Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Fall Running Summary

I have put together a short summary for this post since I have gotten so behind on my blog. Here are some of the Run Smiley barefoot runnings I’ve been doing in the fall of this year.

Warsaw 30k Point to Point

For my Run Smiley Virtual Run, on Saturday September 24, I ran the Runner’s Life Point to Point 30k from Peterborough to Warsaw. I had run this once before in the spring of this year, but this time I wasn’t training for a marathon. Without put as much mileage into my training I found this distance to be a bit of a challenge. However, the biggest challenge was the surface conditions for a section in the middle of the run. The addition of the pea-gravel for about 5k of the run was no treat either, but my feet will be that much better for it. 30k Time: 3:15.

Turkey Trot

A great barefoot run through the Ganaraska Forest followed by good food, drink and hot-tubbing. 15k Time: 1:38.

Some converts?

Warkworth 8 Miler

I ran this country road/trail race once before 2 years ago and finished in 1:15. I was happy with my time this year considering it was quite windy but at least it was 10°C and the sun was out for most of the race. 13k Time 1:08.

Runway 5k Win

Wow! I actually won a race! It wasn’t a “real” race since it was a charity walk/run event, but still I have never won one of those before either. 5k Time 22:40. Then I went on in my euphoria to race a Halloween costume 5k trail race. A very successful fun-filled day for me. :-)

Halloween 5k

Not a bad time considering this was my second race of the morning. I started off too fast, but soon realized that I had already spent most of my energy. I was able to settle into a doable pace and finish strong though. 5k Time 24:26. There were a lot of good costumes this year. Good times!

Road2Hope Half Marathon

I drove to Hamilton for the race in the morning. I had eaten breakfast at 3am and was on the highway by 4am. So I was feeling quite hungry by the time the race started. I started out fast, maybe too fast. A little before the 3k aid station I got a stitch pain under my lower right rib and had to walk. I drank some water and walked a little after the aid station as well. I tried to relax to keep the pain away and at that point I was starting to descend the hill. So I relaxed my legs, sped up my feet and went flying past many people. By the time I got to the flat part around 10k I was feeling pretty tired. At that point I thought I was shooting for 2 hours. Then Bob came by on a bike and motivated me by telling me I was still on track for 1:45. By 15k Mabel had caught up to me and was pulling away. I decided I would do whatever it took to stay with her. Every so often she would get ahead of me and I would have to push it to catch up. I was wondering if she was as tired as I was because she didn’t look it. In the last kilometer I noticed I was in front of her but I didn’t dare look back. I pushed with all I had left to get to the finish. I was able to do a final sprint in the last hundred meters to pass four or five people in front of me. I was very surprised and happy when I read in the results that I had just run a new half marathon PB with a time of 1:44:41.


I met up with Arlen from ZEMgear Canada after the race in Hamilton. I told him a bit of my running history and about my experience with the Zems last winter. He asked me if I would write on the ZEMgear blog and I said I would. He then gave me a free pair of the new 360 split-toe model, a ZEMgear t-shirt and said I was now an official ZEMgear Runner.

Last year’s model was great for snowy bitterly cold runs, but couldn’t stand up to the rough surfaces.

I will be testing this year’s new and improved 360 model. Now I am just waiting for the cold snowy weather.

Whitby 10k

Two years ago I ran the 10 miler in Whitby with Paul and Vanessa. This year I ran the 10k and the temperature was about 10°C warmer although there was a bit of a wind. I ran this with Deb, Bob and Kevin. They are all quite fast and I wanted to get a 10k PB here, but I really wanted to try to keep up to Bob. I realized that was a mistake at about 3k. Bob and I started out very fast (faster than I usually start a 5k). By the 3k mark Bob was starting to leave me behind and I was left to try to get through the next 7k with a fatigued body. I was able to pick up my sluggish pace for a nice sprint at the end encouraged a lot by Bob yelling “HEY, IT’S THE BAREFOOT RUNNER FROM PETERBOROUGH!” and running the last several meters with me. Thanks Bob. Although I couldn’t keep up to Bob’s 42:36 time, I did get my PB with a 46:14 time and best of all free chili and beer.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Milk Run 2011

After the marathon I took a bit of a break and now have been slowly building my running back up. This time with some of the ideas from Ken Bob Saxton who has run over 77 marathons and has been running barefoot for over 20 years. I have been doing shorter runs and on gravel as much as I can. This way when I run, I will land much more gently to save my soles and at the same time save my knees.

So my training has consisted entirely of less than 10k distances since the marathon. With the hot day and the reduced training, I knew it would be a slower Milk Run 10k race for me. The race started at 9am so the asphalt on the roads didn’t feel too hot on the feet. The sunlight and humid air however, were a major factor for physical exertion. I think I may have started a little too fast with the thought of getting the race over with and having ice cream at the end. By the time I had run about 3k, any concern over getting a good finishing time fell from my list of priorities. At that point my pace had slowed a lot and I simply wanted to finish without walking it in. A couple of kilometers later and I was only concerned about self preservation. I was feeling so uncomfortable in the heat that I was running faster in the sun so that I could get to the shady spots where I would slow right down and give myself maximum time in the shade before having to run in the sun again. In the last 3k I didn’t care about running in wet clothes and headed for every spraying hose that the nice citizens of Lindsay provided. I forced myself to keep my legs moving and finished the race not looking at the clock only looking for anything to cool me down. I ate my first two dishes of ice cream just to try to cool down. The next two however, were for pure indulgence. I didn’t feel any pain in my feet or legs during the race, only heat fatigue, so I was happy about that. Once the results got sorted out I ended up with a time of 52:56. I was happy to see that I hadn’t run the race as slow as I felt I had, but I was still a lot slower than my best 10k race (47:08). So I felt satisfied that at least I set a PB for the number of dishes of ice cream I ate even if I didn’t for my 10k time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Toronto Marathon

On May 15 (my birthday), I arrived at the race with my shorts and Runner’s Life singlet on. The pouring rain had eased up to a drizzle at the start, but there were some 60km/h wind gusts and the thermometer was reading 8°C. That was ok because I decided that my mantra for this race would be “Honey badger don’t give a shit!”

I was cold and shaky but that all went away as the race started at 9am. I forced myself to start out slow for the first 12k. I was waving at the crowd and smiling for the cameras until at 12k after I passed by a few cameras I noticed I was on a steep wet hill. I didn’t want to try to hold back my speed and have that friction on my wet feet so I relaxed my legs and tore down the hill. I slowed at the bottom and tried to fall into a pace I could hold for a long time. I kept reminding myself to constantly sip at the energy drink and to take an energy chew every 8 to 10k. The scenery on Rosedale valley road (from 14 to 17k) was very calming. It wasn’t until Lake Shore Blvd. (26 to 30k) that the wet rough asphalt was starting to make my feet sore. After 30k I was just trying to maintain my pace and get away from the wind gusts blowing drizzly rain in my face. I was noticing at this point that there were more people walking and even some that looked like they had given up. After 37k I was in uncharted territory as far as my running distance goes. I was starting to push a little harder with the thought that I only had a 5k race to run.

Once I got to 40k on University Ave. I was feeling good and wanted to finish strong. I was getting a lot of support from onlookers and it was getting harder to hold back the urge to sprint for the finish. I held off the sprint until 42k, when I knew I wouldn’t burn out before the end, but I had already increased my pace to sub 5min/k by 41k. After I crossed the finish line I took a couple of sips of my energy drink and thought “Wow! I feel a lot better than I did at the Around the Bay finish.”

Looking at my stats I see I finished with a time of 4:17 and that I was able to negatively split this race by 1:09. I ran the first half in 2:09 and the last half I 2:08. I thought it was interesting that my time at 30k in the marathon was exactly the same time I finished the Around the Bay 30k race. One of my favorite stats is that in the last 12k of the race I passed 114 people and nobody passed me. I was very happy with this race overall. Run :)

After the race I noticed that my knees were quite sore under the knee caps. The left knee is especially sore and feels worse each day. I am hoping that some rest and anti-inflammatory pills will fix it up. I’ve read most of Ken Bob’s book and I am going to re-assess my running form. I believe that I need to bend my knees more and get more cross training in by riding my bike. I am hoping this will fix my knee issues permanently. I will also go back to the sharp gravely trail to help improve my form. Thanks Ken Bob!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

IBRD Clinic

Warsaw Point to Point 37k Run

Two weeks ago was the Runner’s Life Point to Point Run to Warsaw. The day started out cold, windy and drizzly with a forecast of warmer weather but increasing wind gusts. This made it hard to decide what to wear, but luckily this was a point to point run with a mobile support crew. My thanks go out to Chris and Mandy for looking after us.

I was able to get in my 37k that was scheduled for the marathon training that day by running the Pub Run route first and then heading out on the 30k run to Warsaw. Having great company to run with who didn’t complain about me talking their ears off really helped me pass the time and the distance without as much effort as I would have thought. I was also thankful that they didn’t mind running on the roads with me instead of taking the much safer (but hard on bare feet) gravel trail. The muddy country roads were much more pleasant for me to run on. My body seemed to hold up well and I felt as if I could have run longer.

On the way out, an old guy in a pickup truck stopped and I thought he was going to ask if we needed a ride. Instead he just asked me if I wanted his boots he had in the back of the truck. Yes, how did he know exactly what I wanted? I said thanks but I was fine the way I was. I enjoyed a nice western omelet with some Texas toast at the restaurant in Warsaw. A woman sitting at a table we passed as we were leaving asked us what our group was doing. One of our runners proudly told her that we had just run all the way from Peterborough. The woman promptly asked “Why?” Dave laughed and said he didn’t know why other than we were crazy. As I got into the van to come home, I felt more confident than crazy. I hope I feel this good after the Toronto Goodlife Marathon This Sunday.

International Barefoot Running Day - Barefoot Running Clinic

May 1st was declared by the Barefoot Runners Society (BRS) to beInternational Barefoot Running Day (IBRD). Dave and I had already started to plan a Barefoot Running Clinic for late in April or early May. We were curious to see what kind of interest there was in the community for barefoot or minimal shoe running. The internet has shown a substantial in increase in barefoot running sites and related blogs/articles since the release of Chris McDougall’s book “Born To Run”. Once I heard about IBRD, the first of May just seemed to be the obvious choice for our clinic.

Dave posted an advertisement for the clinic on his website and on Facebook. I also posted it on the BRS site and in the barefoot running forum on the Runner’s World website. Unfortunately, the Sporting Life 10k race in Toronto was being held on the same day, as well as what seemed like every other event that someone could think of. So it wasn’t a big surprise that we had to share the Park with the “Hike for Hospice “. This wasn’t so bad it just meant we had some live music in the background for mood. The weather on the Sunday ended up being cold and overcast, but we completed the clinic before the rain started. Just a few days before the clinic, Dave said we had 2 or 3 people signed up. I told him that as long as I had one person I would consider the clinic worthwhile and he agreed. I feel the clinic was a success with two participants showing up. The small group was interactive and I think we each learned a little from each other.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Douro 10 Miler

After the Around the Bay race I was getting some pain on the top of my left foot. My physiotherapist said it was a little tendonitis from the sudden increase in distance of the 30k race. I took a few days off to rest and recover and then 6 days after running the race, I ran 24k. It may have been too much too soon because the pain in the foot came back. I don't want to spend too many days recovering because I only have a few weeks to train for the Toronto Marathon. So on Thursday April 7 I ran 13k but at a much faster pace. After about 6k, the tendons at the top of my left foot started to hurt again so I switched to a more mid-foot landing from a forefoot landing. The pain left my foot, but I could feel it more in my knees and groin.

The following Sunday was the Douro 10 Miler. It was now two full weeks since the 30k race and I wanted to start increasing my distance. I got to Douro early at 11am, two hours before the race start so I could run the course once before the race and then the race to give me the 32k for the day. The morning was colder than was forecast and it started raining as soon as I got out of the car. I decided to run in shorts and singlet so that I would have at least the dry t-shirt to wear for the race. I joined two other runners who were also running the course early for the extra marathon training distance. We set off with the sound of rolling thunder and light rain falling on us. The asphalt was rough but the section of dirt road was a nice rest until we got back on rough wet asphalt again.

 On the way back at about the 10k mark I was tired, cold, soaked and seriously considering going home once I got back to my car. By the last kilometer the rain had stopped and the temperature had risen a couple of degrees. I got back to the race start and was surprised to see so many people ready to race considering the weather. After an energy chew and some power drink, I decided to run the race just to get my distance in. I had enough time to put on my new dry shirt from the Around the Bay race and get to the starting line.

 The race itself was kind of a blur since I had just accepted the fact that I was going to be sore tired and uncomfortable, but I did notice a couple of things. The first was that my left foot wasn't hurting yet and I was landing mid-foot now. The second was that the dirt road was now a muddy road and felt great to run on. Once I got past the muddy section on the way back there was only about 1 k left and that's when I saw the flash and heard the loud clap of thunder. The rain now fell in sheets with some wind. I didn't care how I felt, I just decided to get to the finish and back to my car as fast as I could. I continued to pick up speed all the way to the end of the race. When I saw my time I was astonished to see that I had PB the 10 mile race by 10 minutes with a time of 1:28.

 I went to the car to change once again into a dry shirt and that's when I noticed how sore and red (bleeding a little) my nipples were. This had only happened once before when I had run in the rain and my shirt got wet. It had been so minor then that I hadn't thought much about it since and pretty much thought of it as a joke. But from now on if I am running in the rain I will take my shirt off to save the nipples.

My continued training has consisted of a 9k speed workout and the first gravel run of the year around Jackson Park pond on Tuesday April 12. I avoided the gravel as much as I could, but I know the only way to get better is at running on it is to run on it.

 On Thursday I ran another 9k, but this time it was all crushed gravel trail and the last 4k was a time trial. For discomfort comparison, if the bridge in the Around the Bay race was a 10, then I would give this gravel trail run 8. I also did a little hike up a steep muddy hill in the woods as a finisher.

 Then on Saturday I was supposed to run 35k, but only did 18k due to the much misery. It started with the run on the gravel trail again, which made my decision to wear the VFFs seem like a good one until I was soaked in the cold blowing rain. It didn't take long for the VFF shoes to wear away my wet skin at the sides of my feet. I continued on anyway, but luckily at the 9k point a huge puddle (or small lake) made the decision to turn around much easier. It was a good choice because I was cold and soaked so I don't think I would have lasted much longer.

 Now however, I am feeling like I have to push harder to make up for lost time or distance and I am still bothered with the pain in my left foot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Around the Bay

I am running a guest post by Vanessa Runs who wrote such a great race report that I felt it was just easier to make a few comments on her post than do a rewrite of pretty much the same experience. Thanks Vanessa.


To run it:

1. Without shoes.

I haven't used shoes since last October, so this is pretty much a given now. But this was still my longest race in VFFs (though I've run further for training).

2. Like a training run.

I'm in the middle of my ultra marathon training, so 30k was actually the distance I had to run today anyway. The distances are increasing every weekend, so next weekend I'm going up to 50k over Saturday and Sunday. I also have another race next weekend, and possibly a group trail run. Because of that, I didn't want to kill myself out on only 30k.

3. Like a pacer.

I felt privileged to be Lou's pacer because he's such a great barefoot runner, and I had such an amazing experience when Shacky paced me for my marathon that I wanted to pay it forward.

4. In 3 hrs or less.

This was Lou's time goal, so my goal as a pacer as well.

5. Without a watch.

I've stopped using a watch when I run because when I do have a watch, I'm a slave to it. I don't want to rely on electronics, but rather get to know my body well enough to know what pace I'm going and how hard I can push. This has been an amazing process for me, and I've been able to develop my pace/time/heart rate estimations with impressive accuracy. I am also much more aware of how my body moves.


  1. My longest race in VFFs.
  2. My first long race of the season.
  3. My debut as a pacer.
  4. My first race without a watch.
  5. My first ATB ever!

The first half of this race was lovely and pleasant. Slow and easy. Our good conversation was interrupted every once in a while by people telling us how brave and awesome we were. Lou felt more shy about the compliments, like running barefoot wasn't a big deal. I just smiled widely and said "Thank you!" – because quite frankly, I thought we WERE awesome.

We didn't get any negative comments, although a few people seemed genuinely worried about us. It was cold waiting for the race to start, but we warmed up pretty quickly. The sun had been hitting the pavement where we ran, so the surface was warm.

One thing about trail running is that I've noticed I'm a lot more aware and sensitive to sounds while I run. At one point when Lou and I fell into a silent stretch, I was shocked to hear the POUNDING of feet all around me. Really loud thumping that frankly sounded quite painful. Neither of us were making any noise.

I was thrilled when Lou ran the grated bridge barefoot, because I thought that was quite the feat (more on that later). I predicted he'd be famous because of it because I'm sure that NOBODY has ever run that bridge barefoot.

I was surprised at how many people ran this race! The crowds never fizzled out and we were constantly maneuvering, right to the end. In the last 10k there was a fat guy with long hair that came to sit out on his porch and flip his middle finger off to the runners. A couple of the runners who noticed flipped him right back. I thought that was pretty hilarious…

Lots of people passed us in the first half, but I kept promising Lou that we'd get them on the hills – and we did! We didn't slow our pace on any of the hills, and we passed the 3-hr pace bunny on the final hill. My plan at that point became to stick with the pace bunny, then sprint past him in the final moments for a sub-3. I sensed at the time that we were running more like 3:05 finish time, but the bunny kept looking at his watch so I figured he knew how fast we were going.

We were nearby when the pace bunny yelled at people to run ahead for a sub-3. We did. We actually picked up the pace significantly with about 1-2km left, and then sprinted the final 800 meters or so. We were a good 2-3 minutes ahead of the bunny, but we actually came in at 3:03. I was slightly disappointed, but it did teach me a very valuable lesson – my own body is a much better indicator of my pace than a pace bunny with a fancy watch. Always trust body over bunny.

The grim reapers in the final sprint cracked me up. "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT…."

I looked and felt great the entire race. I wore my red Hunter's mini Sport kilt  with black leggings, and surprisingly got more attention around the kilt than I did with my VFFs. One lady came to look for me in the end to ask where I got it, and there were several comments throughout the race. Mostly ladies and of course a couple of guys. I've definitely developed my own individual style around running. I don't own any bright running jackets, and my leggings aren't even for running – just some cheap pair I found at Garage.

I ALWAYS run in skirts – either Sport kilts or tennis skirts (running skirts tend to be more expensive).  I like how the skirts look with my monkey feet. I wear layers, sometimes thermal, but never specifically for running. Most of my layers I got at Marks Work Warehouse. And I'll wear an old race t-shirt on top of it all – usually from a race I'd like to specifically remember that day.

Today I have no issues – feet still look and feel great. No marks/blisters/soreness of any kind. Good times!


{Lou's notes}

Lou started off very nervous. He didn't sleep well, his breakfast didn't sit well, and he was anxious.{normal pre-race anxiety for me} At one point I grabbed his bib with mine as we were leaving the car, and he was starting to freak out {for only a second}when he didn't see it. He was worried about the timing chips not sitting right – he was jumpy in general. I tried my best to calm his mind and I figured once we started going, he'd relax and enjoy himself. {that's what I told her}

I think there's a lot of pressure sometimes for us minimalist/barefoot runners to constantly perform at our peak. Although nobody expects us to win, we can't go out there and look like we're dying because people are going to blame a lack of shoes instead of a lack of training. When you're running barefoot, people are constantly watching and judging you, both during and after the race. So I think this was the source of Lou's stress. {Well Said!}

I'm the kind of person that races for pure fun and FU if you don't like the way I run. I don't feel pressure to perform for anyone. I also feel the best example I can set as a minimalist/barefoot runner is the pure joy of running itself. I'm not out there to look like a martyr; I'm genuinely having a blast and making it look easy. Too few people out there truly run for the fun of it. {I am trying to run this way}

Lou wanted a sub-3hr time, and I wanted to do my best to get him there. I told him to just follow my pace and let me know if he needed to change pace or stop. We had some rough patches in the beginning (broken roads, rough surfaces), and I asked him a couple of times if he needed to stop. {I thought this was because she was getting tired} He said no, and after a while I didn't want to give him that option anymore so I stopped asking.

The first half of the route was flat and slightly downhill. Lou was in great spirits – he chatted with the people inquiring about his feet, and we shared some good conversation. He was pushing his pace a little quicker than I knew he should, so I held him back a bit in the beginning. {this felt slow to me and I was a little worried about putting too much time on the clock} He was carrying water {hand held water bottles that start to feel heavy after 15k} and I had nothing, so I was relying on the stations for sips. I told him to keep going and I'd catch up with him after my water station delays. In the first half he'd make it quite far without me – I'd have to sprint a bit to catch up. {because I wasn't drinking much}

After the grated bridge {about half way} things started to change for him. He was less chatty, {getting tired and breathing heavier} and when people asked him questions he was short and abrupt. {because breathing was the priority} In the last 5k, he was struggling. I told him to just focus his mind, block everything out and RUN. He took that to heart and stopped talking altogether. {not much choice when you are exhausted and just trying to get enough oxygen into your lungs} He fell into a zen-like trance and when people spoke to him, he totally snubbed them like they weren't even there. So I found myself running circles around him, fielding questions like his PR rep. {she's hired!} I didn't want people thinking he was a total snob… {these people should realize that this was the first time running 30k for some people and we are not all able to chat at 26k}

"Yes, he's ok. He's doing great!"

"Yes, he ran the bridge! He survived!"

"No, he's not cold."

"No, he didn't train in shoes – he's actually never run in shoes."

"Oh you want an interview? Contact me after the race."

Shacky later told me that I should have told people he was deaf. A brilliant idea that I wish I had been smart enough to think of.

I lost Lou on the final sprint. {and I lost the 3hr. pace bunny :-p } I looked over my shoulder for him and it was clear he was going as fast as he possibly could. I thought about stopping to wait for him, but decided I'd be more of a motivation sprinting just in front of him. I know he's competitive and I wanted to give him something to catch.

In the end I wasn't too disappointed with 3:03 because it was clear that Lou was giving it ALL he had. I don't think he could have run this race more perfectly, or pushed himself any harder. He later told me that as he was coming into the finish line, he felt like he was starting to black out. I think I took him RIGHT to the edge…

I was THRILLED when he crossed the finish line and wanted to immediately explain to him how well he'd done, but he looked incredibly pissed so I waited until after the food tables to say anything. He was like a walking zombie. He blew past the people handing out bags, and rushed straight to the food. {I was not pissed, mad or angry. I was just trying not to pass out}

Then they gave him so much food that he couldn't carry it and he looked upset about that. He was starting to backtrack to get a bag, but I grabbed him and got him to dump his stuff in my bag instead. I probably found his state more amusing than I should have, but I was chuckling because it reminded me SO MUCH of my own post-marathon state back in October. I just wanted everyone to die. {not me, I just didn't want myself to die}

When I finally decided to approach him for a "Great job!" and "Congratulations!" he made a full 180 and walked directly away from me like 3 times. He looked SO MAD AT ME that I wanted to laugh, but was also slightly concerned that he might never actually speak to me again. {still not wanting to pass out, I knew I had to keep moving so my heart rate and blood pressure wouldn't drop too fast. Not Mad}

I left him alone and very slowly he came out of it. Anyway at that point he needed me – I noticed he couldn't open his juice box and he looked like he was about to cry over it. {my hands were a little shaky and the endorphins cause an increase in emotion :-p } So I opened his drinks and the snacks they gave us and put them in his hand. {thanks again for that} He munched quietly.


1. I had enough energy to sprint to the finish. {very impressive!}

2. My recovery was super quick. When I got home, I felt like I could repeat the same distance. And one day later I feel like I could easily go out and run again. {took me two days to feel that}

3. I felt like I could have run further, or much faster. {not me, maybe next time}

4. Almost all my training runs have been on steep, hilly trails, and I was able to feel the direct results of my trail running in two forms: a) The paved surface was like a walk in the park b) The hills were a non-issue. I had heard a lot about the hills so maybe my expectations were exaggerated. But I kept looking for the "big hill" – until I realized we were on the final stretch and we must have passed it. In the woods, hills are a completely different beast. A "big  hill" to me now means basically crawling on your hands and knees! And when I have run paved hills for training, I've done it with 10lbs of schoolbooks strapped to my back. I didn't realize how drastic of a difference that would make in this race, so it was encouraging to see. I flew those hills. {an ultra runner in the making}


1. He took the grated bridge completely barefoot. {I'm proud of that too} He was swift and quick and focused, and took it like a man. He fell into a very focused and determined state. He didn't hesitate or slow down, but just flew over it and didn't flinch. I couldn't tell by his face that he was suffering, but I knew that it was rough. I tried my best to verbally coach and encourage him. He wasn't responsive at the time but later he said that it helped to hear that we were passing people. We did pass quite a few people on the bridge – they were slowing down and we were speeding up. I think it was easier to just get it over with. {It felt good to have that behind me}

2. This was his longest distance ever, and he ran it at a steady pace without stopping. Keeping a steady pace through a long run is really hard – especially near the end when you feel like you're dying. Lou stuck beside me until the very last stretch. In the last 5k he told me I was killing him, but I figured he'd thank me for it later. {makes me want to train a little harder for the next one}

3. He took the hills like a gazelle and kept right up with me. I've done some pretty hard-core hill training on trails, so I think I was better conditioned to take the hills than Lou was, but he stuck right by me. {thanks to Dave and the Armour Hill training on Tuesday nights} When he fell behind, he'd catch up. We never stopped on the hills and I was very impressed with him. He didn't slow his pace, and was actually faster going downhill than I was. {just an easier way to take the downhills when barefoot} He was slower coming off the hills and he started getting quiet after a few inclines, so I knew he was reaching deep. {ya, it's hard to talk when you are gasping for breath ;-) } But he never stopped.

4. He was hurting every second of the last 5k, and pushed through it. I've never seen anyone empty their tank to THAT extent! I think he crossed the finish line on fumes. {I'm glad I didn't pass out several feet from the finish line}


I had an incredible time. I laughed/smiled more at this race than any other yet. I got a stitch once but I think it might have been from laughing… {me too, but I think mine was gas ;-)}

A great race with great company. {Agreed!}

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peterborough Half

On February 27, 2011 at 12:30pm the Peterborough Half Marathon started. At 12:29 I trotted barefoot from the warmth of the YMCA building into the large flakes of falling snow and to the start line on Aylmer Street in front with my feelmax moccasins folded into my race vest pockets. I had decided based on the weather forecast for midday that I would be able to do the entire race barefoot, but the weather was not quite as nice as predicted. The temperature was -1°C with a -7°C wind chill and the roads were wet. The asphalt on the streets was very rough up to Lansdowne. Dave was calling out the times for the first k, as I turned the corner on Crescent Street I heard him shout 4:48. I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle to get under 2 hours but I wasn't too concerned. My priority was getting through the race barefoot without injury. Once I got to Ashburnham Drive the asphalt got smoother and I had warmed up a bit. My stride and form felt good and I was settling in a bit. I was still passing a few people here and there, but I felt I was on a fairly steady pace. It was just then that I heard "Hey check out the guy with no shoes on!" It was Dave as he reappeared on his bike taking pictures. By then most of the people around me knew I was running barefoot and I had already heard half a dozen comments.

The next two familiar faces I saw were those of Chris and Mandy. They were at the corner of Ashburnham Drive and Hunter Street. Mandy was shouting some encouraging words and Chris yelled that the road should be warmer in the tunnel under the lift locks. It was not. In fact it was colder due to the lack of sunlight, but my feet and legs were getting warmer as I started the hill assent. I passed a few people climbing the hill and passed many more as I let my legs relax coming down the hill. I find that in order to reduce the uncomfortable friction from the road on my feet during the decent I take short quick steps and let gravity do the work. The more I relax, the faster I go and I only hold back enough to maintain control. This was the same story on the way back except a little slower. My feet were feeling pretty cold by the time I reached the rough surface of Crescent Street. As I turned on to Perry Street I saw Dave again on his bike. He rode beside me telling me it was only 500 more metres to go and to give it a final push. I usually wait until I can see the finish line, but I was cold and wanting the race to end at this point. I suddenly went into sprint mode and passed Dave on his bike, but by the time I was back on Aylmer Street I had run out of gas. My feet were now cold and sore. I gave a last little sprint for the 20 meters that took me over the finish line. I quickly continued my plodding to the warmth of the YMCA building.

I was happy to find that my feet warmed up quickly and didn't hurt as much as I thought they might. After a quick complimentary lunch thanks to the sponsors, I went to the results wall to check out my time. I was happy to see a 1:51 beside my name. I felt this was a decent time for me considering I had just run 21.1k barefoot in Peterborough on February 27.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Front Page

When Rod Begg of the Barefoot Runners Society -Canada Chapter emailed me asking if I would mind doing an interview with the Peterborough Examiner about running barefoot at the Peterborough Half Marathon, I was a bit hesitant.  I didn't want the article to be a "sideshow piece" about somebody doing something crazy.  I was also worried about the pressure I would feel to push myself beyond my limits once I knew people would now be expecting me to run this race barefoot.  Dale Clifford, the Examiner reporter, assured me that the article would be written as a serious running article showing people that barefoot running was a viable alternative.  I spent an hour in total in the interview and had talked a lot about my barefoot running.  I didn't know how much of the information would end up in the article and how it would be put together, but I figured a small article in the back of the Saturday paper wouldn't get much attention anyway.  To my surprise, when I asked Dale when the article would run he said tomorrow, front page.  I read the article online Saturday morning and I was pretty happy with it apart from a couple of photos.  I had asked if Dale if he was planning on doing a follow-up interview after the race and he said he was so I really hoping things go well on race day.

Zem Gear footwear are light and warm.  I found them to be quite good for running in cold snow.  However, their soles are not meant for running on asphalt or concrete, even if only for short distances.  The sole on the bottom of my left Zem Gear boot is shredded.  I got a lump of snow built up under the black sole covering at the end of a run so I had to take them off for the last few hundred metres.  I cut the ripped black covering off, but I am a little hesitant about running in them again this winter.

A tendon in my right foot is really bothering me now and I am going to have to take some time off running.  I hope it will only take a couple of days rest.  The tendon that is bothering me is the one that I use to move my right big toe and I can feel it in the arch of my foot.  I think it is from all of the running on slippery lumpy packed snow that is covering the sidewalks and paths.  I believe I was running more on my forefoot on the lumpy snow and this is what caused the soreness.  The foot doesn't really hurt, but I just don't want to run on it until it feels normal.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Let's Try Again

Another winter is upon us and I will try again to continue running through it. The last two years didn’t work out for me, with the frostbite in January 2009 and then the fibula fracture in the December of the same year. I’ve really been trying to play it safe this winter. This winter I am open to experimentation and will try different ideas to facilitate a healthy winter running season. I have been experimenting with different minimal footwear and training options. Some of the things I am incorporating are niacin (vitamin B3), gravel bucket training and a few different minimal shoes or foot coverings. Niacin at the right dose produces a “flush” caused by dilating the small blood vessels in the skin and giving a feeling of warmth and a slight skin flushing. The gravel bucket training is a way to maintain the thick skin on the soles of the feet by stimulating the nerves that trigger increased cell production. I got a couple of Rubbermaid bins and half filled them with some round “pea gravel”. I walk, march or jog on the spot in the bins of gravel barefoot while I watch TV. So far about an hour is all I can stand, but I hope to increase that as I do it more. I have Feelmax shoes, VFFs and Zem Gear shoes I can go to when the winter running conditions get to be too much for my bare feet. It depends on whether the problem is cold salted snow/ice or cold rough surface, what foot covering I go to. The Feelmax are good on cold rough surfaces and I can fold them up to carry with me. The Zems are a neoprene sock that covers my ankle for more warmth in the cold salted snow/ice or slush. The VFFs are good for short runs but with very rough terrain like sharp gravel.

I have gone out a couple of times barefoot, but I now have some backup footwear with me. I let me feet get cold and even uncomfortable, but when they start to feel real pain I don’t push it any farther barefoot. I have realized that the risk of frostbite while running barefoot has more to do with the surface temperature than the air temperature or wind chill. I have an IR thermometer that I use to check the surface temperature, but the surface changes over the course of the run and each surface can have very different temperatures, like dry roads compared to salty ice/slush on a sunny winter day.

I have signed up to run the Peterborough Half Marathon and the Around the Bay 30k so I will not only have to get through the winter uninjured, but I will have to increase my running to train for these races.

November 21, Whitby Waterfront 10 Miler

I have signed up with the Barefoot Runners Society. This is a good website that helps the few barefoot runners out there meet up and not feel so much like outcasts. So when a couple of members said they were going to run a race in Whitby I jumped at the chance. It would be the first race I have run with another barefoot runner. The morning was -8ÂșC wind chill and even the walk from the car to pick up our race kits was uncomfortable. The terrain was mainly a rough asphalt trail and the cold temperatures made it feel even rougher. This race for me was not about time, but about teamwork. It was truly the company of my fellow barefoot runners that made this race a success for me. I finished in the humble time of 1:38 and my feet were in good shape. This was the farthest race I had run in that cold of temperature. So in the end, I had a good long barefoot run and a sense of accomplishment. Going out for lunch and socializing with my new friends made this a very good day for me.

At this point I want to repeat some information from a couple of my first posts to reflect on where I started and how far I’ve come so far.

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 the shoes were “a crutch” and were really just keeping my feet weak and prone to injury. I searched the internet for information on the benefits of being barefoot and 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.

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.

After a couple of years of barefoot hiking, a co-worker 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 (but not specifically foot 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.

So unlike most barefoot runners I talk to, I have never run in shoes and have never had to make a “transition” to barefoot running.

To address the question that almost everyone has when they see me running without shoes I composed a 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. Shoes promote heal striking and rob your body of the valuable feedback of feeling the ground and making minor adjustments for optimal efficiency

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