Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oops! -- Wasn't Supposed to Be, But Was 130 Miles Today

No wonder my knees felt a little sore later in the day.

My plan was to run my first 3.2-mile distance since I had that weird fibular head incident a week and a half ago.

But instead, I ran over 4 miles.

My runs since the fibular head thing were:
1.44 miles
2.25 miles
2.75 miles
1.5 miles (was supposed to be first 5K but got cut short)
So, my plan for today was to get back to the 5K distance and to just maintain that until the Disney 5K in January.  But I got confused and added a bit too much without realizing it.  It felt pretty good, though.

The main thing on my mind was how cold it was at first for my feet, and how they felt numb.  I was wondering, as I was out there, if it was good to run with cold feet or not.  After all, one of the great things about running barefoot is the feedback I am getting from feeling the ground.

But with numb feet was I getting the information I needed?  Would I start to pound harder or lose control of what I was doing?  I recently had a really bad dental cavity.  My first really bad one in my life, actually.  The dentist had to numb my cheeks and give me Novocain.  When I wasn't able to feel anything and I tried to spit in the sink, it kind of went all over the place because I couldn't feel what I was doing. Does the same thing apply to numb feet?

At this point, we're still having gorgeous weather, so the cold numb part was only in the beginning, and then it all got warmed up and good.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to enjoy such beautiful barefoot running weather for so long into November.

I am also amazed at how -- yes -- my feet have acclimated to colder temperatures.  By not just immediately stuffing them into warm wool socks and shoes as soon as it got the teeniest bit cold as I usually do, I think that it has given my feet a chance to adjust to the lower temperatures (which are not yet that low).

-------------------Thoughts About Speed-----------------------------
Another thing on my mind was speed.  Yes, the girl who comes in last place practically in the 5Ks thinks about speed.  I have wondered how faster speed would be achieved for me.  I figure a certain amount of speed progress will just develop on its own as I just remain consistent.  That will be the "freebie" speed.

But then later, if I want to run faster, I will have to put forth greater effort and push myself a bit.

But that will be much later.  I still have lots of "freebie" speed increase to gain just doing what I'm doing and enjoying myself.  It's when I stop progressing that I'll have to take stock and decide what to do.

I figure it takes strength to have speed.  Well, I'll tell you, running with extra pounds on the frame does certainly build strength.  I also build strength when I add distance, because trying to keep running gently for that little bit of extra distance while I'm getting tired is where some building happens.

If I lost weight, there would be some more "freebie" speed, because I could capitalize on the strength built from moving all the extra weight.

I did try some speedy sections today.  At the end, when Daffodil knows we're going home and really wants to take off.  I decided to pick up my cadence for the last 1/4 mile.  It really felt good.

---------------Thoughts About Form-------------------
One more thing I was thinking about today was form.  I recently heard a saying from my voice teacher: "Practice Makes Permanent."  I was thinking about that as I ran along barefoot style.  I don't know how many times my feet turn over in "the barefoot mile."  But when I am repping what I'm doing, I'd better be doing it right, or it's not going to be doing anything for me at all.

If I add distance, and I get tired and my form falls apart and I start slapping my feet down, then going extra distance doesn't do a thing for me.

Maybe a few steps with form falling apart will help build a runner.  Like if the runner is tacking on a new extra 1/2 mile and she is trying her best to keep running gently and to keep running like she was when she first started out, then that is training the muscles to be stronger and endure good form longer.

But if it starts to fall apart and the runner is just too tired to keep running well, then she might as well stop and not add that extra distance, because it's not doing anything for her.

Not sure if I was able to articulate that well, but that's what I thought about, so there it is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Barefoot Running Better for Overweight Runners?

In a guest post called "Can I Run If I Am Overweight" that was recently featured on Jason Robillard's blog, Barefoot Running University,  I wrote that I thought it was possible that barefoot running might not only be okay for overweight runners, but even go so far as to think that it also might be preferable, since barefoot running is known to reduce stress on the knees and hip joints.

At the time I wrote that piece, I did not have any medical or scientific references to back it up.  I had spent a bit of time trying to find something to support the idea, but it was difficult to find anything.  There is not too much research out there on being overweight and running barefoot.  What I wrote was just my opinion based on my own experience and kind of using my own logic based on my limited knowledge so far about barefoot running.

However, today, I have found a reference that might indicate that I'm thinking in the right direction when I suspect that running barefoot is better for overweight runners.

On Dr. Michael Nirenberg's blog (America's podiatrist), in his post "Barefoot Running With Eyes Wide Open," he references a 2006 study which "established that individuals with arthritic knees could reduce the impact loads on their hips and knees by nearly 12% by doing nothing else but simply taking off their shoes."

(Shakoor N, Block JA. Walking barefoot decreases loading on the lower extremity joints in knee osteoarthritis. Arthr Rheum. 2006;54:9:2923-2927 )

Well, it would stand to reason if that was the case -- that if the impact loads were reduced by 12% when barefoot --  then going barefoot definitely seems like an option the overweight person might want to consider as they begin walking or running for exercise before they have lost weight.

It's not exactly proof of my theory -- that not only can an overweight person run barefoot, but maybe even that's the way an overweight person should do it, and that the shoe people are wrong to say that overweight people need more support designed in to their running shoes --  but it supports it somewhat.  The research is not conducted with overweight people in mind, but people with arthritis.  Still, knowing that going barefoot reduces the load on the joints is something that one could refer to -- some kind outside established factor that could be taken into consideration.

In contrast to what I'm suggesting about barefoot running maybe being better for overweight runners, check out out this post on -- "The Best Running Shoes for a Heavy Runner" -- where they are claiming the opposite of what I'm contending here, that overweight runners actually
"need shoes that offer extra stability and support. A heavy runner needs to look for shoes that have strong and sturdy outsoles and good heel support that can stand up to the extra weight."
"Shoes for heavy runners may be more expensive than average. This is because motion-control and other shoes designed for heavy runners use more and stronger materials than other running shoes. Expect to pay about $100 for a pair of quality running shoes. This price may be higher or lower, depending on the shoe that you choose and other factors such as sales, rebates and discounts. Do not let the cost of the shoe be a deterrent. A heavy runner has specialized needs, and purchasing the best shoe for the weight and foot type is essential to avoid injuries."
The Livestrong post quoted above basically reflects the standard advice out there regarding people who are overweight and running: Overweight people need sturdy support with extra motion-controlled and need to pay even extra more for good running shoes.   So, if barefoot runners already face hostility for challenging the conventional wisdom about needing support from shoes while running, then my hunch that barefoot running is better for the overweight is going extremely overboard and turning the conventional wisdom completely upside down.

I just hope everyone remembers that I am not a doctor, nor a scientist, nor a teacher, nor an academician, nor a fitness professional or coach.  I am a plain ordinary overweight stay-at-home mom who's just trying to figure stuff out.  As I learn things and go along, I like to share my thinking, but that's all it is -- one lone person trying to become an "expert" on her own life.  If anything I share makes sense and is helpful, that is good.  I may be completely wrong about this theory of mine.

(By the way, I know a lot of you out there who find this blog find it because you have searched about running overweight or barefoot running overweight.  If any of you finds any good information, please let me know, because I'm always looking.)

What I've ascertained from my own experience so far has been  -- at least in this one case of myself -- that at least one overweight person can begin a barefoot running program, proceed cautiously and conservatively, and get to the point where she can strongly, comfortably, and safely run a 5K distance.  The muscles in my feet have gotten stronger.  My arches have not fallen but seem more beautiful, strong and healthier than ever.  My ankles are stronger.  The mobility of my feet and ankle ankle joints has improved.  I am remarkable free of any other kind of aches and pains in the joints, knees, hips and otherwise -- even more free than when I was a young, normal-weight runner in running shoes.  I've experienced no after-run stiffness.  I recover faster.

I do not yet know what the impact of all the weight will be as distance increases, or when speed would be increased.  I have a feeling that the body will continue be able to adjust to and accommodate the weight provided that the distances are increased very gradually, and the intensity level is increased with thought and care.  We shall find out in the year to come.

On the other hand, however, I do expect my weight to be reducing (as I am taking measures to improve my eating habits) as I go along.  Despite the fact that our bodies can become strong enough to bear extra weight, it does not mean that it's the easiest or best route.  Losing weight would be one of the best things I could do to improve my running from this point on.  But in the meantime, I have to know how to proceed while I am still at my present weight.  So, onward I go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More on Vivo Barefoot Kali -- and My Bad Flip Flops

I remember one of the things about yesterday's run that I wanted to talk about.  I wanted to talk about how surprised I was to discover how much my barefoot walking had improved, and why I think this has happened.

It has been my custom to warm up before each run with about a quarter mile of barefoot walking.  It's been actually harder for me to walk barefoot then it has been for me to run barefoot.  I have felt awkward and very slow during my walk section.  I have experimented with how to walk, but all the whole while it has seemed to me that walking barefoot ought to be even more natural than running barefoot.  I walked barefoot so much as a child and I never thought about it, and I don't remember being slow or awkward.  And yet it wasn't. I just could not find a natural walking rhythm and stride while barefoot.  Until the past two times out.

During yesterday's 1/4-mile walking warm-up, I was surprised to be walking strongly and smoothly and well on the sidewalk.  And I am pretty sure I know why there was a big change.  I am fairly sure it was because of the time I've been spending walking around in the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Kali shoes the past couple of weeks.

I wrote the other day that I have to start wearing some kind of shoes in my daily life because it's getting a little too cold at night.  So, if you remember, I wrote that I was using the Vivo Barefoot shoes I owned for that purpose.

Well, I truly believe that walking around in these shoes has  improved my completely barefoot walking stride, and my barefoot running as well.

When I first wrote about them, I had written that I had a problem with the top pressing down and the heel rubbing.  But no more!  The shoes are completely broken in and they are wonderful.  I love them!  I love them!  I love them!

I'm going to try to explain something next that is a little complicated and I'm not sure how I'm going to put it all together.  I've got a few pictures to help me explain.  I hope I can get my point across.

I want to try to explain a kind of evolution I've been undergoing over the summer regarding the health of my feet and running barefoot, and being barefoot at other times in my life as well.  I want to try to explain how I've come to the point that I think the way we're walking around in our daily life has impact on our ability to run.  I've been writing about this all along, but I kind of want to pull it all together in this post so it will be in one place.

Influence Number 1
The Barefoot Running Clinic I took in Central Park
with Michael Sandler, author of Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch With the Earth

Before I took my first barefoot running steps, I attended a free barefoot running clinic by Michael Sandler in Central Park that was organized by the NYC Barefoot Meetup group.

At that seminar, he explained how slowly we had to condition our feet.  He talked about how it was like working out the feet muscles, and that they needed rest and recovery for the muscles to grow stronger, just like one would have to do with any weight lifting routine at the gym.  At one point in the talk, he suggested that we could wear our old running shoes walking around during these rest and recovery times.  Since, the shoes supported the arch and controlled the motion of the foot, the foot was "resting" while it was in the shoe from the barefoot workout it had undergone.

Okay, so taking that point to heart and taking it home with me, I decided that my feet could obtain this rest in a pair of therapeutically-designed plantar fasciitis flip flops I had bought to wear when I was suffering from my case of plantar fasciitis last year.  These flip flops had a really strong arch support, so I figured they could serve the function of giving my feet a "rest", like I had heard the running shoes could do

Exhibit I
Evil Therapeutic Plantar Fasciitis Flip Flops (Orthaheel Women's Tide Thong Sandals)

Here you see that pair of innocent looking flip flops.

From above, they look rather ordinary and harmless.
But let's take a look at them from the side, shall we?

As you can see, they have a very pronounced molded shape.  When I first got them in the mail, while suffering from the horrible pain of plantar fasciitis, they felt like absolute heaven to me.  The sole is very spongy, but does not collapse and has remained supportive for months.

I have come to believe that wearing these flip flops may have caused my fibular bone to rotate out of position.  That arch molded into the flip flop tipped my foot to the outside.  The advertisement for the shoe claims that this is a desirable effect -- that the flip flop realigns our feet to a "more natural position."  But I have come to believe it is just the opposite.  After all that barefoot running was teaching me, it felt unnatural to be bearing my weight on the outsides of my feet, and when I walked in the flip flops, I felt a strain on that peroneous longus muscle.  As I walked around, I would find myself trying to tip my foot back inward toward the arch (kind of deliberately pronatingthat anterior fibular head somatic dysfunction I wrote about.  There may have been other factors too, but this is my biggest suspect.

Exhibit II
Evil Reef Flip Flop

Take a look at the innocent-looking Reef Flip Flop from above:

I purchased these flip flops at the running store where I had joined the running club a year ago last spring.  Everyone was waiting for these flip flops to come in, and on the night they arrived at the store, everyone was lined up to buy a pair, and I, of course, got right in line with everyone else. (These must be the flip flops that runners wear!)

One of the reasons I had not worn these very much after making the purchase was that they had a nubby rough sole and -- this was way before I was barefoot running -- and my soles had been too tender and were getting sore from the abrasion of the surface.

Since the plantar fasciitis flip flops were bothering me, and my soles had gotten much tougher from barefoot running, I switched to this pair of flip flops for walking around.

But I had a concern, and you will see that concern when I show you what these Reef flip flops look like from the side:

Just look at that heel! I could feel that heel as I walked around. And the better and further I got with barefoot running, the more I could feel that heel.

So, why didn't you buy a pair of cheap flip flops at the local grocery store, Barefoot Fresca?

Well, I just figured I had spent enough on my barefoot running books and race fees and stuff that I would make do with the flip flops I had. These two pair of flip flops were not inexpensive and I felt that I had to get use out of them. Also, my understanding of just what all this barefoot was about was evolving. After all, I never signed up to go barefoot all the time. I was just trying out barefoot running. I had figured barefoot running would teach me a good mid-foot strike, and all along I had been planning to take what I had learned about barefoot running and put my little bare tootsies right back in a pair of good old running shoes (preferably minimal) once I knew how to run right. I had no idea that what I was doing was going to change the way I thought about the shoes I wore.

Influence Number 2
The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes by Daniel Howell

Around the same time, another barefoot mentor I had adopted from reading his stuff was Jason Robillard (The Barefoot Running Book ). Over on his blog, Jason reviewed Daniel Howell's book, The Barefoot Book.  He was having a contest and the winner was going to get the book, but I decided to just go ahead and purchase it.

This book appealed to my idealism.  The discussion and argument made in the book made a lot of sense.  But there was one problem.  I get cold feet in the winter.  As much as I loved the idea of going barefoot all the time, and as much as I bought that it was better for my feet than my shoes, I just really felt that I could not take the leap and be an all-the-time barefoot person.  In addition, I hate having to stop and wash my feet so often.

Could I do part of it?

I could go barefoot more often.

I could even go barefoot a lot more often.

But sometimes I was going to need shoes.

So, that's where we've caught up to right now, the Fall.  At the beginning of the summer, I could not have gone barefoot more than what I was running, which was just a little bit each time.  I did need that rest and recovery that Michael Sandler had recommended (though I think I have come to disagree that any shoes with arch support are the way to rest, although it is difficult to picture how one is going to get around until one's feet are strong).

But now that I have been training and conditioning my feet for 5 months, they are stronger.  And there was something else that Michael Sandler had said (if I am remembering correctly).  He had said that once your feet were in shape, then go barefoot and wear flip flops (the flat kind) to your heart's content.  I think that time has arrived.

But my version of barefoot are these great shoes from Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot line.  As I've walked around in these minimal shoes with no arch support or heel, I have had the unexpected and delightful benefit of it having enhanced and strengthened my barefoot running and walking experience.  Barefoot running the past couple of times out has seemed way more natural and free and I am convinced that it is because I've ditched the heel and the arch support from those evil flip flops I was wearing around all summer.

I think that it all works together somehow.  The way we walk and the shoes we wear when we are not running may play a role in how we're coming along as barefoot runners.

Barefoot Mile 124 -- Like I Said -- No Two Runs the Same

Yesterday's run seems so far away now that all I have left are the memories of it from the camera on my Droid phone.

All summer I long I had given you "fresh-off-the-run" blog posts, but now that the Fall season is fully underway with it's busy-ness, I get a little delayed and then I forget all the wonderful things I was going to talk about.

This is what I remember about yesterday morning's run:

It was misty over the city:
The sky was very dramatic:

I really wanted to get going before it started to rain or something, but I was so captivated by the sky that I just kept snapping pictures:
There was a little patch of light above and below the section of Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers had been.  It wasn't exactly on the spot. a little to the left

I knew I had to get moving, but I'm kind of fascinated with the little camera on my new Droid phone, so I was taking a lot to see how they all came out.  I think it works pretty well. This is great because I used to have to jam both my cell phone and my camera into my little running waist pack -- along with the doggie paper towels and bags and hand sanitizer and lip moisturizer and tissues and keys -- so if my Droid can take nice enough pictures, I can have a slightly less-crammed pack.

You might think that someone who had this view when they ran every day would tire of it.  But I have shown here that the view shows itself so many different ways.  Not only that, it isn't even the same view within the same run, because it is continually changing with the light.

When I turned to face the other way, I got something totally different.

Of course, some day, some way, I'm going to have to break off and go run a trail or something. I can't live off this forever. But, like "The Barefoot Mile" there is still a lot to get running alongside this river and taking in the view.

My run was 2.75 miles. It was great. My feet weren't sore. No muscles were sore. I felt strong. I'm getting my stride now. I have a technique for handling the asphalt and I don't have to slow down.

I'm starting to figure out what my own personalized footprint is now. As I was learning, I was following the "instructions," the guidelines. But little by little my feet took over and started to customize my footstep. I am now feeling my step on all the padded and soft parts of my feet.

I definitely have a very wide footprint. I land ever so briefly on the mid-foot, and a good wide portion of it. It happens so fast that it almost feels like my entire foot is landing at the same time, almost like I am running sort of flat-footed. I think this increases the surface area to bear the load. Since I'm heavier, I thin that the forces have to be distributed over a greater area so I can't, at this point, do any kind of action that causes one small part of my foot to bear the entire load, such as when a person might toe-off.

Even though I only ran the 2.75 miles, I easily had a lot more in me. I was just taking it easy one more day after having had that fibula problem.

But tomorrow I'll be back to the 5K distance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Barefoot Running Mile Number 121 -- No Two Runs Are Ever the Same

Wow!  Today was just gloriously beautiful.

You see what I've always told you?  My running route may not be exotic and varied like some of those people who live in places with trails and mountains and beautiful other vistas, and my running routine may seem humdrum and repetitive, but that is only on the surface.  Every time I go out there it is different.  The seasons change, my fitness level changes, the people I meet change.  There are never two runs that are the same.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back Out There -- An Easy Barefoot Mile (1.4)


This is my third November run.  I am getting back out there after having lived through the onset and recovery from a weird sudden-onset anterior fibular head somatic dysfunction.  I'm still not sure what caused it, but my husband fixed it and you can read about that here.

To finish the story from the last post, once the fibula was back in correct position and the fibular head was no longer encroaching on the nerve in whatever way it was, my limping and my pain improved steadily.  Remember my husband had told me I would be able to run on Wednesday (yesterday)?  Well, it came true.  I felt good as new by Wednesday.  It felt miraculous to me because the amount of impairment I had was the worst I had ever felt besides one time when I sprained my ankle, and I'm absolutely amazed that a person could recover so thoroughly in such a short amount of time.

New Running Wear Strategy

All through the summer, my "uniform" was a pair of bike shorts and a short sleeved T-shirt.  The picture on the right is a reminder of what that "uniform" looked like.

However, as it gets cooler, I start to adjust.  I lengthen the sleeves and the legs and end up with a long pair of tights and a long-sleeved shirt.

Depending on how cold it is, I might have one of the following:
  • long leggings with short-sleeved T-shirt
  • long leggings with long-sleeved T-shirt
  • long leggings with my Nike pro thermal long-sleeved turtleneck (wrote about here) and a short-sleeved T-shirt layered on top for added warmth
  • long leggings with Nike pro-thermal long-sleeved turtleneck with long-sleeved T-shirt layered on top for extra warmth

These are my cooler weather variations.  I would say these variations work for me in the low 40 degree F to low 50 degree F range.

So, here I am with the long sleeves and the long leggings.

When it gets colder (below 40 degrees), I will add a pair of running pants over the leggings, and probably use the thermal Nike pro top with a sweatshirt on top and a pair of gloves and a hat.

(You may also notice that Daffodil is sporting a longer coat for the cooler weather.)

But what shall I do with my feet?  Still haven't figured out.

Anyway, the long-sleeved top I'm wearing is a new one.  I bought myself a T-shirt from the Barefoot Runner's Society, and here's why:

The next 5K I'm signed up for (which I've been signed up for since last January) is the Disney Family Fun Run in January.  I had heard somewhere that Disney does not allow people barefoot in the parks, so I had been expecting to run that race in my Vibrams

But I found out on a message board at the Barefoot Running Society, that there are going to be some barefoot runners down there running the Disney marathon and half marathon barefoot.  One of the posters said that he called Disney and that they welcome barefoot runners.  I think that perhaps I should call directly myself, rather than merely take the word of one person I met on an Internet forum, no matter how legitimate the person may appear to be.

So the barefoot runners suggested we wear the T-shirts down there at Disney.  That made me want to be part of things.  We are planning to have a  meet-up down there, so that is something to look forward to.

About Wednesday's 1.4 Mile Run
Oh, dear, I have so much to talk about. But I don't want to keep you so long on my blog when you have a ton of other blogs to get to today.

For one thing it was great weather.  I might even have been able to get away with my summer attire.

I am thrilled that the good weather has lasted this long.  I never would have expected myself to have run all the way through October without any foot coverings.  And now here I am running a third time in November without my shoes.  This is thrilling to me (and I'm not sure exactly why).

As good as I was feeling, I thought that this run had better be an easy one.  As I set out it occurred to me that this was yet another great purpose and function for "The Barefoot Mile."  The Barefoot Mile can be used as a tool to get back after injury.  It is a mile where you can test things out and see how they are going.  It is a mile where you can remember what you forgot while you were taking days off.  It felt so good, and I had such a feeling of joy to know that I will be able to continue running after all that I wanted to just keep going.  But I restrained myself.

I was a little nervous putting weight on that leg, and I think it did feel a little funny, but overall it was great.  I had some thoughts about the amount of force that leg was absorbing, and especially how that force will be much greater in someone who weighs more.  I might make a separate post to talk about those things. It may surprise you what I think the cause of it really was, and it may have something to do with arch support in my flip flops. Flip flops that I bought to wear when I had plantar fasciitis last year.  But I'll explain that later because I know you have to get going.

Anyway, things went well and I am delighted. I wasn't even winded running almost a mile and a half.

The light has shifted and is lower in the sky this time of year and I've been accompanied on my runs by my shadow recently.  The shadow obscures the sidewalk and makes it harder to see stuff on the sidewalk, so the shadow has made it slightly more hazardous. I decided to use my shadow to check out my form.  I watched to see how steady and smoothly the head of my shadow traveled on the sidewalk ahead of me.  Pretty smooth.  I tried to take a video of it with my Droid.  It was impossible to hold the camera and hold Daffodil and watch the sidewalk for dangerous things.  But even with the camera shaking and all those handicaps, I think you can see my head in my shadow moving along smoothly.

Before you all go, and before I forget, another fun and  exciting thing that happened this week was the appearance of my guest post on the Barefoot Running University web site.  Jason Robillard, author of The Barefoot Running Book, one of the main sources knowledge I have about barefoot running, had asked for people to submit ideas for guest posts a while back.  I had written to him to say I wanted to write something about running barefoot while overweight.  He liked the idea, and as a result of the correspondence I also got to meet him at the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run a few weeks ago. It was a real pleasure doing the guest post, and I never would have imagined, when I started barefoot running and decided to kind of online journal about it, that it would ever lead to such cool fun developments in my life.  Anyway, if you haven't already seen the guest post, you can see it here:  "Can I Run If I Am Overweight?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Out of Commission -- What a Pain in the Fibula!

A couple of days ago I was an absolute wreck and could barely walk.  I didn't want to blog about it because I was so discouraged I just didn't know what to say.

But only a few days later and I'm feeling optimistic again, thanks to my wonderfully fabulous husband who gave me a treatment for a mysterious painful condition which came over me unexpectedly.

Let's go back in time and see what happened.

This past Friday my usual run was delayed because I had forgotten to put the running clothes I had washed the day before in the dryer.  Oh, well, just as well.  It was cold and wet outside, and perhaps by later in the day things will warm and dry up a bit.  My last run had been the previous Wednesday and it had gone well.  While resting on Thursday I had felt great all day, and that Friday morning I had woken up feeling great and really wanting to get out there for my Friday run.

I sat at the computer to do some research while the clothes tumbled in the dryer.  As I researched, I saw the sun coming out and the wind blowing to dry up the ground and was looking forward to getting out there after lunch, feeling like all was going well.

When I stood up from my computer, I felt a small pain/strain below my right knee -- about three inches below the knee to be exact -- and off to the right, in the area to what I was going to learn was the fibular head region.

Gee, I wonder what that little pain/strain is?  I thought.  I walked around, being conscious of it and trying to figure out what mechanism of action was affected by it, or related to it.  Was this related to my running?  If I run today will it worsen it?

I guess I better skip my run to be safe, I concluded with disappointment.

As I walked around, the pain grew greater and greater as time was passing.  By the time I had to pick up my daughter from school, it was pretty painful and when I pressed on the spot it felt very sore at the slightest touch, like a really super sensitive and painful bruise.

When I got home from picking up my daughter, I was anxious to have my husband (have I mentioned he was a chiropractor for 25 years and then went back to medical school and is now an osteopathic physician?) to take a look at the injury.  But he was asleep on the couch.  So, I had to wait.

But I couldn't wait!  The whole joy of my new-found barefoot running was threatened with this mysterious malady!  I must find answers as soon as I can!  Since Dr. Husband was sleeping it was going to have to be Google to the rescue!

I first had to find out a name to use when googling for information.  I needed to find out what the muscles in that part of my anatomy were called.  If you don't have a name, you can't google well, so that's always a first step.  I learned that I was experiencing pain in the peroneous longus muscle.

But my search after that was not going as well.  Most of the running or athletic injuries I could find related to the peroneous longus muscle were involving the tendon at the bottom of the muscle near the ankle.   I couldn't find anything where there was muscle strain at the top of the muscle below the knee.

The closest I came was this discussion from some running message board somewhere in the world: "Peroneous Muscle  -- Strain??"  The answer they were coming up with ranged between the problem being with having the right running shoes, to peroneal tendinitis, or -- most horrible of all -- the dreaded stress-fracture-in-the-fibula.  That really did it!  I was officially scared.  I was sure that my overweight running had led to too much strain and I now had a stress fracture of the fibula bone.  You don't know how frightened a wife can make herself out there on Google while her husband is sleeping.

Since he never woke up from his nap, I had to leave for a school function that evening before I could ask him anything about it.  The pain just got worse and worse while I was out.  I had to hobble and limp so slowly and grab on to things to help me get anywhere because I couldn't bear any weight on my leg.

When my husband, who was now awake, saw me, I poured out my worries on him.  "I saw you had been reading about the peroneous longus muscle, " he said, "but I have a feeling, from what you describe, that the problem is not in the muscle but in the joint."

He did a little examination.  He had me put my legs straight out in front of me and flex my toes, and tell him if it hurt.  Then I had to point my toes and tell him if it hurt.  I already had figured out that dorsiflexion of the toe was directly connected to the painful spot.  I had also figured out that any weight put on my forefoot and toe area while dorsiflexed -- the position one would be in while "toeing off" -- caused excruciating pain in the area below the knee that was affected.

He said with confidence, "yup, that's coming from the joint. I will give you an adjustment tomorrow because it's too late tonight."

That night was spent in a lot of pain.  I could not find a position which did not trigger the pain.  I ended up taking some Advil, which helped a little.  I hoped so much that I would be a little better in the morning -- but I was not.   I was much worse.  I had become a cripple overnight.

I didn't have time for the osteopathic manipulation in the morning because I had to bring my daughter to an appointment.  As I feebly limped out the door, wondering if there was an old pair of crutches in the attic, or if I could borrow grandma's walker, I heard my husband tell me not to worry.  He was going to fix the problem.

I was pretty unhappy when I got to the plaza where a few weeks back I had wrote that I had gone for the spontaneous run.  How carefree I had been that day!  How daring!  Had I really just up and gone for a barefoot run spontaneously like that such a short time ago and here I now was an absolute cripple?  How did I go from something so wonderful to something so immobile in such a short time?

Well, the happy news is that when I got home, my husband was ready and waiting to take care of the problem.  He had his adjustment table out and had researched the techniques for the injury I had.  He told me that it was called "anterior fibular head somatic dysfunction."  He showed me on his bone model how the fibula bone is aligned, and how it can get knocked or pulled out of alignment and cause problems.  The problems come from the nerve where the fibular head has gotten displaced.  I was a little confused about the nerve thing.  Was it compressed or pinched?  At any rate, he said that everything in the surrounding area would be affected and that's why I felt the pain in the muscle.

He also told me that this condition is often misdiagnosed as a knee injury.  That was a shame, he said, because it is easily fixed with osteopathic manipulative therapy, but they probably go on to even try to correct it with wrong treatments, since the condition is not well recognized.

That's part of why I'm writing about it here.  Perhaps there will be another person googling someday who might find this information helpful.

Anyway, his treatment consisted of using my foot as a lever to twist the fibula bone back into it's proper alignment.  I had to lay face down on the table and put my foot up.  He got my foot into a certain position and then I had to press while he twisted a little to adjust the bone.

After that he used his little trigger point tool to do some trigger point therapy in the sore place in the peroneous longus muscle. Since it was so incredibly tender and hurt just to ever touch it lightly with my fingers, it was very painful to get the treatment and I could barely take him digging that little wheel into the spot.  But he made some comment about me being a wimp or something and that kind of helped me get through it.

I was considerably improved immediately following the treatment.  Although there was still tenderness and soreness, I now could walk around.  I walked with a limp, but there was no doubt that I was improved.

As the day progressed I got better by the hour.  It seemed miraculous to me.  My husband kept checking in with me: "How's the leg?" from time to time to see how it was progressing as I went about my day.  Every time I answered that it was improving, he smiled a quite self-satisfied smile.

That night I was able to rest comfortably with no pain except if I tried to lay on my back.

The next day, the condition continued to improve throughout the day, although I still needed to limp.

"But ... will I be able to run?" I asked my husband.  (The Big Question)

"Stop worrying," he said, "you are doing well and you will be able to run."

"But ... will I be able to run in the Disney 5K in January?" I asked him.

"Yes, in fact you'll be able to run by Wednesday probably.  You may need one more adjustment before that."

Well, when I woke up today, Monday, I can definitely tell that there is a possibility that I will be able to run Wednesday.  It is remarkably better.  My husband is going to give me another osteopathic manipulation tonight, so I will keep you posted on developments.

This post has been so long that I'm not going to tell the rest of the story, the part where I try to figure out what exactly got me into this situation to begin with.  I will have to save my theories on that for another post.

Please stay tuned for Part II:   "What Caused This Condition?"

In the meantime, if you ever have pain in this area, I highly recommend considering the possibility that it could be an anterior fibular head somatic dysfunction, and consulting a knowledgeable osteopath (ideally one who works in sports medicine) for osteopathic manipulative therapy options.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mile 117.96 -- Perfecting the Brrr--Foot Mile -- or, "The Barefoot 5K"

We have entered the era of the Brrr--foot miles.

My Droid app says it's 48 degrees out there now, but I think it was colder when I started today.

Like the other day, I was unhappy with the first few steps out.  The ground was cold and it hurt my feet.  Plus, you know I've mentioned in the past that I like to give Daffodil some sniffing around time for the first 1/4 mile or so.  This serves as a kind of walking warm-up for me.  However, Daffodil wanted to stop and sniff in the shade where the ground was cold.  Not good.
Hurry up, Daffodil. My feet hurt and are very cold.

I wonder why it hurts when they are cold?  They feel stiffer.  I also have read that the nerve endings on the bottoms of our feet send signals regarding the type of surface we're walking on.  This is a reason given for pounding feet too hard while shod, because we are trying to get a reading from the ground.

Maybe cold feet dull the sensory perception and we are pounding harder on the ground to get a read?  That would make sense a bit.  I have read stories of this condition where there are children who cannot feel pain and they keep breaking bones when they play because they are not getting sensory feedback information about how hard to land when they jump and stuff. (The article I linked to is a very sad one, but it was the only thing I could find when I googled the condition.  I remembered seeing a documentary on it one time.)

Anyway, the numbness our feet feel while cold may be causing us to press and pound a little harder to feel.  But then that hurts more.  So, staying light and concentrating on the form I've learned while barefoot running in the warm summer is crucial.  I don't want my barefoot running form to change in the cold because I can't feel.

It is better to get on some ground the sun in shining on:

But it is even better to get moving.

I am starting to figure out the structure of a 3-mile run for me. (Remember I spent the summer going round and round on "The Barefoot Mile," then figured out what a "Barefoot-Two-Miler" was going to be all about.  Well, now I'm studying a "The Barefoot 5K."

For me, the first mile of "The Barefoot 5K" is a warm-up.  And when it's cold out, it's not only a whole body warm-up, it also is to get the feet warm so they can feel the ground again.  So, during the cold weather days, I think I'll dub this first mile "The Brr--Foot Mile." During this warm-up mile, I remind myself of barefoot running form and try to get in the groove.  I check things.  I check posture.  I check foot landing.  I check for pain of misalignment (I'll get a funny twinge in my knee if I haven't got things lined up right).  I check my breathing and rhythm.  I check my forward lean.  And in the case of the cold weather, "The Brrr--Foot Mile," I concentrate remembering how to step lightly in the case of not being able to feel the ground as well.  I try to run right without as much feedback from my feet.

So now we have it: the first mile -- the warm-up mile -- is "The Brr--Foot Mile."

The second mile now becomes "The Barefoot Mile Maintained."  The second mile is where I enjoy the fruits of my previous work, and the fruits of the warm-up.  This is where the "perfected" barefoot mile lives (at least as "perfect" as it has become up to this point.)  This is the mile where I experience and maintain all the work I've done in the past.  This is a mile of enjoyment and pleasure.

The last mile is my growth mile.  I come off "automatic pilot" and begin to concentrate on form again.  I am getting tired and it is very important to maintain a good barefoot mile for this tired mile.  If I do not maintain form and step lightly and move smoothly with good form, then I'd better stop and go no further.  Because otherwise I'll just be repping in muscle action that is useless to me when I want to develop further.  There is no point in slamming my feet down now.  This third mile is what "The Barefoot Mile" used to be to me.  The place where I grow, develop and learn. Perhaps it can be called "The Barefoot Growth Mile."

Now, when I say "mile" it is a rough mile.  It could be .90 or it could be 1.2 or 1.4  The Barefoot Mile is a kind of distance that orbits around an exact mile.  That's why a 5K has roughly 3 Barefoot Miles in it, even though it is 3.2 officially.  Get it?

Okay, so I think I've decided to maintain this 5K distance for the winter and not grow much distance.  I think there's enough to work on with this.  I probably will do 4 miles here and there, but I will not go further than that until the spring. One of the reasons is that there is plenty for me to work on in "The Third Barefoot Mile" section of the 5K distance to keep me busy for the next few weeks.

Oh, I had so much more to say about today's run -- about breathing, about dog-running, about Morton's toe and asphalt -- but that would make this post way too long, so maybe I'll save those thoughts and discoveries for another day.  If I remember them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

1.5 More Brrrr-foot Miles – and trying out Vivo Barefoot Shoes for Choir Practice

Back out there today after the HoBooken 5K this past weekend.  I’ve got pictures at the bottom of this post, so if you’re good little blog-readers, you get to see them at the end.

It’s November now.  I’ve been completely barefoot since June.  How long can I continue to run barefoot?  This is the pressing question on my mind. Over at the Barefoot Runner’s Society, Barefoot Ken Bob has a post about Starting Out Barefoot In the Cold. which I read with great interest.  Essentially the not-too-much-too-soon rule applies with barefoot running in the cold as well.  In a way I was glad to hear that.  It means that I’m not so bad off, and maybe I’ll be able to extend my barefoot running season eventually.  If I want to, that is.

-----Part I where I talk way too long about my thermal running shirt-----------

But for today, it was 46 degrees.  I dressed warmly.  Not in my usual bike-short type bottoms and T-shirt top.  I wore long tights and a great Nike Pro thermal long-sleeved shirt that I had bought at Fleet Feet in Hoboken a few years ago.  It was a man’s shirt because they don’t make the women’s shirts in my size.

I like this thermal shirt so much that I googled Nike Pro to see if I could purchase another one.  I found a page full of thermal long-sleeved compression kind of shirts probably like the one I have.  They have a line of “stay warm” clothes. This is probably the one I have, only mine is white. I really love this shirt.  It is so warm, and it is so comfortable.  It doesn’t even feel like I have anything extra on.  While I was still in the house, I was actually getting too hot while wearing it and all I had on over it was a cotton T-shirt.

They had some really funky colored in the women’s version.  I really l liked this purple one.  But, alas, they do not carry this one in plus sizes.  I have to commend Nike for carrying some plus sized items, but it is very limited, and the colors are dull and boring.  And there was nothing in the Nike Pro Warm line for plus sizes.  When I searched for plus size warm, they just showed a couple of jackets.

This does bother me.  It would be nice to have them design some more fun styles for plus size.  I guess they figure we can have that as a reward for losing weight later or something.

-----------Part II where I talk about the actual 1.5 mile barefoot run---------------

Two big issues on my run today.  First was how cold my feet were as I stepped out.  It actually hurts to walk on the stuff when my feet are cold.  They get all melty, like warm wax, once they’re warmed up and kind of meld to the stuff beneath them and kind of squish and fill in the cracks when they’re warm, but when they’re cold they’re kind of hard and every little pebble hurts.

As I walked out to the boulevard, I asked myself, “Do I like this?  Do I really like this?  I think I told a few people I liked this.”

But once out there, where the sun was shining on the terra cotta tiles, all was good again. I was very happy.  Okay, here’s one more day.  I’ve run in November and I’ve run 46 degrees and I’m still barefoot and I still like it and it’s good.

I felt so good and planned to run further, but ended up having to go to the bathroom.  It didn’t feel too bad and I thought I could just keep going, but I remembered that other time when I got really sick, so I decided to respect the “call” and head home early.  And – without going into detail – it’s a good thing I did!  Called that one right!

So, my after 5K run was not so exciting.

----Part III where I realize have to put on shoes for choir practice------

Well, although I was able to still run barefoot today, I realized that I was going to need something warm for choir practice tonight.  All summer, with the exception of Kung Fu class, I’ve been in my flip-flops or Tvas.  But it has been getting cold at night.  Plus when I sing I perspire and that makes my feet kind of cold and clammy and I really don’t like that.

But what to wear.  I decided to dig out the pair of Injinji socks they sold me when I bought my Vibrams last spring.  (What did I know back then when I was buying my Vibrams.  When they said, “Don’t you want the socks to go with them?” I figured it was part of it.)

Getting them on was tricky, but not too bad.  I like the way they feel.

Vivo Barefoot 9723a

Next, I planned to wear a pair of Kali shoes from Terra Plana’s VivoBarefoot line.

I had purchased these shoes back in July to wear when sang Mozart’s Requiem with the Westminster Chamber Choir, which I wrote about here, here, and here. (Do I really think anyone is going to click and read all those posts?)

My feet always really hurt in choir concerts because we stand for really long periods of time.  I had thought, being that I was getting into barefoot philosophy and all, that these shoes might be a good choice for a concert.  In the end, I couldn’t go through with wearing them, however.  I was in the front row, and all the ladies were wearing heels. So, I chose a different shoe with a heel and let my feet hurt unhealthily.

So, I’ve got to make use of these shoes and they shall be the first shoes of cold season, then.

Vivo Barefoot 9725a

I wish I could say that these shoes were wonderful, especially for the price I paid for them, but one of the reasons I hadn’t worn them much was that there are little problems with them.

The first problem was the top of the shoe digging in to the top of my foot.  The clerk at the Terra Plana store in Manhattan had told me that removing the insoles usually took care of that problem. It did.

The other problem was that the heel dug in.  But I thought it would make a difference if I was wearing socks.  The other times I was trying to wear the shoes without socks.

I definitely had the right size.  That’s one of the reason I had gone directly to the store rather than ordering online.

So, I wore these to choir practice tonight and they felt pretty good.  My feet hurt a little while standing, but that is because my feet have been conditioned for barefoot running, not standing.  And standing takes a different kind of strength and stamina.  I plan to be standing barefoot more for longer periods to condition that.

 Vivo Barefoot 9730a I really do feel sad about wearing shoes again.  But I really do not like cold feet and I will have to do this sometimes from now on.  It’s going to be tricky to figure out my shoe life.  I was wondering about Uggs.  Anyone have any experience with Uggs in the winter?


Vivo Barefoot 9726a