Lazy Saturday

Hi, friends. As you can read from the title, I have done a whole lot of Jack Squat today. I was able to get in a good three and a quarter mile run yesterday. That is officially the furthest distance I have run barefoot to date. My feet and legs did fine. I did get a little soreness in both Achilles and my right ankle, which is why I have decided to take today off.

20170906_185644It has been a mostly uneventful day. Last Wednesday I discovered that there was a huge hornet’s nest on the back eave of our house. There must have been dozens of the frickers in it. It has been a miracle that we haven’t been stung to death. As much as I hate to kill things, these creatures are simply too dangerous to leave be. So, I reluctantly planned my assault. Following General Tzu’s advice of “attacking my enemy’s weakness,” I decided to use poison on them first thing this morning, while they were still near paralyzed by the cooler temperature. The attack was swift and effective. They went down with no resistance.

And that was the most exciting thing to happen today. We do have a Tennessee Vols football game to watch this evening. The folks around these parts take college football very seriously. It is almost a religious experience for a lot of my neighbors and my wife. I enjoy it somewhat, but what I really love is watching Denice get so excited about it. She loves her sports.

Last week I did terrible with my eating. I did manage to keep it to one meal a day, and that at least kept me from gaining weight. Next week I am going to do much better. I have a good eating and exercise plan and have every intention to execute it flawlessly. I really need to get my weight down. There’s a reason why you don’t see a lot of fat runners.

If you would like to help keep me honest with my training, follow me on Twitter. If I’m doing what I’m supposed to, you should see a tweet every day that says I ran at least one mile. If I didn’t, feel free to call my lazy ass out.

Till next time.

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Down, but not Out

Last week I had a bit of a setback. I was on my usual after work jog around the park. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a quick couple of barefoot miles. I finished the run and drove home. When I stepped out of the car I noticed a pain in my left foot. I bent down and pressed on the spot that hurt, and that made it really hurt. As you can imagine, my mind was flooded with the worst “Oh Shit” thoughts it could conjure up.

The next morning, it still hurt, and I made the not so smart decision to go to work anyway. Spending eight hours standing and walking around did not help matters. I was considerably worse by the end of the day. I came home almost limping to the door. I was hoping that after a good nights sleep, it may be better. It wasn’t. At that point, I wasn’t taking any more chances. I called into work and told them I wasn’t coming in.

Later that night I am sitting in the exam room of an orthopedic clinic. The Dr. checked my foot out. I almost jumped out of the chair when she found the spot. A few x-rays later, I had a diagnosis. Peroneal Tendonitis.

The good news was nothing was broken or torn. It was just an inflamed tendon. It was very uncomfortable, but would ultimately heal up.

During my barefoot running journey, I have had a number of what I call, growing pains. When I first started the soles of my feet hurt. As they adapted, that went away. Then the outer edges hurt, and that went away. Then for a while, my calves were very sore. That went away. Later on, my knees were hurting. This worried me, but it also went away. There have been times that I hit a big rock and literally had to limp home. After a day or two of rest, I was fine. This injury really had me concerned though. It just felt different than all the others.

For a few days, I was almost depressed. I was afraid that I may have to give up running, at least temporarily. I have found that I love it. I did feel quite a bit better when I learned that it was just a temporary injury, and I would ultimately make a full recovery.

I think one of the drivers behind the injury may be my recent obsession with improving my speed. I had gotten into the habit of always trying to beat my time from the last run. I think this contributed to me losing focus on my form, and overstriding. This is a no, no. I have decided to not worry about speed at all. For the foreseeable future, I am only going to worry about keeping my form correct. After all, I’m not training for a race or seeking to best anyone. I simply like to run, and that is more than enough for me.

I did get out Friday for a lap around the park, which is one mile. I took it slow and gentle. My foot did great. It feels almost 100%. Even still, I’m not going to push it. I will slowly build back the distance.

Screenshot_20170904-112404During this whole ordeal, I found some new friends. I got some really good advice from the great folks at The Barefoot Runners Society. For those of you who have an interest in barefoot running, or running in general, they have a lot of resources on their website. You can find the forums here. Check them out.

Post Totality

The eclipse. It happened. It was one of the most amazing events I have ever witnessed. Denice and I opted to observe it in our back yard. The traffic was just too bad to get to our friend’s house who had the better view. There was a viewing party at a nearby city park, but we decided it would be less distracting to just stay home. I’m glad we did. The eclipse was wonderful, and one of the coolest things about it was the subtle changes in the sounds around us. It created a kind of calm, and besides the sudden emergence of cicada song, eerie silence.

We watched it from first contact, through totality, and a few minutes after most of the sunlight returned. Totality was very brief. It was an amazing experience, but I was over in mere moments, and it is sad to think that I will most likely not see another in my life time.

For those of you who are privileged enough to get to see a total solar eclipse in the future, I would advise against wasting time, at least during totality, with trying to get pictures of it. Even if they turn out good, there are a thousand other people out there, with better equipment, who will get better stills and video. Take it in with your own senses. Look around you. The change in the environment is tangible. Feel the temperature drop. Listen as things go silent, and then as the nocturnal beings emerge all around you. Technology is great, but if you try to experience something like this though it, you will be disappointed.

And now it is time to get back to everyday life. Thanks, Nature! That was a great show.

Totality!

In a little over a day, I am going to experience my first total solar eclipse. The last time this region had one, I was two years old. I actually have some faint memories of the event, but not of the eclipse itself. Well, not this time. I have taken half a day off from work to witness it without distraction. This is a cosmic event that I will not live long enough to see again, and I intend to be present for it.

Getting the viewing glasses was a little bit of a pain. We made the mistake of thinking we would be able to buy them cheap in the week leading up to the eclipse. Yeah, not so much. They quickly sold out, and we were almost left to the mercy of the scalpers. Luckily, thanks to our local news stations vigilant Twitter updates, I was able to get a bead on a couple of pairs for five dollars each (plus a five dollar handling charge, of course), from our local museum. The funny thing is that my work place was able to secure a whole box of five hundred of them for all of us employees the next day. They couldn’t give them away to us, due to liability issues, but they did “sell” them for one dollar apiece as a donation to a charity that the company supports. It was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. I was able to secure an additional seven pairs. That allowed me to supply my mother, her boyfriend, and sister with glasses. I am also selling the left overs for fifteen dollars a pair, and actually making a good profit (yea capitalism!).

We are still debating on a viewing location. I don’t think our backyard will be ideal for this, because of the houses that surround us on all sides. One of the coolest things about the eclipse is the 360-degree sunset that occurs just before totality. I don’t want to miss that. We need a large, flat expanse, or maybe a hilltop. Luckily we have some family who will be watching it from their hilltop house. We may end up there.

So, for all of you who are fortunate enough to experience the Great American Eclipse, happy viewing!

Trotting through the mud

The rain was heavy yesterday, and the trail was showing it. It was still a little misty when I set out this morning. I knew it was going to be a dirty run the first time my Vibrams disappeared into ankle deep mud. It was awesome!

I ran across my reptilian friend above in mile three, at the bottom of a steep hill. He was slowly making his way across the trail when I surprised him. As I bent down to get the photo, he retracted his limbs and head into a beautifully painted shell. A friend’s daughter asked if, “I kept him.” I said, “No, that would be trutlenapping.”

20170812_200548I did a total of four miles today on the trails of IC King Park. It is the most I have ever run in my life… until next week. I plan on adding a mile a week. Next Saturday I am going to attempt a run to Abram’s Falls, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The round trip will be almost exactly five miles. The hills are much steeper and longer though. It will be a challenge.

I feel pretty good. My feet are sore, but not as sore as they were last week. My recovery time is getting a little shorter after each run. The runs are getting easier, and more natural too. I feel like I’m discovering a hidden power, that has been lying dormant inside me my entire life.

I don’t know where all this is going to lead me. All I know is that it feels right. It feels good to run.

Running in Five Fingers is “Foolish?”

Good morning, mammals! I just got in from my trail run. I did two miles on the lakeside trial at IC King park. I know most of my fit friends out there will not be very impressed with such a feat, but for me, it is quite a milestone. It is the longest that I have run non-stop off road, and that isn’t even what has me excited. The amazing thing is how damn easy it was. If it wasn’t for a little pain in my feet (which are still bruised from hitting a patch of rocks a couple of days ago), I would almost call this run… effortless.

I remember back when I was in my twenties and going through a running phase. I was actually lighter back then, at around 200 pounds even. I took up running on a rubber coated track at a local high school. I was also using conventional padding “running shoes.” It was absolute torture. I could barely crank out one mile, and that nearly put me on the ground. Needless to say, the phase didn’t last long. It was too painful.

Up until a few months ago, I had been suffering from foot pain, mostly in my left heel. It had been that way for years, mostly I thought, from having a job where I stand on my feet for eight to ten hours a day. I was getting worse, so like most people, I take my concerns to a doctor, a podiatrist to be exact. She gave my feet a quick look, and then basically told me that my feet were defective. “Supination,” they roll to the outside. She told me that I would have to have custom-made orthotics to correct the problem. I had just discovered the world of barefoot and minimalist running literally a few days before, so I asked her if doing these activities would help my condition. The look on her face instantly changed to one of, “Oh boy, here we go. I’m going to have to set this poor uneducated fellow straight.” I specifically told her that I would like to try walking and running in Vibram Five Fingers. She said that doing so would not help my condition, but only make it worse, and possibly cause a severe injury. “Face it, kid, you’re broken. You weren’t born to run, you were born fucked up.” (my paraphrase)

I was pretty downcast after the doctors visit. I followed her advice and got fitted for some high-tech orthotics to straighten my birth defected feet out. I worked a few weeks in them. There was some reduction in pain, but it didn’t really “fix” me. Little did she know that I still had plans to experiment on the dark side.

20170726_080939Not long after that fateful day with the podiatrist, I got my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I had to order them off Amazon since none of the stores around here carried them anymore. I was quite surprised by this. A few years ago they were all the rage, now they were nowhere to be found. I asked why and was told that there had been a lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit was apparently due to Vibram claiming that the Five Fingers would help strengthen your feet and decrease injuries from running. I don’t know all the details of the suit, but the outcome was not favorable for Vibram. This caused a lot of stores to pull the Five Fingers. This worried me a little, but I was still determined to find out for myself if they could or could not help me.

The shoes finally arrived, but they didn’t fit. I gave it my best guess but was off. They were too big. No problem. I returned the shoes and reordered the next size down. A few days later I had my KSO’s. They fit like a foot glove. By this time I had seen every video of Christopher McDougall and Barefoot Ted that was available on Youtube, and I had just started reading Born to Run. I was very happy to get my Vibrams, but I had already advanced a little in my thinking. Doc had told me that running in Five Fingers would be foolish, but now I was ready to go one better. I was ready to try walking and running in nothing but my bare, broken, feet. Total madness!

I am now a few weeks into it. I have been running almost every morning, barefoot, and now running on the trails with my Vibrams. I haven’t been stupid though. My feet and legs are not conditioned to do this yet, so I am taking it slow, listening to my body. The first mile I did barefoot, left both feet bruised and hurting, so I took a day off. The next time I ran I took it very slow. After today’s run, my feet are sore again, so I am taking tomorrow off to let them rest.

At work, I have noticed that, besides the bruises, I have no more heel pain. I think my feet are changing, getting stronger. I am very impressed with the results of my barefoot experiment so far, but I need to cautiously continue, to see it through, and then make a conclusion.

Monday morning I am going to add a little more distance to my morning run. I am going to slowly, maybe very slowly, add distance. My weight is dropping, and I hope that as it goes down and my feet stronger, I will eventually be able to handle long distances without the need to recover after every run. We’ll see.

 

 

The road that remains

I reached forty years of age this past weekend. I’m now in the half-time intermission of my life. The plays have been pretty conservative up until now, and the score shows it. I think it’s time for a new game plan.

Denice and I just got back from a really great time, on vacation in Colorado, her home state. We spent most of the week camping in the Rocky Mountains. I witnessed in these past few days some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It helped me realize just how little I have seen of this world.

We traveled across the vast openness of the Colorado plains, over windy mountain passes that were clothed with green Pines and whispering Aspen trees, on into the high desert mesas. Wild. That’s what Colorado is. It is a wild place. I feel a pull inside me to explore wild places. This trip has left me hungry for more of the wild.

At night it was so dark that I could scarcely see my hand in front of my face, but the sky above was a dazzling ocean of stars. For the first time that I remember I was able to clearly see the Great Rift of the Milky Way.

In the down time of our trip, I had been reading the book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. The book is awesome, by the way. It is mostly about ultra-running. I felt inspired one morning and decided to go for an early morning run. I awoke just as the sun was coming up. I put on my Vibram Five Fingers and set off into the wild. I have been doing barefoot walking for a while, with a little bit of running here and there. This particular morning I ran about a quarter of a mile to the lake, and then a half-mile up into the rocky hills. On the initial ascent, I spooked a deer that was feeding on the grass around camp. I made it almost to the top of the ridge and was pretty tired, so I decided to head back to camp.

20170726_080617

The day after my run, my calves were very sore, and my feet were a little bruised from the rocks. It felt good though. It felt good glide across this unforgiving terrain with nothing but the equipment I was born with (and the aid of a thin strip of rubber). It also felt good to feel the pain afterward. I know that I can handle this stuff now, and I think it’s time to stop holding myself back, afraid of breaking something. I’m going to start running a little every day and hitting the trails on the weekends. I think my weight issue will take care of itself if I just pursue the joy of moving under my own power.

So, my new game plan for the second half: Number one… stop playing it so damn safe. Life is a short and fast adventure, not a game of chess. If you play it too safe, you will miss the whole point. Number two… I can do way more than I think I can, so I’m going to test myself in the wild, and not hold back. And, number three… People are what this is all about. I am going to stop neglecting the relationships of my family and friends and make it a point to seek out and forge new friendships.

Till next time.