Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fear and Self Doubt.

The triathlon draws near!

Four weeks from tomorrow is my second triathlon. To the experienced triathletes out there, it is not a big deal. 400m swim, 23K bike ride, 5K run. The last two parts are no big deal to me. I think I could ride my bike for days as long as I have enough calories, I can complete a 5K easily, I've even done a half marathon (on trails no less). There is, however, still that swimming thing.

I've been trying to improve my swimming, but at my last swim session I timed myself swimming 400 yards, and it took longer than my 400 meter swim did last year. Worse than an undesirable time, though, is how hard it felt to swim that far. I am not a good swimmer, I had no expectation of going into the event as a competitive swimmer. I was hoping, however, that it wouldn't be so darn hard just to complete it.

So the confidence took a hit, in fact, during the swim, I was sorely tempted to stop. I found myself thinking, "This is too hard, I have no business doing triathlons, maybe I should look for bike/run duathlons instead."

Instead, I looked to one of my inspirational role models.
I finished the swim, and attempted to swallow the feelings of disappointment and discouragement. (I'm still working on it.)

The intimidated part of my mind starts this rant of, "I should have started training earlier, I should have been training harder, I should be biking more, I should be swimming more, I need a swim coach, I'm in over my head. . ."

For me, this whole triathlon thing is hard. Sometimes it feels too hard.

Then I remember that the reason I am doing it is because it is hard.

Sitting on the couch is easy, playing video games is easy, fast food is easy, forgetting about my passions and finding a 9-5 job would be easy.

I'm not a big fan of easy.

As tempting as easy is, as many times I have wished that I could settle for easy, I just can't. I set high standards for myself and strive to meet them, and I have no intention of changing that.

So yeah, this event is intimidating, yeah it is going to be hard. Swimming 400 meters is big challenge for me. Following that up by biking up that hill as part of the 23K bike ride and biking as fast as I can for the rest of the course, then running a 5K RACE with whatever I've got left and I have something that seems to LOOM over me.

Yeah, it's hard.

That's why I am doing it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Race Video!

My wonderful wife took two videos of my most recent 5K. This is the one in which I was really hoping for 19:59 or less and got 21:05 by my watch (official time not posted yet). The first video is at the start:
The second is on the way to the finish line:

From these videos I came to two conclusions:

1. My suspicion was correct, at least part of my coming up short was due to starting off faster than I should have. My goal time would have put me at a 6:25 pace. My first mile was in 6:18, which if I had maintained that throughout would have put me at 19:34 for the race, 25 seconds faster than what I was shooting for.

2. I'm pretty happy with my running form.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Life of a Bikila: Part Two

One year old Bikilas viewed from the top.
One year after my first race in Vibram Five Fingers, I ran in the same pair again today. They have over 1,000 miles on them and I've been running in them since April of 2011. These shoes have served me very well over the year. This will not be a technical review of the specifications of the shoe, there are thousands of those online, this is more of a description of how they have held up over time.

 Looking at the outside of the upper, I cannot really see much wear, they are not quite as white as they once were though.
On the inside there is some visible wear in the insole,  and a bit on the upper. The upper, however, is as soft on the skin as ever. I can feel a difference in the padding around the opening compared to my new Bikilas.

When I put on my new pair, I can definitely feel the cushioning. Although it is only 3mm of cushion, it is noticeable compared to the old ones in which the cushion has been heavily compressed by lots of footsteps.

The most visible wear, is of course, on the soles of the shoes. This picture shows where my initial footstrike is pretty clearly as the most worn spot is on the outside just behind the ball of the foot. The placement of the carbon rubber pod there is exactly on the right spot for my footstrike.

Paper thin rubber at the second toe.
The placement of wear on the toes surprised me a bit. I figured out, though with more recent measurements, that my foot got shorter as I ran more in minimal shoes. I also developed an arch, no more flat feet. So the wear is a little back from the end of the toe and a bit off center, that is actually where the pad of my toe lies in the shoe. I'd guess that if these were still a glovelike fit, the wear would be dead center on the rubber pod allowing more wear. (In the picture, the rubber at the  edge is nearly paper thin.)

View of the off-center wear on the toe. 

The sole could hold up to some more wear, however, after a year and a half, the footbed has taken some abuse. It is possible that some of the wear is due to me having a little extra room in the toes, but regardless the wear in the toe pockets is now leading to the occasional blister at the end of my toes. This has only occurred three times, twice on long runs, and today at the 5K race. Due to this, however, I feel it is time to retire this pair of shoes and move on to my new Bikila LS.

In short, this shoe has been durable, comfortable, and very well priced for the amount of time they lasted.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Life of a Bikila: Part 1

Not this Bikila

Not the life of A. Bikila, the runner who won the olympic marathon in London barefoot, but the life of  "a Bikila," the shoe that was named after him.

When I first started running, I ran in the shoes I had, which were some old, beat up, New Balance cross training shoes. Once I decided this running thing was something I was going to continue with, I followed the advice of, well, everybody and went to get fitted for some "properly fitted running shoes".

When I ran around the store in these shoes, they felt cushy and smooth compared to the cross trainers, I didn't feel the impact of the ground like I did in the old shoes, that part was kind of nice, but my feet felt constricted. It was as though my feet had seen too much and someone decided to tie them up and gag them.

This one
It turned out, there was this barefoot running craze kicking into high gear at the time. I was unaware of this, but I did know this one guy that did kettlebells in Vibram Five Fingers Classics. So I asked about the VFFs I saw on the shelf. I tried on some blue and white VFF Bikilas. In those shoes, I felt free, I felt smooth, I felt like a Ninja!

I didn't have the words for it at the time, but what was different, as I look back, was that my feet immediately took over the job of shock absorption. I stopped heel striking (not everybody does that automatically) I ran light on my feet. In short, it felt good to run in those shoes.

So, I thanked the salesperson, put the shoes back on the shelf (I told her at first, I never buy on day one), I went home and did some research on VFF shoes and running in them.

A week later, after lots of research I went back and bought the shoes. I've been running in them since, I transitioned slowly and took good care of my feet. In July of 2011 I ran a race in them for the first time, and they are now, a year later, wearing very thin in places. So I will race in them one more time on July 14th, then they will become shoes for gardening and such.

 Later, in part 2 I will give a review of a year in these shoes.