Hello, endorphins, I missed you (i.e. I’m barefoot running again)!

Having finished physical therapy for my banged-up knee recently, I started barefoot running again this last week with great results. I’m more motivated than ever after having ran 5k barefoot with no problem (no knee pain, no blisters, just endorphins)! I’m also excited to begin a new training program and am confident it will soon take me to my very first barefoot 10k.

I started cautiously with very short distances (not even 2k!) to make sure I didn’t do any damage to my feet in case my form was bad since it had been so long since I last ran barefoot. But it felt so good that two days later I ran 5k with a friend because I was just enjoying it so much I couldn’t bring myself to stop before the end of the complete route! It was a fortunate confluence of factors that made that experience ideal: first long barefoot run, running buddy with me, super great weather conditions, easy flat terrain, no traffic.

However, the plan is to stick to small distances, even if I don’t feel winded, and only one longer run a week, gradually increasing weekly distance and/or pace. I expect that this way, ceteris paribus, I could run a 10k in less than 3 months. Don’t want to get a case of TMTS (Too-Much-Too-Soon) and get sidelined again. I’ve ran 10ks before, but not barefoot! The idea this time around is to make sure the muscles, skin, tendons and ligaments of the feet are ready for it.

I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate differing terrain into the mix. I am certain, however, that avoiding tougher surfaces is a mistake. Barefoot Ken Bob points out that they are what keeps you in good form (minimum of 180 steps per minute, relaxed, vertical torso, NO toe push-off, etc). Running on a different type of surface requires its own learning process, so I can’t expect to run the same distance on gravel as I do now on smooth asphalt. The best I think will be to reserve one of the short distance workouts that are scheduled each week for a different terrain.

But that is hardly a real worry for me at the moment, I’m just happy to be running again! The most important thing is to have fun. Let’s keep it simple.

So, excuse me, but I gotta run…


El Salto

I’m finally going to write what I was dreading to say. I have some injuries that are going to keep me from running for even longer than I thought. Because of (an as yet unexplained) bursitis in my right hip and now more recently an inflamed right knee from a nasty fall I took, I haven’t been able to run at all these past weeks. And it looks like I won’t be running for a while.

(Update Aug 2: bursitis in hip gone as mysteriously as it came, the problem now is quadricep tendonitis from the trauma for which I am now going to physical therapy)

Curiously, though, neither injury is running-related! I suppose that’s a good thing. But its frustrating all the same. In fact, the worst running-related injury I’ve ever had is blisters. Doing other things like hiking, basketball, soccer and just walking around my house I have accumulated the following list of small injuries: sprained ankle, sprained toe, sprained finger, broken finger, broken wrist. I can add the right hip, knee and shin to the list.

The nasty fall I mention was from this Saturday. While on a hiking excursion with friends, we had to cross a river several times which had more water and a stronger current than usual due to all the rainfall the area got from hurricane Alex and Bonnie. Although the water level was never higher than my waist for me, the current and rocky bottom makes for a tricky crossing. Even though I had the help of the guys to get me across, at one point the current made my foot lose its hold and I fell on my right knee and shin onto rocks. I got back up and onto the shore (a mere three feet from where I slipped) to find my right leg had two giant bumps on my shin and a swollen knee with a minor cut. It wasn’t anything serious, just bruising, but still not a pretty sight. And because it wasn’t painful to stand on we went about the rest of the day as planned.

The trip was completely worth it. The El Salto canyon is in the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park near Villa de Santiago, Nuevo León, México and is 500mts deep at its lowest point. The waterfall is 33mts and is spectacular these days because of the enormous amount of water. (The pictures I include in the slideshow come from cell phones, so forgive the bad resolution.)

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I made the mistake of wearing my old running shoes to this trip. It didn’t occur to me how useful my Vibrams would have been until I got back and my brother told me he was wearing his to hike. I have never worn my Vibrams to anything other than running on pavement and sidewalk! I think the Vibrams would have allowed for better grip when crossing while providing some protection against stubbing my toes. What do you think? Vibrams better than any shoe? Even hiking shoe? Next time I will definitely try them out on trails.

Déjà Vibram

So I started running in my Vibram FiveFingers again. Unfortunately, I have a non-running (barefoot or otherwise) injury under my right foot which has kept me from going barefoot. The skin is so raw I just can’t take the chance. I very hesitantly ran in my VFFs because I was worried I would find it tempting to go back to minimal shoe running… only to find things were different this time around.

I’ve gone from regular, giant, nike-type shoes to minimal shoes (briefly) to barefoot. Once I went barefoot I concluded I could not run with the same form I had been using in minimal shoes, that it indeed required the feedback from the soles of my feet to tell me I was too much on the balls of my feet and not nearly as bent at the knees as necessary. This time, having gotten comfortable barefoot and now circumstantially running again in minimal shoes, I found that I can be aware of what to look out for and mimic my barefoot form while wearing my VFFs. I can feel when my knees are straightening out and when I’m pushing off from my toes, though not as quickly. But ONLY because I have felt what barefoot running is supposed to feel like. Furthermore, I found that I still miss going barefoot. That’s a good sign to me.

I feel this confirms what I previously believed; I will learn the best running form by going straight to barefoot! I know it looks scary, it’s not. And once I’ve really got the form down I’ll be able to transition into minimal shoes without sacrificing form.

Let me emphasize that I do not feel like I have the barefoot running form down just yet. I’m still looking for my first important milestone; a barefoot 10k race. You can be sure you’ll hear from me when I get there. Can’t wait!

Close encounters with my own kind: NYC barefoot running workshop

Tuesday Junes 8th I went to the New York barefoot running workshop of Barefoot Ken Bob´s 2010 Summer Tour. It was great to listen to and learn from Barefoot Ken Bob and be able to share experiences with my fellow participants.

Although much of the content of the workshop is not new to me because I am an habitual reader of his site, TheRunningBarefoot.Com, the experience was nonetheless invaluable. A great deal due to the mere fact that I had never met another barefoot runner before (with the notable exception of my brother who is now also experimenting with barefoot running), much less an expert and guru of barefoot running and taken a workshop which he imparted. So it was a great motivator to see and meet so many people with whom I share an enthusiasm for barefoot running. Fortunately for me, we barefoot runners also apparently share an interest in online communication (by necessity, more than anything,) and thanks to that I feel very supported. But meeting people, beginners and veterans alike, was thrilling for me.

Another important part of what made this experience so great, of course, was to able to watch, ask and listen. For me, in particular, the concept of lifting the foot (instead of stepping and pushing-off) as a means of moving forward became clearer. It should be taken much more literally than one initially thinks.

Here you can find comments and pictures of the workshop, but the following are my own photos that I would like to share. And for a great and concise summary of Barefoot Ken Bob’s talk and more pics here at John Durant’s blog. Thanks to everyone who made this workshop possible!

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Encuentro en Nueva York con corredores descalzos

El martes 8 de junio fui al taller en Nueva York de correr descalzo del tour de verano de Barefoot Ken Bob. Me dio muchísimo gusto escuchar y aprender del mismo Barefoot Ken Bob y compartir experiencias con mis compañeros participantes.

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Unexpected Challenge: Hot Asphalt

I came across an unexpected challenge in barefoot running: hot asphalt.

On my last run (on an asphalt trail) I developed blisters on the base of my toes. I had to stop running by the second kilometer when it became evident that I was hurting. It surprised me because I had already been running barefoot succesfully (i.e. without blisters or pain) for over almost two months on sidewalks and streets (cement and pavement). However, the explanation lied not in the terrain but the hour (and conditions) of the run.

It was four o’clock in the afternoon on a sunny 30 degree C day when I ran at the park. Mistake. With the first step I took I felt the warm ground, which was not uncomfortable… at least, not yet. By the first kilometer I could feel the hotness of my skin at the base of my toes, sign which I should have taken more seriously since it meant I had already developed blisters. Consequently, I won’t be doing any running till the pain goes away completely.

So I have since then headed over to TheRunningBarefoot for advice and found this and this to guide me. First, it is interesting to note that a not-so-beginner had the same problem as me. Second, and more importantly, the consensus seems to be that for each type of terrain, and type of weather conditions, a learning process is required. That is to say, that when attempting to run on a new surface the approach should be as if from square one; starting short and building gradually. Of course, the better our form the better our process. Personally, I have to watch out for my cadence, keeping the pace above 180 steps per minute.

Reto inesperado; asfalto caliente

Me topé con un reto inesperado de correr descalza, el pavimento caliente.

En mi última corrida (sobre un camino de asfalto) se me desarrollaron ampollas en la base de los dedos del pie. Tuve que dejar de correr a los dos kilómetros cuando ya era evidente que me estaba haciendo daño. Se me hizo extraño ya que ya llevaba un mes de correr descalza exitosamente (es decir, sin ampollas ni dolores) sobre la banqueta de cemento y sobre la calle. Sin embargo, la explicación yacía en la hora en que corrí sobre pavimento.

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Mi nuevo aparato de rastreo y estadísticas de correr

Gracias a un gran consejo de mi novio, ahora uso BiM Active en mi celular para registrar mis actividades de correr y posteriormente publicarlas aquí. Muy padre, además la aplicación es gratis. Lo que hace es rastrear mi celular por satélite y me da todo tipo de estadísticas sobre mis sesiones de entrenamiento. Así que es solo cuestión de llevarme el celular cuando corro.

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