Monday, August 2, 2010

21st Barefoot Mile -- Hot Pavements

I broke my schedule this morning and waited a little too long to get out there for my barefoot mile run today.  I got distracted writing a post for my Avocational Singer blog.  I try to be orderly about my blogging, but I guess sometimes -- as many of you bloggers out there know -- when an impulse to write a blog post strikes,  if you have the time, that it can be part of the "joy of blogging" to just go with the flow.

Anyway, the first thing I thought as I took my few steps out was "It's too hot! Maybe I shouldn't go!"

Oh for goodness sake, you're only running a mile.  And you're running so close to home.  In fact you pass your street two times on this route so you can get off any time and go home.

I thought of my friend Robin and the last post on her Athletic Performer blog where she expresses a little exasperation with people who say, "I can't run."

To someone, one of those extreme hardcore runners who go out in the desert and run those Badwater or Death Valley (or whatever they call them) 100 mile + races, my little hesitation about it being a little later in the day and a little hot for my meager little mile might find it laughable.

But, well, for right now, this is my Death Valley run.  But I am so grateful for the presence of Robin and those hard core advanced runners who go out and test the upper and outer limits because they help me face my own little challenges.  I will remember them in the moment when I think I should turn back and forget about it, and they offer some inspiration.

So I ventured out for my 21st barefoot mile a little later in the day.

I have been able to write about this same barefoot mile route for the past six weeks for the main reason of the phenomenon that there is so much to be learned from going around and around on the same barefoot mile.  No mile is ever equal to another, I am finding.

In a book I am enjoying right now -- The Robert Shaw Reader, edited by Robert Blocker --  the late American choral conductor Robert Shaw says this about working on Bach's Mass in B Minor:  He says that "the joy in working on the ... Mass .. is that there is no end to the refinement which the work inpires and commands."

Being almost forced to stay for a long time with this one barefoot mile, I am beginning to feel the same way about running "The Barefoot Mile."  Even without changing my scenery, or varying the hills or terrain, or speed, or any of the many many variables  available to advanced runners, there is so much contained within a simple repeated mile, and I think that's what I'm supposed to be learning right now.

Mr. Shaw continues on to say, "One cannot live long enough -- or encounter so frequently conditions appropriate to its performance -- that one exhausts it or becomes immune to its marvels."

Well, that seems like a bit much to say about the barefoot mile. I guess there is a little bit more to discover within Bach's Mass in B Minor than there is on the run. But something of that spirit is present in what I am experiencing now.  It almost seems like the fruit of my  willingness to put aside goals and plans and ambitions.  That fruit is to find that there is plenty to learn about where you're at right now.  That one doesn't necessarily need to travel far or wide to broaden and deepen one's experience and knowledge.

Hot Pavements - Burning Feet
What was the biggest different factor today?  Well, first and foremost was that the pavers, which I have found to be so delightfully cool in the morning, had heated up and were burning the bottoms of my feet today.

In the morning, there is a big shadow that is cast by the wall.  I usually don't have to run in the shadow and usually don't want to because all the doggies like to go against the wall to do their business.  The shadow was even shorter today, my being out there closer to noon, and as my feet felt the heat I knew I was going to have to just "pretend" I didn't know that I was running in the doggie section and just save my feet as often as I could.

At first, the hot pavement was not too bad, but after about a half a mile, I began running from shady spot to shady spot.  I have stopped taking Vibrams and flip flops along with me, but at one point I wished I had them.  I had to tough it out.

How to Barefoot Walk
Believe it or not, when I've walked my little 1//4 to 1/2 mile warm up every day, I have been feeling very uncoordinated about how to walk barefoot.  Usually my method to get myself started in running is to build up a walking base.  But with barefooting, I did not do that.  Well, actually, I had built the walking base in my Vibrams, but then I just switched to barefoot at the point where I had already started adding running to the workout

My original plan was to merely walk barefoot for a while. The plan was to walk half a mile as a warm up in my bare feet, put on my Vibrams and run a mile.  But somehow I just started barefoot running after walking the first part and never went back.

I suppose it would have been smarter to make a real strong barefoot walking base first.  I guess I just figured the little half mile walking warm up before running would take care of that.

So, I have been feeling off kilter while barefoot walking.  Part of it was because I was trying to land on my midfoot while walking.  I thought that I probably should do that, but only out of my own head.

Then, over the weekend, on a long car ride to the beach, I brought Jason Robillard's The Barefoot Running Book: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running. (I like to toggle back and forth between doing and reading, experiencing and studying.)

Anyway, there was a part where he talked about barefoot walking and I think he said there was some varying opinion about how to barefoot walk.  Some say land on the midfoot and others say it's okay to land on the heel.  "Oh, that's interesting, " I thought.  "That means I have a choice and can play around with it."

So, today, I landed on my heel and it felt way more natural to me.  I am going to be allowing myself to find my natural gait with the walking in the coming days because of that.

The "Other" Barefoot Runner
My friend told me "you're not the only one out there" the other day.  It seems her husband had seen another barefoot runner when he was out for his morning walk.  In one way, I was glad to hear the news, because it made me feel like I had a companion in this lonely venture.  I thought about the mysterious other barefoot runner.  I have never seen him.  Does he come here all the time or was he a visitor?  Does he run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or at different time of day?

Another part of me felt a little sad though.  So far I have been the only barefoot runner I've seen here.  I pass by this boulevard so many times a day, and even if I'm driving by, I always notice all the runners.  I've never seen a barefoot one.  I kind of liked feeling a little "special" (although I didn't realize I had felt that way til after the fact).  Now I know someone else is around doing it, and where there's one, there's gotta' be more.  I wonder when I'll finally see someone.

Towards the end of my run (I almost typed "fun" by mistake, but I guess that wouldn't be a bad typo), I saw my friend's husband out on his walk.  I said hello and then said, "am I the only barefoot runner you've seen today?"  He laughed and said I was the only one today.  I smiled all the way home.

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