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

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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



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 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


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.