Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Barefoot Snow Run - Nov 19, 2010

Some might say I have crossed over the line from 'Crazy' to 'Down Right Insane', if they saw me running around downtown last Friday, decked in my winter running gear and no shoes. According to the majority, I was dressed for the weather (I guess that would mean I fall into the minority category) from the ankles up, but supposedly below my ankles were slightly lacking. I actually felt perfectly fine for the situation at hand of trying to dwell into the realms of snow barefoot running.

Who would of guessed that so many people would be concerned about the well being of my feet?

It was a perfectly balmy day in the 'Peg for November (-10 degrees / -20 degrees with the wind chill) partly cloudy with a pleasant swirling wind. The game plan was to do a 5 km loop from the office, thru the forks, up to Main Street and back to the office, all in all, about 30 minutes due to the surface conditions and expected lack of barefoot traction.

I got ready to go, suited up c/w running toque, scarf, wind repellent gloves, layered shirts and running jacket, and of course my winter Running Room pants (advise from Barefoot Rick stressed the importance of keeping your core warm, and your feet will follow). I decided to leave my Garmin behind this time, as I didn't think waiting for the satellite to be located would be particularly helpful for my bare feet, must keep moving until foot temperature stabilizes. This being said, I headed to the lobby to start my journey into territories not travelled by the masses.

I got to the lobby and looked out the glass entrance doors to 4 smokers all bundled up and shivering, trying to shelter themselves from the wind. My first thought was, 'Hmmm, this should be interesting, hopefully I don't give someone a heart attack (I found out later that all of them were shocked to see the 'CRAZY' guy from the 4th floor still running around without shoes! I wonder who they were referring too, not me!!). Getting a head full of steam, I opened up the exterior door and sprinted down the steps, holding my VFF's in my hands. Around the corner of the building I went and straight thru the first snow bank like a man on a mission, of course I was on a mission, To test the boundaries and go where no Winnipegger has gone before!!

The plan was to do a 5 km loop around the Forks, and see how the feet and toes react, before I tried stretching the distances out further. Let's just say, I have found out the hard way that getting your feet wet in slushy road conditions and then trail blazing thru snow drifts with barefeet, is not the best thing to do. My wet feet froze fairly quickly and I was limited to a 2.5 km run instead. Anyway I digress, so back to the report.

I was very happy at how my feet were responding to the snowy sidewalk and snow drifts both in traction and feeling of the sidewalk. I got some more weird looks from commuters (both pedestrian and car traffic), and a whole lot of finger pointing. I actually felt pretty good, and my feet were fine, I could sense a little bit of numbness settling in though, but I was not prepared for what was to come (this would be the damn slush). I got to a busy street corner, and was surprised to see wet slush all over the roads, not thinking anything of it, I bolted across the street trying to avoid the puddles and ended up bounding thru slush build up and basically soaking my feet. Somewhere in the back of mind, I thought that might not be too good, considering the temperature, and the uncleared sidewalks ahead. But me being me, and ever trying to push the limits, I trudged on thru the snow, causing more looks of confusion as I ran by the bundled masses walking thru the snow.

As I worked my way along Main Street back towards my office, I passed more finger pointing and surprised looks but I really didn't care, I was having a blast. By the time I hit 2 kms the numbness in a couple of my toes was definitely noticeable, but the strangest thing, the rest of my feet felt warm (relatively speaking), I heard that once you get to a certain point your feet start to relegate heat but I was surprised how noticeable it was. My first thought was this is pretty neat, my gloved hands and scarf covered face were colder than my bare feet, who would of guessed.

I pulled into the office and headed up to check out the damage on my feet, they didn' t look to bad at first glance, a little red and the numbness was definitely apparent. But as my feet started to defrost, the numbness was more apparent, and the pins and needles appeared, this of course caused me to dance around my office a little bit, and probably looked a little silly, but it helped push the feeling into my toes.

All in all, everything seemed fine, I expected some minor frost bite to appear because of the wet feet, and I was right, by the time I got home I ended up with 6 toes with frostbite blisters and minor swelling. I drained the blisters to help facilitate healing (and found out afterwards that you should not do this according to the professionals, you are suppose to let them heal and let them break open on their own). I had no ill effects to draining them, but one toe kept blistering up and filling back up with liquid, thus it was drained 3 or 4 times. It took about 5 days for the swelling to go down and the healing to complete, but no adverse effects were apparent. I waited for another 4 days after my toes were healed before I attempted another barefoot run (I will blog about this in a later post), but I was able to run in my Zems quite efficiently prior to that.

So now I know I can run barefoot in the snow, but I believe -20 is my limit, at least until I decided to push the boundaries again.

On On,


Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Trail Adventure

Showed up at our meeting place to see Nicole had 2 huge trail maps and let me tell you she was pumped to get at them.  I must have had an idea this was coming as I went out last night and bought a new  headlamp.  It was nice to see R and G join us on this fine crisp morning.

Half hour or so later we arrive at the Stables of Birds Hill  parking lot and are greeted by the sound of a rooster crowing. We find the trail entrance easily, even in the dark.  Spotting the bear sign at beginning of trail,  I make a mental note never to run here alone in the summer.

The trail is nice and wide.  Nicole, R and G  have settled in nicely up ahead and there is lots of conversation at this point.  The temperature at this early part of the run is somewhere between 0 to -4 Celcius  but there isn't any snow on the ground yet. We start off with a 4 mile loop as R has to get back to her family in the city as she had some event  to get to.  This was her first trail run and she said she loved it. You always remember your first and I suspect you know right away that you either love or hate it.

After saying goodbye to R,  we head out onto another trail to do a 14k loop.  The previous trail was dry so it was a surprise to find a bunch of huge puddles on this route.  How big does a  puddle have to be before it is no longer a puddle anyway?  There was no way to keep the feet completely dry with all the water but we  did pretty well.   We had just a little dampness in our shoes and vibrams.  It is a good reminder  that we will need  a backup plan for the colder weather.  We discuss varying options, one of which is wearing mukluks and carrying thick plastic bags in our packs so we can slip them on  if we come across surprise wet areas.   At this point the temperature has warmed up a bit, but not enough to stay warm if we stopped.

 There were plenty of well marked signs to keep us on the proper trail.  Still, I managed to veer off onto this other trail as the trees are what had my attention.  Thanks to G for getting me back on track.  This got us talking about getting lost and  Nicole mentioned  that she had her compass with her, but  left it in the car along with the food.  We carry on and G eventually pulls ahead and settles into her faster pace.

We came across this lookout.   If you look closely you might be able to see Nicole and G waving.  I tell them I'll go up next time....cuz we are so coming back again and again to discover all the trails.

In total we ran almost 13 miles and my energy was good for the first time post pneumonia. It turned out to be a  great day for a run!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Seasons R A Changing

Here we are, its November 11th, normally this time of year we have a foot or two of nice white snow, and the temperature has dipped below 0 on a consistent basis. Not this year, we must have really pleased the weather gods or something because so far it has been absolutely fantastic for both weather and temperature. I have ran (up to today) with shorts or my kilt and a technical shirt and of course with no footwear to speak of. Although I do get some weird looks and of course finger pointing, when I go out for my lunch hour runs downtown at work. As even though the temperature has been consistently hanging between 5 and 12 degrees, most people I come across on my runs are bundled up in winter coats or at least heavy fall jackets, and I come along with bare legs and feet and a big smile on my face. I imagine some people are wondering what the hell that lunatic is doing, or am I just crazy. The only thing I can say is I am having the time of my life, and if people think I am crazy so be it.

This brings me to my run today, the weather is a little cooler, I think we were around 1 degree C and -6 degrees with the wind chill, not really knowing what to expect. I stepped outside the same way I was dressing all week, shorts and tech shirt, the wind hit me and I decided I better throw a pair of running pants on instead as all the hair on my legs were standing at attention.

That being done, I headed out for a run not knowing how my feet would react to the colder temperature along with the wet terrain (it had been raining with a mix of snow for most of the day). I headed north getting my feet warmed up (this took about 3/4's of a mile) and I was off to the races, so to speak. I seemed to be going at a pretty good clip, and as I passed a police car sitting on the side of the road, I looked up to see one of the officers pointing at my bare feet and giving me the thumbs up, while the other had this confused look on his face (I was just thinking to myself, please don't give me a ticket for speeding, as I must have been going over 7 miles an hour, lol). I carried on my merry little way and started heading east towards the new asphalt pathway system that the city has put in, very impressed with these, they have done a great job, kudos to the city and the province for investing in these. I passed numerous people out for walks with their dogs, many seemed a little confused at this guy running at them avoiding puddles as he picked his way along the trails.

I was making good time, not because it was cool out, not because my feet were cold and I couldn't feel them (on the contrary my feet were quite warm, it was my unmoving body parts that were cold like my hands), but because it just felt right. I finished the first 5 km in under 25 minutes, which is a PR for me, and I was averaging about a 9:20 mile or so. Then on the return portion of the run, I hit a good stiff wind, this slowed me down a little, but I was still amazed at how great my feet felt. My face was a little numb from the wind and my fingers were getting fairly cold, but damn my feet were perfect. I got some more looks from motorists, especially this young couple who backed up for me at a stop sign, and then I heard the girl in the passenger seat shout, "He's got no shoes", I just smiled and waved, as I shot past them. Even with the wind I finished up back at the house with 6.5 miles or 10.9 kms in under a hour. Thus 10 kms in 57:39, also a PR for me, and my feet were fine.

I did end up with a small blister just behind my toes of my right foot (I am assuming due to the wet sidewalks and asphalt), but other than that, my feet exceeded my expectations for how they did. I was only figuring I would get about 2 miles in before my feet got cold, and not only did I exceed it, I could of gone further, much further.

This looks like it will be an interesting winter, seeing what my bare feet will do, and for how long I can go into a Winnipeg winter running barefoot.

On On.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Michael Franti-"I got love for you"

There is a little surprise in this video. Can you spot it?

This song has been on my running playlist (the faster version with the Spearheads) for the last year and I still enjoy it as much as the first time I heard it. what is your favourite running song?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Long Run Sunday Nov 7

6am meeting at Cavalier and Portage at Tims.   We are doing 10 miles.  Why only 10 miles you ask?  We're following week 2 of  the UTRALADIES 50K event training schedule.  check out the schedule at  trailrunevents.com if you would like to follow along,  and then click on  Ultraladies on left side of screen.  We're assuming the mileage is in miles and not km.  We're also changing it up a bit as we can't help ourselves (adding in a speed or hill run, tempo run, and weights).  We've also moved the days over by one  to better suit our schedules.  Are you with me so far?

Don't forget to "fall back" tonight.  Yay, an extra hour of sleep!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Question Regarding Vibram Five Fingers

We got a question asked of us, and not knowing who or how to reply too, I figured it was best to do a quick blog entry regarding.

Question: Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "April 11 Long Run":

does any one know where in winnipeg i can get a pair of vibrams??? thanks i have just started running barefoot and would like to try a pair

Even though this is only one question, I actually have two answers for this, or one answer and a recommendation per say.

Answer: There is no local businesses that currently sell Vibrams in Winnipeg or Manitoba. City Park Runners is on the short list as a retailer, but they are still waiting to get confirmation and stock for sale. The nearest location that carries Vibrams is Scheel's in Fargo, as well as a another small independent running store (the name escapes me at this moment). There is also a couple of retailers in Saskatoon. If you make to the Twin Cities, there are numerous sporting stores like REI that carry Vibrams. If you visit http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/, they have a function that will allow you to locate stores. Please note if you are going to look at ordering Vibrams online, order from Vibram direct or http://www.rei.com/ or when they have them in stock http://www.mec.ca/ Do not order from anywhere else as there are numerous companies and stores that are currently selling counterfits (yes I do mean counterfits, there is a market for them).

Recommendation: If you have started to learn how to run barefoot, it is my suggestion (and numerous experts on the subject) that you run barefoot until you figure out the right form that works for you. You will change your bad habits (from shod running) much quicker if you learn how to run barefoot naturally. The point is you need to learn how to feel the ground and pick up your feet verse a swinging motion. There is a wealth of knowledge out there at your fingertips from people who have been running this way for years, eg. Barefoot KenBob is one of the pioneers of making barefoot running more mainstream his forum is http://therunningbarefoot.com/, Jason Robillard is another big proponent of barefoot running http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/ both of these are great resources for not only learning the proper form but for also getting the answers to questions that I know from experience you will have along your journey to 'Happy Feet'.

Also another great resource is The Barefoot Runners Society, a website with barefoot and minimalistic shoe runners that share experiences and knowledge pertaining to this subject. Members are located all over the world and the wealth of knowledge is unbelievable, plus the barefoot running community is absolutely amazing, everybody on there is friendly and just want to help. If you want to check it out the link is http://www.barefootrunners.org/ and if you are interested in becoming a member let me know and I will send you a invite.

Also the biggest and most important piece of advise I have about learning how to run barefoot
is start slow, listen to your body and your feet do not over do it, and relax, running is suppose to be fun, if you are not relaxed while you are running how can you have any fun.

Good Luck and Happy Feet To You

Barefooting Bob

Monday, November 1, 2010

Zemgear footwear review

It has now been two weeks of wearing the Zemgear footwear, also know as booties. I have very much enjoyed them as it is nice to find an alternative to regular shoes, especially for working in. Over the past two weeks I have worn my zem’s for errands, going to the gym, working and of course outdoor running. These have been the closest and most natural experience to being barefoot I have found yet, giving me a really great feel of the ground, whatever surface I have been on as they are light and feel like they are not quite there. These surfaces include tile, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, treadmill, concrete, asphalt, gravel, grass, and dirt.
The flexibility of these booties is suppler than I have worn in previous minimalist footwear. The bands give a great fit to your foot, whether you have a narrow or a wide foot, they will conform to you. Which leads me to the obvious, there is no support, but that is just what I’m going for in my footwear these days. The grip of the sole has been efficient so far, I have not found then to be slippery on any particular surface yet, although mud is always slippery after a rain, and it is not here yet, but snow and ice will be here soon. They breathe well and wash very well, and they take a day to air dry. I did find that with their breathe ability it can be cold. With the split toe I have been wearing my toe socks in them because of the wind. Out on a long run I found that I did get a bit cold, but we are looking at a temperature of -4C, so I was expecting that. I am looking forward to an order of the round toe where I can use my thermal socks for those cool temperatures.
In total there are 7 styles to choose from. An ankle high version in either a split toe or a round toe, a crew sock height in either a split toe or a round toe, an indoor pair which is a split toe in the lower ankle height, a comfort pair which come down on the foot lower and provide a more sandal look, as well as a junior style which comes in a rounded toe. Currently I have been wearing the split toe original Zem bootie. There is also a variety of colors for the tech bands, pink, aqua, silver, dove blue, and of course black. From their website they sell for a reasonable $29.90 US.

Being a hairstylist I find that it is not really practical to cut hair while I’m barefoot. As much as I enjoy being without footwear, especially inside, I do not enjoy digging out hair slivers from the bottom of my feet. Yes, they hurt, and they are difficult to get to. I have been having a problem this season finding appropriate work footwear for my ever changing feet, but no longer. The Zem booties are perfect, as they look like a shoe, will protect my feet from the hair, and they seem to wash well. I would recommend these as well for indoor use where someone might like a slipper, those of us who get cold feet.
Just a bit of back ground on my feet, shoe sizing has always been a problem for me as I have a long and very narrow foot. Then there is the ever changing nature of my feet which is something else entirely. Mostly the changing feet evolved around the time of my children, and many things happened. At the end of each pregnancy I found my feet had changed and I was required to find new footwear again, but nothing as drastic as to what has happened over this past year of using minimalist shoes. My hammer toes have been correcting themselves! I now have straighter toes, which is how it is suppose to be, although it leaves me with the issue of once again realizing that my foot now has a new size, again. This is where I had the problem of finding a shoe for work that 1. Was not a heal 2. Was long enough 3. Was minimalist 4. Looked great 5. Was narrow enough. Now I have found it in the Zem bootie! It really is quite exciting for me as it is not every day you’ll find a triple A or even a double A on the shelf of a shoe store. A friend of mine who has a triple E width tried them on as well and was very surprised to find that the bootie did not cut into her foot, as she has the opposite problem as I do in finding footwear. The tech bands are very nice to both the narrow as well as the wide foot.

With all this back ground on my changing feet I must mention that I have been trying a pair that are a bit small, but am waiting for my order to arrive for my next larger pair. With this pair I do feel the seam under my heal and have noticed that I have stressed the seam where the sole meets the upper, and after a long run Sunday morning found I had caused a hole here. I have very much been enjoying the booties and decided that with the stretch material it would be fine to take them out finally on an outdoor long run, as I had been keeping them to indoor use and shorter runs outdoors. Even with a hole in them at the stress point where the seam sits under my foot, they washed up very nicely.

I have really enjoyed my Zem booties and am very much looking forward to my next order to arrive; I will need some new colors for work this season! Of course there is also the snow and ice to try them out on.