February 14, 2011

Valentine Racing

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 10:41 am by lindaslongview

In Blue Feet, I declared my goal to run barefoot/minimalist!  This weekend, I ran a local Valentine’s Day 10k in my Vibram Five Finger (VFF) shoes.  It was a triumph of training and perseverance.

Even though I pulled up my mileage a bit faster than I probably should have (from a training perspective) – my feet are still a little stiff today – I am thrilled with the how I felt running.  I was relaxed and comfortable for the entire race AND I turned in a faster time this year (48:05) than last (49:35)!

The efficiency in my stride manifests itself in reduced heart-rate – my average 144 bpm enabled me to be extremely relaxed and comfortable. See inset chart of heart-rate/pace. (Note: I briefly forgot to stop recording data at race end…and the distance on the heart-rate monitor chip is improperly calibrated for the VFFs…)

The hardest part of the race was the ½-mile section of sharp gravel that forced me to focus on every foot placement to avoid pain/injury to my feet.  I successfully negotiated that section at what seemed like a slightly slower pace than the other sections, but the GPS trace suggests that I maintained pace through the entire section!

My long-view perspective on all of this:  goal → execute (perseverance) → enjoy!

It is about how you feel!

Perhaps I should have titled this post, Red Feet?

Happy Valentines Day! 🙂  Especially to my friends and family who ran with me and took pictures…

January 7, 2011

Blue Feet

Posted in Life tagged , , , at 11:21 am by lindaslongview

I have decided that I want to learn to run barefoot/minimalist.  Why?

A few years ago, I had to sit out a local Valentine’s Day 10k because I sprained my ankle and couldn’t run.  Because my friends ran, me and my black-n-blue puffy ankle went and cheered them on.  One thing I learned while watching all those runners is that unlike elite runners, very few recreational runners have a beautiful gait.  I couldn’t help but wonder how mine looked…that observation planted a seed:

Do I have biomechanical gait errors that could be corrected and that might improve my running and potentially reduce future injuries?

Having flipper shaped feet (very wide toe area and narrow heel), I am challenged to find shoes that fit comfortably enough to allow my toes sufficient freedom.  Currently, I wear orthotics to reduce bunionization (due to insufficient toe freedom).  Last year, I saw some folks running in the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) and I was intruiged enough to buy a pair…

As you might imagine, I immediately loved my first pair of VFFs even though they are really UGLY.  I am as comfortable walking in VFFs as I am with my orthotics.  Although my family doesn’t want to be been seen with me in VFFs, I LOVE them.  I wear them everywhere; it’s like going everywhere barefoot but without the acute (puncture) risks!  When I first bought them, I was sure that I’d NEVER try running in them, until…

I read Born to Run (McDougall).  The concept of barefoot running to improve my gait (and potentially reduce injuries) by improving biomechnical feedback seemed sufficiently compelling that I wanted to try it (remember the seed?).  I immediately LOVED how running felt in my VFFs (more relaxed and much more comfortable).  Then…

I discovered that I did Too-Much-Too-Soon (TMTS) by acquiring the dreaded newbie barefoot runner Top-Of-Foot-Pain (TOFP).  So….

I learned about TOFP on the web, realized my overzealousness and went back to my running shoes.  While I healed, I again walked aroud in my VFF’s everywhere until there was no more pain.  Then…

I purchased Jason Robillard’s The Barefoot Running Book, to figure out how to get back to that wonderful feeling of minimalist (VFF) running (his running 101 guidance is also on his website) and hopefully learn to improve my gait.  Jason recommends that one start very SLOWLY in wholly bare feet because the biomechanical feedback is even more sensitive than in VFFs.  He recommends barefoot running on a track:  slowly, with very little mileage.  So….

I have now run twice (less than a mile) wholly barefoot at my local junior college track.  Jason is correct, you feel much more barefoot — who knew that the blue track had a honeycomb surface underneath the rubber? (I can feel it!)

My running gait barefoot is indeed much better (more relaxed, more comfortable, and more joyful), but my real goal is to habitutate my brain to run with this gait even with with my shoes.

Because I just cannot see myself running any real distances barefoot because of the threat of acute injuries – poison oak, puncture, etc., my goal is to be able to run my regular (shorter) routes by spring in my VFFs, but improve my gait enough to be able to half-marathon much more comfortably by mid-summer in shoes.  For now, I have blue feet and a friction spot (not quite a blister) to show for my effort, but a commitment to improve.  My long-view position on barefoot running:

  • Use barefoot running to harness the highly sensitive biomechanical feedback of my body to improve my gait.
  • Habituate to the improved gait with running shoes.
  • Do no harm – be wary of the perils of barefoot running:  TOFP, puncture hazards, latent poison oak leaves on trails, etc..
  • Prevent injury and preserve my love of running – strive for relaxed, comfortable, and joyful runs forever.

Jason reminds us, “barefoot running is about feeling, not thinking.”  Does your run feel good?