Friday, 7 February 2014

Marathon Training

It's been a while since I've posted, because I haven't done much running in the last few months.  However, in early January I put my shoes on (yes, trainers to start with) and ran a few miles.  After a couple of runs, I switched back to my Merrells, and I remembered why I love these shoes.

There hasn't been any barefoot running, mainly because it's been such awful weather, and since training for the half in October, I haven't had the opportunity to do pleasure running - i.e. barefoot, which is slower and shorter.

However, on the last few runs I've done, I've felt that old familiar urge to take off my shoes and feel the ground with my feet, so today, whilst there was a brief respite from the rain and wind, I set out in my Merrells, and after a mile I took them off and ran half a mile barefoot.

It was cold and wet, but it felt lovely to be running without any shoes again.  I did meet someone, and I told her I wasn't mad (though perhaps I was lying??!) and that I was doing a training run to which she replied "so I see!".

I'm hoping it's the first of many, but with marathon training started I may find myself in the same boat as before and needing to clock up the miles with shoes on.  It's a tricky one this.  My knee went after mile 6 in the half marathon - was that because I was wearing shoes, or just bad luck?  I'm not sure I'm ready for the full on barefoot only scene yet, but I can't deny that my joints seem to prefer it, and my feet aren't complaining either.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Getting going again

Last Saturday I did the park run.  I decided that I should wear trainers, and I carried out a DIY foot taping job just to secure my foot.  I wound tape over the top of my right foot, just behind the toes, over the ball of my foot and towards my ankle.  I hoped that it would give support to the obvious but undiagnosed weakness.

It worked a treat.  I ran the 5k in just over 27 minutes, which I'm happy with, and I had no additional pain in my foot afterwards.

On Wednesday (two days ago) I did a barefoot mile.  I've been re-reading information about barefoot form, and I also posted a message on the the Yahoo! Running Barefoot forum which was set up by Barefoot Ken Bob himself.  I even got a post back from Ken Bob (thank you, Ken), which, in a nutshell, reminded me that I need to concentrate on re-learning my technique so that when I run, it doesn't hurt.  Sounds simple enough, but it's so easy to forget this vital piece of information.

So in my barefoot mile, I concentrated on everything I could:  relax, relax, relax; bend my knees; bend them more; lift my toes - a little mind you - not too tense; let my hips lead me forward; stay up straight; look ahead; lift my feet rather than concentrate on putting them down; shorten my cadence......  it was like trying to drive a car for the first time, so many different elements to think about, and as soon as I concentrated on one I'd forget another.

But there were steps that I took that didn't hurt.   For a few paces at a time I got into a rhythm that seemed comfortable, pain free and pretty easy on every part of my body.  That's what I need to focus on.  I will do the drills in Ken Bob's book, I will do my Asian squats and 100-ups, but when I run, I will just try and run without any discomfort.

That will take time (again), and in the meantime I have races to run where I'm raising money for the hospice that looked after my lovely mum earlier this year, so I will wear the trainers for my training runs, and do barefoot miles here and there for now until after the half marathon in October.  Then I'll start barefooting again in earnest.  It's disappointing, but I want to do it right.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

What to do next??

Where have I been, you may ask.

Well, in the interest of giving a true account of my barefoot experiences, I thought I'd come clean and confess that I've been nursing a recurrence of my foot injury :(

After upping my mileage, and doing some speed work and intervals as part of my half marathon training plan, the top of foot pain that I suffer with on and off following my stress fracture (2nd metatarsal, Nov 2011) flared up again.  Not exactly the same location, but very close by (a little further towards the ankle).  I think a combination of speed, increased mileage, and also a couple of trail runs where I landed on stones precisely underneath the location of the fracture, have triggered the pain again.

I rested for 2 weeks.  Then, when there was no pain in my foot at all, I tried a run in trainers.  I did 4 miles (probably a little too much), but what I noticed after about 2 miles was a pain in my left knee, shortly followed by aching joints in my hips and ankles.  Everything felt hot and prickly.  These are pains that I immediately associated with wearing trainers and training for races, pre my barefoot days.

On the plus site, my foot felt fine.

2 days later I ran a mile barefoot.  No joint pains or trouble with my knee, but I could definitely feel that stress fracture pain again within a few hundred metres of setting off, and the pain lasted for another 3 days.

Yesterday (again, waiting for zero foot pain) I did 3 miles in my Vivobarefoot shoes.  I chose these because they are zero drop, but they came with some padded insoles to aid in the transition to barefooting, so I put these in to give a little support to my soles.  Knees, hips & ankles win, but again, foot adversely affected.

So, considering that I am half marathon training, and have a 10k race in early September, I feel a bit lost as to what to do next.  I think I'm sold on barefoot / minimalist - there are just too much big joint pains associated with trainers for me now, but I really need to sort this foot out, and I think that boils down to form.  Now all I need to work out is what to do about it...

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Weekly roundup

I didn't manage my long run this week (supposed to be 7 miles), but I did do a good 6 mile tempo run, well above target pace, and a 3.5 mile run in bare feet, followed by a PB at the park run this morning of around 26.40 minutes (waiting for the official time to come in).

I'm beginning to notice that my speed is picking up again.  I knew that learning to run in minimalist footwear or bare feet would mean a significant loss of speed for a fair amount of time, and I'd sort of forgotten that I actually can run at a decent speed (decent to me, if not to anyone else!).  But it was only really today that I've hit (and possibly even improved upon) my old targets.  My form has changed significantly - it's been a long time since I've suffered with those awful shin splints I used to get on every single run, and even my joints and muscles don't seem to suffer in the same way.  In the past, I've put this down to the slower speeds, and more gentle footfall.  Now I can see that my new form (which feels completely natural to me now) is starting to reap benefits, and with the pace picking up, I'm feeling better than ever.

Happy days :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Today I did a tempo run in my Merrells.  I uploaded the workout to my Garmin before I left, so it was all programmed in:  1 mile warm up, 4 miles at 9.33 min/mile, 1 mile cool down.

My Garmin shows me an average pace for the entire run.  I always run slowly at the start as it seems to take a while for my joints and feet to warm up, so by the end of the first mile, the average pace was showing around 10.20 min/mile.  When the Garmin beeped to warn me to get ready for the middle 4 tempo miles, I checked my watch, still slower than 10 min/mile, so I sped up.  The Garmin quickly beeped to say I was in the 9.33 min/mile zone, and then shortly after beeped again to tell me to slow down.

This seemed odd, as I didn't feel I was going much faster than at the end of my warm up mile.  I didn't trust my watch.  I felt I wasn't pushing hard enough, so I ignored the irritating beeps until they gave up on me, and I just kept running at a comfortably fast pace.

When I got home, my watch told me that I had done the middle 4 at 9.14 min/mile!  This is significantly faster than the target pace, and makes me wonder if my form is beginning to show signs of speeding up without too much effort.  So far in my barefoot/minimalist running story I have found it difficult to run anywhere near as fast as I could have in trainers.  That (and the lack of structured training) have kept my pace pretty slow, though speed is not really of concern to me.

It was interesting to run today and feel like I could probably go faster than that, and maintain it, at least for a 10k if no more.  I did enjoy reading an article about adding speed to your barefoot running from Barefoot Beginner which came up on my Twitter feed a few days ago, and I even had a go at copying the video drill.  I thought about that whilst I was running, trying to replicate pulling up my feet from the hamstrings and keeping my ankle in line with my knee.  Maybe that has something to do with it.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Confidence is growing

It's been an interesting week.  My half marathon training plan says I should have done a tempo run, long run and easy run.  I did the long run (7 miles) in Vibram FiveFinger Classics.  No major problems there, average pace of 10.10 minute miles.  

On Friday, I should have done a 5 mile tempo run, but things conspired against my OH and myself, and we ended up doing a 2 and a half mile easy run, which I did mostly in Merrells, with the last half mile or so bare foot.

On Saturday, I did the park run with my daughter.  I wanted to run with her as she is trying to beat the 30 minute barrier, and I was very proud that she did the race in 28 minutes and 43 seconds, 2 seconds faster than me as she sneakily threw in a sprint finish which caught me unaware!

On Sunday it looked like a scorcher of a day, so my OH and myself went out for an early-ish run.  He was suffering from a little over indulgence the night before, so we only wanted to get a few miles in, and with no target pace.  I decided therefore to set out in bare feet.  I carried my Classics in case I needed to put shoes on at some point, but I was really pleased that I managed to run my furthest distance to date - 3.5 miles - all in bare feet.  The picture above is of my feet at the end of the run - a little red in places, but with no damage at all.  Our average pace was 10.40 minutes per mile, but we weren't looking to run particularly fast.

So I had a great week of running.  This morning (Monday) I walked the dog in the woods at the back of our house.  I've often looked at the ground in the woods thinking it would probably be quite dangerous to run through bare foot, as it is covered with bark, twigs, dirt and all sorts of unknown bits and pieces.  Today, being such a warm and beautiful day, I walked up there in flip flops.  As no-one was around, I took them off for a moment, and ran a few steps - just to see how bad the ground would be to step on bare-footed.  It wasn't as bad as I'd expected.  A little further into the woods, I took them off again, picked them up, and ran, very slowly and gently, through 50 metres or so of woodland.  Just as with the pavements, I found it much less difficult to run on than it looked.  Yes, I took care not to step on any large twigs and branches, but the ground was actually much softer than I expected.  I find this with pavements and roads too - when I'm in trainers, I look down and think "That's too rough or stony to run on", but when I take off my shoes, it's never as bad as I had thought.

I've started to contemplate running the 10k in September in bare feet as my confidence grows.  I wonder what the race organisers would think about that....

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Battling the demons

This week sees the start of my half marathon training plan.  Today's run was planned as a 2 mile easy run, pace around 11 min/miles.

Not wanting to forfeit all the hard work I've been doing on my barefoot running, I'm planning to do all my training runs in minimalist footwear (Vibrams, Merrells, Vivos) and my easy runs in bare feet.  2 miles in bare feet is definitely do-able for me, but those demons inside my head started chattering away early on this week....

I rarely set off bare foot:  usually, I wear footwear for at least a mile, until I've summoned up the courage to take them off, and then I run home bare foot.  When I say courage, it's not courage to put my  bare soles on the floor, it's courage to face the oncoming traffic, friends, neighbours and dog walkers, who look at me a little bit funny, as if to say 'do you know you've got no shoes on..?', 'is it safe to talk to that weirdo?', that must hurt, dog poo, glass etc etc etc.  I'm fearful that I'll step on a giant shard of glass the second a person catches a glimpse of me, so they can see the pain written on my face, and smugly nod as if to say 'I told you so'.  I'm convinced that the police will stop to 'have a chat' with me, or that I'll twist my ankle on a pot hole and have to be whisked off in an ambulance, where the doctors will shake their heads at my foolhardy ways.

Of course, I could easily twist my ankle in shoes.  I could step in dog poo and spend twenty minutes at the sink trying to dig it out of the grooves in my trainers.

I find this fear very difficult to get over, the demons chatter away at me right up until the second I walk out the door, sometimes they win and I put my shoes on, today they didn't.  I stepped out of my front door without my shoes, and started running.  I ran along the main road, waiting at the side of the road for the traffic to slow before safely dashing across in front of a neighbour's car and giving a slightly awkward wave to her.

I confess that I did veer off the main road to head along a country lane for the most part of the run, and this is not a route I would normally choose because it's quite hilly and it's recently been resurfaced, so the tarmac is quite rough still.  However, I met only one car along the way, and it was lovely and quiet with my silent footfall and my dog's quiet padding.

At just over a mile in, I turned around to head back.  Safely back at home, with a perfect overall pace of  11 minute miles, I feel suitably proud of the fact that I did what I set out to do and I banished those demons, for today at least.