Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Monday, June 28, 2010

We Were Born to Run

I was returning from lunch (and the shoe store) and I glance over my shoulder and there's a kid running damn fast completely barefoot on the sidewalk. I look ahead and about 4 blocks up the street is a neighborhood pool so the kid was obviously running to get to the pool. I would guess he was 6-7 yrs. old. His form was PERFECT and his stride was just beautiful and he has haulin'. He jumped off the sidewalk, onto the street, back to the sidewalk and didn't miss a beat. There were no cars behind me so I literally coasted along watching him (thankfully he didn't see me as I might have scared him as some stalker or something :). I couldn't stop looking as my jar dropped. This kid was haulin' with a perfect forefoot strike, quick stride, high cadence and nice slight lean forward.

Need I say more? This answers about every damn question you could ask. I know we have to spend years and cycles gathering the supporting data for what we believe but that single few minutes answered any questions for me!

This was a young white suburban kid running on hard surfaces and there are pebbles and stuff on the side walk and nothing bothered him. You could have put him in the rift valley with his barefeet and he would fit right in :). Of course, I'm sure it will only take a few more years in bad shoes and reducing him ability to run every day and he will be like the rest of us.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

My First 5k Race Win!

Just finished my 5k race this morning and I won first place. It's the first time I've won a race!!!!!!!

I finished in 19:12 which beats my previous PR by :06. It was a difficult course with multiple hills. I'm really looking forward to finding a flat 5k as I'm confident I can do something in 18:30 range. Within the next year, I think I can go sub 18:00.

I ran in the zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's and they were awesome. I know it's hard to compare one race to another but I ran 19:18 in my Evo's and it required a harder effort. In this race, I ran with 5-10% less effort and finished faster. Is it the shoes and/or did the shoes have an issue? I'm not sure to be honest (I need to think about this longer). I was really relaxed and didn't run to PR but just decided to use this race as a good tempo run. When I finished the race, I wasn't winded or tired. I feel like I should do another run right now but I'm a much smarter runner today so I will not run again today.

In thinking about comparing my 5k in Evo's vs. 5k in zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's, the race today was more difficult than the last 5k in the Evo's. I also had more lift or energy return from the Free vs. Evo. I ran with less effort. I did maintain a quick, light stride and landed forefoot just like in the Evo.

I beat 2 college cross country runners and had a great discussion with them afterwards. During the race, I just settled in behind both of them as they shot out of the gate at a 5:20 pace so I settled in at a 5:35 pace and hit the mile 1 mark at 5:58 and I felt great so I took a conservative approach and kept a :15 - :20 distance and continued until the 2.4 mile mark, then I decided the hell with the time, I'm going to try to win my first race so I closed the gap to about :05 sec. and at the 2.6 mile mark, I had a lot of pop left so I pushed a 5:40 pace again and opened up a gap but then another runner (same age as me, 41 yrs. old) who was apparently in fourth place put in a major kick and was within :05 sec. of me with 400 meters left so I decided to go all out and took my pace down to 5:00 and opened up a :15 - :20 gap as that gentlemen ran out of gas. I also noticed with respect to the college runners that they had a HUGE stride, big looping stride and heel striked each time in major marshmallow shoes. I'm not making a judgement but saying it was interesting as a settled in behind them and I think the could run incredibly faster if they tightened up their form and technique.

What a great experience. The swag was awesome for first place: free pair of shoes from a local running store (LOL, it's that ironic but I can get something and have them zero dropped); awesome bags of coffee, and $50 gift certificate. The race was to support Women of the Congo which is a great cause and the cause certainly trumped the race. The race was a bi-product. I was humbled to run in a race for such a great cause.

This continues my journey as I need to digest having such a great running experience in shoes albeit zero dropped shoes that are very flexible.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zero Drop Nike Free 3.0 Review

I did a good medium 6 mile tempo run in the zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's. First of all, the cobbler did an exceptionally good job as the sole is completely flat. I'd estimate about 15mm of sole across the bottom, toe to heel. Obviously there is a loss in ground feel compared to most minimalist shoes but it didn't bother me as I could still feel the contours of some rocks and pebbles. Overall, the shoe felt great. No issues during or after the run and I maintained the same form, technique and cadence as in the Evo's.

But here's the major difference and why I don't see elite runners changing to barefoot running or true minimalist shoes any time soon. I could see them running in zero drop running shoes but I don't see any elite runners in VFFs or Feelmax for example. Here's why. I still run faster in shoes as I can get reckless and it provides more room for error. Today, I maintained a pace probably :40 - :50 seconds faster than I would have run in my Evo's or barefoot given my level of energy and fatigue. I was fatigued today after pace work yesterday and I still floated by at a pretty good pace. Also, the energy return provided by the Free's allowed me to run with less overall effort, at least in a fatigued state. Let me be clear as I am not saying this is a good thing or if ultimately it could lead to other problems or injuries but I'm saying I understand some of the benefits of shoes when it comes to racing/speed/pace.

However, the benefits of barefoot running are huge. While running in these Free's I noticed how straight my back was, how quick my stride, how lightly I landed, and the forefoot strike continued. So this also answers the other question which Dr. Lieberman already proved which was if you have good form, you can run correctly in shoes. Dr. Lieberman showed the runner in racing shoes and traditional running shoes maintaining a forefoot strike. The HUGE question is any injury differences in looking at a runner with great form running barefoot vs. shod. As I understand this is what Dr. Lieberman is turning his attention to next.

Lastly, the zero drop is pretty amazing. Even if, and I know it's debated, the heel drop in the 3.0 is only 4mm, I could feel the difference after it was removed. For me, of all the things that could bother me about a shoe, I absolutely can't run with "any" heel differential or motion control. I'm finding it easier to deal with lack of ground feel and even minimal arch support, to a certain a degree but the heel build-up or motion control is a deal breaker. I can probably run in the Nike Free because of how flexible it is.

Just some initial thoughts.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Zero Drop Nike Free 3.0

My zero dropped Nike Free 3.0. The cobbler reduced the mid-foot and heel to the same level as the forefoot. There is no differential form forefoot t0 mid-foot to heel.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Benefits to Rotating Footwear?

In the past 6 days, I've run in 5 different types of footwear: (1) barefoot (obviously not footwear :), (2) Evo, (3) zero dropped Asics Hyperspeed 3's, (4) Nike Free 3.0 (although they are currently being zero dropped), and (5) VFF/KSO.

I didn't intend to do this but I feel really good. Specifically, my feet/ankles/legs feel great which raises the obvious questions:

1. Is there a benefit to rotating footwear?

2. Should we all rotate our footwear? Other than barefoot, should we not wear the same footwear on consecutive days?

Someone on a different post this morning compared running in different footwear to running on different terrain. This analogy makes sense to me. If each shoe is designed differently which I tend to believe as I doubt any 2 shoes are identical, then would we not work slightly different muscles on each run?

I know it's common for elite runners to rotate 2-3 different models of shoes and I've read articles about how this prolongs the lifespan of shoes which isn't my primary concern but I've also read a few articles that such an approach can reduce injury.

The potential for injury prevention is my primary concern, so what do other folks think?


Why Do Different Foot Strikes Matter?

Studies by Dr. Liberman, Harvard University

Here we focus on the difference between heel striking and forefoot striking (see bottom of page for more on midfoot striking which is often intermediate). In heel striking, the collision of the heel with the ground generates a significant impact transient,a nearly instantaneous, large force. This force sends a shock wave up through the body via the skeletal system. In forefoot striking, the collision of the forefoot with the ground generates a very minimal impact force with no impact transient.

Therefore, quite simply, a runner can avoid experiencing the large impact force by forefoot striking properly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nike Waffle Zero Drop

Pictures of the Nike Waffles I had zero dropped. The entire heel was removed and there is no differential from forefoot to mid-foot to heel.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Listening to the Body Is NOT Enough

After my discussion yesterday with a senior runner I very much respect, I've come to realize what he meant in telling me takes at least 3 years of consistent and dedicated running to learn how to run. Yes, part of it was form and technique. However, it's also about not only listening to the body but understanding what the body is telling you. You can listen, and that's a good start, but if you don't know what the message is and what to do about it, you still can't address the issue even though you can listen to the body.

On this point, I'm actually glad I've been hurt over the past years. As I come up on the end of my 3 yr. of running, I can now tell when I have the earliest indication of PF, AT or Runner's Knee for example. I can feel it and adjust before it turns into anything serious. Just this morning, I felt some very very slight stress around the knee, nothing serious but I could feel it. I knew right away what the issue was. I've moved to running 7 days per week instead of 5 days per week and my legs are dead. I have no pain but the legs are dead and not alive. This is my body telling me to "back off" for a few days. In the past, I'd keep going because it just tired muscles, right? Wrong, it's the early message of something that will lead to serious Runner's Knee in 2-4 weeks if I keep it up. And, when too tired, form will fall apart causing other issues.

So, tomorrow is speed work but not for me :). I'll show up to the group session but I'll turn it into an easy run and then take the next day off completely, then only run 4 of the next 5 or 6 days to get another full day of rest.

Last week, I tried to run in my old Asics Hyperspeed 3's. I made it 6 minutes and I noticed a faint pinch in the arch area and immediately I knew that was the very early message from my body to the brain to get out of those shoes because that will lead to PF, not today but next month.

I remember an elite level runner telling me that some really good runner's are injured because they know what the body is telling them but due to performance pressures, they push beyond and ignore the message although they know what they should do. I actually believe this. I believe elite runners know when they should back off but can't do it due to sponsorship, money and racing. With many elite runners, it's probably not the shoes but the decision to ignore when to back off.

Other thoughts?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Saucony Grid Type A4 - Brief Review

I tried the new Saucony Grid Type A4 at lunch today. For what is it worth, here are my thoughts although I only walked in the Saucony and did about 2-3 minutes of running at 9:00 pace on the treadmill.

1. Good room in the toe box. Pretty wide for a running shoe. Slightly wider than the Mizuno Wave Universe 3.

2. Pretty flexible shoe.

3. Minimal support in the arch area. Much less support than the Mizuno Wave Universe 3. You can almost fold the front to the back.

4. Pretty light at about 7 oz. or a hair under.

5. 4mm heel differential which didn't seem to bother me much.

6. Decent ground feel, obviously much better with the insole removed.

7. Could potentially be the best of the running shoe. When I say "running shoe," I'm not including true minimalist footwear like VFFs, Evo, Feelmax, etc.

8. Definitely a move in the right direction by a major shoe company.

So with that said, did I buy a pair? No, although I thought about it. However, I couldn't justify buying any running shoe when the Evo has been spectacular. And no trading running shoe or racing shoe provides the type of flexibility, ground feel and zero drop like the Evo (of course, other than other true minimalist footwear). All I need is a trail shoe so I'll wait and consider the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 since it only has a 3mm differential but I'll need to see how flexible the shoe is and, if it's flexible, especially in the mid foot/arch area, then I'll give it a try.

The other thing is loyalty. I'm going to stay LOYAL to the companies that promoted barefoot-like running from the beginning . . . Vibram, Feelmax, Terra, etc. Even if the major shoe companies decide to offer good minimalist footwear, I'll stick with the niche/small companies that entered this space first.

On another note, this store also had KSOs and Bilika's, but women's only. That's progress at least.


Friday, June 11, 2010

I need a warmer place!

I'm running 7 days a week but 2 of the days I only run barefoot and in
KSOs. I alter running 10 min. BF, then 10 min. in KSOs, back and
forth for about 30-45 minutes. This works great for easy days.
Especially diggin' the barefoot trail running. Then the other 5 days
are Evo's. I guess there's no place for regular running shoes in my
program other than the mountain trail stuff and I'm still looking for
footwear (maybe the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 when it comes out).

Now I'm thinking I need to move to the West coast or the Caribbean
because I don't want to stop the BF running due to the winter!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Foot Structure Has Changed

The muscles and tendons inside my foot have shifted of sorts. It's hard
to explain but it’s like the inside of the foot changed as a result of all
the barefoot/minimalist running and re-introducing my forefoot strike (I'm a
bit of an extreme forefoot strike as opposed to a midfoot strike . . . it

is quite often that during a 5k race for example, my heel doesn't touch

the ground . . . I'd say it's about 50/50 in terms of my heel kissing

the ground).

My mom said I also ran on my forefoot & toes as a child
and I think shoes changed that and, in fact, 3 years ago I was heel

striking and I believe now that I'm running in my natural state, my

foot adapted back to how it was designed when I born and that required

some shifting of the muscles/tendons inside the foot. This had to

happen because I have high arches but arches are irrelevant with

marshmallow shoes because they press against my arch and take over the

functions of the arch so I'm sure my arch was very weak and went to

sleep and now it is awake again. I do know that the muscles under my

foot stick out when I flex my foot and that was non-existent when I

started running 3 years ago.

It's crazy because now running in marshmallow shoes doesn't hurt but
it is very uncomfortable and I'm not nearly as fluid or efficient.

I'd like to see some before and after foot strengthening tests such as
the feet of a young East African who grew up barefoot compared to that

same kid after running in shoes for 5-10 years. Is the foot the

same? Is the foot weaker? stronger? different in any way?

All I really want is for every single runner to experience something
similar in their own way and at their own time. There's few things as

fun as running without injuries or fear of being injured. I love

music but nothing sounds as good as landing softly, running

effortlessly, listening to the branches on trees sway side to side,

glancing at the expansive skies above, and listening to nature play

its tune!!!!!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Is it Good to Run Everyday?

Within the last few weeks, I've decided to run 7 days a week and take
off a day every 15-20 days depending on how I feel. I feet great
especially in trouble areas like my achilles and plantar which I
assume feels good because of the increased blood flow from running on
a daily basis. Over the past few years, I've floated between 5-6 days
per week of running and since I added speed work I moved back to 5
days per week of running to allow my body to adjust. The funny thing,
and I think others have said the same thing, is I have the most aches
on days I take off.

There's a lot of discussion around how many days a person should run
and how much time off is needed to allow the body to heal. Of course,
this will vary by individual but as we talk about evolution, it's hard
to believe we can't run everyday, for the most part. Seems to me the
key is a complete understanding of your body and what days you can
push it and which days to back off and just run very easy (you have to
listen to your body at the highest level). I'm only running 30-40
minutes on the additional 2 days and it feels great. It has only been
a few weeks so we'll see how it goes but my tendons and muscles feel
so much better which I attribute to running on a daily basis but maybe
there's more to it.

Thoughts? Other folks experiences?


Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Defining Moment - It Started 2 Years Ago

I think I've hit a defining moment in my running life. I started getting interested in the BF movement almost 2 yrs. ago, and then it really got fueled when I met Christopher McDougall, then meeting BFT and Barefoot Ken Bob on-line, and then I was hooked. I had a rash of injuries (PF, AT and Runners Knee) and twice I went 100% barefoot for 3 months. I've tried more types of shoes than I care to admit and many trial and error training programs.

For the past 6 months, while everything has been improving, I've still had aches and pains (minor off and on PF and AT) but nothing to prevent me from running or racing so I accepted that was just something I would have to deal with, especially since it was minor, but I started a rigorous daily strengthening and stretching program for my feet, especially the plantar muscle and Achilles tendon.

However, something has occurred in the last 5 days and I know it in my heart and I can feel it in my feet. About Monday of last week I could feel something like the muscles and tendons in my feet shifting and settling. Slowly, the morning pains started to disappear around last Tuesday morning. Then, I seem to have solved a very minor issue with the Evo's when off-hand I tried a different thin insole and I knew I hit the jackpot when I put them on and took my first step. Then, yesterday and today, I run 1 mile over dirt path terrain that I couldn't run 10 ft. on 1 yr. ago and I do it with ease and can run with speed. To add to it, my stride in the last 5 days has changed. When Dr. Lieberman said you don't have to shuffle when you run barefoot, he was right. My stride has increased comfortably and I still land under the body, very softly, and pop off the ground automatically (someone asked me the other day if I ran track in college and I knew something had changed). I just ran 8 miles this morning and did a 5k tempo in the middle and I was at about 80% effort and almost ran sub 19:00 min. (19:07 exactly) and it was on dirt trails with some hills.

This is a long way of saying I wonder for folks like BFT and others, if they had a defining moment or point in time when everything just came together? If so, I think it just happened to me. I've had small accomplishments along the way but this is entirely different. This is like all the small pieces coming together. I'm very happy and I'll admit, I've had a tear or two in the last few days because this is life changing. 4 days in a row, I wake up in the morning with no pain other than sore calves/legs, etc., which is normal stuff but no problem taking the first step, no post-run pains other than sore muscles (in fact, I've been running 7 days a week recently). I've decided I don't need to regularly take days off, as the key is making sure I run easy on enough of those days but we are built to run every single day for the most part.

The discipline required to learn how to run BF has improved my overall life. Again, today, while warming up I was getting passed by all runners and it doesn't even bother me because I'm in my own world now. I use to try to compete against every runner and now I listen to my body and adjust my daily schedule according to how I feel. If I miss a workout goal, so what, because I know I get to run tomorrow.

BFT, Barefoot Ken Bob, Christopher M. and others, I've always believed in this and sure at times, I've had doubts but to see it come together is amazing.

I pray for everyone to experience this same thing at your appropriate time. It will happen!!!!!!!!!!!! I believe it's a mental, physical and spiritual test to reach this point. It won't come easy and you have to believe. And, when it happens, it's life changing.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Keep at it and Don't Give Up!

I decided to do some barefoot trail road running this morning and it
was awesome to say the least. I started with my Evo's for 20 minutes,
then took them off and went barefoot for 15 minutes. This trail path
was a path that I could not run barefoot on last year and haven't
tried it since. Well, I did 15 minutes at sub 7:15 pace with no
problem whatsoever. It was like running on grass. I had no pain and
the I didn't even notice the small pebbles and rocks.

On one hand, this tells me my form has improved dramatically and it
also tells me the Evo's are pretty darn good since I've been running
in them exclusively and haven't tried barefoot on these dirt paths, so
in addition to form, the Evo provides a good substitute for
barefoot . . . it's obviously not as good as barefoot but it pretty
good for me to immediately take them off and have no problem. In
fact, I cut my run short because I felt too good and I've learned to
build slowly. I could have kept going for who knows how long but I'll
work my way up again.

These are dirt paths I swore a year ago were impossible to run
barefoot and now they are so easy and so enjoyable to run barefoot
(I'm so relaxed now so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it). I was
in heaven because these roads go for 20+ miles so now I can do 100%
barefoot dirt road running this summer . . . I can't wait.

The message is to keep at it, keep practicing and don't give up
because around the corner is good stuff.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feet Don't Like The Free's

This may be a very short experiment. I tried a combo run in the Evo's
and Free 3.0's and my feet said no way to the Frees. It didn't hurt
and there was no pain but my feet said no way. My feet literally, and
I'm not kidding, wouldn't move that much in the Frees (it was actually
kinda' funny). I could only run very slowly and labor along. I threw
them to the side of the trail, but on the Evo's and 5 minutes later,
I'm running at sub 7:00 pace easily. I did add a custom insole (the
stock Evo insole is too flimsy) and it worked very well although I
will still run without the insole, unless I'm racing in which case the
insole allows me to cheat just a bit but not too much.

Guess I will turn my attention to getting a trail shoe and then I'll
have everything covered: BF, KSOs, Evo's and Trail Shoe (?? . . . I'm leaning toward the Inov-8 F-Lite 230).


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Evo vs. Nike Free 3.0

Today I did my interval work comparing Barefoot to Evo's to Nike Free 3.0's. It
was a track workout consisting of 6 sets of 800 meters at 85% effort,
100 meters at 50% effort, then 300 meters at 90% effort. I alternated
between Barefoot, Evo and Free 3.0's so that I was sufficiently warmed
up for a better apples to apples comparison.

For the 800's, I averaged a 6:30 pace barefoot; 6:15 pace in the Evo's
and 5:50 pace in the Free 3.0's.
For the 300's, I averaged a 6:30 pace barefoot; about a 6:05 pace in
the Evo's and 5:10 pace in the Free 3.0's (I did an extra 400 at 4:45

So I ran faster in the Free 3.0's which doesn't surprise me. In the
past, I've run about :30 sec. per mile faster in shoes. However, also
as expected, the Free's felt quite weird since I rarely ever wear
traditional running shoes. I'll say I think the Free is a decent shoe
but that's only based on a single interval session. I think there's
enough protection with the Free's to wear on trails but that will take
some more testing. The landing has a completely different feel when
comparing the Evo's to the Free's. The Evo's are pretty close to a
barefoot landing for me but the delta between the Evo and the Free's
was very noticeable. I'm still digesting the experience so I'll have
other thoughts later on.

It is amazing how different it feels to run in more traditional
shoes. I just imagine the weirdness that a East African child must
feel when putting on shoes for the first time. I don't think I
accomplished must on this first day other than getting further
validation about the Evo which I received when 3 of the folks I train
with came up to me (before I switched to the Free) and said, you run
so softly that it freaks us out on the track because we can't hear you
coming so it's hard to get out of your way. That's the ultimate
compliment when someone says, "I can't hear you coming." That must
mean I'm landing softly and I assume (or hope) that also means good
form and technique.

So what do I do next? I have no idea right now as I will take it day
by day. I will run in the Evo's tomorrow and Tuck posted something
that was interesting on the Evo and trail running because it matched
what I was thinking last night when I thought about looking for a
different insole for the Evo for trails runs might be the answer. I
don't like the stock insole from Terra but maybe a firmer insole might
be the answer (shouldn't be that expensive, so I'll give it a try).

6 hours later, I can feel tension in the knee and back. Not pain, but tension, however, tension ultimately leads to pain. I have no such tension barefoot or in the Evos . . . hmmm!

At a minimum, the Free's will be good for walking. And, they may be
good for recovery runs when my feet are really tired.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Next Phase of the BF & Minimalist Running

It seems to me that we are at a crossroads as it relates to BF/Minimalist running. Without some hard data on injury differences between shod and unshod, I feel we will be at a stalemate (even with that, there are numerous other factors, all of which can't be addressed in a single study). I know Dr. Lieberman is working on it but as it stands, I suspect we will see as many injured unshod runners as shod runners. Even I go back and forth at times. I've stopped telling folks that BF or Minimalist running is the answer and instead encourage them to give it a try. I can't translate my experience to the next runner nor can any of us really. Is it the shoes or is it the form or is it both? I think it's the form first and then shoes make it difficult to run with correct form. If true, then with practice (maybe many years) one should be able to run in shoes without major issues, correct? As does the East Africans. But even the American elites, are they injured because of shoes or because they push so hard to run at ungodly paces for long distances. The more time I spend thinking about it, the more complicated it is, at least in my opinion.

Well I'm going to put it to the test. I have nothing to lose as a recreational runner other than injury but I'm getting good at understanding the earliest signs of an injury so if I head down a bad road, hopefully I can change directions soon enough. To this end, I'm going to try some regular running shoes mixed in with my Evo and BF running. I'm going to start (I can't believe I'm saying this) with the Nike Free 3.0 and do some running in those while I continue the Evo and BF running. It's something I want to do b/c before I can feel good about pushing someone down this road, I need a better personal understanding of the issue.

My form and technique is dramatically better than it was 18 months ago and my speed/pace has increased a lot. I still go back to some of the older former semi-elite runners (60 yrs. and older) I know who have run for 40+ years with major injuries in running shoes . . . why them and not me? It could be the shoes or it could be that they have better running technique, or maybe I have a unique foot type. I don't know but this issue continues to bother me. Maybe both camps are right and the answer is in the middle.


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