Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 20

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 20
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 42.2 (seriously - co-incidental eh?)
Longest run in Fivefingers: 9.4km
Love/Hate? Love, but...

What the heck is going on?

Pain. I'm in serious pain.... but first...

It's been about 9 days since I've written, and with good reason. I've been in Nova Scotia for 10 days... Rural NS, with no internet.

While there, however, I did manage to get in some great runs. I did a couple runs around 7km, and a couple on this 9.4km route I found. The 9.4km route is great - and has two hills in it that are far larger than anything I have near my place in Ontario. The one is a full kilometer of climbing - and quite steep most of the way.

It's interesting to note that I found coming down-hill to be harder than going up-hill in the Fivefingers. I think it's because when you're running in normal shoes, you're more prone to heel-strike on the downhills, which provides a braking effect.... but obviously you can't heel-strike in the fivefingers, so instead your cadence picks up, and you're using muscles to slow you down from a full-speed, hell-bent descent. I found that by the bottom of the 1km downhill I was begging for mercy.

Anyway - back to the pain. This strange, strange pain. I originally started this whole Fivefingers Experiment because I was having shin splints. I'd read a lot about barefooting, and this was as close as I dared to come. I couldn't ignore the potential benefits, so I got the Fivefingers and started out... and I loved it. I've been loving it ever since, and working up my distance in the gradually while cross training with cycling to keep up my fitness.

Ever since I started running in the Fivefingers, the pain in my shin has been getting better. After my 9.4k hill route, I didn't even feel it. Two days later (this would be last Friday - 4 days ago now) I went out to do a quick 7k. The only thing 'strange' about this run was the dog. On the way back to my in-laws house, there's a 3-legged dog. Naturally, it's a mean 3-legged dog. I guess it's angry about the whole missing leg thing... but regardless of his motives, he will chase you down the road at his top speed.... which is about 0.0005 kmh slower than my top speed. Oh - and he lives on a hill.... so you're sprinting up-hill away from him until he gives up hopping after you. Add on the fact that you're trying not to laugh, and it's hard to not become a dog treat.

So, I manage to avoid being eaten, take it easy the last 1/2km back to the house, and sit down on the porch to chat. I feel great. Run was good, legs and lungs and feet all felt awesome. Perfect start to the day. Then, 20 minutes later, I stand up and it feels like someone has driven a nail into my left shin - right where the shin splint pain was before. I can't even put weight on it. I hobble around cursing for the next 10 minutes, then down a pile of advil and ice it unti it's numb. Problem is, it didn't go away - and it's still bothering me today. I haven't run since then, but my 1km walk to work was enough to aggravate it. Guess I'll have to head to Physio and get it looked at... and until then, I'll be holding off on running of any sort... as this one feels serious.

Hope to be writing again soon,
M@

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 11

The quick stats:

Days owning Vibram Fivefingers: 11
Total Distance Run in them to date: 13km
Longest Run in Fivefingers to date: 6km
Love/Hate? Love

This will be a short one...

I'm on holidays in rural Nova Scotia, with limited internet at best.  I put in a quick 6km in the Fivefingers yesterday afternoon - including some spectacular hills - they have good ones out here - and everything felt so good.  We're heading to the beach today, and I may try and do a bit of a beach run in them just for fun.  Long story shory - so far, so good.  They're making my shin-splint feel better, and I only ever notice it any more if I walk around in regular shoes/sandals while my Fivefingers are drying.  I may have to invest in a second pair...

Cheers,
M@

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 7

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 7
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 12
Longest run in Fivefingers: 5km
Love/Hate? Going great...

My Calves, My Calves, My Calves are on fire...

...I don't need no water let the... well, you know how it goes. Today was run 3, and the farthest run yet. 5km in the Vibram Fivefingers KSO. And man was it fun. I know I started this post with 'my calves are on fire' - and to say any different would be lying - but... they feel good too! It's much better than the first 3km run where I thought my calves would literally blow off of my body.

Today's run was a mix of pavement, fine gravel, grass, and concrete sidewalks. I have to say that sidewalks are my least favorite place to run in these, while grass is my number one choice. It's just that the sidewalks are so hard... that even the smallest amount of heel-strike is a big deal. But - in reality - maybe that's good, because I have to be sure I'm not heel striking if I'm going to continue to work with these.

Glass, rocks, roots and a nail...

Those are all of the things I've stepped on so far while walking or running. Most of these are when running, as I find it somewhat harder to avoid small things while moving at speed. Today I stepped on the nail. I hate to think of what could happen if it were sticking straight up, but it was laying on it's side on the sidewalk. It didn't hurt, and it didn't even scuff the sole of my KSO. These Fivefingers are tough!

In the wash with the socks...

Last night when I took off my Vibram Fivefinger KSOs, and the Injinji socks I wear underneath, I realized that after a couple of runs, a trip or two in the gymbag, and a few solid days of wear - they were starting to get a little funk to them. So - in the wash they went! I noticed in the little use and care pamplet that came with them that they can go directly into the washing machine - and so they did. They came out looking brand new, smell free, and no sign of problems from having made the trip through the wash. Additionally, they seem to dry quite fast - which is a big plus when compared to traditional running shoes!

Cheers,
M@

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 6

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 6
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 7
Longest run in Fivefingers: 4km
Love/Hate? Going great...

Day after run two, and the calves are holding up...

Four kilometers is a very short run for me... in fact, I haven't done runs this short in years - but it's the recommended method for breaking in the Vibram Fivefingers. Actually - that's not quite right - I should say it's the recommended way for breaking in your legs! The Fivefingers need no break-in - there's nothing to break in, but your legs are feet are going to be working in ways that will wake up muscles that have been long dormant.

My calves were a little tight this morning, but no more so than after a really hard hill workout... and I think I'll be trying 5km tomorrow. Keep moving up slowly. It's funny, but I'm reluctant to run in my old shoes now. They even feel strange when I put them on. I fear, however, that I will have to go for a run in them soon - because even with my supplemental aqua jogging - I'm just not putting in enough mileage this way. I'm waiting for the day I can wear the Fivefingers and push out all my runs - long runs included in them.

I can't count the number of comments I've had on these so far.... mostly when I'm just wearing them around. Call me fashion unconscious, but I've been wearing them everywhere. I've heard everything from "I love your shoes! Where do I get them?" to "Please tell me those are watershoes and you're on your way to the beach?" And the looks I get when out running are priceless.

Till tomorrow,
M@

Day 5

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 5
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 7
Longest run in Fivefingers: 4km
Love/Hate? Want to love - but it's too early. Call it lust.

It's all in the mid-foot strike!

When last I wrote - 3 short days ago - I'd run my first 3km in these new Vibram Fivefingers. I thought my calves were going to explode! Walked around the rest of Friday and Saturday feeling like I had calves-of-popeye. I'm sure they didn't look any different, but they felt like they were blown up to skin-stretching-proportions.

Today, Monday, my calves seemed to feel relatively normal, so I geared up for a quick run near home. The start of this run present a brand new challenge - the gravel road. The first 500 meters of my run are on a dirt/loose-gravel road. I found that running in the loose gravel was, to my surprise, better than running on the dirt. It's because the loose gravel seems to move to spread the force of impact - whereas on the dirt, should there be that lone piece of gravel sitting on the hard-packed dirt.... well.... it's not that gravel that's going to give - it's your foot. And I did hit a few ones that made me go ouch! But, overall, it wasn't that bad. I'd be concerned if a run or race I was doing was gravel-road-heavy, but otherwise, I think I'd be able to manage a little here and there.

As for the rest of the run - it was bliss. I've discovered that the mid-foot strike is the way to go, as opposed to the fore-foot strive - or the ultra-dreaded rear-foot strike. The rear-foot, or heel-strike will make you wish you hadn't, while the fore-foot strike simply shreds your calves in the first 2km. I found that by concentrating for the first 1/2 of the run on the mid-foot strike, I was doing it naturally quite soon - and I finished this 4km easily. Not exactly a long run by any stretch - but good for the second time out in these 'shoes'. My calves feel a little more worked than normal, but that might also be partly Friday's intense fore-foot-only workout playing it's part. We'll see how I feel tomorrow ;)

Cheers,
M@

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 3

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 3
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 3
Longest run in Fivefingers: 3km
Love/Hate? Loving the pain ;)

OUCH!

I got out of bed this morning and my calves felt about the same as the day after my last ultra. In fact, they felt worse! But, it's a good kind of pain, a good muscle pain, so I'm not too worried. I've read more since yesterday's run, and I'm convinced I'm just not striking the ground correctly - landing too much on my fore-foot, not really mid-foot.

It's Saturday AM, and I'm on my way to an out of town wedding, so I won't get a chance to run again till Monday. I'll post after that run - with details of how the calves are, and how run 2 goes when I'm working on the new, hopefully better technique.

Cheers,
M@

Day 2

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 2
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 3
Longest run in Fivefingers: 3km
Love/Hate? Like. Maybe Lust.

Did I get calf implants?


I think I must have. I mean, I certainly feel like I did. I don't think my calves have ever felt so full - that the skin has felt so ready to burst open - and I only ran 3k!

I'm not 100% certain I was 'doing-it-right.' I think, given what I've read since this afternoon's run, that I was landing too much on the balls of my feet, instead of trying to focus on a 'mid-foot' strike. I'll have to work on it next time. I know that I've got to build up the muscles that have been dormant, or close-to-dormant thanks to 32 years of shoes - but at the same time, I can't imagine that it will be that straining on the calves when done properly - otherwise, I'd need to be calf-zilla to simply get through a long run in my new Fivefingers.

The first run...

I can now say for sure that walking in these things is harder than running in them. When you're running, it's easier to have your foot strike under your torso, and therefore easier to run properly and avoid a heel-strike. I'm still finding walking in them to be a bit of a challenge.

For today's run - my very first in Vibram Fivefingers, I chose an easy route that leaves the athletic center, down a concrete sidewalk to a park that has a worn-in grass/dirt path around it's perimeter, followed by running the various paved trails that crisscross the park. I figured this would give my a good mix of conditions in one short run, and would keep me close enough to the gym that I could bail at any time.

My first impression from the run was that traveling on concrete was easier than expected. I was ready for a hard foot-destroying poudning, but it turns out the research was right - the body's natural mechanisms for dealing with the impact of running (not heel striking mind you!) but the mid to fore foot strike does a great job of providing cushioning. If, however, you do heel strike - and I did this about 3 times on the run - you'll feel it right up to the top of your skull. Those 3 strikes all happened relative close to the start of the run - and I hope they'll be the last - ouch!

I also noticed that stepping on some small pebbles here and there wasn't as bad as I'd expected. I could feel them, but it wasn't the foot-bruising impact I'd been expecting. Addionally, I noticed I was stepping on a shard of glass just a moment too late, and had instant visions of a sliced foot, stitches, and weeks off of running - but the soles of the Fivefingers are very tough, and there wasn't even a mark in them after my run. This, of course, is great news for me - as that's exactly why I've chosen these 'shoes' (can you call them shoes?) rather than running completely barefoot.

As I went through the run, I could feel my calves getting tighter and tighter. Just before my recent bout of shin splints - the problem that started me down this path in the first place - I was running about 80km/week. Since then, I've been doing plenty to keep my legs up - so I was pretty sure that 3km wasn't overkill in terms of a simple run. Maybe, however, it was a bit much for a first run in the Fivefingers? Or maybe it was just that I've yet to master the technique. Either way, in the end, my calves felt like baloons. Baloons that were about to pop. And even now, 8 hours later, they still feel pretty tight. I'm wondering what walking will feel like tomorrow?

'till then,
M@

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 1

The Quick Stats:
Days I've had Vibram Fivefingers: 1
KMs Run in Fivefingers: 0
Longest run in Fivefingers: NA
Love/Hate? Undecided

Wow... is the floor in here ever hard!

That was my first thought this morning when I tried on a pair of Vibram Fivefingers for the first time. I wasn't expecting to find any real padding, but still - I was blown away by the fact that there is absolutely none. I walked around Trailhead and marveled at how I could feel every little thing beneath my feet. I was in the same moment both smitten and scared. I've always made sure my trail shoes have a rock-plate/snake-plate/bullet-proof-feel-no-stones-plate in the past, and now here I am, trying on the antithesis of the cushioned and protected shoe.

The saleswoman at the store - an ultra runner herself - told me of another local ultra runner who was doing some runs in these shoes and loving it. That made me feel a bit better.

First Impressions...

I'd gone to the store during lunch, and put the Fivefingers on the moment I got back to work. Walking around suddenly became different. I had to consciously work on not heel-striking, and was sure I looked awkward if not flat-out-funny walking down the hall. I can only imagine what running will be like - and I'm wondering if a jaunt on the basement treadmill isn't the way to go first time out.

After an afternoon of walking in them (not too far - around the office, and the 1km walk to my car after work) - I'm really liking them. I'm still somewhat scared of how the first run will go, but that won't be until tomorrow at lunch - I've decided I'll try a very short run then and see how it goes. Maybe I'll take a late lunch - when there's less people milling about to humiliate myself in front of.

Day 1 - final thoughts...

My feet are not exactly sore - but I can feel them. I'm working hard at not hitting with my heels, but I'm sure that will come with time. So far, so good. Let's see how tomorrow's run is!

Day 0


Welcome to the Vibram Fivefingers Experiment... 

I'm writing the welcome as much for myself as for anyone else.  This is indeed an experiment, and while I'm hoping for the best, only time will tell if it's a good idea. 

Let's get it started...

First, a quick introduction, and a  little background.  Always helps to know who's writing and why...  My name's Matt, generally I write it M@.  What can I say, I'm a geek.  Unlike many of my WoW addicted colleagues, however, I'm also an ultra-runner.  My current goal is to complete a 50 miler - but in the meantime I've completed several smaller ultra marathons including a couple of 6-hour Transcendence races (60.03km and 55.83km) and a couple of rounds of the Jay Challenge run in Vermont.  Like many long distance runners, I've also had several running injuries along the way.  IT band problems with one knee, hip bursitis, and most recently a case of shin splints in one leg - brought on after a foot injury in my last race.  My foot injury was mild - and I was able to run through it - but alas, it forced me to change my gait somewhat, and that lead to the shin splint.  

I have a habit of researching things I'm interested in... my wife would say I have a habit of over-researching - but I think she's just jealous that I can talk for hours about things that she finds immensely boring.  That's what I'm going to believe anyway...

And so, when I became injured this latest time, and had more time to read research due to my forced running hiatus, I started coming across information on barefoot running again.  I'd seen some of this before, but it had held little interest for me at the time - and I'd passed it by.  Maybe my previous judgment was too quick - because I found myself now staring at a line in a paper that effectively said a runner's constant and frustrating shin splint problems went away completely after transitioning to barefoot running - never to return.  Now that's something I could use!

This in turn lead to a full on pounding of Google Scholar - digging up article after article on barefoot running.  I digested these and moved onto blogs, websites, usenet postings... and when the internet was used up, I started digging through the trash of known barefoot runners...  Ok, maybe I didn't go that far - but I did do a lot of reading, and was convinced that I wanted to try this whole barefoot thing out.

Problem is - I can't walk a block around my city without seeing a couple beer bottles' worth of glass shards strewn across the sidewalk.  According to the BarefootRunning.org site - dealing with glass is as easy as: "Watching where you step, and don't scuff your feet on the ground."

I don't know about you - but I'm sure that I can't watch the ground so closely when I run that I'll avoid all of the glass.  In fact, when I'm trail running - I won't even watch the ground closely enough to save myself from the giant, very visible roots that send me ass over tea-kettle.  "Wow... does that lake ever look amaz.... AHHH!" Crash.  Never look at the scenery.  Never.

With this in mind, I decided I'd need something else.  I want to run barefoot, but I need some protection, so all of my research led to one option - the Vibram Fivefingers.  

And so it begins....

Day 0 - I've made the choice to start running in the Fivefingers - to try running barefoot, or at least as close as I'm willing to come.  Tomorrow I'll go buy the shoes, and we'll get this whole thing started.  I'll document each day, and each run here in hopes of helping others who may be interested in trying this out themselves.  As I said, it's an experiment...

Cheers,
M@

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