.

When I finally got back I stretched it out some more and rolled my calf over a rolling pin set up I have.  I think I managed to avoid anything too serious.  I expect that rest, stretching, and massaging will be all I need.  I really won't be able to gauge how long I'll need to rest until at least tomorrow.  Something else that experience has taught me is to make sure I take the time to heal fully after an injury.  In the past I've rushed back running to soon and re-injure myself, resulting in even longer down time than had I just taken the time I needed in the first place.

My next training cycle starts on Oct. 24th, which is plenty of time to recover fully it this turns out to be more serious that it feels right now.  Plus I'm very please that this didn't happen right before my marathon.  My best guess is that my muscles were still tight and when I turned I just happened to extend it just enough.  I probably should have had a more rigorous post-mary stretching routine.  Learning is part of the journey :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest In Peace

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Smuttynose - In Brief

I'm in the process of writing up my race report for Smuttynose.  I actually sat down the day after the race and wrote the draft, but it needs a lot of editing.  Until then I thought I'd just post a quick overview.

My official finish time was 4:42:00, so I missed my goal of coming in at under 4:30:00.  But it's still a huge improvement over my Myrtle Beach marathon time, so I'm happy about that.

The weather windy and rainy, but I was happy that the temps remained below 60°F.

I was not happy about the course or the race organization, but that'll have to wait for the full write-up.

All the marathoners received a really nice running jacket, which I'm sure to wear whenever I can this fall.

The picture below was taken by my dad as I was coming in to the finish.  I ran the last 5 miles of this race barefoot as you can see.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coasting In - Training Note

I just completed the last of three 20 mile runs on the Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training program in preparation for the October 2nd Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, New Hampshire.  Each of those 20 milers were preceded by a 10 mile run the day before, and each of those weeks totaled 50 miles.  This program has been fantastic and I'll definitely use one of Hal's programs to train for the my next marathon (Hyannis Marathon - Feb. 26, 2012).

My goal for this marathon is to come in under 4 hours 30 minutes (4:30), which "should" not be a problem as my planned marathon pace will bring me in at about 4:15.  For comparison, I finished my first marathon in about 5:20.  I had expected to run that one much faster, but for a half-dozen reasons, I wasn't even close.  I did finish, and I knew I had just completed something most people never even attempt.  So despite things not going even close to plan, when I crossed that finish line, well it's a feeling you have to experience to really understand, but it was amazing to say the least.  I wasn't as prepared for that February marathon as I had thought I was, and not having run one before, I really didn't know what to expect.

With only three weeks left until Smuttynose, I have completed over 500 training miles since June, over 900 miles for the year to date, and the benefit of marathon experience.  I've trained, I feel good, I'm confident, I know I'm ready.  I have a total of 34 miles scheduled for next week, then my official taper begins with 26 miles schedule the week preceding the marathon, and just 9 miles scheduled for the week of the marathon excluding the marathon itself.  From here there are three things I need to focus on, completing remainder of the training, continue to maintain a good diet, and not getting injured between now and then - not necessarily in that order.  Of the three, the injury part is the most worrisome as it's the one I have the least control over - three weeks simply is not a sufficient amount of time to heal properly and expect to complete a marathon.

But staying positive - I just need to be mindful and enjoy the downhill ride from here.

Happy miles everyone!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Longest Barefoot Run to Date - 12 Miles

One of my goals this year was to increase my barefoot milage, which I've done.  Today I ran 12 miles barefoot making this the furthest distance barefoot I've run to date.  I'm not planning on topping that this year, but hopefully I'll get a few more barefoot 12-milers in before it getts too cold.

Twelve miles is the distance I've had in the back of my mind as a good finale to my barefoot running ambitions for the year.  This distance is covered a few times in the latter part of my marathon schedule so it fit in very well.  That being the case, I've had my eye on today as "longest barefoot run day".  Unfortunately this weekend has turned out to be a little warmer than the past several days and yesterday and today are probably two of the most humid days we've had all summer, which made today's run something of a challenge in general, much less running it barefoot.

From the start of my run, the temperature just kept creeping up and I tried to adjust for this by slowing down.  I was also paying extra attention to my running form, which is one of the first things to go as fatigue begins to set in.  As I continued to run, my pace got slower and slower, I was struggling.  I've covered 10 miles barefoot several times now, and it's not been a issue for me, of course the weather on those days were more ideal.

My feet started to feel tender sometime before 10 miles, perhaps even as far back as 8 miles, but I'm not quite sure.  It was at  around 10 miles I definitely noticed it, but I was on the home stretch and on a newly paved road, which is heavenly to run barefoot on.  My stride was extreme short at this point, I was just crawling along, and while my cadence was much less that the 180 beats/minute, I was focusing at least maintaining an ideal barefoot running form.

The last mile was undoubtedly the hardest.  At the 11 mile mark my route took me off the heavenly road onto a road that, while actually in great shape, is probably the roughest on my feet.

This rougher road did me in earlier in the year when I attempted my first barefoot 10 miler, which only ended up being 9 miles (I did that last mile in my V5Fs).  That first 10 mile attempt was also run during a very hot day, one one on which the asphalt got particularly hot.  That first attempt got me to 9 miles, which, even though I did not get to my intended 10, was still the furthest barefoot distance I'd run up to that point.  I also got two small blisters on two of my toes that day, which was probably, in part, due to the hot road surface.

Fortunately on today's run, despite being very hot and humid, the sun hadn't heated up the pavement as it did before.  So I transitioned to the rough paved road, with one mile to go, I was fatigued and my feet were tender.  I managed to get down this road perhaps a quarter mile before I started to think about stopping and putting on my V5F, which I had packed in my hydration vest.  At about a half mile I was real close to doing it.  Having a goal in mind and being so close to it, definitely contributed to working through it mentally to get me to 12 barefoot miles.  But the largest part that got me through was a quick sensory assessment of my feet.  Attempting to reach this goal at the risk of injury would have just been stupid.

Awareness of my body, being smart about training, and not over doing it were probably among the hardest lessons I had to learn when I first started running again two years ago.  I had several injuries early on that could easily been avoided and consequently I was forced me to take weeks off from running.

So I assessed my feet: I had no indications of blisters and there were no punctures, which I chalk up to an overall improvement to my running form this year and also understanding that as I get fatigued my form often begins to fall apart.  Knowing this, I continually checked my form and made adjustments as needed.  So, with everything checking out as OK, I pushed through and finished my intended run.

I know that had the weather been a little more ideal today, my first 12 mile barefoot run would have been something of a more upbeat story.  Bad runs in warm weather is nothing new for me, and had this just been another run, I would have grumbled about it, cursed the heat and moved on, but instead, a milestone has been reached, which makes this a good run in the end.

There are 28 days left before my next marathon.  I've been considering limiting my barefoot running in the two weeks of training before the marathon to get a few more miles in with the V5F Speeds, which I'll be running the marathon with.  Before then, there'll be several more 10 mile barefoot runs and hopefully one more 12 mile run.  After the marathon it'd be nice to get in at least one more barefoot 12 miler, but that well be dependent on the temperatures.  Next spring I'll begin training to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon barefoot.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Looking Ahead - 2012

Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head to run two marathons a year - this before I had even completed my first marathon this past February (My Myrtle Beach Race Report).  In fact, I had signed up for my second marathon (Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon at Hampton Beach, NH) even completing one.  With just over a month to go until Smuttynose and having just past a training milestone for that race, I've started to think about what my race schedule for 2012.

My requirement for an early 2012 marathon was that it had to be economical, which meant it had to be local.  The actual race registrations are generally not excessive, but add travel, accommodations, food, etc., you can spend as much as you would for any other weekend getaway.  With this in mind, I've more or less decided on the Hyannis Marathon in Hyannis Massachusetts as my early 2012 marathon.  The marathon had only 600 runners this past spring,  although there were several thousand half-marathoners, which run at the same time.  The timing of this race is also about right, it's enough time to recover from Smuttynose and then start the training program again.

My first half-marathon was the Covered Bridges Half Marathon (CBHM) in Vermont, which I ran for a charity in 2010.  This race was major milestone for me as it was also my first race since I had started running again about a year earlier.  This race meant a lot to me, so I ran it again in 2011 for the same charity.  Of the three different events I've participated in, the CBHM is hands-down the best organized and most beautiful one I've run.  I'm excited about running this race again in 2012.  The charity I ran for the first two times, and will again in 2012, is the Upper Valley Haven.

I actually choose my 2012 fall marathon before my spring marathon.  I read a post on my friend Alan's regarding a half marathon that he and some other barefoot runners were planning on running in March 2012 down in Florida.  I had been thinking about how great it would be to join other barefoot runners for some kind of running event, so when I read this I said as much.  Several replies and responses later over a handful of hours, and we decided that we would run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October 2012.  Alan had actually "targeted" this marathon as his first barefoot marathon, and I also had it in the back of my mind I might run my next fall marathon barefoot.  I base this goal on the progress I've made with my barefoot running this year.  It's been going so well, in fact, that I loosely played with the idea of running this fall's marathon barefoot - loosely.  As happy as I am with my barefoot running this summer, I've also not lost sight of my training objective, which is to have a far better performance at Smuttynose than I did at the Myrtle Beach Marathon (Feb. 2011).

All my injuries since rediscovering running have been a result of over doing it.  It was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn.  If you ask anyone training for a marathon, one of the foremost thoughts on a runner's mind is getting injured before a marathon - all that hard work and time with a single goal in mind down the drain.  So with lessons learned and my goal squarely in front of me, I worked my barefoot running and training into my marathon training program.  Up until this past week week, my marathon training schedule steadily increased in milage, which just happened to be what I considered a good schedule for increasing my barefoot miles.  The outcome has been that the majority of my training miles have been barefoot.  For the most part, I've only run in my V5F - Bikila LS during my weekend long runs.  I'm not sure I had anticipated running this many barefoot miles when I set this sub-goal, but it's been so successful that I'm confident about running my next fall marathon barefoot.

So my fall 2012 marathon will be the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which I know I'll at least be running with Alan, and hopefully we'll be able to get a few more barefooters to joins us between now and then.  This will be my forth marathon, my first one barefoot, and I'll get to run it with people who are passionate running naturally.

Smuttynose Rockfest
Hyannis Marathon
Covered Bridges Half Marathon
Toronto Waterfront Marathon

More Video Play - Barefoot

I took some video with my iPod Nano during my barefoot run today, again, just playing around with it for now.  I actually encountered some glass on the road, which you can see around the 40 second mark on the left side.  I found it amusing as it's the first thing people ask about regarding barefoot running, but is, in fact, rarely encountered.  You'll see my left foot land to the right of a crushed piece.  The video below is in slow motion - just the part where I encounter the glass.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Over the "Hump"

Today I ran my scheduled 20 mile run.  I've been following the 18 week Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training schedule in preparation for the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon, which is on October 2nd.  I actually started with Week 2 of the schedule because I ran a half marathon during what would have been Week 1 of the program.  The program has been fantastic and for the most part, I've done a good job of following it.  I didn't quite make the milage on two of my runs - each was on a really hot day and I was spent.

The program steadily increases the milage until you reach 50 miles in week 11 (10 for me), so I've mentally designated this week as the "hump" of the training program.  Not only did I clear the hump, if you will, but it was a solid run for me and was largely due to the cooler temperature today (~70°F).  Another big piece of this being turn out to be a great run for me was knowing that I was going to stop and take off the gloves - the foot gloves.  Prior to taking off my Vibrams, I kept thinking of running the last few miles barefoot as my "shaved knuckle" (i.e. ace in the hole), it was quite the motivator.

 If you read my "Freedom!" post from last Sunday, I discuss my grueling 19 mile run on that day thanks again to the heat.  But at around 17 miles on that run I decided to take off my Bikila LS' and finish those last two miles barefoot - it was a real eye opener, both my feet and body became reinvigorated allowing me to finish those last two mile, which, up to that point, might as well have been 10 miles.

So today, that was part of the plan.  I ran my first 16.5 miles in my Bikila LS', then did the last 3.5 miles barefoot.  Slowly but surely, as my feet felt the texture of the asphalt, they lead the way and my body followed - my running form just fell into place.  Once again, as I drew energy from somewhere, my pace quickened and I was feeling great, so great in fact that at mile 19 I really picked up the pace and ran the last mile in ~9:30 minutes and I still had plenty of energy left at the end.

I ran that last 12.4 miles on the Nashua River Rail Trail, opting to run the first part of my run on roads.  While the rail trail is a great option, I've found that it can be a little boring if run too often.  The other problem with the trail, which really irks me, is some people don't bother cleaning up after their dogs.  Which, btw, if they are too lazy or have some principled objection to clean up dog mess, they could just guide their dog off the trail to mess in the woods.  But I digress.

The advantages of the trail are no cars, and because it was built on an old railroad bed there are no steep hills.  The roads I ran on prior to the trail lacked significant hills too.  I run hills every other day, I don't really have a choice if I want to start and finish my runs from my front door, and to be honest I kinda like them, but I'm not at the point where I feel I can complete a hilly 20 miles.  The marathon is a relatively flat course along the coast, so training on the this route is appropriate.  At some point, I'll start running marathons with more aggressive elevations changes - there are plenty around here - but for now, just covering 26.2 miles in a time I can live with is the goal.

Now that I'm over the "hump", my training for the next five weeks will alternate in weekly total milage.  Since I ran 50 miles this week, I'll run 34 mile the following, then 50 again.  This program calls for three 20 mile runs done during the 50 mile weeks, with the last one done 4 weeks from race day.  At three weeks before the race I'll run a 34 mile week, followed by a 26 mile week.  On the week of the race, I'll run only 9 miles not including the 26.2 on Oct. 2nd (Sunday).

I'm feeling good, and I'm confident that my performance at Smuttynose will dwarf that of my first marathon, which I ran this past February and is a post for another time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Playing with Video

The following video was shot with my iPod Nano, parts of which I hope to use in my review of the V5F Speeds.  The video is not my planned review, but a test run of video editing and uploading to this blog.

I apologize for my mumbling, unclear voice, and complete lack of structure, which resulted in a lot of "um's" and perhaps a few "ah's".  The plus side is I've learn a lot already.

The song is "Mizu Asobi" by Asobi Seksu off the Citrus Album.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I just completed my 9th week of marathon training with a 19 mile run today.  My run wasn't pretty, my pace was erratic, and I was struggling.  Heat seems to affect all runners, some more so that other, but from what I've read about it online, even top athletes take a performance hit.  Sure, there are some people that don't seem adversely affected by heat.  Take my friend Alan T. for example, he reveals in the heat, but there's some strong evidence that his DNA has some lizard DNA in it (check out his Barefoot Journey blog - link in the Blog Roll).

With today's scheduled long-run and the forecasted humidity, I knew today's run was going to be a tough one.  One way to get through these warm days is to start out early to get your run done before the day's heat start picking up, but I seem to be having some difficultly getting out of bed early on Sundays, plus yesterday was an exceptionally long day for me.  So I didn't get to my route's starting point until 10:30AM today.  The temperature was 72°F when I started and it was very humidity, I was soaked within the first two miles.  Another way to get through the warm weather is to slow your pace - one online resource I read was to adjust your pace by 30 seconds for every 5 degrees above 60°F.  I have a tendency to start out to fast, even this morning when I was trying to go slow, I found myself having to pull back several times, at least until around mile 7, where I was just slowing down.  In addition to adjusting my pace dur to the heat, my long-run-day pace is also suppose to be slower than my  intended marathon pace, but again, this will depend on the temperature on race day.  So as I felt myself slipping in my pace mile by mile, I wasn't too upset about it.  I kept reminding myself, or at least I kept trying to remind myself, that with the heat adjustment AND the training pace, I was alright, but a part of my was telling me that would be fine, if I was running this slow on purpose.  In truth, it actually is alright, the heat does and did beat me down, and I know what my performance looks like when temps are below 70°F and lower.  So what gives.

If you've ever run a long distance you already know this.  It's mind games, it's your body trying to convince your brain to quit, it's your own personal expectations, it's your brain trying to think when your muscles are bogarting all the oxygen in your body.  You need to mentally overcome these obstacles.  It's as much of marathon training as logging lots of miles.  I was struggling, which is not unusual for me on my long-run under less than ideal conditions (i.e. hot and humid 0_o).

But something else happened today.  I wore my Bikila LS Vibram Fivefingers today.  Somewhere around 12 miles, my feet were starting to feel "tired".  As the miles went on, my feet just started to feel more and more tired, and my body brought this complaint up with my brain.  Now at no point did I ever consciously think, 'my feet are tired, I should stop', but it was, I think, an added stress on my brain, which was just trying to keep everything together and keep me moving forward.  At around 14 miles I stopped for the first time, I was HOT.  I took off my running hat then stopped to pack it away in my running vest.  I drank down some water, fueled, and took some electrolytes.  I stopped three more times with the last one being around 17 miles - 2 miles left to go.  I was spent and my feet just weren't happy, I was at that point where I knew I only had two miles left to go, and, at the rate I was going, I knew it was just going to take forever with a combination of slow runs and walking.  Things were looking grim in Mudsville.

A little background:
This year I've really worked on improving my barefoot running, both form and distance.  It's been a great year.  So far my max barefoot distance runs have been 9 miles and I'll be hitting 10 miles for the first time this coming week.  There is no better way to improve your minimalist form than kicking off your shoes and running barefoot.  (Caution: if you've always walked around in shoes, the epidermis on the bottom of your feet is probably really thin, start slow, walk around barefoot as much as possible.)  I'm at the point in my form where I can comfortably run the above distances without damage to my feet, at least on hard surfaces.  I think I could probably get away with doing a half marathon distance barefoot now, but that would be on pavement.  My form is not at the point where I feel I could go further than that and I'm a long way off from where I can run on, say, a gravelly dirt road.  Nonetheless, for the distances I'm running, my feet feel great.

Back to my run:
So there I am, facing two more miles with dread.  Somewhere before 17 miles I started to think about taking off my shoes.  (When I've run barefoot on one road surface with a consistent texture for a couple of miles, and then another road surface with a different texture, my feet seem to feel reinvigorated.)  A voice in my brain was telling me that this was a stupid idea, my feet were soaked, I had sweat frothing out of the side of one of my Bikilas.  At the same time, I kept thinking about how much better my feet would feel, to, well, feel that road.  I took off my Bikila's strapped them to my vest, and started running.

I could feel the wariness of my feet begin to fade, I was flexing my toes between strides, I was, wait, I was, that can't be right, I was actually starting to pick up my pace a bit!  My cadence had increased!  Short rapid steps, my feet were talking directly to my brain.  This was so bizarre, never had I thought of taking my V5Fs off toward the end of a long-run.  I ran the rest of the route, a little less than two miles, without anymore stops.  Somehow, it wasn't just my feet that were reinvigorated, it was my whole body.  I'm not 100% what happened, but I think what it might be, or at least in part, is that as the heat and distance started to take their toll, my form just started to fall apart, (although I didn't think it was), and that in turn further taxed my body.  As great as minimalist shoes are at sensory feedback, they, obviously, aren't barefoot.  But that's why we stick a thin layer of something between us and the ground, so when we just don't see that rock, or that very rare piece of glass, there's something between you and it.  And, having thought about today's lesson, that piece of "something", is also there because, as far as I've come with my minimalist form, I still have a very long way to go.  On today's run, my body was taxed and I got sloppy, and didn't realize it, so today, my minimalist shoes, in a sense, failed me.  At the same time, however, I've run long distances under far cooler conditions, which I would not have been able to run without them.  There's probably a lot more too all this, things that I may or may not discover as I move along, but today I learned something new, and that is, perhaps, what all of this is really about anyways.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Clymb

Just ordered some Vivobarefoot shoes for casual wear from The Clymb.  The have a +50% off sale and it end's soon.  I ordered a pair of Miles for $65 (normally $150) and Aqua Suede for $62 (normally $140).  Trust me, this is a great price for these shoes.  You can use this invite:

The sale also covers some other stuff you might be interested.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oh Vibram Fivefingers - Let Me Count the Ways

I stopped by my local Vibram Fivefingers (V5Fs) reseller today to see if they had received some of the "Speed" models recently released here in the US.  Not only did they have them, but after trying them on I walked out with yet another pair of V5Fs.  It's not that I buy every model that comes out, honest, there's a couple models I don't own, but I do have seem to have an excessive number of VFFs, although I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for each one - well, that's gonna be my story anyways.

From Left to Right - KSO, Flow, Bikila, Bikila LS, Speed.

The KSO - Ninja, of course:
When I first discovered these foot-gloves (in July 2009) my options were the Classics, Sprints, Flows, and the KSOs (keep stuff out).  I opted for the KSOs, and because Vibram was having trouble meeting demand, I had a color choice of "black" or "black", which got the nickname Ninja KSOs.  When I first got these in, I thought I'd never take them off they felt so amazing.  Not long thereafter I decided I need a second pair to rotate them day to day.  Completely reasonable, right? V5F count: 2

The Flows - Also Ninja, for those chilly assassination nights:
Not only was I running, but I was running in a way that turned running into something enjoyable, and I was part of a new, as of yet mostly unknown kind of running.  My milage was increasing and I was learning so many new things, and my excitement carried me into fall then winter.  Things were getting cold in Mudville - Enter the "Flows".  The Flows are marketed as a warmer "barefoot shoe", which it achieves using neoprene as it's covering. V5F count: 3

The Bikila - New Kid on the Block:
In 2010, the long rumored Bikila V5F was finally released.  This was designed specifically for running, as there was clearly a market for this - most people wearing the KSOs were running in them after all.  A little earlier that year, I had first issue with the design of the KSO.  I was running down a hill and when I reached the bottom with 3 more miles to go, I had a very irritating pain on the inside of one of my feet.  There is a seam right there that can really rub you the wrong way!  I kept trying to get past it until I just couldn't take it anymore.  At a little more than a 1/2 miles out, I decided to take them off and finally try running barefoot (another story).  So the seam thing was an issue and I was coming up on my first 1/2 marathon.  The Bikila addressed these little buggers.  I loved this new design, and just started to wear my KSOs casually.  I ran in these almost exclusively for the rest of the year and I was training for my first marathon so these Bikila's started to get a lot of miles on them.  I had started to notice that my left shoe was wearing down significantly faster than my right, so I got a new pair shortly before my before my first full marathon in February 2011. V5F count: 5

The Trek - The Land Rover of V5Fs ~ Barefoot Ted:
The Treks uses kangaroo leather and comes in black and brown.  I was wearing my V5Fs all the time and as silly as it might sound, I wanted a dresser shoe, and something a little warmer too.  The Trek has a much more aggressive tread and a lot of folks use these for trail running and ultra running, or just running in general.  I love them, and while I've done some work in them, I feel I have better options for running.  And they clean up real nice.  V5F count: 6 (don't judge me ;)

The Classics - Oh Why the Hell Not:
At this point, Vibram was coming out with all kinda of new models.  The Classic was the original, and I had been eyeing these from some time.  They are the most minimalist model they make and have a mostly open top.  When I had finally decided to get these, they has just released the Classic with a Smartwool option, I didn't know this until I when to purchase them.  My biggest love of these are easy-in easy-out.  And they look better when I'm in shorts than the KSOs too - they're kinda my summer go to shoes.  V5F count: 7

The Bikila LS - Improvement on a Great Design:
So it was February 18th, and I was in Myrtle Beach the day before my first marathon.  I'd see reviews of the Bikila LS online, but I had not yet seen them in person.  I saw a woman wearing them at the expo and as I talked to her about them, she planted a seed in my brain that a few weeks later would make me get a pair of these - see so this time around it wasn't my fault - I was possessed by forces outside my control.  The Bikila LS model has a lot of difference from it's predecessor.  I believe the sole is exactly the same, but the covering is a bamboo fiber rather than what's used in the Bikila (no idea what it is).  This model also uses a speed lacing system, which, now that I've discovered it, I'll always opt for.  It's a little lighter, it breaths better, and because of the lacing, it actually conforms better to your foot, which I didn't believe was even possible until then.  V5F count: 8

The Speed - The Old World Brother to the Bikila:
The Speed model was actually released about the same time as the Bikila, but it was only available in Europe for some reason.  The Speed has a traditional lacing system and uses a mesh-like material such as that seen on "traditional" running shoes.  And, as it turns out, it's available in "black" and "black", well, unless your a woman.  As I said earlier, my left shoe wears quicker than my right (I think it has to do with my left leg being 1/8" longer) so it seems I'm getting a new running model V5F every ~500 miles (roughly estimated).  V5F count: 9

Three Different Running Models - Same Tread Design

Original Bikila, Speed, and Bikila LS
I plan on doing a review of my new Speeds and will post it on my new blog.  I'll focus on how these compare to the Bikila models.  I've not run in these yet, but I'm eager to try them out.  All of this can start getting kinda pricey, but replacing running shoes is a normal expense of running.  That being said, this year I've really worked on my barefoot running and have done at least half of my summer miles barefoot - and each of those miles have cost me $0 :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

I rediscovered running two years ago this month.  I didn't start running again to lose weight, althought I certainly needed to.  I didn't start running again to get into shape, although I certainly needed to.  No, I started running again because running found me.

The economy crashed, which set in motion a series of events that, in the end, left me with a lot of free time to fill.  There were suddenly a lot of unknowns in my life, and I knew that there existed a potential for me to slip, little by little then further and further, into depression.  I decided that the best thing I could do to prevent this was to start exercising.  I started with dusting off my treadmill, finding my old, yet seldom used, running shoes, and ran.  My first run wasn't much, but, unbeknownst to me, these were my first steps on a journey I didn't know I was beginning.

All my preconceptions about running were wrong, and it would take the better part of a year to get beyond most of them.  Fortunately, through pure chance, I discovered the right path almost from the start.  At the time, this path lacked definition, but is now known as minimalist running.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog about my running experiences for some time, but for one reason or another, I've put it off until now.  I plan on retracing my early steps on this journey and record my steps as I move forward.  My intent is to incorporate video of my runs captured by me during my runs.  Whether or not that happens depends on the how practical it is, though my initial attempt looks promising.

At the time of this post, I'm still constructing my site.  I had actually started this blog using wordpress, unfortunately, I've discovered that the service has some limitations that won't mesh with how and what I want to share on my blog.  So hopefully, after a few posts, some learning, and tweaks, I'll start actively sharing this blog.