Friday, November 20, 2009

Hamilton Half

I was quite relieved when Dave offered to drive me to Hamilton. He was leaving early Sunday morning. I new that meant leaving shortly after 4am, but would allow me to take the kids out for Halloween. There were some strong gusting winds on Halloween night and I was a little worried about what the conditions would be for Hamilton in the morning. When taking the kids out, I was asked at more than a couple of houses if I wasn’t too cold in my bare feet. I thought if they only new that I was heading to Hamilton in several hours to run a half marathon barefoot.
It was nice to see that the wind had died down to nothing by the time we got to Hamilton. The race kit pick-up and the bus ride to the high school (starting line) went smoothly. The high school gymnasium was crowded but a warm place to wait for the start. I was glad I had thought to bring an ankle band because the timing chip that they gave us was for attaching to shoe laces with a plastic tie-strap. I was able to attach it to the ankle band and hoped it wouldn’t rub when I was running. After checking my bag I was lucky to find Tracy who was aiming for a time I thought I could do also, but anything under 2 hours would have satisfied me. Tracy and I got our places near the front of the starting line with more than 900 people behind us. It was a little chilly waiting at the start wearing shorts at 5ºC. However, once we got running I immediately felt comfortable and knew I had made the right choice in clothing

People were passing us right from the start and a lot of them said something about my bare feet. What was nice was that everything that was said was a compliment, praise or words of encouragement and that really energized me. Tracy had a plan for how she was going to pace herself that involved her starting slow and speeding up throughout the race. I stayed with her for the first part, but by the middle of the downhill I wanted to use gravity by relaxing so I would speed up. I knew it was a gamble that I could maintain the faster pace and not burn myself out before the end since I had never run that distance before. The highway asphalt was rougher than I thought it would be so I tried to stay on the white painted lines as much as possible. I noticed shortly after the 10k mark than any talking had been replaced with puffing. By the time I reached the 17k mark I was really wanting to see the finish line. Every k marker after seemed to be too low and I had to keep telling myself that I only had a few more steps to go. I was starting to feel a tingling sensation in the middle toe of my left foot and imagined a blood blister forming. I saw the 20k sign and thought about hitting the after-burners, but just then I stepped on something sharp. I wasn’t going to stop and check it out at that point so I just kept running. I imagined I was leaving bloody footprints but then I saw the finishing shoot in the distance. At that point I did the best sprint I could do with the energy I had left and crossed the mat at 1:45:59.

I was surprised that the guy who removed my timing chip from my ankle band didn’t say anything about running barefoot, but he just seemed a little relieved that I had a chip he could remove. However, just about everyone else who saw me started with the same two questions;
“Did you run barefoot?” followed by,
“How are your feet?”.
I was happy to answer “yes” and “my feet feel great”. Despite the tingling and the sharp poke I had felt, the soles of my feet looked better than they had before the race. I could feel a little bit of muscle soreness in my feet, but it was minor compared to my quadriceps. I found it funny that people were so concerned about the condition of my feet after running the half marathon barefoot and Kasey who had run the full marathon had blood oozing out of her shoes at the end of her race.

I don’t know why anyone would want to run in shoes. They must be crazy. I can only conclude that I was the only sane one in the races. I did notice the Kenyans looking at me after the race and I think I saw a guilty look on their faces. ;-)

Warkworth 8 Miler

I finally had a glass injury from running barefoot. Now I’m sure all of the people out there that are either paranoid of broken glass, or use this type of injury as an excuse as to why they need to wear shoes will be thinking “Aha! I knew it!” However, I have received more injuries from glass to my hands than I ever have on my feet and I don’t think that is a reason to wear gloves every waking minute as some people wear shoes. This is the first glass injury I have sustained while running since I started running barefoot more that a year and a half ago. It happened on the railway bridge during the Pub Run about a month ago. A clear glass bottle had been smashed and splintered into tiny shards on the narrow path. I thought I had tip-toed safely through it, but near the end of the run I was feeling several painful jabs with every step. I knew there wasn’t much I could do until I got back to the store, so I tried to adjust my landings so that my weight was minimized in the areas where I was feeling the pain. Back at the store I removed a couple of very tiny glass shards from the sore spots. When I got home I washed, disinfected and covered the spots with liquid Band-Aid (my secret weapon). Everything seemed to heal up nicely.

On Saturday October third, I ran 15k of trails at the Ganaraska Forest. It was a cool sunny morning but warmed up nicely and the rain held off until we finished the run. The fall colours and the sandy trails make this run one of my favourites. I suffered only a couple of lacerations during the 15k run. On the shin from a whipping raspberry cane and the top of my foot from a bouncing stick. The bottoms of my feet didn’t hurt, but I felt the effects of the hills on my legs.

On a couple of the following runs I noticed some tenderness in one of the spots where I had removed the glass. I figured it was still healing or maybe bruised from the trail run. On the following Saturday we went out for a long run. Some were running point to point and others were running a much shorter out and back route. Since the point to point route was 30k to Warsaw, I opted for the out and back. I was feeling good for the first 8k out to Trent University, but my feet started to feel quite uncomfortable on the gravely trail north of Trent. I stayed with Cynthia because she said she wanted to catch up with Nick who had told her he was heading back shortly. I stayed with her until we reached the first side road that would get me to Nassau Mills Road so I could start back on a relatively comfortable surface. Once I was back on a smoother surface I started getting the sharp pain in the glass spot again. I continued back and had to slow to a walk. Just as got back to Trent, the others had caught up to me so I did what I could to stay with them back to the store. My route totalled 20k and my feet were not too sore after, but continued to be sensitive in the one spot. So on Friday night before the Warkworth 8 Miler I decided to do some home surgery. So using a utility knife and some rubbing alcohol, I cut into the spot where the glass had been removed. I went deep enough to properly clean the spot and I think I removed a small piece of glass as well. I saw a tiny sparkle and removed it, but it was so small that I lost it once it was out and so I cant confirm it was even a piece of glass or not. Everything got thoroughly disinfected with rubbing alcohol and then covered with an extra thick layer of liquid Band-Aid.

The next morning was the Warkworth 8 Miler and I was hoping the terrain wasn’t going to be too much for my freshly sealed foot. I got a little taste of winter from the frosted grass at the start. Once we got going I warmed up quickly. I started off a little slower than usual because I didn’t want my foot to start hurting again. At the first stretch of pea gravel road I had to slow down so much that I knew that I would have to make up the time on the smoother sections. Once on the trails I found I could continue some good speed as long as I really focused on picking up my feet and watching where I was about to step. There were a couple of steep hills with loose gravel that slowed me down just a little bit. When I reached the sandy potion I was quite happy and realized it might actually be possible for me to get a decent time. The final push came after I got some navigational aid from Cait and then finished at 1:15:58, only 33 seconds ahead of her. At the finish my feet felt very sensitive, but no signs of the sharp pain I had felt before. Over the next twelve hours I could feel the skin thickening on the soles of my feet.

The Halloween X-country 5k at Ganaraska forest was yesterday. I think my zombie runner costume turned out quite well and I think suited the way I felt by the end of the race. The temperature at 10am was a little warmer than the start of the Warkworth race. Knowing the race was only 5k, I started out fast enough to stay warm but not so fast as to trip on a root or rock. As I ran I kept thinking “I will just catch up to that person in front of me”. When I reached the next person I repeated the process. I knew I was going faster than was comfortable but I just tried to maintain going up the hills and rest a little coming down them. In the last two kilometres I figured I had a good time since I had passed quite a few people and none had passed me. I was very happy at the finish to come away with a personal best 5k time of 23:07.

My focus now is the Hamilton Half Marathon I will be running on November first. This will be my first half marathon and I am not expecting any great achievements other than breaking two hours. I am look forward to getting my first half marathon under my belt so I can then focus on the challenges that the Peterborough Half Marathon will present to me in February. I am not looking forward to leaving in the middle of Halloween night to get to Hamilton in time for the 6am race kit pick-up however.

Liftlock Classic 10K

Sunday morning was a cold one. When I arrived at the Lions Club for the Peterborough Liftlock Classic it was only 5ºC. After getting my bib and T-shirt I sat in the car to stay warm until the 9am start time. At about 8:50 I spotted John and got out of the car. I told him I wanted to pace off of him because I was aiming for a time like he got in Lindsay. As we headed to the starting line I felt like I was missing something. I realized I didn’t have my timing chip. I quickly picked up my chip and put it on my ankle before hastily making my way back to the start. I made it to the line in time to hear that the race would be two laps and that we would be starting at the same time as the 5k runners. That may have explained why everyone ran so fast at the start of the race. There was a short stretch of gravel not long after the start that didn’t slow me down too much but I knew I had to encounter it 3 more times in the race. I found the race to be psychologically more difficult than The Milk Run because of the looping of the course. There was a short but fairly steep hill at the Quaker parking lot driveway. Since we would be coming down it just before the final stretch, I decided to let myself go and carry the speed right to the finish. As I reached the bottom of the hill I passed John and heard him yell “I knew you were going to do that!”. I finished just a few seconds before him at 47:08. It was a slower time for him compared to The Lindsay Milk Run, but it was still a best time for me so I was happy.

Since The Lindsay Milk Run I have been running Monday night Pub Runs and Tuesday night track workouts fairly consistently. I can now run barefoot on the track for the whole workout. In the last few weeks I’ve tried to add in some longer runs. A couple of those longer runs have been on the gravel path in Jackson’s Park. The gravel still slows me down to not much faster than a walk, but I can now run the full trail from Parkhill bridge to Ackison Rd. and back (9k). I’ve now registered for the Warkworth 8 Miler. It looks like it could be challenging for me since it is the longest race I’ve run and looks like it has a lot of gravel and rough trails. With the training I’ve been doing I should be able to do it, but we’ll see.

The Milk Run

I went to see a physiotherapist about the pain in the knee I was feeling. His assessment was that I was running quite a lot for someone new to the sport and that some of my leg muscles were not as strong as they needed to be. The weak muscles were letting the strong muscles pull the knee cap off to the side enough to cause irritation and then pain. He gave me some stretches and some excercises to do to strengthen the weaker muscles.
One week before the race I ran the course to check out the surface and to get an idea of time. The surface was good with only a small patch of gravel at the trail head, but the trail itself was paved and smooth. The time was about an hour, however I didn’t accurately check the time so it was only a guess. Monday night was a fast 8.5k Pub Run. Tuesday I ran a very fast 4k on the track, followed by Wednesday’s fast 4k with a run up armour hill. I then rested the rest of the week. My knee was feeling fine considering I had run more this week than any other in my life.

In Lindsay I met up with the other runners from Runner’s Life and tried to get my name on the team. After being re-directed to several different people, I ended up giving a change of info form to the lady handing out the timing chips and she didn’t know anything about it but put the form in her pocket. I ran the MAD 10k last year in 1:05:00, so I wanted to do this in less than one hour. My target would be 50:00, but I thought it might be a long shot. I asked some of the other Runner’s Life runners what their target times were and got times around 45 minutes. Cynthia said she thought that might be a bit fast for her so I decided to pace with her. My plan was to stay with her as long as I could. When the race started the pace felt a little fast but not uncomfortably so. We were passing quite a few people and I hoped I could keep this up for the remainder of the race. At the 5k mark I found my breathing getting more laboured and Cynthia was slowly pulling away from me. I decided to just let her go and to relax and just keep my legs going. I noticed a lot of the people we had passed were now passing me. My only goal at this point was to keep running and not let myself slow to a walk. I figured I would be lucky to beat the one hour mark now. I saw a police officer friend of mine as I was coming down Adelaide St. and decided to pick up the pace a little to give a better showing. Just a little further and I was in sight of the finish line. I was determined to pass the 5k walkers and the stroller pushers that were between me and the timing mats. So with my head down, I sprinted toward the mats making sure to hit every one. Not wanting to pass out I continued to the parking lot at a ever slowing walk and then came back to the tables for some much needed ice-cream. Some people asked me how I did and I didn’t know. So I walked back to the finish line where the clock was still only reading 1:02:00. I ask if that was the 10k clock because I thought I finished close to one hour and I had already walked around for several minutes. I was told it was and suddenly felt very good. Once I read my time from the result sheet I was in disbelief at my 47:30 time. They never did get me on the Runner’s Life team, but I would have been the slowest time on it anyway. My target for my next 10k race will have to be 45 minutes or better. I don’t know when that will be, but I do know I want to start working on more distance now and maybe some trails.

Born To Run

Last week I finished reading the book Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall. This is a great book, packed full of adventure, science of running and the most interesting people doing things others thought were impossible. If you are a runner or interested in running, you should read this book.

This book has inspired me and reenergized my running. I am now more interested in trail running and looking more closely at ultra marathon distances. Ultra marathons seem like a pretty lofty goal considering the longest distance I’ve raced is 10k. Right now the thought of even traveling 50 miles on foot in a day seems super-human. However, there are a lot of people out there doing it and there is more and more each day. It has been said that ultra marathon running is the fastest growing sport in North America. For now I will have to stay focused on improving my distance and speed at 10k. I have registered for the Lindsay Milk Run (10k), on July 19th at 9am.

I learned the hard way not to make changes to my running form until I know what I’m doing, because what I think I am doing is not what I am actually doing. Last Monday I was all excited to go running after finishing the book, and I was thinking about trying to shorten my stride. By Tuesday night’s track workout, my left knee was very sore. I knew it was from the changes I had made to my stride on Monday. I had the same pain in my knees when I changed my stride in the winter while running on the ice. When I was running fast at the track, the pain went away, but when I slowed down it would flare up again. I rested for the rest of the week, and then on Sunday went for a two hour barefoot walk on the Jackson’s Park path and some trails through the woods. So far the knee is feeling better and I hope to do an easy run Monday on the Pub Run without making any form changes. Dave says he will get the video camera out in July so I can have a look at what I am really doing when I run. So that should help.

Here are some websites of people featured in the book.
Barefoot Ted
Luis Escobar (the photographer)
Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco)
Chris McDougall on The Daily Show

Biom Shoe Report

On Tuesday I went to the track for the interval workout. I don’t know if it was heat stroke or dehydration but I must have blacked-out and when I awoke I was … gasp! … WEARING SHOES!

I was joking about the blacking out, but I did put a pair of shoes on my feet. They weren’t just any shoes I put on. They were the new BIOM B 1.2 Male Mesh Natural Motion Shoes by ECCO. They did feel lighter than most shoes I have worn. After a few laps around the track, I could really notice what felt like a wedge of spongy material under my heels. The effect seemed to cause my heels to strike the ground first instead of my usual mid-foot strike. I tried to adjust my landing to move more forward and ended up getting sore shins. The sole was still too rigid for me. My feet weren’t able to flex and adjust to the ground as much as I am used to. Also my feet got hot causing me to feel hotter than usual. It amazes me how much heat my feet dissipate when I’m barefoot. So you might have guessed, I will not be buying these shoes for myself. This is not to say that I wouldn’t recommend them however.

The Bioms would make a good transition shoe from shod running to barefoot running. A person who is already running with typical running shoes and wanting to become a barefoot runner, would be wise to accomplish the change-over in two phases. The first would be to use the Biom shoes at ever increasing distances or time if they are running in circles (at the track). When they are not running, they should try walking barefoot as much as possible. The next phase would be once they are comfortable enough to use the Biom shoes for most of their running, to run barefoot at ever increasing distances and different surfaces (concrete, grass, packed soil, sand etc.).

The bottom line on the Biom shoes is these would make a good transition shoe, but for me, actually being barefoot is better than anything that tries to simulate it. Don’t mess with perfection!

Biom Review from
More about Chris McDougall
Even Popular Mechanics

The Current

On Monday May 11, the CBC radio show The Current did a show on barefoot running. They had emailed me about being on the show, but by the time I got back to them, they had made other arrangements. I though it was good that the show brought up the topic of barefoot running and had Chris McDougall on to talk about his book and experiences. However, I didn’t see the point in having a normally shod runner giving a report on running barefoot. He would have to build up gradually to any significant running distance barefoot. If he gave a report after several months of going barefoot, then he might have something worth saying. You can’t just start running barefoot after wearing shoes all your life and expect you will be like someone who has never worn shoes. A lot of damage has been done and it will take time to correct. The younger you are when you do this the better. Best of all would be if we never put them on in the first place. Our shoes have deformed our feet, numbed our senses, and weakened our joints and muscles in our feet, not to mention the damage done further up the body.

But I digress…

In the next part of the show they had an interview with John Stanton. They introduced him with this. “He is founder and CEO of The Running Room. It has grown into a Canadian chain of nearly 100 retail stores that sell running shoes and gear.” Unlike Chris McDougall who doesn’t make any money from people running barefoot, John makes his profits from people buying shoes! People have bad running form, injuries and foot problems because they have been wearing shoes. John is saying these are just natural differences in runners that require different shoes to overcome. I feel this idea is like saying if we add some drugs to your cigarette, your emphysema will feel better. (I use cigarettes as an analogy for shoes because they both are billion-dollar industries, have fashion to blame for their over use, bad for your health and the more you use them, the more you feel you need to use them.)

More from Chris McDougall:

Born To Run
What Ruins Running
The Barefoot Marathon Runner

Douro 10 Miler & 5k

After the blowing snow on Saturday it was nice to feel the warm sun on Sunday. My goal for the 5k race was to better my time from the St. Paddy’s 5k and to run the entire race barefoot. Running on these types of hills and on the dirt road was new to me. Despite these challenges I was comfident that I could run under 25:19. The race started slowly with everyone beginning at the same time. The gravely pavement was tougher to navigate than the gravely dirt, but at least it was only for about 500m at the beginning and end of the race. By the turn-around I felt I could use a nice drink of water. I quickly found that my drinking while running technique needs some improvement. I took one sip of water and squeezed the top of the cup together to seal it as best I could. Although I could feel the occational drop of water escape the cup as I ran, I expected to get at least another sip out of it. At the bottom of the next hill I stopped for another sip and of course couldn’t get so much as a drop out of it. So I crushed the cup in my hand and held on to it ’til the finish. This distracted me from focusing to much on my tender left heel that may have been slightly bruised by a pebble on the hard pavement at the beginning of the race. My feet felt hot and a little tender by the end but that’s typical after a hard run and means the skin will thicken for next time. The dirt road was actually a pretty nice surface to run on. Overall I felt good at the end, and the 24:35 finishing time only helped. The beautiful weather really topped off the day. It was hard to believe the next day I was running in a snowstorm during the Pub Run.

St. Paddy’s Day 5k

As the morning sunshine was slowly warming the frozen pavement, I knew the skin on the soles of my feet was still too thin to run 5k on cold pavement without protection. I had brought my Vibram® FiveFingers® shoes with me but wasn’t sure if I really wanted to use them. I felt like I was cheating in some way, and yet I didn’t want to have another injury to set back my progress.

I looked around me for someone I could pace with while waiting for the race to start. I saw Tanya close by and decided to run with her as the race began. Quite a few people seemed to move off ahead of us, so I figured we were running pretty slow. I remember thinking how heavy the shoes felt but thought the payoff was the reduced sensitivity allowing me to step just about anywhere. By the first turn-around I new it was going to be a struggle to get through the full 5k at my current pace.

Tanya started to pull away just before the final turn-around and my feet were feeling hot and sore. I knew I would finish near the end of the pack but I wanted to finish true-to-form. So at the 4k mark I stopped and took off the shoes, and after a short walk to get use to the new sensations I ran barefoot towards the finish. My feet felt so relieved to be free again and so light, that the sprint to the finish was the most enjoyable part of the race. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the 25:19 for my first 5k.

Since the race I have been trying to thicken my soles so I can run Barefoot for future races. On Monday I ran the pub-run (7k) barefoot with no problems and on Friday I walked for 2 hours to Jackson’s Park and back. From the cool mud to the sun warmed gravel, its a most enjoyable feeling to walk barefoot on a sunny spring day. The feet feel like they’re well on their way back to their former strength and condition.


Well it has been about five weeks of healing. I’m now nearing the end of the process of regenerating new skin and losing the skin I worked to thicken all last year. I’ve been told that the skin will thicken quicker this time. I hope that is true and I am going to do whatever I can to help it along. Once again I find myself trying to thicken the skin on the soles of my feet gradually. This is done by being barefoot as much as possible and on rough surfaces, but not so much as to wear the skin off. Its harder to take things slow now, but I want to build strong healthy feet so I can concentrate on increasing my running distance. I’ve been running on an indoor track every Tuesday for the month of February and I was able to walk approximately 5k outside a couple of times when the weather was good. I plan to start doing the pub runs again in March when the weather allows. Despite the early setback, I hope to make some significant improvement in my distance this year. If I can do that, then everything else should improve.

After having some time to think about what went wrong on that last pub run I think I know. Although hindsight is 20/20, I should have realized the increased danger of frostbite from salted snow. Anyone who has ever made icecream in the summer knows that salt mixed with ice is much colder than ice alone. Now I know that salty snow is one of the greatest hazards of winter barefooting. Unfortunately I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

Crossing The Line

Monday’s pub run started out like most of the previous ones I had gone on in December. The temperature was -4°C, winds were calm and a few cm’s of snow left over from the weekend was on the roads and sidewalks. I was planning on only running the 7k, but figured I would follow everyone else since I had done the 10k route in December without problems. The packed snow wasn’t a problem, but I found the loose grey snow on the roads that contained salt to be extra cold especially as it contacted the edges and arches of my feet. Once we reached Little Lake Cemetery I knew I had pushed too far. My feet were feeling colder and more painful than my other winter runs. At that point I decided to pick up the pace to generate more heat. Once my feet started to warm up back at the store, I was getting the burning sensation that was more painful and lasted longer than before. The other difference was that this time my foot arches were more affected. I was able to continue on as usual until the next day when I discovered some blisters on my feet and some pain when walking. By Tuesday night I had a huge blister on the arch of my left foot and some smaller ones on my right. This made it impossible to walk, but I knew enough not to break the blisters so as not to increase the chance of infection.

I said earlier “The trick is not to cross the line that results in injury”. Unfortunately that is what I did. So once I recover, the rest of my running this winter will be done at temperatures above freezing.

Bare Through 2008

So 2008 has come and gone. So far I’ve been lucky enough to find a day or two each week that was warm enough to get out and run. I even ran 14k on a mild (3°C) Saturday, although the slush and ice were unpleasant. Being away from work the last 2 weeks of December has allowed some extra sole thickening to occure. By staying out of socks and shoes inside and when possible outside, the skin on the heels and balls of my feet has thickened to give them more protection. Most people think that the soles get callused from going barefoot, but my experience has been that the skin thickens and remains soft and smooth. The thickened skin provides protection and reduces discomfort without removing too much sensitivity. This means I can go farther over rougher terrain without discomfort.
There is a threshold where conditions make it impossible to continue without some kind of foot protection. My goal is to keep pushing that threshold forward as far as I can. I want to find the point where I cannot push it any farther. As biological entities we are always changing to best fit the conditions we are in. Some of these changes happen slowly and others are relatively fast. So the more comfortable we make things for ourselves, the weaker we become. My goal for 2009 is to become stronger, not weaker.

Still Learning

I have been fortunate enough to have been able to run barefoot the last two Mondays and Saturdays. The temperature has been warm enough (-5°C or warmer), but the ground has been icy. The last two Saturdays had a couple of centimeters of fresh snow on the ground with some rough ice underneath. Although the snow is soft and pleasant to run on, the ice underneath is a problem. Just like the dog that cut his paw last Saturday, I am at risk of getting cut if I let my feet slide on the ice. This means I have to take short strides and step carefully. I have found that my knees get sore because I lose my Chi Running form. I hope I can correct this.

When it comes to the cold temperatures, I have found that my feet go through a similar routine each time out. They start out feeling cold, then after a couple of minutes painfully cold. After about 10 minutes the soles are comfortably numb and the blood circulation is keeping my toes from freezing. Depending on how rough the surface is, my feet will start to get sore after about 45 minutes. Once I get back indoors and warming up, my feet start to feel hot and any minor injuries begin to reveal themselves. Although my feet get cold and numb, I have to try not to push it too far. If my toes get too cold, they will freeze and I will end up with frost bite. To keep from getting frost bite, I try not to subject my feet to temperatures below -5°C and avoid getting a lot of snow on the tops of my feet or toes. Most importantly, I try to keep my core body warm and to have good circulation to all parts of my feet. To keep good circulation and to stay warm I try to keep moving. A trick I use to help keep my toes from freezing is to scrunch my toes up every time I lift my foot, but I have to make sure I unscrunch them when my foot gets within striking distance of the ground.

One of the best sites I use for learning what and what not to do is Barefoot Rick’s site. I can learn from his mistakes.

Freshly Fallen Snow

It was nice to run in 14 degree weather again on Friday afternoon with Bev. Compared to the 0 degrees and blowing snow on the previous Monday’s Pub Run it actually felt really warm.

Last Monday’s Pub Run was another 10k. This time the wind was calm and no snow, but the temperature was -3 degrees. I found those 3 degrees made a big difference in how my feet felt. This time they had some numb spots and were a bit sore for a short time when warming up back at the store. When I inspected my feet a little closer I noticed that I had a tiny stone half imbedded in one of those numb spots on my left foot. I removed it and suffered no ill effects. The next day I couldn’t even find the spot on my foot. However, this made me realize that I really have to be mindful of what I am running on when I am experiencing any numbness in my feet.

On Wednesday we had a fresh covering of snow on the ground. At 6pm I felt drawn to the fluffy white powder as it sparkled under the street light. I went for a short jaunt in the neighborhood. It was less than a run or even a jog and I was really just enjoying the feel of it. It had a cold but fresh invigorating feeling and left tracks in the snow for anyone coming upon later to ponder.

Friday and Saturday were just too cold (below -5°C) for me at this point in my conditioning.

After several days of rest, the skin on the soles of my feet actually feels thicker and more resilient. I have found that much like a hard workout with weights, its the more uncomfortable conditions that make you stronger. The trick is not to cross the line that results in injury.

MAD 10k

I realize this post seems a little outdated, but since I had already written a summary of the MAD 10k, I felt it was a good opportunity to use it as a measure of my progress over the last two months.

MAD 10k
Saturday September 13, 2008. I got to Squirrel Creek Park at about 9:45am. The fog had just lifted and the air was humid. After getting registered and my race number I checked out the start times. I was in the Men 35-39 group and my first thought was to keep pace with the slowest one. Once we started the race I knew that plan was not going to work. My run out of the park was a little slower than the first few kilometers on the road due to the loose gravel. On the road I was able to stay on the white line most of the time so I could better spot debris and have a smoother surface to run on. I tried to body sense as best I could to keep good Chi Running form. The km markers seemed so far apart I thought they must be wrong. I was so glad to see the water station, but found it was harder to run and drink from a paper cup than I expected. I had already passed a couple of walkers and was now gaining on a few slower runners. As I was coming up to the 5k turn-around I recognized the runner now in front of me as Lori who I had run with before. I knew her pace would be pretty close to mine so I tagged along behind. At the water station we were both in need of some walking paces. After a minute or so we were back to a slow but steady running pace. I had to keep telling myself “just a few more steps” for the last 2k. As we reached the gravel I was so focused on the finish-line and our quickening pace that I barely noticed the change in texture. We were in an all out sprint before I knew it. I was now using my calf muscles and pushing hard from the balls of my feet (opposite to the Chi method). With the risk of passing out I pushed to finish a stride ahead of Lori at a time of 1:05:30. Now I knew I needed to cool down slowly so I continued with a slow jog through the wet grass followed by a walk to the water jug. Walking and sipping the water had me back to myself in no time. Although my time was nothing great, I felt good about finishing a 10k race barefoot. My plan now is to continue to increase my running frequency and distance. I am also trying to stay barefoot as much as possible so that my feet will not be the limiting factor on longer runs.

Tuesday November 11, 2008.

My Plan is working out well so far. Last night at the Pub Run I ran the 10k route in 50 minutes. The increase in speed could be attributed to trying to warm up in the blowing snow or that Curtis was setting the pace, but the fact that I could do it without the same sense of exhaustion as I felt after the MAD 10k gives me encouragement that I am making some real progress.

A Barefoot Path To Fitness

Last year Bev was telling me about the running she was doing. I was interested in a new challenging experience so I started looking up information about running and specifically barefoot running. My main concern was about injury, since pretty much any runner I had talked to in the past had been injured and had to stop running. I read a book called Chi Running by Danny Dreyer ( ). Danny is an ultra marathoner and his running form uses concepts from tai chi. It is promoted as an effortless injury-free running technique. It does not require the runner to be barefoot, but does involve a mid-foot landing that is more easily achieved with minimal footwear. I found barefoot and chi running to be a good match. As of the spring of 2008 I have tried to stay barefoot as much as possible in order to keep the skin on my soles thick. My goal now is to maintain my barefoot running through winter.

I have taken up Dave’s challenge and put $10 on myself getting through the winter without resorting to the evil shoes. Having said that, my priority must continue to be the health of my feet.

How It Started

When I was a child I enjoyed going barefoot but my feet were soft and sensitive. Unfortunately this meant I would wear shoes more than I wanted. I found that I would sometimes get sores just from rough surfaces in the early summer but by the fall my feet were tougher, just in time to be wearing shoes permanently again. It seemed like a never ending cycle. As I got older I realized that I would have to go barefoot more in order to be more comfortable when barefoot. I started by being barefoot in the house all of the time and then as much as possible in the summer. I found that I was becoming more comfortable without shoes and my feet were getting tougher. A few years ago I searched the internet for information on the benefits of being barefoot. I found a few good sites (more are popping up now that more people are discovering the benefits).

One site I found promoted a book about barefoot hiking ( I bought the book and decided to try that. There are a few rules to barefooting safely and you either learn them the easy way or the hard way. RULE #

1. Start with a few steps on a soft surface then build up from there, walking further and on rougher surfaces gradually.

2. Always look where you are going to step.

3. Step straight down, don’t scuff or drag your feet.

I was enjoying the hiking and the muscles in my feet were getting stronger. I noticed that my feet seemed more aware. The changing surface textures and obstacles were not only thickening my soles, but also awakening a part of my brain that had been suppressed by wearing shoes. I also started to feel the spiritual Earth connection I had read about.

Why Barefoot?

To start this blog I thought I would address the question that almost every one has when they see me running without shoes. So here is my top 10 list to answer the question of “why do you run barefoot?”

1. Most commercially available footwear is bad for your feet (I have many references to support this statement)

2. It allows natural development of the foot (bone, joints, tendons, muscles, etc.)

3. The more you do it, the more comfortable it is

4. Your feet will adapt to almost any terrain so you can save $ on shoes and boots

5. More friendly to the environment

6. Less weight for your legs to lift

7. Better for blood circulation in the feet so they are cooler in summer (and sometimes even warmer in winter)

8. Provides a better sense and connection to the Earth both physically and spiritually

9. Don’t have to worry about not having your running shoes when you want to go running

10. An even bigger sense of accomplishment after finishing a race