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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Run Like A Mother: A book review

I came across Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity about a month ago.  The book was mentioned on my friend Angie's blog (check it out, she's a damn good writer.)  The premise sounded interesting, so I contacted authors Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea to ask if I could review the book.  They happily agreed.  This would be the first book I reviewed on my blog, and it has nothing to do with ultramarathons or barefoot running!

The book is advertised as a resource for running mothers.  At the very least,I assumed I would be able use some of the information and tips to help support my wife Shelly.  She has been making tremendous strides at improving her running after three children and a thyroidectomy.

As a male runner, my expectations for this book were limited. Much to my surprise, this book turned out to be so much more than a book for running moms.

Simply put, this may be the single best "new runner" book I have ever read.  If you are not a runner, this book should be your first introduction to the sport.  If you are an experienced runner, Dimity and Sarah share enough helpful tips to make it a valuable read.  If your female significant other is a runner, this book will give you tremendous insight (and empathy) to the unique issues and struggles she faces.

Hint for husbands... Sarah shares a tip in Chapter 20 that will make up for the cost of a new book many times over!  Oh yeah, and if you are a running mother, this book is DEFINITELY a must-read!

Since I started reviewing things, I have developed a custom of giving the products away to friends that could use them.  So far, the only items I have kept are my Terra Plana EVOs, Invisibleshoe huaraches, Evolution Running DVD, and this book.  I cannot bring myself to part with it.

The Specifics

The book is organized as a series of chapters covering all major topics associated with running.  All of the chapters are divided as each author gives their take on the various topics.  Between the two, Sarah claims to be the more competitive runner.  After reading the entire book, I would honestly say I would classify both as competitive.  As a certified lazy slacker, both of their training routines made my head hurt... but in a good way.

The topics covered range from why they run, motivation, clothing, running partners, nutrition, races, children, injuries, and a host of topics in between.  This book really would serve as a complete introduction to all things running.

Throughout the book, both authors use some self-depreciating humor and excellent story telling to relay critical information.  This makes the book both accessible and memorable.  After reading the book, I feel as though I know each of these women.  I think this familiarity adds impact to their advice.  It feels as if a good friend is guiding you through a journey to become a runner.

Of course, the reoccurring theme throughout is advice on balancing family life and running from the perspective of a woman.  As a father of three young children, almost all of the advice was perfect.  I believe the content and writing style Sarah and Dimity use greatly expands the audience of this book.  Any relatively new runner of either gender will find the advice useful, though most guys may not care much for discussions on sports bras and periods.

The Difficult Part

When I received the book, I was saddened to see chapter five... shoes.  As would be expected from a barefoot runner, I hated this chapter.  Reading it actually made me angry.  I bristled at the discussion of replacing running shoes as they wore down, the wet test, and advice to buy expensive shoes versus cheap shoes.  AHHHH... my head was ready to explode!  If you are a barefoot runner, my advice would be to buy the book and immediately rip this chapter from the book.

Also, there were a few times both authors talked about running as if it were not something to be enjoyed.  In my mind I attributed this to their shod running, but that's probably just my anti-shoe bias.  How CAN you enjoy running with your feet entombed in foot coffins?!?

Their writing conveyed an enthusiasm for running that actually made me want to be running instead of lying on the couch reading.  The incongruities of a few comments about running being difficult or not something to be enjoyed was my other lone complaint.


Despite the shoe chapter and occasional "running is not fun" comments, I loved this book.  Even though it was not written for my demographic, it is one of the best running-related books I've ever read.  I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone new to running, female runners, and the partners of female runners.  As I said earlier, Sarah's tip automatically makes this a perfect self-serving-though-appearing-to-be-thoughtful gift any man could give his girlfriend or wife!  I am actually considering this book as birthday and Christmas gifts for all my friends and family.  Of course, I will remove the shoe chapter before wrapping...

The book is available from Amazon:

The book is also available on the Kindle:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ultrarunning Karma

In this weekend's Western States Endurance Run, Andy Henshaw DNFed just past the half-way point.  [note- thanks to Shelley Viggiano for pointing this out :-) ] 

Why is this significant?  A few weeks ago, Andy chastised Donald Buraglio's DNF in the poorly-organized Blue Canyon 100k.  In a retort to his blog post, Andy called him a "...Whine and Cheese ultrarunner."  

For the record, Donald finished Western States in 2009.
The lesson for new and soon-to-be ultrarunners:  We participate in a sport where failure is a very real possibility every single time we toe the starting line.  Don't berate those that do not succeed in any given race... your day will come.  If you are not going to support your fellow runners, keep your thoughts to yourself.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ken Bob Grand Rapids Workshop Pictures

Ken Bob held a workshop in Grand Rapids yesterday afternoon... here are some pictures:

Details will be added shortly!

Also- congrats to the Western States Runners... both Roes and Krupicka finished under Jurek's course record!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Seaway 15K Results, Ken Bob Clinic This Afternoon, and Following Western States

The Seaway 15K went well.  Finish time was 1:04:58 (36th out of about 340ish.)  Lynette, you're the book winner!  Email a mailing address to robillardj "at" gmail "dot" com ASAP.  

The race started very well.  I was on pace to easily break my PR of 1:03 and some change.  I was very close to my 5K PR for the first third of this race.  Things were going well until about mile 5 or six.  I could feel four separate hotspots forming on my feet.  Since this race is close to Burning River, I could not afford major blistering.  Since I was obviously outrunning my form, I had to slow down.  The change from 6:30-6:45 pace to 7:15-7:30 essentially doomed my hopes of a PR.  This turned out to be a wise move, as I only developed one small blister on my big toe.

This may be the first race I've run where I think my time could have been significantly better had I worn Vibrams.  Based on how I felt at mid-race, it could have been a sub-60 minute finish.  It pains me to say that.

Shelly did really well and set a PR of 1:31:18.  She's recovering nicely from the thyroidectomy a few weeks ago.  Her form is smooth as silk... I love watching her finish.  Everyone around her looks as if they are passing a kidney stone while walking on a cheese grater, while she's effortlessly floating to the finish.

In other news, Ken Bob Saxton is in town and preparing for a workshop this afternoon.  It's very exciting to finally meet him... he was my major influence when I began barefoot running.  I'm extremely excited to attend the workshop just to pick up some teaching tips.  Pictures will be forthcoming!

Lastly, the Western States 100 Mile Endurance is being run right now!  This is one of my dream races.  I know a few people running this year, including Roger Bonga, a local ultrarunner, and Leif Rutvold, a fellow minimalist ultrarunner.  Lief is running in Vibrams.  It may be difficult sleeping tonight as I obsessively watch the text-based webcast. If only it were televised...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tapering for the Seaway 15K, a Barefoot Running Book Giveaway, and The Barefoot Running Book pdf


Today is my official taper day for the Muskegon Chronicle Seaway 15K, a local road race here in West Michigan.  This is not a goal race, hence the one day taper.  

As much as I would like to set a PR at the race, it is unlikely.  I believe my best time was 1:03:50 in 2008.  My goal for tomorrow will be to finish under 1:07.  We'll see how it goes.

Since this is not a goal race, the taper is minimal.  Burning River at the end of July takes precedence over this race, so it was more important to get a good speed/strength workout yesterday.

If this were a goal race, the taper would have been longer... at least three or four days.  I like the adage: "Training determines potential, taper determines performance."  The idea is simple- the work you do in training will determine the ceiling of your performance.  The speed work, long runs, hill repeats, and crosstraining prepare your body for the rigors of the race.  

The taper allows your body some degree of recovery from training.  This will determine how well you actually perform in the race.  Train too hard and taper too short and you will arrive at the starting line in a less-than-ideal physical condition.  Taper too long and you run the risk of sub-optimal conditioning.

For the Seaway, my taper is too short for optimal performance.  That is the price I am willing to pay to be ready for the goal race in about a month.

 The Book Giveaway

Like Mind the Ducks earlier this year, I will be giving away a copy of The Barefoot Running Book to the follower that guesses my Seaway 15K finish time.   The rule is simple- you have to be a follower (join using widget in the right column); post your guess in the comments section of this post, and the person that comes closest without going over (if I run it in 1:45:34 and someone guesses 1:45:31, they would win.)

The Barefoot Running Book Available in .pdf Format

I received many requests to publish The Barefoot Running Book in .pdf format for non-Kindle ebook readers.  It is available from the Barefoot Running University website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hill Training... Gotta Love It!

Today I completed my first truly difficult hill workout.  As much as I complain about the lack of trails in West Michigan, I am fortunate to have access to the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Specifically, I have access to sand dunes.  Sweet, sweet sand dunes.  

For those of you that ever have the opportunity to visit Grand Haven, Michigan, you have to run Five Mile Hill a few times.  It is located near the State Park.  The paved hill is one of the better training hills in the area.  It consists of a 1/4 paved road with a 10% grade.  Standing at the top, you can see about five miles offshore in Lake Michigan (hence the name.)  At the top, you can either go down the other paved section down to street level, or run down a sand hill on the back side.  The sand hill has a 20% grade.  See map below:

I ran five "loops."  Each loop started with a run up the sand hill, then down one of the asphalt road legs.  I'd cross to the other leg on the flat road level sidewalk, then run up the other leg.  Finally I would run down the sand hill.  

This was also one of my fist midday runs.  Temps approached 87° with fairly high humidity.  The day had been cloudy... until I ran.  At least I was able to achieve decent heat acclimation training.

The run totaled a mere 4.6 miles, but had an elevation change of around 2000 feet.  Total time was a pedestrian 45:42 with my slowest pace (~28 minutes/mile) near the top of the sand hill, while my fastest pace was 4:37 going down the sand hill.  Here's the elevation profile:

Hopefully, I will be able to squeeze in at least two hill sessions per week for the next month.  Based on prior experience, this is one of the most important aspects to ultra training.  The ability to run hills effectively can be the difference between finishing and abject failure.

While I am envious of my mountain-dwelling friends, I am also thankful to have training opportunities such as Five Mile Hill.  What do the rest of you use for hill work?

Kigo Introduces New Line of Minimalist Shoes

A few months ago, I reviewed the Kigo Shel minimalist shoe.  As a running shoe, it worked pretty well.  I was pretty excited to hear that Kigo was working on a new line to be released later this year.  I will probably review the shoes later this fall.  Here's their press release:

kigo footwear Introduces Next Generation 
of Eco-Friendly Minimalist Shoes

Technical Updates Address Needs of Active and Everyday 
Barefoot Footwear Wearers

June 21, 2010, Atlanta, GA – kigo footwear, stylish eco-friendly minimalist shoes for athletic and everyday wear, has launched its second generation shoe lines, the kigo edge and kigo curv. Since introducing its shoes to the market in August 2009, kigo footwear has engaged customers and testers, from casual wearers to ultra marathon runners, to determine the updates that would make kigo footwear a serious minimalist shoe option.

“kigo footwear is committed to making shoes that are stylish enough for everyday wear, sturdy enough for athletics and constructed to be good for the Earth and the body,” said Kristin Parker, co-founder of kigo footwear. “We really listen to kigo wearers, and these two new lines hit their needs and our goals. It’s a win for everyone and furthers kigo footwear as a significant minimalist alternative.”

The curv and edge feature the same sleek look and lightweight feel as the original kigo star and shel. The new shoes continue to be responsibly constructed of quality eco-friendly materials including post-consumer uppers and liners, water-based adhesives, non-toxic dyes and water resistant treatments, and recycled and biodegradable packaging. Each shoe also continues to feature significant minimalist characteristics, including: 

  • Approximate weight of 4.5 ounces per shoe
  • Durable, flexible 1.5 mm non-slip outsole
  • Breathable upper with four-way stretch fabric and stretch stitching
  • Anti-microbial removable EVA insole 

The curv and edge feature technical updates that address athletic function and wearable styling:
  • Added room in the top of the foot and toe box area for a more comfortable athletic fit
  • Hookless toe cap
  • Fixed webbing loop for easy pulling on and off
  • Additional stretch in the foot hole and strap 

The kigo curv is a slim Mary Jane style that combines weightless construction with versatile style. A tasteful design and color schemes enhance a variety of apparel choices, and thin flexible outsoles and lightweight materials offer wellness and comfort benefits, making the curv wearable for activities ranging from commuting and travel, to fitness, to general everyday wear. The kigo curv is offered in a size run from a woman’s six to 11.
With styling resonant of the unisex slip-on kigo shel, the edge is designed for active men and women. The shoes provide complete foot coverage for a fully protected barefoot stride. With a slim profile and traditional shoe shape, the kigo edge is stylishly appropriate for athletic endeavors and everyday wear. The kigo edge is offered in a size run from a woman’s six to 14, and a men’s 4.5 to a 12.5.
The kigo edge and curv are available in six color styles. The more colorful “panel” style shoes are offered in grey with orange or green color strips running down the sides of the shoes. For more subdued styling, the shoes are also offered in all grey with contrast stitch in white, black, green or orange. The shoes are designed with a medium footprint and spacious upper, and will stretch to fit the wearer’s foot. The ideal kigo fit typically is one-half to one full size larger than a typical street shoe. kigo footwear can be found online at and in retail stores in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada.

About kigo footwearkigo footwear is stylish, eco-friendly minimalist footwear for barefoot athletics and everyday wear. The kigo team strives to provide comfortable shoes that are stylish enough for everyday wear, sturdy enough for athletics and constructed to be as good for the Earth as for the body. Each kigo shoe is thoughtfully and responsibly constructed of lightweight eco-friendly materials, including removable EVA insoles, breathable, stain/water resistant uppers and flexible, high-density rubber outsoles. For more information, please visit us at 

Follow kigo footwear on Twitter, visit:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ad Hoc Ultramarathon Training

I started reading Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.  I will be doing a full review soon.  Quickly, I have to say it may be the best beginner running book I've read.  I'll save details for the full review, but it is really good.

Anyway, Sarah and Dimity discuss training plans at some point.  This discussion lead me to a self-evaluation of my own training regimen, or lack thereof.  My training could best be described as chaotic.  There appears to be little rhyme or reason for any individual element, nor does there appear to be any forethought or logic to the design.

The haphazard organization is really a function of two circumstances- my schedule and my personality.  With three children under the age of five, I do not have the luxury of regular training times.  Work, appointments, swimming lessons, soccer practice, and this barefoot running thing keep me pretty busy.  Etching out reliable training times can be difficult if not impossible.

In regards to my personality, I am a bit lazy at times.  Specifically, I do not like to run in the cold.  Or in the evening.  And I am easily bored with the same routes.  Oh, and I struggle with "forcing" myself to run... if I am not into it, I have little problem stopping.  

All of this adds up to what can best be described as an ad hoc training plan.  I identify my goal race. This year, that race is Burning River.  I identify the specific needs for the goal race:
  • This is a 100 miler, so I will need a few very long runs.
  • I will be running at night, so I will need to have some long runs in the very late evening and very early morning. 
  • It has a variety of terrain... asphalt, rocky trails, dirt trails, very technical trails, crushed limestone, and stairs.  I will have to train on all those surfaces. 
  • I will be running it sans shoes.  I will have to do most of my training barefoot.
  • The race is run in NE Ohio in July... it may be very hot and humid.  I will have to do some heat acclimation.
  • I will need to be relatively fast to avoid the cutoffs.  I will need some speed work.
  • The course has some fairly significant hills (for the Midwest.)  I will need to do hill work and weight training.
  • I will need to be as efficient as possible.  To accomplish this, I need to lose about 10 pounds.
Once I identify what is needed, I start training.  I try to address each of these training needs at least once per week.   The long run is easy, I just pick a day when Shelly is okay with spending quality time with the kids.  This is typically the time I practice night running by either starting at about 8pm and running into the night, or starting at about 2am and running into the day.  

During the summer, we visit the gym almost daily.  This allows me to do some speed work and a lot of weight training.  Since the gym has daycare, it is very easy to schedule.  It is the most regular element of my training.

Everything else is thrown together.  If I have 30 minutes of free time, I will squeeze in a three mile tempo run.  If I have an extra hour or two, I will do some hill repeats.  Occasionally I will have about three hours... I will run an intermediate run at a relatively fast pace.  Sometimes Shelly and I will run together.  These runs are simply more time on my feet... a critical skill in ultras.  The key- there's no real plan... only a vague idea of what is needed.

As I progress towards the goal race, I engage in constant testing and experimentation.  The idea is to optimize as much as possible.  I will try different clothing, different sleeping patterns, different food combination, etc.  One of the goals is to artificially recreate every possible variable I will face in the race.  
Most runners scoff at my training regimen.  Most of my peers keep incredibly detailed logs that track their progress.  They will follow intricate plans for months.  Some have even been known to abstain from alcohol.  I've tried that route.  I tried to channel my inner-OCD.  I thought it was a necessity, even though it removed some of the fun of running.  it took awhile, but I finally reached a place where I am comfortable with my ad hoc training plans.

Note- this is not a program designed to win races.  Generally, my goals for any race depends on distance.  In sub-marathon races, my goal is usually a top 20% finish.  In sub-100 mile ultras, my goal is to finish in the top 50%.  In 100s, my goal is to simply finish the race.

What are your training plans?  Do you follow a pre-designed program?  Do you design you own?  Or do you do what I do... just make it up as you go?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fleet Feet Sports... not you, too?!?

[Note- this is written in response to a specific Fleet Feet Running Store owner's comments regarding barefoot running.  This is not necessarily my opinion regarding all Fleet Feet stores.  Most, but not all, have been exceptionally supportive of the barefoot and minimalist shoe running movement.]

Fleet Feet Sports' owner, David Spetnagel, commented on barefoot running in a recent flyer distributed by Fleet Feet.  The article is somewhat similar to the comments made by Road Runner Sports' CEO a few months ago, except Spetnagel used science instead of a sophomoric fear tactic. 

First, Spetnagel discounts Born to Run, which is fair.  It is not a peer-reviewed journal; it is the opinion of McDougall.  He also mentions the misrepresentation of Lieberman's “Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot Runners versus Shod Runners”.  That's fair... the popular media does misrepresent Lieberman's conclusion. At this point, I am still on-board.

In the second paragraph, Spetnagel dissects three pro-barefoot running arguments:
  • A heel strike is inferior to a forefoot strike (note: I know of no barefoot running instructors that advocate a forefoot strike... we tend to favor a midfoot strike),
  • Barefoot running strengthens the foot anatomy,
  • Barefoot running is "speedier" than heel striking.
In the third paragraph, Spetnagel cites Hamill's oft-cited conference lecture regarding barefoot running.  Essentially, Hamill makes the claim that heel striking is popular today, thus must be the result of evolution.  His evidence- the heel bone is strong and sits upon a fat pad.  What about the rest of the foot?  What is the purpose of the arch?  Ornamentation?  Curiously, Spetnagel does not mention this.  Spetnagel also fails to mention that Hamill's talk was not peer-reviewed, merely his own opinion. 

In the next paragraph, Spetnagel continues to cite Hamill.  He notes that foot strengthening is unlikely to occur due to the muscles being internal.  So "...Dr. Joseph Hamill, a Kinesiology Professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with more than 20 years of experience as a biomechanist..." is claiming that muscles cannot be strengthened because they are internal to the foot?  I do not possess a PhD, nor do I have 20 years of experience as a biomechanist, but that conclusion is just plain stupid.  If those muscles cannot be strengthened, why the Hell do we have them?!?  Remember this foot-strengthening point... we'll see it again in Spetnagel's sales pitch at the end of the article.

Spetnagel continues by citing Matt Fitzgerald's barefoot running article, which drew conclusions based on the very unscientific measurement of asking a few doctors about injury frequency in their practice.  Hmmmm... Lieberman's peer-reviewed study should be disregarded, but the anecdotal opinions of a few doctors asked to recall their patients' injury history is as good as gold? 

Spetnagel then quotes Fitzgerald “If you don’t get injured often in shoes, there’s no need to switch to barefoot running, but you could probably get away with it. And if you do get injured in shoes, switching to barefoot running might be tempting, but it will probably only make matters worse.”

The first sentence is accurate... no disagreement here.  The second sentence... not so much.  Ask any experienced barefoot running about their injury frequency before and after barefoot running.
In the next paragraph, Spetnagel offers a good segue into his sales pitch.  He quoted Dr. Owen Anderson, “There’s just no proof that barefoot running will reduce your risk of injury of make you faster…One thing is for certain: If you throw your running shoes in the trash bin and embark on your usual training program in the barefoot condition, you will probably soon be calling your sports-medicine physician...So, please proceed cautiously if you decide to let the skin hit the road.”

No shit.   Every single barefoot running instructor goes to great lengths to teach patience.  If you run 100 miles a week shod, then immediately switch to 100 miles of barefoot running, you will get injured.  As far as "proof" barefoot running makes you faster or reduces injury, yes, Anderson is correct.  Likewise, there is no "proof" shoes will make you faster or reduce injury.  I've scoured the literature... there is no research supporting the use of the modern running shoe.  I have challenged the anti-barefoot running cword to produce a single citation of a study that even hints at the benefits of modern running shoes over barefoot running.  To date, nobody has been able to produce said research.

The next two paragraphs literally made me laugh out loud.  Spetnagel carefully makes a case against barefoot running, then makes a sales pitch for the Nike Free and his barefoot running clinics USING THE EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS HE JUST ATTACKED!  Here's the quotes:

While the current data show that regular training in a minimalist shoe is not a good idea for most runners because the additional injury risk outweighs any gains in injury reduction or efficiency, there is consensus that a well-designed foot/ankle-strengthening regimen can be an effective part of your training program – and that doing such workouts in minimalist shoes can make them more efficient. [editorial comment- note that Spetnagel just cited Hamill's comment that the intrinsic foot muscles cannot be strengthened.]

We believe that Nike’s “Free” line of shoes are the best of the minimalist shoes because they strengthen what can be strengthened (aka, muscles) [see editorial comment above] and protect what cannot be strengthened in the traditional sense (aka, ligaments, tendons and bones) [another editorial comment: bones, tendons, and ligament can be strengthened... this is why astronauts develop osteoporosis in space]. In other words, the Frees’ ultra-flexibility works the muscles of the foot (including the very important “toe grabbing” that occurs when running barefoot) but their underfoot “arch” support and moderate cushioning protect the rest of the foot and leg to at least some degree.

This is laughable. I do not understand why shoe salespeople cannot simply accept that there are significant merits to barefoot running.  They really should take an open-minded approach as other shoe salespeople have: barefoot running has significant advantages, but not everyone should or has a desire to run barefoot.  For those individuals, there are some excellent minimalist shoes (NOT the Free... it is a "reduced" running shoe.)

Here's my advice: If you don't have problems in overly-cushioned, raised-heel, supportive shoes, keep using them.  If you do get injured, accept that it is probably a function of bad form.  There are a number of ways to learn good form, one of which is barefoot running.  Should you decide to try it, educate yourself.  There are a ton of great free resources out there, including Ken Bob's site, Ted's site, runBARE, and my own site.

To shoe store owners- please stop this bush league attempt at discrediting barefoot running while pitching your own products or services that take advantage of the rise in barefoot running awareness.  If you disagree with barefoot running, man up and take a hard stance against it.  If you support it by offering workshops and pseudo-minimalist shoes, then stop producing drivel like this article from Fleet Feet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Workout of the Day... the advantages of barefoot running

Resiliency to injury is a major benefit to barefoot running.  Once you make a full transition and acclimate your body, you can tolerate some dramatic increases in mileage.  As I accelerate my workouts to prepare for Burning River in July, the ability to avoid injury is critical.  This is my workout routine for the week so far:
  • Sunday- Rectifier 5K trail race (20:26, 2nd in AG, 10th overall)
  • Monday- rest day
  • Tuesday- Five mile trail run + 1 ski hill repeat
  • Wednesday- Gym workout- 3 rounds of Crossfit-style "Fight Gone Bad" (1 minute each of burpees, air squats on Bosu Ball, one-handed clean and presses on Bosu, side planks, and walking lunges); Unnamed exercise Tabata; Ten 100 yard sprints; 7 mile trail run
  • Today- Workout with Pete Kemme- 400 meters of 20lb. medicine ball throws; 4 sets of 12 burpees, 24 pushups, 36 air squats, and a 400 meter run; and a pushup Tabata.  I did have a hill repeat workout planned, but that may give way to a trip to the bar with Shelly, Mark, and Jesse.  We'll see.
It's turning out to be a pretty good week so far!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Burning River 100 Mile Training: a work in progress

Six weeks.  That's all I have left before Burning River.  Would I ready if the race were today?  Probably not.  In years' past, my 100 mile training went like this:
  • 2008- too few miles, too much Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance.
  • 2009- Too many long runs, cross-training was perfect, not enough speed work.
So far this year, I maintained a decent endurance base throughout the winter.  Speed work is okay... I managed a 20:30 or so 5k on trails this last weekend.  About a month ago, I ran about 54 miles in a 12 hour race. Since the 12 hour, I've run an 18 miler and a 30 miler.  I just started heavy weight training this week.  I'm doing some tempo run on trails and hill repeats tomorrow.  I'd like to squeeze in one very long run and another back-to-back.  We'll see.

I'm doing the equivalent of cramming for an exam... trying to shoehorn as much training into the next month.  Will it work out?  I'm confident I'll be fine, but I doubt I'll be flirting with a sub-24 finish. :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quick update on my continuing works and brief race report from the Rectifier 5K

Several people have emailed or messaged me regarding the last part of the Mind the Ducks Race report and the Ultramarathons for Lazy Runners series.  I haven't forgotten about either, but I had a more pressing project that I am racing to finish.  

Rest assured, I will have the last part of the Mind the Ducks story posted very soon.  The Ultras for Lazy Runners series will continue shortly after.  

In the interim, I have to post a very brief race report for the Rectifier 5K held in Montague, MI this last Sunday.  This was definitely the best 5K I have ever run.  The atmosphere was spectacular, the course was entertaining, the race director is awesome, and they had beer at the finish.  It felt like an ultramarathon atmosphere with a lot less pain.  

The course was advertised as a "European style" cross country course, which translated to a flat trail with a few large "hills" of dirt, some logs across the trail (some too big to jump over), and a mud/water pit at the end.  

Times were generally slow for a 5K, but I think the crowd was self-selecting.  The non-competitive atmosphere wouldn't attract the sub-15 minute 5K crowd.  I believe the winner finished around 18:10.

Shelly and I both did well.  Had I not hit a "I hate sprinting" wall at the 2.5 mile mark, this could have been close to a 5K PR for me.  

This race is on my "definite" list for next year!

Also, I'm collecting some reviews of "The Barefoot Running Book."  If you are curious what it is and what it is not, check out these reviews:
The Barefoot Running Book Reviews

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ultramarathon D-Bag of the Year? Looks like we have a winner!

Normally, I am 100% supportive of race directors.  I got a tiny taste of the experience earlier this year, and it is an incredibly stressful, thankless job.  I have tremendous respect for anyone that accepts this challenge.  Well, until now.  

Running and Rambling is one of my favorite blogs.  If you don't read it, you need to check it out.  Donald is a fellow ultrarunner, ardent supporter of the minimalist shoe movement, awesome product reviewer, and all around nice guy.  He recently posted a race report from the Blue Canyon 100k.  He did not finish due to severe heat coupled with a lack of aid station support.  I'll let you read the race report for the details... but I will make a few comments.

In an handful of ultras I've run, aid station supplies have run low.  Mostly it was the result of my "watching grass grow-slow" pace.  Despite the low supplies, the race director and volunteers always made sure there were enough supplies to assure the safety of the participants.  

In the Blue Canyon race, the temps topped 100°!  The fact that aid stations were supposed to be fully-stocked but only carried water is unfortunate, but excusable.  The fact that aid stations ran out of water in those harsh conditions is downright scary!

Still, it was the RD's first race (based on his own comments.)  Again, it was a bad situation that he could hopefully learn from.  At the end of Donald's race report, I was still feeling some empathy for the RD.  Then I read his response to Donald's post [note- grammar has not been corrected]:


Fortunately we have we have fair skinned/ SPF'd lathered up softies like youit will keep teabags like you away, at least i hope it does 2nd it will help bring in more tough and honorable ultra runners like Maria, Helen, Brooke, Andrew and the rest of the lot that finished to the BCTR start line next year. So keep up the good literature between your bug bite treatments and pedicures. Yes i made some mistakes that made it a bad day for some several runners and i regret that it occurred. No true back country ultra is immune to mistakes and failures. Do my very best to guarantee satisfaction i dont guarantee mistake free/happy results to everybody- not possible! Your flat out wrong about about the so called Gatorade bottle being empty- that's was a ear biting Mike Tyson cheep shot comment. Its actually a 15 gln FDA approved water storage canister and when i returned to the Gibraltar Mine Aid Station on Sunday afternoon i measured 11.5 gallons of water still inside it. There was even a bit of ice still in the cooler full of cold water. Siphon pump worked just fine too, You were probably to busy shushing flies away to have realized that you had to actually take your other finger off your camera shutter button and put in on them on the pump handle. I have read several well written emails that appropriately detail where i went wrong. Honorable ways to pass on the frustration, complaints and positive feedback. Crybaby diatribes like yourNext time get off your ass make something happen like so many of the other entrants did rather than sit around in the lily pond's and bitch and moan. and how about that lame ass email you sent me tonight Please dont think your doing me any favors by giving me the heads up on something you already posted and asking me for my thoughts "post" posting. ouch! that was another Mike Tyson cheap shot below the belt! Donny,
i have always been clear that if your not satisfied with what you paid for then let me know and i am glad to give you your entrants fee back in full, just let me know where you want it sent too. That goes for anybody else who feels like their experience was not worth the fee they paid. If it sounds like i am angry, i am. I angry that mistakes happened and persons like you think your justified to slam us via a blog rather than face to face.

Later Donald
who trot around snapping up your photo logs and conjuring up your narratives on how to pat a race on the back or even slam a new races mistakes. Your blog will serve us well in two ways, 1st difficult day in the back country swatting flies, bugs or other things that buzzed around you and ranting about poor aid stations service/ supplies or lack of.

For those that read my senseless writings regularly, you know I have a reverence for the camaraderie of the ultra community.  I have a serious disdain for arrogant assholes with superiority complexes.  

This was a poorly-run race where runners' lives were unnecessarily placed in danger due to a series of mistakes the RD made.  Instead of apologizing profusely, he chose to personally attack Donald.  

For that, sir, you have earned my D-Bag of the Year Award.  The CEO of Road Runner Sports will be presenting the trophy at a brief ceremony in the near future.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A New Anti-Barefoot Running Conspiracy?

Before I get into my paranoia-filled conspiracy theory, I have to reiterate my stance on barefoot running versus shoes:  I believe barefoot running is not for everyone, though most runners could probably benefit from some barefoot training.  Also, shoes aren't inherently bad.  Some people are able to run with near-perfect form in shoes even if they have a 20mm heel-to-toe drop, 3 inches of EVA and gel-padded sole, and encase the foot like an iron boot.  Essentially, shoes are not inherently evil.

I use Google Alerts.  Google scours the Interwebs for predetermined phrases.  The result- I get a daily digest of the instances when certain phrases are published to the 'Web.  It's a method to keep tabs on all things barefoot.  

Over the last few days, a slew (about 20-40) posts have been appearing.  Some appear on brand-new blogs.  Others appear on running store websites (that do not carry minimalist shoes.)  Some appear on random sites unrelated to running or exercise.  

In almost every instance, the post appears to be cut-and-pasted with a few select words changed.  Presumably, this is to increase exposure so the site is not penalized.  I am pretty sure this is an attempt at search engine optimization.  Web techies, is this correct?

Anyway, this is one example of the phrase:

Getting out for a run is a sensible way to get physically fit mainly because it requires very minimal requirements in terms of of amenities and also equipment. The sole facility required will be some open room and the only gear which is required is generally some good jogging shoes. Nonetheless, lately there has been plenty of press consideration directed at the concept of running barefoot. To begin with this could seem to be odd due to the hard roads that people run on. A very small group of runners use barefoot running, yet they make some amazing claims for the rewards for it.

A number of the gains said range from the a far more face to face with the environment feelings, a smaller amount injuries, a lot more muscle mass power and improved function. In addition they believe present day jogging shoes are usually the cause of most of the overuse injuires that are seen in runners. There is, nonetheless not merely one piece of proof that running shoes contribute to injuries and there is additionally no research evidence that barefoot running is actually much better or worse than working out in shoes. There is some research that has researched the actual variations among without footwear and shod jogging, but none of this research has demonstrated any particular one is better than the other, though many in the without shoes groups read it that way.

There is most likely nothing wrong with barefoot running so long that it’s performed moderately as part of a balanced running strategy and time is put in adapting to this slowly and gradually. Too much of a quick transition within any kind of part of the exercise program is likely to result in injury.
So now my conspiracy theory... since it is unlikely so many people over a variety of backgrounds would post this, could this be some sort of "plant" from a known anti-barefoot entity?  Why is the working changed slightly in almost every instance?  It's not necessarily inflammatory like many previous anti-barefoot posts, which is probably more effective at dissuading people from trying barefoot running.  

Am I just too paranoid?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Would the Perfect Minimalist Shoe Look Like: An open letter to shoe manufacturers

Dear sir or madam:

Thank you for your recent foray into the minimalist shoe market.  I appreciate your attempt at entering this market.  Some of your competitors are begrudgingly digging in their figurative heels despite the growing body of evidence that the modern running shoe may not be appropriate for everyone.  

Your shoe is certainly pretty; aesthetics are clearly a high priority.  Your marketing is flashy.  The use of barefoot runners in your advertisements shows an awareness of your intended market. 

I do have one complaint, however.  Your shoes kinda suck.  The shoe, like it's heavily cushioned, corrective siblings, has a raised heel.  This still forces runners to run in a constant state of plantarflexion. [thanks for catching that, Rob!]

Your shoe also has a narrow toe box.  My foot width is barely a "B."  I have Kate Moss-esque feet.  Despite my freakishly-thin feet, my toes still are not allowed to splay inside the shoe.

You have arch supports.  I'm neither an architect, physicist, engineer, nor a carpenter, but I'm pretty sure I understand the basics of an arch.  if you support it from below, it weakens.  Our feet play by the same rules.

 I know you will argue that these elements of shoes are necessary for protection.  Maybe this is the problem- without a good selection of true minimalist shoes, children are forced to wear large, overly cushioned, supportive shoes that weaken our feet.  Those children grow into adults with weak, injury-prone feet.  I know this perspective is controversial, so I did some research.

I was digging around on the American Podiatric Medical Association's website.  As it turns out, the APMA recommends children go barefoot or walk around in socks because it "... helps the foot grow normally and develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of the toes."  

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose sight of the concept of our feet needing the stimulation of movement to maintain health.  Perhaps you could begin to play a role in reversing this trend.  Perhaps you could begin producing true minimal shoes.  Your current attempts at producing said shoes is just diluting the lethal injection of atrophy we've come to expect from the rest of your lineup.  

If you would like assistance designing a quality minimalist shoe, follow these simple tips:

1a. The sole must be thin, completely flat, and flexible.  No raised heel.  No cushioning.  Let's save the EVA for headboard padding. 

1b. The sole should not curve upward.  Look at the shape of the foot.  Do toes curve upward?  That's just silly.

2. The toe box must be wider than our toes to allow them to move within the shoe.  If I cannot freely wiggle my toes, the toe box is too narrow.

3. The upper must be flexible.  Heavy materials, plastic, and rhinestones have no place on footwear.

4. The arch cannot be supported.  See comment above.

That's it.  That would be the perfect shoe.  If you need a beta tester (or whatever the equivalent is referred to in the shoe world), I'll volunteer.  I like giving constructive criticism.

Don't worry about alienating the rest of your customers.  You can still continue manufacturing your miniature foot coffins.  Lots of people use them without problems.  An entire generation has grown up under the misguided premise that the human foot is fundamentally flawed... we cannot expect their weak, atrophied feet to make a quick transition.  Keep pumping out your corrective pillows and your gimmicky "shape ups" to keep them blissfully happy.

For the rest of us, give us what we so desperately want... a shoe that makes us forget we're wearing shoes. 


A random humor-challenged blogger with an unhealthy concern for feet