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October 25, 2009

The Barefoot Files: Training Update #6

“Listen to the talking heart in my chest –

With this gift good Lord I am blessed –
There’s a lump and it’s in my throat –
I’m in love with the wilderness.”
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Naked in the Rain” (song after post)

In my last report, I indicated that I wasn’t sure where the end point of these training updates lay; this week, I think I’ve reached it.

That’s not to say that my transformation to a barefoot runner is complete, or that there aren’t a lot of new challenges to conquer - it’s just that the practice of logging and reporting every run has become a bit tedious, as I’ll explain more in a minute. But first, let’s put the numbers up here, if just for old times’ sake:

Week 12: 4 barefoot runs
- 20 min (after shod run)
- 45 min
- 70 min
- 35 min

Week 13: 4 barefoot runs
- 50 min (with 30:24 5K)
- 20 min (after shod run)
- 20 min (after shod run)
- 35 min

If each week reads generally like the week before, that’s the way it feels from my standpoint as well. On some days I jog out a mile or two after a longer shod workout, and other days I’ll devote a larger chunk of time to spend entirely without shoes. I feel like I’ve settled into a pretty good groove, where running barefoot is just another facet of my overall training.

Even my family is getting accustomed to the routine. Remember this picture that I took after a neighborhood 3-miler a few weeks ago? Well, now when I come home from a weekend run, my youngest daughter usually meets me on the steps to watch me take my foot picture. Of course, she likes to include herself in the game, too …

… so we’ve got a lot of pictures like this at home.

As mentioned previously, there are still a lot of new horizons for me to explore on this barefoot adventure, and I’m going to continue to do so. I want to get more resilient on dirt and trail surfaces, I’d like to stretch out my barefoot runs to ever longer distances, and I’m itching to develop some speed (see my 5K time above - tantalizingly close to sub-30. Whoo-hoo!). I’ll still report on those developments, as well as particularly memorable runs like my morning on the Embarcadero as the weeks and months roll by.

On that note, a couple of stories stand out from the last couple of weeks:

I’ve mentioned more than once that dirt running is going to be my final frontier as a barefooter; the sharp, irregular terrain is absolutely merciless on my naked feet – which, perversely, makes me all the more intrigued to conquer the challenge.

I started thinking about what kinds of trails would be best for easing myself into things: Someplace flat. Someplace with relatively soft soil. Someplace where the dirt is groomed on a frequent basis. Someplace with a scenic backdrop to help me pass the time.

Someplace, in other words, like a big open agricultural field – which the Salinas Valley just happens to be famous for.

I’ve written before about running and riding through these fields, and I find myself drawn to them ever more frequently over the past several weeks. It’s really a topic that deserves its own post, which I’ll put together in the near future.

The other noteworthy run happened at the end of my weekly 12-mile trail run early one Tuesday morning. All of the weather forecasts form the evening before warned about a fierce winter storm rolling into our area during the night, so when I lumbered out of bed at 4:45 to the sound of only mild rainfall, I considered myself a bit lucky, and headed out to join the regular group run.

Our collective luck held out through about 90 minutes of the run, as the storm never escalated beyond light sprinkling with heavy wind. The skies began to open up about 10 minutes away from our destination, and by the time we finished, the heavy stuff was just beginning to come down.

After reaching my car, the thought occurred to me: When was the last time you ran barefoot in the rain? And since I couldn’t even think of such an occasion, I decided to make one right then.

I kept my running clothes on, stripped off my shoes and socks, and spent the next 20 minutes dancing around in what was now a legitimate full-throttle storm. As the wind howled, and the rain pelted my face, and my feet felt the chill of cool water, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to be doing.

It was crazy and primal and juvenile – but it was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. Good Lord, I am blessed.

Postscript: If I ever had to create a "desert island" collection of my five most enjoyable, most enduringly listenable albums of all time, RHCP's Blood Sugar Sex Magik would have a secure place on that list. It was arguably the band's high-water mark, and although this song wasn't a hit single (and never had an official music video), it stands out as one of the best funky jams ever made by a band famous for its vast repertoire of jam funkiness.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Naked in the Rain” (click to play):

*See previous training updates on sidebar at right.


Gretchen 10/26/09, 8:08 AM  

And that, Donald, is exactly what I appreciate about your barefoot running. Things like dancing naked in the rain. Absolutely beautiful.

shel 10/26/09, 12:04 PM  

donald, i had the same breakthrough a while back, when it no longer felt right to do the constant BF updates. it just is what it is... just a part of your running. you run trails, you run roads, you do speed work and long runs. somedays you wear shoes, and somedays you don't.
your rain experience sounds lovely. oh,and - nice arches!

Formulaic 10/27/09, 11:28 AM  

Barefoot running sounds great!

Keep up the RR, Love it!

Darrell 11/4/09, 8:24 PM  

"It was crazy and primal and juvenile" That's exactly how I felt the one time I tried barefooting this past summer on the early morning dewy grass in Bonelli. Why I haven't done it since I don't really know.

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