Monday, August 30, 2010

Back in the Saddle

After last week's mess of a training week (thanks to my overzealous speed work) I'm really ready to get back in the saddle and continue my barefoot training adventures. Saturday I went for an easy 8k and used the last kilometer to truly run barefoot on the pavement. Holy crap. It felt like sandpaper on the soles of my feet. Every tiny pebble was felt and I found running pretty tricky business when the pavement changed into concrete blocks. When I slipped my VFFs back on for the last half kilometer my feet felt like they were going into some heavenly slippers that made the ground soft and smooth again. Again it amazes me how disconnected we become from the earth beneath us when we put our feet in shoes.

Yesterday I took my daughter out for our customary Sunday romp in the jogging stroller. It was pretty hot so my run turned into a walk/run with a playground break in the middle. I do use the playground time though to strength train while my daughter runs around. I find I can do alot of upper body conditioning if I just use the equipment around me. By lunchtime we were both ready to head back home. I found my feet were a bit more sore than they have been lately. It's like the little bones in my feet are being flexed and strengthened in a way they haven't been used to in a while so they kind of "cramp up" a bit. I find stretching and bending my feet helps. On a happier note my calves seem to have gotten with the program and no longer feel like they did when I first started running 3 years ago!

After supper last night we all went down to Fisherman's Cove, grabbed a couple of ice cream cones to celebrate the last weekend of summer and walked around the boardwalk. My daughter and I took off our sandals after walking on the beach-and into the ocean as my daughter decided would be fun-and we kept them off as we finished walking around the big loop. As I passed one elderly man he said, "oh look, that girl must be religious." I guess he meant my barefeet since I must have left my habit in the car!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Vibram Run with My Running Group

The runners I run with on Monday and Wednesdays are an awesome group of people. We all work together in the same office but our paths rarely meet lately for one reason or another, so before last night's run I happened to mention to one of them that I'd be doing the group run in my new Vibrams. She had seen a news piece on them a few weeks ago so she knew what they were, but she seemed surprised that I was running in them. She was pretty curious about them and how they worked while running, so I was extra excited to show off my new shoes and running form when we would all meet later on.
I was late to the meeting spot, but the group knew it was me coming up the road because I was the one "who looked like she was running barefoot." I smiled and posed with my new shoes. The next moment we were off and running around the two lakes frequented by alot of runners. It was hot and muggy but it was fun to be out running with a group again. I was happy to see that I was able to keep up with the group without any issues, especially when I saw the pace we were doing was 30 seconds faster than I normally run!
We all chatted about work and running gadgets for awhile and we eventually hit a huge hill and I had to stop and walk for a second to let my heart rate go down. When I caught up one person said "We heard your little pixie feet coming and figured you were catching up." Pixie feet. I think that's a pretty appropriate name for running like this. You land softly, make a kind of pitter-patter on the asphalt and your leg turnover is super fast-especially on the downhills for me.
Overall it was a great run, I continued on after the group had gone their separate ways to head home, another 10kms. I'm pleased to report that my feet and my Vibrams held up well for a total run of 19kms!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Minimalism and Eating Regionally

My new found minimalist running style has had an interesting effect; I'm trying to eat only regional foods. After listening to Christopher MacDougall and Barefoot Ted's Google lectures I've realized that by taking off my running shoes I've been able to connect more fully to the earth. It truly has had a profound effect. I'm not wearing my Ipod unless it's on an early morning suburban run, I try to go barefoot as much as possible and I've heard myself discuss the monopoly of the shoe companies more than once. I think it has alot to do with my new found connection to the earth; I want to encourage more people to find this connection and see that we are a part of it and it a part of us. I know that sounds new-agey but until I freed my feet from all the layers of cushioning I had forgotten how fun it is to run barefoot (or nearly barefoot).
Then I saw a couple of documentaries on food; Food Inc and Killer at Large. These are two powerful films that tackle the issue of mass food production in the USA in two different, yet effective ways. One of the most powerful images in one of the documentaries is the aerial view of the beef production facility in the US west. Acres and acres of cows that all look exactly the same. Smoke stacks in the center of every few acres, where the beef would be slaughtered then sent to McDonald's. Another part discussed Soy bean producers being threatened and sued by a big corporation into only planting their one type of soy bean seed and insane repercussions if they dare try and keep their own seeds! So I thought, if this is what the food industry has come to in the USA, Canada probably isn't far behind. I was right. Finding local produce (especially in the summer) is not difficult. There are local vegetable stands and farmers markets around the city, some open 7 days a week. Meat on the other hand was a bit more challenging. I called a couple of grocery stores, and to no surprise, learned that the meat they sell comes from Quebec and provinces even further west. So then I tried the local meat markets. Even then, it was impossible to find a place that sold pork, beef and chicken that were raised in my home province. So then I decided that I would have to expand my "allowable radius" to include the entire Atlantic region. Even then it was hard to find a place that sold beef raised on this side of the country! Luckily I did find one meat market that very proudly states all of its "fresh" products come from Atlantic Canada. Finally success!
After discussing this with my husband, we agreed that eating this way was not only better for us and our daughter but also for the environment as a whole. We have both started looking at products we had in the house and realizing that just because the label on the front is from a locally-owned grocery store, its products are shipped from as far away as India (for relish) and China (for frozen haddock-for example). So we've decided to make the leap and only buy produce and meat if its has been grown/raised in Atlantic Canada. It may be a bit more expensive, but in the end our health is worth every penny.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running with the Kiddies!

Today it looked like rain. But, as the morning went on the sun peaked out and the temperature rose fast. I had forgone my morning run in trade of sleep and 20 minutes of P90X-the rest to be finished after work. I had all of my gear so I sat 5 minutes before lunch trying to decide, do I go out and run in the warm humid air, declining the refreshing shower as I would be running to and from the office or do I grab my stuff and head to the indoor track at the gym next door? Opting for the cool-ness of the icerink below the track and the shower I got ready for my run.

Deciding this was an excellent opportunity to test out my lap counter on my new Garmin 305, I pressed lap and off I went. About half way I noticed a group of kids doing drills with a coach on the rink stairs. A couple of laps later they were doing jump drills along the yellow lane lines. Another few laps and the coach yelled "GO!" and off they went sprinting in one massive group. I happened to be right beside the pack as they started and I noticed out of the corner of my eye after 100m or so this little boy grinning his face off at me. I smiled, and thought "Does he want to race?" So I sped up, he ran faster but kept at the same pace as me instead of speeding ahead. "Okay" I thought, "I'll do one nice fast one and see if this kid wants to stick with me." So I sped up a little bit more, and sure enough he kept pace. By then a bunch of his little friends caught up to him and huffing and puffing I paced them all back to the start. "You guys are good runners," I said to one of them, "You too," said the smiling kid. Thanks kiddo, thanks :-)

I finished my run with the last kilometer barefoot. I took off my Vibrams and just went for it. The interesting thing was that those last 5 laps were actually faster than the ones previous. Maybe it was the memory of the kids or the coolness of the track floor, but I didn't care. I had a great run. I had managed another 8.5k in my Vibrams, paced a pack of 10 year olds and lived to talk about it. Go figure.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vibrams on Different Surfaces

When I think about my Vibram training over the past few weeks I see that I've run on just about every imaginable terrain that a runner would typically encounter. So, for what it's worth here are the surfaces and description of each one:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Running Around

I had a great couple of runs yesterday. In the morning I went out before work, hoping to get in a nice 10k run in my vibrams, but my lazy bones could not get out of bed in time. Alas, I had to settle for 8k. The best part of my run was running with so many other people out on the road. Usually I'm lucky if I see one other runner at 6am, but yesterday I passed 5, which was some kind of record. Then after work, it was such a beautiful sunny day I couldn't keep my mind from thinking what a great way to wrap up the day then to run in the park near my work. So I knocked off a few minutes early and dashed out the door to hit the trails. I managed to have a fight with my new Garmin watch over wether or not I was in fact outdoors, but I did manage that last 2k I had missed in the morning and got to run through some beuatiful flower beds that had little paths running behind each row.
Today I expected to be sore from all that running around and varied terrain, but I feel fine. My husband, Rich, was grumbling how I seem to love my vibrams but I also seem to be more sore than ever after running in them. I've tried to explain that it's like starting over again in running and I'm not experiencing any pain that I truly didn't expect to feel now that I'm actually using my calf muscles they way they were meant to be used. I understand he doesn't want to see me in discomfort, but I know that the way things are going I should adapt to the new stress on those muscles in a couple of weeks. He's ordered his own pair of Vibrams, so I'm sure he'll understand what I'm talking about soon ;-)
Happy Friday the 13th everyone!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A bit of advice on all that Pronation talk...

Doesn't all the over/under, neutral, motion-controlled, stability talk just make your head spin? Ugh, I find it does. And then I read Born to Run and alot of the ideas I'd had about the running shoe industry rang true. Think about it. Running shoes haven't decreased the number of running injuries, even though just about every kind of material type has been tried over the past 30 years to try and "help" our feet. Humans ran barefoot or in simple canvas shoes for thousands of years and we don't see hundreds of 50-something ex-runners hobbling around on wrecked knees.

When I first started running I read everything I could on running, convinced if I just found the "right" shoe my running injuries would be solved and my running would be faster and easier than ever. Well, after testing just about every type of running shoes brand out there I realize one thing about the running shoe industry-it's a sham. They come out with new versions of their shoes every 6 months claiming they are somehow better than their 6 month old brother. Are they? Most often not.

I never found that "it" shoe that I was searching for. From the articles I had read I should be in motion-controlled shoes but they only hurt my feet. To heck with all this I decided. In fact, on a lark I decided to try minimalist running. Thinking that if I strengthened my feet it wouldn't matter what shoe I wore. Well, by running in minimalist shoes (Vibram Sprints for me), my feet have become stronger and running more enjoyable. My running injuries no longer exist and I actually enjoy running more. So my advice would be to throw out all that over/under pronation mumbo-gumbo out the window and embrace what you (and us all) were evolved to run on-our feet.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dragging my Daughter Into It

Yesterday I gave my Vibrams the ultimate test; make it through my Sunday 12-15km run with my daughter (30+lbs) in the jogging stroller. My vibrams smiled up at me and I figured out a loop that I could cut short if this little experiment didn't go well.
My daughter hopped in the jogging stroller along with her baby doll, sooky blanket and five mini barbie dolls, along with the standard supplies of cookies, blueberries, juice (for her) and water (for both of us). All in all the stroller probably weighs about 50 pounds when everything and everybody is snug inside. I usually find it a great upper body and quad workout and a great way to spend some private time with my daughter doing something I love.
As we rolled along the quiet streets she and I chatted as usual until I began to run. I didn't really notice any major difference in my running. My feet felt fine, despite the extra weight and I cruised along at a pretty good tempo. Once I start to run my daughter switches into humming/random song singing. I can get any combo of row-row your boat, to part of a pop song she heard on the radio to some crazy song she decides to make up on the spot (by the way-she's 3). I find her songs pretty entertaining. For a few runs I hadn't realized she was doing it until strangers started laughing and I would take off my earbuds to hear her yelling out nursery rhymes. Nowadays I just leave my Ipod at home when I run with her.
Once we approached the downtown part of the village there were alot more runners out and about. My daughter would point out each one and let me know if they were running fast or slow in her opinion. One girl seemed very determined not to get passed by us as we came along, but in the end we went cruising by during one of her walk breaks. I think I heard her say "seriously?" when she saw my Vibrams.
Overall it was a great run. My daughter got her customary 12km run in with mom, her standard ice cream cone and joe louis cake and I got in an awesome run in my Vibrams with the most beautiful girl in the world singing me background music!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vibrams take to the Track

My vibram adventure took me to the indoor track today. The humidity outside was just too much at lunchtime so I opted for the nice air conditioned ice rink indoor track beside my work.
I have been finding my motivation to run waning a bit in the last 2 weeks. Could it be my summer vacation last week? The humidity? The idea of running a fall marathon? No, I think my real problem is much simpler than all that. I'd rather be running in my vibrams and running in anything else just doesn't sound as fun anymore. A month ago I would have thought that notion was totally nuts, but here I am, day after day looking at my vibrams and wanting to run in them rather than my regular running shoes. I think I might have become converted.
Today's run was my longest in the vibrams yet; 7km. I did try to take it easy by walking the last 200 meters of each kilometer but I will confess as well that I snuck in some very speedy sprints in the middle (to see how it felt). My calves were a bit tight towards the end of the run but overall I was able to run pretty close to my standard pace throughout. I feel alot faster when I run in the vibrams, but I can tell from my breathing that I'm not actually running any faster. I still haven't figured out why that is yet.
I have had a few people comment on my vibrams but I still haven't seem anyone else out training in them. I think if I do I will have to stop and chat with them so I can share my love for the minimalist way :-)) Hopefully whoever it is doesn't mind pausing their own run!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Those look like comfortable shoes

A nice lady said that to me after my run in the vibrams today. I smiled and tried really, really hard not to break into a monologue from Forrest Gump. In reality I said they were and I really enjoyed running in them. Her raised eyebrows told me I had stepped into TMI/you must be nuts zone.
The second run in my vibrams was on the sidewalk by my work. This little 4km loop takes me on some rather rolling hills, but it also gave me the perfect opportunity to head back early if the run didn't turn out well. As with my first run my legs immediately fell directly under my hips and my stride shortened, but my overall pace wasn't really affected which was great. I felt the sidewalk, but the little bumps were cushioned enough but the thin rubber sole that it wasn't a bother. I was able to relax into my run better this time since I wasn't constantly watching for large pebbles. Overall I was really pleased with how these vibrams are working out. I might even work them into a regular run next week if my calves recover well after today's adventures.