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September 23, 2009

The Barefoot Files: Training Update #4

"Let it flow, let yourself go -

Slow and low, that is the tempo."
- Beastie Boys, "Slow and Low" (video after post)

**
An old-school shout out seems appropriate for the current barefoot report, which features low mileage and very slow speeds. This two-week period was also a classic “one step back, two steps forward” phase for me. The steps back were partially logistical, and partly stupidical (yes, I just made that word up – but trust me, it fits), while the steps forward moved me into some uncharted waters as far as time and distance are concerned.

And I’m happy to say that after nine weeks of dedicated training, I’ve finally progressed beyond the level of a 7-year old; more on that later. For now, let’s get to the numbers. Also, if you missed them …

Update #1 is here

Update #2 is here.

Update #3 is here.

These updates probably deserve their own sidebar by now – I’ll add that to my list of things to do this month.

Week 8: 2 barefoot runs, 1 minimal footwear run

Barefoot:
  • 24 min on asphalt
  • 20 min on top of Half Dome

Minimal footwear:

  • 45 min w/ Feelmax Osma

This was the week of my planned Half Dome run, so I knew going in that most of my miles would be done in shoes, and the barefoot thing would have to take a backseat for a while – that’s the logistical part.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the barefoot bug out of my system, so on the Monday holiday, after doing some yardwork and going for a short bike ride with my son, I ditched my shoes and headed out for a late-afternoon run on my neighborhood streets.

More specifically, it was late afternoon on a hot summer day - when it was over 90 degrees outside, and the asphalt had been simmering in the sun for several hours prior to my arrival. Needless to say, this wasn’t the wisest choice I’ve ever made.

Not quite like Badwater, but far too hot for my tender soles

The strange part was, for the first few minutes, the discomfort on the bottom of my feet didn’t feel remarkably different than it normally does when I’m dealing with the rough asphalt of my neighborhood streets. After about 10 minutes, however, the situation became clear: the asphalt was giving me heat blisters on the underside of my feet, and I needed to shut the workout down. Trouble was, I had headed out in a direct beeline from my house – so there weren’t any shortcuts home aside from retracing my steps. By the time I returned, I had some decent sized blisters on my big toes and across the soles of my feet, with only days before I was scheduled to head off to Yosemite. Does my stupidical word make sense now?

(And don’t worry, I won’t post any closeup blister pictures here - but feel free to enlarge the final photo if you're in the mood for something a little bit graphic.)

The next morning, I jogged around in regular shoes (well, not exactly regular: the Newton Gravity, which I’ll review next week) for a while, and used my Feelmax shoes the day after that, and by the time we started our 18-mile adventure up and down Half Dome, I was pretty much recovered – in fact, I was able to kick my shoes off on top of the rock and jog around up there for a good 20 minutes or so.

Barefoot and happy on top of the world

Seriously – if there’s any cooler feeling than bouncing around barefoot on top of one of the most beautiful, distinctive mountains in the world, on the most perfect kind of day imaginable, I’d love to know about it. Because I’m still wondering how I’ll ever top that particular experience.


Week 9: 3 barefoot runs, 2 minimal footwear runs

Barefoot:
  • 34 minutes, 50 seconds on asphalt
  • 25 minutes on asphalt
  • 35 minutes on mixed asphalt/grass/dirt
Minimal footwear:
  • 45 min w/ Feelmax Osma
  • 90 min w/ Vibram FiveFingers

A brief note about the FiveFingers: this was my longest trail run to date in them, and at the time, I felt like I could have kept right on going … but afterwards, I was much more sore than usual after a typical 90-minute trail run. I love wearing them so much that I’m probably pushing beyond the recommended buildup period for your body to get accustomed to the changes, but I don’t really care. Call me impetuous.

As for the barefoot exploits: after a couple of days recovering from the Half Dome run, I climbed back on the horse in pretty good style. This week marked a key transition point, in that my barefoot runs have become long enough in duration to stand alone, as opposed to tagging a few extra minutes onto the end of shod workouts. It’s a good news/bad news situation: it’s great to know that my asphalt tolerance is in the 30-45 minute range, but I’m still moving at such a snail’s pace that I’m uncertain whether I’m getting any cardiovascular benefit or caloric burn from these outings. And since they’re now taking the place of my regular runs, my overall weekly mileage is trending steadily downward.

(Translation: I’m getting fat and slow. Thank goodness it’s the off-season.)

Here’s a good example of what I mean: notice that one of the entries above doesn’t say “35 minutes”, but rather “34 minutes, 50 seconds” – that’s because I decided to actually time myself on a measured course to get a realistic assessment of how quickly I could move with an honest effort.

After my first asphalt 5K: the white spots don't hurt nearly as bad as they look.

I chose a completely flat 5K course that I ran more than three years ago with my son, who was 7 at the time. When he and I did the race together, he was still in the porta-potty at the starting gun, took several walking breaks, and was trading places with a potential Biggest Loser contestant in the final mile … and he completed the course in 37 minutes. Alongside him, it barely felt like exercise to me; I think I wore a warmup jacket for the entire race.

So obviously, it was unfathomable to imagine that I would ever clock a similar time while racing on my own someday – but that’s almost precisely what happened when I tried the course barefoot. Fortunately, my clock time put me just a shade of my son’s age 7 posting … and the terrible part is, I had an actual sense of accomplishment about it afterwards.

I mentioned last time how frustrating the idea of running slowly was, but I feel like I’m finally starting to have some acceptance of that fact, at least for the time being. Slow and low's going to be my theme song for a while - and rather than drive myself crazy with frustration, I might as well just accept it. Perhaps that’s the most noticeable change this barefoot experiment has affected thus far: it’s changed my expectations so completely that I’m gloating over running faster than a 7-year-old.

Whether that represents progress is a little difficult to say.

**
This song is too old for a video, so you're just stuck with the iconic Licensed to Ill album cover while tripping down rap's memory lane. Quick question about the Beastie Boys: If someone had told you in 1986 that a group of three white Jewish boys would have a 25-year, multi-platinum career in the rap music industry, would you have believed him? Me neither - but I'm sure glad they did.

Beastie Boys, "Slow and Low" (click to play):

2 comments:

Hank 9/25/09, 8:48 PM  

Whoa! I've had a nasty blister or two but my feet have never looked like that. I have to admit that they have felt like yours look.

Rather than spend the bucks on Vibrams, I'm going to try the Huarache sandals with the Vibram soles. Ought to be fun.

Paul 4/26/11, 7:58 AM  

Ive been doing most of my barefoot runs with my kids, youngest is 7 years old, so the pace is all good, the distance too, and we all get to do something together. cant beat that for a trifecta.

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