Barefoot / Minimalist Running – My Experience

When I started out to run again, it wsa partially fueled by a book a friend of mine suggested that I read.  You’ve probably guessed already that it was “Born to Run,” and if so – you guessed right.  I love that book for many reasons.  That friend took it more to heart than I did.  He made his own sandals, and as far as I know, to this day, he runs in nothing but those thin, rubber-soled throwbacks to a different time.

I tried the sandals.  They never worked out for me.  What I did instead was move on to VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, which are about as close to barefoot as you’re going to get (there is tread on their trail shoes).  I found all of the warnings to be true.  My calves killed me for a very long time.  If I didn’t pay attention and avoid heel strikes, my feet hurt.  Rocks became a problem.  I stuck with it.

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By May of 2014, I had run several hundred miles, all of them in a variety of Vivobarefoot shoes.  Here is the important takeaway from that period.  My form improved drastically.  I moved to a mid-rolling to toe strike.  Most of the pain in my legs, feet and lower back disappeared.  I still wear Vivobarefoot casual shoes to work and for day-to-day wear.  To my knowledge, this is the only company providing a variety of attractive shoes you can wear to work and still experience a nearly barefoot feel.

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At the end of May, however, I had a sort of forced epiphany.  It really isn’t a stretch to figure out that if you are running close to barefoot, your feet are in danger of injury.  Constant pounding on pavement can cause stress fractures.  Rocks and other fobjects in your path are a much bigger dea.  In May, I was flying through the first of several really big challenges.  5K a day in May.  At least 3.1 miles every day.  I was up near the very end.  I had a couple of timed 5K races at that point, and I was determined to do well in them.

Except I stepped on a rock right after the first one.  My foot hurt.  I knew I should have stopped running for a while, but I had a race coming up that Saturday.  I ran it, and actually even got a good time, but I knew before and ABSOLUTELY knew after, that my foot was messed up good.  Pretty sure it was a hefty stress fracture.  I was off running completely until almost halfway through June.

I knew I had to something for my feet, so I went back to the research – as always – reading reviews, studying reports.  I found ALTRA Lone Peak trail running shoes.  These were “Zero dro” – meaning, there is no drop off from the height of your heel to the height at mid-foot or toe.  Just like Barefoot.  There was cushioning in the shoes, and at the time, the more important thing – a metal rod running down the center (a thin one) to protect you from rocks.  I ran in those shoes nearly a month, and was able to get back up into higher mileage, though very slowly.  I noticed recently that during that recovery, my form went ot hell.  The heels on my Lone Peaks are worn half away, and I *never* strike my heels anymore.

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Since then, I have come to understand that it’s the form that matters.  Zero drop shoes promote a natural mid foot to toe-strike stride, but they also provide some protection against pavement pounding.  I now runin a rotation of shoes – the Lone Peaks (though I’m phasing them out due to the heel wear) – Altra Torin running

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shoes (very comfortable) Altra Intuition shoes – more of a standard, day to day shoe – not quite as comfortable as the Torin because they don’t have as wide a toe-box, but solid protection.

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I’ve just ordered The Paradigm – another Altra model, but one with more cushion (and still Zero drop) for protection on the longer runs I’m going to be needing to prepare for the Newport News One City Marathon next March.

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The bottom line is, I think that the barefoot running is a great training tool…  I believe absolutely in keeping your heels off the pavement, and I think flat – zero drop shoes with wide toe boxes so your feet can naturally spread out – are the best bet (for me they are aboslutely the best).  The key is not improving your form at the expense of your feet – learning from the barefoot style and form, while keeping the “common sense” notion of protecting your feet in the forefront of your mind.  There is no one perfect shoe – everyone evolves through a string of them before finding a perfect fit .  My hope is that – from my own experience (over a thousand miles of it now) I’ve cleared up how minimalist running has improved my life, and my fitness, and how I’ve combined that with lessons learned through pain and many miles to conclude that whatever type of shoe you choose, it needs to protect your feet.  If you mess them up – you can’t run.  Sorry Roger – no more sandles for me.

-DNW

Motivation – Challenges – They Help Runners Excel

When I started out a little over a year ago, running sad little mile and a half bursts from  my house, I had motivation.  I was getting too heavy.  I felt tired all the time.  I needed a “comeback” and so, I set a goal.  I wanted to run 100 miles from August when I started to my birthday that October 28th.  I came in ahead of that challenge, and so, I set another one.  I signed up for the Dismal Swamp Half Marathon in April, trained all winter, and again – I succeeded.  Then there was the 5K a Day in May challenge (I fell slightly short of that, three days, I think, because I injured my foot).  In July I signed up to finish 100 miles in July and get a nifty belt buckle.  I wear that buckle every day, and have exceeded 100 miles a month ever since.

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 More recently we had a team challenge in one of the Facebook groups I’m part of.  We were supposed to pick a mileage goal from August 1st to October 1st.  Unfortunately, I thought it sayd August through October, and I said I’d go 300 miles.  I only got 237, but that’s fine… it was the challenge that did it.

Now I’ve set myself a new challenge.  I’m not only a runner, I’m an avid football fan.  I’m not only an avid football fan – I’m a rabid SAN DIEGO CHARGERS fan.  I live on the east coast now, and that makes it hard.  I haven’t seen them live since one of the companies I worked for a while back took me to see them in the new Redskins stadium.  We lost, but that didn’t matter.

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This year, I’ve decided that, since I can’t stop myself from saying “WE” are going to go all the way this year, and since I know I can’t get out on the field and help, that I’ll do SOMETHING … because it’s better than nothing, and because it is a new goal. I have several now, and I’ll see them all complete about the same time.  I will run 1000 miles this year (probably by early December).  I will also run 254.6 miles between the 1st of October and the Superbowl – the distance down Highway 8 from San Diego to Phoenix.  I figure, if they are going to work all season to get there, the least I can do is put in some personal effort.

If you’re a fan, and you have some bit of Chargers memorabilia – shirts, hats, bandannas, whatever, and you want them to go with me on one of my runs, send them along.  If you have suggestions on how I can use this running to benefit a charity, I’m all ears.  If you happen to know Philip Rivers, let him know I’m out there, pounding the pavement and thinking about February.  Heck, I even have a Jackalope decked out in all my running “Bling” – race medals, a Chargers pennant – and who knows?  Virtually running across the mountains into Arizona, I might see a relative of his…

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If you are a runner – keep finding goals.  You are welcome to join our Facebook Group –Team Badass, Miles & Smiles.  We’d love to have you.   Me?  Time to hit the road.  I’ve only done 11.5 miles in the last two days, and I have a LONG way to Phoenix…

David Niall Wilson

9.11 Mile Freedom Run 2014 Dismal Swamp Trail

911Yesterday morning I got up at 5:30, walked the dogs, gathered the few things I had not prepared the night before, and headed out.  I had about a 35 minute drive to the starting line at the  beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail – and I didn’t want to be late.  This race allowed pickup of packets / shirts / etc. at race day (for me this is a wonderful thing, because the closest organized races are at least as far away as Virginia, and I hate having to either make two trips up there in two days, or paying for a hotel every time I want to run. This way I was able to be there on time, get my stuff, and have some time to prepare mentally for the beginning of the race after I was there.

There were about 200 runners, spread across the 9.11 mile run, the 5k and the “cub” run for the kids.    There were 116 runners in the 9.11 mile run that I participated in.  I came in 47th.   That said, the spread between myself and the upper groups was a lot smaller than usual.  I finished with a time of 1:27:47 – my average pace was 9:39.  My personal goal for this race was to finish in 1:30 so I cracked that, and felt good all the way through.

One thing about races – I started in a pack and felt as if I was pretty much running where I was comfortable.  This is where the Garmin 310x comes into play.  We were running in the 8:45 per mile range.  While I can do that in a 5K now I think, I am unlikely to maintain it through a longer race.  I knew I had to slow down somehow, and shortly it all spread out a bit.  I moved to the outer edge of the trail and slipped into my more comfortable 9:15-9:30 range.

Those of you who read my somewhat longer posts on my way to my first 1/2 Marathon, on this same trail, will remember that I ran that race “with the butterflies” – Tiger Swallowtails, and Black Swallowtails hovered around  me, flickered out over the patch, and generally kept me smiling through that first long race.  This time out – there was a single large butterfly.  I saw him at about the 8.5 mile point.  It was a big Black Swallowtail that flitted out, waved its wings at me, and flew on off, like it was saying “you got this” – I ran the last 1.1 miles at a 6:40 pace… (according to the watch) so there was gas in the tank.

This race was run by http://www.mettleevents.com/ and was very well supported.  There weren’t a lot of water stops, but it’s not that long a race, and those that were there were well stocked, well manned, and well policed.  There was pizza, beer, ice water and the standard bananas, as well as other fare available at the few sponsor booths.  Not a huge race, but a fun one, and one I will remember because it’s an indicator that the unofficial strategy is working.   I am able to maintain the pace I need (first) for a 2: hour 1/2 marathon for longer, and longer runs.  I can also now run a 1/2 marathon quickly ehough that if I walk a lot of the second half of a full marathon, I’ll make it under the time limit (runner, not a racer).

The Garmin 310x synced and worked great, while last race I had the Forerunner 110 and it was absolutely unable to get a sattelite fix.  Mapmyrun and the gps also managed to stay in sync…the time from Chronotrack and my watch were very close….  Great reace, and I will definitely run it again.  Come on out and join me!

Running Scared

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Yesterday was my last medium to long run of my training for the US Air Force Marathon.  Let me tell you, I went out on a note higher than Mariah Carey can produce.

I wasn’t sure I was going to get the full 13 in I had planned just because it was dark, there were no street lights, and, I admit, when it comes to those two things, with the quietness of the night, I’m a bit of a pussy.  What happened to me this evening on my run is pretty much why.

A little build up so you can kind of get a sense as to why I decided to go against my judgement and run underneath the starless sky.

At mile 9 it was starting to get dark, it was around 7:50pm.  I figured, I’ve only got 4 miles left so I’ll run around this lake twice, it was only 1.6 miles each lap (ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha) and head up the road, right next to the woods, back to my house.  Did I mention there were no street lights….or any lights?

About half way through the first lap it was dark, almost completely dark thanks to the cloud cover.  I continued on despite not being able to see my feet hit the ground.

On my next time around I hit the bridge that crossed over the lake.

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I could see a light at the end of the bridge.  It was a small red illuminated dot about five feet off the ground, glowing a bit in the night.  I realized as I got closer I could make out a gentleman just standing there leaning against the railing smoking a cigarette.

Staring at me.

As I got closer I noticed another man that I hadn’t seen until I got right up close.  An older man, ghost white with a sunken, old face and what looked like tired eyes.  He was dressed all in black with a small-ish type top-hat and trench coat.  Just staring as well, following my gaze as I passed.

Needless to say I picked up the pace a bit.  I looked behind me and thought I saw them out of the corner of my eye, like a coat-rack you mistake for some sort being waiting for you to turn away in the corner.  About another 10 seconds went by and I looked back again expecting them to have cut the distance in half methodically stalking me.

I didn’t see them, but it didn’t stop me from looking back three more times before I finally felt comfortable enough to try and forget them.

The fact that I heard a whooshing noise rush up behind me about 3 minutes later didn’t help me in forgetting.  The guy on roller blades speeding past me must have thought it funny when I got enough hang time to prove white men could jump.

All of this is of course absurd, but in the blackness of the night, when the only sounds are your own breathing and the crickets, sometimes you can’t help but hear footsteps coming up behind you.  Persistently. Never stopping.  I wonder if anyone would have been able to hear me scream?

Happy Running.

 

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach 1/2 Marathon 100% humid!

VB14_MedalRevealHalf600x600This will be a sort of long post, because I want to try and get my impressions of my first race of this scale down and share them.  I saw a lot of different numbers tossed around on how many people were involved, but when I went to get my results, it appears that just under 8000 runners ran the race.  That’s more by four time than the largest event I’ve previously entered.   There were a number of elite runners, and the start was done using corrals.  I have no idea how many there were.  I was supposed to start in #10, but I ended up in #13.  The lines for the facilitiies were really long, and my hotel was just across the street, so I cut it close and ran back.  Glad I did.  They were already moving the corrals forward when I slipped in through the #10 gate.

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Before the race, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow badassrunning.com member Joseph Leon Guerrero, as well as Katrina Gay, whose challenge back in May – the 5K a day in May challenge – helped me get my miles up over 100 a month, and introduced me to a whole team of dedicated runners and great people that have become friends.

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Left to right – myself, Joseph, Katrina, and Tabatha Navarra

This was my first chance to meet any of them in person – except for Roland Curit, who served with me in the US Navy back in the day.  The thing that makes it all fun, and possible, is the community – the opportunity to share something you are passionate about with like minded others.  Not everyone loves running, I can tell you – and fewer still like to hear me go on and on about it (my wife is a saint, and my daughter only gives me occasional eye-rolls).

I think they released each group of runners 1 minute apart.  We had announcers from FM 99, WNOR, one of the local rock stations, and they were pretty entertaining, but everyone was focused.  I set and started my “Mapmyrun” app to record my miles, and got my Garmin 310x read to go.  Finally it was our turn, and we were off.  For the first mile, I think almost that far, anyway, it was hard to break away from the group, and they were running slower than I wanted to run.  My normal pace is right around 9:30  per mile.  They were running 11:00 and you had to be very careful not to bump people, trip people, etc.  Once it stretched out, I picked it up, and started moving up.

The weather was great at the start.  It was in the upper mid 70s – overcast a little – and my hope was this would continue through to the finish, since I expected to be there by about 9:30.  What I didn’t count on was the humidity.  Here is where my lunch time training has come in handy.  I have been running in 85 degree weather with high humidity since July, and I was pretty much used to it.  I drank at every water stop and every gatorade stop, and I sipped my own supply as I went.  I’d carried a washcloth from the hotel to keep my face wiped…that was soaked by mile five, along with all my clothes and my hat…but I felt strong.

I think I spent a little too much time walking through the water stops, but honestly, there were so many people that if you tried to run through you were a danger to yourself and others.  I kept my pace as steady as I could.

Having the bands there was amazing.  At one point, according to my garmin, I ran a stretch that was a 7:21 mile pace.  I’m sure it was crossing in front of one of the live bands provided, though I don’t know which one, or which song.  I swear I almost danced when the music was loud.

There is a bridge you run over, once on the way out, once on the way back.  When I hit it on the way out, there were two girls next to me.  Nice tattoos, and looking strong.  They sort of looked at each other and said “kill it” and took off up that hill.  I followed, and it was a good move.  It cleared out a lot of the people in front, and at the top, I still felt good.  I did the same thing on the way back, and it was a real motivator to be running hard then – at about 12 miles – and make it to the top.

I passed couples.  I passed a lady with a shirt that said “if you are reading this you were just passed by a pregnant lady” and I congratulated her.  Same with  another lady whose shirt said “If you’re going to pass me, at least wish me a happy birthday,” and I did…so did everyone.

At about mile 9,  I started getting twinges in my right calf as if it might cramp.  I fear the cramp.  I know it would have put me down, and likely out.  I eased up.  At one point, when it threatened again near mile 12, I walked a bit, and of course that is when my son and his buddy showed up to take my picture.  I had them run on a head, and got going again…   Despite the water stations and the short bouts of calf-babying, I managed to keep on pace for a new PR.

The end was amazing.  Signs, cheering familes, clubs, churches, any group you can imagine was there – all of the encouraging the finishers, fast and slow.  The winner passed us all on the way back at about 5 miles in.  He finished in just over an hour…amazing.  He was absolutely flying over the course at slightly over 5:00 per mile.  I can’t imagine running that fast, but I can imagine what it feels like, because I think it’s probably not that different from being a come-back kid, 54 year old man  who couldn’t finish  a mile and a half one year before this race without walking – and finishing 13.1 miles with a personal record.  I finished at just over 2 hours and 27 minutes.  My previous best in an official race was 2 hours 32 minutes and some changes.   Every time I run that distance, I feel stronger and faster, and I hope that’s true because I’m on my road to the full marathon next March.  It feels more like a dream than reailty.

Highlights: the organization was absolutely amazing.   The EXPO was huge, with representative shops from Brooks and a lot of other big name running manufacturers, power bars, snacks, gel packs – you name it.  There was a lot of emphasis on charity and helping others with your miles.  There were dogs – and two of them ran the race (well rode the race) pushed in a stroller.   The support was fantastic.  There was a girl who went down on the track, not sure why, and she was immediately surrounded… people got out of the way, helped, let the ambulance in – everything was handled professionally and perfectly to allow those of us there to run … to run.  At the finish there was food, drink, every sort of refreshment you can imagine, and plenty of it.  The city continued the hospitatlity, church groups handing out icy water and more snacks on the street outside the gates.

I know there was an amazing afterparty – TRAIN played the beach, and I wish I could have seen that, but it’s a holiday weekend, nearly done now, and I mssed my family.   I got my run.  I got my finisher’s medal.  I got my personal record, and I got to meet some amazing people – some of whom I consider my friends, though I only know them from running – and on-line conversations – and challenges.

I would love to do one of these again one day, but a race of this magnitude is a big commitment of time and money.  Most of my running is solo and personal, but the friendships it’s brought me, and the excitement and intenisty of competetive runs are sort of my gauge progress.  When you finish a race like that – you know you have accomplished something.  I shared that feeling with 7,000 plus other runners, and that makes it special.

Next race?  The FREEDOM RUN – 9.11 miles on The Dismal Swamp Canal trail – where I ran my first 1/2 last fall.  More info by clicking HERE – come run with me.

 

Fear

It all started with a stitch on my side, I had never experienced pain like that before. Sure, I had stiches before while running and I would usually get rid of them using the “remedies” I had learned; breathe out on the opposite foot, raise your arm high in the sky on the side it hurts, dig in with your hand on the stitch while you blow out hard….No, this time it didn’t work.

It didn’t help that I was still  sore the next day and that I had a timed run for score the day after that. I was stressed, anxious and fearful, I couldn’t fail. Ice helped and I was able to pass that run in the time limit.  Then it happened again, on a Sunday, I was baffled since I hadn’t done anything physical that weekend, and to make matters worse I had another test on two days later.

All day that Monday I was iced, soaked in baths, hooked up with my TENS unit, rubbed with icy hot. That Tuesday came and I put icy hot all over my abdomen and added aleve and a sticky bengay  heating pad. I was scared that I would make it worse during the crunches, I was scared that it would come back full force during my 3 mile run and that I wouldn’t finish.

But I did. I pushed through, I kept telling myself: “slow and steady wins  the race“, “success is the only f* option , failure is not” and when pain came at 2.80ish miles “pain ain’t shit”.   My skin was on fire afterwards (I suspect from all the icy hot I applied) but something else happened, I got into my head and my already fragile confidence crumbled. I stopped running for 5 days, I was missing “IT”, the sweat, the I-gave-that-run-all-I had feeling, the feeling of accomplishment, but mostly that time where it is just me and my thoughts.

Today, is the beginning of a new month. Today I take it back, I start to understand that the obstacles in my road to success are not permanent, I can go around them, through them, the only thing I CANNOT do is stop.  My family is understanding, but in reality my running friends are the best support system this girl can ask for.

“Straight Talk” Armband – Not Good for Running

armbandI have been meaning to try wearing my phone on an armband for some time.  It seems more convenient, and I think I’ll be able to hear the app when it calls out miles and pacing information better.  The other day I had to go to Walmart to get a new belt holster for my Samsung S4 … so while I was there, I grabbed the cheap “Straight Talk” Walmart brand armband.  Mistake. The phone fits fine, and you can even use the touch screen through the plastic front.  The armband itself – I was able to fit it to my arm.  No problem.  There IS a problem though.  The way the phone hooks on is just like a big belt loop.  When it’s on your arm, it flops back and forth.  I only ran that way for about a block before I yanked it off and tied the silly thing to my hydration belt for that one run.  I am trying just the holder, slipped over the belt, as a temporary way not to have to wear my everyday holster on runs…but will be seeking a new armband – probably by doing what I should have done in the first place and going to a running supply store in person. Lesson re-learned – you get what you pay for.

Running With the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn – Audiobook Review

513SBflBnML._SL300_[1]I have been listening to (and publishing ) audiobooks for years.  I’m going to start reviewing the books about running, and runners, that I’ve listened to since I started my own trek toward marathon.  I’m going to start with this one because – after Born to Run, it was the first one that I found – and because I enjoyed it so much.

In Running with the Kenyans, author/journalist Adharanand Finn tells the tale of how he took his wife and two young daughters and moved to Kenya for the purpose of trying to discover just why Kenyas are so dominant in the world of distance running.  Finn was convinced, from his own experiences and research, that running barefoot from a young age was the secret.  What he learned during his time in Kenya was that there is always more to the story.  He ran in races.  He ran with all sorts of athletes.  He formed a team, and they ran a marathon through a game perserve where helicopters were necessary to keep lions off the trail.  He got faster.

There are a lot of interesting lessons in Running with the Kenyans, and not all of them have to do with shoes, races, or running style.  If you visit THE AUTHOR’S FACEBOOK PAGE you will see that he made friendships that will last him a lifetime… and that he still works to raise money and awareness for those who shared his road.

There is also a page where you can visit to help support the lions on that game preserve.  Keep your eyes here on Badass Running because we may (at some point) do an event, or a virtual event, to add our own support.

If you enjoy audiobooks, I highly recommend this one.  It is narrated by the very talented Mr. John Lee, who has been acting and narrating for a very long time, and who adds his own flair to the production.  Listening to audiobooks is a great way to pass your own solitary miles, and I can tell you that, while listening to the part where the author ran his marathon in the game preserve, I was running my own difficult miles…for a while it seemed as if was actually there….

Rating – five of five runnings shoes.  Highly Recommended.

You can find this auidobook  HERE – at AUDIBLE.COM

You can also get the print and Kindle editions on Amazon.com 

Runner’s High, Batteries Low

 

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I did my daily run after dinner this evening. I probably didn’t wait long enough for the food to digest because I was huffing and puffing after 1/2 a mile. But I got control of my breath by the end of the first mile. As I was finishing my normal 4 mile route, I realized I was not out of breath and I was neither sore nor bored. So I kept going for another loop. Mind you I have never run more than 4 miles in my life and I only accomplished that feat last week. As I was closing in on 6 miles, I realized I was almost at 10K distance and still under 1 hour, so I picked up the pace and watched MapMyRun tick off 6.2 miles at 59 minutes and change, I started laughing out loud. I told myself “Keep Going!!” and I did – for about another couple minutes when I realized, this is nuts. Why ruin a good thing with an injury? So I hit pause on my app and admired my time. I kept it on pause so I could listen to music while I walked my cool down route. Half way through the cool down my phone battery starts dying and my app disappears. That’s when I realized, I never uploaded my run to MapMyRun. I was afraid I was going to lose proof of my best ever day of running. So I started SPRINTING home to get my charger. I was flying!! It felt effortless. For the first time in my life, I experienced a runner’s high. What will my legs feel like tomorrow?

Roland

Miles to go before we sleep