Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's the deal with barefoot running

Hi All,

Running is a sport that many of us participate in weather it is our main activity, part of a multi-sport pursuits, or just a way to augment training. There has been a lot of press for idea of barefoot running and I will sgare my experience transitioning from traditional running to "barefoot" running.

Now I am not an expert on running, I don't claim t0 really have more than a basic comprehension of the bio-mechanics of running. I currently run about 2-3 days a week indoors as a part of a greater cycling training plan. I usually run 45 min as part of a 1.5 hour workout. I have run since childhood as part of other sports, so I guess I have always been a runner. In fact I would even say I enjoy running (please don't tell my cycling friends).

So let's first talk about the concept of barefoot running.

What is barefoot running you may ask?

Well it has become very popular along with the book Born To Run by Christoper McDougall. The argument being, humans were designed to run barefoot as our ancestors did.

A quick Google search comes up with this definition.

"Barefoot running is running while barefoot—without wearing any shoes on the feet. Running in thin-soled, flexible shoes such as moccasins is bio-mechanically similar, and often equated to barefoot running.

Harvard research on the bio-mechanics of running are provided in the below link.

They find a positive correlation to barefoot bio-mechanics and reduced injury rates.

Here is an excerpt of the findings

"Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits..."

So I am interested. I have never really loved the way I fell after running in my current shoes. I was fortunate enough to be provided a pre-release set of Merrel Trail Gloves, so I decided to give it a shot. My regular running shoes were a pair of Pearl Izumi X-Alps.

So after doing some research on changing over I found one common issue. Everyone starts too fast and injures themselves. So I decided I would be smart and make it a gradual transition.

The first thing I did after getting the shoes in late January was just wear them around the house. I wore them for about 20-30 minutes at a time and did this a few times before running in them.

After a few days of that I took them to the gym, along with my regular shoes. The first day I did 10 minutes of my 30 minute workout. The feel of the shoes is very different. You really notice the lack of padding, and the increased role of the mid-foot in the gate. Upon changing back to my PI shoes I noticed that I did strike my heel every step when I wasn't concentrating closely on my stride.

I gradually started adding time every few workouts. So the second time I went I did 10 minutes, and the third time I did 15 minutes in the Trail Glove. Everything was going great. I was feeling good. I was really enjoying the shoes, they felt natural, and comfortable.

After building up to 20 minutes I made the classic mistake. I jumped up to 30 minutes, and worse I did a real killer workout. I was in pain just as soon as I got off the treadmill. I felt just fine while running, but as soon as I started cooling down I realized I had done something bad. I had a quite tender calf in my right leg. I went to bed feeling sore, and work up barely being able to walk with tightness from my toes to my hips. Luckily it got better quickly and I did no real damage. I was lucky.

After taking 2-3 weeks off from running. I decided to get back into it. I started slow, and have been doing well. I am now running all 45 minutes of my long workouts in the barefoot shoes. I have done harder workouts, and I feel good.

Overall my impression is that barefoot running has its merits. I like the feel of the shoes. They are very responsive. I like the way I feel after running. It seems like without the heel strike induced by overly padded shoes I don't have as many aches as I used to. I really notice that I am more on my toes in the barefoot shoes. I feel like I have good spring in my step and better balance. I definitely am liking running more with these shoes and can't wait for the trails to dry up so I can try them outside.

So the moral of the story is take it slow and have fun out there with or without shoes!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

what “mashes” my gears

So race season started yesterday with the Johnny cake lane series and I wish I had better things to say about the group B race. My goal this year is to advance to the cat 3’s. Hopefully future races to not entail crappy tactics by racers that believe they do not have to abide by the rules of the race.

For me this race was to be a real test of where I was at in my training, and I came away pretty content with my effort. For the 1st few laps I was at the front 10-15 racers and holding my position well. Then the shenanigans started and the race official was constantly yelling us at that he would end our race. At this point I had moved back to about 20-25 position, maybe even 30th wheel, seeing racers started using the other lane as a way to get to the front. I know there was one girl, a hell of a rider, who made this move several time throughout the race. REALLY wish the official would have DQed these individuals! These individuals push racers like me who follow the rules, to the back, giving them a better result (on paper), by cutting corners. Unfortunately, to move up to the cat3’s you need to look good on paper. In the long run, I’m not going to lose sleep over this. I have more important goals for this season, in races that don’t even compare to the JCs.

For Team Wear on Earth, even though not supporting the colors seeing it was pretty cold out, the team did very well overall. It showed that our winter training is paying off and we are going to have some strong riders this season. Mike K finished 13th in his group C race, Well done Mike. But the rest of the team is still waiting for full results. Ashton and I will probably be in the top 30, but only because the group was to bunched and we could not move up, unless we wanted to be rule breakers. Bruce as well had a solid effort, but missed out on some breaks, especially the one that happened at mile like 0.00000003 and turned out to be the winning move.

* Bruce (in red, center) not happy mike took his picture and decided to charge "mess with the bull get the horns"

‘Til next time, here’s a photo to enjoy that started off my trip to coxsackie, NY.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is in the air

Happy Spring Everyone,

Welcome back from the depths of winter. The time is here and I personally sit just a mere 4 days away from our first race. Now I know this is just an early season short race. It is just a good chance to get back out there and remember what it is like to be on the bike. For me this will be my first test to where I stand with my 2011 season goal of being competitive in road races. Nothing lofty just want to be part of the race, a few top 10's would be great as well.

After a disappointing season last year I decided that this year I would get serious about being a better cyclist. So I did what anyone who wants to improve would do, I found someone who had more experience to help me. After some research and talking with many athletes I came to the conclusion that the best solution for me would be getting a professional coach.

There are many services available to athletes like myself. I investigated and decided to go with a local company called Northern Endurance Coaching. As opposed to a completely online system, NEC offered a more interactive approach. They got to know me as an athlete and were willing to work with my goals. They have been designing my training plans for the last 10 weeks, and kicking my butt on the trainer and at the gym.

Since Jan 1st I have been working with my coach Tim. Boy was I in for a surprise when I found out what it would take to accomplish my goals. I have been exercising between 10-12hrs/week. Tim designs my weekly workout plans and puts them on a site called training peaks, where I can access them. It also allows me to upload my workouts from my power meter so that they can be reviewed.

My workouts are not just about putting hours on the bike! It is about putting the right hours on the bike. Even more important having a coach puts all the accountability on me. Every time I am thinking about ditching that last 10 min sprint workout, I realize that Tim will see my workout data . He's going to know I'm slacking! This is amazing motivation for me and has gotten me through many, many, many hours on the trainer this winter.

So now we are just about to race. I have trained. I have dieted. I have become mentally tougher than I have ever been with the motivation and will to win.

More importantly. I am healthier than I have ever been. I have changed my diet, to eat healthier more wholesome food to loose weight while keeping me energized through long workouts. I am exercising 6 days a week. I look and feel great.

What will happen this weekend when I have get on the tarmac and put myself and my machine up against 50 other competitors. Who knows, but in the end it doesn't matter, being active, fit, and healthy is reward enough for me. We all need to stay active, find something you enjoy and get out there and do it!

Have a great start to Spring everyone.