2012 Garden of the Gods 10 Miler Barefoot Race Report

June 10th, 2012

This morning I ran the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.   If you’ve been to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, then you know the scenery is top notch.  It’s not a fast course as there was plenty of hills, but as I’m used to being in the mountains, even the biggest climb seemed a bit too short.  ;)

As a barefoot course goes, it was awesome.  The pavement wasn’t overly smooth.  However, because I’m used to running on rocks, the 10 miles were clipped off without needing to pay attention to my feet hardly at all.  I did see one other truly barefoot runner (and one with Invisible Shoes) as well as several with a various assortment of minimal shoes.

I clocked in at 1:23:22 chip time which put me at about an 8:20 pace.  I was shooting for 8:00 pace, but we had a slow start trying to weave our way through the pack before things cleared out.  Also, about mile 6, my right calf started to tighten and not long after the other joined in.  My guess is that I haven’t done much training downhill at speed so the extra stress over the longer distance pushed them over the edge (barefoot running adds additional stress on the calves).  I was hoping to bump up the pace a little more over the last couple of miles, but was afraid to.  Still I was able to finish strong and be proud of my time for the minimal amount of training I’m putting in a week (~15 miles).

Anyway, I have to say I enjoyed running with a buddy of mind for the first 8 miles and, again, thought it was a great course despite the windy day.  I’ll look forward to running it again in future years!

Shoes Are Cheating!

BYU on Barefoot Running

June 9th, 2012

Was passed this by a friend who is a friend of the interviewee, Iain Hunter, and was a good listen.

BYU Broadcasting interviews Iain, one of their Department of Exercise Science staff members on barefoot running and the implications for biomechanics.  Enjoy!


Shoes are cheating!

Failure and Disappointment – A Barefoot 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent Race Report

August 22nd, 2011

I think this year’s Pikes Peak Ascent was both the best…and at the same time the worst…barefoot run I’ve had.   This year I ended up at 4:23 by my watch which was 3 minutes slower than last year.  :(  I would never have guessed…even up to A-Frame during the race that that would be the case.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start from the beginning.

We started the day a little hectic as I woke up an hour later than I was supposed to.  Ugh.  However, because we had planned to get there early to see the first wave start, we made it in plenty of time to get my “sweat bag” checked in, go to the bathroom, meet up with friends, and get pretty close to the front of the pack for the race start.

As the gun went off, I picked a pretty fast pace at the start as planned because the pavement was smooth and well groomed for the race.  At one point I was the third fastest runner.  Once we turned uphill onto Ruxton, I pulled back a little (but not much) and several other runners passed me on the way up to the trail.  My feet felt great and I was excited for what felt like would be a great race.   It was nice to have most of the runners behind me as we started grinding up Barr Trail.  My feet were in great shape and I felt like they were coasting up the horrible gravel trail road.

As we turned the first switchback, I was talking to someone (turns out people were very talkative to barefoot runners in this race) and wasn’t paying attention KICK!  My left big toe made full contact with a rock.  It didn’t feel is if I had broken any bones, but I peeled a small sliver of skin off of the front of my toe.  Bummer!  Not the way I wanted to start this race…only 12 miles to go on gravel with an already bleeding foot.  It was just blood though and I continued on unfazed and was able to ignore it most of the time.

Most of the rest of the trip up to Barr Camp  (a little over halfway) was pretty uneventful.  My feet felt great.  I knew my times were better than my training run.  I was back on track…until a little under a mile from Barr Camp I kicked another really big rock with the very same toe (obviously my left side needs some strength training so I can pick up my feet more).  This time it was much harder and more direct.  I peeled most of the skin from the front of my toe and it felt like it might be broken.  I decided to still ignore it and see what happened.  I guess it worked because I didn’t really feel it much until after the race.  However, I tried to be a little more careful the rest of the way up the mountain.

I made it to Barr Camp in 1:55 which was a few minutes faster than my training run.  I was pumped.  My feet felt great.  My body felt great and I was already 10 minutes ahead of last year’s pace.  I had also been eating and drinking well so I had no plans to bonk this time.

Above Barr Camp I realised that I must have been pretty out of it in 2010 when I bonked.  I don’t remember much of the terrain and it definintely didn’t seem so bad in my memory.  However, it is definitely the worst gravel of the course.  The good part was my feet were still feeling phenomenal and I was making relatively good time.  No worries.  I did kick one more rock with that very same toe during this portion, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the other times.  Did I mention I need some strength training for my left leg?!  Ugh!

As I approached A-Frame 2:50ish, I still felt good and was about to start a pre-finish celebration because my pace was still very fast.  On the other hand, the last mile before A-Frame took me quite a while.  But I figured it was just the really steep, gnarly trail I had just come up.  I assumed I’d be back to 20-25 minute miles for the duration.  Instead, it turns out the long mile was omens of bad things to come.

Still feeling great in nutrition and feet, I made my way up past A-Frame.  It was kind of eerie to be feeling that good that far into the race.  I felt like Superman or something.  It felt like nothing could stop me.  My 4 hour finish time seemed easily in my sights.

But somehow, each mile took longer and longer.    I kept eating and drinking trying to figure out how to kick my body into a higher gear, but it just wouldn’t go.  The last few miles were misery, not from a physical sense, but because I couldn’t do anything about my slowing times.  Within the first mile after A-Frame I could see my 4 hour goal was going to be a miss, but the 4:15 first wave cut off still seemed OK.

Then, about a mile and a half from the finish my feet started giving out and they went downhill very fast.  They were hurting, and hurting pretty badly.  My race had somehow come undone.  There’s a saying among Pikes Peak runners that “the race doesn’t start ’til A-Frame.”  Now I finally internalised the meaning and knew how those last three miles could break my race.  And it broke badly.  By the Sixteen Golden Stairs, I knew that the first wave cut off time was also out of reach.  I gave up.

I was so disappointed and frustrated.  How could something starting out so good end so badly?  I have to say that I even shed a few disbelieving tears during those last few switchbacks.  Especially when I saw my cheering wife at the top supporting me through my misery.

Unlike last year, I hobbled up the stairs and slowly across the finish line.  Not this year, maybe another year.  What a failure that was so close to amazing success!  Have I mentioned how frustrated I was…am…will be!  @#$%^&!

Well, on a more positive note, I have to say I enjoyed all of the comments and questions from fellow runners much more this year.  I think it probably was because I felt so much better for most of the race.  I didn’t really keep track, but I’m pretty sure I’m at least a dozen people’s “hero”.  For at least a couple guys, I’m “more of a man than they’ll ever be.”  I guess this year I’ll have to be happy that most of the race went so well, that I’m doing it at about the average male finishing time, and I was still the only one barefoot!

Actually, that’s not necessarily true.  I heard (but didn’t see) that there was a woman with bare feet (but taped toes…which is still cheating in my book) that started this year’s race.  I, nor my family and friends, ever saw her cross the finish line while we were up at the top for about an hour before and after I finished.  I hope she made it though (If you read this, good for your for trying!  Stick with it!).

Better luck next time for both of us!

Shoes Are Cheating…Slow Or Not, I’m a barBAREyun!

ps.  Will be adding a couple pics later, just haven’t gotten my act together to get them off my camera.

2011 Run For Rwanda 5K Race Report

August 18th, 2011

This year was the second consecutive year that I’ve run the Run For Rwanda 5K.  It’s a great local race that benefits a medical facility currently being built in Rwanda.

First, I have to say that the race organization was excellent again this year.  Lots of food and drink at the end of the race and several fun things after the race like the kids 1K fun run and African drummers as well as African dance lessons.  They also run a simultaneous race in Rwanda where the locals of the medical center compete as well.  Lots of fun and very unique…

The Colorado Springs race has a course that is about half sidewalk and half maintained gravel trail.  For those of us that run barefoot on gravel regularly, it’s really not too bad.  However, they have a Barefoot Division to encourage us tenderfoots to identify with most of the Rwandans.  The Rwandan competitors generally run barefoot; both the top two finishers both male and female ran barefoot and beat the Colorado Springs winning times! No need to cheat!   Because the Barefoot Division is kind of novel in Colorado, several non-barefooters try to run it barefoot and the gravel can be pretty miserable for them. Running barefoot on a short race seems like such a great idea until the gravel starts feeling like hot coals!  The second half of the race is also just consistently uphill enough to really wear you down and make the last 10 minutes miserable, but is otherwise fairly flat as Colorado Springs goes.

I finished in 22:04 which wasn’t as fast as I hoped for, but still a personal best on the course by 4 seconds.  I generally train for long distances and don’t really try to train “fast”, so was happy with the outcome.  I was especially happy to finally win the Barefoot Division although Steve, a barefoot runner for about a year down from Fort Collins, was only 10 seconds behind me.  The surprise came when I figured out that I won my age group (I didn’t get the award because I also won the Barefoot Division) of 30-39 which was completely unexpected.  I don’t run many races, but it was exciting to win in a smaller, local race like this one.

Who knows, maybe I’ll train specifically for the 5K next year and see how much better I can really do!

Shoes are Cheating…the Rwandan winners prove it!

Prepped for 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent

August 1st, 2011

Just a quick update to say that I’m prepped for this year’s Pike’s Peak Ascent!  Like last year, I did another barefoot trip from the Ascent start line up to Barr Camp and back down again.  This year my fitness is MUCH better and my bare feet are definitely the limiting factor although also in much better shape in comparision.  I made it up to Barr in just under 2 hours and was still feeling very fresh (very unlike last year).  I was also able to run much more of the trail after the W’s than last year.  The trip down took 3.5 hours because, well, walking downhill on rocks really hurts.  However, I was much more relaxed than last year and was able to keep good barefoot form (ball first) the whole way down. In summary, I felt much better, but that didn’t necessarily translate into much faster times.  So, the jury is still out for where I’ll end up.  Hoping for a a sub 4 hour finish as long as my nutrition, fitness, and feet hold up as expected.

Starting the taper now; “all the training is in the bank/barn” as my running friends would say.  Running the Run For Rwanda 5K next weekend in the barefoot division (consider signing up if you live in Colorado Springs) and going easy to fill up the next 3 weeks.  Wishing everyone a great race in 3 weeks!

Shoes Are Cheating!

Review of National Geographic’s Incredible Human Machine

March 22nd, 2011

OK, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for documentaries like National Geographic’s Incredible Human Machine.  I am completely enamoured by the complexity and adaptability of our bodies that make it a subject that never gets old.  Although I felt a bit like I was back in Mr. Hallum’s high school science class, it was quite interesting throughout the duration.  In fact, anything that shoves a camera down Steven Tyler’s throat while he’s screaming “Dream On” is pretty incredible to watch.  However, one particular segment caught my attention.

In the section about the brain, I was intrigued by the story of Kimberlee Lizarraga, a woman who has chronic pain after a car crash.  She didn’t suffer any brain trauma in the accident and all her injuries have since healed.  However, the pain lives on, but “her pain lives only in her brain.”  But Kimberlee is learning to control it.  In the words of the Stanford doctor, he states “[pain] robs our soul, it robs who we are.”  Interesting.  Using fMRI technology for brain scans, her pain is represented by flames.

“By simply thinking about putting the flames out, Kimberlee is for the first time, putting her pain out…By simply thinking about it, we can change the activity of our brains.  We show that we can focus on a particular region, a particular area, and control that…We really can control and change our brain.”

This just confirms everything I already know from experience of running barefoot on rocks all the time, but it was most evident during a moment of realisation that I had sometime last year:  I was going about things the wrong way.  Up to that time, my goal was to keep making things painful so eventually I wouldn’t feel the pain.  Somehow, I guess I thought I would grow numb or something.  But I had plateau’ed for a while.  Everything I had been doing for several months still hurt just as much.  My feet didn’t seem to be responding any more.  Then, I realised that the “pain” was never going to go away.   I realised I had to train my brain to know that those same feelings that I perceived as pain weren’t really painful at all, they were normal.  It’s been a slow process.  Since then the feelings registering with my nervous system still haven’t changed much, but I believe my perception of what they feel like have.  Much of this was just acknowledging facts about my experience up to this point.

For instance, I know that I can run on sharp rocks for several miles at a quick pace and my feet will be just fine.  I won’t cut, bruise, maim, sever or otherwise hurt my feet.  However, after years of always wearing shoes, my brain and nervous system is telling me something very different, “Hey, what the heck are you doing?!  This can’t be OK?!  Stop it!  Stop it! Stop it!  You’re going to hurt yourself!”  But the reality is that I’m not gong to hurt myself.  My feet are made to do exactly what I’m telling them to.  In fact, I’d done the same thing over and over without an injury.  So, why should it hurt?  Maybe it doesn’t?  Maybe, it’s all in my head?

Since I started running barefoot, I always wondered how people that grew up in places where they are always barefoot (especially Kenya where the climate is similar to Colorado Springs) could handle the pain.  But now, I think they probably don’t “feel” much differently.  Their perception of what we are both feeling is hugely different from my perception though.  They’ve always had those feelings on the bottoms of their feet, so their brain registers it as “normal.”  My brain on the other hand registers those same feelings as abnormal since I’ve never felt them.  It’s just a matter of retraining: really knowing that what I’m feeling isn’t abnormal at all.

Like Kimberlee, I now wonder how much of my barefoot pain lives only in my brain.  How much different is our chronic need for shoes than Kimberlee’s chronic pain?  Is it all in our heads?  My guess is that it isn’t all in our heads, but much more of it is than we’d like to admit and are willing to find out about.

Shoes Are Cheating…retrain your brain and put the flames out.

Running The Pikes Peak Ascent in 2011

March 18th, 2011

Just a quick note to say that I’ve signed up for the 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent fulling intending to run it barefoot again.  I’m so glad I did the race last year even though I missed the first wave qualification cut off by only 5 minutes, so that I had the right qualification without having to run another race.

This year the main goal will be to make the first wave cut off time…but I have a feeling that won’t be a problem at all.  At this time last year, I could barely run a couple miles on rocky terrain, while this year I’m starting my training with my feet in their toughest shape ever. After a nice break over the holidays, I’ve been training the Kenyan way (as much as I can) and running much harder on all my training runs so my legs and lungs are also starting to get back in shape as well.  As the months pass, I expect August will have me in great shape to best the first wave qualification time by quite a bit.  However, I don’t expect to PR this year.  I’ll probably need another year or two (or more!) for that.  But weirder things have happened.  Last year, I didn’t expect to be able to run the Ascent barefoot and ended up doing it within 5 minutes of my target time, so you just never know.

Here’s hoping for a great training season.  Best of luck to all of you as well.

Shoes Are Cheating…bring it on.

Me Barefoot Running in the OutThere Section of the Colorado Springs Gazette

October 21st, 2010

This morning I had an extra early call from my mother-in-law telling me that an interview I did a while ago had finally made it into the Colorado Springs Gazette. YAY!

I was disappointed that a couple things from the interview didn’t make it into the article just because it was so coincidental.  For one, during my normal runs I rarely get comments.  I did get a couple while Dave and I were out.  But on the way back we hit jackpot.  A group of a half a dozen of college age girls saw us and asked loudly, “Why are you running barefoot?”  We stopped and chatted about barefoot running for about 5 minutes of fun conversation.  I wish we had it recorded.  It was awesome!

Anyway, I definitely can’t complain about the prominence of several of the pics from our outing even if I wasn’t in the text a whole lot.  Especially glad for the “SHOES ARE CHEATING” pic!

Shoes Are Cheating.  It’s only a matter of time before everyone agrees.

Train Hard, Win Easy

September 29th, 2010

Just after writing my last post about how researchers feel we need more technology to keep performance moving forward, I watched this video about Kenyan training methods and attitude. It’s hard not to see the contrast of attitudes.  First, it was awesome to see so many barefoot in the footage.  But I also just saw the barBAREyun attitude as well no matter what the participant chose to wear on his or her feet.  No excuses.  Everyone doing their part.  Train Hard.  Win Easy.  I have nothing but respect.  It’s no wonder Kenyans always dominate.

Shoes are cheating…but having the barBAREyun attitude is more than about shoes.

Breaking World Records with Technology Is Cheating

September 29th, 2010

Today, Wired ran an interesting, if short, spot on the role of technology in Olympic competition especially the breaking of world records.  Berthelot, the man that ran the study, argues that without technological advances we are hitting peak performance already.  He especially contrasts track and field and swimming.  In track and field where technology has been rather static, not much happens aside from a few freak performers like Usain Bolt.  In swimming where new technology has been rapidly advancing in the types of suits competitors are allowed to wear, records have been falling like crazy.  My question is doesn’t it miss the point to keep adding technology to allow world records to be broken?  Are we really getting faster?  Or are we just using performance enhancers to show the illusion of getting faster?

For me, I’d rather enjoy very few freak performances and know that the performers are truly great rather than see athletes always using technology as a crutch and continue to break records as a regular practice.

Besides, something tells me that continuing to make things easier doesn’t help us push our physical limits.

“Difficulty…is the nurse of greatness” — William Cullen Bryant

Shoes are cheating…and so are polyurethane swimsuits, duh.