Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why We Run: Independent film about the Tarahumara

Independent filmmaker Tara Golden of Tara Golden Custom Videos is hoping to travel down to the Barracas de Cobre (Copper Canyon), home to the Tarahumara, to make a film about their culture and to find out why they run.  The filming will take place before, during, and after the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon made famous in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run.
Here’s the catch. . .
You have only 3 DAYS LEFT to help.  Tara is trying to raise the funds needed to make this film by this Saturday, February 4, 2012.  She has raised nearly $10,000 and is in need of an additional $7,000 or this film will not be made.

I asked Tara what inspired her to make this film. 
“I read the book Born to Run and I was thrilled with the colorful descriptions of both the Copper Canyon and the Tarahumara Runners.”
Like many of us barefoot runners, Tara loves the connection she feels with the earth by being barefoot.
Tara has created a page at www.kickstarter.com to raise funds for this film.  Sponsors can donate as little as $1.  However, larger donations will earn you a prized award such as photos from the filming or an authentic Tarahumara outfit.  Got more dough?  How about a rare Tarahumara rug/blanket or having your own custom video made?  Know a starving musician who needs a music video made?  Tara can be yours for the right price.
But in all seriousness, many of you, like me, started running barefoot after being inspired by the stories of Christopher McDougall and the Tarahumara runners.  This is our chance to learn more about this mysterious tribe of ancient runners.  Without your help, this film will not be made. 
Sponsors to the project get an inside look at the “nuts and bolts” as well as the “ups and downs of the creative journey,” says Tara.
So, if you want to see a film made about the people who helped inspire the barefoot running movement, check out the promo video at kickstarter.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Note about Cadence

 (Originally published on www.myfivefingers.com)
One of the key components of successful barefoot/minimalist running is cadence.  It is an element that is probably the overlooked or misunderstood in its importance.  Almost anytime I am out running and something doesn’t feel right – yep, it can most often be corrected by cadence.
The magic number is 180 steps per minute.  Of course, if you can manage a higher cadence, you’re doing great!  To get an idea of what this “magic number” is visit the following (or any other) metronome site www.webmetronome.com.  Set the slider bar to 180 beats per minute and hit start.  Count off in your head to the beat . . . one, two, three, four.  (One cautionary note, don’t emphasize the first “beat” or you may find yourself driving your left foot into the ground on every “one” count.)
When I first started barefoot running, I would often count off in my head “one, two, three, four” over and over.  Another trick you can do (for you math whizzes out there) is to count your steps for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4.  If you get a number 180 or greater, then you are on the right track.

So, as I mentioned at the start, when something doesn’t feel right – pounding through my body, excessive noise from my minimalist shoes (slapping), hot spots developing (in minimalist shoes or barefoot)- I check my cadence.  More often than not, I have slacked off on my cadence. 
Why does cadence matter so much?  Well, if your cadence is below 180 steps per minute you are likely striding out, pushing off or being inefficient in one way or another.  A high cadence requires you to significantly shorten your stride.  By shortening your stride, you tend to run lighter (no pounding or slapping shoes) and you are less likely to “push-off” (no blisters).
A couple of final notes – running with a higher cadence does NOT necessarily mean increase your pace or “run faster”.  It simply means increase the number of times your feet touch the ground.  Also, keeping your knees bent helps with lighter impact.  Lastly, think “lift your foot, lift your foot” as you run.  This will reduce the likelihood of blister-creating “push-offs”.
So, when you’re out on your next run and something doesn’t feel right – check your cadence.

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 8 of 18

Well, the cough hung on for one more week.  It is now about 95% gone.  I only have a few coughing fits throughout the day and they are very minor.  With that - it's time to get training again!!!

I managed a 2.5 mile run last Tuesday with my training group.  On Saturday, I ran a barefoot 1 mile in 33 degree weather before putting on my to-be-named minimalist shoes that I am reviewing and ran an additional 5 miles.  (That article should be posted soon on www.barefoot-running.us in the next few days.) 

So, the plan starting tomorrow is T/W/TH 4/8/8 and S/Sun 22/10.  I've been feeling pretty good and very anxious to get back on my mileage.  I think this will be the week to do it!

Also, check out my next post (a re-post) of my article published originally on www.myfivefingers.com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 7 of 18

So goes the cold or allergy or whatever is hanging on to my chest. . . as a result this week's post will be short.

As stubborn as I am, I finally gave in and took a week of needed rest.  I ran the 2.4 miles with the group I am training last Tuesday and an additional 4 miles on Saturday morning.  I did not run any other mid-week runs last week nor did I run on Sunday.  In fact, I spent most of the weekend sleeping.  This week has gone a little better with the illness.  I'm still coughing ferociously from time to time, however, it seems less intense and farther between bouts of coughing fits.  I ran this afternoon with the training group.  I don't know if I will run again tomorrow.  I'll see how things go through the day.

On a more positive note, I got a new article published on www.myfivefingers.com regarding running cadence.  Feel free to check it out.  I'm also going to re-post the article here on my blog in another day or so.

Plan for the week (if all goes well): 
Today: 2.4 miles
Wednesday/Thurs:  8/6
Saturday/Sunday:  10/6

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 6 of 18

Despite the fact that my cold is still hanging on and has developed into a cough, I still managed to hold onto the majority of my training schedule this week.  This week was also the first week of the half marathon training group that I started at the school where I work.

The week started with a shorter 2.4 mile run with the group on Tuesday.  It was a nice and easy 30-minute run.  It was warm enough that I was able to do this run barefoot.  It's so much fun training with a group.  There were 7 of us, including myself running along a creek-side bike path.  While the group is not running barefoot, they all participated in a short 50-yard barefoot run along the sidewalk prior to our 30 minute run.  My goal is not to turn them all into barefoot runners.  However, I do try to emphasize the importance of good running form for reduced risk of injury.  I was proud that they all stripped off their shoes despite their misgivings and enjoyed the short jaunt down the block.

By Wednesday, my cold had really taken hold.  Congestion and an overall feeling of lethargy kept me in that morning as well as that evening.  Last winter, I developed quite a cold and cough that caused me to tear an intercostal muscle (rib muscle).  That put me out of commission for a good month.  Not wanting a repeat of that situation, I've been struggling with trying to balance running with some rest.

Thursday night, I decided that I was up for the planned 6-mile run.  While on the return leg, I was feeling pretty tired (probably due to the cold).  My hope was that by putting myself through a good sweaty workout I might be able to break through the cold's grip.  Also, I had just received a new pair of minimalist shoes to review and I wanted to take them for a spin.  I won't mention the name of these shoes just yet (they have not been released).  I will have my review up on www.barefoot-running.us at the end of the month or early February.  (The review will be reposted here on my blog afterwards.)

Saturday was the second day of training for my group.  For me, I was scheduled to run 18 miles.  The group was running 50 minutes.  I arrived early and did a quick 4-mile along the route the group would take.  Upon my return, the runners had begun to arrive.  It was a brisk 31 degrees out, so we didn't hang around too long to chat.  I was very proud to see all of my group make the 3.7 mile trip.

After the group run, I headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve where I like to do my "trail" running.  It's basically flat, but it allows me to get my feet on the dirt, leaves, and twigs.  I did the first 2 miles or so in my new minimalist shoes.  By that point, my feet were screaming for me to let them have at the trail.  I had to cram the shoes into my small Camelbak hydration pack (not easy to do) by putting one inside the bladder pouch and the other tucked behind the pocket webbing.  Basically the shoes were sticking out all over the place with the flap bouncing along the remainder of the 2 miles.

I had made the mistake earlier that morning not to eat too much breakfast.  I paid for it by mile 11 (for the day).  I was pretty spent and didn't have any gels or Clif Shot Bloks to munch on.  I made it back to my truck to finish the day with 12.25 miles.

Sunday turned out to be a crazy day of events to attend.  So, being that today (Monday) was a holiday, I went out to the delta island for a second round of wind.  I'm a stubborn one, you can say.  My Chinese zodiac, after all, is the Ox.  Apparently the last trip out to the island of the wind wasn't enough to deter me.  This time I planned to go in the opposite direction around the island.  First of all, the wind was about half what it was the last time.  However, what it lacked in strength, it made up for in chill.  The temperature for the day was 45 degrees, it felt like it was in the 30s with the wind-chill - stubborn me wore shorts and a short-sleeved running shirt. 

I cut across the center of the island (almost 2 miles).  I headed around the northern half of the island before turning around and backtracking (about 9 miles).  When I reached the midpoint of the island I continued on along the western edge of the island and down around the southern edge back to my truck.  Total for the day 12.75 miles.  A little short of the 16-miles I was hoping for.  However, I did get lots of opportunity to practice the true runner's skill of "snot rockets".  I read someone's blog once about skills or qualifications to be labeled a true runner.  One was something about pissing in the woods on a run and another was the snot rocket.  I can't recall the other 2, but I know that I had done them.  So, I guess I'm qualified as a true runner now =)

Total miles for this week:  33.4

Plan for the coming week:  T/W/TH 6 miles apiece, S/Sun 20/10.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 5 of 18

The week started out very promising.  After two weeks of holiday run-around, I had high hopes of completing the training mileage for this week.  Things were going great all week . . . until early this morning when I woke up sick with a cold.  On a more positive note - I bit the bullet last night and officially entered the American River 50-mile Endurance Run!  It gave me a feeling of real excitement mixed in with the fear of "what the hell did I just do?"

As I mentioned in last week's post, I ran my longest, nighttime barefoot run of 14 miles on Monday as a "make-up" run of sorts.  It was a great run and really gave me high hopes for a good high-mileage week.  The week continued to be promising with me hitting all three of my mid-week runs of 4 miles, 4 miles and 6 miles (T/W/TH).

On Saturday, the goal was 16 miles.  After a breakfast of oatmeal with chia seeds, I headed out to Shima Tract, which is a farming island on the San Joaquin Delta.  There are several ways to run the island - a 4 mile loop or an 8 mile loop if you do the whole island (there are various paths to criss-cross the island, but basically the mileage is the same).  The road is a gravel levee road, so I wore my Sockwa G2s to take a bit of the edge off the gravel.  The first couple of miles were uneventful.  Then when I reached the western edge of the island, the road turned north and I was blasted with a full-on headwind.  My pace dropped quickly from a steady 9-minute mile into the 10s.  I thought that the wind wouldn't hold up once I reached the northern end of the island and turned to the east.  Wrong.  By the time I reached the northern end of the island the wind had grown stronger.  My pace was fluctuating between 10 and 12-minute miles.  Even when the path turned out of the direction of the wind, I had to fight to stay on a straight track.

I managed to get back to the starting point at 8 miles.  I was feeling a bit of nausea, so I popped a couple of Hammer Electrolyte pills and sucked down some water from my hydration pack.  I nearly heaved as the first pill went down.  I think it was more that I was feeling bloated or something and my body wanted to exhale when I tried to swallow.  I managed to compose myself and take a relaxing breath and swallowed the second pill and headed off down the road again.

As I rounded the first turn toward the west, the wind had picked up even more.  On the first loop, the wind had not even been an issue at this point (approx. 1-mile into the loop).  I passed a dog-walker who commented, "You're in for a workout today!" Little did she know that I had already been through this once already.

At this point, I noticed my legs were tingling a bit.  I had no idea why.  I watched as a 5-foot diameter tumble weed rocketed across the farm and disappeared into an irrigation ditch.  A few moments later, it shot out of the ditch, up the levee, across my path and into the water.  At about 9 miles, I finally realized why my legs were tingling.  They were being stung by tiny bits of dirt being blown across the farm.

By now, I had turned north again, directly into the wind.  I was being pushed back.  My "running" pace dropped to nearly a 15-minute mile.  I felt as if I were running uphill.  When I reached a cross-island road at mile 10, I decided that I'd had enough of being pelted by small rocks, twigs, leaves and other junk.  I called it a day and headed back across the island.  Even dropping down 10 feet below the top of the levee didn't protect from the wind.  I could hear it actually howling across the island.  Amazing!

I made it back to my truck at about the 12 mile mark - 4 miles short of the goal.  No worries, I thought.  I'll just make it up tomorrow.

Little did I know that the cold my family had been subdued with all week and I had been fighting to not succumb to was about to hit.  Five o'clock this morning, my alarm buzzed for my run.  My throat was on fire.  Damn!  I hit the snooze and went back to sleep.  When I awoke a couple hours later, I was completely congested.

After my shower, I felt dizzy (a symptom my wife had with her cold and ear infection).  I held out for a possible night run.  By this evening I had crashed out on my couch while my kiddos played.  I kept napping in 20 minute increments hoping that I'd feel the energy to go out and run.  No dice.

So, for the week not counting Monday:  Total miles - 26.  Actual miles for the week 40.

Plan for this week:  4/6/6 (T/W/TH) and 18/10 (Sat/Sun).

Here's hoping for a short-lived cold.  I start training some co-workers for an April half-marathon this week, so I hope I get lots of time on my feet to compliment my training schedule.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My 2-Year Barefoot Running Anniversary

January 2, 2012 - Two years ago, I began this journey as a barefoot runner.  It's really been quite an amazing journey thus far.  And on this 2-year anniversary, I spent the evening on my longest, barefoot nighttime run of 14-miles.  It was an incredible feeling to celebrate this milestone in this way.

For those of you who have followed my blog some of this is old news.  I began this barefoot journey quite by accident.  I had been a shod runner for about two years.  After my third marathon I took a two-year hiatus from running.  There were multiple factors that contributed to this hiatus - illness and recovery time, family and work obligations, and a loss of motivation.  In two years and three marathons, I had not been able to hit the goal of a 4-hour marathon despite all the training that pointed toward that mark.

In a desire to find inspiration, I asked for the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall for Christmas in 2009.  When I opened that book, I had no idea that it had anything to do with barefoot running.  On January 2, 2010 I went on my first barefoot run - 2.5 miles of energy filled fun!

Since that time, I have logged 592 miles running mostly barefoot with some miles in minimalist shoes.  In 2011, I logged 458 miles.  My goal, once again, this year is to hit 1000 barefoot/minimalist miles.  You can keep a tab on my progress on the right side of this blog.

Looking back over the past two years blows my mind when I think about the changes that I have experienced.  When I was a shod runner, I ran because I had a race to run.  I didn't always enjoy it and it was a chore.  Now, I seek out opportunities to run more.  Additionally, my attitude toward long distance running has radically changed.  I used to think that ultramarathoners were runners who had gone insane.  I didn't understand it and I sure as hell didn't want to do it.  As I became more adept at running barefoot, I found that I enjoyed, no, loved running.  After running several races barefoot from 5K to half marathon and on road and trail, I started to seriously consider the realm of the ultramarathon.  I jumped from the half marathon distance to a 50K ultra and was hooked. 

This past year had another milestone for me.  I beat my shod half marathon PR by nearly a minute this year.  My previous shod PR for the half marathon was 1:50:05.  My new official barefoot PR for the half marathon is 1:49:22 (1:49:09 by my watch).  Keep an eye out for my race report for this race (St. Joseph's Half Marathon), I'm a little behind.  The race was in October =)

Now I find myself in the midst of training for my first 50-mile endurance run and I am loving every minute of it.  Does it have its struggles?  Absolutely.  Do I always enjoy my runs?  Yes.  I take every moment on the run as a challenge to push myself toward that limit.  When I have a bad run, I use it as a learning experience on what not to do, eat, or whatever might have challenged me that day.

So, maybe ultramarathoners are runners who have gone insane.  But I have joined their ranks and I'm loving it!

More recently I have begun training co-workers to run distances up to the half marathon and the experience has been fantastic!  I love seeing people who never considered themselves runners now identifying themselves as a "runner". 

I truly look forward to my third year as a barefoot runner and all of the joys and challenges that lie ahead.  Here is a brief look at some of my hopes and goals for 2012:

American River 50-mile Endurance Run
The Relay for Life (hope to run the full 24-hours)
Pacer for a Western States runner
A 4-hour marathon

Here's to a great 2012!  Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Journey to a Barefoot 50-mile Endurance Run: Week 4 of 18

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!!  I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year's celebration.

This past week was a challenge for training.  My brother and his family came up to celebrate a belated Christmas with my parents.  We also worked on a 2 day (turned into 3 day) remodeling project of our parent's home office.  The good part about that running while tired is that my body is forced to learn how to deal with it.  One of the reasons for back to back runs both midweek and on the weekends is to run with no rest between runs to simulate running long distances without having to run individual long mileage runs.  Well, after a long day of construction, paint, and other remodeling activities my body was tired.  Additionally, I tended to not go out for my runs this week until at least 8:30 p.m. followed by a relatively early rising to get back to the remodeling.

So, for the mid-week runs I ran 4-miles each on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.  I skipped Thursday's run because I was too exhausted from a very long day of construction.  The first night was interesting because I ran on a stomach that had feasted on a fabulous bourbon beef tenderloin prepared by my sister-in-law.  It was a little tough going, but I ran 4 miles (in Sockwas) instead of the planned 2-miles to try and make up for lost mileage last weekend and give me a leg up on the week.  Good thing I did this since I lost mileage on Thursday.  Wednesday's run went quick and nothing really interesting to report.  I did manage to run barefoot that night.  My feet were telling me that they needed to be let out of shoes and feel the ground again.  So, I obliged and didn't have any issues with the cold.

After not running on Christmas weekend I was looking forward to keeping to my run schedule for New Year's weekend.  Yeeaaah, wellllll.... not so much.  I spent most of New Year's Eve running some errands, fixing up details in my parents new office, and lounging around with the family (we really hadn't had much time for that during the vacation).  Then, staying up til midnight with the family proved very challenging possibly due to feeling slightly ill (or perhaps age is getting to me).  That meant sleeping in for the first time in ages on Sunday morning.  Spent the afternoon/evening eating too much food again at my in-laws and hanging out fairly late.

In a last ditch effort to end the weekend and my vacation (I'm a teacher) with some decent mileage I went out last night (Monday) for a nice, long 14-mile run in the dark and barefoot.  It was fantastic!  The first 2-miles were a bit challenging as usual as my mind tried to tell me that I was too tired.  Once again, as I reached 4-miles I found my stride and pace.  Unfortunately, likely due to the New Year's weekend, there was LOTS of glass on the sidewalks and streets along my route likely deposited there thanks to all of the under-age and other drunk "glass-holes".   "Glass-holes" is my new term for people who smash bottles along public walkways instead of throwing them in the trash.  Lucky for me, I have become quite adept at spotting glass while running in the dark (even if it's at the last possible second).  By the end of my run, I was feeling quite tired.  At about the 11.5-mile mark I was feeling pretty fatigued.  I almost took the shortcut home, but convinced myself to turn down the planned route away from the house to add in the final 2+ miles.

My hope is that with the holiday season behind me that I will be able to focus more on training and not miss these weekend long-runs.  Not the greatest start to the training schedule, but what are ya gonna do about it?

Mileage total for the past week (including the Monday run):  22 miles

Plan for this week:  T/W/TH = 4/4/6 and S/Sun 16/10

Have a great week everyone!  Watch out for those "glass-holes" out there!