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.


Junk Miler said...

Maybe some people are naturals, but I bet most of them went through plenty of doubt and pain to get where they are.

I went for my first longish run in a while today, and ran a little faster than I should have. My feet feel very sensitive right now; they always do after a tough run. I get tired, my form suffers, my feet pay. But I know from experience that they'll feel fine by tonight, and I'll be ready for an easier run tomorrow.

Remember that no one knows you better than you. Flapjack analogies might work for some, won't work for others. Ultimately it's you who has to figure out how to be smooth with your body. Keep on playing around, and pay attention. And be patient!

OK, enough preaching. I'm just really enjoying your take on the process.

Avocational Singer said...

And I, and so many others, enjoy your take on it, Barefoot Josh!