Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Operation Jack 7hr Challenge

I'm back, and it feels awesome.

left to right, Steve Walters, Sam Felsenfeld, and that funky looking guy on the right is me!

Sunday, September 5th was my first ultra since November of '08, and it feels incredible to be back at it. Basically, in that time, I did no running at all except a little bit of barefoot running over the last couple months, so I had minimal mileage under my belt. In fact, the longest run I had done in the few weeks prior to the Operation Jack 7hr was a 12mi barefoot run on hot pavement less than 2 weeks earlier.

I wasn't expecting a great distance due to my extremely low miles and that it would be the longest run I had ever done in my Vibrams, but I had one thing on my side, I am intimately accustomed to the slow burn of long runs.

I ran "fast" for a while, but slowed down soon after, I wasted a lot of time talking and laughing at the aid station, and I just didn't care about distance; I was there to have a good time, and a good time I had! I finished 32.3mi within that 7hrs and even ran the last half mile, or so, barefoot to see how my feet were doing. They were great; no blisters, no pre-blisters, nothing, just smelly. haha

The run was for a great cause, and if you want to hear more about the run and what all happened, here is Sam's race report: http://operationjack.org/blog/?i=231

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Barefoot Running

Its been publicized a lot recently, and it seems there are two very vocal camps rising around the issue of barefoot running; I want to talk about that, and why it is that I do it. Several people around me have told me that I am going to hurt myself, and so this post it being written primarily for them.

I began my minimalist journey in 2007 after the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendance 6 day race in New York City. It was my second 6 day race, I had competed in the same event the year before at the age of 20, and I was amazed when I saw one of the runners running around in little Vibram Five Fingers so I started researching barefoot running then, and soon had a pair of my own.

I've had a few problems since then, but I know where I went wrong, and if I could go back and do it all over again, I'm certain I would have had better results transitioning. It has now been a full year and a half since I last ran in actual shoes, and I have begun running completely barefoot recently, and before I go into why I have chosen this for my own running.

When I was researching barefoot/minimalist running, I looked all over the place; not just Barefoot Ted's site, Barefoot Ken Bob's site, other pro-barefoot sites, and in Born to Run (though a brilliant book); but I also spent hours looking at RunningBarefootIsBad.com, and some openly anti-barefoot running sites and magazine articles as well. Why? Because an intelligent decision can only be made when all sides are presented

What you wear on your feet is not nearly as important as what you do with your feet. If a person is running well with shoes, is staying healthy and injury free, there is no reason to change what they are doing. Its the people who have repeated problems that instead of more technology, I believe they need to learn to run differently, and barefoot running is one method to teach one's self to run with good form. I've also tried Chi Running, which worked well for me until I got tired; still being in shoes that are built for heel striking, it was an easy thing to revert back to whenever I lost focus, or got tired on a long run.

When Barefoot running, heel striking is something you simply don't do, whether or not you are tired; it is for this reason that I have shed my shoes completely to train myself good form, and I plan to return to the 6 day race in 2011 wearing Huaraches (indigenous sandals). Some may think I am crazy for doing this, but I'll try to explain myself.

I know what happens when I run the 6 day in regular shoes, and I'll tell you the steps:
-I start off well and focus on form, but after a time I become tired, and I revert to heel striking.
-The rolling motion from heel to toe creates friction at the front of my foot and soon blisters (often blood blisters) form and are pushed between my toes.
-Other blisters form around the parimeter of my feet and sometimes deep under calouses in the middle of the pads of my feet
-I move more dramatically onto my heels and the tension in my legs have soon caused severe shin splints
-The heel striking/ over-striding causes additional shock to my knees, ankles, and hips, and become very swollen; my ankles resembling very bad sprains
-Soon the entire rear half of my feet are severely bruised because of the pounding on my heel, causing not only very uncomfortable movement, but also very swollen feet and a need for bigger shoes

That is what I delt with my past two 6 day races, and with the Huaraches, I believe that domino effect will not be set off to begin with, but that is simply a hypothesis that I need to test. Watch for me to be running around barefoot and in Huaraches, I am officially training for the 6 day race, and I am hoping to far surpass my previous best of 315miles.