The bare foot is the best running coach money can't buy.

Please visit me at my new site...

This site now has a permanent URL at www.BarefootJosh.com. You will be automatically redirected in a few seconds, or go ahead and click here to go there now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I've gone over to wordpress

I'm still getting my act together, but figured I'd post this in the event anyone reads this on a feed. The wife nabbed the barefootjosh.com url, so... there you go. Just about everything made it over there, except for Shannon's recent comment informing me that ac duped me into believing he had frostbite.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Iris' Run To Victory

First I recommend reading her account of the event over at the MadMayo Running Club site. To summarize, she kicked the ass of the course. It was cool watching her run to the finish at a good clip with a smile on her face after five miles. And she finished in the top half of the field!

Of course I wish I could have run; it was weird not hearing the "check out the barefoot guy" whispers behind my back. I was just a regular person. Blew my mind. While there were too many speedy runners in the half for me to have been competitive, I would have placed in the 5 miler. Maybe even won (the winning time was around 33 minutes). Stupid toe.

That said, I like the role of support crew. If this were the cycling world, I'd be a domestique. It feels good to know that I had contributed to Iris' great run,  that I played a part. I also recommend to any runner who gets injured to volunteer at a couple of races while they heal. It's rewarding, fun, and sure beats wallowing in self-pity.

Stupid toe.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bandaids are stupid and other musings

Why haven't I heard of these new adhesive pad things? More importantly, why didn't the doctor or any of the nurses not mention them? I've been changing regular bandaids three times a day. Not fun. Very painful. And to think all this time I could have been wearing an adhesive pad, which I only have to change once every four days.

I finally got a box of Johnson + Johnson First Aid Advanced Healing Adhesive Pads and just slapped one on. It totally covers the wound, as opposed to the menagerie of bandaids that lose their stickiness. I can leave it on for days. If claims and reviews are to be believed, my toe will heal more quickly, too.

To recap: the doctor tells me I have frostbite when it was meteorologically impossible, waits at least half an hour to give me a tub of warm water to soak my foot which, if I had frostbite, I would have needed immediately, then tapes me up with a bunch of cheap bandaids that were too small when there are much more suitable products on the market. Oh, and what do they give a supposed frostbite patient to drink his Advil down?

Ice water.

Next time I have a medical issue, I'll google it and heal myself. That's what's going to happen anyway; I should cut out the middleman.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Big Chicken


Friday, December 11, 2009

Race stats

What with all the toe drama I forgot to post the particulars:
Mistletoe Half Marathon
Time: 1:36:33
Overall: 79th out of 969 (813 finishers)
Age (30-34): 13th out of 56

Lots of speedy guys my age in this one. I was shooting for a 1:39, so I guess I got that! Not a bad way to end the year, performance-wise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frostbite Update: Not Frostbite

If I have frostbite, the National Weather Service is reporting fiction. They state very clearly that the air temperature has to be below freezing for frostbite to occur. Even in the wet and windy conditions, there was no way the air temp got over ten degrees colder around my feet.

Don't get me wrong, my foot is messed up. Recovery is still going to take a while, and caution should be exercised when racing in cold rain (meaning slow down or don't race at all).

How did I get that diagnosis then? My glasses. They make me look smart. Plus I have good diction, which adds to the illusion. I walked into the emergency room, showed them what probably was the grossest foot they had seen that didn't come from a house fire, and stated that I had frostbite. There's not much frostbite going around in NC, so I think everyone took my word for it. If I were the doctor, I would be tempted to let a patient think his injury is worse than it is, if it means he'll take better care of it.

Lose weight with amputation!

No, the frostbite isn't getting worse. In fact, I'm starting to doubt if I have frostbite at all; just a bad injury. The doctor said the frostbitten area was small - 2cm; I thought he was crazy, given how gory my foot looked, but the other affected areas now look like regular old (but still serious) blood blisters. I still can't put any weight on my right foot, though. Apparently you need skin on your toe for that. Sorry - too gross?

I don't know how much longer I'm stuck on the couch. I do know that I'm going to weigh more once I'm mobile again.The only thing that means to me is I'll be slower and get tired sooner. I think people worry way too much about their weight. I mean really, what does the scale really tell you? Nothing you don't already know. If you're eating your fruits and vegetables, running 20-40 miles a week, and feeling good, who cares what your weight is? Thinking light and skinny = health is kind of backwards, and in my opinion, dangerous (coming from me, in my current state, should say something). Being healthy and active will likely make you lighter and skinnier, although maybe not as much as you would like.

Don't get me wrong, I think weight is interesting. I like to see the fluctuations; it's cool how we can influence the size of our bodies. When I started running last March, I weighed close to 160 lbs. I've been around 130 since July, after Grandfather Mountain. But that doesn't mean anything other than that's what I weigh when I'm running and eating a lot. If I don't run but continue to eat a lot, I'm capable of gaining 30 pounds before I run out of pants.

If I were a personal trainer, I wouldn't stress weight loss. I would train my client instead to learn how to get the most achievement and enjoyment out of the equipment they have, and to help figure out how to get more. Who cares how many calories you burned in that mile - how did that mile feel? If that mile, with practice, feels better, who cares what you weigh? If the runner is getting faster, their runs happier, should they be disappointed if their weight hasn't changed? Of course not!

Everything in moderation, ESPECIALLY moderation. Tis the season, and all. Go ahead and pig out. Accept the fact you're probably going to gain a few pounds, and it might take a while to shed them.

The only question is, do I really believe all of the above, or am I trying to lull the competition into complacency while I'm on the injured list?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sooo... What happened, exactly?

I'm going to try to do a play-by-play of the events of the Mistletoe Half Marathon.

This is going to be looooooong.......

First, thank you thank you thank you to all the well-wishers.

I've been watching mysteries on Masterpiece Theater (Inspector Lewis), so in that spirit let's evaluate the circumstances of the case.

What was I wearing?
head:
1. NIKE wicking baseball cap
2. fleece ear/headband (removed at mile 4-5)
torso:
3. poly wicking short sleeve shirt under long sleeve cotton shirt under cotton tee.
hands:
4. gardening gloves (my rose-pruners)
legs:
5. nylon running pants

Weather:
Low 40's
rain (not hard, but consistent)
Wind steady at 5mph from the north, with gusts at 12mph around 930am (miles 10 and 11)

What did I feel/do?
At the start:
Waiting at the start was chilly and wet, but not to the point of shivering (I shiver and chatter easily). I could feel the ground just fine; no numbness.

First mile:
8 minutes. I took it easy (relatively) to make sure I could feel the ground fine and my form was good (no overexcited pushing off). Still no numbness, felt I was going to be fine.

Miles 4-5:
My head was getting warm, so I took off the fleece ear cover headband. That was probably a big mistake. My feet felt chilly, but I could (or at least thought I could) feel the ground. To be careful, I was flexing and wiggling my toes every chance I got.

Miles 10-11:
Here's where I think the damage happened. We were in a more open part of the course with fewer trees to block the wind, which had started gusting at 12mph. It wasn't strong, but it felt REALLY cold. I remember saying to the runner next to me "Jesus H Christ, that can stop any time," as my fingers (in gloves) started feeling really chilled. My feet felt warm.

Finish:
I couldn't move my fingers enough to hang on to my ribbon. I have no idea where I dropped that thing. My feet felt fine. From the top, they looked fine. The bottom of my right foot was nauseating, with a destroyed blister and exposed black patch on the big toe, and a huge frozen blister on the ball, with a lot of blackness underneath. On the left, there was a black spot on the pad of each of the two toes next to the big one. I didn't show anybody and made a bee-line for the emergency room, swearing profusely. I started to feel pain as my feet gradually thawed. Then I put them in a tub of warm water (104 degrees is the suggested temp). The pain of that made me shake. Once my feet defrosted completely, the water felt cool. I thought my feet cooled the water, but the temp had stayed the same.

Here's what I think happened: the gusts of very cold winds at miles 10-11 blew away the heat my soaked, cotton shirts were holding in. My body, prioritizing my vital organs over fingers and toes, sent blood from my extremities to my core. My fingers were freezing because, ironically, they were warm enough to feel cold. My feet, as I said, felt warm. That should have been a warning sign, but I thought at the time it was a testament to improved circulation from running barefoot.

Remember, it wasn't just the 12mph wind from nature. I was running about 7:15 minute miles at that point, or a little over 8mph. PLUS, my cadence was around 200 lifts per minute. Spinning feet = more wind resistance. So we're looking at gusts of at least 25 mph on exposed, wet skin, farthest from my heart, that is repeatedly coming into contact with cold, abrasive, heat-sucking wet pavement. Man, when I put it that way, the outcome sure sounds obvious.

One other possible contributing factor: The day before, I did a quick 3.5 mile run around the neighborhood in about 30 degree (dry) weather. My feet stayed cold to the touch until I took a shower. Instead of warming them gradually, I just stepped into the steam. They were itchy for about an hour later, then felt fine. Maybe I had done a little preliminary damage?

The biggest lesson I learned from this:

AT NO POINT DURING THE RACE DID MY FEET FEEL NUMB OR IN PAIN.

This wasn't like the Hawg Run 5k, where my feet were numb for the first mile and then gradually started feeling the ground. The numbness came later, but I wasn't aware of it. It's bad enough not being able to feel the ground when you're in shoes; much worse to think you are feeling the ground when you're not. Up until the end, I was excited to show off my feet after the race. I had my jokes ready (my bare feet are fine, but my gloved fingers are freezing!).

Maybe if I kept my ear/headband on, and wore a windbreaker, I would have been better off. The best option would have been to skip the race altogether, but if I did that I would have regretted it, wondering what if; that envelope was going to be pushed eventually. Better now when I have time to heal.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

MistlefrostbittenTOE Half Marathon

I don't know any details yet other than I finished 1:36something. That's because I was in the emergency room during the award ceremony.

It turns out fellow Barefoot Josh was prophetic when he cautioned me about the weather. Wet and wind are not my friends.

I left the house with temps warmer than forecast - around 42 degrees, but raining heavily - wearing thin socks inside my gortex socks inside my aqua socks. It was a little tighter than I thought it would be. That thought was nagging me the whole drive into Winston-Salem. It was really bugging me.

I picked up my shirt and number and went back to the car. "I'm wearing the Vibram's," I decided. So I make the switcheroo. Decision made.

At the starting line waiting for the gun, the Vibram's got soaked. Which made my feet cold. "Well that sort of defeats the purpose," I figured. So I took them off.

The race went perfectly. My left foot wasn't tight, my hip was fine. My toes felt a little cold, but not as cold as my gloved fingers. After the first mile at 8 minutes on the nose, I ticked off the remaining 12 at a steady 7:15-7:30 pace. I had enough to pick it up at the end. I was exhausted, but very happy with my effort. Until I looked at the bottom of my right foot. I want to be honest and forthright about my barefoot running experience, but I don't think I'll be posting any pictures of the foot anytime soon. Just google "frostbite," if you're into that sort of thing.

Fortunately I parked right next to the finish line. I got in my car and gingerly put a couple pairs of socks, stepped in my sandals (I brought everything today) and hobbled to the ambulance. They said "yup, it's frostbite. Do you want us to take you to the hospital, or can you drive?" Is it that bad? I panicked to myself. "We have to ask." I drove (my car, not the ambulance).

You get funny looks when you tell a nurse that you have frostbite from running 13 miles on a cold wet December day. Sort of a cross between No Shit Sherlock and I Might Need To Sedate This Lunatic. When the doctor showed up, he asked my which injuries were from the race and which existed prior. He (understandably) assumed that a barefoot runner would have messed up feet. "Doc, my feet were beautiful this morning." Those words hit me like a brick. Especially the past tense-ness of it.

An excruciatingly painful warm foot-bath, some bandages, a tetanus shot, some Advil, and a miserable drive later, I'm home. It doesn't hurt too badly, although I almost wish it did. I assumed it had to be freezing to get frostbite. Plus, I recently ran ten miles in similar conditions, and my feet were fine. Iris (the wife) thinks I might have started the damage on my very cold short run yesterday. Who knows. All I know is 1. I can't run for one, maybe two months 2. When I can run again, it can't be in the cold 3. My base training for Blue Ridge is over, and 4. I'm feeling very depressed and embarrassed and stupid.

So there you have it. After 490 barefoot miles, I'm done for the year. At mile 477 the feet looked and felt great. Since I can do little else but sit for a while, hopefully I'll start posting some art.

That is, until I cut off my hand in a watercoloring accident.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bloggy Food Love

I got some bloggy love from Das Mixture for my post about the importance of including fast food in my diet. It seems only right to give it back, so go visit Das Mixture.

Speaking of food, I just stuffed myself with vegetables for lunch after a week of pastry and cookies. Interestingly I haven't gained any weight, but the veggies are sitting in my stomach like a big mac with fries.

New PBCR (Personal Barefoot Cold Record)

I woke up this morning to 30 degrees outside. Normally I like to take the day off before a race, especially a long one, but I wanted to see how the feet felt in freezing temps.

Cold, not surprisingly.

But not bad after the first mile. But here's the question: did the feet actually warm up, or was it the beginning stages of frostbite? I only ran 3.5 miles. What would happen on a longer run? Do I feel like finding out tomorrow? The hot shower after the run made my toes itch like crazy.

My anxiety over the Mistletoe Half tomorrow may be for nothing; the latest weather report says 40 degrees at 7am with a 50% chance of rain. 10am is predicted to be the same temp, but with an 80% chance. Those conditions are unpleasant (at first), but tolerable. If I'm going fast (and generating heat), all the better.

If it's raining at the start, however, I might just engage in a little triple sock action: aqua socks over waterproof socks (they're gortex) over, oh, I don't know, maybe cashmere socks. I'm a delicate flower.

On that note, there's another dilemma/identity crisis. If I run barefoot tomorrow in crappy weather, people will think I'm a tough guy, ergo only tough guys run barefoot. Which of course is the opposite of what I'm preaching: you need to be a wimp to run barefoot. BUT, it's so rare for people to think of me as anything but a wuss, maybe I should just embrace the tough guy persona when I can.

I'll end this post with a quote from my patron saint:
It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off. - Woody Allen

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Test coming up

in the form of the Mistletoe half marathon this Saturday. I'm a little worried about the weather: low 30's, chance of rain. The "chance of rain" part is the latest prediction, and the part I'm most worried about. Or more to the point, it's the standing around waiting for the race to start in that weather that I'm worried about. I've never run barefoot in temps that cold before. And rain/sleet/snow? Sheesh. I might be bringing the VFFs along. Don't be surprised if I wear them for at least part of the race.

The feet/rest o' me are doing well with the latest increase in mileage/pace. I've got a mild soreness in my left hip flexor, which I've had off and on ever since I had a job wearing a tool belt. The job wasn't "to wear a toolbelt," just for clarification. I think the soreness has something to do with how I'm handling steep hills; I have a feeling I'm using my hips instead of my knees downhill. Bend the knees! I also have a little bit of tightness on the top of my left foot. That popped up after I tried the Gravel Path of Misery (Farris Park) last week sans vffs, which is ironic. You would think the pain from running/walking/stumbling on sharp rocks would be at the bottom of my feet. But since I find the rocks so stressful, it's hard for me to relax. If I don't relax, ie let my heel touch the ground, it puts strain on all the stringy bits in my foot. Hence, tightness. Just like I used to get when I wore vffs and aqua socks before going barefoot.

So how's that for a preemptive excuse? I almost hope I don't do well. How annoying would it be to find out that speed necessitates cold wet misery? Right now, I think I'd rather be slow in the tropics. Must be February. What? It's only December? Great. Just great.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The streak ends

Greensboro Gobbler 5k
21:19
Splits:
7:05 pace first half, 6:45 pace second half
62nd overall out of 1311
8th AG out of 75





I figured I was going to be slower, having bumped up my miles a bit. I also had a feeling I was going to start slow if I was going to follow through with my promise to myself not to waste energy passing people at the gun in such a big crowd/tiny course. It seemed like all the slow runners (ie, 8 year olds and their moms) were in front of me, all the fast people behind. Tokyo subway craziness ensued. I just tucked myself behind a gaggle of mid-paced runners and let everyone else elbow and push their way to the front.

Once it strung out, I was kind of comfortable going at the slower pace. I waited for the second half to start passing people, and then only casually. I wasn't feeling very racey. I'm pleased to be able to say that about a pretty quick time, though. That, and I didn't step in anything from the Dog Walk/Run.

Check out the full race report at MadMayoRunners.com , which should most likely be posted by the time you read this.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tomorrow: Greensboro Gobbler 5k

It's going to be crowded. 1000 people on a 1.5 mile loop. That's a lot of runners to catch, and a lot of runners to catch me... I have a feeling my time is going to be a little slower. It's pretty hilly, and I just ate five peanut butter cookies. So, as of right now, on the couch, I don't feel very fast.

A significant percentage of the MadMayo Running Club are going to be running as well. There will most likely be pictures.

Just thought of something - there's a Fun Dog Walk right before. Crap. Literally. I'm going to have to REALLY pay attention. And bring some Charlie's Soap, of course.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Cold Rain

"They" say one of the reasons people keep running marathons is that we have some kind of instinct to forget the pain and suffering, and only remember the highs. I don't know if that's true, but I notice the exact opposite happens when getting ready for a run on a cold rainy day. I dread it. All I can think of is that first uncomfortable mile. I hate being cold. We moved south in no small part because we were tired of the brutal winters.

However, once I'm warmed up, I love being active in cooler temps like 40 degrees. But I don't seem to remember that when I'm bracing myself for that first barefoot step on cold cement.

Today I had Cold November Rain going through my head. Both the song and the chilly weather drenching my hat. My training plans are loose, but I had figured on going ten today. I didn't have to, and was considering cutting it short while shivering through the first mile. Eventually my circulation kicked in and I could feel the ground again and was able to relax. Then the rain felt good, the cold pavement felt refreshing. Still, the first ten or so minutes of cold left me feeling a little worn out.

I do a 3.5 mile hilly loop around town three times for my hour and a half runs. The objective is to run each lap a little faster. Today was 30 min, 29 min, 27 min. The last lap felt good, but I was definitely done. "Done," in my interpretation of Lydiard's description, is feeling pleasantly tired but able to vacuum after toweling off. If I'm too tired to vacuum, I ran too hard/far and the wife is mad.

I vacuumed.

Anyway, great run in the cold rain, much better than anticipated. It seems like the miserable weather runs always are better. But then, I haven't run in the 30's yet...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MadMayo Shine Run



As stated in the comments, I'm totally rocking the V for Vendetta look and now my parents know about my calavera tattoo.

Go give some bloggy love to the club and read the write up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Throwing Pasta on the Wall

Because you never know what's going to stick.

I'm not sure what I mean by that; that's the thing with analogies and metaphors. Some readers may read the above statement and nod sagely, uttering "so true, so true." Others ask,"why would you throw pasta on the wall?"

But we (I) love analogies and metaphors all the same, because when they do work they provide a real Eureka! insight into the topic at hand/foot. "The rough surfaces are your vegetables, the smooth are dessert," or "learning how to run with shoes on is like learning how to sing with earplugs." I believe Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton came up with both of those, by the way.

Sometimes, however, the best analogy is an instruction for an entirely different task. Like how to clean your feet without dirtying up your tub.

I used to have little black toe-prints in my tub from day-after-day of cleaning road grime off my feet. I figured that was a small cost of running barefoot; increased frequency of tub-washing. Then Ken Bob posted a how-to guide for foot hygiene that included this advice:
3. When the floor is wet, step gently into the shower/bath. Do NOT twist, or slide your feet around, as this grinds the dirt into the floor (especially plastic showers/tubs).
Sound familiar? Now, between this advice and the use of Charlie's Soap,  my tub is cleaner after I wash my feet than before. But that's not my point. You see, this advice also pertains to running. Imagine your feet were dirty and you had to run across a clean surface. Your objective is to keep that surface as clean as possible, running across without leaving a mark. How would you do this?

You would avoid skidding, twisting, sliding, grinding, etc at all costs. You would step as lightly as possible. You would focus on lifting your feet. You would run smoothly, gently, and efficiently. You would run like a singer on vegetables.

If you know what I mean.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

If food were running

I would have just completed a long tempo run. That translates to another round with Burger King, but with some changes.

In the name of science, I switched from fries to onion rings, and consumed a Whopper instead of a Whopper Jr. I suspect the difficulty I had with my previous BK training might have been the fries. If I regret it later, next time I'll remove the onion rings. After that, a chicken sandwich with onion rings and fries, and so on and so forth. Mr. Wizard would be proud.

The reason I insist on eating fast food isn't to calm cravings or to "reward" myself for eating a lot of brown rice, beans and broccoli all week. It's that I don't want to be a delicate eater. If I'm out on the road in the middle of the country, starving, and the only eating option is fast food, I want to be able to eat. And enjoy it, without repercussions. And who knows; maybe Wendy's will stage a coup and take over the government, nationalizing the food industry. If that happens, I'll be ready.

On the flip side, the vegetarians could take over. I'll be ready for that too. If they do, I'm sure when driving late at night, starving, I'll see a Chickpea Hut and think "Ooh! Veggie pilaf! Super!"

On a running note, everything feels fine after my effort yesterday. The "edge" - and no, I can't seem to write "edge" without quotes - was really definitive, like a wall. I could run with minor discomfort (effort-wise, not feet-wise) at a consistent pace, but if I pushed it a little I really felt it. I was a little out of breath at the end, but otherwise felt fine.

Afterward, a lady actually touched my feet. Someone wanted to take a picture of my soles (for their scrapbook, maybe). As I was posing, like the pro that I am, a lady nearby sidled up next to me and touched the bottom of my foot. I felt so violated. "Unhand me, you brute!" I squealed. Actually, I just thought "Huh. That would have really tickled before." She said she couldn't help herself.

Hope Iris isn't mad.

Next week consists of two ten-milers and a seven-miler. Unless it doesn't.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Uh... I am the Second Warrior (new PR!)

Warrior 5k in Walnut Cove
Time: 20:02 (previous PR: 20:22)
Overall: 2nd
Age (30-39): 1st
Weather: perfect 60 degrees, sunny




Me with medal and Tito and struggling cabbage at my feet.

Not too shabby, especially with a big hill. I could see the leader the whole time, and basically hoped he got tired so I could catch up... didn't happen. He finished in 19:0something. If I could have seen the finish clock earlier, I would have sprinted for a sub-20... oh well.

I ditched my plan pretty early on - the counting felt silly. I did start a little farther from "the edge" and didn't push too hard at the beginning. But after the first minute, it was just me and the High School kid. So I tried to stay as comfortable as I could without letting him get too far away. At the halfway point, his mom told me not to catch him. "Don't worry," I panted. "I think he's safe."

The foot reception was very pleasant. Again, everyone was very nice and curious. I had ample opportunities to promote my sponsor, Charlie's Soap. The organizers were great, and I hope to race with them again soon. Good start to the day - now I'm off to teach art!

Oh - and how about knocking another 20 seconds off my PR? Thanks, Nike! You make a great hat!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Am The Warrior

You run, run, runaway
It's your heart that you betray
Feeding on your hungry eyes
I bet you're not so civilized

Tomorrow is the Warrior 5k, and I'm going to try something different. I would like to see what happens if I can run negative splits, which means starting slower. Of course I tell myself to start slow as I'm waiting for the gun/horn, but that never happens.

Shooting at the walls of heartache
Bang, bang!
I am the warrior
Well I am the warrior
And heart to heart you'll win
If you survive the warrior, the warrior

Ahem. Sorry.

So anyway, at the start, I'm going to slowly count to ten. At ten, I pick it up a bit, repeat. If I can't pick it up, I'll try to hold it. I'm hoping this might keep me in check at the beginning. Does anyone else do this? So that's the plan.

Or, I just start chasing people like a maniac.

The Warrior 5k benefits the Middle School in Walnut Cove. I don't know anything about the course, but I expect hills.

Once I'm done, I put on my art hat and tutor a new student. So, that's a good day.

AND, tomorrow night is Cotto vs Pacquiao. Man. We might have to go to Hillbilly Hideaway for dinner and make it a totally awesome day.

Shooting at the walls of heartache
Bang, bang!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Training, etc

So far I'm enjoying the Lydiard training, which right now consists of running 7-10 miles at a comfortable but fast pace (between 7:30 and 8:00 /mi), three times a week, with casual miles on the other days. I'm trying to build the mileage gradually, which is creating some interesting math problems: does a casual mile = an aerobic mile? Who knows; I just have to feel it out Iguess.

Speaking of Lydiard, I found an interesting interview with him at the Twin City Track Club site. (This, by the way, is a great group. I've run two races organized by them, and had a great time at each.) In the interview, the 1960 Olympic Marathon comes up. That's the one won by Bikila barefoot. Lydiard coached the runner who placed third. Check out this quote:

Abebe Bikila in his bare feet probably had a better grip on the road than anyone else. That's not detracting from Bikila, he was a great marathon runner. I saw him run and win in Toro, and undoubtedly he was the champion, but when people look at the times in that marathon, they've got to realize it wasn't on a nice smooth paved road in daylight; it was on uneven ground, the lights were such that it was very difficult to see the ground, you never knew when you were going to hit the ground with your heel, and also flashing lights blinding you all the time.
 Sooo... Bikila had an advantage on a blind, rough, rocky coarse because he was barefoot. That's cool.

I'm going to run a nearby 5k this Saturday. I'm curious to see if the endurance training will show yet.

Today's run (7.1 miles, 55:05) was 50 degrees in the rain. The first mile was pretty miserable, but I warmed up ok enough. My biggest concern was blisters, so I focused on not sliding the feet with success. The soles are a little sore, which I think should be expected in this weather, on hills, and at a brisk pace.

One last thing: check out the new MadMayo Running Club! Want to be a member? All you have to do is buy a shirt.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mindfulness and the Grackle Invasion

I stepped on a rock today.

Of course, I step on rocks every day. There was nothing special about this rock. In fact, I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was running around the neighborhood, chances are I stepped on a rock today.

Even though I don't remember this rock, I can tell you what happened. As my foot landed on the ground, in the first few milliseconds it felt a protrusion. My brain sent the message back to my foot, "telling" it to relax and start bearing the weight of my body on some other part of the sole. Usually, if the rock is on the outside of my foot, my weight shifts a bit to the inside, and vice versa. If the rock is in the middle, my forefoot bears the weight and my heel never touches the ground for that step. And so one and so forth.

Part of the trick (and joy) to running barefoot is to be constantly mindful of your surroundings. Feeling the texture of the ground, using that steady flow of information to adjust running form accordingly.

It's grackle invasion season here in Cackalacky. Thousands and thousands of grackles chatter away in the trees and on the lawns. When they move, they're a flowing river of blackness, their flapping wings sound like muffled waves. As I watch different groupings fly from one tree to another, I wonder what their training regimen is. Do they have a nest-to-5k program?

And then - chaos. A red-shouldered hawk comes shooting out of the sky, into a tree that explodes with grackle. The hawk performs acrobatics, darting in and out of the tree, trying it's best to put on a gruesome show for the savage bi-peds watching below. No luck this time. Why? Because the grackles were mindful. The moved away from danger. If you were to ask them a little later on, they would probably say something like...

I was chased by a hawk today.

Of course, I get chased by hawks every day. There was nothing special about this hawk. In fact, I don't remember it at all; but it's safe to say that since I was flying around the neighborhood, chances are I was chased by a hawk today.

ANALOGY UPDATE: the grackle does not represent me the runner so much as it represents one of my footsteps. Just thought I'd clarify. What can I say; I'm obtuse at times.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sole... and Art!


Elisa

A guy needed a gift for his wife's birthday, so he commissioned me to draw a picture of their daughter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Running has ruined my fast food experience

I've never been a fast food junkie, but I do enjoy a Whopper or Big Mac (hey McDonald's - want to sponsor me? Check out my arches!) every now and then. Or at least, I did, until I started running again.

My approach to eating healthy (or at least, healthier) is simple. I don't avoid any type of food, but instead make sure I get enough good stuff (fruits and vegetables, etc). Usually once I've consumed a smoothie instead of a shake, or chicken, brown rice, broccoli, and black beans instead of a Big Mac, I'm full; and once I get in the habit of eating the good stuff, I start to crave the good stuff.

But every once in a while, sometimes out of spite, I'll order something from the value menu at one of the many drive-thrus. Sure, I enjoy eating greasy goodness, but lately the after-effects are messing up the cost-benefit ratio. I had a Whopper (Jr., no less!) yesterday afternoon. It sat in my stomach like a greasy rock of deliciousness. Very unpleasant.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MadMayo Running Club

And so it begins...

Tonight is the inaugural (I'm getting good at spelling that word) MadMayo Running Club meeting. Not content with mere internet domination, I'm going analog. If you're in the Madison-Mayodan area of NC, stop on by the coffee shop next to the general store in Madison at 6:30 tonight.

That's how directions work in these parts, I've learned. No addresses or street names. Just landmarks. It's like a scavenger hunt for new folks. I like to think of it as encouragement to better familiarize yourself with new surroundings.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Barefoot Josh: brought to you by Charlie's Soap!


That's right, people. I've sold out to Big Soap. Or Big Clean. Big Clean? Yes, that sounds better. It's more fitting, too, because Charlie's Soap is not your everyday soap. It really CLEANS.

What do I use to wash my stinky running clothes? Either Charlie's Laundry Powder or Charlie's Laundry Liquid. Everything else? The Charlie's All Purpose Cleaner does the trick. Especially...


My left foot after a 9.5 mile run, before Charlie's Soap...


My left foot after 1 minute with Charlie's Soap!

Take that, shoe companies!

And yes, I'll soon add a shopping cart so you too can have clean feet while supporting a financially challenged barefoot runner.

PS I still have ad space on my hat. Any suggestions?

Tough feet need rough surfaces

I'm not a big believer in balance. I'm not against it, I just don't think balance exists in nature as much as we think it does. We're a pattern-seeking animal, after all; it's easy to change our perception of reality to fit our conclusions.

If this were a balanced universe we live in, my feet wouldn't get tough until I mastered barefoot running form. This has not been the case - my soles are very comfortable on abrasive surfaces. This isn't necessarily a good thing. While I can handle distances over mildly technical terrain, I can also cheat my form. I don't pay immediately for slouching my posture or slapping my feet.

In other words, my feet have developed faster than my technique. Not to a degree worthy of concern, but something to pay attention to. After a few months of successful barefooting, you can't assume just because the feet don't hurt you've mastered the technique. If anything, you have to pay even more attention. Much like you have to pay more attention in cold, wet weather when the feet are numb for the first mile or so.

I say this to explain a reaction I had yesterday as I was showing off my hill to a running buddy yesterday. We were driving, and as we made the turn on to Cedar Mountain Rd there was a Road Construction sign. Sure enough, they were repaving a section of "my" road. Nice, smooth, brand new asphalt near the top. I suppose it needs it; the road is old and pitted and very abrasive. Perfect for learning how to run barefoot. A bare foot is not allowed to slip or twist or slap or stomp without pain, regardless of how tough it is. If they repave the whole hill, I'm going to have to rely on mental discipline to avoid blisters and maintain form. Mental discipline is not my strong suit.

So what was my reaction to seeing my hill becoming more comfortable? Dismay. Not because I'm a tough guy, but because I'd rather not rely on my thinking brain for anything. It's let me down too many times.

Oh well. Turn Turn Turn, as the Byrds say.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Oh, Sweet mystery of life at last I've found you...

If you need me, I'll be in France. I gotta go. There's a huge Tiramisu in them thar hills, and I aim to eat me some.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lydiard Program For Blue Ridge?

So I've got 25 weeks to get ready for the Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon. I think I'm going to prepare the Lydiard way, unless someone convinces me otherwise. I've got time to gradually build the miles, but do I have the chutzpa to do three long runs a week in the winter? I'd like to think so. We'll see.

I know the Furman method is very popular, but I don't think it's enough running for me. If my wife wants to go for a trot after I've got back from a tempo run, she'd have to go alone with the Furman plan. Lydiard actually encourages running easy all the time, so long as it's enjoyable.

I've been gradually building back up to 30 mi/wk this month and am feeling pretty fresh. My races from here on out might not be as fast, but only if I'm smart. That's always a risky bet. If I build the mileage gradually, I should be able to put quite a few under my feet.

Of course, the feet are really in charge. If my feet prefer Furman, Furman it will be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why am I faster?

I thought I would cover my bragging with a thin veneer of barefoot education. To the point: I'm older than I was as a shod runner, I'm less fit than I was as a shod runner (I used to do a lot of exercises, now I just run), I do less speedwork than when I was a shod runner, BUT I'm much faster than I was as a shod runner. I went from a 23:21 5k PR (age 26), a pace where I hovered for four years, then after a four year hiatus from running I come back barefoot to a 20:22 5k PR (age 34). Why?

Easy. I mean literally - easy. It's so much less work to run barefoot. If I want to go faster, I lift my feet higher, bump up my cadence, and go. That's it. The only thing slowing me down is a still imperfect form, my lung capacity, heart strength, and good old fashioned lack of willpower (I'm a wimp, remember).

In shoes, well, first of all I'm in shoes. My feet are weighted. I have to lift the weight, kick it forward, and leap onto that foot. All of my weight crashes down, then I have to push off to propel myself forward. This is the way most people run in shoes. That's too hard for me.

I've started dabbling with speedwork for about a month now. For me that means a fartleky tempo/tempoish fartlek run through my hilly neighborhood. I have a local 3.5 mile route on which I try to beat my previous best time. So far I haven't slowed down.

I'm sure some of it's due to improving conditioning, but I think my slow runs are helping too, because on my slow runs I focus entirely on form. Posture erect, landing silently, fast cadence, 11 minute miles. I try to keep that easy feeling on my fast runs.

This might be it; I might be at my peak right now. You never know with these things. But I think I can go faster. And the faster I get, the sooner I can eat. I KNOW I'm not at my eating peak. With proper conditioning, I could eat much, much more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Understanding Painlessness and Barefootery

When I say "I'm a wimp," I'm not employing a sales tactic to get you to start running barefoot. I'm not saying "it's easy! If I can do it, surely you can!" What I'm saying is IF you want to learn to run barefoot, avoid pain at all costs.

Don't think about speed. Don't think about distance. Your entire objective is painlessness. Being a wimp is the only way to learn to run barefoot. The tangential bonus is increased speed in longer distances without injury or overuse.

Think of it this way: if you are running with perfect running form, it should NOT hurt to run barefoot over sharp rocks. It has nothing to do with foot strength or skin toughness. It's form. If your feet muscles hurt, it's because they're too tense. Relax them. If your calf muscles hurt, it's because they're too tense. Relax them too. It is only through relaxing and experience will sharp rocks become a surmountable obstacle.

Why are muscles that need to be relaxed, tense? Two reasons: Fear and misunderstanding. Fear is obvious - tensing up is a natural reaction. What's the misunderstanding?

When we think of exercise, we assume no pain no gain. And to some extent that's true, although I think it's a misuse of the word, "pain." But running really should only heavily tax the hip flexors, lungs, and heart. NOT the quads, calves, or even the feet. Those muscles should be relaxed, adapting to the terrain. If you feel strain, you're working harder than you need to. If you work harder than you need to with muscles that should be relaxed, there is no overtime pay or holiday bonus. Working too hard in the running world, barefoot or otherwise, equals slowness. Or injury.

Push your hip flexors, your lungs, and your heart to the limit if you want to get faster and maybe win a race or two. But to learn how to run barefoot, avoid pain at all cost.

My Hill



This is the hill that prepared me for Grandfather Mountain, and will prepare me for Blue Ridge. Up and over, up and over, up and over, up and over, over and over and over again. One there-and-back is about 450 900 feet of elevation (450 ft up; I guess down is a change too, right?) change in 2.7 miles. It's beautiful, and the road is like gravel. Perfect! If anyone else tries this, bring doggie treats, or be prepared for some unplanned speedwork. Trust me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Goblin Gallop 5k PR!

The course was mildly hilly, drizzling, with temps in the upper 60's. My goal was to not give myself any new blisters.

Mission accomplished, although the dead skin from last weekend's blisters didn't make it. Too much detail? Hey, it's a barefoot running blog; what do you expect?

I started out too fast (again), although I didn't feel too winded after the first mile at 6:05. The second mile, on the other hand... whew. But I held on for a 9th place finish. That translated to 1st in my age group! My time: 20:22. 11 seconds faster than last weekend.

Once again, everyone was very cool about my barefootery. I'm enjoying being a part of the running community. The event itself was well organized, with door prizes and lots of food. Great job, Martinsville!

Iris, by the way, placed second in her age group with a PR of her own. We're totally going to become one of those annoying couples who show up to races wearing all of our medals. And we're going to need a posse.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Re that article about slow marathoners

The Jurassic New York Times has another... what are they called? In the modern world, they're called blog posts... "Article," I think they're called. Something to do with an analog machine called "typewriter," I think. Sorry, I'm not up to date on my ancient forms of communication. It's quaint how these reenactors keep history alive.

Anyway, what was I saying? Right. The Times has an article questioning the legitimacy of slower-paced marathoners.

What do I think? I like to aspire to be classy every once in a while. I didn't think of this idea, but wish I did. I would like to see more of what a commenter (when I find it again, I'll link to it) described at a race in Berkeley - the winner was doing a cool-down run and happened upon the last runner, who was still struggling to finish. The winner of the race helped the racer to the line by keeping him/her company.

There. "Problem" solved.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The worst thing about running barefoot

Pebbles?
Nope.

Splinters?
Pshaw.

Glass?
I pity the glass for it's inability to make me care.

No, the worst thing about running barefoot is having to constantly tell people I'm a wimp. When people ask me about it, they think I'm some kind of tough guy. Generally, in my life as a short skinny glasses-wearing goof, "tough guy" would be an adjective I'd aspire to represent but fail in embarrassing fashion.

So now I'm running barefoot because I HATE pain and suffering, but others seem to think the opposite. It's very tempting to let them; yes, I'm a very manly man, I could say. I run barefoot and chop down trees with my fingernails. I eat spicy foods before going to bed at night. I file my taxes without wincing. Bring on the pain!

But, it's not true, and I'm a bad liar. If I need a tree chopped down I call a real manly man to do it for me. Heartburn makes me cry. Taxes, well, the less I say about them the better, but let's just say I find them very emasculating. I'm a wuss. I like kittens, Jane Austen, and cashmere.

OK, I don't like Jane Austen.

So there you have it. Hi, my name is Josh, I run barefoot and I'm a wimp. Go ahead, take my lunch money. Just don't lock me in my locker again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Odds and ends

Another blah barefoot running article over at the New York Dinosaur Times.

Hit gently landed on 300 barefoot miles today. Normally I'd start looking for a new pair of shoes at this point...

What I'm drinking now:
The Rootie Tootie Fruity Smoothy
3-4 strawberries
handful of blueberries
a banana
half a cup of yogurt
milled flax seed (I guess it's healthy; I like the taste)
handfull of walnuts (have you heard? They're the new almond)
honey (because bees are awesome)
half a cup of H2O

I'm getting behind on my art - I've got a commission to finish, as well as my next entry for the moleskine exchange. I need to do some speedwork with my pen.

At what point does a runner without shoes earn the official "Barefoot" title? Am I Barefoot Josh yet, or do I have to wait until after a marathon or something? Also, Josh is a popular name. There is already an existing Barefoot Josh; should I go with Barefoot JoshT (middle name is Titus. Don't judge.)? Barefoot Sutty? Barefoot Josh - the Good Looking One (ha)? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

UPDATE: Found a MUST READ for beginner barefooters: Running Barefoot Should NOT Hurt.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm getting famouser and famouser

A video and a nice blog entry, too.

Thanks, Donnie Roberts of the Lexington Dispatch!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brief moment of glory at The Dispatch in Lexington

Here's a clip from yesterday's run.

Can you find me? I'm wearing a blue shirt, black hat... as if my barefoot running form doesn't stand out enough. Pay extra attention starting at 23 seconds.

The feet feel 100% better, by the way. The blisters are already almost gone, and the rest of the soreness a mere memory. I'll be back at it tomorrow, I think.

Next weekend I think we'll be jumping the border into VA and doing a 5k in Martinsville, which is convenient as later that day is the NASCAR truck race at the speedway. We've been going to NASCAR races at Martinsville for five years in a row, and was a major reason we chose to live here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hawg Feet



Holy moly, the feet are muy sensitivo. No damage, other than the blisters. The other foot looks the same. We went to go pig out on some local ribs (which were delicious), then went into town to shop for boots. Not for me; I'm rockin the blister look.

I started fast on numb feet. Not being able to feel the ground, I must have naturally reverted back to my habit of pushing off instead of lifting. I got the blisters in the first mile, but I think I fixed up my form for the rest. I'm also pretty sure my speed increased when I relaxed and fixed my form, slower at the beginning when I was trying to be fast. Stuff I knew, but had to learn the lesson again.

And the final count: 24th out of 179. They were counting the 1 mile fun runners when they announced the totals. That's in the top 13.4%, or 86.6 grade. That's a solid B. I'll take that.

5k PR

Time: 20:33
Overall place: 24th out of 250ish
Age place: 2nd (!)

I'm quite pleased with my time; I beat my previous 5k PR by 41 seconds. A sub 20 min seems well within reach!

I was suffering a bit at the beginning; I don't know if I needed to warm up more or if I just started too fast (both, probably). My feet were pretty numb from the cold, and the pavement was wet from an earlier rain. So there I was, breathing too hard at the first mile, when my feet started to warm up and I could feel the ground better. Turns out I was doing something weird with my big toes on each foot, twisting them somehow. This is where if I were smarter, I would have slowed down, corrected my form, then picked up the pace again. Instead I tried to stop the twisting on the fly and I simply couldn't stop doing it. Very strange. So, I went back to the basics:

Knees bent? check.
Lifting feet? hmm, could try lifting a little higher... that seems to help a bit...
Posture? I straightened up my torso ever so slightly, and my hips fell into place and the twisting stopped. And, interestingly, my pace picked up and I wasn't feeling as winded. File that one in the useful information folder. But I knew there would be blisters.

I finished up with a sprint, passing the first place lady. I didn't get passed by anyone the entire race. That was pretty cool. Winded, I was approached by the speedy local track team kids, who asked me what was up with my bare feet.

"Shoes... are against... my... religion," I gasped, gulping for air.

Not satisfied with my smartass answer, they let me catch my breath and explain myself better. The local paper guy chatted with me and took pictures. He asked to see the soles of my feet... Oh crap. My feet. They felt ok, but I hadn't looked at them yet. I told him my form wasn't very good for the race, that I pushed off a bit, and demonstrated what I should have been doing vs what I did do... basically, I was stalling. When I finally turned my foot over, a little blood blister under the joint of my big toe glowed like the nose of Rudolph the Sloppy Form Reindeer. I'll take a picture once the batteries are charged up.

Having torn my feet up in minimalist shoes, this little blister was nothing. Cute, even. But I'm still a little disappointed. Ah well, learning experience. And hey, I got a PR and was second in my age group (first was about 40 seconds faster than me), so that's cool.

But the REAL disappointment, is I thought there would be bbq to eat at the finish, what with the bbq Festival and all. Turns out the festival, or the eating part of it anyway, is NEXT week. So yeah, I'm starving right now.

In wife news, she's getting faster and ran the entire distance while chatting with her friend who joined us for the race. It's interesting to watch a beginner progress and going through all the emotions of starting off slow and unable to do a mile, then get better but be mad that improvement isn't happening faster, then be excited at a new PR, then be mad again, and so on. What have I gotten this poor woman in to?

To sum up: 5k PR, first blisters in months, no bbq, wife getting faster. Alright, enough of this nonsense. I'm going to go eat.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hawg 5k Run tomorrow

You never see Lexington BBQ on the list of healthy food for runners. I suppose there's a reason for that, which is why I'll be consuming quantities of it AFTER the race.

This will be the first barefoot race in which I'll endeavor to go fast. The cold might slow me down (looking like 40 degrees, but dry), but I'm going to start a little nearer to the front than usual and see if I can hang on. I've been getting close to a 7:30 pace on my local hills, and the race course is flat.

We'll see how it goes.

This was supposed to be the wife's first 5k, by the way. She's already finished two.

Tonight, we eat pizza. I like to get a basic frozen cheese pizza, top it with some chicken, roasted peppers, diced tomato, and pesto. That's a nice cheapo way to fancy it up a bit. That's right, I do cooking tips too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blue Ridge Marathon Poster Contest

Head on over to their blog and check out the awesome poster contestants for the big show. Vote on your favorite, you might win a free entry.

Folks, I don't know if you've seen the commercial with Tony Stewart (NASCAR driver) endorsing Burger King. If you're not familiar with Tony Stewart, he's a pudgy guy and makes no effort to get in shape. He's at peace with who he is. He is a proud Burger King sponsor and consumer. For the record, I'm totally cool with that. I don't think fitness is an ethical issue. Anyway, the commercial is funny because there is absolutely no question in the viewers mind that Tony Stewart loves Burger King.

I love hills. I don't know why; I like to try to get to the top as fast as I can, slow, in between. There's something adventurous about them, like I should be carrying a silver dagger, +2 against goblins. I mean, because, let's face it, I'm a short guy running barefoot. I kind of have to be the hobbit in this adventure scenario, and hobbits carry daggers.

Whoa, sorry. Nerded out there for a second. What was I saying? Oh, right. The Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon. It's hilly.


I even eat two breakfasts. I don't live in a hill, but would love to. I'd have a cool round door, hang out with wizards.

Oops. Sorry.

"My feet are feeling a little sensitive,"

I announced, about an hour after my run. "Wonder what I was doing wrong today."

A brief moment of silence. The wife says, "Oh, I don't know; running barefoot when it's 45 degrees and raining, maybe?"

I watched a video of this guy running barefoot at a 5 mm pace while talking this morning. So if course I felt obligated to make today a go speedy day. For me, speedy is running fast up hills (don't know how fast; just fast enough to feel tired at the top) and doing quarter-mile laps at a local park. For the laps, I would do the first one slow, the second faster, third faster, fourth fastest, then start over for the next mile. I don't know if that's a great way to get faster or not; it's very fartleky, so I figure it probably helps.

The coldness slowed me down a bit. Today was a CR for me, by the way (CR = Cold Record). The cold and wetness was unpleasant at first; strangely, I had a hard time staying light. You'd think it would be easier when the ground doesn't feel as good as I'm used to. But after a slow first mile, the feet felt fine, just touchy. I must still be relying on pushing off a bit for speed, or I'm not landing as gently as I could, because the faster I went the touchier my feet felt.

All in all, a good run. The feet are a little tingly, I wasn't very fast, and I'm not a ninja yet. Speed baffles me. But I was outside on a archetypal gloomy day and enjoying myself. And my feet can definitely handle 45 degrees. Next report at 40.

I do need to wear gloves, I learned. When I stopped, my hands wouldn't work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

But what about eye glasses?

A thought had occurred to me (shocking, I know) that at first seemed like a good argument against running barefoot and for corrective footwear. Eye glasses. I wear them because my eyes are not very good at doing what they are supposed to do. Could it be that people, a LOT of people, need corrective footwear because their feet aren't very good at doing what they are supposed to do?

It's certainly not a perfect analogy, but it's one that stuck in my head for a few days. I wasn't quite sure how to respond to it. Am I being hypocritical for wearing glasses while advocating shoelessness?

I got my first pair of glasses in the 6th grade. I had a hard time seeing the chalk board, and got headaches. I went to an eye doctor, who tested my eyes. Based on how well I could read the small letters with my naked eye, then through various lenses, he wrote my prescription. With my glasses, I could see the chalkboard and the headaches went away.

How would that story go if we treated eyes like feet?

I got my first pair of glasses at age 1. Not sure whether they were for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or if they were prescription lenses at all. By the time I got to the 6th grade, I couldn't see the chalkboard and got headaches. I went to an eye doctor, who tested my eyes (with my current glasses on). Based on how well I could read the small letters (with glasses of unknown prescription), he wrote a prescription. I still can't see and I still get headaches. My eyes must simply be imperfect.

When you get "tested" at a running store, does the shoe salesman test you barefoot, or do they test you in whatever shoes you're wearing? Do they know if the shoes you're wearing are corrective or not? Do they know how corrective? If not, how can they give you an accurate prescription?

If we bought shoes the way we buy glasses, AND we assume that people NEED corrective footwear (obviously something I don't believe) it would go like this:

I ran barefoot until the 6th grade, when I noticed I kept hurting my feet. I went to a foot doctor who tested my feet (without shoes). Based on how I ran barefoot, he then added footwear of varying degrees of support and continued testing. He wrote me a prescription for my corrective footwear.

That would make more sense to me. If shoes are a necessary medical corrective device, isn't buying them from a shoe salesman kind of like getting your eyes checked by the dude at the Sunglasses Hut register? If you're feet are so weak that you need technological assistance to perform an activity our genetic ancestors have been doing since before we were human, shouldn't the prescription be written out by a doctor?

If running shoes are a necessary medical device, why do shoe companies change their line-up every season? If you find a shoe that works for you, why should you have to worry you may never see them again? Instead, shoe companies will stop making that shoe someday soon, only to offer a new style with new technology that may be better than your current shoe, may be worse. How can you tell? Trial and error. Could you imagine if they did that with medicine? "Oh, sorry, Mrs. Smith. We no longer have that style of heart medication. Try this one!"

Shod runners are guinea pigs in a completely disorganized scientific experiment. That's the best case scenario, giving the shoe companies the benefit of the doubt. I suspect shoe companies make shoes that look good in magazines, and runners buy them to feel all bouncy, and when things go wrong they blame themselves. They assume their person is broken. That sucks.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the winner is...

Larry Gibbons! He is now the proud owner of a ticket to the inaugural Blue Ridge Marathon!

His answer to the question, "what was your worst pre-race meal?" was:

"
A Power Bar. It was a disgusting chewy mess. Every bite took a minute to swallow, and then it sat in my stomach like lead."

Well that's just swell, Larry. I was so close to signing a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with the Power Bar corporation. Now I have to continue looking for a real job.

As if that wasn't enough, it turns out Larry is one of like, two or three other barefooters in NC. He's probably faster than me, too.

I am a man of integrity. I will honor the selection made by The True Random Number Generator, even though it costs me MILLIONS of dolllars AND I won't be able to hog all the barefoot attention at the marathon.

So now I live for one reason and one reason only: beat Larry Gibbons. It's on, Larry. Bring it.

And congrats again.

ADDENDUM: How rude of me - I neglected to say thanks to all who entered. So, thanks to all who entered!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everybody wants to be naked and famous

I've hit the big time. Thanks, NCRunnerDude.

*Title from a Presidents Of The United States Of America song. I don't particularly care to be naked. Or famous, for that matter; although given the choice, ah. nevermind.

They call me Ishmael

Well, no they don't actually. I was just making a literary reference to a book I've never read.

I get a call last night from my buddy Chris. "I want to do a 10-11 miler tomorrow. You in? I thought we'd go to Bur-Mil."

"Ah. Ahem. Yes. Bur-Mil. Where I was nearly killed last weekend."

"Yeah. I want to get some trail running in."

"... where I de-rooted trees with my face."

"Yeah."

"Yeah dude. Of course I'm in."

I woke up this morning and looked outside. Soaked with rain. Nice and slippery. I bet the trails are even more covered with leaves now, too, I thought. I'm going to die.

I didn't think I'd be able to get a bandaid to stick on my twice-bloodied toe,what with the rain and all, so I gave the Vibram's one more try. I've cut the back of the heel practically all the way off with a swiss army knife. Looks like it was chewed up by an angry woodchuck.

"You still want to do this in the rain?" I asked as I got in his truck in the parking lot of the Buy Rite, hoping he'd say something like "hmm, that is a little dangerous. Let's stick to the road." But no.

"Yeah man." And off we went.

I have nothing to report. I got back on that horse, made a concerted effort to lift my feet. It worked. We ran sevenish/eightish miles around the lake at around an 8:15 - 9:15 m pace, depending on which map you use. Neither one of us tripped once. I didn't kick a thing. It was... anti-climactic to say the least.

After the trail, I ditched the shoes as we ran an additional 4ish miles on the path. I felt like tiring myself out, so we picked up the pace (Chris is one of those super fast runners. I think he has one of those letter jackets, or whatever they're called. The jacket with all the pins and stuff that jocks wear to attract the ladies. Man, I don't know anything about running culture). We finish, at which point I confide how nervous I was.

"I thought you were mad at me for something and wanted to punish me."

"Nah, man. You got to return to your ... what's it called? Rival? Scene of the crime? What am I trying to say?"

"My nemesis? No that's not it. Return to the horse that... no..."

"Your Moby Dick! Return to your Moby Dick!"

"I don't know if I'm comfortable saying I returned to my Moby Dick. Seems inappropriate, somehow. And please, don't say that so loud. People are staring."

Friday, October 9, 2009

This is what I look and sound like

NCRunnderDude thought it would be cool to do a little video of me gabbing and frotzing about. I, ever the shy and modest one, protested. As I'm sure you can imagine. After heated negotiations (our agents nearly got into a fist fight), I relented. I realized it was my patriotic duty.

Here's part 1, where I mildly dis minimalist footwear and perform weird gesticulations. Here's part 2, where I start off looking like I'm some kind of Godzilla crushing little villages beneath my feet.

Attn Mr. Boozehound: my snazzy running outfit was purchased at Target (everything is either from Target or WalMart. I'm bipartisan.) for a little over $20. For those who don't know, he's the go-to guy for sensible running fashion advice.

The orange shirt is a blatant fan-boy homage to the Scott Jurek look in the Copper Canyon.

Good Luck Dena!

Running pal Dena Harris is doing a little sightseeing around Chicago tomorrow morning. Sightseeing (that's an odd word, if you think about it; kind of repetitive) the runner way: traveling 26.2 miles as fast as you can.

Run fun, Dena. Be fast but not too fast; run easy but not too easy. Have a perfect race.

UPDATE 10/10/09: I mean TOMORROW morning. The race is on Sunday. Woops.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Barefoot Running is a Fad

Fad
–noun

a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc., esp. one followed enthusiastically by a group.

That sounds about right. Even the temporary part. I don't think it will catch on. Sure, I'd like it to; maybe I could build a nice little nest egg from the revenue earned by teaching people how to run barefoot. Actually, I couldn't. People would quickly realize their feet are smarter and better coaches than me.

I do think I'm going to stick with it, however. Be a member of that "group." I probably wouldn't feel that way if people were jerks about it, but for the most part they haven't been. I live in a small town in NC. I am quite plainly not from around these parts. They probably think I'm a little nuts, but everyone I've encountered has been polite, amused, and accepting. Except for one lady, who avoids eye contact with me when I wave good morning. She'll like me eventually.

Also, note the definition of fad does not say false, or misguided, or wrong. I think running barefoot is the right way to do it. I guess I should add a "for me" at the end of that sentence, but I don't see why the benefits of running barefoot should apply only to me and a few other runners. But you know you better than I know you, so I've got no business being preachy about it.

Ultimately, I just want to run.

250th mile

It was about 50 degrees this morning. I knew the ground was going to be cold, so I put on a winter hat. The first few steps were like stepping in a cold lake, but after the first few steps the feet were warm and the cold street refreshing.

Last week sometime it was chilly, and I wore my regular running hat. My feet were colder longer, and grew a little numb. So moral of the story: dress warm to keep the feet warm. We'll see how cold I can go. Right now I'd say 50 degrees is perfect running weather.

So, yeah, today I hit the 250 barefoot mile mark. Buy me a drink or something.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And now for some art news



Here's the "art" part of Art and Sole. I'm teaching an art class at the Madison-Mayodan Rec Center on Saturdays, 10am - Noon. Ages 9 and up. Kids, adults, I don't care. Bring it on. Come on by and learn to draw, like the poster designed by my agent/wife says.

My classes focus on taking the time to see things as they really are, not how we imagine them to be. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why is the ground scary?

Many barefooters theorize that the fear of hard surfaces, and the need to protect our feet, knees, hips, etc from them, result from advertising campaigns that sell protection-themed merchandise. I'm not so sure. I'm skeptical of the charge against advertising, that it's a form of brain control. I think it's the other way around: advertising that works appeals to preexisting wants.

So why do we want to be "protected" from the ground? I think the answer lies in how we've evolved to understand our environment. We see the world with an incredibly strong bias towards intent.

If you trip on the sidewalk, what do you do? You glare at the sidewalk as if it did it on purpose. Expand that notion to the ground in general: it's where you painfully land if you fall. Someone on the ground is at the mercy of those who stand. For most of human history without indoor plumbing, the ground underneath our feet was filthier than anything we could imagine today. Generally, if you're aware of the ground at all, it's for a bad reason. If bad things happen on the ground, given our predisposition to assign intent, it's only natural to think the ground is out to get us.

How does the barefoot runner overcome this? He/she has to; fear causes tension, and you have to be relaxed to run without shoes. At the moment, I can only think of two ways, which I'll call the religious and the scientific.

The religious method makes peace with the notion of inanimate objects having intent, so they just change the intent. The ground is the Earth, Gaia-like, worthy of worship. The ground no longer intends to cause pain, but rather intends to put us in touch the infinite, to God, etc. With faith, the religious barefooter can traverse over the ground with prayerful joy.

The scientific method is to discard the notion of intent completely. The ground is not out to get us. The ground is not a thing capable of intent. It just is. If you step on it a certain way, you'll feel pain. Step on it another, there's no pain. All one has to do is learn how to run on the ground without pain. Simple process of elimination. You need exposed nerve endings for that. Tradition doesn't matter. Advertising doesn't matter. There is only evidence. Evidence procured by practice.

I've tried to present an unbiased reflection of two ways our natural fear of the ground can be overcome, as I don't want to step in the religion vs science pool (on this blog, anyway).

There are enough real dangers out there in the world, why add unnecessary fear?

Dirty Feet, the continuing saga

After crossing the finish line at the Triple Lakes Half Marathon, I couldn't help but notice how filthy everyone was. Everyone was covered in dirt and grime, knees, elbows, hands, bloodied. Everyone stank. Many neglected to wipe the snot stains from their crusty, salty faces. Along the course we all grabbed pretzels, cookies, and jelly beans (thanks, Off n Running!) from bowls that had already been in contact with hundreds of snotty, sweaty, germ infested hands. Running is a dirty sport.

What other hobby includes preparations to avoid crapping oneself?

And yet one of the biggest responses I get to my barefootery is "Ew, that's disgusting." Invariably from someone standing in a petri dish of bacteria that snugly fits their fungusy feet.

Maybe wearing shoes while running is more hygienic than going barefoot, but how much? I'd gladly submit my grubby post-race feet to a hygiene test and compare results with the post-race foot of a shoe wearer. But given the general grossness of physical exertion, does it even matter?

All that aside, if we want to just focus on foot hygiene, running barefoot forces me to scrub (and I mean SCRUB) my feet every day. My feet have never been cleaner, as before barefooting they were too sensitive for anything but a little soap and water.

Question for shoe wearers: how often do you wash your feet? How do they smell? How much do you spend on anti-fungal medications?

ADDENDUM: This tirade is directed to the shod who say "ew." The vast majority of runners I've encountered have been more than pleasant, and honor their mothers with a display of proper upbringing and manners.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just to clarify...

Gal dang it, I realize a sentence I wrote could have been grossly misinterpreted. Yesterday I wrote:

Don't get me wrong, I'll always want to be faster. But it's kind of nice to be a mid-packer.

I meant: I am a mid-packer, and I'm cool with that, but I'm still going to do speed work.
NOT: It sure was fun for a speedy person such as I to run amongst the commoners.

Just to clear that up.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Falling Circus: next day

I'm not dead yet!

OK, first things first. My feet are fine. The abrasion on my big left toe is a mere flesh wound. Apparently the feet are strong enough to kick immovable objects repeatedly for over two hours. No toes are broken, or even sore. The aches have ceased to be. That baffles me. Even my left ankle feels fine.

I do need to strengthen my quads and hips. That's probably why I tripped so much - it's hard to lift the feet when the lifting muscles are protesting like insolent college kids.

Other than that, I feel good. My official time was 2:14:20 for a 10:15/m pace. That put me 67th out of 181 runners, 19th out of 37 in my age group. I'm actually quite proud of this, since I was running (well, falling) not racing.

Don't get me wrong, I'll always want to be faster. But it's kind of nice to be a mid-packer. I enjoyed running with small groups, all of us working together to get to the finish in one piece, making small talk, placing bets on who was going to eat dirt next (the smart money was on me). I felt like we were part of a persistence hunting tribe, trekking through the wilderness. I wish I had a spear.

Wait, no I don't. I would have impaled myself.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My slowest, bloodiest race EVAH!!!


This is what it looks like when you get punch in the ribs by the ground. Repeatedly. For eternity.

First of all, big ups to Iris for finishing in the top 3rd of her 5k. Not bad for a newbie!

I, on the other hand, am a clumsy moron. And I mean that in a nice way. I tripped about, oh, 20 times. I've never kicked so many roots and rocks in my life. Like, cumulative. I don't know if it would have been better barefoot (I did wear the $6 aqua socks); probably not. The extra sensory awareness would have been nice, but I think my clumsiness today would have trumped that.

Here's and example of my moronitude: The shoes I wore were the same ones from last week's race. During that race, a seam or some stitching gouged my big left toe a bit. Not only do I wear those shoes, but I didn't tape up my toe. "If it starts bleeding, I'll tape it up at a water station," I in my infinite wisdom declared. Sure enough, that's what happened. It took about five minutes for the helpers to find some tape, as the bandaids weren't sticking. Just about everybody passed me.

Fast forward to 15 minutes ago, where I put my feet with bloody toe icy water. "Ooh, bath salts! That'll feel good!" Did I mention my toe is bloody? So yeah, I poured salt on my own wound.

Anyway, after the bloody toe incident, the tripping and falling began in earnest. I was kicking things like they insulted my mother. I've got scrapes on my back, for crying out loud. I was sure I not only had re-broken my toe, but had broken every other one as well by mile 8 (I don't think anything is broken; sore and stiff, but not broken). It was funny at first. Crash! "You ok?" "Yeah, I'm..." Crash! wash, rinse, repeat.

At around mile 9, I was running/stumbling with a group when I heard a Whump! Crash! behind me. A young lady bit it HARD. Her knees were bloody and was in bad shape. I had two thoughts, one from the gentleman side of my brain and the other from the shameful opportunist side of my brain. "I shall help her, and walk her to the finish if need be," says the gentleman. "My finish time won't matter if I tell everyone I was helping a damsel in distress!" says the ass.

She was able to get up and run/stumble (everyone was tripping; it was like Woodstock) back to our little group. Then she passed them, also leaving me in the dust.

I didn't want to go fast because a. running fast = falling harder, and b. falling is exhausting. Oh right, and I didn't really train for this. That might have had something to do with my difficulties.

I crossed the finish line sore but in a good mood at 2:14/15. For perspective, I ran twice that distance up a mountain at a 10 seconds per mile pace FASTER.

So what have we learned?
1. Even though I like to use big words, I'm not very smart.
2. Even though I've taken years of ballet (I'll tell you about that later), I'm a graceless yahoo.
3. Even though I may act like a nice guy, there's probably a selfish ulterior motive to any act of kindness on my part.
4. I can maintain my sense of humor longer than a good race pace.
5. I can get the crap beat out of me, and still have fun.

The Triple Lakes half marathon was a great race, and the organizers did a great job. Now, I'm going to try to nap and eat at the same time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Triple Lakes Half Marathon tomorrow

13.1 miles is an odd distance for me. For training, my long runs are longer and my short runs are shorter. I'm not sure how I'm going to pace myself, especially since I haven't been training for distance lately (broken toe [happened in shoes], twisted ankle [happened in shoes], and learning to run barefoot). Since I had a fast race last weekend, I'm hoping my race ego will let me go slower on this tough course. I think a goal of sub-2hrs is reasonable.

Since this is a trail race with lots of single-track, splintery wood plank bridges, and rocky paths, I'll be wearing the aqua socks. The VFFs might actually be a slightly preferable shoe for the course, but I'm boycotting them on principle.

Wish me luck!

Iris the Wife will also be running tomorrow: the Women's Only 5k Run. She's taken a big ol' swig of the running kool-aid.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Contest for FREE Blue Ridge Marathon entry!



As you may or may not know, I'm setting my sights on the Blue Ridge Marathon in April next year. It's going to be my 1st barefoot marathon.

The course looks spectacularly beautiful. Like forget your finish time and stop to soak it all in beautiful. Sure, there's a hill or two. OK, there's over 6000 ft of elevation change, half of that being uphill. Well, up-mountain. Awesome.

So, you want to run it with me... for free? No, I won't make you take off your shoes. Run in stilts if you want; I don't care. All you have to do is:

1. send me an email (inkyd at rocketmail.com) with Blue Ridge Marathon in the subject line OR leave a comment in the (where else?) comment section.
2. Answer this question: What was your WORST pre-race meal?
3. Deadline: Oh, let's say by midnight, Oct. 11. 10/11. Nice and binary.

I'll be doing the random # generator thing to declare the winner.

Personally, I've eaten many different foods before running, as I'm a gluttonist pig. But the worst experience I've had was running 3 miles in the hot afternoon after eating some chicken, beans, and rice. I didn't puke, but it was touch-and-go the entire time. Not very exciting; surely you can do better.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dirty, Gnarly Feet

I saw this clip on MSNBC about barefoot running this morning. Watch it if you feel your IQ needs to be knocked down a couple of notches. It's the usual BS about glass and grody (remember grody? Ah, the 80's). Re glass, I'd like to ask: how do you know there's glass on the ground? Because you can see it. If you can see it, why on earth would you step on it?

But that's not what I'm focusing on today. "Dr." Nancy asked the pseudo barefoot runner (he said at the end his fiance makes him wear Vibram's most of the time) to show his feet. his soles, which looked a little dirty from walking barefoot on the studio floors but otherwise fine, weren't even in the frame before the "Dr." said, "eewww, those are some gnarly feet you have."

Here is my right gnarly foot as of this morning before I ran:



A closeup of the main area of contact with the ground:


No calluses, nothing grody as far as I can tell.

I went for an easy two miler with the wife through town. Here's what they look like after:



The longer the run, the darker the gunk on my feet. Today is supposed to be a rest day, so two miles is all you're getting. But you get the gist. The light patches are the dry, tougher spots where my feet bear the brunt of my weight. People tend to think they are calluses when I show them my soles during/after a run. They're not; I think that's just what happens, unless calluses disappear after a couple of minutes of scrubbing with soap and water:



and a closeup:



If you would like to use my feet for foot modeling, I'll put you in contact with my agent.

Bear in mind, this is after 225 barefoot miles in two and a half months, almost entirely on asphalt and concrete. Add to that the few long runs on gravel paths wearing minimalist shoes.

Questions for shod runners: how often do you clean your feet? Is the road really more grody than the inside of your petri-dish of bacteria shoes? How do they smell? Are you starting to feel swindled yet?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The numbers are in

from the Twin City Track Club:

Official time: 44:42
34th out of 507
4th in my age/gender group (!)

Well I'm all puffed up like some deadly but delicious Japanese delicacy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

10k PR

44:55ish. I decided to go for speed instead of education (and, frankly, I wasn't in the mood to be a spectacle), so I wore the aqua socks ($6). I felt I was definitely hitting the ground harder than I would have if barefoot, even though I really tried to focus on lifting the feet and being quiet.

It was a good cardio workout. I kept a consistent, mildly anaerobic pace (I think).

Can you tell I'm looking forward to the next road race? Don't get me wrong, I love the trails, and the organizers at Twin City Track Club run a first-rate operation. Trails are just tough, and I don't want anyone hearing me say "ouch."

Next weekend is the Triple Lake Trail Race. I'm doing the half marathon, despite what the website says. I'm familiar with this course, and it's tough. I'm going for a finish without injury goal.

Oh, and how about me being all speedy today? I should break a toe more often. It's fine, by the way.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the rocks

Ken Bob recommends learning how to run barefoot on the rockiest, most uncomfortable terrain you can find. I'm finding there's more to that than just "if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere."

Normally, my approach to dealing with a gravel path is to try to run on it as if I'm running on pavement. This never works, and I always assumed it was because I wasn't relaxed, that I tensed up once the road got tough. That's probably part of it, but I think there's more.

I went for a 3miler with Iris this morning. In the middle of it were some of our local gravelly road goodness. I had to step extra light, because today it was like someone had scattered the rocks over the smooth ground. When it's all rock, it's not as bad because there's some give if you step on a rock that protrudes. When you step on a rock not supported by anything but the ground, the give has to come entirely from the runner.

Once past the gravel section of the route, I thought I'd try to run on the pavement as if I was running on the gravel (instead of the other way around, as mentioned before). I think I let my feet get too far in front of me, but there was ZERO noise coming from my foot contacting the ground. At one point I even tilted my ear to my feet, straining to hear a sound. Nothing. I felt like a wheel. I even sprinted a bit in this fashion - only at the peak of the acceleration did I hear the lightest sound of my feet tapping the ground.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the shoe companies do know what they're doing, and I just haven't been exposed to the evidence. But man, this is fun.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting faster

when i should be taking it easy.

I almost didn't run today, figuring I shouldn't push the toe, not quite perfect ankle, etc. But the weather is so nice and crisp, it was overcast, and I had absentmindedly put on my running shorts and watch already. Seriously. I was all, "hm, should I run today? Probably not. Oh, look! I'm in my running clothes! How did that happen?"

Yeah, I've got issues.

So I step out. The cool asphalt feels really nice. And... I'm off.

I don't stretch. Not in any focused way. I figure if something feels tight, then I should relax it. I feel loose almost right away, legs feeling springy and awake. Soooo, I figure I can pick up the pace a bit. So long as my feet are quiet.

It turns into my first barefoot tempo run. I've done some mild fartleking, but never a maintained speed. Everything feels ok, so I decide to see how fast I can run my local 3.5 miles...

Turns out to be 27:41. Not too bad, considering I haven't done any real speed work in months. My fastest barefoot run by far. I'm starting to grok the "lead with the hips" concept, and my feet feel great. It's scary, though. I feel a little out of control, making it hard to relax. I can hear the difference - when I'm tense, I hear my feet. Relaxed, I sound like a ninja at a quiet convention.

Funny, I don't feel that much of a difference in my feet. I wonder if they're overly-toughened. I wouldn't be surprised, considering how flagrantly I've ignored all advice to take it easy and go slow.

Oh well. I am what I am.