Barefoot running

While I really like the idea of barefoot running I much prefer (and need) to wear shoes. I do run in zero-drop shoes to get as close as I can to actual barefoot running, but my right leg is about a half inch shorter than my left. To correct for this I wear a lift in my right shoe. This makes actual barefoot running difficult for me at least as a full-time method. I have gone for occasional beach runs sans-shoes and it is great.But long term I would miss my lift!

A barefoot runner recently reached out to me with an article on barefoot running that I thought I would share with you all:
Take a look and please let me know your thoughts on the concept.

Nice run between squalls

We are supposed to have a ton of rain this weekend, like a record ton. I woke up to wet roads, but it didn’t seem like it was that bad. In fact when I went out I left my hat at home. Normally this would be a death sentence and I would have been drenched after a few blocks , but I got the entire run in without eve getting rained on. The crazy rains never hit until after I got out of the shower. So glad to watch rather than experience directly!

Today was the third run in a row. After my fast lactate run on Thursday I had an understandably sluggish run Friday. In addition to being a tad tired I had just eaten less than an hour before which I initially thought was enough time for digestion. Considering I did my rebif shot that morning I figured that I would get the usual boost I get from it, but I didn’t. It wasn’t a bad run, just sluggish. Today I was also tired, but I went for it despite the feeling. I surprised myself how well the run went. I wasn’t super fats but was under 10 min miles for all five+ miles. It was also warm enough outside to wear shorts with no tights which was a welcome change.

I am really like my new Altras – One 2.5. They are feeling really good on my feet. I do notice that the padding on the forefoot is really thin, but if I focus on landing flat on my feet it feels really good. The initial soreness I felt for the first run hasn’t returned so that is pretty awesome.

Four in a row, again.

Today I finished the fourth run day in a row with a short three miles (actually a tad less). I have always used this “feat” as a sort of announcement to myself that I am back into running. After four running days in a row I feel like running is again a part of my daily routine. Getting up for a run in the cold and wet doesn’t seem nearly as daunting and I begin to physically feel like a runner again. Today’s run also was somewhat special as I will be facing the issue of running on a rehearsal day. I usually don’t run on rehearsal or performance days as my brain feels too sluggish to concentrate on the music. My hope today is that the shorter won’e affect me as much as runs have in the past. I guess we will see tonight! I have been using music as an excuse to not run and I would really like to be able to do both on a regular basis. I think the short runs on music days could be the answer, we’ll see.

My zero-drop shoes were still soaking wet form yesterday’s run in a deluge, so I strapped on a pair of my Asics. The thicker heal is really apparent after running on the zero-drops. Actually the thing I miss most is the larger toe box of my Altras. I really like that my feet can spread out in the Altras. I was thinking today that I am probably due for a new pair soon. I am a little bummed that now that I am not using my old running diary that I no longer have an easy way to track the miles on my shoes. I guess I’ll just have to pay more attention to my total miles unless there is a feature I have been missing in the Garmin Training Center. I’ll poke around a bit.

Chilly running, or qilly running

It has been so long since I have posted I had no idea what to call this one, so therefor the boring title “Chilly running” (I just finished writing about qi gong, so I added the “qilly running” part). Which if I was even able to run at this time I could actually talk about running in the cold. But alas I am dealign with a pinched nerve (or something like that) in my back. It has happened before and rest seems to be the best medicine. This time was a really bad one. I was bucketing water out of our bird pond, but I don’t think the lifting had a lot to do with this. At the time it happened I was twisting and lifting, I swear don’t I know better? But even that I don’t believe to be fully behind my dehabilitation. IIRC the last time I did this I had over done it with exercise and yard work. Well that might be the true culprit here. I have spent the last week trying to get back into regular running. I thought I did a pretty good job of it with four shortish runs last week, but then the bomb dropped and I have done more sitting upright to avoid pain than anything. Actually I have been trying to get some activity in and have taken several walks to the store which does seem to help a bit. Mostly the problem is in the morning and getting out of bed. Even once I am able to get myself out of bed without a sharp electric pain shock to the back, it seems I succumb to it eventually and my back tightens up again. The good thing is I have been ale to sleep pain-free. But back to getting out of bed, this is where I have the issue, It is almost a fear of the pain that causes it or at the very least contributes to it. It does seem to be getting better and I am able to walk upright after a week or so of slouching and walking slowly. Smoking pot seems to really help relax my back muscles, but I have too much to do to smoke all day long (maybe on a Sat!)

This winter I seem to be a total wuss about the cold and I have been avoiding bad weather like the plague. Unfortunately this really cuts back on my running this winter. That and all the music I have been playing (on days I perform or practice I really try not to run as the exertion renders me unable to concentrate on the music.) My schedule has gotten really tight for times I have been able to get a run in. This has lead to getting lazy and deciding that it is ok to blow off a run. Bad runner! Well not really, if I don’t feel like it then I shouldn’t push it. Still I am in need of more “feeling like it” when it comes to running.

I haven’t been completely sluggish though. I made a big effort to study and regularly practice qi gong this fall/winter. Even though I just started reading about and practicing qi gong this year I realized that I have been doing it all my life through focused stretching and meditation. It has been an interesting experience to realize that I have been practicing many mental and physical aspects of qi gong all along and that I discovered them on my own. As my friend quoted a professor of hers “You don’t find qi gong, qi gong finds you.” I would say that has to be true in my experience. I started studying qi gong a little on the recommendation of my acupuncturist who was aware of my yoga practice through out the years. I bought a book and was so irritated with the author’s focus on a small aspect of qi gong – sexual yoga. the author took every chance he got to mention the phrase but never explained what he meant by it. The author really could have type-set the phrase in all caps and bolded with the amount of emphasis he placed on it. I finally just got sick of it and put the book down. This summer while on tour with the band, we stayed the night at a weird wool mattress co-op. In addition to their extreme kindness with the beds and food we were invited to attend an early morning qi gong class for the community. It was amazing and I felt great afterwards. I decided to research further and picked up a book called The Root of Chinese Qigong: Secrets of Health, Longevity, & Enlightenment. It offers a great introduction to the meaning and benefit of qi gong practice. This lead to several other qi gong books by Yang, Jwing-Ming on the subject. I also did research on the eight pieces of brocade a popular qi gong set that we did at the co-op. Eventually I discovered a brocade set by Jwing-Ming (brocades can be very different in terms of the actual poses) that I started doing regularly. I tried some other sets as well including the 256 pose Wild Goose sets, but I preferred the eight pieces of brocade by far. Plus I have limited space, and the wild goose sets required too much horizontal space. Other sets were more on the martial end whereas my focus has been on health.

One of the most interesting things I have discovered about qi gong is that for as specific as the movements in the sets are, there are many varieties. Which brings me back to the concept of qi gong finding you. The true strength of the practice is discovered and subtle (and not so subtle) variations and improvements can be made to the movements that tailor the practice to the individual. Finding what works has been a rewarding effort! In addition, I take this to a somewhat extreme (at least in the eyes of traditionalists). Every since college I have thought about the idea of updating yoga for the new age by doing the stretches and meditations in front of the tv. My thought is that media-minded individuals need something more than peaceful thoughts and tight yoga pants to keep us focused on the practice and that through watching something really banal on tv (like Gilligan’s island, perfect for me since I know every episode) where you can just space out watching it and achieve a sense of relaxation without the mind numbing boredom. Scoff away purists, it works for me! I also find great joy in watching sports and doing qi gong. I feel as if I am able to focus on the movement and energy transferals just fine, well fine enough to merit the tv watching! Which brings up another important and under stated aspect of qi gong. Even if you don’t do it perfectly (and besides, to do that you’d have to attain buddhahood) that there is still much benefit from the practice. So if my qi is moving and maybe not as efficiently as possible, it is still a good thing.

So running… I have been trying to get back into it as my belly tells me it is time to go away. best way to do that for me is to burn calories by running. Qi gong has been great for health, but it lacks on the cardio side. I had been going for 5 miles or so and feeling pretty good. My times have mostly been over a 10-min mile, but I have had some sub 10s too. I have been using the zero drop shoes and doing my hip exercises to counteract any soreness and so far it has been working great (until my back said no that is). My feet have been a little but sore, but not too bad. I am looking forward to hitting the roads again once my back loosens up, soon. More about that coming up as well!

Third week of getting on it

After nearly running 30 miles a couple of weeks ago I had a week of less frequent running and only covered 17 miles. Still it felt pretty good and I am feeling pretty strong right now. So this week started and I decided I would try to get a good solid start. My base run that I set out to do this morning turned into an 8+ miler and at a decent pace as well 10:15 miles. It was pretty hot this morning but I weaved back and forth to maximise my shade and I brought water with me.

I have been adding on more of a cool down workout after finishing during these last three weeks. In addition to the stretches and pushups I normally do I have consistently added the hip stretching exercises as well as a pull ups (which are more of hang downs. I have been holding five sets of palm facing out for five seconds and five with my palms facing the other direction.) I seem to be seeing some improvements in my hips and haven’t had nearly the soreness that I was experiencing and the hang downs are coming ever so closer to actually being pull ups (one day!)

One day last week I pushed my pace and averaged a 9:30 over five miles. The pace felt good and I finished the run and my post run workout without issue. But despite having water with me, I seemed to get really dehydrated. I kept peeing so I was pretty sure I was solidly hydrated, but soon I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. I focussed on getting fluids into me and flet quite a bit better, however the cocktail I had was not a good choice! Still I managed to recover after awhile and soon felt normal.

So far my return to my normal shoes (over the zero-drops) has seemed to be a success. I miss the larger toe box but my hips feel a lot better (of course much of that could be the hip exercises I have been doing). I haven’t been covering a ton of miles so that may have something to do with how good my feet feel as of late, but I think the normal shoes and the way my lift works in my right leg is the main reason for the improvements.

Four weeks of dreaming of running

Dang those hamstrings! This week I finally got back on the roads after a good month of recuperation. I probably wouldn’t have taken that long but I have been busy with the work thing. At least that was my excuse, and it was an excuse that seems to have paid off. I have run the last three days in a row and I haven’t had any issues with the hamstring at all. The hips, now thats another story. They still seem to be giving me grief.

The hip grief started up in ful force right off the bat. I have been putting in the time to stretch them out while I was not running. I am sure it has been worth the effort despite still having soreness in them. I do think that I have gotten a little over zealous in my approach to trying to create some greater flexibility in that area, especially during this week of returning to running. If I can just remember to go slowly in my hip stretches then I should be fine. But I find myself wanting to get it over with as soon as I can and that increases the speed in which I throw my leg back behind myself (literally throwing the weight of my leg back behind me rather than gently lifting it into position, bad Marco!) I do think that overall I am doing myself good through this process… I hope.

The runs this week have been somewhat slow and short. I had to force myself to do shorter runs which have slowly been increasing (4-5.1-5.2) I don’t feel like I am over-doing it at all yet. We’ll see how this continues, but so far so good. In the three runs this week I have noticed that the point in which I begin to get tired has gotten further along each time. Which must be a good thing, not sure if I would say that it reflects an increase in physical performance but it still looks good to guy who is trying to get back into it. Overall I feel a lot better too after just three days. I think I have really been jonsing for those endorphins. Feels good to have the coursing through my system again!

One last thing, I have been running on regular running shoes (as opposed to the zero drop shoe) in the hope of leveling out my hips. I am not real sure it is helping any, but I am going to keep it up for awhile before I give up. The zero-drop shoes are much more comfortable, I htink it is the wider toe box that I mostly miss as my feet feel a bit squished and achey in the regular shoes.

A week after pulling my hamstring

One week ago today I was running in the canyon when I experienced a cramp behind and a little above my knee. It came out of nowhere and wasn’t associated with any sort of specific exertion. Initially I figured that it was pretty hot and I hadn’t brought any water and that dehydration may have been a factor (and indeed it may have been). But after a couple of days still experiencing the tightness I began to think differently. It appeared that I had done something to my hamstring again. This being the second time in the last couple months I have had issues here and the problems I have been having in my hips (specifically right side) has really gotten me questioning how much I can run anymore. A huge part of me says BS and that my age and the ms have nothing to do with this, but I think maybe I need to reevaluate what I can do successfully in the future. There is another huge part of my thinking that says this is just an injury that I need to get through and that rest is my best approach. After pondering this I think a combo is probably the best approach and that I need to at least cut back on my running until I can put the hamstring and hip issues in the past.

As far as the hip issues go I am starting to think that the zero drop shoes are part of the problem. Being that I run with a half inch lift to correct for a shorter leg the zero drop shoes are having me hit on the forefront of my feet and erasing the alignment benefit of the lift. I think that my zero-drop feet falls are landing with my hips being out of alignment. With my focus on a mid-strike I would think this issue would be alleviated somewhat, but I also have found myself hitting on the balls of my feet rather that a mid-strike. So I am going to go back to my old standard running shoes and see how they feel over time. My run today was in my old aisics and the felt pretty good. I definitely felt the smaller toe box (I really liked the larger toe box of the Altras) but overall things felt good.

I am thinking that I will try to limit my running a bit this summer and see how things go. For right now I want to keep my running to every other day so I don’t over do anything. Today’s run was just under 5 miles and I really want to become satisfied with shorter runs. Also I will be going quite a bit slower for now. We’ll see how things go.

This week’s long run

This week’s long run got pushed further out in the week, I keep getting further and further away from a consistent Monday LSD run. Overall I am going to say that is ok as I have been getting them in and I keep making them longer. However Monday is the perfect day of the week for them so hopefully I can get back on track especially considering that today’s run was the second quality run I did this week (actually second run in a row too). Though to do another long run in three dyas seems excessive.

I feel like I am really building on my base, the long runs seem much easier or should I say less painful! Today’s run was 12 miles exactly and interestingly I almost kept it under a 10 min mile pace (ended at 10:04). I was under 10 through nine miles, but the final three were more or less uphill as I climbed up from the waterfront to my neighborhood. And I can’t really say the entire three miles was all up-hill either, but there are some tough patches!

This was actually the second fast run that I did. Two days ago I did eight miles at a 9:13 pace which felt really good. I was strong throughout and even considered adding some miles to make that my long run but I had a rehearsal that night and was already pushing it.

I’m not really sure what has changed to make these runs feel better. I have been eating and sleeping well, so I am sure that had something to do with it. Still it doesn’t seem like that would completely explain why I have been running so strongly as of late. Both of the last two runs have been on injection day and I have always said that I feel stronger after the rebif, so maybe that has helped as well. My weight is also down a bit and I am sure that is a factor. Whatever it is I’ll take it!

I have been curious to see how my feet reacted to the increase in miles and the consistent longer runs with the zero-drop shoes. I really feel like a convert. I don’t have nearly the fot pain that I was experiencing before with the thicker heals, in fact I wore a pair of boots the other day that made me imagine that this is what high heals must be like! Changing my stride to more of a ball landing/mid-strike (as opposed to just a mid-strike landing) is working better than I had imagined. I have always felt like more of a distance runner than a sprinter. Initially I was concerned that I wouldn’t like running more like a sprinter, but it seems to feel much better overall even though the majority of my running is mid-strike oriented. With the zero-drops I occasionally will concentrate on my feet landing on the balls of my feet and spreading out in my shoes (Altra) expansive toe box. It feels really good landing that way. Despite initially having trouble lifting my feet enough to clear cracks an other obstacles, I seem to have corrected my gate enough so that it is not an issue (even though I am not lifting my feet much higher, at least consciously).

I have been pretty good about fueling for my last couple of long runs, gels and water. They both seem to make a pretty huge difference in my running performance. Today I was starting to fade a bit around six miles. A couple slugs of Hammer gel and my energy level picked up and I was able to comfortably continue.

The long runs have been great but I am reaching that point where increasing the mileage every time is making the runs a huge commitment, both in terms of time and the mental ability to gear up for them. Two hours seems pretty doable, but I know longer runs are soon going to be getting up closer to three (an beyond). My other problem with them is having interesting places to go. I have a pretty decent 11 mile run that I can add onto so maybe I’ll use that as a base for my longer runs and then just add on. Today’s route was new(ish) to me and I could probably use that as a good base as well even though I don’t really care for all the uphill at the end (pretty much my curse living on a hill.

I am starting to think about a long race again. My pace is pretty slow even though I do feel it getting faster (or is that just the last two? Yes it probably is). Still running another marathon would be fun, maybe make it a destination run which would be super fun (then again I can’t think of a better place to sleep the night before than my own bed.) We’ll see.

Oh and did I mention it was 28 degrees when I left? Brrrrrr.

Proud and sad

I’m looking at my running journal for the past two weeks. My ego wins out as I have had it up for several hours and just now decided to leave it up longer. Almost 70 miles in two weeks, two straight weeks of 35 miles, well last week was just 34.1. The weeks were similar in more than just miles. I ran on the same days; Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. I had long runs on both Mondays. This weeks Monday going for 10.25 was the longest I have done in awhile. Many of the runs were extended 10k runs around 7-7.3 miles in must cases.

I feel really good in several ways. First off my feet have gotten through this really well! My discomfort (odd occasional numbing) seems to have subsided and the pain is quite a bit lessened. I suspect that much of this is the zero drop shoes. I think the gate adjustments needed to run flat have had a large part of that. I wonder if I should keep mixing it up by going back to regular running shoes. I think that idea has merit but I think I’ll keep going with the zero drops for now and wait until I have more discomfort issues.

One oddity I have noticed is that my plantar’s wart seems to have moved. Actually it seems to be another one, but the old wart I have had on the botom of my foot for years seems to be getting smaller. This I think really has a lot to do with the change in footwear.

I am feeling good about myself and my health, particularly my weight. I seem to have warded off a potential relapse into largeness. What I really need to do is stop the eating at night, that is my downfall. But I keep telling myself I want to have fat on my body to do the rebif injections. Good excuse for some extra flab.

So, that’s the proud. The sad we all have been feeling this week. One my run today I spied a kid on a bike stopped at the back entrance to reed looking into the air. I wondered what he was doing, he also appeared to be talking on his phone. I silently gave him props for stopping behind the white line and as I turned right into campus he said something to me. “Excuse me?” He repeated that there were bald eagles in the trees. I looked up and spied the first one, a big, huge bird! Twenty feet to the south at the top of another tree was the other one. My friend and I marveled at them as the one took off, wings spread. We both said wow and he looked at me and said “I just wanted to tell you about them.” to which I thanked him heartily and we parted ways.

Moments later I switched from a comercial to the Ducks basketball game set to start in a few minutes. The had a moment of silence for the shootings. I kept my hat off for the National Anthem which quickly followed. It was a pretty amazing and uplifting moment. I really felt like the country was untied in some sort of way. Even if it was just to be in misery, I felt an embrace of the lands and people around me in America. It felt very important.

Sadly some of this evaporated when the jerk in the white car almost hit me. But I live. MF Lives!

Two base runs in a row

I shouldn’t have been running as the air quality has been awful due to firs in Sisters, OR. But I ran both runs in a light haze. Tomorrow is the start of the clear out, but more than likely still bad. But I’ll probably throw caution to the coming winds and run anyway (I hope). So the last two days have both been my 10k base runs. I ran them both slowly and my feet are feeling the recent increase in miles of late.

The foot discomfort really has been making the long mile runs a thing of the past. It seems to be mostly in the balls of my feet and feels as if my shoes are too small. Often I get a slight numbing as well. I do like the zero-drop shoes and how my feet have felt these last two weeks. I have to say that overall I like the flat approach to shoe design. and I love the extra room in the fronts of my Altra Instincts. I have been concentrating on my feet spreading out and flattening on the roads. That seems to help a little. Maybe it is just an acceptance of the discomfort.