Tuesday, September 29, 2009


When I was a kid growing up in Florida, my brother and I would run from the ebbing and flowing waterline at the beach and pretend it was lava. The object is to stay close to it, but don't let it hit you. Great way to do a run as well. I think a similar game was mentioned in Chris Lear's "Running with the Buffaloes".

So, after my follow-up appointment with the sports doc (ankle is fine and all systems go), I headed to the beach for another barefoot run while playing "The Ocean is Lava" game the whole way. Old Orchard Beach is well suited for this. The sand has very few shells and if you go while the tide is going out, it's well packed. It's also not very crowned or tilted. The tourists are now pretty much gone, so all you have to really look out for is the occasional quahog. Saw several huge ones bigger than my hand that the seagulls were taking interest in.

I ended up with a new distance PR for barefoot running. Felt pretty good the whole way, but I also kept the pace slow. Feet did begin to ache a little bit the last mile, but they're no worse for the wear.

Ran 8.2 miles @ 9:02/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 147/159
Beach with packed sand.
Very flat.
Mid 60s, partly cloudy.
Barefeet, shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Longest Barefoot Run to Date

Upon waking up, I felt pleasantly sore from yesterday's little mountain run, but not overly so. Just a bit creaky. The planned recovery run would no doubt do some good, and I wanted to do it barefoot, so I headed to the athletic fields at the local high school.

I did a little more than planned, which was fine since I was feeling better as the run was going along. The pace picked up gradually throughout, but not by anything drastic. Shin splints were not an issue, confirming yesterday's run cured them. Second time it's done that for me. Whenever I get splints again, rest assured I'll just find a big mountain and charge up it.

Felt great overall. Only sorta-kinda obstacle was a cold rain falling. I was well dressed though, and the bare feet didn't mind the 50 degree temperatures. However, another five degrees cooler might be pushing it.

Ran 5.3 miles @ 9:00/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 142/153
Grassy fields.
Very flat.
Around 50 degrees, overcast, light rain.
Barefeet, shorts, short sleeved shirt, windbreaker (shed after two miles).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Running the Bigelow Range

Great mountain run today. Well, we ran what we could. But given the elevation, steepness and technicality of the route, it was a good, buttkicking time.

Jim, Yana and I headed up to the Bigelow area the night before and woke up to sub-freezing temperatures. This made it easy to take our time sipping coffee and eating breakfast before heading over to the trailhead.

We got underway, with the first two miles consisting of rolling, wide trails which we ran at an easy pace. This was my first time running with the Mountain Hardware Bebop pack. It ruled. I hardly knew it was there. Lightweight, fit like a glove, super comfortable. Really, really impressed.

After two miles, the trail began to climb. We powerwalked on up, enjoying some jovial banter and relishing in the weather, which was perfect. As we got higher, the views became quite apparent. No clouds, and visibility went forever. We could even see Mt. Katahdin.

We summited Avery (4090') and then trekked the ridge over to West Peak (4145') and then to the South and North Horn, and then began the descent down, stopping at the AT campsite, where Jim helped out the caretaker to remove an alleged Nalgene in the middle of a large pond. This water was damn cold, but Jim braved it and swam out and got the object, which was not a Nalgene bottle at all. Turns out it was some sort of water temp recording device placed there by the Univ. of Maine at Farmington.

We continued the run back, and I ended feeling pretty darn good. The shin splints are gone. Like a few years ago when I ran the Mt. Washington Road Race and had a good case of the splints, the uphill trek today has pretty much cured them. Sweet! I'm guessing going up long, steep uphills really stretches everything out and puts it away.

I felt pretty good throughout, but I'm still quite rusty and have a ways to go. That being said, I still did better today then I thought I would. Conditioning is coming along pretty nicely.

Only nuisance today, which was pretty minor, was the posterior tibial tendon (inside ankle) felt a bit sore at times. Not a big deal, but shaking it off is proving to be pretty slow going. However, it never really bothered me much today, I was just aware of it being there. Will continue to monitor it, but I'm not overly concerned about it at this point.

Big thanks to Jim and Yana for an awesome time! It was obvious we had a blast. Great company on a great day.

Ran 12.8 miles @ 23:28/mile place (includes all stops)
AHR/MHR - 137/170
Rugged mountain trails.
Insanely hilly.
Lower 40s to upper 50s, sunny.
Brooks Cascadia 3 (unaltered), shorts, short sleeved shirt, jacket (shed after two miles)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barely Worth Mentioning

Just did a short portion of the run with the XC team today. Good news is the shin splints are fading with all of the rest I've been taking lately. I'll ever so slowly start ramping up the mileage now.

Ran in unaltered shoes today. Noticed I didn't revert to my heel striking gait, which was good. The heelless shoes and barefoot running appear to be doing their job so far.

Ran 1.2 miles @ 8:13/mile pace.
Paved roads.
Slightly hilly.
Lower 70s, sunny.
Asics GT-2140s (unaltered), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Short and Sweet

Gave myself the past few days off from running because of the shin splints. They've gone down but are still there pretty prominently. One thing I think that is helping is foam rolling my calves. Definitely discovered some big knots in both muscles.

Despite the splints, I still did a portion of my short run today barefoot and the other portion in heelless shoes. Begrudgingly, I may do the next run or two in regular shoes to give the splints a bit of a reprieve, but I'll most likely be taking tomorrow off as well since I have grad school after I'm done teaching.

Ran .4 miles @ 9:26/mile pace with heelless Asics GT-2120

Ran 1.3 miles @ 7:03/mile pace barefoot.. broken up in ~400M segments, ran with XC team.

Ran .7 miles @ 7:39/mile pace with heelless Asics GT-2120.

AHR/MHR - N/A (in a rush this morning, forgot to bring the strap)
Paved roads and trails with heeless shoes, grassy field for barefoot.
Slightly hilly.
Lower 70s, overcast, muggy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Here Comes Autumn

Ah, we're now entering the best time of the year in Maine. The leaves are in the early stages of changing, and this morning the air was cool and crisp. More days like this will be in store for the next several weeks. Fortunately, this time of year coincides with my return to running. It was a great day to meet up with Jeff and Ian at the Lowell Preserve in Windham to explore some trails that were pretty new to all of us.

My goal was to get in around eight miles, but unfortunately that was cut short after my shin splints flared up wicked bad. I'll need to foam roll my calves aggressively for a while. I'll be taking it easy the next several days as well.

The nice thing is I don't have any races planned for a long while, and I can truly take my time easing back into things (if I can remain disciplined). That's a far cry from a couple of other big layoffs from injury in the past, where I had a big race coming up and had to scramble to get back into the things, which isn't a good idea.

But the mileage I did get in was decent at this stage, albeit pretty slow because of said shin splints and I still have a ways to go before I'm back in decent running shape. I think Ian and Jeff were holding back a little on my account, but I can take comfort in the fact that they had the chance to pick it up after I decided to call it a day, and plus Ian ran from his house and will probably be getting in over 25 miles for the day. As for the trails, they were nice. Ways were discussed to connect it to the Blackstrap routes, which would be fun.

On a somewhat separate note, been thinking of my plans for the next several months. My goal is to take my time getting back into running shape and work my mileage up to around 40-50 a week and hold that. Once winter rolls around, I plan on doing a lot of skate skiing. Emphasis on "a lot". This will be in addition to running 40-50 miles a week. Should be great cross training.

A winter goal I have is to enter a biathlon (Nordic skiing plus shooting... that kind of biathlon). I think I've heard that they hold them up in Rumford. Looks like a lot of fun.

Ran 5.4 miles @ 10:30/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 145/165
Technical trails, some smoother sections of logging roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 40s to near 50, sunny.
Heelless Asics Trail Attacks, shorts, long sleeved shirt, cap.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Barefoot Repeats

Worked out with the XC team today. They were running hard repeats on a hilly, grassy loop around 400 meters long. I was running barefoot, and took a slightly shorter route along the inner perimeter so I could run alongside them and try to push them along.

I have some pretty good callouses built up on my feet now. The only obstacle with my running right now are the shin splints, which are pretty bad right now but manageable. As Paige commented on my last post, running barefoot or with the heelless shoes will make one more susceptible to them, since the calves are working more. The longer term benefits though of course could be numerous and big, so well worth putting up with a little discomfort now if all goes as hoped.

Ran 3.3 miles total.
w/u: Ran .6 miles @ 8:22/mile pace w/ heelless shoes.
Ran 2.1 miles worth of ~400M repeats @ 7:39/mile overall pace.
c/d: Ran .6 miles @ 8:24/mile pace w/ heelless shoes.
AHR/MHR - N/A (forgot strap)
Paved roads (w/u and c/d), grassy field with a few rocks and roots.
Slightly hilly to moderately hilly.
Upper 60s, partly sunny.
Heelless shoes for w/u and c/d, barefoot for main run, shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Bear Thwarted My Plans

A bit of excitement at the school today, as a bear was allegedly spotted on school grounds. I was asked to help keep an eye on things outside for a bit but then had to attend a staff meeting. While in said meeting, I missed the announcement of where XC practice was going to be held because of the bear. So, I ran to a couple of usual practice spots to no avail, but the mileage in doing so was adequate for my own needs.

I've developed a case of shin splints over the past few days. Big shocker there. I always get them after a lay off from running so not a big concern. If past history repeats itself, which I anticipate it will, they'll be gone in 2-4 weeks. Might have to take it easy here and there as a result, but that's fine. No need to rush anything, as no big races are on the horizon for a while.

Ran 3.7 miles @ 8:41/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - N/A (forgot strap)
Paved roads.
Slightly hilly.
Lower 70s, partly cloudy.
Asics GT-2120s (heelless), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Two Short Runs

Just ran the warm-up and cool down with the XC team, and they did mile repeats for their real workout. Felt pretty good to pick up the pace for the w/u run, though it was a bit tough. However, the heart rate data looked pretty good, but at the same time I think I need to get in at least three or four miles before the data can really tell much. That was evident on the run back, where the pace was considerably slower but the HR not nearly as much.

Ran 2.0 miles @ 7:21/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 156/171

Ran 1.8 miles @ 8:51/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 150/162

Paved roads.
Slightly hilly.
Lower 70s, partly cloudy.
Asics GT-2120 (heelless), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moose Encounter

Big highlight during today's run was a moose sighting, and it was just a mile into the woods behind my house!

I was running along when I heard something big crashing through the woods, thinking it was a deer. Stopped and looked, and saw it was a huge, female moose! It was clearly aware of me, and I slowly walked towards it and got about 100 feet away. We stared at each other for several seconds before she jogged off into the woods. Really neat to look a big animal like that in the eye.

And running wise, I felt great. I've only been running a week since coming off the injury, but all systems are a go. I appear to be shaking the rust off faster than the last time I took considerable time off because of injury, which was last winter. Heart rate still a bit high, but actually very good for where I'm at now. Pace wasn't too bad either, especially on this route, which is pretty tough. I simply felt good out there.

Ran 7.1 miles @ 9:55/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 147/165
Trails, fire roads.
Very hilly.
Lower 60s, mostly cloudy.
Asics Trail Attacks (heelless), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Friday, September 11, 2009

To The Meet and Back

Ran up to the cross country course at McDougal Orchards where our boys and girls teams did really well! Boys got second and while the girls got fourth, there were some really great performances in there.

As for me, I ran from the school to the orchard to the meet, and then ran back. The way there consists of a really gnarly uphill. A teacher who is new to running decided to give it a shot and come along with me, but said hill got the better of him and he didn't make it up. I was working the finish line of the race and had to get up there soon, so unfortunately I had to leave him behind. Felt bad about that.

On the way down after the meet, a light rain fell which was nice. I also was wearing an old pair of Asics GT-2120s that I had sawed the heels off of. Like the trails shoes, this worked great. I'm two for two for successfully converting shoes to avoid heel striking, and am glad I've yet to ruin a pair.

Ran 4.4 miles total.

Ran 2.2 miles @ ~8:30 mile pace (data skewed, forgot to restart Garmin).
Ran 2.2 miles @ 8:02/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - N/A (forgot to bring strap).
Paved roads.
Extremely hilly.
Upper to lower 60s, cloudy, rain.
Asics GT-2120 sans heels, shorts, short sleeved shirt, windbreaker on the way back.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

400M Repeats Barefoot

I feel pretty lucky that my being able to run again is coinciding with the high school cross country season. I can adjust my speed when I work out with the team as I see fit, and the mileage is pretty adequate for my own selfish purposes at this stage.

Today was a pre-meet practice, so it was a very light workout and afforded me a good opportunity to run with the team barefoot. I wore my shoes sans heels for the short warm-up run to the park and then unlaced those suckers and ran the 400M repeats barefoot.

I decided to pace myself along with our top girl runner, which equated to about a 6:46/mile pace on average (they don't run full throttle for this type of practice, she's faster than that). Terrain was great, pretty much all grass and the feet handled it fine.

It was nice to put down the pedal a little barefoot. My only other barefoot run last week was over 9:00/mile. Nice to know I can push the pace a little and do so comfortably.

Warmup in shoes with heels cut off: .8 miles @ 7:47/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 147/160

400m repeats barefoot: 6X @ 6:46/mile pace (average).
AHR/MHR - ~150/170 overall during the repeats

Cooldown in shoes with heels cut off: .6 miles @ 7:24/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 162/170

Paved roads for warmup, grassy field for repeats
Slightly hilly.
Lower 60s, partly sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

To the Orchard and Back

Ran with the high school cross country team after school, at least in part. Run featured a 1.8 mile route to the apple orchard, where the meet will be held on Friday. Once there, helped the head coach wheel the course while the kids ran, and then we ran ran back.

Wore the modified Asics that don't have the heels. I plan on modifying a pair of road shoes in the same fashion soon, but these sufficed just fine. I was curious to see how they'd perform on the roads, and they were just as great. The only thing that seems weird about them now is simply walking around in them. But as far as running with them, it feels quite fluid and dare I say even graceful.

Day off tomorrow, since it's my long day with grad school. Running resumes again on Thursday.

Ran 3.6 miles total.
Ran 1.8 miles @ 8:28/mile pace. (big uphill)
Ran 1.8 miles @ 7:35/mile pace. (big downhill)
AHR/MHR - 163/180 (uphill). 162/176 (downhill)
Paved roads.
Extremely hilly.
Upper 70s, sunny.
Modified Asics Trail Attacks (sans heel), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Heels?! Ve Don't Need No Stinking Heels!

Yesterday's barefoot run felt great. However, the bottoms of my feet did feel a little tender afterwards and need to be calloused up a bit more, so another barefoot run today didn't seem too smart. But I really enjoyed that run and figured now would be a good time to try a shoe modification that I know some barefoot aficionados have tried before: cutting the heels of your shoes.

I have two pairs of Asics Trail Attacks, and the below compares a modified shoe (left) to an unmodified shoe (right). I used a serrated kitchen knife, and luckily cut them both even and took off the right amount of heel without destroying the shoe.

I first saw Anton Krupicka doing something similar in the documentary Indulgence. I had mentioned it to my friend Chuck (a barefoot aficionado) and if memory serves me correctly, I believe he said he had tried it with success.

The theory is simple: without the cushioned heel, you won't heel strike. Instead, you'll run much like you do barefoot, striking with your forefoot, the way the body has evolved to run.

I could just get Vibram FiveFingers, and I plan to soon. However, like running truly barefoot, VFFs typically takes some build up time before you can do some distance with them. The above shoe mod offers a little more forefoot protection while still preventing heel striking. Obviously, the trade off is you don't get as much foot flexibility as you do with running barefoot or VFFs, but luckily these Asics are pretty flexible for a traditional shoe.

At first, the shoes felt a bit strange, but still comfortable. After about a mile, I didn't think much of it. The gait was as hoped... no heel striking, and landing on the forefoot instead. Better posture, shorter strides. This was a good test route also, with a variety of terrain. Success here in the early onset.

Of course, all of this is a test in progress. I'm still a student to all of this, but am eager to give it a shot with all of the injuries I've had in the past year. Hopefully, there will continue to be progress. I've only done one run in these shoes, but given the success, I plan on doing all of my trail runs in these (or barefoot or in VFFs). Fun experiment, and so far, so good.

Ran 4.6 miles @ 9:44/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 157/171
Mix of technical trails with rocks and mud, some dirt roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 50s, sunny.
Modified Asics Trail Attacks (sans heels), shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

My First Barefoot Run

Barefoot/minimal footwear running is all the craze lately. Anyone who follows running trends knows that. Given all of the injuries I've had the past year, this is one bandwagon I don't mind jumping on. I need to do things differently. Hopefully incorporating some barefoot/minimal footwear running will help. I won't do every run this way, but plan to still do it pretty regularly.

There is a lot of evidence on the benefits of barefoot/minimal running. Google around and you'll see. I won't bother rehashing all of the reasons why, other than the bottomline principle is the foot and leg muscles evolved with being barefoot in mind, and going long distances on them to boot (pun not intended). We did not evolve to wear these cushy trainers that alter your gait so dramatically it's a wonder how we get around in them.

Anyway, that being said, I set out this morning to the grassy athletic fields at the local high school (different than the one I teach at) to get in a mile or two barefoot. The bottoms of my feet are already pretty well calloused, so I thought I would be fine. At least a mile, great. If I could get in two comfortably, super.

Long story short, I felt great, and ended up going 2.6 miles. I was tempted to go even further, but given this was also only my second post-injury run on top of trying a new style of running, I forced myself to cut it short.

It felt great. My gait was obviously very different. Naturally, I was landing on the forefoot, not the heel. My strides were shorter, but more efficient and the legs had a bit of a quicker turnover. Everything just felt smoother. I liked it.

A few hours after I posted about my run yesterday, I still did not feel the stress fracture, but I did notice my posterior tibial tendon was sore. It's been a few hours since the barefoot run, and I've noticed no aggravation. It even feels a little better. Could be coincidence or even psychosomatic, but I'll take it.

Ran 2.6 miles @ 9:14/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 148/161
Grassy fields.
Very flat.
Mid 60s, sunny.
Barefoot, shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Nervousness preceded today's first run since the stress fracture diagnosis. One just never knows what will happen, and reinjuring it would just cause more frustrating delays. But alas, today's run was a big success. No signs of the injury at all. Very relieved.

What there were signs of was being out of running shape with all the time I was off. Big "duh" there. Uphills I'm usually barely mindful of seemed like mountains, and technical downhills were approached with trepidation and caution. The heart rate? Sky high... especially for this slow pace. But it was fun. Big fun. It'll all come back in due time and I'm just glad to be out on the trails again.

Obviously, steady as she goes while I kick the rust off. Look forward to eventually getting caught up on everyone else's blogs!

Ran 3.9 miles @ 11:05/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 148/163
Technical trails, fire roads.
Very hilly.
Lower 70s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt, cap.