Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Days Running "Brrr-Foot" Sub 40 Degrees

It's been a busy time of year and I've been so wanting to share my latest barefoot runs with you.  I have commenced out three times since I last updated this blog and I have evolved considerably from one "Brrr"foot run to another.  It works better when I blog right when I come home from running, because later I forget a lot of what I wanted to say, but I shall try to recreate the experience of my first barefoot steps into sub 40 degree weather with you. 

To make a long story short before we get going, I am at present very excited about barefoot running in the cold.  At first I wasn't very sure at all, but now I'm starting to really love it.

I shall tell the story in three parts, part I of which is recounted below.

First Sub-40 Degree Run -- Monday, November 29 -- 35 Degrees
I had to go out early.  I had a dentist appointment later in the day and there would be no time later.  Even though the forecast said it would get in the 50s that day, I would not be able to take advantage of that mild weather.

So, at 35 degrees, I stepped out for my coldest barefoot run ever.

So, why do I want to run barefoot when it is this cold?

Do I want to run barefoot when it is this cold?

There are plenty of good minimal shoes to try, and you all know I've been trying to think of what I will do when it is cold.  So, why go out barefoot?

There is something in me that is sort of stuck or stubborn or idealistic or something and it is causing me to not want to put shoes on just yet.

As I ran along with very numb feet, I wondered about it, but it wasn't going to be until much later that day that I would get to the bottom of what was making me want to try this running barefoot in the cold weather.

Because it was early, the wall beside my runway was casting a shadow, and the tiles beneath my feet were even colder.

Here's a picture of the shadow cast by the wall:

As you can see, there was very little sunny spots to run on, and the sunny spots were no longer as warm as they had been earlier in the Fall.

I usually walk the first 1/4 mile but my feet were numb and freezing and hurt and it did not feel good.  I thought as I walked along that it couldn't be good to not feel the ground like this.  I began to wish I had brought my Vibrams along.

Still I continued.  Why?  Because I wanted to see if my feet would warm up at some point like they had after running while the temperatures were in the 40s.

I ran up to the restaurant on the corner, but saw that they had out the hoses and were spraying the sidewalks.  There was no way I wanted to run on those wet pavements  while my feet were so numb, so I turned around.

As I ran along and my feet did not warm up very much, I decided that I definitely didn't want to overdo it in the cold.  I think Barefoot Ken Bob wrote about not doing too much too soon with cold barefoot running.

Usually a very clear path, this late in the season there were sections of leaves to run over. 

I realized that I needed to go back to "The Barefoot Mile."  Yes, I had found a new use for The Barefoot Mile.  It shall now be a training tool for colder weather.

There were many thoughts about this as I ran along on feet that I could barely feel.  (But if I could barely feel them, why did they hurt?)

For one thing, it seemed like short distances at first seemed wise in order to condition the feet.

But then, what if it takes a whole mile to get the feet warm?  Why, I would just be quitting right when things were getting good.

I decided to play it by ear.

Well, it turned out that 1.5 miles was all I could take before heading home.  My feet never warmed up and when I got back to the house and got inside, the thawing out process was most interesting.  My feet began to itch like crazy as they came back up to room temperature.  It didn't last too long.

But here's the kicker.  Later in the day my feet felt WONDERFUL.  Like I had some exotic spa treatment designed to invigorate and enliven my feet.  They felt warmer for the rest of the day, even when I was wearing only flip flops.

Now, I spent a lot of the day thinking about this run and whether and why I should run barefoot in such cold weather.  A comfort-loving individual such as myself might give it a try one day like I had today, and come to the conclusion that it was SO not worth it.  It would be so easy to decide that barefoot running in the cold was not an experience I digged very much and that it was time to finally haul out the injinji socks, Vibrams, aqua shoes, whatever.

However, there was something in me that did not think this cold weather barefoot running was a done deal yet.

What if cold-weather barefoot running was like plain old barefoot running was like in the beginning -- kind of hurt a little (afterward,) and felt a bit uncomfortable on tender non-conditioned soles?  If I had gone out one day barefoot running, could I really have decided from that one day that it truly was not for me?  Or would I give it more of a chance.  Try it for a while, and then decide?

I remembered back to how much better it just kept getting each time I went out over the summer, until eventually it was fantastic.  Would the same thing happen as I persevered through some cold runs?

And why do I want to persevere? I knew that I needed to, but I wasn't sure exactly why.

Finally, by the end of the day I had my "aha" moment on why I was intent to see if I could continue barefoot running in the cold.

I think, ultimately, it comes down to a fear I have of my own love of comfort.  I know that my love of comfort can keep me from realizing my full potential in so many areas of my life.  Love of comfort can keep me from adventures.  Love of comfort, while masquerading as an enjoyment of life, is actually the deterrent to many other great enjoyments.  I know that it is my love of comfort that has at least kept me from running at faster speeds throughout my lifetime.  I feel that I need to conquer that love of comfort, get on top of it, and not let it rule me or make my decisions for me.  I wanted to at least make sure it was not a love of comfort that would deter me from running barefoot in colder weather.

Conquering the love of comfort always has newer and newer levels.  One could say, for instance, that I've already conquered it.  After all, I'm disciplining myself -- getting out there and exercising.  I've challenged myself in new ways and had some barefoot adventures.

The only problem is that the comfort level always keeps changing.  I was comfortable in my running shoes, right?

We can of course take this idea of being comfortable vs. denying one's self comfort too far either way.   On the one side is the idea of never getting up and doing anything, wrapped in blankets, drinking gobs and gobs of hot chocolate, and watching the old movie channel for days on end.  On the other side could be such severe deprivation that one never allows one's self the joy of rest and pleasure.  Or even that one hurts one's self because of recklessness and lack of prudence.

But here's what the cold barefoot running is for me.  I want to make sure that when I put my shoes back on it is because I thought it was the best option for me, and that it is a thoughtful wise decision based on what was healthful and appropriate and best served my goals and plans and that it was NOT because I wasn't willing to give it a shot.

I don't know if this is the final conclusion about it or not, but it was good to dig deep and realize what was driving me to keep going in the cold. Then I can examine, accept, or challenge the underlying issue as need be.

I decided that one time out with cold, numb feet was not enough to decide whether it was time to put the shoes on yet.  I will have to try again a few times before that decision can be made.

Stay tuned for Part II -- Second Sub-40 Degree Run


Ewa said...

You are hardcore. My toes freeze, my soles turn to board and it is not fun at all. OK, the fun part comes after the run - I feel so superior for being able to run in the cold just a little. I think I will be mixing minimal shoes and barefoot till it gets warmer.

Anonymous said...

I've been able to run BF here and there depends on the over night temps really.