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

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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 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.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To balance out

the hippyness of that last post, I'd like to say I hope Marquez schools Mayweather Jr.

An observation

from the race today. Bear in mind Iris only started running about 5 weeks ago, so our goal was just to finish it. Which, again, I must say she did in smoothtacular fashion. But of course we were slow (and I do still have this broken toe, I guess. Weird - it's not hurting at all). We got to the finish with most of the field already there, cheering us on. Iris says to me, "I could have gone another mile!" Yeah, we were slow. But we ran well.

I think running is a kind of performance art. Style and personality count.

Iris' first 5k (and my first barefoot race) a success

I decided to keep the wife company since it was her first 5k. It was a small race, and I figured there would be some lonely stretches. So I was the waterboy. Iris ran intelligently and enjoyed herself.

On my part, it was pretty uneventful. Toe, ankle, not an issue. I just focused on keeping my cadence up. Iris' pace was steady, and we only stopped to walk twice, briefly, while going up some hills. The last mile we caught up to a kid with a number wearing denim capris; the three of us chatted and finished together. An all round pleasant experience.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ink ink, like with a brush

Since I'm going all primitive tech, or Prim Tech as the kids are all calling it (really they are), I thought I'd ditch the pen for a brush. I've got only a little experience with this medium; I'm pretty pleased with the result.

No toes were harmed in the making of this picture.

Test run went fine

3.5 miles at a little over a 9min pace, and only evidence of a broken toe is a little bruising on the top of my foot, but no pain. Am I still barefoot if I'm wearing tape on my toe?

I'll be running the inaugural Eden Riverfest 5k tomorrow. It will be my first barefoot race, my wife's first 5k, and will be my 200th barefoot mile since I've started keeping track.

Exciting times. I just have to remember to be careful in art class.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nevermind, it's broken

Or "chipped," as the doctor said. The break is on the bottom of my toe, which makes sense if you think about it; imagine a karate chop to a piece of wood.

Fortunately, the doc says I can run if it's not aggravating the toe. So now I have to tape it up and give it a try. The tough thing is having to be totally honest with myself. If it hurts, I have to stop.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maybe just bruised

After doing a little research about broken toes, I've decided mine isn't broken. Badly bruised, a little swollen, but I can move it without pain. Plus, the heal time for a broken toe seems to be around 6 weeks...

I trotted around the park for a mile, it felt like I was wearing a toe ring but otherwise fine. The only problem: the bruise spread to the top of the foot.

I neglected to mention this is my RIGHT foot. Just as the life bar on my LEFT ankle was nearing 100%.

The plus side: the wife won't let me do anything other than lay around the house today. Sloth!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Art Class Related Injury

For perspective on how untrue the assertion that one needs to be a rugged individual to run barefoot is, consider this: I'm close to having run 200 miles barefoot in two months. I drop a piece of CARDBOARD on my toe in art class, it breaks. My toe, not the cardboard. Obviously I am a delicate flower, as sensitive as a petunia in the frost. So if I can run barefoot, surely anyone can.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Charlie Robbins Day

I feel like I might have gotten along quite swimmingly with this Charlie Robbins fellow. He was born on this day back in 1920 or there about.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The problem with minimalist shoes

I've been trying to think of a way to succinctly express why, if you want to learn how to run lighter and smoooooother, going barefoot at the beginning is better than starting with minimalist shoes like the Vibram's. Here's what I got:

Getting rid of the cushioned heel and running on a thin piece of rubber makes it possible to run as if barefoot. But, the rubber sole provides the sensation of "protection," which is bad. If you run like your feet are protected, you will stomp. If you stomp, you'll get injured.

When I'm running barefoot (181 miles as of this morning!), it feels uncomfortable to slouch. It hurts to stomp. So my posture stays erect, my foot landing light. When I wear Vibram's or aqua socks, I have to pretend I'm barefoot. But as I get tired, I slouch. I stomp. In shoes, I don't mind slouching or stomping.

For some runners, getting rid of the heel may be enough. But I'm skeptical (shocking, I know).

Shoe companies tell you that you have either deformity a, b, or c, for which you need specialty shoe x, y, or z. Buy the right shoe, your problems are solved. So when a shoe comes out with barefootery claims, the barefoot curious go out and buy it (myself included) expecting the right shoe to solve their problems, just by virtue of being on their feet. And why not? That's been the (abusive) relationship between runners and their shoes for decades.

One of two things happen: either they run in minimalist shoes the same way they ran in cushioned shoes (heel strike, stomping) and hurt themselves, or they run like they think a barefooter runs (front strike, less stomp) and... hurt themselves. This makes sense; how can you run "as if" barefoot if you've no experience actually doing so?

So much for succinct.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's involved in starting a running club?

If anyone knows, tell me. I might be starting one here in the wilds of Cackalacky. I also might be teaching art classes. Pretty coolio.

The Foot of Clumsiness is doing much much better. Went for a brisk(ish) 3.5 mile run today, no ankle pain. Woke up feeling good too. It's still a little tweaky if I step on it a certain way, so in the spirit of Groucho Marx, I don't step on it a certain way.

I'm looking forward to focusing on shorter distances for a while. Who knows, maybe I'll get faster. It is also nice to have over six months to prepare for the Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Correlation, Causation, I'm not a hippy.

It seems like every time I start thinking like a tough guy, as short, goofy looking, not-tough guys like me are wont to do, I get hurt. Now, I'm not injured. I just tripped, again, and landed really hard on my recovering left foot. Again.

When it happened, it was shortly after I was nearly run off the path by an oncoming gaggle of male deodorant ad models. If they expressed the slightest bit of courtesy and gave me a little more room, I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. Instead, the near-collision of shoulders (well, my shoulder, their elbows, as they were all like 6'13") put me in a vengeful mood. As I was plotting various scenarios, all of which ended with me celebrating victory of some kind or another over any number of body-waxed rivals, I kick a rock/root/immovable object with my right foot.

If I'm trying to learn how to run gently, I probably should avoid aggressive thoughts. Who knows, I might have tripped anyway, but it would be less likely if I were paying attention to my surroundings. Being "in the moment" as a hippy, a demographic I don't consider myself to be a part of, might say.

This was all at Salem Lake, by the way. I ran bits of it barefoot, but for the most part was in the vffs. I can't help but wonder if the relationship between disconnecting myself from the ground with a mere 1/10" sole and my mind drifting off is causative in nature. Would I have paid any attention to the pretty boy jocks if I was shoeless? Probably not; I'd have been too busy.

I know the answer to all of this, I'm just not being patient enough to adhere to it. I wanted to go for a long run at Salem Lake with my new running buddies, but I didn't feel ready to do that distance on a rocky trail barefoot. If I'm not ready to run a course barefoot, then I shouldn't be running it at all. That's what Ken Bob would say, and he's right.

But I do, because I'm impatient and have a bit of an ego (exemplified by my aforementioned daydream of single-handedly beating up a bunch of jocks). I seem determined to learn by making every mistake in the book, even when I know it's a mistake. Fortunately, I'm a wimp and have a low tolerance for pain, and will bail on an endeavor before I do real damage to myself. As I get older, the more I realize wimpiness is a virtue...

Despite the defeatist tone of this post, I'm actually feeling quite positive. I'm confident with a bit of rest I'll be back on the roads/trails in a few days. The pain is actually minimal, and as long as I don't push off with my foot it doesn't hurt at all. I'll keep my distances short (really, I mean it this time), and if I HAVE to run with vffs, I know I have to pay extra attention ALL the time.

And I have to say, with all the tendons and ligaments and stuff in my feet being so tired, my cushy sandals feel sooooo good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Friday Artwalk Downtown Greensboro

Caricature artists on the street usually have a large sampling of famous faces they have drawn. Makes sense - give potential customers a taste of your style. Ever quick to latch on to someone else's idea rather than come up with my own, expect to see some familiar images. Well, they'll be familiar if I do it right.

Do you want to see this and other inky efforts in person? This Friday from 6pm to 9pm I'll be blocking traffic with other freakish heathens as part of First Friday Downtown Greensboro to promote arts and stuff. Come on down and watch me draw. And stuff.