Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jason Robillard and the Western States 100

As I've said before, The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard is the book that got me started in barefoot running.  He recently ran the Western States 100 Mile Ultra-marathon and finished in under 24 hours!  Check out his blog post for a couple cool videos recapping the event.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shootin' at the walls of heartache, Bang! Bang! I am the warrior! - Warrior Dash Review

Perhaps I would have had a faster run if I would have sang Pat Benetar to myself for the whole race.  As it stands, I forgot to do that and I finished a little slower than I would have liked.  Final course time was 45:49.75 for a 15:10/mile pace.  I wanted to break 45 minutes and had a wild goal to finish around 35 minutes depending on how the first mile or so went.  The course was harder than I anticipated, even though the obstacles were easier than I anticipated.  I was not ready at all for the hills on the course, but I guess I should have expected some big ones since we were at Afton Alps Ski Area.  Lesson learned.  Sara and I were originally going to run this together, but as she is currently with child, my Office Manager Terri took her place.  Sara is already in for next year though, assuming she isn't pregnant again.  Just kidding, Sara!

Here's a pre-race picture with Johann.  I decided not to carry him out on the course though. He has been sand-bagging on his training and was ill-prepared.

I had a notion that I might do this barefoot.  I'm glad I didn't.  I wore my Merrell Trail Gloves instead which I'm pretty happy about at this point.  Looking at the satellite photos of the course I kind of thought it would mostly be grass and dirt, but there was a metric crap-ton of gravel that I'm not ready for, plus I guess you never know what is at the bottom of those mud pits.  Either way, I'm glad I had the extra protection.

We made it to the course just after 9:00 am and made it through packet pick-up really quickly.  We were scheduled for the 10:30 start, but decided to just jump into the 10:00 start since it was supposed to start raining, which we forgot to prepare Sara and Johann for.  Just before the 10:00 wave started the lightning started and delayed everything.  The rule was no waves could start until 15 minutes after the last lightning bolt.  We finally got going at around 10:30.

The Start
The start was pretty well controlled.  Since they use a timing chip for each runner there is no rush to hit the course, though if you are going for time you should move to the front of the pack.  That will save you vital seconds of waiting at obstacles and running around Warrior Walkers.  There was quite a few people walking from the start that you had to contend with and zig-zag around.  The guy we were running behind at the start even stopped in the middle of the course to tie his shoe and nearly got trampled by Terri.  Let's use our heads people.  After about 200-300 meters we made a left turn and saw the first hill.  The hills on the course were killer.  I think we ran up about half-way and then walked the rest of the hill.

The Obstacles
The first obstacle was called Road Rage.  There were three rows of cars to climb over with the space in-between the cars full of tires laid out flat.  Not too difficult.  I used the "Dukes of Hazard" technique to get over the cars which was fun.

The next obstacle on the course was called the Treacherous Typhoon.  It was basically a high powered fan that also sprayed water, the same machine that they use to make snow in the winter for the ski slopes.  Not all that difficult, just run through the thing.  The water was pretty cold though and if you are out of breath from the running it can be a little uncomfortable.

There was supposed to be some sort of rappelling obstacle after the typhoon, but it never materialized.  I suppose the plan just didn't work out the way the organizers thought it would.  Instead, we did a wicked downhill on wet grass and I hit the deck about four times.  I was too far back on my heels due to bad downhill form and the trail gloves have zero traction back there.  On the future downhills I remembered to slalom down on my toes and I didn't have any more falls.  Since there was no rappelling obstacle they took us on an out and back course uphill/downhill through some trees.  This was the only spot on the course that had any real tripping hazards from all the tree roots on the trail.

The next obstacle was called Barricade Breakdown.  Up and over a 4' high barricade, then under a barbed-wire fence.  Repeat 4-5 times.  I slipped on the first barricade due to wet shoes but didn't fall.  Most people were crawling under the fences but I just dropped and rolled.  It was a lot faster and easier on my wrists and shoulders that are usually sore after a week of work.  Don't hate me.  I'm an innovator when it comes to approaching obstacles.

A nice downhill brought us to Chaotic Crossover.  This was a cargo net parallel to the ground about 10' up.  It also angled slightly towards the middle.  I ended up right next to the central support so I was able to use that as a sturdy hand-hold while I navigated the net with my feet.  Piece of cake.  Remember I'm an innovator.

Next was another nice uphill run to Blackout.  This was a low, black canopy that you had to crawl through, ducking under beams as you went.  It was dark, but you could see pretty easily.  It was about 40-50' (best guess) of crawling, so it was hard on the shoulders and left me a little winded when I got out, which was nice because then you started running back up the hill.

The next obstacle was the Cargo Climb.  As you might expect, this was a (nearly) vertical cargo net.  This was an easy climb, but it may be a real mental challenge if you are afraid of heights.  I'm not sure of the height, but it was pretty high.  There was a girl ahead of me that was having a little trouble.  She made it though with a little coaching from her friend.

Obstacle number seven was the only one I thought might be hard.  The Warrior Wall is a 12-15' (guess) high wall with 1" toe-holds and a rope to haul yourself up.  It really wasn't that difficult to pull yourself up.  If the toe holds were more slippery or you are afraid of heights then the wall may have been trouble but otherwise no trouble.

Next was the Teetering Traverse.  This was 2 X 8 planks with some toe holds ramping up to about 6' off the ground, down again to about 4', a short flat stretch, then up and down again.  The boards were a little slippery from all the mud we ran through to get there, but the planks were pretty sturdy and didn't wobble at all.

After that was one more hill to climb to get to the top of the Petrifying Plunge which was a multi-lane slip and slide back down a small hill.  It is in the picture below.  The plunge was not that petrifying. As a matter of fact, I got stuck half-way down.  My advice for this one would be to make sure you have a full head of steam when you jump in.

The last two obstacles are below.  The Warrior Roast and the Muddy Mayhem.  I think they are self explanatory.

Here is Terri and I after the race...

...and a picture of my only injury.  My shirt got stuck on the last string of barbed-wire over the mud pit as I was standing up and I poked my hand trying to unhook it.  Not life threatening, and I am well into my recovery.  Like the good Dr. Crabb always said at Boy Scout Camp; "All bleeding stops."

This was a fun race and I'll certainly do it again.  You should too!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good Run!

Just a quick post because I'm feeling good about my run last night.  It was hot, hot, hot, but I went out for a run last night.  Even though I felt like a hot dog on the roller grill I had probably the best and most comfortable run of my life.  I did 2.1 miles without walking once, no heel pain, and no blister pain.  I can't explain how happy that makes me!  I'm running the Warrior Dash this weekend and I'm really looking forward to it!

You can find Barefoot Chiropractor on Facebook.  Give me a like and keep up to date on my progress while laughing at my blisters!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Science of Running

There is a growing amount of research on barefoot running.  Daniel Lieberman and his crew at Harvard have been doing a lot of work comparing barefoot running to shod running and really trying to define the mechanics of barefoot running.  Their work shows vastly decreased impact when running barefoot and using a forefoot strike over a heel strike.  They are careful to explain that their research does not specifically indicate less injury potential in barefoot running, but it stands to reason that with less impact there would likely be less injury potential.

Click the link to head to their site.  There are videos and training tips as well as a great discussion on the bio-mechanics of running if you want to nerd out.

From Lieberman's Website:

Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ooops, I stepped on a rock. Nope, that's a blister. - Part Two

I felt pretty good through the weekend and took a day off while we visited my family in Iowa.  We got back Sunday evening and I was itching to get a run in.  I headed out at about 7:15, no shoes again this time, still wanting to work on technique and get that down.  I slowed my pace but was careful to actually increase the cadence of my running.  Basically that means you shorten your stride, and aim for about 180 steps per minute, well over the average of 140 most runners take.  I tried to keep my pace slower though and concentrate on not pushing off.  That blister on my left foot was still there and I didn't want to make it worse.

I finished a full mile loop back to our house with no increased pain in the blister, but on inspection I could see it was starting to look a little puffy again.  Great.  It was sore by the time I went to bed and was still bugging me the next morning.  I let it calm down until today and went for another run tonight.  The blister is still there obviously, so I've made the executive decision to wear my Merrell Trail Gloves until that problem is resolved a little further.  Lifting my foot is still the hardest part of the barefoot gait for me to nail down.  This video with Lee Saxby helped me quite a bit.  Watch for the runner's increased cadence when they do a side by side shot of him running with shoes and without.

I had my dear wife video me running a little bit before I took off tonight which helped some too.  I'll spare you from that little piece of entertainment, but it was nice to see what I was doing.  Tonight's run was 1.4 miles and didn't increase any blister pain at all so I'll take that to mean my form is improving.  We are going to try and video me running on the treadmill which should make it a little easier to see my gait pattern.

The foot lift is described differently by different people.  Some say run like you are on hot coals, some say run like a ninja.  Jason Robillard suggests that instead of trying to softly place your feet as you step, concentrate on the foot that is rising and the foot that is stepping will naturally land more softly.  The important part is to keep your knees bent through the entire stride.  At no point in the stride is the knee completely extended.  With the higher cadence as well as keeping the knee bent I tended to envision that I was riding a bike as I was running.

(Get ready for the touchy-feely part of this story.)

Regardless of how long it takes, I'm sticking on this path.  I am enjoying this new hobby and I don't see that ending any time soon.  Not long ago I couldn't run for 4-5 minutes straight without nearly passing out.  Tonight, I did my entire run without stopping, and I wasn't even tired when I got done.  I could have done more, but in an effort to limit the Too Much Too Soon syndrome I stopped.  People have different reasons for running and mine is this:  I have a one year old boy, and another little boy due in December.  I have a wife that for some reason enjoys my company.  Every day I see people who are literally in a health crisis and they continue to make excuses about why they can't change.  I'm not going to be that person, and it's my job to be an example.

(You can stop weeping with inspiration now, though it is appreciated.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ooops, I stepped on a rock. Nope, that's a blister. - Part One

Barefoot running requires a big change in form when compared to the way that most people run in shoes.  There are certainly exceptions, but most people will strike first at their heel, then roll forward on their foot and finally push off with their toes to propel forward.  I have always been one of those people, so I know this gait well.  It blessed me with a short, choppy running career full of shin splints and turf toe.  The heel strike with an extended knee puts a lot of force through the entire body.  Barefoot running doesn't allow for this unnatural form so...time to learn a new gait!

A mid to forefoot landing has been pretty easy for me to practice and develop.  I started working on it while I was still running in my New Balance shoes.  I think that starting to change my gait then has been beneficial, but it didn't let me practice the other important piece of the puzzle.  The foot lift.  Not having a good foot lift was the likely cause of the major bout of Achilles tendonitis I developed after pushing hard through a 5K in early June.

The foot lift is an important concept in barefoot running because it prevents a strong push-off with the toes.  A strong push off can lead to blisters and Achilles tendonitis (a-ha!).  The foot lift concept has been escaping me however and it lead to some problems.  Last week on Monday I went out for a quick run, and for the first time set out with no shoes at all.  I did .7 of a mile and had no pain in my heel which had been the major problem.  Perfect!  I took a day off, and went out on Wednesday.  At some point during that run, I felt some pain at the ball of my foot on the left, right behind the big toe.  Thinking I had stepped on something, I stopped for a look.  No cuts, no blood, a little bit of rough looking skin from the pavement.  No big deal.  Keep going.  Run a little further; more pain.  Stop and repeat the process.  Since I couldn't see anything I figured it was just the outer layers of skin getting sore and I pushed a little further.  I should have listened to my feet and stopped.  I made it another 200 meters or so and the burning in my foot had become nearly unbearable by that point.  I stopped running and limped the last 1.5 blocks home.  I cleaned the grime off of my feet and found the blister.  Ouch.  It was deep, down below the thick skin on my sole.  I smacked myself in the head for ignoring my body once again and hoped for the best.

By Friday, the pain was gone from the blister and I could walk normally again.  I wanted to get out and run but it was getting later than normal and the light was starting to fade.  I am not a Ninja, so not wanting to step on something because I couldn't see it I put my Merrell Trail Gloves on.  I spent that entire run focusing on form and trying to understand the foot lift concept better and making sure my blister didn't get worse.  Mission pretty much accomplished.  I felt like I started to develop a good foot lift on that run, and I went about 1.1 miles with no return of heel pain so I think that problem is in the past.  I even did some plyometric work in the backyard after the run and went in the house pretty full of myself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On the Run, Slowly

Here we go!  Back in the saddle.

I did 7/10 of a mile on July 4th after not running since the previous Tuesday.  I'm now taking the "run for fun" approach, and listening to my body rather than trying to pound out a specific distance or set of intervals.  I didn't time this run, but I did map it out afterwards just to see the distance.  I want to get an idea for how far, I'm just not concerned right now with how fast.  I hereby vow to never again fall victim to "Too Much, Too Soon".

The process of becoming a runner has been interesting to say the least.  I started back on this path with a specific goal in mind and a set training schedule.  I haven't been able to stick to it due to injury but I know my lungs are stronger than they have ever been.  My lungs seemed to constantly be a limiting factor in addition to the shin splints that have plagued me since high school.  I feel proud now that I can always keep up a sub-10 minute mile pace without being so gassed I have to stop.  10 minute miles aren't winning any awards, but neither is sitting on the couch.

The run I did on the 4th was all barefoot.  No shoes at all!  I had been out mowing the lawn and decided it was go time.  My heel pain had resolved, and I was itching to get going so I took off my shoes (Yeah I was wearing shoes, but I'm not taking a whack in the toes from a string trimmer!) from mowing/edging and I took off.  I had a route in mind but I decided I would  just see how I was feeling.  I had a little stretching/aching in my heel but it wasn't painful so I kept going.  I felt like I was going a good pace so I ignored that part and focused on my left heel to see if I could find any gait problems that were keeping this pain around.  I discovered that I was landing mid to forefoot on both sides, but my left heel wasn't really touching down.  Instead I was keeping it stiff and almost pushing off.  I worked on it and had it pretty much under control by the time I was done.  The best news is that I have no heel pain at all today!

I was a few blocks from home when I got overtaken and passed by two other runners.  I wonder what they thought about what I was doing.  Both had on ASICS.  I doubt they gave it a second thought, but I like to think they went home and looked into barefoot running.  Regardless, I'm hooked and I'm going to continue!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Are you the boss? Do you need the info?

A big issue when starting a new exercise program is having the correct information to get going without injury.  When you want quick and easy info you of course turn to the internet (notice I didn't say "always correct" info).  In the case of barefoot running, the info is wide, varied, and sometimes conflicting.  The best teacher is your own body of course but sometimes you need a little more reassurance

In my mind, barefoot running is a process, not an activity.  The ability to learn from the mistakes and victories of others is a great asset.  I have been actively looking for as much information I could find, mostly through the scientific route.  Daniel Lieberman at Harvard has been doing scientific research on barefoot vs. shod running and his site is a great resource if you are interested in that, but the biggest online community of barefoot runners is The Barefoot Runners Society.

From the BRS Site:

The Barefoot Runners Society was born out of a need to find others who have the same interest in running barefoot/natural.  As you know, it's comforting when you find others who share the same passion for running barefoot or minimal that you do.  It is what binds us to one another and helps us to feel that we are not alone in this otherwise solitary experience.
Our vision is that there will be BRS chapters throughout  the world which will offer support and resources to the barefoot and minimalist running community.
Our mission is:
  • To offer resources that unite barefoot and minimalist runners from around the world;
  • To promote barefoot running and minimalist running around the world and at race events as a competitive sport;
  • To educate the running public on the health benefits of barefoot and minimalist running;
  • To dispel the myths associated with barefoot running that negatively impact the sport.
 You can also find a local chapter and meet up with other barefoot runners in your area!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Free Stuff for You!

In my last post I mentioned the book that started my down the barefoot running path.  Jason Robillard wrote The Barefoot Running Book and it chronicles his own start into barefoot running as well as gives a practical guide to help anyone get started.  Jason and his wife were teachers in Michigan but have recently become gypsies and are traveling the country, spreading the word about barefoot running.

As a generous guy and a true supporter of the running community, Jason is giving away his book in free PDF form.  Hit the link below and download a copy, then spread the link around to your running friends.  Heck, spread it to your non-running friends.  They could soon become your running friends!

The Barefoot Running Book Giveaway