Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two More Barefoot-In-a-Strange-Town Runs

Two days ago I wrote of working out the logistics of staying in a hotel and going out for a barefoot run.

Well, for anyone who might have noticed that story, I ended up going out and just holding my flip flops in my hands, instead of going to the trouble of getting my Vibrams out of the car. (To read about the decisions I had to make, check out the last post: "New Barefoot Preliminaries.")

Before coming to this town, I had planned a little running route on, and it was across the campus of a prestigious university in this town.  What I did not see on mapmyrun was that the first half mile was all downhill.  As I set out along on my mapped-out path I was well aware that I was going to have to run uphill on the way home.  I decided to go with it.  After all, hadn't I recently said that uphill was no big deal to me anymore?  I mean, what is uphill really?  Just harder work.  Just a little more pain.  Just breathing a little harder.

On that run, on the way back, I discovered a new barefoot concept that I had read about and thought I might be doing, but once I discovered it on this run -- and I'm sure it's only the beginnings of a discovery at that -- I realized that I had not known it.  It is this:  As I ran uphill, I was struggling a bit, and the main task I gave myself was to try to keep good form.  Since I haven't read up much yet on running barefoot uphill, but have only seen a little thing here and there about it, I tried to recall what little concepts I could.  One of these was to remember to stand tall.

Well, by concentrating on standing tall, I began to feel how running on my mid-foot makes me feel like I'm  stretching taller with each step.  It was an elastic kind of feeling, like there was a bungee cord from the top of my head in a line to the sole of my foot (the mid-foot/forefoot part of the sole I'm landing on) that kind of stretched out straight and lengthened with each step.  That's not the best description of the way it felt, but even as I ran, I knew I was not going to be able to put this into words.  It is totally experiential, and has to be "found."  But the way to it is to think of that silver cord pulling on the top of your head, the way I've heard it described somewhere.

Anyway, run number 2 was this morning.  I went the same way.  Since I am a baby beginner, and since around a mile is not too far from home, there was not much of an adventure I could have.  Nevertheless, it did turn into a little bit of an adventure.

I started out the same way I had before, downhill on the university campus, but when I got to the bottom of the hill, pretty scenery and quaint looking trail-like paths beckoned me to turn left.  I didn't want to go too much out of the way, because I needed to get back and get ready for my choir festival activities, but I just felt like continuing on.

Well, here's where the "adventure" happened.  Right when I was about to turn around and head back, to my left was a little flight of leaf-covered stone steps leading to a little trail next to the main road, but through a wooded area alongside the road.

I think I mentioned a few posts back that I don't ever intend to run barefoot on a trail.  But here it was -- beckoning to me -- my first "trail."  Gingerly, I left the smoothness of the paved path, and tip-toed up those steps and on to the "trail."

Well, first thing I saw was -- shudder, the bare-footers nightmare -- broken glass! (Oh, the dangers of straying from the beaten path!)

My heart was beating as I weaved in and out between the broken brown pieces of college-student beer-bottle-on-the-trail glass.

Even though this was not a real wild trail, it was actually a good starting place for me.  It was a trail surface, without being too far out in the wilderness (actually behind the bushes on the left were dormitories and behind the line of trees on the right was a main road).  But it felt sufficiently trail-like for me and my feet had new sensations to discover.  The unevenness, the sticks, the leaves, the gravelly areas.  It all gave me my first taste of what it might be like to run on a trail.

After about a quarter mile of this, however, I did want to get back to something hard and paved.  Just when I thought my feet were beginning to hurt from the different surface, the trail came into a little clearing where there was a road to turn in on.

Oh, how gently and slowly I'm being led along this barefoot journey!

About a quarter of a mile after that, I saw lots and lots of girls in uniform walking toward me.  It turned out to be the university's lacrosse team.  I had to run through them, barefoot, in little clusters.  Again, I had to wonder if they noticed I didn't have shoes on?

One concern I have is that when I was on the trail, it being uneven revealed some things about my left foot that aren't quite right.  I am having some heel pain still on my left foot, and also the fifth metatarsal still feels bruised.  I didn't feel it when I was on the smooth path, but it was very apparent as my feet tipped and sank in different directions on the trail path.

I had a touch of metatarsalgia on my left foot.  It was my one concern about starting to barefoot run.  I got the metatarsalgia after stopped running and gained a lot of weight kind of quickly after Thanksgiving last year.  I had stopped running in order to take time off to heal plantar fasciitis in my right foot.

So, all while I had been training and running prior to when I quit last Thanksgiving, I had been struggling with the plantar fasciitis in my right foot.  But my left foot had been so perfect.  (This was running in shoes.)  I often, while running, would observe my left foot and what it was doing and think, "Why can't I get my right foot to do what my left is doing?  Why do I have this plantar fasciitis in only one foot, while the other one is completely pain free?"

Well, now -- as they say -- the shoe is on the other foot. (Oops, shouldn't have said it that way, since I'm barefoot).  Now my left foot is having issues and my right foot is feeling like it's really getting it.

I think what I have been doing to avoid the little pain of the metatarsalgia -- which is smack square in the center of the sole of my foot -- is that I have been sometimes shifting my weight to the outside, causing the fifth metatarsal to feel bruised, and sometimes shifting the weight to my heel, causing my heel to feel sore.

So, now what?  The metatarsalgia is not worsening since barefoot running, and does not bother me at all on the smoothest surfaces.  I think that I can stay on very smooth surfaces for a while and still run.  I don't think I have to take off,  heal the metatarsalgia, and start building from scratch all over again.  I'll try the smooth surfaces, and I hope that the two days off every week, Saturday and Sunday each week, will be enough to promote the metatarsalgia healing all the way.

By the way, when I got home and looked up the little detour I had taken on the run, I found out I had gone two barefoot miles today.  I hope that wasn't too much.  That was this morning, and my feet hurt a little bit around mid-day, when I got up to walk after been sitting in class.  But they feel good right now, in the evening.  So, maybe it's all good.  We'll see.

No comments: