Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Cross Training in Vibrams -- Part I -- The Preliminaries

A simple little tale of going out running the day after a giant blizzard ending up having to be told in three parts, it seems.  Part I will be the "The Preliminaries."  Part II will be "Running in Vibrams."  And Part III will be "The Barefoot Part."

A subtitle for the series could be, "Who says it has to be all or nothing?"

So, here we go with Part I -- The Preliminaries

This was going to be my first day out in my Vibrams.  Some of you may remember I mentioned that I started in Vibrams last spring, ran a few times, then decided to try barefoot to learn proper form.  My intention back then had been to go back to Vibrams once I had the barefoot form down correctly, but after experiencing barefoot running I never put them back on.

So, today was going to be the day I put them back on.  Had them all ready on the chair, along with a pair of Injinji toe socks.

When I checked the temperature, I saw that it was 35 degrees.  Well, that's pretty warm, I thought.  Maybe the streets are clear enough that I could do it barefoot after all.. Let me go see.

So, I headed outside to take a little walk around and scope the situation out -- in my bare feet of course.

Parts of the sidewalks seemed fine, very well-shoveled.

However there were sections like the one below which did not look like they were going to be good at all.

Well, I thought, it must be clear out on the Boulevard.  Maybe I can start out in the Vibrams and take them off when I'm on the runway, then put them back on again to come home. Yes, that's what I can do and what I shall do.

I went back in to put my Vibrams on.  This was the first time I was using the socks with them and it was really tough getting them on with the socks.  I thought to myself, "I don't know how I'll get these back on when it's time to come home.  This is really tough."  I thought about how my feet would be wet when it came time to put them back on.  I decided to bring a little towel with me.

Then I realized something!  I don't have to wear these socks!  It's 35 degrees out there.  I've run barefoot in 35 degrees so why would I need these socks?  I decided to ditch the socks.

Now it was time to step out the door:

Definitely did not feel good about having them on. :-(

Here is a video of my first steps down the snowy path in my Vibrams:

When I got to the corner, something completely unanticipated happened.  I looked across to the other side and saw that the way to my running path was blocked by snow:

How am I going to get up there?

I could clearly see there was a little path carved out up there, but couldn't see how to get to it.

 So, I went back across to the other side of the street and started jogging along.  Maybe I'll just have to run along these paths:

As I jogged along, I was beginning to think my plan to take off my Vibrams at some point was starting to fall through.  When I got to the corners, I was especially sure it would not be a good idea because I would encounter puddles of slush like this:

All the while I was on the lookout for a place across the street where I might cross over on to the path by the river.  Finally I found a spot that looked like it might work.  Daffodil and I stepped through it to get to the Boulevard path.

We took a look back to see where we had come from.

Now we were up on the path at last.
We scoped it out.   First we looked North:

And then we looked South:

And everything looked "good to go."

Notes to self after "The Preliminaries:
  • Scoping out the scene in bare feet before heading out by walking up and down a few blocks to see how it feels not only gives a good idea about whether to use shoes or not, but also gives the feet a little touch of cold weather conditioning.  Who says it has to be all or nothing?
  • Climbing through snow and slushing through slush in the kind of Vibrams I have is pretty wet, so it's not like Vibrams are going to keep my feet dry.
  • I don't need socks when it's 35 degrees.
  • No matter how hard I try to think things through and anticipate everything, there's always going to be something I didn't think of
  • Sometimes I have to just get out there and see what it's like to know how it's going to go.  Experience is the best teacher.
  • Don't like my Vibrams any more.  The first time I ran in them, back in the spring, I thought they were amazing.  But after running barefoot all summer, I don't like them any more.

I'll continue in Part II -- Running in Vibrams

Monday, December 27, 2010

Barefoot in the Snow -- Take 2

We had a big blizzard today.  Really big.  When I opened the front door to bring Daffodil out this morning, both of us kind looked on in wonder.

My little tootsies came right up to the threshold of the door.  I really wanted to just see if I could walk in it barefoot.
 It felt so freezing that I chickened out and put my boots on
But I was just so curious, I couldn't give up the thought that I'd just like to walk through the snowdrift on the porch, just to see what it was like.  So ... I decided to step out of my boots.
First one barefoot step:
Then another:
Then I quickly ran across the snow drift.  I thought I might leave behind a set of barefoot footprints to take a picture for my blog, but I forgot that Daffodil would be following and leaving little paw prints in the snow too.
It was absolutely freezing, and I thought that there was no way I would ever want to go run in this.  And stupid me forgot to roll my pant legs up, so they got snow all over them. And they were a little damp later on while in the drafty house.

I didn't go running today.  I have a treadmill downstairs and I didn't go on that either.  (I have never really used that treadmill, and have been hoping I will never have to.)

So, it would seem like this blizzard marks the end of my barefoot running for the season.  I will have to go out sometime this week for the first time in Vibrams (the only minimal shoe I own at this point).

I have actually decided that if I consider running in minimal shoes a completely separate sport from barefoot running, that perhaps it could be considered cross-training.  For some reason, psychologically, I like the idea of "cross training" in Vibrams better than seeing it as part of my barefoot running.

However, I do still have some curiosities left in me.  Maybe it only felt so horrible because it was the first day?  Maybe it wouldn't feel as horrible if I was actually running and building up body heat?  Maybe if I was dressed more warmly on top with hat and gloves and never stopped moving?  Maybe, instead of being the end, maybe this little run through the snow drift on the front porch was a good start?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Time Travel -- How I Learned About Barefoot Running

While we're having a big blizzard outside, I thought I'd share with you a blast from the past -- a blast from when readers of Barefoot Fresca did not know me.

I was actually learning about and contemplating barefoot running a long time before I took my first steps out to try it.  I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall way back in January or February of 2009.  On my other blog, Avocational Singer, I wrote a post about some thoughts on barefoot running almost an entire year before I tried it.  It was so interesting for me to go back and read that, knowing that I did not know I was in the future going to become a barefoot runner.  Back then I was just thinking.

Here is the post if you'd like to check it out.

"What is Natural"

Disclaimer -- You all know that we have Amazon Associates connected with blogger.  When I write the name of a book, I use the link from Amazon Associates and if you click on the link and bought the book I, like all other blogger bloggers who use it would get some money.  I do not write this blog to make money at all.  I use google adsense because I like the way you get to analyze who visits and stuff.  I use Amazon Associates because I read a lot of books and I like to talk about them, and I like to link to them if anyone is interested.  It kind of makes sense that if I'm linking to them anyway, I might as well go ahead and use the Amazon Associates link.

Anyway, if I wanted to make money on the blog, I would do way more things than use adsense and stuff.  I would buy a book, "How to make money on your blog for dummies" and would read up and study it and try out different things and draw up contracts and get advertisers, etc....

But I read that bloggers are supposed to put disclaimers when they're using links like the Amazon Associate one, so this is my disclaimer.

I like to read a lot.  I only post books on here that I'm reading and quote things I find inspiring in the books.  I don't get paid anything and don't get any free books, and no one has asked me to review or mention their books. Just wanted to let you all know that.

If anything ever changes with that, I'd let you all know that too.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas
and all the other greetings of the season to all my fellow barefoot friends and the barefoot curious who stop by to read.

Based on what I received for Christmas -- something I've wanted for a long time and which can be seen to the right, -- it looks like I'll have something else to practice every day (besides barefoot running, Kung Fu, blogging, piano, voice, photography).  Perhaps I shall one day post videos of me playing the harp barefoot for you! (No, not with my toes, silly, with my hands, in some flowing white gown and my bare feet planted firmly on the floor.)

(edited to add:  In fact, now that I think about it and have tried plucking a few strings on this thing, I believe that some of what I learned in barefoot running and some of the patience I had to use is going to be needed in learning to play the harp.  I can feel that the tips of my fingers are tender, and that I will have to build up and develop them much in the same way I had to build and develop the soles of my feet.  That will require a definite strategy of not doing too much too soon (TMTS) .  In the beginning, probably only 5 minutes at a time. Perhaps I did need to become a barefoot runner first before getting my first harp.)

Last night I sang
"O Holy Night" at midnight mass.

I was wearing black velvet pants with a black velvet top, but when it came time to put on fancy shoes with heels, I just couldn't.

Now, because I have not had time to accumulate a wardrobe of shoes better designed for the health of my feet, I have only that pair of Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Kali shoes which I've been wearing about everywhere.  I decided that, once again -- like every day -- those would be the shoes I would have to wear.

I didn't have any black socks washed, so I took a pair of black injinji socks and used them underneath.  They were so-o-o-o comfortable.  I was more comfortable singing than I ever had been before.

This shoe thing could pose a problem in future singing gigs -- or it couldn't, depending on how things go -- because sometimes when you sing you get all gussied up and have to stand in front and your shoes kind of complete the look, and it can make the difference between looking polished and authoritative.  I'm sure I'll be sometimes wondering what to put on my feet as I sing, and be on the lookout for barefoot-friendly formal shoe wear appropriate for singing.  But for my purposes last night, it all worked out great.

Christmas is a family time, and I would love to tell you about my family and share pictures of everything, but my family does not feel comfortable having me write about them on my blog and I respect that.  So, if the blog seems a bit narcissistic and focused only on me, well, it is -- but by special request.  You can assume that wonderful family things are happening on Christmas and all the time.  And I hope that wonderful family things are happening for all of you this holiday season.

I actually did think of going for a run today, but have decided not to because I'm tired from attending the big family Christmas Eve Feast, and then midnight mass.  So, we shall begin anew soon.  In the meantime -- Enjoy your holidays everyone.

(Oh, btw, below is what the harp looked like wrapped.  Did they really think I wasn't going to know what it was?)
Okay, okay, I'll show you some of the presents Daffodil got as well.  After all, she doesn't mind me writing about her on my blog.
She really loved the little santa doggie.  In fact, she played with it so much (it squeaks, btw) that we thought we wouldn't even have to give her the other presents and could save them until next year.

Soon enough, however, she was ready for her doggies lobster dinner, with baked potato, corn and broccoli.
After her Christmas dinner (bty, the lobster, the corn, the lemon, and the potato all squeaked), she was allowed to have some doggie cookies:
And, just one more Daffodil Christmas-y thing:  Every year we buy a new ornament for the tree that has some meaning about our life that year.  This year, we added a "Daffodil" ornament to the collection.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Six Month Anniversary -- 150 Barefoot Miles!

Six months ago today, I ran my first full Barefoot Mile.

What a day that was!

I thought it was really something.

Wow, it's possible!  I can run a whole mile barefoot!

"Hey everybody!  I just ran a whole mile barefoot!"

(I think I put it in my status update on Facebook that day, but not really anyone noticed because before that I had been posting pictures of my new Vibrams so everyone just thought "barefoot" meant Vibrams, and to this day most of my friends still think that when I say barefoot I mean I'm running in those funny shoes.  It doesn't matter how much I try to explain that I am running completely barefoot, it takes them a really long time, if ever, to get that I don't mean those funny shoes.  When they do get it, their faces kind of fall.  "You mean, nothing on your feet?"  "Yes! Yes!  I mean nothing on my feet."  And then it starts, "Ewww, isn't that dangerous, etc...." and I am no longer cool -- because the Vibrams kind of barefoot are cool, the other kind, not.)

You know what?  It was really something.

It was two days before I made my very first blog post.   That post was on the day of my second barefoot mile.  After that I very patiently ran single barefoot miles for 10 miles, resting a day in between each one, before I began to increase the distance every so slightly during July.

Since then I have strung a whole bunch of those barefoot miles together and yesterday I ran my 150th barefoot mile. And the last 15 of those barefoot miles were in temperatures that were in the 30s of degrees.

Let's take a look at what the bottoms of those feet look like after 150 barefoot miles:
 Not bad, eh?

No more little blood blisters.  No more little abrasions, bruises, scrapes, and peeling skin.  No more little embedded dark mysterious objects.  Even the calloused spot where I have trouble with that third metatarsal head (morton's toe thing-y) has smoothed out as I've been very careful of my form and not to push off from there.  And I've developed these really wonderful, thick cushion-y pads that are so comfortable and supportive to walk on.  Back when I started, I was so worried that my feet would become all scruffy, calloused, and ugly looking that I took pictures of my old feet to say good-bye to the pampered state, and so I could always remember a time when they had been soft and beautiful.  Little did I know on the day I took those pictures that barefoot running would make them way more beautiful.  And strong!

You can kind of see why I don't want to stop barefoot running.  I mean, it took all summer and 150 miles to get these babies into this kind of condition.  I feel this sense of protectiveness of them, almost a kind of pride.  I can't just let them wither down to that tender-footed wimpy state they've been in for so many years again so soon.

I just found a new blog by a fellow barefooter named Claire.  On her blog, Take Two, in her post "Gravel Marching for Dummies" she talks about the lengths she's willing to go to during the bad winter to keep her bare feet conditioned for barefoot running.  I have to admit that I saw a youtube video of a guy doing that earlier this summer and I thought, "Now that's taking things a bit too far!"  Fast forward several months of patient bare foot conditioning and I kind of get why someone would want to do that.  Weird evolution.

I will confess one teeny little touch-up I did to this photo.  There was a piece of grey fuzz from my sock stuck to my right foot and I clone brushed it out.  That was a teeny spot.  But I did absolutely nothing else to the photo.

15 of those miles have been in weather that was below 40 degrees.  It only took 15 little barefoot miles to get my feet conditioned for the cold.  You would think it would have taken a lot more, but now I'm running in the cold pretty comfortably now.

My last two runs were Saturday (the day of the sunrise) at 35 degrees, and yesterday at 32 degrees.  I did not go out and try when it was below 30 because I didn't have to.  I might have tried the 20s if it had lasted enough days, but as it was, I waited and the temperatures went back up to the 30s so I didn't have to try the 20s yet.

Sidewalk Salt
A new thing Daffodil and I encountered was salt on the ground.  See those white spots in the picture alongside this text?  That's the salt.

At first it looked like crushed glass and I was doing the little hoppy don't-want-to-step-on-glass dance. But I figured it out soon enough.

I suppose I don't really want to step on salt either.

What Next?
Well, as I've written here before, the whole reason I've been running in the cold is because I have that 5K at Disney in January (Buzz and Woody's 5K). It is only three weeks away.  I think that my luck held out really well with the weather here.   I think that no matter what happens from here-on-in, I will be good to run barefoot in the race.  If I am able to run at least once a week barefoot until then, I'll be good.  I think I will.  I really don't know.  I don't know how long it takes the soles of one's feet to de-condition.

My mileage is down a little bit.  You know I ran two 5Ks barefoot this past Fall (5K number 1 and 5K number 2).  So, I know I'll be able to do the 5K.  But I had two step-backs I hadn't figured on earlier.

One was after I had that strange dislocated fibular incident.  Once that healed up, which didn't take too long at all if you remember, I had to get back into routine carefully.

The come-back from fibula weirdness runs went like this:
1.45 miles
and then finally
4.3 miles
But then I hit the cold weather, and had to step it back again to get my feet used to the new conditions.

So, the runs have gone like this:
1.4 m @ 37 degrees
2.74m @ 35 degrees
2.74m @ 31 degrees
2.74m @ 31 degrees
2.74m @ 41 degrees
2.74m @ 32 degrees
1.5 m  @ 32 degrees
I have three weeks until Disney.  Now that my feet can handle the cold, I will bump up to a 5K distance at least once a week and I'll be fine.  I already previously made the decision not to increase mileage at this point during the winter and that was a good decision.  I will save growing my mileage for next season.

In the meantime, because I haven't been running further, I have been stepping it up on the last quarter mile of my run each day.  It's been feeling good to push a little on the speed, and it seems like just the right amount for someone in my state of things.

Just three more weeks to go and it will be the end of my first barefoot running season.  And then we'll have a whole new season to look forward to!

I recently found a post on my other blog, Avocational Singer, that I wrote the day after that first barefoot mile.
Here it is:  "More Barefoot Running"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Barefoot Mile #148 -- Sunrise!!

I'm shall be getting back to writing about my "Brr-foot" Running, but I'm taking a little time out right now to share some photos I took the morning of my past Saturday barefoot run. (Just a preview, in case you're in suspense -- I'm still running barefoot.  Haven't put my shoes on quite yet.)

It so happened that I had to run an errand very early in the morning of the day that I was later to complete my 148th barefoot mile.  I noticed that the sun was about to rise so I got out there with my camera to just enjoy watching.  You might get tired scrolling through so many pictures, but don't give up -- it's worth the wait, as it was for me.

Come watch the sunrise with me: