Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunny Sidewalks

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How many times can you look at a photo of these same sidewalks that I run on every day?

Yup, here they are again! I must be breaking all the blog rules about keeping my readers interested by variety.  And yet, dear friends, you keep coming back!

An uncle of mine, who is a pastry artist, once told me that when he was little my grandmother didn’t want to bring a whole box of crayons along when she brought him with her to her appointments, so she just brought one crayon (I wrote about this on my other blog in the post “One Crayon”).  He told me he developed his art talent by the fact that he had to make that one crayon look so many different ways.

Well, something similar is the case with my barefoot running and this blog.  I have to make my one sidewalk look so many different ways and see it from so many different angles because I never go anywhere else.  But, being kind of “stuck” here for the time being in my barefoot running life, I have been forced to see that there is so much to learn right on this one little path and that I do not necessarily need to leave for trails along oceans and up mountain tops in order to discover new things about barefoot running.

Yesterday I wrote about getting myself out there too late and the pavement was too hot.  I told you I would try to go out later in the day.

I kind of chickened out going out later in the evening.  It was Memorial Day, and I had forgotten that this boulevard is crammed with people strolling along looking at the boats on The River.  There would be dogs, and children and crowds of people.  Although Barefoot Fresca is brave and doesn’t care if people see her running barefoot, that was a little too much to go out there with her little dog and weave in and out of that scene.  So, I decided to go out this morning instead even though I have Kung Fu tonight.  I hope I will be able to handle Kung Fu class.

I almost made the same mistake and got out there late again, but not quite as late as yesterday.  The shadow from the wall had already receded and the tiles were exposed to the sun, as you can see in the photo above.  However, it was early enough that the trees along the path were still casting a shadow, which had not been the case yesterday, as yesterday it was past noon and this morning it was enough before noon that there would be some shade from those trees, thus making it possible to run across little hot sections from tree to tree.

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There was no way to run in the shadow because it was right up against the wall, and besides, even if one could be that close to the wall and run, one wouldn’t want to because that wall is very famous for being the place all the doggies like to relieve themselves.  As brave and un-squeamish as I’ve become about sidewalk dirt, I don’t have the inclination to run along that strip.

I did find that the section immediately to the left of the shadow that remained was cooler than the section of sidewalk a little to the left of that.  I think it is because that strip of pavement has only been newly exposed to the sun and had less time to soak it in and heat up.

So, my strategy was to run on that strip.  I tested it out several times and it was definitely cooler than the center of the path.

The day before, my feet had become slightly burnt by the 1/4 mile of hot pavement I had walked on.  Last year I would have given them an entire day off to heal up and toughen.  That worked really well.  But my feet seem to adjust more quickly this year – definitely a sign of leaving beginner-hood behind – and it felt right to go out this morning.  If this run was not part of my black sash training, I would have just waited another day, but I am determined to get two runs in at least this week because I believe it will help my stamina during my black sash test.

There were definitely some hot sections, and I felt a little worried about the fact that I had once again forgotten to bring along a pair of flip flops in case I couldn’t handle the heat.  What’s wrong with me?  Have I become over-confident?  I always went out so prepared last summer (and btw, never had to use the flip flops).  But I just kept thinking about what I knew was up ahead – the haven of “The Shady Section.”  Before I knew it, “The Shady Section” was upon me:

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Aaah!  The best part!

One worry, though, for the way back.  There would be a long hot section to get through.  It would be a little hotter than on the way there because it will have had at least 20 more minutes to soak up the sun and the wall shadow would have receded even more.  Here is “The Brutal Hot Section”

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As you can see, the shady strip along the wall has become very small, and the rest is hot, hot, hot!  In a few weeks, that hot section will not be a problem.  I know that because last summer it was not.  But until I get my thermal resistant soles built up, this is a little tough and needs to be taken a little at a time.

I stayed close to the shady part, where the tiles were slightly cooler, but when runners coming from the other direction came, I had to move out to the middle where it was hot.

You see, in the hierarchy of runners, the slower, less-experienced runner is the one who has to give way to the “professional” runner.  One can feel the hierarchical energy and one knows when one is supposed to yield.  I’m not exactly sure of this, but I sense out there that the barefoot runner must yield to the shod runner.  It is a humiliation for the barefoot runner, for the barefoot runner must accept the position of being “lower” than the “serious” shod runner, even though the reality is that this may not be so.

Perhaps this is all in my own mind.  Perhaps it is just me who always yields, because I think I am truly the smallest and least of all runners.

But while I was yielding I was thinking, “Sheesh!  Don’t these people with shoes on know that it’s hotter out here in the middle?”

No.  They don’t.  There is stuff that barefoot runners know about these here sidewalks that all the world does not know!! Secret barefoot knowledge!

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One last little bit of secret barefoot knowledge about this path to share.  You can see in the photo to the left that there are sections of the path that have this decorative stone inlaid (which the dogs also LOVE).

When running along the shadow on the cooler part of the tiles, I had to move out when I got to the stones and it was hotter out beside the stones.

All in all it was a great run, and I had some thoughts about it being like resistance training and I think I solved the question I’ve been having about whether to increase speed (intensity) or distance (endurance) first as an overweight runner.  I was going to share the conclusions with you in this post, but it really doesn’t fit because this post is mostly about handling the hot pavement.  So I’ll save my other strategy for another post.

Right now my feet feel slightly burnt again, but I know that will be gone within a day and my feet will be more tolerant of the hot sections than they were today.

Thanks for reading along!


BarefootJosh said...

You have it backwards! The speedy runners move out of the way of the slower runners. Now, if someone is passing you, you should give them room.

As far as who yields to who in the shod vs barefoot world, we don't need their stinkin charity.

Avocational Singer said...

Okay, BFJosh, I definitely need some schooling in this and you are the one to do it! It would make sense for the fast person to move for the slow, like when we're driving a car and we have to get in the left lane to pass.

But I could have sworn someone told me in a race that if a fast runner needed to get around me I had to move. If I have this wrong then I want to know because there's not way I'm moving out to the hot part of the sidewalk if I don't have to!!! (at least until my feet don't mind)

BarefootJosh said...

If someone is faster than you, definitely let them pass. If they call out "on your left" go ahead and scooch over to the right a bit. If they don't call out anything, just hold your line and let them figure it out.

Maybe your race informant meant move out of the way of the faster runners if there isn't room for them to pass.

Of course, maybe you should wait to hear others weigh in on the subject. I've been wrong about a social convention or two in my time.

Re your narrow stretch of shade, I see no reason the faster runners can't swerve around you.