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Barefoot Running University.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Eve of a Goal Race and the GoLite Tara Lite pics

In roughly 25 hours, I will finally be able to end this damned taper!  The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run starts at 5am tomorrow morning.  

The training has been done.  The gear is packed.  The directions are programmed into the GPS.  The crew is ready... more or less.  Now I drive.  And wait.  And sleep... more or less.

The day before a major goal race is always nerve-racking.  I'm fidgety with anticipation.  Unlike the shorter races like 5 or 10ks or even marathons, 100 milers represent such an unknown.  Even though I am a relative novice at the distance, I am aware of the variability in experiences.  Every race presents a slew of potential problems.  Which problems will spring up tomorrow?  Will I be prepared to handle issues as they arise?  Today will be spend going through an endless litany of mental checklists:

Before the race... do I have my clothes ready? Check.
Light? Check.
Lube?  Check.
Nipples taped?  Check.
What shoes do I wear to the start?  Sandals?  Check.
Oh, sun screen?  Check.

Aid stations... what do I do?  
Change water bottles.
Replenish supply of electrolytes.
Drink high-calorie drink.
Eat some solid food.
Maybe eat chia, perhaps with Mike's Hard Lemonade.
Check feet.

As I'm running... how is my pace?
How close am I to my goal pace?
How far ahead of the cutoff am I?
How far to the next aid station?
How is hydration... when did I last pee?
What color was it?
Am I getting enough calories?

These are just a few of the thoughts that will run through my head today.  It is the storm before the calm.  I will be a nervous wreck.  

Then tomorrow morning will come.  For whatever reason, race morning is always calm... always peaceful.  The nervous, frantic, obsessive thoughts are replaced by... tranquil enjoyment.  

Needless to say, I cannot wait for tomorrow morning.

On a completely unrelated note:  minimalist shoe junkies, here are two pics of the GoLite Tara Lite minimalist shoe to be released soon.  It features a zero-drop last and some pretty aggressive tread.  I haven't tested it yet, but it promises to be an interesting addition to the current minimalist shoe offerings from a variety of manufacturers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sneak peak at New Balance's new Minimus line

Thanks to my generous friends at New Balance, I have a few close-up pics from the new Minimus line due to be released in March.  I'm excited about these shoes... I really think they will be among the best minimalist options available upon release.  While the 4mm heel drop is still a tad high for my tastes, sources confirm the toe box is wide enough to allow the toes to splay.  At any rate, here are the pics:

Also, please read the previous post to find out how to win a copy of "The Barefoot Book" by Dr. Daniel Howell!

Review: "The Barefoot Book" by Dr. Daniel Howell

"The Barefoot Book: 50 great reasons to kick off your shoes" is an absolute must-have for all barefoot runners.  If you are a barefoot runner or ever plan on running barefoot, this must be in your library.  This book is so valuable, this could effectively end the review.  Okay, I'll share some details...

Daniel Howell is an anatomy and physiology professor at Liberty University.  Daniel is also a fellow Society for Barefoot Living member and experienced barefooter.  His educational background provides the perfect framework for the topics contained within this book.

This book systematically makes a case for barefootedness.  Daniel starts by dismantling the "logic" used to justify the use of shoes.  I was familiar with the ideas presented in this section, but still found it to be extremely persuasive.  

The next section includes testimonials from a variety of people.  It is always entertaining to hear stories of people "seeing the light".

The next few sections talk about foot anatomy.  While I was vaguely familiar with this information, Daniel's explanations definitely expanded my knowledge base.  His expertise as an anatomy and physiology professor really shines.  

He includes a section on shoe construction, the effects of a raised heel, and the effects of shoes on developing children.  This section would turn Imelda Marcos into a dedicated barefooter.

Howell also includes sections on barefoot walking, hiking, and running.  I was pleasantly surprised to find his advice to be perfectly aligned with my teachings.  Even Howell's terminology is the same.  It appears as if there is a growing "standard" that is widely recognized in the teaching of barefoot running.

Finally, Howell dispels many myths about the barefoot lifestyle.  This section is especially useful as many of us will have to justify our decision to buck social mores.  He also includes a synopsis of the significant lawsuits that involve barefootedness.  

The book can be purchased from Amazon here: BUY ME!!!

Also, Daniel was kind enough to give me a copy to give away to one of my readers!  Here's how you can enter:

1. Become a Google Friend of this blog by clicking on "Follow" button in the right column of this blog,
2. "Like" The Barefoot Book's Facebook page by going here:!/pages/The-Barefoot-Book/269343107104?ref=ts and clicking "Like"

I will randomly choose one Google friend on Wednesday, August 4th, crosscheck to confirm they "Liked" The Barefoot Book Facebook page, then contact the winner for a mailing address.  Good luck everyone!

As long as you are in the "Liking" mood, I'd appreciate you also liking The Barefoot Running Book's Facebook page!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Eating Habits: The Paleo Diet

For fun, I decided to change up my eating habits.  I enjoy trying new things in the name of experimentation, and diet happens to be among the most interesting to vary.  

My new dietary lifestyle is influenced by the "paleo diet".  The idea is pretty simple; it is an attempt to eat a diet similar to what our ancestors consumed.  The logic works for me.  We evolved to eat a specific diet.  Logic would hold that our body would be optimized to this diet.  The trick is to extrapolate a "caveman diet" from our current offerings.  

My take on the diet is very simplistic.  I am eating the following general categories of foods:
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, excluding potatoes
  • Non-processed meats (no bacon, lunch meat, or Spam)
  • Nuts
  • Beer and wine
  • Coffee
  • Diet soda (I like to imagine our ancestors had access to Coke Zero, Killian's, and Starbucks)
  • Olive oil
What I'm actively avoiding:
  • Wheat-based products
  • Soy-based products
  • Refined sugar-based products
  • Rice and rice-based products
  • Legumes
  • Dairy [thanks for reminding me, Jeff!]
  • All other oils
About once or twice a week, I will consume something from the "avoiding" list.  this mostly occurs when Shelly and I are dining out.
So far, I have been impressed.  I'm generally a very skeptical person, but I find my mood to be very stable on the new diet.  I no longer have euphoria/depression mood swings.  Aside from that, I have not experienced a significant change in sleeping patterns, energy levels, or weight.  However, I do seem to be building muscle mass and shedding body fat faster than I did with my processed carb-based diet.

It is interesting... more or less anyone that has heard of my new diet has commented.  Some support it, some do not.  Both sides can cite "evidence" that will support their perspective.  Most people fail to understand the "experiment of one" idea, which is my ultimate goal.  I am trying to find a group of foods that suit me well.  What's good for the goose is rarely good for the gander.  Still, knowing what the gander is doing gives up plenty of ideas for our own experimentation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Barefoot 100 Miler... pushing the limits

In five days, my rag-tag crew of barefoot gypsies will begin our journey to Northeast Ohio to begin our latest adventure: the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run.  This will be my most ambitious running feat to date as I will be running the race completely barefoot.

I have to admit... I'm a bit nervous.  First, I've hardly mastered the art of running 100 milers.  I'm only batting .500 thus far in my ultra career.  My lone finish was 55 minutes before the cutoff.  My DNF was at Burning River in 2008.  Second, I'm not exactly sure how my body will respond to the lack of shoes for 100 miles.  To date, my longest barefoot run was 53-ish miles at Mind the Ducks in May.  

I have a few things working in my favor.  

I have an excellent crew and pacer.  Shelly is an excellent crew chief and I have great confidence in her ability to provide the necessary support.  Jesse Scott, my primary pacer in part-time training partner, is a gifted trail runner and entertaining conversationalist. 

I'm familiar with 2/3 of the course.  Aside from one especially rocky section about 22 miles in, it is relatively barefoot-friendly.  The trails are technical in some spots, but still runnable.

My training has went exceptionally well, including a 68 mile training run.  My overall mileage has been low, but the long runs have been executed without issue.

I've had some excellent sessions of hill repeats.  I finally nailed an efficient uphill and downhill technique.  In '08, I was strong on uphills.  Downhills killed me.  I think I'm even stronger on the uphills now, and downhill, while still slow, can be run with enough efficiency to survive 100 miles.

I also have a few things working against me.  

The course will have a lot of memories... many of which are pretty bad.  I'm not quite sure how I will react to passing the area where the wheels fell off in '08.  For fun, I listened to my audio recordings from 2008 (located here).  The audio does a good job of capturing the feel of that race.  I was pretty optimistic until about mile 50, then hit a low point like no other.  It was a good reminder of the mistakes I made that day.

Some elements of my training have been lacking.  My heat acclimation training has not went well... I should have started weeks ago.  I could have done more night trail running to prepare for the darkness. 

Of course, there's precedent.  To my knowledge, nobody has completed a 100 miler barefoot.  The combination of fairly rugged terrain, sleep deprivation, and fatigue will make it difficult to focus.  That lack of focus is a definite liability without the protection of shoes. [EDIT- This attempt will NOT be the longest barefoot run... Todd Ragsdale ran 102 miles at a Relay for Life earlier this year (and set a world record).  Burning River is only 100 miles and I will likely take more than 24 hours to finish... I'm just trying to complete the first barefoot 100 mile race] thanks to Shannon McGinn for reminding me of this.

Despite the potential negatives, my confidence level is high.  I now know what to expect from my body at long distances.  My ability to diagnose and fix problems has increased substantially since 2008.  My overall endurance base has improved.  Most importantly, my barefoot running skills have be immeasurably honed.

At the very least, it will be a fun road trip.  Aside from my crew, there will be many friends at this race.  My occasional training partner Jeremiah Cataldo will be running.  Phil Stapert, another occasional training partner, will be pacing Rachel Sterk on her quest to finish her first 100 miler.  Shelley and Jim Viggiano, friends from New York, will be there as Jim attempts his first 100.  There are also a lot of interweb friends at this race, many of which I will be meeting for the first time.

Five days... this is going to be a long, slow taper...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Barefoot Running Injuries... Broken Toes

During my latest barefoot/ minimalist shoe running workshop at Crossfit Grand Rapids, we had a lengthy discussion regarding barefoot running injuries.  I classify injuries in two categories: beginner "transitioning" injuries and injuries resulting from a lack of protection.  

The "transitioning" injuries involve the "top of the foot" injuries, Achilles/calf injuries, and blisters.  The "lack of protection " injuries involve puncture wounds, heat and cold injuries, blunt-force injuries, and maybe blisters.  I cover the topic of injuries on my website here.

Yesterday, Shelly experienced her first minimalist shoe injury... a broken toe.  We were running on an unfamiliar trail.  The trail was fairly technical as it was littered with large rocks, gravel, and many roots.  The trail was used primarily for mountain bikers.  Like most bike trails in the area, the terrain is rugged for runners in general and barefoot runners in particular.  

I was running barefoot and encountered several sections that required me to slow to a 14 minute/mile pace to traverse.  Shelly was wearing her Vibram KSOs

I was running behind her as I was tired from a crosstraining workout and five mile run I did earlier in the morning.  About a half mile into the run, she stumbled, took a few more steps, and stopped.  Immediately I knew something was wrong.  Shelly never stops.

I asked her what happened.  She said she caught the pinky toe of her right foot on a root and it bent laterally.  Her silence was the best indicator that it was pretty serious.  She started walking, then tried running.  Her obvious limp and grimace betrayed her attempts to play it cool. 
We stopped and examined the toe.  It was red an swelling; it did not look good.  

We were still about a half mile to a mile from our car, so we decided to keep moving.  Shelly put the KSO back on and tried running.  It was too painful.  She tried walking.  Again, it was too painful.  In typical Shelly fashion, she took off the shoes, walked a few steps, then took off her socks.  She ran the rest of the loop barefoot (one mile) with the broken toe. 

It is doing better today and will likely only sideline her for a few days.  She has a freakishly high pain tolerance, so she will probably push through any pain when she begins running again.  

The point of the story- barefoot or minimalist shoe running does present some dangers.  I broke a toe in 2007 in the middle of a 50 miler.  It happens.  When weighing the decision to run barefoot, realize it is not without risk.  Personally, I think the benefits FAR outweigh the risks, but the risks are real.

In Other News

I am currently reading The Barefoot Book by Dr. Daniel Howell.  While it is not specific to barefoot running, it is the perfect companion to the barefoot running books currently on the market.  I will give a full review soon, and will be holding a contest to give a copy away to one of my readers. 

Even More News

The second edition of The Barefoot Running Book is nearing completion.  I will be sharing the details as soon as possible, maybe immediately after Burning River next weekend.  It includes many new sections, a rewritten introduction, pictures, and contributions from many of the leaders in our field.  

I am planning on making it available via pre-order at a discount if there appears to be enough interest. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vibrams 2011 Models... Really?

Back in the day, I loved Vibram's Five Fingers shoes for their simplicity.  The design looked peculiar, but the shoes served the purpose.  My circa 2007 black KSOs are still my favorite minimalist shoes I own. 

Those second generation of Five Fingers shoes (the Sprints, KSOs, and Flows) were tremendous from a functional standpoint.  Okay, the Flows sucked.  The other two were great, though.

The next generation was hit-or-miss.  I love Treks, though I still haven't purchased a pair.  The Performa and Bikila suffers from thicker soles and decreased flexibility.  The Mocs lack durability.  Vibram seems to be developing shoes more for form than function.  If that isn't bad enough, it seems as if Vibram's quality control was slipping.

I was holding out hope that this trend was a temporary setback from an otherwise brilliant company.  That hope died when I saw pictures of the newest Vibram models for 2011:


Komodo Sport

Bikila LS

All three models look pretty sharp.  I especially like the aesthetics of the Komodo.  However, all three have the silly foot pads on the soles.  I have not found dimensions at this point, but I am assuming all three have soles thicker than the original KSOs. 

Vibram, your pandering to the masses has diluted your product.  I think I may be looking for a new "favorite minimalist shoe" company.  Terra Plana is doing some great things, and I can't wait to try Ted's new Luna Huaraches.  With all the other minimalist options being developed, Vibram may have sealed their fate as the industry leaders by deviating from their formula for success.

On an unrelated note... here's a sneak-peak:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Are Running Kilts the New Barefoot?

Some of you that have been running barefoot for a few years may be able to relate to the reactions people gave prior to the "Born to Run" revolution.  When I first started barefoot running, people generally fell into three categories:
  1. They thought it was interesting, contemplated trying it themselves, and asked thoughtful questions,
  2. They reacted with indifference,
  3. They reacted with some degree of disbelief/ disgust/ or other somewhat negative emotion.
Fast forward to today.  I have not received any sort of negative comment for some time.  Now I get A LOT of questions from people that are considering it.  A very small number of people will express some disbelief in the merits of barefoot running, but I no longer experience the negativity of the third group from above.  Barefoot running has become mainstream enough to make it socially acceptable to try it without risk of being social ostracized.

Since I publicly announced my intentions to start running in a Sport Kilt, I am facing the exact same reactions I experienced as a new barefoot runner years ago.  About a third of the people I talk to are enthusiastically supportive and want to try it themselves.  Another third seems indifferent.  The final third reacts with comments ranging from "I could never do that!" to "What the Hell is wrong with you!"  
I started barefoot running because I found it gave me a competitive advantage.  I also enjoyed it more than running in heavy, clunky, smelly shoes.  I find myself attracted to the Sport Kilt for the same reason.  It eliminates some problems created by my previously preferred combination of running shorts and compression shorts, and I enjoy the experience.  

Despite the objections of a few of my peers, I will continue to explore the kilt option.

Most if not all of us have done some things that have cut against the grain of socially-acceptable behaviors... please share in the "comments' section!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sport Kilt Review

My wife Shelly has been running in a running skirt for a few months.  She originally heard of the idea from out friends Kate Kift and Angie Bishop.  Since trying it out, she has fallen in love with the skirt.  After hearing her touting the benefits for months, I began looking for an alternative to the running shorts I normally wear.

I considered the running skirt, but couldn't bring myself to try it.  James Webber, a phenomenal barefoot runner from Kalamazoo, has been running in a combination of compression shorts and a loincloth for some time.  This idea fascinated me, but I haven't had an opportunity to make one.  Then I stumbled upon the Sport Kilt.

Sport Kilt is a US-based company that sells kilts for casual wear.  I contacted them about a week ago to inquire about the "hiking kilt" model, which is designed for hikers and runners.  They graciously sent me a model to test.  This is the model I am testing.

I received the kilt on Friday.  It did not arrive in time for my run Friday morning, so I would have to wait until today (Sunday) to test it while running.  In the interim, I wore it extensively around the house.  After wearing it for only a few minutes, I found it difficult to remove... it was that comfortable.  The tricky part... preventing the accidental flash.  I quickly developed a new-found respect for women wearing skirts and dresses.

The kilt itself is made from a fairly lightweight microfiber material.  It is a single piece of fabric that is wrapped around your waist and closed with a Velcro strip along the top edge.  The front of the kilt overlaps itself about 12-14" in the front.  The kilt has a relatively large pocket in the front.

Testing Conditions

The kilt would be tested in some extreme conditions.  Today's run was about 8 miles of trails.  The purpose of the run was to hone trailcraft skills and do some heat acclimation training.  The temperature was about 80° with 75% humidity.  I was wearing a winter compression shirt under a bright orange hooded sweatshirt.  Aesthetically, the combo of the oversized sweatshirt and red kilt was quite a sight.  This run would test the kilt in an extremely sweaty environment.  Prior to the run, I weighed 180 pounds.  After eight miles and consuming 5.7 pounds of water, I weighed 175.5 pounds.  Needless to say, I sweat A LOT.

Since most will ask- I was wearing the kilt in traditional fashion... commando.  More on that later.

The first mile felt good.  The airy feeling of the kilt was great!  I was surprised that running was as comfortable as it was.  Bouncing, my biggest fear, was a non-issue.  I think form has a lot to do with this as my gait has very little vertical movement. 

Immediately after the first mile, Shelly and I ran some stairs for a little hill work.  Again, the kilt felt great.  The freedom of movement was noticeable.  The absence of fabric rubbing between my thighs was much better than I expected. 

At this point in the run, I was feeling pretty spent due to the heat.  The kilt was completely soaked mostly due to the drenched sweatshirt and wicking action.  Even though it was very wet, the kilt still performed as it had at the beginning of the run.

The rest of the run was uneventful.  I eventually pulled out of the early funk.  I continued to sweat like a geyser, so the kilt stayed drenched for the duration of the run. 

We finished the run and I changed into shorts to test how long it would take for the kilt to dry.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was mostly dry after our 30 minute ride home.  Under normal conditions (i.e. non-heat acclimation training), the kilt would remain fairly dry.

The Good

The design is superb, the fit is excellent, and the material has pretty good moisture-wicking capabilities.  The quality is excellent.  Aesthetically, it looks very good.  

The elimination of the material between my thighs felt better than expected.  Inner-thigh chafing is a chronic problem using my normal combination of compression and running shorts.  I did not experience any upper thigh chafing with the kilt.

This is the type of garment that will likely revolutionize my running.  It will be difficult to go back to any of the running shorts I have used in the past simply because the kilt feels so much better.  

The Bad

The kilt is a bit on the heavy side (12 ounces).  I would have preferred something a little lighter.  While it did not feel "heavy", the weight was more noticeable when soaked with sweat.

My particular model does not have the optional pockets sewn in; this would be a wise investment if you purchase your own.  They would be perfect for stashing an extra Gu or similar running gear.

My biggest complaint is chafing.  The combination of sweat-soaked material and lack of compression shorts resulted in some... well... chafing on the tool.  Yeah, penis chafe.  It wasn't severe, but I did notice it when showering after the run.  Had I run a longer distance, this could be a major issue.  Compression shorts would eliminate the problem, but I think the kilt works better sans shorts.  Next time, I will try SportSlick... it is my go-to anti-chafing product.  


I would highly recommend the Sport Kilt Hiking Kilt to runners.  It lived up to and exceeded my expectations.  The Hiking Kilt is a superior product that will change your running experience.  I will definitely be wearing this for future training runs and races, including Burning River in two weeks.  I will continue to post comments about the kilt as I do more experimentation.

The Sport Kilts can be purchased here:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Weight Training for Runners... The Best Crosstraining Possible?

I've received a few emails from people inquiring about my low mileage training for ultramarathons.  If you take weekly mileage alone, my training appears to be inadequate at best; downright stupid at worst.

If this were my lone ultra training, it would be stupid.  I sincerely doubt I would be able to finish even a 50 miler with my running volume.  Life circumstances (i.e. kids) limit my training time.  My secret to maximizing the mileage I can get: high intensity interval training (HIIT)

The premise is simple- do a relatively short workout (usually less than 30 minutes) at a very high intensity utilizing exercises that mimic the demands of very long distance running.  The exercises themselves use minimal equipment, body weight, and balance.  Repeating this type of workout two to four times per week is the perfect compliment to hill work and long runs.

Since beginning this style of workout, I've found I can run longer with less pain and fatigue.  When I finish, my recovery time is shorter.  It has also helped me with hill running and transitioning between running and walking late in races.  For trail running, the balance and coordination aspect of the specific exercises has aided my trail running skills.

So how does one go about starting a high intensity interval training program?  If you've followed my blog for some time, you know I am a huge proponent of Crossfit.  While there are many excellent Crossfit gyms (like Crossfit Grand Rapids, the host of my current schedule of barefoot workshops) around the country and world, it is entirely possible to learn and follow the program for free from their main website.  

As an alternative to Crossfit, there are many great websites that utilize this type of program.  One such site, Kemme Fitness, is being created by my good friend and part-time workout partner Pete Kemme (he's also an artist).  Kemme's workouts are legendary for their creativity and intensity.  There aren't many workouts that can use your own body weight to reduce you to a quivering, blubbering mass of humanity curled in the fetal position in a pool of your own sweat and saliva.  Kemme's oddly addicting workouts can achieve that crosstraining Nirvana.  It's awesome!

There are other methods of crosstraining.  Some swear by biking.  Swimming is popular.  Others use yoga or martial arts.  For sheer effectiveness when running ultras, I'll stick to my HIIT workouts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bad Run... Was it Inadequate Recovery, The Paleo Diet, or Heat/ Dehydration?

I went for a 9-plus mile run this morning with Jesse Scott (who's new blog includes his tear-inducing inspirational story about his journey to becoming a runner... check it out and become a follower of his!).  The run was supposed to be my last fast trail run before Burning River.  My goal was to run at a sub-8:00 minute pace and hope to break 7:30.  We ended up with an 8:11 pace.  

The first two miles felt great!  According to the Garmin, we were routinely breaking 7:00s.  At about the three mile mark, I started feeling some fatigue.  We stopped at about mile five before beginning our second loop.  I was more tired than I should have been at that point.  Still, we proceeded to the second loop.

By mile eight, I was spent.  Our pace had slowed to about 9:30 or so as I fought to maintain some momentum.  At mile nine, I had to stop and walk a few hundred yards.  I felt worse than I do after 30 mile runs.  I had little energy to continue running.  Per my request, we skipped a small loop that would have brought our mileage to ten.  We eventually started running and finished the last quarter mile.  

I am always concerned when runs go bad.  I will analyze all the variables in an attempt to ascertain the cause.  This particular run had a few possible culprits, including:
  • Inadequate rest from the 68 miler we ran last Friday.  One week probably is not enough time to recover from a run of that distance.
  • Adjusting to the paleo diet.  I recently began experimenting with a paleo diet to see what effect it would have on my running.  The diet really didn't change much other than cutting out grain-based products and processed sugary snacks.  The result has been a decrease in carbohydrate consumption due to the sheer volume of fruits and veggies I have to consume.  This decrease in carbs surely played a role in my fatigue.
  • Heat and slight dehydration.  The temps were approaching 82° with pretty high humidity.  This normally wouldn't be an issue, but I was slightly dehydrated from the previous day.  
Any one of these factors could be the primary cause.  In all likelihood, each played at least some role.  Lesson to be learned... don't mess with more than one variable at a time.  If something goes wrong, it will be difficult to correct.

In unrelated news, my Sport Kilt arrived today.  I've been lounging around the house for a few hours... it's quite liberating!  I'm psyched to actually try it on a run... perhaps tomorrow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Burning River Preparations... an analysis of my training mileage

Preparing for Burning River has been going well.  I finished my last long run yesterday, a 68 mile adventure with Jesse Scott and Mark Robillard.  That singular run was Mark and Jesse's longest run ever, and my second longest run.

This is my long run mileage since April when i began training for Burning River:
  • April: back-to-back long runs of 21 and 24 miles
  • May: 54 miles (Mind the Ducks 12 hour ultra)
  • June: long runs of 30, 23, and 35 miles
  • July: long runs of 36 and 68 miles

This is my total mileage:
  • April: 112 miles
  • May: 119 miles
  • June: 116 miles
  • July: 95 miles through July 10th

As you can see from the mileage, it is relatively low.   I average only about 35 miles per week with 2/3 of the mileage coming from long runs.  Will this be enough?  I think so.  In the 68 mile run yesterday, we managed to maintain about a 10:00 average pace.  We were able to run for the first 52, then use a 10/2 minute run/walk ratio for the remaining 16.  Additionally, I feel very good today.  

I will add two weeks of hill training, night trail running, and cross training to refine some skills.  I will also add some very short runs on rough surfaces to help prepare my feet for the 100+ barefoot miles at Burning River.  I plan on taking the entire last week off.  Now I just need to plan the Burning River race strategy...

Ultra vets- what does your race preparation look like?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Slosh Tube Burpees and Slosh Tube Spins

For those that like challenging cross training, may I suggest these two exercises using one of my favorite pieces of equipment:

[edit] The slosh tube is an 8-9 foot piece of PVC pipe half-filled with water and capped at each end.  It weighs about 30-31 pounds.  This particular tube is 3" diameter to grip easier.  Four inch can also be used.  It is important that it is only filled half way as the water must be able to shift to the lower end, which creates the imbalance.  It has been compared to wrestling a python.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Minimalist Movement: Simplifying Your Life Beyond Losing Your Shoes

I Stumbled Upon this minimalist blog earlier today and thought the idea was worth sharing:

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.
List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.
Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

I became interested in the minimalist living movement after watching our kids' behaviors.  They have a ton of toys; most of which they never play with.  That, coupled with the copious amount of clutter we've accumulated over the years, drove me to question our lifestyle.

Like most Americans, we work to make money to to buy stuff.  We're good consumers.  We've been conditioned to associate positive feeling with purchasing new stuff.  Even though we're acutely aware of the concept, we still get excited at the prospect of buying a new "toy."

There's more back-story, but we've essentially decided to simplify.  The quest to be more minimal is one reason; the looming task of packing to move in the future is another.  Regardless, I am going to begin a quest to minimize our lives.  I am going to follow the plan outlined above.

Step one (in progress): stop buying unnecessary things.  We've actually been pretty good with this one.  We've been working on paying off our accumulated debt (Dave Ramsey plan... good stuff.)  Part of that has been a conscious attempt at limiting spending, especially on unnecessary crap.

Step two (in progress): Toss half of my stuff.  Over the last few weeks, we've begun throwing out or donating some of our unused possessions.  We started with clothing and kids' toys.  Next will be our own possessions.  I have a lot of garbage.

Step three (in progress): List four essential things in your life.  This may take some time, but the plan is to list these four things and systematically eliminate everything else.  Among the things that will go: cable. 

The remainder will be an extension of the first three steps.  I'll document each part of this journey here.  

To my readers- how many of you have made a conscious effort to simplify your lives?  What steps have you taken?  How would you describe the journey?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Win a copy of "Run Like a Mother"... one of the best running books available!

About a week ago, I reviewed the book Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.  I recommended anyone and everyone purchase the book, as it has a much wider appeal than the obvious "mother" demographic.

After posting the review, Sarah graciously agreed to give away a copy of the book to one loyal fan!  There are two steps to the contest:

1. Become a friend of this blog using Google Friend Connect located in the right column.  Simply click on the "Follow' button.  See picture below:

2. Become a fan of "Run Like A Mother" on Facebook.  Go to this page:!/pages/Run-Like-a-Mother-The-Book/317268647037?v=wall&ref=ts.  Click the "Like" button at the top of the page.  See picture below:

You have until 11:59pm on Friday, July 9th to enter.  On Saturday, July 10th, I will randomly choose one follower from this blog, then cross-reference it with the "Run like a Mother" fans.  Good luck!

While you're in the "liking" mood, feel free to also "Like" The Barefoot Running Book page, the Barefoot Running University page, and the Barefoot Runners Society page! :-)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Barefoot Running on Crushed Limestone

There are many surfaces runners traverse while pursuing their adventures.  To the shod runner, most surfaces are "runnable."  There's little difference between asphalt, dirt trails, gravel, or crushed limestone.   The barefoot runner has an decidedly different experience. 

Many surfaces present unique challenges.  Here are a few:

  • Asphalt: This surface can be abrasive if form is poor, blisters are common.  It can also get hot if exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Gravel: The size and frequency of larger rocks can dramatically influence the gravel experience.  If the density of large rocks is low enough to allow the barefoot runner to place their steps around the obstacles, gravel can be a fun approximation of technical trail running.  If the rocks are unavoidable, gravel can be nearly impossible to run barefoot.  
  • Dirt trails: My utopia.  Aside from the potential dangers of easily-avoidable rocks, sticks, root, acorns, or other trail debris, dirt trails are pure joy for the barefoot runner.
  • Sand: Sand is an interesting surface.  It is soft and forgiving, but also has the potential to hide bad form.  If running many miles on sand, it can become somewhat abrasive.
And the there's crushed limestone.  For those unfamiliar with this popular public trail surface, crushed limestone consists of various sizes of rocks ranging from fine dust to dime-size pebbles.  Most trails have a combination of sizes.  The pebbles are problematic because they are irregular in shape, multi-faceted, and contain sharp edges and points.
This past Thursday, I attempted to do a long run on a crushed limestone trail.  I made it 16 miles before using my huaraches.  This particular trail had a wide variety of pebbles.  

Some parts of the trail contained mostly hard-packed dust with an occasional pebble.  This surface was very runnable as it was exceedingly easy to avoid the larger pebbles.

Other parts of the trail contained a high density of larger pebbles.  This is also runnable as the points and sharp edges create a "bed of nails" effect.  The cumulative surface area of the potentially-painful pebbles does not allow a single point to poke your foot.  The result is a pleasant massaging effect.

An example of a high-density "runnable" trail

The majority of the trail contained a lower density of large pebbles, but not enough to allow you to avoid them.  The result- I would step on four of five sharp rocks with each step.  A singular sharp point is an easy adjustment... you shift your weight and relax your foot.  Several points are much more difficult.  It requires a light step to minimize the poking.

The experience of the 16 barefoot miles was analogous to a tattoo.  In the beginning, there was some pain.  The slight discomfort was enjoyable as it awoke my senses.  Yes, it is slightly masochistic. 

After a few miles, the pain subsided as my feet adapted to the experience.  It was if my body shifted into cruise-control.  Even the difficult areas were handled with ease.

Until about mile 12, the rough patches were equally distributed with the easy patches.  Once I passed that 12 mile point, the trail turned consistently difficult.  At first, it was annoying.  At about mile 14, I recognized the "annoying" feeling was actually mild pain.

By mile 15, the pain was disrupting my gait as I tried to adjust to minimize the discomfort.  I immediately noticed a quickly-developing pain in both knees from the altered gait.  At this point, all my attention was focused on form... which is a bad place to be.

By mile 16, I threw in the towel.  We were still a mile away from the "quarter of the way" point if we went the full distance (we didn't, we stopped at mile 36.)  It was at that point I went to the huaraches.  

The rest of the run went well, though we did encounter many sections that would have been runnable barefoot.  Needless to say, I was tempted to ditch the huaraches.  For the sake of my running partners, I left them on.

The lesson learned- crushed limestone will take more adaptation than what I currently possess.  That entire trail could be runnable barefoot, but I am not ready.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Long Run Pics

Preparing the gear for the unsuppported run.

Taking a water break.  Pictured from left to right: Mark Robillard, James Webber, Jesse Scott, and Jeremiah Cataldo.

Jesse's open wound from his Camel Bak

Jesse's bloody nose.

Mark, Jeremiah, and Jesse running into the sunset.

At the half-way point...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Very long training runs... a chance to experiment and test gear

I'm about three hours from embarking on what may be the second longest run of my life.  Mark Robillard, Jesse Scott, Jeremiah Cataldo, and I are planning on running the length of the Kal-Haven trail in Southwest Michigan.  If everything goes according to plan, the run should be about 67-68 miles.  It's a run that defies conventional wisdom... but is should be a fun adventure.

 This long run will give me the opportunity to test some ideas I've been playing with in preparation for Burning River at the end of this month.  I'll be testing the feasibility of carrying two handheld water bottles instead of a waist back or hydration pack.  The probable heat of Burning River will necessitate more than a single handheld.

I will also test the fitness of my feet.  This entire trail is crushed limestone.  If my bare feet can survive this challenge, the varied terrain at Burning River should be easy.  As a precaution for this run, I will be carrying my huaraches.

Lastly, I will be testing fuel.  I have been toying with a mostly-vegan diet.  I made a few faux chicken, black bean, chia, and avocado wraps.  They should provide a palatable energy source for the later stages of this run.

I've spent a good deal of time reading information on the Crossfit Endurance (CFE) philosophy.  The idea is simple- long, slow runs are more or less useless in regards to fitness.  As such, the longest prescribed run in the CFE program is 13.1 miles.  I religiously followed the plan in 2008, which resulted in a DNF at Burning River that same year.  

I mostly agree with the idea that long, slow runs are terrible in regards to developing general fitness.  A high weekly mileage is not necessary and will unnecessarily increase the risk of injury.  A well-planned weight training routine based on high intensity interval training, high quality speed work, and ample rest and recovery time will result in the best possible fitness.

HOWEVER, the long, slow run does have value.  First, it develops physiological adaptations that simply are not possible on shorter runs.  Every physiological process in the body will undergo extreme stress in any run over the marathon distance, and this stress increases dramatically as you approach and exceed the 100 mile mark. 

Second, running very long distances involves incredible peaks and valleys of a variety of things... moods, motivation, fatigue, sleepiness, pain, etc.  Short runs cannot emulate this experience.  Learning to predict, interpret, react to, and survive these peaks and valleys is critical.

Third, having traversed a given mileage threshold brings immediate confidence at that distance.  This rule holds true for any distance, but long ultras bring an aura of impossibility.  Until you conquer a given distance, the unknown element can be a major regulator on performance.

Based on this premise, how should one train?  We're all individuals, so it is up to each of us to experiment and find our own ideal routines.  For me, short, intense weight training mixed with two or three weekly runs will get me to the finish line.  

Today's run is a major test.  It will give me an opportunity to assess my readiness for Burning River.  The length of this run may defy conventional wisdom, but it will also give me a major confidence boost.  Of course, that assumes we finish.  :-)