Monday, August 30, 2010

Past 40 Barefoot Miles -- "The Barefoot 2nd Mile"

Back home again after the nice visit to my childhood home.  I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of miss the asphalt.

I'm starting to understand what "The Barefoot 2nd Mile" is going to be about.  For one thing, "The Barefoot Mile" is contained within the "Barefoot 2nd Mile."  In this case, The Barefoot Mile can be either the first of the two miles, or the second, or both, actually.

What I mean by that is that the first of the two miles is like the money in the bank.  "The Barefoot Mile" that has been "conquered," in a sense.  That mile now seems to serve like a little warmup or prelude.  It is familiar and it is well-trod and it feels really good, but at the same time it's not what it was because it kind of knows that another mile is to follow.

But "The Barefoot Mile" is also like the second mile.  The second mile is like beginning to run again.  It's kind of the way "The Barefoot Mile" used to feel, when I was first starting out, only it has some advantages that the beginner barefoot mile does not have.  For one thing, it has tougher soles of the feet, and it has better knowledge of form.  It has a lighter step, and it has more cardiovascular endurance. It has a little experience.

It is very interesting.  The second barefoot mile is really "The Barefoot Mile" all over again with a longer warmup beforehand.

I was thinking as I ran along about how this is like the tedious preparatory work of laying the foundation for a good result that is a principle which applies to many endeavors.  I specifically thought of painting a room.

Sometimes, when I have wanted to paint a room, I've read about all the preparation of the surface, and in an immature, childish, and impatient way, I've glossed over that preparatory part, just so eager and anxious to see the new pretty color on the wall.

What happens when  you do that is that you get a kind of lumpy look from all the nooks and crannies and cracks in the wall, and sometimes the paint doesn't adhere for very long because the wall was dirty before the paint was put on.  And sometimes the color of the paint is not as brilliant as you hoped for because you slapped it on right over the old color, and did not do a prime coat with a white base paint.

My natural tendency has been to want to skip the first steps and get to the good part.  But it's always the first steps, boring and uninteresting and tedious, that ensure the beauty of the final product.  In fact, this article here says that the preparation is 80% of what will make a good paint job. Clean the wall well, spackle it and fix the cracks first.  Put on the prime and base coats and let them dry.  Your living room looks like a big mess during this phase, but an experienced painter will recognize that it is going to be beautiful once it's done, even though it will take longer and you'll have to live in less-than-aesthetically-pleasing surroundings for a while longer than you would like to put up with.

Well, I feel that "The Barefoot Mile" was the mile where I spackled and filled in the cracks and made the wall smooth.  The next couple of miles are going to be priming it and putting on the skim coat.  I've got to make sure I let mile 2 set firmly into my muscles before moving on.  It will be almost as redundant and "boring" as establishing the first barefoot mile, but so-o-o-o-o worth it in the end.  All I have to do when I am getting impatient is remembering the results I got when I wasn't patient and that horrible horrible plantar fasciitis from last year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

38, 39 ... not quite 40 Barefoot Miles -- and a Dose of Humility

I learned something today!  It is not a good idea for a beginner barefoot runner who is developing her soles and feet to run 2 barefoot miles on the day she is going to walk around for hours with her family at The Great New York State Fair.

I'm still visiting the hometown I grew up in.  I ran my 2 miles this morning before the Fair.  It went so well.  I felt so good during and after.  The asphalt was feeling smoother and softer.

I did succumb this morning to a curiosity I've had about how fast -- or should I say "how slow? -- I have been running.  So, today, I decided to just look at my watch before I went out and check it at the end of mile number one and again at the end of mile number two.

I had, of course, been very aware that I am quite slow. Years ago, when I was something of a distance runner, I had been a steady 10-minute-mile pace all except for one period of time after I had lost 30 pounds and had the surprising experience of my pace switching to 8 minute-miles automatically without having done a thing, trainingwise, to run faster.

Well, gaging how I had always been a slow 10-minutes-mile runner, up to this point I have been "guestimating" that these days I might be doing, say, 14, 15, or 16-minute miles now.  I really honestly could not tell.

Well, now I know.  My first mile was 17 minutes and my second one was 18.  I felt a little discouraged and disappointed about this for about 10 seconds and then I immediately adjusted, because it truly does not matter to me.  I will stick with what I can do for as long as it takes.  I'm not in any hurry.  I'm happy.

(But  -- whoa!  -- is that slow!!)

So, I figured after resting for the hour it would take to drive over to the fair, I ought to be fine to walk around for six or seven hours.

Well, I'll tell you, it was not easy to walk around the fair.  I felt like I was in some kind of endurance test.  The place we ate at for lunch  was way on the other side of the fair.

At certain points my ankles and arches ached so much thoughts of renting a wheelchair entered my mind.  That would be so ridiculous.  What kind of ambassador for barefoot fitness would I be?  Needing a wheel chair to go around the fair with my family.  No!!!  I wanted to tell everyone who may have caught a glimpse of me limping along that I had run two miles that morning.

Thank heavens we found one of these things:
These machines are amazing.  After I got off, it felt like I had a brand new healed pair of feet.  Except that the effect wore off in about 100 steps or so.  Still, it felt really good.  They should have these at certain spots along a marathon or something.  No, never mind -- forget that thought.

I don't know if I'm going to be able to express this well in words or not, but I realized that at my level I was experiencing a kind of endurance test today.  When I wanted to abandon the walking around, find some little place in the shade to sit, and send my family off to do whatever they wanted while I rested my poor feet, all those ultrarunners and endurance athletes who inspire me came to mind.  I thought of the human spirit and it is this will that keeps us going.  I've read people's accounts of running in those long 100-mile races in the heat, or the cold, or the rain.  Surely they get to the point sometimes where they are feeling pain, and putting one foot in front of the other, trying to find the best way to step on their feet so they don't injure themselves like I was now.  I always dream of doing something that requires that kind of endurance some day, but -- well -- maybe I was doing something like what they all were right now!

So, I saw my trekking around the State Fair under these conditions as a kind of endurance event.  One custom-designed for my own level of fitness.  Just like the way it felt trying to walk through the subways to get to the bookstore at the end of the 8 mile run with Chris McDougall.

Something else to bring a similar point home happened.  We were eating dinner across from a booth run by the National Guard.  They had a pushup challenge going on and if the men could do 50 pushups they got this cool Tshirt and if the women could do 25, they would get one.  As we sat there eating dinner, I watched different people come up and take the challenge.   Many of them had really horrible form, not even going through the entire range of motion for a proper push-up, but they got T-shirts anyway because they did the requisite number of push-ups.

I have been working on pushups in Kung Fu for a while now.  I've had to start with knee push-ups, which I feel, because of my weight, have been as much as a challenge for me as someone lighter tackling the full push-ups.   I have been proud to get to the point where I can do 3 sets of 25.

So, I wondered if they would give me a T-shirt if I could do my 25 knee push-ups.   I felt that I would be sorry if I left the fair without checking it out.

Well, the National Guard guy told me that knee push-ups would not count for the challenge.

Like the way I felt a tiny sting of disappointment in the morning when I learned how slow I really was running, I felt that  little sting again when I found out that my hard-earned 25 knee push-ups don't count for anything in the eyes of the world.

But like the little sting I felt in the morning, it did not last long. Some accomplishments are not for recognition by the world.  They are personal accomplishments and only the one who struggles knows what he/she has done.

I wanted to write about it because there might be other people out there who read this and have these little personal accomplishments and no one will ever know what they go through to endure and achieve the little that they do achieve and I want people like that to know, like me, that it is really significant, even though it may not be worthy of any kind of T-shirt.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mile 36 and 37 Back in the Town Where I Grew Up -- and a wee bit of gravel

Two days ago, we packed up, got in the car with our dog, and drove the long long car trip to come to the house where I grew up.  I had wanted to get my barefoot run in on that day before we left, but there was too much to do.

But one of those funny things happened.  We stopped at a mall halfway on the trip.  I decided to take our dog for a little walk before putting her back in the car for another couple of hours.

I started walking on this sidewalk on the mall, and that's when IT happened again.  The urge to just run.  To run for fun.  I ran my dog around the perimeter of the mall.  Again -- like the other day in the park -- I didn't need my special running clothes or my special running shoes.  I just ran. Ran in my regular clothes and the Teva sandals I had on.

It was fun.  Running is fun.  I can't believe it took me so long to realize that it is fun. Barefoot running has made me learn this.

Waking up the next morning I made sure that I got out for my new 2-mile Barefoot Run, even though we were planning to play nine holes of golf afterward.  I was a little worried about whether I would manage the 9 holes after running barefooted.  I grew up in a golfing family and I played lots and lots of golf when I was young.  Back then it was nothing for me to zip around 18 - 36 holes in a day without feeling it a bit.

But that was 30 years ago when I was golfing regularly -- daily.  Golf has since left my life.  There is nothing but the remnants of time dedicated and devoted a long time ago.  I play when I come to visit my dad, and we see a nice shot here and there, but my game is gone.  I always make this resolution after I go around in the summer with my dad that I am going to get to a driving range regularly, so that when I come in the summer I can do a little better, but I never get to it.  I guess I am busy enough with my singing, running and Kung Fu that I can't quite fit the golf habit back in.

Anyway, my plan was to run two miles barefoot with my dog in the morning, and that I did.  This was mostly on asphalt because my memory of running in this neighborhood was not one of running on sidewalks ever, but in the road.

With my new lighter step, the asphalt was very manageable and even felt good in some places,

But there were many gravel driveways here.  In fact, I had to step through our own gravel driveway to get to the road.  I do remember as a kid walking across this same driveway without too much problem, but ouch, it hurt today.

But even worse than the actual driveways was the area in the road surrounding the driveway.  It was in these spots that the little isolated pieces of gravel that had been displaced by the car going in and out of the driveway hid themselves in the nooks and crannies of the asphalt, making it hard to see when you were going to hit one of them.

So, this was new.

Also new was something I had forgot about this little town I grew up in.  Sometimes the dogs are loose in the yard.  Daffodil and I passed one of them and it was a little scary as the big white dog came barking and bounding up to us.  But the owner had the dog under control.  I was going to avoid that street on the second loop, but decided to "face" it.  The dog was back inside the second time so it was peaceful then.

The two miles really did not feel difficult at all.  My feet were not sore afterward, and I felt very good.

But then the challenge of going out for nine holes of golf came.  Even though we planned to go around in the carts (we never used carts when I played years ago, and I way prefer walking), I still knew that being on my feet that much after stretching myself to two miles barefoot was going to be taxing.

On top of it all, I had not brought golf shoes, or running shoes or sneakers of any kind.  So, the only thing I had to play in were my Tevas.

Now, I'm truly not trying to copy a new-found barefoot blogging buddy of mine, Neil Z, who wrote about playing a round of golf barefoot a few posts ago. I really did go golfing with my family today and I really found myself in the situation of not having golf shoes and wearing my Tevas.

Many years ago, I had a quirk about my golf game, and of course this quirk is coming back to me as I do all this barefoot contemplation these days.  As a teenager I was incredibly concerned about getting a funny golfer's tan (white feet), so I golfed barefoot all the time.  Thinking back, I can't really believe that I got away with this at the country club where I golfed.  I definitely was not self-conscious about it.  It was my thing.

Now, however, all grown up, I would feel very self-conscious about it -- and about not wearing the right golf look.

But I had not brought proper attire, and it was either go out as is, or not golf at all.   I was not going to miss this opportunity just because I didn't have the "right" clothes.

So, I went out the best I could.  I did not play too shabbily, but I did start feeling a bit fatigued by the 5th or 6th hole.  That, of course, is because I'm not used to it any more.

Here is me, out there golfing in my Tevas:

Friday, August 20, 2010

34.9 -- The Summer of "The Barefoot Mile" is coming to a close.

Well, something different is developing at last.  I had a tight schedule today, and my goal all summer has been consistency.  I have been very lucky that the weather has been amazing (I don't mind the heat).  For some reason I have been able to consistently go out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to run my barefoot mile.

I had dreams when I started out that by the middle of the summer I'd run a 5K - the one I ran in last year. I had visions that by the end of the summer I'd be running longer distances.

But I learned quickly that I had to have patience.  Learning to barefoot run takes time and care.

So, I stuck with my "Barefoot Mile," going round and round until ... until ... well, I didn't know quite what I was waiting for, but I think I was waiting for something like today.

I had a tight schedule today because we are having a lot of celebrations this weekend.

I thought maybe I might miss the first of my scheduled running days.  The first one all summer. (Or at least one of the only ones.)  But I so did not want to miss it.  So, I set my alarm for 5:30 and tried to make a little plan where I could get my work and preparations and packing done, and also get my Barefoot Mile in.

I was a good girl.  I did not run first, and then pack.  I packed first, telling myself that if it went well, I would get to run.

When I got to the end of my usual little route, I just did not want to stop.  I had to keep going a little bit. And the only reason I stopped was because I thought it might be unwise to overdo it.  I really felt that I had a lot more in me.

I ran 1.9 miles, I found out after checking on I felt really great after, a couple hours after, and even now at the end of the day.  Feet feel good.

That means I'm moving on to 2 miles now.  It's finally time.

Okay, I admit that my feet ached when I got up to go have my hair rinsed at the salon after having sat in the stylist's chair for a while.  And they also ached when I got off the bus after coming home from my hair appointment in the city after that.  But no more than they ached when I first started acclimating them to the barefoot mile.  And within a  yard or two of walking along they felt good again.

So, it's time to say good-bye to The Barefoot Mile.  I will always have great affection for that mile.  That mile that formed a base.  Yes, I will always remember "The Summer of the Barefoot Mile."

But now it's time to move on, to new challenges, and it's time to get to know mile number 2.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feels SO good! -- Mile 33 and A Plan

I went back to Kung Fu last night after having taken 2 weeks off.  So I was a little stiff this morning, especially in the hamstrings and the abs.  I thought that might make me have a less-than-comfortable run, but I was wrong.  It was great!

As I ran along, setting my feet down softly and picking them up as quickly as I can, the cadence of a Schubert song I was working on this morning -- Auf dem Wasser zu singen -- came to mind.  It was going through my head so I tried to keep pace with what was running through my head.  It was slightly too fast a song, so I had to abandon it to try to just get that rhythm out of my head.  (I'll be posting my work on this song in Frescamari's Practice Room, a blog which represents my singing work, a little later tonight or tomorrow, so check it out if you want to hear.)

Anyway, as I ran along I realized that this mile was feeling darned good. I can feel that my thigh muscles have to get slightly stronger now that I am placing my feet on the sidewalk more elegantly, but based on the way they felt, I don't think that's going to take so long -- this week and next may be enough.

So, bearing that in mind, I started formulating my Fall fitness plan.

I'm on the verge of being invited to black sash training at my Kung Fu school.  I've been there three years and I'm at the belt level where black sash training is next.  One of the many reasons why I wanted to run was because I thought it would help me have the strength and stamina to black sash train when the time came.

I mentioned above that I took two weeks off. I will be able to Kung Fu train this week, and I hope I will work out while I am away next week.  When I get back, I want to start putting a specific focus on Kung Fu.

So ....

Here is my plan.

Next Two Weeks: -- maintain and strengthen BF running gains, regain Kung Fu after 2 wks off
M -- 1.5 Mile BF run
T --- intense Kung Fu class
W -- 1.5 Mile BF run
Th -- intense Kung Fu class
F -- 1.5 Mile BF run

Session I -- Septemberish/Octoberish -- add practice days to Kung Fu and start running every day
M -- Gradually increasing BF run to 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
T --- Add an easy BF Mile in addition to intense Kung Fu class
W -- Gradually increasing BF run to 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
Th -- Add an easy BF Mile in addition to intense Kung Fu class
F -- Gradually increasing BF run to 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
Sa -- low intensity Kung Fu class

Session II -- OctoberishNovemberish -- If successful Bring easy 1 mi run days up to 3 miles to establish 3 miles per day running base: Possibly run in the 5K I signed up for on October 31, but only if ready
M -- BF Run 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
T --- Gradually increase easy mile to 3 easy miles in addition to intense Kung Fu class
W --BF Run 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
Th -- Gradually increase easy mile to 3 easy miles in addition to intense Kung Fu independent practice (because choir starts and can't go to class)
F -- BF Run 3 miles -- low intensity Kung Fu form practice
Sa -- low intensity Kung Fu class

Once I get this established, then I'll make Monday the "long run" day.

I'm sure the details of this little plan are boring to most, but this is my little place where I can state all these things and kind of commit to my plan.

Like all plans, it sounds reasonable in theory, but -- like the plan I made to train for a 1/2 marathon last year that sounded so reasonable -- I'm ready to adapt and be flexible and very patient to go through the plan.  I'm also ready to change the plan if just attempting to do the plan teaches me something.

Notes on Today's Run:

People Encountered
I met my neighbor walking her baby out on the Boulevard. I had told her about barefoot running and she had been really interested in it (she is an open kind of person). She saw my bare feet and asked if I was out toughening my soles. I told her I was going to start running as soon as I got to the corner. She told me that she had gone out and run a little bit barefoot after we had last talked and really liked it. She said it felt like a great massage on her feet. She told me she had been a serious runner, but had to stop because she had developed aches and pains. I told her I had no aches and pains (in the usual body parts at least -- hips, knees, lower back, hamstrings, etc... ) I think she's going to take it up. I really hope she does.

Today, after blasting the bottoms of my feet with the garden hose set on jet setting, I took a look at the bottoms and saw the white skin where what-must-have-been blisters had been located. I had not realized they were there, so they hadn't been painful.

I think -- yes, I am pretty sure -- that they were from the Harlem to Brooklyn Chris McDougall Run last week.  Based on how very hot the asphalt was, and the horrible way my feet felt as I walked through the subways to the party at the end, I would say those blisters must have formed then. I don't think they're from my regular routine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Body Can Adapt to Anything ...

I often mention that before I started barefoot running, I went to a beginner barefoot workshop in Central Park with Michael Sandler, author of Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth

Recently, he posted on FB a link to this youtube video he made, which I have posted below. I thought it was inspirational, but I am a bit of a sucker for things like this, especially when they pick the right music to go with it.  I get all emotional inside.

Another thing is that a video like this brings out my idealism.  In the video you see him running in snow and icy water and on rocks up mountains.  He is truly doing all that, and the idealist in me buys what he says at the end, that the body can adapt to anything if you allow it.  But what can sometimes be missing is the hard journey in between to get to that point.  After watching a video like this, I just want to go outside and just do what he's doing.  But the reality is that the road there is tough.  You have to believe you're going to get there.  It's like being inspired by an opera singer, but then confronting the reality when you try to sing like that.  It's going to take a lot of committed hours and dedication and mistakes and frustrations before you can do that.

This doesn't mean that we can't achieve these things.  But if our idealism is tickled by the ideal, then we might have to just find out if we've got the stuff in us to get there.  For some it will be tougher and take longer than for others.  And the funny thing is, it is not even something that anyone has to do.  It's something to do if you think it's cool and if you want to find out if it's really true.  You have to go on faith for a long time though.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The 31st Mile -- Don't Push off on Those Metatarsal Heads

After all the excitement and new adventures, I have returned today to my home stomping grounds.  (Whoops -- did I say "stomp."  Don't "stomp" when you barefoot run.)

I finally am getting how to step lightly and BOY DO MY FEET FEEL GREAT!. If I thought barefoot running felt good before, now that I am stepping lighter I am really impressed.

This was my official day back on my smooth terra cotta-style sidewalk tiles. They felt really good. I was excited to practice my new lighter step without pushing off on those metatarsals, which I discovered in the shopping parking lot and practiced on my spontaneous run in the park.

After 10 weeks and 30 miles of running, I feel like I'm finally getting to a point where I can say I'm ready to begin. Now I can build the foundation. I will have to go round and round on the barefoot mile to make this habitual and to strengthen the muscles that got activated when I altered my step. But once that's done, maybe over the next couple of weeks, I think I'll be able to enter a kind of stage two phase, which will be gradual building and development.

They say that your feet will teach you the correct form. I believe that your feet will give you the information you need, but it's not like it happens immediately. There are two kinds of feedback (well, maybe more than two kinds, but for right now I'll be very general). Feedback one is immediate. There are just some things you won't be able to do if you are in bare feet so they will be eliminated immediately, like slam your heels into the sidewalk.

But then there's a kind of delayed feedback that happens after you run and even the next day. There is pain or little signs that you are not stepping exactly right. Beginner barefoot runners take a day off in between to kind of recover and then go out again. But I think the aftermath feedback won't work as well if you heal too much between runs, because the pain is going to force you to step a different way. If your metatarsals are sore, like mine were, or the side of your foot, that pain is going to be there to let you know you haven't got it right yet.

I finally figured out that I was pushing off. I didn't feel like I was pushing off with my feet. The symptom I have read about that might tell you if you are pushing off was blisters. I didn't have blisters so I thought that was a sign I wasn't pushing off. I actually had to use logic -- (I know, I know, it might have been really super obvious, but I'm so dimwitted I have to sometimes reason myself over to see things that are just self-evident) -- to figure out whether I was pushing off or not.

In this case, I think my plus-size weight actually worked in my favor because the extra weight when pushing off caused the issue to come to the fore fast (or at least to the forefoot fast). I think it could be possible for a lighter weight runner to be pushing off and not realize this was wrong until they increased speed or distance.

Well, to make a long story short, I think I've got the basic step down now. There are probably many things I will find to be adjusted and refined, but the basic gross motor movement of what I'm aiming for is there and now I can get a little stronger and proceed.

Some little notes from what I thought about whlie running today:

Plus Size Running
There's not a whole lot of helpful information out there about the needs of plus-size runners. I am forming some opinions about it. I was pretty worried that barefoot running might not be for overweight people, but now I'm thinking that it can be done but some precautions are necessary. I think plus-size people have to proceed more slowly. When they read a running plan for an absolute-beginner-to-5K, for example, the plus size person should spend more time building a foundation before beginning, and take more time -- at least double the time -- if not more -- to increase distances.

Weight lifters develop their muscle strength to the point where they can lift very heavy weights, so in principle, a plus size person should be able to develop greater strength needed for tasks of a heavier weight. However, weight lifters start with lighter weights and gradually increase, while a plus-size person is starting out with the heavier weights. Having really excellent form, and doing lower reps at first, going shorter distances consistently and repetitively, IMO, will be the way for plus size to start.

I don't know if I'm totally right about this, but it's working for me this way, and it makes sense, so for now I'll think these things, until any better information comes along.

Favoring a Foot
Today after about a mile, with a half a mile left to go, I started noticing that I was landing heavier on my left foot. I remembered that the problems with the metatarsal bone pain was in the left foot mainly and I wondered why the left foot. My left foot had been my "good" foot while I was training for the half marathon last year. I wonder if I came down harder on it and pushed off harder in an attempt to spare the right foot, which had the plantar fasciitis. Could be.

Somone Honked
Today was the first time I got beeped at by a car. It was my husband. "Hey, how do I look?"  He told me I had good form!

Light Dog Leash
Daffodil seemed to sense my lighter step and did not pull on the leash today. I was holding the leash lightly between my thumb and forefinger and she was trotting along beside me. I wonder if she sensed that something was wrong before, and now that I had the light step she could relax? You never know. Dogs key in to all kinds of states of being.

Let me tell you that my feet feel the best they have ever felt. I'm actually able to walk barefoot on the hard kitchen floor tile quite comfortably, even after sitting down to write this blog post. Usually I'm fine to walk around on my feet right after a run, but after sitting and resting a while, when I get up walking in bare feet will be a bit uncomfortable. Today -- excellent!  I'm really encouraged.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Grownups Can't Run"

Today was not a scheduled run day.  In fact, in the "way" I've been following, both Saturdays and Sundays are days off.  One reason is because I usually cross train with Kung Fu on Saturday.

But we went to the park today and  I had my Teva's on.

I haven't stopped thinking about the way of setting my feet down and picking them up that I "found" in the Target parking lot yesterday (wrote about in yesterday's post).

I just had an urge to try it out.  I wasn't in my running clothes, but I just kicked off my Tevas and set out to try it. I just had to see if it was going to work.  Never mind that I haven't run barefoot two days  in a row yet.  I just needed to run.

And it was working!   I found the step.  I ran all around the lake.  I ran up a hill. I was going in really tiny steps it felt like, but somehow faster.  The weight came out of my feet and transferred to a higher place in my legs.  Hard to describe, but more in the front of the thighs and rear.

My feet were lifting up.  The heel came up first, then mid, until just the forefoot with toes bent finally peeled off.  My feet were very relaxed.  I didn't feel weight on my feet.  They felt kind of like flippers.  And I was not pushing off.  My knees were bent, and coming out forward slightly, but not level enough to hold and flip a pancake.  Actually, if there were pancakes they would have been thrown kind of forward and up at kind of a 45 degree angle, not straight up.

I was breathing harder.  It was because I was working harder but in a new way.  I could tell that this new way just had to get stronger and I'd be okay.

Most of my life I had to force myself to go out and run, even though I liked it.  When I very first started running years ago, I used to get a really sick feeling before I ran each time.  I used to feel scared.  Scared of how it was going to hurt.

Later on, I managed to develop an enjoyment of running and no longer experienced the dread feeling.

But today was the first time I just felt the urge to just run.  I just looked at that lake and wanted to run.  I wanted to see if I could get it right.  I didn't think that it was hard, or that it hurt or anything.  I just enjoyed it.

That was a little bit new.  And I wasn't wearing running clothes.  I was just running in my clothes.  I mean, they were casual, and actually the shirt was a running shirt -- one designed by my sister for her running club at work that she sent me.

That's what it was like when I was a kid.  I would just see a field and feel like running across it.  It was fun.

Running is fun.

When you're walking down the street with a bunch of moms and kids, the kids all run to the corner.  The adults always say "Don't run!"

Why do they say "don't run?"

There is this really hilarious children's book called Grown-Ups Get to Do All the Driving.  The book makes these simple statements, along with some funny illustrations, from a child's point of view about grownups.  They were all funny, but some tinged with a little sadness.  One of them was "Grownups can't run."

When I read that one I became determined that I would be one grownup who would be seen running.

But I just thought about it a lot.  From a kids point of view, with the moms on the sidewalk behind them saying "Don't run" it must seem like grownups don't run.

Today I felt like I came really close to being a kid again -- sort of.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My 30th Barefoot Mile Takes Place in Hoboken

So far, it has felt wonderful to run barefoot.  If my feet were tender or sore after sauntering out there, they healed up so quickly and were ready to go out again when it was time.

But after that run on the asphalt with Chris McDougall and the NYC Barefoot Runners club, I was hurting.

In fact, I was woken up in the middle of the night after that run by some weird-feeling, sore metatarsal bones. It was 3:30 in the morning and they felt so icky I could not go back to sleep.  When I tried to flex my feet, it felt like the head of that second metatarsal was going to poke right through the skin.  As I lay there, trying to get my mind off the way the soles of my feet felt, it just wouldn't go away.  I decided to go downstairs, turn on the computer, and make my blog post about the day.

I was feeling pretty sure that I had done myself in and that I wasn't going to be able to barefoot run any more.

But, as the day went by, my feet improved, and to my surprise, by the end of yesterday they were remarkably improved.  I could now feel the fat pads on my feet again instead of just bone on the floor.  Hmmmm, maybe I will be able to go out for my Friday Barefoot Mile after all.

I woke up this morning a bit unsure.  There was definitely some residual soreness there.  I hemmed and I hawed about running.  I pictured myself writing  a post today about how good it is to listen to your body and take a day off, rather than be stubborn and cause more damage.

Yet -- I thought -- maybe I could just try.

So, since I had to go out to pick up a new supply of contact lenses this morning, and since I can't run without them --  I won't run in my glasses because they are very uncomfortable and slide around when I get sweaty, but even more so, I realized that I need to be able to see the ground -- I will run in Hoboken today.

I popped Daffodil in the car and made a plan to pick up my contact lenses, and then run by the Hoboken Waterfront.  I would bring my flip flops and I would run a figure 8 pattern so that I would be able to bail out at the starting point and skip the second loop in case it wasn't going good with my feet.

Well, it was really good that I went out.  It felt great.  Just great.  Yes, we are going on with this after all.  I shall continue to be Barefoot Fresca and, yes,  I shall continue to barefoot run and I shall continue to blog about it.

It's funny how Daffodil has figured out how far a mile is now.  She just kind of plops down and has a little rest right about the point where we hit a mile.  I've noticed that I've gone about a mile and a half the last 12 times I've been out, but it's still within the context of "The Barefoot Mile" because "The Barefoot Mile" is not an exact measure.  I'm tired of exactly and precisely measuring everything about running all the time.

I had to mull over some things I had picked up at that barefoot run event the other day. John Durant, the leader of the NYC Barefoot Runners meetup group had told us all that we should be thinking of hotcakes being on top of our knees and we were flipping the hotcakes into the air as we lifted our knees. What did that mean?  Will I find that as I run along?  Every time I tried to think of that it seemed like I was artificially raising my knees too high.  Maybe that's something for faster more advanced states of this.  I mean there are probably a LOT of things that don't apply to this very slow pace.

As I ran along, I remembered the way those two angel barefoot runners on either side of me, the sweepers, Chris and Melissa, seemed to barely leave the ground, and their feet seemed to be almost fluttery, and they were taking wee little baby steps (yet running way faster than I was and having to hold way back.)  I put that image in my mind as I ran along and tried to touch the ground lightly.

I also remembered what Barefoot Josh had written in the comments, saying how the smoothest movements will feel a little awkward at first.

And I remembered how much those metatarsals had felt so pounded, and I knew I had to find the right way to step lightly or I was going to pulverize them.

At the end of the run, 1.4 miles, my feet felt really good again.  Like the old days before I had run in the big event on the asphalt in the heat.

All through the day my mind comes back to the metatarsals.  I just feel that something must be fixed because I really believe that if I'm doing it right, they won't hurt. Later on, while walking in my Tevas across a parking lot  I'm trying to work it all out.  Yes, the Morton's foot could be a factor.  Yes, my excess weight could be contributing too much pressure.  And yet ... and yet ... if I'm stepping right, if I'm stepping lightly, then weight shouldn't matter.  Maybe I'm pushing off!  Yes, I must be pushing off on those metatarsals!

So, as I walk along, I think of putting my foot down.  What had the guy said?  The idea is not to put your foot down, it's to pick it up.  I try picking up my feet as I walk alongside my daughter.

But how, how, how do you go forward if you don't push off?  I can't figure it out.

Well, in Chi Running, Danny Dreyer says gravity makes you go forward.  You start to fall, and gravity moves you.  Yet I just can't get that forward lean.  It doesn't feel right.

But I also heard that a rotating motion of the spine, like the agitator of a washing machine, generates the motion forward and that it comes from your core.

Man, some people just do this.  They don't have to think about it and figure it out.  They are naturals.  Wish so much I was a natural.  But my metatarsals are telling me that I haven't got it quite right yet.  And I cannot go further until I get this right.  Something in me just knows that.

Then, all of a sudden, there in the parking lot, I think I get it.  The right feeling.  All the weight off my feet, not pushing off.  Keeping my feet under me, not reaching out.  It's something that can't be described.  I think this is it.  I'm doing the walking version of it. I hope I can remember it.

Some pics of the day:

I thought it was very cool we found a doggie drinking fountain.

I didn't run on this, but it looks like it would be a fun road to run on.

Ha ha, I just have to add one more thing.  If you get down this far in the post you'll see it.  When I was previewing this blog post, right by the pretty pictures of the tree-lined path was a big add for a pair of shoes with a giant spiky high heel.  Not only is that something that I'd never wear now, but it is just so out of place on this particular blog post.  A blog about running barefoot with high heel ads.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photos From the NYC "Born to Run" Barefoot Running Event

Since I haven't downloaded that blog-editing program that's going to make working with pictures easier yet, I am going to use blogger's caption feature to post my pictures from the Harlem to Brooklyn run with Born to Run author, Chris McDougall.

Part I: Setting the Scene

I wasn't sure I was headed in the right direction, but then I remembered that the instructions had said "follow the drumbeat."  When I heard the drums playing, I knew I was going to find the start point.

The news media were present.  It's part of why I did not get a picture of Chirs McDougall at the preliminary greeting spot. But a New York Post reporter who was also going to be running ran up to me the minute I took my flip flops off and interviewed me.  She said the story would be in the post today. Wonder if my comments made it in, or she met some more experienced barefooters to quote later on.

This must be the place!

Yup, this is it!

And here's where the drumbeat was coming from.  These guys were nice to let me take a picture.  I asked them if I could put it on my blog. According to what I read on Chris McDougall's blog, this is M'Bemba, Mali's grand master drummer.

There were a lot more people in Vibrams than going barefoot.  In fact, it was feeling more like a Vibrams event than a barefoot one.

But still, there were plenty enough of bare feet to still call it a barefoot event.

And my bare feet were here too!

A Heavenly Mother was spotted looking over her barefooted children.

Part II: Get Ready, Go
I managed to have someone snap my photo before we took off.

Here's the photo I told you I was going to post -- the one of everyone pulling out ahead of me.  The guy on the left, with the blue backpack was Chris, who had volunteered to be a sweeper, and just ahead of him in the blue shirt was Melissa, who also had volunteered to be a sweeper.  When they pointed out who the sweepers were to us, I thought, "Oh, I'm going to be behind the sweepers even -- and I was right."  These two very experienced, light-footed barefoot runners became my barefoot angels and ran alongside me.  I kept telling them to go ahead with the others, but they insisted on staying by my side.  I learned a lot from them as they conversed cheerfully with me.  It was one way that it paid off to be the least and lowest of the barefoot runners that day.
 Part IV:  1.47 Miles Finished For Me - Now Where's the Exit?
When my feet couldn't take any more of the asphalt, it was time for me to quit.  My "Sweeper Angels" guided me to a park exit, even though I kept urging them to join the main group and that I'd be fine on my own.  So, now I was left all alone to make my way to the bookstore in Brooklyn.  I barefoot walked this path out of the park, but I should have just put my shoes on.  My feet were not feeling very good, but I was a little stubborn and wanted to barefoot it til I got out of the park..  Why I thought this was necessary I do not know.

This was not an easy walk for me.  I had expected to feel good during the running part, but I hadn't.  It seems impossible that I could have been running faster than usual, considering how far behind EVERYONE I was (I must be running a 14 minute mile or something).  But it didn't feel as wonderful as it did when I was out on my own during the weeks.  So, the walk from 102nd Street to 96th just did not feel good at all.  It was a bit discouraging, and I did not know that there was going to be a lot more walking before I would feel relief.

I had no idea what 96th street would be like since I had never been up in that area. It turned out that it was a rather swanky area, yet a neighborhood of lifelong Manhattan residents.  You could see many nursemaids walking elderly people along the street in their wheelchairs.   I felt a little self-conscious walking along in my conspicuously dirty feet.  The NYC streets were much dirtier than the ones I usually run on.  Here you can see by those white spots that the metatarsal heads are receiving WAY too much pressure.  You can also see from the position of the second white spot  that it might be true about that Morton's foot feature that the second metatarsal bone  is longer than the others.  I have finally decided that it's probably not a form issue  just plain and simply a matter of my being overweight.  Maybe it's too much for my poor feet and some weight reduction is in order.

As I hobbled along in my flip flops on my very sore feet, wishing I could get to the subway station more quickly, I thought this sign was funny.  No briskness for me right now.

I did get to see this, which was somewhat interesting.  It is a spot on Park Avenue where the trains let out.  Don't know if you can see it that well in this picture, but beyond that big bush in the middle are the railroad tracks, where the flag is.  It was interesting to me because I'd never seen it, and also because I never particularly thought about the fact that there must be a spot where the trains emerge.

The subway ride out to Brooklyn was grueling.  It was rush hour, so it was crowded and hot and there was no place to sit. So I had to stay and stay and stay on my poor feet.  This trek through the subways really did feel like I was in some kind of marathon.
And it wasn't over when I got to Brooklyn either.  There was more walking in my sore flip-flopped dirty feet to be done when I emerged from the G train on Greenpoint Ave.
Part V:  Arrival in Brooklyn at Word Bookstore
Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, I arrived at the colorful oasis of Word Bookstore.  It had taken me so long to get there, that I thought I would be late, but it turns out that I was one of the first ones, minutes ahead of the runners who were about to arrive after their 8 miles.

I was told that Chris McDougall's favorite food was Watermelon and Doughnuts.  They told me he specifically requested it.
In a few minutes, the first runners began to arrive.  The first ones in were shod.  But Chirs McDougall was right behind the first shod runners in his bare feet.  But I learned from this event, that this movement and spirit of this kind of running -- running in packs together for enjoyment, is not really about who comes in fastest.

The guy with his arms extended is John Durant, the leader/organizer of the Barefoot NYC Meetup Group, and a co-organizer of this event with Chris McDougall.
Part VI: Chris McDougall Gives an Inspiring Talk on the Experiences in His Book.

After everyone had eaten watermelon and doughnuts and drank their water and gatorade (and I saw some with beer too), we all headed to the little basement room of the bookshop for Chris McDougall's talk.

After the talk, there was a book signing.  I found Mr. McDougall to be very kind and very attentive to each individual.  I thought he was great.

So that ends the little tale of my adventure.  I definitely came away from this event with a deeper understanding of what this movement to run barefoot is about in some ways, and ideas about whether I fit in to it or not.  I was very humbled by the event.  As much as I think I have been making progress over the past 10 weeks, I can see that this is something to work at over the long haul.  Although I may not have impressed anyone with my showing, and although I felt a little discouraged about how much my feet hurt, and how hard it was to get over to the bookstore, I have a lot to think about surrounding this event.  I'll probably be writing about some of these reflections in some future posts.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

I've decided, much after the date of this post, to add this video from the New York Post, reporting on the Born to Run event.  There are little glimpses of me in the video, but it would be hard to point it out.  I'm with the group holding up their bare feet in the very beginning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pre-Event Jitters: Barefoot Run with Chris McDougall - Harlem to Brooklyn

Well, folks, when I read a couple of weeks ago about this upcoming barefoot run with Chris McDougall, I first thought, "oh I wish so much I was a more advanced barefoot runner so I could participate."  You see, they were planning to run eight miles.  Even though the organizers of this fun run said you could join in at any point -- be as beginner or advanced if you wanted, run barefoot or shod as you preferred -- it still seemed intimidating for my beginner barefoot self, as I wrote about my misgivings here.

As anyone who has been reading along knows, I have decided to brave this event, because it just sounds like too much fun and, for me, it's like the barefoot party of the year -- not to be missed!

So, today is the day.  I tried to get some friends to come with me but no one was able to make it, so it looks like I'm going to head out alone.

This is not a really big deal.  There are many many people who would just say, "oh, that's cool" and show up and go home.  But for me, I have been fraught with worries.  I actually spent a half an hour last night (or longer?) trying to figure out my plan.  I had three different interactive maps open -- one map of the running route provided on Chris McDougall's web site -- (Map of Run) -- one to see where the subway stops are at different mileages on the route through the park -- (Interactive NYC Subway Map) -- and one mapped out on (beta version) to see where the different mileage points would be where I might have to stop and hop on a subway to join them at the end for the party and book talk.

That's a lot of pre-race work!

So, I have to travel to Manhattan, and then three different subways to get up to the start point.  I wish I was able to run 3.82 miles.  That would make everything much easier, being that it would enable me to begin the race with everyone and then let out right at the perfect subway stop to get over to Word Bookstore.

(BTW, This Word Bookstore is being very friendly to barefoot runners, providing party food and welcoming barefooted people into the store.  I see they have an online shopping link, so I think I'm going to be shopping for books there in the future -- book shopping instead of running shoe shopping!)

I now have a list of different subway stops on the run.  My plan right now is to try to run 2 miles, and then walk the other 1.82 miles to the subway stop at 60th street.  However, if I can't manage to walk after the barefoot running part, for whatever reason, I now have a list of at what mileage each stop on the Lexington Avenue (4,5 6) line is located along the route:

2 miles = 96th Street Station
2.35 miles = 86th Street Station
2.87 miles = 77th Street Station
3.43. miles = 68th Street Hunter College.

Whew!  I am doing as much planning and tracking as someone getting ready for an ultra marathon.  You see? It's like I always say.  The tasks are the same at any level.

Other concerns:

Water Bottle
It's going to be HOT!  But I don't usually bring a water bottle for "The Barefoot Mile."  I might go further than a mile though today.  And Chris McDougall and John Durant both sent word that we should have a water bottle and gave examples of what to bring.

All I have is this:

I bought it at the running store on the finish line to the Boston Marathon a couple of years ago while my visiting  Boston.  (I also bought 2, yes two, pair of expensive running shoes while I was there -- because I couldn't decide which I liked better.  Oh, the memories of shopping for running shoes!)

But there is no bottle to go with this because the cute little bottle that came with it had an annoyingly leaky top and eventually I discarded it after really trying to like it and make it work.

Flip Flops or Vibrams or Both?
I am, of course, going to have to bring some footwear.  If I bring just the flip flops I can attach them to my waist pack and be able to travel light.

If I bring just vibrams I'll be cool, just like all the cool kids are doing it.  But if my second metatarsal head acts up, or my feet muscles are too tired (since I'm planning to try to go a bit further than usual), the vibrams may not make it all the way to the subway.

If I bring both, then I will have to bring a backpack.  I hate to run with a backpack on.  It's going to be hot and my back will get all sweaty and it will take away my freedom feeling.  I could attach both the vibrams and flip flops to my waist pack like I showed you I did the other day at the park, but then I will start looking really silly.

Well, I already have a copy of Born to Run.  But to carry it while running so I can get it autographed seems burdensome.  I could buy a copy at Word Bookstore to support them, and then just give my other copy to a friend or donate it to the library.

In the meantime, should I wear my RKFsport Kung Fu Tshirt or my "I'm Slow I Know; Get Over It"  T shirt?