Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 2 Running "Brrr-Foot" Sub-40 Degrees

I added a little preparation this time to see if I could make my second ever sub-40 degree barefoot run a bit more comfortable than my first one had been. (To read about the first run in this trilogy, click here: "Three Days Running Brrr-Foot -- Part I")

  1. I spent some non-running periods of time exposing my feet to the cold:  I took Daffodil for her first out in the morning completely barefoot (about 10 very freezing minutes in the backyard, but it also did not help that I was doing it in my PJs).  I wore my flip flops to run errands with my car and do my shopping.  The time to the car and back was short enough from place to place that it was enough cold exposure. (But I confess I did indulge in pointing the blowers from the heater down toward my feet while driving around, so in-between runs back and forth from the car, it was nice and toasty.)
  2. I spent periods of time barefoot in the house at a time of year when I would NEVER be barefoot.  I emptied the dishwasher in the morning barefoot.  I did some vacuuming barefoot.  It is not cold in the house, but at the same time, my feet would almost always be cold and I would be wearing wool socks and warm shoes at this time of year even inside.
  3. I decided to finally add my hat and gloves to my running attire. 
So, here is how I was dressed for my second outing at 37 degrees F.

I know it's not glamorous, but it works for me.

The second day went amazingly well.  My feet felt much more comfortable.  I ran 2.75 miles and felt very good the whole way.  My feet were surprisingly better and I wondered why that was.

Could the 2 degrees F warmer have made that much of a difference?


Could it be that my feet responded to the first cold run and adapted somewhat and are more able to stay warmer during the running?

Could be.

Did it make a difference to spend more time barefoot in the house and expose my feet to the cold a little more often?

I think so.

Was I keeping the rest of me warmer so my body didn't have to draw as much heat from my extremities?

That could be part of it.

I think it was a combination of all of the above.  At any rate, things had definitely improved and I enjoyed the run and was no longer thinking of how awful it was to run with cold feet, but how fun it was.

Cold Bare Feet on Asphalt
The first day out, my feet were so numb that running on the asphalt felt absolutely horrible. I usually have to concentrate quite hard when I run on asphalt, and I really depend on the feedback from my feet to make sure I'm not hurting myself.  Only a few steps on the section that I do of asphalt and I knew that I needed to get back up on the sidewalk.

However, on this second day, it was not as bad.  I did half my asphalt. I was very careful and could feel much better because my feet felt less numb.  But I did not do the entire asphalt section just to be safe.

Thoughts on Numbness
Since I've been having dental work done, I've been thinking about being numb a lot  This is the first time in my life that I've been having to get the Novocaine and when I went to the dentist after my run last Monday, they had to numb me up for a procedure.  I was sitting there for a while and they were about to start and I had spoken up because I really was not that numb.  So, they had to come inject me a second round to finally get me numb enough not to feel what they were going to be doing.

Of course I thought of this while I ran along on my less numb feet.  They were more numb several days before and now they were less numb.  I wondered why the first round of injections had not numbed me at the dentist and why I had needed more.  Does it take a lot to get me numb?  Does the body get used to being numb?  Do some bodies get numb more easily?

Why were my feet less numb today?  All the above reasons?  Or does the body adapt to numbness in some way. (It seemed like it took more to get me numb at the dentist than the first time I had gone the previous week.)

I did discover something that I think is interesting and important while running with my cold feet on this second run.  If I happen to be pounding my feet too hard to get a read from the ground, there are other body parts that are giving me messages besides my feet when I barefoot run.  My knees and my hips are able to give me information that helps me adjust my stride.  Like a blind person, whose hearing becomes sharper, when my feet are "blind" -- i.e., numb -- then the feedback I'm getting from my knees and hips and rest of body becomes more prominent and helps me keep a good gentle barefoot step.  Perhaps I would have relied too much on my feet and not been as aware of the rest of my body had my feet not lost their sensitivity in this way.  Something to think about.  I know that I definitely was tuning in to what my knees, upper legs and hips were determining and that was definitely a good experience.  In that way it's worth considering that it might not be as "dangerous" to run if the feet are a bit numb and can't feel their way as I had thought it was.

So, I considered day 2 in sub-40 degree weather a complete success.

Stay tuned for day 3 of this trilogy of Brrr-foot running.


Ewa said...

You know what, I thought I posted a comment but I don't see it. Sometimes I forget to type in the magic word and my comments vanish.
I am curious if your systematic approach will work. My cold sensitive feet are refusing to cooperate but maybe it is because I give up to easily. There are two fronts I am battling: being able to run barefoot and finally getting some more serious miles in. Can't do the miles if my toes fall off.

Avocational Singer said...

Ewa, In a recent comment I made on the Barefoot Runner's Society web page, I said this:

"One other thing I did was that I temporarily sacrificed distance in order to do "cold conditioning" (just like one might sacrifice distance for a while to begin barefoot running altogether). I had a sense that I was starting all over again as I conditioned my feet for the cold, and I have been coming to the conclusion that all the rules for a beginner barefoot runner apply to being a beginner COLD barefoot runner as well -- don't do too much too soon, take a day off in-between for rest to allow adaptations to set in, etc... I cut my 4 miles back to 1 mile and have now worked up to 2.75. I realize that's kind of baby compared to all you folks who run longer distances out there, so maybe being out there longer will make the toes colder eventually. I guess I will find that out."

I am forming the opinion that learning how to run barefoot cold is a whole new process altogether and that one can't do too much too soon -- like I said above

barefootjosh said...

You're venturing into territory I'm too scared to tread. Be careful (I know you will). I'm very impressed. Who knows, maybe you'll get so good at it you'll visit Neil up in Canadaland and go for a minus 20 degree barefoot run someday.

Anonymous said...

Great set of posts on cold-weather barefoot running!

I've recently done a few races barefoot when temps were in the mid 30's and wind chill in high 20s. The toughest, most uncomfortable part was standing around in the cold, waiting for the race director to start the race. Once the race started I couldn't really feel my feet, and that made me nervous: perhaps I was doing damage, and just didn't know. Fortunately, no harm done, but I weigh more than 200 lbs and I'd like to know if I'm hurting myself.

But you may have inspired me! I'll try a half mile barefoot when temps rise again above 30.

Avocational Singer said...

Dear BFJosh -- I'm so happy to have been running barefoot in the 30s. It extends the season and puts off that unhappy day when my feet have to get covered, so that's cool. But I'm pretty sure I'm coming close to my limit. I'm going to post about two very positive 32 degree outings where I was quite comfortable, but they were cold dry days, so I had the best situation for it. I'm pretty sure I won't like the 20s because I actually don't even have a good time running at all in the 20s, shod or not.

Avocational Singer said...

Ken -- You're right. Standing around is no good. The couple of times I stopped to take a photo, or even when I just come home and am getting out my keys to open the door and just standing there for even just a minute was definitely no good. In order to do it I have to keep moving.

Being worried about doing damage is a good thing. None of this would be worth it if it caused any kind of significant damage.