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

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Friday, November 27, 2009

The streak ends

Greensboro Gobbler 5k
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 , 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!


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.