I’ve Got A New Attitude!

*blows dust off blog*

My, have I neglected this endeavor! But I am back with a new found sense of determination because I signed myself up for the See Jane Run half-marathon in July. I didn’t consider myself ready for a race that length but a friend of mine planted the seed. She asked if I wanted to do the Kirkland half-marathon with her. Knowing my IT band issues I was concerned starting to train the end of February wouldn’t be a sufficient amount of time to prepare for the run in May. Even though I had to decline, it started to get me thinking about why I hadn’t completed a half-marathon. The number one reason: my IT band. I have been able to keep it from flaring up but my mileage has been reduced plus stretching and using the minimalist shoes has helped in a big way.  I wanted to give myself ample time to train because I need to increase mileage very slowly since increasing too quickly got me into the predicament I’m in now. I started training 15 weeks before the half-marathon date. In my half-marathon training research it seems that many, if not all, say 10 weeks is the right amount of training time. I’m giving myself those 5 extra weeks to ease my body into running longer. I can’t stress how careful I need to be. I’m going to take extra care into listening to my body and taking rest days despite being an exercise fiend that wants to work out everyday. I can’t afford to overdo it and end up causing even more damage.

A Bump In The Road

Ah! I’ve been absent from this blog for too long. I took a bit of a hiatus from my Five Fingers which explains the lack of updates since, wow, July. The last time I wore them I did intervals on an elliptical. I still love using them for that particular activity but running in them, the sole purpose of this blog, continues to evade me.

The last time I used them in an attempt to run I ran a mile and it took me a little over thirteen minutes. I did my best to be patient and not rush anything and make sure my foot strikes were even yet quick. Once I reached the mile mark my focus wavered and I called it a day. Sure, I’ve had thoughts about doing that run again but when I am running considerably pain free with my usual mileage in my New Balance Minimus, is it difficult to try revert back to a slow, very slow, mile.

I have scolded myself, even just today, for becoming lax and not pursing this goal with the vengeance I once had but then when I first purchased the Five Fingers I had no other alternatives besides just not running which was never an option. After the Minimus came into my life I was essentially “cured”. I can run now, just fine, so why try to finish this almost impossible goal? This is the dilemma I face now.

This morning at the gym the fellow next to me had on a pair of Five Fingers and was running away. I was going to stop him to inquire about how long it took his body to adapt to barefoot running but then I saw the speed on the treadmill and it was at 5.9, the same pace I had been doing. He also had to stop a few times and all I could think of was, “I know what you are going through, buddy”.

One Step At A Time

I tend to have sporadic runs in my Vibrams. I have yet to run regularly in those shoes. My New Balance Minimus have taken over but from time to time I attempt to run “barefoot”. It is not easy. It is uncomfortable and I run slower than I ever have, even when I first started running. To run 1 mile it took me close to fourteen minutes. Argh! So slow, almost a shuffle. I felt ridiculous for “running” at a snails pace and I wanted to stop badly but I kept plodding along determined to finish a mile although I barely broke a sweat nor did I even really feel my heart rate increase. That was about a month ago. I decided to give it another go a few days ago and it was wholly different in ways but stayed the same in others. The same because I still ran very very slowly. I am practicing patience and in order to get my body prepared for long term barefoot running I need to gradually work towards more miles and a faster pace. What was different was no pain. Absolutely none of the discomfort that I had previously experienced. Why? I’m inclined to believe it was because I stumbled upon a site (which I will go into further detail about in the next paragraph) that noted in barefoot running one must understand your cadence will change and in order to get in balance you must have a faster turnover. I took that advice. As I ran at a slow pace I increased my turnover and was able to run 2 miles with no pain. It took me a whopping 27 minutes to complete the run but no pain! No stinking pain! A small success that increased my confidence and now I’m excited about doing more running in my Vibrams.

I found a new site that chronicles a man who is an accomplished barefoot runner. Come to find out he is a Seattlelite too! I introduce you to Barefoot Ted’s Adventures. Not only is Barefoot Ted an active barefoot runner, he offers coaching to those that desire to get running sans footwear. Since he is in Seattle I’ve considered taking classes. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone critique my form and help me improve. I found the site to be wildly informative and inspirational. At times I found myself in disbelief at his strength and stamina to run an ultra in sandals. Although I am behind this movement sometimes I shake my head and think maybe people who are dedicated to this ideal are plain nuts. Funny how I weave between believer and skeptic but, in all honesty, my faith has grown that running barefoot or in minimalist footwear is beneficial and necessary.

In September the second annual Barefoot Run will be held in New York City. Wish I could be there!

Once A Cheater…

My Five Fingers just aren’t giving me what I need when it comes to running. Instead of sitting them down and explaining maybe we should just be friends, I cheated with a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Five Fingers and I have a great relationship. I wear them to the gym, did a boot camp-esque workout in them, even did Zumba. I answer questions from strangers about those funky looking things and rave about how comfortable my feet feel. Things are going great but still, when it comes to running, I am not fulfilled. Needless to say my patience had dried. I just wanted to run, man! I did not want relearn what has taken years to build up. Fed up and without any real idea what to do, I went back to the shoe store and looked at the wall of minimalist shoes. Nikes, Brooks, New Balance. I tried on a pair of Nikes but they had much more cushion that I would have expected for so-called minimalist footwear. Other models I passed due to unappealing color schemes and designs. Sure, I need to find the best shoe for my foot but looks matter. The only exception to that rule are the Five Fingers. I try on a pair of the New Balance Minimus and they fit great. Even with my wide foot I didn’t feel any tightness or pinching. No cushioning to speak of. Practically no lift and it is even from the toe to the heel. They look cool. Almost like a shoe from the 70’s. I run on the treadmill with them, like the way they feel, and the rest is history.

Running has become natural again. Yes, the leg pain is still present but manageable when I run in the Minimus. Some days I do have to stop during a run and walk off the pain for a minute or so but as I continue to run in those shoes moments like that have lessened.

My running distance and time is still minimal. I run 30 minutes three to four times a week. Last week I ran 4 miles in 32 minutes with hardly any discomfort which had me smiling from ear to ear all day. I felt back in the game. Aside from that day I do keep a very strict 30 minute rule because I am concerned that pushing too much will aggravate my injury further and send me right back to where I was. I mean, doing too much got me in this situation anyway so I am adamant about slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, increasing time and miles.

I signed up for the Warrior Dash a few months ago and it will take place in July. This will be my first organized run in quite some time. I feel confident I will be ready for it as long as I keep my running in check. Can’t wait to run in mud and jump over fire. I like getting dirty.

Vacationing in Disillusionment

The leg pain has not disappeared, only lessened. It still rears its ugly head when I run but now sometimes when I walk and even while on the elliptical. The worst pain presents itself after a bought of physical activity. I have to limp around for a couple of hours once I’m done. To combat the issue sometimes I am adamant about stretching other times I take the Sock Doc’s advice and don’t stretch and use the foam roller which is torture all by itself. Stretching rather than not stretching has proven to be beneficial. I can not make a clear decision as to whether the foam roller is helping. It still hurts a lot to use it and I wonder if my muscles and tendons are so tight that it won’t be efficient.

Any runs I do, which isn’t many, I do on the treadmill. I do not like running on the treadmill but I do it because I need a flat surface and the belt is a little more forgiving than concrete. I keep my runs to 30 minutes and I still use my regular running shoes. I end up running faster than normal because that pace doesn’t make my leg hurt as much. I do end up taking 30 second walk breaks now and again but I usually can do over 3 miles in that time which is hopeful. I did try running outside to see how I would do. My leg hurt more during and after that run than my treadmill runs. To make matters worse the next day my leg still ached. I prescribed myself to treadmill runs only from then on in.

My Five Fingers and I have become bosom buddies but not in the way I intended. I use them to walk and at the gym while I am on the elliptical and lifting weights. My feet feel great and doing this whole “barefoot” thing is quite comfortable but when I try to run in those things I feel defeated. It HURTS when I run in them. I continue to run and it hurts more. Not only does my leg hurt more than it has, my toes ache, my shins burn, and my arches feel like they are going to rip apart. My stride shortened tremendously and I feel like I’m running as fast as I possibly can but I am running slower than ever. Despite all that, I managed to run 3 miles. What happened to putting on those shoes and running pain free and going further than I’ve ever had in my life? What happen to MY miracle story? Why wasn’t I warned that trying to rediscover my natural stride was going to kick my ass physically and emotionally? I was frustrated and deflated. I had invested so much in these Five Fingers thinking they would be my cure all but they have proven otherwise. Beaten and preparing to give up, I expressed my aggravation to my barefoot running enthusiast neighbor Bobby (who I have mentioned in my previous post) and he said he understood. He had the same discomfort but after being persistent and having infinite fucking patience, he was been able to run up to 9 miles in his Vibram shoes. He may not be fast but he has endurance. Hearing about another runner’s plight and eventual success made me feel a million times better. A couple of days later I got an e-mail from him about a post from Barefoot Running University on the taboo truths of barefoot running. I read it and felt so relieved I could cry. I’m not alone in struggling with this! Now I must work on being patient and keeping the idea alive that these Five Fingers will make running an enjoyable and pain free experience once again.

Injury: A Runner’s Manifesto

I run. I like to run. I take pleasure in sweating profusely, breathing heavily, and my heart pounding in my chest. I like the fact I can eat a little bit more and I can boast that I got up early that morning before work to get my run in. My second job is as a dog runner. Running was my thing. That is before I ended up with a dreaded runner’s injury. Every runner, regardless of miles run, find themselves suffering with an ailment. Whether it be foot pain, runner’s knee, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, a sore achilles tendon, and so on and so forth, it will hit and it can be debilitating and downright frustrating. I have the dreaded IT band syndrome. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs from the top of your hip to your knee. As you run the outside or back of the knee screams bloody murder. Sometimes the pain radiates up the side of the thigh and down the side of the calf leaving you to limp home (which happened to me!). My injury was because I ran too much, overuse. I continued running my base miles in the morning, ran three dogs each week, and trained for a 12K. Big mistake. All the while I thought I was increasing my miles each week at a safe number. No such luck.

Now I have to deal with this IT band issue. It hurts when I run…a lot. The pain has subsided since the initial blow but I can’t be carefree about it anymore. I have to warm up and stretch before the run then limp home and stretch more. Some days are better than others but for the most part I can’t run as fast or as long as I had before and it is aggravating to say the least. I’m not sure I can accurately articulate how not running is such a blow to my psyche and waistline.

So, what can being done to combat this condition? Most sources tell you to stretch, stretch, stretch, and ice, ice, ice. Stretching has proved somewhat helpful but I am too lazy to ice the prescribed six times a day I’m supposed to. I was whining to my neighbor Bobby about my inability to run without pain and he e-mailed me a video on the treatment and prevention of the IT band by the Sock Doc. The Sock Doc went against everything I had read or been told about treating IT band syndrome: no stretching, no icing, massage, massage, massage, and get a pair of minimalist running shoes. New running shoes? Maybe that would work. As I did as much research as I could on dealing with IT band issues I started to read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. The author was a man who ran three miles a days and one day his foot started to give him trouble and he got angry. The book was his research on why so many runners get injured and how ancient tribes like the Tarahuma Indians of Mexico and the Kalahari Bushman of Africa can run 60, 70, 80 miles barefoot and remain injury free. The book relays stories of recreational runners set back by pain and were healed once they started running barefoot or in minimalist shoes. Another source that advocates this form? Maybe there is some validity to it? I thought, why not try? I’m willing to do anything to run pain free again. I got myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers  which is as close you can get to running barefoot without actually running barefoot. I live in a city and I’m not willing to run sans protection on those streets. Not looking for hepatitis thank you very much.  I took my funny shoes home and hoped for the best.

This blog was created so I can retell my successes and mishaps while I transition to running in “barefoot” shoes. It has not been easy in the least. I’ve hit many roadblocks and my patience has not been in tact. I’m keeping the belief that since my great great great grandmother was full blooded Tarahuma that barefoot running will be a cinch. Only time will tell.