Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Xero Shoes First Look

My first impression after receiving my Xero Shoes huaraches are very good. I ordered the 6mm sole for two reasons, I wanted longer wear, and I am still interested in a little more sole between my sole and the road.

I've done a three mile easy run, some even easier jogs with my daughter and dog, some walking on trails, and some casual wear in these sandals. Right now, I have a VFF Bikila on one foot and a Xero on the other.

I can't help but compare "barefoot shoes" of all types with my VFFs simply because they are the first that I used so they are my frame of reference.

The upper on the Xero Shoes is definitely more breathable. Of course, the upper is a string, so that is kind of obvious. The only thing to really compare then is the sole. The VFF Bikila has a pretty flexible sole, the segmented rubber area helps a lot with that, the 6mm Xero Shoe is a single piece of rubber and has a little less flexibility than the Bikila. I'd like to see sometime how the 4mm compares. The VFF also flexes much better at the toes due of course to the individual toes.

Despite being slightly less flexible than my Bikilas the Xero Shoe actually has better ground feel. I feel more texture under my feet, and I better feel what my foot is doing when it contacts the ground. This leads me to what I feel is the single biggest reason to run in huaraches at least every once in a while.

I have recently discovered a problem with my running form. I suspected it from examining the soles of my VFF's and SoftStar Runamoc Dash shoes, but I confirmed it for sure while running in my Xero Shoes.

I have duck feet.

Not webbed toes, obviously, or I couldn't run in VFFs. What I mean is that my feet land with my toes pointed outward. I first realized I walked that way when I took a snow picture of footprints from my daughter and me walking through the snow. Her toes pointed in the direction she was going, mine pointed way out to the sides.

Looking at videos of me running before going minimal, not only did I heel strike, but my duckfootedness resulted in a zigzag pattern to my running stride. When I went minimal, a lot of this was corrected because I switched to a forefoot strike, but I have a degree of twist when I land. I start off with toes out, heels in, then my foot twists slightly to line up with my direction of travel. I saw evidence of this on the wear pattern in my shoes, but the huaraches give me immediate feedback of this with every step. I can feel the twist happening, and when it is extreme, my heel actually presses against the strings of the huarache and nearly steps off the edge of the sole. This twist is something I didn't even figure out on barefoot runs. I knew there was friction on my foot, but I couldn't pin it down.

Number one reason to run in huaraches? They are the biggest tattle tail on my running form. If I skid forward on landing, the string between my toes tells me so. If I push off too much with my toes, the string around my heel tells me so. If I twist the strings around the side tell me so.

Instant feedback with every step, and the most barefoot feeling shoe I've ever tried. Just those two factors give me all the reason I need to run in Xero shoes.

There is one more thing though. VFF Bikilas run $100 a pair and last me about 1000 miles before the inside starts to give me toe blisters. Xero Shoes run less than $30 a pair and have a 5,000 mile warranty. As I am on a budget, this matters to me. Bikilas cost me ten cents per mile. Xero Shoes,
six tenths of a penny per mile.

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs make running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, whatever easier and more comfortable for inexperienced runners. If a runner has poor running form and is concerned about injuries from running, electric wheelchairs may cushion and protect the runner from impact forces, as well as stepping on sharp things.

I am willing to bet that a person uses less oxygen racing any distance by racing in electric wheelchairs.

Electric wheelchairs prevent overpronation, and oversupination.

Given this information, shouldn't everyone be racing in electric wheelchairs.

Did I say electric wheelchairs? I meant modern running shoes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Too Cold To Run?

The cold has returned abruptly. Of course, this is Kentucky, so people from further north will think I'm a little crazy. It's not that it is bitterly cold, rarely is it bitterly cold here. It's just that the change was so abrupt. One day I'm out with my dog and daughter in shorts and huarache sandals, then suddenly I find myself putting out layers the night before a run.

I am a big weenie about the cold. I like to have time to adjust, and I haven't had time to adjust. I had to get up and get back to running today though. With an easy two miler in mind, I prepared my running clothes the night before and set my alarm for 5:30.

In the morning, when I don't want to get out there, the key for me is to not think about it. Just take one step at a time. Stay present in what I am doing and don't think about the next step too much. So I eat my banana and drink my water. I put on my running gear and headlamp. I head out into the cold dark morning and just start.

About a mile in I remember why I do this. Being out in the crisp air with the moon shining down on the countryside. Stars still shining in the sky. The smell of smoke from woodburning stoves. The solitude, time to be with myself and not think about all the stresses of life. Time to just run and breathe, and be.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Monsters That Runners Will Survive

I was thinking about things like outrunning zombies, and that of course led me to thinking about other monsters that a runner would fare well against.

The Mummy. As long as we're talking about the shambling revenant style mummy a runner should do fine. If the mummy is using magic and mind control there would be some trouble.

The Wolfman. Sorry runners, not much hope here, with wolf augmented strength and speed runners would be overtaken.

Frankenstein. Runners against the old black and white movie Frankenstein would do fine, the Frankenstein from the novel would be to fast and strong.

Dracula. Running itself isn't any good against Dracula, but if you get enough garlic at the pre-race pasta dinners. . .

What other monsters could you outrun?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thanks To My High School Track Coach

Anyone who knew me in high school is thinking, "You didn't run track in high school?!?!" Well, I was on the track team for two weeks. I was looking for something new to do and I decided to join track. I told the track coach and he told me when practices were. I went to every practice for two weeks. The coach was never there. Sometimes one of the other track kids would have a note of things to do, a sort of work out that was written in what was to me at the time some secret track code. There wasn't much running going on.

Having not had one session of coaching, a track meet was coming up. I had no idea what I was doing, so I went to the track coach after a class and told him I was quitting track.

He laughed.

Then he asked me why, I told him there was a track meet coming up and I was not ready for it.
He said, "Well whose fault is that?" I walked away, he laughed a little more. If I had been as bold then as I am now I'd have said something back.

I didn't even consider running again for twenty years after that. When I did, it turned out I was kind of good at it.

So I'd like to thank my high school track coach for some important lessons.

Always be there for others.
When you are the one in charge of something, be involved.
Never laugh at a kid.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You Could Get Those Cheaper Online, but. . .

With just a little search engine magic, one can often find amazing deals on running shoes. When budgets are tight that is a great way to shop. I will often go ahead to my local running store even though it means my bill will be a little higher, there are a variety of reasons I'll do that.

I can't give a list as to why you should support your local running store, but I have a great list of reasons that I will support my local running store.

Before I go into it I need to say that Trax Running does not pay me, sponsor me, or otherwise attempt to persuade me to say nice things about them, I just like to say nice things about them.

1. My local running store is staffed by runners and triathletes, people who have tried various shoes and watched others try various shoes and have well informed opinions on shoes and other running gear. I have been there more for free advice and tips than I have been there to buy things.

2. Supporting my local running store helps support their community efforts, Trax hosts a variety of free running clubs, 0 to 5K training, bike rides, elementary school running clubs, and so on. I'm happy to think that buying a hydration belt there instead of on the web helps support these efforts.

3. I can try things on before I buy them.

4. The people at Trax will watch you run, look at the wear on your shoes, ask questions about what you need in a shoe before they sell you a pair of shoes to make sure they give you the right shoes instead of the ones you think you want.

5. They know when all the running events are, support the local running events, and even put together my city's first marathon.

And finally, when I shop online, I feel like a customer, when I shop locally I feel like a part of the running community.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Outrunning Zombies

Artwork by Nathan Hendricksen
While watching season two of "The Walking Dead" the other day I had a thought. (Yes, season two, I'm a year behind.) I am sure that other runners have thought of this as well.

Zombies in TWD are a bit faster than the classic Romero zombies that are near and dear to my heart, but still if Shane with a busted ankle and Otis (God rest his soul) can stay ahead of the zombie horde as long as they did, surely an easy 8:30 mile pace would keep me well in front of them.

So, season two episode one instead of hiding under a car, I think I'd have said, "OK, you guys trap yourselves under there, I'll get my long run in."

"Hey walkers! Follow me!"

Knock out a couple of miles at an easy pace, find a side road, loop around, add in some speed work to get them off the trail, head back to the group.

I could have saved Sophia.

Lazy Week

This week has been "lazy week" for me.

I've done some light workouts with kettlebells and body weight, but no running. It has been really hard to discipline myself, I really like to run. Especially since my wife is getting ready to go out for a run on this beautiful morning. I am very tempted to go with her.

The thing is, I've been running injured since February. So I need time to heal and recuperate. I've not allowed myself the time I needed to get better. I had certain goals I was set on meeting, so I kept pushing. As a result I stayed injured and never really got the chance to train as hard as I would have if I were healthy. This may be why I fell short on my goals.

So now, I must learn from my own mistake and heal.

Lazy week it is.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Barefoot Running: Is it really better?

The results are in!

Studies have been conducted, performances have been examined, runners and coaches and podiatrists have been surveyed.

Even the studies are being studied.

It turns out that barefoot running is:

more injurious than shod,
less inurious than shod,
more efficient than shod,
less efficient than shod,
bad for your feet,
good for your feet.

It all depends on which study you pick.

So I would like to remind anyone who is reading this of a couple of things.

When you see an article that starts with something like, "Studies show that there is no one best way to run, with even elite long-distance runners showing a variety of styles - but wearing lightweight shoes is better than none," you should go past the headline, and read the article. If it is a news article you should then find the studies that were cited, when you read the study, it is a good idea to think critically about their methodology and see if there are possible flaws in the study, it is also a good idea to see if other studies support that study or refute it. 

Short version: Headlines have one purpose, to get you to read the article. The headlines will take a scientific article and turn it into an advertisement. This goes for barefoot running, and any other hot topic as well.

The other thing I would like to remind people of is this.

If what you are doing is working for you, keep doing it. If you are a barefoot runner and it works for you don't switch to a shoe with exactly 10mm of cushioning because some study said it was 1.9 percent more efficient. If you are running injury free in a cushioned shoe, you don't have to go barefoot just because your barefoot running friend told you it cured his asthma. 

Go out and run, barefoot, nearly barefoot, or with whatever shoe works for you.

For me running nearly barefoot boils down to two simple things. When I started doing it, my running aches and pains stopped, and, very simply, I like the way it feels.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Starting From Scratch

In February of this year, I over trained while getting ready for the Fall Creek Falls trail race and wound up with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. I had lots of running I wanted to do afterwards and a goal of my first sub 20 minute 5K, so unfortunately I kept running injured and therefore never fully healed. Interestingly, my right foot was worse off to start with, and it seems to be fully healed while the left foot is still sore. So I've decided that Saturday's race was my last for the season. It is time to heal.

I'm taking some time off from running, doing some foot strengthening, massaging out some tight muscles, massively reducing my mileage.

The problem is, with all this time I'll not be running, I need to do something to not lose my mind.

I'm sure I'll think of something.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

They Tricked Me!!

What a rotten trick!

It was race day. I woke up earlier than planned, there was still no daylight coming in through the window, I rolled over, felt around to find my phone and flipped it open to provide a little light to see. I slid out from under the covers leaving my wife to sleep a little longer while I started a pot of steel cut oats with apples and cinnamon, and more importantly, a pot of coffee.

I put on my shorts, wiggled my toes into my Vibram Fivefingers running shoes, and slid into my bright yellow/green technical fabric running shirt, a color I thought had disappeared along with "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" before I started running nearly two years ago. Since it was a cold damp morning I added another layer to wear until race time, running pants and a rain jacket. My wife and daughter got up and got ready as well.

It was my day to run the 5K race at the 10K Classic in Bowling Green KY for the second time. This was my PR race last year, and I was running again with hopes not only to PR again, but to come in under 20:00 for the first time. My wife was running the 10K with hopes of running it at about a 10 minute per mile pace for a 62 minute finish time. My little girl was running the Children's Classic, at age four this would be her fourth race, but her first one that she got to wear a bib. We loaded up the car and headed into town singing along to "Little Liza Jane".

We arrived at the race, relaxed in the car for a bit, then headed to the starting line. I ran a short warmup, then got in line ready to run my heart out. The starting siren wailed, I ran. Down the street around the corner up the mile long first hill. I finished mile one only 9 seconds behind pace for a twenty minute 5K. Remembering the course from last year, I knew that mile one was the toughest mile of the course with a flat second mile and a third mile that had one short uphill and the race finishing with about a quarter mile down hill sprint to the finish line.

The 5K and 10K cover the same roads for the last mile or mile and a half so when I saw the mark on the road that said "5 miles" I "knew" I only had one mile to go.

What a rotten trick.

I turned left for that last little uphill, a young man, perhaps 9 or 10 years old passed me, I don't like being passed at the end of a race, but I knew that downhill sprint was coming and was confident I could catch him. I turned right for that quarter mile, downhill, all out, everything left in the tank sprint, and I gunned it, I passed the young man who had passed me, I charged toward the. . . finish line?

"Where is the finish line?" I thought. "There are some areas fenced off for construction, that is probably blocking my view." Onward I charged. "Where is the finish line? It's not here, they must have changed the course, it's probably just around that curve at the end of the road."

I blasted forward. Still no finish line. "Maybe we run all the way back to the start line," I thought as the young man passed me again. I was slowing down. The people off in the distance ahead of me were turning away from the start line.

"It must be around the corner there."
A little slower now as I was exhausted from my premature sprint.
"Just around the curve?"
"Up this hill?!?!"
"Where is the finish line!?!?!?!"
"Aaah, the Western Kentucky stadium entrance! We go in there, and charge onto the field."
I shifted gears again and charged through the entryway and saw that we had to go all the way down the football field, circle around, and back up the middle of the field. 170 yards never seemed so long. My gears were grinding to a halt.

I crossed the line one person grabbed the tag from my bib, a second handed me a water, a third looked at my face and asked, "Are you okay?" The look on his face told me the look on my face was far from looking OK.

I nodded that I was OK.

I finished in 21:11, 11th place overall, 2nd in my age group. I'd like to thank the really fast guys for running the 10K instead of the 5K.

(Moral of the story, make sure you look at the course map, even if it is a course you think you know. Also, make sure the mile markers aren't from last years course.)

My wife finished in 57:12. Five minutes faster than her goal. My daughter sprinted across the finish line with a smile on her face.

So I didn't reach my goal, I blame it on the early sprint, my wife exceeded hers, my whole family had a blast. They really make this race more than just a race, it is a celebration of fitness.

Today's race was a trick and a treat.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm A Little Fast, But That Doesn't Really Matter

I'm not fast fast, but I am a little fast. I don't have any illusions delusions about it, but according to this chart, my 20:30 PR does put me on the left edge of the chart over there. I'm aiming for <20:00 tomorrow, but I've been aiming for that for quite a while now.

Will I nail my goal tomorrow?

I don't know, and really, it doesn't matter.

My performance in that race tomorrow won't change the world, nor will it change my community, and it really won't change my life.

What has changed my life is the commitment to training that I have held preparing for this race. Getting up before sun rise and running, going out trail running with my wife, setting a good example for fitness and diet for my daughter and stepdaughter, and kung fu students, those are the things that will make a difference.

So tomorrow, at the Medical Center 10K classic I will run the 5K race, and I will finish in under 20 minutes.

Or I won't.

Regardless I am going to run my butt off.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Exercise Now!

"I need to lose weight," he said, "but Halloween candy will be coming into the house soon, so I'll wait until after that. Of course, then Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that would just wreck my diet, so I might as well start right after Thanksgiving. Oh wait, what about Christmas, I can't diet during Christmas season, to stressful, then there is Christmas Dinner. I'll wait until New Year's. That's it, it will be my New Year's Resolution to lose weight."

"I'm glad I got that decision out of the way, now I'm going to get some donuts for breakfast. I might as well enjoy my guilty foods now since I'll be dieting soon."

My advice, if you want to lose weight, do it now.

Exercise now.
Eat in a healthy manner now.

There is no moment as powerful as right now.

If you absolutely can not get out from behind a desk right now, make now as soon as possible. You don't have to go and run 5 miles on your lunch break, but you can take a 10 minute walk. You don't have to switch to nothing but grapefruit and salad, but you can pass up fast food for a healthier choice.

Make some small changes to your life. If you eat lousy food from a fast food joint for lunch every day commit to only doing it twice a week and start preparing healthier food to throw in a lunch box. Make sandwiches for lunch or make enough food at supper to have leftovers the next day.

If you don't exercise at all. Do something.


Add a 30 minute walk to your day 5 days a week. If that seems like too much time, think of it as an investment, you will get the time back with a longer lifespan, not to mention it will reduce stress.

Do 10 pushups in the morning or before bed. If you can't do a pushup, start with wall pushups.

Don't wait until after Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas, change small things now.

If you just can't resist Thanksgiving dinner, splurge a little that day, one day is small stuff when you are making small changes in your daily life.

Make some small changes to your diet and your activity level NOW.

Next month, do it again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nathan Sprint Water Bottle

I am the camel of my family. My wife, stepdaughter, daughter, and I all run. For whatever reason, I am the one who can go with the least water on a run. On our recent trail run, of one hour and forty minutes I carried the Nathan Sprint hand held water bottle, and my wife wore the Nathan Speed 4R Energy Belt. We each had enough fluid for the run even though she used three times as much as I did. (Those links go to our local specialty running store, Trax Running for two reasons, they are our local specialty running store and I like to support the locals and they are really awesome there. They have not provided me any compensation whatsoever, I just like them.)

I thought I would review these two products on my blog I'll start with what they share in common, the bottle itself, I'll go into the specifics of the sprint here, then review the Speed 4R in another post.

Nathan Sprint
The bottle is a thick, durable, yet easily squeezable plastic and the shape comfortably fits in my hand. The cap is a "race cap" that has a valve rather than a lid you have to open and close. I really like the way the cap works. There is a built in valve so that water doesn't drip out (even upside down) and when squeezed, I get a shot of water that cuts off immediately when I stop squeezing. This makes it very easy to get a drink while running without breaking stride. There have only been two situations in which I have experienced any leakage from the cap. If I squeeze too long, the bottle shape eventually deforms enough that water can leak around the cap. Once, when using the belt on a trail run, I bent over to adjust my shoe, when I bent all the way over the bottle in front was upside down, and as I reached down to remove debris from my shoe, my body squeezed the bottle. So really it worked the way it was supposed to, I turned it upside down and squeezed it, all over my foot.

The handheld Sprint bottle (let me start by saying that I hate carrying a handheld bottle) is actually very comfortable to carry. And includes an ID card you can fill out with emergency contact information. On one of my family trail runs at Mammoth Cave I carried the Sprint for over an hour on this run. Ordinarily, if I am forced to carry something in my hand, I swap it back and forth between hands pretty regularly, but on this run I was holding the dog's leash in one hand and the water bottle in the other so it stayed in my hand until I emptied it, then I stowed it in the dog's pack.

The plastic of the bottle, the shape of the bottle, and the material in the handstrap were obviously well planned and designed. I had this in my hand for over an hour and for the most part I was able to forget I was carrying it. There was no rubbing, chafing, no hotspots on my hand. I never experienced any sliding or slipping of my grip. The strap is quickly and easily adjusted for fit via a hook and loop fastener. My biggest requirement for carrying a water bottle (other than it has to hold water) is that I need to not be troubled with it. This bottle's design was perfect in that regard. The only adjustment I made on the run was I took it off when I was finished with it. If I had not had Jack along I would have just left it in my hand and forgotten about it.\

So, the nitty gritty.

Lightweight bottle (it gets lighter as you drink!)
Comfortable in the hand.
No rubbing or chafing.
ID included.
Well, I guess the only con is you do have to carry it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Balance Minimus Trail Zero: The Shoe That Broke My Heart

This shoe. I really loved the way this shoe felt on my feet. The sole was so flexible, the footbed so soft and smooth, just enough cushion under foot for rocky trails. It shed water like a duck. I really liked this shoe.

But. . .

Did I mention I really liked this shoe? I took it on its first trail run,    8 1/2 miles at Mammoth Cave National Park, me my wife, our dog, and my new shoes that only had 9 miles of running on them, all on pavement. The trail we were on was a shared use trail also used by horses. If you've never run on horse used trails this can mean some pretty rough conditions on the trail, especially after a rain like the day we went on this run. Squishy, muddy, mucky puddles. Deeply cut trails carved out by horses hooves, areas of high erosion. Also this trail had several areas of running on large rocks, or even bedrock. Quite a variety of terrain.

These New Balance Minimi Trail Zero shoes took such good care of my feet, and when they got wet, three steps later I would forget they had gotten wet.

Then when I got home and cleaned them off, I noticed something. The padded cuff around the ankle was peeling off.

I took them back to the store I got them, they had no more in stock (moving on to cold weather merchandise I suppose.) They called NB who said they would be glad to give the store credit on their next order, and I settled for my money back.

I walked out shoeless.

I went to a local discount shoe store and found at less than half price a beautiful blue and black pair of NB Minimus Trail Zero running shoes. In Blue and Black, a color scheme I would like much more than my "Road Stripe Yellow" ones. They were in my size. I picked them up and looked at the cuff around the ankle. It was peeling off.

Today I saw another pair at Gander Mountain. I looked at the cuff around the ankle. I rubbed it gently with my thumb and it peeled off.

New Balance, please fix this problem, this is a wonderful minimal shoe, but I don't want to buy an expensive shoe that I then half to repair with gear tape before I can run in it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Natural Colors

I prefer clothes and shoes in colors that don't stand out. I like to blend in. I also like clearance prices so I don't always get the color I want. When I got these shoes I thought I'd never find a place in which they blended in with the natural world.

Well played mother nature, well played.