Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre mudder post, posted post mudder

So, tomorrow morning is my second mudder this year, my fourth and probably last race of my first racing season.  I am just as excited about tomorrow as I was about my first race and about the marathon in October. I’m sitting here having my night before beer about to eat dinner, thinking about tomorrow. I’m hoping it will be cold and rainy. I figure, if I’m going to do something like this in November it should really be intense enough to be all I can take, push my limits as far as possible. 

I just met a couple of mudders who ran it earlier today, out in the hotel lobby. They said it was insanely cold and really unpleasant. I like insanely cold, am kind of unpleasant myself and find myself resenting that the weather right now is slightly balmy and mild. I want pain. I’m betting that even balmy weather is cold when you’re dragging yourself through ice baths and mud.

Here is a picture of my go kit, I know it's a little hard to see.

I got a full body merino smart wool outfit (discount) because this is supposed to be the best stuff for getting wet and staying warm. I’ve never tried it but it comes highly recommended. I’ve got the wool toe socks as they are supposed to keep you from getting blisters on your soggy feet by keeping your toes from rubbing together. I’ve got some caffeinated gu to keep the blood sugar roaring and some electrolyte pills although I don’t think I’m going to take any as it’s only 12 miles. I'm wearing New Balance Minimus shoes. I used them for my last mudder and they are the perfect combination of a bit of padding for the really gravelly running, but minimal enough that they don't affect my stride.

Then of course, I have my GoPro Hero submersible camera for recording the madness. I’ll be posting videos like this one…

afterward so you can see it all.

Since I’m now posting this after I ran the race I won’t ask you to wish me luck, but I'll be writing my review as I get my video edited.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sunday mud race and the future of blogging

So first off thanks to everyone who pitched in on my question hunt for this Sun. I got some good ones lined up and I can't wait to start editing video when I should be preparing to defend my thesis. Just asking for input brought up some questions of my own, partially brought on by the nature of the questions people suggested.  What gets you out of bed? How does running a mudder get applied in your life?

My mom used to tell this story about her time in the peace corps in Brazil. In the story she shows up as a small town Indiana girl in the middle of the dust bowl of a foreign country and has no idea how she's going to cope. She decides that she's going to commit to making her bed every morning. The act of making her bed becomes a ritual and a kind of daily self affirmation. She tells herself that if she can make her bed every morning she can do any of the other things she needs to do that are daunting and overwhelming.

I always thought I knew what she meant and figured it became a ritual that was comforting and helped get her day started. A race is like this: people look at what you're doing and understand that it's an accomplishment to add to your belt and something to talk about, but there's more to it. When you commit to something like this you have no choice but to get yourself up and train. I get up and follow my training program because I've committed.  I commit to the race so I'll have to train for it.

The thing is, as soon as I've relinquished control by deciding that I'm not going to give myself excuses, not going to sleep in, not going to skip runs or whine, everything changes. There's a point where it becomes a mission. Sometimes I have to dedicate my training day to someone or something to convince myself it's worth it, with a mudder like this Sunday I think about the fact that much of the money goes to the Wounded Warrior Project, I think about my mom making her bed, or old lost friends.

What gets me out of bed in the morning is not just a love of running but a desire to finish the mission. The mission changes from day to day but the greater goal is to do something worthwhile that helps me to be a better man and father, have a better story to tell, jump the next fence and not give in to my lesser demons.

I hope I don't get any answers like that when I'm asking on Sun, I'll run out of memory fast, but that's some of what I have to say on the subject. The goal is really important for me. I can't just do it because I'm doing it, I have to have a point at which I'll be able to assess my progress and my commitment. At that point I just sign up for another.

Here are the questions I think:

1. Why would you do this to yourself?
2. What got you out of bed to train for it?
3. What hurts right now?
4. What does this event do to make your life better?
5. Where would you be if you weren't here?

Thanks again everybody. The videos are going to be awesome and I'll post some pictures from the fleabag hotel I'm staying in the night before.
Good living, people!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

4 Big Questions

...that I think I need your help coming up with.

I'm running another mud race next Sun, Nov 20th. I'm bringing my awesome fancy submersible GoPro camera to film it again, and this time I'm going to try some interaction. I'm going to ask as many people as I can, the same 4 or 5 questions. I posted the vids last time which was awsome but I want to fancy it up this time.

The first one is obvious to me as this is a mud race with ice water electric shock zone etc, in the middle of November.  I'm not sure about the rest and I could use your help.

1. Why would you do this to yourself?
2. What's the best part of a mudder?

Please post some ideas. I'm going to make a montage video after the race and post it all over the webs.
Thanks for any help!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running is medicine and thoughts on intimate fluids

Running is medicine. There's the cardio, long term health, weight loss piece that's really important but the thing I'm talking about is another kind of medicine. Life is full of challenges. There are always these moments that push you toward breaking, or at least questioning whether you know what you're doing, and whether or not what you're doing is right. Any big decision or long commitment, long term challenge or set of obstacles while seeking a worthy goal will, in cyclic fashion bring you into confrontation with yourself. How we deal with those obstacles shows us the level of our commitment, reveals to us who and what we are and of course helps us see the true value of the goals or commitments themselves.

The running medicine is the perspective and the cure for the acute stress of these moments. I like to imagine this when I'm running: My blood is coursing through my heart picking up oxygen to deliver to muscles, it's picking up waste from all of my body's tissues, from my brain and running it through its processing and waste disposal systems. My mind, my body via the blood, and my spirit are cleansed. Picturing this when I'm running keeps me focused on why I do it. For me it's a self improvement project, and perspective and spiritual house keeping are part of that. It happens in a gushing fluid rhythmic flow.

I was sitting in class today trying to listen to a lecture on cheese fermentation starter cultures and all I could think about was the fact that the room was filling up with air that had come out of the peoples' lungs around me. The CO2 that came from their exhalations had literally moments before been pushed out of cells deep inside their tissues. The moisture and gasses in that room were part of them and their metabolic processes.  It's not just inhaling air that other have exhaled, it's inhaling byproducts of their cellular gas exchange systems. That is a pretty intimate exchange of fluids that is rarely noticed.

Running medicine helps me process my blood, my thoughts and my stresses. The familiarity of the activity is reassuring, the way my body drops into its rhythm and settles in to the task feels to me the way my mom used to talk about going to church. She wasn't a believer but she went for a sense of familiarity. Establishing the routine and trusting your body to do its job has a primal quality to it. It reaches back into the distant evolutionary memory of the biological organism and lets the body process and flow, trumping the mind's capacity to unleash the chemical responses to stress. They are all swept away in the tidal current of blood flow and cleansed completely.

There are days where reestablishing flow is just a really important thing to do and I'm glad I am able to get there by running it out. I'll bet you can too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Short and sweets for a clear head

Post marathon, mid-semester, pre-thesis defense, I just don't have time to do serious training right now. I'm now doing what I call short and sweets because they just feel great and keep my head clear. When my brother was having IT band issues and other aches and pains, my advice was long winded, but on the running side I told him he had to reduce his distance to runs that never reached the point where anything hurt.

Whether you're fighting an injury, seasonal reluctance, boredom or you just don't wanna run, my solution is simple: run really short distances. I went out for a 40min run today which was perfect, and qualifies as a short and sweet in my book. It clears my head, energizes and centers me for the day, and adds one more check mark to my loooong agenda. My brother had to get his runs under two miles so his legs wouldn't act up, but that's fine!

Unless you are training for something specific, distance and speed don't matter, fun does, the benefits do. Keep in mind why you are running. I'm running for self improvement, long term health, mental clarity, and to get myself into longer and longer races because I want to. Why are you out there? 

Or maybe more importantly, why aren't you? If it's because you think you're too slow or it's no fun, or the runs are too long; don't worry about speed, take the pressure and guilt out of the equation and it will be more fun, and shorten your runs. This is a form of exercise that can really benefit anyone and everyone and the benefits are most apparent when you find the way that keeps you smiling during it.

It's an excellent way to take 20min for yourself that can bring you some peace and help you get your head in the game for whatever you have to work on today. If your run is 15 minutes but those minutes give you some clarity and center you for the day, you have accomplished your goal!

Get out there and smile! It's a beautiful Autumn this year.
Good running and good living!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I just don't want to...Fall running, goals and the madness

Just a month ago there were people running everywhere. We were out in droves enjoying the last sunny warm days of Indian Summer before the inevitable. They're all gone! I've been out less, partly because I was having trouble with my legs tightening up after the marathon, and partly because of the rain and cold.

Time to set some goals. I've got mud race coming up, like this one and it's time to start getting ready for it.
The great thing about these races is that I need to do something in addition to running. I think part of the problem with my legs tightening during and after the marathon was that I didn't cross train. Now's the time.

Look, only a select few really want to be out running when it's rainy and cold. The race above was in hot sunny July and my next one is in cold dismal November. The point of the race for me is too get me back outside training. Not only that but I'm signed up with 6 or 7 other people. I don't have a huge dose of macho in me, but I've got enough to want to make sure I'm not crapping out in the middle of the pack. One of the most gratifying things about the marathon was that I was still jumping, laughing and whooping up the crowd at the end of it.

I plan on the same in November and in order to do so I'm going to have to be in fighting shape. I'm a notorious weather whiner and I have to do some work to get myself out there and motivated to train in the rain.

Number one motivator forever: GOALS!
Having a time and place set, having paid for it, having told other people, having signed other people up commits  you to be ready for the event. I signed up for a late season event for exactly this reason. I need outside pressure to get me out there.

Number two helpful motivator: VARIETY
I love running. That being said it's nice to mix it up with something like jumping into green ice water in the middle of November. I feed on insanity and this is really going to be great. The last scene before the finish in the above video is us running through a field of live electrical wires. If you're having trouble getting out to run it may be that the season's races are over, the other runners have packed it in for the year and you're out there alone. Time to switch it up and train for another goal. Example: I want to be able to lift my car over my head by Spring!

Number three point to keep in mind: KNOW THYSELF!
I'm always coming back to this, but you have to know what will get you going. Getting covered with mud, frozen and electrocuted might not do it for you. Is there something wrong with you or with me?! You need to figure out what will get you out there and do it. DO IT!

If you want to join us in November in Indiana for this lovely number we'd love to have you. Either way, keep moving, keep motivated, keep the gleam in your eye and the madness in your heart.

Good running and good living!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Barefoot, bareform, minimalist, oh my!

I trained this Summer with a mix of barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Some of this started with a workshop I did at a local running store where they took my shoes off and videod me running in shoes and without. Back when I was a personal trainer I used to have clients take their shoes off when I was doing a gait assessment, I'd have them run a bit and I always thought it was a shame people couldn't run without them all the time. Of course the truth is, the only reason I thought this was because I was missing something. Our bodies are actually very good at running without shoes, we just have to give them some time to realize the coffins are off for the first time.

I spent months researching barefooting, read 4 or 5 books on the subject and went from an 8 mile max long distance in 2010 to my first marathon in Oct 2011. I didn't run it barefoot but wore minimalist shoes which are designed to affect barefoot style running as little as possible. While I doubt there's a future where runners everywhere are barefoot on the streets of all the major cities, I want to make the point that the reason it seems to work is that there are major changes in your running form that are required to run this way. The amazing thing, is that your body will make many of these changes the second you take your shoes off. Peoples' form shifts almost immediately to one where they are landing flat on their feet, avoiding the dreaded heal strike, bending knees, landing more gently. It requires some serious work to refine your form but that's just the case with running anyway if you don't want long term injuries.

Here's me during my 6 miles today.

I've done up to twelve miles like this. There are lots of resources out there for figuring out how to start without tearing up your feet or getting injured. A slow careful transition is really really really important. The thing is, once transitioned many people find they really enjoy the sensation. It puts you in contact with the ground and keeps you engaged in the run, paying attention to your body. For me it has changed my relationship to running completely from dread to enjoyment. I wouldn't have run the marathon if I wasn't enjoying the training.

Like I said there are many places to go for scientific rationale on bareform but it basically boils down to this: Humans have been running for millions of years and wouldn't have survived a species without being good at it. Running shoes with cushy soles have been around since the 70's and while technology is fine, the shoe companies have screwed it up and are promoting injury rather than preventing it. I posted a short story on another running blog by barefoot Josh yesterday that I think makes the point very well.

When I was studying kinesiology one of my classes was a biomechanics course. In it we dissected a bunch of basic sports movements like vertical jump, throwing and running. In the throwing section we spent almost a full week talking about the forces and techniques involved. We broke the movement down into it's component parts, mapped all of the muscles that are working and how to maximize them, and applied basic physics to each section of the movement. The concluding statements by my prof were that doing x, y and z was the best way to get the fastest acceleration and therefore the fastest baseball pitch etc. Then he said that it was also guaranteed to destroy the rotator cuff muscles over time!! This among other things in that program ingrained in me the opinion that athletes are people who sacrifice their bodies for the sport and that in order to achieve the necessary performance will end up damaging themselves. That's how I thought of it at the time but now I see that as a misguided notion. Athletes should be able to achieve performance without destroying their bodies.

Bringing it back to running, puffy running shoes are supposed to allow you to run faster by elongating your stride. You would never land on your heal without that cushion, it would hurt. Take your shoes off and run half a block and you'll prove me right. The fluff heal was supposed to make people faster than they ever could be without it. The problem is that the fluff isn't absorbent enough to remove all of that shock, and your body isn't very good at running this way. The best way to mitigate the shock of running is to use your many jointed legs to run softly and without all of that impact.

You're always better off with less impact than more, and the best way to do that is not by increasing the amount of padding under your feet but by changing your form to decrease the impact you're creating. In terms of form tips this is a good place to start, and so is this.

Good Running and Good Living!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011 Race Report, welcome to the awesome zone!

So...first marathon, first 26.3 mile distance, in my hometown, basically running through the history of the first 30 years of my life, with a couple of really great friends jumping in to keep me company, my family meeting me during the race to cheer me on...what more could a slob like me ask for. I didn't end up carrying my camera so unfortunately you'll mostly get pictures of me taken by my lovely wife,

starting with this one at 6am as she dropped me off downtown. I really only managed to sleep about 4 hours that night as my OCD had me checking the alarm clock every hour to make sure I had set it right, but I was excited, felt good and rested.

Downtown Chicago is a great place to be at 6am, if you don't have to work. That is to say, if you are running a marathon, or still up at 6am for any number of um, reasons that might have you staying up all night.

Well this time I was up to do a marathon so off I went to wander around Grant Park, getting ready for the race and chatting with other runners. The pre-race was really well organized, keeping the 40 odd thousand people corralled into the appropriate lanes and isles before the starting line.

 I got myself into the open corral and worked my way through the crowd toward the 9min/milers. It was exactly like being at a concert and trying to get closer to the stage, with everyone letting you through but a little bit peeved that you're moving toward the front. You're too far away to see the stage, so any time people start pushing forward and yelling you do the same, and then nothing happens and you stand around a bit longer. Then someone yells and everyone starts to push forward, and it turns out that you're going to be standing for a while chatting with your neighbor.

The Chicago marathon is such an awesome trip through the neighborhoods that I know so well. Eventually we were running through Lower Wacker, opening out on Columbus and over the river. My original plan for the run was to get warmed up in shoes and then take them off after a couple of bridges and run barefoot. The bridge on LaSalle was tough on the feet even in my minimalist shoes, but the crowds were absolutely mad and it really pumped us up. I was hustling, maybe a bit faster than I should have but it was such a rush.

I was really in the zone for the next few miles, trying to dial in my stride and get a good rhythm going and while I remember running by Lincoln Park, I didn't really get out of my own head until the North end of the race. I think it was the madness in Boy's Town that pulled me out. That's where the music got really loud and the crowd was insane. I had a great short chat with a fellow from Georgia, running in Luna Sandals, who was super positive and enjoying his run. I kind of woke up at this point and started paying attention to the people around me.

For a solo runner it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people. Even as the crowd thinned a bit and there was more space the streets were absolutely filled with runners and crowds. The music and the parties were going everywhere. I had an old friend jump in with me at mile 13 (yellow shirt). He ran with me for a few miles and was there at the point that the crowd had thinned out a bit so it was perfect.

I had another friend jump in at mile 15 or so (orange "Young" shirt) just at the point where I started to lose track of things like time and space. He's in this picture with our highschool gym shirt on. The three of us actually ran past our highschool singing our school song. This is me going in for the kiss as my wife takes the pic and my babies just peaking below. It was super nice to see them out there. Below is the pic of them with their best buddies and the kids of the lovely friends we stayed with.

I was still good but starting to feel the distance at this point. David was with me until mile 23 or so. I was having trouble keeping track of my salt pills and gu and getting a little incoherent and he helped me tremendously. We ran through the West Loop and later through Pilsen. This is a Mexican neighborhood and everybody was out playing loud music, dancing and hollering.

Later in the run I started hyping the crowd up to get people screaming. Dave and I had a long talk about my post about smiling during runs and encouraging other people. I spent a lot of time talking to people during the run, doing the old pat on the back you're doing a great job. I also really tried to fire up the crowd when they weren't already. They really responded when I made noise, smiled a lot and hollered so I made a habit of it for the rest of the run.

My wife told me later that in the crowd it was easy to get distracted and the runners firing up the crowd brought them back. I was a bringing back machine for the last 7 miles or so because it was amazing how the crowd went from quiet to roaring with a little encouragement. China Town was huge, they had dancing dragons and massive crowd turnout. It was after Chinatown that things got a little desolate. There weren't many people for a while there and my IT band started really tightening up at mile 24. I had to walk for a half mile for the first time in the race and stretch a bit. I took that half mile to recoup and then got back to running at mile 25 and held on until the end.

My original plan had been to take my shoes off around miles 8-10 but by that time I had such a great rhythm going, the last thing I wanted to do was change something or stop. I knew I'd probably have to put them back on at some point and the prospect of stopping for anything just wasn't what I needed at that time. My trail gloves served me perfectly as they always do so I was happy to keep them on.

The audience at the end was a little quiet so I did some hyping and jumping and smiled my ass off. The finish line was crowded with bleachers and I'm sure they were horse 4 hours in but they got going with some help. It really was an amazing time. I loved the neighborhoods and the enthusiasm of Chicago crowds.

 My family picked me up downtown, gave me my chocolate milk, and took me home for my guinness. I'm a bit sore today but not too bad and I'm trying to figure out how many more races I can fit in this year. The longest run I've done until this point was 22 miles and I think I still had something left at the end, so I'm looking for a 50k to finish my first racing season. Got any suggestions?
Care to join my team for the Tough Mudder in IN?

This really is huge for me. I started this season with the goal of running this race and now that it's behind me I'm finding that it just makes me want to set more goals. Thanks for everyones' encouragement, huge ups to Sandy and David for being out there with me, my wife D for all of the support including dragging our family all over the damn place so I can run these races. Lots of love to you Callahans for being the best friends ever and all the rest who have supported me in this. There's more to come!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Final thoughts.

Going to bed. Wake up at 5am. Excited and sleepy, can't wait for tomorrow, first marathon ever but more to come. Thanks for all the well wishes everyone!
Good running!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Marathon kit. What I'll be carrying, taking, using to survive!

Actually I run to thrive not survive but I do have some materials to keep me smiling. My plan is to take it pretty easy at first and try not to get swept up in the excitement of the start and push too hard. I'm going to give it a few miles to see where I'm at, make sure the bod is ready for the haul and then let loose. I'm shooting for having a good time rather than running a short time. It's my first marathon and I'm going to enjoy running through all of these neighborhoods from my childhood. I think I'm running past every school I've ever been to aside from two.

Here's the stuff list from the top left.

GoPro Hero HD camera and headmount
Hammer Endurolytes
Body Glide Anti-chafe balm
Nathan hip pack (I've got a hand carry bottle too)
Gu Brew, Chomps and gels 
Sun glasses (can't remember the brand right now)
A rolling pin
A soft ball
That hard to see, grey dri-fit hat given to me by Death's Door Spirits
Merrell Trail Gloves
Pearl Izumi running shorts
Addidas running shirt

GoPro is what we used on our last mud race. My brother had bought one and it was totally amazing so I bought one and I'm going to record a bunch of running time and post a video after. The head mount is awesome and doesn't chafe or bounce and the video quality is fantastic. It's even got a water proof case. It's what we filed these video on.

The Endurolytes are an awesome way to keep really hydrated on long runs. Drinking water alone won't do the job because you're losing so much salt in your sweat that you can't hydrate properly without some electrolytes. Many people like powders in water but I get much better results from drinking water and taking these pills every 20min or so. It's all about Osmosis.

Body Glide? Self explanatory I think. Count the number of times your thighs pass each other in an average day, add sweat and you're missing some skin. The one thing I forgot here is my nipple tape. I'll leave that to your imagination

Gu stuff is all about calories. I've got Brew for extra hydration these last couple of days before the race, Gels for sugar while running (one every half hour), Chomps for sugar plus caffeine (last third of the race). You can get your calories from a variety of sources but this is really the simplest way to go about it.

A rolling pin and soft ball are for fending off the other 39,999 people who might be getting in my way. I think I've talked about before. They're for working out the muscles in my legs and feet in the days before the run. These two things helped solve some almost injuries earlier in my training and I rely on them completely. Click on them to go to the website of the mad running genius who turned me on to this and saved my training, Scott Hadley.

It's going to be hot this weekend so hat and sunglasses. It's amazing how much energy you can save by not squinting for 3.5 hours. Focusing on what you're doing is essential. The shorts have a pocket in the back for easy access to caffeine.

All this stuff is about keeping the body in good form so the mind can focus on the task at hand. If your body is running low the mind becomes consumed with just keeping moving. In my experience the best thing you can do to keep yourself from losing it is make sure your body is taken care of. If the bod has all of the sugar and hydration it needs you don't have to consume your mental energy fighting that battle.
Less battle = more :)  and that's what I'm shooting for.

Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shoe review, Merrell Sonic Gloves

I've been running in Merrel Trail Gloves on and off since Spring. They're the kind of shoe that draws love or hate reactions. I returned them twice before I settled on keeping them and I'm glad I did. They were Merrell's first foray into minimal shoes and now their second release is out, the Sonic Glove.

As far as I can tell this love hate thing is a product of the mid foot construction of the shoe. These shoes are designed to fit tightly around the arch but to be completely open in the front allowing your forefoot to spread in a very natural way. To me this feels right. I lace the front of the shoe as loosely as I can to give my flappy duck feet room. Many people say this makes the shoe feel like it is two different shoes at once.

Sonic gloves:

The sonic glove is almost exactly the same shoe. The changes they've made are to the upper and not to the sole. Being a minimalist shoe, the sole is "zero drop', meaning that there is no elevation at the heal. The sole is completely flat. This allows you to maintain the form you would have if you were barefoot, and your foot to do the same.

If you can see in the picture below, the trail glove has a mesh upper. It is very open and perfect for Summer. It was breathable and incredibly light. The sonic glove is more solid above as they were looking to winterize the shoe a bit. I ran in it Sat and Sun, and wore it all day yesterday at work. They feel much warmer which is a big thing for me in this weather. I hate cold feet.

The upper on the SG is water resistant (not proof) so the dewy grass doesn't get my feet wet in the morning, but I'm not jumping in any puddles. They are just as light and feel almost identical but a bit more substantial. I started to get a blister on the back of my heal yesterday (no socks) and I think this is because that upper is a bit more rigid so they will need some more breaking-in than the trail gloves did.

Trail gloves:

Over-all I like Merrell's minimalist shoes a lot. I ran a couple weeks ago barefoot on a cold day and was really uncomfortable on Michigan's rough blacktop with cold feet. Since then I've been running in the trail gloves almost exclusively and now I have something warmer to work with. It's too late for me to break these in for the marathon on Sun but hopefully Chicago will grace us with a beautiful warm Fall day.

Another really excellent benefit to minimalist shoes that was pointed out to me is the fact that without all of that built up foam, there is nothing to break down in the shoe. The thing that makes your average running shoe useless after a while is the foam getting beaten down until it no longer provides that cushion you were getting at the beginning. These shoes never provide that. All of the cushioning and shock absorption comes from your excellent gait. You know, the one you've been working on for months in order to make sure you aren't hurting yourself when you take off those big cushy shoes?

That's the last point I'd like to make I guess. These shoes are minimal. In order to run in them you have to have an idea of what minimalist form is. Merrell has done an excellent job of bringing staff on to educate people on this. There are a rash of injuries in the running world from people reading inspiring books and going out to run around barefoot. This transition should take months to accomplish and should be done quite carefully. If you are not careful you will end up with stress fractures and over use injuries. SLOW TRANSITION. 

I love these as running shoes but also how they feel as kicking around shoes, and that's actually the best place to start. If you're thinking about making a transition away from regular running shoes, this might be a good time to pick up a pair like this and wear them casually to get a feel for the minimalist sole.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tapering and what to do with all of this nervous energy

Today I packed up my entire family and made them come with me on a run. Everyone was riding bikes. I ran barefoot to a local running store and bought a pair of Merrel Sonic Gloves. I love the Trail glove and figure I'll need something for wetter colder weather. It was good hard work for me as my boy got sick of peddling and went on strike, refusing to move unless I pushed him. So I did some donkey work on a lovely Fall day, enjoyed an awesome time with my family, and breathed that cool fresh air.

My taper is on and I'm not supposed to be running any long runs. After all of the work I've put in to keep myself on track for training it's almost as much work to convince myself not to go out and push another 2 hour run to make sure I'm not losing it. I wonder if I'll feel the same way after next Sun (Oct 9th is the marathon). I'm trying to stretch, do a lot of rolling pin work on tight muscles, drink a lot of water, eat lots of good food and generally keep the mind in killer fit focus. My plan is to run the first 6-8 miles or so pretty relaxed, let everyone pass me, smile a lot, encourage people, and then let loose the maniac, run my legs to bloody stumps and crawl over the finish line screaming! maybe...

I've been working on this guy's body work. I was turned onto it by Jason Robillard who is a great resource himself and a great aggregator of good info.

Since I can't run much I've been putting together my playlist for the marathon next week. Music is extremely important to me. I spend a lot of time looking for new music and can really spend entire days just looking for new exciting music scenes from all over the world. Somehow it doesn't really play much of a role in my running as I like to listen to podcasts but here is a selection of new stuff going into the marathon playlist.

I love these guys. The singer is somehow like Jack Black plus David Bowie and the music is like a beautiful 80s under-aged club dance mix. This is turning into one of those songs I listen to 1000 times until it drives me crazy.

Next up, a band I heard on Sound Opinions, the best music podcast ever. I think this kind of music is called post-something or other, but the fast beat is great for the feet. My favorite part starts at 3:30 (end zebra psychedelia begin Xmas trees and silly puppets).

TV on the Radio hardly needs an introduction but this is a sweet song and I love how they take like a minute and a half to finish their build at the beginning of the song. You get a few minutes in and still feel like the song is about to start. I had to link to it as their label blocks embedding. Thumbs down!

All right one more. I got these guys from an old friend's label. Thanks T! Again, post-something or phsychedelic rock revival, I don't know. Good solid rockers.

Wait last one. My playlist is like 1000 songs (I run so slow I'll need it) but can't forget to throw some old timey electronica.

What do you listen to? Are you a loud fast drive me forward music type or a smooth relaxing smile your fact type? Let me know below.

Good Running!

Friday, September 30, 2011

I want you to join this team for pure fun!

I've got a marathon to think about in a week. 

I'm sending good vibes to my good friend running the Rock Creek Stump Jump tomorrow morning. 

If all goes well with his race and my marathon we'll be doing the Badapple ultra at the end of Oct.

I've got a solid 6 man team for another mudder in November.

Doesn't the mud race above look like fun? Care to join?

We want you on team Knuckledraggers! I would love to have a 40 person team getting muddy. We are not looking to finish in record time, we're not even planning on moving particularly fast. It's just plain fun and we'd love to have you along.

Post here or find me somewhere for the registry info.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Visions of moving bodies and forces of nature

I've had a number of creative habits like playing music and creating art in my life. None of these ever came to me as visions where I could see finished products in my head and went about making them real. For me it's always been about thirsts that needed to be satisfied. I get a longing and I start looking for something to satisfy it. Or there's a pressure inside me that I have to let out or I'll fall apart.

That was my creative life (not much time for it now) but is also the way I live my life. At some point I figure out that what I'm doing day to day has left me with a hole I need to fill. I do some internal work and either end up with a new hobby or obsession, or end up making major life changes. I used to get it with music and I used to get it with self destructive behavior. I can't live with the longing and I'm not able suppress myself very well. Nor do I want to. 

Running is one of those thirsts. When I'm out there I feel like something is gushing into me, filling me up. With running it has to do with walking out the door and feeling like I could stick with the training program for the one hour I did today, or take a turn that would make it into a 3 or 7 hour and my body will take it. There are days where I come back at 9am after running 15 or 20 miles and I'm full of the power of that, just roaring inside my head like crashing waves. I've already run 20 miles and it's 9am, CRASH! What else can I do today? ROAR!

Somehow barefoot or minimal really adds to that. The term minimal is coming to be associated with a certain kind of shoes but for me it's more than that. It means just me. There are no springs in my heals to add to my effort. Don't get me wrong I love gear and there are days where I've got my phone on my arm, sunglasses, running hat, compression gators, etc, but I think my best days are just shorts and nothing else. Those days there's no help. It's just what I'm able to do. I think if I had a loin cloth and no neighbors that's what I'd be wearing. That's what running is, something you can do with just your body moving in space and your breath flowing. 

There are all of these organizations out there like Movnat, and Crossfit that are about a different kind of fitness that involve a body with heavy stuff to move, and trees to climb. More than that there are the ever proliferating DIY sites for people who want to simplify by fixing stuff instead of tossing it. There's Slowfood for people who want to know about where their food comes from and what it doesn't have in it. All of these things resonate with me because they're about simplicity, but they're also about the integrity of the self.

Minimalist running is about acknowledging where technology has served us wrong and going back to what worked for millions of years. It's about taking another look at what has become the accepted best practice with all of the associated dogma and testing whether starting from scratch might not be our best bet at the moment. I work in a lab and scratch is where you end up over and over until the line of inquiry you're following turns out to be a fruitful one. 

To bring it back to the personal running is just about me moving for as long as I can, figuring out I can always do more, and then doing more. I don't know where it's going. I don't have any visions although I have some plans. I never have believed in long term planning, too many things in my life have shown me how easily those plans can slip away. All I know is that right now running is the flood that fills my soul and the fuel in my tank. It helps me center myself so I can be a good dad, it helps me show my kids what determination can do and how determination can be about enjoyment, and it just feels damn good to have gotten myself in shape for a marathon in two weeks and more to follow this year.

Thanks to all of you who are reading these posts and giving me feedback. It means a lot and I love you guys.
Good running and good living!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ninja running in fall

Ok, I give up, it's fall. It was an early start this year and I kept the Indian Summer thing in the back of my head, but today I was rooting around for warmer clothing and put all of my shorts away. I went for a barefoot run last week after a frost and the cold pavement was just too uncomfortable. I couldn't loosen up and the cold ground combined with my tightness just felt like it would be too easy to injure, so I put on my Merrills and continued.

I haven't been running barefoot lately, but I have been running. That's a change for me as the cold usually sends me into a pattern of staying up late watching movies and "not feeling up to (fill in anything active) today". My mom used to say that running in winter felt like flying to her. I remember waking up in fall and winter and she'd just be coming home, sweaty and glowing, full of energy. I grew up in a neighborhood where the white lady running around at 5am in the dark, was hooted at by guys in hoopties who thought she was a hooker. She had some fire in her and would holler at them until they took off. No one tries to pick me up at 5am and it took me a long time to figure out that glow she came back with.

Now I get it. I'm cold at first but within a few minutes of starting my body is doing the furnace, I warm up, find my pace and after that I'm cruising. It's hard to get in the habit of waking up in the dark and going outside in the cold, but it is so totally rewarding. The trick for me is to get up the first time my eyes open. If I start the snooze routine it's over.

The best thing about the fall run is being up during the sun rise. I get to come back to a warm cozy house with my babies waking up. They are full of energy and smiles. They hop out of bed and commence to buzzing about in their happy lively way. There's no delay while they wake up, they just go.

I'm trying to channel that energy. It's funny that my kids and their total aliveness remind me of my mom and hers. Here are some of the tricks I use to get me going.

1. Like I said, get out of bed the first time you open your eyes. Any snoozing leads to more snoozing people, and you know it. You know it when you do it and it feels so good. You'll savor it all the more on the days you get to do it.

2. Have some good running gear for the weather. Not only is it fun to have the gear, it really pays off at the beginning of your run. Some running tights and a neck sleeve not only make you look like a ninja, but start you off warm rather than waiting to warm up.

2.5 Did I mention you get to look like a ninja?

3. Be as excited as my kids are. I have a lot of tips in my writings that are about managing your mindstate. I am totally committed to the idea that if you mimic the physical cues associated with a feeling, you will feel that feeling. Act like you are excited, smile, breathe quickly, open your eyes wide, bounce around a bit.  You will get excited, whether or not you started out that way. I like to think in terms of chronology. Ordinarily something stimulating happens then you smile, you start to breathe faster, etc. If you switch up the order the effect is the same in reverse. This works and is really important!

So to summarize, get out of bed right away, dress up like a ninja, and act like a 4 year old.
Just a great way to start any day!

Good running and good living!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Run after the longest run

So Sat was 21 miles, I took a couple days off and Tues was 8 miles. Tues went pretty badly. It took me 4 miles just to warm up, my legs were tight and unhappy and I had to run/walk the whole thing. I felt good when I was actually running but kept getting tired. My recovery drink Sat was chocolate milk as I've read the study that showed some serious benefit to low fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink, and love it that I have a good excuse now. I've been rolling out my leg muscles once a day rather than the 3 times I committed to but I take pretty good care of myself and was a bit disappointed with the recovery time.

If there is one thing I have found again and again through running it is the fact that I will continue to spend time with the self pitying, depressive, soft part of myself that finds ways to try to prove that whatever I'm doing is too hard, or not worth the effort. I run with that guy on every run. He's always been there and I've spent a good deal of time in my life learning how to work with him.

I think that one of the most important things you can do in life is get comfortable with that guy. Everyone has one. For much of my life I despised that side of me and treated it like my enemy. It didn't work very well and it wasn't until I found a way to be more gentle with myself that I was able to start realizing some potential. That side of you is there to protect you, from failure, from disappointment, from pain. I talk to that side like it's a scared child. I ask a lot of questions. Why would I quit? Why not a little farther? Why not work on this important thing now?

I don't mean to be platitudinous, but we all get down, we all have setbacks, we all hurt. Be gentle with yourself and let it hurt. Wallow in it a bit. Let it go. Then set a firm deadline after which the self pity is over and stick to it. Set some goals for your post pity recovery time and collect some achievements. These will set your mind back on the right track.

I've got an hour run tonight, an hour tomorrow, and 15 miles Saturday. Then I taper until the marathon in Chicago. I'm getting really excited about it, still trying to decide if I'm barefooting or not, or just part of it. I've made tentative plans to run a 12 hour relay ultra with a good friend 3 weeks after the marathon. A little bit at a time with firm goals that are exciting to me. That's my recipe.

Good running and good living!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Longest run ever, again, and tech food

I think one of the best parts of being in the middle of my first real race training season, is that I keep running my longest distance ever. 14, 18 and now 21 mile distances are the longest I've run, the last was just this Sat. My run Sat was great. I was a bit creaky for the rest of the day, but spent some time rolling out my legs with a rolling pin and staying hydrated and I felt fine.

I keep coming back to mental tools in these posts but they are really important in longer runs. When you're getting worn out you start to lose focus, get a little slow mentally and that's not the time to relay on your creativity to get you through low spots. That's the time to rely on your preparation and strategies you have worked out in advance...and caffeine.

I use a few "tech" foods to get through runs that are longer than 12 miles. Anything under that and I don't even bring water along, but at 12+ I carry a water bottle and start with the Gu shots and salt pills. I had never tried electrolyte pills, but used them on my 3hr trail run last week and was amazed how much they helped.  I just felt better in general during the run, less run down more on top of things mentally. I had been running with an electrolyte solution mixed into my water bottle, but it was sweet, I got sick of the flavor and I don't think it worked as well. I took the pills 3 times an hour and at the end of my 21 miles I was peeing nice and clear within an hour of finishing, hydration achieved.

The other thing I used was Gu shots. For those of you who aren't familiar they are packets of sugary syrup that you take a couple times an hour to keep glucose in your system. In order for your body to burn fat, which is what you want to do on a long run, it needs glucose to burn as well. Fat is the source of energy for long duration exercise. Back in school we used to say that fat burns in a glucose flame. Without a dietary source of glucose your body will attempt to provide it from internal stores which leads to destructive catabolism, bad news.You need to take in something to burn to keep you moving and it's only the ultra running folks who are stopping for pizza and burgers mid-100 mile run.

The last hour of my longest two runs I've had Gu chews with a touch of caffeine. It was just the kick in the pants I needed. In the last legs of a long run my legs start to feel a bit fragile and while I never really get demoralized or exhausted, a little rush from the caffeine really makes things flow nicely at that point. Rather than drifting in and out of focus it puts my head back in the game. I'm definitely a pragmatist when it comes to this. I've also done longer runs where I ate mostly corn meal, or stopped by the house often enough to grab peanut butter on toast regularly. These worked fine and my stomach handled it well, but the tech stuff just fits in a tiny pocket in the back of my shorts and I can just stop at the house every hour to refill my water and get a smile from the fam.

A long run is not something you just stumble out the door for. Taping nipples, lubing thighs and taking stock of gear will keep you from a world of pain later. I've had rug burns on the insides of my thighs for days because I wasn't paying attention during a run...and chaffed nipples?! Worst shower ever!

Good running!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wyld white boy of the savannah

I was doing some speed work today. I've been doing this with my mouth closed, trying to push the speed at which I can run without mouth breathing. I'm certain this has made me faster although I haven't been timing anything lately the way I used to.

On a day like today I am pushing as hard as I can such that I desperately want to open my mouth to get that big gusting breath, but then I just back off a touch and get it back under control. Although this could be a really nice technique article all about how you can push up your anaerobic threshold by doing this and get more efficient at oxygen delivery, it's not really what I'm excited about today.

While I was running I had a pretty good near PBS experience. I was running along pinching my lips tight, fighting the urge to open up and pant, when I had a thought. I decided I would try to put my 'suffering' in context by observing my run from the moon. That is to say I was going to try to put it into visual perspective to cue corresponding spiritual perspective.

As I rose from my body and tried to distract my relentlessly busy mind, the image that came to me was one out a nature show. It occurred to me that I have never once looked at one of those beautiful aerial shots of wildebeests and antelope galloping across the plains, escaping from the deadly predator, and spent even a moment correcting their running form or wondering whether they were pushing close to anaerobic threshold, or whether they were putting their feet down too hard. Obviously they are running like that from the day they're born and don't have to worry about unlearning good form or computer desk posture, but the point remains I think, that my aerial view experiment had its intended effect and gave me a different perspective.

The view from up there was of a funny looking two legger hobbling toward something or away from something and just trying to get his body to do it right. From the moon a 5 mile speed run, a 16 mile distance run, or a 100 mile ultra all look about the same. They are a tiny scratch on the surface of the pretty blue and green ball. I'm not going to try and get too deep about it, but it did help me to come back to my body and just get back to pushing. I did it three or four times during the run when I was feeling the pain and it helped.

1. Pretend you have moved just a foot or two above your body. Spend a few moments there floating above you thinking about how it looks to stare at the top of your head.

2. Start to withdraw and picture the area around you as it falls away. Keep falling away from yourself and watch you shrink into the distance.

3. Go as far as you want. I went to PBS helicopter altitude first and hung there. Later in the run I did space man at moon distance.

"Dust in the wind Dudes"
Good Running!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How much I love the things I think I hate

I spend most of my running time on roads. Last week I was running with a buddy who does all of his on trail, and I was on his stomping ground so we did the trail thing. It is much harder than the smooth flat road and there's definitely no barefooting it, I ran in minimalist trail shoes.

The thing about the trail run is that it's constantly changing. There are hills, rocks, creeks, turns, tree branches, roots. I fell once and tripped about 60 times on each run because I wasn't used to picking up my feet and when you get tired later in the run it's easy to get sloppy. The hills really beat me up, but by the 3rd run I had some strategies in place to keep me moving.

The last run we did was about 3hrs and even though it was harder than most of my runs to date, I look back on it and realize it was really more rewarding than most of my other runs to date as well. I guess this should come as no surprise, that the hardest or longest or most extreme is the most rewarding, but the length or distance isn't what struck me, it's more about how the terrain variety kept me mentally on my toes. There was no spacing out and no relaxing into a steady rhythm, it was all alertness and focus. The rhythm I fell into was less about cadence and the steady beat of my stride, and more about staying alert to the downhills so I could catch my breath and relax a bit, saving up for the big uphills and rougher terrain where I'd have to be really awake.

Uphills when you've been going for a while can tax your will to continue. When I ran the T-Rex 10 miler in July I kept cracking up when I'd get to a hill. On a trail you can hear the people out front and the people behind, but you can't always see them because they are around a bend over on the other side of a rise. On the other hand, when a big hill was coming up I'd hear a series expletives from runners ahead as they came up to it. I'd let one out and then I'd hear the same chain of curses behind me as each runner came to the hill. It was hilarious.

The game I played this time was called "I love hills". Every time I came to one of these technical sections or big hills, I'd crack a big ass smile and chant I love hills, I love hills, over and over until I was at the top. I won't claim it's necessarily true, but looking back at the run this really made a difference. Early on I dreaded the hill. Once I got the game going the hill just passed under me while I played chess with my internal quitter.

Games I intent to play in the future:

-I love to run on hot days
-I love hills
-I love tired legs
-I love tired days
-I love my inner quitter

Good running!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Five stages in your run and how to deal with them

I had a long talk with a friend today about the running process. Just about every run you go out on follows a pretty predictable sequence. This is extremely important for handling long ones, but what a long run is, has a habit of changing from week to week and that's part of the process too.

My run process goes something like this:

1. Figuring out what kind of run this is
The first part of any run for me is just figuring out how I'm going to feel. Some runs start out with me feeling invincible, running fast, breathing easily, loose. Some runs feel like I'm going up hill from the start. It is really important to do a good internal assessment here. If you don't any lows later on are going to take you by surprise and make things more difficult than they would otherwise be.

2. Settling in
Whether I started out smoothly or struggling the next part of the run is where I establish my pace and do some work on gait and stride. I'm trying to find a steady place that will carry me without too much constant checking in. Sometimes this goes quickly and I find my spot, sometimes I have to check back in over and over until I've got it down.

3. Just going
The truth is there are some runs where this never happens. On a good day this is the majority of the run. On a bad day it never happens and I stay stuck in 2 or go directly from 2 to 4. When it works it's the best. I had one today that by the end of a half mile I was gliding along feeling fast and loose and finished my 8 miles 25 minutes faster than I thought I would, total surprise. Last Saturday I had a 14 mile where I almost quit at 7 because I was still trying to find myself. Making this happen more often and for a greater portion of each run is really the goal.

4. The low
This is the moment when you start thinking about stopping and walking home. It's the moment when you feel tired and down and just want to give it up. Again, sometimes it's just a thought but it can also take over your entire process until you're just fighting that impulse. How well you handle the low has to do with how attentive you were during stage 1, and how well you know yourself and have prepared your strategy. I look out for this moment and use mantras (relax relax relax relax, fast fast fast fast) to get past it, anything to drag my obsessed mind away from chanting at me to quit. Hopefully I move past this moment and either back to stage 3 or on the last phase.

5. Finishing up
This is where you know you're home free. For me this usually comes about 60% done with the run. I know I've broken the back of the distance and I'm just pushing through to the end. I'm not always flying along for this part but I'm usually not fighting to keep moving. The more I run and the longer my long runs get, the longer this phase seems to be. I used to feel this for literally the last 40 yards of a run but these days it might be the last 6 miles of a 12 mile run. It's usually a pretty good feeling and is often similar to phase 3 with a nice rush.

For the longest runs these phases cycle between 3 and 4. If I'm prepared well and lucky enough to be feeling fluid and fast the lows are short and the going is easy. Even on the off days it helps to know my process and what is coming. Amazingly even a 2-3 mile run will cycle in fast forward through these 5 steps and anticipating them gets me through the lows.

Hope these help you with your process.
Good running!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No tips at all

I wanted to say, it just feels so damn good to be running again. I went out for a 45 quicky today and it just felt like flying. It made my day. I love those runs, the ones that clear my mind and center me for the ten million things I have to get done.

That's the best part about it, stripping down, taking off my shoes, walking out the door into a drizzling cool beautiful day and just moving my body and thinking.

I've been practicing nose breathing as I'm a panter. I try not to open my mouth all day except to speak, laugh, and eat. The rest of the time all nose, and that means running too. My 5k last Sun was pretty good for me. Part of that I chalk up to the fact that I've been running often enough to know how hard to push myself and when. The other thing I realized was that I just wasn't as winded at the faster speed.

I can write an article later about breathing and tips and technical stuff. I just want to reiterate. Running is fun as hell! I used to hate it so much and now it's just a great part of my day. If you're having a hard time running relax, slow down, don't worry about your form, worry about relaxing and enjoying what you are doing at that moment. Slow down until you are comfortable, worry about weight loss, calories, form, technique, later.

Find a way to relax and the rest will follow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Training plans and Chitown hustlers.

I've been using the free Chicago marathon training plan from iRunnerblog. It's a great paired down plan with 4 running days and a cross training day per week. The basics are covered: pace training, speed training, long run, but as training plans go it's pretty spare.

I like it that way as I'm not trying to qualify for anything on this one, just going to finish feeling good. If my 18 mile this last Saturday is any indication I think I'll be fine. It looks like I'm in the 4.25 hour range, which is pretty slow, but it's my first and I'm mostly elated that I'm not injured right now, so I'm taking it easy on the foot to make sure.

I've been wondering about training plans in general as I had to take 2 weeks off for my foot, and was still able to jump right back in to the schedule on Sat. It seems that many people take them as guidelines and adapt them as they need to. Of course, that's par for the course but how important is it to keep close to a plan like this?

The answer is what you'd expect. Life is going to interfere with a rigid schedule and you're going to have to account for that. I asked Jason Robillard this exact question on Sun. He answered what I thought he might: running schedules are important but it's more important to listen to your body and do what feels right. You push when you have it in you to push, but if something isn't right it's equally important to take time to keep a short term injury from becoming a chronic problem.

The guys at IRunnerblog are pretty great when it comes to answering questions. I asked them what to do when I started feeling my foot acting up. They said take it easy, take care of foot, cross train, make up for lost time when everything is in working order. The injury slowed me down and my pace will not be what I hoped it would. on the other hand slowing down kept me running, and I won't be selling my spot in the Chicago. That's good news in my book.

Hope I'm going to see some of my Chitown homies out there on the course cheering for the barefoot fool that should know better.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Barefoot 5k in Grand Rapids and the bunch of happy wierdos there

This past Sunday was the Merrell Barefoot 5k in Grand Rapids. There was also a kids 1k and a 1 mile. My kids both ran the 1k, and I was super proud of them for hustling their little butts. Malina came in 4th. She's 6 and the kids ahead of her were 8-11, so she really hung in there. Kasper was further back but again it was the same group and he machined it. My lovely wife came even though she wasn't feeling well and took care of all of us.

The 5k was a nice mixture of some serious runners and the rest of us. It's always a pleasure to see the serious runners just gunning it to the finish. What I heard many people saying was that it was the first time they'd spent much time with a group of barefooters. Most of the time we're the ones getting the strange looks. It was fun to spend some time with a bunch of like minded wierdos.

This was a super fun event. It was in a beautiful park in GR. I have to say I much prefer to do my running on something harder than soft grass. It's just too easy for things to hide in it...like the dog pile I stepped in at one point. It was right in the middle of the warm up group and I watched a bunch of people step right in it. I didn't say anything as it all got wiped off during the race anyway, but I guess the point is, I like pavement and hard trails.

It's not just what I can or can't see that makes me like the harder surfaces. It also forces you to be ultra aware of your impact as you run. It's easy in grass, like it is in padded shoes, to just stomp your way along. As soon as I hit something harder, my body goes into ultra light mode, my steps go silent, my cadence goes up and everything just feels smoother. It's what I love about barefoot in general, the sense that I'm really responsive to the ground, not protected from it.

The folks at the race were great. From the Barefoot Running Society we had our chapter president Troy Root who was a serious trooper, pushing his kids through all that grass in a stroller. Way to go Troy! I met a guy named John who has made a shot at a 100 miler and stopped at 70. In my book that means he successfully ran a 70 mile ultra. Scot Hadley was there. He's the physical therapist I've written about who got me back on my feet when I had some injury trouble a few weeks back.

I got to meet Ken Bob Saxton and Jason Robillard who are both important to the barefoot/minimalist movement. They've both written books on the subject and are great resources to the community, as well as great guys. Jason has a blog that has been extremely helpful: Barefoot Running University. It's an excellent source of info and discussion.

Over all it was a great time, for the time spent with interesting and fun people, for the run itself and for the time with my family. I ran a pretty good time and kind of felt charged up about getting the Michigan chapter of the Barefoot Running Society more active. Malina, my daughter told me she can't wait for the next one. I can't either!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Psychic pain and 18 mile runs

I did my 18 mile long run today. It's the first time I've run that distance and while I wasn't worried, my last two long run attempts have ended pretty badly due to my foot problems. This one was stellar.

I ran a 3 leafed clover with 6 mile loops and my house in the center. I'd go out for 6 miles, stop in the house to fill my water bottle and head back out. It worked pretty well and I felt great most of the time. I was getting a little fried by the end but I haven't run over 6 miles in 3 weeks so that's to be expected. This is total success.

I'm happy to say I think I'm back at it due to uncharacteristically meticulous self care. I've been stretching and rolling all of the relevant muscle groups, taking ice baths regularly and otherwise channeling purity of every kind. My legs felt loose and ready to take the beating this morning and they're not in bad shape now. Hopefully they won't be too sore tomorrow as I'm running the Bare Foot 5k in Grand Rapids tomorrow. heh.

Self care...
not one of my specialties.

The people who really impress me in this life are the ones that are pursuing something, anything. I'm interested in the passion and intensity. You know, it doesn't even have to be a pursuit but something you pour your energy into, something that draws you in almost without your control. Artists are this way. They can't necessarily tell you why they do something or where it comes from, but they can't live without it.

A smart and strange friend once told me that artists are expressing their derangement and estrangement from normality. I don't know if that's quite the way I'd put it but if it takes a little psychic damage to create an artist or a maniacal athlete, I'll take it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good word from a buddy, and more running tips

So I just had a long talk with a good buddy of mine. He went to a good form running workshop at a local running store, Playmakers (amazing place), got some form tips and realized that one of the reasons he hates running is that he was making it harder than it ought to be. This is one of the things I want to help hammer home here. That alliteration is effective and that running is relaxing.

Running is a natural thing for you to be doing and your body is really good at it. It's all about form and philosophy.

The right form in my opinion is anything that makes your running feel easier, lighter, less burdensome, more uplifting. Things that have helped me accomplish this include

Finding ever more ways to relax.
1. Peel your feet off the ground rather than pushing off of them. Never push off of
your back foot unless you're sprinting or climbing.

2. Fall forward. Don't push, fall. If your core is engaged and you are leaning forward from the ankles, the only time you need any tension in your legs is when you are physically catching yourself from falling. You are then supporting yourself forward in a controlled fall rather than leaping from foot to foot.

3. Engage your core. As you fall and one leg goes behind you, a tight core will use
the natural elasticity of your thigh muscles to bounce that leg forward. You won't have to pull as hard.

4. Did I say relax? If all of these tips are creating a maelstrom of impossible to coordinate feedback and confusion, just relax everything you possibly can. I love technical tips and anatomy so this stuff is fun for me to experiment with. If it isn't helping, ignore all of it and relax.

When I say this I'm really talking about the interplay between your motivations to do this, your internal dialogue while doing it, and your support activity when you're not doing it.

1. Your motivation for an activity obviously plays a significant role in your attitudes around it. I submit that you should make your best effort to be motivated by finding ways to enjoy it more. Not only will this lead you to actually finding those ways, it will occupy your mind with a positive goal. Finding them takes me back to one of my first posts here: do you like gadgets? Get some. Do you like company? Run with a group.

2. Internal dialogue while running can totally empower you or demotivate your butt
back to the couch. If you're looking for ideas I suggest you read the fruitarian's race report from a 100 mile race. It is LONG, but it gives you some insight into what people struggle with. Surprise, it's exactly what YOU struggle with, he just has some great strategies in place before he sets foot on a course. Do the same. Develop mantras to get you past tough spots. We all have them and overcoming them is what reinforces your determination.

3. Support activity = things you do to take care of yourself so you are ready for your next run. Stretching, rolling, massage, icing, recovering, eating well, sleeping, etc. Make sure that you don't go for runs that are guaranteed to suck unless you want to. Sometimes this is rewarding. You get determined, you run even though you haven't had any sleep, and you complete! Excellent. Other times, you had some wine last night and you go out for a run tired, it's a terrible run and it demotivates you for next time. If you are going to be discouraged by this kind of run, either don't drink the wine or don't do the run. That's all about you knowing yourself well enough to do some internal management.

Hope these help.
Good running!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Household tools for getting back on your feet

So I'm going to pitch Scott Hadley again at the Hadley Clinic. He taught me how to fix my pain with a rolling pin and a baseball. This when I was starting to think I was out of luck for the moment.

Scott's rolling pin/baseball technique:

1. Roll your quads with the pin, all around the top and outside of your thigh.
2. Get your calves on top of the pin and roll them putting as much weight as you can bear.
3. Put your hand on the side of your hip and find the boney process there that is the top of your femur. Sit on the baseball and roll all around that process, getting most of your butt and the area in front of that boney process.
4. Stand up and roll the bottoms of your feet.

Do this 3 times per day and especially before and after runs. All of them hurt, at least at first. Then they help. Having done this 3 times a day for less than a week now, my foot pain is gone, I'm running again with no trouble, off the anti-inflammatory. A most excellent development!

I'm always happy to find a fix it yourself solution. The above appears to be helping my little brother with his IT band pain as well.

I'm off for a run!
Thanks Scott!

Three exclamation points in one post. Make it 4!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Barefoot McGee's 3 fancy ways to make running easier.

Ok, now that I'm running again, and I know my injury wasn't caused by my being barefoot (I was beginning to wonder), I can get back up on my high horse about it. My horse isn't really that high. I don't tell other people how to do things...much. I've had a cathartic experience with barefoot running, it has changed the way I relate to the activity, and the habit of running itself has had some pretty significant repercussions in my life.

When I'm running regularly I am energized and my mind is clear. When I need to run I go to bed early, eat well, take care of myself. When I do these things I'm more patient with my kids and with challenges and I have better perspective. These statements broadly apply to exercise for most people but I think that running is unique because it doesn't require any equipment or preparation. Barefoot running feels like an immersive step further in the direction of simplification, stripping away the things that separate me from the experience.

Dictionary dot come definition of immersive: (of a computer display or system) Generating a three-dimensional image that appears to surround the user

The less I have on me the more I am enveloped in the activity. It's funny that in a media overdosed world I'm using 3D display lingo to describe taking clothes off and running around mostly naked, but it's apt because I seek a more complete experience, and total lack of distraction from the things my body is doing to keep me moving. Rather than distracting myself from it because it's effort, I'm going for total commitment to find pleasure. This is the only way for me to keep it up. I try this with everything I do because I'm not able to keep doing things I don't like. Call it lazy but there's an easier way to do anything, and a way to enjoy it.

A great Kinesiology concept to bring to bear here is one I used for movement analysis. When running, your body is moving forward in what's called the saggital plane (the 2D geometric plane that divides your body into left and right portions, and includes motion from front to back). In order to use your energy effectively all motion of your body should take place in this plane. Nothing should be going side to side or up and down. There will be some twisting going on and that's necessary. Arms are a great example. They can be bent at the elbow tight to your body and moving quickly forward and back, or they can be wide open at the elbow out to your sides and swinging all over the place.

Stand up and try the two. If you just open your arms up and try to swing them back and forth, they create twisting in your trunk and require more work from the shoulders to control. Tight at the elbow, forward and back, you can be almost completely relaxed and move them this way. Good running form is the process of finding every inefficiency like that and eliminating it.

1. Loose loose loose:
Most common areas of tightness, wasted energy, and eventual pain while or after running: shoulders, jaw, hands, feet. A track and field guy once told me to pretend I was holding a potato chip between finger and thumb to keep from clenching. I'd go a step further and say that the only muscles that should be tight at any time are the ones that are working at that moment. Everything else should be flapping around as loose as possible.

-While you're running take an inventory of your body one part at a time. Start from the head and make sure that as you travel down, nothing is tense when it's not working to move you forward. Jaw loose, shoulders relaxed, etc. When you get to the bottom start over, then have a look around.

2. Lean forward:
Stand up, lean forward from your ankles, lean back, then lean forward again until you start to fall forward. This is running. It's not pushing with your quads, jumping, springing off your toes, it's falling forward and catching yourself. Gravity will help you run if you let it. Keep your spine nice and straight and lean from the ankles. Don't fight the ground to move forward.

3. Don't bounce!
Your head should remain level while you're running. If it's going up and down you are wasting your energy. Bend your knees a bit more, see tips 1 and 2, and stop that bobbing. Move forward.

Good running and good living!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It doesn't matter what you do, it matters who you are

That's my latest one liner of life instruction for my kids. Another one I use: "There is no try, there is only do!" Yoda philosopher king. "A human that never quits is never defeated." I think that's Fred Thompson.

It's interesting to try and distill life into manageable pieces of instruction for minds whose attention span is measured in single digit seconds. A long lecture about respect and hitting produces that expression that clearly communicates that your child's mind is on space, feathers, running, magic, roll around, favorite song...and your important lecture is not in that list.

I just read an article about parenting and the conclusion of many recent studies shows that what parents do for children is less important than who they are. All the flash cards in the world won't help if you are stressed out and distracted. Another study tried to find correlations in childhood circumstances, to those who had attained their PhDs. What did they find? The only strong correlation was that almost every single adult PhD said they had eaten dinner with their families most nights as children.

When running, who you are matters very much. If you allow yourself to focus on pain, discomfort, or even if you just try to convince yourself to do it because you should, it will be unpleasant. You have that person in you that is able to bring a peaceful and attentive approach to even the most unpleasant activities. You know, the one who is able to take a deep breath and spend some time in the moment with your kids, or with yourself, even though it may mean an interruption in your very important plans for the day. That moment where you relinquish control and discover what the moment has in store for you is your running savior.

It's the ability to let go. I ran today and had to do it slowly for a few miles to make sure my foot wasn't going to act up. It didn't but I had to be pretty attentive to my form and to stay slow. I'm running the Grand Rapids Barefoot 5k next weekend and one part of me just wanted to go faster. "How are you going to win at this speed?" Thanks voice. How am I going to run with a bloody stump for a foot?

Let go, just run. Let go, just be a kind dad. Listen don't talk. Ask questions don't give answers. Shut up in there and let life happen a bit. Hammer parenting never produced healthy kids and hammer running is what produced a jacked up foot.

Good running and good living!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Podiatrist: 0 , Veterinarian + Awesome PT: 10

I'm running tomorrow. My podiatrist put a cm thick layer of tape on my foot and told me to come back when I was ready for a shot of cotisone. He told me my form wasn't really an issue and that I probably wasn't built for running. That didn’t help much. I’m going to run.

My awesome vet/distiller friend told me to take anti-inflammatories and use ice (and drink grappa). That was helping. I saw a Physical Therapist yesterday at a workshop that he generously held for free. He poked around, as PTs will, gave me some techniques with a rolling pin to help fix my problem, ground on my calves until I was practically crying, gave a group of us a thoroughly pleasant and helpful time...and I'm getting better faster. His name is Scott Hadley, he’s in Grand Rapids, he’s kind and really knowledgeable.

The causes of injuries can be difficult to track down. I’ll bet if you spend a few minutes online trying to figure out why people get IT band syndrome or plantar fasciitis, you’ll find 10 different explanations. When I was studying Kinesology the answers always had to do with vertical stacking of bones. They talked about hips that are too wide, leg bones being different lengths, foot arches collapsing, and everything had to do with bodies that weren’t put together correctly. Not helpful, bodies are generally put together quite well but we tend to misuse them.

In my experience most athletic injuries are caused by the way we use our bodies: things that are tight, things we aren’t aware of like posture, etc. When I first started running I had some problems that I tracked down to my gait, which was lopsided. Not lopsided like one of my bones was 2” longer than the other, lopsided like I grew up in Chicago and spent much of my youth cultivating a strut. I figured it out by walking toward myself in the mirror and thinking: “If I run the way I walk I’m going to need a hip replaced soon”.

My point is that sometimes habitual movement patterns are so ingrained that we don’t notice them enough to question them. Something as repetitive as running requires balance and fluidity or some muscle is going to get tired, cause some other muscle to take some of its stress, causing problems that radiate outward from the overused muscle or muscle group. Just because your lower back hurts doesn't mean your lower back is where the problem started. I had many a conversation as a trainer about computer posture and how quickly it can lead to injury in the gym. Lift with your legs is just not possible when your head is sticking 3” out in front of you.

Things that have helped me with posture and balance:

1. Tai Chi is one of the best ways I’ve ever found to develop balanced posture. It will get your head floating on the end of your spine like a balloon on a string. What’s more, all you have to do is find a group in a park somewhere. They’re always happy to have you.

2. Alexander Technique was developed to relieve stress on the vocal cords of actors and singers by promoting good posture and fluid movement. It is one of the strangest styles of body work I’ve ever tried but really amazing and effective.

3. My own trick: Face the mirror. Put your middle and index fingers on the boney bumps that stick out right behind your ears (mastoid process). Put your thumbs under your cheek bones. Make sure that the bottoms of those two boney processes are level with the floor. Take some deep breaths and gently push up toward the ceiling focusing on lengthening the back of your neck, and your entire spine. Do this for a few minutes then go about your life, trying to maintain that vertical sensation.

Good Running!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running: 2 things that help, 2 things that don't

I'm trying to describe how running feels in my head. Is it falling forward with legs catching you, is it bouncing from foot to foot, is it struggling to keep moving while lazy and grumpy thoughts tempt me to immediately stop and head home? Most of the time these days it's much more pleasant than that last one, although I've been there for sure.

On my best days it feels a more like a great energizing walk. I rarely hit a wall and mostly kind of drift along. I've been given a lot of advice from trainers, runners, ultra-athletes, even some of my clients. I had a client who sat down with me before we ever started training in a consultation, a bit over weight, clearly out of shape and told me he just wanted to get back into shape, lose a little of that weight. He seemed to me to be like many other middle aged guys who hadn't worked out since college until I asked him about his exercise history.

It went something like this: Oh well, I guess um, I've worked out a bit. Well, once I swam across the English channel, then I did it again, then I ran some marathons and did a couple of iron men races. I stopped after this Badwater thing. For those of you that don't know, that's 135 miles through Death Valley while climbing a bit over 8,000ft. I told him he had the wrong trainer as I wasn't nearly equipped to handle that. We ended up working together for a year or so. It was a great time, he was an excellent client, and we inspired each other in the realms of exercise and fatherhood. Hey Steve!

When I asked him for advice on such things he said: You just have to be stubborn enough to outlast the lazy. To me that works really well on a longer timeline. You really have to be stubborn enough to get into good enough shape that what you're doing becomes easy. Your body is really good at making things easy if you give it enough time and are consistent. That is fundamentally your body's primary job. Adjusting to any stress so that the stress requires less energy expenditure to cope with. The stress here is running and your body will align muscles, metabolic processes and just about everything but your thoughts. You'll have to manage those yourself.

Things that work for me:
1. Be stubborn or patient, whichever feels like the right descriptor for you
2. Observe debilitating thoughts with humor.
-My mom used to describe self doubt and self defeating thoughts as the inner
protector trying to save you from suffering through failure. The only effective
way I have found for coping with that devil is through humor. Quitting doesn't
make for a very effective moral booster after all. Misguided, fearful, inner
quitter, will you ever learn?

Things that don't:
1. Find a landmark and run to it. Repeat in your head: If I can make it to that landmark I can make it to the next one.
-This kind of goal setting is so short term it makes your run a series of
struggles rather than building a larger more inspiring context. I'm big on
context and always try to build one for any project, whether it's a new whiskey,
a new business, a new poem, or a new fitness goal. Doing this gives you
something to refer back to when you are contemplating stopping or sleeping in.
Many people do this by signing up for races to challenge themselves, and/or
raising money for charities through these races. The larger goal and the benefit
to others will inspire you.
2. Just fight it out
-That is just not me. I can dog through some tough stuff, but I'd much rather
find a small pleasure in the moment. Even when you're in pain there's something
to love nearby. It might be a tree, give it a hug. It might be a beautiful day,
or someone near you. I always look for a pleasure rather than fighting a pain.