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

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Art class starts today!

Tonight I'm teaching an after school class at the cultural center in downtown Greensboro (4:30 - 6). The theme is Art Cards - the image has to fit on a 3.5"x2.5" canvas. It's a great way to avoid getting sucked in to minutia, and seeing the overall big picture (on a little canvas). There's still room, so come on by and sign up if you're within the ages of 9 - 14 or so.

I still need more students for the Portraits class on Wednesday (4:30 - 5:30).

Here's an example of a portrait ON an Art Card:

That would be Red Byron, the first NASCAR champ.

I don't think he ran barefoot.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rest, part II and Faster Faster Kill Kill

The soft tissues and stringy things in my feet are still unhappy with me for throwing so much at them so quickly, but I was able to do 10 comfortable miles in the vibram's at the Chinqua-Penn path yesterday. Normally I'd run through this discomfort, but I'm trying to be smart and practice preemptive resting. I might have to downgrade to a half marathon at triple lakes instead of the full, if I don't get more mileage in.

My humility needs training, too, I guess.

In my defense, I was conducting a bit of an experiment. Having lumped running shoe technology with Phrenology and Ion Bracelets, I wonder how much running lore is nothing but turtles all the way down? What about training? Surely, if I'm running more efficiently I can add miles as I please. Our ancestors didn't have the luxury of planned rest days and easy days.

And it seems like every training plan is geared towards two goals - getting faster and pain management. It's about pushing yourself. I wonder...

What about a training schedule focused on making the next marathon as fun as possible? Instead of speed or heart rate, what if every run was focused on the maximization of joy? What if I search for a way to run that makes me want to stay outside on my feet as long as possible? And then run as much as possible?

Here's the problem with joy-based training and starting to run barefoot: once my feet were conditioned enough to handle rough surfaces and I started to grok smooth form, I never wanted to stop. I lacked the discipline to take it slow.

Well, now I know. After years of no running, two marathons within seven months of starting up again is asking for an injury, barefoot or not.

"Really Sherlock? Tell me more."

So I'm taking a we'll see attitude. Every marathon is just training for the next marathon, I read somewhere. If in the next couple of weeks I don't think I'll be able to enjoy 26 miles of trails, I'll settle for 13. Maybe I'll do them barefoot instead of with the vibram's...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slow down! and sweatshops

OK, so after that last post where I'm basically bragging about how I can run as many miles as I want with no repercussions, I'm now going to eat crow. I've had a mildly dramatic drop in weight, and my left foot/ankle is feeling a little tweaky from stepping on a rock (twice - it stuck to my foot and I didn't realize it; it was big, too!) and hitting (literally) the trails too hard in the vibrams. It was a little sore from the rock, no big deal, happens from time to time, but I kept on stepping stupidly with it. I was also running with the dogs (unruly beasts) and tweaked it again as they jerked me around down a hill (again, in the vibrams...). Basically, the Universe has been conspiring against my left foot (no relation to Daniel Day Lewis). Hey, I never said being barefoot could cure stupid.

So this week will total a little over 30 miles. I'll shorten my weekday runs this week, and hopefully I'll be up for going long next weekend. Fewer miles equals less sweat, which is my lazy segue into...

I suppose I should preemptively address the whole sweatshop issue, and whether or not that has anything to do with my ditching the shoes, as it's bound to come up sooner or later. My answer is no. It doesn't. I think the running shoe is a modern day snake oil, and am not going to spend money on something that has no scientific evidence to back it's claims. I'm also not a big fan of boycotts in general, because

1. economies are fungible. Every transaction can be traced to someone being a prick to someone else at some point, so it's a symbolic gesture at best. I don't like symbolism. Especially when it's portrayed as "doing something (just do it?)."

2. I suspect that crappy, miserable wage-slave based economies might be an unavoidable step in the transition from poverty to wealth. Every affluent country went through a sweatshop phase (I think; let me know if I'm wrong); if you take that away, I fear you'd be condemning a society to eternal poverty.

3. if I were working for Nike at a sweatshop, I would like the concerned consumer to at least ask my opinion on whether or not the company that pays me $1/week or whatever should be driven out of business.

But I digress. Nike laborers could be payed with an abundance of pancakes and micron pens (that's the currency standard in Joshtopia - take that, goldbugs!), and I would still call BS on their product. Same goes for Asics, Brooks, that saucy one I don't feel like checking the spelling of, etc.

Not all of their products, though. I wear a Nike hat. It's very lightweight, comfortable, and I think it's funny to wear a shoe-centric company product on my head while running barefoot.

Speaking of art (I know, that wasn't even trying), I have been drawing. Just nothing worth posting. Did a nice picture of my parents holding me as a baby. My parents turned out alright, but I need to work on my infant drawing. In the photograph, I look like a normal baby. In my drawing, demon spawn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oooga Chacka Oooga Chacka

Oooga Oooga Ooooga Chacka
I can't stop this feeling
Deep inside of me,
Feet, you just don't realize
What you do to me

Here's a question inspired by NC Runner Dude's latest post: what if you're near the end of what is scheduled to be an "easy" run, but you don't want to stop? You are really enjoying yourself, you don't feel tired, and for the sake of argument let's say you have enough time, water, and food to double your mileage that day. Should you, under any circumstances, keep going? Even if you had a "hard" day yesterday?

If you view running as a hardcore, dangerous activity that only serves as a test to your physical fortitude and mental discipline, ironically the answer is probably no. Surprise surprise, I say yes. Without question. So long as you're running for joy and not bravado or self-punishment.

I'm finding myself in this situation a lot since I started running barefoot. It's so much easier on my body, I'm feeling totally refreshed every morning. Granted, I'm not doing much speed work (and I don't have a stressful job to go to; anyone hiring?) - just the occasional casual fartlek and tempo-ish run. Barefooting forces me to constantly focus on my form instead.

Why isn't there a "focus on form" day in any training schedule I've ever seen?

Anyway, if you look at my training log (in the column on the right), you'll see I've broken just about every training rule since I started barefooting in mid-July. My only rules are 1. at least one long run a week 2. at least one sloth day a week. I've built up my weekly mileage very fast since the Grandfather Mountain Marathon (wk1 9mi, wk2 30mi, wk3 40mi, wk 4 40mi, wk 5 5omi {the most I've ever run in a week}). This is not according to any plan; I'm just running as much as I want, listening to my feet. And I feel really, really good.

When I'm running
Through the 'hood
you let me know
That my form is good

I... ay-I.... ay-I....
I'm hooked on barefooting
I also like... pudding*
And lot's of smoo-oo-thies!

*In case you're wondering, yes. I am available for all of your rhyming needs.

OK, now I've got to go do some art.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Salem Lake loop

Had an appointment in Winston-Salem this morning, so I thought I'd use that as an excuse to check out the loop around Salem Lake. What a pleasant little trek!

Not having been there before, and still unsure of how tender my feet were going to be after my long run Saturday, I brought the vffs along. I ran the first half of the trail barefoot and felt I was doing quite well; slow going, but I wasn't hurting and I was navigating the rocks and roots successfully. However, I started feeling a little overstimulated. My brain was getting tired. Mostly, though, I couldn't look at the scenery, focusing on the road. I also really wanted to run, not hike, so I put the vffs on for the rest of the way.

Sure, I was able to go faster. And I was able to look around more. But, and this is important, I was hitting the ground harder and I wasn't paying as much attention. I tried to imagine being barefoot, but that 1/10th inch rubber sole made it impossible.

I don't feel bad about putting the shoes on (yes, vffs are shoes). The way I figure it, I just traded some learning for a more focused cardio workout. I would recommend anyone who is "transitioning" to barefoot to do it this way: start out a run barefoot, then put the vffs on once you're feeling overwhelmed/uncomfortable.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Does This Matter?

The more cushioned your shoe, the later your brain knows you've landed. In most shoes, I would guess you've landed before you know that you've landed. How will that effect the way you run?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vancouver Sun Article Re Barefooting

Good article from Vancouver Sun. Obligatory Orthopedic doctor quote: "But the typical patient I see is not a world class athlete and for them wearing a good shoe that gives excellent support is the way to prevent injuries," he (Dr. Philibin) said.

You hear that? I'm a world class athlete! You'd think I'd be faster. And would have abstained from that Big Mac I just ate. And I'm still waiting for any evidence of his second claim. Seriously. Because I don't want to injure myself. And I also don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars a year for a, albeit very popular, sideshow hair tonic.

Rambling On About Common Sense After 18 mi, and Art Classes


Well that was fun. Feet are a little tender, but in good shape. Feeling quite luxurious in my fuzzy socks right now. I was able to keep up with Dena and Thad for 18 miles. There was a stretch with, shall we say, "advanced level" gravel where I put on the vffs for 3.5 miles. Longest barefoot run to date!

I've been thinking about the phrase, "common sense" lately. I think I've decided I'm against it.

Hear me out.

First there's common. I'm an individualist type of, well, individual, so words like "common" sound presumptuous and rub me the wrong way. But the word I take real issue with is "sense." Sense is feeling. Feelings are fine and all, but if I'm expected to believe an argument (or pay for something), I want research. Not sense. I don't trust my feelings, or my instincts, because they are so frequently wrong. And so is everybody else's. So no offense, but I don't trust your common sense either.

It's common sense to wear running shoes when running. Why? Not because of scientific research indicates wearing shoes will protect you from running injuries of foot infections (does anyone know if such a study exists?). But it makes "sense." It feels like truth. "Truthiness" is the word (thanks, Colbert Report writers).

My presumptions (instincts, "common sense") are wrong all the time. I'm familiar with the taste of humble pie. I've come to accept it. This means, however, I'm going to be skeptical of everything. I want double blind tests. Send it it to Penn & Teller's Bullsh*t! and The Amazing Randi.

My experience so far running barefoot (107ish miles) contradicts common sense. This pleases my contrarian little heart immensely. A friend asked if my enjoyment of shoelessness is a placebo effect. It's certainly possible, but I'm not a tough guy. I'm a quitter. Too much misery and I'm out. So I quit shoes (I imagine a shod runner, looking down at his/her shoes, exclaiming in heartrending frustration, "I just can't quit you!").

Common sense is nothing without evidence. I am my own barefoot lab rat, procuring evidence that will test the barefoot theory.

Anyway, hope you like my sketch at the beginning of the post (that's as much of a segue you're going to get). I fancy myself a bit of an art teacher, and thankfully so do the good folks over at the Art Alliance. What? Promote the classes I'm teaching this Fall? Well, if you insist...

Artist Trading Cards
Instructor: Josh Sutcliffe
ages 10-13
Session 1: August 31-October 5
Session 2: October 26-November 30
Mondays, 4:30-6:00

Instructor: Josh Sutcliffe
Session 1: ages 8-10,
September 2-October 7
Session 2: ages 6-8,
October 28-December 2
Wednesdays, 4:00-5:30

sign up here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Maybe a barefoot running/art blog?

I love running. I hate getting injured. I've been convinced by Barefoot KenBob that going barefoot is the way to go. Tomorrow I'm running my longest barefoot distance to date at 18 miles. Mile six of the run will be my 100th mile barefoot since I've started back in the middle of July.